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[See also How Can A God Of Love Send People To Hell?]
Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. (Psalm 90:11)
The Lord is known by the judgment He executes. (Psalm 9:16)
The reality of hell is the most horrifying, terror striking, fearful truth known to man. It encompasses the worst possible fear and the meanest conceivable existence, continual never-ending torture.
And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10).
Most men lie to themselves and those around them (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 1:18-32), but no amount of prevarication or fabrication will ever remove the eternal reality of Hell.
There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30)
I. The Place
Hell is a literal physical place (e.g. Matthew 5:29-30; 10:28). It is a literal place where literal people suffer the torment of a literal fire in physical bodies (e.g. Luke 16:19-31). Its location is down (Proverbs 15:24; Isaiah 14:9; Ezekiel 31:15-17; 2 Peter 2:4). Its temperature is burning hot (Luke 16:24; Revelation 19:20). Its luminance is "outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), also called "the blackness of darkness" (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). Its size is so massive it is never filled to capacity (Proverbs 27:20), though masses of people are in it and numbers more are added continually (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 1:18). Its smoke will ascend forever (Revelation 14:11). Its fire will never be quenched, and the worm there will never die (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:43-46, 48).
Hell is the place where the vessels of wrath (Romans 9:22) will be on display before all of mankind (Isaiah 66:24) and before the holy angels and the Lord Himself (Revelation 14:10). It is where Christ will show His wrath and make His power known for all eternity (Romans 9:22; Revelation 20:10). Hell is to the glory of God (Psalm 96:7-13) and the utter destruction of the wicked (Psalm 92:5-7).
Hell is where the mockers are now mocked (Proverbs 1:26). The scoffers are now put to shame (Proverbs 3:35; 13:5). Murderers are now being tortured with perpetual death (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 21:8, "the second death"). Oppressors are now laid low (1 Samuel 2:7). Liars experience the reality that they have been lied to (Revelation 12:9). Kidnappers are now eternal captives (1 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 20:11-15). The rich suffer severe poverty (Proverbs 22:16; 28:22; Luke 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:9-10), and their riches will eat their "flesh like fire" (James 5:3). The full are now hungry (Isaiah 65:13; Luke 6:25). The proud are rebuked (Psalm 119:21) and fully repaid (Psalm 31:23). The disobedient are punished (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Cowards are now "utterly consumed with terror" (Psalm 73:18-19; Proverbs 10:24; Revelation 21:8). Those who laughed are now weeping and mourning (Isaiah 65:14; Luke 6:25). Those honored by men are now despised and lightly esteemed by God (Luke 6:26; Psalm 73:18-20; 1 Samuel 2:30/Proverbs 14:2), and will in the future be abhorred by all mankind (Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:2). Those who have wickedly dug a pit, are now cast down into the pit (Psalm 7:14-16; 9:15-17; Proverbs 26:27; 28:10 [Ecc.10:8]). Lovers of pleasure are now tormented with fire (2 Timothy 3:4; Revelation 21:8). Those who cursed are now cursed (Proverbs 20:20). Those who considered the cross foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) are now shown the shrewdness of God (2 Samuel 22:26-28). God indeed is not mocked. Men will reap what they have sown (Galatians 6:7-8).
To get to hell, the directions are quite simple and easy to follow. All one has to do is continue to sin (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8), which, without the Savior, is impossible to do otherwise (John 8:34-36). Actually, all it takes is one ungodly statement of "You fool!" to put one in "danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22). It takes very "little" to get to hell. The gate that leads to hell is wide and the way that leads to hell is broad (Matthew 7:13). Continue on the course you have followed from birth (Psalm 58:3), and you are sure to get there (Romans 2:6-9).
In the Old Testament, the most common word for hell is שְׁא֣וֹל (she'ol, e.g. Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 9:17; 55:15; Proverbs 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:24; 23:14; Isaiah 5:14). Note in particular Isaiah 14:9-11; Ezekiel 32:18-21, 24-25, and 30. Yet, this word can also mean grave (e.g. Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 14:13; Psalm 6:5; 88:3; 89:48; 141:7; Ecclesiastes 9:10), and, at times, it appears to have both the grave and hell in view (e.g. Job 24:19; Psalm 49:15; 86:13).
Other Hebrew words describing hell are בֽוֹר (bor, e.g. Isaiah 14:15) translated "pit," שַׁ֗חַת (shachat) translated "pit" (e.g. Job 33:18, 22, 24, 28, 30) or "destruction" (e.g. Psalm 55:23; 103:4), and בְאֵ֬ר (be'êr) translated "pit" (e.g. Psalm 55:23).
