Is hell real?

As I was typing this sentence to prepare this study, "While the damned endure hell endlessly, believers enjoy the endless perfection of Christ forever", MS Word gave me a warning, "This language may be offensive to your reader". And I fear that they are right about it. Though hell is just as real as heaven, all those who believe in the existence of heaven do not believe in the existence of hell. But the Bible clearly and explicitly teaches that hell is a real place to where the unbelieving wicked are sent after the final judgement.


In theology, the doctrine of hell relates to personal eschatology. Eschatology is about the end-times as described in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. The Book of Daniel, some parts of Isiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, and Revelation are considered eschatological writings. They describe in prophetic language the end of the world and human beings.


Personal eschatology is about the final and eternal destiny of individual human beings. Those who receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ will be rewarded with an inheritance into the Kingdom of God, and others will be condemned to hell. Personal eschatology explains this finality of humans. 


In Christian theology, hell is a real place where impenitent humans will live eternally separated from a loving God. Hell is the place or state into which unrepentant sinners enter after the final judgement. Some Christians believe that all impenitent humans will go to hell immediately after death. Theologians today generally see hell as the logical consequence of rejecting union with God and His justice and mercy.


Why should we teach about hell?


Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said, "Think lightly of Hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Saviour who delivers you from them."


Though it is uncomfortable to think about hell, it is of grave importance for all humans. Death is not the end; it is just the beginning of an eternal life. Removing hell from Christian doctrine lessens the value of the cross, the resurrection, and Christianity itself. All human beings were heading towards hell. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross saved us from it. The existence of hell does not annoy anyone who is in a saving relationship with Christ.


The Rich man and Lazarus


Jesus spoke many parables relating to personal eschatology. One of them is the parable of the "Rich Man and Lazarus". Jesus narrated this not as a creative work, but as a retelling of a real-life story. Jesus started the story by saying:


Luke 16:19, 20 (NKJV)

19 "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.

20 "But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,


Jesus spoke as if the rich man and Lazarus were real people who lived in a certain place and time. Unlike other parables, Jesus does not further interpret the story, nor is there a moral lesson. While the characters in other parables do not possess names, the poor man in this story does. These characteristics make the parable a real-life story. During the Middle Ages, Christians considered this a real story, and they regarded Lazarus as the saint of lepers.


The story goes like this: There was a rich man who lived a magnificent life. And there was a poor beggar who had some skin disease lying at his gate. His name was Lazarus. When they died, their physical bodies were buried in the earth, and their souls went to their appointed destinies. The soul of Lazarus was carried by heavenly angels to "Abraham’s bosom". But the soul of the rich man went to Hade. He described Hades as a place where he is "tormented in this flame". Abraham also says that Lazarus is "comforted", and the rich man is "tormented" (Luke 16:25).


Luke 16:23–25 (NKJV)

23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'

25 "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.


The rich man’s soul requested that Abraham send Lazarus soul to him with a drop of water. But his request was denied because neither of them could cross the deep gulf between the two places. Suddenly, the rich man remembered his siblings living in the world. He requested to send Lazarus to them with the gospel of repentance. This request was also denied, citing that the living have the covenant of Moses and prophets to exhort them. They can listen to them and repent of their sinful lives.


This parable has a religious background in "Moses and the prophets" (16:29). So, it tells what happened before the atoning death of Jesus Christ to the souls of humans after their deaths. The soul may go either to heavenly bliss or to a place of torment.


The destiny of an impenitent human is the same before and after the atonement of Christ. But what happens to the soul of a Christian is different from that of Lazarus.


Ecclesiastes 12:7 says: "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it."


The Bible tells us that when a born-again believer dies, his spirit will immediately go into the presence of our Lord. This is what Jesus promised to the penitent thief on the cross: "And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43 - NKJV). According to Paul, the departed soul of a Christian is "with Christ" and "present with the Lord".


Philippians 1:23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (NKJV)


2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (NKJV)


The place of torment where the rich man in the parable went after his death exists today. The sacrifice of Christ has made no difference to the impenitent sinner, their sins are not forgiven. This is a temporary state where they await the final judgement and punishment. The rich man cried out, "I am in agony in this fire" (Luke 16:24).


In Revelation 20:13–14, we see all resurrected human beings appearing before the Great White Throne, for the final judgement.


Revelation 20:13, 14 (NKJV)

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.


