The discussion of whether Hell exists, or whether anyone will go there if it does exist, is a hot topic today. Much of this has been fueled by Rob Bell, whose belief system, captured in his recent book, infers that God is too loving to allow someone to go to Hell. The consequence? Everyone will eventually go to Heaven. I assume that would include the likes of Adolph Hitler. It is important enough that another minister, Francis Chan, has just written a thoughtful book entitled Erasing Hell, countering Rob Bell's position. Incidentally, a Gallup poll was conducted in May 2007 on America's belief in the afterlife. The survey found that 86% believed in God, as well, 81% believed in Heaven. On the flip side, 70% believed in the Devil, while only 69% believed Hell exists.
Honestly? It's a subject many of us don't want to discuss because (and I agree) it makes us uncomfortable. It is difficult to conceive of the idea of any human being in eternal torment. It's reflected in the poll mentioned above, and by that I mean how many more people believe in God and Heaven as opposed to the Devil and Hell. It is easier to think about more pleasant things than those that are not. I wonder if that doesn't contribute to our inability to want to believe that a place so horrible, that it is beyond description, could even exist...but exist it does. Jesus not only said Hell is a real place, He even described it. I truly wish Rob Bell would have considered the following texts below before he wrote or spoke to a crowd. Because it isn't just another crowd he is entertaining...souls are at stake. Francis Chan is 'spot-on'. This subject is important enough that we better get it right.
Like Heaven, Hell is real. Jesus Christ addressed both in His teachings. In fact, more than 1/2 of the 40 parables that Jesus told related to God's eternal judgement of sinners. In Luke 16:19-31, we have one of the most chilling accounts of the afterlife. Jesus talked about two people who had died. One was a rich man who went to Hell, the place of torment. Another, a poor beggar named Lazarus, went to Paradise. We know this is a real story, and not a parable, because Jesus used names. Remarkable, and I believe out of compassion for the rich man's family who may have still been living, Jesus never mentioned the rich man's name. It's that serious. No one should rejoice, or be glad, in anyone going to Hell. The following description of Hell comes from the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke...spoken by Jesus Himself.
Hell is a place of immediate, conscious torment. This we see in Luke 16:22-23 where the rich man, upon death, was immediately in Hell and totally aware he was in torment. Scripture says, "...the rich man also died, and was buried, and IN HELL HE LIFTED UP HIS EYES, BEING IN TORMENTS". You see, there is no purgatory. You won't find that in Scripture. Likewise, there is no 'soul sleep'. The rich man's five senses were aware instantaneously of what was happening. Furthermore, when Jesus was on the Cross, he told the penitent thief, "Today shall you be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). For the rich man it was immediate, and sadly, he was fully aware at that moment there would be no second chance.
Hell is like a garbage dump. The word 'Gehenna' translates the word Hell. Gehenna was a valley outside the city of Jerusalem where the garbage was dumped. Every kind of garbage was thrown there and burned, including dead animals and the corpses of criminals. The stench was unbearable. Children were sacrificed ('passing through the fire' ritual) to the false god Molech there. Worms and maggots bred and fed in the filth, while smoke was constantly rising due to the fires continually burning. Three times Jesus said Hell is a place where "the worm dies not" (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).
Hell is a place of unquenchable fire. Again, in Luke 16:24, the rich man cried out and 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; for I AM TORMENTED IN THIS FLAME". It is to be noticed that the rich man himself had now become the 'beggar'. Additionally, listen to Jesus' words in the Gospel of Mark Chapter 9, "THE FIRE THAT NEVER SHALL BE QUENCHED" (v. 43), "THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED" (v. 44), "THE FIRE THAT NEVER SHALL BE QUENCHED" (v. 45), "THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED" (v.46), "CAST INTO HELL FIRE" (v. 47), "THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED" (v. 48). No less than six times Jesus teaches that the unquenchable fires of Hell are literal.
Hell is a place of complete darkness. In Matthew 8:12, Jesus discussed those who "shall be cast out into OUTER DARKNESS: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth". The Apostle Peter mentioned those "to whom THE MIST OF DARKNESS IS RESERVED FOREVER" (2 Peter 2:17). There is no light apart from the flames. There are no trees. There are no blue skies. No birds singing. No breeze. No green grass. No water. No one laughing. Just screams, cursing, weeping, and wailing in the darkness. The Bible declares that Hell was a place made for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). You see now why the thought of just one person going there causes one to cringe.
Hell is like a prison. In Matthew 18:34-35, Jesus is finishing the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. In verse 34, He mentioned that the one who showed no mercy would be "delivered...to the tormentors", an incredible picture of a person in Hell being tormented by demons. To be sure, Hell is much worse than a prison. It is a place of isolation, aloneness, banishment from the presence of God, solitary confinement forever, an eternal sentence that is permanent and irreversible. By the way, how is this for a wake-up call. The one in this parable who was sentenced to Hell forever...his great sin? Adultery? Stealing? Murder? Nope. He was simply unwilling to forgive another person.
The Great Lie of this generation, perpetrated by Satan himself, is that Hell doesn't exist or, if it does, no one will have to go there. This is a false doctrine. It is blatant heresy. But Satan's lies are nothing new. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the Devil came to them and the first thing he did was to question God's word when he said, "Yea, hath God said...?" (Genesis 3:1). Satan's tactics have not changed for 6,000 years. He can't hurt God but if he can hurt people, who were created in the image of God, he will do it. Presently, Satan, clothed as an angel of light, is seducing people by telling them that neither he nor Hell exists. Today, the Devil is influencing ministers to create confusion with the goal of shipwrecking people's faith.
But John 3:16 still stands at the crossroads of Scripture pointing to the Good News! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life." In order to give us eternal life, Jesus Christ gave His life as our substitute when He shed His blood for our sins on the Cross 2,000 years ago. He then was buried. But after 3 days He arose from the grave. Then nearly 60 years later, when the Apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos for his faith, Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and said, "I am He Who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hell and Death" (Revelation 1:18). That is what separates Christianity from every other religion - Jesus Christ is alive and He conquered Death, Hell and the Grave!