The Truth About Hell
Pastor Ron Johnson
As I prayed, studied and prepared this message this week, it was both sobering and difficult to be reminded the Bible firmly supports the teaching that hell is 100% real and that hell is such a horrific place of eternal punishment because our God is so immeasurably, great, loving and gracious (while also being incalculably holy and just) that there must be an appropriate and hence dreadful penalty for people who rebel against, reject and want nothing to do with the One true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
I’ve heard people say they believe the doctrine of hell to be “un-Christian”, but you’ll see today that couldn’t be farther from the truth because MUCH of what we learn about Hell in the Bible actually came directly from the mouth of Jesus.
Book recommendation: Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Robert A. Peterson); Four Views on Hell edited by Gundry and Crockett
Primary Views of the Fate of the Lost
1) Life after death is unlikely
2) Everyone will be saved and go to heaven (universalism)
3) The lost get another chance after death—Clark Pinnock
Main idea: “If God really loves the whole world and desires everyone to be saved, it follows logically that everyone must have access to salvation.” So the main idea of this view is that those who don’t have sufficient access in this life will have it in the next. Then… extermination, not eternal condemnation, awaits those who reject the grace of God.
4) The lost are ultimately destroyed – Annihilationism (John Stott, friend of Billy Graham, held this position tentatively) – The belief that all the wicked will be judged by God and thrown into the lake of fire, where they will cease to exist. Some proponents might say instantaneously, others temporarily etc. Conditional Immortality– the soul is not immortal (it perishes) until we receive God’s gift of eternal life and those who don’t receive it will cease to exists sometime after death (views vary as to when).
5) The lost suffer eternally in hell – As difficult as this doctrine may be to swallow, it is clearly the one that has been most strongly embraced throughout the history of the church and while that does say “something”, I’d like to remind you it’s still our responsibility to ask if it’s the teaching most clearly supported by Scripture. And I firmly believe that answers is YES.
So why do we refer to the place the lost will spend eternity as hell?
The Bible clearly refers to it as such and so did Jesus. Just one of many examples is in Matt 5: 29-30.
So where did this word come from? In Hebrew—Ge Hinnom—means Valley of Hinnom). That was translated to Greek becoming (Gehenna) which translated to English became Hell.
The Valley of Hinnom was a real place where human sacrifices were offered to the Ammonite god Molech. In fact, 2 Kings 16:3 and 21:6 even tell us that King Ahaz and Manasseh (who did NOT do what was right in the eyes of the Lord) actually sacrificed their sons there (quite literally made them pass through the fire).
So this valley had an understandably evil reputation and prompted hearers to think of flames, suffering, torment, Godlessness etc. and Jesus knew this and decided to take advantage of using the word hell because it was basically a ready-made picture for describing the state of the lost.
Key Words or Phrases the Bible uses to describe the final state of the lost.
1) Eternal fire- Matt 25:4
2) Eternal punishment- Matt 25:46 3
3) Outer darkness– Matt 8:12
4) Torment—Rev 14:9-11
5) Wrath and Fury—Rom 2:5-8
6) Lake of Fire and Second Death – Rev 21:8
7) Eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord—2 Thess 1:9
Hell is real! In Matt 5:21-22 Jesus clearly warned the religious leaders of the time… If you continue in your hypocrisy you have something VERY REAL to fear and it’s a lot scarier than the local courts or even the Jewish supreme court it’s the FIRE OF HELL and it’s no joke. Trust me, Jesus wasn’t making idle threats like an adoring parent or grandparent who won’t discipline their mischievous kids or grandchildren. He was serious.
And not only is Hell REAL, but the Bible also testifies the lost will be punished there eternally – And this is one place where a lot of good and careful discussion should take place.
We need to acknowledge it’s true that the Greek words used to describe the eternal state of the lost in Scripture (everlasting or eternal) don’t always teach endlessness when they’re used in the Bible.
However, there’s no arguing the fact that they do express the longest possible duration of which the subject they are referring to is capable. So, if the soul is immortal (does not perish), the punishment of the lost must be without end.
Mat. 18:8— If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
Now when it comes to the Greek words or phrases being used here and elsewhere (commonly translated everlasting or eternal etc.) you need to understand that these are the only words in the entire Greek language which CAN express endlessness.
This is not one of those instances where doubters can say “If that’s really what God meant he would have used this word or these other words.”
In short, there is no stronger way to communicate the idea of endlessness than to use the very words the Bible uses when it speaks of the eternal state of the lost being characterized by eternal fire and eternal punishment etc.
BTW… with other subjects as well, these words almost always mean everlasting. In fact, Paul uses them in Rom 16:26 and 1 Tim 1:17 to refer to the command of the eternal God and honor and glory being given to God forever and ever.
One of the clearest passages where I find it next to impossible to deny the reference to the punishment of the lost as being eternal comes straight from the mouth of Jesus Himself in Mat. 25:41,46 when he declared "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels… 46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS into eternal life."
Now did you catch what he did there? Jesus used the exact same words in the very same context to describe the eternal state of both believers AND unbelievers! KEY
And just as LIFE is eternal for those who are in Christ (and you can’t read the NT and not agree with this), PUNISHMENT is eternal for the lost who are NOT in Christ.
We know this, because it’s exactly what the word of God says and Jesus even stated both truths in the exact same sentence.
Varying degrees of punishment in hell
Rom 2:5-6 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who render to each person according to his deeds.
We see this same idea being communicated in passages like Rev. 20:12-13 where the dead are spoken of as being “judged according to their deeds.”
Jesus also denounced the cities in which most of his miracles because they wouldn’t repent in Matt 11 and actually told some their judgment would be more tolerable in the day of judgment than it would be for others. See also Luke 12:47-48.
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that while hell is real and it is scary, Jesus primarily talked so much about it because He wants to save you and countless other lost people from it.
That’s why He was willing to go to the cross for you and pay the penalty for your sins so that you’d never have to experience what it’s like to NOT be with Him.
Jesus alone is God’s perfect remedy for Hell. What have you done with the gift of Jesus Christ?
Growth Group Questions for 4/22
The Truth About Hell
How would you summarize the main idea of this morning’s message in one sentence?
What did studying these passages on hell reveal to you about people? What did they reveal to you about God?
Tell me about a key truth you saw in the passages discussed in the message.
How do you think we should respond to what we learned? How might we pray?
Tell me about a change you would like to implement in your life based on these verses.