I T S G AT E S S H A L L N O T
P R E VA I L
What the Bible Teaches about Hell and Final
Judgement
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2015 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the
written permission of the author.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007
Special thanks to the proofreaders Diane Mac Leod and Pat Schmidt without whom this book would
be much harder to read.
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1 - Gehenna, Hades, Tartaros
2 - A Place of Suffering and Pain
3 - The Eternal Nature of Hell
4 - New Testament Descriptions of Hell
5 - The Inhabitants of Hell
6 - The Power of Christ Over Hell
About The Author
T
PREFACE
he subject of hell is not an easy one to address, but it is one the
Lord has put on my heart to examine in this study. As I begin, I am
conscious of the temptation to go beyond what Scripture teaches.
There are many unanswered questions about hell. I am afraid that these
questions will have to remain unanswered. I have learned early in my
ministry that where the Scriptures are silent I too must be silent, as anything
beyond Scripture is mere speculation.
In this study, we will examine the New Testament teaching about hell. In
choosing to limit our reflection to the New Testament, I am not saying that
this doctrine is a New Testament one only. The idea of hell and eternal
punishment is also found in the Old Testament, but that is another study in
itself. Over the course of the next few chapters, we will look at the Greek
words used to speak of hell. We will also examine what Jesus and the
apostles teach on this subject and consider their prophetic words concerning
those who will be sentenced to this place of darkness.
In the end, I would like to point the reader to Christ and His victory over
hell, for in Him alone can we find full release from its condemnation. I
realize this is a difficult subject to deal with, but it is also one we dare not
ignore. A clear understanding of what Jesus and the apostles teach about
hell ought to motivate us to share Christ as the only hope. It should also
move us to deep gratitude for the work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf.
May this study be used to bring many to Christ and to draw those who
already know Him to a place of deeper gratitude and thanksgiving.
God bless
F. Wayne Mac Leod
A
1 - GEHENNA, HADES,
TARTAROS
s we begin our study of the New Testament teaching about hell, it
is important that we examine the Greek words used by Jesus and
His apostles. The New Testament uses three Greek words to
speak about hell.
GEHENNA
The first Greek word used to describe hell is the word "gehenna". This
word is used twelve times in the New Testament. Out of the twelve
occurrences of this word, Jesus uses it eleven times.
The word "gehenna" comes from two Hebrew words. The first is the word
"gay" which refers to a steep valley or a narrow gorge. The second is the
Hebrew word "hinnm" or "Hinnom". Together these two words refer to the
Valley of Hinnom.
The Valley of Hinnom was a steep and narrow valley to the south west of
Jerusalem. It formed part of the border between the tribes of Benjamin and
Judah (see Joshua 18:16). The valley had a significant history. An
understanding of this history will help us better understand why it was used
by Jesus and the apostles to speak about hell.
Child Sacrifice
The Valley of Hinnom was a location where a number of demonic practices
were observed. 2 Chronicles 28:2-3 describes the practice of King Ahaz
who reigned in Jerusalem:
(2) but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made
metal images for the Baals, (3) and he made offerings in the Valley
of the Sons of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering,
according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove
out before the people of Israel. (2 Chronicles 28)
Later on in the history of Judah, we read about the practice of King
Manasseh:
(6) And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of
Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt
with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight
of the Lord, provoking him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:6)
We have here the record of two kings of Judah who burned their children in
the fire as a sacrifice to pagan gods in the Valley of Hinnom. The Valley of
Hinnom was known to be a place where children were burnt in the demonic
practice of child sacrifice.
Place of Slaughter and Dead Bodies
God spoke out against the evil practices that took place in the Valley of
Hinnom through the prophet Jeremiah:
(31) And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the
Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their son and their daughters
in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.
(32) Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of
Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury in Topheth,
because there is no room elsewhere, (33) And the dead bodies of this
people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the
earth, and none will frighten them away. (Jeremiah 7:31-33)
The Lord cursed this valley because of the evil that took place in it.
According to Jeremiah, the valley would become known as a valley of
slaughter. There in that valley, the bodies of the dead would be cast to rot
and decay. There the birds of the air and the wild beasts would roam freely
eating the decaying remains of these corpses.
A Place of Impurities and Defilement
Historically, the Valley of Hinnom became a place where the garbage of the
city was thrown. The bodies of dead animals or criminals were cast into the
fires of the valley. These fires were kept burning to get rid of the impurities.
Smoke rose from these fires on a continual basis (see
http://biblehub.com/topical/h/hinnom.htm). The Valley was an unclean
place where all that was impure and defiled was cast.
The use of the word "gehenna" or Valley of Hinnom, to describe hell is
significant. It tells us that hell is a place of ungodly practices, death, and
defilement where the fires of judgment continually rise consuming the
decaying remains of corpses cast into it.
HADES
The second Greek word used to describe hell is the word "hades." It occurs
ten times in the New Testament and is used by both Jesus and the apostles.
Hades is not as easy to define as gehenna. Hades is literally the place of the
dead. When we speak of the place of the dead, however, we are not
speaking about a grave where we bury the physical body. It appears to be
the place where the soul of the unbeliever goes after death.
Probably the best description of Hades is seen in Luke 16:19-31. Here in
this passage, the Lord Jesus speaks about a rich man and Lazarus. The rich
man lived a life of luxury. Lazarus was a poor man who ate the scraps that
fell from the rich man's table. When Lazarus died he was taken by the
angels to Abraham's side. When the rich man died, however, he went to
Hades (Luke 16:23). Jesus went on to describe what the rich man
experienced in Hades:
(23) and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw
Abraham far off and Lazarus at this side. (24) And he called out,
Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the
end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in
this flame. (25) But Abraham said, "Child, remember that you in
your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner
bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
(26) And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has
been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may
not be able, and none may cross from there to us." (Luke 16)
There are some clear points we need to make about Hades from this
passage.
Hades is for Those Who Do Not Belong to God
Notice first in this story that Lazarus was conducted after his death into the
presence of Abraham by the angels. The rich man's destiny was very
different. He was sent to Hades. This shows us that the destiny of those who
belong to God and those who do not belong to God are very different after
death. Hades is a place for those who have rejected God and His salvation.
