The Reality of Hell

Duane Vander Klok

What happens to a person after they die?

Some believe that the only heaven or hell anyone will ever experience is here on earth. Others believe in reincarnation; that when you die you come back as something or someone else.  Still others are filled with fear, because they don’t know what to believe.

Everyone needs to know the truth about heaven and hell because, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:23, each of us has a spirit and a soul as well as a body. When your physical body dies, your spirit – the real you – will live somewhere forever. The question is, where?

Heaven Is A Real Place
According to the Bible, heaven is a real place populated with real people. Those who go there enter through a real gate, travel on real streets and live in real buildings. They have new, perfect bodies, and receive eternal rewards.

There is no sickness or pain in heaven. Death, war, fear and prejudice are things of the past, as are abortion, strife, broken-heartedness, and sin of all kinds. Just as Abraham was “gathered to his people”(Genesis 25:8), those in heaven experience happy reunions.

All of these things are awesome, but the best thing about heaven is that God lives there. Revelation 22:3 says, “There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” All who live in heaven will be in God’s presence, never again experiencing the curse that came with the fall of man!

Hell Is Also Real
Hell is also a real place populated with real people. From the Bible, we know that it is a bottomless pit, a place of sorrow filled with torment and the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth. The inhabitants of hell experience loneliness and regret. There is no escape. By reading Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, we can see that anyone already in hell would not want friends and relatives to join them there!

Matthew 25:41 makes it clear that hell’s everlasting fire was never intended for people, but was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Psalm 9:17 shows us that hell is a place for the wicked and the nations that forget God. Those who know the truth and disobey it are also destined for hell. But it is not the wicked or disobedient man’s sin that sends him to hell – it is his rejection of Jesus Christ. As John 3:18 states, “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.”

Three Heresies
Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and no one has any right to try to rewrite or change the fundamental doctrines He established. Nevertheless, three heresies regarding hell have surfaced in our culture. It is important to know the truth regarding each of these:

~ Universalism (Inclusionism) – This false teaching says that all humans will eventually be saved. In this view, there is only one place to go after death, and that is heaven.

Jesus dealt with this very clearly in Matthew 25:46. He said, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” In the Greek, the word used here for “everlasting” is the same exact word used for “eternal.” Jesus talked about heaven as eternal life and hell as eternal punishment using the exact same terms – in the very same verse. Clearly there is an eternal heaven and a place of eternal punishment.

In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus paid for the sins of all humanity. However, each individual must do something to receive the salvation He offers. They must believe in Him. Those who do not believe, perish.

~ Restorationism (Ultimate Reconciliation) – Followers of this flawed teaching believe that some people go to hell. There, they suffer and pay for their sins but eventually go to heaven. Some really bad people may never leave hell, but most do. Restorationists have changed the doctrine of eternal judgment into one of temporary judgment.

Jesus went to the cross because it was the only way to redeem humanity. You will recall that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). In other words, He was saying, “If there is any other way to redeem mankind, please do it that way.” There was no other way, and 1 Peter 1:19 boldly proclaims that redemption comes by “the precious blood of Christ.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” You and I cannot save ourselves by works after death any more than we can save ourselves by works today. No one but Jesus can pay for your sins.

~ Annihilationism  – Those who hold this theory believe that the wicked merely cease to exist when they die. That’s not what the Bible says.

When Jesus talked about the judgment in Matthew 25, He made it clear that the unrighteous face an everlasting (perpetual, eternal) fate. Listen to what He said: “Then He [the Son of Man] 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’” (Matthew 25:41).

No one simply ceases to exist, and according to Revelation 20:15, there is only one way to escape the “lake of fire.” That is to have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Christianity is not a smorgasbord where individuals can mix and match their own personal blend of beliefs. On the contrary, Jude 3 makes it clear that Christians must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  

No amount of wishing will change the reality of hell. We are not called to believe what we wish, but we are called to believe the truth as stated in God’s Word.

What About You?
Where you spend eternity is your choice. The Bible tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). That is God’s heart, and Romans 10:9 promises, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

If you have already surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you are facing a glorious future in heaven, and you have a tremendous opportunity to help others by telling them the truth about heaven and hell.

But perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve known about Jesus in my head, but I want to know Him in my heart. I want Him to change me and make me a brand new person on the inside. I want to live for Him now and spend eternity with Him.” If that’s you, you can pray this prayer, believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth Jesus as your Lord:

Dear God, I believe that Jesus is Your Son, that He died on the cross and shed His blood to pay for my sins.  I receive forgiveness for every sin I have ever committed. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over death, sin and the devil, so right now I receive Him as Lord of my life. I give Him all of my heart and all of my life. I am not going to live to please myself; I am going to live for Jesus every day. Thank You, God, that You have heard my prayer, that my past is gone, my sins are forgiven, and I am part of your eternal kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you just prayed to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, we want to get you a free copy of Pastor Duane’s book, Your New Life, to help you grow in your relationship with the Lord. Download it for free!

(All scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)