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Pastor Jeff Struecker:
We wrap up the mini discussion on Hell today. We are going to try to answer some of the questions that many of you have asked. There were several questions that we just don’t have the time to answer. We will attempt to get the pastors around a table and record their answers to the questions and put it on our website. The next six weeks we will be looking at the topic of Heaven.
These are the questions that you asked and the pastor’s have prepared an answer. The first question is….
I. Will Satan rule over Hell?
Pastor Alan Smith:
This question makes the assumption that there is some sort of parallel between Satan and God. For example: Satan is to Hell as God is to Heaven. The assumption to this question is that Satan is ruling over Hell and dictating what goes on there as God is in Heaven and dictating what goes on there. There is an eternal combat between the two and we are stuck in the middle. There are some assumptions that are wrong that lead us to this question.
These ideas go as far back as Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and in movies today like the Devil’s Advocate. We see these constant ideas that the Devil and God in are in some sort of combat and that one day Satan will be carrying out the punishment in Hell. We, who are believers, will see the glory of God in Heaven.
We learn from Ezekiel 28 that Satan is a created being therefore he is subject to the Creator. Satan is a created being and from Colossians we learn that God is over all things. Everything that was created was created by God and for God.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Now, not only do we know that Satan is a created being but we know that God is the only one who has authority over Hell and death.
Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
From Matthew we learn that the Devil is going to be eternally punished in the place of Hell just like all of the other demons and those who don’t accept Jesus as their Savior. There is eternal punishment and Hell was designed for the Devil and these angels. Ultimately what we see is that the Devil is not going to reign in Heaven. In fact, the Devil is going to be subject to the eternal torment of Hell.
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.
God is the only one with the authority. God is the only one who has control, dominion and rule over Hell just like he does over Heaven. Will Satan rule Hell? No.
I’m going to assume about our next question that maybe you are asking if there are degrees of torment.
II. Are there different levels of Hell?
Pastor Nick Bruner:
This question does imply that by there being different levels in Hell there are also different degrees of torment.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
When we thing about different levels in Hell there is nothing biblically that we can pull that would fortify that. The only thing that we can pull from is fictional accounts such as, Dante’s Inferno that was really popular in the 13th and 14th century and has been perpetuated through the centuries to now and why we are answering this question tonight.
Dante’s Inferno, describes a fictional account vision of going through nine levels of Hell with his companion Virgil, which is from Greek mythology and Qur’an. Again it is a fictional account of trying to grasp at eternity but it has no biblical basis in fact. When we go to Scripture we see that if there were different levels in Hell for different sins. Then James 2:10 contradicts that because we know that for one transgression against the law there is one punishment.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Not only is there a singular punishment for committing sin and being apart from Christ but also there is a singular place where you go as well. In Revelation 20 we see that as the lake of fire.
Are there levels of Hell? No. Now we must answer if there are degrees of torment. The Bible does speak to the truth that there are degrees of torment when it comes to those who suffer in Hell.
But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.
2 Peter 2:20-21
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Essentially Jesus has done mighty works for them but they have chosen not to believe. Woe to you because the degrees of torment will be greater than Sodom. If you have knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ but do not live according to that then the degree of torment will be different.
The answer to the question, are there different levels of Hell? No. Are there different degrees of torment? Yes.
III. Will people know they’re in Hell?
I guess the question someone is asking is if you are conscious of who you are or the person of who you are on Earth. I want to point you back to the definition of Hell that I’ve been giving you during this series. I’ve said that Hell is three things together: eternal, conscious, and torment. Now, let’s get more specific about this. There are a couple of places in the Bible that give us an idea of the answer. We looked at one of them in detail when we studied Luke Chapter 16. The rich man died and was in torment. Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham, which we believe is Heaven. The rich man understood who he was because he started thinking about his five brothers who are still alive and still on planet Earth.