Hades is a Place of Torment
The second point we need to notice in this story is that Hades was a place of
torment for the rich man. He begged Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his
finger in water and touch his tongue with the water. Even that simple
gesture would have brought relief from the flames. The rich man is very
conscious of pain and suffering in Hades.
Hades is a Place from Which No One Can Escape
Finally, notice in this passage that Abraham makes it clear to the rich man
that there was a great chasm between Hades and the place where Lazarus
rested. That chasm was such that no one could pass from one side to the
other. Those who went to Hades would remain there forever with no hope
of ever crossing the chasm into the presence of God. Hades, therefore, is a
permanent separation from God and His blessings.
TARTAROS
There is one final Greek word used to describe hell. This word is only used
once in the New Testament by Peter.
(4) For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them
into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be
kept until the judgement... (2 Peter 2:4)
The Greek word used for hell by Peter in this passage is unique in the New
Testament. It is the word "tartaros". "Tartaros" was a Greek concept. Like
Hades, it was the place of the wicked dead. Tartaros was considered by the
Greeks, however, to be the lowest abyss of Hades. It was reserved for the
most wicked of spirits and the severest of torments. Peter seems to be
telling his readers that God severely punished these wicked angels by
sending them to the deepest darkness of Hades—to Tartaros itself. This may
indicate that just as there are degrees of rewards in heaven, so there may be
degrees of punishment for evil in hell.
What do these words teach us about hell? Jesus and the apostles described a
place called Gehenna, Hades, and Tartaros. This is a place to where the
ungodly are sentenced. Each of these words sheds light on the nature of
hell. Gehenna speaks of a deep valley or pit into which impurities are cast
to be burnt. It is a place of slaughter and death. Hades is a place of torment
separated by a chasm that cannot be crossed. Tartaros is a deep, dark abyss
inhabited by evil spirits.
While the teaching of Jesus and the apostles is not pleasant, we cannot deny
that they spoke of hell as eternal separation from God and a place of
judgment and torment. They believed in a real hell and warned about it in
their teaching.
For Consideration:
What is the origin of the word "gehenna"? What does the word teach us
about hell?
How does Jesus' teaching about the rich man and Lazarus help us
understand the word "hades"? What does this story tell us about Hades?
What is the difference between Tartaros and Hades? Could this indicate a
degree of torment in hell?
Why is the teaching of Jesus and the apostles a difficult one for our society
to accept?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to consider what the three Greek words we have examined
teach us about hell. If you know the Lord Jesus today, take a moment to
thank Him for His victory over hell.
Ask God to give you greater compassion for those around you who do not
know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour.
Take a moment to pray for a loved one or an acquaintance who does not
know the Lord. Ask God to reveal Himself to them.
Ask God to give you a compassionate heart as you continue this study. Ask
Him to help you see and feel the reality of what Scriptures teach on this
important subject.
I
2 - A PLACE OF SUFFERING
AND PAIN
t is never easy to speak about the topic of hell. It is, however, clearly
taught in Scripture and therefore it is important that we understand
something about it. It is evident from the teaching of Jesus and the
apostles that hell is a place of tremendous suffering and pain.
In the previous chapter we examined the illustration of Lazarus and the rich
man:
(23) and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw
Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. (24) And he called out,
Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the
end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in
this flame. (25) But Abraham said, "Child, remember that you in
your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner
bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
(26) And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has
been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may
not be able, and none may cross from there to us." (Luke 16:23-26)
This passage describes, in part, the experience of the rich man in Hades.
Notice first, in verse 23 that the rich man is said to be in torment. The
passage does not go into detail to describe this torment except to say that
his anguish was because of the flames of Hades. It is important to note that
while these flames tormented him, they did not destroy him. He lived to
suffer the agony of these flames.
Notice also the rich man's request. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to
dip the tip of his finger into some water to cool his tongue. Imagine that you
have been working hard on a hot summer day. The heat has had its effect on
you and your body is crying out for water. How much of your thirst would
be quenched by dipping the tip of your finger in a glass of water and putting
it on your tongue? The suffering of the rich man in this story is such that he
longed for even a single drop of water to bring relief.
The other important detail we need to see from this story about the rich man
and Lazarus is the fact that there was a great chasm fixed between Hades
and Heaven so that there could be no passing from one to the other. Those
who enter Hades remain there. Added to the physical suffering of Hades is
the understanding that all hope of escape is gone. The sense of despair
would be obvious for this rich man as he contemplated eternity in this place
of torment and suffering.
Listen to what Jesus taught in Mark 9:43-48:
(43) And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you
to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the
unquenchable fire. (45) And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown
into hell. (47) And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is
better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with
two eyes to be thrown into hell, (48) where their worm does not die
and the fire is not quenched.
What Jesus taught about hell in these verses is repeated several times in the
New Testament (see Matthew 5:29-30; 18:9). What is Jesus telling us here?
He is telling us that the agony of hell is such that we would do well to avoid
it at all costs. It would be better to cut off our hand or foot and live as a
cripple for the rest of our earthly life than to experience the torment of hell.
It would be better to tear out an eye and live without sight than to suffer the
flames of hell. Jesus is not literally telling us to do these horrible things to
ourselves. What He is saying, however, is that taking an ax to our hand or
foot or a knife to our eye and living a whole life on earth with the
consequences would be far less painful than the torment of hell. The most
violent thing that could happen to us on earth is nothing compared to the
eternal anguish of hell.
Jesus describes hell in Matthew 8:11-12 as a place of darkness where there
will be weeping and gnashing of teeth:
(11) I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at the
table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
(12) while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer
darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of
teeth. (Matthew 8)
There are two Greek words translated by the English word "weeping" in the
New Testament. The first word is "dakryo" which refers to a shedding of
tears and a quiet sorrow. The second word is "klauthmos" with comes from
the word "klaio" describing a wailing or a loud cry of pain and agony. Jesus
uses this second word to describe the loud cries of despair and anguish in
hell. The gnashing of teeth refers to the depth of agony experienced by
those who suffer in hell. Jesus speaks of this weeping and gnashing of teeth
also in Matthew 22:13 and 25:30.
