Who Is Going To Hell?
What an awful thing for a person to go to hell-to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and there to suffer eternally. There is no possible deliverance from the flames of hell (Revelation 14:11): “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and they have no rest day nor night.”
That is, no relief from the torment. Not like a night of pain when one cannot rest and yet finds rest in the morning. Not like thirty years of affliction. But forever, without any possible pause-eternal torment. To be in the company of the Devil and his angels, experiencing precisely what sin which is committed against God deserves.
Will God cast people into hell?
Yes. He has. He does. And He will.
The question is not whether or not you choose to believe in hell. That is not the question. The question is whether or not you believe in the Bible. For the Bible testifies that the Son of man (Matthew 13:42) “will gather all them which do iniquity and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Nor can you come to the Bible and select what you will believe out of it and what you will not. If you do not believe the Bible as one unity in all of its truth, you do not believe any truths of the Bible. You cannot believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and simply dismiss the truth of hell and those who go to hell.
It is from this punishment of eternal hell that Jesus Christ has delivered repentant believers given to Him of His Father. And it is standing by the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we have perfect assurance over the flames of judgment and hell.
By nature we, or ourselves as Christians, would live with all men and women under the supposition that we really do not deserve the hand of God. We think that we are really good people-at least better than others. But the grace of Jesus Christ changes this and gives us to confess: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
There are many who grit their teeth at the reality of hell. They will not believe that. They say, “How can that be?” These, says the Word of God, are willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3). They are blinded by the god of this world, they are blinded to their sin and to a holy God. There are others who try to modify the Scriptures. They say that all infants who die in infancy go to heaven, denying depravity, denying the need that each soul that goes to heaven must be born again with the spiritual resurrection life of Jesus Christ. And that life must also be implanted then in an infant according to God’s power and Spirit. There are those who say there is a purgatory-that is, the place where a person goes to suffer for the deeds that he has not atoned for in this present life. When that suffering is done, he may go on to be with God. This is the imagination of man. There is nothing of this in God’s Word. There are many who outrightly deny the truth of hell. Many churches no longer preach the gospel at all. Rather, they preach the word of self-improvement. Let us not mention hell. Let us not mention curse and sin and the judgment of God. Let us talk about self-worth and self-betterment and self-improvement.
“And my people love to have it so,” says Jeremiah in his prophecy.
But the Bible, God’s Word, is clear. Take it up and read.
If you do not repent and trust in Jesus Christ as seen in new obedience, you shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:5): “Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Who are going to hell?
God’s answer is the only one that counts. And the answer of the Word of God is: everyone who does not repent and sincerely trust in Jesus Christ as seen by new obedience. 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Christ is our only Savior. Not a savior, not an expression of a God somehow or some way. There is no way to heaven but through faith in Jesus Christ. I said “way to heaven.” For the grounds on the basis of which one goes to heaven is the work of Jesus Christ. Christ gives Himself for the elect of God upon Calvary’s tree to remove our guilt. But then Christ also works in those for whom He died, the elect of the Father, a saving faith whereby they believe in Christ and repent of their sins.
There are other things that the Bible reveals of those who will perish eternally. The Bible tells us that they are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 20:15): “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
The Bible speaks of God’s eternal reprobation, of God’s eternal determination of those who will be lost in hell, in the way of their sins. Romans 9 speaks of vessels prepared by the potter who are fitted for destruction. 1 Peter 2:8 speaks of those who stumble over Jesus Christ, who are disobedient, who are offended in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And Peter adds these words, that they were appointed to do so. The Bible teaches that there was an eternal determination of God, what we call a sovereign decree of God, from the very beginning appointing certain men and women to eternal death and destruction.
Still more. The Bible says that those who worship the Beast and receive his mark upon their foreheads will be those who go to hell (Revelation 14:9-11): “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, … and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.”
And the Beast is explained to us in Revelation 13 as the antichristian kingdom, the kingdom of man which shall arise at the end of the world, inspired by Satan, who will deceive men to worship him, claiming to be God-to worship the Beast, to worship man, and to take his mark as identifying you as belonging to this world of rebellion and unbelief. All who take this mark shall end eternally in hell. They are those who mind earthly things and whose god is their belly (Philippians 3:17).
We know that. That is the Word of God. God’s sovereign predestination, His eternal determination of who will be saved and who will be lost. His election and His reprobation. Romans 9:11: “That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.)” And verse 13: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
We know that the elect, by grace, will reveal themselves as those who seek the things which are above and who will not worship the Beast, nor receive his mark. These things we know.
