Why would you mention hell
There was a way to hell, even from the Gates of Heaven.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
In his book, Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War, and God, Philosopher Will Durant says “Only the best side of Christianity was presented to us—a loving God, a gentle Christ, an ethics of kindness and chastity and filial devotion; very little was said about Satan or hell.” I fear this is the mood of our present age. When was the last time you heard a full-length serious sermon on the truth of Hell? We are comfortable talking about the love of God but we could not stomach the wrath of God. Hell can be called the current Evangelical’s Forgotten Doctrine.
Even most who call themselves Christians only have a vague idea of hell. We casually talk about hell. Often, we liken our painful experience and a very hot, dry summer to hell. It has become fashionable to say, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.” Remember this unbiblical line comes not from the Bible, but from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Hell has been neglected and misunderstood and most hold an unbiblical picture of hell. So, therefore I felt the need to highlight the truth of hell from the Bible itself.
A basic search for the word “hell” in the English New Testament (LSB) reveals twelve verses. Significantly, eleven of them came from the mouth of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, Jesus in his very first recorded sermon mentioned hell (Matt. 5:22). The Bible describes hell as a place of
- Eternal fire (Matt. 5:22; 13:42; 18:8; Rev. 19:20; Rev 20:14-15).
- Darkness (Matt. 25:30; Jude 13)
- Everlasting torment (Rev 14:10-11),
- Total absence of the blessings of God (Matt. 7:23; 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9)
- Restlessness (Rev 14:11),
- Second death (Rev 20:6, 14; 21:8).
- Weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13:42, 50; 22:12-13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28).
- Agony (Luke 16:24)
These are sobering descriptions of hell. Hell exists and is a real place. In short, Hell is a place of eternal, conscious torment for unrepentant, unbelieving sinners. Most people can’t reconcile the idea that a person (Jesus) who embodied love (1 John 4:8) could speak of the horror of hell. As atheist Bertrand Russel in his essay Why I Am Not A Christian said, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”
To be fair, Hell is a difficult doctrine. Many theologians wrestle with this subject. No one can take pleasure in the thought that unsaved souls will be lost forever. Even God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but begs them to turn from their evil ways (Ezek. 33:11). 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord…is patient… not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” At the same time, the most loving and compassionate man who ever lived, gentle and lowly – Jesus strongly speaks of hell and talked about hell more than anyone in the Scriptures. Jesus warns us about hell because he loves us and doesn’t want us to go there. So, if we love Jesus and people, we must warn like he did.
Salvation carries the idea that one is saved or rescued, or being saved, or shall be saved. One inevitable and logical question that comes up when we speak of Salvation is Saved from What? John, the Baptist, speaks of “the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). The Apostle Paul said, “we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Rom. 5:9), Jesus … rescues us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10). We are saved from the wrath of God. Unless one can understand what he/she was saved from, they will not fully grasp the good news. Because the good news is only good in light of the bad news.
When sharing the gospel, we like to talk about the love, goodness, and graciousness of God, and rightly so. The problem comes when we overemphasize them. Many people already believe God loves them. They take it as God affirming their self-esteem and self-love. As a result, they don’t feel the need for a saviour in their life. Therefore, we need to press the point that the Good News is not simply that God is love, good, or gracious. Yes, they all are true. But there are other attributes of God and the Bible also says God is infinitely holy, righteous, and just.
Since God is righteous and acts justly, He cannot simply forgive sin. Even a tiny sin is a big offence to a holy God. God’s righteousness is displayed in His judgments (Psalm 119:137). It is necessary that God must judge and punish sin, for sin deserves punishment. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46). God is angry toward sinners (Ps. 5:5; 7:11; 11:5) and unless they repent, He will send them to hell. So, it is wise to start with who God is, then explain Sin and then proceed to talk about hell. And like a good doctor who warns his patient, it is more loving to talk about hell than you realize.
You may be accused of being narrow-minded and judgmental when you share the terror of hell. But we should share the reality of hell anyway, with great humility. We should neither feel odd or awkward nor avoid or tone down hell. Rather we should speak the truth in love. We cannot talk about hell and be judgmental for we all deserve nothing but hell. We all were children of wrath (Eph. 2). We all were on a highway to hell and apart from the saving hands of God our default destination was hell. The reality of hell should motivate us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with urgency. May God awaken our drowsy conscience and give us the courage to witness for Him.
John Lennon was wrong in the song ‘Imagine’ when he tells us that there is no heaven or hell. The clear testimony of the Bible is that there is heaven and hell (Daniel 12:2). There is a coming judgment. Eternity is just a heartbeat away. Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28). Flee the wrath to come. Flee to Christ now. The final message of the Bible is “Come” (Rev. 22:17). Sincerely accept God’s free offer of eternal life while it is available. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
In conclusion, consider the words of Charles Spurgeon. In the last paragraph of his book All of Grace, he wrote:
Reader, meet me in heaven! Do not go down to hell. There is no coming back again from that abode of misery. Why do you wish to enter the way of death when heaven’s gate is open before you?