Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Ten Good Reasons to Take Hell Seriously

Series: 10 Good Reasons...

Ten Good Reasons to Take Hell Seriously

“Haven’t you heard, there is no hell!” That was a comment I overheard a while back. I was quite taken aback, having not received that memo. There was a time in my life that I probably thought something similar – that hell is only a human tradition, an invention of some really strict religious group, or that hell does exist but only the very worst of the human race actually end up there, and that if God can find any “good” in you, then you go to heaven. All this changed the very first time I actually read the Bible, and found this:

  1. Matthew 5:29-30 “If you right hand makes you stumble, cut if off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

It did not take long for Jesus to bring up the subject, in fact it had surfaced in Matthew 3:12 with the words “unquenchable fire”. There are a couple of things in this passage that caught my attention:

  • When we really take hell seriously we can break from sins that the devil and the world tries to convince us that we cannot live without.
  • Even if we think that we could never be happy without a certain sin, that it is as much a part of us as our right hand or right eye – we can still remove it from our lives.
  • The idea that our favorite sin is inherently part of us – is a lie. The truth is that every sin that has become a habit will appear to have always been a part of us. 
  • The idea that we could never be happy again if we repent is also a lie. I have seen plenty of people remain in sinful relationships convinced that they could never be happy if they left them – only to complain about or even end the relationship later, for reasons noble reasons.
  1. Matthew 7:22-23 “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”

Jesus Himself here speaks of people being sent away from His presence who were not murderers or adulterers but religious people who claimed to not only believe in Him but to have served Him in this life. That is, people who had claimed to be Christians – but ended up lost. So it is not enough to simply talk about Jesus, profess His name (7:21), or do religious things. We must actually change what we love and the way we live as a result of what He taught (7:21,24).

  1. Matthew 8:12 “Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth”

How can one possibly harmonize this statement from the lips of Jesus with the claims of those who say that those in hell cease to exist or eventually just fade away? The language describes intense pain and suffering that is ongoing. In addition, the verse is also talking about religious people (the sons of the kingdom) ending up there, Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.

The rebellious person in his entirety ends up here! As is the case with those who go to heaven – we all have resurrected bodies (John 5:28). Those in hell have a body that is not consumed by the fire, but still feels pain. It is a body incapable of passing out, dying, and the one in this body cannot bring about the end of this body. In view of the previous passage we know that the world “destroy” here does not mean to obliterate into nothingness, for there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  1. Matthew 25:41 “Depart from Me accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and His angels”

The people in this passage who end up here are religious people who failed to help others (25:35-40). They end up with the devil and His angels because of what they did not do. Note that hell was not prepared for people, but for the devil. 

  1. Matthew 25:46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The punishment in hell lasts just as long as the life lasts in heaven, and there is no third or other option, such as a temporary hell. 

  1. Mark 9:44 “Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”

Jesus repeats this startling statement three times (9:44,46,48). Repeatedly Jesus has been telling us that this is a place to avoid at all cost. If we must spend the rest of our lives as lame (9:45) crippled (9:43), or with only one eye (9:47) then it is far better than ending up in hell. If the devil tries to convince us that we will never be happy again if we stop a certain sin and become a Christian then we need to realize that the real place where we can never be happy is the place we will end up if we don’t repent. 

  • This verse clearly contradicts the idea that those who end up in hell will eventually come to terms with their eternal condition and simply adjust to it and make the best of it. Jesus said that the “worm does not die”. The gnawing of conscience and regret will never cease. The memories of the all the good opportunities one had to change will never be forgotten. This is a place of continual decay, nothing improves here with time.
  • Obviously “hell” cannot be interpreted to be something physical, such as the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem or the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, for in both of those examples, the fire did die and the decay ended.
  1. Luke 16:23-24 “He lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw... have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame”

This is not a parable, and thus it is never called such. It is a straightforward account of what happened to two real people when they died (16:19-22). The dead in torment are conscious. Why should we believe people who say that hell does not exist, or those who go there feel no pain – when such people have no actual experience with this place? We should rather listen to the rich man of Luke 16. In fact, to deny the reality of hell or the reality that the torment in hell is ongoing is in essence taunting the rich man. He is saying, “I am in agony” and those who deny the truth about hell are saying to this suffering man, “No you’re not”.

Observe that the rich man “saw” Lazarus but nothing is said about Lazarus seeing him. The foolish idea that heaven will be kind of boring and that those in heaven will be envying those at the big party in hell – is not reflected in any of these verses, in fact, the picture is just the opposite. Heaven is the place of unimaginable pleasure and rejoicing, while those in hell are said to be in outer darkness, excluded from all the joy (Matthew 8:11-12).

  1. Luke 16:26 “Besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us”

It is clear that there are no second chances. Once we die our fate for eternity is fixed. The importance of what we do with today, cannot be overemphasized. What we do with our time right now is crucial (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7).

  1. The Book of Revelation

In the final book of the Bible all the previous teachings on hell are only reinforced:

  • It is ongoing, eternal suffering: 14:11; 20:10
  • Those who do not obey Jesus will end up here: 20:15; 21:7 “unbelieving”

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017