“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has the power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him (Luke 12:5)!”
During the mid-18th century, during what is referred to as the First Great Awakening, men such as Edwards, Whitefield, and Tennent often preached sermons on how awful and irreversible hell is and urged men to make every effort to avoid going there. The topic of hell is generally forbidden speech in most pulpits in this country today. Many Americans are fearful if they have saved enough for retirement, or if they can cover rising tuition costs or afford healthcare. But a Harris poll a few years back revealed that less than 10% feared going to hell.1
Great numbers today don’t believe that hell is a reality. Best-selling authors, such as Rob Bell, have popularized the doctrine that no one will spend eternity in hell.2 But Jesus had plenty to say about the reality of hell, speaking on it more than anyone else in the Bible including several occasions in the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord taught that hell was a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-48).” The word for “hell” that Jesus repeats in this passage is “Gehenna,” a transliteration of the Old Testament Hebrew expression, “the valley of Hinnom.”3 This valley was a place where wicked Hebrews sacrificed their children in the fire to the god Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3, Jeremiah 32:35). In later times, the area became a garbage dump where the refuse was continually burning, and thus a perfect image of hell.
Hell is noted for darkness (Matthew 25:30) where the occupants weep and gnash their teeth. It is a place where those who rose to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29) will receive punishment of both body and soul (Matthew 5:29-30). Some believe that just as the biblical glories of heaven are metaphorical so too are those of hell. But this does not lessen the horrific experiences of those there. If anything, it only indicates that hell will be worse than the worst experiences of this world. In this world, even the wicked rebellious men enjoy God’s blessings (Matthew 5:45). Some aver that hell will be a separation from God. Just as they desired not to know God in this life (Romans 1:28) so it will be ratified for eternity without God’s blessings, hope, mercy, and justice. But hell is worse than merely being cast from God’s presence. It is forever being in the presence of His burning wrath (Revelation 6:15-17, 14:10-11).
Hell was not intended to be the destination of man. It is a lake of fire created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:14). But for those who do not know God nor obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9), they will join them there. The devil and his angels committed open rebellion against God and lost (Revelation 12:7-9). Knowing that they cannot defeat God and understanding their eternal destiny (Matthew 25:41, Jude 6) they have determined to hurt God indirectly by deceiving those created in His image (Genesis 1:27) and to take as many as possible with him into hell (Revelation 12:10).
Christian, because you know God (1 John 2:3) and have obeyed the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, Romans 6:3-5) there is no need to fear hell. It was for this reason that Jesus came into the world (John 3:16, 1 John 3:8). There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). He died in our place so that we might live with Him forever in heaven (John 14:1-4). When you think of what He has rescued us from, how worthy is He of our praise?
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).”
James Maxwell, Gospel Advocate, Vol.150, No.10, October, 2008 p.15
Rob Bell, Love Wins, Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2011 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/406-use-of-hell-in-the-new-testament-the