Bible study lesson 12 - Hell
Purpose: To show that hell is to eradicate sin forever.
Center it: John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Bible verses to read:
- Matthew 25:41
- Matthew 25:34
- Revelation 20:7-9
- Revelation 14:9-11
- Isaiah 34:8-10
- Malachi 4:1-3
- Jude 7
- 2 Peter 2:6
- 1 Samuel 1:22, 28
- Jeremiah 17:27
- Hebrews 12:29
- Isaiah 33:14-16
- Matthew 10:28
- Matthew 26:36-42
- Ezekiel 33:11
Most people have a particular conception of hell. They imagine it as a fiery pit of torment, located perhaps deep within the earth. They might envision souls burning in hell in agony for eternity in punishment for sins committed while those souls were on earth. These same people may even belief that the devil is in charge of hell. However, does this scenario have any basis in the Bible? Would a loving God allow such a place to exist? Let’s find out what the Bible really says about hell as we study together in this lesson.
Let's turn to Matthew 25:41.
- According to this verse, who was hell originally intended for?
- Answer (highlight to read): The devil and his fallen angels
God prepared for the devil and his angels--no humans were mentioned. This means you have no business being in hell--it was not made for you. God does not have you in mind when He thought of fire.
Let's turn to Matthew 25:34.
- According to this verse, what were we prepared for?
- Answer: Heaven
We were prepared for the Kingdom of God. We are not supposed to be in hell.
Let's turn to Revelation 20:7-9.
- According to these verses, what is the fate of the wicked?
- Answer: They are destroyed by fire.
When is this event taking place? Verse 7 says this event takes place after the 1000 years has expired. So, if the Second Coming has not happened yet, then the Millennium (the 1000 years) has not begun yet. Therefore, as of right now (which is before the Millennium), there is no hell!
Where will this event take place? According to verse 8, it will take place on earth and fire will come down from heaven. If hell was prepared for the devil, why would the devil be in charge of hell? God reserves it for the devil and his fallen angels.
Let's turn to Revelation 14:9-11.
- According to these verses, what happens to those who worship the beast and his image, and receives his mark on their forehead or hand?
- Answer: They will be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.
The notable words and phrases we see here are “torment”, “fire and brimstone”, “smoke ascends forever and ever”, and “wrath of God.” When you read the book of Revelation, you will find that it is a very symbolic book and more than half of it is quotes from the Old Testament. It takes every other book in the Bible to understand the book of Revelation.
So, is there any other place in the Old Testament where this language is found?
Let's turn to Isaiah 34:8-10.
- According to these verses, what happened to the land?
- Answer: It shall lie in waste.
The way we can understand what John is saying in Revelation 14:9-11 is to look at how Isaiah uses the same language – “smoke”, “brimstone”, “no rest day or night”, “shall not be quenched.” In verse 9, when Isaiah is saying “…from generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever,” he is referencing total destruction and extinction. When Isaiah uses the phrase “forever and ever,” it just means total and complete destruction. John is saying the exact same thing in Revelation 14:9-11 – “forever and ever” means total and complete destruction.
Let's turn to Malachi 4:1-3.
- According to these verses, what happens to the wicked on the day that they are judged?
- Answer: They shall be burnt into ashes.
Malachi teaches that the wicked will be burned up into ashes. In fact, no root or branch remains, only stubble that one could walk over. This passage also teaches us that “the day is coming”—hell has not happened yet. We can see here that there is an end with fire, and the end of the fire is ashes. Let’s go and what the phrase “eternal fire” means.
Let's turn to Jude 7.
- According to this verse, what happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah?
- Answer: They were destroyed by eternal fire.
What type of fire that God used to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? According to Jude, God used eternal fire. Many people misunderstand the phrase “eternal fire” to mean a very long, long time. However, Sodom and Gomorrah are said to be at the bottom of the Dead Sea today. They are not still burning now!
Let's turn to 2 Peter 2:6.
- According to this verse, what happened to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah?
- The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were turned into ash.
This verse tells us the final product of eternal fire was “ashes.” We were told that Sodom and Gomorrah were given as an example to the ungodly and we can see the end product after the destructive fire was ashes. Eternal fire will eventually go out. Eternal fire does not mean that the fire burns forever because ashes are the product. Rather, this fire has eternal consequences. Sodom and Gomorrah will never be rebuilt again for all of eternity. The eternal consequence of the wicked is eternal extinction. Let’s find out the Biblical context for the word “forever.”
Let's turn to 1 Samuel 1:22, 28
- According to verse 22, how long has Hannah promised her son Samuel will be a priest before the Lord?
- Answer: Forever
- According to verse 28, how long did Hannah say that Samuel be a priest before the Lord?
- Answer: As long as he lives.
Forever does not always mean that there is not an end point. In the context of a mortal being, the word forever is “as long as he lives.” When people are in hell, it does not mean that they are going to be there perpetually, it means that they will be there for the limited span of their life.
Let’s find out the Biblical context for the word “unquenchable.”
Let's turn to Jeremiah 17:27.
- According to this verse, what kind of fire is God sending to devour the palaces of Jerusalem?
- Answer: Unquenchable fire.
If a fire is going to devour, it means it will burn until there is nothing left to devour or consume. An unquenchable fire means that it will not be able to be put out by any human means or intervention. An unquenchable hellfire does not mean that it will burn forever and ever, it means that no human means will be able to put it out or save someone from being consumed by it.
Let's turn to Hebrews 12:29.
- According to this verse, where does hellfire come from?