There are two others places in Scripture that I think help us to answer this question. In Matthew 25:30 Jesus is telling the consequences of those who didn’t use the gifts that God had given them.
And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Just the idea of weeping denotes some sort of consciousness. So from Luke 16 and Matthew 25, yes you do know who you are and you probably carried the memories with you. There is also one other place in Scripture that speaks to this question.
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 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.”
It is the deeds on Earth that cause them to weep, gnash, and have no rest which gives us the idea that unfortunately, you know who you are, you are conscious of your essence, your emotions and memories go with you to Hell and that torment lasts forever.
This next question is not specifically about Hell but because this is such an important question we decided we needed to answer this one. In fact, we could take an hour just to answer this question.
IV. Will babies who die go to Hell? What about people who have never heard of Jesus?
Pastor Michael King:
This question is not exactly about Hell but more about the nature of salvation. So, when we answer questions like this we need to be sure to define our terms. We believe that salvation is only accomplished through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. His blood was given to you to cover your sins and is only given as a free gift of grace from God. Where that puts babies in the equation then is that this is one of the reasons that we, Calvary Baptist Church, don’t baptize babies. We don’t believe that baptism is a stamp of salvation in any way. Baptism is a conscious decision made by the believer to put the Gospel even more on display in their lives. That doesn’t answer our question but it does help us to define some things.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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.
This text is teaching that people can see and clearly understand the created order around them and that God’s glory more and more on display. So, even without knowing God personally, they can see the created order and clearly perceive his glory in creation. Which leads us to the children. We don’t believe that babies have that cognitive ability. Babies may be able to see the order around them but not clearly understand what that is or what it means. We would say and teach because they fall into that category of not being able to perceive they would also not fall into that category of not having an excuse. I can honestly say from the best of my ability that we believe that babies who die in infancy, childbirth, abortion, and miscarriage are resting safely in our Father’s arms in Heaven.
I do think that that text clearly answers the second question. Even those who haven’t heard can see and clearly perceive the things that have been made and they are without excuse. The Scripture talks over and over again about us spreading the Gospel and making Christ’s name known as much as possible. If it were true that someone would go to Heaven because they’d never heard, then sharing the Gospel would be the worse thing that we could possibly do. In fact, the best thing we could do for that person would be to find them and tell them that if anyone ever said Jesus’ name around you to plug your ears and run away. It is the only good option for them because then they are safe.
So the answer to the question, do babies who die go to Hell? Absolutely not! Do people who have never heard, die and go to Hell? Absolutely.
As you can tell these are tough questions that you sent in and we are not going to hide from them. Pastor Ryan Pearse was going to answer these next questions but due to a death in the family he couldn’t be here. So, I will do my best to answer them.
V. Does the torment of Hell last forever? Is it eternal?
I’m guessing by asking this question you want to know if there are any second chances. Do you have one last chance after you die and are in Hell to get to Heaven? For the last three weeks I’ve been trying as clearly as I can to answer that question. The answer is no, there are no second chances. Yes the Hell is eternal and the torment lasts forever. There are several places in Scripture that speak about this. When Jesus used the “forever and ever” phrases after the weeping and gnashing of teeth and utter darkness mean eternally.
One really good passage of Scripture that I would like you to pay attention to would be Revelation Chapter 20. I’m not going to read the whole chapter to you today but if I were to break it down into three sections it would look like this. The first section would be the thousand-year reign. The second section would be the defeat of Satan. The third section would be the great white throne of judgment. This is the end of the human era, as we know it, and the beginning of eternity. From that moment forward everyone’s fate is settled.
The Thousand Years
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The Defeat of Satan
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 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.