Verse 13 says that "Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them", and verse 14 says that "Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire". That means impenitent dead souls are kept in Hades until the day of judgement. Hades exists to this day.


The Greek word used for "torments" in verse 23 is "basanos" (bas'-an-os), which means torment, with the notion of going to the bottom. The word means the deepest level of torment. The Greek word used in verses 24 and 25 for "tormented" is "odynaƍ" (od-oo-nah'-o) which means to grieve, torment, or cause intense pain. So, though the Greek words used in verses 23, 24, and 25 are different, both terms convey the same meaning of torment.


The rich man’s words reveal details of the torments he suffers. He is at the deepest level of torment. His tongue was burning, and he wished for water to cool it. Even though he does not have a physical body, he feels terrible pain. No comfort is available in hell. He can feel the touch of another soul and the cool comfort of water. He also has the sense of sight and recognition, for he saw Abraham and Lazarus across a vast chasm. He can see the blissful state of the righteous souls and realise the comfort they enjoy. This sight and realisation are more severe pain than the fire in hell.


His location was fixed, and a chasm separated the restful place of the righteous from the place of torture where the impenitent souls lived. There is no chance to change the abode of a human soul after death.


He calls him "Father Abraham" indicating his physical descent from him. (Luke 16:24). But the rich man is in hades, not in purgatory. There is no intermediate place called purgatory where the souls will be purified. There is no reincarnation, and there is no chance for status change after death. The time to change our eternal destiny is before we die.


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Is Hell real?


C. S. Lewis was an Anglican lay theologian and writer (Clive Staples Lewis, 29 November 1898–22 November 1963). In his famous book, The Problem of Pain, he wrote: Hell "has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason." (Macmillan, 1962, p. 118)


Hell is mentioned 167 times in the Bible, in different terms. Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven. He spoke about hell as a real place that existed somewhere. But the location of hell is not clearly revealed in the Bible. So, scholars have proposed different theories about it. Some believe that hell exists within the earth’s core, while others believe it exists somewhere in outer space.


The Bible gives very few particulars about hell. We know that it was originally intended for demonic spiritual beings, not human beings (Matthew 25:41). The experience of being in hell is compared to burning (Mark 9:43; 9:48; Matthew 18:9; Luke 16:24). Hell is compared to darkness (Matthew 22:13) and associated with intense grief (Matthew 8:12) and horror (Mark 9:44).


Hell is described by different terms in the Bible. Torture and fire imagery are often used in eschatology as symbols of punishment. Daniel, Ezekiel, Zachariah, and the apostle John have used symbols and metaphors abundantly in their writings about eschatological events. So, we are not sure whether the descriptions must be understood literally or symbolically. These words may describe literally the place called hell, or they may signify some features of hell. All descriptions and features are about a painful and undesirable place.


Hell is described by the following phrases:


·        Shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)

·        Everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41)

·        A place of "everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46)

·        Unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12)

·        A place where 'worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' (Mark 9: 44-49)

·        A place of torment in flame" (Luke 16:24)

·        Punishment with everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

·        A place of "blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 1:13)

·        A place where "tormented with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 14:10)

·        A place where "the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever". (Revelation 14:11)

·        A "the lake of fire and brimstone" where the wicked are "tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10).


One popular passage about hell spoken by Jesus is, Matthew 25:31–46.


Matthew 25:31–46 (NKJV)

31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;

43 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'

44 "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?'

45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'

46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


This long speech is about an eschatological event that will happen after the Second Coming of Christ. But we are not sure about the nature and timing of this judgement because there are at least two prominent views about it.


Some believe that the Scripture refers to three different judgements that will happen in the future. The first is the judgement of the sheep and the goats, or a judgement of the nations (Matthew 25:31–46). This will take place after the tribulation period but prior to the millennium. The second is the believer’s judgement, often referred to as the "judgement seat (bema) of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:10). At this judgement, Christians will receive rewards for their works. The third is the great white throne judgement after the millennium (Revelation 20:11–15). This is the final judgement of unbelievers, in which they are judged according to their works and sentenced to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire.


