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)

Thus:

  • 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).

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