When Jesus mentions hell it is not a joke, myth, or suggestion about what life is like on earth. When He speaks about hell His words are not vicious or bloodthirsty, but chocked with tears. He loves and cares for people too much therefore He takes a lot of time in His teaching to warn us to avoid it.
When Jesus teaches 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. Jesus shares with a story about two men who have very different ends to their lives. From this story there is a lot of insights about hell:
1. Hell is real (Luke 16:19-23a).
Hell is not a land-of-make-believe for those who are more evil than Mr. Rogers. “Hades” is a real place. So real is hell that Jesus talks about it a lot. Sometimes more than heaven. If God the Son talks about hell, it’s real.
2. Hell is really not fun (16:23b-24).
I enjoy Billy Joel’s music, but it is ignorant to say that “I would rather party with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Hell is not a party or place that anyone should desire. The rich man in Jesus’ story says “in torment”, “I am in agony in this fire.”
3. Hell is real 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 rejects (16:27-31).
Hell is for those who reject God and His redemptive plans in Christ. It does not matter if you were a good person, paid your taxes on time, live by the Golden Rule or follow most of the10 Commandments. Just one breech of the law is rejection of all of it. There is no rescue for rejects postmortem. You must chose to follow Christ today, in your one lifetime. In the story Jesus shares about the rich man, the 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 [i.e. Moses and the Prophets] they will not listen to a dead man.
A parent’s have concern over their children’s safety therefore 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 signs of clear and present danger if you continue to ignore God’s plan. He doesn’t use the scare-tactic, but speaks plainly as a parent 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 you to listen to Him and avoid it. The cross is where His motive of love led, and there He bore the wrath of God for your sin. Gods love is often misunderstood. “God is love,” (1 John 4), but just because God is love doesn’t mean He loves everything or that His love is His chief attribute. He is also holy, gracious, merciful, just and righteous. God does not love sin (Ps.5:4-6), in fact, He hates it.
God would not be loving if He left sin unpunished.
Imagine living in a world where sin, injustice, and lawlessness reigned. Imagine if police officers let thieves and rapists roam the streets free. Imagine if judges and juries let murders and molesters be dismissed without charge from the courtroom. You would not say those law enforcers were just or right. If God did not deal with sin, He would not be a just Judge or good authority.
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 overlook evil.
Hell seems unloving when you 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 (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
Hell is real. It is no joke or laughing matter. Since Jesus was serious about its future realities, you must be serious about it today too. Rather than asking God, why He would send anyone to hell, you must ask: How can it be that you have been so merciful to a sinner like me?