Here you will find all four parts of “The Nature of Hell” series, for those who are feeling industrious and want to read this 11,000+ word study all at once. 🙂
Do the Christian traditions about eternal torture concern you? Does it seem strange that God would punish someone so severely because they did not “accept” him? Are these mere traditions or fact? If these ideas are not reality, then what harm might we be doing when we perpetuate these ideas about God?
The Nature of Hell (Part 1) — Hell Lost in Translation
Hell, the lake of fire, the second death, eternal punishment—what does this all mean? In this article series, I want to challenge the way many view the nature of hell, and perhaps, the way many view God.
In this article, which is Part 1 of 4, we will consider the various translations behind the word, “hell.”
In the Old Testament, “Hell” is a translation of the Hebrew word Sheol. In the New Testament, there are three words translated “Hell.” These are Hades and Tartarus, which are Greek, and Gehenna, also known as The Valley of the sons of Hinnom. We will consider the definition of these words and explore the scriptures in order to gain some understanding regarding the nature of these places.
HELL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Sheol is translated “the pit,” “the grave,” and “hell.” In order to gain some understanding of the beliefs surrounding Sheol, let’s take a look at some Old Testament scriptures. Bold areas translate to Sheol.
What can we say about Sheol?
- It is a place of unconscious death. (Psalm 6:5) (Isaiah 38:18) (Numbers 16:33) (Psalm 88:11-12)
- It is a place to be brought down into as a pit. (Isaiah 14:15) (Numbers 16:33)
- The Lord can bring us into it and out from it. (Psalm 30:3) (Psalm 49:15)
- It is a place of darkness. (Job 17: 13-16)
- It is a place the Lord went after he died and from which he rose. (Psalm 16:10)
It seems that the Old Testament view of hell (Sheol) has multiple implications as the grave or a state of death, the pit or holding place for the wicked, and a place of destruction. This is very similar to the manner in which “hell” is portrayed in the New Testament. Let’s get to that.
HELL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
When we look at passages in the New Testament about “hell,” many are translated from the word, gehenna. In order to understand how this impacts our view of hell, we need some background information about Gehenna.
The word gehenna comes from the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word ge-hinnom or “Valley of the sons of Hinnom.” This is first mentioned as a place where idolatrous Israelites sacrificed their children to Molech (2 Chonicles 28). This place is also called “Tophet”(Isaiah 30:33). In Jeremiah 19 we read that God re-named the Valley of Hinnom as “the Valley of Slaughter.”
After the Babylonian captivity, The Valley of Slaughter was used as an ever-burning site of waste disposal, including bodies of criminals (2 Kings 23). This was a place where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Isaiah 66:24).
Here are some New Testament uses of “hell” and “hell fire” as translated from Gehenna (in bold).
What can we say about Hell when viewed in the historical context of Gehenna?
When we consider the above scriptures in which gehenna is translated as “hell,” the only historical context that makes sense is an ever-burning waste dump. Therefore, when Jesus mentions being cast into hell fire, it would seem that he is referring to a place of fiery destruction.
If we view instances in which hell means Gehenna as a place in which the wicked are destroyed by fire, then could this be a reference to the lake of fire? If so, is the lake of fire a location in which inhabitants burn alive consciously forever, or are they burned up until they are no more?
This word derives from Greek mythology as a deep abyss used as a dungeon of torment for the wicked and prison for the Titans. Tartarus occurs in the Septuagint of Job. In the New Testament, Tartarus is not found, but you will find tartaroo which translates from the Greek as “throw down to Tartarus.”
This is used only once among the other words that were grouped into the term “hell.”
|2 Peter 2:4||For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;|
What can we say about Tartarus?
Little seems to be known about Tartarus other than it appears to be a holding place for the angels that sinned. It’s interesting however that the Greek mythology views of Tartarus is very much aligned with our Christian view of hell—even though it is only mentioned one time in the New Testament.
Notice the similarities here with Sheol as “the pit.”
Considering that Tartarus is a dark place that reserves the angels for judgment, could this be aligned with “the deep” (Luke 8:31) and “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:29)? It seems to me that Tartarus is not hell as we know it at all, but instead it is a realm in which evil spirits reside or are cast into. It also seems to be the “bottomless pit” from which “the beast” will ascend.
