19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
Hell is a real place. Jesus spoke about Hell as a real place, and not something to be made light of. In a thoughtless society, Hell is used in profanity. People are told to go to Hell in anger. Some in mockery say, “I’ll be damned.” But Jesus does not want people to go to Hell. So, He told this story to pull back the curtain of eternity and expose what Hell is like.
To understand Hell there must be some knowledge of the Jewish conception of the sphere of the dead. In Greek, the sphere of the dead was called Hades. In Hebrew it was called Sheol. In English the same sphere of the dead is called Hell.
This sphere of the dead was divided in three compartments. There was a place called Paradise, which was separated from Tartarus, and the lake of Fire by a Great Gulf. The righteous went to Paradise, fallen angels were placed in Tartarus, while ungodly human souls went to the Place of Torment, or the Lake of Fire.
In 1986, a Catholic magazine polled Americans, and 86 percent said they believed in Hell. People do not understand it. They do not like it, but many people believe in Hell. They believe in Hell because the Bible teaches it, and they believe in Hell because there must be a judgment somewhere, at some time, for the evil which people do.
So how is Hell to be understood?
First, Hell is to be understood against the backdrop of God’s great love and mercy. And Hell should never be preached about, or spoken of, without tears in one’s eyes, for Hell is a terrible place. I personally wish there was no Hell. I could wish the Doctrine of Universal Salvation for all, including the Devil and demons, were true. I would love to believe in the Doctrine of Annihilation, whereby in a moment, the wicked are forever extinguished, and their memory is no more. But the Bible does not teach that. Jesus presented a far different picture of Hell, and so it should be spoken of with a broken heart, and not glad that such a place exists.
Originally, Hell did not exist. Hell was not part of the original creation. Hell had to be created for the Devil and his angels who rebelled against all that was good, decent, and holy. Then, when man was created, and united with the Devil in rebelling against God, the Divine punishment was that the soul that sinned would die, and share the same fate of the Devil.
The creation of Hell has distorted people’s view of God. Some say that God cannot be a God of love if Hell really does exist and He sends souls there. Some say that the punishment does not fit the crime. There are many arguments against Hell, but none of them make Hell less real.
More than one person has said, “I hate the very thought of Hell.” A sensitive Christian answer, “So do I. I hate the thought of war. I hate the thought of poverty and starvation. I hate the thought of people hurting others needlessly, but my hatred does not make these things less real.
A good person will warn others about the reality of Hell. That is the right thing to do.
When we come to a RR crossing, there are warning lights indicating danger. That is the right thing to do.
Cigarette companies warn people of the potential health hazards of smoking. That is the right thing to do.
When a bridge is suddenly washed out, or a sink hole opens up, people will stand in the road and wave their arms, and flash lights, to warn others of certain death if they continue on that road. That is the right thing to do.
So we have many warnings in life. To warn others of the judgment to come is the right thing to do.
A wise person will ask,
“How can I avoid God’s judgment?”
“How can I avert the danger of eternal damnation?”
“How can I stay out of Hell?”
“What must I do to be saved?”
While a wise person will seek to avoid Hell, a foolish person will ask to be left alone. One day Jesus healed a demon possessed man, a Gadarene, and the people came and asked Him to leave them alone. Jesus answered their prayers. He left them alone.
A person might insist they will not hear about Hell, and want to be left alone. At that point the Christian might have to leave the person alone to his own conscience, and to God. He has done all that can be done, apart from continuing to pray for the soul of that individual.
However, in departing let the Christian say some final words with sorrow in the heart, and tell the rejector of the gospel truth.
“You are a starving person, and I have the Bread of Life. I want to leave you with Bread.”
“You are a drowning person, and I have a Life Preserver. I want to rescue you.”
“You are a poisoned person, full of the poison of sin, and I have the gospel antidote. I do not want to leave you to die.”
“You are alone and in the dark, and I have the Light of the Gospel. Let me show you the way.”
“You are in bondage, and I will speak the truth that will bring you to liberty. Let me do that for you.”
“You are in sickness, and I would give you the medicine that would bring you to health.”
“You are on the broad road to destruction. I could tell you of the pathway that would get you to the narrow road.”
“You are on a wild stormy sea. I would speak the truth that brings you to the calm harbor of faith.”
Oh Christ, on some, have compassion, making a difference.
The question comes.
“Are you a wise person?”
“Are you a foolish person?”
“Do you want to go to Heaven?”
“Do you want to go to Hell?”
No one is in Heaven who does not want to be there.
No one is in Hell who does not want to be there either.
Even the Rich Man in the story Jesus told did not asked to be released from Hell; he just pleaded that others not join him.
There are people who do not want others to be addicted and in bondage to something, but neither do they want to give up their own addiction.
This is one of the great mysteries of sin.
If you are one of those people who want to be left alone, Jesus may leave you alone, but understand, you will never enter into Paradise, for Heaven is a prepared place, for a prepared people.
The people who go to heaven are those who confess they are a sinner and need a Savior.
The people who go to heaven are those who bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and call Him Master.
The people who go to Hell are those who want to be left alone. They want to be left alone because of their unbelief.
The Devil did not believe God, and convinced Eve not to believe God either.
God had told Adam and Eve that the day they ate of the forbidden fruit they would die. The Devil slithered up to Eve and said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). The Devil told Eve that her eyes would be opened, “and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
The Bible tells what happened next. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).
The gospel plea is not to believe the Devil’s lie, but to receive the truth from the lips of Jesus who spoke often about Hell.
