Is Hell Real?
Sometimes the shortest emails pack the greatest punch. A few months back, a young man named Samuel wrote me and asked, “Is hell real? My friends say that it’s fun, and there is no fire.” In a single line of text, Samuel wrote out the ratio: for every one person who questions the reality of hell, several others laugh it off.
Not long after receiving that email, we were addressing the topic of suicide on my program and whether or not a person who takes his own life would go to hell. The panel and I discussed this at length, acknowledging that, at times, there are extenuating circumstances around a suicide such as mental illness or medication effects wherein—at that critical moment—only God knows the condition of a person’s heart and the future of his soul.
Apart from such circumstances, we do believe that pre-meditated self-murder is a sin—a sin that, when committed, likely offers no time for repentance or to seek God’s forgiveness. For the person contemplating suicide as a quick escape from life’s struggles, our answer was yes, the consequence of such an act would be eternity spent in hell.
I went home that evening thinking about all that we had discussed on the program. In fact, I slept very little that night because the Lord was dealing with me, heavily, on the subject of hell. He impressed on me to make it clear to the people that hell is real—very, very real. The Lord kept pounding that into my spirit—there is eternal punishment—and that I should deal with that truth on the program in a stronger way.
The next morning, in obedience to the Lord, I did just that. I told our viewers that too many people nowadays have it in their minds that God won’t punish them for their sins. And the reason they think so is because the modern church is teaching just that. The inclusive, diversity-driven, seeker-sensitive, humanitarian churches of today teach only on God’s goodness, love, and mercy. As a result, unrepentant multitudes are going to hell.
Someone once said, “Those in churches today don’t want to hear another message on repentance. Those in hell—they want to hear it.”
I wonder how many attending such churches can even remember the last time they heard hell even mentioned, the biblical consequences of sin, or even a Scripture from the Old Testament. Like most children in Sunday school, they might hear about the God of John 3:16, but it’s doubtful they know anything about the God of Genesis 6:13, where He told Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” The flood came, and “all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died” (Gen. 7:22).
The Bible says the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so He has not changed. He is a God of love and mercy, but He is also a God of judgment and righteousness.
Too many people today are gambling with their place in eternity, betting on their belief that a loving and merciful God would never—could never—send anyone to hell. Scoffers, the unsaved and the lukewarm think, “When I die, the Man upstairs loves me enough to overlook my sins. After all, He knows I’m only human.”
They need to read these verses out of Hebrews, Chapter 10 (with my husband’s notes from The Expositor’s Study Bible):
26 For if we sin willfully (the “willful sin” is the transference of faith from Christ and Him crucified to other things) after that we have received the knowledge of the truth (speaks of the Bible way of salvation and victory, which is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” [I Cor. 2:2]), there remains no more sacrifice for sins (if the Cross of Christ is rejected, there is no other sacrifice or way God will accept), 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation (refers to God’s anger because of men rejecting Jesus Christ and the Cross), which shall devour the adversaries. (It is hellfire, which will ultimately come to all who reject Christ and the Cross.)
30 For we know Him who has said, Vengeance belongs unto Me, I will recompense, says the Lord (is meant to imply that every single thing is going to be judged by the Lord, who alone is the righteous Judge). And again, the Lord shall judge His people (chastise His people [Deut. 32:35-36]). 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (This refers to those who have once known the Lord, but now express no faith in the Cross.)
Where you spend your faith affects where you will spend eternity, but most people give little thought to either. They fail to realize that death is final—all decisions are made on this side of the grave. Once you take your last breath of life, there is no turning back, no bargaining with God. People in hell today know the truth: there is no purgatory where you suffer for a while until someone prays you up and out; there is no annihilation to instantly end the torment; and there is no reincarnation or second chance in any form.
This is why I believe that the Lord was dealing with me so strongly that night to stress to the people that hell is a real place, and unless they are forgiven of their sins, they will go to the lake of fire and burn and burn and burn. This isn’t something I’m making up. It’s in the Bible.
Jesus Described Hell
In Luke 16, the Lord Himself describes, in detail, the eternal destinations of two real people—a “certain” rich man, whose name is not mentioned; and a “certain” beggar named Lazarus:
“There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Lk. 16:19-31).
From this passage, we learn that Lazarus was not alone in death; he “died and was carried” by angels to Abraham.
But the rich man “died and was buried.” Those four words sound final, but for this man, eternity in hell was just beginning. Think about this: all these centuries later and that man is still there, and he will be there for all eternity, ever conscious of his rejection of Christ.
From this passage in Luke, we know that the rich man’s physical senses worked in hell—he recognized Lazarus, spoke to and heard Abraham, suffered thirst, and felt torment. His emotions worked—he cried for mercy and worried for his brothers. And his reasoning worked—he had a plan to warn his brothers from the same fate.
Hear me on this: God does not “send” people to hell. Notice the wording used in Luke 16: “And in hell he lift up his eyes.” People go to hell as a result of their own personal decision to reject Christ. God’s will is that no one should perish and go to hell—a place made for the Devil and his fallen angels. That’s why He made a way and provided a plan for you to miss hell, but you have got to accept it. You have to say, “Lord, forgive me,” and you’ve got to do it yourself.
Can A Loving God Condemn A Soul To Eternal Hell?
Many years ago, my husband preached a message entitled, “Can a Loving God Condemn a Soul to Eternal Hell, Burn Him There Forever and Forever, and Justify Himself in Doing So?” Read a piece of what he said:
“Sometimes the objection is made that eternal hell (spiritual death) is inconsistent with the view of God as a loving God. However, such overlooks the fact that spiritual death is a state as well as an event. In other words, all who are without God are spiritually dead at this very moment, with the ultimate eternal conclusion being the lake of fire.
“When we have grasped the truth that death is a state, we see the impossibility of the impenitent—those who refuse to repent—being saved. Salvation for such is a contradiction in terms. For salvation, a man must pass from death into life, which can only be done by the born-again experience that is brought about only through Jesus Christ and what He has done for us at the Cross (Jn. 5:24).
“No! God gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to serve as a sacrifice of death so that lost humanity might be saved. Considering that, God is not only just in condemning to eternal hell those who refuse such salvation, but contrary to modern thinking, He would be unjust in not doing so.
“The truth is that all can be saved, but the truth, also, is that all are not saved. In fact, most will not be saved, with only a few accepting eternal life, at least considering the whole of mankind. Matthew 7:13-14 says, ‘Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.’
“Irrespective, the fault is not God’s but man’s. The Lord has made salvation available to all, and while it is true that some have more opportunity than others, still, if anyone wants to come, he can. Rev. 22:17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him who hears say, Come. And let him who is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’”
The Scriptures presented here can’t be any plainer. So all of you who think that the Lord is too loving and too kind and will let you get by without any punishment—no. There is nothing in the Word of God that supports that type of thinking. And don’t think that you’re going to be so “good” that the Lord will just forgive you of your sins simply because of your good works for others—no. Regardless of how good that you think you are, there still has to be a confession of sin—you must have God’s forgiveness. And if it’s not there when you die, you will go to hell and discover, sadly, as millions and millions have, that hell is real.