Does Hell Really Exist?
Hell is a literal place, just like Heaven. They both play a big part in man’s future. For the redeemed, heaven is waiting, for the lost or unsaved, hell is their final destination.
According to Gallup research, 94% of U.S. adults believe in God or a universal spirit; 84% believe Jesus Christ is God or the Son of God; and 53% believe in a literal hell. A Newsweek poll found that 94% of Americans believe in God; 77% believe in a heaven; 76% think they have a good or excellent chance of getting there. 58% of those surveyed believe in hell.
According to church historian Martin Marty, hell began to disappear from man’s thinking in the 19th century, and no one seemed to notice. In rejecting heaven and hell, one also rejects the awesome seriousness of moral and immoral behavior. But for those who take God seriously, human freedom means the capacity to make moral decisions, which have radical and enduring consequences.
In general, more adults in the U.S. believe in hell now than they did 40 years ago. The concept was losing ground as recently as 1980 when just over half of those surveyed said they believed in hell. By 1990 the percentage had risen to 60%. One 2011 survey reported only 52% believed in hell.
Mathew 7:13-14 records Jesus saying, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (KJV)
There are only two roads in life, one leads to Hell, characterized by destruction and the other road leads to life or heaven. The masses, all the religions that do not accept Jesus as the only way, walk down the broad road. It is wide enough for all to fit. But the road to life is narrow…One Way…Jesus, the Christ of God.
Hell is a reality; a real place for real people. It is so bad that Jesus told the crowd in one of his sermons, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”. (Mathew 18:8-9),
Here are some other references concerning the reality of hell.
Mathew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (KJV)
Rev. 20:10 “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (KJV)
Mathew 25:46 “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” KJV)
Mathew 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:” (KJV)
In our modern vernacular, hell signifies a place of fire and punishment and this is indeed taught in the scriptures.
Hell is mentioned in the Bible (KJV) 54 times. Hell appears 31 times in the Old Testament and 23 in the New Testament. In the OT, hell is translated from the Hebrew word “Sheol.” In the NT, hell was translated from three words, Tartaroo, Hades and Gehenna. All words express some or all of these characteristics: an eternal separation from God, a place of darkness, suffering, pain and torment. It is not a place where you want to visit or move to.
In my earlier days, we used to say, flippantly, that we’d probably end up in hell, having a party with all our friends. I have since come to my senses, realizing that hell is a place of isolation. Those that go there will be alone forever. Can you imagine being in total darkness, all alone with just your suffering and pain to keep you company? Don’t think that your punishment will be administered by demons or the Devil. They will be cast into the lake of fire. There are no jailors to talk to or to call out to…just you, all alone, suffering forever. You don’t want to go there.
Many people are uncomfortable, to say the least, with the idea of an eternal hell. This discomfort, though, is often the result of an incomplete understanding of three things: the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of sin. As fallen, sinful human beings, the nature of God is a difficult concept for us to grasp. We tend to see God as a kind, merciful being whose love for us overrides and overshadows all his other attributes. Of course, God is loving, kind, and merciful, but he is first and foremost a holy and righteous God. So holy is he that he cannot tolerate sin. He is a God whose anger burns against the wicked and disobedient (Isaiah 5:25; Hosea 8:5; Zechariah 10:3). He is not only a loving God—He is love itself!
But the Bible also tells us that he hates all manner of sin (Proverbs 6:16-19). And while he is merciful, he still administers justice in accordance to his own will. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Humanity is corrupted by sin, and that sin is always directly against God. When David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah murdered, he responded with an interesting prayer: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). Since David had sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, how could he claim to have only sinned against God? David understood that all sin is ultimately against God. God is an eternal and infinite Being (Psalm 90:2). As a result, all sin requires an eternal punishment. God’s holy, perfect, and infinite character has been offended by our sin. Although to our finite minds our sin is limited in time, to God—who is outside of time—the sin he hates goes on and on. Our sin is eternally before him and must be eternally punished in order to satisfy his holy justice.