In Luke 8:26-33 we have the story of a man who was possessed by a
number of demons. He refused to wear any clothes or live in a house. In
fact, he chose to live among the tombs. The demons that possessed him
would overcome him at times. The people of the community feared him and
attempted to bind him with shackles and chains. When the spirits
manifested themselves, however, this man would break the chains and
wander into the desert.
When Jesus encountered the man, he commanded that the evil spirits come
out of him (Luke 8:29). Listen to the response of the demons in Luke 8:31,
32:
(31) And they begged him not to command them to depart into the
abyss. (32) Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the
hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave
them permission.
When commanded to leave the man, the demons begged Jesus not to send
them into the abyss. An abyss is a bottomless pit, a term used in Scripture to
describe hell (see Revelation 11:7; 20:1-3). These demons understood better
than anyone, the nature of hell and its torments. They begged Jesus to spare
them this agony. Even demons fear hell.
In Revelation 9 the bottomless pit, another picture of hell, is described:
(1) And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had
fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of
the bottomless pit. (2) He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and
from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the
sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. (3)
Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given
power like the power of scorpions of the earth. (4) They were told
not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but
only those people who do not have the seal of God on their
foreheads. (5) They were allowed to torment them for five months,
but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a
scorpion when it stings someone. (6) And in those days people will
seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will
flee from them. (Revelation 9)
There are some important details we need to see in this passage. Notice first
that when the shaft of the bottomless pit was opened, smoke arose from it
like the smoke of a great furnace. The smoke was so thick that it darkened
the light of the sun. Imagine living in a place where the smoke was so great
it blocked the light of the sun. This would be a very inhospitable
environment in which to live.
Notice also what was living in that inhospitable environment. Revelation
9:3 tells us that locust-like creatures rose from this abyss. Locusts in
Scripture are often seen as a devouring insect. They ate up the livelihood of
mankind and left him with nothing.
The locusts of Revelation 9 were given the power of a scorpion to sting and
inflict great pain. Notice that they were only permitted to harm those who
did not know the Lord (Revelation 9:4). The pain they inflicted was so great
that those who were stung by them preferred death to the pain of these
stings. While the passage describes the locusts leaving the pit to inflict these
wounds on the people of the earth, what we need to understand is that these
locusts inhabited the bottomless pit of hell. I certainly would not want to
live in their presence.
Notice finally that these locusts only had the power to inflict pain but they
could not kill. People longed to die and cried out for death, but death would
not come to them. They continued to live in agony. Certainly what we see
in this passage gives us a glimpse of the reality of hell and its torment.
Let me conclude this reflection with one more verse from Revelation 20:10:
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of
fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they
will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
We will examine this verse in greater detail in another context. What is
important for us to note here is that Satan and his helpers were cast into hell
where they would be tormented day and night forever. There does not
appear to be any relief from this torment. Day and night they suffered the
agony of their rebellion against God and His purpose.
What do these verses teach us about hell? They teach us that hell is a place
of such agony that even the tip of a finger dipped in cold water would be a
relief from the suffering experienced. Its misery cannot be compared to
even the most violent of crimes against our body. The cutting off of hands
and feet or the plucking out of eyes would be preferable to the bitter
anguish of hell. It is a place of loud wailing—a place so evil that even the
demons of Satan fear to go there. It is an inhospitable place of dark smoke,
fire, and grief so intense that death is longed for more than anything else.
We may look at these verses and question how a loving God could allow
such agony, but this is not the subject of this study. The reality of the matter
is that the truths we have examined in this chapter are clearly taught by
Jesus and the apostles. They warn us about a place called hell that it is a
place of terrible suffering and torment. It is in love that God warns us today.
It is in love that God sent His Son to die, defeating the power of sin so that
all who turn to Him can escape its flames.
For Consideration:
What do the verses considered in this chapter teach us about the intensity of
agony and suffering in hell?
What does Luke 8:31-32 teach us about what the demons think of hell?
What do we learn from Revelation 9:1-5 about the bottomless pit of hell?
What kind of place is it?
Is there relief from the agony and torment of hell for Satan and his angels
according to Revelation 20:10?
Does the fact that we do not understand why God would allow such
suffering change the truth we see in these verses?
What hope do we have of victory over the agony of hell?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to thank the Lord that sin will be judged.
Ask God to help you to see the seriousness of sin and its eternal
implication.
Ask God to help you to accept the truth He presents to us here in His word
about the reality of a final judgment in hell.
Take a moment to ask the Lord to open the hearts of your loved ones to the
reality of Jesus' teaching about hell.
W
3 - THE ETERNAL NATURE
OF HELL
e have seen that Jesus and the apostles taught that hell was a
place of pain and torment. We will now consider what the
New Testament teaches us about the eternal nature of hell.
In Matthew 3 we are introduced to John the Baptist. On one occasion when
he was preaching and baptizing by the Jordan River, he saw a group of
Pharisees and Sadducees coming to listen to him and watch what he was
doing. John understood the reputation of these two groups and may have
questioned their motives in being present that day. Listen to what he told
them in Matthew 3:7-12:
(7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming
to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned
you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bear fruit in keeping with
repentance. (9) And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have
Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones
to raise up children for Abraham. (10) Even now the axe is laid to
the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear food
fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (11) I baptize you with
water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier
than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, He will baptize you
with the Holy Spirit and fire. (12) His winnowing fork is in his hand,
and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the
barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3)
The picture John the Baptist paints here is of a man who is separating the
wheat from the chaff. He takes a fork and shakes the wheat so that the chaff
is separated from it. The wheat he carefully stores in his barn but the chaff
he burns in the fire. John uses this illustration to show what would happen
to the Pharisees and Sadducees. He told them that the Lord would separate
the wheat from the chaff—those who loved Him from those who rejected
Him and His purpose.
