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What Is Hell Like? Revelation 20a

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Revelation 20:1-15

Stephen Caswell © 2001

Wait And See

Some time ago, a man brought forward his strong argument against the Bible, declaring, I am seventy years of age, and have never seen such a place as hell, after all that has been said about it. His little grandson, of about seven years of age, who was all the while listening, asked him, Grandpa, have you ever been dead yet?

Speaking God’s Language

Is hell a place of fire and brimstones? Is heaven a place of gold and pearl and beautiful mansions? When I speak of these things, I ought to use the language of God. I have never been to heaven; I have never been to hell. I must trust God’s revelation. I must speak God’s language and when I do, I find that I am speaking in the power and unction of the Lord.


Last Sunday we saw what life in heaven was like. Today I want to look at the existence of the wicked in hell. I say existence because it isn't life, it's agony. Today, many believers don't like to talk about hell. In fact many false teachers and deceived Christians say that a loving God won't send anyone to hell. Some teach Universal Salvation, that God will save everyone. Others teach Pluralism, that there are many ways to God, you only need to be sincere. Still others teach Annihilation, that the wicked will cease to exist after a time in hell. But in doing this they ignore the clear teaching of God's Word.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, spoke about hell more than anyone else. Why did Christ die if everyone will go to heaven anyway? Why should people repent and live righteously if they'll get to heaven regardless? No if heaven is real, then hell is real too! Here is a good description I read on hell. Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.  Matthew 25:41 tells us that hell was created for the devil and his angels, not for man. But if man rejects God and sides with Satan, he will be placed there too. Today I want to look at seven things that are in hell. Last week we saw that these things will not exist in heaven. There will be Seas, Death, Sorrow, Crying, Pain, Night and the Curse.

Firstly,     Seas

Rev 19:20: Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Heaven has no seas. There will be no separation in heaven, only perfect fellowship. But hell is a lake. The first mention of the Lake of Fire is Revelation 19:20. The Old and New Testaments both refer to a place of suffering commonly called hell. Four words in the Bible refer to hell. All of these refer to the temporal abode of the wicked awaiting resurrection. Only John refers to the final abode, the lake of fire. This can be seen from Revelation 20:14 where hell [or Hades] is cast into the Lake of Fire. In the O. T. Sheol is usually translated the grave or hell, a few of times the pit. Hades in the N. T. is translated hell and one time the grave. Tartaros used just once is translated hell. It is a special prison for wicked spirits who sinned in Noah's day. Geheena translated hell is another word used to describe this place.

Geheena was named after the Valley of Hinnon. The Valley of Hinnon was used for child sacrifice after Israel fell into idolatry. King Josiah defiled this place by turning it into a rubbish dump. It became a place of extreme defilement and was continually burning. Sheol, Hades and Geheena all refer to the prison house of the spirits of sinful men waiting resurrection and judgment. Although these places are like the final abode they are different. The Rich man suffered in this place in Luke 16:23. The term Lake of Fire gives us far more detail than the previous terms. What is significant about hell being a Lake?


Last week , we noted that seas separate people. This is very much true of the Lake of Fire. There will be no fellowship or even friendship in hell. Firstly, I believe they will be eternally separated from God. They will see God in all His glory only to be banished from His presence forever. Secondly, they will be separated from each other. Even though there will be billions of sinful men and fallen angels in hell, they will still feel alone. The loneliness and anguish of soul will be unbearable. This will greatly add to their torment. Seas or lakes are liquid in form. I believe that this will add to the struggle of the damned as they float around in a burning liquid fire. Scientists have found such a place in space. Read page 560 from Things To Come by J. Dwight Pentecost.


Secondly, Death

Revelation 20:12-15: And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.


Death and the dead are mentioned 9 times in Revelation ch 20. What is death? James says that the body without the spirit is dead. Therefore, physical death is the separation of body and spirit. Often this is a painful experience. Spiritual death is the separation of a soul from God.  Who are these dead people that stand before God? They're the ones who rejected Jesus Christ and His salvation. In Ephesians 2:1 & 5 we read that sinners are dead in trespasses and sins. Unless a sinner is born again that's how they remain, spiritually dead. If they die having rejected Jesus Christ they will remain spiritually dead for all eternity.

When God raises the dead at the Great White Throne Judgment they will condemned to the Lake of fire forever. The Bible calls this the second death. Why? Because it will be eternal death. The separation they've experienced will go on forever. They will suffer the agony of dying forever. The new resurrection body that they have just received will only enable them to withstand greater agony and suffering in hell. Revelation 19:20: says the beast and false prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire. One thousand years later Satan is thrown in there too.


