Biblical truth, Book of Revelation, Christian doctrine, Christianity, God's grace, God's holiness, God's judgement, God's mercy, God's wrath, Gospel of Jesus Christ, hell, repentance, salvation, sin
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HELL AND THE WRATH OF GOD:
The Reality of What Exactly is Coming
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16
For far too many believers, including unfortunately, many well-regarded pastors and teachers, hell and the wrath of God are considered to be unnecessary doctrines, despite the fact that they are clear realities in the scriptures. Teaching about the “winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” doesn’t exactly bring the young and upwardly mobile into church, and it certainly doesn’t increase book sales. Some popular authors and teachers even deny that hell exists, or state that it is simply a place of emotional and spiritual separation from God, without fire or torment. But the Bible, including Jesus Christ Himself, on many occassions, says otherwise. If the fury of our God’s wrath is coming…and it is…then I certainly want to know about it, and I want those I care for to know about it as well.
Jesus spoke of a place called hell frequently, and often in very specific terms. Jesus and the Apostles also spoke very clearly about the wrath of God, which is coming with unmitigated vengeance on those who reject Him (see, Revelation 19:11-21, some of which is posted above). I believe that these doctrines are absolutely critical for any true believer to understand, because they set forth, in horrific terms, the reality of what happens to those who reject the death of the one and only God, who willingly and lovingly gave Himself up for humanity as a sin offering, cold and in agony, on a cross. My hope is that by studying the scriptures relating to these important biblical doctrines, we will all be encouraged to turn further away from the lies and pretensions of this world and to instead urgently heed the call of Jesus and the Apostles to share the glorious message of salvation through the blood of Christ, with all of those we know and love.
It is impossible to truly understand what Jesus Christ did for us by stepping off of His heavenly throne (See, Ezekiel 1:25-28) and becoming man, in order to die a brutal death for us as a sin offering, unless we understand exactly what He was saving us from. Jesus did all of this because He loves us, and because He does not want us to go to the horrible place called hell prepared for Satan and the angels who hated and rejected both Him and His Father. If we choose to reject this great salvation, which Jesus has achieved for us, then we are choosing to follow the prince of this world…and we will join him at death in a place of both darkness and fire, where the worm never dies and the fire is never, ever quenched.
Below I will summarize the many verses on hell and the wrath of God, which are found in the New Testament.
In Matthew 3:7-12, John the Baptist, when discussing the Pharisees and Sadducees, refers to them as a brood of vipers and specifically mentions the wrath of God, which is coming on the unrepentant. John then states that the axe is at the root of the tree, and every tree, which does not bear good fruit, will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
This passage almost certainly refers to the fire of Revelation 19:20, 20:10, and 21:8. In Revelation 20:10, the Apostle John specifically states that those who are thrown into the lake of fire will be “tormented day and night forever.” The quotation in the previous sentence clearly destroys the “annihilationist” theory of many Christians today, whose minds cannot accept the fact that a loving God would allow people to be tormented forever. Hell is of course, difficult for any human to truly comprehend – it certainly is for me. However, the eternal destiny of man is a decision that only God, the One who made all things, can make, and it is a dangerous thing to ignore or reject His clear statements on hell because we don’t like or fully understand them. We (meaning myself, too) so willingly, substitute our own wisdom and judgment for the unfathomable wisdom and understanding of the one and only God. We do so…at our own peril.
In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus specifically declares that those who call their brothers a fool, are in danger of the fire of hell.
In Matthew 5:27-29, when discussing adultery and lust, Jesus states that if one cannot control himself, he should pluck his eyes out and throw them away, for it is better to enter life blind than to have your whole body cast into hell.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus states that wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus tells a crowd to watch out for false prophets. He states that we will know false prophets by their fruit, and that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and be thrown in the fire.
In what is generally considered Jesus’ greatest extended teaching, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-8, referenced above), Jesus mentions hell four different times, emphasizing that it is a very real, a very hot and a very horrible place where He doesn’t want anyone to go.
