Hell is an unpopular subject, but it is important because it is a Bible subject. Each of us should recognize the Bible truth that there is a hell, and do all God would have us do so we might keep from going there.
Statements of Christ on Hell
Christ has said many things concerning hell, so we will begin with his statements on the subject. While giving the disciples the commission to go to the lost sheep of Israel, Jesus makes this statement. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Two facts are evident: (1) there is a part of man that cannot be killed by man, (2) God can destroy man in hell. Christ speaks of hell as a reality and further states that hell is such a reality that man should be willing to give up anything rather than suffer an eternity in such a place. “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Matt. 18:9). Later, in speaking to a group of hypocrites, the Lord warns them concerning hell by a question. “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33). This is a rhetorical question and the implied answer is there is no escape as long as an individual continues in a life of hypocrisy and sin. If there is no place of eternal punishment, why the warning?
On reading the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), one notices an illustration indicating the existence of hell. We are told the rich man died and “he lifted up his eyes, being in torment…” Some object to this record of torment awaiting the wicked by declaring this is a parable. However, the evidence is strong that this is not a parable. Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man…” “there was a certain beggar…” The Lord indicated these men “were.” They had existed. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument let us assume this is a parable. How would that change matters? A parable is something that has happened or could have happened. A parable never is an impossibility. If this is a parable, it clearly indicates there is a place of eternal punishment. Men may attempt to explain away plain teachings of Christ, but the fact still remains the rich man “lifted up his eyes…in torment…”
Eternal Suffering in Hell
Having noticed some of the scriptures on the existence of hell, we will now notice the eternalness of the suffering in hell. There are many teaching the sinner will be punished by dying physically, but he will not have to suffer eternal torment. If one will read Hebrews 10:28-29 very carefully, he will find the writer declares one living in violation of God’s law will suffer a punishment “sorer” than death. If punishment is “sorer” than death, it cannot be death. It must be something worse than physical death. John describes this punishment by declaring the ones worshipping the beast (false systems of religion) shall be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever…” (Rev. 14:10-11). In Revelation 20:10 the same writer warns, “(They) shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Since one cannot be tormented when he has ceased to exist, the existence will last as long as the torment. The Word of God speaks of the lost being “tormented” and the “torment” continues “forever and ever.” It is no wonder Jesus speaks of the judgment and the rewards that follow by saying, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). The punishment will last as long as the life. The wicked will be punished as long as the righteous enjoy life. The punishment and the life will be everlasting. Christ will come in “flaming fire” rendering vengeance to those who “obey not the Gospel” and the vengeance will be in the form of “eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Destruction and Annihilation
Annihilationists would tell us destruction means annihilation, and Paul is pointing out that the evil will be annihilated rather than tormented throughout eternity. In the first place, destruction does not mean annihilation. To destroy means to “ruin or overthrow.” The apostle Paul was speaking of the eternal ruin of the wicked. Ruin by “eternal punishment” or “torment.” Turning to the book of Hosea we find a clear illustration that destruction does not mean annihilation. Notice Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Were they annihilated? Certainly not! They were brought to ruin because of a lack of knowledge. In chapter 13 of this same book we find this statement, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.” Were they annihilated? If so, how could they turn to God for help? To be destroyed means to be brought to ruin, it does not mean annihilation.
God does not want man to be lost, but wants all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Hell has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) and whoever goes there does so because of his own disobedience (2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rom. 2:6-9). Have you obeyed the Gospel of Christ? It is your only hope of escaping hell.