Hades translates as the “unseen place,” referring to the realm in which all the dead reside. Along with Gahenna, Hades is one of the more common words translated as “hell” in the New Testament. Let’s take a look at the scriptures to see what we can understand about the nature of hades.
What can we say about Hades?
- It is a place the Lord went after he died and from which he rose. (Acts 2:27)
- It is a place the wicked are thrust down into. (Luke 10:15)
- It is a holding place for the dead. (Rev 20:13)
- It appears to be a place with gates, which the Lord has control over. (Matthew 16:18).
Notice the similarities here between Hades and Sheol as “the grave.”
When we consider the attributes of Hades, this seems very similar to those described as “the grave” aspect of Sheol. If this is so, then Hades can be also called “the grave.” There is no indication here that describes Hades in terms of Greek mythology as with Tarantulas, nor does it indicated inhabitants with a form of consciousness.
What about Lazarus and the rich man? You can read my thoughts about this in the final article within this series.
In the New Testament, the word “hell” derives from both gehenna and hades almost equally, and is only once a transliteration of tartaroo, a derivative of Tartarus. In the Old Testament, the word “hell” is exclusively translated from the word Sheol, which means the grave or the pit. So, what is hell? Is it a state of unconscious death as in the grave? Is it a place of destruction? Is it a place of conscious separation from God?
I believe that the scriptures make a clear case for all of these things. Hell, therefore, is not just one thing, but many. This explains why there are multiple words that have been grouped together into a single word and idea. This is unfortunate because it has lead to a great deal of confusion.
Hell, therefore is:
The grave (Hades) is the result of our sin. It is death. All of mankind will die, and in this state of death, we have no consciousness. Refer to scriptures about hell as “the grave.” This can be seen as a holding place for the dead, because all currently await resurrection and judgment. None are currently “alive” in a place of fiery torture, nor are any in heaven (aside from those who are exceptions to this rule, as Enoch).
As of now, all the dead are “sleeping” in their graves. Those who are “asleep in Christ” are raised at the 7th Trumpet and the resurrection of the dead. “The rest of the dead live not again until the thousand years are finished,” which is the thousand-year rein of Jesus on this earth. Satan who is bound during this time in “the pit” is let loose and there is a rebellion against the Holy City. God consumes the rebellion, then we see the judgment of the wicked take place in which Satan and all who are not written in the book of life are cast into “the lake of fire.”
The Bottomless Pit
There is a realm in which the angels that sinned are cast into (Tartarus). I will need to research this more, but it is my belief that this also includes the “outer darkness” and “the deep.” There is also a place known as the “bottomless pit.” You can read about that in Revelation chapters 9, 17, and 20. I might consider doing a work on the bottomless pit separately. This is a place separate from the grave as man experiences it, and it is also separate from the lake of fire.
The Lake of Fire
There is a place of punishment for the wicked (Gehenna), which I believe to be one and the same with “the lake of fire which is the second death.” Is this a place in which the inhabitants remain consciously tortured forever, or is it something else? We will take a closer look at this in “The Nature of Hell (Part 2) – Does God Subject People to Never-Ending Torture?”
As mentioned earlier, each above aspect of “hell” can be found in the Old Testament scriptures regarding Sheol, which solidifies this position.
Study to Show Yourself Approved
I understand these ideas go against our traditions about dying and going to either Heaven or Hell, among other common beliefs. When we look at the scriptures closely and seek the Spirit to help us find freedom from tradition and lead us to the truth, we will see that many of our traditions—even those about gospel—are false or incomplete. However, when we gain a better understanding of these things, we begin to see a clearer picture of the purpose of creation and salvation—which is something I hope to encourage here at KindingTruth.
The Nature of Hell (Part 2) – Does God Subject People to Never-Ending Torture?
It is commonly believed that hell is a place of never-ending torment created for the devil and all who do not put their faith in Jesus Christ. When we take a close look at the scriptures, is that what we are truly being taught?