But we must also understand that those chosen and delivered from damnation through Jesus Christ will show, will manifest, will give evidence of that election in repentance and faith. The command of the gospel is: Repent and believe the gospel. Those who go to hell lack, are in hatred of, true repentance and saving faith. So we examine ourselves in the words of 1 John 4, that we might assure our hearts before Him: this is the gift of God; this is the gift of grace through the Holy Spirit, that you experience godly sorrow over your sin and a sincere trust in Jesus Christ.
Those who go to hell are those who repent not and those who believe not.
Before setting those two marks before you from the Word of God, the two marks of all who perish, I must bring out a truth of eternal damnation which reflects upon each one of those truths.
There are degrees of eternal punishment in hell. This is determined by one’s proximity, or closeness, to the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. In respect to the duration of the punishment of hell, all shall be punished alike. Forever are the flames of hell. But as to the degree of the torment, not all will be punished alike. Those who have the least punishment in hell shall have enough. But some shall have a hotter place, a greater damnation. They shall be beaten with greater stripes. We read in Mark 12:40, “These shall receive greater damnation,” referring to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in their religious pride.
We read in Luke 12:47-48, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”
The degree of punishment corresponds to the closeness in which a person stood to the light. Matthew 10:15: “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” That passage is very striking. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for their gross violation of God’s law, for homosexuality, for sexual uncleanness, for violation of God’s purity and holiness. Yet, the measure of accountability, the degree of punishment before God, is determined by the light of revealed truth in which a person stood. Sodom and Gomorrah will be punished in the day of judgment; but it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for those cities, than for the city which has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, the city in which Christ has stood by proclaiming His Word of faith and repentance in Him as the only Savior, the city which nevertheless rejects that light of Christ. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, punished for their homosexuality, than for that city which has turned its back upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That is the Word of God. That is not my word, that is the Bible. And that makes me tremble. Not to repent and not to believe is treason, defiance of God. How much worse when that is done under the light of God come to a person, when one rejects the Word, and then sneers and scorns at those who do repent, and says, “Oh, goody-goody two shoes!” It is better that you had never been born than that you had heard the Word of God and turned not from your sins.
I will not hide from you the place in which you stand now. You stand close to the light of the gospel. You may have heard the gospel. That is a great blessing. But it can also lead to the greatest of all curses.
Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall one be counted worthy, having heard that gospel of Christ and not repented and believed?
Do you repent and believe, by the grace of God?
No, not perfectly! Not looking to yourself as if your repentance and your faith is now good enough to bring you to heaven! No, no!
But do you experience these two realities in your life, by God’s grace: the sorrow for sin before God, and trust in Christ?
The Scripture makes very plain that those who are destined of God to suffer the torments of hell reveal themselves as those who do not repent. Revelation 9:20-21, “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”
Here the Word of God speaks of men who are under the most severe physical judgments of God. There are judgments which are falling all around them, even as the brimstone fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah. They see that their life is tortured in misery and that they are being ruined. Judgments which prefigure the final judgment. Yet, they repented not of their murders or of their sorceries or of their fornications.
In Revelation 16:9-11 we read: “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain. And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
Take note of that!
That establishes the closest possible tie between the state of one’s heart towards God and repentance.
What are the two things spoken of those who repented not?
They gave not God the glory, and they blasphemed God. Repentance involves, at its core, a fundamental, crucial, basic change of heart toward God, as He is revealed in His Word. A change from resentment, from resentment of God’s power and sovereignty, from hatred of His holiness, to bowing before Him in joy and praising His virtues.
What is repentance?
Repentance is the change of heart that God makes in a person-a change of heart toward God and toward sin. Most people have a general idea of what repentance is; they say, Repentance is giving up sin, turning away from sin. But repentance is much more-much, much more than simple human enlightenment. Repentance is not simply when a person wakes up, becomes a changed person, sees things in a different light, understands that the way of his life was bringing all kinds of problems, simply outgrows a certain sin, does not get any pleasure out of it, says it’s not worth it anymore. No, repentance is more than that. Repentance is when God changes a person. Those in hell who repent not are those God willed not to change, determined not to give them the grace of repentance, but to leave them in their sins as monuments to His own justice. Repentance is not simply realizing how terrible hell is and then fleeing from it. People do not repent even in hell. When they know from experience how terrible hell is, yet they repent not. Only God can cause you to repent and be saved. If He changes you in your heart, bringing you the Word of God and showing you what kind of person you are, you repent. If He does not, you will not. Not threats, not death, not accidents. God must confer repentance. It is a gift of God. Acts 5:30-31: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:25)
Give them repentance!
