Sometimes the negative in our lives is good for us.  The threat of academic failure and possible expulsion may help us to become better students.  The reality of losing our privilege of driving may help us to show more courtesy on the road.  The possibility of a bank’s nasty foreclosure might help us to get our finances in order.  Showing children a jail might help them to determine that they don’t want to spend time there.  Watching videos of horrible car accidents might help teenagers to become more cautious drivers.  Seeing the terrors of war has motivated some men to become missionaries.  Experiencing the negative is not often pleasant, but sometimes it may be just want is needed to bring about a positive result.  Jesus said in John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.  Jesus said in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  Then in Matthew 25:46, he said, “And these [i.e. the wicked] will go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.


As we mentioned last week, let’s begin 2008 with THE end in mind.  Last week we looked at the final judgment, but that is really only a stepping stone towards two eternal destinies which are truly the end: heaven or hell, life or condemnation, glorious light or outer darkness.  Most any preacher would love to take the teaching about eternal condemnation out of the Scriptures because it would be so much more comfortable not to disturb anyone with it.  But Jesus, the source of all truth, used the word “hell” more than anyone else in the New Testament.  We cannot be true disciples of Jesus if we ignore this subject, however unpleasant it may be.  Experiencing the negative is not often pleasant, but sometimes it may be just what is needed to bring about a positive result.  With that spirit, this lesson is presented.  Yes, sometimes the negative is good for us, so this morning let us reflect soberly on these four aspects of hell: its purposes, its descriptions, its sorrows, and its consequences.

Let’s first notice the purposes of hell.  The apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Let's take just a few moments to explain something about our adversary, our enemy, our nemesis.  Satan spoiled paradise, he destroyed Job's livestock and children, and he caused the deaths of 70,000 Jews in David's day.  The devil tried to kill Jesus at his birth, he tempted Jesus in the desert to abandon His mission, and he tried to entice Jesus while He was on the cross to leave it (Satan loves to attack people when they're down; he doesn't fight fairly).  According to Revelation, Satan brought about the deaths of thousands of Christians through Roman persecution!  And these are just the atrocities recorded in biblical history, who knows how many more lives he has taken (certainly, more than Hitler, Stalin, and Hussein combined) and how much more havoc he has caused throughout subsequent centuries since he is called a murderer and a liar (John 8:44), the destroyer (Revelation 9:11), the accuser (Revelation 12:10), and the deceiver (Revelation 20:10)!  Now most people like to think that Satan is a little impish cartoon character in a red suit who couldn't hurt a fly!  How Satan has blinded us if we believe such nonsense!  Brethren, remember we are in a cosmic war, and Satan is still our arch foe!  Reading Ephesians 6:6-10 shows us that Satan is smart, supernatural, strong, and sinister! Although he is not omnipresent nor eternal, let's never underestimate his powers to bring about destruction in this life!  He is the ultimate terminator!  Jesus says to the wicked in Matthew 25:41: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  You see, hell's first purpose is to serve as a prepared punishment for man's arch adversary and his armies!  Could a just God not do otherwise? 

Now look at Revelation 21:7-8: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.  This passage shows us that the second purpose of hell is to serve as a fulfillment for all those who chose the way of wickedness that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).  You see there are only two classes of people.  Jesus said it this way in John 3:18-19: “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.  And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  God allows us free choice—narrow or broad, light or darkness, love or hate—and there is no middle ground.  If we have not determined to be in Christ's camp, then we are surely in Satan's camp!  One modern writer puts it this way: there are those who say to God in this life, “Thy will be done,” and then there are those to whom God will one day say in the life hereafter, with a tear in His eye, “Thy will be done.  You chose darkness in your lifetimes, so now have outer darkness for your eternity” (Lewis)!  Could a holy God not do otherwise? 

Now look at 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9: Jesus will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God. and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”  Now here's hell's third purpose: God will separate and banish all that is evil from all that is good for eternity.  Just as Jesus, who felt forsaken when God separated Himself from Him while bearing the sins of the world, so those in hell will forever be separated from God and from His care.  Can you image anything more depressing and devastating than to live in an isolation ward and to be excluded forever from the source of all that is good, beautiful, and lovely?  God will never hear your prayers, never offer His blessings, and never dry your tears after that banishment.  Could a righteous God do otherwise?  So hell's three purposes are: eternal punishment of Satan and his forces, unending fulfillment for those who desire to have no God, and everlasting banishment from God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the church.

