One day the radio blared, “There has been another earthquake in Chile.” It was a terrible tragedy for the people in Chile, but several thousand miles away, people on an island in Hawaii had looks of concern on their faces. Earthquakes in Chile can produce destructive tidal waves in Hawaii. Whenever tidal waves are a threat, a piercing whistle sounds to warn the whole island about taking precautions, and usually there are several hours to prepare for the powerful waves. At the sound of the whistle, people near the coast begin to watch the ocean. They board up their windows and carry everything possible to the highest place in the house.
The tell-tale signs are easy to observe. Each time the waves wash in over the sand, they come in a bit farther; each time they recede, they back out farther, leaving more sandy area uncovered. As more and more of the ocean floor is bared, observers notice fish and shells of all kinds lying on the waterless bottom. Wise observers stay in a safe shelter. But not all people are wise. Missionaries say they have actually seen foolish people, who, knowing the danger to come, take their chances and run out on the sandy ocean floor to scoop up the flopping fish and the colorful shells and gather them into large sacks to sell to others and to feed their families. They stay longer and longer trying to outguess the waves that have pulled out and seem so far away. But suddenly the whole ocean is released in a mighty crash as tons of water in waves up to forty feet high come smashing into shore, sometimes as fast as six hundred miles per hour. There is time only for a cry for help, as the foolish people who ignored the warnings in order to loot the ocean floor, all perish with their treasures. These foolish people are like those who ignore the warnings of coming judgment and try to outguess God by planning to prepare for it at the last minute. They continue to pick up the colorful treasures of this world and indulge in its passing pleasures. The prophet Micah says, “Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: He will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.” What we go after here in this life determines our destiny hereafter.
We want to consider the destiny of the fool (or Hell) in three parts. (1) What is Hell? (2) Who shall inhabit Hell? (3) How to escape Hell.
1. What Is Hell?
To many today, Hell has become a big joke and a byword. Sin has become an idol. Lust and adultery are accepted things. It has become common to hear the word “hell” used in connection with the heat, as a curse word, or in connection with Hollywood. Movies are entitled, “Ten Seconds to Hell,” “Hell Fire,” “Nine Girls in Hell,” with the notation, “actually filmed in hell.” It seems strange that no actual reproduction of the Bible’s presentation of Hell was ever made into a film.
Many denominations are changing their creeds, and redefining their position on Hell, so that Hell is no longer considered a place of torment, but a symbol of misery. A dope addict is said to be enduring hell. An alcoholic who spends his money on liquor, leaving his wife and children hungry, is said to be making his home a hell. A man dying of lung cancer is said to be suffering hell. But this is not the Bible definition of Hell. The Bible defines “Hell” as “eternal fire, everlasting punishment, outer-darkness where there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
The Associated Press once conducted a survey among prominent ministers of metropolitan New York to find out if they believed in a literal Hell. Some of the ministers held the belief that Hell was a time of spiritual suffering allowing for a chance of gradual redemption like a man in prison deprived of his liberty, waiting for the day when he will be free. During this time of confinement the person is said to be in Hell. Other ministers said Hell was an endless state of self-made spiritual suffering. One said, “Hell is not a geographical location, but a state of mind.” Others viewed Hell as “Annihilation—when you’re dead, you’re dead.”
Open your Bibles with me, and notice how God’s Word describes Hell. Matthew 10:28 says it is actual; Matthew 8:12 says it will be outer darkness; Matthew 18:9 uses the word “fire;” Matthew 22:13 uses the words “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth;” 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says it will be separation from God; 2 Peter 2:4 uses the word “chains;” Revelation 9:1-2 uses the words “bottomless” and “smoke;” Revelation 19:20 says it is a lake of fire and brimstone; Matthew 13:42 says it is a furnace of fire and a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
2. Who Shall Inhabit Hell?
No one is more qualified to speak about Hell (and those who shall inhabit it) than our Lord Himself. Look at Luke 16:19-31 and notice our Lord’s description. First, there is the rich man (who is usually called Dives) which is the Latin word for “rich.” Every phrase in verse 19 says something about the luxury in which he lived. In a country where the common people were fortunate if they ate meat once a week, and where they toiled for six days of the week, Dives, the rich man, is a figure of laziness and self-indulgence. Lazarus was waiting for the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.
Lazarus was a beggar. He was covered with ulcerated sores. His state was so miserable that even the street dogs seemed to pity him, and licked the sores for him. Lazarus is a picture of helpless, abject poverty. But when our Lord abruptly changes to a scene in the next world—there Lazarus is in glory, and the rich man is in torment.
What was the sin of the rich man which caused him to inhabit Hell? He had not ordered Lazarus to be removed from his gate. He had no objections to Lazarus receiving the bread that was flung away from his table. He was not deliberately cruel to Lazarus. The sin of the rich man was, that he had never in his heart repented (Luke 16:30) of his sins—his selfishness, self-indulgence, and pride.
