He was always ahead of the crowd. He had a shiny new car, clothes that everyone wanted and was at the front of the wave of customers for the newest phones and computers. This rich man put all his confidence in his money and resources and couldn’t care less for God.
Then there was Layne. He was in his late teens, but he looked much older for his weathered features. He often sat outside the rich man’s gate, waiting for the garbage to be put out and hoping to salvage the best of it before the garbage truck came. Despite his circumstances, Layne continued to trust God.
Decades came and decades went. Both men died and appeared before God to be judged for their sins. Layne’s punishment had already been paid by Jesus, and he was ushered into heaven. The rich man had refused to trust Jesus all his life and was sentenced to hell to pay his own punishment.
This is my modern retelling of a story that Jesus told, found in the Bible; Luke 16:19-31.
Before we dig in
There are a few things we can learn from it, but let’s first take a moment to recognize that this is a very sensitive topic and it must be dealt with accordingly.
The point of this article is not to terrify you. Hell is a terrifying place, but it doesn’t have to be your destiny since Jesus has made a way of escape for you. If you are a child of God, then you know this is true in your own life.
Instead, the point of this article is to raise your awareness. Perhaps hell is not something that you’ve thought about much. But you only have your life on earth to consider it, and if you never make a definite decision to surrender your life to God, then you will have to go there to pay for your own sins. Once you’ve died, there’s no return, so consider your eternal destination while you’re still alive.
With all this in mind:
Hell is torment
This is hard to write, and I imagine that it’s hard to read. To think about the torment of hell is not pleasant, but the Bible makes clear that it’s true. It’s a place of torture and agony.
In Jesus’ original story of Lazarus (whom I called Layne) and the rich man, the rich man – while in hell – sees Abraham and Lazarus walking together, far in the distance and safe from the torment:
So [the rich man] 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.’
This text leaves no doubt that the rich man was in great agony. He was begging to receive just a little bit of water on the tip of the finger of a man who he likely despised during his life on earth.
Hell is forever
“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.”
Hell is eternal; forever. Once a person is there, there is no way out; no door to escape through, no person to rescue them, and no possibility of physical death to relieve them after several decades. It’s hard for us to imagine what it means to be tormented forever. Consider this quote which attempts to describe what it is like for the person in hell:
“When you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions and millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then you will have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains.”
Forever is a long time to spend in hell. If you find yourself there one day, you won’t ever be able to escape BUT there is a way out for you now: trust in Jesus.
Those who trust in him have an eternal heaven to look forward to, instead.
Interact with me in the comments
- Which eternal destiny are you currently bound for?
- Is God just in His punishment? Why or why not?
- The rich man believed that if someone rose from the dead to tell his living family about hell, his siblings would repent of their sins and turn to God. Do you think that if someone returned from the dead, it would make a difference?
Resources for deeper digging:
Psst! For more on:
- Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man: you read the original telling in Luke 16:19-31
- Heaven, Hell and the end of the world: I got the quote from Jonathan Edwards from a pdf document provided by radical.net (skip to page 84 for the section that talks specifically about hell).