We live in a world in which anything and everything offends somebody. Many are labeled, censored or sued because they are racist, sexist, or intolerant. Especially, Christians are labeled as biased bigots. I wonder what people today would think about Jesus’ words on “hell”?
Hell today is not seen as much as a real place as it is a fill-word like: “Hell yeah,” “Get the hell out of here,” or “Go to hell.” I do not think we would say such a thing if we really knew what hell was. When Jesus mentions hell it is not a joke. His words are not judgmental or bloodthirsty, but chocked with tears. He loves and cares for people so much that He takes a lot of time in His teaching to warn us to avoid it.
When Jesus speaks about hell it is often graphic and vivid. He relates to hell as a place of eternal punishment, eternal fire, the fiery furnace, the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place reserved for those who rebel against God. As we come to the Bible, Jesus shares with us a story about two men who have very different ends to their lives. From this story we gain a lot of insight about hell:
1. Hell is a real place (Luke 16:19-23a).
2. Hell is not a fun place (16:23b-24).
Hell is not a party or place that anyone should desire to go. The rich man in Jesus’ story says “in torment”, “I am in agony in this fire.” I love Billy Joel’s music, but it is ignorant to say that “I would rather party with the sinners than cry with the saints.”
3. Hell is eternal separation from God (16:25-26).
It is a wonderful comfort to know that at any moment, place and time God is with us. He is our Immanuel. I could not imagine being in a place without God, but that is how hell is described, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed…none may cross from there to us.”
4. Hell is for those who reject God (16:27-31).
The rich man pleads for his family who are still alive that someone would warn them. Yet he does not remember, and chose to forget, that many had warned him. If he or his family does not listen to the warnings from God’s teachers, like Moses and the Prophets, they will not listen to a dead man.
A parent’s greatest fear is that their children would get hurt. That is why they say, “look both ways before you cross the street,” “don’t stick your figure in a light socket,” “Do not drink Drain-O.” This is what Jesus is saying when He speaks about hell. Jesus is pointing out the road signs of clear and present danger. He doesn’t use the scare-tactic, but speaks plainly as parents who care often do when warning their children of matters of life or death.
Love is what motivates Jesus to talk about hell.
Jesus wants us to listen to Him and avoid it. We often misunderstand Gods love. We all know verse that say, “God is love.” (1 John 4) But just because God is love doesn’t mean He loves everything. What is something God doesn’t love? (sin: pride, injustice, murder, lying, etc) God hates sin (Ps.5:4-6).
Hell is a loving necessity.
It is a place where evil is to be locked up. God created hell to deal with evil. He made it to be a final, inescapable prison where all evil, rebellion against God will be confined never to poison men again. Given all the evil in the world today it is a great assurance to know that God notices it and has a plan to do something about it. God does not over look evil.
Hell seems unreasonable when we do not have a good understanding of what sin is against God.
God is holy, and without sin. Sin cannot go unpunished from a perfect God. God’s holiness and our sin are infinitely great, therefore, the greater the crime, the greater the punishment. Sin is an eternal offense against God therefore it deserves an eternal punishment. Sin against God is treason. If you were to disobey a king in the Middle Ages you were receive the death penalty. Thus it is so with the King of the Universe who seeks to care for His creation (Rom.3:23; 6:23).
Rather than asking why God would send anyone to hell, we must ask: How can you allow anyone to go to heaven?