Introduction: - Many are not interested to consider about hell, may be due to the dreadful picture it presents, yet it is biblical truth, we can not afford to neglect it. Some others think hell and heaven are in this world. They just try to escape even the thought of it. Bible says very clearly that, there is a distinct place where all the unbelievers will be thrown in to.
Because of the many terms used in the Bible, there is little difficulty in studying about hell. We all have an idea about hell; it is a place of torment –punishment. There are some references where hell is mentioned but actually it is not really hell. So we need to see the different words used to denote the state of the dead, before we can understand more about hell.
a. ‘Sheol’:- Heb. Occurs 65 times, 31 times translated ‘grave’; 31 times ‘hell’; and 3 times ‘pit’.(KJV). The general idea is “The place of the dead”—both righteous and the wicked. Cp. Psalm.16:10—righteous; Psalm.9:17—wicked.
b. ‘Hades’:- Gk. 11 times in N.T. Mostly translated ‘hell’; once only translated ‘grave ‘ by KJV and ‘Hades’ NKJV. Ancient Greek people’s view of ‘Hades’ was a place for all the dead in the depth of the earth, dark, shut up, cheerless and ruled over by Pluto.
Both these terms actually do not depict the place of eternal punishment—as we understand. Both refer to the place or the state of the dead, righteous as well as the wicked.
Many scholars believe that sheol or hades is a place which is divided in to two department, one is called ‘paradise’ or ‘Abraham’s bosom’ for the good, and the other place of torment for the bad. Luke.16:22; 23:24. After Christ’s resurrection the righteous of the paradise were transferred to His presence in Heaven. Ephesians.4:8—10 But the wicked dead are kept in Hades / Sheol till the judgment of the wicked at the white throne.
So in short we can say, Sheol / Hades refer to the place or the state of the dead.
c. ‘Gehenna’:- Gk. Used 12 times in the NT—always translated ‘hell’ referring to the eternal state of the unbelievers after resurrection. ‘Gehenna’ in Gk is a transliteration of Heb. ‘valley of Hinnom’. There was a valley which belongs to one ‘Hinnom’ out side the city gate of Jerusalem. Solomon built a temple for gods here 1King.111:7, 8. God punished them there. Jeremiah.7:31. Later it became a dumping ground, all the filth of the city, even dead bodies were thrown here and burnt. Jeremiah.19:1—3. Thus the ‘valley of Hinnom’ was a place associated with all kinds of filth, fire and judgment. The Lord used this as a fitting term to indicate the place of eternal punishment.
Apart from these words there are many other phrases that denote the idea of eternal punishment. Whatever confusion be there over the terms –hell as we understand, as a place of eternal punishment is a true, literal place where all the wicked will have to go. It is necessary to have a glimpse of hell not only to be saved from such eternal punishment but also to be burdened to snatch some others away from there.
Seven things about hell
1. It is a prepared place for devil and his angels. Matthew.25:41. God never made hell for man, but devil deceitfully taking away man along with him to hell
2. It is a place of punishment. Matthew.25:46
3. It is a place of torment /torture. Luke.16:23. Not just sent there as a punishment, like our jails. Some are happy to be in a jail—get free food and accommodation, even security too!! But in hell you will be tormented day and night, for ever. Revelation.20:10.
Things used to intensify sufferings in hell:-
a. Fire. Matthew.13:42. Furnace—not simply fire. To see what furnace is visit a steel plant and see how they melt the iron ore. (Raw materials). Non-stop: fire is not quenched; fuel not finished, man is not consumed though burning out!
b. Brimstone/ Sulphur. Revelation.19:20; 21:8. To intensify heat—also it produces an unbearable smell.
c. Darkness. Matthew.8:12; 22:13; 25:30. Fire burning, yet no light!
d. Smoke. Revelation. 14:11; 9:2. This thick smoke may be the cause for darkness. It will disturb or suffocate the victims.
e. Worms. Matthew.9:44—49.
Thus, it is a very terrible place of torment. The Lord the listeners in Matthew.9:44--49; even if to take any drastic step, it is necessary to escape the hellfire. Even if it is to forsake many things, it is worth. ‘Cut off the hands’ speaks of the way we should consider our body, our interest so that those things may not hinder our effort to escape hell.
4. It’s a large place. Revelation.19:20; 21:8 ‘Lake’. Enough to contain all the wicked of the earth. A large pond. Cp. Isaiah.5:14; Proverbs.27:20
5. It’s a place of prayer and lamentation. Matthew.13:42. Weeping crying, gnashing of teeth. Observe: in hell people are conscious –not unconscious. They are fully aware of the pain, suffering. What use of torturing a dead bony, how to punish a stone!
They recognize each other, remember the past. Even the memory will haunt them. They will pray. Cp. Luke. 16:27. Rich man prayed for water, also for the salvation of his brethren. But no use. We need to pray today. Ob. Souls crying in hell please don’t come here!
6. There will be different degree of punishment. Matthew.10:15; Mark.6:11; Luke.10:12. God in His justice will give more severe punishment to those who deliberately chose to reject Christ and the way of salvation.
7. It’s a place of eternal separation. 2Thessalonians.2:9. They will be separated from God and His blessings for ever.
How terrible is the condition of hell! Notice that we can never fully describe heaven in our words—it’s so much better, in the same way, we can never describe hell in our words, for it’s so worse!
The occupants of hell
Who will be the inhabitants of hell? Devil, evil angels and all those who follow them will be definitely there. But one verse tells it categorically: “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation. 20:15.
The basic reason for a person to be found in the eternal hell fire is not because he is a sinner. God in His love and mercy provided man a way out from the bondage of sin and its consequences, yet he deliberately chooses to follow path of rebellion and disobedience. The Lord Jesus Christ declared, “And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John.3:19.
The Lord Jesus Christ took our punishment on the cross and it is wisdom to acknowledge Him as the saviour and be saved. Romans.8:1. Moreover, it is the normal obligation to save others too. Jude.vs.20—23.
How we ought to praise God for the wonderful work of salvation that by grace we have been saved through faith in Christ our Lord.