Jack Graham - An Uncomfortable Truth
Take your Bibles and turn with me to Luke chapter 16. This is one of the most sobering, perhaps even shocking messages that you will ever hear. It is, as we're calling it, an "Uncomfortable Truth". It is an incomprehensible truth; for some it is an inconvenient truth, but according to the Word of God it is an incontrovertible truth! Regardless of our preferences, regardless of our social opinions, regardless of what our friends may say, the Bible teaches this uncomfortable truth: that hell exists! There is a hell and unrepentant sinners will spend eternity forever separated from God in this terrible, torturous place called hell. If you believe the Bible, you must believe in hell. If you don't believe in hell, throw away your Bible and all the other promises that the Scripture gives us.
How can I believe in heaven if the Bible tells me there's a heaven and the Bible tells me there's a hell. If there is no hell, how can I believe that there's a heaven? Yet, so many seem to be embarrassed about this truth regarding future retribution and judgment and hell. Some Christians seem to be embarrassed to speak of hell, not wanting to be classified as a Bible thumping, right-wing, bigoted, hell-fire-and-brimstone believer! They think apparently that they are more loving than Jesus, that they are smarter than Jesus Himself, who spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible. As a matter of fact, Jesus spoke more about hell than He spoke about heaven, twice as much He spoke of hell! Why? Because, Psalms 9:17, "the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God".
The Savior Himself speaks, God has spoken, it is clear. All of the Apostles in the New Testament speak of hell! Writers of the Old Testament speak of the wrath and the judgment that is to come regarding hell! God could not have made it in His Word any clearer! Jesus told this story regarding a man's future apart from Him. So in Luke chapter 16 Jesus takes us beyond the veil into the invisible world beyond. He tells the story of two men who died and experienced life on the other side. And He takes us in a short, shocking way into eternity. He says we all have two destinies: either heaven or hell. We all don't go to the same place. And so He tells this story beginning in verse 19 of Luke 16: "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores"...
One of the reasons we don't think this is parable is that none of the parables ever included a person's name. Jesus never said that this was a parable. He called this man's name. I believe it's a true story. Certainly it's true in the sense that it happens again and again and again. "This man named Lazarus; he was covered with sores. He desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side". This is a picture of heaven, paradise, the presence of the Lord.
"And the rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades (that is, in hell), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house for I have five brothers so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'"
The character of hell is clear. It is a place of conscious eternal judgment and punishment. A place of anguish. Again, a real place where real people spend a real eternity, separated from God. "Oh yes, oh yes, I know, I know what hell is. Hell is that place for all the bad people! Hell is for the prostitutes and the pornographers and the child molesters and the murderers and the televangelist who stole money and all those kinds of people"! Really? Just hold your place there in Luke 16 and turn with me to Matthew chapter 7. This is near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus gave them a startling conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount regarding who's saved and who isn't saved, who's going to heaven and who's not going to heaven. To me this is perhaps the most frightening passage of Scripture in all the Bible. I'll tell you why after we read it.
Look beginning at verse 21: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your names, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then you will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" What's up with this? Here are people who named the name of their God, who worshiped, who did wonderful works in this name. They professed their faith, they were religious to the core! And yet Jesus said, "In that day I will say, 'Depart from Me, I never knew you".
That's why to me this is the most frightening verse in the Bible because there are people listening to me, watching me right now, today you think you're saved, you believe you're saved, you've professed your faith but you will one day stand before God and you'll hear these words, "Depart from Me, I never knew you". You see, not just the bad people go to hell, but good people go to hell. Not just irreligious people, but religious people! Some people are on their way to hell thinking they're too good to be damned. Jesus said (think about this) more than once. Paul said, "Let every one examine his own faith". Better be sure that "you're saved. I mean genuinely saved! A person who is saved" has received Christ and is bearing fruit of living for Him, worshiping Him. Not just going to church, not just showing up, not just practicing even religious works, but someone whose life is transformed. Jesus put it this way: "One who does the will of My Father who is in heaven".
