Is hell real?
Unfortunately friends, hell is real. I don’t want it to be real, and I don’t even want to talk about this very difficult topic but it is as real as I am. As a pastor, I can’t exclude parts of the bible that are uncomfortable; I am tasked by God to minister the entire word of God, not simply the part that makes everyone happy. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable (2 Tim 4:16) for our understanding. Some pastors don’t even talk about hell thinking it will make them popular but I love you too much to sugar coat reality. So let’s delve into this topic right now.
Why is hell real?
Because the same bible that tells me that heaven is real and God is Love, also describes the realities of hell. The bible is the total summation of God’s word (the Logos) and contains the truth. We don’t make doctrines out of individual scriptures but we look at the totality of the word of God, with several references to validate doctrine. From this perspective, one can find many scriptures to validate the existence of hell. In fact, hell has been a ‘given’ throughout the ages as a place of judgment for those that abused others in this life. The relatively recent historical changes in popular thinking as a result of Darwinism in the latter part of the 19th century provided an alternative world view, contrary to the common consensus of the belief in ‘Hades.’
There are many ideas floating around of what happens to us when we die. Some people believe that when you die you go into a deep sleep or ‘soul sleep.’ Others say you die like a dog, and there is nothing after this life. Friends, we are eternal beings who will live forever, either in paradise with Christ or in hell with the devil and demon forces. There is an interesting truth mentioned in the movie Gladiator, when Maximus the Roman General states, “What we do in this life, echoes in eternity.” This is a profound and truthful statement. Our decisions in this lifetime will have severe consequences, but it is the decision to believe on the Son of God (Christ) that is the most important choice we will ever make and our eternal abode hinges on that choice.
What are my choices?
The bible makes it very clear that we are eternal beings and there will be an afterlife (Rev 20:10). There are simply two choices: heaven or hell. To be absent from the body is to be present either with the Lord or satan (II Cor 5:8). There is no ‘in between,’ there is no ‘purgatory’, and there is no ‘middle ground’ ever mentioned in the canon of scripture. In fact, ‘Purgatory’ was conspired by the ‘Holy Mother Church’ in the Middle Ages to generate wealth and has no bearing in scripture. Payment would have to be made to the priest in order for the deceased relative to be ‘released’ into Heaven from this middle ground. Interestingly, the larger the payment made, the faster the deceased relative found his or her way to heaven! What a coincidence! Every believer has the right to approach his Father directly, with Christ as Mediator and High Priest. Jesus himself is the one and only legitimate high priest, who ‘ever makes intercession for us’ at the right hand of the Father (Heb 7:25, Heb 9:24). Martin Luther greatly opposed the false doctrine of purgatory and it was through his revelation that we are ‘saved by grace’ (Eph 2:8-9) and that the German people were thrust into revival and a deeper appreciation of the Scriptures.
Descriptions of hell in Scripture
- Revelation 14:11 – “11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night,” Think about that; no rest day or night! I’ve gone two days without sleeping and that was very difficult, I was exhausted and could barely function. The torments of Hell are incredible and indescribable; in fact we are not able to conceive the immeasurable torment and unfathomable agony, as our senses are magnified outside of our physical body.
- Matthew 23:33-34 – Jesus asks the Pharisees how they can escape the damnation of Hell?
- Matthew 22:13 & Matthew 25:30 – Hell is described as being ‘outer darkness’ where there shall be ‘weeping’ and ‘gnashing of teeth’. Weeping is an expression of sorrow and grief, tied to memory.
- Matthew 13:41-42 – Describes the fiery furnace where those who reject Jesus will be cast. The wicked and worthless servants are also cast into the furnace (Matthew 24:44-51 & Matthew 25:14-30).
Think about it for a minute the pain and torment must be so intense, their teeth were gnashing! Gnashing of teeth as a result of the torment of flame and immense and unquenchable thirst that is referenced in Luke 16:24.
I’m reminded of the people who may or may not be believers having out of body experiences when they die; why? Because death is universal. Statistics show that 1 out of 1 people die and many try to avoid thinking about it, but I want to ask you a question today. Have you considered how short life is? What is coming out of the body when their conscious is separated from their physical being? These individuals often see their own body lying on the bed or gurney below. My mother in fact had just such an experience when she had a fever one time. The answer is the spirit man is what is separated from the physical body. Friends, we are spirit beings; we have a soul and we live in a body. The spirit man inside us is eternal. The soul and spirit will survive. The body will deteriorate and Luke chapter 16 makes that plain.
