by Bill Nugent
The Bible contains many profound words and glorious promises. It also contains some sad words too. It may come as a shock but I must tell you that the saddest words of all were spoken by Jesus. Jesus spoke them in love. He had to speak them.
I have often wondered why the most vividly descriptive words about hell were spoken by Jesus. Jesus warned people about hell and spoke about hell more than any other person in the Bible. Jesus spoke about hell more than He spoke about heaven.
How can this be? Jesus is the Savior who loves us and was sent to redeem us. He healed people and multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed them. In several places the Bible says that Jesus was moved with compassion (Matthew 9:36, 14:14; Mark 1:41, 6:34).
Yet it was Jesus who spoke these words which are the saddest words of the Bible: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it”(Matthew 7:13-14 NAS). These words are sad because they tell us that many are refusing God’s free offer of forgiveness and are choosing hell by default.
Then it occurred to me that Jesus spoke about hell and warned people about hell because He was about to suffer a very hellish crucifixion for us to atone for our sins! Jesus knew that He was about to take upon Himself the wrath of God that was due to us because of our sins. Jesus was about to suffer our hell! In theology this is called the substitutionary atonement. The substitutionary atonement of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament (Isaiah chapter 53, etc.) and is clearly taught all through the New Testament.
In Old Testament times before the coming of Jesus, people were commanded to offer animals (lambs, goats, bulls) in fire on the altar. This was the Old Testament means of atonement whereby forgiveness of sins was obtained. This animal sacrificial system was but a prophetic picture of the ultimate atonement in which the sinless Son of God would come in fulfillment of prophecy and offer Himself for the sins of all men. Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system. Animal sacrifices are no longer offered.
Jesus said that He came “to give His life a ransom for many”(Matthew 20:28 NAS). Jesus knew that He would soon be crucified and He told His disciples that “the Son of Man (“Son of Man” was the term Jesus used to refer to Himself) will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him up to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him” (Matthew 20:18-19 NAS). At another poignant and agonizing time Jesus said “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50 NAS). The word “baptism” in the passage means “immersion” and Jesus was referring to His soon immersion into suffering and death for us.
Therefore we can infer that since Jesus came to endure hell for us He was more qualified than anyone else to speak to us about hell. Those who reject God’s offer of forgiveness and who refuse to repent of their sins will be separated from God in the afterlife. Thus they enter hell as a consequence of their own choice. They will get what they want but they won’t want what they get.
Hell can be avoided by calling on the name of Jesus Christ and trusting in His finished work of atonement whereby God’s forgiveness of our sins is freely given. To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us we must simply ask for it in an attitude of humble childlike faith