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Is There a Hell? What Did Jesus Say?

by Bob Russell

  News sources recently reported that Pope Francis claimed hell does not exist. Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist journalist, interviewed Pope Francis and wrote that the pontiff told him, “…those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. There is no hell – there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

The idea that there is no hell is contrary to traditional Catholic teaching about hell, so the Vatican later insisted Scalfari’s piece was not an accurate transcription of the pope’s words. However, Pope Francis has not done much to clarify his position and hasn’t aggressively distanced himself from Scalfari’s reporting. Some in the Vatican insist the argument is nil because the pope wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra – from the official chair.

Whether or not the pope believes in hell doesn’t change its reality. What ultimately matters is what Jesus said about hell. Jesus claimed He was God in the flesh and proved His claim by conquering death. That means Jesus is the only reliable theologian on the doctrine of hell. Remarkably, no one placed more emphasis on hell as the final consequence of those who rebel against God than did Jesus.

Vance Havner told about a church member who didn’t like the sermons he preached about hell. “Preach about the meek and lowly Jesus,” the member pleaded. Havner replied, “That’s where I got my information about hell.”

It’s true—most of what we know about hell comes from the mouth of the One who loved people so much that He laid down His life to save us. Jesus warned more about hell than did any other biblical figure. Our understanding of the punishment for sins primarily comes from Him.
Here’s what Jesus said about hell:

Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Matthew 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Luke 16:23-24 “In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue because I am in agony in this fire.”

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

John 5:28-29 “Do not be amazed at this, the time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

Numerous other verses could be cited, but these are sufficient to show that Jesus clearly taught the reality of an eternal hell. Jesus’ teaching leaves no room for the concept of the mere “disappearance of sinful souls.”

  1. Hell is not a place where people are tormented by the devil.It is where those who reject God will suffer the same fate as the devil and his demons. It is the place of God’s final judgment.
  2. Hell is another expression of God’s love.Just as a severe fine for drunk driving exists to protect the innocent on the highway, so the threat of hell exists to restrain sin and motivate repentance. God desires that none should perish, but all come to repentance.
  3. Hell respects our free will.C. S. Lewis reasoned that those who go there do so willfully because they reject Christ’s free pardon for sin. Lewis writes, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened.”
  4. Hell is the destiny of those who ignore God’s warning signs.Those who are punished in hell are without excuse because they have deliberately closed their ears to God’s free offer of grace. Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He offers total forgiveness for those who trust in Him. He is patient with those who defiantly resist His love. But there will come a day when even God’s patience is exhausted.

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3).


         Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY.

Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org


One Response to “Is There a Hell? What Did Jesus Say?”

  1. Margie Veuleman says:

    I was referred to this article by my beloved Bro. A. J. Istre. I was telling him the story that today our church ladies’ group was approached by a friend from a men’s group who was so excited about a book his preacher had written about the afterlife and his preacher had researched everything and had SO many answers – all with scripture reference. He said the book explained that hell was NOT eternal – which we challenged and left the issue saying we would next week bring scripture reference for ETERNAL punishment and he should bring the scripture for NOT eternal.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4