by Greg on November 1, 2012
As Christians, we are quick to tell others of how loving God is. We want them to know that God is love and love is God. How true that is. Yet, we then turn around and tell them that if they don’t accept Him, He will cause them to burn in hell forever.
That’s not an act from a loving God. That’s sadistic. Monstrous. Hateful. It’s a portrait of God painted by the devil. It is not the kind of thing that the God of the Bible would do.
The God of the Bible, seeing that sin would appear, and knowing that sin would have only a season in reality, allowed sin to come into being. However, He would not let that stop Him from creating mankind, a physical expression of Himself. He knew that through His salvation plan, His mankind-creation would eventually be able to reign on His behalf throughout the universe.
In other words, beginning His course of action, God determined that He would allow all after Adam to be born into sin. Consequently, we didn’t have a choice in this matter. It was God’s choice to turn what Satan meant for evil into what is meant for good.
This being the case, why would God punish mankind’s vapor of a lifetime with a sentence of eternal burning in a place popularly called hell? Again, our being born into a sinful nature is God’s choice; not ours. So why torture us forever for something that He’s allowed? That would be an abuse of power. That would be evil.
In all fairness, God has laid out the big picture for us. We know of the great controversy between good and evil; between Jesus and Satan. We know that there isn’t anything evil about God’s character. We know that He is good, and that He has acquainted us with His laws, warnings, and prophecies to help us properly choose our eternal destinies.
Moreover, we know that these destinies are made very clear in His Word. Nonetheless, most Christians have allowed the enemy to continue his work of casting doubt on God’s word. Like Eve, most of Christ’s followers have been snared by the devil’s time-honored hook—“Did God really say…?”
Here is what God really says about our eternal destinies. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6: 23). The destinies described here are clear: death or life.
If a person were to burn in hell forever in a conscious state, as is usually depicted, then the person would be alive. That then changes God’s Word. Instead of destinies of “death or life,” “death” is thrown out and we are left with the destinies of eternal “life in hell” or “life with God.”
The reason that most Christians have so readily bought into “life or life” rather than “death or life” is because of their unquestioning allegiance to man-made tradition rather than “Thus says the Lord.”
This man-made tradition, most notably, goes as far back as ancient Egypt. In that society, it was believed and declared that the soul is immortal. From there, the concept was introduced to Greek society through Aristotle and Plato. Jewish philosophers picked it up from them, and that led to it being introduced into the Catholic Church. Protestantism didn’t break the chain.
The false notion of the immortal soul, however, didn’t begin with the Egyptians. Through the ages, it came down to them from the Garden of Eden. The lie originated with Satan when he told Eve, contradicting God, “You shall not surely die…You shall be as gods.”
Today, most Christians still believe this lie. They don’t believe that sin really does result in death. They ignore God’s Word; not only in the book of Genesis, but again when His word clearly says, “the soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18: 4. “Die” means “death”, not “life” in an eternal flame.
The falsehood about the immortal soul is the key brushstroke used by the devil to portray God as a sadist. By being able to convince Christians that the soul is a separate entity that goes immediately to heaven at death, the devil has been able to fortify the assertion that bad souls must then go to a fiery hell at the moment of death.
Let’s take a look, instead, at what the Bible has to say about hell-fire’s locale, the fate of its inhabitants, topic passages, and the word “hell” itself.
Where Is Hell-Fire?
The wicked will be punished on the earth (Prov. 11: 31).
Hell-fire will burn the earth and everything in it (Deut. 32: 22).
The fire will come down from heaven upon the earth (Rev. 20: 9).
The summation here is that hell-fire isn’t underground in the middle of the earth. It will come down from heaven and cover the surface of the earth. In this way, sin and sinners will be eradicated from the face of the earth. It will all be burned up, and God will then create a new earth.
Are There People Burning in Hell-Fire Now?
The wicked are punished at the end of the world (Matt. 13: 36-43, 49, 50).
