This is the kind of subject you can’t approach if you’re worried about what people will think; you will be denounced by many if you believe in Hell, and denounced by many if you don’t. So I hope we will not look at this issue fearing what people will think of us, nor through the lenses of personal opinions, but in the enlightenment of God’s Word as looking for the truth of His revelation.
My primary concern here is twofold: 1) truth, and 2) faith.
This is about a faith that is assured of better hope by the truth of God’s revelation, not a faith that is uniformed by the truth and mislead by false hopes.
So, as we’re starting this study, please let me beg one question that you ask yourself: is this a doctrine that you simply could not accept, even if God did teach it?
I ask the question because I came across a missionary while abroad who vehemently opposed the idea of hell. The two of us discussed this doctrine intently one evening after a service and he ended by saying “I refuse to believe in a God that would punish people for eternity, and you can’t make me!”. His mind was made up.
That is a dangerous place to be and I think we should first check ourselves to see if we have gotten to that place before we proceed with studies like we are about to undertake.
“26 ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; 27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. 28 ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’ ”.
Hades can be understood in terms of a holding place for the souls of the dead; it is a place of death.
Everyone before Christ, even those who had faith, went to Hades. It is a spiritual realm for the dead with a purpose, spiritual parameters, dimensions, and laws. Indeed, there are spiritual principles that govern even death, which no man can escape, such as “the sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56.) and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
One of the victories that Jesus won when He rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven was that He now “holds the keys to death and Hades itself” (Rev. 1:18). It is the Christian’s shout of victory that Jesus conquered death and our hope does not rest in death, but in life!
It’s also worth noting that Hades is not meant to be eternal, but has an end:
“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” ~Revelation 20:14
Please read the following passages to gain a very small glimpse into Jesus’ ministry in Hades (Jesus did not go to hell, as many erroneously teach): 1 Peter 3:18-20, Ephesians 4:8-10 & Isaiah 42:7. I’m not going to spend much time on these passages, but I urge caution that we not exceed them by building extrapolated doctrines around these passages.
I love parables because they reveal spiritual realities to us in very humbling ways, namely, that parables can be grasped by faith, but always remain just out of reach for human intellect (though we often think we’ve grasped His parables quite satisfactorily in our own eyes). And so we are humbled by parables!
This story is about a place where souls with sentience go; one who was in torment, and the other was in comfort. It shows a place of finality, that is, that you cannot cross from one side to another. It shows a place that is very real, even while those who are still alive are unwilling to believe. It tells us a great deal about death (whether it is speaking of the first death or the second, we’ll leave that discussion for a later time). But, it remains a parable that so many cannot accept because they refuse to grasp it with faith.
THE GREAT LAKE OF FIRE
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from the things that were written in the books, according to their deeds… Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Hell (Tartarus) is the second death, and is reserved for the final judgment of God where souls will awaken to be judged out of the Book of Life.
We cannot ignore this passage, and we must treat it with reverence remembering that we are warned that “if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).
“Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men that have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
Isaiah shows us that men will be able to go out and look on the corpses of transgressors. They will be the only trace reminder of sin left in existence, and the everlasting wrath of God will abide on them in the form of the “worm that will not die” and the “fire that will not be quenched”.
“Annihilation” is the belief that transgressors will be completely consumed in the lake of fire and burned up. But Isaiah has shown us that the corpse of transgressors will remain forever.
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these (the faithful) will arise to everlasting life, but the others (the unfaithful) to disgrace and everlasting contempt”
Daniel adds to Isaiah’s revelation in a picture of the final judgment, in which the souls of the 2nd resurrection will arise, both the faithful and the unfaithful, and be separated, just as Jesus’ parable of the goats and sheep tells us. But Daniel adds the word “everlasting”, and connects “life” with “contempt”. Even as much as we hold the hope of everlasting life, so also should there be the expectation of a fearful judgment of everlasting contempt. Indeed, perhaps this is why the Hebrew writer warned of the “certain and fearful expectation of wrath” for those that trample under foot the sacred sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:27).
Now it’s time to look at what the gospel teaches about Hell.
Matthew 3:10, 12 (cf Luke 3:9, 17) “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the 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.”
Matthew 5:22, 29-30 (cf Mark 9:43-49); “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Matthew 7:19; “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Matthew 8:8-12; “But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.”
Matthew 25:41, 46; “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Luke 12:5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”
Jesus certainly spoke more of Hell than any other author in the scripture, and used the word more than He spoke of Heaven.
I believe we can all agree Jesus described Hell in the following ways:
- Hell is a place of eternal punishment for the wicked.
- Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, but also receives workers of iniquity.
Here are the descriptions used of Hell so far:
- “everlasting fire”,
- “unquenchable fire”,
- “shame and everlasting contempt”,
- “a great fiery lake”,
- “eternal punishment” where “their worm will not die” and their “fire will not be quenched”.
Most of Hell’s descriptions are termed with words like “everlasting”, “eternal”, or “unquenchable”.
A REVELATION OF CHRIST
“9Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11“And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” 12Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
Sin cost mankind dearly, but it cost God even dearer. With sin came the necessity for God to take on flesh and infirmity to become a perfect sacrifice, without sin, yet, to bear all sin upon Himself so that He could save us from the death that began coursing through our flesh the moment sin entered humanity.
Satan, the murderer, deceived man out of spite and hatred for God, Whom He rebelled against because of the pride that entered his heart. Hell itself was created for Satan and his demons, just as the Word says, “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10), but also all his children, who are the workers of iniquity, will be cast with him into the lake of fire according to God’s righteous judgment.
God did not have to taste death, nor humble Himself to take on flesh, but His love accomplished this to save our souls. But His wrath will likewise accomplish justice and bring punishment to those who disobey Him.
I do not think Paul admonishes us to consider both the “goodness” and “severity” of God for no reason. God has shown Himself good without end, even sending His blessings upon “both the just and the unjust”, but His severity is shown in His righteous judgment when those who reject Him to the end will receive their reward.
Revelation 20:10 says both the judgment and punishment of God is eternal. I believe because “punishment” is eternal, that necessitates a sentient awareness of the one who is being punished (otherwise the punishment isn’t really punishment, is it?)
THE DECEPTION AMONG HIDDEN REEFS
“These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”
I want to speak openly to you from my heart: I sincerely believe that many men have done everything within their power to deceive us into not believing in hell. There are countless books and sermons written to assure us of just such a thing, but I believe these men are hidden reefs that make shipwreck of the faith by puncturing the hull and filling the vessel with sin and doubts.
Satan’s attacks today center around causing men to doubt God’s judgments and reverse them (approving of sin and disapproving of good). He has even been successful enough to deceive men into elevating themselves to the point of judging God by saying that “a loving God could not send people to hell”. What a joke it must be for men to demand that GOD not judge them, while judging Him!
This is the same generation in our generation as was used on Eve:
“The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
I don’t believe that we should find any reason within our faith to doubt what God has spoken of in both such detail and clarity. We were not save from “nothing”, but from sin and death, which lead to destruction.
At the end of this discussion I can offer no greater advice to you than to turn to the quiet of your prayer closet, with the Word of God, and seek your Father who is in Heaven with a heart that does not resist His judgments nor elevate itself to judge Him.
As always, I believe it is important to be thorough when trying to deal with issues, not only for yourself, but also for the sake of those whom you discuss issues with.
I may not agree with everything Bobby Conway says in this video, but, I believe there are a lot of good things said here and it is worth watching: