The right way to avoid hell
Imagine being trapped inside a raging fire, filled with the nauseating stench of sulphur and rotting flesh. Your lungs are choking. You have lost your eyesight but you can still hear people screaming all around you. Horror fills your heart as you realise you are burning too. Unfortunately, this is not a suspense movie with a happy ending. It is the reality of hell. This post takes a very sobering look at what the Bible says about hell, and what we must all do in order to avoid it.
It is crucial to note that faith alone in Jesus will not save us from hell. The Bible says that even demons believe in the biblical truths about Jesus and that God has prepared the eternal fire of hell for them. What makes us different from demons is that we will love God and obey Him.
James 2:19-20 ESV You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Matthew 25:41-46 ESV “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.
Galatians 5:6-7 ESV For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
The book of Ephesians shows us a glimpse of what this looks like. It says that evidence of true faith in Jesus is a life that is transformed through our obedience to God’s Spirit. We will demonstrate a new nature filled with God’s divine love, power, and self-control.
Ephesians 1:13-14,4:1-3,17-24 ESV In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory… I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
To give a few examples, we will choose to no longer tell “white” lies, burst out in anger, deal dishonestly in our taxes, speak meanly, brew in bitterness, or put others down. We will be truthful, encouraging, kind, generous, tenderhearted and forgiving. We will keep God’s commandments to love Him and love our fellow human beings. We will do the things that Jesus did – and more.
Ephesians 4:25 ESV Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
John 14:12,15 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father… “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Revelation 21 is even more sobering. It says that anyone who is cowardly, faithless, sexually immoral, or prone to lying is in the same category as murderers, diviners or fortune tellers, and idol-worshippers. It makes no difference whether we call ourselves Christians or not. As long as we continue to do such things, instead of obeying Jesus’ teachings, our destiny is the “lake that burns with fire and sulfur” of hell and “eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.”
Revelation 21:8 ESV 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.”
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 ESV … when 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. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
If we continue to live as if Jesus’ death has had no real impact on us – even after we have declared faith in Him – then we can only expect God’s fiery judgment and an eternity in hell, just like Satan and his demons who will not obey God.
Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
John 3:36 ESV Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
What to expect in hell
Jesus spoke out on hell more than He talked about heaven. It is, therefore, something we ought to be aware of.
He gave us a glimpse into what hell is like when He told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man in hell was in anguish in the flames of hell but no none could help him because of the “great chasm” that separated him. (One other thing that stands out in this parable is that Jesus alludes to the fact that those in heaven can hold conversations with those in hell.)
Luke 16:22-26 ESV The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 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.’ 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. 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.’
Hell is sometimes also described as the pit, the lake, of fire or flames. It represents the “second death” which is the eternal torment of our souls after our physical death. There are no second chances after either the first or second death.
The Bible is quite descriptive of hell, and what we will experience there.
- Hell is the darkest depths | Psalm 88:6 NLT You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.
- It is an eternal fire | Jude 1:7 ESV 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.
- It is completely dark | Lamentations 3:6 ESV he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.
- It is a waterless pit | Zechariah 9:11 ESV As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
- There is no fruitful thought, wisdom, or knowledge in hell | Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
- Hell is a place where we will be forgotten and cut off from God’s care | Psalm 88:5 NLT They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from your care.
- We will suffer everlasting shame and contempt | Daniel 12:2 ESV And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
- We will be in constant anguish and distress | Psalm 116:3 ESV The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
- We will have no rest, and will be tormented day or night | Revelation 14:11 ESV And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
- We can only grope around like those who have no eyes| Isaiah 59:10 ESV We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
- We will weep and gnash our teeth in agony | Matthew 13:50 ESV And throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- We will be covered by maggots and worms | Isaiah 14:11 ESV Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers.
- Wave and wave of God’s anger will weigh us down | Psalm 88:6-7 ESV You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
- Fiery coals and pungent sulfur will rain down on us | Psalm 11:6 NIV On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.
The warnings about hell are not confined to Christianity. All other major religions refer to a place of eternal punishment for evildoers. In Buddhist cosmology or Hinduism, hell is referred to as Naraka. In Chinese mythology, it is known as diyu. In Islam, it is known as Jahannam.
We seldom think about hell. Most times, people consider a myth. No, hell is a very real place. We cannot think about heaven without acknowledging the reality of hell.
Avoid hell by obeying God’s Spirit and refusing to sin
Jesus knew the hellish consequences of sin. He personally warned His disciples that it is better to cut off a part of our bodies than to sin against God and end up in eternal punishment.
Matthew 5:29-30 ESV If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Before Jesus left the earth, He said that it was to our advantage that He went away so that we could receive the Holy Spirit, who helps us avoid sin. God does not leave us helpless in our fleshy sinful ways, His Spirit personally trains and disciplines us.
John 16:7-8 ESV Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
A prayer to start anew with God’s Spirit
To receive the Holy Spirit, we need to be baptised in water, invite God into our hearts, and pray a prayer similar to this sample below. The next step is learning to obey God by studying the Bible and consciously choosing to obey His Spirit on a daily basis. Then, we can celebrate God’s salvation with the words found in Psalm 103. God redeems us from an eternity in hell and showers us with His steadfast love and mercy.
“I, (your name), acknowledge that I have sinned against God. Today, I choose to turn away from my own ways and invite Jesus Christ to be my Lord, Saviour and Friend. Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again after three days by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank You that Your blood cleanses me from the penalty of my sins. I commit to following You for the rest of my life and invite Your Holy Spirit to restore my heart, soul, strength and mind to fullness through Your instruction and cleansing each day. I choose to die to my old self and receive the future and hope that You have prepared and planned for me. I bring all of the work of Jesus on the cross directly against Satan’s workings in my life. Thank You, God, for Your unfailing love. Teach me Your ways and make me a new creation for Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
Psalm 103:1-5,8-12 ESV Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s… The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
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