Billy Graham - Is There A Hell?
Now tonight, I want you to turn with me to the 16th chapter of Luke's Gospel. Beginning at verse 19, there's a story that Jesus told. "There was a certain rich man which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus which was laid at his gate full of sores. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover: the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died and was buried. And in hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, father Abraham, have mercy on me. And send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and you're in torment. And besides all this, between us and you, there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from thence to you cannot: neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence".
Then he said, "I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house, for I have five brethren that he may testify unto them lest they also come into this place of torment. And Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And he said, nay, father Abraham, they would not, but if one came from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded even though one rose from the dead".
Well, I'm up here tonight, not to say, "Go to hell", but rather "Go to heaven". And I'm urging you not to say, "I'll be damned", but instead, "I'll be saved". And this story, the word hell is used, translated hell in our authorized version, though it's actually hades, because hades was in two compartments apparently: one was called paradise, and one was called the place of torment. And they could apparently see across the gulf between each other. And the word hell today is constantly used as a swear word. You hear it on television, you see it in the films, you see it in the writings of people, and you hear at work, and you hear it in school.
The United States Catholic Magazine, in the may issue of this year, 1983, polled Americans and came up with the figure: 86 percent said they believed in the existence of hell. Can you imagine that? 86 percent of Americans believe there's a hell. You can never understand hell though, until first you understand the great love, mercy, and grace of God. And it should never be preached by any preacher without tears. I've heard some preachers preach on hell as though they were glad there was a hell, and glad that people were going there. But, I'm not. I don't like to preach on it. I do it only because I'm commanded in scripture to preach the word, and it's against the backdrop of God's love and mercy and grace that I must preach it.
You see, hell was not made for man. Hell was created for the devil and his angels. But some have taken license in imagination and distorted the idea of future judgment. It causes some people to say that God is not a God of love. And they've distorted the biblical concept of the love of God. A lady said some time ago, "I hate the very thought of hell". So do I, and I also hate the sin that sends them there. I hate war, I hate the fact that people are starving in the world. But war is a reality in Lebanon and places like that. And starvation is a reality in our world unfortunately. My hating it does not change the facts. And hating to die doesn't change the fact that I'm going to die. And Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "Preach the Word". And if I'm to be faithful to my calling as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I must include in that word what our Lord Jesus Christ taught on the subject of hell.
One clergyman said if he used hell in the pulpit the people would fire him. Well, I know that down in South Carolina I came to a place some years ago in which they had 16 slow down signs and stop signs because so many people had been killed at that intersection. Now, is that right for the state of South Carolina to put those signs up and warn people? Is it right for me to warn you tonight what Jesus taught and what the Bible teaches from cover to cover? It is wrong for a man to wave a lantern to stop people at a railroad crossing? Is it wrong to wave the flag and warn of coming judgment?
I remember years ago, we were in Mississippi, and there's a stretch of highway, and there came one of those terrible tornadoes. A bridge was washed out in the gush of water. And a man got out at night when he saw what had happened and he tried to wave the cars down with his wet handkerchief and a flashlight, and none of them would stop, and five of them went over, and the occupants of the cars were killed.
Now Jesus cured a mentally ill person one time, the Gadarene, and a demon possessed man, and the people asked Jesus to leave them alone. And he answered their prayers, he left them alone. You don't have to listen to this sermon tonight, you can say, "I don't want to hear about it, leave me alone". And Jesus may answer your prayer and leave you alone. And if you're left alone by the Spirit of God, you can never find forgiveness of sin, and you can never enter paradise. People do not want to be warned of judgment and hell. And you say, "It's none of my business".
Well, suppose you were a drowning man, and I have the Gospel lifeboat. And I'm not going to let you drown if I can help it. You're a starving man, and I have the bread of life. I'll not leave you without some bread. You're a poisoned man, full of the poison of sin, and I have Christ's Gospel antidote, and I will not leave you to die, I will not leave you alone. You're in the dark and lost, and I have the light of the Gospel, and I'll not leave you alone. You're in bondage and I would speak the truth that would bring you to liberty. You're in sickness and I would speak the truth that would bring you to health. You're on a broad road that leads to destruction, and I speak the truth that would get you transferred to the narrow road that leads to eternal life. You're on a wild, stormy sea, and I would speak the truth that would bring you to the harbor of safety.
Some people say we're not really lost. The devil said that to Eve in the Garden of Eden. When God said, "You'll die, you'll die if you eat of that fruit of that forbidden tree", the devil came and whispered in her ear through the serpent and said, "You will not surely die". Now, that is called universalism, in other words, everybody is saved, they just don't know it, some people are saying. We have a subtle form of universalism that's sweeping through even evangelical groups today, that we'll not surely die, that there's no such thing as hell, but I believe there is, according to the teachings of scripture. I think it's intuitive. I think man all over the world believes that some day he's going to have to give an account, and he's going to have to suffer in some way for the disobedient life he lived here.