Generally, there are four viewpoints here. The first is the most common, which states that hell is a place where unbelievers are in a state of never-ending torment. Another view considers hell to be a place of everlasting separation from God, and the “fire” is a kind of yearning for His presence. A third point of view states that hell is a place of redemption in which the evil natures of all are burned off, and ultimately, every soul will be redeemed. The last belief is annihilation, meaning hell is a place of total death and destruction.
In “The Nature of Hell (Part 1) – Hell Lost in Translation,” we discussed the various words that were grouped together into the single translation, “hell.” I recommend reading Part 1 before reading this article.
When considering the meaning of the words that have all been translated as “hell,” the idea was posed that there are actually three distinct “places” of hell: The Grave (Hades), The Pit (Tartarus), and The Lake of Fire (Genenna).
Since The Grave is death we all experience as wages for our sin—an unconscious state in which all await the resurrection and judgment, and The Pit (the bottomless pit, outer darkness, the deep) is a place in which devils and Satan are held, then the only place that could be viewed as a location of eternal torment would be Gehenna—or the lake of fire.
As in the description of Gehenna, the Lake of Fire is a place in which the wicked are burned. It is a place in which “the worms do not die and the fire is not quenched.”
To get some idea about the state of those who are cast into the Lake of Fire, let’s first consider the terms, “unquenchable fire” and “everlasting fire.”
Unquenchable Fire and Everlasting Fire
What is Fire?
This might sound like a silly question, but when we take a look at scriptures that mention fire, we see a few different contexts. We are told that the unfaithful are cast into fire. We are also told that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
When we compare the many instances of “fire” in the New Testament, all come from the Greek word pur or pýr. The definition of pur and pýr has been rendered as fire, heat of the sun, lightening, strife, trials, and the eternal fire. That’s quite a broad description.
In the following passages, each use of the word “fire” has the same translation, though we see fire in different contexts:
|Matthew 3:10-12||And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.|
|Luke 3:16-17||John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.|
|John 15:6||If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.|
|Hebrews 12:27-29||And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.|
|1 Peter 1:7||That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:|
What can we say about fire?
As we see in the scriptures, fire is both a cleansing agent and a destructive agent. Even when destructive, such as the trial of our faith which is “by fire,” this is constructive. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is called the “baptism of fire.” The dead things within us (our sinful nature) are burned up so life is brought forth.
What about fire as a place in which the wicked are eternally destroyed? What is the nature of fire in this place?
Additional passages to consider when viewing fire as punitive rather than purifying:
The fact that God is a consuming fire causes some to believe that hell is a place of purification, not a place of destruction. Though we might like to believe this idea, there is no evidence of this given in the scriptures. The Lake of Fire is not a location in which people are cast into God, but rather, this is a place of constructive destruction in the sense of having all unrighteousness purged from the creation (Matthew 13:41-43).
However, we are also told
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
My thoughts here: When Jesus returns, the wicked one and all things that are lies will be destroyed because he who is The Truth will be shining bright. Nothing wicked or untrue can survive the brightness of The Truth. This is another example of constructive destruction, because when all lies are burned up, the true things are given total power. Lies are sin and death, and truth is light and life.
The fire the Lord “set on the earth” is the brightness of his coming. He says:
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? (Luke 12:49).
Of course I’m fond of that scripture for obvious reasons. Vanities, vanities, right? As Christians, we should all be “on fire” for the Lord and prepare ourselves for his coming. We do this by Seeking First the Kingdom of God.
For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mark 9: 46:50).
Every person will taste the fire of God. We are either cleansed by the fire of God while we live by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, or we are cast into the lake of fire and destroyed. However, there is no indication that the lake of fire is a place of redemption.
To determine whether this is a place of never-ending conscious torment or annihilation, let’s explore this idea further.
How is Fire Unquenchable or Everlasting?
When we read the New Testament scriptures, it is easy to assume that hell (or the lake of fire) is a place of never-ending torment. Phrases like “unquenchable fire” and “everlasting fire” seem, on the surface, self-explanatory. There are only a few passages that use this phrasing in the New Testament. They are:
|Matthew 25:41||Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:|
|Matthew 18:8||Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.|
|Matthew 3:12||Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.|
|Luke 3:17||Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.|
- What does unquenchable mean? In these passages, the word unquenchable means “inextinguishable.”
- What does everlasting mean? In these passages, the word everlasting means “age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting.”