In the New Testament, Jesus used the Greek word γέενναν (geennan) in Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; and James 3:6. Another Greek word for hell is ᾍδης (Hadês, Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14) or ᾍδῃ (Haidê, Luke 16:23; 1 Corinthians 15:55) transliterated "Hades." Also, there is the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8). It can be seen from Luke 16:19-31 and Revelation 20:11-15 that ᾍδης (Hadês) is a temporary hell that will be cast into the final hell, the lake of fire.
There is also the hell where the angels who sinned are presently confined with "chains of darkness" (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Genesis 6:1-4). The Greek word used in 2 Peter 2:4 is ταρταρώσας (tartarôsas) which is an aorist active participle describing those who are held captive in the dark hell called tartarus. There is also the "prison" (Greek word, φυλακῇ [phulakê]) in which those who lived during the time of Noah are held (1 Peter 3:19). Finally, there is also the Greek word ἄβυσσον (abusson) which is translated the "abyss" or the "bottomless pit" (e.g. Romans 10:7; Revelation 9:1-2, 11). In this abyss are very strange creatures that are held captive and will be released upon the earth in the near future to torment men (Revelation 9:1-11). Demons beseeched Christ not to send them there (Luke 8:31). The Antichrist will come out of this pit (Revelation 11:7; 17:8) and deceive the world (Revelation 13:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). And in the future Satan will be confined to this abyss for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3), after which he will be cast to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). From this (Revelation 20:1-3 & 20:10), it is evident that the abyss is not the same place as the final hell, the lake of fire.
Also note worthy is the name of the angel of this bottomless pit. His name is Abaddon. In the Greek it is Ἀβαδδὼν (abaddôn). See Revelation 9:11. This is the same Hebrew word, אֲבַדּֽוֹן ('avaddon), for destruction in Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11 & 27:20.
II. The Pain
The rich man in Hades cried and said, "I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24). Those in hell are tortured by God (Matthew 18:34-35) in an everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8; 25:41). They are being burned continually with a fire that will never be quenched (Mark 9:43-48). Those in hell melt away (Psalm 112:10) at the presence of God (Psalm 68:2), because God is in hell (Psalm 139:8) consuming them with His fire (Hebrews 12:29; Psalm 50:3; 97:3). The godly can dwell with everlasting burnings (Isaiah 33:14-16), but those who despise His word are destroyed in everlasting burnings (Psalm 37:38; Proverbs 29:1; Matthew 10:28).
This destruction (Psalm 37:38; Proverbs 29:1; Matthew 7:13; Romans 9:22; Philippians 3:19) is a continual state of being destroyed. It is an "everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Psalm 92:7), as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (Genesis 19:24; 2 Peter 2:6), and now,
are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah have been suffering the vengeance of eternal fire for roughly 4000 years now, and they have absolutely no hope of relief. They have been in horrible pain for 4000 years, and all they have to look forward to is more torture for the rest of eternity; and the Lord has set them forth as an example for mankind that this is what they too will receive if they continue to live ungodly lives. For,
Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Psalm 11:6; see also Psalm 140:10)
Psalm 11:6 describes hell not as a passively burning fire, but rather an actively aggressive fire that is raining hot coals along with a burning wind down upon those in hell. The weather in hell is always bad. It not only has coals of fire (Proverbs 25:22; Romans 12:20) and burning wind, but it is smoky as well, burning with a smoke that will continually rise up from the torment of those in it (Psalm 37:20; Revelation 14:11; see also Isaiah 34:10; Revelation 19:3). So, smoke ascends upward, coals of fire descend downward, and the fire, sulfur, and people burn in its midst (Revelation 21:8). Jesus called hell "the furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:42, 50).
Moreover, hell's torture is quite physical. Jesus said,
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
God destroys both the soul and the body in hell. Jesus likewise warned,
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Clearly "the body" is cast into hell. The rich man in Hades exemplified this when he said,
"Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue." (Luke 16:24)
His tongue was (and still is) burning hot.
Along with the torture of fire, coals raining down, smoke, and a burning wind, is the continual stabbing of being eaten. "Death shall feed on them" (Psalm 49:14). The moth and "the worm will eat them" (Isaiah 14:11; 50:9; 51:7-8; 66:24; see also Job 24:19-20). While they are being eaten, they themselves will suffer in thirst and hunger (Isaiah 65:13; Luke 6:25; Proverbs 13:25). They will wail, weep, and gnash their teeth (Psalm 112:10; Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 49-50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:23-28). Some, or all, may be torn in pieces (Psalm 50:22), or cut in two (Matthew 24:51; Luke 12:46), and have their tongue cut out (Proverbs 10:31-32); and they will lie down in torment (Isaiah 50:11).
