"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matthew 25:46).
It's an old story. A certain man was a drunk, a womanizer, and a cheat who abused his wife and family and spent his paycheck carousing until all hours of the night, every payday. Eventually his life choices caught up with him and he died prematurely. At his funeral, the minister eulogized him and mentioned him being in heaven. Hearing this, the wife sarcastically leaned over asked the eldest son to be sure and check the casket, to see just exactly who it was that was being buried and sent to heaven!
Spend any time keeping up with the news--the senseless terror and heinous acts that man perpetrates against his fellow man…or worse, on innocent, powerless children, and you may find yourself thinking, “Hell isn’t going to be hot enough for that monster!”
And yet, when it comes to the rest of us, the natural mind doesn't want to believe in hell. We much prefer thinking of ourselves and those we love in heaven--not hell! Where did this persistent, won't-go-away concept of hell come from? It's been with us since the beginning of recorded history but it got its start in the book we call the Bible. And your views of hell, whether you have ever faced the issue, will parallel your views of the Bible. Perhaps you disbelieve the Bible or minimize its impact by thinking of it in symbolical terms. Maybe you interpret it in light of our culture and what people think today, rather than what the writers of this book intended you to think and believe when you read what they wrote. In this case, you will probably not believe in a literal place called “hell.”
And what does the Bible say? While some argue over what it means, few would deny the fact that both the Old and New Testaments picture hell as a literal place created for the wicked who are separated from God, where there is suffering and torment. "It says that?" you may ask, wondering why you have never heard more about it. Jesus spoke of hell in terms of reality which were easily understood by the people he was speaking to.
Go to modern Jerusalem today, and around the corner from the Zion Gate, adjacent to the Mt. Zion Hotel, is a valley. While building space is at a premium in Jerusalem, there's not much on this piece of property. It is still known as the Valley of Hinnom, from the Hebrew Gehinnom. In Jesus' day, it was the city dump, and trash fires never went out but burned and smoldered around the clock. This was the image in the minds of people who heard Jesus say, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out" (Mark 9:43).
When Jesus talked about eternal life, in the same sentence and breath he referred to hell or punishment as being eternal. He used the word aion, which always meant "unending, everlasting, for all time"
God cares about your personal aion,your all time. He cares so much that He sacrificed the thing most precious to Him, letting His son, Jesus take your shame in horrible tortuous suffering. Perhaps you’ve heard people say, I can’t believe in a God who sends his creation to hell!” God has said there is a hell and He doesn’t want you there. He paid the ultimate price for you to have a personal choice, but He leaves the choice to you. Choose to spend your aionwith Him in paradise today.
Resource reading: Revelation 20:1-6