Heaven and Hell

I gave this message to my youth group’s Saturday fellowship. I spoke there for the first time! I’m blessed to be given the opportunity to speak to the youth about this difficult yet (personally) interesting topic. Thank you, Jesus.

If you are reading Christian blogs, you should be aware of a controversy. Rob Bell, a pastor and an author in the U.S., released his latest book Love Wins. It’s subtitled A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. What’s interesting about this book is that it has already garnered criticisms from church leaders even when it isn’t released yet. So why the commotion? It’s because Bell tackles the issue of hell.

I haven’t read the book (and I hope I can get a copy soon, so I can make my own review), but many trusted evangelical leaders have made their reviews and claims that what Rob Bell is saying in his book is that hell doesn’t exist, everybody goes to heaven, and ultimately, love wins. Really?

If hell doesn’t exist, then I wonder where Hitler is. If everybody goes to heaven, then it doesn’t matter how I live my life now, even if I live it sinfully. And if hell doesn’t exist, everybody goes to heaven, and love wins this way, then what about the death of Jesus on the cross?

I do not agree with Bell, but I’m not here to criticize him. Instead, I’m here to teach what the Bible says about heaven and hell and what it means to us.

Why Heaven and Hell is Important?

The reason why these doctrines are important is because they are part of the gospel story. It means that this is a matter of life and death. Actually, this is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.

We have to know the bad news before we can understand the good news.

The Reality of Hell

What does the Bible say about hell?

First, hell is a place. At the end of the parable of the talents, the master says:

30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30, emphasis added)

Second, in hell, there will be consciousness of punishment:

30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30, emphasis added)

Lastly, it is eternal. The king will say at the judgment:

41…’Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41, emphasis added)

And Jesus says that those condemned:

46…will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46, emphasis added)

Additionally, Jesus refers to hell as “the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43) and “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (9:48).

So we may define hell as a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked. And no one wants to be there.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

I invite you to turn your Bibles to Luke 16:19-31.

We have two characters. One is a rich man who was “clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day” (v.19). He had the good things in life. The other one is Lazarus, poor and sick (v.20), and “desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table” (v.21). He is the opposite of the rich man.

Then they both died. Lazarus went to Abraham’s side (Heaven, v.22), while the rich man went to Hades (Hell, v.23).

The rich man was in torment (v.23). Notice that his senses are still intact. He retained his sense of sight, for he “saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (v.23) and how beautiful the other side is. He also retained his sense of touch, for he felt the flame (v.24). In hell, one will be conscious of the punishment.

He requested that he sent Lazarus to his side (v.24). But his request was denied, for there was a great chasm separating them (v.26).

He suddenly became an evangelist, wanting to send Lazarus to his brothers instead, so they would be spared from the agony he was experiencing (v.27-28). But again his request was denied, because his brothers have with them Moses and the Prophets (v.29). In other words, they have the Scripture to warn them. Similarly, we have the Scripture to warn us. We have no excuse.

Going back, the rich man asked for a supernatural occurrence, because his brothers won’t believe the Scripture (v.30). But Abraham said that a supernatural event won’t make them believe, for they have not believed the Scripture (v.31).

If we don’t believe what the Bible says about heaven and hell, even a supernatural event won’t make us believe. Such is the condition of our hearts. Our hearts are hardened. My question is: Do you believe what the Bible says about heaven and hell?

The Reality of Heaven

What about heaven? The Bible describes heaven, or the new heaven, vividly in Revelations 21.

Heaven is described as a “holy city” (Revelation 21:2). In that place, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (21:4). It is also a city of immense size (21:16,6) and parts of the city are constructed of immense precious jewels of various colors (21:18-21). It will be free from all evil, for “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).

The beauty of heaven and it’s freedom from mourning, crying, pain, and evil should not sidetrack us from the best thing. Verses 3-4 says:

3Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Emphases added)

We shall be with God and see His face (Revelation 22:4)! This is the fulfillment of the following psalms:

11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;  at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11, emphasis added)

4One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4, emphasis added)

How Can a Loving God Allow People to Go to Hell?

I hope that by now, you are convinced through the Scripture about the realities of heaven and hell. But I think it’s appropriate to deal with the question that is related to hell. It’s this: How can a loving God allow people to go to hell? This is a serious question, one that is asked by both skeptics and believers. As far as I know, this has been a huge stumbling block from placing faith in God. Honestly, I also wrestled with it when I was a new believer.

Now, I don’t intend to answer this question very convincingly. It will be an attempt too lofty for me to reach. But I want to summon ourselves that before we ask this question, let us consider another one first: How can a loving God allow His own Son to go to “hell”?

What do I mean by that? When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he cried out with a loud voice:

46…”Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; see also Mark 15:34)

Jesus bore our sins and was separated (forsaken) from His Father. Isn’t this hell, to be separated from His Father? So how can God do this to His own Son? The answer is in John 3:16:

16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish [hell] but have eternal life [heaven]. (Emphasis added)

The answer is that He loves you and me that He sent His Son (and went through a hellish experience), and by believing in Him we are saved from hell. Therefore, He is a loving God!

So how can a loving God allow people to go to hell? John Piper puts it this way:

Hell is the just and fitting response to a person who commits the ultimate outrage of rejecting the grace of God.1

What Does Heaven and Hell Mean to Us?

If you haven’t yet placed your faith in the Lord Jesus, you may want to consider the question, “Where am I going when I die? Heaven or hell?” Because the Bible is clear that only those who believe in Jesus will not perish (go to hell) but have eternal life (go to heaven). You have to make a decision.

On the other hand, if you have already trusted the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord, then this means the following. Because hell is real, you must thank Jesus for sparing you from it. Because hell is real, this must give you a sense of urgency to share the gospel. And because heaven is real, you must all the more store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20)


1http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/if-hell-is-real-how-can-god-be-loving

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About Enzo Cortes

Enzo Cortes is the Youth Coordinator of Jzone Makati, the youth ministry of Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF) Makati. He also speaks for various youth and young adult groups, including CCF Makati's young singles ministry, Friday Night Light. He loves to write, read books and blogs, drink coffee, and watch MMA fights.

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