What Does the Bible Teach About Hell?

First off…

Our Judgments Are Not God’s Judgments

At the start, I want us to humbly consider the following:

  • We may be tragically wrong about something that seems so right (Proverbs 16:25)
  • Our thoughts and ways are not God’s thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9)
  • In fact, people like you and I didn’t even recognize God when He stood right in front of them (John 1:10)
  • On top of this, we lack the ability to even try to understand God’s perfect judgments (Rom. 11:33)

Truly, our only hope to rightly know God’s ways is through His Scripture (see Isaiah 55:9-11)–not our own sense of “fairness”.

Conclusion: We don’t think what God thinks.  Let’s be very humble when approaching God’s word.

What Does Jesus Say?

Jesus says:

“An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)


  • all dead bodies will later be resurrected
  • those who do good will be resurrected unto life
  • those who do evil will be resurrected unto judgment

He also speaks in multiple places along these lines:

“It will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matt. 10:15)

Notice that:

  • the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah died 1,000s of years prior to Jesus’ statements
  • yet, there is a future judgment for them
  • and, despite their great wickedness (homosexuality, rape, oppression, stealing, etc.), they will receive a less severe judgment than those who reject Jesus and His messengers

Further, Jesus talks of scenarios where:

  • one servant will be praised when the Master meets him, while another will be “cut…in pieces and put…with the hypocrites” (Matt. 24:45-51)
    • note that something additional happens to him AFTER he is cut up and, presumably, killed
  • some virgins are rejected from the Lord’s presence, while others are accepted (Matt. 25:1-13)
  • some receiving talents are rejected from the Lord’s presence, while others are received (Matt. 25:14-30)
  • some people will be welcomed by Jesus into God’s kingdom, while others will be told, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:31-46)

In fact, He says that the number found to be faithful will be relatively small (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:22-30).

Conclusion: Jesus teaches that there is judgment after people die, and more people will be sentenced to eternal death than will receive eternal life.

What Does Eternal Judgment Look Like?

In Luke 16, Jesus gives 2 pictures that essentially point to the same thing:

  1. The Parable of the Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-9)

    • A rich man’s manager knows that a future judgment and day of reckoning awaits him from his master.
      • Further, he knows that he will be judged as unfaithful.
    • He considers what awaits Him AFTER the time of reckoning, and decides to repent and become very “nice” to others.
    • This “niceness” pays off and his master allows him to inherit a good home AFTER he is judged.
    • Moral: What you do in this life (before your time of judgment) translates to your dwelling and condition in the next life (after your time of judgment).
  2. The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)

    • Note: this is nowhere spoken of as a parable, and it lacks certain details that Jesus’ parables have (for instance, all parables have symbols that speak to realities, whereas this story seems to speak directly of a reality).
    • In this story, a rich man treats a poor man terribly in this life, not considering the eternal ramifications awaiting him after he dies.
    • The poor man entered an eternal paradise after dying.
    • The rich man entered ongoing and conscious “anguish” after he died, including “flames”.
      • This was all in response to what he did while he was alive.
    • The now-dead rich man wants to warn his now-alive brothers that a place of torment post-death is real.
      • Germaine to our study, the rich man is told that the Bible itself (“Moses and the Prophets”–16:29-30) is sufficient to notify people that such eternal judgment truly exists.
    • Moral: What you do in this life (before your time of judgment) translates to your dwelling and condition in the next life (after your time of judgment).

So both of these episodes carry the same moral.

Story 1 shows a positive scenario: someone repents on account of the realization of impending judgment, and thus dwells securely after their judgment.

Story 2 shows a negative scenario: someone is oblivious to their impending judgment, and thus does not repent, and are later in a place of torment after their judgment.

And, similar to these scenarios, Jesus reveals more of the horrors of eternal judgment in the book of Revelation:

  • Revelation 20:10 speaks of the devil being thrown into the “lake of fire and sulfur,” here, “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
  • Rev. 20:15 and 21:8 (compare Rev. 20:14) show that all who do not know Jesus will join the devil in this place.
  • And all of this adds depth to what Jesus already warns in Matthew 25:41, 46; Luke 16:19-31; John 5:28-29; and elsewhere.  Namely that:
    • After people resurrect, they will be judged by Jesus.
    • Those who are found condemned will go into eternal punishment
    • This eternal punishment is likened to never-ending fire, and was made, firstly, for Satan.
      • Though this also applies to all who follow Satan
        • …even people (Matt. 13:38; John 8:44; 1 John 3:10; etc.)

Conclusion: Hell is never-ending suffering that is likened to being burned. It is intended chiefly for Satan, but people also go there. What we do on earth determines whether we are sentenced to hell or heaven.

Who Goes to Hell?

