I saw a sign outside a church in Atlanta. On the sign was the name of the church, the name of the minister and, under that, the title of the sermon. The title of the sermon was "Do You Know What Hell Is?" Under that title, in capital letters, it read, "Come hear our organist Sunday morning." Now, I'm sure that is not what anyone meant to say. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Archimedes, one of the greatest of the ancient Greek mathematicians and scientists, was working on a math problem when his native city of Syracuse was conquered by the Roman general Marcellus in 212 B.C. The scientist ignored the final assault and continued working on his math while the enemy entered the gates of the city. As the Roman soldiers came down the street where Archimedes was, he continued to work the problem in the sand and offered no resistance, even as one of them ran him through with a sword and killed him.
Many unbelievers are somewhat like Archimedes, oblivious to what is really happening around them until it is too late to do anything about it. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
W. C. Fields, following the 1933
earthquake that stuck
The same attitude is often displayed by non-Christians, who seem to think that hell will be more tolerable because there will be a crowd down there. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
”The watchman who keeps silent when he sees a fire is guilty of gross neglect. The doctor who tells us we are getting well when we are dying is a false friend, and the minister who keeps back hell from his people in his sermons is neither a faithful nor a charitable man.”— J. C. Ryle
The Russian novelist Dostoevski once declared: “I ponder, ‘What is hell…’ I maintain it is the suffering of being unable to love.” ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Margaret Evening (pseud.) relates the following in her book 《Who Walk Alone》:
Many years ago I had a dream. It was one of the few coherent dreams that I have ever had, but it was so vivid that even now I can remember the details of it clearly.
In the dream, I visited Hell, where the sub-Warden showed me round. To my surprise, I was led along a labyrinth of dark, dank passages from which there were numerous doors leading into cells. It was not like Hell as I had pictured it at all, In fact, it was all rather religious and “churchy”! Each cell was identical. The central piece of furniture was an altar, and before each altar knelt (or, in some cases, were prostrated) greeny-grey spectral figures in attitudes of prayer and adoration. “But whom are they worshipping?” I asked my guide. “Themselves,” came the reply immediately. “This is ‘pure’ self-worship. They are feeding on themselves and their own spiritual vitality in kind of auto-spiritual-cannibalism. That is why they are so sickly looking and emaciated.”
I was appalled and saddened by the row upon row of cells with their non-communicating inmates, spending eternity in solitary confinement, themselves the first, last and only object of worship.
The dream continued…but the point germane to our discussion here has been made. According to the teaching of the New Testament, “Heaven is community”. My dream reminded me that “Hell is isolation.” ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Hell is truth seen too late.— Thomas Hobbes
An impressive modern statement of the principle of divine retribution is provided by C. S. Lewis in 《The Problem of Pain》: “The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.”
In 《The Great Divorce》: C. S. Lewis says hell is made up of people who live at an infinite distance from each other. Surely this is a graphic picture of the result of the loss of God in our life. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Reality of Hell
Walter Hooper, who was C. S. Lewis’s personal secretary, laughed when he read the following grave inscription:
Here lies an atheist,
All dressed up with no place to go.
Lewis, however, did not completely share in his laughter. He responded soberly, “I’m sure he wishes now that were true.” Hell is sobering reality for those who don’t believe. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
The idea of hell and judgment are nowhere to be found [in Betty Eadie's bestseller, Embraced By The Light, on the N.Y. Times bestseller list for more than 40 weeks, including 5 weeks as #1]. In November 1973 Eadie allegedly died after undergoing a hysterectomy, and returned five hours later with the secrets of heaven revealed by Jesus]. Eadie says that Jesus "never wanted to do or say anything that would offend me" while she visited heaven. Indeed, Jesus seems to be relegated to the role of a happy tour guide in heaven, not the Savior of the world who died on the cross.
Richard Abanes, in Christianity Today, March 7, 1994, p. 53.
We are told in the parable of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46) that those whom the judge rejects go away into Kolasis (punishment) aionios (a final state). The phrase is balanced by the reference to zoe aionios (eternal life) which is also a fixed and final state. Even if this word aionios is believed to mean only "belonging to the coming aion", and not to imply endlessness in the sense of perpetual continuity, the thought of endlessness is certainly bound up in the phrase "eternal life," and can hardly therefore be excluded from the corresponding and balancing phrase "eternal punishment." The idea that in this text aionios as applied to kolasis must imply everlastingness seems to be unbreakable.
