There is a hell, but is it like some teachers describe?
I once had a lively discussion with a relative about hell. When it seemed like we were going nowhere, I asked her if she had asked the Lord to reveal to her, through His word, the truth about hell. She said, “No!” It led me to think, do people really want to know what the Bible teaches about the ultimate fate of the lost or are they satisfied with the descriptions portrayed by well-meaning teachers and pastors. What if we were to simply pray, “Lord Teach Me About Hell.”?
Are the tortures of hell in line with the character of God and the many teachings of the Bible about His great mercy and love? Some preachers have said they need to preach hell to bring fear into the heart of a person so they will turn to Jesus. They conclude that anything other than an unending burning hell is letting the sinner off too easy.
Some hell-fire-and-brimstone preachers portray a God whose vengeance is so great that it is never satisfied, hence the non-ending torture. But, the Bible tell us that He takes “no pleasure” in the death of wicked.
As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked
If God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He certainly would not take pleasure in their torture.
For the last few studies, we have discovered that Jesus taught more on the kingdom of God and heaven than he did about hell. We also saw how many Bible verses used to support everlasting torture were simply misinterpreted in the light of the whole scripture and the character of God. The Bible is clear that the fate of the lost is eternal death.
Let’ now compare the terrible picture of people roasting in a fire that offers no hope and no relief for eternity with the character of God as revealed in the Bible and in the teachings of Jesus.
Is it true that non-ending torture is “justice” for the three score and ten (70) years of life? Does a holy and just God give a sinner trillions and trillions of years of pain and torture in exchange for 70 years of life without Christ?
Is there something we have missed?
Lord Teach Me The Truth About Hell.
Following are the two typical modern understandings about hell. This is what a majority of protestant Christians believe.
View 1: If you die and are unsaved (e.g. did not profess Christ), your immortal soul immediately (or after a quick judgment scene) goes to a place under the earth where the devil resides and your soul is tormented by blistering hot flames throughout eternity without end. You will scream and desire to die, but you will stay alive in flames never finding relief. This could be called the immediate and present Hell.
View 2: If you die and are unsaved, at the end of time your immortal soul is judged at the Great White Throne judgment and your soul and body is cast into the lake of fire prepared for Satan and his angels where you are tortured by flames throughout eternity. You will scream and desire to die, but you will stay alive in flames never finding relief. We will call this future Hell.
The Catholic church throws in a couple of “holding” places such as purgatory and some talk about a place called “Abraham’s bosom.” There may be some other slight variations, but if you ask a Christian or a pastor about hell, this is very close to the answers given. It is often softened up a bit to take out the idea of a Holy God torturing the unsaved by saying non-biblical things like, “The lost choose hell.” Is that right? Who in their right mind would choose to be tortured? The Bible teaches they are choosing death over eternal life not so much from a conscious choice, but rather unbelief in Jesus and the pull of the Holy Spirit to repent and turn away from the sins that lead to death.
The common idea with both basic views about hell involves non-stop burning and torture. We often hear preachers say, “You will live eternally in one of two places.” Is this true? Do the lost also have eternal life? Are their souls immortal? What is tortured? The soul? The body? Both?
What does the Bible have to say about all this?
Some will say, “It is the immortal soul that is being punished not the body.“ Of course, there is no biblical proof for this Also,it contradicts those who support a literal interpretation of the Rich Man and Lazarus where the rich man has a tongue and gets thirsty in the flames. He has a body!
Some will say, “God is just and this is their fate.” We can’t understand it and aren’t suppose to.”
Is this true?
It is true that our thoughts and our ways are not like His, but there are things He has revealed that we can know with certainty.“
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever,
Is the fate of the lost one of those things revealed to us?
Yes! But we must understand it from ALL that has been revealed to us!
The bible tells us that having life eternal is based on knowing God and having a relationship with Him. We are drawn to Him as He is lifted up (Cross). Is a torturing God, the One we want to get to know? Or is God like a father who loves his child. Does God use hell to scare us into coming to Him or does he draw us a different more divine way?
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Knowing God and Jesus Christ and their character is important in our experience and in our salvation from death. To have a false conception of God is dangerous as we shall see.
We are not scared into a relationship with the Lord, He draws us with “lovingkindness.”
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
It is the cross, not hell, that draws people to Jesus.
