There is a matter that somewhat afflicts my spirit every day. It is the observation that so many of the people with whom I associate hardly ever give God a thought. When it comes to the way they live, God is not a part of the equation. Not only do they never think of him, (unless thrown into some trouble from which their abilities can’t rescue them) but they don’t fear him.
There is a final destination for people like this: hell.
Samuel Gordon once wrote: “Philosophically there must be a hell. That is the name for the place where God is not; for the place where they will gather together who insist on leaving God out. God out! There can be no worse hell than that!”
The beloved Christian writer, Max Lucado, summarized the greatest horror of hell. He wrote, “God isn’t there.”
Certainly, hell is the just deserts of those who owe God for every good thing in life but want nothing to do with him or his ways. Hell is real. It’s not simply a state of being, the Bible describes it as a place of consciousness (Lk. 16:23, 24), a place of eternal torment (Lk. 16:23, 28), a place of darkness, (Mt. 8:12), a place of eternal separation from loved ones who believed (Lk. 13:28), a place without the slightest hope of relief or release (Mt. 25:46, Heb. 6:2), and a place of regret and torturous memory (Lk. 16:27, 28).
A few months ago, I spoke with a woman who told me her husband had a realistic and terrifying dream about crossing a river in a valley. She said he wept for a half hour afterward. In the dream, there were demon spirits that blinded and transformed people into wicked beings themselves, who consequently blinded others, all of whom were enslaved forever.
I felt the dream had spiritual significance and explained that it matched much of what the Bible says about dreams with divine messages, the devil, demonic influences, spiritual blindness, sin, and judgment. I urged both of them to act on the dream’s biblical message and be sure of a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. However, I don’t think either of them has decided anything on the matter.
The Scriptures solemnly warn: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).
The list above is not meant to be an exhaustive catalog of people who will find themselves in hell one day. Revelation 21:8 includes something similar, adding: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).
I’ve included both of these texts because much of what’s listed is celebrated and lauded today, not repudiated as it should be. Don’t be fooled! Even though some churches have hailed these behaviors in recent years, the end for those who characteristically live this way is one of eternal damnation.
Still, let me make it abundantly clear. You don’t have to be grossly wicked to go to hell. All that’s necessary is to ignore God’s claim on your life. Don’t make him a part of the equation, rarely think of him, leave him out, don’t surrender control to him as the Lord your God, don’t fear him, and to your surprise and dismay, although you thought of yourself as a pretty good person, at the end of life, you’ll find yourself in that terrible place.
There are two lives that you can live – life your way or life God’s way. There are two leaders that you can follow – yourself or God. There are two decisions that you can make – to receive God’s salvation through Christ or to reject him.
Every person must make a choice. Even choosing not to make a choice is a choice made against God. There is no neutrality. Either we acknowledge God’s sovereignty over us, trust his means of redemption from the penalty and power of sin, which he provides in Jesus Christ and by his Holy Spirit, or we are eternally left to our own devices and land in hell.
Admittedly, as the Great Reformer, Martin Luther said, it’s very difficult to know and understand all of what hell is; “Only this we know, there is such a sure and certain place.”