A cardinal doctrine of our faith is that a hell of fearful punishment awaits every lost soul in eternity. Modern man fondly hopes that there is no such thing. Satan gladly encourages this vain and foolish dreaming. Even many apostate preachers and denominations such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Unitarians boldly deny this divine teaching. Jesus warned, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
1. Does Hell Really Exist?
Man is universally conscious of sin. Every tribe has its totem, its altar, its sacrifice. The guilty conscience is experienced by every responsible soul. All sin and know the condemnation of their own heart (Romans 3:23). The universal cry of every lost person is, "Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (Romans 7:24). The reality of sin cannot be denied. Every war fought is a demonstration of it. Every crime committed perpetually proclaims it. Every liquor store and beer parlor testifies to the fact of sin.
But there can be no sin without law. The great English doctor of jurisprudence, Blackstone, wrote, "Where there is no law there can be no wrong, or violation" (Commentary). Paul said the same: "Where there is no law, neither is there transgression" (Romans 4:15). If there be no law to break then no one can commit sin.
Law is of any consequence only when there is a penalty for disobedience. Again Blackstone said, "Where there is no penalty, the law is null and void." If the state has a law against speeding while driving a car, yet when one is found guilty, no penalty is imposed, then that law becomes null and void. No one will feel obligated to obey it. A law without a penalty attached for violation is inconceivable and absurd.
Now if there is no hell or punishment for wickedness, then there is no meaningful law, for "law without penalty is null and void." If there is no law, then there is no sin, for where there is no law there can be no violation thereof. If there is no sin, then there is no moral or spiritual responsibility upon us. If that be so, why then do we find all over the earth churches, courts and prisons? Even Christianity itself is a useless joke if there is no punishment for disobedience. To deny hell is ridiculous, for to do so is to deny that which is every day demonstrated before our eyes, i.e., sin and law.
Jesus declared the existence of hell: "I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell..." (Luke 12:5). Our Lord makes no idle threats. He uses no vain repetitions, yet this theme is mentioned continuously in his teaching.
2.Hell Is A Future Punishment.
Some claim that the pangs of a guilty conscience constitute all the hell there is. A little thought will show the folly of this assertion. It is well known that the more one commits sin the easier it is to do so. The conscience grows calloused with repeated sin (I Timothy 4:2). If this theory were true then the worse a man is the less hell he would suffer. On the contrary, the more devout a person is the more sensitive will be his conscience about sin. Per this theory, the more spiritual a man becomes, the more desirous he is of pleasing God, the more hell he will experience. To escape hell, one would simply harden his heart and plunge into unrestrained sin. The theory is absurd. Believe it, who will?
If conscience is our hell, it would also be our heaven! As a rule, however, all those who deny hell want to cling to a literal heaven. The same verse proclaims the reality of both heaven and hell (Matthew 25:46).
Others claim that we get our hell here on earth through pain, suffering and misfortune. But often the wicked prosper in this life while the righteous suffer. The psalmist was envious when he saw the "prosperity of the wicked." He wondered if it really paid for him to be righteous because of the apparent inequities of his life (Psalms 73:2-5, 12-14). Consider righteous Job and his suffering. Absolute justice is rarely seen here on earth. There must be a future judgment to right these wrongs. Martyrs for Christ are seen reigning in glory (Revelation 20:4a, 6). The wicked who escaped justice in this life will pay their price in hell (Isaiah 14:9-11). If this foolish theory were true, then the godly mother who because of her saintly life deserves heaven, receives hell on earth because of the thoughtless follies of her wicked son. Our lives are so interwoven here on earth that it would be impossible for a wicked husband to suffer hell while his wife enjoyed heaven in the same house. To properly be rewarded and punished, they must be separated so far that one can have no influence on the other. The truth is, hell will be experienced only after Jesus raises the dead and judges them (Revelation 20:11-15).
3.What Is Hell Like?
The Lord used numerous comparisons to teach us the reality and nature of hell.
Hell is like the valley of Hinnom, later called Gehenna (Matthew 5:22). This was the refuse dump of Jerusalem. It was no modern, sanitary landfill. Sewage, carcasses of dead animals, even the bodies of executed criminals were cast there and left to decay. Perpetual fires smoldered throughout the valley. Hell is like that.
Hell is like a lake of fire and brimstone into which sinners will be cast (Revelation 20:10).
It is like unto a bottomless pit such as we often dream of in our nightmares (Revelation 20:3).
It is like an oriental death house with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).
Hell is like outer darkness (Matthew 8:12). Seldom do we experience utter darkness, but the horrors of hell will be like that. Such conveys an idea of lostness and hopelessness.
Hell is a place of immeasurable loss. Those who end up in hell will have lost all the pleasures of this life. All things they were fond of will be lost. Their place with Abraham and the righteous in Paradise will be forfeited (Luke 16:19ff). They will lose heaven and the eternal fellowship of the Father and the Son (Revelation 22:14-15). All hope will be lost, even the hope of dying. In hell "their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:47). "The smoke of their torment goeth up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night..." (Revelation 14:11). There is no annihilation of the wicked as so many fondly wish.
Hell is a place of repulsive, horrible people. Look around you at the most abandoned wretches on earth; they will be there. Here, there is hope for any person. There is a little good in the worst of men. There, they will be completely abandoned in their wickedness and you in their midst. There will be no more restraints upon them for God will have given them up forever.
It will be a place of painful remorse. Sorrow, shame and self condemnation will be in every heart. The hopelessness and despair will be overwhelming.
The duration of hell will be eternal. "And these shall go away into eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46). Every link of the chains of hell will be stamped "forever." Hell is no reform school from which you will graduate. Purgatory is but a wistful dream. Hell is not a preparation for heaven. No missionaries will ever be sent there.
We leave this dreadful scene with good news. No man or woman has to go to hell. You may choose heaven if you so desire. The cross of Christ stands as a flaming beacon squarely in the path of every hell-bound soul. Every sinner who goes to hell must walk over the crucified body of Jesus and trample the blood of the covenant under foot.
Only the tender mercy of God has spared us thus far from the hell we justly deserve. Will you not turn away from that dreadful cliff on whose edge you have stood so long, and with a thankful heart accept the salvation he so graciously offers?
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