Life.Church Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel recently discussed the harsh realities of Hell and argued that one of the most dangerous lies Satan tells humans is that such a place does not exist.
In a sermon titled “The Horrors of Hell,” Groeschel contended that it’s important to discuss the afterlife from the pulpit because “what you believe about eternity determines how you live today.
“If you believe that you’re an accident, that you’re going nowhere, then why not just live for now, live for yourself?” he asked. “If you were created by a good God, for His glory, and believe that you’ll live somewhere forever, it will change the way you live today.”
Groeschel cited statistics revealing that while 74 percent of Americans believe in Heaven, just 1 in 4 believe that those who do not know Christ will spend eternity in a place called Hell.
“Most people, if they do believe in Hell, believe it’s for the really, really, bad people, like the murderers and rapists, terrorists and such, but probably not me,” he said.
But Jesus said “something that might imply otherwise,” the pastor argued, citing Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Groeschel said that if he were the devil, he would try to convince humans that there is no Hell. But if it is real, “let’s not take it seriously and let’s believe that most people would not be going there.”
“If I could convince you of that, then you would probably live however you want,” he explained. “You would justify your sin, you would reject Christ, you would live with no real fear of God.”
“If you are a follower of Christ and I can convince you that Hell is not real or not that important, you would live ridiculously self-centered lives,” he continued. “You would very likely idolize comfort and fall in love with this world, you would reject sacrifice, you would avoid persecution, you would love now, and you would not likely share your faith with very many people and have no real sense of spiritual urgency.”
Unfortunately, this is the way “so many of us” live today, the pastor lamented.
If God is loving, why does Hell exist? First, Hell exists for God to deal righteously with Satan, Groeschel said.
“Many of us, when we think of Satan, we tend to think of some harmless dude in a red suit with a pitchfork and horns,” the pastor said. But Scripture tells us the devil is the “embodiment of all evil.”
“Behind every addiction is our spiritual enemy, every bit of fear or pain or shame, it comes from the prince of darkness,” he said. “He’s the destroyer, the deceiver, the dragon, the dark angel. He’s called your adversary, the tempter, your enemy, the wicked one, the thief, the father of lies, the prince of darkness, he is the angel of the abyss, he is the thief that comes to steal your joy.”
The second reason Hell exists is for God to deal righteously with unbelievers. While this may not seem “fair,” the pastor pointed out that it is impossible for God to be holy without being just.
“God will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus,” he said. “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.”
“This is no fun to talk about,” he added. “I'm sure it's no fun to hear about, but if we don't accept the reality of Hell, we will never appreciate the glory of the Gospel and the goodness of Jesus.”
Some people joke about Hell as if it’s a “party,” the pastor said. But according to Scripture, Hell will be a “horrible” place of isolation and hopelessness where people are eternally separated from Christ.
“[Those in Hell] will drink the wine of God's fury which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath,” he said. “They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of holy angels and of the lamb and the smoke of their torment will rise forever.”
“Hell,” he added, “is a nonstop eternal fire with torture or suffering and unending pain.” While so many people have a problem with the idea of a good God sending “good people” to hell, it’s important to understand that no one is “good.”
“If you, for a moment, stood in front of the holiness of God, you would recognize the depth of your wickedness,” he said. “By nature, we're sinful. We've all sinned. We have to recognize this about God. He is holy and He is just. He cannot be holy without being just, and because He is just, He must punish wrongdoing.”
But God is also love, the pastor emphasized, and demonstrated His love by sending Christ to die for humanity “while we were still sinners, while we still rejected him, while we didn't know Him, while we were spitting in His face.”
“What did Jesus, His death and resurrection do? It paid the price for our sins, satisfying God's justice, and simultaneously displaying His amazing grace and unquenchable love,” the pastor said. “Jesus didn't come for the perfect; He came for sinners. He didn't come for the healthy; He came for the sick.”
“Satan is a thief, and he is a liar who comes only to steal, kill and destroy,” Groeschel concluded. “Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and life to the full.’ That's why we want people to know Him, not just to avoid the horrors of Hell but to experience the grace, goodness, the power, the love, the mercy, holiness, the righteousness, and the love of a good God.”