Take Hell Seriously (Part 1 of 2)

from Apr 02, 2009 Category: Articles

The topic of this two-part series is very important. But it is also very uncomfortable. My subject is what the Bible teaches us about hell. You may respond with fear. You should respond with fear if you are not a Christian. But my prayer is that God will replace your fear with faith in our Lord Jesus. He is God’s Son who saves sinners from hell. If you are a Christian, my prayer is that you will praise God for Jesus who has saved you from hell.

And so let me ask two questions to begin. Do you know what the Bible teaches about hell? … Do you believe what the Bible teaches about hell?

It is very important that we take seriously what the Bible says about hell. The Bible, you see, is the revelation of God’s will to man. The Bible is the word of the only living and true God. The Bible is the only rule of faith and practice. What the Bible says, God says.  You and I must, therefore, take the Bible seriously. God speaks to us in the Bible about hell. We must take seriously what the Bible teaches about hell. We must believe what the Bible says about hell.

And what does the Bible mean when it speaks of hell? What does God mean by hell? He means the punishments for sin in the life to come. He does not mean the punishments for sin in this life. Hell does not refer to the miseries of suffering and death that we experience now, in this life, because we are sinners. No, hell refers to the punishments for sin in the life to come. If you know yourself to be a sinner as I do, you must take seriously what God says about hell. 

In this series, we shall consider five points that the Bible teaches about hell. In this our first installment, we take up the first three points.

Consider, first, that hell is a place far more frightful than we could ever imagine. 

The Bible uses many very graphic pictures to describe hell. Each image is terrifying. But the combination is even more horrifying than you can imagine.

Hell, God tells us, is a place of “black darkness” (2 Pet 2.17) … it is a place of “outer darkness” where “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is all that will be heard (Matt 25.30) … it is “a lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev 21.8).  Hell is a prison of everlasting chains from which there is no hope of release (Jude 6) … it is a furnace of conscious torment where the fire never goes out (Matt 13.49-50) … it is a place of excruciating misery where the worm does not die (Mark 9.47-48). Hell is a place of agonizing thirst that can never be quenched (Luke 16.22-24).

The suffering in hell is beyond all comparison to the suffering found in this world. And the variety of images for hell in the Bible tells us that the reality of hell is much more frightful than any one of the Bible’s images considered by itself. Hell, you see, is far worse than we can ever imagine.

Does the reality of hell horrify you? Does it terrify you? If you know yourself to be a sinner, it should terrify you; it should horrify you. The reality of hell should cause us to seek a place to hide. The reality of hell should cause us to look for a way of escape. 

Consider, second, that hell is a place where God is present. 

Yes, as odd as it sounds at first, God is present in hell. We are not to think that hell is a place from which God is absent. No, hell is not a place where sinners are forever separated from God. Rather, hell is a place where sinners are forever separated from God’s comforting presence

You see, the Bible teaches us that God is present in hell in His holy wrath and just punishment. The punishments of sin in the world to come will include everlasting separation from God’s comforting presence. God’s wrath against sin in the life to come will include the most grievous of torments. These punishments will afflict soul and body. These torments will occur without interruption. These punishments will take place in fire forever. 

If you are a sinner, do not think that hell is a place from which God is absent. No, hell is a place where God is present in His holy wrath and just punishment. Hell is a place much more frightful than you or I could ever imagine.

Does the truth about hell horrify you as it does me?  Does it terrify you as it does me?  If you know yourself to be a sinner, it should terrify you; it should horrify you. This truth should cause us to seek a place to hide. This truth should cause us to look for a way of escape, an escape that only God can provide.

Third, consider that hell is a place of God’s perfect justice. 

We are not to think that hell is a place of “cruel and unusual” punishment. The God of the Bible always does what is right.  He always pays His creatures the wages that are due to them. He always rewards the obedient and punishes the disobedient. So, if you are a disobedient sinner, do not think that the punishments for sin in hell are cruel and unusual.  No, those punishments are thoroughly just. 

Hell is a place of God’s perfect justice, just as it is a place where God is present in holy wrath. Hell is a place far more frightful than you can ever imagine.

Does the truth about hell horrify you? Does it terrify you? If you know yourself to be a sinner, it should terrify you; it should horrify you. This truth should cause you to seek a place to hide. This truth should cause you to look for a way of escape.

In the next installment of our two-part series, we learn the identity of the person in the Bible who tells us the most about hell, and, even more importantly, we learn the good news that there is a way of escape from hell.

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