Now let's quickly look at several descriptions of hell. The word that Jesus used for hell described an area outside of Jerusalem that served as the city’s dump where fires were kept continually burning to destroy dead animals, garage, and other filth, and the stench and putrid sights would usually turn a person's stomach.  Another image to describe hell is “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30).  When God sent the ninth plague upon Egypt, it was called a darkness that could be felt (Exodus 10:21).  Such darkness would produce great fear.  Another description is a place “of weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51).  Are these sounds the results of pain, or of frustration, or of agony or from something else?  Whatever the cause, it will be horrible.  Revelation 14:11 describes it as a place of unending torment.  If the torment from Nazi or Japanese concentration camps causes us to wince, just imagine what the excruciation of divinely prepared torment will be like!  2 Thessalonians 1:9 called it a place of destruction.  Nothing constructive will be found in hell; it will be one tragedy and disaster after another.  And lastly, the most used description in the New Testament is fire.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into a furnace of fire.  There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42).”  Since most of us have probably seen lava flowing from a volcano on TV, it is easy to envision a lake of fire.  Revelation 20:15 states: “And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.  So the composite picture of hell is that: of a dump, of darkness, of crying, of torment, of destruction, and of fire.  Now multiply that description with the truth that the whole thing will last forever, and ever, and ever, and ever!  No, hell will not be a wild party; it will only be eternal pity.  Friends, we don't want to go there!

Now let's quickly think about the sorrows in hell.  God is love (1 John 4:8).”  So, there will be no love there.  Every good gift is from God” (James 1:17).  So, there will be no goodness there.  The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy” (Romans 14:17).  So, there will be no righteousness, peace, and joy there.  Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  So, there will be no help for one another there (everyone will be suffering their own anguish alone).  The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night ...” (Revelation 14:11).  There is no rest or relief there (no medications or ways to dull the pain).  God is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).  So, there will be nothing holy there.  Christ is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).  So, there will be no hope there.  Are you getting the picture?  Hell is the opposite of all of God's blessings—it is a place of hatred, wickedness, unrighteousness, strife, sadness, loneliness, restlessness, unholiness, and hopelessness.  Friends, we don't want to go there!

Now what are some of the consequences in hell?  First of all, it is a place of utter indifference.  How can we know that?  Well, that's exactly how the wicked who are there lived in this life.  They really didn't care about anything (except maybe themselves), and that same lifestyle will continue there.  He who is unjust, let him be unjust still and he who is filthy, let him be filthy still” (Revelation 22:11).  Secondly, it will be a place of regret.  There is no next time or second chance in hell.  Many people there will be thinking, “How could I have been so stubborn?  I knew the Gospel and that I needed to become a Christian, but I couldn't give up my fun and bring myself to make Jesus the Lord of my life!  I blew it, and now I'll never have another chance.”  What frustration and self-remorse!  The same question will be asked over and over, “Why didn't I change when I had the chance?  Why didn’t I change when I had the chance?”  Thirdly, if the purposes, descriptions, and sorrows are anything close to accurate, hell will be a place of great pain.  Again, we look at the opposite.  Heaven is described in this way: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).”  So applying this verse negatively, hell will a place where God will never wipe away any tears, and there will be eternal sorrow, crying without end, and unceasing pain.  The physical pains in our lives will be nothing in comparison to the emotional and spiritual pains in hell!  Lastly, it will be an eternity filled with utter evil.  Filth, profanity, vileness, and vulgarity will never stop!  Hell is an eternal existence of indifference, regret, pain, and evil.  Friends, we don't want to go there!

A Texas rancher once had a younger son who was his pride and joy.  Tragically, in the midst of a summer harvest, without warning, the boy lost his mind.  With unfailing love, his parents tended to him like a baby trying to nurse him back to sanity.  Nonetheless, his poor, unbalanced mind conceived that his mother hated him, and all the family was plotting to murder him.  After his mother had worn herself out with months of care, the pitiful demented lad pulled a knife and would have stabbed her to death had he not have been restrained.  The family physician pressed them on their inescapable duty: “You cannot give the boy back his mind, and you cannot risks your own lives.  The only place for him is a padded cell in an insane asylum where trained people can assist him.”  They saw the wisdom of their doctor’s advice.  With broken hearts, they made arrangements for him to be carried to the asylum by the local sheriff (Rice in Hutson).  God is like those broken-hearted parents.  To do right and to be just, He must provide for the safety of His own.  Merciless demons, evil villains, and impenitent sinners must be isolated in the madhouse of hell.  A loving God gave His Son to keep people from perishing in this awful place of doom.  God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish [in hell] but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)!   To those who determine not to accept God’s salvation, the scriptures plainly teach that their destiny will be eternal isolation.  Salvation or isolation, life or condemnation, glorious light or outer darkness!  Friends, we don’t want to go there!  May this negative truth prompt you to respond in a positive way.  Flee from the terrors of hell by falling into the extended arms of a loving Savior right now!

                                                                                                        Last updated on 3.8.08