There are many concepts out there about the reality of Hell. Some profess to its reality and others claim that there is no such place. And the tragedy of our time is that most of those who are now living will go to hell.
But we must realize that the same Bible that tells us of this wonderful place called Heaven also tells us about the awful hell below.
Let’s look at some words translated Hell in our Bibles and then let’s talk about this place. There are three Greek words in the text of the Bible that are translated Hell.
- The first word translated Hell is Geennan or Gehenna. This word was originally used to describe the Valley of Hinnom, which was a deep and narrow valley in the South of Jerusalem.
The valley called Gehenna, was so called from the cries of the little children who were thrown into the fiery arms of Moloch as the Jews worshipped his idol and sacrificed their children to him. The faithful Jews so abhorred the place after these horrible sacrifices had been abolished by king Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), that they cast into it not only all manner of refuse, but even the dead bodies of animals and of unburied criminals who had been executed. Fires were always needed to be burning there to consume the trash and the dead bodies, and so the air was very tainted by the putrefaction.
You can imagine just what a terrible place it would be as the garbage dump would be crawling with insects and worms feeding and the fires burning. It’s disgusting to think about. This is the word the Jesus uses here to describe the place of eternal punishment for the wicked.
READ Mark 9:42-48 The word hell is the word Gehenna. Jesus wishes us to see just how terrible hell is.
2. The second word translated Hell is Hades. An example of this is found in Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The word Hadou or Hades is “the unseen world.” It is not so much a place as it is a state of being. Of course there is no possible way we can completely comprehend this concept, so we accept the fact that someday, unless Christ comes before you die, you wil be here and will know for yourself what it is really like.
Hades is the place where all the souls of the dead are to be found, whether good or bad. It is where we await the Final Judgment. There is one “part” (an inaccurate term, but the only one I can use to get across the idea) where the good are found and another “part” where the wicked are to be found.
But now, having said all that and having drawn that distinction, we need to realize that it is an actual place, and not much different from our final resting place either in heaven or hell.
There is just no way to really convey the dreadfulness of this place. It is beyond our human comprehension. But let me assure you that just one second in this place would convince anyone that he should flee to God at once.
Another verse that uses the word Hades is in Acts 2:27, it lets us know that Jesus was there for a short time after His death and before His resurrection.
And one of our favorite verses of hope and security also involves Jesus as He speaks to the thief on the cross. He says in Luke 23:43 “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Paradise is what Jesus calls the part of Hades we all want to be in.
3. The third word translated hell is what the Greeks and the Bible call Tartarus.
READ 2 Peter 2:4-10 The word hell in verse 4 is Tartarus.
Tartarus is a place of punishment for the spirits of the wicked dead, the other side of Hades, the opposite of Paradise. So Hades, often translated Hell, is the place everyone goes after death, awaiting the judgment. And we will be there either in Tartarus or paradise.
Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16? The rich man ends us in Hades, being in torment. He was in Tartarus. What is Hell like?
- It is a place of Torment. There are no words in any language to adequately describe this torment. The Scriptures use the example of fire to try to covey the idea. The figure is a good one. If you have ever sustained a burn, you know how painful it can be. If you can, try to remember that pain. Then try to imagine what it would be like to be burned over every square inch of your body. And then finally, try to imagine what it would be like to be “burning up”–to have your soul eternally “on fire,” always burning, but never consumed.
Just thinking about this place will drive you insane. The want of relief, the desire to even have one drop of water is so great and yet, there is no way out once you are there.
2. It is a place of memory. In a way, even more hideous than the fact that this is a place of torment, is the fact that this is a place of memory.
There are people today who claim that there is no soul, no eternal part of man. How we would wish that to be true if we were in hell. But the truth is that after death, one is very conscious and very aware–of where you are, of all that is happening to us, and all of this is eternal.
Your spirit, or maybe we could call it your mind, when it is released from the flesh will gain in its capacity to understand. We will be in tune to the Omniscient and Omnipresent Mind of God (a wonderful situation if you are in the realm of the saved, but a horrid situation if you are in the realm of the doomed).
Again looking to the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man was able to recognize Abraham, a man he had never seen before. He still had his memories, he remembered his brothers and their plight on earth. And these memories will never fade. Memories that will continue to haunt us unmercifully.
“Why didn’t I do that?” “Why did I go there?” “What was I thinking?”
Memory for the saved must be one of their greatest blessings. You can almost hear the praises and blessing as they give all glory to Jesus the Christ and God the Father.
3. It is a Permanent Place. Of course, all of this would be bearable if there were any hope at all of relief. If we could know that in a thousand years, or a million, or a billion, that there would be an end, then we could stand it one way or another. But this is not the case. This is the most permanent place.
Don’t believe those who tell you that they can get you out. That they can pray you out or be baptized for you to get you out of Hell. This is a place that shall never end–and those in it today will be in it tomorrow and they will be in it a hundred million years from now and a hundred million years from then. What a terrible thing people do when they tell others to “go to hell.” What an awful thing to wish upon another creature.
Now is the time to be concerned about Hell.
Until it happens we will never know just what a surprise it will be to die. We have so many plans. We are counting on doing so many things, and then–we are dead. Whether we like it or not, our work is done.
Are you concerned about your soul? Are you concerned about your children? your neighbor? your friend? Is there anyone who means anything to you?
You know that the Messiah died on the cross for all of us. He was willing to take the punishment, to bear the separation from the Father, to suffer emotionally and physically too. He is a wonderful Savior.
And surely if you want to respond to His call, you too can be a part of the saved.
And surly if you share His love with others there will be others who will want to be saved.
The conditions of salvation are simple. Trust in the sacrifice of Jesus. We call that Faith
Repent of your sins. Change your mind about who you are and what you are about.
Confess Jesus as Lord with your lips unto salvation.
Submit to Baptism where the blood of Jesus washes you clean.
Live in faith until you too die.
To those who once came to Jesus but have gone astray, we are told to come back to Him in repentance, confession and prayer. This sounds so simple and yet many will not do even this to escape Hell.
Hell is not a resort, a reform school or a playground. Hell is a place of punishment. Do everything you can to never go there.