Revelation 20:10: The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.  After 1,000 years of suffering they are still there. Neither of them has been annihilated after 1,000 years. The word translated eternal ajiwnion in Matthew 25:46: refers to both life and punishment. So, both must be translated the same way. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Thirdly,    Sorrow , Crying And Pain

a. Sorrow

Revelation 18:7: In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.


The people of heaven will throw aside sorrow and rejoice forever in God's presence. But those in hell will be filled with continual sorrow. Why? Firstly, they will sorrow for all the things that they have lost. On earth they had possessions and pleasures. They indulged in sinful practices whenever they liked. But in heaven they will not be able to do this. Contrary to popular opinion there will be no party's in hell. There will be only suffering and sorrow. The wicked will still long for their sinful pleasures, but will be unable to do them. Secondly, they will sorrow over having made the wrong choice regarding salvation through Jesus Christ. Having seen the power, majesty and glory of God, they know that they'll be separated forever from their loving Creator. They will continually regret their decision to reject Christ.


Thirdly, as they suffer great torment they will see the glory of the Lamb whom they rejected and His holy angels. Remember, the rich man in Hades could see Lazarus peacefully resting with Abraham while he suffered torment. There will be no rest for the wicked. Their suffering will continue day and night forever and ever. On top of this the glories of heaven and the blessings of the redeemed will further add to their torment. Revelation 14:10: He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

b. Crying & Pain

Matthew 13:41-42: The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, And will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

In heaven the Lord will removed crying when He wipes away every tear. But in the Lake of Fire the wicked will cry continually. The word wailing klauqmo" means, to cry, to weep, to weep loudly. Firstly, they will cry out because of the pain they are suffering. Pain causes people to cry as they express their suffering externally. Because the pain is so severe they will gnash their teeth. This describes how people clench their teeth because of pain. Seven times in Matthew and Luke we are told that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. In hell there will be great grief, floods of tears shed to no purpose; anguish of spirit preying eternally upon the minds of the damned. Sinners will gnash their teeth for spite and vexation, full of the fury of the Lord; seeing with envy the happiness of others, and reflecting with horror upon the former possibility of their own being happy, which is now past.


A Crowd In Hell


W. C. Fields, following the 1933 earthquake that struck Southern California, said, We're crazy to live here, but there sure are a lot of us. The same attitude is often displayed by the lost who seem to think that hell will be more tolerable because there will be a crowd there.

Revelation 20:10: The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. The word torment basanizw means to vex, to cause pain, to torture. It is associated with physical suffering. The suffering of the wicked will be most excruciating.

c. Degrees Of Punishment


Revelation 20:12: And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Although I believe all the dead are cast into the Lake of Fire some will suffer more. I believe that God will punish more severely those who are worthy of it. God is just and will judge the dead according to their works. Some of the dead will deserve greater punishment than others. This is because of two things. Some have heard and rejected God's Word. The Lord will hold them more responsible than those who never heard the Gospel. Some have lived very wicked lives whilst others have done some good. The Lord will give each person what is appropriate.


Romans 2:11-13: For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. Luke 12:47-48: And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.


Fourthly,   Night

Matthew 8:11-12 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Heaven will be eternal day as God shines forth in glory. People will live and rejoice in God's wonderful light. But in hell it will continual night. The wicked will exist in total darkness. In hell there is fire, but no light; it is utter darkness, darkness in extremity. The highest degree of darkness, without any remainder, or mixture, or hope, of light; not the least gleam or glimpse of it. This is darkness that results from their being shut out of heaven, the land of light; they who are without, are in the regions of darkness. Whereas there is light, purity, knowledge, holiness and love in heaven, hell is full of darkness. This darkness moves with evil, ignorance, hatred and every thing that causes fear and sadness. 

Gandhi: All About Is Darkness

Some fifteen years before Gandhi’s death, he wrote: I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism, as I know it, entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad and Upainshads that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount.

Just before his death, Ghandi wrote: My days are numbered. I am not likely to live very long — perhaps a year or a little more. For the first time in fifty years I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness; I am praying for light.


