This is the fourth of a series of blog postings on modern controversial subjects. The first one one was on the subject of the authority of Scriptures. I did this one first, because I wanted to establish the foundation of all answers to modern religious questions — God’s word. When the Lord speaks, disciples should be listening, not arguing. And this is so also on the subject of Hell.
Just recently the Pope, seems to have denied Hell. Exactly what he said and what he believes still seems to be a little uncertain, but he’s not the only denier. It’s pretty popular to believe in a Heaven, but deny Hell. But regardless of what men may say about it, what the Bible has to say about Hell is really quite certain.
Of the subjects that I’ll write about in this series, the topic of Hell is among the most frightening and sensitive. It is the proverbial “elephant in the living room” — a topic people want to know about, but nobody wants to mention, because the answer may be unpleasant. Hell, however, is a prominent Biblical doctrine that mustn’t be overlooked, whitewashed, or candy-coated. Doing so benefits absolutely no one. And waiting until we die to find anything out will be forever too late to do anything about it one way or another.
Many modern religions have persistently tried to explain away or eliminate Hell from the afterlife. The argument goes that it simply doesn’t make sense that an all-loving God could send anyone to a place of eternal punishment. Of course, it is no surprise that people would want to try to wish Hell away. It is terrible beyond words; and even worse, truth be known, we all deserve it, because of our sins. We’d prefer to believe in either a Heaven for everybody, or at worst a painless extinction — that way we can sin pretty much with impunity without too much terror in our hearts.
However, when they argue that an all-loving God would never send anyone to a place like Hell, they forget that God is not just a God of love; there is much more to His nature and character. He is also a God of justice and righteousness (2 Thessalonians 1:6; Hebrews 2:2; etc.). If God did not exercise justice, He would cease to be a good God.
And like it or not, the truth is that there is as much or more Biblical proof of Hell as there is of Heaven. Gehenna is used 12 times in the NT, and Hell is referred either directly or indirectly numerous other times, for example…
Isaiah 66:24 “Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
Matthew 3:11, 12 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The essence of Hell is separation from God for all eternity. It is called eternal death, but it is not eternal extinction. As physical death is the separation of the physical body from the spirit, so spiritual death is separation of our spirit (soul) from God — the source of life, blessing, and all that is good and right. It is described as a fire that cannot be quenched and as a deep darkness (Matt. 8:12). Suffice it to say that, contrary to the popular swaggering boasts and hollow bravado about Hell being a party place, and despite the fact that it may be where the “in crowd” is, you won’t want to be there. If Jesus said that it would be better to lose hands, feet, and even eyes rather than enter Hell (Matthew 9:43-47), it must be pretty bad.
Who will be there? Satan and his angels will be there (Rev. 20:10), as well as death itself and Hades (Rev. 20:14). But the sinful of all the ages will be there, too (for example: 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Romans 1:28-32; and Rev. 21:8). Tragically, Hell will be a pretty full place, because (Matthew 7:13) “… the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”
Whether the Pope or any other religious authority believe it or not, Hell does exist and God (Who cannot lie) has promised that many will enter it. Where will you be, when you get where you’re going? God has provided one way to escape the punishment our sins deserve, the cross of Jesus Christ. Believe and obey Him, make Heaven (not Hell) your eternal home.