Hello, Holy Spirit!
What does it mean to be born again?
What's the Gospel?
What is prayer?
Hell is real. The current American culture doesn't want to believe that hell is real. Liberal Christians all around the world don't believe it is real either. Rob Bell recently wrote a book called "Love Wins" in which he says "A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear."
Of course, Mr Bell is completely wrong, at least about the doctrine of hell being a misguided teaching. Jesus taught it. Was Jesus misguided? Certainly not.
Of course, atheists deny hell, but they deny heaven, too. As the famous and recently deceased Mr Christopher Hitchens has said in his book The Portable Atheist, "The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell." Unfortunately he, like all atheists, find out too late that God is very real, and so is hell. He is right, death is certain, but after that, the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27).
Some believe that only the fallen angels go there, not us human sinners. After all, God did make hell for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
The Catholics believe in a mid-hell or waystation hell called purgatory. They think that you can buy your way out (indulgences) or be prayed out after your final purification is accomplished, because Jesus' sacrifice was not enough, obviously. Annihilationists believe that your body is just destroyed after death.
Even for bible believers, there are a few different terms for hell that are confusing. There's Sheol, Hades, Hell, the lake of fire, Paradise, and Abraham’s bosom? And don't forget Gehenna and Tartarus.
Paradise means heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7). It could also mean the heaven that was inside the earth on the other side of Hades with the great gulf between them, known to both Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16:23-31)
Abraham's bosom is a Jewish/Hebrew term for heaven, the place where faithful Israelites went after death. It is typically thought to have been inside the earth and when Jesus ascended to heaven, took all the ones in Abraham's bosom with Him. He did descend to hell (1 Peter 3:19) after His death to preach to the spirits jailed there, which could be a reference to the lowest dungeons of hell where the sinning angels are being kept. This lowest depth of hell is mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4, "For God did not spare angels when they had sinned, but hurling them down to Tartarus consigned them to caves of darkness, keeping them in readiness for judgement."
Gehenna is another New Testament word for hell. Sheol is a Hebrew word for the grave.
The Lake of Fire is the final place where all people after the final judgment at the end of time receive their new bodies and are thrown into the Lake, along with death, the devil and his angels, and hades itself. (Revelation 20:14). And there the smoke of their fires go up night and day. (Revelation 14:11).
It is thought that Jesus emptied Abraham's bosom, or Paradise and took the righteous to heaven with Him when He went up.
With all these names for the place(s) we go to after death and all the confusion about who goes there and why, we can ask, what IS hell? I can answer that. Hell is a place you don't want to go.
Better than that, hell is a place you don't have to go!
Hell is a place that is very real. Jesus preached on it more than He preached on heaven. It is an eternal place. Matthew 18:8 speaks of the eternal fire. Matthew 25:46 records Jesus saying that the righteous will go to eternal life and the unrighteous into eternal punishment. There is no escaping the doctrine that hell is forever--
"... the penalty of eternal destruction... (2 Thess. 1:9).
"...the punishment of eternal fire..." (Jude 7).
"... the black darkness has been reserved forever.." (Jude 12-13).
"...and there the smoke of their fires go up night and day..." (Revelation 14:11).
"...everlasting burnings..." (Isaiah 33:14)
Who goes there? Sinners. Now, if you know Romans 3:10 you know that Paul said there is none righteous, no, not one. We are all sinners. So does that mean we all go to hell? In a sense, yes. It is the default condition of every person on this earth who is ever born. It is where we all could go and where we all should go. But it is not where we all have to go.
The glory that is our God is that He made a way for us to escape that eternal fire, that everlasting punishment, that black darkness. He sent Jesus to earth, who came to die as the sacrifice for our sins. His death satisfied the justice required from God to punish sin. His resurrection proves He is God and now He reigns as Savior and Lord. All a person must do is understand this, and repent of our sins. Understand that we sin, we deserve hell, Jesus died to make a way for us to escape it, His sacrifice and resurrection is that Way. He "is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me," He said in John 14:6.
That verse means that no matter how many ways and how many times a person scrambles the scriptures, hell is real. It is the destiny of all people who literally push away the body of Jesus.
In the Luke verse it said that between heaven and hell there is a great gulf fixed and no one passes from one to the other. Therefore the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is false. The only opportunity people have to choose heaven or hell is in this life. You can't be prayed out later. The Universalists and Liberal Christians who believe that all paths lead to heaven are wrong. Jesus is the way, no one comes to heaven except through Him. The atheists who think that there will be no accountability to a Holy God for their sins against Him are incorrect. There will be a court and there will be justice: Divine, Holy justice. And then hell after.
It is all in the bible. If you believe the bible that is good. It means you likely believe the Good News, which is that Jesus came to make a way for us to be with Him in heaven instead of hell. If you believe the Good News then act upon it, now, because that means hell is real too.
"The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." Proverbs 15:24