This morning we are beginning a new study on the doctrine of Heaven and Hell. We will spend the next several weeks thoroughly examining each of these locations and will learn much of what the Bible has to say about them. In the first half of the study we will focus our attention on Hell, and then shift to Heaven in the second half. We will discover some stark differences between these two destinations, along with some surprising similarities. It is my hope that our Biblical understanding of both Heaven and Hell will grow as a result of these messages.
While most people believe in the existence of Heaven, far fewer accept the reality of Hell. The thought that such a horrific place would exist is appalling to many. They cannot fathom that God would condemn people to such a fate. The world simply does not want to accept the uncomfortable truth that Hell is real, and thus many people simply deny its existence. But refusing to accept that something is true does not automatically make it false…
The fact is that the Bible speaks much more about Hell than it does about Heaven. In fact, I’ve heard from other pastors and teachers that there is almost three times more material about Hell than about Heaven in Scripture. In the Gospels Jesus personally gave 70 warnings about Hell. Those who accept one place as true and reject the the other as false are cherry-picking only the portions of Scripture that they like. While Hell is certainly a frightful place to consider, it is undoubtedly a real place that is spoken about extensively in the Word of God. It is quite foolish and naive to believe that Heaven is a real place while Hell isn’t.
In this first message of our new series, we are going to paint a Biblical description of Hell. Modern culture often depicts it in a silly, frivolous manner - such as in animated children’s cartoons. But the Hell of the Bible is much more serious and daunting than the world pictures it. While Scripture does not tell us everything about this terrible place, it does provide us with some chilling details. This morning we will examine a small sampling of verses and passages that describe Hell. These descriptors provide us with a glimpse of what Hell is actually like, and give us ample reason to avoid going there.
I. UNQUENCHABLE FIRE
"The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" - Matthew 13:41-42
"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire," - Mark 9:43
And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ - Luke 16:24
One of the most widely used descriptions of Hell is that of fire. When God rained fire and brimstone down upon the Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, He gave us an indication of the nature of His judgment. In numerous statements Jesus described Hell using the imagery of fire with words such as furnace and flames. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we read that the rich man cries out while agonizing in the flames of Hell.
The fire of Hell clearly represents the physical suffering that takes place there. Because the fire is unquenchable, it rages continually without ever being extinguished. Stated another way, those who are cast into the fire will burn perpetually. They will have physical bodies that will burn yet not be consumed. If you have ever been burned, you know the misery that it brings. The intensity of the physical pain that will take place in Hell is hard to imagine or express.
II. OUTER DARKNESS
Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ - Matthew 22:13
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. - Jude 1:12-13
Hell will be a place of darkness that will envelop those who are confined there. Not only will it be darkness, but outer darkness which implies a great distance from any source of light. Those in Hell will be in a remote place, far from any comforts. The fiery flames of Hell seem to contradict the idea of darkness. In our human understanding, flames produce light and have been used for centuries to dispel darkness. But in hell, if we interpret these verses literally, the fires will burn black and the darkness will persist.
The outer darkness speaks to the psychological suffering that will take place in Hell. Perpetual darkness tends to bring about gloom and depression. While Scripture does not expressly rule out any communication with others in Hell, certainly a thick blanket of darkness would lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Anyone who has spent time alone in the dark understands the feelings of fright and uneasiness that it brings. The utter darkness of Hell will cause both both horror and solitude for those who are there.
III. WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH
"but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 8:12
and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out." - Luke 13:27-28
Hell will also be a place characterized by weeping and gnashing of teeth. The sounds of weeping and wailing will echo continuously through Hell, further terrorizing those who hear it. While weeping is a pretty simple term to understand, gnashing of teeth is a bit more difficult. It means to grind one’s teeth together. In different passages in the Bible we see this happen when people are in great pain or when they are extremely angry. Figuratively speaking, this phrase points to both the anguish and the fury of Hell.
The weeping and gnashing of teeth reflect the emotional suffering that will torment those in Hell. The weeping will come not only as a reaction to the physical pain, but also because of intense grief, remorse, and regret. The condemned will lament over the decisions that they made, and will worry about the fate others who might make the same decisions. The feelings of sadness and bitterness will weigh heavily upon those imprisoned in Hell. It will be a place of emotional misery.
IV. UNDYING WORM
"If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." - Mark 8:47-48
“Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” - Isaiah 66:24
One of the most unsettling descriptions of Hell is that it is a place where the worm never dies. Jesus compared the realm of Hell with the Valley of Himmon. In this valley, just south of Jerusalem, some of the Old Testament kings sacrificed their children by fire to pagan gods. Because of these grave atrocities, the valley was considered to be cursed. According to many Bible teachers, this place eventually became the city dump where anything considered unclean was discarded and incinerated. The dead bodies of executed criminals, along with many other such things, were cast into the smoldering heap where maggots swarmed and fed on their decaying flesh.
The undying worm has been interpreted by some to symbolically represent a person’s conscience. They suggest that guilty thoughts - like maggots - will continually gnaw upon those who have been condemned to Hell causing unending restlessness and agitation. This image highlights the ongoing mental torment that will haunt those who are lost in Hell. The thoughts, memories, and considerations of their minds will continually consume them with guilt and shame.
Hell is a literal place where the condemned will suffer in numerous ways. They will experience excruciating physical pain from the unquenchable flames. They will tremble in fear and psychological torment caused by the outer darkness. They will feel the emotional exhaustion of continual weeping and sadness. They will be tormented by unshakable thoughts of guilt, shame, and remorse that slowly consume their minds like maggots eating flesh. The horrors of hell will be all-encompassing and beyond our imagination. No matter how awful you imagine that Hell will be like, I can assure you that it will be far worse.
The world wants to discount or dismiss Hell as something that needs not be taken seriously. They teach that it either doesn’t exist at all, or if it does, that it’s not going to be that bad. But the Bible paints a very different picture indeed. The Scriptural description of Hell is absolutely terrifying. When we understand this, it should cause us to avoid it at all costs and should compel us to warn others to do likewise.
Next week we will continue our description of Hell. We will search the Scriptures to answer more questions about this terrible place. What is the purpose of Hell, how long will people be confined there, and where is it? Join us then as this compelling series continues.