Luke 16:19-31 contains the story of the rich man (who goes to hell) and Lazarus (who goes to heaven). The rich man “was in torment” (v. 23) and says, “I am in agony in this fire” (v. 24).
Yes, hell is horrific beyond imagination.
Do you ever wonder how many people are in hell? The Bible tells us that, too.
Again, it’s Jesus who provides the answer — in Matthew 7:13-14.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
How many people are in hell? There are more people in hell than there are in heaven.
And how many people are in heaven? According to Revelation 7:9, too many to count.
If I say to you, “Would you like some jelly beans?” And you love jelly beans. You would love to have some; in fact, you’d love to have a lot of them.
And then I say, “I have jelly beans in both of my pockets. My right pocket has many. And my left pocket has only a few.”
Which pocket has more? Right or left? Obviously, my right pocket has more. That is the plain meaning of my words.
And so it is with Jesus’ words quoted above. Many people are on the road to destruction. And only a few are on the road to life.
Again I ask you, What is hell like?
I commend Tim Keller’s description to you:
“A common image of hell in the Bible is that of fire. Fire disintegrates. Even in this life we can see the kind of soul disintegration that self-centeredness creates. We know how selfishness and self-absorption leads to piercing bitterness, nauseating envy, paralyzing anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and the mental denials and distortions that accompany them. Now ask the question: ‘What if when we die we don’t end, but spiritually our life extends on into eternity?’ Hell, then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on and on forever.
In short, hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity. We see this process ‘writ small’ in addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling and pornography. First, there is disintegration, because as time goes on you need more and more of the addictive substance to get an equal kick, which leads to less and less satisfaction. Second, there is the isolation, as you increasingly blame others and circumstances in order to justify your behavior. ‘No one understands! Everyone is against me!’ is muttered in greater and greater self-pity and self-absorption. When we build our lives on anything but God, that thing – though a good thing – becomes an enslaving addiction, something we have to have to be happy. Personal disintegration goes on forever. There is increasing isolation, denial, delusion, and self-absorption. When you lose all humility you are out of touch with reality. No one ever asks to leave hell. The very idea of heaven seems to them a sham.
Hell is, as C.S. Lewis says, ‘the greatest monument to human freedom.’ As Romans1:24 says, God ‘gave them up to . . . their desires.’ All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that?” (Quotation from The Reason for God by Tim Keller.)
The eternal hopelessness of hell is what Jesus came to save us from.
The wrath of God is coming. Oh, how we need to be warning people of this!
What happens when we stop warning people about God’s wrath? The results are tragic. (Click here to find out what happens when ignore the wrath of God.)
For the believer, salvation from God’s fury is a blessing that is hard to describe. Jesus “rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). This is cause for joy unspeakable and never-ending praise! Amen?
For the non-believer, the prospect of hell is leaves us stunned. “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
Jesus said there are only two roads. Only two. The road to life and the road to destruction. Jesus also said there are only two eternal destinations. Only two; not three. Eternal life or eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). Both of them are eternal. If life in heaven is eternal, so must be the punishment of hell.
Who do you know who isn’t saved? What can you do this week to lead them away from the road to destruction and point them to the road to life?