(Co-written with David Pope)
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.-Revelation 20:15
(God) is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honourable…for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him. So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.-Jonathan Edwards (1)
“Hellfire and brimstone.” To many people, this phrase evokes some of the worst stereotypes of “Fundamentalist” Christianity. After all, isn’t it outmoded to appeal to fear in order to get people to respond to the Gospel? No, it is not.
Without a holy, reverential fear of God, we will never begin to know true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). There can be no love of God apart from His justice and His holiness. They go hand-in-hand. Ultimately, we cannot call ourselves Bible believers or followers of Jesus Christ unless we are willing to accept the whole of their teaching, including the “unpleasant” parts.
In Part 1 of our study, we looked at the Bible doctrine of Hell and saw conclusively that the Bible does teach the eternal punishment for the wicked. We also examined what Jesus taught about this crucial doctrine, and how God’s judgement and justice are not at all in violation to His love. Furthermore, we saw that Jesus described Hell as a real, tangible place, not as an allegory or a metaphor. In His vivid teaching about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), we see that in Hell, the rich man was the same person he was on earth. He could see (v. 23). He could talk (v.24). He remembered his life on earth (v.25) and he feared for his brothers (v.27-28).
This gives us a sobering look at the characteristics that survive death. Once the limitations of mortality are removed, our ability to feel, think and remember will remain. The saving work of Jesus applies to the whole person, spirit, soul and body. Consequentially, a person who rejects that precious gift will suffer the consequences with every part of their being. A person who dies of a horrible disease will continue to suffer the agony of that disease for all eternity. After all, they rejected their healer. The alcoholic and the drug addict will continue to experience the ravages of their addictions but with nothing to satisfy them. They rejected their deliverer.
When we think of Hell, we think of fire, and that is certainly a part of it. However, that is only one facet of the horrors that will be found in that place of torment. One quip that is commonly heard when witnessing to the unsaved is that they would rather be in Hell with their friends than in Heaven. Well, the Bible actually does speak on this topic in the Book of Psalms: “Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness (Psalm 88:18, KJV).” When compared with the New Testament’s references to “outer darkness”, it appears as though the lost person in Hell will never be aware of the existance of any other person, ever again. Man, by nature and design, is a social being, and no graver punishment can be imagined than depriving him of any form of fellowship. A person in Hell will experience total, desperate isolation and loneliness…forever. Imagine a world totally cut off from everything which is good. No love, no joy, and absolutely no hope. In the words of D. James Kennedy:
When you have been in Hell a hundred billion, trillion eons of centuries, you will not have one less second to be there-to be lost forever. You will be in utter darkness, fleeing this way and that with never another mortal soul to converse with…lost, lost, shrieking out, lost, forever and ever…Immortal soul, lost in infinite darkness…(2)
Hell is, in fact, made up of numerous sections or compartments, each of which serves its own unique purpose (3). With this in mind, we will proceed with what we will call a “Guided Tour” of the infernal world.
1. Tartarus-The first of these we will look into is called Tartarus. We see reference to this place in the following Scriptures:
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6, KJV)
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; (2 Peter 2:4, KJV)
We further find the reason why these angels were so treated in Scripture:
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4, KJV)
All this happened long before Noah’s Flood, and was the main reason God sent this Flood on the Earth; he needed to ensure the bloodline that would wind up with our great Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Really, though, Tartarus is only important to the believer in seeing the goodness of God; angels have no plan of redemption.
2. Paradise-The next compartment we will examine is currently empty. This is what is referred to in the New Testament as “Paradise” or “Abraham’s Bosom.” Before Calvary, the righteous dead went to this place (the above-mentioned Lazarus, for example). Now, however, they are in Heaven with those that have died in the Lord. (Ephesians 4:7-11, Hebrews 2:14-15, I Peter 4:6, Matthew 12:40, Revelation 1:18, Psalm 16:10, and others)
3. Sheol/Hades-Next on the tour is the area known in the Old Testament as Sheol and in the New Testament as Hades. This is what is commonly meant when people refer to hell. This is the place where those who die outside of saving faith in Jesus’ work currently go. While it is true that the Bible does occasionally translate these words as meaning “grave,” that is not their normative use. Generally, both Sheol and Hades refer to the abode of the dead, or a place of conscious punishment (The typical words for “grave” are queber in the Old Testament, and mnaymion in the New). Jesus described this place as “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30), “Place of torment” (Luke 16:28), and “Outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13).
4. The Eternal Lake of Fire-Finally, we come to the portion of Hell known as the Lake of Fire. At the end of the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:1-10), the unrighteous dead in Sheol/Hades will be cast alive into this Lake of Fire for all eternity (Revelation 2:11, 14:9-11, 19:20, 20:10-15, 21:8). There is even a Bible verse that seems to indicate that believers may be required to look into this Lake of Fire roughly every month throughout eternity (Isaiah 66:23-24). This, my friends, is the place where God’s ultimate justice and judgement will be served upon those who reject His precious gift of salvation. In the bone-chilling words of Revelation 14:11: “…the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night.”
What is the purpose behind all of this? As with all other aspects of God’s dealings with man, the ultimate end is God’s own glory. He will be glorified in the damnation of the lost just as surely as He will be in the eternal praises of the redeemed. God’s holiness will never, ever be compromised. His laws and commandments reflect His holiness, just like our failure to obey them reflects our sinfulness (4). For example, most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), which are a summary of God’s law. On the surface, it is easy to overlook them thinking “I’ve never committed adultery, stolen anything, or killed anyone. You see? I’m not so bad!”
Unfortunately, this sort of attitude overlooks the main reason for God’s law: To reveal to us exactly how sinful and separated from God we really are (Galatians 3:24)! You see, God looks not only at our outward actions, but on our hearts. This includes every thought and every motive. Have you ever had an immoral sexual thought? Then, in Jesus’ own words, that makes you an adulterer (Matthew 5:28). Have you ever hated anyone? Then that makes you a murderer (1 John 3:15). If we will be honest with ourselves, none of us can argue with the words of Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” For all who die in their sins, Hell will be your home (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8 ) (4).
The good news is that no one has to go there!
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He (even) gave up His only begotten (unique) Son so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life (John 3:16, Amplified Bible).
In His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for every sin we have ever committed, and offers salvation to us, right now, as a free gift! If you would like to recieve it, here is what you must do:
1.ACKNOWLEDGE-“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) “God be merciful to me a sinner”(Luke 18:13)
2.REPENT-“Except ye repent, ye will likewise perish”(Luke 13:3)
3.CONFESS-“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9)
4.BELIEVE-For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have eternal life”(John 3:16)
5.RECEIVE-“As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”(John 1:12)
This is what our entire human existence is all about. The Bible compares our earthly life to a vapor (James 4:14). No matter how many years we may have on this earth, our time here is only a tiny “blip” on the radar screen of eternity. This is why being prepared for this eternity is the most important decision any person will ever make. Hell is real, it is horrible and it is forever. As the prophet Amos warned us long ago, “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12).
NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1-From Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” http://www.ccel.org/e/edwards/sermons/justice.html
2-This study on the compartments of Hell is adapted from the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible
3-Kennedy, D. James. Why I Believe 1980, Word, Inc. Dallas, London, Vancouver, Melbourne. p. 77.
4-For more about God’s Law and how we have broken it, take this Test.