The New testament always conceives of this eternal punishment as consisting of an agonizing knowledge of one's own ill desert, of God's displeasure, of the good that one has lost, and of the irrevocable fixed state in which one now finds oneself. The doctrine of eternal punishment was taught in the synagogue even before our Lord took it up and enforced it in the Gospels. All the language that strikes terror into our hearts -- weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, the worm, the fire, gehenna, the great gulf fixed -- is all directly taken from our Lord's teaching. It is from Jesus Christ that we learn the doctrine of eternal punishment.
Study the following Bible passages and any other relevant ones on this topic, and reach your own conclusions, prayerfully: Luke 16:26; John 3:18-19, 36; 5:29; 12:32; Acts 3:21,23; Rom. 1:16, 5:18-21; 1 Cor. 15:25-28; 2 Cor. 5:10, 19; 6:2; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:25; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; Heb. 2:9; 9:27; 1 Pet. 3:19; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 John 1:5; 2:2; 4:8.
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.
Why do men shy away from the thought of God as a judge? Why do they feel unworthy of him? The truth is that part of God's moral perfection is his perfection in judgment. Would a God who did not care about the difference between right and wrong be a good and admirable being? Would a God who put no distinction between the beasts of history, the Hitlers and Stalins (if we dare use names), and his own saints be morally praiseworthy and perfect? Moral indifference would be an imperfection in God, not a perfection. And not to judge the world would be to show moral indifference. The final proof that God is a perfect moral being, not indifferent to questions of right and wrong, is the fact that he has committed himself to judge the world.
It is clear that the reality of divine judgment must have a direct effect on our view of life. If we know that retributive judgment faces us at the end of the road, we shall not live as otherwise we would. But it must be emphasized that the doctrine of divine judgment, and particularly of the final judgment, is not to be thought of primarily as a bogeyman, with which to frighten men into an outward form of conventional righteousness. It has its frightening implications for godless men, it is true; but its main thrust is as a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life.
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.
On one occasion Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, the agnostic lecturer of the last century, was announced to give an address on hell. He declared he would prove conclusively that hell was a wild dream of some scheming theologians who invented it to terrify credulous people. As he was launching into his subject, a half-drunken man arose in the audience and exclaimed, "Make it strong, Bob. There's a lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong, we are all lost. So be sure you prove it clear and plain."
No amount of reasoning can nullify God's sure Word. He has spoken as plainly of a hell for the finally impenitent as of a heaven for those who are saved.
H. A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, Moody Press, 1945, p. 40.
A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men are beginning to tell us "that God is too merciful to punish souls for ever...that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly...will sooner or later be saved." We are to embrace what is called "kinder theology," and treat hell as a pagan fable...This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God, His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of hell... If words mean anything, there is such a place as hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, there are those who will be cast into it...
The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners, does also teach that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin or refuse the salvation He has provided. God knows that I never speak of hell without pain and sorrow. I would gladly offer the salvation of the Gospel to the very chief of sinners. I would willingly say to the vilest and most profligate of mankind on his deathbed, "Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be save." But God\ forbid that I should ever keep back from mortal man that scripture reveals a hell as well as heaven...that men may be lost as well as saved.
Anglican Bishop J.D. Ryle, about 100 years ago, quoted in The Berean Call, April, 1993.
Many things we don't know about hell. But Jesus and the New Testament writers used every image in their power to tell us that hell is real, it's terrible, it's something to be feared, and something to avoid. In his description of the last judgment, Jesus taught that some would go to eternal punishment, some to eternal life (Matt. 25:46). In other words, hell will be as real and as lasting as heaven.
The horror of hell is not physical pain. After all, the Bible tells us hell was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41), and they're not physical beings. Rather the fire and outer darkness and the thirst depict spiritual separation from God, moral remorse, the consciousness that one deserves what he's getting.
Hell is disintegration -- the eternal loss of being a real person. In hell the mathematician who lived for his science can't add two and two. The concert pianist who worshiped himself through his art can't play a simple scale. The man who lived for sex goes on in eternal lust, with no body to exploit. The woman who made a god out of fashion has a thousand dresses but no mirror! Hell is eternal desire -- eternally unfulfilled.
But there's another side. G.K. Chesterton once remarked, "Hell is God's great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human personality." Hell, a compliment? Yes, because God is saying to us, "You are significant. I take you seriously. Choose to reject me -- choose hell if you will. I will let you go."
Lieghton Ford, Good News is for Sharing, 1977, David C. Cook Publishing Co., p. 34.
