Does Hell Exist?

Though many religions believe that there is a place of punishment after this life, most people today do not think that there is a hell. They use that word only to curse someone or to describe a particularly unpleasant experience in this life. Christians will turn to the Bible for the answer to this question. They will especially want to know what Jesus said about hell. He promised great “reward in heaven” for those who are persecuted for His sake (5:11-12). He warned that no one whose righteousness does not surpass that of the religious leaders of His day would “enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). But He also said that some people would go to hell. Today’s text declares that those who curse someone is liable to the “hell of fire” (literally). “Hell” translates a word which referred to a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem that burned continually, and which had come to represent the place of punishment after death in Jewish speech. Jesus further taught it “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (5:29). As if for emphasis, He repeated that warning about the whole body going into hell in the very next sentence. He spoke of one who could “cast both body and soul into hell” (10:28), and implied clearly that the religious leaders of His time would not “escape the judgment of hell” (23:33). Changing the metaphor, Jesus also warned of an “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12; 25:30). Clearly, Jesus believed in a hell. It is a “place” of judgment, fire, and unutterable sorrow. Anything – even losing an eye or a hand – is better than being cast into such a condition of torment. No one is to be feared more than the one who has authority to consign people to that punishment (10:28). At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord urges His hearers to strive to “enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. But narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (5:13-14). May we all heed these words of the Son of God!