Others believe that there won’t be three separate judgements but one final judgement. That will be the Great White Throne Judgement, in which all believers and unbelievers will be judged. (Revelation 20:11-15). Those whose names are found in the book of life will be judged for their deeds and receive rewards. Those whose names are not in the book of life will be judged according to their deeds and will be punished in the lake of fire. Those who hold this view believe that Matthew 25:31–46 is another description of what takes place at the great white throne judgement. They point to the fact that the result of this judgement is the same as what is seen after the great white throne judgement in Revelation 20:11–15. The sheep (believers) enter eternal life, while the goats (unbelievers) are cast into "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46). The reward and punishment are for eternity.


Matthew 25:46   "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


Jesus made it clear that there are only two eternal destinies: "the kingdom" (25:34), where the righteous enjoy "eternal life" (25:46), and the "everlasting fire" (25:41), where the unrighteous suffer "everlasting punishment" (25:46). There is no third or midway point.


John also recorded Jesus’ words about the final separation on the judgement day.


John 5:28, 29 (NKJV)

28 "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice

29 "and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.


Hebrew and Greek words


Scripture uses mainly three words to refer to the place of the dead.


Sheol and Hades


"Sheol" is a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for hell. It is translated as "Hades" in the Septuagint Bible. "Septuagint" is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek word in the New Testament is also "Hades". So, we accept that both words refer to the same place. 


"Sheol" used in the Hebrew Old Testament, and "Hades" in the Greek Septuagint Bible, refer to the temporary abode of the dead, or the underworld. The word does not mean the place of eternal punishment. 


In the English King James Bible, Sheol is translated as "hell" 31 times, and as "the grave" 31 times. Sheol is also translated as "the pit" three times. Many modern versions, such as the New International Version, translate Sheol as "grave" or simply say "Hades". Some other Bible translations render Sheol as "among the dead", or "place of the dead". About 1200 AD and afterwards, in Latin, "Hades" is translated as Purgatorium (Purgatory), but no other translations follow it.


In the New Testament also, the word "hades" is used to refer to the abode of the dead.


Acts 2:31 "he (King David), foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. (NKJV)


In Revelation 20:13,14 Hades itself is thrown into the "lake of fire" after being emptied of the dead.


Revelation 20:13, 14 (NKJV)

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.


In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the word "hades" is used for a place of fiery torment, where the rich man went after his death. The place is contrasted with the bosom of Abraham, which was a euphemism for the heavenly resting place of the righteous after death.


Luke 16: 23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (NKJV)


The story says that there is a deep chasm in between the two places, and no soul can cross over it to either side. So, some scholars believe that this parable reflects the intertestamental Jewish view of hades (Sheol) as containing separate divisions for the wicked and righteous.


"Sheol" and "Hades" as used in the Old Testament and in some passages in the New Testament, refer to a place where the soul of the dead lives. The place is divided into two, with a great chasm in between that cannot be crossed by those who live on either side. The impenitent sinners are "tormented in this flame" in their side, and the penitent sinners enjoy heavenly rest and comfort with other saints.


Tartaroo (tar-tar-o'-o)


The Greek verb "tartaroo" occurs once, for "hell" in the New Testament.


2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartaroo) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (NKJV)


"Tartaroo" is derived from the Greek word "Tartarus” which is the name for a subterranean region of divine punishment lower than Hades. It was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffered punishment for their evil deeds. "Tartaroo" is almost always translated into English by a phrase such as "cast down to hell". A few translations render it as "tartarus" itself.




Jesus also used another Greek word, "Gehenna" in contrast to the eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The term is used 11 times in the Synoptic gospels and once in the epistle of James (James 3:6).


"Gehenna" was originally a deep ravine that cut across the landscape, south of Jerusalem, outside the city walls, where the filth and dead animals of the city were dumped and burned. Lepers and outcasts lived there. So, it was a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. It was a fitting symbol for the future destruction of the wicked.


In Hebrew, the place was called, "Ge Hinnom", meaning "valley of Hinnom". The Greek word is "geenna", which is pronounced as gheh'-en-nah. So, it is transliterated in English as "Gehenna".


The oldest historical reference to the valley is found in Joshua 15:8 and 18:16, which describe tribal boundaries between Judah and Benjamin.


The next chronological reference to the valley is at the time of King Ahaz of Judah, who sacrificed his children to the gentile god, Moloch. (2 Chronicles 28:3). Ahaz's grandson, Manasseh also followed the abominable practise (2 Chronicles 33:6).