He's not teaching that we're saved by works, but He's teaching that the faith that saved works! And we do the will of God, not perfectly, but progressively. And it becomes the intent and the content of our heart and our character to live for Jesus and so, yes, good people go to hell, bad people go to hell! And hell is a place of indescribable physical, emotional, spiritual torment. This man in Luke 16 said on several occasions, "I'm tormented in this flame; I am in anguish". Note he was not tortured, it's not the devil torturing in hell. The devil is not in hell torturing all of his damned companions, nor is it God down in hell torturing lost people. But he is tortured in and of himself. He is tortured by the memories of a life wasted; he's tortured by the misery of the physical suffering of hell. The main New Testament word for this judgment in the Bible is hell, and it is Gehenna.
When you go to Jerusalem to this very day, the guides will point out that there is a valley, the Valley of Henna on the south side, outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem. In the day of Christ this was a garbage dump, well known to the people of that generation. It smoldered with fire. The worms did not die. They would empty the refuge of the city in this garbage dump, Gehenna, hell. Dead bodies, both of animals and of men were dumped on this garbage heap. It was foul; it stunk to high heaven. Gehenna, hell. And when Jesus was teaching us about the horrors and the terrors of hell, He said it's like that garbage dump there: smoldering with fire. Matthew 5:22: "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!" will be liable to the hell of fire".
People ask, "Is there a literal fire in hell"? Why don't you use the word real fire? If the fire is simply symbolic, the symbol is always lesser than the reality, the substance of what it is describing! So when the Bible says fire to describe it, than it is real fire. This torturous fire, terrible fire. You say, "How can there be fire"? And you know the Bible also tells us that hell is a place of outer darkness. I remember I had a professor one time in college who was questioning hell, and he said, "How could hell be both fire and darkness"? Most recently scientists have discovered these black dark holes in the universe. They're dark suns filled with heat and fire and, I don't know. But it is a place of darkness, outer darkness.
Somebody says, "I'll see you in hell". You'll see nobody in hell! A place of total isolation and separation. "Hey, me and my buddies, we're gonna have a big party when we all get to hell". Ever try to have a party in a blast furnace? There will be no fun and games in a Christ-less grave! You will be liable to the hell of fire, signed Jesus. Jesus, again, in Matthew 5:29: "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away, for it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body be thrown into hell"! Jesus, again-Matthew 10:28: "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".
Again, the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 23:33, speaking to a religious assembly: "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell"? If there is no hell, why did Jesus come to begin with? You think about it; be logical, be reasonable with me for a moment. Why would God send His Son on a mission of mercy to this world. to seek and to save the lost, as the Scripture says, to die on a Roman cross, to bleed out, bearing the weight of sins on His own body on the cross... Why would God allow His darling Son to die for something for His people and a hell that does not even exist, if in fact, it does not exist? Be reasonable. The divine justice of God demands that there be a hell.
Jesus did not die so you would not go to a non-existent hell! He died to save us from our sins. He came to save us from our sins. Why? because the consequences of sin is judgment! This is why He came! And you will never understand the significance of why Jesus and how Jesus died for you on the cross if you don't realize and accept the reality of hell! When Jesus cried out on the cross Matthew 27:46, "My God, My God, why are You forsaking Me"? at that moment in a finite moment of time He was bearing the infinite weight of man's sin; He was walking the corridors of the condemned, He baptized His soul in hell. On the cross He died for you and me so that we could go to heaven rather than go to hell!
He voluntarily experienced hell, He bridged the chasm. Notice in this story that Jesus told us about the two men. There was a separation and there was a chasm. Father Abraham said, there's a separation, there's a chasm between the one who is in hell and the one who's in heaven; you can't come here. He bridged the chasm; Jesus bridged the chasm. The cross bridges the chasm between heaven and hell, life and death, so that we could go to heaven. 2 Peter 3:9, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance". Now I know there's controversy regarding hell. There are books being written today, popular books who deny the reality of hell. The objections go somewhat like this: The whole idea of hell, they say, the whole idea of eternal punishment is excessive. It would be cruel and unusual punishment. They're outraged by the idea that God would exclude people from heaven.