Notice what John said would happen to those who rejected the Lord in that
day of judgment. He tells us that the chaff would be burned with
unquenchable fire. The term "unquenchable" is significant. John is telling
us that the flames of that fire will not go out. John illustrates for us the
reality of hell. Those who reject Christ will be thrown into this
unquenchable fire whose flames will continue to burn throughout the ages.
In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks about a day of judgment:
(31) When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels
with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne, (32) Before him will
be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from
another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) And
he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
(Matthew 25:31-33)
The right hand in Scripture is a place of favour and blessing. The sheep, on
His right hand, are those who belonged to Christ. The goats, on the other
hand, are those who reject Him and His ways. Notice what the Lord says to
the goats on His left hand:
(41) Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you
cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(Matthew 25:41)
Notice how Jesus describes hell in this passage. He describes it as the
"eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." The word eternal gives
us a clear sense that this fire of hell burns forever. Its flames will never be
extinguished.
Jesus would go on to say about the goats, who represent those who have
rejected Him and His work:
(46) And these will go away into eternal punishment but the
righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25)
Jesus told us in Matthew 25:41 that the flames of hell would be eternal.
Here in Matthew 25:46, however, he takes this a step further by saying that
the punishment of the goats (those who have rejected Him) will also be
eternal. Just as the righteous experience eternal life, so the wicked will
experience eternal punishment. It is one thing for the fires of hell to burn
forever, but quite another for the wicked to experience eternal punishment
in those fires.
In the Gospel of Mark Jesus told His listeners that it would be better to tear
out their eye than to go to hell. Listen to what Jesus told His listeners that
day:
(47) And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you
to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be
thrown into hell, (48) where their worm does not die and the fire is
not quenched. (Mark 9:47-48)
Jesus speaks here again of a fire that is not quenched. Notice also, however,
that He also speaks of a worm that does not die. The worm spoken of here
is the kind of worm that feeds on decay and garbage. Jesus is telling his
listeners that this worm will live forever feeding on the decay of hell. This
worm will never die because there is a constant supply for it to feed on.
Again this teaches us something about the eternal nature of hell and its
torment.
Revelation 20:13-14 adds to this when it says:
(13) And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades
gave up the dead who were in them and they were judged, each one
of them according to what they had done. (14) Then Death and
Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the
lake of fire. (Revelation 20)
Notice how Death and Hades, after being forced to release their dead for
judgment, were then cast into the lake of fire. Death would no longer have
any authority or power.
Why is the defeat of death significant in the context of this study? If death
has been defeated and has no more authority, it can no longer take away
life. There will be no more dying. What implication does this have for those
who suffer in hell? If they cannot die, they will live forever under the
judgment of God. This is a frightening prospect.
Revelation 20:10 speaks of the judgment of the devil, the prophet and the
beast:
(10) And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake
of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and
they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation
20)
There can be no doubt about the torment of the devil, the false prophet and
the beast. They would be tormented "day and night forever and ever." Death
was not a possibility for these individuals. They would live to suffer the
consequences of their actions for all eternity.
We have already examined Revelation 9 in another context. The passage
speaks of how, when the fifth angel blew his trumpet, the shaft of the
bottomless pit was opened. When the pit was opened locusts descended on
the earth. Revelation 9:3-6 describe these locusts and their evil power:
(3) Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were
given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were
told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any
tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their
foreheads. (5) They were allowed to torment them for five months,
but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a
scorpion when it stings someone. (6) And in those days people will
seek death and will not find in. They will long to die, but death will
flee from them. (Revelation 9)
The locusts of the bottomless pit were not given the power to kill—they
could only torment. While people longed to die, death would flee from
them. These verses show us that those who have the power to inflict death
have been stripped of that power. Death will be cast into the lake of fire and
rendered powerless. In those days death would be a great relief but it would
no longer take any victims.
Speaking to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul said:
(8)... The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God
and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They
will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the
presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (2
Thessalonians 1:8-9)
Paul told the Thessalonian church that those who do not obey the gospel of
Christ will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the
presence of the Lord and His might. Since we have already seen that death
would no longer be possible, the word destruction cannot mean that these
individuals will die and be no more. The passage tells us that they will
suffer eternal destruction. The dead no longer suffer. Only the living
experience suffering. Those who do not obey the gospel will experience a
life of eternal destruction and ruin away from the presence of the Lord and
separated from His mighty works.
In the verses we have examined, we see that Jesus and the apostles seem to
speak of a hell that will be forever. Its flames will be unquenchable. Its
worm will never die. Its punishment will be felt forever. Death will be
defeated and no longer able to take life. The torment and punishment of hell
will be forever and ever. Though its inhabitants long for death, it will not
come to them.
For Consideration:
What do the passages we have considered in this chapter teach us about the
eternal nature of hell?
Will those who are sentenced to hell experience its torment forever?
How is death stripped of its power according to the book of Revelation?
Why do you figure that this truth about hell is not preached about more
often?
How would you answer those who say that hell will not be forever but that
those who go to hell will die and be no more?
For Prayer:
Take a moment to reflect on what we have seen in this chapter. Ask the
Lord to give you a heart of compassion for those who will experience the
reality of hell.
Take a moment to thank the Lord that He has sent His Son to set those who
accept His offer of pardon free from the eternal reality of hell and its
torment.
Thank the Lord for the warnings the Scriptures give to us about hell.
Take a moment to ask the Lord to open the hearts and minds of those
around you who do not understand the seriousness of hell and its reality.
T
4 - NEW TESTAMENT
DESCRIPTIONS OF HELL
he reality of what the New Testament teaches about hell is very
difficult. I suspect that words are insufficient to describe this place
of eternal torment. The New Testament does, however, attempt to
give us a general idea of what hell is like. It does so by means of words and
pictures. In the course of this chapter, we will examine three New
Testament pictures of hell.
Fire
One of the first and most common descriptions of hell in the New
Testament is that of fire. Jesus alludes to this in Matthew 5:22 when He
says:
(22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment: whoever insults his brother will be liable
to the council; and whoever says, "You fool! will be liable to the hell
of fire. (Matthew 5)
Jesus speaks here about the "hell of fire". The word He uses is the Greek
word "gehenna," which we examined in the first chapter. The word
"gehenna" refers to the Valley of Hinnom where the fires burned
continuously, consuming the garbage and decaying carcasses of sacrifices
and dead animals.
