Hell is a doctrine that nobody wants to believe. It is a difficult concept for most to imagine, justify, or accept. Many Christians these days don't believe that hell is real, or that God will send people there forever. While the most popular objection ("How can a loving God send people to hell?") reveals a focus on only one of God's many attributes, and is best answered with another question ("How could a holy God accept sinners into his presence?"), that subject must be saved for another day. In this post I don't want to focus on objections to the doctrine of hell, but on one important aspect: Jesus taught about hell.
That's right. The one who taught so much about love, peace and joy also taught about hell. In fact, he taught about hell more than anyone else in the Bible! In fact, in the ESV translation there are only 2 verses in the whole Bible using the word hell that were not spoken by Jesus!! Shouldn't that imply that this was an important part of Jesus' mission - part of the reason he came - to warn us about hell?
Here is a brief overview of what Jesus taught about hell, taken from every place where he used the word "hell:"
1. Hell is a "hell of fire." (Matthew 5:22)
2. Those who speak to others in anger are in danger of hell. (Matthew 5:22)
3. People will be "thrown" or "cast" into hell (implying that it is not a natural occurence but a personal judgment). (Matthew 5:29; 18:9; Mark 9:45; Luke 12:5)
4. Sin is the cause of going into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
5. It is better to take extreme, drastic action to avoid sin than to continue in sin and go to hell (repentance is required). (Matthew 5:29-30; 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47)
6. God is the one who puts people into hell. (Matthew 10:28)
7. Receiving the judgment of hell from God is something to be feared. (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5)
8. The powers of hell will not defeat the church. (Matthew 16:18)
9. Religion and self-righteousness will send people to hell. (Matthew 23:15, 33)
10. Hell is a "sentence" (speaking of judgment). (Matthew 23:33)
11. The opposite of going to hell is entering "life," or "the kingdom of God." (Mark 9:43, 45, 47)
12. The fire of hell is "eternal" and "unquenchable." (This punishment will last as long as heaven, for the same word "eternal" is used both to describe the 'life' enjoyed in heaven and the fire of hell). (Matthew 18:8; Mark 9:43, 48)
13. Jesus described hell as a place where "their worm does not die." This speaks of ongoing punishment. (Mark 9:48)
We must also remember that Jesus did not teach only about hell! While we cannot ignore Jesus' clear warnings about the reality, eternality and severity of hell because of our sins and self-righteousness, we must also praise God that Jesus came to save us from hell! If entering life and the kingdom of God is the opposite of going to hell (see number 11, above), we rejoice that it is through Jesus that we find this life (John 3:15-16; 6:40; 10:10; 17:2; 20:31). He has paid for our sins with his own blood at the cross that we may escape God's wrath on the day of judgment and have eternal life! We must also point out that the same God who throws people into hell lovingly sent his Son to the cross that we may not go to hell (John 3:16).
Hallelujah! Jesus has come to save us from our sins and their awful consequences, and give us life, that we may know and enjoy God forever! Let us repent of sin and turn to Christ. And let us not be afraid to join Jesus in warning others about hell.