What can we say about “unquenchable” or “everlasting” fire?
Consider this. In Jude 7 we are told that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with “everlasting fire” and is a “warning to the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). Are these cities burning today? Of course not.
What about The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) in the Old Testamen? As mentioned in Part 1, this was a location of ever-burning waste including corpses of enemies. Is this fire still burning today? It is not.
We can also read in Malachi 4:1-3 the following:
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.”
When we consider Sodom and Gomorrah as an event that foreshadows the final judgment (as Paul the Apostle said), with an understanding that the fire that destroyed these cities was also described as “everlasting” and “eternal,” then we might conclude that there must be a different meaning here.
When viewed in light of Old Testament prophesies about the final judgment, we see that just as Sodom and Gomorrah, the wicked are totally destroyed.
In this sense, their judgment (which is by fire) will not be quenched. It only lasts for a season, but it will complete it’s work and there will be nothing remaining that is not burned up.
All things God speak will come to pass, and who can resist His judgment? Can the fires of judgment be quenched? No. We also have to consider descriptions of “the lake of fire which is the second death” – which we will get into in detail in Part 3.
What about scripture that says “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched?”
The same logic can be applied to these scriptures, along with considering Isaiah 66:24 which states:
“And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
However, to make sure we are thoroughly considering this topic, I will discuss such scriptures in more detail in Part 3 as we consider what Jesus taught us about hell.
Everlasting Punishment and Eternal Judgment
We know that the judgment and punishment of the wicked are “by fire,” and now we have some understanding of what “unquenchable” and “everlasting” means in this context. Even so, one would be negligent to not also consider passages about “everlasting punishment” and “eternal judgment.” So, let’s get to that.
|Matthew 25: 41,46||Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.|
|Thessalonians 1:7-9||And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.|
|Hebrews 6:1-2||Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
What can we say about these passages?
- Matthew 25:41 and 46: As mentioned in Part 1, there is a holding place for the devil and his angles. After the second resurrection, they are cast into “the lake of fire which is the second death” along with all who are not written in the book of life (Rev 20:14-15). This is “everlasting” punishment because unlike the first death (The Grave), one cannot come back from “the second death.”
- Thessalonians 1:7-9: As we have concluded, the fire of judgment is everlasting in that it completely destroys, and the judgment of God is “unquenchable” or unstoppable because the Word has spoken it and it will complete the work it is created to perform. We want to be those who obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, don’t we?
- Hebrews 6:1-2: Hmm…Going on to perfection. Repentance from dead works. Faith towards God. These things should sound familiar by now if you’ve followed KindlingTruth for long. We need faith in the whole gospel, not just part if we are to participate in the resurrection of the dead unto life instead of the resurrection of eternal judgment–pending the merciful judgment of the Lord.
The concept of “eternal judgment” and “everlasting punishment” are the same as “eternal fire” and “everlasting fire.” The judgment of God is set and will not be quenched until the work is completed. That work is total destruction of the wicked. However, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, this is a point of time that will only last for a season.
It is my belief that “the lake of fire which is the second death” is not a place of never-ending torment. When we consider all of the scriptures with an understanding of what the fire of God is and how to view “everlasting” and “eternal” in proper context that considers history given in the Old Testament, we see that this is a place of annihilation.
It is, as stated, a second death—and one that no soul will come back from. In that sense, it is never-ending punishment and removal from the presence of God.
I do not see any support for hell or “the lake of fire” being a place of redemption. The scriptures show that the wicked are destroyed and the “righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The only purification we can experience from the fire of God is through the Holy Spirit and the “baptism of fire.”
The idea of hell being never-ending separation comes from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man: “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26). I do not think there is any other evidence for such a belief, and when weighed in light of all the evidence to the contrary, I do not see this as a valid point of view. However, we will consider this further in Part 3.
The Nature of Hell (Part 3) – The Lake of Fire and The Second Death
It is commonly believed among Christians that those who are not “saved” before they die will go directly to hell where they are tortured forever. In this article series, we have considered the scriptures about hell in order to determine if this idea is true.
