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The Reality of Hell: The Avoided Doctrine

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A lot of ministers today don't preach on the reality of Hell.  It is not a topic that sells books and CD's.  It doesn't build attendance at Christian Bible conferences.   It is one  of the most uncomfortable topics a preacher can preach on.  It is so uncomfortable that many have simply rejected its existence altogether.   It is a missing element in our presentation of the Gospel. 

This is not a discussion of whether or not you think that Hell is an eternal conscious punishment or annihilationism. Either way, Hell is awful and something no one wants.    So please do not start that debate.   This is about the reality of Hell and the need to include it in our presentation of the Gospel.

When I read the works of men like John Wesley, Johnathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield, et al.,   I see a lot of preaching on Hell and it was a significant ingredient in their presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   They didn't shy away from the topic. It was central in their preaching.   We have lost that today in so much of what is preached.   Today, the preaching on Sunday morning that you get is about things like finances, raising kids, marital problems, breaking bad habits, overcoming additions, etc.   Those are actually more along the line of pastoral counseling issues, and not sermon worthy topics.   Those are not the kinds of issues that need to be dealt with from the pulpit on Sunday morning.  The preacher should not be doing pastoral counseling in his sermons on Sunday. 

We need a return to the old-fashioned preaching that told people that they are sinners.   We have replaced the word "sinner" with "pre-Christians"  in some circles.  Every attempt to water down the Gospel and to avoid confronting people with the reality of their sin and the reality of Hell is being made because offending people with the truth, means lower numbers on Sunday morning and that means less bragging rights.  Everyone wants to be the young, slick, sexy, good-looking church down the street with flashy presentations and worship services that mimic rock concerts instead of focusing on the truth of the Gospel.   And sermons on the reality of Hell, just don't get you to that goal.

So in the posts to follow, I am going to deal with the uncomfortable topic of Hell and the need to make sure it is part of our presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

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The preaching of Hell is not a sadistic thing.   Some have accused preachers who preach on Hell of being sadistic.  But when we examine the sermons of great men of the past who preached on the topic of Hell, they are far from sadistic.  Their sermons are full of pleading and genuine concern for the welfare of others.   They were far from sadistic.   If they were sadistic, they would relish someone suffering in hell.  The idea that someone is suffering in Hell would easily satisfy sadistic tendencies and thus anyone like that would avoid warning people about Hell in order to get the enjoyment of seeing people die who were never saved, knowing that they are suffering in Hell.  Warning people of danger is not sadistic it actually demonstrates a love for others.  

If I were driving by your house at 2:00 AM, and saw your home on fire, and I didn't stop, didn't call 9/11, what kind of person would I be?  If I stop, jump out of the car run up to the widows and start banging on the windows and yelling at the top of my lungs for you to wake up and get out, would that be sadistic?   Or am I trying to save your life?

Many people are asleep and don't see the danger they are in and need to understand what is at stake if they don't wake up and believe the Gospel of Jesus.   We do unsaved humanity a huge disservice if we, in an attempt to not offend them, avoid the topic of Hell.    So we need to see what the Bible say about Hell. 

Let's look at what Jesus said about Hell: 

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 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: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.   (Mat 25:29-46)

Jesus gives us four descriptions of what Hell is like: 

  • It is a place of outer darkness
  • It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth
  • And it is place of separation to everlasting punishment.
     

The reference to "outer darkness"  is always related to the curse of God in the OT.  It was associated with being put "outside the camp" so to speak.  Those rejected God and His commandments were put out of the community.  In those days, everything about community and those who didn't live as God commanded risked bringing the judgement of God down on everyone.  Disobedience got you "cut off" from the blessings and covenants and put out into "darkness" where nothing but the curse of God resided.   It is the imagery that is reminiscent of Israel in the wilderness dwelling under the light of the pillar of fire.  Outside of that light was nothing but darkness and those who ventured out would be the victim of the dangers that existed in the darkness.

"Weeping and gnashing of teeth"  is a pretty poignant image.   Weeping doesn't need explanation, but "gnashing of teeth"  refers to hatred.   When Stephen indicted the religious leaders of Jerusalem, they were so angry that they lynched him in order to kill him and the Bible says they "gnashed" their teeth at him.   Those in Hell will be in such agony, but also will be angry with God and they will gnash their teeth as they suffer under His judgement. They weep in mourning as they gnash their teeth in anger.

