Episode 19: Hell- The Eternal Sentence of Unbelievers

Peace to Live By Episode 19: Hell- The Eternal Sentence of Unbelievers - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I think we as Americans are pretty familiar with the prison system in our country. In our society, a person is tried for a particular crime, and then, if found guilty, may be sentenced to prison for a particular time, or for life. A judge may find the person guilty, or a jury may find him or her guilty. If the sentence to prison is for life, there may be the possibility for parole, or there may not be. It is this life sentence that I want us to focus on today, and one that has no possibility for parole.

       Once the person is sentenced to life, he or she will then be taken away to jail. Freedom is no longer part of the person's life―at least freedom as it corresponds to living in society. The person enters the prison, is led by the officer to the his or her cell, and then sits there for the rest of his or her life. Now, if the crime was vile enough, or if misbehavior occurs within the prison, the person may be thrown into solitary confinement. This is a severer form for punishment for the prisoner. It may be temporary, or it may not be.

       You see, I want you to use your understanding today of our prison system, here in the United States, in order to gain a better understanding of hell. Hell is the eternal sentencing, as outlined in the Bible, for those who do not know, or trust, in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Every human who does not know Jesus will be tried. And because he or she didn't trust in Jesus, that person will be found guilty of all accounts for sin―things the person did in his or her life that God said not to do. There will be no jury to decide the person's fate, but there will be One Judge who makes the decision. It doesn't matter even if the person is of a different earthly religion, or belief system, or an atheist, or an agnostic―it doesn't matter as far as the sentencing goes. That's because the world belongs to God―the Father of Jesus Christ. He created it in the past, and he will destroy it, as we see it now, in the future.

       Jesus came to the earth and died on the cross to provide people for a payment for their sins. People can trust in Christ's sacrifice of the cross as payment, on their behalf, for their sins. So they are no longer counted as guilty for their sins. That's the Good News behind Christianity, and reality, really. Christianity offers the free gift of restitution with God while most other religions demand and depend upon the person's good works to get them to heaven. Some, like Islam, even demand a person act against others for heavenly rewards.

       If you're a Christian, you have nothing to worry about in regard to God's wrath in the future. That is, God will never sentence a person trusting in Christ as personal Lord and Savior to hell, or to any other form of punishment. Jesus paid for all the person's sins, as the person recognized, trusted in, this payment to be at peace with God. The person is not guilty of any of the wrongs done in this life, no matter how heinous or small, as he or she has been sealed by God the Holy Spirit until death or the Rapture. A Christian is guaranteed heaven, and then life on the earth in the new heaven and new earth after God creates it.

       But it's important today that we consider the subject of hell, why it exists and who will go there. I don't think anyone wants to end up there, as most, at least here in America, strive for comfort and peace. But it's also true that some have a misconception of hell. They may believe it's where people can live freely in sin doing whatever their hearts’ desire. Some, though, believe that such a notion as hell is preposterous. They believe that hell couldn't be real, or that if it is, it certainly is reserved for really bad people, like those for physically murder others.

       First, let's ask the question of why hell was created. The Bible tells us that hell was originally created for Satan and the angels who fell with him. Satan and his demons were to reside here, and be separated from God. But, as it turns out, human beings ended up also rebelling against God, as recorded in Genesis 3. Therefore, God decided that he would use hell also for humans who die out of right relationship with him. So, people would go to this hell because they chose to go their own way, deliberately rebelling against God. Since everyone and everything belongs to God, he decided to separate these people out of his presence. Not to mention too that because God is holy and righteous, all sin against him must be punished to satisfy his righteousness.

       When coming to the Bible and looking at things from God's perspective, one needs to realize that any crime, or offense, committed against God deserves a life sentence. That's because God is a holy and righteous God. He cannot, in his character, tolerate anything that goes against him, in the long run. That is, any offense committed against him must be dealt with eventually. Let's look at a passage from the Apostle Paul to understand this a bit further. Turn with me in your Bibles, or navigate in your Bible apps, to Romans chapter 2. Let's look at verses 6 through 11. The passage is talking about God:

“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.” (ESV)

This passage goes very counter-culture as it relates to our society here in America. Very prominent people have taught us, as citizens, that people are to seek their own earthly, fleshly desires. They have taught us that the purpose of living is to seek what pleases you, to get the most of life for yourself. But that goes against what God says. And it doesn't make any sense. In seeking yourself first all the time, certainly you will undercut the important needs of others. That's not very nice or kind.

       But I think a big question on a lot of people's minds is―is it really fair to send people to eternal, never ending, hell? I mean, are people really that bad that they should face such a daunting punishment? These are fair and good questions. First, consider that the people who don't know God, whether it is because they don't like him or are part of another religion, these people wouldn't feel comfortable in heaven, would they? God really can't put them in heaven; they don't like him or believe in him. Remember that God flooded the whole earth with Noah's flood, not just part of it. This was for the punishment, the death, of the inhabitants of the ‘whole’ earth who displeased him, which was everyone.

