We cast off in rejection the ideas, intentions, considerations, even sympathy many times with the flippant remark, “You can go to hell!” It is not given serious thought, generally, for we, mankind in general—continually deny to ourselves that we will not live forever
However, that is an empty commitment that no human can make for another. Change the word “can” to “will” in that statement and it will be closer to the truth—unless a certain action is taken that will reverse that direction of life forever.
What Jesus had to say about that region of existence should be enough to erase any desire to, or even unintentionally end up at that ultimate eternalhabitat. Some rationalize their plight with thoughts that tell them, “It won’t be that bad; after all, I have a lot of friends who will be there, too—drinking buddies and girlfriends that I can party with. We’ll have a great time.” Hello out there—there is a problem!
Here is how Jesus described that place:
“But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:27-28).
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly uses that phraseology, “in outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” to describe the conditions of that place. The location of “outer darkness,” along with the descriptive actions of the individual person there—“weeping and gnashing of teeth”—indicates abject aloneness of solitary confinement. On the other side, we are told in Revelation 7:17 that God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-30 amplifies the situation there. The whole story is important for its implications and applications:
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
Apparently, there was no one there who could cool the rich man’s tongue, and his cries for help could not be answered from the outside. When Jesus introduces an account like this one, saying, “a certain rich man” and a “certain beggar,” it is describing a real-life situation, not a parable that illustrates a principle. Here, the phrase, “in outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” takes on new meaning, along with the implication that it will be forever and ever!
And it is also as certain that Jesus did not imply that all rich people go to hell and all poor people do not go there. So we now come to the question of why do people go to hell. What is it that brings that awful predicament upon them?
This article started out discussing that statement, “You can go to hell,” that is often flung out resentfully or jestingly. It is not, however, a viable option for the speaker of that statement. Scripture tells us that it is already a fixed issue, unless a person chooses the option that is mentioned in these verses:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
How can that be so; it seems so unfair and not like a loving God. Right? No, not right. It goes back to the very beginning when Adam followed Eve’s lead and disobeyed God, ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a choice to reject God and take their own way. To their dismay, it was not a good choice. They died then, spiritually, and later, physically. Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 that the death continued in all the offspring of Adam:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
And Man began to show his belligerence toward God, starting as early as Cain’s incident that led to the murder of Abel. Romans 3:10-18 describes the depth of rebellion that has permeated the race of man since those days:
“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is nonewho does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
So often, and perhaps consistently, the Scriptures make known the predicament man is in and in the same context the solution is plainly given. An example is Romans 3:23-24:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Man desperately needs a new nature and 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us how that can be and the means for it to happen is in verse 21 of that context:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The Scriptures verify that Jesus earnestly desires to be in every person’s life, as Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:9, “For God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” So, He is constantly knocking on each person’s heart door:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
Then John writes, in his Gospel, what can happen when a person opens that door:
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
Jesus said, in Matthew 25:41 that the everlasting fire of hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. It is not for man, if he chooses to open the door of his life to Jesus Christ.