Many people are most uncomfortable with the concept of a place of punishment called “Hell” in scripture. Many believe Hell to be inconsistent with their concept of a loving, kind, merciful God of grace. Well, is Hell real?
It is the Greek word “Gehenna” that is most commonly rendered “Hell” in our English translations. It is a specific word that refers to a place of punishment reserved for the unfaithful after this life is over. This particular word does not refer to death, the grave or some state of non-existence. A different Greek word, “Tartarus,” perhaps best translated “Hades,” is used in scripture in regard to a soul’s state of existence between physical death and judgment. The fact that “Gehenna” is so specific is powerful evidence of the reality of “Hell.”
“Gehenna” is used twelve times in the New Testament, eleven of those by the Lord Himself (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6). In both verses, the text of Matt. 5:29 and 30 speak of being “cast into Hell.” In Matt. 10:28 Jesus spoke of having “both soul and body” destroyed “in Hell.” Similarly, Matt. 18:9 speaks of being “cast into hell fire,” indicating the nature of the punishment therein. Jesus admonished to “Fear Him Who…has power to cast into Hell” (Lk. 12:5).
The description of Hell in Mk. 9:43-47 is quite specific: “it is better…to enter into life maimed…than…to go to Hell,” (vs. 43); “It is better…to enter life lame…than…to be cast into Hell” (vs. 45); “It is better…to enter the kingdom of God with one eye…than…to be cast into hell fire-” (vs. 47). In addition, each of these statements is followed by the further statement, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (vs. 44, 46, 48), indicating a definite place under consideration.
The language in these texts is neither vague nor allusive; it is direct, explicit, precise, specific. It unambiguously speaks of a definite place called Hell. The nature of Hell is described clearly and repeatedly. It is a place of “fire” (Matt. 5:22; 18:9; Mk. 9:44, 45, 47; Jas. 3:6), with the implication of obvious suffering going therewith. It is also a place of condemnation (Matt. 23:33) and destruction (Matt. 10:28).
Other texts further describe Hell as a “lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). At the same time it is a place of “outer darkness” and agony (Matt. 22:13; 25:30) such as would cause “wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42, 49-50). It is a place of torment and utter separation from God (Lk. 16:24, 28; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Is Hell real? It is virtually impossible to read objectively all that the scriptures say about Hell and not conclude that it is indeed a real place, one to be avoided at all cost…
Gary L. Hutchens