In Matthew 13:40 Jesus, speaking to His disciples, told them:
(40) Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it
be at the end of the age. (Matthew 13)
Jesus describes a great fire at the end of the age where weeds are burned
with fire. The weeds are those who have not borne spiritual fruit—those
who have never come to know the Lord Jesus or received His forgiveness.
These individuals will be burned with fire. Jesus explains this in the next
two verses of Matthew 13 when He says:
(41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of
his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, (42) and throw
them into the fiery furnace. In that place, there will be weeping and
gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13)
Notice again the reference to the fiery furnace where law-breakers are
thrown. This fiery furnace will be a place of great suffering described by
Jesus in the words "weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Describing the judgment of the last days, Jesus said:
(41) Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you
cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(Matthew 25)
When Jesus returns He will gather the nations before Him and separate
"people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats"
(Matthew 25:32). Those on His left will be sent into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels." Notice once again that the fire
described here is an "eternal" fire that will never go out. It will burn through
all eternity judging sin and evil. A fire that never goes out is a fire that
always has fuel.
The writer of Hebrews describes hell as a fire when he said:
(26) For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the
knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
(27) but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that
will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10)
The writer describes the fire of hell as a consuming fire of fury. These
flames are furious flames full of judgment. In verse 27 he makes it clear
that those who are judged and found guilty ought to be fearful of these
flames.
We read in Jude 1:6-7:
(6) And the angels who did not stay within their own position of
authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal
chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day
(7) Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which
likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural
desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal
fire. (Jude 1)
In Genesis 19:23-29 we read how God destroyed the cities of Sodom and
Gomorrah by raining fire and sulfur on them. Jude tells us that this was a
picture of the judgment to come. Notice, however, that while the fire of
Sodom and Gomorrah consumed and went out, the fire Jude speaks of here
is a "punishment of eternal fire".
Jude would go on in his epistle to challenge his readers:
(22) And have mercy on those who doubt; (23) save others by
snatching them out of the fire...
Jude calls us to be instruments of God to rescue those who are destined for
the fire of God's judgment.
Finally, Revelation 20:15 says:
(15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20)
The imagery of a lake of fire is a powerful one. This is not a campfire
lighting up the evening sky but an entire environment engulfed in fire and
flames. Those thrown into this lake are immersed in the very flames of that
fire.
The flames of this eternal fire torment the devil and his angels day and
night:
(20) And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake
of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and
they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation
2)
The New Testament describes hell as a place of furious and consuming fire
where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Those thrown into it
will experience the torment of its eternal flames.
Darkness
The second description of hell found in the New Testament is that of
darkness. We read for example in Matthew 8:11-12:
(11) I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at
table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
(12) while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness.
In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew
8)
Notice that this place of darkness will be a place of weeping and gnashing
of teeth. The darkness described here is "outer" darkness. The idea is that
this is the kind of darkness that is only found in the outer limits, as far
removed from any source of light as possible. It is the darkest form of
darkness. This phrase "outer darkness" appears only in the gospel of
Matthew (see also Matthew 22:13 and 25:30).
The apostle Peter, however, uses a similar illustration in 2 Peter 2:4 when
he says:
(4) For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them
into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be
kept until the judgment... (2 Peter 2)
Peter uses the expression "gloomy darkness" to describe hell. The word
Peter uses here for hell is the word "tartaros" referring to the deepest pit of
hell. The term gloomy carries with it a sense of despair and helplessness.
These passages speak of a place of complete darkness. This is a darkness of
despair and helplessness. It is darkness so deep it causes fear and gnashing
of teeth. All hope of ever seeing light again is gone. As one who has
suffered from depression, this concept suggests to me a sense of
hopelessness. Those who have suffered from any form of depression often
compare it to a deep darkness where there is no sign of light, hope, or help
of any kind. It is a place of despair where all reason to live is gone. It is a
place where there is no encouragement, support or blessing of any kind. It is
a dark place of agony, hopelessness, and fear.
Bottomless Pit
There is one final New Testament illustration I would like to consider in
this chapter. The book of Revelation refers to hell as a bottomless pit. Let's
look again at Revelation 9:1-2:
(1) And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from
heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the
bottomless pit. (2) He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and
from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the
sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
(Revelation 9)
Hell is described in terms of both fire and darkness. One of the questions
we ask ourselves is this. If hell is described as a fire which gives light, how
can it also be compared to deep darkness? The answer is found for us here
in Revelation 9. When the shaft of this bottomless pit is opened, smoke rose
from the pit sufficient enough to hide the light of the sun. We have in
Revelation an illustration of fire with smoke so thick it blocks the light. All
of this rose from what is called a bottomless pit.
Revelation 9:11 tells us more about this bottomless pit:
(11) They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His
name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek, he is called Apollyon.
(Revelation 9)
In that pit, an angel lived whose name was Abaddon in Hebrew or Apollyon
in Greek. Abaddon in Hebrew means "destruction." Apollyon in Greek
means "destroyer." This name is significant to tell us something about this
bottomless pit. It is ruled by a destroying angel.
Let's take a moment to consider this illustration of a bottomless pit. There is
no bottom to this pit. This means that when someone is thrown into it he or
she continues to plunge deeper and deeper into its depths. With each
passing moment, the individual plummets farther and farther away from the
surface and from all hope. The picture of a bottomless pit gives us a sense
of things plunging deeper and deeper into hopelessness, despair, and
darkness. Things do not improve in hell. If there were a bottom to this pit,
there might be hope that things would stabilize and not get any worse but
this is not the case. We have the sense that with each passing moment its
inhabitants are dragged farther from God, and deeper into evil and despair.
The New Testament pictures hell as a place of eternal furious fire, a place
so dark that all light of God is removed and a place so deep that those cast
into it, plunge farther and farther into its despair and evil. Words and
illustrations do not describe adequately the reality of this place but they are
sufficient to warn us of the great danger that lies ahead for those who turn
their back on the only hope we have of escape—the Lord Jesus Christ and
His work on the cross of Calvary.
