Is Hell Real?
Written by: George Greene
WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
No generation of Christianity has more greatly questioned the reality of Hell.
Is there such a place?
Will there be a final judgment and punishment for our sins?
Does God care who we are and what we do with our lives?
Does God exist?
To search for the truth about Hell is to also question what we truly believe about God and the devil, about the purpose of life, about good and evil, morality, and ultimately, Heaven. Because there can be no Hell without a god to cast people into such punishment, and that spiritual being must therefore judge who is worthy or deserving of such a terrible fate. And obviously there can be no Hell without its counterpart, Heaven. The question of Hell is really a question of what we believe.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HELL?
The Bible refers specifically to ‘Hell’ eleven times, ‘Sheol’ sixty-six times, the ‘lake of fire’ at least 12 times, and ‘Hades’ 10 times. All references to Sheol are made in the Old Testament, while the others are specifically mentioned exclusively in the New Testament by Jesus, Paul, and the apostles. So what do they tell us?
- Hell is eternal (Matthew 25:46, Daniel 12:2)
- Hell is for punishment (Revelation 21:8, Mark 9:43-48, Matthew 13:41,42)
- Hell is apart from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
- Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)
- Jesus holds the keys to Hell (Revelation 1:18)
These are only a few references the Bible makes to Hell, but we know from these passages that not only did the authors of the Bible believe in Hell, but Jesus himself spoke about it explicitly. As Christians, If we are to take the Bible as the literal Word of God, we must accept the reality of Hell. It takes only a glance at the scriptures to know that they are not speaking metaphorically or allegorically regarding the eternal death that awaits those who do not know Christ. It is only great negligence and willful ignorance to claim otherwise. One must deceive themselves by deliberately omitting scriptures that speak to the contrary. Hell is real.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE BELIEVE IN HELL?
We don’t like Hell because eternal torment is a terrible fate. We may find it unfair, or unwarranted. The rules don’t seem to be straightforward. We would rather the whole thing be made up to scare us onto the right path in life. But most of all, we struggle with the notion that a loving God who created humanity and has watched over them since time began would then cast bad people into such a horrible place. Where is the mercy and love of God in Hell?
I believe our struggle with Hell has less to do with our own final destination, but rather the fate of much of the world. There is a powerful compassion within us that drives our concern for the lost, and it is that part of us that wrestles with the idea of eternal fire.
Perhaps therein lies the mercy and love of God. Not only did He sacrifice His only son (John 3:16) to give the world a means of salvation; not only did He write His gospel in creation around us so that we would know Him and be without excuse (Romans 1:20); but He put within mankind, a love of one another, a concern for the wellbeing of our kin, that we should not wish any to perish.
Truly our fears are often for those we know, a family member or a friend, but we also fear the loss of so much of the world who we don’t know. Perhaps the love of God within us is what wrestles so greatly with the reality of Hell.
WHY IS THERE A HELL?
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”Revelation 21:8
The concept of one ‘reaping’ what one has ‘sowed’ is universal around the world and is as old as Adam. We have all ‘sowed’ bad things in our life, and our loved ones the same. The Bible lets us know the whole world has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Hell awaits us and everyone else. It is wishful thinking, or pleasant ignorance, to live life avoiding that reality. Wouldn’t it be nice if somehow our debts were not called in to be paid?
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23
Hell is also not just for us, but for the devil and all his angels (Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4). Not for sin alone is a seat in Hell reserved, but for the rebellion against the Lordship of God. And the day will come when Death, Hades, and Satan will be cast forever into the lake of fire forever and ever (Revelation 20:10,14)
The nations do not know Him who has come to save the world. Much has been made of the church using fire and brimstone to persuade believers to faith, and some criticism is surely warranted. But the reality of Hell is real, and the urgency to rescue all who are set upon the path of destruction should be ever in our hearts. For if we do not tell them, who shall?
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”Romans 10:12-15
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