‘”…And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.‘ This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”
That day on a lonely hill dying on a rough wooden cross is the ultimate demonstration of the sacrifice and love God offers to all people. A clear view of the things leading up to the death of Jesus and the day He said, “It is finished” will bring the sin weary to repentance, forgiveness, and salvation from eternal death.
What confuses me is that people get angry over this topic of unending torture. It’s as if they want this type of fate for the lost. Each person who is lost had a mother, dad, and perhaps a loving family. Will they be remembered when the saved portion of the family gets to heaven? How could it be heaven knowing Uncle Harry is burning in hell non-stop?
There is something missing in all this. For the next few moments, lets look at the rest of the story.
The soul is not immortal. only God has immortality. The saved are not given immortality until Christ returns.
If a soul can die, it is not immortal.
“ Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die..”
Only God has immortality!
I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:14-16
We all die and do not get immortality until Jesus returns and we are changed and “put on” immortality then and not before. IT IS ONLY WHEN JESUS RETURNS, THAT WE CAN CLAIM IMMORTALITY AND SAY THAT DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. IMMORTALITY IS NOT GIVEN AT DEATH.
Want to know a mystery about death that has been solved. Something God has revealed to us and our children? Listen closely:
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, THEN shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15: 51-54
Is this not as clear as a bell? Immortality is “put on” when Jesus returns! Until then we sleep in death.
Eternal death, not torture, awaits the lost
“Death has come upon all men by the offence of one man. But, through grace and the gift of righteousness life came by Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:12, 17
Wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Wages is something due to us for our work of sin. Sin leads to death, not life. Both are mutually exclusive. You can’t have both. You must have one or the other. The gift of eternal life is reserved only for the saved.
He that has the son has life. He that does not have the son does not have life.
1 John 5:20
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Here is a simple straightforward comparison of what awaits the lost VS the saved:
Believes in Jesus = everlasting life
Not believing = perish (eternal death)
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life…”
Believes in the Son = everlasting life
Does not believe in the = shall not see life.
Man, nor his soul, is immortal. As shown above, immortality is not given to the saved until Jesus returns and resurrects the saved:
The soul can be destroyed,
“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
The body and soul are destroyed in hell (aka the grave). It is not kept alive to suffer through out eternity. If there is a fear to be taught, it is the fear of both the body and the soul are forever destroyed, while the redeemed have a new immortal body and life without end.
As described before, the belief in God AND the resurrection of Jesus are both vital to receiving salvation from eternal death:
… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
It was Paul’s goal to be raised from the dead…..Not to die and be with Him,
” if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The mortal “puts on” immortality and death is no more when Jesus returns.
The dead in Christ are resurrected
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words”
1 Thessalonians 4: 15-18
Note: Those who died in Christ and those who are alive when He returns start to “be with the Lord forever” when He returns. So resurrection is our hope…Our eternity with the Lord does not start until He returns.
Jesus will raise the saved up in the last day.
“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
“Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
The teaching of resurrection as our hope s ancient. Example: Job said,
“my redeemer lives and I will see God in the flesh in the latter day upon the earth.”
Job 19:25, 26
The resurrection is extremely important because we are lost if it doesn’t happen.
Our faith is futile without the resurrection. Our hope is in the return of Christ and the Resurrection, not in dying and floating off to heaven.
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
1 Corinthians 15:14-19
The Rich Man and Lazarus story does not include a resurrection and is clearly a parable because it comes at the end of a line of parables. But, there was a resurrection of another Lazarus that clearly describes the state of those who die. The event is described in John 11. Here Jesus describes Lazarus’ death with sleep:
“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep…Then said Jesus, unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.”
Notice something else, when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after being dead for 4 days, he did not say to him to come down, but rather come forth (v. 43). If Lazarus had been in heaven, he would have had many things to share, don’t you think? Why is he silent? It is because he was asleep.
The unjust have a resurrection too (after the millennium):
Resurrection of unjust.
“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
Rest of the dead live again after the 1,000 years Rev. 20:4, 5
“And they lived and reigned with Christ for a[a]thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”
Revelation 20: 4, 5
The second death is the fate of the lost who are not part of the first resurrection, but rise in the 2nd resurrection. Revelation 20:6
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power…”
At the end of all things, the saved may have died once, but they will never have to die again because they have been given immortality. But the lost who died once, will die again fully aware that there death will be forever. This knowledge is their punishment and it creates wailing and gnashing of teeth.