King Josiah of Judah was the grandson of Manasseh, and son of Amon. Josiah brought a spiritual revival to Judah. He destroyed the shrine of Moloch in the valley of Hinnom and all other deities in Judah. To prevent a restoration of the sacrifice in the valley, he defiled the place with the dead carcasses of humans and animals. The presence of a dead carcass was unclean in the eyes of both Jews and heathens.


2 Kings 23:10, 14

10  And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech. (NKJV)


14 And he broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images, and filled their places with the bones of men. (NKJV)


Prophet Isaiah mentioned Tophet, a place in Hinnom valley, as "Its pyre is fire with much wood" and "The breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, Kindles it."


Isaiah 30:33 For Tophet was established of old, Yes, for the king it is prepared. He has made it deep and large; Its pyre is fire with much wood; The breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, Kindles it. (NKJV)


Isaiah 66:24, the last verse in the book, speaks about the destiny of those who have rebelled against God.


Isaiah 66:24 "And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh." (NKJV)


After the Babylonian exile, from 6 BC on, the valley became the dumping ground for the sewage and refuse of the city. Fires were kept burning to consume the refuse. Sulphur (brimstone) was added to keep the fires burning. The dead bodies of executed criminals, those who were denied a proper burial, and animals were dumped there. It was a place of crawling worms and maggots.


Gehenna is most frequently described in the New Testament as a place of punishment. It is the place where both soul and body could be destroyed by "unquenchable fire". The word is translated as either "hell" or "hell fire" in many English versions.


Matthew 5:22 "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell (geenna) fire. (NKJV)


Matthew 10:28 "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 (geenna). (NKJV)


Mark 9:43 "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell (geenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched- (NKJV)


In all these verses, the Greek word "geenna" is used for hell. Phrases like "Outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" used in some other passages are also references to "Gehenna". These phrases signify the experience of "Gehenna".


Matthew 8:12 "But the sons of the kingdom (Israel) will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (NKJV)


Matthew 22:13 "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (NKJV)


John the Baptist might also have been referring to the horrid state of Gehenna when he spoke about the "unquenchable fire".


Matthew 3:12 "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (NKJV)


The Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, provides a vivid example of damnation and hell. Christ’s listeners could easily envision an intolerably horrible place where one would burn forever. Eternal punishment after the judgement is an established truth in the Bible.


Symbols or real experience?


The Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, and a place of torment where the worm doesn’t turn or die. These are graphic images of eternal punishment.


Here arises a question: Should we take these descriptions literally, or are they merely symbols?


All these phrases and descriptions are symbols. Heaven and hell are not earthly places that can be described in human languages. Often, symbols, metaphors, hyperbole, strange images, numerical values, etc. are used in eschatological writings to convey the features of end time, heaven, and hell. All these literary techniques are equal to the real experience. They are human languages, terms, and images that we are familiar with. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. So, the reality will be great in degree and nature.


Jesus and other eschatological writers used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell. The reality they signify is more intense. So, the very fact that they used symbols is not comforting.


Characteristics of hell


The Bible does not tell us where hell is or what it is. We are not sure how exactly hell functions. But the Bible provides some descriptions of the experience in hell. The chief characteristic is that hell is real, tortured, and eternal. Some of the features are discussed below.  


A place of torment


Hell is a place of torment for impenitent people. It is experienced by the whole person. A common misconception is that, only a person’s spirit or soul suffers in hell once the body has been left behind. Those in "hades" are now suffering without a body. But all humans will be raised for the last judgement. All of them will get a resurrected body, which they will not leave behind. The impenitent sinners will be cast into hell with their bodies and souls. There they will suffer in body and soul. The Bible does not say that they will lose their resurrected bodies afterwards.


Acts 24:15 "I (Apostle Paul) have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. (NKJV)


John 5:28–29 (NKJV)

28 "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice

29 "and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.


Revelation 20:12, 13 (NKJV)

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.


In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke twice about both the body and soul going to hell.


Matthew 5:29, 30 (NKJV)

29 "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.

30 "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.


Matthew 10:28 "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. (NKJV)


Hell is not the absence of or separation from God.


God is inherently, infinitely, and eternally omnipresent. That means, He is present everywhere that is created. There is nothing in this vast universe that was not created by God. He is present in heaven, earth, and hell.


Psalms 139:7, 8 (NKJV)

7    Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

8    If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.


Hell is not the absence of God, but the absence of a loving God. Hell is the presence of a judging God in His wrath. Hell is the presence of God in wrath.


