Jesus spends more time describing the horrors of Hell than the blessings of Heaven. In fact, add up all of Jesus’ teachings about eternity and you will find that He devotes much more space to Hell than Heaven.
Thirteen percent of the 1,850 verses in the New Testament that record the words of Jesus deal with the subject of eternal judgment and Hell. Jesus wanted to warn people about the awful reality of Hell. To say that you believe in Heaven, but not Hell, is to in effect, call Jesus a liar.
No passage in the Bible better refutes the myth that everyone goes to Heaven when they die than Luke 16:24-31. Two men die and they go to two very different destinies. Lazarus is by the side of Abraham which the Pharisees knew was paradise with God, but the rich man is in Hades. Jesus uses this story to share three characteristics of Hades.
1. Hell is a place of indescribable pain (Luke 16:24).
Luke 16:23-24 says that the rich man was “in torment.” Jesus taught that people will respond to Hell with great weeping and wailing. Someone has described wailing as weeping gone grotesque because of conclusions we can’t live with.
Jesus also described Hell as a place of darkness and as a bottomless pit. Sometimes I will hear people say, “I want to be in Hell because my father will be there, or my mother, or my friends.” They may be, but you won’t know it. It is a place of intense, solitary suffering.
And it is forever. In Revelation 20, the lake of fire is described as forever and ever. In Greek the same word used to describe the eternality of Heaven is used to describe the eternality of Hell. Unbelievers don’t just cease to exist, they live forever.
2. Hell is final and there is no relief (Luke 16:25-26).
Some Christians try to lessen the horrors of Hell by embracing the idea of annihilationism—the idea that unbelievers are judged, barred from Heaven, but then simply destroyed. “A loving God could not possible sentence people to eternal, unending torture,” they reason.
The rich man is in Hades, suffering the torment of the flames, and he continues to exist. The same word “aionios” that is used to describe the eternality of the righteous in Heaven in Revelation 22:5 is also used to describe the eternality the unrighteous in Hell in Revelation 20:10.
All opportunities for repentance and salvation end the moment you die. Matthew 7 says, “many people will try to bargain with God on the judgment day.” In Hell, everyone will be a believer, but it is too late.
3. Hell is justice for those who did not repent in life (Luke 16:27-31).
Realizing that he cannot change his destiny or even experience temporary relief, the rich man’s thoughts turn to those he loves the most, his family (Luke 16:27-28). Having grown up with them, he knows that they too have spent their earthly lives scoffing at the things of God. So he pleads with Abraham to send someone to warn them about this terrible place.
But Abraham responds that they have been warned (Luke 16:29). On judgment day everyone will be without excuse. But the rich man wanted a miraculous sign sent to them (Luke 16:30).
Unfortunately, signs have never turned people into believers. The Lord’s miracles were met with unbelief and blasphemous denial of who He was. The raising of Lazarus from the dead only brought more unbelief and antagonism from the Pharisees.
And the greatest miracle of all, the raising of Jesus from the dead, did not lead unbelievers to faith, but only caused them to manufacture a false story about the stealing of the body.
No one will be in Hell who has not had a chance to repent. All people have been given knowledge of God and have the opportunity to repent. Everyone will not be saved, but all have an opportunity to be saved (John 1:9).
Think about it—if an unsaved person like the wealthy man in this story was distressed about the salvation of his family, how much more should those of us who are Christians care about the eternal destiny of those we love the most?
Martin Marty, a professor at the University of Chicago, said in an interview: “If people really believed in Hell they wouldn’t be watching basketball games or even the TV preachers. They would be out rescuing people.”