At the end time, fire destroys the earth, Satan, and sinners:
Jesus comes a thief in the night in which the heavens, earth, elements, and all the works are burned up.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”
2 Peter 3:10
“The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9
Wicked destroyed forever (Psalm 92:7, Psalm 9:5)
“When the wicked spring up like grass,
And when all the workers of iniquity flourish,
It is that they may be destroyed forever.”
Death and hell grave are destroyed
“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Fire comes down from God when the resurrected lost try surround the beloved city. This fire devours them. When something is consumed or devoured, there is nothing left.
“They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”
“For our God is a consuming fire.”
The Anti Christ (lawless one) is destroyed when Christ returns by the brightness of the Lord’s coming.
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
2 Thessalonians 2:8
(Read the preceding verses for context)
Wicked are burned up reducing them to nothing
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,
Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.”
Satan is burned to ashes and shall never be anymore
“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.”
All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever”
Ezekiel 28:18, 19
So, scripture is clear, the wages of sin is death, not eternal life in burning flames. There is a hell, but it is a work of eternal destruction. Even Satan’s fate is total destruction. His end will wipe the universe clean of sin and its results.
Eternal life is given only to those who turn to Jesus and place their trust in Him. Life eternal is given to those who know Him and not about Him. It is all about Jesus. He holds the keys to the grave and death:
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
Because we believe He can resurrect us and give us immortality, we have passed from death to life. I want to be part of the first resurrection, don’t you?
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
I often wondered why God wipes away all tears. The passage in Revelation 21: 4, Revelation 7:17, Isaiah 25:8 are in the context of the end of time when all of God’s people arrive in heaven at the same time after the resurrection as desribed in 1 Thess. 4:15-18
The saints will spend their first day in heaven wondering about a loved one who didn’t make it. Then they will understand from the Lord Himself that they were lost and will never be anymore. There will be tears in heaven, but Jesus will literally and symbolically wipe away the tears. He will explain and show them the many opportunities given them to receive eternal life as a free gift, but they refused.
Then all the saints will bow, throw their crowns, and proclaim
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Want to go deeper? below is information for those who might want to look at things a little closer.
The Word “Hell”
Hell is an English word coming from the same root as: heel, hill, hole, whole hall…etc. Its original English meaning was any place, or someplace covered over. This sounds like a grave which is confirmed by the following Hebrew and Greek words.
The writers of the Bible had several words to choose when talking about what we call “hell”:
Sheol is a Hebrew word used 63 times in the Old Testament (KJV). The New Testament equivalent is Hades which is used 11 times. Both are proper names for a literal place (grave) and figurative place (destruction). What is notable is that righteous men such as David, Jacob, Jonah, and even our Lord are described as going to Sheol or Hades! To go to Sheol means to be cut off from life, to die. It is the state or place of the dead.
Jesus compared death to “Sleep.” (e.g. Lazarus- John 11:11, and a 12-year old girl-Mark 5:39). Paul used it often (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:51, Ephesians 5:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:14) as did David (e.g. Psalm 13:3) and Job (Job 14:12). Daniel used it in a Paul like vision of both the righteous and the unrighteous coming up from sleep (resurrection),
“And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Gehenna is a Greek word derived from the Hebrew words ‘ge hinnom’ meaning the Valley of Hinnom. Used 12 times in the new testament.
“Gehenna was a well-known valley, near Jerusalem, in which the Jews in their idolatrous days had sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, in consequence of which it was condemned to receive the offal and refuse and sewage of the city, and into which the bodies of malefactors were cast and where to destroy the odor and pestilential influences, continual fires were kept burning. Here fire, smoke, worms bred by the corruption, and other repulsive features, rendered the place a horrible one, in the eyes of the Jews. It was a locality with which they were as well acquainted. But in process of time Gehenna came to be an emblem of the consequences of sin, and to be employed figuratively by the Jews, to denote those consequences. But always in this world. The Jews never used it to mean torment after death, until long after Christ. The word had not the meaning of post-mortem torment when our Savior used it.” –J.W. Hanson’s, Bible Threatenings Explained.
When Jesus used it 11 times, he was not referring to a place under the earth, or even the lake of fire described by John in Revelation, but rather a valley where the refuge of the city continually smoked and the ultimate fate of dead animals. It was not a place of unending torture, but rather a fitting symbol of death and destruction.
