The Sorrows of Hell
September 16th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THE SORROWS OF HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-16-79 7:30 p.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Sorrows of Hell. Turn with me to the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. We shall begin reading at verse 19 and read through verse 24. Luke—Matthew, Mark, Luke—the Third Gospel, chapter 16, and we shall read from verse 19 through verse 24. Now all of us, reading out loud together; Luke 16:19-24:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And 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.
And the title of the message is from the fifth verse of the eighteenth Psalm, “The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death surrounded me” [Psalm 18:5]. So the subject: The Sorrows of Hell. Hell today is a curse word. It is used in contempt and disdain; it is used in swearing. It has practically lost all of its spiritual meaning. And not only that, in the common use of the word “hell,” but even in the world of theology it is looked upon as medieval superstition. The truth is that if one were seriously to consider the reality of this revelation in the Bible, he would be looked upon as unsophisticated and unenlightened.
There are men who occupy prominent places in our own denomination who scoff at the idea of a hell. I can think now of one of the darlings of our denomination who, in his sophistication, has written a long, long article against the idea and the possibility of everlasting damnation and punishment. But I cannot forget, nor can I overlook the fact that He who spoke most and most solemnly of this awesome judgment was none other than the Lord Himself.
Out of many, many passages that we could choose, I choose these few in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:29 He says, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, cast it from thee; it is better for you that one of thy members perish, rather than that the whole body shall be cast into Gehenna.” That’s the Lord’s word for hell. The Valley of Hinnom was the place near Jerusalem—just outside Jerusalem—where, in the ancient day, they made their sons pass through the fire. That is, they were offered as a sacrifice to Molech, and it was cursed by God. And it became a refuse, an incinerator, where the fire never ceased to burn and the worm never died because the dead bodies of animals were cast there in that cursed place, Gehenna, and that’s the word our Lord uses for hell.
“If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, cast it from thee: it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Gehenna,” into hell [Matthew 5:30]. Again, the Lord would say in Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna,” in hell; not in Hades, in Gehenna, in hell. In chapter 13 the Lord says, in the parable of the tares, verse 41: “The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” [Matthew 13:41-42].
And the Lord avows that this cursed place of judgment and damnation was prepared not for us, but for the devil and his angels. In Matthew 25:41: “He shall say unto them on the left hand, on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” That word “prepared” is the same word that the Lord uses to describe the millennial kingdom. In the same chapter, Matthew 25, and a preceding verse, 34: “The King shall say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” [Matthew 25:34].
If there is no hell, then there is no millennial kingdom. If there’s no hell, there is no heaven; for the same Lord God that reveals to us the one, also reveals to us the other. And this location of hell, of damnation, is not fortuitous, but it is in a place prepared for the devil and his angels; and those who choose to follow him find their everlasting home in that perdition.
John Milton wrote in magnificent style and language of that awesome place in the second book of his Paradise Lost:
… Thus roving on
In confused march forlorn, [the lost]
With shuddering horrour pale, and eyes aghast,
Viewed first their lamentable lot, and found
A universe of death; which God by curse
Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds,
Perverse, monstrous, and prodigious things,
Abominable, unutterable, and worse …
A place prepared for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41].
In the chapter that we read out of the Gospel of Luke, and this man cried saying, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” [Luke 16:24]. And I shall take out of the Word of God four things that are a part of the sorrows of that torment.
Number one: it is an existence. It is an existence in infinite and immeasurable lack:
He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation—the judgment—that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
“Light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light” [John 3:19]. First: the sorrows of hell are an existence in lack, in want. When a man turns out the light, he does not create darkness, he just walks into it. Satan found that when, in disobedience, he chose to renounce his place—beautiful, incomparably glorious—in the kingdom of God [Ezekiel 28:12-15]. And in choosing to defy the Almighty, he was plunged into damnation and darkness [Isaiah 14:9-11, 15]; and what Satan learned was that he lacked the power of creation. All he could do was to accept rejection. And being unable to create, defying God, he was thrust into a life of darkness and exclusion and judgment [Isaiah 14:12].
It is the same with us. Lacking the power to create, when we turn aside from the light of God, there is no alternative but to enter a life of darkness. Nothing is available. Nothing is possible. When I turn aside from the light, I immediately am thrust into the dark and I live in a judgment of loss, and want, and lack, and need. I have turned aside from the light of life: the sorrows of hell—an existence in lack, in want, in darkness, in need [John 3:18-20].
Number two: it is an existence away from the remembrance of God. In the eighty-eighth Psalm:
My soul is full of troubles: my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:
Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more: they are cut off from Thy hand.
The sorrows of hell are, second, an existence outside and beyond the remembrance of God, cut off from the Almighty’s saving hand. It is hard for us to enter into that. We are so accustomed to the preaching of the gospel. The Lord is patient, and the Lord—His very name is lovingkindness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness—and the Lord waits for us to turn. He is as the father of the prodigal son: praying for the boy to return home [Luke 15:11-32].