For Consideration:
Hell is described as eternal fire. What does this illustration teach us about
hell and its conditions?
Hell is also described as deep darkness. What does this teach us about the
nature of hell? What does this darkness of hell teach us about the conditions
of hell?
The book of Revelation speaks of hell as a bottomless pit. What does the
fact that it has no bottom imply to you? What does this teach us about the
conditions of hell?
Take a short moment to reflect on the three illustrations we have examined
in this chapter. How would you summarize what hell is like?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to accept more fully the teaching of Jesus and the
apostles about hell as a place of eternal fire and darkness.
Ask God to give you deeper compassion for those who have refused His
offer of forgiveness.
Take a moment to recognize that hell was your destiny until the Lord Jesus
revealed Himself to you. Thank the Lord for rescuing you. Ask Him to
enable you to be His instrument to snatch others from the flames and
darkness of hell.
I
5 - THE INHABITANTS OF
HELL
n this study of the New Testament teaching about hell, it is important
that we examine one other prominent theme. Jesus and the apostles
speak in numerous places about the inhabitants of this place of eternal
fire. Let us now take a moment to examine what they tell us about the
inhabitants of hell.
Those who do not Know God or Obey the Gospel
The first group who will be in hell is referred to in Scripture as those who
"do not know God or obey the gospel." Listen to what Paul said in 2
Thessalonians 1:7-9:
(7) ... the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
(8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know
God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9)
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from
the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (2
Thessalonians 1)
There are two groups of people referred to here by the apostle. First, there
are those who do not know God. Second, there are those who have not
obeyed the gospel of our Lord.
In Romans 1:18-20 the apostle Paul said:
(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their
unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known
about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20)
for his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine
nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the
world, in the things that have been made. So they are without
excuse.
Paul makes it quite clear that creation shows us that there is a God. Not
only does creation show us there is a God but it also shows us something of
His character and attributes. God reveals Himself to all His creation through
His works and actions on the earth. Paul's reference in 2 Thessalonians to
those who do not know God is to those who have never taken the time to
get to know Him as their Creator and God. He speaks about those who have
"by their unrighteousness suppressed the truth (Romans 1:19). In other
words, they have chosen to ignore the truth of the existence of God and
their lives as they please.
The second group in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 is referred to as those who do
not obey the gospel. Could it be that these individuals have not only had
creation as their witness but also the message of the gospel that has been
preached to them? They have not only turned their back on the truth of God
in creation but they have also rejected the person and work of the Son of
God as proclaimed in the gospel. Both those who have heard the message of
the Gospel and those who have not heard are guilty. Those who have heard
are guilty because they have rejected the message they heard and those who
have never heard are guilty because they have rejected the knowledge of
God as revealed to them in creation.
The first inhabitants of hell are those who have rejected God. These are
people who have chosen to turn their backs on God and His Word to live
their own way. They want nothing of God or His plan of salvation. They do
not want to be governed by God. They are proud people who have chosen
to ignore the call of God.
Those who Refuse To Be Changed By the Gospel
Listen to what the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 10:26-27:
(26) For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the
knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
(27) but a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will
consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10)
Those who deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the
truth will be judged by the fury of God's fire. This refers to those who have
heard the truth of the gospel and have chosen instead to remain in their sin.
They may have even understood the truth of the gospel, but they did not
allow that truth to change their hearts or their actions. They have refused to
surrender to Christ despite their knowledge of His way.
The apostle John speaks of this when he says in Revelation 21:8:
(8) But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for
murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars,
their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which
is the second death. (Revelation 21)
The list John gives in Revelation 21:8 is a list of those who have never
allowed the message of the gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ to
change their lives. They have refused the gospel, and have deliberately
chosen to continue in their sinful ways. These inhabitants of hell are proud
and evil. They have refused to change or leave their evil ways. Instead, they
are governed by their lusts and evil desires.
The Unfruitful
John the Baptist used an illustration to present the ministry of the Lord
Jesus to those who had come to be baptized. Listen to what he tells those
listening to him in Matthew 3:12:
(12) His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his
threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he
will burn with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3)
John compares these people to chaff. The chaff was what was left over after
the grain was separated. This chaff was useless for anything. While the
wheat was stored in the barn, the chaff was burned with unquenchable fire.
The chaff speaks of those whose lives have been unfruitful and
unproductive for the Lord. These individuals, says John, will be cast into
the unquenchable fire.
Jesus would say the same thing in Matthew 7:19:
(19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown
into the fire. (Matthew 7)
He repeats this in Matthew 13:40 where it says:
(40) Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it
be at the end of the age. (Matthew 13)
Jesus speaks about weeds and fruitless trees. There is a growth of a sort in
fruitless trees and weeds, but not the kind of growth that the Lord Jesus is
seeking. The fruit Jesus seeks is a work of His Spirit in our lives. The only
way this kind of fruit can be produced in the life of an individual is through
a close connection with the Lord Jesus.
(6) If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch
and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire,
and burned. (John 15)
There is a difference between human religious effort and spiritual fruit.
Human beings can discipline themselves to be religious, but only those who
abide in Christ can produce the fruit Jesus speaks about here. The unfaithful
Jesus speaks about here fall into two groups. First, there are those who have
no desire to follow him and live sinful lives governed by their own lusts and
desires. Second, there are those who may attempt to do good things, but
have no connection with the Lord Jesus, nor are they dependent on His
Spirit to lead and empower.
Hell will be populated with people who have chosen to do things their own
way; people who have never submitted to the Lordship of Christ or
surrendered to the work of His Spirit in their lives.
The Religious
This leads us to the next group of people who will populate hell. Jesus, in
particular, speaks of this group. Listen to what He said about the Pharisees
and scribes, the religious leaders of His day:
(15) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel
across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he
becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as
yourselves. (Matthew 23)
He would go on in this same chapter to address these religious leaders by
saying:
(33) You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being
sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23)
Speaking about the religious Jews of His day the Lord would say:
(11) I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at
table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
(12) while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer
darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(Matthew 8)
Notice here that "the sons of the kingdom" would be thrown into the outer
darkness. The phrase "sons of the kingdom" refers to those who were
religious but who were not in a right relationship with God. They contented
themselves with their traditions and customs but did not truly know God or
honor Him in their hearts and lives. Their faith was an outward show, but
they were not in a relationship with their Creator.
