Is There Really a Place Called Hell?

by Jack Wellman on March 26, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

Is there such a place as hell that is described in the Bible?  Why do more people believe in heaven than they do in hell?  How can heaven exist and not hell?  What does the Bible say about hell being a real place?

Hell and Satan

Jesus actually spoke more about hell than He ever did about heaven.

What is Hell?

Jesus actually spoke more about hell than He ever did about heaven.  Jesus spoke about hell as a literal place of torment that is never ending.  What are the three different types of hell that are mentioned in the Bible?  Some believe that there are different levels of hell where suffering is worse than other levels.  To a degree, the torment someone will suffer in hell is determined by the works of the unsaved person.  One of the hells mentioned in the Old Testament and New is the grave itself.  The word “hell” is actually an old English word that originally meant just a hole in the ground and can be thought of as a grave.  The English used to keep their potatoes in “hell” or in the ground cellar that they used for storing them.  The term hell can also mean a place of the deceased or dead and merely described the abode of the dead.  Since Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven, we know that this place must be real and that there are also different degrees of punishment and torment in hell (Luke 12:47-48).

Hades

Hades is referred to as the place where the dead go and is not necessarily a place of torment for the wicked.  This Greek term was used in the New Testament to mean the grave.  It can also refer to death as it does in 1 Corinthians 15:55, in the King James Version, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  Jesus used it in this context in Matthew 16:18 saying, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it.”  Hades also appears to be a place of refuse and is not normally associated with a place of torment.  The one exception is where it is used in reference to Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:23).

Gehenna

Another term for hell that is used is Gehenna.  This refers to a place that was called Valley of the Sons of Hinnom.  In the New Testament it is referred to as being a place of fire (Matt 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 12:5, Matt 5: 29, 30; Matt 10:28; Matt 18:9).  This valley was a place where refuse and sometimes dead bodies were thrown and the fire never went out because it was continually being added to.  It is much like a city dump that is constantly being burned to keep it from piling up to unmanageable size.

Sheol

The word Sheol is a Hebrew word that means much the same as the word Hades does.  It is a grave or place where the dead abide.  It is described as the common grave of all of mankind who have died.  Job describes it as a place where the righteous and unrighteous go (Job 3:11-19).  The old Italian proverb describes Sheol perfectly:  “After the game, the pawn and the king go into the same box.”  This means that the rich and mighty go the same way and to the same place as the poor and powerless – the grave.

Lazarus and the Rich Man

When we read about hell, most people that know the Bible think of Lazarus and the rich man. It appears that this is not an analogy or parable that Jesus spoke about since Jesus used a name of a known figure in the New Testament – Lazarus – and he spoke about a rich young ruler that came to Jesus (Luke 18:18-23).  Is this the same young rich ruler who came to Jesus?  It is entirely possible.  Whatever the case may be, Jesus is telling us what happens to the unrepentant and what happens to the believer after death.  This picture of the afterlife is in Luke 16:19-31:

“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.’”

One thing we see is that once a person dies without Christ, they are separated from any possibility of being saved from the fires of hell.  You might notice that Abraham said that no one can cross over from their place in agony or expect to receive any relief.  Once a person has been judged, they cannot cross over or go back to warn their friends or their family.  Neither will any relief come from their torment or even a quenching of their severe thirst.  It is described as a place of torment that is the result of fiery flames.  It is no wonder then that Jesus spoke more about it and warned more people more often about hell than any other subject in the New Testament.

Description of Hell

Certainly no one needs to go to hell and into eternal punishment.  The eternal torment of hell was created not for man but for Satan and the fallen angels or demons (Matt 25:41, Rev 20:10). Here is what hell is described to be like from the Holy Scriptures and many of these come directly from Jesus Christ‘s own lips:

Matthew 13:49-50 “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Mark 9:43-48  “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Matthew 25:30 “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 25:46 “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

Revelation 19:3b  “The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

Revelation 14:9-11  “A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

Hell and the Five Senses

According to the Scriptures above and according to the account of Lazarus and the rich man, people in hell will experience:

  • Utter darkness (blackness)
  • Burning fire (agonizing pain)
  • Weeping (regret)
  • Gnashing of teeth (anger)
  • Smoke (utter thirst)
  • Blazing furnace (torturous heat)
  • Screaming (continuous noise of your own agony)
  • Unbridgeable gap (eternal separation)
  • Loss of human contact (family, friends – severe loneliness)
  • Mental anguish (memory of rejecting the gospel from friends, family, acquaintances)

So you can see that all five senses will be involved:  Smell, sight, touch, hearing, and tasting. In addition and perhaps worse of all memories happen in hell too.  The rich man still knew about his unsaved family members.  The rich man knew about Lazarus who was then being eternally comforted and had eternal rewards and everlasting life.  Some teach that those who are lost will have a second chance and that they will be offered another opportunity for eternal life after Christ returns again, but I cannot find Scriptural support for this belief.  Jesus never mentioned anything about another opportunity after judgment.  That is why He spoke so often of hell and gave some of the most serious warnings in the Bible, like in Matthew 7: 21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  There can be nothing more terrifying than to discover on the day of Christ’s return that you thought you were on your way to heaven but Jesus doesn’t recognize you and tells you to go the way of all evildoers.

Revelation 20:15 says this: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”   The only way your name gets written in the book of life is when you believe in what Jesus did on the cross for you. If you do not believe then it is still not too late.    I pray that today will be your day of salvation (Heb 4:7).  Jesus could return at any moment.  Will you be headed to heaven or to hell?   The choice is yours.  Heaven is for real but so is hell.  Please choose life – eternal life in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17).   And do it today while it is still called today (2 Cor 6:2).

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Melisa March 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Can I inquire into the belief of the Illuminati, freemasons, etc… Just wondering if any one can comment on these in the manner of hoax, or is true and has a hand in the coming of the Anti christ. Thank you once again. God bless you.

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Jack March 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Wow Melisa. How very interesting that you asked this question because I just completed an article called “What Is the Illuminati Conspiracy Theory? Is It In the Bible?” It should be published in April, not that long from now. It is a hoax by the way. There is not reputable evidence about this. They do not, from what I can tell, have any hand in the anti-Christ. For more on the anti-Christ, please read this of ours we have already published.

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-does-the-bible-teach-about-the-antichrist/

As for the Illuminati Conspiracy Theory, it is just that…a theory with no actual proof. This article is coming soon but I will say that I can not find anything remotely close to the Illuminati Conspiracy Theory in the Holy Scriptures or in world events. In the first place,a theory by definition is conjectural, a supposition and is hypothetical. Fact and theories are not the same thing. Facts are concrete, empirical evidence with tangible proof. Theories are full of assumptions and lack complete proof; otherwise it would not be called a theory. Something that is theoretical is a hope-so; something that is factual is a know-so. This conspiracy theory has been floating around a very long time. To believe a select, secret society of Jesuit priests or supporters of the Jewish nation controls the world’s economy is nothing short of ludicrous and lacks any distinguishable evidence. Besides, God is still and always will be in control. Nothing happens on this earth without first passing thru the nail pierced hands of Christ.

Hope that helps Melisa. Thank you and God bless.

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Jimmy July 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

Does God ever predestination anyone to hell?

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Jack Wellman July 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Jimmy, God never sends anyone to hell, predestined or not. People send themselves there by rejecting Jesus Christ. God gives us all free. I don’t exactly know how free will and predestination work together but that’s what makes God, God! He is beyond complete human comprehension.

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Jimmy July 26, 2012 at 6:15 am

Are you sure he dosen’t-
For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,…” (Eph. 1:3-5)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many
brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30,

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” (Act. 4:27-28

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:15-18

“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” (Rom. 9:22-24

“For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48

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Peter Hooper September 30, 2012 at 7:28 am

For anyone wishing to delve further into the thorny issue of hell I recommend David Powys’ book: ‘Hell': A Hard Look at a Hard Question (subtitled: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought).

Without commenting on Dr Powys’ points and conclusions I found his thesis illuminating, very challenging and scholarly. (In my opinion Dr Powys’ presenting a range of thoughts rather than ‘arguing’ a case and, as true scholarship should, leaves it to the readers to form their own conclusions – or lack of.)

