This is the beginning of a few posts about the terrifying but Biblical truth of hell. Because few doctrines we hold are as volatile and dangerous and important as this, my hope is to cover some of the basics and encourage us to think about how to handle these truths well.
How does the Bible picture hell?
As Fire: _His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. _(Mt. 3:12)
As Darkness: _And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. _(Mt. 25:30)
As Punishment: And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mt. 25:46)
As Exclusion: They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from(1 )the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might... (2 Thess. 1:9)
As Restlessness: And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. (Rev. 14:11)
As Second Death:_ Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power.._. (Rev. 20:6)
As Weeping & Gnashing Teeth: In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mt. 8:12)
Why does God give us such pictures of hell?
The purpose of these pictures is not to give us a paint-by-numbers idea of hell, but rather to give us the sense of it. John Calvin wrote, "by such expressions the Holy Spirit certainly intended to confound all our senses with dread." Here then is our first lesson: we will never be able to handle well these truths if we don'tfeel them. Christians who have never meditated on the awfulness of hell ought to keep silent until they do. It's not that our gravity or sympathy will force the world around us to accept the Bible's teaching in this area--but a lack of gravity and sympathy will give the world around us one more reason to ignore God's Word in this area.
Ted Donnelly's masterful Heaven and Hellis what God used to force me to feel the weight of these truths. I highly recommend it.