According to Gallup research, 94% of U.S. adults believe in God or a universal spirit; 84% believe Jesus Christ is God or the Son of God; and 53% believe in a literal Hell.
A Newsweek poll found that 94% of Americans believe in God; 77% believe in a Heaven; 76% think they have a good or excellent chance of getting there. 58% of those surveyed believe in Hell.
The Newsweek article examines the history of the doctrines of Heaven and Hell in Christian and Jewish traditions. According to a religious historian Martin Marty, Hell began to disappear in the 19th century, and no one seemed to notice. When Marty prepared a Harvard lecture on the disappearance of Hell, he consulted the indices of several scholarly journals, including one dating back to 1889, and failed to find a single entry.
In rejecting Heaven and Hell, one also rejects the awesome seriousness of moral and immoral behavior. But for those who take God seriously, human freedom means the capacity to make moral decisions, which have dramatic and eternal consequences.
In general more adults in the U.S. believe in Hell now than did 40 years ago. The concept was losing ground as recently as 1980 when just over half of those surveyed said they believed in Hell. By 1990 the percentage had risen to 60%.
Others say the prevalence of suffering and violence in modern society makes Hell seem more plausible. Perhaps it simply reflects a nostalgic longing for the uncomplicated beliefs of childhood.
Hell, then is not a place created by a God bent on getting even, but the alienation we choose for ourselves. Heaven, on the other hand, is for the righteous who have been sanctified back to God. Both are choices made by every person.
Atheist: Do you honestly believe that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a whale?
Preacher: I don’t know, sir, but when I get to Heaven, I’m gonna ask him about it.
Atheist: But what if he isn’t in Heaven?
Preacher: Then YOU can ask him!
The Bible emphatically teaches that there are two gates which men may enter, two ways men may walk, and two destinations men may reach. Jesus said, (Mt 7:13-14) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (KJV)
Luke 16:19-34 teaches us the power of choice with the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It also shows us the awful consequences of making the wrong choice.
We sing a song “Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All”, but there is another destiny. Too many willfully close their eyes to the awful place of torment; the Devil is working day and night persuading men that God will accept them in their present condition. Many believe in universal salvation. That is, they think all men will be saved.
What Is Hell?
It is not just a by-word or fantasy of man’s imagination. Hell is a reality; a real place for real people. To deny the reality of Hell is to deny the character of God as revealed in God’s word.
God is love according to 1 John 4:16, And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (KJV)
But there is another characteristic of God. Romans 12:19, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (KJV)
To deny God’s vengeance would be to deny his entire character, and the reality of God.
Hell is a place to fear, and avoid! Mt 18:8-9, Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into Hell fire. (KJV)
Mt 10:28, And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell. (KJV)
It’s also likened to a lake of fire and brimstone. Rev 20:10, And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (KJV)
Gen 19:24, Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of Heaven; (KJV)
John’s revelation indicates it’s a bottomless pit. Rev 20:3, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (KJV)
In Hell there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Hell is also a place of outer darkness. Mt 8:12, But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (KJV)
Hell is a place of immeasurable loss! Fellowship with God will be lost. God is not present in Hell. That absence will be the worst part of Hell. But Hell will also cost us fellowship with loved ones here and hereafter.
The preacher was dangerously ill and couldn’t have visitors. But when an agnostic called to pay his respects, the preacher asked that he be sent in anyway. “I sure appreciate this,” said the agnostic. ” But why did you ask to see me, when you denied admission to your close friends and church members?” “That’s easy to explain,” gasped the dying preacher. “I’m confident of seeing them in Heaven. But this is probably the last chance I’ll ever have to see you.”
A warden at a large prison was concerned about a longtime inmate because no one ever came to see him. Knowing that visitors boost morale, he called the man into his office one day. “Lefty,” he asked, “do you have any close relatives or personal friends?” “Sure,” Lefty answered. “But no one has visited you since the day you arrived. May I contact somebody for you?” asked the warden. “It wouldn’t do no good,” Lefty replied with a shrug. “They’re all here!”
