Strange as it may seem, Hell really does help the Christian understand much about God. People are often so disgusted by the thought of a place of eternal punishment that they try to discard the idea or block it out of their minds. Some go so far as to declare Christianity morally bankrupt because we would even consider such an idea. Let’s walk through what we know about Hell and then draw some conclusions.
The Bible Says Hell is Real
Everything we can know about Hell we must learn from Scripture. The reason is simple. None of us have ever been to Hell and therefore can offer no first hand account. Second, Hell lies outside of our present understanding. It is not a part of nature as we understand it. Since science is limited to the present reality, there is no knowledge of Hell that the scientist can offer.
The Bible has much to say about this dismal locale. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word a bit too freely and actually translates words for death and the grave as hell when they should not be (Acts 2:27). For our study, we are interested in the place of eternal destruction.
The place of everlasting destruction is mentioned as early as Matthew 5:22, in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus warns that one who calls his brother a fool is in danger of the “hell of fire.” In verses 29 and Jesus again speaks of Hell when he warns that it is better to “lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into Hell.” In Matthew 18:9 Jesus makes a similar statement concerning the danger of sinning with your eyes. In Matthew 18:9; 23:15 and 23:33 our Lord speaks of Hell again when rebukes the Pharisee’s for their harsh teachings. At this point we are not concerned about the lessons behind each verse but only showing that Hell is real and must be believed if we are to believe Jesus himself. Hell is not a figment of someones imagination. Similar comments from Jesus are found in Mark and Luke too.
Let us look at Mark 9:43.
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for your to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”
I have chosen this passage, again uttered by Jesus himself, for its clarity. Notice the very end of the verse which links “hell” with “unquenchable fire.” There can be no confusion as to what Jesus has in mind here.
As you see, Jesus said much about hell. We may not like to think about it, but if we are to be followers of Christ then we must think about and talk the things he thought about and taught about. We cannot choose to discount the teachings of hell. If Jesus’ teachings are false on this subject then on what subject can we trust him?
The Gospel’s are not alone. There are many other passages which are descriptive of hell including those in the Revelation which paint such a terrible picture (Revelation 20:10, 15).
Hell Makes Sense
The wrath of God is seen against all sin. It is a righteous wrath which is always just. God will not be in the presence of sin. God has worked from before time to secure us from sin and prevent our loss. If God hates sin as much as he says in Scripture (sin, not the sinner whom he loves) and if God pours out wrath even now against sin, it is reasonable to conclude that his wrath will continue into eternity. When we realize how terrible sin really is, we come to a better understanding of why God is so angry about sin.
Many struggle with the permanence of hell. The catholic purgatory doctrine was crafted to bypass such a seemingly harsh problem but is without any Biblical foundation. When a person is cast into hell he cannot come out in a year or 5 years or 10 years or 1,000 years because time is no more. Time is a concept of creation and did not exist before creation nor will it continue afterward. Time, like everything else about this present world ends. There is no clock to wind down and no pages on a calendar to turn. Hell must be forever because there is no time to expire.
Hell also makes sense because there is simply no where else to go. The Bible teaches that Jesus is preparing a place for us which is heaven (John 14:1-4). Likewise, hell is also prepared (Matthew 25:41). When reading through the Bible there is no other place for the souls of men to remain. It is either heaven or hell. The wicked cannot inherit heaven for nothing defiling will ever enter there (Revelation 21:1-8). Heaven is a place of rest not only from earthly pain and suffering but from evil and the temptations associated with evil. That which is sinful simply cannot enter.
While we may not like to think about hell, the believer must conclude that hell makes perfect sense.
Fear of Hell Helps
How does a child learn that the stove is hot? Of course his parents tell him it is hot. But for many children, it is not really enough until they get close and are almost, or possibly even actually, burned. From then on, fear of pain has taught them to use caution.
The fear of hell has been the guiding force to drive many people to a search for truth. Often, people initially become Christians because of fear. As they mature, they come to better understand love of God which seeks to save them from hell. There is a glass-blowing demonstration at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. Three furnaces burn hot to soften, melt and cure the glass ornaments crafted there. The hottest one is called the “Glory Hole.” The reason? A sign claims that the glory hole has saved more sinners from hell than all the sermons ever preached! That maybe a bit over the top but the point is well taken. Hell scares us. And it should.
Let’s stop and put this together now. It is because sin is so terrible that hell was prepared for its practitioners. It is because hell is so terrible that God was prompted to save his beloved creatures from its fires. The price to save man was so terrible that it took Gods own son to save us from those terrible sins that lead to a terrible hell.
God loved me so much that could more easily bear the death of his son than the punishment of my soul in hell. Have you every though about it that way? I didn’t think so.