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Jesus Hell

Jesus Hell
The phrase Jesus hell is one that evokes a strong emotional response from most people. The concept of hell or a place of eternal torment is a troubling one. Yet, it is a subject on which Jesus is reported to have spoken on multiple occasions. Jesus’ biographers recount that many times Jesus cautioned people about the reality of an eternal place of torment. Consider one of the most descriptive illustrations Jesus gave that helps us better understand this phrase Jesus hell.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
(Luke 16:19-31)

We gain some important insights into the phrase Jesus hell through the lens of this short teaching of Jesus Christ. He suggests then following death people are placed in one of two possible dwellings. There is a place of comfort as well as one of agony. The former is known commonly as heaven and the latter as hell. Jesus teaches that there is an insurmountable barrier between these two habitations such that no one is able to cross between them. Jesus taught that hell is a place of torment where flames of fire are present. This fire caused the man in his story to be hot and thirsty. Let’s consider some additional teachings of Jesus to glean more insights into the phrase Jesus hell.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
(Matthew 5:22-30)

This teaching brings the phrase Jesus hell into more focus. Here, Jesus suggests that how we treat other people has a direct impact upon our life beyond this reality. He seems to make some extreme statements in Matthew’s biographical recounting. Jesus seems to suggest that our sins (or moral failures) have the ability to determine our eternal destination. Most scholars on the life of Jesus interpret his suggestions of cutting off body parts as being non-literal. That is, Jesus makes these strong statements to urge us to every step within our power in order to avoid hell as an eternal dwelling place. Losing a key body-part would be a small price to pay in comparison to experiencing a dwelling place of such agony and torment.

Let’s gain additional insights into the phrase Jesus hell by examining another of his teachings, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Here, Jesus seems to suggest that we tend to misplace our fears. We sometimes fear people around us who might be able to bring pain or destruction into our lives and in the worst of scenarios, people who might be capable of taking our very lives. This gets us closer to understanding another factor involved in the phrase Jesus hell.

Jesus suggests that our fear is better placed in the realization that God is the one whose opinions matter most and his pending judgments will determine our eternal dwelling place. Matthew wants us to know that Jesus taught that people’s ability to bring pain and suffering into our lives pales in comparison to God’s ability to determine our eternal state of dwelling. Hence, people tend to overlook the more important issue of how their choices in this life will impact their eternal destiny and choose instead to focus on less significant issues and fears.

It would be a mistake to interpret Jesus’ teaching here as indicating that God is angry with us and is on the verge of sending people into hell. Rather, other teachings of Jesus bring a more balanced perspective to this issue. For example, when Jesus disclosed his personal mission statement, he spoke into this issue of God’s attitude toward us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)

So, as we consider the meaning of the phrase Jesus hell, it’s important that we understand what Jesus taught and what he didn’t say. He taught that hell is a real place and that our actions in this life determine whether we end up in that place or not. It is a place where agony is experienced. Yet, Jesus’ teaching also make it clear that God’s desire is that no one end up in that place. Jesus taught that God was so willing to keep anyone from going there that he was willing to send his only son to give up his life in order to make a way for anyone who wishes to avoid ending up in that dark place.

It should be noted that there are varying interpretations of Jesus' teachings on the subject of hell. Much of modern concepts on the subject of hell came from sources other than Jesus (even though they may be attributed to him). Jesus certainly discussed hell as a real place. Yet, his teachings leave a lot of room for interpretation. Some Christians, for example, believe that hell does not contain literal fire and that the torment people suffer isn't a result of God's doings but people living with their own self abusive thinking endlessly. There are many other interpretations about hell. As such, it is a topic filled with controversy.

Jesus Hell: Personal Application
As we draw some conclusions about the phrase Jesus hell, it’s important to recognize that many people have difficulty accepting the notion of God creating a place of eternal agony and torment and placing people that he supposedly loves into that place. Jesus taught that God created us in the image of God with the powerful ability to make our own choices. The experiences we have in this life continue to reinforce the idea that every one of our decisions brings with it ramifications or consequences. By understanding this link between our choices and their consequences, we learn wisdom from our mistakes (as well as those of others).

Jesus also taught that God gave us the power to make our own choices because God wants us to choose our own destination (that is the dignity with which he has empowered us). Jesus also taught that he wants friendship with us and that friendship is founded upon two people freely choosing to value one another and to invest themselves in that friendship. God couldn’t invite us into friendship with himself and then force us to spend eternity with him. Rather, friendship must be chosen by us – otherwise it isn’t friendship at all but something much darker, like coercion and enslavement.

Jesus clearly communicated that God loves us and he hopes that we will choose friendship with God in eternity. But, God will not force us to spend eternity with him. Jesus taught that he came to give his life to make a way for us to spend eternity with God. God gave everything he could possibly give (including his life and a series of stern warnings about the horrors of life separated from his goodness) to help us avoid hell as our eternal dwelling place. But, he honors our choices with the highest degree of dignity and as such our eternal dwelling place is a choice completely ours.

Jesus Hell: Key References to Explore

  1. Luke 16:19-31 – Jesus tells the story of a character named Lazarus to give us insights into hell
  2. Matthew 5:22-30 – Jesus discusses how our choices in this life affect our eternal dwelling place
  3. Matthew 10:28 – Jesus connects the issue of fear with that of hell
  4. John 3:16-18 – Jesus gives insights into his purpose that help define God’s attitude toward us

Jesus Hell: Launching Points

  1. What did Jesus teach about Hell?
  2. Jesus States Reality of Judgment to Heaven or Hell
  3. Who goes to Hell?
  4. Why did God create Hell?
  5. Describe 'Hell'
  6. How can I avoid going to Hell?

  Related Topics

  • What did Jesus teach about Hell?
  • Jesus States Reality of Judgment to Heaven or Hell
  • Who goes to Hell?
  • Why did God create Hell?
  • Describe 'Hell'
  • How can I avoid going to Hell?

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