And then Jesus constantly taught it. Nobody in scripture talked about hell more than Jesus. He said, "Whosoever shall say thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire". He said in the 13th of Matthew, "The son of man shall send forth his angels and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace, and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth". Matthew 25:41, he says, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off. It's better for thee to enter into life maimed then having two hands and to go to hell". He said it's better to go through life with just one eye, one hand, one leg, than to go to hell with it all.
The Bible teaches that there are at least three kinds of hell: first: there is hell in the heart. Thousands of people here tonight have hell in your heart, and that's where it all begins. Much of the world assumes that human nature is good, but the Bible teaches that it's basically evil. By nature, we are selfish, sinful, wayward and lost. "In sin did my mother conceive me", said David. We're all sinners, and we were born in sin. And then when we reach the age of accountability, maybe seven, eight, or nine or ten years of age, we chose to sin. Then we became sinners by practice, and we practice sin. Even if we have computers, we're using computers today for fraud, and all sorts of things.
And then all this thing out here where they're looking for marijuana plants out in the forest and everywhere where people are planting them. Everywhere you look, and whatever investigating committee you appoint, you turn up some snakes. Because human nature's evil, human nature's bad. And that's the reason it needs redemption, it needs transforming, it needs the new birth, and that's what Christ came to do. Hell in the heart.
There's the hell of guilt. A man who wrote me some time ago who was cheating on his wife, he was living part-time with another woman in another city. He said, "I'm actually living in hell". He found himself caught, and it was hell. And the Bible teaches that there's a burning, death-dealing hell in the human heart. And the very people seem so good, wholesome and splendid, may be changed into vicious killers and maniacs overnight.
I know a woman, a fine woman, beautiful woman. Her husband was one of the leaders of the community. And without hardly any provocation at all, while he was asleep, she took a pistol and shot him and killed him. She's in prison now. And we read about that every day in the paper. People, they say, that were good people, fine people are doing all sorts of things that they never dreamed that they would be doing. So there's that in the heart: guilt.
Then there's the hell of unrest. The Bible states the wicked are like the troubled sea. People this past summer, we saw in Europe, we were in Amsterdam for that great conference on itinerate evangelist, which I think was one of the greatest conferences held in the history of the Christian church. Yet we met many other people who were there just searching for something, they didn't know what. I saw Americans, and people from Japan and everywhere else, running as though their life depended on it. They didn't know where they were going, or what they were doing, they were just going: trying to find some rest and peace.
There's the hell of lust. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth". Someone asked me the other day what the word lust means. I'll talk a little about it tomorrow night to young people. But lust means, not to just look at a woman or a man, and admire them. It means that if you had the opportunity you would commit immorality. In other words, you lust so much, you would give in if you had the chance. And many people fantasize and they lust in their fantasies.
And then there's the hell of hatred. This hell of hatred has erupted into wars and riots and all kinds of conflicts. Hell has been moved to earth.
And lastly: there's the hell in the future. And the future hell is a projection of the hell that you have now in your heart, in your home, in our world, except it goes on and on. Jesus spoke more about hell than any person in the Bible, as I said a moment ago, but he warned us to flee from it. It is the very fact of hell that makes the love of God so amazing and so glorious. The fact that it was made for the devil and his angels and we listened to the devil, and followed the devil, and we do what the devil says. And yet, God loves us so much that he devised a plan to save us, so we'll never have to spend one day in hell.
Now, what is the nature of hell? Well, many mysteries surrounding this subject. Essentially and basically, it is separation from God. We're separated from God by sin, and that continues out into eternity. There are three words that Jesus used to describe hell: he used the word death. You see, God is life, and you're separated from the life of God, you're dead, spiritually dead, separated from God. And then he used the word outer darkness. God is light, we're separated from the light, so we live in darkness. And then he uses the word fire. I've often wondered if that is a terrible fire within our hearts for God, for fellowship with God that can never be quenched. We've rejected God, we've turned our back on God. We can never know God.
It indicates in this story that this man did not have a second chance. It indicates in this story that this man became very evangelistic: he wanted to reach his brothers. Think of it: he was in hell, and he wanted his brothers to be reached by somebody. To go to his home and warn his brothers not to come here. Do anything, but don't come here. And those people that have gone on before, that may be suffering the pangs of hell now out in eternity, would stand here tonight and warn you. Turn away! Repent of your sins! Receive Christ! Be sure of your relationship. Don't come to this place. It's the banishment from the presence of all that is joyous and good and righteous and happy.
And the scripture says prepare to meet thy God. You know, we prepare for everything except death. We prepare for education, business, careers, marriage, old age, but not for the moment of judgment. We take out every kind of insurance that we possibly can. And we worry about our old age pensions and social security and all the rest of it, but do you have assurance of your relationship with Christ? "It's appointed unto men once to die, but after that the judgment". Death is an occurrence that each man deems unnatural when related to himself. But natural when related to others.
