Many people don’t believe in a place called hell. The idea that God would condemn a person to an eternity of pain and suffering is incomprehensible to most people. It sounds excessive. But to understand this never-ending sentence, we must first understand the ugly side of human nature.
The Apostle Paul wrote that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) He later added “The wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23). It’s one thing for the body to stop functioning, but it is quite another for the soul and spirit to suffer the consequences of bad decisions and a refusal to follow God. That is the second death, an eternal separation from God in a place of torment and suffering.
Many people refuse to believe in hell
The Bible teaches us about hell, yet many people refuse believe in hell. The sentence of an eternity in hell reflects two opposite realities– the ugliness of sin, man’s turning away from and rejecting the love of God, and the absolute beauty, holiness and perfection of God.
God is patient. The world is living under grace right now. God allows us to exercise our free will, make decisions. But at the same time, out of love, God reaches out to us, offering His gift of life through Christ.
We must freely choose God
God wants us to accept his gift, but it has to be out choice. The gift of eternal life is free, but it must be received openly and willingly. Understand that God created a perfect world, but man, through sin, poisoned it. There is death, destruction and suffering, all caused by man rejecting God. God allows this—to a point.
God will withdraw His grace in the future. God’s offer, while still available to us, will be made more difficult to grasp because of man’s own evil actions. . He will unleash His wrath and the world will change dramatically. Vengeance for all sins will be put into motion. Still, even through those terrible days, people will continue to accept the gift and be spared from an eternity of suffering.
What happens when I die?
A common question is, “What happens when I die.” The Bible is very clear in answering this question; no shades of gray, no ambiguities. There are only two groups of people—those who believe in Jesus Christ and have put their faith in Him for salvation. The others are nonbelievers, who reject the gift of God and have chosen to separate themselves from Him.
According to the Bible, hell is the place where people who reject the Gospel, the good news of salvation by faith in Christ, will go after they die. But there stages, as follows:
For those who reject the gift, Hades awaits them.
Hades would be the first stop. Luke 16 describes this place, also called Sheol or Torments. Think of Hades as a holding cell, where prisoners are taken before their trial. There are no creature comforts. Their trial comes at the end of Christ’s “millennial” reign, a thousand year period when Jesus shall rule the world, without interference. After that reign, once and for all time, sin will be dealt with.
From Hades, they will face their maker the final judgement.
Jesus explained hell this way in a parable.
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”
But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”
So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?”
The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1-14)
We are all invited to the banquet. In John 3:16, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Whosoever believes in HIM shall not perish but have everlasting life.” We are free to accept the gift and to reject it, but Luke has a warning in his Gospel.
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5)
God is love and He is also just
God is indeed a God of love, but He also a just God. This means that every judgment God makes is perfect and proper. Hell was created as a place of eternal punishment for evil. This punishment must be handed out, otherwise, God would not be just. He would not be doing as He said He would do. The sentence is absolute. There will be no parole.
It’s hard for people to understand that heaven, the gift of eternal life, cannot be bought. People cannot earn it by doing good deeds. It is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that the gates are open.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice—His crucifixion, burial and resurrection, through our confession of our sins and asking for God’s forgiveness, that our relationship with God is secure.
Paradise or Hell
Those who lived and died before the time of Christ’s death and resurrection, and who were good in God’s sight, would go to “paradise.” Imagine yourself suddenly in the lobby of a great hotel. It is spectacular, with all of the comforts, only, that hotel is only a temporary stop. As wonderful as it is, the best is yet to come. It was the promise Jesus made to the thief on the cross.
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42,43)
The thief, like those who died before him, could not go to heaven, because the final “payment” had not yet been made. It was the shedding of Yeshua’s blood that cleansed believers from all unrighteousness and thus made them acceptable to God. When Jesus died, our sin debt was marked “paid in full.”
Hell,as described on Revelation 14, is entirely avoidable. God offers life through His son, Jesus. In a sense, God does not send anyone to Hell. They send themselves. They refuse the gift.