Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen, What the Bible Says About Hell

 Title: What the Bible Says About Hell

Text: “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:41-46


In common usage, Hell designates the place of future punishment for the wicked.  Satan hates the doctrine of an eternal hell.  As a result, many groups today (some supposedly evangelical) either deny the existence of hell or make it a place of annihilation.  Satan has even used mythology to discredit the existence of hell in modern minds.  For example, there is the “River Styx”; Pluto, who was conceived to be the ruler of this region in the depths of the earth in the book Dante’s Inferno; and so on. But what I want to know is what the Bible has to say about hell. 

There are five issues that the Bible will address about hell today:
First, the description of hell.
Second, the reason for hell’s existence.
Third, the punishment of hell.
Forth, the condition of the inhabitants of hell.
Fifth, the major words for hell in the scriptures.

We are going to look at all of these issues in the light of scripture.  But keep in mind that others may interpret scripture differently.  However, there are some issues which are not in doubt; that hell is eternal and that it is a place of separation from God.  Jesus died so that you don’t have to go there, so if you are a child of God, rejoice because you will spend eternity in heaven with the Savior.

Let’s begin our study with the DISCRIPTIONS OF HELL.

Jesus described hell as a place of everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41) and eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). He said, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”’  It is a fire that fastens on immortal souls; it can never go out because it is kept burning by the wrath of immortal God.
Jesus also said, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  There will be no reprieve granted, for those who have resisted the Spirit of Grace.  They will be made to go away into the darkness of hell.

Jesus also called hell a place of outer darkness (Matthew 8:12).  He said, “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The “sons of the kingdom” to whom he referred were apparently Jews who, because of natural birth, considered themselves automatically children of the kingdom of God.  But being born to professing parents doesn’t make us children of the kingdom; if that’s all we have to depend on, we will be cast out into outer darkness. 

In hell there is fire, but no light; it is utter darkness. Paul referred to hell as a place of everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9). He wrote, “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”  In other words, anyone who has not accepted the gospel will suffer “everlasting destruction” or be cut off from the presence of the Lord forever.

Perhaps the most common description of hell is found in John’s Revelation (Rev 19:20). This is what it says: “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” 

Next, let’s see what the Bible has to say about THE REASON FOR HELL’S EXISTANCE.

Jesus clearly taught that hell was prepared “for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). He said, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  The kingdom of God was prepared for believers; however, here it says that the fires of hell were created primarily for the devil and his angels.  But those who choose to unite themselves with Satan by indulging their lusts, while refusing to repent and accept Christ; will share in the misery prepared for him and his associates.

Hell exists for the wicked (Revelations 21:8). John wrote in Revelations, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”   For the wicked, there will not be pleasure, but burning in the lake of fire, the second death.  A believer may be called on to pass through one death, that is to say, physical death (and if the Rapture intervenes, he will even forego that death).  But an unbeliever faces two deaths: physical death and the second death. 

But why are the cowardly and liars spoken of in two categories?  It is because the first are afraid to accept Christ and bear the ridicule of the world.  The second are those who have denied their sin and need of Christ as Savior.

And hell exists for those who are disobedient (Romans 2:8-9). It says in Romans, “But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.”  The disobedient are those who “do not obey the truth.”  The implication is that they know the gospel and have rejected it; that they know the truth, but they willfully sin.  Therefore, on the Great Day of Judgment, they will face the wrath of God.

Hell was also prepared for the fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4). The apostle Peter wrote, “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”  This is how God dealt with the angels who sinned.  They may have advantages over men, but they are not spared; they are cast out of heaven and are sent down to hell.

Finally, hell awaits those who reject the gospel (Matthew 10:15). “Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”  Jesus announced this judgment against Capernaum, where he had spoke more often and had done more miracles than any other city.  They should have believed in Him, but they didn’t.  They received more of the light of the gospel than anyone else, but they rejected Christ.  Therefore, their punishment would be worse than for others, who received less light than they did.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven, but those who reject Christ will suffer from the fires of hell.

Now, let’s see what the Bible says about THE PUNISHMENT OF HELL.

There are four things to know about this punishment. 
First, the punishment of hell will be eternal and everlasting (Revelation 20:10).   “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”  The torment for those in hell will never end.

Second, it will be a painful punishment (Matthew 13:49-50). In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew it says, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  Jesus is saying that this is the way it’s going to be at the end of the world.  The angels will come from heaven to separate the saved from the lost.  They will know how to tell them apart because they will get their instructions from the One who knows all men, particularly those who are His.  The lost are called wicked because they don’t love God and because they have not repented of their sin.  They will be cast into the furnace.  Jesus often preached about hell and its punishments, saying that the torments will be everlasting misery and sorrow.

