What About Hell? How can it be God is said to be a God who loves people yet sentences people to an eternal torture chamber in hell? Why is it if I do not do things his way, but live a good moral life, I get the identical sentence to hell a serial murderer receives? Is this not cosmic overkill?
By Pastor Delbert Young
What About Hell?
What About Hell?
Scriptures: 1 Peter 3:15, Luke 16:22-23, Mark 9:48, Ephesians 4:8-9, Ezekiel 33:11, Psalms 116:15, 2 Peter 3:9, Genesis 1:31, Matthew 25:41, Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:23, James 1:17
We are in a series called TOUGH QUESTIONS.
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO GIVE AN ANSWER TO EVERYONE WHO ASKS YOU TO GIVE THE REASON FOR THE HOPE THAT YOU HAVE. But do this with gentleness and respect
Peter said in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Our series should help us do that by answering some TOUGH QUESTIONS that we all have. Also, we need to ALWAYS be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. We will be asked some TOUGH QUESTIONS about what we believe. We need to be prepared.
Let’s talk about a TOUGH QUESTION today: WHAT ABOUT HELL? How can it be that God is said to be a God who loves people, yet, sentences people to an eternal torture chamber in hell? Why is it that if I do not do things his way, but live a good moral life that I get the identical sentence to hell that a serial murderer receives? Is that not “cosmic overkill”? Step out of line, just a little, and I am condemned to be tortured eternally in a place that makes a maximum-security prison, full of murderers, look like Disneyworld. What about people who have never heard about Jesus Christ? What about miscarriages, abortions, babies and children who die before they are old enough to receive Jesus? How would you answer a person that asked you these questions? Have you set apartthese questions with answers in your heart?
It is sad today that people see hell as ridiculous. People laugh at devil jokes. They laugh at comic book and cartoon images of demons with tails and pitchforks. Mark Twain said, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” Is the devil a joke? Is hell funny? There is something sobering about that question. Please think about that the next time you laugh about hell because at this moment, untold billions of souls are in torment there. Perhaps some of your loved ones (mother, father, etc?) are there. Hell, if real, is no laughing matter. One of the first things I would say to a person questioning the existence of hell is, “What if it IS real? What if your mother or father or grandparent is there right now?”
IS HELL REAL? According to the Bible and specifically Jesus, hell is TOO real. Jesus tried his best to describe it to us. He talked about hell more than any other person in the Bible. Once Jesus told a story about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Both died. They buried the rich man, meaning he had a wonderful funeral including a long slow ride in a hearse.
Luke 16:22-23 The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. IN HELL, WHERE HE WAS IN TORMENT, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
In this parable, Jesus used words to describe hell like fire, torment, and agony. In other places (Mat 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), Jesus described hell as a place of outer darkness (absolute loneliness) andweeping (absolute sorrow) and gnashing of teeth (absolute rage and anger).The Book of Revelation (Rev 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8) speaks of hell as a lake of fire and brimstone – (being thrown into boiling water). Again, Jesus attempted to describe hell.
Mark 9:48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
The Greek word used for hell in this passage is geenna (Strong’s #1067) and is a reference to Gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom) a valley of Jerusalem. It was a hideous trash/waste dump. The priests sacrificed hundreds of animals at the temple. The blood ran through a refuse system to Ge-Hinnom. They also threw the animal internal organs and carcasses into the valley. A fire constantly burned in Ge-Hinnon. Flies and maggots were relentlessly working in the rotting flesh. The stench was gagging. This was the most horrific place known and Jesus used it to give a descriptive picture of hell.
I was a young boy in the first grade. It was winter and I was about to take a bath. In the center of the bathroom, there was a standing kerosene heater. I had my clothes off playing and running around that heater. I slipped and fell across that red-hot kerosene heater. My body laid over it burning. My stomach area received second and third degree burns. I remember screaming and crying for hours in pain. I was in agony unable to move for days. I remember the bandages sticking to the wound, pulling the scabs off as the doctor dressed my wound. It oozed and ran puss for days. I carried that scar on my stomach for years and years.
