This probably goes without saying, but Hell isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It’s a topic that explores how God’s righteousness, justice, and wrath will ultimately play out.
Because humans were made in God’s image, we have an innate sense of right and wrong (a moral compass if you will) and have a natural tendency to seek justice and truth. But we are not God, and we sin (rebellion against God’s definition of right and wrong). And we can see the effects of sin in brokenness & death in the world around us.
God is holy. He is the creator. We are his creatures. His righteousness and justice are defined by his definition of good and evil – not ours. God sees all and knows everything that goes on in His creation. Because God is good, He cannot let our rebellion go without punishment.
In Exodus, God tells Moses he will…
…by no means clear the guilty… Ex 34:7
And we are all guilty before God because of our sin (Romans 3:23). We are deserving of death and separation from God.
Is hell real?
Yes, Hell is a real place. As we move through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, Hell is expounded upon more and more and described in various ways.
When Jesus comes on the scene in Matthew 18:9, he uses an actual place called “Gehenna” to describe Hell. Gehenna was a valley outside Jerusalem where people would sacrifice their children through fire to the pagan god Moloch. Ghenna was a place of death and destruction. So, Jesus is using a literal place to describe Hell as a literal place to us.
Then in Matthew 25:41, Jesus tells us that Hell was created for “the devil and his angels” and the humans God does not know will also be cast into the “eternal fire.”
In Romans 2:8, Paul explains sin and God’s wrath “…for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” We see here that God’s wrath is primarily still yet to come.
God’s wrath is the punishment for sin and the punishment for sin is in hell.
What is hell like?
On earth, all people are blessed to experience some sort of joy in life, from the smell of nature after a long-needed rain to the view from the Grand Canyon to things as wonderful as a new baby or laughter with friends.
But for those who remain self-seeking and self-righteous, God’s wrath remains on them, and their life on earth will be the best there ever is. Any pain and suffering we experience in this world won’t compare to the depths we face in hell.
Because Hell is a place we cannot fully grasp, Scripture uses illustrations and figurative speech to explain it. Bottom line is that Hell is a place where we are completely separated from God’s love and, therefore, anything good.
We cannot even fathom the breadth and depth of that loneliness and pain after this life. Hell is an unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43) and a place of outer darkness (Matthew 22:13).
Is hell eternal?
Yes, hell is eternal, and there is no option for a second chance after this life on earth. Scripture talks about hell being an “unquenchable fire” which means it is never satisfied.
And then in Matthew 25:41, the fire is described as “eternal” which means it has no end.
In Luke 16:26, Jesus explains there is a great chasm fixed between heaven and hell that no one can cross.
And finally, in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 Paul describes hell as “eternal” again saying, “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord.”
Where is hell?
Because of the many illustrations and metaphors on hell being a place of fire and darkness in Scripture we’re not able to say, within our physical world, where hell actually is.
It’s described as being “in the lower regions of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9). We must remember that Scripture gives us what we need to know and not everything we want to know.
Heaven or hell—how to go to Heaven
As we saw from the verse we started within Exodus – we are all guilty and our destination is hell. But the rest of the Scripture reads as follows…
…The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty… Ex 34:6–7
The Lord our God dramatically displayed his mercy and grace 2,000 years ago (in our past but in the time of Exodus it was in the future!) on a cross where the Son of God was crucified.
On the cross of Christ, our sin was either paid in full or that sin becomes an eternal debt we cannot pay. We are either declared innocent from our guilt and are at peace with God (Romans 5:1) or we remain condemned (John 3:18) and will experience God’s wrath in hell.
We either receive God’s mercy or God’s justice.
What must we do to be saved from eternal death and God’s wrath?
Scripture tells us God is not far away (Acts 17:27) and we will find him when we seek him (1 Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 29:13). We must abandon all hope in our self-righteousness (Luke 10:25-29, Romans 3:21-25) and call upon the Lord to save us (Romans 10:13).
Accept and confess that you are in rebellion against God and trust (believe) in His saving grace offered as payment for your rebellion (sin). Trust that Jesus bore your sin so you could receive mercy and forgiveness. Our only hope is being clothed in Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Scripture impores us, “…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” Ps 95:7–8.
Check out our website for more information. We always welcome new friends to worship with us. Find a location that’s close to you! You can learn more about our beliefs and visit our video library to explore more topics like this one. You can also check out our events page to find out what fun new things we’re doing this season.
Photo by Josh Sorenson