This brings to mind a sobering fact. Some unbelievers try to soften the harsh reality of an eternal Hell by glibly saying, “Oh, it won’t be so bad because a lot of my friends will be there, too.” How tragic! The expressions “outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” make it obvious that the agony of eternal perdition will be all consuming. The consolation of fellowship and friendship will be absent.
All hope will be lost, even the hope of dying. “In Hell their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Rev 14:11, And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (KJV)
Hell will be a place of painful remorse, sorrow and shame. Self condemnation will be in every heart. The hopelessness and despair will be overwhelming.
The duration of Hell will be eternal. Mt 25:46, And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (KJV)
A pamphlet contained the dying words of various people who were unsaved. It quoted Thomas Hobbes the atheist as saying, “I am taking a fearful leap into the dark!” The French infidel Voltaire cried out, “I am abandoned by God and man; I shall go to Hell!” Sir Francis Newport wailed in anguish, “Oh, that I could lie for a thousand years upon the fire that is never quenched, to purchase the favor of God and be united to Him again. But it is a fruitless wish. Millions and millions of years will bring me no nearer the end of my torments than one poor hour. Oh, eternity, eternity forever and forever! Oh, the insufferable pangs of Hell!”
Hell isn’t a reform school from which we’ll graduate. Purgatory is a wistful dream. There’s nothing temporary about Hell. It’s not a preparation for Heaven. No evangelists will ever be sent there to preach the Truth. The inhabitants of Hell will already know the Truth, but they’ll be unable to change their destiny.
The Rich Man in the story of Lazarus (Luke 16) was unable to change his fate. He had rejected the preaching done on earth. He now knew the Truth and begged for a chance to return to earth to tell his family. The scriptures tell us, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” I’m sure he feared that his family would do just as he had done – they’d reject the same preaching he had rejected. He was lost forever. No hope of going back and doing things differently. Hell is for all eternity with no chance for parole or pardon.
Who Is Going There?
Unbelievers will be there according to 2 Thes 1:7-9, And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (KJV)
1 Cor 6:9-11, Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (ASV)
Those who don’t believe the truth will end up in Hell. 2 Thes 2:11-12, And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
The angels who sin will be there. 2 Peter 2:4, For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; (KJV)
Unfaithful Christians will also be there. 2 Pet 2:20-21, For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Why Is There Such A Place?
Because people make wrong choices. God doesn’t force anyone into eternal punishment. It is a matter of choice. Mt 7:13-14, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (KJV)
Josh 24:15, And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (KJV)
Mt 6:24, No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (KJV)
God does not choose eternal punishment for any of us. We make that choice ourselves. “Few there be that find it” because very few are willing to make the right choice. Choose to serve the Devil and you chose the destiny of the Devil.
Mt 25:41, Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (KJV)
Mt 13:41, The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (KJV)
God and Satan become two magnets attracting men. Satan appeals to man through lusts, and ignorance. Jo 8:44, Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (KJV)
God appeals to man through truth, ideas and lasting values. Jo 8:32, And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (KJV)
Phil 2:7-8, But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (KJV)
Mt 16:26, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (KJV)
Hell exists because we need the restraints of fear as well as the allurements of love. Prov 1:7, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (KJV)
Hebrews 12:11 All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.
Imagine a law without a penalty attached for violation. “Where there is no penalty, the law is null and void.” There is an old law on the books in Newbern, Tennessee, where a person was fined for spitting on sidewalk. The law is no longer enforced and therefore is null and void. If there were no Hell there would be no law. Reality of discipline keeps children obedient.
1 Tim 2:4 tells us that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The goal for mankind isn’t Hell. It’s Heaven.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.
2 Pet 3:9, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (KJV)
Jesus died for all that they might be saved. He 2:9, But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (KJV)
2 Cor 5:15, And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (KJV)
Satan wants to convince men that sin really isn’t that bad, then when man sins Satan persuades men that they are given over to sin. The power of God will assist you to overcome sin and avoid this awful destiny. You can access that power through obedience to His Word.
John 14:1-3, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (KJV)