Jesus says that all people are evil (Matt. 7:11; Mark 7:20-23; 10:18; etc.).  Even when we think we’re not that bad, we are (Matt. 5:21-30). And such sentiments are repeated by Paul (Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-20).

Jesus points out that the only remedy for any of us is repentance (Luke 13:1-5), and a new life through Christ (John 3:3).

This is vividly portrayed in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), whereby even outward “virgins” (i.e. people seemingly pure) were rejected because they lacked oil. Oil, of course, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (consider Luke 4:18, where Jesus is said to be anointed not with oil [as people were traditionally anointed], but with the Holy Spirit). Thus, the determiner of their eternal destiny was their possession of oil (= the Holy Spirit). It was not outward behavior and actions.

The same thing can be seen in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46).  You are either a sheep or you are a goat.  A sheep is considered a follower of Jesus (see John 10), while a goat is not.  When you repent and believe the gospel, you receive God’s Holy Spirit in you (Ephesians 1:13).  You become a sheep.  And there will be evidence of this (e.g. Galatians 5:22-23).  The chief evidence is that you have a spontaneous and supernatural love for other Christians (compare John 5:24 with 1 John 3:14).  With this in mind, look again at the parable of the sheep and the goats.  What is the issue?  It is whether they have a supernatural love of Christ’s brethren.  In other words, are they truly a sheep or not?  When you are a sheep, you do things sheep do even when you don’t realize it (Matt. 25:37). Again, it is a question of whether you possess new life (in this case, a “sheep life”) or not.

This is further seen in many other places:

  • such as Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-30–you either have God’s life/seed, or you have Satan’s life/seed), or
  • Jesus’ statement in Luke 13:25, 27 (namely, “What is your origin?”),
    • In other words, “Are you born again from heaven, where I am from?” (see John 3:3-13)
  • etc.

Conclusion: Though we all deserve hell, followers of Jesus (i.e. those who are born again and have God’s Spirit indwelling them) will not be condemned to hell.  Those who reject Jesus will be condemned to hell.

Conclusion – God’s Grace

We all are evil, following Satan in unthinkable ways (whether we realize it or not), and deserving of hell.  By God’s grace, He sent His Son, Jesus. Fully man and fully God, Jesus is the only one not deserving of hell. But He took our punishment and torment in His shameful crucifixion. And His resurrection from the dead was the proof that the punishment was paid in full.  There was no more torture Jesus had to withstand, and thus no more punishment that people in Christ must endure. He’s alive–the work is finished! He took our place!  He is our substitute!  What outlandish grace on behalf of people who have rebelled against God.

As a result, those who turn to follow Jesus as their Lord (i.e. “repent”) and those who place their trust in who Jesus is and what He did (i.e. “believe the gospel”) will receive everlasting life and goodness from God’s hand.  This inheritance is confirmed and assured to us by God giving us the Holy Spirit to live in us and change us during this lifetime (see Ephesians 1:11-14).  The Holy Spirit in us is God’s pledge that He has been reconciled to us, and us to Him.  And thereby, we are no longer under the just wrath of a Holy and Pure God.  This, my friends, is the gospel.  Offered to all, received, tragically, by few.

If you, indeed, have received this gospel, we have much to celebrate in every way!  And…we have a job. We are now to share this good news with others as well (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

Conclusion of the Conclusion: By repenting and believing the gospel we are saved from God’s wrath. Those who are saved have the honor and responsibility of sharing this with others.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36).

Testing False Teachers

I humbly submit this before you.  If you have insights or concerns with any of this, please share!

Our Duty: Test Teachers

God says:

  • Test all things.” (1 Thes. 5:21)
  • “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out…” (1 John 4:1)

God commends those who test teachings/teachers:

  • “I know your works, your labor…you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not,” (Rev. 2:2) – here, they are commended for testing false teachers
  • “These [people] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) – here, they are commended for testing true teachers

How Do We Test Teachers?

The late Walter Martin, in his classic book, The Kingdom of the Cults, writes:

The American Banking Association has a training program that exemplifies this aim of the author. Each year it sends hundreds of bank tellers to Washington in order to teach them to detect counterfeit money, which is a great source of a loss of revenue to the Treasury Department. It is most interesting that during the entire two-week training program, no teller touches counterfeit money. Only the original passes through his hands. The reason for this is that the American Banking Association is convinced that if a man is thoroughly familiar with the original, he will not be deceived by the counterfeit bill, no matter how much like the original it appears.

In essence, then, our best defense against false teaching is ongoing and thorough study of true teaching (i.e. what God reveals in the Bible).  Thus, studying the truth will equip us better than studying the false.

Along these lines, I want to focus on the marks of a true teacher.  If you are seeing these things, celebrate them (1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17). Where you don’t see these things, be warned.

What are the Marks of a True Teacher?

