What Jesus Said About Hell

What Jesus Said About Hell

These will go away into eternal punishment.
—Matthew 25:46

Hell is one possible destination for those who die. Jesus warned about the reality of hell. In fact, Jesus spoke more frequently about hell than He did about heaven. What did Jesus believe and teach about hell?

Hell is an actual location. It is popular to claim that hell is a state of mind rather than an actual location. Some writers theorize that everyone goes to the same realm when they die: for some this realm is “heaven” and for others it is “hell,” depending on a person’s spiritual orientation in this life. However, Jesus clearly taught that there are two different destinations: “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Jesus believed both the unrighteous and the righteous will spend eternity in a place, not a state of mind.

Hell is a place of indescribable and eternal torment. Jesus used the imagery of fire to describe hell (Mark 9:48; Luke 16:24). Some speculate that the fire Jesus describes is not literal but a symbol of God’s purifying judgment. While Jesus did use metaphors to communicate spiritual truth, we cannot find any relief from the horrors of hell if He is doing so in this passage. If Jesus is using fire metaphorically, then He is saying that the reality of hell is so painful that it defies description.

Hell will contain the majority of humanity. Jesus taught that only a small percentage of humanity will find the way to eternal life, meaning that the majority of mankind will occupy hell. He said, “The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). Furthermore, Jesus asserted that hell is populated by more than just mass murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. Hell will also be occupied by sincere, religious people who perform good works in the name of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21-23).

We tend to measure our goodness compared to people we deem to be much worse than we are. Using that flawed measurement, we think we are decent people who do not deserve to be in hell for eternity. However, the standard God uses to evaluate our goodness is not other people, but His perfection. By that standard we all fall short. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Unbelievers will spend eternity in hell, not because they are not good but because they are not good enough. Fortunately, there is an alternative to this terrible place about which Jesus warned.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How Can I Know I’m Going to Heaven When I Die?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.