Jesus teaches us that there will be many religious people in hell. These
individuals are strong on tradition, customs and practices, but have never
received the forgiveness offered by the Lord Jesus. In fact, many of them
believe they are good enough to make it to heaven on their own. They pride
themselves in their good works and religious practices but they will be
surprised when the doors of heaven are barred to them, for they have
refused to realize that all their "righteous" acts were insufficient to cleanse
them of their sin.
The Beast and the False Prophet
Revelation 11:7 tells us that a great beast rose from the bottomless pit to
make war on the two servants of God who will witness in the last days. This
beast would kill these witnesses and leave their bodies to lie in the street.
In Revelation 17, the apostle John saw a great scarlet beast with a woman
riding on him. This beast was full of blasphemous names. The woman he
carried on his back carried with her a golden cup full of abominations and
sexual impurities. This woman was drunk with the blood of "the martyrs of
Jesus" (Revelation 17:6). John tells us in Revelation 17:8 that this beast was
also from the bottomless pit:
(8) The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from
the bottomless pit and go to destruction. (Revelation 17)
The beast spoken of here did much damage on the earth. He stood against
God and waged war on those who loved His name. Listen to what John tells
us will happen to this great beast:
19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies
gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and
against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the
false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he
deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those
who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake
of fire that burns with sulfur. (Revelation 19:19-20)
There in the flames of hell will be found the great beast who blasphemed
the name of the Lord God and who fought against the saints of Jesus,
seeking to destroy them.
Demons and Satan
In Matthew 25, Jesus was teaching about the coming judgment. He told
those listening to Him that in the day of judgment the sheep would be
separated from the goats. The sheep would be placed at the right hand of
favour, while the goats would be placed to His left.
(41) Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you
cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(Matthew 25)
What is important for us to note here is that Jesus tells us that this eternal
fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. This being the case, they too,
will be inhabitants of hell.
Peter tells us:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into
hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept
until the judgment. (2 Peter 2:4)
Notice again that Peter tells us that God cast the angels who sinned
(demons) into hell where they were committed to chains of gloomy
darkness. Hell will be filled with demons.
The apostle John describes the day when Satan would be captured and cast
into the lake of fire:
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of
fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they
will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation
20:10)
Satan and all his demons will be in hell tormented day and night forever
and ever. There in that lake of fire, the screams of their agony will also be
heard.
Death and Hades
The final inhabitants of hell are described in Revelation 20:14:
(14) Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is
the second death, the lake of fire. (Revelation 20)
Death and Hades were great enemies. They would be rendered powerless.
The gates to this lake of fire would be closed for all eternity. Never again
would death or the grave have any impact. There in hell, death and the
grave would lament their powerlessness. Those who suffered the torment of
hell would look to them for relief but find none. Death, the great saviour of
the inhabitants of hell would be powerless and unable to satisfy its thirst or
ease the suffering of hell's victims.
Someone once said, "If the flames of hell do not scare you, think of those
you will be living with." Please don't misunderstand what I am saying here.
This is not meant to be a joke. In fact, it is not funny at all. It is a very
sobering and fearful thought. There in the eternal flames of hell, we find
men and women who have turned their back on God. They are a proud and
rebellious people filled with selfishness and greed, given to satisfying their
own lusts and no longer governed by principles of godliness. With them are
the beast and the false prophet filled with blasphemy and hatred for all that
is godly. Beside them stand Satan and his demons with all their vulgarity,
immorality, blasphemy and hatred for God. Finally, death rendered
powerless sits helplessly in the corner unable to relieve the sufferings and
torment of eternity.
For Consideration:
What kind of people will inhabit hell?
What is the difference between being religious and bearing fruit for the
kingdom of God? Can we serve the Lord and not belong to Him?
What would it be like to live in the presence of the Beast of Revelation,
Satan, and his demons?
Why do you suppose the teaching of Scripture about hell is so difficult for
even Christians to understand? Does our lack of understanding change the
reality of what these Scriptures teach?
For Prayer:
Ask God to help you to accept what He teaches us in the passages of
Scripture we have examined here. Take a moment to thank Him for the
victory of Christ over hell.
Ask God to give you the assurance that you have escaped the torments of
hell through the work of Christ on your behalf.
Ask God to give you the grace to live for Him and serve Him out of
gratitude for what He has done for you in forgiving you and changing your
destiny.
T
6 - THE POWER OF CHRIST
OVER HELL
his study would not be complete if we did not take a moment to
examine the power of the Lord Jesus Christ over hell. As we begin
this final chapter, let me quote Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew
16:18:
(18) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my
church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew
18)
This is a very important passage of Scripture because of what it tells us
about hell and the power of Christ over it. Jesus told Peter that He (Jesus)
was going to build His church and that not even the power of hell could
prevail against it. This is the promise of the Lord Jesus to those who belong
to Him. Satan has no ultimate power over them. Let me take a moment to
examine this statement in greater detail.
The Work of Christ is Sufficient for our Salvation
Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the church
He was going to build. As we consider what Jesus meant by this, the first
thing we need to understand is that Jesus came to die so that we could be
forgiven of the sin and rebellion that sentenced us to an eternity in hell.
Listen to what Jesus said in John 10:27-29:
(27) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one
will snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father who has given
them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them
out of the Father's hand. (John 10)
What is important for us to note in this statement of Jesus is that He gives
His sheep eternal life. Not only does He give them this gift of eternal life
but He goes on to tell us that no one can snatch them from His hands. The
Father is greater than all forces of earth and hell. No one can take those who
belong to Him from Him. The Father keeps and protects those who belong
to Him. Hell itself is not powerful enough to rip us from His powerful
hands.