The third thing that we need to understand is that apparently the punishment of hell will vary in degree, according to the opportunities one had to avoid hell (Matthew 23:14).
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”  In other words, these men made long prayers, but they were heartless and crooked in their business dealings.  There are some whose sins are more inexcusable and therefore their punishment will be more intolerable.

The last thing to say is that the punishment of hell will be unchangeable, revoking the possibility of a second chance (Luke 16:22-31). In the sixteenth chapter of Luke there is the story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man.  It will serve to illustrate that the punishment in hell is irreversible and final. 

When the beggar died, there was no funeral.  They just took his body out and threw it into the Valley of Gehenna where refuse was thrown and burned; this was the place where they threw the bodies of the poor in that day.  However, the minute the beggar stepped through the doorway of death, angels became his pallbearers and he was carried by them to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and he was buried.  He had a big funeral, and the preacher pushed him all the way to the top spot in heaven.  The only trouble is the preacher got his directions mixed up; the rich man went the other way. Now when the rich man died his spirit went to the place of torment.  The rich man did not go to the place of torment because he was rich, and the beggar did not go to Abraham’s bosom because he was poor.  Going through the doorway of death certainly changed their status, but it was due to what was in their hearts. The rich man cried out for mercy, but there was none.  And there was no escape.  There is “a great gulf fixed” and it is an uncrossable barrier to those confined to the place of punishment.

The next question is what does the Bible say about THE INHABITANTS OF HELL?

There are three things. 
First, they will be able to remember people, events, and opportunities in the earthly life (Luke 16:23, 25). In the story of Lazarus and the rich man we are told, “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”  The rich man could see Lazarus, and he was enjoying his new position and new home, but when he looked around he saw only flames, darkness, and those who tormented him.  He could remember how he treated the poor beggar and others.  He saw how sinful he was, and then he thought, “I could be with the beggar if I would only have thought better of the things of God.”

The second thing that those in hell will do is to cry for release (Luke 16:24).“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”  The rich man asks Abraham for relief for his thirst; he cried aloud like a person who was in pain and misery.  This man who used to command others with a loud voice now begs loud; louder than Lazarus ever did as he lay at his gate.

The third thing to see is that those in hell will have no escape from the sovereignty of God (Psalms 139:8). Psalm 139:8 says, “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”  God is there. No matter where you go, God is there.


“Sheol” occurs sixty-five times in the Old Testament and is translated thirty-one times “hell” and three times “pit.”  The general idea is that it is “the place of the dead,” not the grave, but the place of those departed from this life.  It is used both for the righteous and the wicked.  It is divided into two compartments: the first is paradise (which is called Abraham’s Bosom in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man).  The other compartment is the place of torment.  Paradise was emptied when Christ took with Him at his ascension the Old Testament believers. That is what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:8-10: “Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”  (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” 

The place of torment will deliver up the lost for judgment at the Great White Throne.  All who stand at this judgment are lost, and they will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.  Now when the rich man died, his soul went to the place of torment, the compartment where the lost go.  The beggar went to the compartment called paradise or Abraham’s Bosom.

The bodies of believers today, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, go into the grave and return to dust, but their spirits go to be with Christ.  Paul wrote that “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

“Hades" is one of the New Testament terms that is rendered hell; it is similar in significance to the Old Testament “Sheol.”  It refers to the underworld, or the region of the departed.  It occurs eleven times in the New Testament and is rendered “hell” every time with one exception; in 1 Corinthians 15:55 it is rendered “grave.”  Jesus associated judgment and suffering with the condition of the inhabitants of “Hades” (Matthew 11:23).
“Gehenna” or “the valley of Hinnom” was a place where the Jewish apostasy, the rites of Molech was celebrated (1 Kings 11:7).  King Josiah converted the valley of Hinnom into a place of abomination where dead bodies were thrown and burned (2 Kings 23:13-14).  The word occurs twelve times in the New Testament and in every case denotes the eternal state of the lost after the resurrection.  Christ’s descent was into “Hades” and not into “Gehenna.”


There are different interpretations about some of the scriptures we read.  Sincere students of the Bible hold different views concerning the doctrine of hell.  But we can be certain of one thing: hell is eternal and is primarily to be considered a place of separation from God.  In the final analysis, everything else is incidental. 


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