There seems to be a debate in some religious circles today regarding Jesus’ teaching about
eternity. Specifically, there are those questioning whether He actually taught about hell, eternal punishment, or if He did, that the number of times He mentioned it are so few that it doesn’t warrant our attention. I have read of those who have done word searches through the gospel accounts, and finding the word hell to be used less than the word heaven, have concluded that the concept of hell must not have meant much to Jesus and so should not be a focus of our teaching either.
These are erroneous views. A similar argument is made regarding the virgin birth. Some
theologians state that, since it is only mentioned twice in the gospel records (Matthew and Luke), it must not be an established principle of Christianity. However, if Scripture is truly the inspired word of God, as both Paul and Peter affirm it is (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), then the fact something is mentioned once is sufficient to establish its truthfulness. The same is true with the reality of hell. If Jesus and the inspired writers of Scripture mention such, word counts mean little, as the reality of hell has been established.
There is more to the discussion than just the two terms, heaven and hell, and their frequency
of use in the Bible. Jesus used a variety of terms to describe hell, not just that word itself. Phrases such as "eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), "condemnation” (Mark 12:40), "wrath of God” (John 3:36), "furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:42), "outer darkness,” "place of weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30), "judgment” (John 5:24), "torment” (Luke 16:28), and others are also used to describe the concept of hell. When you take this into consideration, you discover Jesus spent more time warning against hell than He did teaching about heaven.
The question is then raised, "Why did He do this?” It is not because Jesus didn’t want people
to go to heaven; far from it. Jesus said, "For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). To be in heaven is to be with God and the Son, and to be in God’s presence forever offers us joy beyond imagination for eternity. To spend eternity there, we must realize not everyone is going to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14). We need to understand hell is real, that punishment beyond imagination for eternity is what is experienced there. To understand how horrible hell is offers strong motivation to seek heaven. We must choose to live by God’s will today so hell will not be where we spend our eternity.
Hell is real, and Jesus, along with the rest of Scripture, taught about its reality. Jesus came into
the world to offer salvation from its punishment, the promise of a better life today, along with life eternal in heaven. How we live each day determines where we spend our eternity. Jesus spent more time warning about hell to encourage us to live for heaven. Do you believe what Jesus said? Which outcome is your life leading you? "But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:5).
Robert Johnson, Longview, TX