A View of the Guiding Light in a World of Darkness is a weekly devotional that seeks to apply Biblical principles to our everyday lives, written by inspirational speaker and writer, Jeremy Curry.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (NASB)
As a child, I remember walking through the library looking at all of the books on the shelves. For some reason, I always think of walking past the “Self-Help” section and seeing books like, So, You Want to Be Rich? or So, You Want to Be Skinny? Isn’t it interesting that there was never a self-help book called, So You Want to Go to Hell? Or, at least, not one that I know of. And certainly, I never saw one in the library with this title. Isn’t it fascinating that there are many times we hear people on television tell others to go there, but yet, no one has a desire to do so? If people did want to go to hell, surely there would be a book on it, right? It’s as if we all have this built-in, innate desire to avoid a place that even sounds remotely like hell. Yet, it’s the time of year when we begin dressing up our young and impressionable children as things like ghosts, goblins, devils, and other creatures that we so deeply desire to never live with, let alone, to even see them. With hell at the forefront of our minds as we approach Halloween, it seems to be the right time to take a look at the very frightening subject: hell. As you continue reading, please note that this devotional is not meant to be a “fire and brimstone” sermon in order to scare you into salvation. Rather, it is to recognize what hell really is, what that means, and how you can live eternally with God instead of being thrown into a place of eternal torment.
Is hell a real place? First, let’s define a few terms. Sheol is a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament. It can be translated as “hell,” “the grave,” “destruction,” and others. But, at the root, is the word Sheol. As we move into the New Testament, we find that the Greek language uses the word, Hades. This is also sometimes translated as the word, “hell.” However, Hades and Sheol do not typically refer to the place where sinners are held for eternity. Instead, they appear to be a holding place for dead people (those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior) prior to being thrown into hell at the end of time. This place can be referred to by either word as they refer to the same location. Another Greek word in the New Testament is Gehenna. Gehenna can be translated as “hell” or “lake of fire.” Gehenna was actually referring to a garbage dump in Jesus’ time where people would throw their trash and it would be like a continual, unending fire as the trash burned. Jesus used this reference to help the masses understand what hell is like as He preached. And yet, another Greek word we see translated as “hell” is Tartarus, referring to the “lower regions.” All of these words are typically translated as “hell,” but it is important to know the difference. For example, as previously noted, hell and Hades are likely not the same place. Or, if they are, they are referred to by different names in regards to before and after the revelation of God. Either way, we do know that both are a place of torment and contain fire while the souls within cannot escape.
Now that we know what the Bible is referring to as hell, what does it tell us about this place? There is a lot of information regarding hell in God’s Word. In the passage for this week’s devotional, we read about Hades. Note that the rich man is in “agony in this fire.” He is in a place with real fire while sensing and feeling real physical pain. Not only is he feeling the physical suffering of Hades, but he is conscious that he still has relatives living. He is not unconscious, unaware, nor destroyed. He senses all pain (physical and emotional) and is extremely aware of what is happening. This account comes to us straight from Jesus. Some would contend that hell does not exist because God destroys the soul. They point to Matthew 10:28, which says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (ESV) Note that this verse says God “can.” It does not say He “will.” Additionally, this verse does not coincide with other verses about hell. Matthew 10:28 is contextually talking about God being all-powerful, not a destroyer. Furthermore, if the enemy comes to “steal, kill, and destroy,” (John 10:10) then those things must not be attributes of an all-loving God. Therefore, God would not destroy a soul. And, while it does not say that God will destroy souls in hell, it does, in fact, state that there is a place called hell. Other passages back this up as we read in Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (ESV) Furthermore, Jesus tells us that hell is eternal in Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV) If you are a Christian and believe in eternity with God as noted here, then you must also believe in an eternal hell as Jesus refers to. Yes, hell is a real place. It is eternal. And it is worse than the most awful place any of us have ever seen.
Before he died in 2010, Dr. Maurice Rawlings was a cardiologist and an associate clinical professor of medicine for the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga, TN. He also was a physician for President Dwight Eisenhower and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As a cardiologist, Dr. Rawlings and his staff were constantly working with people who would be clinically dead and then come back to life. As many of us have heard, most people report seeing a bright light when they are clinically dead and then come to life again. Due to the many experiences that Dr. Rawling had seen, he decided to do a study on the subject. Dr. Rawlings wrote Beyond Death’s Door, which was a study of 300 patients who had near-death experiences (NDE). Dr. Rawlings and his team began interviewing people as soon as they came back from NDE. Instead of seeing a bright, white light, almost 50% of the 300 people reported seeing “lakes of fire, devil-like figures and other sights reflecting the darkness of hell.” Consider the following story from one of Dr. Rawlings patients:
Rawlings told the story of his patient who collapsed during a stress test, and “before we could stop the machine, he dropped dead.”
Well, apparently not completely dead, because in the patient’s own words,
“When I came to, Dr. Rawlings was giving me CPR, and he asked me what was the matter, because I was looking so scared. I told him that I had been to hell and I need help! He said to me, ‘keep your hell to yourself, I’m a doctor and I’m trying to save your life, you need a minister for that.’ … And I would fade out every so often, so then he would focus CPR again and bring me back…Whenever I would come back to my body, I kept asking, “Please help me, please help me, I don’t want to go back to hell.” Soon a nurse named Pam said, “He needs help, do something!” At that time, Dr. Rawlings told me to repeat this short prayer. “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus, save my soul. Keep me alive. If I die, please keep me out of hell!”
The experience of the patient, Charles McKaig, then became pleasant, and he reported seeing his deceased mother and stepmother and being surrounded and comforted by the Holy Spirit. Upon awakening, he was an immediate evangelical Christian.
In Rawlings words, “After this was all over, I realized what really happened. It was a double conversion. Not only had this make-believe prayer converted this atheist … it had also converted this atheist doctor that was working on him”
Still don’t believe? Check out the video of the patients of Dr. Rawlings who went to hell and came back from their NDE. Hearing their testimony in their own words is extremely powerful. After watching this video, it was enough to make this sinner get on his knees and recommit his life to Christ. These stories are real and they are a scary depiction of what happens to those of us who do not accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Friends, you don’t have to be scared of hell. Jesus has overcome (John 16:33, Revelation 20:6). If you want to live with God for eternity, pray this prayer: “I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He died for my sins. I want to live with You forever. Please come into my life, fill me with the Holy Spirit, and make me clean. Redeem me from my sins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
It’s that simple. Yes, hell exists, but Christ has saved us from the eternal death. I pray that you find Him as your Savior, so that you may have peace and rest.
Father, please reach those who are lost or undecided. Help them to accept Your free gift of salvation. Lord, lead us away from evil and toward You. May You light our paths and spread Your Word. Give us the ability and opportunity to reach those who need to hear about Jesus as their Savior. Open the hearts and minds of those who have not yet accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. We love you, Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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