This body is our ‘earth suit.’ When we die our soul and spirit are separated from our body and we enter the dimension of the afterlife, because hell by biblical definition is never annihilation but eternal separation from the living God. In the afterlife, there is everlasting life or everlasting damnation. Hell is the place of everlasting damnation and torment because it represents complete separation from God. We will discuss this shortly. In Luke chapter 16, the rich man remembered his former life on earth, and he remembered his brothers. One of the greatest torments of hell, friends, is the regret of not having chosen to receive Christ in this lifetime. The pain and torment is felt both physically and emotionally, yet the emotional pain of regret is probably the most dire torment of all.
A decision must be made
The choice my friend is up to you, but please understand, that you can only choose in this lifetime, once you step off the threshold of eternity, you will never have another chance to choose Jesus. This is why I am very serious in this segment describing the realities of hell. Hell is a literal place at the center of this earth. In the Old Testament, everyone who died went down to the grave or pit (also known as ‘Sheol’). Heaven is up and Hell is always down.
- Psalm 9:17 – “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God”.
- Job 17:16 – “They shall go down to the bars of Sheol”.
- Matthew 5:28-29 – “for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Notice that your spit man or spirit body is cast into Hell).
- Matthew 16:18 – “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
If there’s a gate, there’s an entrance. Hell is a real place my friends. I beg you today, my friend, do not go there. All you need to do is receive Jesus today; receive the Son and you will have eternal life. We will discuss how to do that shortly.
The Hebrew word for hell is ‘Sheol’, which basically means the ‘pit’ or ‘grave’. There are several Greek words for hell (including Tartarus, Hades and Gehenna) but the two main Greek words are hades, which “means holding place or pit” and Gehenna which means “place of everlasting torment.” In fact, Gehenna is not actually a precise Greek word but a transliteration of a Hebrew word that literally means “Hinnom Valley.” This area was where the apostate Israelites cast their children into the fire as sacrifices in order to worship the idol god, molech (II Chronicles 33:6). This vicinity later became the garbage disposal area for Jerusalem with fires burning perpetually and when Jesus referred to hell in some instances he was likely pointing to that vicinity. These fires never went out just as it is stated in Isaiah 66:22-24, “And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. “
Hell is a holding place for the unrighteous dead, until all are cast into the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11). If hell is jail, then Gehenna is the penitentiary. But what are they waiting for? Hell is the holding cell for one awaiting the final verdict but the lake of fire is where the unrighteous are sent for eternal punishment. The trial is based on whether or not you received the Lord Jesus Christ in this lifetime. If you receive Christ, your name is written in the ‘book of life.’ If not, you will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15); the verdict my friends is up to you.
Literal existence of hell
If we read in Luke chapter 16, there is an extensive description of this literal place called Hell. Why is it literal? Because Jesus if he were discussing a parable or anecdote, he would say it up front, “I speak unto you a parable”, but he did not say that in this passage. Jesus said at the beginning of the passage, “there was a certain rich man”; therefore, it is a real event. I would sincerely desire that you read Luke chapter 16 in its entirety for yourself, right after this message, so that you can see the accurate descriptions of Hades. It will only take a few minutes.
In Luke 12:5, Jesus describes God having the power to cast your soul into Hell.” But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” It is to Him we must give an account, not Satan. God has the ultimate authority and has final say in the destination of each and every soul, through the annals of time. This is not a tormenting fear but a reverential fear of love and respect for our Heavenly Father, who is all powerful and all knowing.
Finally in the book of Revelation, ‘But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 2:18
The second death is the death of the spirit man. This death is eternal separation from God, not annihilation. The first death is the death of the physical body. You are born once through the physical birth canal and born a second time when you receive Christ (John 3:3 & I Peter 1:23). You need to be born twice (physically and spiritually) but die once (physically) rather than born once (physically) and die twice (physically and spiritually).
Friend, if I I am wrong about hell unknowingly, and choose to believe there is a hell then I have wasted my time on earth maybe, choosing to live my life by a set of moral codes. However, if I choose to not believe in God or in heaven or hell after death, then I live my life hoping there is no hell, rolling the dice and living for now. In the first instance, the worst I have done is wasted time and missed out on some “fun” but in the second, I have wasted my very soul for eternity.
Now is the time to receive Jesus. Pray this out loud right now:
“Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and that you gave your life for me on the cross at Calvary 2000 years ago. I repent of my sins this day, and acknowledge that you are the only way to heaven. I acknowledge that you died and went to Hell and were raised from the dead. I receive you into my heart right now and I submit my life to you right now Jesus and acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide me from this day forth. In Jesus name I pray, amen.”