There is too little concern about hell and too few preachers who ever mention the biblical doctrine of hell. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul," Jesus warns, "but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10: 28). Jesus appealed to the horror of hell as motivation for doing right. Hear him: "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, that having two hands to go into hell " (Mk. 9: 43 ff).
Hell is a real place. Geenna (Greek word for hell) is found twelve times in the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. In the just mentioned reading (Mk. 9: 43 ff), Jesus proceeded to say, " where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Jesus is referring to a valley on the south side of Jerusalem known as the Valley of Hinnom. This valley had a reprehensible history (2 Kg. 16, 2 Chroni. 28), mostly pertaining to the worship of Moloch. The valley was especially held in contempt after the return of the Jews from captivity in that it became the garbage dump for the city. Into this valley all the filth of the city including the human carcasses of criminals was thrown. The odor and presence of perpetual fires were repulsive, I am told. Jesus "borrowed" from the physical reality and properties of the Valley of Hinnom to teach regarding the spiritual place of the souls of the wicked.
Hell is a place of eternal punishment. Modern man has an antipathy for punishment. However, hell shall be a place of punishment. Not just punishment, but "everlasting punishment," "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal, " Jesus said (Matt. 25: 46). The punishment of the wicked is just as long as the bliss of the saved - "everlasting" is from aionios and is applied to both the punishment of the wicked and the life ("eternal") of the righteous. John wrote, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever" (Rev. 14: 11). Jesus said, "Thee shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25: 30). Jesus said it would be better to be maimed or have a millstone hanged about one's neck and cast into the sea than to experience hell (Mk. 9: 42-50).
Hell is a place of outer darkness. Darkness is often used to indicate ignorance, pride, and rebellion (Jn. 3). God, by contrast, is light and Christians are to walk in the light (I Jn. 1: 5-7). Darkness is symbolic of despair, uncertainty, and fear. Jesus said hell will be not just a place of darkness, but "outer darkness" (Matt. 25: 30). Some question how hell can be a place of perpetual fires and, at the same time, outer darkness. If God can make fire burn a bush and the bush not be consumed, He can have outer darkness and perpetual fire (cf. Ex. 3).
Hell will be a place of ultimate failure and regret. Heaven will be a place of triumph and victory (Rev. 21: 7). Hell, almost point by point, antithetically will be a place of failure (Matt. 25: 14-30). In the intermediate place of hades, the rich man certainly had many regrets (Lk. 16: 19-31).
Hell will be a place of a repulsive population. The abominable, murderers, and whoremongers will be in hell (Rev. 21: 8). Paul wrote that fornicators, thieves, drunkards, and homosexuals will also make up the population of hell ( I Cor. 6: 9-11). Also, those who simply failed to have availed themselves of the privilege of serving God in this life will be in hell with the Hitlers, Mansons, and moral reprobates (Matt. 25: 14-30).
Beloved, heaven shall be a place of being with God and enjoying the grandeur associated with God; hell, on the other hand, will be a place of separation from the presence of God and all the associated agony in the absence of God (2 Thes. 1: 7-9). Hell is so terrible that it was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25: 41). Heaven or hell, we determine which by the choices we make and the way we live in this life! (For additional study material, be sure to read "Death and the State of the Soul").