In (Part 1) Hell Lost in Translation, we discussed that the scriptures show us three distinct places of hell. We learned this by considering the various words that were collectively translated as “hell” and comparing these to Old Testament ideas about hell (Sheol). In the New Testament these are hades (the grave or place of the dead), tartarus (the pit), and gehenna (the lake of fire).
We determined that those who are currently dead are in their graves awaiting either the first resurrection of life or the second resurrection of judgment. All the dead are currently in Hades (The Grave). Devils and Satan, though active in this world, can also be cast into The Pit. We speculated that this is the same as “outer darkness” and “the deep.” Gehenna (The Lake of Fire) is the place in which those who are judged are destroyed. This is a future event.
In (Part 2) Does God Subject People to Never-Ending Torture?, we looked at various scriptures to learn about “unquenchable fire,” “everlasting punishment,” and similar ideas. We considered the New Testament scriptures in light of historical contexts given in the Old Testament. With a broader view of the scriptures, we determined that the Lake of Fire is not a place of never-ending torture, but rather, it is a place of total annihilation.
In this section, we will further explore the Lake of Fire by considering the scriptures that provide more insight into what this place might be.
The Lake of Fire, which we determined is also Gehenna, is a place in which the wicked are destroyed. This is also called “the second death.” Unlike the first death (The Grave), no one will return from the second death. This death is “everlasting destruction” and “everlasting punishment.” This is also a place that lasts only for a season, which we discovered the word “eternal” indicates.This is the set judgment of God that is “unquenchable” until fully completed. Those cast into the Lake of Fire are completely destroyed.
Let’s take a look at scripture about the Lake of Fire and the Second Death.
|Revelation 2:11||He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.|
|Revelation 20: 1-3||And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. *Cited for context*|
|Revelation 20:10||And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.|
|Revelation 20: 12-15||And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.|
|Revelation 21:7-8||He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.|
What Can we Say About the Lake of Fire / Second Death?
- Those who overcome (in Christ) are not hurt by the second death.
- After Satan’s 1,000 year captivity (during the 1,000 year reign of Jesus on this earth), he is loosed and will again deceive the nations. Afterward, he is cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet are.
- We are told that the devil, beast, and false prophet will be tormented forever.
- We are told that death and hell (hades) are cast into the Lake of Fire along with all who are not written in the book of life. This is the second death.
It is made clear that the lake of fire is a place of second death. How are the devil, beast, and false prophet then tormented forever? Could this be a hyperbolic statement as with the Old Testament Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) and Sodom and Gomorrah? The scriptures describe these places as always burning and the smoke rising forever. Obviously these fires went out long ago. However, we still remember these instances.
Perhaps, this is indicating the fact that as with the destruction of those in Sodom, the destruction of the wicked including the devil will always be remembered. We have to consider all the evidence and weigh things with the proper measure. We do this by learning what is stated as a matter of doctrine and what is symbolic or hyperbolic. We learn how to decipher this by studying the scriptures and seeking the Holy Spirit of Truth to help us understand.
How is hell and death cast into the Lake of Fire if they are all one? The translation of “hell” in this passage translates from hades, which we discussed is more aligned with The Grave.
Before God establishes the New Heavens and New Earth—in which there is no more death—He must first totally annihilate death. This includes hell as translated from hades, meaning, “the grave,” he who is death (the devil), and all who bring death (those who are not written in the book of life).
For the descriptions of the New Heavens and New Earth to be true, there cannot be a place in which people remain alive and tortured forever. All things that bring death receive their just reward. Death.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Death is the Punishment for Sin
Sin is death, point blank. Those who live sinfully live destructive lives. Those who continue living sinfully are killing the creation—especially God’s most precious creation —mankind. Those who continue following he who is death and are not made free by he who is The Life will not be written in the book of life. They are destroyed, and a new creation is made—one in which there is no more death!
When we sin, we are not loving as God loves. If we are not loving others, then we are destroying them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We are killing them. They who kill are killed. That should be simple to understand, and it would be if our traditions and unfortunate translations did not get in the way.
