Jesus’ Teaching On Hell

Posted on May 9, 2017

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By David Ettinger

Shame on Modern Churches
church-1442139-640x480Sadly, twenty-first century Western churches are reluctant to teach about Hell. Pastors believe such teaching is cold and unloving, and does not represent the “loving” Jesus unbelievers want to hear about.

This is tragic. Jesus teaches more about Hell than anyone in the Bible. Of 13 references to “hell” in the New Testament, 11 are from Jesus, making Him THE source of our comprehension of Hell. Matthew 23:33 is particularly “unloving.” Jesus castigates the hypocritical Jewish leaders of His day this way: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” How many preachers have you heard take on that verse?

Make no mistake about it: Jesus’ teaching on Hell is every bit as crucial today as are His teachings on love, living sacrificially for Him, and taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

The Old Testament and Hell
The Old Testament gives us a cloudy view of the afterlife. Depending on what version of the Bible you read, the destiny for departed souls is called “Sheol” or “the grave.” These terms are used 65 times in the O.T., and, generally speaking, mean the abode, or place, of the dead. In some cases, these terms refer to the body in its decaying form, but in far more instances as the soul in its conscious afterlife.

refined

“… refined in the fire …” (Revelation 3:18).

“Sheol,” or “the grave,” is always used in a bad way and usually as place of separation from God:

  • “For there is no mention of You [God] in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?” (Psalm 6:5)
  • “Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst” (Psalm 55:15).
  • “For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness” (Psalm 38:18).

Lacking in the Old Testament is a comprehensive understanding of the destiny of the righteous (which is the subject of another post). It seems to be the understanding of the O.T. writers that Sheol is the afterlife’s only destination, and that there is nothing good about it.

Jesus and Hell
Jesus’ first biblical reference to Hell is found in Matthew 5:22, during His Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

Notice how Jesus just blurts out this truth regarding Hell without explanation, indicating that His Jewish audience understands what He means. The English word “hell” comes from the Greek word “Gehenna,” which comes from the Hebrew word “Hinnom.”

hand skyThe Hinnom Valley, located southwest of Jerusalem, is the place where Israeli Kings Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:3) and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:6) sanctioned human sacrifices. By the time of Jesus, this despicable piece of real estate had been turned into a garbage dump where fires burned continually, and where the bodies of executed criminals were burned up, prompting Jesus to use “Gehenna” as a fitting symbol of eternal fire and judgment.

It is also important to understand that the Hell Jesus teaches is a place of permanent damnation. Jesus tells us that Hell is a place of “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12); “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41); “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46); and, in His parable about Lazarus and the rich man, a place of ongoing “agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24).

Why Teaching Hell is Crucial
There can be no hedging in explaining the truth about Hell to those we share the Gospel with. What if you had the opportunity to speak to a superstar? What if you were given 20 minutes with Brad Pitt, Bono, LeBron James, Beyoncé, Bill Gates, or Oprah Winfrey? What if they listened to everything you said and replied, “Jesus may be fine for you, but what does He do for me? I have everything I want right now, why do I need Him?”

This is an appropriate question. Why indeed would they need Jesus? You can reply, “Because those who reject Jesus go to Hell when their lives on earth are over.” Even if they accept the notion of Hell, there is no way they can fathom what it actually is. It is not the domain of Satan – as too many people erroneously believe – but rather the place “which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mathew 25:41). In other words, Satan is every bit a prisoner of Hell as any other being.

mansionPeople must know this. They must know what Hell is, who goes there, and that there is no escaping Hell once there. People must know that no matter how successful they are here on earth, they will die, and if they do so without having accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, Hell is their destiny.

If they, or anyone else, say, “A loving God, or a loving Jesus would not send anyone to Hell,” you must tell them that they are wrong. In the above mentioned Matthew 25:41, who do you think it is who “prepared” Hell? Don’t forget, Jesus is the creator of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 3:16).

Like it or not, Hell is a reality, and it is Jesus Himself who taught us far more about it than anyone else; no one else even comes close. You should be thankful for Jesus’ teaching about Hell because it equips you to intelligently share its truth with those who so desperately need to know it!

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