Summary: This sermon looks at Jesus' teaching on hell from the story of the rich man & Lazarus.
“WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT HELL?” Lk. 16:19-31
INTRO – Suppose your best friend was flying down a road in his/her convertible sports car. Beautiful day. Sunglasses on. Top down. Music thumping. Life is good…Except for the fact that YOU know that the road they’re on ends at the edge of a cliff where there are no signs or guardrails. It just simply drops off. Already, there have been tons of people who’ve sailed off that cliff & crashed to their death a thousand feet below. And you’re the only person who can warn your friend about what awaits them at the end of the road if they don’t stop & turn around.
This story that Jesus told in Luke 16 is that kind of warning for us. If we continue hurtling down the road of a life without Christ, there is a very real place called hell that awaits us when that road runs out. Hell is not a concept; a fairy tale or fable; not mere unconsciousness; or a scare tactic that preachers use to get people to make a decision so that they can brag about how many folks got saved in their churches. Hell is a very real place that Jesus talked about more frequently than He talked about heaven. His compassionate heart moved Him to warn people about hell. And, although many preachers, churches, & Christians don’t want to talk about hell any more, I believe that if Jesus talked about it, we need to talk about it. If Jesus taught about it, we are going to teach about it. Since He warned people about it, I am going to warn you about it.
So what DID Jesus say about hell? From this story in Luke 16, we find these 3 realities:
Hell is a painful place – v. 22-24 – Some people would have you believe that, after death, your soul is completed destroyed & you are no longer conscious of anything. This view is called annihilationism. It’s the belief that unbelievers will not experience an eternity of suffering in hell, but will simply be “extinguished” at death, that they’ll just cease to exists, or be annihilated.
But clearly, this is not what Jesus is teaching here, nor is it what you’ll find throughout the rest of Scripture. Here in this passage, both the rich man & Lazarus were conscious & completely aware of what was happening to them. And for the rich man, he was consciously aware of the awful pain that he was experiencing & would have to experience for all eternity. The Gk word for “torment” means “torture,” “severe pain.”
The Bible teaches that this pain will definitely be physical pain.
- Matt. 25:41- “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil & his angels.’”
- Rev. 14:9-11 - Then a third angel followed them, shouting, “Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.”
- Rev. 20:15 – “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
But there will certainly be other types of pain, too.
- The pain of being forever separated from the presence of God & His glory & greatness.
- The eternal pain of overpowering loneliness.
- The pain of knowing that you had your chance to turn to Jesus & be saved & now it’s too late.
- The pain of never seeing your loved ones who are in heaven ever again.
- The pain of everlasting hopelessness.
“If there is one basic characteristic of hell, it is, in contrast to heaven, the absence of God or banishment from His presence” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 1242).
Hell is a purposeful place – v. 25, 27-31 – In the perfect justice of God, He has made it plain that there will be consequences to the choices that we make in this life. Some people argue, “If God is a God of love, then why would He ever send someone to hell?” We need to remember that God does not send anyone to hell. 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient w/ you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” He created us to have fellowship w/ Him. And b/c He loves us so much, He provided the way for us to have that fellowship w/ Him by sending His one & only Son into the world to pay the price for our sins. But it is our choice to either accept or reject God’s offer of salvation & fellowship w/ Him. If we choose to reject that offer, we are effectively choosing hell. It is our decision & our sin that sends us to hell. C.S. Lewis said that sin is the human being saying to God throughout life, “Go away & leave me alone.” Hell is God’s finally saying to the human, “You may have your wish.” It is God leaving the person to himself or herself, just as that person has chosen.