  1. A true teacher’s ministry will produces godly fruit (Matt 7:16):

    • Specifically:
      • They and their listeners will love, worship, know, and imitate the Jesus/God of the Bible as a result of their ministry (2 Cor. 11:4).
      • They and their listeners will love the Bible and seek the Bible more, as a result of their ministry (Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:8; 2 Tim. 3:13-15).
      • They and their listeners will repent and pursue holiness/righteousness as a result of their ministry (Eph. 4:17-24; Heb. 6:1, 14; Rev. 3:19).
  2. What true teachers say and practice is doctrinally sound, agreeing with the precepts and principles of Scripture (Deut 13:1-4 [with Exod. 20:3]; Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:8; Titus 1:9; Heb. 13:7).  Especially, they affirm (in word and practice) these fundamental Biblical teachings:

  3. True teachers have godly character (1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17-25; Titus 1:5-9; James 3:13-18; 1 Pet. 5:1-4)

    • Especially seen in their humility, and continual openness to correction (see the “wise man” in Proverbs [for instance, Prov. 9:8]; Acts 18:24-28; James 3:17)
    • see: What Make’s An Elder? (Outline)
  4. Additionally, God endorses a true teaching ministry in various signs/wonders/confirmations of the Holy Spirit (Deut. 18:21-22; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4; etc.)

    • Be aware of false signs and wonders, though.  Having gifts and miracles, on their own, are not endorsements of true teaching or proof of the Holy Spirit (Exod. 7:11; Acts 8:9-11; 2 Thes. 2:9; etc).  But a true ministry will have some evidence that God’s Spirit is behind it.

What Posture Should We Take?

God tells us to have a heart eager to receive, before testing teachers and leaders:

  • “Love…believes all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7).  This does not mean we are gullible.  But it does mean we give the benefit of the doubt.  In love, we should see others as, “innocent before proven guilty”.  Along with this, we should listen to “the spirit” behind what they teach, instead of slavishly studying every word to see if we can “catch” them in error (as the Pharisees did with Jesus).
  • “These Jews were more noble…they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so,” (Acts 17:11).  Notice, before they examined the Scriptures they were eager to receive.
  • “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thes. 5:20-21).  Notice, before we test everything we are to “not despise”.

Further, we should be slow to make a judgment call on whether someone is true or false:

  • “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19)
  • “Be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)
  • See also the “Parable of the Barren Fig Tree” (Luke 13:6-9)

However, while being eager and open to receive teaching, and slow to dismiss anything/anyone as false, we should also be diligent in testing it out.  I liken this to the way we eat fish:

  1. We put the whole piece of fish into our mouth.  That is, we eagerly receive it.
  2. Then, we use our teeth to sift out the meat from the bone.  That is, after receiving, we discern what is good from what is bad.
  3. Then, we spit out the bone and swallow the meat.  That is, we “test everything; hold fast what is good,” (1 Thes. 5:20-21).

For example, look at Peter. In Galatians 2:11-14, Peter was guilty of hypocrisy.  He was rebuked by Paul.  Does this mean that we avoid all of his teaching?  Of course not.  1 and 2 Peter, both authored by Peter, are part of the Bible!  So, we spit out the “bone” of Peter’s hypocrisy in Gal. 2:11-14, while swallowing the “meat” of his teaching in 1-2 Peter.

The process of testing will be (in no particular order):

  • Pray for God’s guidance, through his Holy Spirit, to discern true from false (1 Cor. 12:10; 1 John 2:26-27)
  • Use the principles listed above (and, ultimately, the Bible) to assess whether a teacher is true.
    • Note: I don’t believe any of us will achieve perfection in all of these metrics in this lifetime.  But, is the trajectory of the minister/ministry finding more or less agreement with these principles as it goes along?
  • Have a heart that longs for truth (John 7:17; 2 Thes. 2:10).

How do we Address False Teachers/Teachings?

If you believe the overall thrust/trajectory of a ministry does not seem to abide by the principles shown above, you have a measure of responsibility to address it:

  1. First, if possible, discuss it privately with the teacher (Matt. 18:15-20; Acts 18:26; Titus 3:10). Something like:
    • “I heard X [whatever you believed they said]. Am I understanding this right?”
    • “In light of that, I see Y [whatever seems contradictory] in the Bible.  How do you see those going together?”
  2. Next, if the teacher seems unwilling to change or revoke their false teaching, someone should address it publicly to those who are being deceived (1 Tim. 5:20; 3 John 1:9-10; etc.).
    • This is best done by leaders/teachers among the offended body, if possible (Titus 1:9).
    • This is best done by a group of people, not alone (Matt. 18:15-20).
    • There are exceptions to both of these guidelines.
  3. All of this should be done in a spirit of “humility” (2 Tim. 2:25), “love” (Eph. 4:15), and “grace,” (Col. 4:6)–not looking to “shame” or “humiliate” (Matt. 1:19).
  4. And, of course, through prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 5:17-21)