I hasten to state that I am a layman wanting to better understand God’s Word, and lack the necessary skills to understand much of his work (especially original Greek and Hebrew). I find it very hard to discount what is generally considered the ‘traditional’ concept of a real physical hell, but am also challenged by many of Dr Powys’ ‘points’.

The book is a rework of his doctoral thesis and whilst it isn’t a light read his detailed study of historical thoughts and understandings sheds a lot of light (and therefore shadows!) on the subject.

Probably the one thing which stands out for me is Dr Powys’ preparedness to tackle all opinions on various topics and, on occasions, conceding his lack of satisfactory counter arguments. To date I have not able to find any works which address the same range of points covered, which is disappointing. Most books supporting the ‘traditional’ viewpoints seem to rest their cases on, say, a dozen popular Bible passages and ignore many others. I WANT to find good scholarly discussion rebutting or answering many of Dr Powys’ points, but it seems to be lacking.

It is important that I clearly state that I count Dr Powys as a friend. I raise his book as a thought provoking work, neither endorsing nor condemning it, which has challenged me to question and justify my beliefs. In doing so his thesis has encouraged me to be more considerate of others’ well thought out ideas, whether or not I am convinced by them.

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Candi December 24, 2012 at 3:27 am

How should we as Christians reconcile seemingly contradictory teachings of the state of the dead in the Bible like those in Job 3:11-19 and other old testament verses stating that all, both bad and good go to the same place after death, with the new testament story Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man which shows the poor Lazarus going to paradise and the rich man going to torment?

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Jack Wellman December 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hello Candi. Thank you for your comment and question. Job 3:11-19 does not say that the good and the bad go to the same place, Job said that “The small and the great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners.” The small (like slaves) and the great (like masters) does not refer to the saved and the unsaved so I guess I am not understanding your question. Are you saying that the “bad” or unsaved do not go to a place of torment? Just wondering.

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Peter Hooper December 24, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Hi Candi
Further to Mr Wellman’s comment, after reading your comment about Lazarus and the rich man I think that you are perhaps misunderstanding the what Jesus was saying.
He was not condemning the rich man per se, but his attitude and lack of faith. The rich man won’t be saved by his wealth and status, or even for what he does with his money. Even if he gives it to charity the rich man must first accept our Lord Jesus as his saviour. Good works that flow from being a true disciple of Jesus is what Jesus wants. He wants to see evidence of change of heart and attitude as a result of being a true follower.
Firstly and foremost we must accept Jesus as Sovereign Lord, and because of that we should have a different attitude which will include good works.
Heaven is available for ALL people, regardless of their earthly status. Despite the teaching of the Roman Church we cannot buy forgiveness or our way to heaven. It is freely granted by grace to EVERYONE who truly turns to Jesus.
I hope this makes things a little clearer.

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Patricia February 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm

To your knowledge, does a theory exist (before now) that the soul of each man was once either angel or demon prior to human birth. Men with demon souls where at one point in their past repentant and given an undetermined amount of chances to believe and to be redeemed themselves, thus the human existence. And men with angel souls are fallen angels whom the Lord has given a temporary human existence?

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Jack Wellman February 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Thank you Patricia. I believe that there are theories for about anything but I have not heard this theory. The bottom line is that there is no biblical evidence for this to be true and it is not found in the Bible so I don’t believe that it is so, otherwise God would have revealed this in the Bible since it would seed to be important enough to be included. I trust the Bible. Theories, not so much.

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Candi February 27, 2013 at 12:38 am

Thanks for answering me Jack and Peter. I guess my question is that in Job 3:17 when he is talking about death, he says that the wicked cease from turmoil. Also there are verses in psalms (115:17 ) that state that the dead don’t praise the Lord. I thought that if you die and go to Heaven, you’d definitely be praising Jesus. Also in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 it says that the dead don’t know anything. Also in 1 Sam 28: 3-20 it tells the story of King Saul resurrecting Samuel from the dead and Samuel says that Saul will be with him the next day, implying that Saul will be in Heaven, even though he deliberately went against everything God commanded and was demon possessed?
I’ve just been studying up on the issue and I am greatly confused because it seems like from certain verses in the Bible that when you die, you are dead until judgment day and then there’s the Lazarus story. So please help me. Thank you