Have you ever smelled something so horrible that it took your breath away and gagged you? Judy and I were driving one day when suddenly there was a horrific smell. A dead decaying animal was in the field that we passed. It gagged us badly, taking our breath. In hell, the pain never stops and the stench never ends. Hell is a place of absolute filth and stench. A place working alive with maggots. It is a place of absolute agony, horror, raging anger, raging sorrow, and absolute loneliness. There is fire, yet total darkness. It is likened to being thrown into boiling water. That is how Jesus described hell, but what else do we know about hell?
We have all heard of the thousands of recorded “Near Death Experiences.” People experienced (many very educated) and doctors and scientist recorded the experiences of people pronounced clinically dead for a specific time and then their coming back to life. According to Jody A Long, JD and Jeffrey P. Long, MD of Near Death Experience Research Foundation “A Gallup Poll in 1992 led to an estimate that 13 million Americans had experienced a NDE.”
That alone speaks volumes, for many of those “NDE” went to hell.
“‘For instance, in the works of Dr. George Ritchy, Betty Malts, Maurice Rawling and others there are depictions of hell: “serpents, fiends, unbearable stench, and demons.” In his book “A return from tomorrow” Dr. Ritchy tells of his own experiences in 1943 when he saw depictions of hell.”‘
In his book Life after Death, Alexander Mileant says, “‘A Pastor named Kenneth E. Hagin remembers… his heart stopped beating and his soul left his body. After this, I began to descend lower and lower. The lower I went, the darker and hotter it became. As we went deeper, I noticed the flickering of ominous flames, presumable hell’s, on the walls of the caves. Finally, a large flame burst through and began to pull me. Many years have passed since then. To this day I can picture that hell’s flame.”‘
J.P. Moreland, PH. D. said in an interview by Lee Strobel (The Case for Faith),
“Well, I think near-death experiences have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that when people die, they’re still able to be conscious.”
Is hell real? Oh yes! It is the most horrific place in creation. Even Jesus struggled to depict its gruesomeness adequately.
I want to make a point. Jesus, more than you or me, desired to tell people the love, wonder, beauty, and goodness of Father God. Talking about hell was not Christ’s favorite topic, yet, he did talk about it. He talked about it more than any other person in the Bible. I do not like to talk about hell. It is not a popular topic. However, the lack of popularity does not make it any less true. Jesus loved people. If we truly believe in hell and care about people and their eternity, we will warn them about the reality of hell, no matter how uncomfortable we are with the subject. We need to be reminded that Jesus would confront people with the reality of hell.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, HOW CAN YE ESCAPE THE DAMNATION OF HELL?
But, how can a loving God send people to hell? What about people who never heard about Jesus Christ? Did God send them to hell? NO ONE will go to hell because he or she never heard the truth about Jesus. That would not be just. There were many people in the Bible who lived before Jesus that never heard about him, but are not in hell – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, David, etc.
Ephesians 4:8-9 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that HE ALSO DESCENDED TO THE LOWER, EARTHLY REGIONS? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Paul is referencing a glorious procession in Psalm 68:18. Jesus led a procession into “heaven” at his ascension. Paul’s reasoning is that if he led a procession then he first had to go to the lower regions to get them. Barnes notes on Ephesians 4:8 say, “He rescued those who were the captives of Satan, and led them in triumph… that thus the victory might be complete… swelling his procession with the attending hosts of those who had been the captives of Satan, now rescued and redeemed.”
What the verse is saying, is that Jesus went and preached the good news to people who had not heard of him. Jesus will make certain that EVERY person has the opportunity to avoid hell. No one will go to hell unjustly – NO ONE! Before being condemned to hell, everyone will have the opportunity to accept Jesus.
What about miscarried or aborted babies, or babies and children that die? The Bible tells a story about King David. He had a relationship with Bathsheba from which they conceived a baby. The way the wording is in the Bible, it seems the baby was only seven days old when he died (2Sa 12:18).
2 Samuel 12:23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I WILL GO TO HIM, but he will not return to me.
David was saying that he would see and join the child in “heaven” one day. There are no babies or innocent children in hell.