We know the other man's going to die. We know that cancer's going to hit the other person. We know that that other person may die of a heart attack, or be in an automobile crash tomorrow, but not me. And we live as though we're going to live like this forever, and we're not. It'll all be over in a short time for everybody here, and you'll be in eternity. Where will you be? Banished from God, or with Christ in paradise? The man on the cross, that was dying with Jesus, was a terrible sinner. He deserved to be crucified. He deserved the punishment, according to the law: and he said he deserved it. He turned to Jesus and he said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom". That's all he said: remember me.
He didn't have time to be baptized. He didn't have time to join a church. He didn't have time to do anything except just believe. And Jesus said, "Today thou shall be with me in paradise". Think of it: the first person that Jesus took into paradise with him was that thief, that murderer, that man that deserved hell. But on the cross, Christ was dying for people like him. And Christ was dying for people like you. The hardest people to reach are not people like him. They know they are sinners. They know they need God. It's people like some of us here tonight: well dressed, we go to church, we have a little bit of religion, but it's not first in our lives, it's not the major thing in our lives. And we have just enough religion to keep us from getting a real dose of salvation in Christ.
You've been inoculated, and you feel that you don't have a spiritual need. What about that person that says that they're happy and got a good income, a good job, a good family, and all the rest, I don't need God. I don't need Christ, what do I need him for? You're going to need him, brother and sister, you're going to need him very badly before very long. You better come now while you have an opportunity. The Bible says, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation". Come when you can. You can't come to Christ just anytime you want to. You can come only when the Holy Spirit has convicted you, and drawn you, and where the Word of God has been proclaimed.
Have you come to Christ? You that are watching by television. Pick up the telephone and call that number that you see on the screen (1-877-264-8090). There are counselors standing by to talk to you right now. And if you get a busy signal, call again, and again, and again and again. They'll be there through the evening to talk to you and to help you. As I said in the beginning, I don't like to speak on this subject, but it's a part of the Bible. And it's an important part of the teachings of Jesus Christ. And I'm not saying these things myself, I'm only passing on to you the teaching of Christ, what Jesus taught. And I do it with a broken heart.
I wish there were no such thing as hell, but there is. I wish there were no such thing as sin, but there is. I wish there were no such thing as murders, and wars, and all that, but there is. And there is a hell. But thank God, there's a heaven. There's a paradise, and that's where Jesus is. And I want to tell you tonight, I know that I'm going. The moment you read in the paper that Billy Graham is dead, you'll know that he's more alive than he's ever been before, and I'm in paradise, and I'm looking forward to it. And thousands of you here tonight can say the same thing, but other thousands cannot. You can't say it with assurance, you're not certain.
Wouldn't you like to be sure when you leave here tonight that you're on your way to heaven, you're on your way to paradise with Christ? You can be sure. The Bible says, "These things I write unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life". Paul said, "I am persuaded that he can keep all those things I've committed unto him against that day". I know. You can know.
You say, "Well Billy, what would I have to do"? All right, you'd have to do three things: first, you must repent of your sins. Repent means to change. Change your mind, change your way of living. Let Christ come and help you change. He'll help you do the changing, you can't change by yourself, you're too weak. But if you'll say, "Lord, I'm willing", he'll help you. And then the second thing is, by faith receive Christ who died for you and rose again. By faith. You can't understand it all. But you come by faith and you trust and you put your total confidence in him and him alone. And then thirdly: you obey him, and follow him, and serve him, and work for him, and do all the good works that you possibly can for his sake, in his name. Helping your neighbor, loving your neighbor. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples in that you have love one to another".
Are you willing to do that tonight? I'm going to ask you to do something that we've seen hundreds of people do here at each service since we've been in Sacramento. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of the platform, and say by coming, "I do want to know that I'm going to heaven. I do want to know my sins are forgiven. I do want to know that I'm ready to meet God". If you're with friends or relatives, they'll wait. You come and stand here and after you've come I'm going to say a word to you, and have a prayer with you, give you some literature, and you can go back and join your friends. Simple. But every person that Jesus called in the New Testament, he called in front of other people, he called publicly.
There's something about coming forward openly and publicly that helps settle it. You may be a leader in your church, but you're not sure. Some time ago, we had a bishop that came forward, publicly. He said, "I just wanted to be sure". You need to make sure tonight. You come. Or maybe you've never received Christ before. Come and settle it tonight. You can do it, right now. Quickly, just get up out of your seat. Hundreds of you from all over. You may be in the choir. Up in that upper stand up there, it takes about two minutes to come, so get up and come. We're going to wait on you.
As you that are watching by television can see that here in Sacramento, California, hundreds of people are coming to make their commitment to Jesus Christ tonight, and to make sure of their relationship with Christ. You make that same commitment where you are. Pick up the telephone and call. Good night, and God bless you.