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What the Bible Teaches About Hell

Hell is Horrible.

Many people speak of going through difficult circumstances as going through hell. It is an understandable comparison, as hell is the strongest word you can use to describe your problems, hardships and afflictions. Hell is as bad as it gets. Though understandable, however, it is inappropriate to describe trouble as hell. The term may express the gravity of your situation. But it trivializes the reality of hell. Nothing a person suffers in this life can be legitimately compared to the horrors of hell.

The Bible calls hell by its name. But more often, it describes hell with gruesome word-pictures. Destruction. Perdition. Outer darkness. Where the worm never dies. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. The lake of fire. The second death.

In secular media, hell is depicted as the-mother-of-all-parties. Heaven is presumed to be boring. But hell is where the real celebration takes place. This is wishful thinking. Scripture goes out of its way to emphasize that hell is not fun. It is a horrible place of divine torment for unforgiven sinners.

It has become common for people to dismiss scripture’s horrific depictions of hell as mere symbols. They argue that Jesus’ references to hell were really about a trash heap outside of Jerusalem that no longer exists. This view is very bad interpretation and even worse theology. A symbol points to a greater reality. If then you can prove that Jesus’ references to hell were only symbolic, what comfort is that? You still must conclude that to die with your sins unforgiven is a fate worse than spending eternity in an unquenchable fire.

Hell is a scare tactic of sovereign grace. The Bible traces the horrors of hell to scare you out of your sins and to run to the cross of Jesus in faith and repentance! And it should motivate Christians to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every lost man, woman, boy and girl in every nation!

Hell is Eternal.

In the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus presents hell as a real place. He describes hell as a horrible place of torment. And he makes it clear that hell has no exit.

Do not dismiss what Jesus teaches about hell in this parable because it is a parable. In the teaching-stories he told, Jesus made up characters, scenarios and dialogue. But he did not make up truth. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the Jericho road is a real place. And in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, hell is a real place.

When the rich man went to hell, he cried out for deliverance from his torment. Abraham responds from heaven, “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26).

In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus concludes, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41). In this verse, Jesus refers to hell as “eternal punishment.” And he contrasts it with “eternal life.” Eternal punishment is just as long as eternal life. Every person will spend eternity somewhere—either in eternal life with heaven or eternal punishment in hell.

A Bonus Truth

This article is about three fundamental truths the Bible teaches about hell. Hell is real. Hell is horrible. And hell is eternal. Because you read to the end, I have a bonus truth for you: Hell is avoidable!

God is holy. And his holiness demands a just penalty for sin, which is eternal death. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this, for 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).

Every sin will be paid for—either by the Savior at the cross or by the sinner in hell. “For the wages of sin is death,” wrote Paul, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). If you run to the cross and trust the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, you can receive free forgiveness, new life and eternal hope today!

This article about the doctrine of hell originally appeared here.

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H.B. Charles, Jr. is a pastor, speaker, and writer. He lives with his wife and children in Jacksonville (FL), where he serves as the Senior-Pastor of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.