Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 10, 2000
I was recently talking with someone who had been visited by some Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were arguing that about their hope in being able to live on an eternal earth. The Apostle Peter, and others, are very clear that this present earth is not eternal and is not a good place to put your hope. 2 Peter 3:10 states, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
How sad that people have such limited and false hope, but I guess if you have a false Jesus who is limited, then your hope would be too. The true Christian’s hope is in a new heaven and earth and always being with the Lord Jesus Christ, just as He promised to His followers in John 12:26. As the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20 “our citizenship is in heaven.” We are now just aliens and strangers on this earth. We are “just passin through” on our way to that heavenly city whose builder and maker is God.
To be with Jesus in heaven is the believer’s wonderful hope . . . The Biblical description of it is unparalleled by anything here on earth. We will to into some detail about it next week, but the greatest thing about heaven is that it is the dwelling place of the Godhead and full of His grace and glory. The supreme characteristic and activity of heaven is the worship of God. And, if our citizenship is in heaven, then we need to live according to that and not according to this world.
But not everyone will go to heaven. Revelation 21:27 says specifically that “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter. Today, I need to deal with those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. Rev. 21:27 says that “nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall every come into it [heaven].” Verse 8 says, “but for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” There is a reality here that we must deal with. Hell is more than a word. It is a real place.
A generation or two ago, hell was a common topic of sermons. If the topic was not on hell itself, it was included somewhere within the sermon. Preachers were considered good only if they were preachers of “hellfire and brimstone.” Of course, that gave rise to several humorous stories. For example, there was the circuit riding preacher, who encountering many a meal that needed seasoning, carried with him a tiny bottle of tabasco sauce, and put it on the table before him at eating houses. A stranger, eyeing it with curiosity, asked permission to try it. He put a liberal amount on a piece of beef. He took a bite and immediately grabbed a glass of water. There was a pause as he gulped down the water. Then the stranger, said, “Say, Parson, you preach hell, don’t you?” The circuit rider answered, “I feel it my duty to remind the wicked that there is retribution beyond the grave.” The stranger replied, “Anyhow, you’re the first preacher I’ve seen that carries samples.”
I found it curious that in my theological works there is a lot written about hell and very little about heaven by What a different day we live in when hell is rarely mentioned, much less given any great attention. In fact, in many circles, it would be considered primitive, uneducated, or just plain impolite to talk about hell seriously. Our society has regulated hell to a vulgarism or a fantasy idea.
At the risk of being considered primitive, uneducated and impolite, today I will be taking a very serious look at a real place called hell. I, like the circuit riding preacher, believe it is my duty to God and my fellow man to warn the wicked that there is retribution beyond the grave.
The first thing that needs to be established is that hell is a real place. Because the reality of a place of eternal punishment is not a pleasant thought, many do not believe it. It is not a doctrine that man desires to believe. But the truth is not determined by popular vote, but by the Word of God.
Let me clarify what is meant by the term, “hell.” It is not a Biblical word, but an old English word meaning “to hide or conceal.” Its connotation as being a place of eternal punishment for the wicked comes from the fact that just about any Biblical word describing such a place was translated as “hell” in the KJV. So when I am using that term, I am talking about a place of divine retribution for the wicked after death.
We also need to realize that the place of the dead was different prior to Christ and that it will be different in the future as well. Throughout the Old Testament, the place of the dead was referred to as “Sheol.” This is a general term used for the place souls of both the wicked and the righteous would be kept. It is equivalent to “Hades” in Greek/N.T. In addition, Sheol was considered to have two areas within it. One area for the good and another one for the wicked. There is not always a clear distinction made, but it is clearly made in some of the wisdom literature where the area for the wicked is sometimes called “Abaddon” (or Apollyon in Greek – literally “destruction,” “ruin”).
For example, in Job 14:13 we find in that Job is longing for Sheol: “Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in Sheol, That Thou wouldst conceal me until Thy wrath returns to Thee, That Thou wouldst set a limit for me and remember me!” In this passage Sheol would be a hope for Job in that he would be hidden from his current trouble and that God would remember him in the future. In Job 21:13 we find Job referring to Sheol as the destination of the wicked as a place they will go to suddenly. But notice in Job 26:5,6 that Job describes two places for the dead: “The departed spirits tremble Under the waters and their inhabitants. Naked is Sheol before Him and Abaddon has no covering.” Now look at Job 31:9-12. Here Job states in his defense of himself that if he had been wicked he would be deserving of Abaddon: “If my heart has been enticed by a woman. Or I have lurked at my neighbor’s doorway. May my wife grind for another, And let others kneel down over her. For that would be a lustful crime; Moreover, it would be an iniquity punishable by judges. For it would be fire that consumes to Abaddon, And would uproot all my increase”.
This distinction is also brought out be the Lord Himself in Luke 16 in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus. Verse 22f says, “now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom . . . “ Again, Hades is the N.T. equivalent of Sheol, but here, the resting of the righteous is described as “Abraham’s bosom.” But all of this is prior to the resurrection of Christ. What about now after His resurrection?