In Matthew 8:5-13, a centurion comes to Jesus begging Him to heal his servant. Jesus says that He will come to his house in order to heal the man. However, the centurion, who is obviously not a Jew, tells Jesus that he is unworthy to have Him come into his house so if Jesus will just speak a word of healing, the servant will be healed. Jesus, amazed by this man’s faith heals the servant and then states that, many who are sons of the kingdom (Jews) will be thrown into hell for unbelief, while many who are not Jews and who come from all over the world, will live and dine with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Matthew 10:26-31, Jesus tells the twelve disciples not to fear those who can kill only the body, but instead to fear God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
In Matthew 13:24-33, Jesus tells the parable of the weeds, noting that the weeds sown amongst the wheat will at the time of harvest, be gathered, tied in bundles, and cast into the fire. The wheat will then be harvested and will be placed in the safety of the landowner’s barn.
In verses 36-43, Jesus explains the above parable to His disciples, stating that, as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be at the end of this world. Those who do evil will be thrown into a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This parable and its explanation by Jesus also establishes, with a great deal of certainty, that the doctrine of annihilationism is false. The unsaved are not simply extinguished unto death, but instead they will experience “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” which means that they will suffer greatly in what is described by Jesus many, many times, as fire. The scripture below describes hell in the same terms as well.
In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus, for the third time in the same conversation, mentions hell. He states that the kingdom of Heaven is like a net filled with fish. Once on shore, the good and the bad fish are separated. So it shall be at the end of age when the angels come and separate the evil from the righteous. The evil will be thrown into the fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.
In Matthew 18:6-9, Jesus teaches His disciples about the dangers of sin and warns them of the evil temptations to come. He then instructs them that if any part of their body causes them to sin, they should cut it off and throw it away for it is far better to live this life blind and maimed than to be cast into hell forever.
In Matthew 23:1-33, Jesus details the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees to a crowd, and then in verse 33 asks them how such men can escape the judgment of hell.
In Matthew 24:45-51, Jesus tells the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant. He makes it clear that the servant who is faithful at the time of the master’s return will be saved, but the servant who does not anticipate the master’s return, and tries to see how much he can get away with while the master is gone, will be appointed to hell with the hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Anyone who believes that salvation is one magic prayer said at any age should take a close look at the above passage, along with Luke 18:21-35 and all of Luke chapter 25. I would also suggest reading the scriptures laid out in my prior writing on “Grace and Obedience.” The word is clear: a saving faith is far more than reciting certain words, or making an intellectual decision. It is a deep belief in one’s heart, which, over time, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, leads to fruit…fruit that will last, for the glory of God the Father (Acts 26:20; Romans 10:8-11; James 2:14-26; John 15:1-8).
In Matthew 25:30, at the end of the parable of the talents, Jesus tells the unprofitable servant (the one who is given a talent but did not use it to benefit the master) that he will be thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This is another one of the many parables of Jesus, which specifically states that hell is not a place where your soul is simply extinguished. It lives on for eternity, and it does so in utter darkness and torment.
In Matthew 25:31-46, the very next passage, Jesus tells the crowd about the Day of Judgment. At the time of judgment, Jesus says that He will separate the sheep from the goats. In verse 41, He tells the goats that they are going to an eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. Then, in verse 46, He states that those who do not love Him will go into “eternal punishment.”
These are two more scriptures that seem to weigh heavily against annihilationism, and establish the fact that in hell, there is no escape, and there is no hope of death…but the soul lives on in a place of everlasting punishment.
Mark 9:42-50, is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible on the reality and severity of hell. In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples that if their right hand causes them to sin, they should cut it off and throw it away because, like the similar passages in Matthew, it is better to be maimed in this life then to have both hands and be sent to hell, where the fire is never quenched. Jesus then goes on to quote Isaiah 66:24, three separate times, when He tells His disciples to flee from sin, because in hell, where those who live in unrepentant sin go, the worm never dies and the fire is quenched.
This might be the most convincing passage regarding the foolishness of annihilationism, since Jesus Himself, quoting from the Old Testament, states that in hell, the worm neverdies and the fire never ceases.
In Luke 12:4-7, Jesus tells a large crowd exactly how much God loves them and that even the hairs on their heads are numbered. He also warns the people not to fear those who can kill the body, but after that can do no more. Instead, they should fear Him who after death has the power to cast them into hell.
