What Is Hell Really Like?
By Dillard Thurman
Days, weeks, months and years glide swiftly into a receding past. It should not be difficult for us to all to agree that soon Gabriel will stand with one foot on the land and one on the sea, and declare that "there should be time no longer" (Rev. 10:6). Then, with a deafening crash, the material universe will be shaken and the wreck of the world has come! The nations of the earth will be called to an accounting; the multitudes will sink into death and despair.
On that occasion, the elements will melt like wax before the flame, galaxies of stars will plummet from the withered fault of heaven's canopy and the sun will be immediately darkened (2 Pet. 3:1-13). The mighty arm of Almighty God, Who created all things, will be revealed as He shakes the world and rolls up the firmaments as a scroll. The Day of Judgment dawns, and all nations and peoples will be summoned into the Judgment Hall: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
Man delights to hear of life, and most of us have a natural revulsion to death. Possibly the most unpopular subject has to do with hell, and who shall inhabit it. One religious group met in Hot Springs, Arkansas nearly a hundred years ago to pass a resolution: "Resolved: There is no hell." But, as Jehoikam penknifed God's Book, but could not destroy God's Word, so those religionists could not take "hell" out of God's teaching. Today, it is still alarming to find the number of modernists who openly deny that there is a hell of torment, pain and punishment. But there are four basic reasons why I believe that there is a hell, where the wicked will be punished eternally.
The Universal Belief in Hell: -- These modern times have spawned the many self-styled "intelligentsia" who mock at the idea of eternal punishment and divine retribution. But they are still a pitiable minority. By far, the vast majority of people throughout the world entertain the fundamental concept of reward and punishment waiting after this life on earth. Among primitive people, this idea may be faint and hazy, but it is there. I do not stand with the minority in accepting the belief in hell. I share something in common with all cultures, everywhere. It is the radical, denying hell, who stands alone.
Justice and Righteousness Demand It: -- Law demands punishment as a penalty for transgression of the law. There is no enforcement possible without penalties attached for those who ignore or rebel against established law. This is currently being demonstrated by the riots and looters in our land. There is a breakdown of the law when it is violated with impunity. Due to the laxity in swift and sure law enforcement, there is a serious crisis facing this nation! It must again be stressed that every law carries a penalty for violation. God's righteousness and His justice also demand that there be a penalty for violation of His divine laws.
The Natural Consequence of Sin: -- Hell stands as the natural consequence of a life of sin. The penalty attached to the law is irrevocable. A man slips while performing a daredevil stunt on the ledge ten stories above the ground. He dies as a result of sinning against the law of gravity. But what of the innocent baby who falls from an open window at the same level? An electrician accidentally touches a high voltage line. He dies as a result of sinning against the laws of electricity. But what of the innocent child who steps on a high voltage wire in soft, muddy ground?
If God's natural laws are immutable, can we honestly expect Him to be capricious in upholding His spiritual laws? "Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life" (Gal. 6:7-8). We shall reap the results of the seed sown, whether good or bad.
The Testimony of Holy Scripture: -- However, the fourth basic reason I believe in hell eclipses all the others. I believe in hell because of the abundant testimony from God's Own Word. Who could know better than He? Dwight L. Moody counted up and said that there are five and half times more said about hell in the Bible than there is about heaven! Divine punishment and retribution was so forcefully taught throughout the Old Testament, whereas the joys and blessings after death were to be emphasized by Jesus Christ and His apostles. Divine judgment and punishment honeycombs the Scriptures from the Garden of Eden to the woes of Revelation. From the evidence of God's Word, we must conclude that hell is far more certain than that we shall live to see tomorrow.
Portrayed by Figure of Darkness: -- Very few are willing to honestly inquire, "What is hell really like?" But God has not left us without instructions regarding this. Hell is often portrayed as darkness, the absence of light. As "God is light" (1 Jno. 1:5) and Jesus is "the Light of the world" (Jno. 8:12), so hell is shown to be the absence of light, being removed from the presence of God. Jesus said, "And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sat down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:11-12). Herein, the Lord showed that the Jews, who thought they were the chosen of God, stood in jeopardy of eternal loss in this "outer darkness."
In giving the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus said that the king would say of the guest who was unprepared, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 22:13). While some may minimize this teaching by crying, "This is figurative language," you have only to ask yourself: "What is Jesus really teaching here?" He repeats it again in the parable of the talents, "And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:30). Jude placed the indictment against those who were ungodly: "For whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever" (Jude 13). Here is one picture of hell, drawn by inspiration.
Pictured by the Figure of Fire: -- The torture of burning in fire is yet another picture of hell. And if it be argued that this is figurative, bear in mind that God uses figurative language when the finite mind of man cannot fathom what might otherwise be stated literally. Fire, as the most excruciating pain, is used to denote the tortures of hell. If it is not literally fire, then it will be even worse! But notice what Jesus said of that punishment: "The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:41,42).
Again, the Lord Jesus said, "So shall it be in the end of the world; the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:49-50). And again, "It were better for him to enter into life maimed...halt...with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:42-48). In view of these statements, one must either reject Christ as the Prophet of God, or accept the reality of hell, which He plainly taught.
The nature of that punishment is also shown by the apostle Paul: "To you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might" (2 Thess. 1:7-9). If you accept anything Paul has written, you must also accept this. Paul was not trying to "hell-scare" anyone. But he was warning of a very real and grave punishment for those who would not obey God's spiritual laws.
Expulsion from Heaven and God: -- That quotation from Paul also gives another portrayal of hell. It is expulsion from God. The "eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord" shows that we will never again be with God, if we are lost at the judgment. There will be no second chance once we hear Him say, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25: 41). One of the most awful facts of hell is seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus: "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed" (Lk. 16:26). Once God has passed His sentence, hell will never relinquish a soul to rejoin God and the redeemed.
[To be continued]