       I need you if you're not a Christian to take a moment and dynamite your perspective, what you think you know. People look at each country, each group of the world, as independent with independent rights. But that's not true―that's not the way God sees it. The people who follow other ways, religions, are guilty people. You have to look at this from God's perspective, as everything should be considered from his perspective. He created the world, and then human beings. The first two human beings rebelled against him by following Satan's way. Therefore, the whole human nature has been affected by sin. Every person who is born has this sin nature.

       God has even let societies and cultures go their own way, but he still is God. Jesus Christ is God no matter what society or culture of the earth you are considering. This is very hard for many people to understand because they have been brought up, trained, in a different way of thinking. Let's consider what the Apostle Paul notes in Romans 1. Read the whole chapter when you get a chance, as it is beneficial on our subject today. But let's look first at verses 18 through 23:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (ESV)

So, God is not at fault. People can know him if they really want to. He will never let a person down who truly wants to know him. Rather, men and women have decided to shun God, created their own religions, and do their own things, sinning against him. So, the Apostle Paul later notes in the chapter about men and women:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32, ESV)

So, the people who practice these things―no matter what the society, culture, or religion―and do not have a payment for their sins by Christ (that is, have not accepted His payment), are guilty of all their sin and deserve God's future punishment of hell. Don't go postmodern on me now. Not all people's beliefs are equally valid or true. That's a lie straight from Satan's mouth―the pit of hell. It's this type of thinking that sends people to hell.

       Now that we've determined why hell was created, and who is going to go there, let's look at what hell is like. We've already touched on this with our understanding of the prison system, but we can get an even better picture.

       During the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, he referred to hell as Gehenna, which was the local trash dump outside of Jerusalem. This trash dump was a very vile place. In Matthew 10:28, he said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, ESV). So, the world 'hell' in this verse is Gehenna in the Greek language (see ESV footnote on the verse). So, using our prison system analogy from earlier, let's now image that the prison is intermixed with a huge trash dump. I think now we're getting more of a clear picture here.

       Let us also consider a passage from Mark 9, in which the Lord Jesus Christ talks about Gehenna, or hell. Turn with me there, or tap there, and let's consider verses 43 through 49. Jesus states:

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.” (ESV)

So, here again in verses 43 and 47 Jesus refers to hell in the Greek as Gehenna, the Jerusalem trash dump (see ESV footnote on the verse). But let us also note that Jesus said that hell is the “unquenchable fire.” So, hell is permanent for the individual who goes there, and there is no relief there. The fire that torments people lasts forever; it never goes out. He also noted about hell that for people, “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” Here, he reiterates that the torment from the fire never ends. But he also introduced the concept that there will be worms in hell. And if worms, what other living things, besides Satan and his demons, will be there? What other parasites or insects are there, or the like? Will there be snakes? And everyone will be continually burnt by fire.

       Now when Jesus is talking about cutting your hand or foot off, or tearing your eye out and throwing it away, that these parts of your body are better to be gone than to go into hell. What he means here is that if you are not a Christian and if wanting to keep your sin, or a sin, is what is preventing you from becoming a Christian, that it's not worth it. It's better to give up your sin, or series of sins, and accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, than to keep your sin and end up in hell. You can't keep a sin, like practicing sexual immorality for instance, and follow Jesus at the same time. Jesus is saying to you that, to paraphrase: 'It is not worth keeping your sin. It will only bring temporary and momentary pleasure in this life, but then when you die, you're going to end up in hell. It's not worth it.'

       Going back to the prison analogy, the Bible talks about people having their own, individual prison cells in hell. Isaiah 24 talks about this. Verses 21 through 23 state:

“On that day the LORD will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.” (ESV)

We know this passage is talking about the end times because the last part is talking about things the Apostle John also talked about in the book of the Revelation. So, God will lock up demons, who are “the host of heaven” is the passage. And, he will also lock up “kings on the earth.” So, these people will be locked up in prison cells. I'm not sure we can say that everyone in hell (or The Lake of Fire) will be in an actual cell, but they certainly will be punished in whatever way their evil earthly deeds demand. Since hell will be like a trash dump, where trash is burned, there could be other avenues of confinement. Job 38:17, Psalm 9:13, Psalm 107:18, Isaiah 38:10, and Matthew 16:18 talk about gates in hell.

       Bear in mind at the end times that hell, as it is now, will be thrown into The Lake of Fire. Let's look at a passage from Revelation about this happening:

“And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:13-15, ESV)

So, as it is right now, when people die they go to a temporary hell. As the passage notes, this temporary hell will be “thrown into the lake of fire.” This “lake of fire” is the new hell God has for unbelievers after they are judged. Note also that as the unbelievers are judged, it is “according to what they had done” in their lives. What else would be the purpose of this except to determine an individuals severity of punishment in hell?

       There will be different levels of punishment assigned in hell for unbelievers. These levels of punishment will depend on how much evil the person did in his or her life. For those who did more evil, the punishment will obviously be severer. Jesus talked about different levels of punishment for people in Matthew 10:15. Here, Jesus is talking about a house or town the rejects the Good News, who wont hear it preached from the disciples. He said, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matthew 10:14-15, ESV). So, these people of the house or town who rejected the Gospel will face stricter punishment than those in B.C. towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, even though they practiced perverse sexual immorality. Other passages, in Matthew, to consider in regard to levels of punishment in hell are Matthew 16:27 and Matthew 23:14.

