Do We Decide to Go to Hell?

Hell has been cloaked in folklore and disguised in fiction for so long; many people deny the reality of such a place. Some think it is merely a myth. This is understandable. Our minds revolt against ugliness and suffering. However, the concept of hell is not exclusive to the Christian faith.

Centuries before Christ, the Babylonians believed in "The Land of No-Return." The Hebrews wrote about going down to the realm of Sheol, or the place of corruption; the Greeks spoke of the "Unseen Land." Classical Buddhism recognizes seven "hot hells," and the Hindu Rig Veda speaks of the deep abyss reserved for false men and faithless women. Islam recognizes seven hells.

Jesus specifically states that nonbelievers will not be able to escape the condemnation of hell (Matthew 23:33). He told His disciples, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell." (Luke 12:4-5).

Probably Jesus gives one of the most graphic descriptions of hell in the Bible in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus. During his life, the rich man refused to help Lazarus, a poor beggar who yearned to eat crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. When the beggar died, he was carried to Abraham's side, which was what we would describe as heaven. The rich man was sent to hell and was in torment. Jesus did not imply that having wealth means being doomed to hell, nor did he say that being poor guarantees anyone the right to heaven. However, it is a graphic description of the unbeliever's suffering apart from God.

According to the parable, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham, with the beggar by his side. He spoke through cracked, parched lips and pleaded for Abraham to ask Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and bring it to him to cool his tongue. "I am in agony in this fire," he cried.

But Abraham said there was a great chasm between the two worlds and it was "fixed," or permanent. No person on one side could cross over to the other. In other words, the one in hell had been given a choice of direction during his life on earth, and now he had to suffer the consequences of his decision to live for himself instead or for God. There was no second chance. 

Our Patient Merciful God
The Bible and the Gospel speak of God's great mercy for us ...

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