Committing to read through scripture and write about what God says is, for the most part, a joy. It’s good for my heart, my spiritual growth, and keeps me centered on what’s important in life (my relationship with God and the kingdom work to which He’s called me). Hopefully, as I do this, it is encouraging to those of you who read it and to your friends when you share it.
Notice I said, “for the most part.” It’s challenging to come to a part of scripture where God is speaking something that is not quite as fun to hear. I suppose I could skip over it and choose something a bit “lighter,” but I want to be faithful when God is nudging my heart, telling me, “this is it for today.”
So, today’s topic: hell.
In the last few verses of Mark 9, Jesus addresses the issue of stumbling blocks. Mark repeats the lesson we studied earlier in Matthew…to cause a little child to stumble (i.e. miss the truth of the gospel), the consequences are dire. It would be better to be drowned in the sea, weighed down by a heavy millstone. Then Jesus turns to our own stumbling blocks – those things that cause us to sin and ultimately reject faith in Jesus. Three times He stresses that it would be better to have a part of our body cut off and be crippled, lame, or blind in this life than to allow our fleshly desires to cause us to continually sin, miss heaven, and be cast into hell.
I did a little research. Jesus spoke about hell as a real place. He describes it as fiery (Matthew 18:9), a place where both soul and body are destroyed (Matthew 10:28), where the fire is not quenched and the worm (flesh-eating maggot) does not die (Mark 9:43,44,46,48). Jesus believed in hell and taught that it was a place to be avoided at all costs.
Jesus showed John by divine revelation that hell is a place of eternal torment (Revelation 20:10), a lake of fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20). Peter tells us hell was prepared for the devil and his angels who rebelled against God (2 Peter 2:4). The beast (antichrist) and the false prophet who will lead earth’s final rebellion against God are destined for hell (Revelation 19:20), as well as false teachers, and those who are deceived by them (2 Peter 2:9).
At the end of the age, when God sets all things right and restores the creation, the final judgment will take place. John describes this future event as revealed by Jesus: And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
Jesus believed in hell as a literal place of eternal torment. The New Testament writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, agreed. If we come to the conclusion that Jesus is a teacher of truth, then we must believe also that hell is a real place of judgment for all who reject Him.
God does not desire that you go to hell. Those who will go to hell choose willingly to reject the gospel message in unbelief. Peter, who preached about a literal hell, also tells us the good news that saves us from hell.
2 Peter 3:9 – 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.
Jesus, the Son of God, did not come to earth to be just a good teacher. He came to provide a way of escape. He paid our sin debt so that we are not judged eternally and cast into hell, but are welcomed in heaven, in His name, in His righteousness alone.
Jesus gave graphic illustrations like cutting off your arm or foot or plucking out your eye if it keeps you from stumbling into sin that sends you to hell. He didn’t say these things to shock us; He said them because He knew how serious it is to trivialize hell.
What do you believe about hell? Your answer will determine your eternal destiny.
Luke 12:4-5 – I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!