You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:33 ESV)
When a criminal is found guilty they are sentenced for their crime. The sentence comes as a punitive price to pay for the wrong done. It follows judgement.
One day each of us will face judgement. And while that may seem terrifying, it doesn’t have to. Judgement comes when we stand before Jesus and he declares our eternal destination. Those who follow Jesus have nothing to fear from judgement—they need only anticipate the joy of eternity with Christ. However, anyone not found to be a faithful follower of Jesus will have much to regret at the judgement. For those people judgment will be immediately followed by sentencing. There is only one sentence for those not in Christ, hell.
Hell is a literal place. A lot of people assume they know all about it. I won’t be quick to declare any detailed knowledge of it other than what I am sure the Bible s consistent about. Hell is miserable. Hell is final. Hell is real.
The religious scribes and Pharisees were in a lot of trouble from Jesus. He forewarned them concerning their impending unfavorable judgment. He told them what would happen. He called them serpents and vipers, directly tying them to Satan by using Old Testament language. How would they escape the sentence to come as a result of their evil acts?
Our answer is the same one that faced the scribes and Pharisees. How will we escape the reality of hell that we deserve? It is only by Jesus. His life. His blood. His sacrifice. He is the way to escape our eternal death sentence. What’s more is that life with him is so much more than merely escaping punishment, it is life, it is full abundant life.