Those in hell will realize that they sentenced themselves to it by loving darkness rather than light, choosing not to have their Creator as their Lord, preferring self-indulgent sin to self-denying righteousness, and (if they encountered the gospel) rejecting Jesus rather than coming to him (John 3:18-21; Rom. 1: 18,24,26,28,32;2:8; 2Thess.2: 9-11)...The purpose of Bible teaching about hell is to make us appreciate, thankfully embrace, and rationally prefer the grace of Christ that saves us from it (Matt. 5:29-30; 13:48-50). It is really a mercy to mankind that God in Scripture is so explicit about hell. We cannot now say that we have not been warned.
- J.I. Packer
A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, “Hell is a symbol for separation from God.” To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.
- R.C. Sproul
The Great Divorce
Visions of Heaven and Hell
Hells Best Kept Secret
The Bible Teaches Us That...
Hell is final. There is no second chance after death. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Hell is everlasting. It never stops. It is “eternal” (Daniel 12:2) and “everlasting” (2 Thessalonians 1:9), and the smoke of their burning goes up “forever and ever” (Revelation 14:11). We moderns may miss this image, since we don’t use fire on a daily basis. As long as the fuel remains, the smoke continues to rise. When the fuel is used up, the smoke stops rising. In hell people are burned, but the smoke keeps rising forever. They burn, but never fully come to an end. Such torment is called “the second death” (Revelation 21:8), where they are forever “outside” the gates of heaven (Revelation 22:15).
Hell is conscious. No sleeping here, where “there is no rest day or night” (Revelation 14:11). Notice the rich man’s pleadings in Luke 16:19-31. Hell’s victims are conscious.
Hell is punishment. It’s not “just what happens” to people. It is punishment at the hands of God. It is God’s contempt of people (Daniel 12:2), it is being “condemned” by God, like in a court (John 5:29). It is God’s just “payback” for sins (2 Thessalonians 1:6), when Jesus “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel.... They will be punished.” (v.8-9).
Hell is painful. Jesus described it as “the fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:40-42), “the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41),“the darkness,” “outside” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). Hell is “the blackest darkness” (Jude 13). Revelation calls it “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Whether hot or cold, bright or dark, all these images are images of extreme suffering.
People will be condemned to hell at the Second Coming and Day of Judgment. The sentence of hell is given at Jesus’ return (2 Thessalonians 1:7, also Matthew 25:31).
People suffer in hell even while they await the Second Coming and Judgment Day. “The Lord knows how to... hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment, while continuing their punishment” (2Peter 2:9). We also see this in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), where the rich man was undergoing punishment in hell after his death while his brothers still lived. This is a parable, so it can’t be pressed too far, but Jesus’ parables were taken from real-life situations, including the situation of dying and being held in punishment while awaiting the Day of Judgment.
God is in hell and punishes people there. The guilty “will be tormented in burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever” (Revelation 14:10-11). The Lamb in Revelation is Jesus. Hell is not so much eternal separation from God as it is the eternal presence of God in unmitigated wrath and fury. Hell is separation from God in the sense of being separated from his blessings and fellowship (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Hell is where we must “drink the wine of God’s fury which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath” (Revelation 14:10).
Hell is both physical and spiritual. It follows the resurrection of the dead (John 5:28-29), so those who suffer in hell will suffer bodily as well as in spirit. Jesus said it was “better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:30). Hell will be a place for our bodies as well as a condition of our souls. Beware those who make hell sound too ethereal and spiritual.
Hell is real. This isn’t just language the Bible uses to get a response out of us. Jesus warns us about it because it really does exist and really is our destiny. He loves us enough to warn us in advance.
Everyone goes to hell. Jesus Christ and those “in Christ” are the only exceptions. All who “do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” are sent to hell (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Those who turn to Jesus are saved. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.... Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:16, 18).
- Greg Johnson, excerpt from What Does the Bible Actually Teach about Hell?
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