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The Suffering Of Unbelievers

They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
–Revelation 20:10

The parable of the good fish and the bad fish in Matthew 13 tells us about the separation of unbelievers but also the suffering of unbelievers. Jesus was talking about hell. As I look at this passage and combine it with some of Jesus’s other words, I find several truths about the suffering unbelievers face.

First of all, hell is a place of physical suffering. In Luke 16, we find another descriptive story that Jesus told about hell. He talked about a rich man who died and went to hell and a poor man named Lazarus who went to heaven. Verses 23-24 say, “In Hades [the rich man] lifted up his eyes, being in torment. . . . And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’” The Bible says when we go to heaven or hell, we will have a physical body. That is how this man experienced physical suffering.

Second, hell is a place of eternal suffering. There is a popular theory called “annihilationism,” which says when an unbeliever dies, he is cast into hell and simply destroyed. But look at the final part of Matthew 13:50: “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” If you are destroyed, you cannot continue to cry or grind your teeth. The fact is, even though people are cast into hell, they are not destroyed. We see that illustrated in Revelation 20, which talks about the lake of fire into which the beast, the false prophet, the devil, and eventually unbelievers are cast. Verse 10 says, “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” That phrase “forever and ever” in Greek is “aionios”–the same word used to describe the eternality of heaven. Just as heaven is eternal, so is hell. When you have spent ten billion trillion years in that place of suffering, you will not have reduced by one second the time you have left to spend there.

Third, hell is a place of needless suffering. Nobody needs to go there. There are opportunities to receive God’s forgiveness in this life, and those in hell will be able to remember the opportunities they missed. Notice how Abraham responded to the rich man when he cried out for help: “Remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony” (Luke 16:25). Abraham was saying, “Remember the opportunities you had in life? You achieved a great amount, but you failed to take care of the most important thing in life, and that is your relationship to Christ.” God has given us the opportunity to avoid hell and enter heaven through His Son, Jesus Christ.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Good Fish And The Bad Fish” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2005.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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