The wicked are reserved until the judgment day (2 Peter 2: 9).
Judgment day for the wicked technically begins at Jesus’ second coming (2 Tim 4: 1). In other words, their fate has been decided before Jesus’ return. This is so because only the righteous meets Jesus in the air (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17).
The final phase of the wicked’s judgment occurs at the end of a thousand year period. At that time the wicked are raised in the second resurrection. They will be sentenced and receive their wages of sin when thrown into the lake of fire (the second death, which is eternal) at the end of the world (Rev. 20: 11-15).
The conclusion from the above is that there isn’t anyone right now burning in a place called hell. The wicked that have died are dead in their first death, and will be resurrected at the end of the thousand-year period, better known as the Millennium (Rev. 20: 5).
Clearing up Some Confusing Passages About Hell-Fire
Rev. 20: 10—“burning forever and forever” The Greek word for “ever” is “aion.” It denotes an age or time period; meaning a duration of time. Therefore, the verse is saying that the fire will last continually for a period of time (day and night) until the devil and his followers are devoured (vs. 9).
The term “forever’ is to be understood in the context of what’s being described. “Forever” is used fifty-six times in the Old Testament as applying to someone or something having a definite end.
For example, “forever” used in Jonah 2: 6 meant 3 days and nights. “Forever” in 1 Samuel 1: 22, 28 means as long as Samuel lived. In Psalm 48: 14, “forever and ever” means until death.
In the same way, Rev. 20: 10 is saying that the fire ends after having accomplished its purpose to devour the wicked. The fire is not eternal, but the consequences, or the wicked’s destruction, is eternal.
Mark 9: 43, 44—the “unquenchable fire” and the “worm that doesn’t die” In Jeremiah 17: 27, God said He would kindle an unquenchable fire in Jerusalem if certain conditions weren’t met. In 2 Chronicles 36: 19-21, the unquenchable fire was started. But has Jerusalem continued to burn until this day? No! The fire ended long ago.
Unquenchable” means that no one can put out a fire that God starts. It will go out on its own accord when its purpose is accomplished.
The other matter, when Jesus spoke of the worm that doesn’t die, has Him referring not to a spirit, as some suggest, but instead Has Him referencing and using as an illustration, the worms that inhabited a dumpsite just outside of Jerusalem.
The site was the valley of Hinnom, the Hebrew name. The Greek, in the New Testament, calls the site Gehenna. The word “hell” is translated from Gehenna.
The fires in Gehenna almost continually burned. The smoke from it continually rose. Garbage and dead animals were dumped in the site. When the animals’ bodies didn’t completely burn up, worms (maggots) would eat them. Because the worms always found something to feed on, it seemed like they never died.
Again, Jesus simply used the site as an illustration of the wicked’s fate—total destruction. That Gehenna is an illustration, and not the popularly believed literal hell, is proved by the fact that it’s still not burning outside of Jerusalem today. Furthermore, the worms that were alive at the time of Jesus’ statement, some two thousand years ago, certainly aren’t alive today.
Matthew 25: 41, 46—“eternal fire and punishment” Sodom and Gomorrah burned with the punishment of eternal fire, according to Jude 1: 7. However, the cities aren’t burning today. That’s because 2 Peter 2: 6 says the two cities were turned into ashes as an example of what will happen to the wicked.
The logical conclusion is that “eternal fire,” in this passage, means that the fire is everlasting in its consequences or effect. The term has nothing to do with the fire’s duration.
Note that the words in vs. 46 are “eternal punishment” instead of “eternal “punishing.” The Bible itself explains “eternal punishment” for us in 2 Thessalonians 1: 9 as “eternal destruction.”
Plainly, then, the wicked’s everlasting punishment is an everlasting destruction. In other words, the effect of their punishment – destruction – will be eternal. They will never resurrect again because they will eternally cease to exist.