Here are some scriptures to consider (please study in context):
|Romans 5:12||Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned|
|Romans 5:21||That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.|
|Romans 7:5||For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.|
|Romans 6:23||For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.|
|2 Thessalonians 2:12||That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.|
|Hebrews 2:14||Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;|
Death and he who is death (the devil) have reigned on this earth from Adam until Christ. Those who believe in Jesus are made free from death. Although the “prince of this world” still reigns, those who follow Jesus have a new and better kingdom. We have the Kingdom of Heaven.
As we follow Jesus, our faith prepares our hearts to receive the grace-given Kingdom of God. With the knowledge of the Lord written in our hearts—a knowledge that is killed by Law because man cannot perform true righteousness by their own ability—we are freed from sin.
As we are freed from living sinfully, we become more like Jesus. As we conform to his image (inwardly), we are partakers of the Kingdom even while we live in this world of death.
A one-time “declaration of faith” that does not go on and “bear fruit” — even real fruit instead of legalistic “wild fruit” is NOT salvation. Those who teach such are making “children of hell.”
If we are not “saved” from death now though true faith in Jesus—fruitful faith that brings life and real freedom—then we will not inherit everlasting life in the Kingdom of God to come (pending the mercy and judgment of God).
The lake of fire is a place of judgment. The judgment of God will not be “quenched” because His word is true, and His word states that the punishment for sin is death. It is as simple as that. When we consider the scriptures more fully, we see that the word of God is true. We do not need to add to it and read more into the nature of hell than what is given in truth.
Jesus is the Remedy for Sin and Death
All of mankind has sinned, and the death was established as an outcome of sin from the beginning. Why then do we insist on changing this into a fable that more resembles ancient mythology?
This truth is self-evident in this present world. Sin leads to destruction within our lives in countless ways. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of the kingdom—a “good news” that provides us with forgiveness of our sins and cleansing from them.
Jesus paid the price for our sins—the price of death—when he gave himself up to the cross. Those who are given faith in Jesus are granted forgiveness from sin so that we can go on and pursue the righteous ways of the kingdom of God.
After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was sent to the world so that people of all nations could know Jesus—not just intellectually, but inwardly as the Spirit changes our natures from sin and death towards righteousness and life.
Faith that is not dead will naturally result in a progressive freedom from living sinfully, thereby freeing one from the kingdom of this world as one walks within the “kingdom of God at hand.” Those who are faithful to walk after the kingdom of God in this present world are rewarded with eternal life in the kingdom of God to come.
Those who do not bring forth fruit are among those cast into the lake of fire—many of which will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Jesus will respond, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)
Does this mean Christians never sin. No, and to ever claim to be without sin makes us prideful liars. However, we should continue pushing forward with a mindset that states “today is the day of salvation.” We should not settle for any sin and have faith in the power of Jesus to help us overcome all sin.
It is a matter of good conscience towards God, true faith, and submitting ourselves to the will of the Father. We cannot love our sin and truly love God and appreciate the sacrifice of the Son at the same time.
Jesus came so that you can have life more abundantly—not so you can sin abundantly without consequence.
The gospel of the kingdom of God is the message of the New Testament. This is not merely a teaching that says if your declare faith in Jesus once they when you die you will go to heaven instead of hell. This is the good news of freedom from sin in this present world. This is the ability by the Spirit to walk spiritually after the kingdom even now. If faithful in the kingdom of God now, then we are either raised from the dead or transfigured at the first resurrection.
If we are faithful during the thousand-year reign of Jesus on this earth, a time in which all can approach the kingdom even more directly than this present time, only then are we given everlasting life. We might have “eternal life” that lasts for 1,000 years, but we might not live forever if we fall during the final rebellion of Satan.
I believe that’s a lot of the purpose behind the millennial reign of Jesus. There are those who rule and those who are subjects. Those who rule are those who were faithful to his word and keep his commandments during this age. I believe that faithful subjects of the kingdom have yet a second chance to inherit everlasting life.
You see, the Lord is patient and merciful. We are given so much opportunity to know him and walk after his laws instead of the laws of this world. Let’s not despise the patience of Jesus and the righteousness of the kingdom of God.
I understand that many do not fully get what the kingdom of God is about and the Lord knows our frame. He is merciful towards much misunderstanding. However, ministers should at least refrain from teaching Christians that we are bound to living a sinful life.