There was a great change for those who have died since Jesus paid for sin on the cross and was raised from the dead. Matt 27:51-53 records what happened right after Jesus yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”
When a righteous person dies they immediately go to be with Jesus who is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 10:12). This is seen clearly by what Paul has said. 2 Cor 5:6-8: “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord – for we walk by faith, not by sight – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” In Phil. 1:22-23 Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
The wicked do not have this hope. The N.T. is not as clear about the current condition of the wicked as is the O.T., but it seems that immediately after their death their place seems to be the same as Abaddon of Sheol – dwelling in torment in a holding place. However, the N.T. is very clear about the fact that they are under judgement and their destiny is “gehenna;” a place of eternal destruction. The final place of the wicked is the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14,15). Paul says in 2 Thess. 1:8,9 that retribution will be made against those “who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of [the] Lord Jesus,” and that they “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
We will describe this place in a few moments, but notice that the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles all describe hell as a real place where real people have been sent and will be sent. Hell is a real place.
Turn over to Matthew 25:31. But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world . . . (to vs 41) 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 . . . “
Heaven and Hell are spoken of in the same way, and in this case, in the very same passage. If heaven is a real place, then hell is also a real place. You cannot pick between them and say that one is real and the other is not. If you reject one, then you have to reject both. If you reject hell, then you must also reject heaven.
Hell is a real place – but who is it for?
Look again at Matt. 15:41. Notice that it was originally created for the “devil and his angels,” which are the demons. In 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 we find that there are already some fallen angels that are “committed to pits of darkness,” “Kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgement of the great day.” Some of the fallen angels have already received a partial judgement and they are now in bondage is a dark place. Turn to Rev. 20:10 which gives the final chapter of Satan. “And 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.” Hell is a place for the devil and those who follow him. But notice that Satan is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. He does not reign there like popular mythology sometimes places him. He is a prisoner there and will himself be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Rev. 20:10 also tells us that the beast and the false prophet of the earlier chapters of Revelation are also there. They were cast into it in Rev 19:20. In Revelation 20:14 we find that death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire and that the lake of fire is called the “second death.” Verse fifteen says that “if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
So, who do we find in hell? Satan, the demons, the Beast, the false prophet, death and Hades, and all who do not have their names written in the book of life. Who is in that last group? Rev. 21:8 – “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” A lot of people that we personally know will go there.
Hell was originally made for the devil and his angels, but it will also hold all who follow him. People go to hell because they follow Satan, and because of that they will spend eternity with him in the same place of torment.
What will it be like for them?
We have already pointed out that it is a place of eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). We do not understand all that the torment they will suffer will be, but it will be severe.
We do not know what physical pain a spiritual body can have, but it is present. Hell is the “lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev 21:8). Jesus refers to hell in Mark 9:43 as a place of “unquenchable fire,” and as we already saw in Matt 25:41 it is an “eternal fire.” We do not know how spiritual bodies (Satan, angels and the people of the second resurrection) are affected by heat, but in some way they are, and that it is part of the torment. This is indicated by the description given by the Lord of the Rich man in Hell in Luke 16:24 when the man cries out “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.”
Later on in this same story we get an indication that there will be an emotional anguish also. In verses 27-31 we find the Rich man pleading for his relatives saying, “Then I beg of you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” But he said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” But he said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.” Apparently those in hell are aware of the lost condition of their relatives and they desire to warn them lest they will also end up in the torment they are in, but there is nothing further that can be done. Jesus describes Hell (Gehenna) in Matt 8:12 and 22:13 as a place where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The weeping is obvious as a sign of emotional turmoil. The gnashing of teeth sets it apart as severe. The gnashing of teeth being that torment so penetrating it results in the grinding of the teeth. Clenching your teeth as when in physical pain. It may also indicate the continued rebellion of those there. Clenching their teeth in defiance of God.
Third, we find it to be a place of eternal destruction. By that we do not mean annihilation (ceasing to exist) as some have proposed. Such a teaching may be comforting to us, especially if we have loved ones that have died without Christ, but it does not match the Bible’s clear teaching. In Matt. 25:46 the same word is used to describe both the duration/continued existence of the wicked in hell and that of the righteous in heaven. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Heaven and hell are both eternal. The duration of the destruction is also shown in that it is a place where there is an “unquenchable fire” (Luke 9:43) and “their worm does not die.”
Jesus alludes to this destruction in Matt 7:13 when He says that “the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.” He mentions it again in Matt 10:28 when He tells His disciples “do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.” Paul also mentions this in several places, but no where as clearly as 2 Thess 1:7-9 when Jesus shall return from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
How bad is hell?
Look at Matt. 5:29,30. “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to into hell (gehenna).” Hell is so bad that you are better off maimed in this world if that would keep you from going to hell. Hell is an eternal place of emotional torment, physical pain, destruction and punishment. But it is also one more thing.
