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There is controversy right now in the body of Christ. People are saying that if the Christian God is a God of love, hell can’t be a real place. We can debate the existence of anything, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. 

I want to state very plainly: hell is real. I base this on what Jesus said about it. Jesus was particular regarding hell. He spelled out the reality of the place in Luke 16:

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

“Then he cried and said, ‘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 Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

Jesus gives us two distinct pictures to show us where those that had died went: Heaven as Abraham’s bosom and hell as Hades. In this story alone, Jesus states four times that hell or Hades is a place of torment. Why? Why was hell one of Jesus most talked about topics? If there is no hell, then the greatest unspeakable, painful, tortuous gift of Christ’s death was in vain. 

If there is no hell, Christ died for nothing. Christ died, so we don’t have to go to a devil’s hell. When the church forgets about hell and focuses only on Heaven, we lose the motivation of eternal reward. “‘And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.’” (Matthew 8:11-12)

 My first sermon at eleven years old followed a friend of mine who died in a hunting accident. He was a Mormon and I didn’t know if he went to Heaven. I didn’t know if he knew Christ. I wept the whole day. I went to my other friends, our next door neighbors, Peter, Paul and Mary—no joke, this was their names—all kids my age and I sat them down, with my Bible, and for twenty-five minutes, I dangled them over the flames of hell. They all started to weep. When I thought they had cried enough, I told them they didn’t have to go there. And they wonderfully, gloriously accepted Christ. (Side note, this is not the best way to lead people to Jesus.)

In the Bible, there are five words for hell: Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, the lake of fire, outer darkness – these all represent hell. The Bible says that Sheol or Hades, in the Old Testament, is only a temporary holding place for the unsaved dead. The eternal place is the lake of fire. hell is a real place of torment. “And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:11) It is Everlasting destruction without God. Any place that is absent from God is hell and is a direct result of a severed relationship with Heaven. Paul said it like this:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 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, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)

We all were destined for hell. But God refused to have Heaven without us, so He sent Jesus to die for us. His love for us caused Him to send Jesus to redeem us from a devil’s hell. hell was not created for mankind; it was created for Satan and fallen angels. “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) It’s not where we are destined to end up.