All words have particular meanings but some words are spoken so frequently as to pass into common usage as verbal punctuation. In particular, I’m thinking of the word hell. It gets used in a variety of methods, and is used so commonly as verbal punctuation, that most have lost sight of its original meaning. Its casual overuse has taken any sting out of the word.
So what about Hell in its original meaning? Does the Bible really teach that those that die apart from Jesus go to Hell? In a word, yes.
Some of you will immediately think I’ve lost my mind, that I’m some sort of pre-modern Bible thumper–but the truth is the truth. The Bible does teach that there is one of two eternal destinies for man. It is a binary answer: either Heaven or Hell. Biblically speaking, it is black and white, no in between. When we die, we either spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus and all those who’ve followed him, or in Hell with Satan and all those who’ve followed his ways. Honestly, it is that straightforward.
In Luke 16, Jesus recounts the eternal destinies of two men. One is named, Lazarus. The other is referred to simply as the rich man. Lazarus was a man of saving faith and when he died, he was taken to the faithful. The rich man, when he died, opened up his eyes in Hell.
Being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.Luke 16:23-34
There are four things one can take from that description: (1) those in Hell are still sentient beings; (2) that the rich man was in torment and anguish in the flames; (3) in the anguish and torment of Hell, the rich man sought to order Lazarus to do his bidding; and, (4) Hell was real, not a mere metaphor.
Jesus never taught any differently about the subject. In another place, he describes Hell as, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). So, if we’re going to be consistent as Christians when we speak or teach of Hell, we have to do so as did Jesus. Hell is not merely verbal punctuation, but a real place, and one to be avoided.
Perhaps the best evangelist I ever knew always told people about Hell. The people she evangelised were those in their latter years. I asked about her approach. She said, “It’s simple. I’m old. I don’t have time to mess around. I say to them, ‘Look, you don’t look so good. Where are you going to go when you die? Are you going to be with me and Jesus in heaven or are you going to Hell and be with Satan?’”
What do you think about Hell? Don’t be like the rich man and not be concerned until you, like him, open your eyes in torment having thought of it as just a word. It’s not just a word. It’s a destination.
Originally appeared in the Caymanian Times.