Why are so many teachers today avoiding the topic of hell? Rob Bell came out with "Love Wins" and he "got hell" for it, but a lot of teachers are intentionally avoiding this subject. The best way to know the truth is to ask Jesus (or Father, Holy Spirit or even an angel of God) about it. If you know who you are talking to through relationship, and they obviously cannot lie, then you will know for a fact if it exists or not. One also must ask to right questions as the hell that some imagine does not exist. Hell is incorrectly being taught by some as a concept from the Old Covenant but something that was apparently done away with in the New Covenant. Did God change His mind? Was the Old Covenant hell like purgatory? What do we make of all the people having visions of hell, hearing from God about hell, going there in the spirit, those having a NDE (Near Death Experience) and coming back, etc? Hell is admittedly a very difficult subject. Let me start by clarifying that the Bible is very clear that there is a "hell" but let me say that it is probably not a place like many of us have imagined. I have no personal experience or clear revelation from God on this matter. However, we do know quite a bit about it from what Jesus (God) said and says to many, what the Bible says in the original languages and context, as well as visions, trips there in the spirit, trips on drugs ( unreliable) and near-death experiences (NDE) of many people (numerous and fairly consistent). It has been said that Jesus spoke about hell more than heaven, although I haven't personally counted the verses. So why does it seem that everyone is avoiding the topic of hell? Because many are. We will also have to define "hell" as there are different dimensions/realms of "hell" (e.g. Tartarus which is where the fallen angels are, or some may include Sheol which is the place of the dead).
It is essential that we try to view hell from God's perspective and as we begin to do this, we understand it better. Charles Hodge, a famous theologian from Princeton University, said in his Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (New York: Charles Scribner, 1873), pp. 868-880, "It is a doctrine which the natural heart revolts from and struggles against, and to which it submits only under stress of authority. The Church believes the doctrine because it must believe it, or renounce faith in the Bible and give up all the hopes founded upon its promises."
Hell is real (despite what some are teaching) so we must try to better understand exactly what it is, what is there, why it exists, and how to avoid going there. I long held a very traditional point of view on hell but knowing the heart of God, I became suspect of anything that created fear, knowing that the enemy would probably be trying to use it to make us afraid. Perfect love casts out all fear. God can't be up there with a gun to our head telling us to either love him or be tortured forever. Just like the Father was not about unleash His wrath on us but decided to torture and kill His Son instead. This is just bad theology. We are the ones who tortured and killed Christ and in love He let us do it.WHAT IS HELL?
Hell is a general term for an existence that I still think most people (Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 7:22, Matthew 22:14, Luke 13:23,24, 1 Peter 4:18) will experience. The reason I say it is a general term is that there are many different words for hell in the Bible, and it's clear from the Bible that the term hell is a loaded concept. A lot of this understanding has been hidden from us but Scripture does tell us a lot about hell, and many people have seen or gone to hell and come back, either alive in visions or dreams, or dead in a NDE (near death experience).
It is clear that we are given an entire life to repent and enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. To repent (Repentance) means to turn from your sin and when we do and accept the forgiveness and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can enter into a relationship with Him. In fact, it has been widely reported that people have seen people die and in the spirit they have witnessed Jesus appear to them and then take them to heaven. Some people claim they have shared Christ with people after they have died. So everyone has a "free will" opportunity to trust and believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation. God is just. However, this opportunity obviously must be sincere and many people even ministers, will claim to know Christ and consider Him their Lord, yet they will end up in hell. I know sevveral people who have been taken to hell and they all state that they saw preachers and ministers who made their ministry a "god" and didn't put Christ first.
For Jesus Himself said:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
I have long believed that hell is so horrible that, if you could see just a glimpse of it, you wouldn't wish it upon your worst enemy. However, I think a lot of it has to do with your heart. I have heard the teaching by Steve McVey and others that hell is in the presence of God and his angels, and consists of God pouring out His love to someone eternally who doesn't want it. I know there are verses that could support this loosely but the idea that someone is forced to be in the presence of God and his angels, when this is a place of ultimate joy and worship, seems out of place. However, the verses we use to support the idea of eternal torture are, in the original languages, not neccesarily eternal (rather ages to come) and not neccesarily torture (could be purification). Eventually every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Regardless, hell is not a state you want to be in. This is why there is so much rejoicing in heaven over one person getting saved. Hell (or at least places that are part of hell) are described throughout the Bible and many people have had glimpses and have described it in detail. I say "part of hell" because there are several different places for the devil and his fallen angels, soul and heart parts, and the unconverted. Sin that is not repented of will probably experience God's love rather than wrath in what we call hell but I believe now that the seperation is on our end, not His. This seperation from God we call hell may not even have a door and those there may be able to leave if they truly wanted to. There appears to me to be a period of time before the Judgment where people remain to have free will. I know Mike Parsons, someone I highly respect, has been able to preach to his family line who had passed and he claims that some accepted but some did not. Those who accepted were led out of there by him and Jesus into heaven to join the cloud of witnesses. Mike asked God why all of them didn't accept as he wouldn't want to stay in a place of fire and seperation, and God said "The degree that you have the authority to preach comes from the degree in which you have embraced the fire yourself and have been purified on the altar, and therefore have authority to preach in there."WHO WILL BE IN HELL?
