HELLFIRE

by Kevin Rutherford

 

There are many Christians today who say they do not believe in hell.  The most common objection to hell is emotional.  "How could a loving God send anyone to a place like hell?"  The atheists ask a similar question with regard to the suffering that exists on this earth.  "How can a loving God allow suffering to exist?"  Both questions appeal to the emotions, to a subjective way of thinking, and to man's supposed ability to be able to understand everything God might do. Simply because we do not understand a thing does not mean that it is not true.

We could make some general attempts to explain the existence of hell and a loving God, and we could make some specific attempts to explain the suffering that exists on this earth.  For the sake of space in this article let me some it all up in one word.  "Sin!"  Sin is the reason why there is a hell, and sin is the reason why there is suffering upon this earth.  Satan brought suffering and death into this world when he introduced sin through Eve (Genesis 3).  Also, it is because of sin that hell exists (Revelation 21:8).

One could debate the existence of hell all day long, but one cannot deny the obvious fact that Jesus Christ believed in hell (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 11:23; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 10:15; Luke 12:5).  Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees, "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33) In Mark 9:42-48 Jesus Christ gives a sobering and horrifying picture of hell.  Jesus refers to a fire in hell that shall never be quenched.  In fact, he refers to this unquenchable fire five times in just those few short verses.  In addition Jesus speaks of a hell as the place where the worm does not die.  He mentions this three times in the passage.  The worm denotes decay.  A worm crawls through the flesh of that which is sick, dying, or decaying.  The fire indicates great suffering.  Hell is a place of suffering and decay.

Because hell is such a horrible place Jesus Christ emphasizes the fact that we must make sure that we do not cause someone else to stumble and be lost in hell (Mark 9:42).  In addition, one will lose his own soul in hell if he causes another person to be lost.  It would be better for one to be drowned in the sea. How could we cause someone else to sin?  We could do so through false teaching.  We could cause someone to be lost by our own failure to serve God. We could cause another to be lost by encouraging them to do the wrong thing. Actually, there are a number of ways in which we could cause someone to be lost.

In addition to making sure that we do not cause some one else to be lost we must make sure that we remove anything from our lives that would cause us to lose our own souls (Mark 9:43-48).  The illustration Jesus uses is graphic and shocking.  If your hand, foot, or even your eye causes you to sin you should cut it off.  You are better off living this life maimed, crippled, and blind than to live in hell where the fire shall never be quenched.  Jesus is not telling us to literally remove body parts.  He is telling us that anything in our lives that may cause us to end up in hell should be removed.  Sometimes those things which would cause us to end up in hell are not wrong in and of themselves.  Sometimes they are simply objects or activities that cause us to become unfaithful to the Lord.

Jesus believed in hell.  While I do not understand everything there is to know about hell I must believe in it because Jesus did.  What is hell?  Hell is that place "where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44)."  I don't want to go there.  Do you?