“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Jesus once said that “the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it,” while “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). In other words, more people will enter the gates of hell than walk through the gates of heaven. There is a reason behind this sad reality. We – humanity as a whole – love the pleasure that comes from gratifying our worldly, fleshly lusts. Most of us refuse to be persuaded to forsake the passing pleasures of sin.
So we don’t think about hell that much. In fact, many of us even go so far as to refuse to believe in the biblical concept of a hell that is eternal. This is because we seek not only pleasure, but also desire to avoid pain and suffering. Thus, some reason that a place where we would be in eternal torment constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” for simply enjoying sin. In reality, we want to be able to live with impunity in rebellion against God and His will.
This is why some have invented and embraced the idea that hell is not so bad. Sure, it’s certainly not as good as heaven…but it’s not so bad, because it’s not eternal. It will be over real quick. The people who believe this say our souls are not immortal, and thus going to hell means that our souls will be snuffed out of existence, annihilated, rather than being consigned to punishment in a fiery hell which never ends. This is nothing more than wishful thinking. It utterly rejects the consistent message of Scripture.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in an afterlife for anybody (Acts 23:8; Matthew 22:23-33). While Jesus proved them wrong, at least they were more consistent than some of us today. They denied the existence of heaven AND hell, whereas many today have no problem believing in an eternal heaven while denying that hell is eternal. We can’t have it both ways. Jesus said that those whom the Father condemned would “go away into eternal punishment,” while those saved by His grace would enter “into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
Yet many deny the eternal nature of hell nonetheless because they are uncomfortable with the idea that one who rejects God should suffer eternally. “After all, God is so loving, merciful, gracious and kind that He could never send someone to such an awful place forever!” God IS full of love and grace; yet the same Bible which proclaims Him to be such also says He is just and wrathful against sin. Paul lists the positive aspects of God (love, grace, kindness) and the negative aspects of God (wrath, tribulation, fury) side by side while talking about what He has in store for us at judgment (Romans 2:4-11). You can’t have His love and grace without His wrath and punishment.
Yet many disagree because they want to be able to do whatever they want to do without fear of reprisal from God or negative consequences of any kind. They reason, “If basically not going to heaven because of my sin means that all that happens to me is that I kind of drift away and go to sleep, winking out of existence with no pain or suffering…well, that’s not so bad! Sure, I would like to go to heaven…but I also want to do my own thing down here on earth. If I can do that and as a result just kind of fade away, I think I’ll choose that because going to heaven is too much like work. I’ll choose the easy way!”
The Bible teaches differently. In hell, the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:43-44). It is a lake of fire which lasts “forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, 15; 21:8). It is where Jesus is not (Matthew 7:23). We must take these warnings seriously.