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IS HELL REAL?
That is a question most people don’t really want to think about. And considering how horrible it will be, that is understandable. But not thinking about something will not make it go away. The reason so many choose to not think about hell is because they don’t want to face the prospect of going there. As a result of this many have sought to change the concept of hell. It is denied by many. According to a Barna Group survey, 71% of Americans believe in hell, however only 32% believe it is “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.” About 39% believe it to be, “a state of eternal separation from God’s presence” while 13% believe that “Hell is just a symbol of an unknown bad outcome after death.” The same survey also noted that only ˝% believe that they will go to hell when this life is over. (The Barna Group of California, www.barna.org) So is hell a real place? And what is the real hell like? In this article we would like to begin studying that subject.
First, let it be understood that IF the Bible be true (and it is), then hell IS a very real place. That is seen by how the word is used throughout various texts.
Jesus taught there is a hell. More than anyone else, He warned of the dangers of hell. Some nine times in His teaching, Jesus made direct reference to hell, beginning in Matthew 5:22 where He said, “…but whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” After this He warned, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (5:29-30) Matthew 10:28 says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Then, while condemning the hypocritical Pharisees and other leaders of the Jews, Jesus said, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33) When Jesus spoke of hell, he used the word gehenna. The word had reference to the Valley of Hinnom, which at the time of Jesus was the dump of Jerusalem. It was a place where the dead bodies of some criminals and carcasses of animals were tossed. It is said that because of the foulness and stench, a fire was kept continually burning to consume its rottenness. Obviously, it was a place filled will maggots and other detestable things (see Mark 9:43-47). Its history included human sacrifices to the idolatrous god Molech by king Ahaz of Judah (2 Chronicles 28:3). Later righteous Josiah defiled the valley so that it could not be used for such purposes again (2 Kings 23:10). (details (Gehenna) here found in the International Bible Encyclopedia and McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia). When using this term, Jesus found the most reprehensible place that they could relate to, to give them a picture of what the ungodly had to look forward to if they rejected God and His commands. It is obvious that He had more in mind than the simple concept of death.
The epistles, while not using the word as frequently as Jesus did, make reference to eternal punishment in several places. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 says, “since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Jude warned, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 6-7). Hebrews 10:26-28 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
The book of Revelation also mentions this place as a place prepared for the devil and his angels. Revelation 20:10 says, “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” While this verse applies exclusively to Satan and his angels, consider also Revelation 20:15 which says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” This is the SAME lake of fire reserved for the devil. Also note Revelation 21:8 which says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” I
In all these passages we see that hell is indeed a real place. But let us look closer at some of these statements to notice just how real it is.
Consider, the warnings of Jesus where He said it is better to enter life without a hand or eye, than to be cast into hell (Matthew 5:29-30). How could that passage be logical if there were not some horrible punishment awaiting the ungodly after this life. I would think that if the wicked simply cease to exist, there is no real incentive for them to give up ANYTHING in this life, especially a hand or an eye. ALSO, how is a greater fear to fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell, than man who can only take away your earthly life if there is not a place of eternal torments when this life is over? (Matt. 10:28).
Also, when Paul spoke of God taking vengeance on those who do not know God and trouble His saints (2 Thess. 1:6-10), that is a statement that makes no sense if those who persecute the godly simply cease to exist when this life is over.
Finally, consider one more verse. 2 Peter 2:20-21 says, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” IF one will not suffer eternal punishment in hell when this life is over, how is better for one to have never obeyed the gospel, than to turn from it after having received it?
The fact is that if there is no hell when this life is over, then there is no real reason to obey God and follow the Bible. But we have shown that hell is very real and a place where the ungodly will spend eternity. What about you? Where will YOU end up when this life is over.