The Bible is very clear that most people will be in hell (Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 7:22, Matthew 22:14, Luke 13:23,24, 1 Peter 4:18) but again, hell is not one place and the Bible isn't neccesarily saying it will be eternal. God's fire changes, it purifies, and God desires to restore all things so why wouldn't that include us, the crown of all His creation? In Revelation 21, John wrote down the vision God gave him of heaven in all its glory. This is what he learned: God Himself will dwell with His people (v.3). God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death, pain, crying will be things of the past (v.4). John wrotes in Revelation 21:8 that there are some people who will not be in heaven. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
Here are two types of people that may surprise you on the list:
There are a few other lists in 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 states clearly, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."
Galatians 5:19-21 states clearly, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Ephesians 5:5-7 states clearly, "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them."
Keep in mind that this can all change upon conversion. the verse we read in 1 Corinthians stated, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." However, also keep in mind that these verses would pertain to people who think they are genuine converted Christians, yet they would be characterized by sin. The Bible clearly teaches that a genuinely converted Christian cannot continue to live in sin or have a sinful lifestyle (e.g. Mt. 6:24; Mt. 7:18-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Heb. 3:12-14; Heb. 10:26-31; Heb. 10:36-39; James 2:24; 1 Pet. 4:17-19; 1 John 3:6,9-10; 1 Jn. 5:18; Rev. 3:16-18, etc.).IS HELL ETERNAL?
I long thought he Bible stated clearly that hell is eternal for those who don't follow Christ (Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 3:12; Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41,46; Mark 9:43-44; Luke 3:17; John 5:24; Romans 9:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Jude 1:7; Jude 1:12-13; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 20:14-15). I figured that those in hell will not cease to sin, in fact, their sin will probably only be accelerated as they curse God. I cannot picture this cursing being before the throne of the Lord God and His angels but we shall see. Hell is outside of time in another dimension which is something we cannot comprehend until we have been there. I am not convinced it is eternal for all but that is my position for now until I have further revelation. Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, not for us. Will people have a way out when they have been restored and purified by Christ? I'm not sure. It's probably not the Catholic doctrine of purgatory (which isn't in the Bible) and again, we don't know how it will work.
An argument I made for eternal punishment is this: If a man receives a $2 fine for a crime, you can be sure that the crime he committed was trivial. However, if you hear of a criminal getting multiple life-sentences without parole, you can surmise that the crime he committed was very serious. The penalty given, gives us understanding of the nature of the crime. The penalty for sin is death and damnation - life without parole. The sentence is eternal. This is harsh by any human standard, however, God's standard is infinitely higher than ours. He is perfect and holy, and the best of us is desperately wicked in His sight. If we sinned a mere ten times a day through lustful thoughts, greed, ingratitude, bad actions, etc., - over a 70 year life that comes to 255,500 sins that God must punish. However, Jesus took our punishment as a sin offering. Why does there need to be two punishments for the same sin?
Romans 9:22 - "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?"WITHOUT EXCUSE
The Bible makes it clear that we are all without excuse (e.g. Romans 1, Titus 2:11). God had made himself known in the universe. Titus 2:11 states "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." Everyone is aware of God through: 1) Creation is shouting the presence of God and everyone sees Him through it. To deny that, you must suppress it yourself. 2) Your conscience. You can sear your conscience but everyone has a conscience and everyone is hearing the voice of God in their conscience. 3) God makes Himself know through His Word. He came to earth and no one denies that he lived as there is so much written about Him.SOME TESTIMONIES
Dr. Maurice Rawlings - Over 300 near-death interviews immediately after the experience. Half admitted encountering hell-like experiences. In follow-up interviews, many changed their stories, refusing to admit.
Many people have claimed to be able to see a glimpse of hell while alive (e.g. in a vision). Others have died or have had a Near Death Experience (NDE) and have claimed to have been allowed to view a glimpse of hell before they returned to life. Here's just a few examples:
"You desperately long for even a few moments of rest, but you never, ever get that privilege. Imagine for a moment how terrible you feel after forty eight hours of no sleep. In hell you never sleep, rest or find a quiet moment. No rest from the torments, the screams, the fear, the thirst, the lack of breath, the stench, the heat, the hopelessness. You are isolated from contact with any other people".
- Bill Wiese – Book: 23 Minutes in Hell Video: 23 Minutes in Hell
"A respiratory nurse who works in an emergency room told me about a patient who had gone “code red” – he flat lined. She and some other medical personnel rushed over with the defibrillator to try and bring him back to life. They applied the paddles and revived him. She said that he started screaming and shouting “the heat, the heat!” then his heart stopped again. They brought him back a second time. He shouted “The flames, the flames!” They lost him again. Four times the man flat lined and was brought back, each time shouting about the heat or the flames. After the last time, he died and they could not bring him back. She said all the doctors and nurses just stood there for a few minutes and stared at the body. They all knew that man went to hell."
