Segment Two Part One – History
Jewish history tells us that they believed that hell existed. Two of their religious groups, the Pharisees and the Essenes both believed in hell. The Essenes were the writers of the Dead Sea scrolls. Both groups believed strongly in the existence in a place of punishment for those who disobeyed God. They both had a name for this place.
The word most often translated “hell” in the NT is Gehenna, the Greek equivalent for “the valley of Hinnom”. This valley has an odious and repugnant Jewish history. God’s prophets wrote and reminded the Jewish people that what was done there was contrary and abhorrent to what God had taught them. This valley was a reminder of God’s punishment and displeasure with the disobedience of the Jewish people. Gehenna was a place of shame and ungodly practices and a reminder of God’s displeasure for those who disobeyed him.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote what God gave him to tell the Jewish people. He said: “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence;” (Jeremiah 32:35-36) God judged the Jewish people and they suffered in the Babylonian captivity for their disobedience. Gehenna or Hell was not a place that anyone in their right mind would choose to go to.
Segment Two Part Two – History
We see more on what scripture teaches about hell in the New Testament. The most graphic portrayal of hell is found in Revelation 14:9-11. In these verses John tells us this: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he [the sinner] 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 ascends up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name.”
In the above, the words “If any man” refers to any human being (man, woman, or child) that is an unbeliever will suffer this punishment for their unbelief. This was what Jesus taught. His words in Matthew 5:22 reinforce this teaching: “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” In this teaching, Jesus did not mince words. Don’t disobey God’s word or you will suffer “hell fire.” If hell does not exist, why would Jesus teach it?
Again, Jesus taught: “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.” (Matthew 10:28) Only God is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Again in Matthew, Jesus said this: “And if thine eye offends 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.” (Matthew 18:9) If you read God’s Word and still yet do not believe, you will be seeing hell with both eyes wide open. How foolish is that?
Segment Two Part Three – History
In Luke, Jesus tells his listeners a parable that gives us much insight on hell. (Luke 16:16-26) As the story goes, both the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar, die. The rich man goes to torment in hell. Lazarus goes to heaven. The rich man sees Abraham (afar off) and cries out to him: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But the rich man is asking for something impossible. “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.”
We see several things here: 1) Hell is hot 2) No relief from torment 3) once there, you cannot leave 4) No one outside of hell can come to you 5) Punishment there is forever. Jesus even warned his disciples that committing sins would lead to Gehenna. (Matt. 5:29-30; 23:33; Mark 9:45; Luke 12:5) In the N.T. Gehenna designates the place or state of the final punishment of the wicked. It is variously described as a fiery furnace (Matt. 13:42, 50), an unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), or an eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Gehenna or hell is not a place you want to be for eternity!
Segment Two Part Four – History
The word “hell” occurs 54 times in the Bible. In the N.T. it appears 23 times. Jesus teaches about it 9 times in Matthew, 3 times in Mark, and 3 times in Luke. Jesus considered this subject important as it was the final destination of all who reject God’s Word. In Revelation, John uses it 4 times and always in a negative and undesirable way. Many times it is connected with the idea of punishment and judgment. A sinner who is judged and sent to hell for punishment can never be free of that sentence!
The Apostle Peter tells us that even the angelic beings who sin are also judged and sent to hell. (2 Peter 2:4) Sinful man is not the only one who will spend eternity in hell. Anyone who disobeys God’s Word and does not ask for forgiveness will spend eternity in hell. Our physical time on this earth is temporary and is the only opportunity that a human being will have to seek God’s forgiveness. Once death occurs, your choice is final. John tells us in Revelation who holds the keys to hell and death. Jesus tells John to write this “I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18) Jesus is the only one who can change your final eternal destination from hell to heaven. It is not hard to ask forgiveness and spend eternity in heaven with Jesus.
Our physical time on this earth is temporary and is the only opportunity that a human being will have to seek God’s forgiveness. I have repeated this statement again because it is so vitally important. If you do not for forgiveness from your sins, you will by default go to hell. Think about this saying among believers: “born once, die twice. Born twice, die once.” It is a simple concept. Ask for forgiveness for your sins, and be reborn, that is being born again spiritually. Do that and you will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. If you do not do that, you will die twice. Once physically and once again spiritually for this is the second death. John wrote this in Revelation: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14) Even death and hell do not escape God’s final judgment, nor will any sinful human being that refuses God’s forgiveness. You are still alive. You can still make a choice. Once death comes, no more choice!