Judgment Before the Great White Throne
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 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. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life,he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The truth is for the believer in Jesus you die only once. Eternal life actually begins here on Earth before your life even ends. For the unbeliever, you die twice. When the heart stops beating, the body goes into the ground, and the soul will go into some form of torment. Then at the end of the human era when eternity begins forever all human beings end up in one of two destinations. Revelation Chapter 20 is crystal clear on what these two destinations are: Heaven or the Lake of Fire. This chapter is also clear on what distinguishes the two for human beings. It is one thing only. Was your name found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The Lake of Fire is eternal. There are no second chances. Those that don’t know Jesus personally and their name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life when they die on Earth, they experience the first death and their soul is in torment. Eventually their body will join their soul will be cast into the Lake of Fire where they will spend eternity.
Unfortunately, the answer to the question, is Hell eternal? Yes.
The last question will be answered by Ricky Smith. This question is not necessarily about Hell but more about salvation. Since this question is asked so often by people who are really confused, we will give Ricky some extra time to answer.
VI. Do people who commit suicide automatically go to Hell?
Pastor Ricky Smith:
This is a very good question. I’m going to make an assumption that you have experienced the loss of someone who has taken their own life. I would say that anytime you experience or deal with death or grieved the loss of a loved one it is always hard. It is clearly more difficult when it is sudden and unexpected. That could happen in a lot of different ways. I think the act of taking one’s own life is even more painful and leaves unanswered questions. Inevitably it is also going to cause an internal struggle and turmoil like: what could I have done or how could I have missed this. So there is this internal grief that you need to process through as well. It is such an emotionally deep and difficult matter to deal with. It is hard.
This is an honest question to ask. I would say this is an okay question to ask as long as you seek for truth in the right place and you understand there is an answer to be discovered. I’m proud of the person who asked this question. I think this question, like so many of the others we’ve answered today and throughout this series, we often find answers in tradition, in culture and in sources other than Scripture. I think a lot of times people have come to the wrong answer to this question out of misunderstanding. Either they will wrap around the idea of the unpardonable sin and define suicide as the unpardonable sin so if someone committed suicide they automatically went to Hell. Although I’ve heard that one a lot, that response is totally ill informed, not rooted in Scripture and completely misunderstanding the idea of the unpardonable sin. However, we don’t have time to talk about that. Another response I’ve heard in support that they would automatically go to Hell is those who quote Exodus 20:13. Clearly then if they take their own life they have murdered themselves, after the act they didn’t have time to ask for forgiveness and since that sin wasn’t forgiven they are automatically going to Hell. Again, this is a response that is not consistent with Scripture.
You shall not murder.
I think the first question that we need to ask is, what determines our eternal destiny. What actually determines where I will spend eternity? That’s one question that we have to answer. The other question we have to answer is, is my eternal destiny secure. Once it is established can it change or is it secure and set? I think if we can answer those two questions we can come back and answer the question about taking your own life accurately. Where you spend eternity has nothing to do with what you do. It is completely settled in, as Michael said so eloquently, what Jesus did through his death and resurrection, the shedding of his blood and conquering of our sin, our belief in him and the imputation of his righteousness to us. We are made right and righteous through what Jesus did. It is Jesus and his act that determines our destiny and not any act of our own. Scripture even supports this.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Clearly this verse is reinforcing the idea that my actions do not determine my destiny. Our eternal destiny is determined through Jesus and by Jesus in his act of death, burial, resurrection and shedding of his blood. That deals with the first question. The second question of whether that eternal destiny is secure is rooted right back in Ephesians 2:8-9. If I understand that my actions don’t determine my destiny and that my destiny is determined by Jesus. Then certainly if God has the power to save me then he also has the power to keep me.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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.
If Jesus has the power to save me, he also has the power to keep me. We just read from the text that no one can snatch myself out of his hand. I am held secure in him. The whole idea and theological implications in the Biblical basis in eternal security is deeply rooted and consistent in Scripture. I would challenge you and encourage you to read it. In fact, I’ll give you a homework assignment. If this is something that you’ve questioned I’m going to give you some theological terms to study in Scripture on your own. If you do this I can assure you that you won’t question eternal security again. The terms are: justification and adoption in the context of your salvation. If you can research those two words you can find some answers. I will say that Charles Stanley put it pretty plainly when he said, “If I didn’t do anything to earn it; it makes sense that I can’t do anything to lose it.” It is rooted in the simple truth that my eternal destiny is not determined by my actions but by Jesus.
