This post is one in a series of posts on a Bible study I am doing titled Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Dave McCleskey. The focus of this study is to get a Biblical view of what heaven is really like.
Many people believe that they will live on after their physical death here on earth, and most of those people believe that they are going to heaven. For some reason, we have gotten it into our head that heaven is the default destination for people when they die. A Barna Public Survey found that less than 1% of people expect to go to hell when they die, and 64% believe they will go to heaven. That same survey found that 54% of people believe that it is their own good works that will get them into heaven. Another survey (George Gallup Poll on Hell, 1990) found that 40% of Americans don’t believe a hell exists, and of those that do, only 4% believe that they will end up there. So where do we get our ideas about the existence of hell and whether or not we will end up there? Are these survey results the product of a Biblical point of view? Not exactly.
My study today discussed the fact that most people are wrong in their beliefs about heaven and hell. The Bible doesn’t say that most people will go to heaven – in fact, it’s just the opposite. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, emphasis added). The truth of the matter is that God is so holy, He cannot be in the presence of sin. Habakkuk 1:13 says “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” Therefore, if we are made to live on after we die our physical death on earth, and if we cannot be in God’s presence because of sin, another place must exist where we will go that is not in God’s presence. The Bible makes it clear that this place is hell. Let’s look at some Biblical truths about hell.
The existence of hell is not questioned in the Bible. In fact, Jesus said more about hell than anyone else. In Matthew 13:40-42, Jesus says “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And in Mark 9:43-49, Jesus warns “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire.” This, to me, doesn’t sound like Christ questioned the existence of hell in the least bit.
Hell Is Eternal
Jesus said in Matthew 25:46, when speaking of the separation of the righteous from the cursed when He returns, that the cursed “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (emphasis added). This clearly states that hell lasts forever. As the author, Alcorn, put it “Thus, if Heaven will be consciously experienced forever, hell must be consciously experienced forever.”
We Need To Speak Out About Hell
For some reason, people have a hard time believing in hell. Perhaps we think we are being compassionate by not telling people that their eternal destination is a place of eternal destruction (see Matthew 13:40-42). Perhaps we think we are being humane be leaving out parts of scripture that describe hell as “a place of fire, darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.” But just as a doctor doesn’t find it inhumane to tell his patients when they have cancer, we shouldn’t find it inhumane to tell people when they are cursed to hell by their own disease – sin. Alcorn says “…it is arrogant that we, as creatures, would dare to take what we think is the moral high ground against what God has clearly revealed.” So we might consider that, by keeping the truth of hell from people, we are playing a role in their destruction. This shouldn’t be.
Going To Hell Is Not Necessary
Instead of keeping the truth of hell from people, in order to save them from the terrible feelings it invokes in us, we should share the good news that there is a way to avoid going there. Alcorn puts it this way:
Given the reality of our two possible destinations, shouldn’t we be willing to pay any price to avoid hell and go to Heaven? And yet, the price has already been paid (see 1 Corinthians 6:20). The price paid was exorbitant – the shed blood of God Himself. Consider the wonder of it: God determined that He would rather suffer torment on our behalf than live in Heaven without us. He so much wants us not to go to hell that He paid a horrible price on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to go…The price has been paid; our lives have been ransomed. But still we must choose. Like any gift, forgiveness can be offered, but it isn’t truly ours until we choose to receive it. Christ offers each of us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life – but just because the offer is made doesn’t make it ours. To have it, we must choose to accept it.
Click HERE to see the next post in this series.