We are so accustomed to that—the patience of God, the waiting of God—that we can hardly realize or enter into the thought of a time when God no longer waits, He is no longer patient. His Spirit does not always strive with man [Genesis 6:3]. And there comes a time when, having chosen to forget God, the Lord leaves us alone, and we are no longer in His view, in His remembrance, in His appeal, in His love and grace and mercy. We can’t realize that; it’s so opposite to everything that we’ve ever heard and known—the sorrows of hell, an existence beyond the remembrance of God.
Once in a while you’ll see that, even in this life. For example, in the fourth chapter of Hosea, the great prophet in Israel says, “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone [Hosea 4:17]. Let him go! Leave him alone!” Oh, what a judgment that is when God no longer strives, and no longer remembers, and just leaves us in our ultimate and final choice: “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone.”
Isn’t it Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” that has that: “ta, ta, ta, TA”? And it is repeated over and over again, all through that symphony that chord is heard, in that “Fifth Symphony.” When you read the first chapter of the Book of Romans, you will find that same kind of a chord: “Wherefore God gave them up” [Romans 1:24]. This is Paul’s description of the decadence, and the immorality, and the God-refusing culture and society of Roman civilization: “Wherefore God gave them up.” And then Paul will continue on a description of the culture of that day. And then there’s that sounding chord again: “Wherefore God gave them up” [Romans 1:26], and then he will continue, and then there’s that same sounding chord repeated again: “Wherefore God gave them up” [Romans 1: 28].
Hell is a damnation and a judgment like that. The man has refused God, and the mercies of the Lord, and the patience of the Almighty, and “wherefore,” God finally leaves them alone. He remembers them no more; they are cut off from His hand. It is an existence away from the remembrance of God. He doesn’t appeal anymore. He doesn’t try anymore. He doesn’t beg anymore. He doesn’t weep or cry anymore. We are cut off in the existence in damnation from the remembrance of God.
Third: it is an existence in the oppressive bonds of total and abject darkness. Second Peter 2 speaks of, in the fourth verse, the angels who sinned, who were “cast down to hell”—tartarus there; he’s using Plato’s word to describe the place of the incorrigibly wicked—“cast down to tartarus,” to hell, “delivered into chains of darkness” [2 Peter 2:4]. And that same phrase is found in the sixth verse of Jude: “in everlasting chains of darkness” [Jude 1:6].
One of the most unthinkable lies that the father of lies [John 8:44], has foisted upon mankind is this: that hell will be a place where those roisting good fellows shall spend their time with boon companions in gaiety and cheer, and they raise the roof with hilarity, and orgies, and all kinds of riotous living. There could not be a greater falsehood perpetrated upon a gullible world than that! In the sorrows of damnation: “the chains of darkness” [2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6]—chains of darkness. Sometimes it is referred to as “the bottomless pit” [Revelation 20:1-3]. Sometimes it is referred to as “the great abyss.”
I suppose that space, space is endless, and certainly away from the light, it is endlessly dark. And I suppose that the “chains of darkness” refer to the soul that is cut off from God, cast out of the kingdom of God, and is forever—forever—falling in darkness, in chaos, in despair! Think of the vastness of this world, this universe, this creation of God, and all of it is dark and empty outside of the creation of God’s light and the assembly of God’s people. The sorrows of hell, the oppressive, chaotic darkness all around: there’s no dimension, there’s no purpose, there’s no goal, there’s no tomorrow, there’s no light. There’s just darkness, everlasting darkness! I can’t conceive of it.
And that’s why I emphasize so emphatically, if I can, that the idea that in hell we’re going to be together in some gay, and riotous, and roisterous convocation, convivial, and just hilariously interesting and fascinating—we’re alone, we’re by ourselves! And it’s just we, and forever—you, I, all of the damned—if we’re lost, we’re in darkness forever, and forever, and forever: the sorrows of hell.
And out of a multitude of others, one other. The sorrows of hell: it is an existence without the resurrection of the spirit. That’s one of the most amazing truths I have ever found in the Word of God. In the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians, it says that, “We who were dead in trespasses and in sins have been quickened in Jesus Christ” [Ephesians 2:1]. “Dead in trespasses and in sins.” You look at that for a moment. Think through that for a moment. When the Bible speaks of a man, so oft times it will refer to him as a trichotomy, as tripartite. There is a somatikos man: soma, the body. There is a psuchikos man: psuche, the sensuous man, the emotional and thinking man, the understanding man, the man of memory. And there is a pneumatikos man: pneuma, spirit. There is a man that is made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. He can think God’s thoughts, he can love God, worship and adore and serve the Lord; God gave him that capability. An animal doesn’t have it—you have it. You not only are somatikos, you have a body; not only psuchikos, you have a mind, emotion, will; you also have a pneuma. You are a pneumatikos man; you are a “spirit-man,” made in the image of God.
