What the Bible Says About Hell Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
First, the punishment of hell will be eternal and everlasting (Revelation 20:10). “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The torment for those in hell will never end.
Second, it will be a painful punishment (Matthew 13:49-50). In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, it says, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus is saying that this is the way it’s going to be at the end of the world. The angels will come from heaven to separate the saved from the lost. They will know how to tell them apart because they will get their instructions from the One who knows all men, particularly those who are His. The lost are called wicked because they don’t love God and because they have not repented of their sin. They will be cast into the furnace. Jesus often preached about hell and its punishments, saying that the torments will be everlasting misery and sorrow.
The third thing that we need to understand is that apparently, the punishment of hell will vary in degree, according to the opportunities one had to avoid hell (Matthew 23:14).
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” In other words, these men made long prayers, but they were heartless and crooked in their business dealings. There are some whose sins are more inexcusable and therefore their punishment will be more intolerable.
The last thing to say is that the punishment of hell will be unchangeable, revoking the possibility of a second chance (Luke 16:22-31). In the sixteenth chapter of Luke, there is the story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man. It will serve to illustrate that the punishment in hell is irreversible and final.
When the beggar died, there was no funeral. They just took his body out and threw it into the Valley of Gehenna where refuse was thrown and burned; this was the place where they threw the bodies of the poor in that day. However, the minute the beggar stepped through the doorway of death, angels became his pallbearers and he was carried by them to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and he was buried. He had a big funeral, and the preacher pushed him all the way to the top spot in heaven. The only trouble is the preacher got his directions mixed up; the rich man went the other way. Now when the rich man died his spirit went to the place of torment. The rich man did not go to the place of torment because he was rich, and the beggar did not go to Abraham’s bosom because he was poor. Going through the doorway of death certainly changed their status, but it was due to what was in their hearts. The rich man cried out for mercy, but there was none. And there was no escape. There is “a great gulf fixed” and it is an uncrossable barrier to those confined to the place of punishment.
The next question is what does the Bible say about THE INHABITANTS OF HELL?
There are three things:
First, they will be able to remember people, events, and opportunities in the earthly life (Luke 16:23, 25). In the story of Lazarus and the rich man we are told, “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” The rich man could see Lazarus, and he was enjoying his new position and new home, but when he looked around he saw only flames, darkness, and those who tormented him. He could remember how he treated the poor beggar and others. He saw how sinful he was, and then he thought, “I could be with the beggar if I would only have thought better of the things of God.”
The second thing that those in hell will do is to cry for release (Luke 16:24).“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” The rich man asks Abraham for relief for his thirst; he cried aloud like a person who was in pain and misery. This man who used to command others with a loud voice now begs loud; louder than Lazarus ever did as he lay at his gate.
The third thing to see is that those in hell will have no escape from the sovereignty of God (Psalms 139:8). Psalm 139:8 says, “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” God is there. No matter where you go, God is there.
Finally, let’s see what the MAJOR WORDS FOR HELL ARE IN THE SCRIPTURES.
“Sheol” occurs sixty-five times in the Old Testament and is translated thirty-one times “hell” and three times “pit.” The general idea is that it is “the place of the dead,” not the grave, but the place of those departed from this life. It is used both for the righteous and the wicked. It is divided into two compartments: the first is paradise (which is called Abraham’s Bosom in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man). The other compartment is the place of torment. Paradise was emptied when Christ took with Him at his ascension the Old Testament believers. That is what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:8-10: “Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)”
The place of torment will deliver up the lost for judgment at the Great White Throne. All who stand at this judgment are lost, and they will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. Now when the rich man died, his soul went to the place of torment, the compartment where the lost go. The beggar went to the compartment called paradise or Abraham’s Bosom.
The bodies of believers today, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, go into the grave and return to dust, but their spirits go to be with Christ. Paul wrote that “We are confident, yes, well pleased, rather, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
“Hades" is one of the New Testament terms that is rendered hell; it is similar in significance to the Old Testament “Sheol.” It refers to the underworld or the region of the departed. It occurs eleven times in the New Testament and is rendered “hell” every time with one exception; in 1 Corinthians 15:55 it is rendered “grave.” Jesus associated judgment and suffering, with the condition of the inhabitants of “Hades” (Matthew 11:23).
“Gehenna” or “the valley of Hinnom” was a place where the Jewish apostasy, the rites of Molech was celebrated (1 Kings 11:7). King Josiah converted the valley of Hinnom into a place of abomination where dead bodies were thrown and burned (2 Kings 23:13-14). The word occurs twelve times in the New Testament and in every case denotes the eternal state of the lost after the resurrection. Christ’s descent was into “Hades” and not into “Gehenna.”
There are different interpretations about some of the scriptures we read. Sincere students of the Bible hold different views concerning the doctrine of hell. But we can be certain of one thing: hell is eternal and is primarily to be considered a place of separation from God. In the final analysis, everything else is incidental.