"Everlasting punishment."   This will be a punishment that will not be rescinded.  It means that when we die, that's it. Regardless of whether or not you believe that the punishment is eternally conscious or lasts only for season and then the person is annihilated, regardless of what form you think that judgment will take, one thing that is true is that is final and there are no second-chances, no more opportunities to make things right.  That is why this a vital doctrine. 

God has provided a means by which we can avoid Hell.  He has provided a way of escape through the death and shed blood of Jesus on the cross and all we have to do is believe the Gospel, repent of our sins and trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.   Hell is a real place, and to face that eternal reality without Jesus is a mistake you will never get to go back in time and correct. 

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Is Hell unfair?   That is a criticism that is leveled at God by many people.   It usually goes something like this:  "Why are people punished infinitely for finite sins?"   They consider that unfair.   

The answer is that no one goes to Hell for finite sins.  They go to Hell for their failure to obey the Gospel.  That has eternal repercussions.   That is why people go to Hell.  They have, in some cases, elected to reject Jesus and gamble on the Gospel not being true, God not existing, and that Hell is a myth.  They will find out that they will lose that gamble.  God is not unfair if He has provided the way for you to be saved from Hell.  God doesn't want anyone to go to Hell (I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9).   But if you reject the Gospel, God will honor your decision. 

And Jesus taught extensively on Hell:  (Mat. 5:22; 12:23; 13:42,50; 18:8-9; 23:33; 25:41,46; Mk. 9:43-48; Lk. 16:19-31)   Jesus taught on the reality of Hell and so we need to follow in His footsteps and teach what He taught. 

Teaching on Hell isn't "condemnation."  It is warning people who are already under condemnation because they have not obeyed the Gospel. It gives them a warning so that they can change course and have a chance to repent and find Jesus.  

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  (Joh 3:18-20)

 

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The lack of preaching on Hell has resulted in a lack of any fear of God.   God has been reduced in the minds of many as "the man upstairs"  or He is seen as nothing but our friend.   Modern worship music even speaks of our relationship with God in romantic terms, as if God just wants to give us all a "big sloppy kiss"  as one music writer put it.   God is sometimes viewed as someone we want to curl up with on the couch.   True fear of God is not part of how many view God today.   

We sometimes lose sight of His holiness.  God is incorrectly portrayed as "all loving" and for that reason, Hell makes no sense.  Many people who have been told that God is loving, merciful, compassionate, forgiving etc. (and He is all of those things), but have never really been told about God's holiness, cannot make sense out of Hell.  Why would a good and merciful and loving God  send people to Hell??   The fact that the unbelieving world has to ask that question, demonstrates that we, as the Church, have done a poor job explaining God to the unsaved world. 

The old preachers who preached on Hell, preached the holiness of God and the fear of God, two things that are often missing from our theology and preaching today: 

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.  (Isa 6:1-7)

The chief attribute of God is not love (despite what you may have been told).   The chief attribute of God is holiness.  Whenever the Bible wants to emphasize the importance of something, when the Bible wants to draw your attention to something that is very, very important, it will repeat itself.   When Jesus said, "verily, verily" it was to emphasize that what was to follow was of the utmost importance.

That is why the Bible says in this passage, that God is "holy, holy, holy."  It is the ONLY attribute of God that is ever repeated like that.   God is never said to be "grace, grace, grace, or love, love, love, or whatever.   He is holy, holy, holy.

And when you see God's holiness and you see God for who He is, you see yourself for who you are, just like Isaiah did:  "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

 We have lost that fear of God. We need to stop viewing God as our "buddy" or as simply the person who is supposed to solve all of our problems and realize that he is truly God.   He is our Most Dread Sovereign, Creator, our Redeemer and our Eternal Judge.   When we come to Him in prayer, we need to remember that we are not talking to just anyone.   We need to come before Him in fear and reverence and never lose sight of just exactly to whom it is we are speaking.   Yes, there is that familiarity as Father and child, but we must never let familiarity devolve into flippancy.

When we get a glimpse of His holiness and who He really is and when we fear Him, then Hell makes perfect sense. 

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Posted (edited)

King James Bible Ro:11-22
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Edited by Justin Adams
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1 hour ago, shiloh357 said:

But if you reject the Gospel, God will honor your decision. 