Jesus said that Hell was a place “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).
He said in the Gospel of Matthew that, “The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41, 42).
In Matthew 25:41 Jesus prophesied the time would come when the Son of man shall say “unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Jesus said, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43).
The Bible teaches there are various kinds of Hell.
There is Hell in the heart. That is where all the pain, and sorrow, and suffering begins. Much of the world thinks that the nature of man is basically good, but the Bible teaches that the natural heart of man is evil. Out of the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). By nature, we are selfish, sinful, wayward, and lost. “In sin did my mother conceive me,” said David (Psalm 51:5).
We are all sinners, by birth, and then by choice. When we reach the point of God consciousness, which some call the Age of Accountability, we delight to do wrong. We become sinners by practice, and try to perfect the art of doing wrong, without being caught, or held accountable.
This is not a flattering picture of human nature, but it is the truth. It is this natural corruption of the heart which is why human nature needs redemption. It needs to be reformed. It needs to be transformed by the power of the Holy Sprit into the image of Christ. Without regeneration, without the new birth, the Hell in the heart remains.
There is the Hell of guilt. People who live secret lives of immorality live in Hell. People who are addicted to a particular substance abuse, or indulge an inappropriate habit that brings inner shame and guilt feel they are in Hell. In a desperate attempt to stop living in Hell, individuals commit a crime. They are seeking help. Some commit suicide. They hope to find relief from life in the grave. There are many good people, fine people, living lives of quiet despair. They are in Hell because they are guilty of some transgression, and it is tormenting their soul.
There is the Hell of unrest. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20). Every day, men and women and young people run to and fro in a frantic search to find purpose, meaning, and definition to life. Many do not know where they are going. Their life is a life of unrest, and the result is a sense of being lost. They are in Hell.
There is the Hell of lust, or intense passion. It is not wrong to have strong desires, unless our passions are out of control, and hurt self and others.
There is a sexual lust that consumes the soul, and drives individuals to engage in the most degrading acts. “Men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:27). Some health epidemics are part of God’s judgment upon inappropriate sexual behavior.
There is the lust of covetousness. Paul said, “I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). Prior to his conversion, Paul, as Saul of Tarsus was a covetous man. He had a passion for religion, but it was not according to knowledge, and so he hurt people, and placed his soul in Hell.
There is the lust of money. The desire to be rich by any means possible can put the soul in Hell. The Bible says, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9).
There is the Hell of Hatred. Hatred leads to acts of violence, murder, and war. The Bible says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).
There is the Hell of the Future. This is the Hell which Jesus talked about in Luke 16 and elsewhere.
The Hell of the Future is eternal. It is everlasting. The Rich Man who went to Hell, of whom Jesus spoke about more than two thousand years ago, is still in Hell today, and shall remain there throughout eternity.
The Hell of the Future is a place of pain and suffering. The Rich Man said he was tormented in flames. Whether that language is figurative or literal, one truth is certain. Hell is a terrible place of pain.
The Hell of the Future incorporates all the other concepts that have been discussed. Those in Hell feel their guilt, and are still consumed with passion. They are in a constant state of unrest.
“There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).
The Hell of the Future is a place of separation from God. We are separated from God by sin, and that continues throughout eternity in Hell.
Initially people might choose to sin, or to do right. But the time comes when people lose their freedom of the will. They become enslaved to sin. They must sin, and that need to sin continues throughout eternity, leading to an everlasting separation from God.
The Hell of the Future is a place of death. God is life, but sin brings death, and thus separation. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23). Wages are what we earn. When we sin we earn the wages of that sin, which is spiritual death.
The Hell of the Future is a place of darkness. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 25:30. “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” God is light, but sin separates the soul from that light. In the world there are people who are groping about in spiritual darkness. They have yet to see the glorious light of the gospel. Those who die without Christ shall live forever in a place of utter darkness. There is light deprivation for ever.
The wise person will flee from Hell, and embrace the love of God, which is so amazing and glorious.
Despite having followed the world, the flesh, and the Devil, God loves sinners so much He has provided a way for individuals to be saved from the wrath to come, and go to Heaven. Let the word go forth. God wants to save your soul.
God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. And, surprising enough, those who are in Hell also want to see people saved.
The Rich Man in Hell become evangelistic. “I pray thee,” he said, “therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27, 28).
If God allowed us who are now living, to hear the voices of those in Hell, we would hear sounds of weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but, we would also hear people pleading, and saying to loved ones,
“Do not come here!”
“Repent of your sins and save yourself!”
“Be sure of your relationship with God!”
The Hell of the Future is a place of banishment. Banished from Hell is life, light, and hope. There is no joy or happiness in Hell. There are no fun companions. Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) once quipped that he would “Go to Heaven for the climate and Hell for the company.” He was saying that those in Hell are more colorful, and more interesting than those who go to Heaven. The Bible warns against foolish jesting. There is nothing funny about Hell. There is no fine company to enjoy.
Now if you want to avoid Hell and go to Heaven, then “prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12). You will either meet God in judgment, or you will meet God at the Cross of Calvary where there is redemption and forgiveness of sin.
Prepare to meet God.
Some people prepare for everything in life but their meeting with God. They prepare for education, marriage, children, and old age. But they neglect to prepare to meet God. Do not make that mistake.
Come to Christ. Come to the One who loves sinners, and died to save individuals from all the horrors of Hell. Commit your life to Christ in this very hour. Call upon the name of the Lord who will save you now. He will give you the gift of God the Father, which is eternal life.