Did you know that Jesus talked more about Hell than he did Heaven? Kind of strange that Jesus would talk about the one place he spends the least amount of his time. If Jesus talked about it, then it’s real. I don’t consider anything Jesus said to be anything less than the gospel, literally. This place must have been pretty important to Jesus. He spoke figuratively of it through parables and very literally about it as well.
Before I go any further, maybe I should attempt to describe, define or at least put into context the destination it is I’m trying to avoid populating. If we don’t really attempt to grasp the seriousness of it, then it’s kind of hard for us to fear it. The fear of the unknown is usually not nearly as real as the fear of what we know. Let’s be honest, though, we’ll never fully grasp this. I don’t fully grasp it so I’m going to tell it through Jesus’ words.
“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” –Revelation 1:18
It’s always good to take Jesus at his word unless he specifically reveals he is speaking in parables or speaking of an example. This passage is very literal. What in that passage is not true? Among the truths is that Jesus says he holds the keys of death and Hades (Hell). Hell is where people go experience spiritual, or the final, death. Jesus holds the keys to that place. Keys are tangible, brass, skeleton or a fob. They unlock something, a car, a home, a safe or something. Jesus holds the keys to a place that needs keys to enter. He can send us there. What do the keys unlock? When Jesus described Peter as the rock on which he would build the church he said, “…and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18). Gates are physical barriers, whether they be pearly or hinged. Jesus has the keys to those gates. This is a place is real. It’s where people go to really die.
“…The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment…” –Luke 16:22-23
“So he called out 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.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.'” –Luke 16:24
“‘for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'” –Luke 16:28
So, just how bad is this place? I have to admit this story scared me to death as a child and it was my motivation to avoid Hell. To this day this is my lasting impression of Hell. It’s plenty scary that the torment is by fire. There’s not really anything more scary on earth than a raging forest fire. Now, just imagine you’re trapped in the middle of it and you can’t escape. Worse yet, you can’t even die to be put out of your misery. Going further, imagine continually being tormented by fire and just one drop of water will ease your pain? The rich man didn’t ask to be hosed down by a fire hydrant, he asked for a drop of water off of Lazarus’ finger to ease his agony. Just imagine, one drop! So close but a great chasm away.
But that’s not the only form of torment mentioned in this parable. Imagine the lesser degree of torment you would experience as you look across that great chasm and see others in absolutely no distress at all. In fact, since both of the men mentioned in this parable were Jewish, Abraham would have been the next best thing to standing with God. So, from across the great chasm, from the fire of Hell, the rich man sees a poor beggar standing at the side of the patriarch of the Hebrew nation. To add insult to torment, Abraham can’t even let Lazarus cross over with a saving drop of water.
“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” –Luke 13:28
Evidentially, Abraham plays a big role in Jesus’ description of Hell. He would, after all, be a prime example for Jesus to use in pleading his case to the Jews for the legitimacy of Hell. In arguably the scariest description of Hell, those bound for Hell will see Abraham and all the Jewish patriarchs just before Jesus declares, “away from me,” and sentences unrepented sinners to Hell. As if an eternal life without Jesus and void of Heaven is not bad enough, there is a gnashing of teeth in addition to the burning fire. “Gnashing of teeth” has to be one of the most frightening phrases anywhere in the Bible. So scary, I was afraid to find out the actual meaning of it. Gnashing is the extreme grinding of teeth when in extreme pain or its violently grinding teeth when trying to hold back extreme sorrow. Take your pick, either one sounds like something I want to avoid.
So, souls in Hell, I’m being tormented by God’s chosen people, they are burning up (literally) but not dying, in so much pain and the sorrow is so extreme that they are grinding away their teeth and an unattainable drop of water would soothe all this!
This is not a place I want to knowingly or unknowingly populate!