The Living Bible (some of you may be acquainted with that – ”Good News for Modern Man” it is sometimes called) takes each of the above passages and translates it this way: That God gives opportunity to men to repent. Now if they had done that once, I could have given them the benefit of the doubt. But when the Living Bible translates it that way each time, rather than saying that God gave men repentance, then I will say that the Living Bible is nothing but a deliberate perversion of God’s Word in order to give the glory to man, in order to take from God what alone is His and supposedly entrust it to the will of man.
God must change a person from the inside out. He works a work of grace in the heart. He gives a new heart, which He alone can give, out of pure mercy. The impenitent heart must be changed. It must be changed in its position before God and sin. When a man with an impenitent heart says, “I repent,” he means, “I’m sorry about going to hell. I don’t want to go to the everlasting furnace.” But he does not have a sorrow for sin, only a sorrow about suffering for sin. The old heart still loves sin. It just does not love the consequences of sin. It will do anything to avoid hell.
How severe is the bondage of sin, and how great is the grace of God to free!
May God give repentance to the acknowledging of the truth to you and to me, a gift of His grace worked through the gospel of Jesus Christ which comes to you today and says: Repent and believe the gospel.
We have began to discuss the question of who is going to hell. We have shown from the Word of God that hell is a reality which is taught by the Bible and that if one refuses to believe in the reality of hell, then one must refuse to believe in the Bible itself. For the Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the One who has delivered God’s children from the flames of eternal hell.
We have seen, further, that the fruits of God’s grace in the life of those who are saved are the fruits of repentance and faith. Those who will perish eternally in hell are those who repent not and who believe not the gospel. The Bible makes very plain that repentance and faith is a gift of God-a gift that God has given to those whom He has chosen in Jesus Christ. It is a gift that they experience in their lives which brings them to sorrow for sin and a lively trust, a personal faith, in Jesus Christ the Lord.
We have also discussed the need of repentance. We have seen, from the Word of God, that God must change the heart from the inside out, and that God must give repentance unto the acknowledging of the truth of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:25). We have reflected upon how horrible sin really is, impenitence; how severe is the bondage of sin; how great is God’s grace to free us. A person, apart from the grace of God, would rather die in hell than to be without sin. The impenitent heart says, I love sin, I live in sin. Even hell’s fires cannot burn the love of sin out of a person. And the impenitent get their wish, for in hell they sin to eternity, and are in the company of sinners all the time. Those in hell repent not at all. For one sin committed there is no repentance.
We must be changed. When God gives a new heart it is a heart of repentance, a heart that bleeds, a heart that is soft, a heart that hates sin in principle. It is a heart which gives up sin as sin. Not simply giving up sinful things, saying, No more drunkenness; no more beating of my wife. But it gives up the love of sin in principle. You see that the consequences of your sin are just. You do not pout about the consequences. You do not say, It’s unfair that I have to suffer for these things which I have done. You do not try to get out of that punishment. You used to hate to be found out. You stole money, and you only worried about getting caught. But now you restore and you accept the penalty. Those who, by grace, admit that hell is the just reward for sin do not go to hell. Those who say, “Hell is not just,” because they are haters of God’s holiness and lovers of sin, go to hell.
Who are those who go to hell?
Those who repent not, those who find no place of repentance (Hebrews 12). Those who have many tears for being cheated and having to suffer for what they have done, but have no tears for a sinful heart.
To love sin, to find no place of sorrow for sin, never to say with self-knowledge, “I am undone in sin,” to remain proud before God.
Such shall receive the wages of sin which is eternal death (Romans 6:23).
But also those who believe not the gospel are those who shall go to hell. The Scriptures make very plain that all those who do not trust in Jesus Christ by a living, Spirit-worked faith shall perish. All who continue in unbelief shall be cast into the lake of fire. The Scriptures say to us in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that Christ, with flaming fire, takes vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, in that chapter, is counseling the Thessalonian believers who were suffering persecution for Jesus Christ. He says, Now you must rest, you must find your comfort in Christ’s second coming. God will then take vengeance on those who believe not the testimony of the gospel, upon those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel.
The apostle says again, in 2 Thessalonians 2:12, that they all will be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. All who receive not the love of the truth, all to whom God sends strong delusion (verse 11): “and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie.” All will be damned who believe not the truth.
