Revelation 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
Hell is real. That is considered a controversial and “extreme” position to hold today.
Chalk one up for Satan. He’s knows how to play the game. Take away one of the most effective, urgent and critical arguments (the existence of hell) for sinful man to repent and you’ve got half the game won. Then Satan just waits to let people discover that Jesus doesn’t really keep His “promise” to “fix” everything and make life easy… and what you’ve got left is a whole world of people who have “tried Jesus” and it didn’t work.
Or, Satan convinces everyone that “all truth is God’s truth” and “all roads lead to heaven”. Hell becomes irrelevant or fiction; take your pick.
The “Jesus will improve your life” Gospel is very popular today along with the “tolerance” movement that says we all have a right to believe the way we want – all roads lead to God eventually. Well, not according the Living Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus taught a very narrow, frightening and intense view of hell.
A quick review …
- Hell is a place of eternal fire and torment – Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:42; Mark 9:43-44
- You always remember what you lost and regret your decision to reject Christ – Luke 16:19-31; Rev 21.4
- You will be thirsty, but never get a drink – Luke 16:24; John 4:14
- You will be in agony, pain and constant misery – Revelation 14:10-11;
- You will be bitter, angry, frustrated and desperate for all eternity – Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 24:51
- You will experience the full fury and wrath of God – Revelation 14:10
- You will never, ever, ever, get a break or be allowed to escape – Matthew 25:46; Jude 7
The reason why hell is either ignored or considered so lightly, is because 1) Satan has introduced myths which belittle the idea of hell; and 2) churches are propagating poor teaching as well as ignoring the subject all together. Let’s take a look at some of the common fallacies the make the rounds in churches and society at large:
Hell is temporary
This false teaching comes in many forms. One of the primary is that of “purgatory”. The Catholic Church teaches that Purgatory is a hell-like place where sinners are punished for a finite length of time, then once they pay their penalty, get to go to heaven. Only those who reject Catholicism are destined for the “eternal” hell.
The problem with that is 1) the idea is utterly foreign to Scripture, and most importantly, 2) it has the sinner paying his own penalty for his salvation which violates the fundamental principle of salvation: justification through Christ by faith alone (or in plain English “the only way you can be saved is by trusting and obeying Jesus Christ”; Rom 3.21-26). The Bible simply, plainly and with great clarity declares there is no second chance after death:
- Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, (NKJV)
- Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (NKJV)
- 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (NKJV)
Hell is just annihilation
What this means is that God will simply cause all the lost multitudes to disappear from existence.
- Luke 16:22-23 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (NKJV)
It’s a little bit difficult for someone who doesn’t exist to “lift up their eyes”, see someone “afar off”, and in the next verse, speak. It is equally hard for the non-existent to have memories, thirst for water, be in pain, be frustrated, weeping and gnash their teeth (Matt. 3:12; 13:41–42; Mark 9:43; Luke 16:19–31; Luke 16:24; Rev. 14:10, 11; Matt. 13:42; 24:51; Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 15; Hab. 3:2; Rev. 14:10; Matt. 25:41).
Hell is NOT annihilation. It is real, it is eternal; and it will be real people there in torment and punishment.
Hell is a bunch of “bad” people having a party that God sort of frowns on
Referencing the same group of verses, the notion that hell is frat party for the “naughty people” is ridiculous. You see cartoons, commercials and sitcoms joking about hell as the place where all the “bad” people spend eternity drinking Budweisers and making fun of the “goody-two-shoes” in heaven with their little wings and white robes.
Or you get the idea that hell is just sort of “not heaven” and the people there are a little grouchy that they got a bum deal. Satan has done a masterful job painting hell as anything except what it really is. It is considered almost a joke to present hell in Biblical terms and proportions… “you can’t be serious! You don’t actually believe that nonsense from the Dark Ages do you?”
Hell is the demon hangout or playground
Another spin on the previous myth, is that hell is where all the demons and Satan hang out to plan their mischief and deviltry. The demons are ugly little midget things running around bickering like little children while Satan towers annoyingly over them in his red suit and pitchfork. You have a few demons over in the corner snickering about a dirty joke, and a couple over there whispering about something they “got away with” when God wasn’t looking.
Hell is such a joke now, that it illicits little more than snickers, taunts or patronizing when someone stands up to tell the truth about it. People’s response range from “you’ve got to be kidding me” to “how quaint”. Here’s a sample of an email I received just today:
“Brent’s view on hell seems to coincide with most Western belief systems. I just never have for a moment believed in the concept of a fiery Hell… For me to believe in Hell I’d have to believe in the bible as the Word of God. And I do not. I think men wrote what they wanted people to believe and left out critical perhaps controversial things that did not go along with their teachings… my belief system makes me happy as yours does you… We’re all on different paths but they all end up with God.”