The most dreadful torment of the lost, in fact that which constitutes their state of torment, will be this coming to themselves, when too late for repentance.
H. Alford, The New Testament for English Readers, Moody, p. 395.
One day, when Vice President Calvin Coolidge was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go "straight to hell". The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Cal looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate. "I've been looking through the rule book," he said. "you don't have to go."
Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 16.
A new believer was on a plane with an intellectual (a man educated beyond his intelligence). He sneered at her reading the Bible. Asked if she believed it? "Yes." "Jonah and the whale story?" "Yes." "How did it happen?" "Don't know, but I'll find out when I get to heaven." "What if Jonah isn't there?" "Then I guess you'll have to ask him for me."
Before British actor Robert Morley died two weeks ago, he asked that his credit cards be buried with him. Since his funeral, the London Times' letters pages have been filled with the thoughts of readers pondering their perpetual needs. Wrote M.L. Evans of Chester: "In the unfortunate event of the miscarriage of justice and several thousand years ensuing before my sentence is quashed, I will take a fire extinguisher."
Ms. Tanner of Woodbridge specified a good map. "I have immense trouble finding my way in this life," she said, "so am extremely worried about the next."
A pair of earplugs would accompany Sir David Wilcocks of Cambridge "in case the heavenly choirs, singing everlastingly, are not in tune."
Maurice Godbold of Hindhead would take a crowbar, "in case the affair proved premature." Even in the hereafter, there will always be an England.
U.S. News & World Report, June 22, 1992 p. 26.
R.W. Dale, in his day Britain's leading Congregationalist minister, did not believe in eternal punishment. Yet, before he died, Dale sighed and said, "No one fears God nowadays."
W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 188.
"Those who choose evil shall have their choice. Men who hate divine mercy shall not have it forced upon them, but (unless sovereign grace interpose) shall be left to themselves to aggravate their guilt and ensure their doom.
"They have loved darkness rather than light, and in darkness they shall abide. Eyes which see no beauty in the Lord Jesus, but flash wrath upon Him, may well grow yet more dim, till death which is spiritual leads to death which is eternal.
"What can be too severe a penalty for those who reject the incarnate God, and refuse to obey the commands of His mercy? They deserve to be flooded with wrath, and they shall be; for upon all who rebel against the Savior, 'wrath has come upon them to the uttermost' (I Thessalonians 2:16).
"God's indignation is no trifle. The anger of a holy, just, omnipotent, and infinite Being, is above all things to be dreaded; even a drop of it consumes, but to have it poured upon us is inconceivably dreadful."
Many accidental deaths result from taking risks. That's the conclusion of an organization in Canada that is seeking to decrease accidents between cars and trains. Roger Cyr, national director of Operation Lifesaver, puts most of the blame for fatalities on drivers who are risk-takers. "Studies have shown that when people hear a train whistle their minds tell them to accelerate their speed," says Cyr. About 43 percent of the accidents occur at crossings equipped with flashing lights and bells or gates. Cyr also said that many drivers "even have the audacity to drive around or under gates." They take the risk, thinking they can beat the train and somehow miss the collision--but with tragic consequences!
Daily Bread, April 6, 1991.
"Fire is evidently the only word in human language which can suggest the anguish of perdition. It is the only word in the parable of the wheat and the tares which our Lord did not interpret (Matt. 13:36-43)...The only reasonable explanation is that fire is not a symbol. It perfectly describes the reality of the eternal burnings.
As we paid nothing for God's eternal love and nothing for the Son of His love, and nothing for His Spirit and our grace and faith, and nothing for our eternal rest...What an astonishing thought it will be to think of the unmeasurable difference between our deservings and our receivings. O, how free was all this love, and how free is this enjoyed glory...So then let "Deserved" be written on the floor of hell but on the door of heaven and life,
"The Free Gift", Richard Baxter.
Non-Christians often ask the Christian, "But how can the God of love allow any of his creatures to suffer unending misery?" the question is, how can he not? The fact that God is love makes hell necessary. "Hell," as E.L. Mascall once said, "is not compatible with God's love; it is a direct consequence of it."
That was his way of stressing the fact that the very God who loves us is the one who respects our decisions. He loves us, but he does not force his love on us. To force love is to commit assault. He allows us to decide. He loves us, he encourages our response, he woos us, he pursues us, he urges us, but he does not force us, because he respects us.
Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 219.
If you in any way abate the doctrine of hell, it will abate your zeal.
I am the way into the city of woe.
I am the way to a forsaken people.