From 2 Thess 1:9 we also see that Hell is a place “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” This makes the description given to it by the Lord in Matt 8:12 and 22:13 & 25:30 as “outer darkness.” Hell is a place where the Lord’s presence is absent. His glory is absent. It is a dark place. It is the fitting place for those who deny the Lord. Jesus said in Matt 10:33, “But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father.”
To me, the saddest part about all of this is that there will be many people who will be surprised to find themselves in Hell. Some even having lived under the delusion that they were living for God. Jesus Christ Himself said in Matt. 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'”
Hell is the fitting place for those who will go there. Some have tried to do away with what the Bible teaches about hell. I can understand that for its danger and finality is repulsive. However, to try and explain away hell is ignore the Bible and to change the character of God. The basis for most arguments against hell basically comes down to saying that God is love and is too good to allow souls to suffer eternal torment. I agree. He is. That is why He made provision for man to escape that eternal punishment through faith in Jesus Christ. God is loving, merciful and kind, but He is also just and holy. Sin must be punished and those who refuse to accept Jesus’ payment for their sins must take it upon themselves. God is also too good to allow evil into heaven. He will not force those that have rejected Him and all that He has done for them to spend eternity with Him.
Think about what I said earlier about heaven. What is its primary description? It is the dwelling place of God. What is the primary activity of heaven? The worship of God. What a miserable place that would be for those who hate God. The most wonderful thing about heaven is that I will be with Jesus Christ. The most terrifying thing about hell is the absence of the presence of God.
Those who will populate hell do so because of their own choice. They have rejected God and He in turn seals that rejection for all eternity. God is just.
Turn to Revelation 20:11 and see what the basis will be for God’s just judgement. “And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 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 which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, everyone of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lade of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
The wicked will be judged according to their own works. The things a man or woman have done in life will condemn them, and a good thing does not balance out an evil thing. Punishment is demanded for every sin committed. The only escape is to have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. And the only way to have it written there is to receive forgiveness by having those sins paid for through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ.
I do not desire to scare anyone into a decision for Christ as a fire insurance policy, but I do want to make sure that we understand that hell is a real place of eternal torment. It is a place for those who refuse to acknowledge their own sinfulness and need for the savior, for those who reject God’s provision in Jesus Christ, who refuse to yield their lives to Christ and continue to live their own way. Heaven is a place for those who demonstrate their love for God by repenting from their sins and placing their trust solely in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins and living according to His commands.
For those that do not yet personally know the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior from their sin, do not leave today without getting your life right with Him. Hell is for all eternity. You will not escape it. Talk with one someone today and get right with God.
For those of us that do love the Lord, I hope this reminds us of why we have to be so diligent in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Sin can be forgiven. Men do not have to go to hell and be eternally separated from God. Through Jesus Christ we can spend eternity with our loving heavenly Father. Let’s go tell people the good news.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “hell” is said. 2) Write down all the different words translated as “hell.” Discuss with your parents who goes to Hell and why? How does a person avoid going there?
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Is Heaven a real place? Is Hell a real place? Where would God like you to go? Where do you want to go? Hell was a central theme is sermons a century ago, why is it not now? What does the English word, “hell,” mean? How did the KJV translators confuse this subject? What does “Sheol” refer to? What is the Greek equivalent? What is “Abaddon”? What is “Abraham’s Bosom”? After Christ rose from the dead, what change occurred for those who would die? What is the hope of the righteous? What Biblical evidence is there that Hell is a real place? What did Jesus say about it? Who was the eternal fire/Gehenna created for? Who will be found there? On what basis will a human be condemned to it? What will it be like for them? Physically? Emotionally? Eternally? Why is the idea of annihilation a false doctrine? Why do people believe in annihilation? How bad is Hell? How is it described? Who controls Hell? Why do people reject the doctrine of eternal hell? Can both God be loving and Hell be true? Why? How has God demonstrated His love? How can a person avoid eternal Hell? Would a wicked person want to go to heaven? What responsibility does a person bear if they are condemned to eternal Hell? What will be the basis of their judgement? Do you know for certain your eternal destination? How does the doctrine of Hell motivate you to evangelize?
WHAT IS HELL?
The English word, “hell” – means to ________________.
In the KJV, many different Biblical words are translated as the English, “hell.” Before Jesus’ resurrection – Sheol / Hades (Job 14:13; 21:13
Abaddon/Apollyon (Job 26:5,6; 31:9-12)
Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:22)
After Jesus’ Resurrection
Jesus’ Teaching: Matthew 25
WHO GOES THERE?
The Beast and the false Prophet (Revelation 20:10; 19:20)
Death and Hades (Revelation 20:14)
Those not written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15; 21:8)
WHAT IS HELL LIKE?
Eternal destruction – not annihilation.
DANGER OF DELUSION – Matthew 7:21-23
BASIS OF JUDGMENT – Revelation 20:11
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