Luke 16: 19-31—The Rich Man and Lazarus To begin with, the story is a parable that follows four parables before it. It begins with like-minded words used by Jesus to begin other parables—“a certain man” or “woman.”
Obviously, every point in a parable is not to be taken literally, e.g., in Jotham’s parable. In it, the trees and brambles talk to each other.
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus was not meant to be a description of where the dead wind up immediately after death. Parables aren’t intended to be factual accounts of real events. They were sometimes used by Jesus to minimize antagonism toward Himself, so as to reduce the danger of Him being killed before the appointed time.
Parables are stories designed to make a point. Jesus’ point: the truth of the gospel message; that salvation is beyond class, culture, and religious bounds.
He wanted the hearers to know too that if there is a hardened heart and a desired blindness to the truth, there won’t be a change of mind, even if someone is raised from the dead.
The Word “Hell”
Bible translators at times will translate based on pre-conceived ideas or theology. Like most Christians today, they believed in the popular notion of there being a place called “Hell” and what it is like. Consequently, the popular notion of “Hell” is applied 54 times to original words that loosely come close to the translator’s preconception.
In the Old Testament, “Hell” is translated 31 times from the Hebrew word “Sheol,” which means “the grave.”
In the New Testament, “Hell” is translated 10 times from the Greek word “Hades,” which means “the grave.” It is translated 12 times from the Greek “Gehenna,” which means “a place of burning.” “Hell” is translated one time from the Greek “Tartarus,” which means “a place of darkness.”
Thanks to these erroneous translations, the pagan concept of a place called “Hell” has been perpetuated for generations and is accepted as biblical fact.
A Loving God
As been shown, there isn’t now a place of burning called Hell. The dead who aren’t saved are simply dead in their graves. They will not burn until after the Millennium and after their resurrection. Their fiery destruction will be in a lake of fire that covers the face of the whole earth.
When this happens – their demise – it will break God’s heart. In fact, it now saddens God when the choice is made to reject His salvation. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. That’s why He sent his Son to die for us so that we could live with Him forever.
It is only those in His Son, Christ Jesus, who can bear God’s presence, though. That’s because Light and darkness do not mix. A sinful person that’s not covered and protected by Christ’s righteousness cannot live before a sinless, perfect God.
Therefore, the unsaved wicked will die before the Lord, who is like a consuming fire (Exodus 24: 17). He will not, as the devil has many believing, take delight in their deaths (Ezekiel 33: 11). Instead, that they will die will be a matter of serving justice. The wicked, after all, are sinful; having committed crimes against heaven and earth, against themselves, and others. And in their hearts and minds, they have chosen to ignore/refuse God’s Messianic gift of a pardon.
God’s character, which cannot change, is the Law. Hence, all who haven’t embraced the Lord is a lawbreaker. It is right and just that lawbreakers, having violated Life Himself, be punished. That sin and sinful people will be destroyed, is rightfully carrying out the sentence of the Law: the wages of sin is death (Romans 6: 23)…the soul that sins shall surely die (Ezekiel 18: 4).
Not only is justice served by their death, but so is the salvation plan that offers eternal life without sin. For God to be able to restore this world to its sinless state, sin must first be removed from it. Sin must be eradicated, not to ever exist again.
God has made this known, so when God’s protection through Jesus is rejected, the sinful person accepts what must be done—his or her removal from existence.
Those who love God should embrace this truth, and not be in cahoots with Satan. Christians should reject and stop spreading Satan’s lie that he will preside over sin, sinful angels, and sinful people in a fiery, eternal place of torture. If this were so, then sin would continue to always exist.
The wicked will no longer exist because of the second death. The second death – unlike the first death, likened throughout the Bible and by Jesus as a kind of unconscious sleep (John 11: 11-14) – is the death that doesn’t have a resurrection. No one will awake from it. Those who die in it are eternally dead. They won’t exist anywhere ever again.
The notion that the wicked will live and burn forever in conscious pain is a damnable lie, refuted by the Bible.