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Jack Wellman February 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Hello Candi. When Saul contacted Samuel, this was a sin and Samuel was allowed to speak to Saul, yes, but he was given a judgment from God for this. This was the one and only exception that has ever occured. I don’t see where Saul was told that he would be in heaven though. What you are using to say that Saul will be with Samuel in heaven are, I believe, these verses “Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? And the Lord has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

Samuel was in the grave. That is Samuel was dead and so would Saul and his kingship would be ended. These Old Testament Scriptures were before Christ died and made a way into the Kingdom of Heaven. The dead are awaiting this Kingdom. Yes, Job said the wicked cease from turmoil but he is talking about their physical life and not the after life to come. Yes, the dead, as the Psalmist says, don’t praise God because only the living can do this while on earth.

In the New Testament period, after Christ defeated death and the Devil, Paul understood that writing, ““I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (Phil. 1:20-26) And, 5:8 says “we are confident, I say, and pleased rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. … It is absent from the body but present with the Lord. ”

Read all of 2 Cor 5 to see that today, when we are in the Lord, we will be with the Lord after death.

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Francis Light June 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

in history of China 2580 B.C. a emperor name Yellow emperor or Huang Di he went up to mountain of Tai looking at sky confess and said I only serve one Lord not a two lord He is Shang Di (the Creator). Taken from the book written by Sima Qian.

If the Yellow emperor died is he have a chance going to heaven because dont have any prophet to convince him from that era got only a prophet Moses.

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Jack Wellman June 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

God is absolutely just in His judging the saved and unsaved. Romans 1 & 2 shows that men are without excuse for they really knew there was a God…even the creation (heavens delcare) show there is. For more on those who never heard a missionary or Christ or even Moses, read this called: “What Happens to People That Have Not Heard the Gosepl.”

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-happens-to-people-that-have-not-heard-the-gospel-of-jesus/

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Francis Light June 13, 2013 at 11:56 pm

dear pastor Jack in new testament got two Lazarus is two of them a same person that our King mention. According to my understand our King said Lazarus in paradise with Abraham after that our King raise him from the dead is that true.

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Jack Wellman June 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

The name Lazarus is a very common name so these two may have been different but today we know that Lazarus is long since dead and is in Paradise (heaven).

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Francis Light June 17, 2013 at 2:34 am

Thanks pastor for the answer…I from south east asia got 3 kind of races chinese, malay and indian the majority religion in my country is islam is illegal for sharing a gospel to malay people. But very upset the chinese buddhism rejected my gospel that I sharing to them. But I saw some missionaries from Gideon Bible Society or another church sharing the gospel so very easy a lot of people accepted christ, I dont know why! Maybe im new born christian is that no luck for me.

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Jack Wellman June 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

I am glad that the Gideon’s are helping to spread the gospel. It is not luck that you are saved and many Muslims are not. It depends upon God the Holy Spirit. God draws people to Christ (John 6:44) and so we don ‘t really need to worry if many are being lost because God determines that but God DOES use us to tell others about Christ. We just have to let God be God and trust in Him. People are saved and it is not OUR responsibility to save them. It is THEIR response to HIS ability although it is our responsibility to share the gospel.

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Theresa Hall Klos August 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

When we share the Gospel to the unsaved, and we tell them about the saving Grace of Jesus, are we also to tell them about hell? I am very confused about this as to my thinking time is very short and Jesus may return at any moment. If a house was on fire and people were inside I would bang on the door and tell them that if they don’t come out they will burn up in the fire.

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Jack Wellman August 25, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Thank you Theresa. Jesus spoke 3 times as much about hell as He ever did heaven. Why? Because He wanted to warn them of the wrath to come (John 3:36b; John 3:18, etc.). If we don’t tell people that if they step out of this life without Christ, they will be forever separated from God, then they won’t see any need to repent. If there were people sleeping up stairs and there was a fire downstairs, would we not want to tell them that a fire is headed their way? God’s mercy is relevant only because of Gods’ wrath that is to come (Rev 20:11-15). The good news is only good unless people hear the bad news first. If I were a doctor and gave you some medicine, you would say “Hey, I’m not sick. I don’t need this.” But if the doctor tells them “Hey, I got your blood works test back and your x-rays and if you don’t take this medicine, you’re going to die.” Make sense?

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