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Hell: is it a real place or a myth?

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Samuel Smith
5

LESSON 1

HELL: IS IT A REAL PLACE OR A MYTH?

You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

In this edition, we continue with our series on The Truth About Hell. In this study, I want us to consider the topic: Hell: is it a real place or a myth? One of our Bible students sent us a question that is very similar to our topic for today. His question reads as follows: "there is this common belief that there is nothing like hell or heaven. For everything we do, we receive its reward on this earth before we die. Where do we fix this in our discussion?"

Friends, I believe this question ties in very well with our topic for today. Many are those who believe that there is nothing like heaven or hell, and that death is the final end of mankind. The Bible however presents a different position from this viewpoint. The Bible portrays both heaven and hell as real places. The Scripture is clear on the fact that heaven is the place where God and His host of angels dwell (see Psalm 103:19; Mark 13:32). Heaven is the place where the patriarchs and prophets of old had looked forward to (Hebrews 11:16). It is this same place that Christ promised His disciples before leaving them to His Father (John 14:1-3). The precious promise of heaven had been the enduring hope of the saints who have fallen asleep as well as for those of us who are alive today. The apostle Peter describes our reward in heaven as "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (see 1 Peter 1:4; for a detailed study on the subject of heaven, please request for our 11 - part series of Bible study simply captioned: Heaven).

Besides heaven, the Bible also presents hell (Gehenna; a place of burning) as a real place. Sometimes, the Bible utilizes expressions such as 'hell fire', 'lake of fire', 'furnace of fire' and 'the lake which burns with fire and brimstone' to describe the condition of hell. Friends, hell is the place where the wicked of all ages will be made to finally pay the penalty for their transgression against the commandments of God. Outlined below are some Scriptural evidence about the reality of hell:

i) "4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into HELL; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke 12:4-5; Capital Emphasis Added).

ii) "... whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of HELL FIRE" (Matthew 5:22; Capital Emphasis Added).

iii) "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the LAKE WHICH BURNETH WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8; Capital Emphasis Added).

iv) "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:41-42; Capital Emphasis Added).

v) "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the LAKE OF FIRE" (Revelation 20:15; Capital Emphasis Added).

Beloved, these texts above, together with several other similar texts from the Bible make it very clear that hell is a real place. But then, the million dollar question that I believe has been on the hearts of many who contemplate the subject of hell is this: Why is there the need for such a horrible place as hell? From Matthew 25:41, we read the scriptural answer to this question: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS:" (Matthew 25:41; Capital Emphasis Added).

From the text above, we clearly learn that the purpose of God in bringing about hellfire is to basically destroy Satan and his host of evil angels. God did not design that any human being should perish in the fires of hell (see Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11). This is the reason why God in His infinite mercy sent unto us a Saviour even after our fall (see Genesis 3:15; John 3:16). However, as the text in Matthew 25:41 clearly teaches, all those who choose to give their allegiance to the devil despite God's offer of salvation for the human race will ultimately find themselves in the furnace of fire that the Lord has prepared for the devil and His angels.

Friends, even though we may go through some consequences for our sins here on earth (such as people who go to jail for murder or those who are killed by the AIDS virus as a result of their immoral behaviour), the Bible's clear teaching is that in God's executive judgement, the unrepentant will face the full penalty of their sins in the fires of hell (see Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 21:8). On this earth, some people may receive what seems to be a just punishment for their sins. Others may commit heinous crimes and get away with it. But one day, as I mentioned earlier, in God's executive judgement, justice will be allowed to take its true course as the wicked are punished for their sins in the fires of hell (see Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Revelation 20:9-10).

Beloved, from today's study we have proven from Scripture that the subject of hellfire has scriptural basis. We have also studied that even though the Bible talks about hellfire, that place is not meant for any of us (Matthew 25:41). In fact, the Bible is clear on the fact that God wants to save each one of us (see 1 Timothy 2:3-4; John 3:16-18; 2 Peter 3:9). However, the choice to accept or reject God's precious Gift of salvation is in our hands. In effect, we choose where we end up; either the bliss of eternal life with a loving God or the fiery flames of hell - where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:41-42).

Exhortation: Friends, it's great to know that hellfire was not planned for any of us. However, as we have noted earlier from Scripture, people who reject the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Philippians 2:5-8) will have to pay the full penalty of their sins in the fires of hell. The anguish that Christ felt when He cried on the cross: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46), is the anguish the sinner will feel when he is cast into hell and finally separated from the Source of Life for all eternity.

It is encouraging to learn that the Bible refers to the final punishment of the wicked in the fires of hell as the strange act of God (Isaiah 28:21). This is because the Lord, being a God of love, does not wish anyone to perish (see 1 John 4:8; Ezekiel 18:23). And so beloved, it does not matter how far you have gone into sin, the Father's arms are always opened to welcome you into His bosom (see Luke 15:1-32). You need not end up in hell; for the promise of Jesus to each one of us is this: "...the one who comes to Me I will by no means turn away" (John 6:37). Why don't you embrace Jesus today before it is too late?

In our next study, we will consider the topic: When will the wicked burn in hell? Is it right after death or sometime later in the future? The Bible Study references for this study are Ecclesiastes 3:20, Job 21:30, 2 Peter 2:9, 2 Peter 3:7, Revelation 22:12, John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 20:7-10, Luke 17:28-30, Genesis 19:24, Revelation 20:11-15 and Matthew 13:39-40. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.

Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.

Maranatha!

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