The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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      While leading prayer meeting one Wednesday evening years ago, one of the many faithful ladies in the church raised a question in this manner “Preacher, why do preachers not preach about hell much anymore?” Being a young pastor and serving in my first church, I probably was not in the best position to answer her question. Nonetheless, her question caused me to pause to consider several truths about Hell. To this end, the current and subsequent editions of “From Daniel’s Den” will explore several aspects of Hell beginning with the Reality of Hell.     
      Hell is real and must be taken seriously. Some seminary students were chatting prior to class one day and one of the students told a joke about Hell. Everyone had a good laugh. W.T. Conner, one of Southern Baptist’s greatest theologians was writing on the chalkboard. He turned, with tears in his eyes and said “Boys, I never joke about Hell. Men are going there.”
      Hell might not be discussed much today but Hell is not obsolete. We know that Hell is an awful reality because the Bible emphasizes the reality of Hell. According to one source I consulted, Hell is mentioned expressly or referred to in synonymous fashion over 100 times in the New Testament. In his discourse on judgment, Jesus referenced “eternal fire” and “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25: 41 & 46). The prophet Isaiah noted that God’s word does not return unto him void (55:11). Therefore, if God’s word discusses Hell in terms of reality, then such is not empty talk.     
      Several years ago a well-traveled gentleman brought forth his strong argument against the Bible declaring, “I am nearly 80 years of age and I have never seen such a place as Hell after all that has been said about it.” When the gentleman ceased ranting his 9-year-old grandson, who had been listening intently to his grandfather’s speech, looked up and asked “Grand Pop, have you ever been dead yet?”

      God’s justice points to the reality of Hell. God is a holy God who must punish sin. If this life filled with injustices and suffering were the “end game,” then evil would appear to have the upper hand. Further, evil also would seem to be unresolvable and unending. Because God cannot allow sin to go unpunished, however, a great day of judgment is on the horizon “when the Son of Man comes in his glory” (Matthew 25:31). On this day, sin will be recognized and judgment will be complete. Further, punishment for evil will be forthcoming as unrepentant sinners will enter “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (as they) “go away to eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:41 & 46).    

      The Cross underscores the reality of Hell. Familiar verses such as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 depict how God not only demonstrated his love for us through the death of Jesus but how he also provided the means by which we might avoid experiencing eternal separation from Him. If Hell is not a reality then Jesus’ death was senseless and without meaning. Concerning the cross event, Avis Christiansen echoed scripture with the words to the hymn “Blessed Redeemer.”


Up Calv’ry’s mountain one dreadful morn, Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;

Facing for sinners death on the cross, That He might save them from endless loss.


     “The Gates of Hell” crater (pictured above) has been burning continuously for about 50 years. Located in Turkmenistan, this crater apparently was formed when a natural gas drilling operations went awry and created a sinkhole that has burned continually for five decades being fueled by the underlying methane gas. George Kourounis, explorer-in-residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, was interviewed by NPR’s Scott Simon about his experience at the crater.      
     When asked by Simon his feelings regarding the possibility of the President of Turkmenistan actually taking steps to extinguish the fiery “Gates of Hell” crater after all of these years, Kourounis indicated that similar declarations have been made in the past so he is taking a wait-and-see approach  this time. When Simon commented “You sound like you like this place,” Kourounis responded “Twelve people have stood on the surface of the moon, but only one person has been to the Gates of Hell. And I was very fortunate to be able to go there. And I even have the Guinness World Record certificate above my desk to help commemorate that. So I get a kick out of that every time I see it.” Simon concluded the interview by stating “What an honor to have you on our show…George Kourounis,…the first person, at least so far – the only one to reach the bottom of the Gates of Hell.”
      Hell is real and the Bible, God’s justice, and the cross point to this reality. Although explorer George Kourounis is the only person to date to experience the “Gates of Hell” crater in Turkmenistan, many have and will experience the reality of Hell inasmuch as “broad is the road the leads to destruction and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). To quote W. T. Conner, “…I never joke about Hell. Men are going there.”


Dear Heavenly Father, Most people do not believe in the reality of Hell yet hell is no joke and people are going there. May my daily witness have an influence on unbelievers such that they would turn from the path headed toward Hell and eternal separation from You. Thank you for giving your son Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life through whom eternal life is possible. Amen.