Those in hell will never experience "the fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11; Matthew 7:23; 25:41; Luke 13:27). Although they will know Yahweh is "the Most High over all the earth" (Psalm 83:13-18), they will never know God (John 17:3) or enjoy His presence (Psalm 140:13). They will seek Him (Psalm 83:16), but they will not find Him (Proverbs 1:27-28). They "will go away into everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46), and "the fire shall devour them" (Psalm 21:9).
III. The People
Who goes to hell? The majority of mankind has and will go to hell (Matthew 7:13-14). Specifically, all false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3), like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, James Dobson, John MacArthur, Greg Laurie, Tony Evans, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, Charles Blake, Chuck Swindoll, T. D. Jakes, David Jeremiah, Charles Spurgeon, Dave Hunt, David W. Cloud, Neil Anderson, John Hagee, Robert Schuller, Jack Hayford, Benny Hinn, Miles McPherson, Ray Comfort, Chuck Colson, C. S. Lewis, Pope John Paul, Hank Hanegraaff, Paul Chappell, et. al., will spend their eternity in the "blackness of darkness" (i.e. hell, 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). False Christians, like those who respect such liars (Psalm 40:4) will also go to hell (Matthew 7:13; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2), if they do not repent. False Christians, like those who go to "church of Christ" churches will go to hell, if they don't repent. False Jews, if they do not repent, will be cast into this "outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12; Romans 2:28-29; Revelation 2:9; 3:9) along with false and real Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Baha'is (Revelation 21:8, "idolaters"), Psychologists, Psychiatrists (1 Corinthians 1:20), Atheists, Agnostics (Psalm 14:1), and anyone else who "is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God" (1 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 21:8).
Moreover, even if a person accepted Christ at some point in their life, if just one of the following characterizes their life, if they die in such a state, such a one will go to hell (Ezekiel 33:12-18; John 15:1-6; Romans 11:22). Whether a person claims to be a Christian or not, they will go to hell if they die as an unrighteous person (1 Corinthians 6:9). Hell bound are all fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), those who are sexually immoral, or malicious, or envious, or murderers, or whisperers, or backbiters, or haters of God, or violent, or proud, or boasters, or inventors of evil things, or disobedient to parents, or undiscerning, or untrustworthy, or unloving, or unforgiving, or unmerciful (Romans 1:28-31), or lewd, or unclean, or contentious, or jealous, or selfish, or dissentious, or revelrous, or angry (Proverbs 22:24-25; 29:22; Galatians 5:19-21), or foolish, or disobedient, or deceived, or hateful (Titus 3:3), or lawless, or offensive (Matthew 13:41-42), or insubordinate, or unholy, or kidnappers, or liars, or perjurers (1 Timothy 1:9-10), or lovers of themselves, or lovers of money, or blasphemers, or unthankful, or slanderers, or without self-control, or brutal, or despisers of good, or traitors, or headstrong (i.e. stubborn, 1 Samuel 15:23), or haughty, or lovers of pleasure (2 Timothy 3:2-4), or cowards, or unbelieving, or sorcerers (Revelation 21:8), or those who practice witchcraft, or soothsayers, or whoever interprets omens, or conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead, or diviners (Deuteronomy 18:10-14), or one who practices magic (Ezekiel 13:18-20; Acts 19:19), or dogs, or whoever loves and practices a lie (Revelation 22:15).
Furthermore, the people in hell are all wicked and will continue to be evil for all eternity (Revelation 22:11). There is no salvation for those who go to hell. It is said of false teachers that they "will utterly perish in their own corruption" (2 Peter 2:12). Revelation 22:15 says,
But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
It can be seen from Revelation 21:8 that "outside" is in the lake of fire, because Revelation 21:8 reveals that these same people (sorcerers, sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters) "have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone." Therefore, even in the eternal state (Revelation 21-22), the wicked are outside of the kingdom of God in the lake of fire, still lost in their sin. That is hell!
Thus, the wicked, since they all hate God (Psalm 10:3-4; Proverbs 14:2), will hate Him for the rest of eternity as they suffer under "His living and burning wrath" (Psalm 58:9). They will be brought to confusion, shame, and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2), and "their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten." (Jeremiah 20:11; Isaiah 45:16; James 3:16).
IV. Objections To The Reality Of Hell
A. Hell Is Cruel.
Yes it is. Hell is horribly cruel.
