Our Lord often spoke about hell; He said many things about the abode of the wicked. Perhaps the most terrifying thing that Jesus ever said about hell was what He told the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 23:33: “…how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” It seems strange for us to hear words like that coming from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ, because we don’t associate Him with hell as often as we should. He talked more about hell than he did about love. He said more about hell than all the other preachers in the Bible combined. If we were to model our preaching after His, then hell would be a major theme for all of us…

In Matthew 13:47-52, our Lord tells a parable that warns about hell. In the parables of Matthew 13, the Lord talks about the period of history between His resurrection and return. He is the King, and He rules in the world. He is allowing both good and evil to grow together during this period of time, as we learned from the parable of the wheat and the tares. He is tolerating the evil of this period. But eventually there will be a time of judgment. We have seen the parables that describe the nature of the Kingdom, the power of the Kingdom, and the personal appropriation of the Kingdom; now we will look at the last parable, which warns of the coming judgment. The parable says that in the end, there will be an eternal separation of the damned from the redeemed. Today, over five thousand people in the United States will die and enter eternity, and most of them will go to hell…

There are many things we could say about the parable, but the Lord is focusing on one element of it: the separating process that the fishermen went through on the shore. He emphasized that that aspect of the parable is a picture of the angels separating the good from the bad at judgment. During this era in which good and evil exist together, God will tolerate evil. But there is coming a time when He will separate those who are subjects of the King from those who are not. Little by little, imperceptibly and silently, God’s net is moving through the seas of time and bringing all men onto the shores of eternity for that inevitable separation.

The net draws in all kinds of fish; it is indiscriminating. So, as verse 47 says, the Kingdom of heaven is like a net that moves silently through the sea of life. By the time people awaken to what God is doing, they will have already been brought to the shore to be separated… Some people wonder why Jesus taught the parable of the dragnet, which talks about the separation of good and evil, when He already talked about that separation in the parable of the wheat and the tares. One reason He taught it was because the parable of the wheat and the tares emphasizes the coexistence of good and evil, not the separation of good and evil. Another reason Jesus had for teaching the parable of the dragnet was because of His compassion for men. He wanted to warn them about hell.

He said, “Watch, therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of man cometh” (Mt. 25:13; cf. Mk. 13:35). Jesus cautioned people not to take their sins lightly because inevitably they would be accountable before God. He said that there would come a time when men would live as they did in the days of Noah, and that judgment would follow soon after (Lk. 17:26-27). Through His prophet John the Baptist, He said that He would come to burn the lost “with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12). When Jesus looked at the people around Him in Matthew 9:35-38, He saw a harvest moving toward judgment. His heart was filled with compassion for people on the way to damnation. Jesus showed His compassionate heart for men by warning them of the inevitable separation in the parable of the dragnet.

God does not take pleasure in seeing the wicked die. He is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3:9). First Timothy 2:3-4 says that God, our Savior, “will have all men to be saved.” Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mt. 23:37). He also said to the Jewish people, “…ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” (Jn. 5:40). Jesus warns men because He loves them…

The Lord constantly taught about hell. He talked about it in Matthew 23:14-15, 33; 25:29-30, 41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 6:24- 26; and 12:5. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told a story about a rich man that died and went to hell. The man was in such torment that he screamed for Abraham to send Lazarus with water to cool his tongue (v. 24). Based on the example of Christ, the emphasis of preaching should be on hell. But people don’t do that today. It is convicting that we say so little about hell. The truth about hell is so terrifying and awesome that if the Lord had not taught about hell, we would not believe it existed…

What is hell? Let me give you four truths about hell that I think will answer that question:


Hell is a place of unrelieved torment and horrible misery. The Bible defines it as outer darkness (Mt. 8:12; 22:13). It is a place of impenetrable darkness without light. Have you ever been in the darkness of night and longed for daylight, or been in a dark room and wanted light? Darkness will encompass those who will be in hell for eternity; there will be no hope of ever seeing light.

The Bible also says that hell is a place of fire (Mt. 25:41). The fire in hell isn’t like the fire we use to burn something. God uses the word fire to describe hell as a place of torment–a place where there will be no relief from suffering. God uses both darkness and fire to describe the torment of the damned.

The Bible gives us two insights into how people will respond in hell. One is in a parable the Lord tells in Luke 16, where a man who went to hell cried, “…Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (v. 24). The other is a statement Jesus frequently made, saying that in hell “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Lk. 13:28). Hell is not going to be a place of fun; it is going to be a place of weeping, screaming, grinding of teeth, and unrelieved torment.


Hell is a place of unrelieved torment for both body and soul. When a nonbeliever dies, his soul leaves the presence of God, and goes into hell. His soul probably doesn’t go into the lake of fire that all unbelievers will be thrown into after the Great White Throne Judgment (because a transcendent body would be required to endure the fire), but it still goes to a place of torment (as was illustrated by the rich man who died and went to hell in Luke 16).

When an unsaved person dies, his soul descends into hell. In the future, there will be a resurrection of the bodies of the damned, and at that time the condemned will be given a transcendent body so they can be thrown into the lake of fire. Christians will also be resurrected at that time, and be given a transcendent, glorified body to enable them to live eternally in heaven. Those who are condemned to hell will be raised and given new bodies for the sole purpose of being punished forever in those bodies (Jn. 5:25-29; Rev. 20:11-15). That’s why Jesus said, “…fear not them who kill the body…but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28).

Some people think that hell will only be experienced by the inner consciousness. But hell will be experienced by the body, too. Transcendent, eternal bodies are going to be given to the damned; they will suffer in those bodies forever. (Online source)

John MacArthur

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