Many are cherry-picking scriptures and taking them out of context, thereby making “children of hell” very often instead of “children of the promise.” Read the New Testament for yourself if you can. Pray the Holy Spirit of Truth to help you understand. The truth is evident when we put aside the ways we are conditioned to interpret the bible.
The Nature of Hell (Part 4) – What Did Jesus Teach About Hell?
Below is a list of scriptures that are generally regarded to be the words of Jesus about hell. Make note of the translation of the words in bold (to the right), and refer to Part 1 for more information about the meaning.
|Mat 5:22||But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.||Gehenna|
|Mat 5:29||And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.||Gehenna|
|Mat 5:30||And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.||Gehenna|
|Mat 11:23||And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.||Hades|
|Mat:16:18||And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.||Hades|
|Mat 18:9||And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.||Gehenna|
|Mat 23:15||Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.||Gehenna|
|Mat 23:33||Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell||Gehenna|
|Luke 12:5||But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.||Gehenna|
What Can We Say So Far?
When considering the scriptures above along with what has been proposed so far in previous articles within this series, we can see that Jesus’s statements possibly line up with the proposed ideas concerning the places of hell and their natures. These ideas are:
- Hell as interpreted from the word hades means “the grave” which is a state of unconscious death.
- Hell as interpreted from the word gehenna means “the valley of the sons of Hinnom” which was proposed as an Old Testament shadow of the lake of fire.
- The lake of fire is a place of total annihilation that occurs during a set point in time that will eventually come to an end.
For further clarification and a well-rounded interpretation, let’s consider a few specific ideas that Jesus taught about the nature of hell:
There Shall be Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth
Some suggest that if hell is a place of annihilation, then there is no punishment. It is made clear that hell is not a pleasant place. Though “the dead know not a thing” when in the state of “the grave,” being cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna) will fill many with fear, anger, and grief.
|Mat 8:10-12||When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”|
|Mat 13:50||And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.|
|Mat 24:48-51||But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.|
|Mat 25:30||And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.|
We should make note of a few things here. For one, we see that the place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is not for unbelievers in the strict sense. This is also a place for unprofitable and evil servants. These are those who honor God with their lips, but do not lay hold of their salvation and grow in the things of the kingdom of God. There will be many “subjects of the kingdom” that are thrown down.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
Secondly, we do not have to interpret this as never-ending torment. It is a final destruction from which there is no return. Being faced with such a destruction will be fearsome and many will not see it coming. That is the interpretation here.
Their Worm Dies Not and the Fire is Not Quenched
When we read about fire that is not quenched, everlasting punishment, and other such ideas, it is easy to assume that hell is a place of never-ending, conscious torment. However, in Part 2 we took a look at these scriptures, considered some definitions, and compared these ideas to their Old Testament references. In doing so, we discovered that the lake of fire is a place of future judgment in which the wicked are destroyed, and all torment will eventually come to an end.
When looking at the following scriptures, notice the bold words and the translation definition given to the right. Note that “everlasting” and “eternal” are translated from the same word, aionios, meaning “age-long.”
Mark Chapter 9:43-50
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched:
What is Jesus teaching here? Is he suggesting that if we do evil with one of our body members, then we are better off cutting that part off than burning in hell forever? For example, if we have a lustful eye, should we pluck out our eye? I don’t view this as something to be taken literally, and I think most would agree. To do so does not line up with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are my thoughts. This is not about our bodies on an individual level, but the body of Christ. If one of our “members” offends little ones of the flock who believe in Jesus, they are going to be “cut off” and “cast into hell.” We should be careful when considering this idea, however, always remembering the patience and mercy Jesus expects us to show others. It would require a very grievous offense that goes unrepentant for us to warrant removing other Christians from our fellowship.
What about “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched?” As mentioned in Part 1, this is reference to Gehenna (The Valley of the Sons of Hinnom), which was a place in the Old Testament in which dead bodies of criminals were thrown into a continually-burning pit.
When weighing all of the information provided, it is my belief that the lake of fire is a place in which those who transgress against God without repentance are destroyed, not a place in which they will remain alive and in torment forever. It might also be that subjects of the kingdom of God will be able to look at this place as a memorial to the events that occurred during the age of God’s wrath on the earth.
