Did you know that hell was created for a specific purpose? That purpose is found in Matthew 25:41: “Then [Jesus] 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.’ ” This statement made by Jesus Christ, relating to judgment day, points out that hell was created for the judgment of the devil and his angels. The apostle Peter sheds more light on this with these words in 2 Peter 2:4:
If God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment…
Because the angels sinned, they are being “reserved for judgment.”
Just when these angels sinned with the devil is not absolutely clear. In the book of Job we learn that the angels were present at the creation of the earth. It suggests that the earth was the choice dwelling place of the angels for perhaps many years, and then Lucifer—the greatest created being, perfect in all his ways in the day he was made—rebelled against God (Ezekiel 28:15; Isaiah 14:12-15). It is impressive to notice the number of angels that fell on that fateful day. Revelation 12:4 tells us, “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.” Think of it—one-third of the angels chose to rebel against the most high God and to follow Lucifer, the great deceiver!
These statements from the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Peter seem to indicate that the lake of fire was not originally intended for man at all, but for the eternal punishment of supernatural beings such as the devil and his angels. From the book of Revelation, particularly in 20:11-15, we see that unsaved people will be cast into the lake of fire in spite of the fact it was not originally created for them. There they will endure indescribable misery and suffering, and be numbered among the hosts of fallen supernatural beings.
Why People Go to Hell
People are sent to hell only if they are not fit to enter heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ said in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Born again” means “born from above” or “born anew,” indicating that natural, physical birth is not sufficient to entitle a person to see the kingdom of God. Unless a person is born again, he or she is unprepared for the spiritual delights of heaven; he or she must spend eternity in the lake of fire. The apostle Paul made this clear in 1 Corinthians 15:50: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.” Our corrupt mortal bodies cannot dwell in heaven without contaminating it, for heaven is a perfect place.
A Christian, then, has full assurance that he is going to heaven not because he is naturally fit for heaven, but because he has been made fit by the new birth made available through Jesus Christ. This is not true for the ungodly person, who is “dead” toward God even though he is alive physically. Consequently he can respond only to the resurrection of the dead, which leads to the second death.
The Savior Is Waiting
If Jesus Christ had not come into this world to die for our sins, we would all be sent to hell. None of us is good enough for heaven. But because He loves us, Jesus paid the penalty and accepted total punishment for all our offenses against Him, thereby making heaven available to us. It is not that our sins are somehow minimized or overlooked; they are completely forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. Those who are foolish enough to pass up this free ticket to heaven are reserving for themselves a spot in hell.
In the archives of the Supreme Court of the United States is the record of a very strange incident that took place during the term of President Andrew Jackson. A man named George Wilson was sentenced to die by hanging for a crime he had committed. Somehow the story came before the president, who granted Wilson a pardon. To everyone’s amazement, Wilson tore the pardon to shreds and threw it on the floor of his prison cell. The ensuing legal argument concerned the validity of a pardon that was refused, and the question arose as to whether or not Wilson should be freed or hanged. After great deliberation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as follows: “A pardon is a writing, the value of which is dependent upon the acceptance by the individual for whom it is intended.” It was therefore decreed by the court that George Wilson be hanged until dead—not because a pardon was not offered, but because it was not accepted.
This is a perfect picture of the sinner who hears the gospel of Jesus Christ and knows that God has written a pardon for him, yet rejects Him and thus forfeits his right to the pardon. If you are without the Savior today, it is because you choose to be. Your choice to reject Jesus Christ automatically invalidates your pardon and sentences you to the lake of fire.
During this life, all of us are confronted with a choice. We can admit we are sinners in need of a Savior and invite Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior, or we can reject Him. Where we live in eternity will be determined by that choice. Those who have chosen to put their faith in Christ will reign with Him during the 1,000-year kingdom and then go on into the eternal ages with Him forever. Those who reject Him will be “cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
It is with that in mind that the apostle Paul warned,
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Those who do not have their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (which guarantees that their name remains in the Book of Life) will, according to Revelation 20:15, be “cast into the lake of fire,” the final dwelling place of the unbelieving dead. It is the hell that Revelation 20:14 calls “the second death.” Sinners die once, are kept in torment until the end of the 1,000 years, and are then resurrected to the Great White Throne Judgment, where the Christ they refused to accept as Savior determines the degree or intensity of their eternal punishment. He then will banish them to the lake of fire—for eternity.
This will not be a pretty sight—nor is it necessary, either! For the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, emphasis added).
One of the clearest offers of salvation in all the Bible came from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).
Make that right choice today!
Excerpted from Tim LaHaye, Bible Prophecy for Everyone, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2002, 2009, 233-236)