- Mark Cahill – Book: One Heartbeat Away – markcahill.org
"I tell you, the terror is unbelievable. With a spirit body, it cannot be frozen or burned. It simply exists with thousands of sensations, which this nervous system we own down here could not take. It is absolutely Hell. I was surrounded by demons. They seemed to be so excited they were doing a fancy rock and roll dance in honour of getting me there. Thousands of them shouted to me that I would never get out. They didn't realize I was only there for a short period, and told me I was there because I had believed their deceptions whilst I was on Earth. The stench was indescribable. It was the smell of dying and dead flesh. Satan, their captain, is of course the author of death. Jesus called them unclean spirits, and they certainly are that."
- Dr. Richard Eby - Book: Caught Up into Paradise
"Then out of nowhere, a car was coming at us at high speed, running the light. I remember my friend yelling, “Oh my God!” - just before the car hit us. I left my body. I started going down this long, dark tunnel. It was dark … so dark. I knew I was dead and I was going to hell. You couldn’t even see the hand in front of your face. I was yelling, “I don’t want to go yet! I don’t want to go yet!” I’m falling farther and farther away from the little light at the top of the tunnel above me.
Out of the dark things began grabbing at me. Long fingernails began to grab me and claw at me, trying to pull me into them. I kept screaming, “No! I don’t want to go yet!” Their grotesque mouths were open wide and their teeth were gnashing at me."
- Full testimony of Debra Mc Farland
“As I stood there I began to sense that this wasn’t just a physical darkness but that there was something else there. I could feel a cold eerie feeling as though something or someone was looking at me – a spiritual darkness. From the darkness I began to hear men’s voices screaming at me telling me to “shut up” – “that I deserved to be there” – “that I was in Hell”.
– Ian McCormack Personal Testimony – aglimpseofeternity.org
"A wild orgy of frenzied taunting, screaming and hitting ensued. I fought like a wild man. All the while it was obvious that they were having great fun. It seemed to be, almost, a game for them, with me as the center-piece of their amusement. My pain became their pleasure. They seemed to want to make me hurt by clawing at me and biting me. Whenever I would get one off me, there were five more to replace the one."
- Personal testimony of former atheist Howard Storm, from the book My Descent into Death
"In the darkness I became aware of an even more evil presence than I had already felt and there, high above anything, was this creature I just know was Satan. I didn't know what to do because this wasn't just a dream, this was reality. In my terror I screamed out, "I'm a Christian and I belong to Jesus. I shouldn't be here", but Satan looked down and laughed a hideous laugh that I will always remember, and said, " When I tempted you, you gave in to me, you belong to me now", and at that moment I knew it was true. What could I do? There I was in Hell, with Satan, and in total despair. I had thought I was a Christian, but I had not committed my life to Jesus."
Testimony from Christine Eastell - Went into a cardiac arrest after a serious car accident.
"'You are in hell,' he said; for you all hope is fled. As you passed through the mountain on your way here, you heard the groans and shrieks of the lost as they called for water to cool their parched tongues. Along that passage there is a door that opens into the lake of fire. An indescribable thirst for water now seized upon me. And calling for water my eyes opened in the hospital prison."
- George Lennox 1888 - Lennox was a notorius thief in Suffolk County
"I heard the most horrifying, tormenting screams imaginable. I heard these time and time again, and although I never saw who was screaming, I, myself, would scream because of the fear of those frightening screams. Besides the screaming there were also demons. Yes, there really are demons. Indescribable and most ugly things you had ever seen. They came up to me and taunted me. Yelling in my face, "We got you now!" Laughing at me saying, "We fooled you!"
- Timothy T. LaFond - Fire Engine Technician that went on to become a pastor
"You're the gutsy one who talks about negative near-death experiences. Keep doing it. Don't stop." I was so startled by her comment, I momentarily slowed my pace and yelled back, "Who are you? What do you mean by that?" Her answer surprised me. "I'm a surgical nurse at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. We have lots of near-death cases there, and almost all of them are the negative kind. You know what I mean people who wind up in hell!"
- P.M.H.Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D - (92 Journal of Near-Death Studies Vol.10, No.3)
Whatever your views are on hell, it is essential that we do not let this non-essential divide us unneccesarily. One can still go to heaven (or hell) whether or not he believes in it. Many have visited hell and never believed it existed. As mentioned previously, the best way to know for sure is to ask God about it and ask Him to let you visit there. I have many trustworthy close friends who have gone, some even on a regular basis. What I DO know is that God is good, God is just, and that I can have complete confidence in Him to do the right thing. May you do the right thing and know Him in a close and real relationship.RECOMMENDED READING:
Dr. Ana Mendez Ferrell - Regions of Captivity, High Level Warfare, Seated In Heavenly Places and Shaking the Heavens.NOTE:A couple interesting videos of people who have apparently gone to hell can be watched for free on YouTube by clicking here (Ian McCormack) or here (Bill Wiese).
© Todd Tyszka
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