Sometimes Jesus is pictured as always being only meek and mild; or as a great man who was just trying to teach people about peace and love, a sort of Galilean flower child. Those are, at best, misleading distortions of Jesus’ teaching and character.
Yesterday I pointed out the horrifying prospect of self-deception. One of the things that makes self-deception horrifying is the fact that hell is real and horrifying. When Jesus commanded the self-deceived in Matthew 7:21-23 to depart from his presence, he was in effect sending them to hell.
There are many people today who want to dispense with what they consider an outdated, barbaric concept. The whole idea of hell is just an embarrassment to them. Jesus clearly believed in hell, though, and talked about it a lot; so if you reject the reality of hell you simultaneously reject the teaching of Jesus. British author Dorothy Sayers, who was a friend of C.S. Lewis and some of the other Inklings, understood that well.
There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the “cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell,” or “the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms.” . . .
But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not ” mediaeval”: it is Christ’s. It is not a device of “mediaeval priestcraft” for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from “mediaeval superstition,” but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it. . . . It confronts us in the oldest and least “edited” of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists [gospels] through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ. (Dorothy Sayers, A Matter of Eternity, ed. Rosamond Kent Sprague [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973], p. 86; cited by John Piper)
Hell is real, and awful. Make certain you know how to avoid it.
Appearances of the word “hell” in the New Testament
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22 Jesus speaking)
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29 Jesus speaking)
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:30 Jesus speaking)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 Jesus speaking)
And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:9 Jesus speaking)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15 Jesus speaking)
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33 Jesus speaking)
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 Jesus speaking)
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. (Mark 9:45 Jesus speaking)
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 than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, (Mark 9:47 Jesus speaking)
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5 Jesus speaking)
In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. (Luke 16:23 Jesus speaking)
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6 James speaking).
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 Peter speaking)
Those quotes are taken from John Piper’s tract, Quest For Joy. I urge you to read the whole thing if you need a reliable guide out of the fires of hell.