"A Look at Hell"- Matthew 13:47-50


This parable, like the one of the wheat and tares, avoids a separatism which prevents the people of God from associating with the people of the world. We are to be in the world but not of the world. The parable is not dealing with any transition from good to bad, or bad to good, but speaks to the fact that both exist together in the same world. Just as Jesus ate with publicans and sinners, so will we interact on a regular basis with people who disbelieve.

Scripture: Matthew 13:47-51 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”

The Message of this Passage:  

Picture a couple of men stretching a dragnet that comes all the way up to the surface, goes all the way down, and drags along the bottom of a lake. They would start at one end of the lake and go to the other. Afterwards they would sit down, pull every single fish out of the net, determine which ones to keep and which ones wouldn’t be kept. The good fish go to some useful purpose; the junk fish are burned.  

And Jesus was saying, you can learn some truths about the afterlife by a simple illustration about a dragnet, a lake, and some fish.

First, all people will be brought to judgment some day. Every fish in the lake will be gathered up. It's a dragnet; it's not a hook and line. The whole lake is dragged. Every fish will be up on the beach. Every person will come and stand before a holy God in the day of judgment.

Second, there will be a separation process. The fish are sorted out and people will be sorted out. Every person will end up in one of two places.

Third, the saved will be assigned a place for eternity in heaven, a place that defies the imagination. But the unsaved, the unbelievers, the self-centered, the self-deceived people will be assigned a place in hell for eternity where they will receive condemnation for their offenses against a holy God and for their rejection of his gracious offer of salvation and forgiveness extended through Jesus Christ, his Son.  

When Jesus finished his discourse, he looked at his disciples and said, "Have you understood the illustration and the principles associated with it?" And they all said, "We understand."

A question we all have to answer is: Do I really believe in a hell as well as a heaven? Or have I done my best not to think much about it?  I don't enjoy teaching about hell; I don't like the fact that some people I care about are headed that way, based on the decisions they're making every day. Even though I may not be able to determine who that might be, the reality is that some of them have not chosen the road to heaven. But I have a difficult time blocking the reality of hell out of my mind. You cannot read your Bible without being confronted by the fact that Jesus believed in a hell and taught about it more than he did about heaven.

Not only does Jesus teach frequently about it, but other Bible writers do. In a moral economy governed by a holy, completely righteous God, offenses against that perfectly holy God will be paid for--if there is not the intervention of forgiveness or a pardon--through incarceration for an eternity in hell. Justice demands it.

Answering Interpretive Questions:

  • What is the truth contained in the main point of this parable?

  • What does that tell us about God?

  • If I believed it what would I do?

  • What motivated the parable?

  • How can I live the parable as part of my life?

  • What is the difference between the invisible and the visible church?

  • Do you find it discomforting to think of a hell?  

  • Do you find it discomforting to think of facing a Holy God after death?

  • How do we reconcile an unending eternity of hell with a good and loving God?

  • If a person chooses to live their life away from God here and now, what would ever make us think they would want to live with God in eternity?

  • Do you think fear of punishment has an impact on the way people believe? Why or why not?

Grant Schweisthal