Many passages of scripture speak of God’s deep love for mankind. In what is perhaps the greatest verse, Jesus states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Also, we find Paul writing, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And John adds, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). All these passages point to the great love God has for His creation (mankind).
The act of love on God’s part in sacrificing His Son, is the basis of the gospel. It is His plan for man’s redemption from sin. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
It is by this gospel (and no other) message that calls us to salvation. “…because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14). The gospel message holds the key to our salvation. Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16 ).
God gave His Son as a sacrifice for the guilt of our sins. His act of love calls for a loving response from each of us. The most effective way one can demonstrate their love for God, is by obeying the gospel. This is done by dying to your life of sin as you are buried with Christ in baptism and raised up from that watery grave reborn, forgiven, saved in Christ (Rom. 6:3-5).
God has abundantly demonstrated His love for us through the gospel message. The question is, “How are you responding to His love?” Perhaps, at this point, it might be wise to read Paul’s description of the final day of judgment: “…when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
“And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me’” (Genesis 4:13-14).
All who live in this world will have to deal with sorrow.
It is inevitable. In an environment where sin is a reality, the temporal consequences of sin are unavoidable — and since sorrow is one of those consequences, we shall have to deal with it sooner or later. The only question is how we shall do so. It’s important to keep our sorrow from turning into what is called “the sorrow of the world” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This is the sorrow that wallows selfishly in its own misery. It does not confront sin in a godly way.
Two things are needed to keep our sorrow from turning into
self-pity: reverence and gratitude. When we are passing through
any bitterness of spirit, we must maintain a humble respect for the greatness
of God as our Creator, and we must not cease to thank Him for all that is
right, despite whatever has gone wrong. Even when the sun is shining, we find
it challenging to be as reverent and as grateful as we ought to be. However,
when the darkness closes in, keeping our thinking clear about God can seem so
difficult that we despair. We give in to the “the sorrow of the world.”
Sorrow brings about failure
Failures of reverence and gratitude should be seen as failures of perspective. When pain focuses our attention on some small part of reality, we tend to lose touch with the larger truths. This is no trivial thing, however. If we refuse to acknowledge the whole truth about God, that refusal can cost us our souls (Romans 1:18-21). God is greater than our woes, and whatever the immediate cause for our sorrow, we simply can’t afford to forget the clear tokens of God’s greatness and goodness in the wider world.
Edmund Spenser wrote of the miserable fellow who finds himself
“dying each day with inward wounds of Dolour’s dart.” The sorrow of the world
is deadly because it indulges in self-justification. It fuels resentment and
resistance to God. Like Cain, the self-pitying soul feels no genuine remorse
for evil. He merely whines, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!”
The question is sometime asked, “Does hell exist?” When answered in the positive, there is usually a follow up question the impugns the character of God.
“If God is a kind, loving, and merciful god, how is it possible that He could possibly allow man to suffer eternal condemnation in hell? How could He allow man to be separated from Him for eternity?” The best way to answer the question is by doing a word search on the word “hell” and other related words. Then we can draw conclusions based on the sum of these verses. Of course, each verse must be interpreted consistently in its context. Therefore, the goal of this article will be to collect and study some of the more conclusive and relevant passages regarding hell. Specifically we are going to look at the ones which relate to the question of hell’s existence and duration.
What Is “Hell”?
Most people are familiar with the idea of hell being a place of eternal punishment, reserved for the wicked. However, it is essential that we turn to the Bible to refine this idea, because the Bible truth is the ultimate reality.
Jesus spoke of the danger of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:43-48), which condemnation is depicted in the symbolic account of Judgment Day:
“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).
One of the many points gleaned from these passages is that hell, vividly illustrated as a “lake of fire”, is an undesirable, tortuous place to spend eternity. A second observation is that the basis for this judgment was how they lived their lives – “his works”. However, this passage does not speak of the duration of this punishment. Is it possible that this judgment is temporary? Is the condemnation eternal?
The Duration of Hell
Once again, we should turn to the pages of God’s message for us to learn the answers to our questions.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 46).
“…in flaming fire,dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Also, the account in Revelation speaks of the “lake of fire and brimstone” as being a place of eternal torment (Revelation 20:10). Although some of these verses speak of the fire being eternal or everlasting, other verses, such as Matthew 25:46, clearly speak of the punishment itself being eternal. Therefore, it seems that if condemned to hell, one’s judgment would be forever. A natural question would be to wonder if a kind and loving God could sentence any man to eternity in hell. Would God actually do this? Would He issue an eternal condemnation to hell and everlasting separation from Him?
The Possibility of Eternity in Hell
Although it seems clear that God has constructed a place of eternal torment and punishment, the question may yet arise, “Is it possible that God would actually condemn someone to hell?” The answer is provided in the verses that we have already observed. Jesus warned of the danger of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:43-48). One necessary inference is; there must be a real possibility each of us could be condemned to hell, else there is no real danger. Would God make empty threats? Would a divine and loving Father warn of things that pose no danger? Clearly, No! The danger is real, unless we are willing to second-guess everything that Jesus said, including the promise of heaven (John 14:2-3).
Sadly, not only does the Bible outline the possibility of condemnation in hell, but it further states that the majority of people will end up there!
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Once we reach the unseen realm of the dead, there is no way to “cross sides”. In fact, the Bible symbolically speaks of a “great gulf” that separates the two realms of the dead (Luke 16:19-31). After we die, the next fate-determining event is judgment day (Hebrews 9:27). And as we have previously seen, that judgment is final and the majority of people will find themselves condemned.
Yet someone may ask, “But, how can God let this happen? How can He be a kind and loving god and let any member of His creation spend eternity in hell?”
A Kind and Loving God
It is not God’s wish for anyone of his creation to be lost because of their sins: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Elsewhere, we are told that the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering is leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4) . Therefore, God is kind, loving, and does not want anyone to be perish. Consequently, He is diligently seeking the repentance of all of mankind over all time. Sadly, as we have already seen (Matthew 7:13-14), many have and will reject His gracious opportunity to repent and be forgiven.
“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
Despite our desires and the will of society that such a judgment scene not occur, we cannot change it. And we should we ignore that a “separation” will occur upon that day (Matthew 25:31-46). This division of all people will be based upon our actions (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, the Lord will bless many with eternal life in heaven with God. But He will also reward many more with eternity in hell (Matthew 25:31-46).
As a kind and loving God, He has desperately tried to help mankind repent. But as a just God, He cannot allow willfully, disobedient, and unrepentant people to populate His holy abode. Eventually, His mercy reaches a limit, until there is no longer a remedy – by man’s choice.
The idea of hell is a powerful motivating force that encourages us to obey God. It is not the most noble motivation. However, it reaches the most selfish heart and makes it receptive to the high and transcendent motivations of love and gratitude. We should never deceive ourselves into believing the common notion that we are in no danger of “hell fire”. As we have seen, hell is a real danger and an eternal punishment that awaits the disobedient. Sadly, many people will find themselves there. Dear reader, please do not let this fate befall you. Continue your quest for truth and learn God’s will for you, so that you may be saved from hell.
For further study: Please read more passages regarding the danger and duration of hell:
Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”
Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?
When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included). But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?
Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him
with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two
lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than
that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be
the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them?
It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must
be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is
inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot
happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is
seen shortly down the road.
Marriage Vows Combine Two as One
Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).
What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).
Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.
Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God
Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).