Jesus again used the word “Gehenna” when he described the destruction of both the body and soul in hell. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).
Tartarus is used only once to mean ‘to cast down to Hades’, referring to the angels who sinned in 2 Peter 2:4. The angels described in Jude 1:6 are told to be reserved in everlasting chains until judgment. If Tartarus means a burning hell, why would the angels be there before judgment?
The origin of a place of eternal torture for rejection of God comes from Egypt and was adopted by the church during the dark ages to scare the people into submission to the church. The teaching of purgatory was also used by the church to obtain money for the lost. That is another study in itself, but I will stop here.
But, how do we understand those verses that describe everlasting fire, eternal fire, and unquenchable fire? The answer is very simple in the light of the context about the final destiny of the unsaved i.e., eternal death, destruction and ashes. The fire that burns up the earth, the elements, and the unsaved is eternal in its results, not in its duration. It is unquenchable in that it can’t be put out. But once it has done its work of destruction, it goes out. Ask any fireman about an unquenchable fire and they will tell you that they can’t put it out, but that does not mean that it does not go out. Once all the wood is burned up, there is nothing left to burn, so the fire goes out.
How about the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16? This has to be a parable and not an actual teaching of the fate of the lost because of these reasons:
1.) It is the last parable in a series that starts with the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8. While it doesn’t specifically say it is a parable, neither does it say that the parable of the lost son is one either. The point of the parable is not what happens to the lost, but rather the Pharisees (who loved money, Luke 16: 14 would never believe Jesus even if He was raised from the dead because they had not heard (believed) Moses and the Prophets.) They had the idea that being rich and because of their ancestry (i.e., Jacob) they would be in heaven and the others would be tormented in hell. They made all this up because there is not Biblical example. Just like they made up all the Sabbath laws without any scriptural authority, they made up this scenario. Jesus turns their story around and the non-Jewish poor man winds up in the place they thought was theirs automatically because of who they were.
2.) Jesus typically talked to the religious leaders and the people in parables. Yes, He spoke very directly to them on several occasions, but when he was attempting to teach them or show them the truth, he would use parables. Those who wanted to know the truth would go looking for it as did the disciples. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them.” Matthew 13:34. “Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” Matthew 15:15. Peter is a good example for us. If we don’t understand a teaching, simply go to Jesus and ask him. If we really want to know the truth, He will tell us. Don’t you think?
There is good reason to believe from scripture that the unsaved die and await their final judgment which is destruction by the lake of fire as described in Revelation and many other Bible verses.
But, to use the teaching of eternal torment where a person’s life is maintained by God himself to simply let him suffer more is beyond reason and scripture. Is this suppose to scare someone enough to start a loving relationship with Jesus? Did your wife scare you into a relationship or did she “woo” you? If she is like my wife, she did everything she could to show me that she loved me. I was drawn to her spirit of kindness and love for me.
The scriptural way to bring people to Christ is by lifting Jesus up for all to see His great sacrifice, goodness, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and power!
“Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
When the disciples were trying to win souls to Christ, they never used the threat of unending torture, but words like:
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
It is not the fear of eternal torture that leads people to a relationship with Christ!
The Holy Spirit brought convicting power to the sermon of Peter and the disciples when they showed how Jesus died for their sins. The people were “cut to the heart and asked, ‘What can we do?’” (Acts 2:37) Peter said, to them:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2: 38, 39)
Thousands that were converted to Jesus in the early church came from the topic of Jesus and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Not one sermon about the possibility of being tortured without end!
But, Peter did let us know that the fate of the world and ungodly is destruction when Jesus returns…everything will be burned up!
There are, perhaps, no clearer words about the fate of the lost and this world as these passages from Peter. If you want to know the truth about the fate of the lost and this world, listen closely to what is being revealed to you and your children and follow the instructions to eternal life reserved only for the saved:
“…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3: 1-9
Notice Peter again uses the word “Perish” as the fate of all those who do not come to repentance!
The Day of the Lord
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3: 10-13
My brother or sister, here is your hell. It is hotter than the one taught. It is not a slow roast, it is immediate and it makes way for a heavens and earth where only righteousness dwells. They is no corner of the universe somewhere where people are writhing in pain.
The time of Jesus must be soon. It is time to turn to Jesus and ask Him about things we don’t understand so we can be more powerful preachers and teachers for Him! Don’t you agree?