No one understands this better than someone in hell. A perfect example is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Both died, and the rich man went to hell while Lazarus went to paradise (Luke 16). Of course, the rich man was aware that his sins were only committed during his lifetime. But, interestingly, he never says, “How did I end up here?” That question is never asked in hell. He does not say, “Did I really deserve this? don’t you think this is a little extreme? A little over the top?” He only asks that someone go to his brothers who are still alive and warn them against his fate.
Like the rich man, every sinner in hell has a full realization that he deserves to be there. Each sinner has a fully informed, acutely aware, sensitive conscience which, in hell, becomes his own tormenter. This is the experience of torture in hell—a person fully aware of his or her sin with a relentlessly accusing conscience, without relief for even one moment. The guilt of sin will produce shame and everlasting self-hatred. The rich man knew that eternal punishment for a lifetime of sin is justified and deserved. That is why he never protested or questioned being in hell.
The realities of eternal damnation, eternal hell, and eternal punishment are frightening and disturbing. But it is good that we might, indeed, be terrified. While this may sound grim, there is good news. God loves us (John 3:16) and wants us to be saved from hell (2 Peter 3:9). But because God is also just and righteous, he cannot allow our sin to go unpunished. Someone has to pay for it. In his great mercy and love, God provided his own payment for our sin. He sent his Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross for us. Jesus’ death was an infinite death because he is the infinite God/man, paying our infinite sin debt, so that we would not have to pay it in hell for eternity (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we confess our sin and place our faith in Christ, asking for God’s forgiveness based on Christ’s sacrifice, we are saved, forgiven, cleansed, and promised an eternal home in heaven. God loved us so much that he provided the means for our salvation, but if we reject his gift of eternal life, we will face the eternal consequences of that decision.
Many people struggle with the justice of that. They question how it is just for God to punish a person for eternity in response to only a human lifetime of 70, 80, 90, or even 100 years of sin. How does a sinner’s finite lifespan merit an infinitely long punishment?
There are two Biblical principles that clearly declare eternity in hell to be the just punishment for sin, no matter how long one’s earthly life lasted.
First, the Bible declares that all sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4). The extent of the punishment depends, in part, on the target of the crime. In a human court of law, a physical assault against an individual will usually result in a fine and possibly some time in jail. In contrast, a physical assault against the president or prime minister of a country will likely result in a lifetime in prison. And this is the case despite the fact that the crime was a one-time offense, not a continual, ongoing action. God is infinitely higher and greater than any human being. How much more are our crimes worthy of a great punishment in light of the fact that our sins are against God (Romans 6:23)?
Second, the idea that we cease sinning after death is not taught in the Bible. Are those who go to hell suddenly sinless and perfect? No. Those who go into eternity without Christ will be confirmed in their wickedness. The hard-hearted will be eternally hard-hearted. There will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in hell (Matthew 25:30), but no repentance. Sinners in hell will be given over to their own nature; they will be sin-infected, evil, immoral, and depraved beings for all of eternity, forever unredeemed and unregenerate. The lake of fire will be a place of eternal rebellion against God—even as that rebellion is judged (Revelation 20:14–15; cf. Revelation 16:9, 11). Unsaved people do not only sin for 70, 80, 90, or 100 years. They sin for eternity.
What it comes down to is this—if a person wants to be separated from God for eternity, God will grant that desire. Believers are those who say to God, “Your will be done.” Unbelievers are those to whom God says, “Your will be done.” The will of the unsaved is to reject salvation through Jesus Christ and remain in sin; God will honor that decision, and its consequences, for eternity.
Why would God do this to me? you might say… because you rejected the only way to him, Jesus. He made the way possible by sending Jesus to die for your sins so you could be free to worship him. He allowed you to live this long and has constantly called you to Himself in a variety of ways, all with no response.
You sidestepped His invitation ignored his call and refused to accept his destiny for you. However, God does not send anyone to hell. They chose not to be with him and Hell is the only other place. The rich man lifted up his eyes in hell, in torment when he died and so will you if you reject so great a salvation. Luke 16:23
Have I scared you? I hope so because it is no laughing matter. Your eternal destiny is at stake and I want you to know the reality of hell and hopefully keep you from going there…so, here’s what you do… “And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Until Next Time
Rev. John Marinelli Author & Poet