Weeks after I was out of jail, I would think that, just inside the jail walls, I knew men who were in a hopeless state. And men are there all the time.
Likewise, hundreds of millions of men and women who rejected Christ are in hell now and forever. I’m sure some of them are people I know, and who you know.
People slip into eternity all day, every day. Each time a man or woman breaths their last, their souls either enter eternal punishment or eternal paradise, their destiny based on their faith in Christ.
It’s a mind-bending thought that receives scant attention in popular culture.
For believers there is a great promise from God: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Cor. 5:8
Jesus told the man on the cross next to Him that he would be with Him in paradise.
But it is horrifying thought, imagining people in hell forever, so we cast the idea aside and rarely entertain the thought. Who wants to dwell on eternal punishment?
It is much easier and more comforting to talk about God’s love than God’s justice and subsequent wrath.
When was the last time you heard a sermon on the wrath of God?
Hell is more real to me now after a week with God in jail. I know God’s Word is true. God’s Word comforted me in jail beyond any natural explanation.
The hell the Bible describes is real. Don’t get me wrong, jail is no measure of comparison to hell. Jail is man’s effort to punish wrongdoers, rejecters of man’s law.
Hell is God’s wrath on those who reject Christ.
They have disobeyed and rejected the Gospel of Christ.
By God’s grace some aspects of jail are as close as I will come to eternal torment.
As I mentioned previously, one of the luxuries I took for granted before jail was cool running water. Not anymore and not ever again.
Now, after having gone a week without cool water, every time it runs over my hands I am thankful. (To be fair though, I did chose not to shower in jail.)
Some things you just don’t forget.
The absence of a cool splash of water on the hands or a satisfying drink, love a Mountain Dew, reminds of a parable involving hell that Jesus told as is recounted in Luke 16.
Jesus said a rich man ignored a poor, sick man named Lazarus who languished at the wealthy man’s gate daily begging to be fed from the droppings from the rich man’s table. Dogs licked Lazarus’ sores. The rich man feasted daily and clothed himself lavishly, disregarding the ailing, poor man’s plight.
When both men died, Jesus said the rich man “…being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (verse 23)
The rich man, now crying, sought mercy from Abraham, and begged him to send Lazarus with water on his finger tip to cool the rich man’s tongue. “For I am tormented in this flame,” the rich man said.
Abraham replied that the rich man received good things in his life and Lazarus evil things and now the rich man is tormented, and Lazarus comforted. Additionally, there is a “great gulf” between the two which no one can pass.
Jesus talked of hell often.
“And I say unto you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Jesus said in Luke 12:4-5
Do not be afraid of people who can do no more to you after they kill the body? ‘What else is there?’ millions of people would ask.
Jesus’ point is that this life on Earth is not the most critical issue at hand. The critical issue is eternal life, life after death for the souls of men and women.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26
The sentiment captured in Matthew 16 needs to gain a greater foothold in popular discourse.
I confess it took me going to jail to know, not just believe, what the Bible says is true, including the truth of hell. Hell is a reality for me now.
Hell is just a breath away for someone who has not accepted Christ as their Savoir, and Lord of their life.
Hell is on their heels just like the threat of jail was in my shadow for several years.
We read already that all are under condemnation because we have all sinned.
John the Baptist lays the Gospel out simply in John 3:36: “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.”
The wrath of God, hell, abides, or hangs over us, from birth. That is a frightening prospect that puts at risk hundreds of millions of Muslims across the globe, secular Western Europe and increasingly secular America, Buddhists and followers of every religion who rely on personal achievements to enter heaven and not faith in Christ’s work on the cross.
In Matthew 18:8-9 Jesus said it would be better to get rid of your feet, eye or hand if they cause you to sin than to be “cast into hell fire.” Here Jesus compels us to take drastic action to “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling;” Phil. 2:12
The truth of hell, where the wrath of God is poured out on sinners, is made clear in the Bible:
• “and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thess. 1:10
• “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Christ).” Rom. 5:9
• “Then He will say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matt. 25:41
• “It is better for you to enter life (heaven) maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” Mark 9:43b-44
• “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming.” Col. 3:5-6
• “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power…” 2 Thess. 1:6-9
There is an eternal wrath apportioned by God for those who die without putting their faith and trust in Christ. Everlasting fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and torment are some of the descriptions of existence in hell.
Admittingly, prior to jail, I soft pedaled hell in my mind. I thought that it was merely a separation from God, and did not understand the gravity of what that meant. I also didn’t figure in the punishing aspect of hell.
But the Bible is true, and so are the descriptions of hell.