I am the way to eternal sorrow.
Sacred justice moved my architect.
I was raised here by divine omnipotence,
Primordial love and ultimate intelligence.
Only those elements time cannot wear
Were made before me, and beyond time I stand.
Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
The gate of hell, from The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.
The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.
What hell is, we know not; only this we know, that there is such a sure and certain place.
67% of American adults believe in a hell. But less than 25% believe they will go there, while 25% believe their friends will be there.
USA Today poll, December 1986.
You need not tell me there is no hell, for I already feel my soul slipping into its fires! Wretches, cease your idle talk about there being hope for me! I know I am lost forever."
Sir Francis Newport, head of an English infidel club, on his deathbed.
In the 18th century, Archibald Boyle was the leading member of an association of wild and wicked men known as "The Hell Club" in Glasgow, Scotland. After one night of carousing at the Club's notorious annual meeting, Boyle dreamed he was riding home on his black horse. In the darkness, someone seized the reins, shouting, "You must go with me!" As Boyle desperately tried to force the reins from the hands of the unknown guide, the horse reared. Boyle fell down, down, down with increasing speed. "Where are you taking me?" The cold voice replied, "To hell!" The echoes of the groans and yells of frantic revelry assaulted their ears. At the entrance to hell, Boyle saw the inmates chasing the same pleasures they had pursued in life. There was a lady he'd known playing her favorite vulgar game. Boyle relaxed, thinking hell must be a pleasurable place after all. When he asked her to rest a moment and show him through the pleasures of hell, she shrieked. "There is no rest in hell!" She unclasped the vest of her robe and displayed a coil of living snakes writhing about her midsection. Others revealed different forms of pain in their hearts. "Take me from this place!" Boyle demanded. "By the living God whose name I have so often outraged, I beg you, let me go!" His guide replied, "Go then--but in a year and a day we meet to part no more." At this, Boyle awoke, feeling that these last words were as letters of fire burned into his heart.
Despite a resolution never to attend the Hell Club again, he soon was drawn back. He found no comfort there. He grew haggard and gray under the weight of his conscience and fear of the future. He dreaded attending the Club's annual meeting, but his companions forced him to attend. Every nerve of his body writhed in agony at the first sentence of the president's opening address: "Gentlemen, this is leap year; therefore it is a year and a day since our last annual meeting." After the meeting, he mounted his house to ride home. Next morning, his horse was found grazing quietly by the roadside. A few yards away lay the corpse of Archibald Boyle. The strange guide had claimed him at the appointed time.
Paul Lee Tan.
The safest road to hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Cable television's Ted Turner, who has condemned abortion foes as "bozos" who "look like idiots," recently lashed out at Christianity. "Christianity is a religion of losers," Turner told the Dallas Morning News. Referring to Christ's death on the cross, Turner said, "I don't want anybody to die for me. I've had a few drinks and a few girlfriends, and if that's gonna put me in hell, then so be it." Turner also told a group of broadcasters, "Your delegates to the United Nations are not as important as the people [broadcasters] in this room. We are the ones who determine what the people's attitudes are. It's in our hands."
Quoted in Confident Living, February, 1990 , p. 36.
Hell is the greatest compliment God has ever paid to the dignity of human freedom.
Several years ago a book was published entitled Looking Out for Number One. On the dedication page the author wrote, "Dedicated to the hope that somewhere in our universe there exists a civilization where the inhabitants possess sole dominion over their own lives." There is such a place. It's called Hell.
Revelation 20:1-2 Bottomless pit--no physical, solid surroundings, total isolation. Utter darkness--a person is isolated, restricted, totally and forever to himself/herself. I see the doctrine of hell as being probably the major stumbling block to the return of a de-Christianized world to Christ. The doctrine of eternal damnation, more than any other teaching of the church, produces atheism. If you examine closely all the big name atheists--like Feuerback and Nietzsche--it is this teaching more than any other that offended them and turned them away. Out of these famous atheists came all the movements that have caused so much hell here and now. If God is to practice what He preaches, then it makes it hard to believe in eternal damnation.
In the New Testament, Peter asks how many times he should forgive his brother and Jesus tells him, "I don't say 7 times, but 70 times 7" which is a way of saying "infinitely." If God commands that of us, then how does He get away with not being infinite in His forgiveness?
Robert Short, author of The Gospel According to Peanuts, in His, October, 1983.
No one who is ever in hell will be able to say to God, "You put me here," and no one who is in heaven will ever be able to say, "I put myself here."