The apostle Paul told the Romans that if Jesus justified them (placed them
in a right standing with the Father) then no one could condemn them:
(33) Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who
justifies. (34) Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died
—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God,
who indeed is interceding for us. (35) Who shall separate us from
the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8)
The apostle makes it quite clear in Romans 8:1 that there is no
condemnation for those who belong to Jesus:
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus. (Romans 8)
This is a powerful truth. All condemnation is gone for those who have
received the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus. The forgiveness of Christ sets us
free from the power of hell.
(16) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life
(John 3)
Jesus makes it clear in this passage that those who believe in Him (put their
trust and confidence in His work) will not perish but have eternal life. The
salvation Jesus offers is a salvation from the eternal judgment of hell. The
writer of Hebrews tells us that this salvation is a complete and perfect
salvation:
(23) The former priests were many in number, because they were
prevented by death from continuing in office, (24) but he holds his
priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. (25)
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw
near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession
for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)
Jesus saves to the uttermost. The salvation of Jesus is absolutely complete
and sure. There could be nothing more sure than this salvation. It sets us
free from the power of hell and brings us into the presence of God where
we will live forever in His forgiveness.
The clear teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ came to offer
us victory over sin, death, and hell. Only in Him is this forgiveness
possible. Those who draw near to Him and receive His forgiveness are
saved to the uttermost. The gates of hell will have no authority over them.
Satan and his Demons are Subject to Christ
We have seen that the gates of hell cannot prevail against those who belong
to Christ because the work of Jesus is sufficient to completely save them
from hell. There is another important point we need to make here. The gates
of hell cannot prevail against those who belong to Christ because Satan and
his demons are ultimately subject to Christ and have no power over Him.
From the very beginning of Jesus’ life as a man, Satan did his best to
destroy the work that God was doing in sending His Son to earth. He
attempted to kill Jesus through Herod when He was a baby. He caused the
religious leaders of the day to persuade the people to resist His teaching. He
entered one of His disciples and used him to betray Jesus so He would be
killed. He caused Peter to deny Jesus and all the other disciples to run away
from Him in His hour of need. In Luke 4:1-13 Satan tempted the Lord
Jesus, seeking to distract Him from His mission on this earth. Despite these
many efforts of Satan, Jesus overcame. Even in His death He overcame the
power of Satan and destroyed his hold on the lives of countless men and
woman who would come to Him for salvation and forgiveness.
The apostle Paul said:
(8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9)
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the
name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
(11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory
of God the Father. (Philippians 2)
Notice that because Christ Jesus overcame, God exalted Him and gave Him
a name that was over every name. This name is not just a word; it is a
position of authority and power. That power and authority are over every
power in heaven, earth and under the earth. The phrase "under the earth" is
a reference to Hades and hell. The authority of Christ is greater than all the
powers of hell. Hell has no authority over Christ. He has conquered its
power and offers pardon to those who will come to Him.
In His ministry on earth, we see how even the demons of hell feared Christ.
Jesus set people free from the power of evil spirits who troubled them (see
Matthew 4:24; 8:16; 8:28; 10:8). All the great enemies of hell are subject to
Christ. The Beast and the False Prophet of Revelation were thrown into the
lake of fire, as was Satan (see Revelation 20:10). Death and the grave were
also cast into that same lake (Revelation 20:13-14). In fact, Revelation 1:18
tells us that Jesus now holds the keys of death and hell. He who holds the
keys has authority over death and hell.
Satan, the demons of hell, the beast of the bottomless pit and his prophet are
subject to the greater power and authority of Christ. He will judge them and
lock them in the pit of hell forever. The Lord Jesus has authority over hell
and all its forces. He alone is able to conquer. He alone is our security and
guarantee of victory over its flames.
Those who are in Christ have Power over Hell
There is one final point we need to make in this reflection. The Lord Jesus,
who has power and authority over hell, has extended His authority and
protection to all who belong to Him. Those who are in Christ, have power
over hell.
We have already examined what Paul told us about nothing being able to
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-37). We can
be confident in the love of God for us as His children. Beyond this,
however, we need to understand that God has given us the tools necessary
to withstand the temptations of Satan and his demons.
In Mark 3:14-15 Jesus chose twelve apostles to be with Him in His
ministry. Notice what Mark tells us about these apostles:
(14) And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so
that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach
(15) and to have authority to cast out demons. (Mark 3)
The power of Christ over the demonic forces of hell was given to His
apostles. In Christ, they had the authority to drive these evil spirits out of
those they troubled.
Later in His ministry, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples to go
in His name. They came back to Jesus after a time of ministry and said:
"Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" (Luke 10:17). As
those who belong to Jesus today, we walk in His authority. In Him, we are
given authority over these evil forces.
Not only did Christ extend His authority over the demons of hell to those
who belong to Him, but he also equipped His people to stand firm against
the attacks of hell. In Ephesians 6:11-12 the apostle Paul reminds us that as
believers our battle is not against people but against the forces of hell. He
challenges us, therefore, to put on the whole armour of God:
(11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand
against the schemes of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against
flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6)
Paul would go on in this passage to describe how Christians were to equip
themselves to stand firm against the "flaming darts of the evil one."
(Ephesians 6:17). God has given us the armor necessary to protect us from
the devil. In fact, the apostle James tells us that if we submit to God and
resist the devil he will flee from us:
(7) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will
flee from you. (James 4)
The apostle Peter warns his readers that the devil was prowling around
seeking to devour. Listen to Peter's advice in 1 Peter 5:8-10:
(8) Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls
around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (9) Resist
him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are
being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world (10)
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who
has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore,
confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Peter makes it clear that the forces of hell will do their utmost to attack
those who belong to Christ. James tells his readers to resist Satan and God
will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish them. He could not have
given this command if believers did not have the power to resist Satan. The
fact that he tells us to resist, shows us that we have been given not only the
authority but also the power in Christ to stand up against the forces of hell
and hold them off.
What do these verses teach us? They teach us that Christ has power over
hell and that He extends this power and authority to all who will trust in
Him and His forgiveness. Christ is the victory over hell. His death brings
forgiveness and pardon. His life in us gives us the authority to resist the