Bible Study - What Is Hell?
These are my raw notes from a bible study I gave on Hell in April. The students we teach asked for my notes, so I figured the blog would the best place to highlight them. Please note that these are my written notes and were not created with the idea that I would post them on a blog, so some of the formatting might be odd. You will also see random notes for myself in these, reminding me to cover ideas or thoughts I had.
What is Hell - Luke 16:19-31
Want to talk about Heaven and Hell, in order to make sure we have a clear understanding of what we are to tell people about Jesus and the reality of Hell.
Couple of things to note:
- I want to encourage you to listen to, and study from, as many pastors as possible. We have a tendency to focus on our favorite pastor, which isn’t a bad thing, but if they depart from scripture, how are we to know. (example - Rob Bell, Love Wins)
- As pastors, leaders of ministry, we carry a large responsibility. The Bible says that not many should presume to be teachers and preachers because we are judged more harshly or strictly. The Bible also says, that the leaders of the church serve in such a way that we have to give an account, so we will give an account for ourselves and those we led.
Common Thoughts on Hell
- Naturalists - The naturalists will tell us that you do not have a soul. That when you die, you cease to exist. There is no existence of any kind beyond death.
- Universalists - Teach that, in the end, everyone or almost everyone goes to heaven, that hell will be empty or sparsely populated. Some will say that all religions lead to God and all paths end in salvation. That’s not true. Jesus died because he said differently. “Christian” - it’s actually a deceptive, false version of this that comes under the guise of Christianity, that says there is an opportunity for postmortem salvation, that after you die, you can meet Jesus and eventually everyone will be saved because, when we die, we’ll meet Jesus and our hearts will eventually change.
- Reincarnationists - Believe that we have multiple lives, that you will die and return, and die and return, and die and return, and that you have to pay off your karmic debt to the god or gods or universe.
Now, I want to break up those three from the next three. These next two fall under “Christianity” but are not true. But people who love Jesus and will be with us in heaven do believe them. And so I want to distinguish them.
- Annihilationism - Which is that when people don’t know Jesus and they die, they simply cease to exist, or they suffer for a while in hell, and then eventually they cease to exist.
- Purgatory - Which is nowhere to be found in the Bible because it’s not true, but they will teach that people can die and then suffer for a while as part of the finishing of their work of salvation so that, ultimately, they might be in heaven.
- What does the bible say? Ultimately is up to us to look at scripture, and look and what Jesus had to say about Hell, and from that we can get to the truth of what happens when you die. Jesus talks about hell about 13 percent of the time in his teachings and roughly half of his parables are in reference to punishment, hell, and judgment.
- So we are two parts, a physical body and a spiritual soul.
- Death is the result of sin and our physical body upon death ceases to function, goes into the ground, and is buried. But our spiritual soul continues to live beyond death.
- For the believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord in spirit. And so, because we are all sinners, we all die.
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
- There is a wealthy man, who has everything he could want. The Bible also tells us that he wore purple clothing, which is the most expensive of dye in that day. And this gives us an idea of just how much money he had.
- There are some very small snails that have a very small shell. And the way you get purple is you have to take a large number of those snail shells, you have to crush them up and turn them into dye. It’s a very lengthy, complicated, difficult process. So purple was the color of royalty.
- Lazarus, positioned himself outside of the gate of this rich man. He probably asked for food. Here is a crippled man, and he has sores that the dogs lick.
- The poor man dies, he was probably tossed into a common grave, with no markings. A sign of a poor man. His crippled, physical body is now dead. An illustration of 2 Cor 5:8, his broken body is now in the ground, but his spirit is in a place of blessing.
- The rich man also dies. He probably had a grand funeral, with many in attendance. The religious leaders at the time, which we can find early in Luke, would have (wrongly) seen this man as being blessed by God. And would have considered his soul loved by God. But he died and went to Hell.
- And he says that he is in anguish. He says that he is in torment. He says that it is like being trapped in a burning building forever and that he is experiencing conscious, eternal torment by flame.
- This is the fate of every man and woman who has or will ever live: Death, and heaven for blessing, or hell for suffering. Those are the options.
- What do we see in verse 24?
- He wants a gift. He begs for a moment, a drop of relief.
- The chasm separates them. Those who are in heaven cannot even visit hell. Those who are in hell cannot visit heaven. Your eternal destiny and fate is sealed upon your death.
The Wrath of God
Now, I want to take a quick min to talk about the Wrath of God. Because, we need to be aware of our responsibility as ministers of the Gospel to tell the true to those that seek it.
Hell is the wrath of God in effect.
Some of us foolishly will posit God’s attributes against one another. The Bible speaks of many of God’s attributes and he holds them all perfectly and consistently.
What we like to do is find an attribute of God and elevate it above all other attributes of God. When it comes to the issue of hell, some will take love and make it not an attribute of God, but the attribute of God.
And the Bible does say that God is love, but friends, love is not God. God is love, and whatever God does is loving. God is also just. God is also holy. Our God is also simultaneously, perfectly, a God of wrath.
Not just our God, but the only God. The Bible does speak of the love of God, but the most frequently quoted, mentioned, referred to attribute of God in the whole Bible is not the love of God, it is the holiness of God.
Furthermore, the wrath of God is mentioned in the Bible more than six hundred times. God is holy. If we do not repent, we are in the path of his wrath. And in love he sent Jesus as our substitute to go to the cross in our place, for our sins, to taste our death, and give us eternal life, which means if you do not trust in Jesus, if you do not come to Jesus, if you do not believe in and belong to Jesus, you are in the path of the wrath of God that ultimately culminates in the conscious, eternal torment of hell. Jesus here shows us it is conscious. This man is aware of it. It is eternal. There is no ending. It is torment. He uses the language of torment, anguish, and flame.
A few common questions about Hell
- “What is hell? What is hell like?”
- Jesus, who speaks of hell more than anyone in the Bible, he uses as an illustration a place called Gehenna. He does this repeatedly in the Bible. Gehenna was a place outside of the city where children were murdered, child sacrifice to false demon gods. False gods were worshiped there. It became a deplorable, despicable, damnable place to the people of God. Subsequently, they chose that place to be their dump, so garbage and refuse and feces and dead bodies would be thrown into that dump outside of the city in this damnable, cursed place. As a result, it was a place where the worms were always feasting and the flame was always burning.
- And Jesus says that hell is like Gehenna. He goes back to Isaiah 66, and on more than one occasion he quotes it. Some will tell you the Bible doesn’t talk about hell in the Old Testament. It does. It talks a lot about the wrath of God and consequence of sin. And it speaks particularly about hell in Daniel 12:2 and in the closing lines of Isaiah 66. And Jesus, being a truth-telling Bible teacher, he picks up Isaiah 66 and he repeatedly quotes it, saying of hell, in Mark 9:47–8, “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” In hell, people suffer forever. In hell, the flame burns forever. It is a damnable, wretched, cursed place.
- Is it possible that people can deny God for their whole earthly lives, and have a second chance after death?
- No. What was between Laz and the rich man? A chasm.
- Hebrews 9:27 - Just as everyone must die once and then be judged.
The Good News
Acts 4:12 - There is Salvation The message of Jesus can be sent out by missionaries, technology, publishing, the Internet, church planting, an angel can show up, God can show up. I don’t know who has heard. I don’t know who hasn’t heard. Here’s what I’m worried about! Are we telling them?