In 2 Peter 2:17 we learn about the false teachers and their end: These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. The outer darkness was prepared for the devil, the great deceiver, and his angels. They turned men from the truth, and therefore it is reserved for them, and that for ever; the fire of hell is everlasting, and the smoke of the bottomless pit rises up for ever and ever. But God will send false teachers and sinful men to this same place. The inhabitants of the place would have to be described as shady characters at best and evil people full of darkness at worst. Satan and his demons will be there along with the wicked. Revelation 21:8: But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.


Fifthly, The Curse

Matthew 25:41: Then He will also say to those on the left hand, depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:


God removes the curse from the new heavens and new earth. The Lord's blessing abides upon all His people. Not so in hell. Christ calls the inhabitants of hell you cursed. They will carry God's curse for all eternity. Having rejected the Lord's gracious offer of salvation these rebels will receive His wrath in full measure. To be so near to Christ was some satisfaction, though under his frowns. But this won't continue as He says, Depart from me. In this world they were often called to come to Christ, to come for life and rest. However they turned a deaf ear to his calls; justly therefore are they bid to depart from Christ.

If they must depart, and depart from Christ, might they not be dismissed with a blessing, with one kind and compassionate word at least? No, Depart, you cursed, They that would not come to Christ, to inherit a blessing, must depart from him under the burden of a curse. The curse of the law rests on every one who breaks it. As they loved cursing, so it shall come unto them. The wicked are called only you cursed, for their damnation is of themselves. Has God sold them? No, they have sold themselves, they have placed themselves under the curse.

Preaching On Hell

A man said to a friend, I hear you dismissed your pastor. What was wrong? The friend said, Well he kept telling us we're all going to hell. The first man then asked, What does your new pastor say? The friend replied, the new pastor says we're going to hell, too. So what's the difference? Well said the friend, the difference is that when the previous pastor said it, he sounded like he was glad about it; but when the new man says it, he sounds like it's breaking his heart. That's the attitude we must have when we warn people about hell! We need to beseech as ambassadors for Christ to be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21: Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Beyond Death's Door

A minister reported this case: I was called in the middle of the night by the hospital nurse who told me that Mrs. Davey., one of my parishioners was dying. She asked me if I wanted to be present at her bedside. I dressed hastily and went to the hospital as quickly as I could. When I stepped off the elevator, the nurse told me, I am sorry I called you out of bed. Mrs. Davey is dead. She then took me into the room where Mrs. Davey, a little frail, silverhaired lady, had died of a terminal cancer. I was told that all her vital signs had ceased. I prayed, simply talking out loud to God, saying that Mrs. Davey had insisted on my coming for a purpose and I asked the Lord to let that purpose come to pass if it be His will.

I then saw Mrs. Davey's eyelid fluttering and then some rustling and then commotion in the room. Mrs. Davey opened her eyes wide and stared straight at me. She spoke in a whisper, I thank you, Pastor Grogan, for your prayer. I was just talking with Jesus and He was telling me to come back and do something for Him. I also saw Jim, (her husband who had died a short time before). She turned on her side and drew her knees up almost to her chin, breathing softly and slept.

As I walked down the corridor to the elevator, I heard the sounds of running feet. The nurse who had witnessed it all from the beginning overtook me and said I'm afraid! What did you do? That woman was dead and she came back to life! I have been nursing for many years and I never saw that happen before. I've always been an atheist.

Mrs. Davey, after she had recovered, had many conversations in which she described to others what she saw during her death: Jesus in His shinning brightness and her departed husband Jim. She wanted to stay in heaven but Jesus had ordered her back to talk to others. Then one day she called me to her home to tell me that she was going to hospital again that very day. This time she would die and go to heaven to stay. She said, do not pray for me to live this time.

You beloved are still living. Are you warning people of what's beyond the grave? Are you telling people of the Savior? What's your purpose for living? Have you ever asked God what He wants you to do? Perhaps, He has service for you to do somewhere.       


How should we respond to the horrors of hell? Firstly, make sure that we don't go there. Everyone must personally receive God's gift of salvation through Jesus Christ to avoid this. Everyone is accountable before God for themselves. Have you been saved through faith in Christ? Secondly, rejoice in God's wonderful deliverance from this horrible place. Jesus Christ suffered agony to deliver us from hell. Have you thanked the Lord recently for saving you? Thirdly, warn all you can of the dangers of hell and God's deliverance through His Son! Are you sharing your testimony with the lost? Or are you keeping the Good News to yourself? Will you join us as we door knock in the community?  Will you implore them to be saved?

Benediction  Hebrews 13:20-21:

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