       You see, the greatest sin a person can commit is rejecting the Gospel of Christ. That is, a person who hears the truth―Christ going to the cross and dying on his or her behalf―and then rejecting that truth, that's the greatest sin a person can commit in this life. The author of Hebrews notes the following in Hebrews 10:

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31, ESV)

So, while other sins surely are bad, if you are hearing God's Word today, his tug on your heart, do not turn away from that tug. Open your heart to Jesus, and believe in him for mercy, the forgiveness of your sins.

       Therefore, there is no peace for those who die without knowing Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Jesus said in Matthew 7: ““Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (13-14, ESV). So, he noted that “many” are those who will actually go to hell―the pathway “to destruction.” This is yet all to more reason to make sure today, if you're not a Christian, that you believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins―that you are in right standing with God. King David noted in Psalm 32: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (1-2, ESV). This is our true peace with God―when we know our sins are forgiven and we are not seeking to do wrong.

       But let's consider one more passage about hell. The Apostle Paul states the following about when Jesus returns at his Second Coming:

“when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, ESV)

So, we can note several things about hell (aka The Lake of Fire) from this text. Number one, hell is “vengeance” from Jesus and “punishment” for the individual. It's not a place where fun things happen, or where people get to sin freely. Number two, hell is “eternal.” It will never end for the individual. Remember, eternity is like time on pause. There really is no time outside of this world. So, there will be no end for those who go there; they will be there forever. That alone is a paramount reason to believe on Jesus. Number three, hell involves “destruction” for the individual who goes there. It's not a place where one can live doing what he or she wants to do, apart from God. Rather, it's a place of torment and decay, but not decay to death. Number four, the person in hell is “away from the presence of the Lord.” So, God will not help any person in hell. The person will be at the mercy of any tormenting that comes from any creature there, whether Satan and his demons, or a living thing God allows there (we talked about how Jesus mentioned worms earlier). The person is also “away... from the glory of his might,” that is, God's might. The person in hell will obviously not share Christ's glory, and again will not be helped by Christ's strength.

       The existence of hell is one of the primary reasons preacher and teachers share the Gospel, the Good News, with people. We really believe people are going to go there if they don't accept Jesus. It doesn't matter if you don't believe in hell, that doesn't then make it not become reality. I think a lot of times people say, “Oh, well, I believe in the Bible, but I don't believe in hell. I just don't think God would send people to eternal, never-ending punishment.” But, remember, just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean then that it's not real for you. If your the pilot of an airplane, for instance, and the onboard computer warns you that there is an obstruction ahead, to fly out of the way, you better listen to what the computer is telling you. But many people shut the computer, or preacher, off in their lives. They won't listen to the warnings. So, they end up flying right into the obstruction, they die, and it's too late. You see, the computer is there for a reason, and it is telling the pilot what is true, even if he or she doesn't see it. And the same is true in living life.

       In conclusion today, I hope everyone has a better understanding of hell. But for those of you who don't know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, I want you to realize that you need to consider what has been said here today. Just walking away and saying, “I don't believe that,” doesn't make it not true. You need to take seriously God's warning today to you, and I trust that you will make the right decision and trust Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. God wants everyone to come to know him―no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, no matter how successful or unsuccessful you think you are. God shows his love for everyone in the world, and he wants you to come into right relationship with him today.

       Even though hell is a real place, you don't have to go there. No one has to go there. There is no one sin, or series of sins you could commit that would make God not offer you his salvation. Christians aren't just perfect people who have been perfect their wholes lives. Christians are often times people who were severe sinners, who had done vile things in their lives. But God will accept anyone who comes to him. It doesn't matter if you're part of another religion today, he will accept anyone and everyone who comes to him, turning from their sins.

       If you would like to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior today, and be set free from any possibility of ever entering hell, then just follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I am a sinner. I have spent my life going against you, doing things against you. But today I want to accept your free gift of salvation through Jesus. I believe he died for my sins and rose from the dead, and that I can have a new life in you today. I give my life over to you, so that you will make me new. Please, God, change my life, and make me a better person, like Jesus. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

       Let's pray:

       Heavenly Father, thank you for your wonderful love today. I thank you that you have provided a way of escape for us so that we do not have to go to hell, and be separated from you after we die. Father, there is no other reality apart from you that is good and honest. We really can trust in you. You can be counted on.

       I love you, Father, and I pray those who have heard this message today, and who don't know you, that they will accept your truth. I pray that they will believe in Jesus. Father, open their eyes and let them see. Let them see your glory, the glory you have now and the glory you have had since before the foundation of the world. Thank you, Father, for your wonderful love, and expand that love to others today in Jesus. In Jesus name I pray, the only True God who takes away the sin of worldly sinners, in his name, Amen.

-Daniel Litton