Luke 16:19-31, is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, which may be the most definitive passage on both the nature of hell and the deceitfulness of riches. It is no mistake that hell and wealth are tied together in this parable. According to this passage, not only is the soul alive in hell suffering great agony and torment, but once there, no one can ever escape.
In this story, Jesus tells the Pharisees about an unnamed rich man who lived in great affluence, and was obviously far too enamored with his luxurious existence to be concerned with the things of God. However, Lazarus, a poor beggar who would have loved even the scraps off the rich man’s table and who had dogs lick his wounds since there was no one to care for his physical needs, died and went to be with Abraham in paradise. There he dwelt with God and the patriarchs forever.
What is most interesting to me about this story is how it illustrates just how hard it is for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The rich are often so deceived with the luxuries they have on the earth, that they never really give their hearts to God. Jesus hammers that point home in finishing the parable by stating that, even if someone came back from the dead to warn the rich man’s brothers about the deceitfulness of riches and the reality of hell, they would not listen to them. That is the power unto hell that earthly wealth has.
On the contrary, poor, hungry, and sick Lazarus chose not to curse God and die, but instead chose to love and trust Him despite his afflictions. Lazarus had less than nothing, yet he trusted in a loving God. The rich man had everything, yet chose to ignore God. One went to be with God forever, and the other was sentenced to dwell in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels forever. This is a reality that we should not be ashamed of nor fear sharing with those we love who are deceived by the enticing comforts of wealth.
In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus tells the parable of a nobleman who entrusted his servants with money to invest while he was going to be away on a long journey where he was hoping to receive a kingdom. This man’s subjects hated him and tried to keep him from becoming king. After being made king, the man returned home from his journey…and he had all of his enemies executed in front of him.
This parable is analogous to what is happening on earth now (and back then), and it also explains what will happen at the end of time. While the world despises Jesus as He truly is in the scriptures, Revelation 19:11-21 states, in no uncertain terms, that one day Jesus Christ will return – and with a vengeance, destroying all of his enemies forever with the breath of His mouth.
The parable of the vineyard and the vinedresser in Luke 20:9-19, is similar in theme. The owner of the vineyard, whose servants and son were murdered by the greedy vinedressers, comes and kills the vinedressers, and states that the stone that the builders rejected has become a cornerstone and whoever that stone falls on will be crushed to powder.
In Romans 1:18-32, Paul teaches that the wrath of God is coming on those who suppress the truth through ungodliness and sin, because every single person ever created will have a chance to see and know God and His eternal power and deity through the glory of creation (see also, Psalms 19:19 and Acts 17:24-28). This passage then goes on to describe the things worthy of God’s wrath such as lust, idolatry, homosexuality, and ungodliness.
In Romans 2:5-9, Paul states that, because of the hardness of men’s hearts, they are storing up for themselves treasures of wrath on the Day of Judgment. On that day, the judgment of God will be revealed, and for those who do not obey the truth there will betribulation and anguish.
In Ephesians 5:3-6, Paul states that, because of sins such as sexual immorality, greed, and idolatry, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. Colossians 3:5-6 says almost exactly the same thing: that because of sexual immorality and idolatry to name a few, God’s wrath is coming on those who disobey Him.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, reminds us that if we turn from our idols to Jesus, we will be saved from the wrath to come. For as 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-10, exhorts us to be patient in persecution and tribulation, because such an attitude is evidence of our righteousness. For God will repay with tribulation those who trouble us, and He will give us rest when He is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels and flaming fire to take vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey Him. They shall be punished with eternal destruction, isolated from the presence of the Lord.
In Hebrews 10:26-31, Paul teaches that, if we continue to sin after we have received knowledge of the truth, we should only have a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which devours the enemies of God. Paul goes on to state that, if we reject God after knowing Him, we deserve severe punishment for trampling the Son of God, who sacrificed Himself for us, under our feet. It is a dreadful thing to fall to the hands of the living God.
In 1 Peter 3:18-20, Peter teaches that, after Jesus died on the cross, He preached to the spirits of those who previously died in disobedience, and were being held in prison.
