I had never seen the young man before. I know nothing about his personal conduct and certainly do not know what he was thinking in his heart. When I saw him a few weeks ago in another country, I witnessed him doing one thing: walking in a mall. It was the printed statement on the back of his shirt which caught my attention: “SEE YOU IN HELL.”

My first thought was, “How sad.” How sad that anyone would end up in eternal torment. How sad that someone would make money by printing clothing which speaks of a rendezvous in hell. How sad that people actually buy and wear shirts that have such language about being in hell inscribed on them.

The New Testament Greek word for “hell” is “γέεννα/geenna,” often written in English as “Gehenna.” “This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction” [Thayer via e-Sword, word no. 1067].

Know this: what the Bible says about hell portrays it as a place that we should want to avoid at all costs (Mark 9:43-49). Making plans to meet up with someone in hell (as in “See You in Hell”) shows a failure to understand just how horrible hell really is.

Did you realize that in the New Testament message about hell, Jesus said more about it than anyone did? Out of the twelve times that “Gehenna” is found in the New Testament, in every instance except one (James 3:6) we read it in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. And in those three books, the references to hell always came from the mouth of the Christ. Jesus exemplified compassion and love in all that He did and said. The fact that the most caring person ever to walk the earth spoke about Gehenna lets us know that it is not unloving to tell the world what the God of heaven says about hell.

Some have suggested that hell is a fantasy, a concept that Bible-believers imagined and hold over people’s head to try and get them to be good. Not so, my friend. Hell is real. Jesus used its existence and nature to motivate people to think properly and make proper decisions. As Jesus prepared to send His apostles out to preach, He told them in advance about the opposition and persecution that they would face. Even under such circumstances, He did not want them to shrink from living for Him and proclaiming His message: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). No, hell is not a joking matter. Some Christians need to clean up their speech about hell, because there is nothing funny about it or being one of its inhabitants.

Hell is a place of punishment. Jesus asked the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). As we noted earlier in the message of Matthew 10:28, hell is a place of destruction. Regarding the destruction that will take place in Gehenna, “The idea is not extinction but ruin; loss, not of being, but of well-being” [Vine, word no. 622; www2.mf.no/bibelprog/vines.pl?tofrom].

Hell is a place of permanence. Jesus called it “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). In the same breath, so to speak, the Master referred to it as “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). The punishment in hell never comes to an end. Those who arrive in hell will be permanent residents there! Hell is a place from which not one single person will escape from the awful, unthinkable torment. In hell, there are no doors marked “Exit.”

Hell is a place which will be heavily populated. The everlasting destruction of hell (and from the presence of the Lord) awaits those who do not obey God and who do not obey the gospel of the Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). In general, Jesus said, “. . . broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matthew 7:13).

Many people of our day lack a reverence for the Lord and a healthy fear of the horrors of hell. Let us not be ashamed to tell the world and the church what Almighty Jehovah says about hell. Each person needs to hear that message. At the same time, let us proclaim with tenderness and boldness that because of God’s matchless love, Jesus paid the price for our sins, allowing us to avoid hell and receive eternal life.

— Roger D. Campbell