The doctrine of hell is uncomfortable for most of us. I'm often admonished by some who are afraid of "offending" those who are lost that I should focus less on judgment and more on the love of God. However, our understanding of hell shapes our view of the gospel, God’s holiness, and our depravity. If we don’t accept the reality of hell, we won’t rightly understand the glory of the gospel. And, if we renounce the reality of Hell, the incredible suffering and sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf makes no sense at all.
Even a cursory read-through shows Jesus talked about it plenty. In fact, Jesus talked about hell more than any other person in the Bible. In Luke 16, He describes a great chasm over which “none may cross from there to us.” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of a time when people will be separated into two groups, one entering into his presence, the other banished to “eternal fire.” Jesus talks about hell more than he talks about heaven and describes it more vividly. There’s no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned against the absolute reality of hell.
Many have shunned the subject of Hell because it is such an unsavory topic. It is just too difficult to think about - thinking of friends and loved ones - eternally separated from God, suffering torment. Many post-moderns have rejected the gospel altogether because they cannot conceive the idea of a “loving God,” who would condemn his own creatures to eternal destruction. If they haven't rejected the gospel, they have remodeled it significantly in order to expunge such an unsavory thought as punishment for sin.
Many preachers refuse to talk about the reality of a place like Hell, often referring to hell as a metaphor for human suffering. Many have rejected the idea of a literal hell altogether because they cannot reconcile such an idea with a loving, merciful God.
And yet, we must talk about hell because it is the fate that awaits all people apart from Christ. We're all guilty because of Adam’s sin and deserve God’s eternal punishment. Contrary to popular belief, hell is not a place where God sends those who have been especially bad; it’s our default destination. We need a rescuer or we stand condemned.
So we’re left with two options: stay in our state of depravity and be eternally punished, or submit to the Savior and accept his gift of redemption.
However, I want to suggest a truth, which perhaps should be obvious to us, but it doesn’t seem to be as obvious as I think it ought to be:
Hell was not prepared for man.
When God picked up a clump of clay and formed it into a human form and when he breathed into that man, ADAM the breath of life - God’s plan for that man - and all of his progeny was life, and blessings, and communion, and eternal fellowship with God. Hell was not part of the plan for man - read carefully these words from Matthew 25:41 - “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels
Hell was prepared for the Devil and his angels - not for men.
From Genesis 1, we read what God’s plan for man was: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
We talk about men going to hell when they die, but remember this - MAN WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO DIE. The man was created to live in a special place, (a garden where he would fellowship with the creator on a regular basis) on a special planet, (over which he would rule and have dominion over everything that the Creator had made) in a special relationship (as a co-regent with God) with the Creator God - for all of eternity.
That plan did not include Hell as a possible destination for man. For hell was created and reserved for Lucifer and a third of the angels of heaven who had rebelled against God.
We read on in Genesis 2: 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[d] of it you shall surely die.”
Then the Devil entered into the Garden and deceived the man and the woman - he led them into a place where they had to choose between God’s Word and the Serpent’s word. And man chose and suddenly, death and hell became a reality in our lives.
THE GRAVE WAS NOT MEANT FOR A MAN - Death was not a part of the original design.
Mankind was not designed to live apart from the Creator. . . his original design called for a man to live in close proximity and fellowship with his Creator.
The original design called for a man to live in perpetual health and never ending life.
The original design called for a man to live a life without trouble, without suffering, without pain and loss -
In the original design man was not a PART of creation - he was the OBJECT of creation - all of creation was FOR him.
HOWEVER - When man chose to heed the words of a serpent rather than the Words of God, his Creator - he was choosing a NEW FATHER and would receive all that this new Father would give him. Listen to Jesus’ words to the proud, self-righteous Pharisees.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires (Matthew 8:44)
When a man chooses to remain under the fatherhood of the Devil - he unwittingly chooses the INHERITANCE of the Devil. He rejects the INHERITANCE of the creator God and the destination of the remarkable creature he was designed to be - and now is a recipient of the legacy of pain and suffering and misery, murder, brutality, injustice, and cruelty.
The default design of God for Adam and his children was eternal life with the eternal God in eternal joy and creativity and fellowship and abundance. But instead, he chose an inheritance of suffering, cruelty, a grave, and the judgment of a place of eternal separation from God - a place called Hell. It was not a place that was prepared for man, but it is a reward that men will receive because it is the inheritance of those who reject God’s love and favor.
Someone has said - there will not be one person in Hell because he was rejected BY GOD - but hell will be filled with men who have REJECTED GOD.
But there is good news: John 1:12-13 - But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Listen, HELL IS NOT YOUR RIGHTFUL INHERITANCE, it was not made for you - it was reserved for the Devil and his angels.
THE GRAVE IS NOT YOUR RIGHTFUL END - Jesus came that you might have life and that more abundantly. Your end was not intended to be eternal separation from God -
YOU WERE NOT DESIGNED TO LIVE IN NEVER ENDING TORMENT, but you were designed to live in blissful fellowship with God and the saints of God, joy unspeakable and full of glory in abundance of life, world without end.
Our rightful inheritance was stolen when Adam chose to listen to the deceitful words of a snake, who hates God and is bent on the destruction of humanity - he is a liar from the beginning and the father of lies.
I know folks don’t like to talk about Hell, but without a knowledge of what has been stolen from us, we don’t understand the power of redemption - the destiny that has been restored to us.
And that my friends, is the gospel.