HUMAN RESPONSES TO HELL
God has always been a God of Life and love. All humans including you were made in His image. (Genesis 1:26-27) He has a high value on human lives and also respects our human ability to choose. God makes His efforts to reach us all and move us to choose His Son to follow and join Him. We all have our entire life to make that choice, however long or short that life may be. Many will reject the truth and choose a path different than what God would desire for them.
Hell is a subject that even the most faithful of humans tend to avoid. It is an extremely unpopular subject. To think of being permanently separated from God is a much too permanent thought in a world like ours where almost nothing seems permanent. It seems too final. Everyone seems to think there should be a second chance. But the Bible is clear that this is not a trial run we are in and this life is the only chance we have. Each person only gets to live life once. You can use the life you are given by serving God or you can use it rebelling against Him. God can never be accused of sending people to Hell. People make the choice. If a person says no to God then they choose to go to Hell. He doesn’t want them to go there but it is the choice made.
Modern folks are trying to revise the doctrine of hell and to remove the finality of everlasting punishment and one observer asked, “Could it be that the only result of attempts to air condition Hell, however well-meaning they are, will ensure that more and more people wind up there?” R. Albert Mohler,Jr. wrote, “Hell demands our attention in the present, and now confronts evangelicals with a critical test of theological and biblical integrity. Hell may be denied, but it will not disappear.”
Biblical Picture of Reality
We have found in the Bible that Jesus gives us a picture of hell that is truly real. It is awful to say the least and it is forever. He says it is everlasting. Jesus points out that people should do all they can to avoid it. With so many people today doubting whether Hell and the anguish and torment it carries are forever and eternal, the teaching of Jesus and His emphasis on the everlasting duration of Hell needs to be highlighted brightly.
The doctrine of Hell is truly an emotional and repulsive thought and everyone is troubled when thinking of someone else going there, let alone the thought of going there yourself. But there was all this emphatic teaching of Jesus Christ and the authors of the New Testament that we learn from the Bible. All of these teachers are adamant there will be judgment. They are all insistent there will be separation because some people will be fortunate and end up in Heaven yet others will be cast into that place where they will exist in weeping and gnashing of teeth.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HELL
When the Bible says something it is the truth. God’s word is infallible. Think about the simple fact that from the beginning of the Bible in Genesis God pronounced the penalty of death on man due to the sin of Adam. Since that time the life of a human being has been limited to a number of years focusing around seventy. There is no need to assume anything and all you need to do is turn the pages and look at the evidence for yourself. Research all the history you want and you will find no man, not one, since the fall of Adam has lived forever. All have died or been taken up. (Like Enoch) No one has ever escaped that penalty that God declared so long ago in that death would be the penalty for sin. At times in my profession people begin a sentence with, “If anything should happen to me…” and I always stop them to say, “It will, You will die, we both will die because it is the reality.” There have been billions and billions of people that have taken a step on this earth since then and every single one has tasted God’s penalty for sin which is death. Could there be any better example of the accuracy, power and truth of god’s word?
Old Testament Doctrine of Hell
When we see the word Hell in the Old Testament it will likely be some translation of the word ‘Sheol’. This term occurs sixty-four times with a rendering toward “Hell” thirty-two times, referencing “grave” twenty-nine times and with a rendering toward “pit” three times. With an examination of Hebrew Scripture the determination will be a primary meaning of (the place or state of the dead.). By substituting the word hell in the place of “grave” or “Sheol” you will be better able to understand the scriptural doctrine on the subject of Hell.
Later in the Old Testament there is a figurative meaning to the word “Sheol” and this time is representing calamity and degradation that comes from sin or the judgment of God. When seen in those scriptures it is plain to see that “Sheol” or “Hell” was used during times of suffering, depravity and mortification. There is a reference to this in Psalm 9: 17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
“The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee” (Psalm 116:3-7) “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20).
Several scriptures in the Old Testament lead us to a view of what will happen to the lost at the end when the world will end. The wicked will become like chaff or husks of wheat blowing in the wind. They will look like little pieces of broken pottery. The wicked will be slain and will exist no more. The evil ones will be become like ashes under the feet of God’s people. In 1 Corinthians we get from Paul that the last enemy that gets destroyed is death itself. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). The annihilation of death is described by John using the lake of fire picture in Revelation 20:14. For all humans the lake of fire is the second death (Rev 20:14-15; 21:8).
The work of Christ is previewed in Isaiah chapter 11 and this gets echoed in the New Testament. This is about Jesus work of redemption and gospel ministry to the gentiles. The judgment to come will provide freedom for some and for others there will be the punishment. Jesus will “strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Is. 11:4) the clear message revealed here is the wicked will be ultimately destroyed. Yes, Hell is for real. The wicked will not be able to hide or protect themselves when God does “arise”. The evilness of their own sins will ignite and become a fire that “consumes” them (Is 33:10-11). They will blaze as easily as “cut thornbushes” and burn so complete “as if to lime” (Is 33:12). Can any metaphor describe destruction any better than this?
In Isaiah 66 there is a clear picture of what the righteous will see after the wrath of God is poured forth. The image is food for fire and maggots. “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Is. 66:24). So what the righteous see is corpses and carcasses. God has executed His judgment and wrath with fire and sword. But the righteous will endure forever and worship God when the wicked are no longer alive. (Is 66:22-23)
This is just a glimpse of what Hell is.. join me next time and have a look at what the New Testament says about Hell.