How tragic that this false belief will only become clear one second after the person dies… but then it will be too late.
Hell is simply a description of evil
Sometimes people say that hell is just a state of mind, or a way to describe the totality of evil. It is implied that anything “not God” is “hell”. It is amazing the lengths people go to in order to keep hell from being a real place (especially when the very same people glady accept that heaven exists). Hell is real. It is a place, it exists probably in another dimension from us, but nonetheless real. It is not a euphemism. It is not symbolic.
The Bible declares plainly that hell is a real place
that will trap and torment real people for a real eternity.
Satan is the ruler of hell
Satan is not King of Hell. God rules hell. Hell is a prison for Satan, not a “kingdom” he will have free reign in. Hell is a place of punishment for fallen angels, not a retirement home:
Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: (NKJV)
There is a heretical teaching making the rounds today and being propogated by some of our most publicly visible “Christian” personalities. The heresy goes something like this: Jesus was born a man. He became God when He was baptized by John. He lost His deity when He died on the cross. Jesus went to hell, got beat up on by Satan for three days. Then Jesus was “born again” and became “god” again; yes, “born again” – just like us (hence, it is said by these teachers that WE are “gods, little ‘g'”; that we are created in God’s image and born again just like Jesus which makes us ‘gods’).
Although every part of this teaching is a damnable heresy that constitutes preaching “another Jesus” (Gal 1.8-9), the part of interest to our lesson is the idea that Jesus went to hell and got beat up by Satan for three days.
First of all, Satan is not in hell. He is on the earth, ruling the wicked (Gen 1; Ezek 28; 2Cor 4.4; John 12.31). He wants NO part of hell because He knows that is his future prison (Matt 25.41). He fears it every bit as much as we should. Second, Satan is not the ruler of hell, God is. God controls hell, not Satan. Satan isn’t in hell beating up on anybody MUCH LESS JESUS! What does Satan care about who is in hell? He only cares about those who are NOT there yet! (and Jesus did not go to hell for punishment but to declare victory to those imprisoned – but that’s another lesson; 1Pet 3.19)
This teaching goes mostly unquestioned because of typical ignorance about what the Bible declares about hell. Satan does not rule hell. God does.
A loving God would never send his creation to eternal punishment
This is the most common objection to hell. You hear it ad nauseum, even in the church; even in fundamental churches. While this myth is partly caused by ignorance about hell, it is more the result of a lack of teaching about God’s character. Consider this:
God would not be loving,
If He did not send people to hell for all eternity.
Why? Because God is Perfect in all ways. Perfect love requires that God be true to His nature. Being true to His perfect nature means that God must keep His word; God must punish sin; and God only has two choices: life or death. No sin can exist in the presence of a perfectly holy God, so a sinful person has to be penalized and the only acceptable penalty is death.
A person who has accepted and obeyed Christ is no longer sinful because God has supernaturally applied (imputed) the righteousness of Christ to the sinner (who never sinned, thus does not deserve punishment); God punished Christ for our sin thereby satisfying the need for sin to be punished by death.
There are many theological reasons why death is the only acceptable punishment for sin, but it will suffice here to simply say that the Creator has declared to the creature (you and me) that the result of sin is death, and we need no other reason than that. (Rom 3.23)
So God is love, and love provided a way for us to be saved. That same love would not be perfect love if it did not punish those who reject the offer of love. On a simpler level, what loving earthly father does not administer both love and discipline to his children with equal diligence? It is not hard to understand that a parent does not truly love their children if they do not follow through with appropriate discipline and punishment when necessary.
A loving God will, and must, keep His word and condemn those who reject His Son. What an insult it would be to Jesus for God to excuse those who turn their back on Him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hell is not a myth or a symbol or a cartoon. It is a real, terrible, awful, horrible reality. We warn people constantly of dangers that are nothing in comparison to hell; and yet consider it rude to confront people about the imminent danger of eternal condemnation. How sad for us. How devious and cunning of Satan. Chalk one up for the Father of Lies – he loves being underestimated.
Holy God, Help us to understand, accept and communicate to a lost and dying world the reality of their eternal destination. Help us to do it with a balance of love and compassion, yet urgent and truthful. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: How many of these myths and false ideas have you heard, or believed? Do you think it is necessary, and helpful to study about hell?
Application: With love, patience, compassion and urgency, we need to dispel the silly notions that exist about hell. Satan has successfully reduced hell to a joke, a cartoon, an old fashioned ridiculous notion of days gone by….. We should warn people about hell as sure as we warn them about anything that is life threatening… even more so, because hell threatens not only this life, but the one to come.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?