You have made no friends with out Calvinist family :24:  

44 minutes ago, shiloh357 said:

The chief attribute of God is not love (despite what you may have been told).   The chief attribute of God is holiness.  Whenever the Bible wants to emphasize the importance of something, when the Bible wants to draw your attention to something that is very, very important, it will repeat itself.   When Jesus said, "verily, verily" it was to emphasize that what was to follow was of the utmost importance.

That is why the Bible says in this passage, that God is "holy, holy, holy."  It is the ONLY attribute of God that is ever repeated like that.   God is never said to be "grace, grace, grace, or love, love, love, or whatever.   He is holy, holy, holy.

And when you see God's holiness and you see God for who He is, you see yourself for who you are, just like Isaiah did:  "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

 We have lost that fear of God. We need to stop viewing God as our "buddy" or as simply the person who is supposed to solve all of our problems and realize that he is truly God.   He is our Most Dread Sovereign, Creator, our Redeemer and our Eternal Judge.   When we come to Him in prayer, we need to remember that we are not talking to just anyone.   We need to come before Him in fear and reverence and never lose sight of just exactly to whom it is we are speaking.   Yes, there is that familiarity as Father and child, but we must never let familiarity devolve into flippancy.

When we get a glimpse of His holiness and who He really is and when we fear Him, then Hell makes perfect sense. 

The idea of this is more or greater or chief in attributes of God I think error...  I believe, in God, all attributes is what makes Him Who He 'IS' and He proclaims First and Last and Greatest and Least for Himself as Persons.  Yet while we are next to the presence of sin we are indeed in this way
Jude 20-25
20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
KJV

but the perfection is not toward fear but love
1 John 4:17-18
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
KJV

so to arrive at holiness is not the love of God the entrance?

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47 minutes ago, enoob57 said:

The idea of this is more or greater or chief in attributes of God I think error...  I believe, in God, all attributes is what makes Him Who He 'IS' and He proclaims First and Last and Greatest and Least for Himself as Persons.  Yet while we are next to the presence of sin we are indeed in this way

Jude 20-25
20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
KJV

but the perfection is not toward fear but love
1 John 4:17-18
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
KJV

so to arrive at holiness is not the love of God the entrance?

Before God is anything else, God is holy.  He holds all of his other attributes in holiness.  The Bible emphasizes the holiness of God over all of His other attributes, even more than love.   It is the one attribute he calls attention to more than any other attribute.

God's holiness is the standard by all moral conduct is measured.  

God is called holy in these passages: 

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (Lev 11:44-45)

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy. (Psa 99:9)

Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. (Isa 41:14)

Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. (Rev 15:4)

And in those passages, God is set apart from us and from all creation and from all of the false deities in the world.  Thus, every part of God's character/nature can be said to be holy because God is holy in everything. He expresses all of his communicable and non-communicable attributes are expressed in a state of holiness because He is first and foremost holy.    His expressions of love, mercy, grace etc. are holy in nature.   God's holiness is the core of His nature.   It is the basis for his purity and justice.  

 

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Eternal separation in Hell is the consequence of eternal rejection of Jesus Christ. Without Him, we have no standing with God.

Just my thought on this, Shiloh.

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4 minutes ago, Sojourner414 said:

Eternal separation in Hell is the consequence of eternal rejection of Jesus Christ. Without Him, we have no standing with God.

Just my thought on this, Shiloh.

Amen!!

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I posted this in the Song & Praise Poetry Club a couple weeks ago.

Quote

This was my first poem written as a Christian (circa 1976). It is very straightforward and to the point, no hidden meanings, more of a prayer and exhortation. I may have posted this before on Worthy so forgive me if I had.

 

LIBERTY BELL
We need to ring the Liberty Bell
'cause many men are heading for hell.
Eternity is a long time to spend
in darkness, in torment, without a friend.
Is life that important to make a name
while others are crying from beneath the flame?

Do days pass on and nights go by
as we sit and watch the last soul die?
Our hearts grow hard, our senses cold
as the devil tightens his satanic hold.
Enough, Enough, God please arise,
wipe the sleep from our heavy eyes.
There's millions of people lost out there
heading down the road of 'No One Cares'.
Give us a heart to reach these lost
with compassion that gives whatever the cost;
Grant us courage to proclaim liberty
that Jesus died to set men free,
and rose again to give them life
as a Gift of love to end man's strife

3

 

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