Monday, March 5, 2012

The sad but true reality of Hell

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

           This is Jesus' final sermon that He would deliver before His crucifixion.  Throughout the Gospel records we find Jesus mentioning Hell over 15 times. Hell as a doctrine and a place troubles many believers and non-believers alike.  In this portion of my blog I want to explore this doctrine more closely to better understand what the Bible teaches about Hell.

            In the text above Jesus reveals why Hell was created: "for the devil and his angels."  The specific word Jesus uses is the word "prepared".  Throughout scripture there are several words used to designate various places that we read in the English as "Hell".  In passages such as 2 Peter 2:4 we read - "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment". Some of the fallen angels or demons were permitted by God to roam freely on the earth,  as seen for instance in the four Gospels where Jesus casts them out on at least 8 occassions.  As Peter mentions here, there are other fallen angels who have been consigned to a holding place until the day of judgment.

          The second place we read as "hell" is translated from the Hebrew word "sheol" and the Greek word "hades".  This is the place where unbelievers who die without Christ go and await in torment for the final judgment.  Luke 16 is the most detailed passage in God's word concerning this place.  The significance of both places reveal that evil and suffering were not a surprise to God.  People who die and go to Hell do so because they preferred everything else in rejection of Christ.  They rejected God's revelation of Himself in creation and in their conscience, exchanging the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:18-23)


        From what we can tell from the testimony of the Bible, Hell and Heaven both were created around the same time as the events that transpired in Genesis 3.  The term Jesus is referring to here is Gehenna, or the "Lake of fire".  It is mentioned at least four times in the book of Revelation as the final place of torment for Satan, the demonic realm and unbelievers.  This place is a real place, which currently exists, however it is not currently occupied.  The second place, called "hades" or "sheol" was also created in and around the same time as Gehenna.  The other place where the fallen angels are being currently held was made at the same time as the other two places.  The significance of the time of the creation of all three of these places is to remind us that God views history from the end back to the beginning.    
            Contrary to popular opinion and bad theology, Satan is not some sovereign ruler with headquarters in hell.  He is a powerful, yet limited fallen angelic creature who roams to and fro over the face of the earth, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan is a being whose constant roaming is a sign that he knows that his time is short (Revelation 12:12).

            Another myth is that hell is a party place.  According to what we read in passages such as Luke 16, the current holding place called hell is a place of fire and conscious torments.

            A third myth that needs to be dispelled is that people in hell are crying out to God for repentance, and are remorseful.  Again a closer examination of Luke 16 reveals that Hell is characterized as a place of rebellion and resentment towards God, not repentance.  Unfortunately, but sadly, the sinner in hell holds a clinched fist in the face of God, rather than an open hand of praise. 

           Then finally, there are those who teach that Hell's flames could not be real, since Hell is also described as a dark place.   I find this argument to be particular flawed, since anyone who has ever been near a major fire will note that it is characterized more by the smoke than the light of the flames.  I've witnessed a major fire in my lifetime, and I can say that both are present.  In a real fire, the presence of thick smoke indicates a fuel source for the heat to consume.  What Jesus describes about Hell (in both its current state and the future Lake of Fire), is both accurate and true. 

           I pray God would prompt those who are Christians reading this blog to both pray and share Christ with their unsaved loved ones and friends.  May you who look by faith to Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure be ever more thankful for the salvation that is found in Him. 

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