The absence of God is not a comfortable situation to wish for. God’s absence is the absence of His grace. All humans in this world enjoy the benefits of God’s common grace. There is nowhere in this world where God’s grace is absent. The sun, rain, and seasons are God’s grace. Our hard work is rewarded, and we are healed from diseases by His grace. Our cry for help is answered because He is gracious towards us. Common Grace was established by Noah’s Covenant, and since then it has not been denied to any sinner,


Genesis 8:21, 22 (NKJV)

21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. (NKJV)

22 "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease."


Matthew 5:45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (NKJV)


Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (NKJV)


By His common grace, God extends His love to all, restrains sin for good and unleashes sin for destruction, and enables the regenerate and the unregenerate to perform civic righteousness.


But God’s common grace is absent in hell. That makes it the worst place to live.


Hell is not a separation from God, it is a separation from the lovingness of God. The problem of the impenitent in hell will not be the absence or separation from God, it will be the absence of God’s grace and the presence of God in wrath. God will be in hell exercising His just punishment towards the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.


Other characteristics


Hell was originally created for "the devil and his angels".  


Matthew 25:41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: (NKJV)


But because every human being is a sinner, they are also condemned to hell. Sinners deserve hell as the just punishment for their rebellion against God. But the penitent sinner has the hope of escaping hell. He is redeemed by the blood of Jesus from sin and its punishments.


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NKJV)


Hell is everlasting destruction. This is the most frightening aspect of hell.


2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9 (NKJV)

8    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.

9    These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,


Those who are in hell can remember their lives up to their deaths. But they will not be updated on the events that happened after their deaths. In the account of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man remembered his earthly life and his siblings. They will remember what they loved in life: wealth, fame, good times, and themselves.


Hell will be a place of guilt and shame. The prophet Daniel wrote,


Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. (NKJV)


Hell offers no rest. Death won’t be a relief to the sufferings in this world. The torment will be unleashed in unending torrents.


Revelation 14:11 "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." (NKJV)


Hell will be a place of utter hopelessness. There is no ray of hope and no chance of ever leaving. There will be no mercy, no love, no acts of kindness, and no grace. Hate will reign supreme. It is a place of utter darkness. In the Bible, it is referred to as the "blackness of darkness forever". With darkness comes fear, evil, devil, demons, and death. Hell is all of these, and hell is forever.


Jude 13 The perished souls are) raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. (NKJV)


Avoid it at all costs.


Jesus taught a hard doctrine during His life on this earth about hell and the afterlife. He said that it is better to kill the false teachers by sinking them into the sea, making sure that they will not rise again. He advised cutting off, hands, feet, and eyes that cause sin. A maimed human in heaven is better than a whole one in hell. Jesus’ words are recorded in Matthew 5:29–30, 18:8–9, and Mark 9:41-48. Mark’s account has more details than Matthew's.


Mark 9:41-48 (NKJV)

41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

42 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

43 "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—

44 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'

45 "And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched--

46 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'

47 "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire--

48 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'


These words of Jesus have perplexed ordinary readers a lot. Was Jesus saying that we should cut off our limbs and eyes because they cause sin? No human being lives without committing sin, whether purposefully or innately. This is hard teaching that no one can follow.


But what Jesus was saying and what His audience of the time understood are different from what we grasp today. Jesus was living in a historical period when Greek culture and philosophy exercised great influence in the Middle Eastern countries, which were once under the Greek empire. Jews were also familiar with Greek thoughts.


According to Greek philosophy and religion, everything material and physical, including the human body, is evil. Only the spirit is good. But Jews believed the opposite. They believed that humans were created by God in His image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26,27). So, human life, the physical body, health, and material blessings were good and valuable. They respected their lives on earth and their physical bodies as creations of God. They valued it more than anything else they owned. So, their lives, health, eyes, and limbs were all precious to them, and they were responsible for keeping them in sound condition. They should not cause any harm to it.


They also had the Mosaic Law, which prohibited them from maiming their bodies.


Leviticus 19:28 'You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD. (NKJV)


So, to maim their bodies was the last harm they could do to their physical bodies. But Jesus was saying that even that was preferable to being cast into hell. That means hell is a place that must be avoided at the cost of every valuable possession in this world. Avoid it at all costs.




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