Hell and everlasting punishment

hellClick here for recording of Ian Thomas preaching on Hell and Everlasting Punishment

Today’s subject is a solemn one, the most solemn that you will ever hear from me but for us to have revival we need to wake up out of our slumber and focus our energies upon the most important things of life.  The reason Christians today are without backbones are because these truths are no longer heard nor believed.  I said previously that revival comes when old Scriptural truths are regained and the topic for today is one that needs to come back.  It maybe as a result of hearing this that revival will come because we will actually push forward with the preaching of the Gospel.  Perhaps we should not be so much praying for revival but that God will send labourers into His harvest field.  I will say again – unless there is a return to the truths of Scripture we will not see revival.  So today’s topic is the Bible truth about hell and everlasting punishment.  There is much in Scripture especially through what Jesus has to say on this.

John 3:18 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:36 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

What needs to be set forth is the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the unendurableness of it, the endlessness of it.  To keep quiet about it or to ignore it is just about as irresponsible as one can be. 1 Peter 4:17–18 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” It is our duty to warn people to flee from the wrath that is to come. Revelation 6:17 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

There are many arguments today made against this doctrine believing that God’s character could not possibly send people to hell.  There are people who actively go round today espousing the opposite – a guy called Rob Bell is one who was Pastor of Mars Hill – he now goes round universities undoing this doctrine.  I had tutors at Uni who also believed that there was no such thing, even saying Jesus didn’t even preach it.  And many taught by them follow this line of thought.  I’m not sure how this is justified for Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.

God has sent throughout Scripture punishment regularly as we read in 2 Peter 2:4–9 ‘4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.’  It is no wonder that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.  It is just inescapable that God will judge and bring people to punishment.  God is love but it is not the sentimental kind but is holy and hates evil.  It is not a love that simply lets people of the hook. Psalm 5:5 ‘The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.’  How often we find that God is angry and full of wrath.  He did not create humankind for them to do their own thing though he has given them freedom to choose – but people in their rebellion have shook the fist at God but there will be a day of recompense.  God in His mercy has made a way of escape, if we would have it.  Mercy is always shown before judgment.  But if it is spurned, as it often is, then judgment will come.

Some say that God is unjust to sentence people to an eternity in hell.  But who are we to judge? The awfulness of sin is glossed over not realising that God cannot bear it nor look at it and will not put up with it.  Those of us who have been saved realize just how much we deserve eternal punishment.

Some say that the punishment won’t go on forever for God will destroy people in the lake of fire, that is, make them cease to exist.  But the word for destroy in Scripture never means to annihilate for the Greek word for destroy is elsewhere translated lost – as for instance the lost sheep of Israel – but Israel still exist!  If death is annihilation, or should be translated as such, how then are we resurrected again to come before the Judgement Seat?  Scripture speaks only of punishment and torment – and it does not have an end.  Scripture speaks in Isaiah 33:14 ‘14The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” will there be in eternity.’  It says here people will live with the fire forever.  Time and again in 13 places Scripture records Jesus as saying there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Sin is ultimately punished two ways: either by the blood of Jesus or the fires of Hell. The fires of Hell and the blood of Jesus in a sense go together: they are the two final ways God chose to deal with sin. The fires of Hell do not truly satisfy the justice of God. This is the reason why Hell is eternal. If the fires of Hell satisfied the justice of God we could be sure that Hell would not last forever. But only the blood of Christ completely satisfies God’s justice.[1]

Hebrews 9:27 27 ‘And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.’  Ecclesiastes 11:9 ‘Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.’  When I see the party goers on Fridays and Saturdays, yes, they have permission to go and enjoy – but, be warned, judgment will be passed on their actions.

Acts 17:31 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”   And this day is described in Revelation 20:11–15 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

I cannot read this without being afraid for the people of this world.  For so broad is the way to destruction that almost all 7.1 billion are on their way to judgment day without Jesus being their Saviour. Romans 3:10–12: “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.””

There is no escape when we die.  John 8:21 Then Jesus said to them [His enemies] again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” Once they died in their sins, it was impossible for them to go to heaven and be with Jesus. In John 13:36: “Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”” Peter will go to Heaven – His enemies will not.

In this passage we read at the beginning about Lazarus and the rich man we gain many insights into what happens to the unbelievers: Luke 16:19–31 19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then 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 in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

This holding place of the dead has two compartments – one for the wicked and one for the righteous.  Scripture plainly declares that the only ones that are righteous are the ones who have been justified by faith (Rom 5.1).  Between them there is no going from one compartment to the other. The rich man is being tormented in a flame.  As confirmation of this: Matthew 13:37–42 37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

There they remain until the judgment, when they shall be resurrected will be brought before the Great White Throne to receive their final sentence that we have also already read in Rev 20 where if their name is not written in the book of life the lake of fire is the last destination, forever, in a conscious torment, remembering as did the Rich Man in our original passage the life he led and regretting it.

For believers who have died and for those who will friends, let us be clear: 1 Thessalonians 4:13 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

We were those who at one time had no hope too: Ephesians 2:12–13 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Now we, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

John 5:24: ““Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

There are many, many other Scriptures I can mention in relation to this subject but even though this is not an exhaustive study I still think that the point has been made.

1)    The first response to all this is surely to make sure that we are Christians.  Let us make sure we have the way of escape.

2)    Second we have to be eternally grateful that Jesus has made a way of escape where we are now a people of hope.

3)    Third, we have to use all our means, all our prayers, all our efforts to make known the Good News that there is a great Salvation to be had.  We need to be aware of the plight of the 7.1 billion souls on this planet.  A day should not go by that when we look upon our friends, our family, our neighbours, the people whom we meet, our colleagues, those we see on TV, our politicians and so on we will remember that one day before God they will stand.

A prayer:

Lord, wake us up to the plight of the billions on this planet and make every effort to bring them into your Kingdom.  Move us with the same compassion that you had for you came to seek and save the lost.  Fill us with you Holy Spirit and empower us.  Send workers into your harvest field, Lord, and bring in the sheaves to honour and glorify you.  Thank you that the invitation is still open.  Thank you for your patience.  Have patience with us too as we seek to do your will and disciple the nations baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


[1] Kendall, R. T. (2004). The Judgment Seat of Christ (16). Fearn, UK: Christian Focus.

All Scripture is quoted from the NKJV

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