Richard Baxter noted that if we were able to glimpse for even a moment the gravity of Hell and the closeness of so many men to it, that we would be greatly emboldened for evangelism. That is, we are shy about declaring the gospel because we do not see it as a great threat to others.
Scripture pulls back the curtain on the reality of Hell in a few places, to remove that shyness. One revelation of Hell’s reality is in the familiar account of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. Another picture is exposed in Revelation 9. Several truths about Hell are evidenced there:
- While hell is the dominion of Satan, his “authority” is given to him — he can do nothing except under the dominion and control of God. This is another way of saying that Satan cannot harm anyone — believer or unbeliever — except through the permissive will of God.
- While we think of Hell as the enemy of the believer, it is in fact that enemy of the unbeliever. In this brief instance in Rev. 9, Satan will have power to torment only unbelievers — he will be incapable of afflicting those who bear the mark of God and Christ. What is true for that period will also be true for eternity — Satan will never be able to afflict those who belong to Christ when they are in His presence in Heaven.
- The torment of Hell in that day will be so severe that men will yearn to die.
- The even greater torment of Hell in that day is that men will be incapable of dying. And even worse than that 5-month terror is the reality that Hell is a horrid place made all the worse by the reality that for all eternity, men will be tormented without end and without death. Always dying and never dead.
- And the greatest torment of all is that those who spent their lives attempting to escape the authority and presence of God will in Hell have to acknowledge Christ’s authority, and in Hell will never escape the One who is their eternal Judge.
This horrid Hell will be for those who trust Christ a demonstration of His righteousness, and as such, a means of our praise of Him. Yet it also will always remain a most terrible place — the real and exact place of God’s unending righteous wrath and judgment against those who have unrighteously denied Him — those very people who right now are our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family. Let that sober reality unloose our lips this year and this day.