I don’t know how it happened. Somehow I just slowly stopped talking about it. I mean, I would refer to it in passing in my articles and blog. I would mention it by name in my sermons, but honestly I didn’t really talk about it anymore.
Then the other night, one of the children in my catechism class asked me, “Pastor, what is hell like?” As I answered her question, reality rear ended me like a Mack truck. I couldn’t remember the last time I had talked about what hell is like.
A number of years ago, Gallup surveyed Americans about their belief in the afterlife. Eighty one percent of Americans said they believed in the existence of heaven. Surprisingly, 70% said they also believed in the existence of hell. Ever the optimists, 77% of Americans rated their chances of going to heaven as “good” or “excellent,” while less than one half of one percent believed they would end up in hell.
Though most people in our country believe in the reality of hell, few believe there is actually a possibility they could end up there.
So what is hell like? Jesus described hell as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Hell is a prison originally prepared for the devil and his demons.
The punishment of hell is complete separation from God and his love – being locked out of his presence forever. One of the horrific ironies of hell is that those condemned to its dungeons will be able to see the heaven they are missing. They will be watching through a window from the outside looking in.
Hell is horror. Hell is suffering. Imagine the worst pain you have ever felt in your life. Now multiply that by 10,000 and think about it never ending. That is hell. Hell is real and you deserve to go there. So do I. The punishment of just one sin is the perpetual pain of hell.
Only when we feel the flames of hell nipping at our feet can we truly appreciate what Jesus did for us. He rescued us. Like a heroic fireman, he came to our home and pulled us from the flames. In fact he gave his life to do so. On the cross Jesus suffered our punishment – that complete separation from God and his love we deserve for every one of the millions of sins we commit in our lives.
Because he did, you have been rescued from the flames. With his death on the cross, Jesus won the gift of heaven for all people. That gift becomes ours personally through faith. Whoever believes in Jesus as their Savior receives the gift of heaven. Whoever does not believe in Jesus, though, will be condemned to the death penalty of hell.
Of the over seven billion people who populate our planet today, 2.2 billion profess to believe in Jesus. That means five billion people in our world today don’t believe in him. According to the Bible, what is going to happen to those 5 billion people?
Nobody likes to talk about that. It’s not politically correct. It’s a buzz kill. It’s depressing. But it’s love to talk about hell. It’s love to warn people of the hell they deserve and assure them of the heaven Jesus won for them. Only when we feel the flames of hell nipping at our feet can we truly appreciate what Jesus did to save us.
So let’s talk about hell.