In 2 Peter 2 (the whole chapter), Peter teaches that false prophets, like the angels who rebelled against God, will be cast into hell where they will remain captive, in chains, in the gloom of darkness until final judgment. This entire chapter talks about hell and judgment, mostly in the context of false prophets, but Peter also mentions that those who walk after the flesh and despise authority will also inherit hell. In this chapter Peter also teaches, as Paul did in Hebrews 10, that those who know the way of truth but again become entangled in sin, are in danger of the fire of hell, and it would have been better for them if they had never known the way of righteousness.
2 Peter 3:7, states that the heavens and the earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.
Jude 1:5-13, is a powerful reminder to all of us that if we remain in our sin we will suffer the same fate as those who did not believe in God while they were in Egypt, and those who behaved wickedly in Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude specifically states that those places serve as an example to us of the punishment of eternal fire, which we will receive if we live in wickedness.
In chapter Jude 1:13, hell is described as the gloom of darkness. In Jude 1:21-22, Jude encourages all believers to remain in the love of God while we wait for the return of Jesus, having compassion on some, and with fear “pulling others out of the fire.”
Clearly Jude, the brother of Jesus, considers hell to be a very real place, and that place is full of eternal darkness and fire. I am not sure how eternal fire and the gloom of darkness go together, but I do not want to find out, and I do not want anyone that I know to find out either. Let us all take hell seriously and seek to save those we love from its flames.
In Revelation 6:17, we are taught that a great day of wrath is coming. Revelation chapters 6, 8, 9, and 16 go into great detail about the horrific events that will come upon the world before Jesus’ final return in victory, which is laid out beautifully in Revelation 19:11-21.
In Revelation 14:9-12, we are told in very clear terms, that whoever takes the mark of the beast and worships him shall drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out in full strength from the cup of God’s anger. Those who take the mark of the beast shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Lord and His angels. The smoke of their torment will ascend forever and ever, and they shall have no rest day or night.
No matter who you are, no matter what prayers you have said, and no matter what you believe about grace, if you take the mark of the beast you ARE going to hell where you will be tormented day and night forever. The above passage also makes it abundantly clear that hell is not the permanent extinguishing of the soul. Hell involves torment…for eternity, with no opportunity for rest, and with no chance of escape.
In Revelation 19:20, we are told that the beast and the false prophet of Revelation are thrown alive into a lake of fire that burns with brimstone.
In Revelation 20:7-14, the devil, after being let loose for a time at the end of the millennial reign, will be cast into the lake of fire where he will be tormented day and night forever. Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will also be cast in the lake of fire. This is called the second death.
Again, the doctrine of annihilationism is proven completely false via the scriptures, because, according to Revelation 20, when the Lord brings His final judgment on mankind, those who do not love Him will be cast into a lake of fire, where they will be tormented day and night…forever.
In Revelation 21:1-8, the beauty of the new Heaven and the new earth are described, and Jesus declares that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and those who overcome shall become His children, and will inherit all things. But the cowardly, the sorcerers, the unbelieving, the sexually immoral, the idolaters, and the liars shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (see also, Revelation 22:14-15).
According to the scriptures, The fury of God Almighty’s wrath is coming on those who disobey Him. Not only will they suffer torment on this earth during the reign of the antichrist, when all men will be greatly afflicted, but they will also suffer brimstone and sulfur in the fires of hell forever. The reality of the above scriptures, especially those spoken by Jesus, should prompt all of us to seek out those we love, and to risk looking like a fool to share with them, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the saving message of Jesus Christ. There is not one person on this earth that I want to go to hell. So I pray that the Lord will give me the strength and the courage to reach out to the people around me with gentleness, love and confidence in order to speak the piercing truth of Jesus Christ, so that perhaps some, even one, might be spared from the horrid place called hell…where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies.
Several additional verses that refer to hell are: Psalm 6:5 (in hell who will give God thanks, David asks); Psalm 11:5-6 (upon the wicked He will rain coals of fire and brimstone, and a burning wind); Psalm 21:8-11 (the Lord will discover those who hate Him, and when He returns He will make them as a fiery oven, and will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will devour them), and also, Psalm 49:12-17, and Psalm 55:23.
Published with kind permission from the author, a brother in Christ in Florida, USA.
From The Narrowing Path: The good news of salvation through Jesus Christ