How does the Bible describe Hell?

The devil is very sly in how he aims to redirect men, women, and children away from the need of the hour. One of his most common deceptions is to strive to convince both the unbeliever (irreligious and religious) and the true believer (Luke 22:31-32; Ephesians 6:13-17) that things are just not exactly how the Bible depicts them. He whispers that the Bible is archaic, full of errors, the source of legend and myth . . . and if you are not persuaded, he will aim to convince you that God is a hard Master (Matthew 25:24), or even worse, an unreasonable party-pooper (1 Peter 1:16).

These satanic tactics began in the Garden of Eden, where he portrayed God as a liar (Genesis 3:1-5) — but we know the truth about God’s character (Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2). Satan is THE liar and the father of lies (John 8:44)! In fact, he seeks to make sure that all of his wicked actions are centered upon luring people (especially God’s people) away from the one thing that is really necessary (Luke 10:42) — worshiping God alone in spirit and in truth (John 4:19-24). In other words, his intended purpose is to always turn men away from the pursuit of “loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

However, his largest act of deception can be seen is his diligence to convince people that hell is either God’s sadistic idea of fun or that it is a place of carnal partying with all of our friends who are really cool, and thereby not to be taken seriously. But how does the Bible describe hell? The Bible consistently depicts hell as: a place of devouring fire and everlasting burning (Isaiah 33:14); a place where no one can repent (Matt 12:32); a place of everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46); a place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23); a place where we would not want our loved ones to go (Luke 16:28); a bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1); a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), a place of outer darkness along with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). Yet, despite those passages, former Michigan pastor Rob Bell in his recent best-selling book “Love Wins,” conveyed just the opposite view of hell. Yes, his unscriptural universalism (everyone goes to heaven) totally ignored God’s Word and spun a new angle on hell. Here is one shocking phrase from his book: “History is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins.”

Well, the medieval poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), author of “The Inferno,” was at least somewhat more scripturally accurate than Mr. Bell when he figuratively described a sign above the gates of hell as saying: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”. Indeed, hell is a place of utter hopelessness (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Nevertheless, belief in a half-Biblical, half-whatever kind of hell is at an all-time low in the US. Out West (i.e. on the “left” coast), only 61% believe in some kind of hell; in the Northeast, only 64%; in the Midwest, only 66%; and in the Bible-belt South, a low 83%.

May God soon give us preachers who will rise up and preach once again this all-important but currently neglected doctrine. Then, maybe then, the church of our day will live as if hell is a real place! We need to ask God for preachers like old Thomas Brooks from 17th century England, who once gave the following illustration: “The greatest and the hottest fires that ever were on earth are but ice in comparison with the fire of hell.”

I leave you with the loving words of our Lord Jesus: “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matthew 18:7-9).

Jerry Marcellino is pastor of Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel. He can be reached by e-mail at pastorjerry@audubonchurch.org