- Answer: From God
“For our God is a consuming fire.” Does this verse help us understand a little more what hell is about? It means that there are certain things that cannot exist in the Presence of God because it will be consumed…like sin. So, when God manifests His Glory and reveals Himself after the Millennium, sinners cannot coexist in the presence of God, so His Glory consumes them.
The reality is that God wants to destroy sin, not the sinner! However, if we refuse to be separated from sin and cling onto it, the result of the destruction of sin means that the sinner is also consumed along with it.
Let's turn to Isaiah 33:14-16.
- According to these verses, who can dwell with everlasting fire?
- Answer: The righteous
The only ones who will dwell in everlasting fire are the righteous because they have no sin in them and therefore are not consumed. We need to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior (the blood of the Lamb) and the power of the Holy Spirit (fire) to change our lives and purify our sinfulness here on earth, so that when we meet God in heaven and are in His presence, we are not consumed.
Let's turn to Matthew 10:28.
- According to this verse, what happens to the soul and body in hell?
- Answer: They are destroyed.
In hell, body and soul are destroyed. Those who die in hell, their soul is destroyed. We learned in the previous lesson that the soul is made of both body and breath of God.
You might be asking yourself at this point, what about the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31? Doesn’t that show that there is a hell as envisioned in the scenario at the beginning of the lesson? If you are thinking that Luke shows that there is a literal hell, consider that there are some strange things said in this story. Ask yourself:
- What is a drop of water going to do in hell?
- If the story is literal, then all those who have died will hang out in Abraham’s bosom.
- Why is the rich man calling out to Abraham instead of God?
- If this is really heaven, how much fun would be to watch people burning just over the chasm with your sight every day?
Luke 15 and 16 are passage of parables. In Luke 15, Jesus told the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. In Luke 16, Jesus told the parables of the unjust steward and the rich man and Lazarus. Therefore it makes sense to understand that this is a parable (not a literal story), also.
What is Jesus saying in this parable? We need to figure out who Jesus is speaking to when he is telling this parable. Verse 14 mentions the Pharisees, who were the leaders of the church at the time, and their love of money. In this context of the Pharisees being lovers of money is the premise of Jesus giving the parable of the “rich man.”
The Pharisees always connected material wealth to spiritual wealth, which is why the poor were marginalized because it was thought they were under the wrath of God.
In light of the target audience, Jesus throws a curve ball. They are expecting the rich man to go where Abraham (another rich man) is. In their eyes, the beggar would go to hell, but instead in the parable, the beggar goes to Abraham’s bosom.
Jesus is beginning to illustrate the nation of Israel as the rich man because of their regard for money and the calling of Abraham as their father (verse 24).
If the rich man represents the Jews, who does the poor man represent?
Let’s turn to Matthew 15:21-28. In this passage we have a needy Gentile woman who the disciples are trying to get rid of. It seems at first that Jesus is giving the woman the cold shoulder when He says “it is not good to give bread to little dogs.” However, if we read this passage carefully, we can see that Jesus is trying to teach His disciples a lesson about their attitude. The woman says that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table. Jesus rewards her faith by granting her request.
Let’s go back to Luke 16. In verse 21, Lazarus desired to eat the crumbs from the rich man’s table. We now can see that Lazarus and the Gentile woman are saying the same thing. So, if the rich man represents the Jewish nation, it can be safe to assume that Lazarus represents the Gentile nations.
The Israelites were spiritually rich and were supposed to share that with the world. They did not do this, and so the Gentile world was needy and desiring to feed from crumbs.
The parable here shows the rich man was lost because of his actions and the poor man was given the reward of eternal life.
Jesus is giving a lesson on the importance of sharing and witnessing to others about the light that is given to you.
Asides from this, Jesus is highlighting the fact that we only have one life to live and we need to live it well. Israel’s days were numbered and Jesus knew their time was fast coming to a close as His chosen people. He is rebuking them and communicating to them the importance of doing what God asked them to do.
Let's turn to Matthew 26:36-42.
- According to these verses, why did Jesus ask Peter, James, and John to stay and watch with Him?
- Answer: Jesus’ soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.
Jesus was basically saying His soul is dying. Jesus has not received a punch, nails, or any other physical thing. We can see that Jesus’ death was not just a normal death of the body. He was experiencing hell. Jesus knew that the only way to save humanity was to drink the cup of the wrath of God for the sinner and it was driving Him crazy. For the first time, Jesus was experiencing separation from His Father. If you read Psalms 22:14, there is a reference to the Messiah’s heart melting away. On the cross, Jesus died of a broken heart. He died the death we were supposed to die.
Christ at the last supper was giving humanity an alternative cup for us to drink. He then went to the garden of Gethsemane and experienced the agony of being lost and drank the cup of God’s wrath until it was empty.
We have no business drinking the cup of God’s wrath because Jesus has drunk it for us already. This is why we have communion service. We are reflecting on the trading of places…we are drinking the cup of God’s mercy instead.
Let's turn to Ezekiel 33:11.
- According to this verse, does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked?
- Answer: No
- What would God rather the wicked do?
- Answer: God wants the wicked to turn from their evil ways and live.
God takes no pleasure in the destruction of His children. He asks the question, “Why will you die? Jesus has already died for you.” God is asking His children to turn away from sin and live.
Do you see how much God loves us and how visible His character of love is, even in hell?
Christ would rather go to hell for you rather than live in heaven without you. It was a decision He made for you. Are you willing to accept the cup of His forgiveness for the remission of sins?
In the last days, there are only two kinds of people. There will be those who drink the cup of the blood of Jesus for the remission of sins, and those who drink the cup of the wrath of God.
Which cup would you rather drink?
Is there anything in your life that is stopping you from drinking of the cup of forgiveness?