God hates hell. The Bible is clear that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He hates it when a person dies that has not received him.
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they TURN from their ways and live. TURN! TURN from your evil ways! WHY WILL YOU DIE, O house of Israel?’
God hates hell, and hates that people will not turn from going there. He begs them to turn and patiently waits for them to turn, not only from sin, but from hell.
Psalms 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
It is a precious thing to the Lord when a saint dies.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. HE IS PATIENT with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God is the most patient, generous and loving being in the universe. He waits and waits and begs people to turn to him.
If God hates hell, then why is there a hell? God created the heaven and earth and all that is in them. Every day God said that it was good. After creating everything including man, God said that it is very good.
Genesis 1:31 God saw ALL that he had made, and IT WAS VERY GOOD. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.
Does ALL THAT HE HAD MADE include hell? Was hell created VERY GOOD? Yes, because God did not create hell for man.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS:
Hell was created very good because it was the place prepared for the devil and his angels. It was a prison meant to protect people from evil spiritual influences. Hell has its purpose. The Bible tells us that the spirits of people who have died influence us.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses…
Hebrews 12:22-25 talks about to what we have already come – Zion, city of the living God, innumerable angels, church, God, and then it says,
Hebrews 12:23 …to THE SPIRITS OF JUST MEN made perfect.
The passage goes on to talk about how Abel’s blood speaks. If you ride through Chickamauga battlefield and listen, you will hear something. My point is that people who have died have influence upon us. What if there was no hell?
‘”Well, Hitler, you murdered a few folks… but I understood you’re simply a product of your environment. I’m all-forgiving; enter heaven.” That’s not being loving – that’s being amoral. Instead of asking, “How could a caring God allow a hell to exist?” the question ought to be, “How could a caring God not allow a hell to exist?”‘
Hitler murdered 6 million people, including babies and children. Do you want his spirit influencing the world today, or should Hitler be put away in hell? The question should be, “How could a loving God NOT allow a hell to exist?”
Conclusion: We are not modified monkeys or the product of gasses and bacteria. God created you with a will. He will not force you to accept him. If he did, he would dehumanize you. If you reject God and do not want him in your life, then, when your days are done, God has no choice but to give you what you sought all your life – life without him. THE ESSENCE OF HELL IS NOT TORTURE. It is the removal of whatever is good, which is God.
James 1:17 WHATEVER IS GOOD AND PERFECT COMES TO US FROM GOD ABOVE, who created all heaven’s lights…
During life, God sends rain and sunshine on the just and unjust (Mat 5:45). The wicked get good things because of God’s blessings on the earth and the just. One day physical death comes. The heart stops beating and the mind stops working, but the soul lives on. God patiently waited every minute of every day begging the person to turn. Their decision to reject God and his goodness takes them to where no good thing exists, because God is not there. God created light good, but light is removed and nothing remains but deepest darkness. All relationships are removed and nothing remains but ultimate loneliness. All health is removed. Nothing remains except absolute sickness, disease, and agony. All joy leaves. Nothing remains but unlimited anger. Peace is removed. Infinite sorrow and weeping remains. All pleasures are removed. Left is never-ending torment. All life is removed and what remains is the immeasurable stench of eternal death. Without God, there is only everything bad. Hell is not God placing us in a torture chamber. Hell is getting what people choose in life – separation from God. God asks, “Why will you die?”
Life is not a silly game. Life is for keeps. Life’s end is more than a slow ride in the back of a hearse. It can end in the wonderful presence of the Lord. It can end waking in hell as it did with the rich man. Where will your life end? WHAT ABOUT HELL? HELL IS… HELL – the removal of God.
Other Related Sermons:
Jody A Long, JD and Jeffrey P. Long, MD, Near Death Experience Research Foundation,
Bishop Alexander Mileant, Life after Death, http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/life_after_death.htm
Bishop Alexander Mileant, Life after Death, http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/life_after_death.htm
J.P. Moreland, PH. D., The Case For Faith, p. 175
Barnes Notes, Ephesians 4:8
Cliffe Knechtle, Give Me an Answer, p. 40