Surprises in Hell

     Hell is certainly an unpopular subject, these or any days. Now, people use the word all the time, most frequently as an expression of emphasis or what my grandmother Sparks called “cussin.” If you used that word or any of a number of others around her, you would soon wish you hadn’t. I know some grandmothers (and grandfathers) that are the same way today. But the world would be much better off if we had a more grandmothers like Granny Sparks.

     Many people are confused about Hell. From time to time I’ll hear somebody use the word “Hades” when they are trying to say “Hell” but be polite about it. A careful look to Luke 16:19-31 shows us the proper way in this matter. The Rich Man and Lazarus both died and went to the Hadean realm. This is the realm of our spirits when life here concludes. It is divided into two parts: torments and “Abraham’s bosom.” The Rich Man was in torments but Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom. The idea is of a place in Abraham’s presence (thus in the realm of departed human spirits) that was a restful and comfortable environment. The Jews used the word “paradise” (borrowed perhaps from the Persians) to describe the good part of the Hadean realm.

     Of course, the Rich Man did not do so well. He described what it was like to be in torments. It was not good.

     Bible students know that even this is not the end of the story. At a point in time known to God only all of physical reality will cease (2 Peter 3:7-12). There will be a great judgment day (2 Corinthians 5:10). Not only will those alive at that time receive judgment they, along with all in the Hadean realm, will have their sentence read. On that day the only hope will be Jesus Christ. The only safety will be in Jesus Christ. The only comfort will be in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

     Jesus concluded a discussion of the judgment with this simple and powerful statement: “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46). Now, perhaps there is more than one way for good people to understand all the details of the end time. But there is not but one way to understand what Jesus said here. On one hand there is everlasting punishment. On the other hand there is life eternal. That’s it. No ifs, ands or buts.

     Everybody reading this would agree that Hell is a place to avoid. It is a lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10). People say, “Ah, but that is symbolic!” If so, what do you think it is symbolizing? An ice cream parlor?

     It occurred recently that there will be some surprises for some folks in Hell. Some people will be surprised that Hell exists. Such people say things like, “In our sophisticated modernity we have rid ourselves of such superstitions.” Some folks have convinced themselves that there is no such thing as an afterlife of any kind. Like the old saying, “Once dead, you are dead like Rover, dead all over.” Others aren’t quite so sure, holding the view that there is no Hell but Heaven does indeed exist. Most folks I’ve met who think along these lines are very sure that Heaven is their final destination.

     A surprise awaits those of such a mind. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus went to the Cross and shed His blood to give everyone who would obey Him access to Heaven’s home (John 14:6).

     Sadly, some Christians may also be surprised. We know we have forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:5-10). But we do have to repent and maintain a penitent spirit. Too many of us hold on to particular sins. We grow comfortable with envy and evil thoughts and deeds so that they come to own us (Romans 6:16-18). We may indeed claim Christ but if we refuse to life according to His will we may be surprised. No one wants a surprise in Hell.