We read in Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Again, in Matthew 11:20-30, Jesus upbraids the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida because they repented not and did not believe Him through His mighty works. He calls to faith His own: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Faith in Jesus Christ, the gift of God, that is the way of salvation. And all who believe not the gospel shall perish.
But what is faith?
Faith is union to Jesus Christ. Faith is seen in trust and confidence in Jesus Christ. Faith is seen in sincere obedience to Christ. Faith is not simply an acknowledgment that God is. The devils also believe that and tremble, says James in the second chapter of his epistle. It is not the mere knowledge of a system of truth. It is very important to understand the truth, for the truth, said Jesus, shall set you free (John 12:31). But it is not simply a matter of the intellect, of the mind. Faith is an attachment, a living attachment to the Son of God, bringing knowledge of Him and confidence in Him. 2 Timothy 1:12: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” And always that faith is evidenced in obedience. To believe is to obey the command of the gospel, to delight in the ways of God, and to follow the path of righteousness in Christ. Faith, you see, brings one to the battlefield. Spiritually you fight the good fight of faith, you lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6). You hold fast to the word of truth. You follow after righteousness and holiness in your life.
And this faith, this union to Jesus Christ, this loving and living attachment, is the gift of God. All are unbelieving and blind and ignorant and hardened of themselves. Faith in Jesus Christ does not find its origin, its genesis, its root in the will of man. A person, of himself, does not choose to believe. God must plant in him the power of faith. God gives faith. Philippians 1:29: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
Those who perish are unbelieving. They are left by God, in His decree of election and reprobation, in their natural state of unbelief. Unbelief is pride; it is the natural man exalting himself and saying, I will determine what is right; I will determine what I want to believe and what I will not. Unbelief is folly. It is the rejecting of the truth of God. It is the rejecting of the living God who is truth. And it is the putting forth of one’s own folly in its place. It is to place one’s own darkened understanding as the standard of truth. “I’ll believe this and I’ll not believe that….” It is to subject the Bible to one’s own reason. It is to fashion one’s God after one’s own thoughts. It is to make a God who is convenient for oneself, suited to one’s own desires. Then, to trust for help and comfort in one’s own strength, to turn to man, to think of this world as the end-all-that is unbelief. Unbelief is the rejecting of the truth of the Bible, the Christ of the Bible, the God revealed in the Bible. And it is placing one’s trust in any other thing than God revealed in the Bible, and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is pride, folly, ignorance.
Who will perish?
Those who die in unbelief-unbelief of the truth of the Scriptures; unbelief of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, the life; unbelief of Jesus as Savior and as Lord, the Lord of their life.
Those whom Christ knows not, those who know not Christ as their Savior. Instead of Christ on the throne of their heart, they sit on the throne as usurpers. God never intended man to be autonomous, that is, self-governing. He placed a throne on man’s heart. And the only rightful king for that throne is God.
But, you see, unbelief is a rebel!
Unbelief is a usurper on the throne. It places self upon the throne. And for that heinous offense, anarchy against God, an attack upon His throne-rights, all unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire.
What is the Word of God?
Repent and believe the gospel. We are shut up to the grace of God, for both repentance and faith are His gracious gifts given to those who are His children, the elect out of the pure, sovereign good-pleasure of God.
But we can know whether we are one of those children. We can know for certainty our own election. For when God elects in love He makes known to you that precious love in your own heart. 1 Thessalonians 1:4: “Knowing, beloved, your election” (Paul says you can know your election). God gives you to know it. He gives you to know that you are delivered from wrath. And He gives you to know it by working in you these two heavenly, spiritual graces: repentance toward God, and faith in Jesus Christ.
Repentance, which is a shattered heart, over sin before God. An abhorrence of sin, an abhorrence of self as the sinner, and a cry to God for mercy and faith. Faith which is a trust in Jesus Christ alone-a commitment and assurance in Christ as Savior, who has saved and has saved me for no other reason than out of His own mercy and love.
All who are strangers to this repentance and faith perish eternally in hell. They hate God. They believe the lie. Their sinful self sits enthroned upon the throne of their lives.
Their damnation is just!
But we are persuaded better things of you, beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone who, by the wonderful power of God’s grace, by the working of the Holy Spirit, repents and sincerely trusts in Jesus Christ shall have life. Everyone who repents and believes the gospel as seen in a life of new obedience shall never perish but shall have eternal life.
May God make His Word both powerful and effective in our life, turning us daily to repentance from our sins and faith in Jesus Christ, the wonderful, perfect, and only Savior, who has delivered us from so great a destruction of hell and has brought us forever into the fellowship of God.
By Carl Haak