3 Common Misconceptions About Hell
My previous post dealt with three common misconceptions about heaven. This time, I’ll be looking at three common misconceptions about the less-loved half of the equation – hell.
Misconception #1 – Only really evil people go to hell
In the minds of many, hell is reserved only for the most sinister of people. The average person is a “good person”, and so damnation is really meant for serial killers, rapists, child molesters, evil dictators, and the like. While this notion is probably the most common view of the afterlife, it is simply not the teaching of the Bible.
The truth is that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. James 2:10-11 plainly shows this…
 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
The reason all sin is equal is that all sin is against God. Certainly, sins can vary in terms of their consequences. A murder will bring more misery than stealing a chocolate bar will. So, in that sense, sin has various levels of consequence. But every sin has equal disobedience behind it. The killer and the candy bar thief both broke God’s law. They are both guilty before God.
You may ask, “So God sends both a murderer and candy bar thief to the same hell? How does that punishment fit the crime?” Good question. The key, according to the above verse, is that both sins are committed against God. The same God that says “don’t steal” also said “don’t murder”. It matters less what sin you commit than it does who you commit it against.
To illustrate, imagine two young brothers are in a fight. Their mother hears one say to the other “shut up!”. A good mom will step in and begin to discipline their child. It’s not right to say things like that to your brother. But then, in response to his mother’s discipline, the child looks his mom in the face and promptly tells her to “shut up!” No doubt the second “shut up” is more offensive than the first one. It is the same sin, with the same words, but committed against a higher level of authority. A peer-to-peer sin is still very wrong. But a sin against someone who is in authority over you is even more grievous.
Imagine then how evil it is to sin against the greatest authority in the universe. When we sin, we are essentially looking God in the face and saying “shut up!”. We are making ourselves our own god. And considering that we sin against God on a daily basis, we should consider him loving not to kill us and send us to hell right on the spot the first time.
Hell is indeed meant for evil people – evil people like you and I. The problem we have is that we often see evil more clearly in others than in ourselves. We are not basically good people. We are basically selfish, evil sinners. Don’t fool yourself into believing otherwise. Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, meaning that we do not measure up to God’s standards of holiness. Therefore, we all deserve hell.
The good news, however, is that God is willing to give us what we don’t deserve. God is willing to pardon our sin and forgive us for all of our wrongdoing. He does this through the death of Jesus, who died for the sin of the world. Everyone who believes in Jesus as their Saviour has their sin removed, and no longer is destined for punishment in hell but rather paradise in heaven. You can change your eternal destiny for the better by putting your faith in Jesus right now!
Misconception #2 – Hell is ruled by Satan and demons
In his book 23 Minutes in Hell, California real estate agent Bill Wiese describes a night when he believes he was supernaturally sent to hell for 23 minutes. He details, in part, how he was tortured relentlessly by strange creatures in a prison like cell. Though I have not read the book personally, he seems to insinuate that these two beings are demons with the sole task of making his presence as miserable and painful as possible.
This view of hell is not uncommon. Even cartoons picture the devil chasing around poor souls and poking at them with his pitchfork, much to his own delight. Hell, it seems, is the place where souls go to be punished by Satan and his demons.
Yet this is not the hell of the Bible. Certainly, hell is described as a real place where those who have died without faith in Christ suffer (see Mark 9:43, Revelation 20:14, Matthew 25:30 for example). However, hell is not ruled over by Satan. It is under to dominion of Jesus (Revelation 1:18).
In fact, Satan and demons will themselves be tormented in hell. Revelation 20:10 says “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
But hell is not only the place of punishment for Satan but also for demons as well. In Luke 8:28, Jesus runs into a demon-possessed man. The account records “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”” Demons, like Satan, are destined for eternal suffering in hell. They will not be tormenting others but rather being tormented themselves.
In fact, the Bible is clear that hell was originally created specifically for the punishment of the devil and his fallen angels. Jesus says in Matthew 25:41…
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Hell, also called the eternal fire or lake of fire, is a place initially intended to punish evil spirits. Human beings were never meant to go there. However, out of our own free will, we choose to sin against God and therefore include ourselves in the group of God’s enemies. Thankfully, our sin can be taken away through faith in the death of Jesus for ours sins. I pray this would be true of you.
Misconception #3 – This life can be a living hell
I’m reluctant to tackle this one because I don’t want to diminish the terrible things that some people have gone through. But, I feel it may still be necessary.
Many people speak of life as a “living hell”. I understand what they mean. Life indeed can be cruel. There is horrific suffering, deep misery, great loss, and unspeakable tragedy. I would never want to say anything to brush aside real pain. Yet, at the same time, to compare it to hell is not a fair comparison.
The reason hardship in this life cannot rightly be compared to the real hell is because there is one fundamental difference between the two: on this side of death, there remains hope. Yet in hell, hope is altogether absent.
Hell – the hell of the Bible – is a final state of judgment. It is called “eternal destruction”. There is no second chance for those in hell. Their state is fixed for eternity. It is a bleak and saddening truth, but it is the truth nonetheless.
Yet, even for those experiencing the darkest time of their life on earth, there still remains hope. There is a possibility of life getting better. There is opportunity for things to turn around. God’s grace is still working and available. God’s love is still within reach. As long as a person is alive, there is hope for them – not just for their present life to get better, but for their afterlife to as well.
It has been said that for the Christian, this life is as close to hell as they will ever get. For the unbeliever, however, this life is as close to heaven as they will ever get. No matter your circumstance, there is still hope as long as you are breathing. God is not finished with you yet. His desire is for you to know him and be loved by him. This is possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This is why deciding to put your faith in Jesus it is no small matter. The clock is ticking for all of us, and we know not when our life will be taken from us. Everyone is prone to put off thinking about their own death. Yet this is a tragic mistake, for we have only this one life to make ourselves right with God. There is no chance to change our status after death. Hebrews 9:27 says “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”.
This means two things. One, if you are uncertain of your eternal fate, you must act quickly! Do not play games with your soul. To delay thinking about death is to play with fire. Jesus has already died so that you can be right with God. Give your sin to Jesus and trust in what he has done. Receive the forgiveness of God so that you may know without any doubt that you will be with Christ when your time is up.
The second thing it means is that Christians had better start taking evangelism seriously. How sick it is that we do not share Jesus with others knowing what fate awaits those who do not believe! It is disturbing that we allow embarrassment to hold us back from sharing our faith. Hell is real. Life is short. We have the only hope. Share Jesus!