Some may say, "God would not be so cruel so as to torment such a mass of humanity for all eternity," yet those who say such things do not know the God of the Bible. In His wrath, God is cruel. Proverbs 27:4 says, "Wrath is cruel," and the most cruel wrath in all existence is the anger of the Almighty God (e.g. Deuteronomy 28:15-68; 2 Chronicles 21:19; [Job 30:21/2:3] Revelation 16:10). When the Lord moves in His wrath towards the sons of men, He acts very cruelly. As Isaiah 13:9 says,
Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it.
Solomon described God's wrath as cruel when he said,
For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:12; see also Proverbs 17:11)
Death cruelly falls suddenly upon men by the hand of God, and what is more cruel than death (Song of Solomon 8:6)? The second death is eternally worse (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). So, although men may complain against the cruelty of hell, it nonetheless is true, and all those who reject this truth will forever experience this cruel hand of God; and will know that the Most High rules over the sons of men.
B. Hell Is Eternal?
Some fools may argue against the eternality of hell, even though the language in Scripture is extremely clear (e.g. Matthew 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Revelation 20:10), and they themselves know that it lasts forever (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 1:18-19, 32). The natural mind (1 Corinthians 2:14) may very well note Scriptures that speak of the destruction of the wicked (e.g. Psalm 21:9; 55:23; 92:7) and view this with an earthly understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), as if it is an event with an end. What they fail to recognize is, that, even on the earth, it takes time, either short or long, to kill and destroy someone or burn them up. In hell, God takes all eternity to finish His cause. He takes forever to burn them up (Matthew 3:12). This is the significance of the "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12), "the everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:8; 25:41), and "everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Even though Isaiah 66:24 calls the people in hell corpses and in Revelation 21:8 the lake of fire is called the second death, Scripture describes this state of death, destruction, this state of being devoured, eaten, and dying, as a continual unending process that lasts all eternity. Matthew 25:46 calls it "everlasting punishment." Those who where in Sodom and Gomorrah are presently very familiar with this "everlasting punishment" because they themselves are right now "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7), and there is no hope of any change of their torment. This is the significance of Jesus' statement in Mark 9 where He warns of hell. Three times He says,
Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:44, 46, 48)
He says, "their worm," not "a worm." The people in hell have their own personal worm forever. The worm never dies, and it stays "theirs" forever. In other words, "theirs" (they) are still in existence, along with the worm and the fire that will never be quenched, as Revelation 20:10 describes those in the lake of fire with these words:
They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Some may want to argue over words (1 Timothy 6:4) and argue against the words "forever and ever." The Greek words translated, "forever and ever," in Revelation 20:10 are tous aiônas tôn aiônôn. These same exact words are used for God's eternal glory (Galatians 1:5; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11; 5:11; Revelation 1:6; 5:13; 7:12), for Christ's eternal living, never ever to experience death again (Revelation 1:18), for God who lives forever and ever (Revelation 4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7), for Christ's eternal reign (Revelation 11:15), for eternal smoke (Revelation 19:3), and the eternal reign of the saints (Revelation 22:5).
C. Hell Is Immediate?
Another diversion from the fear of God is the argument of "soul sleep," that is, that people who have died are not conscious after death. They are asleep, neither in hell or heaven.
Scripture does describe death in the terms of "sleep" (e.g. Psalm 13:3; Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 11:30; John 5:28-29; 11:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16). Yet, those who are "asleep" talked to Christ while He was on the earth (Matthew 17:3), conversed with those in Hades (Luke 16:19-31), were preached to (1 Peter 3:18-20: 4:6), in the future will come back with Christ when He comes (1 Thessalonians 4:14), and will cry out to God,
How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:10)
These here will be given white robes and told to rest a little while longer (Revelation 6:11). They may rest, but they will not be unconscious, because they will be aware of God's longsuffering toward the wicked on the earth and will have to endure this longsuffering "a little while longer" (Revelation 6:11).
Furthermore, Luke 16:19-31 is no make-believe story. Christ spoke truth about two real men. After their death, both Lazarus and the rich man were taken to a good and bad location. The rich man did not stay in some unconscious state, for he was "tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24).
Moreover, while he was in torment, his brothers were yet alive on the earth, and he knew it and so did Abraham (Luke 16:27-31). The rich man pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them of their soon coming fate. The rich man knew well they would not be sleeping after they died. He knew well that they would experience the same fate he had, if they did not repent. For when the wicked die, they indeed lie down, but they lie down in torment (Isaiah 50:11). The rich man has known this truth for many years. [For other pertinent Scriptures for the righteous, see 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:21-24; and 1 Thessalonians 5:10.]
Don't go to hell like the rest of the world.
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
"will render to each one according to his deeds:" eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil. (Romans 2:6-9; see also Acts 17:30)
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