In hell, the somatikos man is resurrected to damnation. The Bible says there is a resurrection unto damnation [Matthew 25:46]. The body is resurrected, a somatikos man, that carries with it the psuchikos man, the man of memory. Abraham says to that Dives, “Remember, in your life” [Luke 16:25]. There’s the man of the mind. There’s the man of the feelings, the man of the emotions, the psuchikos man. But the pneumatikos man is never raised, it is perished forever; the [part of the] man that loves God, worships the Lord, praises the name of the Lord, accepts the grace and mercy of Jesus, that man is dead and is never resurrected, never brought to life. And one of the sorrows of hell is the body, the somatikos man; the mind, and memory, and feelings, the psuchikos man; but the pneumatikos [part of the] man is never raised; he is dead and forever in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1]: the sorrows of hell.
That is why in this Psalm, so filled with the sorrows of hell and the sorrows of sheol, listen to him as he cries:
In my distress I called upon the Lord, I cried unto my God: and He heard my voice out of His temple—
in the service in the church—
my cry came unto Him, even into His ears … With the merciful, Thou will show Thyself merciful; with an upright man Thou will show Thyself upright:
With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure … Thou has given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me … Therefore—
what a wonderful psalm!—
therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the people, and sing praises unto Thy name.
[Psalm 18:6, 25, 26, 35, 49]
What a beautiful and marvelous response:
The sorrows of hell compassed me … In my distress I called upon the name on the Lord, unto my God: and He heard my cry, in the temple—
in the church.
My cry came before Him, even unto His ears … And He gave me the shield of His salvation: and His right hand held me up … Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among all the people, and sing praises unto His glorious name
[Psalm 18:6, 35, 49]
O Lord, why would a man choose to die, to turn from the light and enter into the judgment of darkness and chaos and death, when the living fountain is so nearby, out of which to drink the water of everlasting life? [Revelation 21:6; 22:17]. When the hands of a loving Savior are so dearly extended, when Jesus is ours for the having, for the asking, for the loving, for the receiving, for the believing, for the accepting [Acts 16:31], why would a man die?
May we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, such thoughts; O Lord! There is not only light, there is darkness [2 Corinthians 4:6]. There is not only the kingdom of our Savior, but there is the kingdom of the evil one [Colossians 1:12-13]. There is not only the high road that leads to heaven; there is the road of rejection that leads to death [Revelation 20:14]. O Lord, in mercy, remember us [Luke 23:42]. And in the revelation that God has made: that in our Lord there is mercy and grace, peace and salvation, strength and comfort [2 Corinthians 1:3], may it be our joy ineffable, indescribable, inexpressible, to praise Thee for delivering us from so great a death [John 5:24]. And may the Lord be pleased in mercy to save us all. Without loss of one, may we turn in faith, in belief, in trust, in acceptance; in open avowal, may God grant that before this benediction is said tonight, all of us will be in the kingdom of light and life [Colossians 1:12-13].
While our people pray, and while we wait before the Lord, somebody you, “Tonight, I accept Jesus as my Savior. I open my heart heavenward, and God-ward.” Or, “Tonight, I’m putting my life with God’s redeemed, in this dear church.” “I’m bringing my family, we’re all coming tonight,” down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, a family, a couple, or one somebody you. And our Lord, as our people pray, as we wait, as we ask God to save our souls, may the answer from heaven be, “Praise the name of the Lord, His grace has reached even to me.” Bless you as you come, while we pray, while we sing.
THE SORROWS OF HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 16:23, Psalm 18:5
A. “Hell” today is a curse word
1. In world of theology it is looked upon as medieval superstition
B. It was Jesus who spoke of it most, and most often
1. Gehenna – Valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10, Matthew 5:29-30, 10:28)
2. “Gather out” (Matthew 13:41-42)
3. “Prepared” (Matthew 25:34, 41)
4. “Tormented in flame” (Luke 16:23)II. An existence of lack
A. No light (John 3:18-20)
B. Satan choosing to defy God, plunged into darknessIII. An existence no longer in God’s remembrance (Psalm 88:3-5)
A. We are so familiar with gospel, we can hardly realize a time when God no longer is patient (Genesis 6:3)
1. Ephraim (Hosea 4:17)
2. “God gave them up” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28)IV. An existence in oppressive chains of darkness
A. Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6)
B. Unthinkable lie that hell is a place of hilarity and riotous livingV. An existence without the resurrection of the spirit (Ephesians 2:1)
A. Man a trichotomy – in hell pneumatikos man never raised
B. Why choose to die, enter judgment of darkness (Psalm 18:5-)