About Hell

This entry is part 7 of 368 in the series Inquiring Minds

Why don’t we talk about Hell anymore?

It used to be that preachers would regularly preach about Hell and its dangers. Whether there was an unsaved person in the sanctuary or not, everyone knew about it. It seems that trend has been changing for a while in the church.

But a stigma seems to be attached to those who preach about Hell too much. They were called “hellfire and brimstone” preachers. And they tended to be loud, very loud. Now everyone seems to want to hear from “conversational” preachers instead.

But I don’t think it’s about the style of preaching. I think it’s about the subject. Hell makes people uncomfortable. It’s not a “seeker-friendly” topic of discussion. People don’t want to hear about the result of wicked living and sinfulness. It offends people and even makes them angry.

I believe that if something is in the Bible, we should preach about it. One famous American preacher says he doesn’t believe he should preach about sin and Hell because people already know they are sinners. But this isn’t necessarily true. Some people think that they are good people no matter what they do.

Some preachers even suggest that God is a God of grace. They don’t want to talk about Hell because they don’t want to talk about God’s judgment. God is indeed a God of grace, but how can he be gracious if there is no penalty for sin?

People don’t understand their need for a Savior unless they understand how depraved and lost they are. So we should preach about sin. And we should also preach about the result of sin, death and Hell. After all, Jesus had no trouble talking about it.

Jesus spoke of Hell with images and illustrations. He talked about Gehenna (Matthew 5:22, 29-30;; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5), outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50), anguish and flame (Luke 16:24), Hades (Luke 16:23), and Hell (Matthew 16:18). Jesus said it is a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).

Gehenna was a deep pit the Jews through trash into and set the whole thing on fire. It stank and was always burning 24/7. He used this image of a real place that everyone was familiar with to show that no one wanted to go there. He talked about Hell as a real place and spoke about it in terms of the end times.

But Jesus wasn’t the only New Testament person to speak about Hell. Paul called it a place of torment, that is without God’s presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9). James also referred to it as Gehenna (James 3:6). Peter talks about a gloomy darkness reserved for sinning angels as an example for the ungodly and their judgment.

The images continue from John, referring to it as a place where people are tormented forever without any rest (Revelation 14:11). He calls it Hades (Revelation 20:14). It is the lake of fire and the second death (Revelation 21:8). And finally, Jude calls Hell a place of eternal fire (Jude 7).

So Hell is definitely mentioned throughout the New Testament by multiple authors. We need to take it seriously and proclaim it along with the gospel. Why would I say that? Because people need to know the other side of salvation. They go hand-in-hand. If there’s a heaven, there’s a Hell.

If we don’t tell people about both, it is an extreme disservice. This message may offend people, but I would rather offend someone and tell them the truth than fluff it over and be responsible when I get to heaven.

This doesn’t mean that we proclaim Hell with glee or rudeness or anger. We speak of it with tears in our eyes. Everyone we meet must hear the gospel because there is only so much time before it is too late. So we speak about Hell with conviction and kindness.

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