Jesus taught more about hell than he taught about heaven. Why is that? Read on to find out!
Table of contents
Since my parents purchased a Prius, I paid special attention to Toyota’s recalls in 2009-2010. A number of people experienced unintentional acceleration, causing numerous reports of people losing control of their vehicles, and even a two-car collision on Aug 28, 2009 that killed four people in San Diego, CA. Customers were angry about the the defective production, but most people reasonably understand mistakes happen even at the highest levels of industry.
The actual outrage from people was caused by the subsequent revelation that Toyota was aware of the defect, but didn’t warn anyone. What if on February 24, 2010, when testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda would have defended himself by saying:
We thought it was unloving to tell people about the danger they were facing. We didn’t want to upset them.
While this seems ridiculous, surprisingly people apply this thinking to telling people about hell—it’s unloving, hateful, judgmental. The truth is, it’s loving, and this is why Jesus taught so much about hell. If people are heading off a cliff, the worst thing you can do is look the other way. Jesus did the opposite. He warned people!
- Those who only want to talk about God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and all the things God wants to do for them. Many of these individuals could be considered “health and wealth” or “prosperity preachers.” They only want to teach on the blessings.
- Others who only want to talk about God’s justice, holiness, wrath, anger, judgment, and punishment. We call these “fire and brimstone” preachers. They only want to teach on the woes.
But Jesus taught on both. He discussed the Narrow Gate that leads to life, and the Wide Gate that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14). In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus He explained the comfort of Abraham’s Bosom and the torment of hell. He was a balanced teacher!
Or at least it seems that way at first…
[Jesus spoke] twice as often of hell as of heaven.D.A. Carson
[Jesus] spoke more often about hell than he did about heaven. We cannot get around this fact.Leon Morris
Jesus talked more about hell than He did about heaven in order to warn men of its reality.John MacArthur
But while I can’t say Jesus was a balanced teacher, I can say He was a loving teacher.
Some people would say, “That’s not very loving! How can you tell people they’re going to hell? Only a terrible person would say people are going to spend eternity suffering!”
Jesus’s Direct References to Hell
The New Testament translates the Greek word, Gehenna, as hell. Here are all the direct references:
- Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
- Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
- Matthew 5:22, 29-30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
- Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
- Matthew 11:23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
- Matthew 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
- Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
- Matthew 23:15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
- Matthew 23:33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
- Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.
- Mark 9:45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.
- Mark 9:47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
- Luke 10:15 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to hell.
- Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!
- Luke 16:23 And being in torments in hell, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Jesus’s Indirect References to Hell
Jesus also spoke about hell indirectly. In other words, He talked about hell but used other words such as destruction, fire, furnace, darkness, etc. Here are the indirect references:
- Matthew 7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
- Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
- Matthew 13:40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.
- Matthew 13:42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
- Matthew 13:50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
- Matthew 18:8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.
- Matthew 22:13 Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- Matthew 25:30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- Matthew 25:41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
- Mark 9:44, 46, 48 where Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.
- Mark 12:40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.
- Luke 13:3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
- Luke 16:24 Then 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.
- John 5:29 and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
- John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
The real question is, “How could you not tell people about hell?”
If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.C. H. Spurgeon
In the world we live in, if you talk about hell, the woes, sin, repentance, judgment, punishment – or any of the other topics Jesus frequently covered – you’re going to be called hateful, judgmental, and unloving.
The world thinks if people are heading off a cliff, the best thing you can do is look the other way. Worse, others act like you should encourage them on their trip. That’s the opposite of love.
Love mandates warning
The Catholic Church made up the idea of Purgatory, a sort of middle ground between heaven and hell. There’s probably a tendency in all of us to want bridge the gap between these two completely polarizing destinations. But Jesus is clear and the bible is clear that there’s no middle ground.
Either the blessings of the Beatitudes await us, or the curses of the woes await us. We either face the comfort Lazarus experiences, or the torment the Rich Man experiences. There is no in between!
If you read this and you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ, you need to know you’re heading off that cliff. You’re embracing the torment and woes Jesus lovingly discussed in an effort to warn you.
If you have any concern at all about whether the blessings or woes are for you, I’d consider it a privilege to hear from you. I’d appreciate the opportunity to answer any questions you have and pray for you!