Yesterday morning I preached on the text found in Mark 12:38-40 in our study through Mark’s gospel. In the text, Jesus is teaching in the temple and he provides two clear warnings. The first warning is to the people as he calls out the prideful and persuasive scribes. Jesus makes it clear that they are dangerous and perverted in their motives. Jesus exposed them publicly, calling them out by name as a group in order to make the threat clearly known. Last of all, Jesus issued a warning to the false teachers (scribes). According to Jesus, they would have a more severe condemnation. Does hell burn with greater intensity for some people?
The Promise of Judgment
Just as there is a certain promise of heaven, there is likewise a strong and sure promise of hell. You can’t separate the two from one another. They are inseparable promises – one for the just and the other for the unjust. In the case of the scribes, Jesus made it clear that they were on their way to hell. Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 23:23, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” He was addressing the scribes with such condemnatory language.
What makes this promise of judgment so intensely sobering is the fact that Jesus is addressing one of the most religious sects of the Jewish community. Just as Jesus warned elsewhere, not everyone who is talking about heaven is going there (Matt. 7:21-23). John Bunyan warned of this perilous state:
While men live in this world, and are in a natural state, they will have a good conceit of themselves, and of their condition-they will conclude that they are Christians, that Abraham is their father, and their state to be as good as the best (Matt 3:7–9). They will conclude they have faith, the Spirit, a good hope, and an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; but then, when they drop into hell, and lift up their eyes there, and behold first their soul to be in extreme torments; their dwelling to be the bottomless pit; their company thousands of damned souls; also the innumerable company of devils; and the hot scalding vengeance of God, not only to drop, but to fall very violently upon them; then they will begin to be awakened, who all their lifetime were in a dead sleep. I say, when this comes to pass, lo it will; then in hell they shall lift up their eyes, in the midst of torments they shall lift up their eyes. 
The Promise of a More Severe Hell
Perhaps because of unclear teaching on the subject, the evangelical church today is filled with people who don’t know much about hell. If the church is confused on the subject (and it’s apparent that the church is confused), you can imagine what the rest of the world thinks about hell. The frightening reality is that many religious people, such as these scribes, will experience a greater and more intense hell than the wicked city of Sodom. Jesus, in this text, spoke of a more severe condemnation. The Scribes, along with others in the Jewish religious community, should have known better. Yet, they used the Word of God for profit. They were religious hucksters and employed trickery in the name of religion to rob widows.
Consider the warning Jesus issued to specific cities who had heard more of Jesus’ preaching than anyone else during His earthly ministry (Matt. 11:21-24):
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.
The promise of a more severe hell for certain people is quite clear, but it’s not framed in the exact same way as one would think. Some picture Sodom as burning with greater intensity than others, but if we read Jesus’ words we see that Sodom will have a lesser intense hell than false teachers and those who sit under the perpetual teaching and preaching of the gospel and die without salvation through Christ. Not only does the Bible teach of the anguish and severity of hell’s flames, but it likewise speaks of the differing degrees of punishment.
This should cause each of us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Sodom had no Bible, no preacher, and no excuse. They went to hell and today remain there under the wrath of God. Today multitudes of people sit under the preaching and teaching of the gospel each week, yet remain unconverted. Multitudes of false teachers peddle the Word of God without consideration of this warning that Jesus issued. Judgment is coming upon those who pervert the gospel of Christ. Are you prepared to die? Our only hope and confident assurance rests in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for sinners. Cling to Him.
- John Bunyan, vol. 3, Some Sighs from Hell (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 683.