Notice that in Luke’s account, at least six things are stated, describing this inhabitant of Hell:
(1) He could see (Luke 16:23). Looking afar off, he saw Father Abraham and Lazarus, the beggar, who had lain at his gate and was fed crumbs which fell from his table.
(2) He could feel (Luke 16:23-24). He was experiencing torment, pain, suffering, in actual flame, but wasn’t consumed.
(3) He could talk (Luke 16:24,27-28). He addresses a plea, by word of mouth, to Father Abraham.
(4) He could reason (Luke 16:27-28). He said to himself that if someone were to rise from the dead and report back to his five brothers, surely they would change their mind about coming to this awful place.
(5) He could pray (Luke 16:27-28). It seems hard that Abraham refused this request that his brothers be warned. But it is the plain fact that if people possess the truth of God’s Word, (the rich man and his brothers had the Law and the Prophets) and don’t repent and turn from their sins, they will not be persuaded, through one rose from the dead.
(6) He thirsted (Luke 16-24). His plea for one drop of water was rejected. He had had his lifetime of pleasure and thrills and enjoyment; he had lived it up while Lazarus had suffered. Now Lazarus was comforted, and the rich man would continue to be tormented. Remember that sinners get all their pleasure in this life!
Notice now several other Scriptures telling about those who will inhabit Hell: John 3:16 infers, “whosoever does not believe;” John 3:36, “he that believeth not the Son;” Mark 16:16, “he that believeth not and is not baptized.” In Psalm 9:17, we read, “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 relates, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Hebrews 2:3 implies the danger of Hell if we neglect our salvation; James 4:17, if we know to do good and do it not; James 2:9-10, if we have respect to persons; Revelation 20:15, if our names are not in the Book of Life; Revelation 22:18-19, if a man adds to or takes from the Bible. Hebrews 10:31 warns, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We need to be obedient to God and to His Word. We must not see how little we can obey and still be on the safe side.
I challenge you to surrender completely to the Lord, and you’ll experience a peace and happiness and joy you never knew. As A. P. Wilkes says; “Jesus Christ, who was incarnate tenderness—never faltered in the most solemn assertion of hell as a fact, a specific place, and a description of those who will go there. The horror with which Christ speaks of hell is entirely without any alleviation, even in His parables. It would be impossible to place reliance on what Jesus Christ said of heaven and God, if what He said of hell is false.”
3. How To Escape Hell
This is the miracle aspect of our salvation. Our Lord, Who spoke so freely of Hell, came to redeem us from Hell. What a tremendous price He paid, leaving the glories of Heaven, and suffering the shame and excruciating pain of the Cross to accomplish for us our redemption. Thus it is written in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” You may not know much about the Bible, but surely everyone knows how to receive a gift—merely by taking it. So—God says take Christ as your Savior! God does not sentence anyone to Hell, but anyone who rejects Christ, condemns himself to eternal damnation.
You may have heard of the governor, who, garbed as a minister, entered death row with a pardon for a man condemned to die. But not knowing it was the governor, thinking it was a minister, the man cursed him, and refused to see him, and suffered the consequence of his rejection, which was death. So, to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to receive eternal life, and thus escape Hell! John 1:12, “But as many as received him (Jesus), to them (people) gave he (Jesus) power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his (Jesus’) name.” Notice several other Scriptures: John 3:16, we must “believe;” 1 John 1:7,9, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 2 Peter 3:9 says “repent;” Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus;” Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord;” John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
The remedy for sin and the escape from Hell is found in the Great Physician, whose healing balm will change the sin-sick soul. The answer is transformation, not reformation. Only in Jesus Christ will man ever find victory over the sins within and about him.
We noticed in Psalms 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” There is no detour! If you are one whom the Word of God calls wicked, this is your lot unless you change it by your choosing to repent of sin, and your acceptance of Jesus Christ. Unless America repents, nothing but judgment and wrath awaits her. Unless many so-called Christians and Christian churches repent (of secret wickedness and tolerance of sin), they face eternal fire under the wrath of God. There will be no escape. This is not pessimism; it is facing the facts and believing God.
Daniel Webster relates how he once attended a quiet country church. The minister was a simple, humble old man who in his message warned his hearers to flee the wrath to come. At the close of his sermon, he said, “My friends, we can die but once.” Webster, years later, commenting on this message said, “Fragile and weak as those words might seem, at once they were to me among the most impressive and awakening I had ever heard.” How important then to make that decision now! Remember Hebrews 9:27, “And . . . it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” For each one of us it will be Heaven or Hell. Decision determines destiny.
How do I make this decision that will determine my destiny to be Heaven instead of Hell?
(1) Believe that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
(2) Acknowledge yourself a sinner and separated from God. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
(3) Believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that He is the only provision for man’s sin. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried, and he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
(4) Personally receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, ask Him to forgive your sins, ask Him to take control and become the Lord of your life. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).