Our question is not really does someone who commits suicide automatically go to Hell. It depends on whether there was ever a time in their life when they had given their life to Jesus. That’s what determines it, not their actions or sin – even the sin of taking their own life. Did they put faith in Jesus? I think this question really begs the biggest question of all that you and I have to make sure we are ready to answer. Is your eternal destiny secure in Jesus? Has there ever been a time in your life when you have settled this issue and done business with God? There is not a magical formula to it. I would say for many of us, even perhaps someone in this room, you have walked through the motions of church for weeks or years. Rooted at the underlying toe of your heart is the idea that you have to do this so you can go to Heaven. Maybe you’re thinking you have to go to church, serve, read your Bible, listen to the right music, go on a mission trip, etc. to go to Heaven. All those things are wonderful and help us to grow but they don’t determine our eternal destiny. Jesus did that. He has done that for us if we’ll just trust in Him.
I think the opportunity that you have today is to make sure that you leave this place different then when you came in. I would say that all of us fall into one of two camps. Either we are confident in our security in Jesus. We know without a shadow of a doubt that we’ve given our life to him and he is the Lord of our life. If you are in this room tonight I pray that these questions and the whole miniseries on Hell motivates and challenges you to share Jesus with confidence and boldness to your family, friends and neighbors.
For the others in the room who are not sure, maybe you’ve been coming to church all your life but you still doubt if you’re saved. You need to nail that down. If you are doubting what you are really saying is that you are still putting your faith in yourself. Am I good enough? If that’s you, you are missing the point. It’s what Jesus did. Do you have the faith to believe that God sent his Son Jesus to come to this earth to pay the perfect sacrifice for your sin and you acknowledge that you need him in your life? I think we would be remiss if we didn’t give you the opportunity to do business with God right now. I want to speak to that person in the room who is not sure of their eternal destiny. You need to have a conversation with him right now. We call that prayer. It is simply you talking to God. If you really want to settle your destiny here are some suggestions that I would like to make to you. The conversation needs to begin with you admitting that you need God in your life and you acknowledge the fact that you have sin in your life. Agree with God that you need him and want to be forgiven. Express to God that you believe in him and that you believe he sent his Son to die for you and you want him to be the Lord of your life. Thank him for saving you, cleaning you and forgiving you. You can use your own words or pray a prayer like this…”Jesus, I realize that I need you in my life. I admit that I am a sinner. There is nothing that I can do to make my life right but I believe you can. Thank you God that you sent your Son Jesus who died on a cross for me, who shed his blood for me. I believe that he has risen from the dead and that through him I can have a relationship with you and be forgiven of my sin. God, I’m asking you right now to be in charge of my life. From this day forward you are my King and I thank you for that.”
- I realize that Jesus is not my Savior and I’m headed for Hell. Today – for the first time- I trust Jesus as my Lord and place my eternity in his hands.
- I have not been urgent about my friends and family who don’t know Jesus. Please pray that I would take the opportunity to talk to people about Jesus this week.
- Please contact me about getting plugged into a small group where I can learn more about heaven and hell.
- What have you learned about Hell though this study that you didn’t know?
- What questions do you still have about Hell?
- If there are levels of torment in Hell does that mean that it will be “pleasant” for anyone in the lessor levels? Explain your answer.
- If people know who they are in Hell do you think they will remember the chances they had to accept Jesus?
- If your body joins your spirit after God’s final Judgement, do you think Hell will be more or less painful when it is both body and spirit? Explain your answer.
- Now that you have the tools to understanding the reality of Hell, how can you start a conversation with the questions and answers to Hell that have been unpacked?
- Pray for your friends and family that don’t know Jesus.