Some of your friends and co-workers are just outraged by the idea that God would exclude anyone from heaven! Therefore, the Gospel is being modified by some to suggest that hell is unworthy of God and negates His love. Some would even suggest that God will cause everyone, ultimately to believe that ultimately everyone will bend and bow down, even if it is against their will, that God's love and God's grace and mercy will prevail against all unbelief; that there is no need, therefore, because ultimately all will be saved; or if not saved, annihilated! Others, friends of yours may say things like, "Well what about my neighbor; they're the different religion". They don't believe in Jesus but they're really good people. Really nice people. You're telling me that they're going to hell just because they don't believe in Jesus? Surely God won't send them to this terrible place. After all, aren't all religions ultimately the same"? Ever hear this? "What we need to do is just blend the good of all the religion and let every person find their own pathway to paradise"!
Here's another objection: "What about people who have never heard about Jesus? God's going to send these people to hell"? Well, first of all, the Bible says that the grace of God has appeared to all men. When you read Romans chapter 1 you discover that all men have the light of conscience, that all people have the light of creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God". "That God has set eternity in our heart". And that light received increases light. You respond to the light that you have, God gets you more light. The Bible says, "If you seek God, you will ever surely find Him". So here's someone in a distant nowhere land, who looks up and sees a starry night. The stars glistening like diamonds in the backdrop of eternity, and they cry out to God, "I want to know You". Very similar to what happened to the Roman centurion in Acts chapter 10, "I want to know you," God will move heaven and earth to get the message of Christ and the Gospel to that individual, because light received, receives more light. But on the other hand, life rejected increases darkness.
That's why the first chapter of Romans tells us that people plunged into darkness because they took the light, they took the truth and they turned it into images and idols! You say, "is all punishment in eternity going to be the same"? No, just as there are rewards in heaven, there will be levels of punishment in hell. The Bible clearly teaches that. The bottom line is the God of the whole earth will do right. The fact is that those of you who are listening to me right now, you've had the witness of Christ, you're hearing the Gospel! You have every opportunity. Jesus made it perfectly clear that hell is a reality. Hell, it's real. The Bible says it is a place of alienation and isolation and separation forever, and this great gulf is fixed. If you die and go to hell (and I close this message with this) it will not be what God desires or plans to you.
2 Peter 3:9, "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance". If you go to hell... The Bible says that hell is prepared for the devil and his angels, not for man. If you go to hell, you will go there as an intruder. And I'll tell you something else, you will go over the grace and the love of God. You'll have to struggle to get there; struggle against the prayers of God's people, the love of God's church; you will struggle against the witness of your friends. You will walk over and underfoot the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate sin! This is the eternal rejection of God in Christ! Is to not believe the Gospel! So what should you do? Number one, be sure you're saved. Be sure you're saved. Are you saved? Does your life demonstrate it? Are you saved? If I asked your wife or your husband or your children, would they say you're saved? Is there evidence that you belong to Jesus? And if you do, spend the rest of your days until you get to heaven glorifying God.
Imagine, we were on our way to hell, every one of us! Condemned in our sin! Lost without God! On our way to hell! But now we're on our way to heaven! We have a future that is bright and wonderful and glorious! We give thanks every day! We give thanks forever for what Christ has done! We get up every day glorifying God because we have been saved! And then, one more thing, be aggressive, be bold in your witness for Christ. Because all of this is true, people must know the Gospel; they must hear the Gospel, around the world and across your street. Ask the Spirit of God to give you divine appointments. Ask God to give you a genuine passion and burden for lost souls. Don't be ashamed of Jesus. Don't be ashamed of the Gospel including the bad news, because it's the bad news that makes the good news so good! Don't be ashamed to tell your family and your friends of the severity of their rejection of Christ! Don't omit hell from your Gospel presentation! Don't hide the truth from people! How cruel that would be!
You say it's cruel to tell people they're going to hell. Far more cruel not to tell them, if they're going to hell! Don't modify the Gospel. Jesus died to save us from sin and its consequences. And the fear of hell may be the one thing that brings a person that you love to salvation. You say, "Are you trying to scare me into heaven"? If I could, I would! If I could scare you out of hell and into heaven, I would do it! I prepared this message and after I was done, I wept over it! What I tell you about hell, I take no delight in saying people are going to hell. It should break our hearts. Because we don't want anyone to die without Christ and go to hell. Our church exists, hear me, our church exists to keep as many people out of hell as possible. And to take as many people to heaven with us as possible.