And they shall go forth, and look upon the dead carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh (Isaiah 66:24).
Lazarus and the Rich Man
One of the most common arguments for the traditional Christian views of hell come from the story of Lazarus and the rich man. It is my belief that this story is a parable, therefore we are not to take the ideas here literally. These are fictional characters meant to teach us something, so we should consider the spirit of what Jesus is communicating. Let’s take a look.
Luke Chapter 16:19-31
First, what can we see about Lazarus and the rich man? You might recall the lesson surrounding the scripture cited above (Matthew 25:40-41) in which Jesus tells us that if we do not take care of the needy, then we are not caring for him and we will be cast into the lake of fire. Did the rich man care about Lazarus? No. We might also remember that Jesus teaches us that we should lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not treasures in this world.
What is Abraham’s bosom? The first thing that comes to mind is this scriptural reference:
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham (John 8:39). You might also consider Matthew Chapter 3. This can be linked to the kingdom of God, and those who do the will of the Father are those who will reside in the kingdom that is now and is to come—a kingdom for the humble and obedient, not the proud and wicked.
We read that the rich man is tormented by flames and he can see Lazarus afar off. This might be in-line with the idea that the subjects of God’s kingdom will be able to see the lake of fire and “look upon the carcasses of the men who have transgressed” against God. This does not mean the tormented will be alive in this place forever. Let’s read on.
Notice how Lazarus is speaking to father Abraham. Again, consider what Jesus said. If we are of God and of the seed of Abraham, we will hear the voice of Jesus and we will obey. Are we Christians in word only, or do we seek to obey the teachings of Jesus Christ?
We have so much opportunity to learn of the things of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beginning with Moses and the prophets, and now as Christians, we have the resurrection, the bible, and the Holy Spirit. Yet, many are not persuaded. We reject the power of the resurrection, even today. In so doing, it begs the question: are we the seed of father Abraham, or are we the children of Satan? The Lord’s Day will reveal it.
This has been a long study, and I hope it will lay to rest some of the myths we commonly hold regarding the Christian views of hell and encourage readers to consider the gospel more fully. In a nutshell, we have learned the following:
- There are Three Distinct Places of Hell:
There are three words in the New Testament that were grouped together and translated as hell, each of which is actually a distinct place or state of being, depending on how you want to look at it.
There is the grave (translated as hell from the word hades), which is a place of unconscious death that all of us experience. The dead are not in heaven or hell at this time. All are sleeping in their graves and awaiting the judgment. This will be discussed in further detail when we consider the false rapture doctrine.
The second place of hell is called the pit (translated from the word tartarus), which we supposed is the same as outer darkness and the deep. Not much is known about this, but it was suggested that this is a holding place or realm of existence for devils.
The third place of hell is the lake of fire (translated from the word gehenna), which is an OT reference of a place that foreshadows the lake of fire. This is the place of punishment for all who bring death. This is the second death.
- The Torment Will Not Last Forever:
We considered scriptures that suggest never-ending torment and discovered that in-fact, this is an age-long event that will come to an end. However, the punishment is forever because unlike the first death, none will return from the second death.
- All Death is Destroyed:
The purpose of the lake of fire is to destroy all things that bring death. To sin is to bring death to this world in a multitude of ways, and those who continue in wanton sin without regard for the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ will be destroyed along with devils, Satan, and his prophets.
- Jesus is The Remedy for Death:
There is an essential and misunderstood aspect of the gospel. As Christians, we are forgiven of our sins. We are also promised a new nature as the laws of the kingdom of God are written in our hearts, changing us over time from those who bring death to those who bring life.
If we neglect so great a salvation, we are as the wicked servants who will find themselves cut off and cast into the lake of fire—no matter how much we honor God with our lips. This is a serious matter. We should “watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:36).”
All this aside, I don’t view hell as a means of effective Christian motivation — regardless of what we believe about it. We should follow Jesus because of who he is, what he stands for, and the forgiveness and freedom he provides — not to save our own skins. Such a reason is very fragile and easily overthrown.
This entire series is a sub-series within “Building Upon the Living Rock,” which is a look at basic Christian doctrines. Questions and comments are welcome below. Please subscribe if you would like email notifications of future publications.