What about Hell? 10 things to know


A few people have asked for my views on hell. I have never written on hell before. Like the weather on Uranus, hell is not a subject I think much about. I’m unlikely to come up to you at a party and say, “Hey, what about hell?”

Hell is just not on my radar.

But I appreciate that hell has become something of a “hot” topic lately, another shibboleth if you like. On one side are those who say, “Hell is hell and you’re just have to accept it.” On the other side are those who find it inconceivable that a good God could cook his kids in an eternal roasting pan.

So what is hell? Is hell real? And how does hell fit into the gospel of grace?

To glean some answers I didn’t go to the internet (shock!). Neither did I fish around on Facebook (double-shock!). Instead, I read every scripture on the subject that I could find. This means you can check everything below in your Bible. Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself.

I should warn you upfront that the Bible doesn’t provide all of the answers to your questions about hell. But it surely provides some.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about hell:

1. The meaning of the English word “hell” has changed over the past few hundred years

Read the King James Bible and you may be confused by scriptures like these:

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:14, KJV)

How can hell be thrown into hell? That doesn’t make sense. Well it does if you appreciate that the word hell in middle English meant “to hide or conceal.” Today, the word hell means something different:

KJV “hell” = sheol/hades, the abode of the dead
Modern “hell” = the lake of fire, the fiery furnace, “the eternal fire,” etc.

In Biblical times, no one thought the dead went to hell. They went down to sheol (Hebrew) or hades (Greek), which are two names for the same nether region. A more accurate translation of the verse above is: “Then death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” One day there will be no more death and no more grave. That’s good news.

So before we proceed, it will help to clarify what I mean by the word “hell.” I’m going to go part company with ye old KJV and go with the modern meaning. Based on my reading of scripture hell is the place of eternal or final condemnation which…

–    Jesus described as a fiery furnace (Matt 13:42,50)
–    Paul described as everlasting destruction when Jesus appears in blazing fire (2 Thes 1:7-9)
–    Hebrews describes as a raging fire that devours the enemies of God (Heb 10:27)
–    James described as a place of fire (Jas 3:6)
–    Peter described as elemental destruction by fire (2 Pet 3:7,10)
–    Jude described as eternal fire (Jude 1:7)
–    John described as a lake of fire (Rev 20:14)

Whether hell is a literal furnace or lake, I can’t say. But the one adjective that most often appears with hell in the Bible is fire. In the New Testament alone the link between hell and fire appears in dozens of verses. Will the fire of hell prove to be real or a metaphor for something else? I don’t know. I don’t want to find out.

2. Hell is not sheol/hades

This point is worth repeating since many commentators think that sheol/hades consists of two compartments – smoking and non-smoking. You may have heard that the good guys go to “Abraham’s bosom” while the bad guys go to the other side. Nah. That’s a bad interpretation that suggests that Judgment Day has taken place already. Yet Jesus said the eternal fire or lake of fire or whatever-hell-is appears at the end of the age when he returns (Matt 25:41). Has Jesus returned? No. Then nobody is yet in hell.

The two-compartment view of hell is based on an over-literal interpretation of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). It’s a mistake to treat a prophetic parable as a Wikipedia entry for hell, especially when sheol/hades is described nowhere else as a place of fiery torment.

3. Hell is not the devil’s home – it’s his prison or execution chamber

All those cartoons depicting demons running their business from hell give the false impression that they are happy to be there. They are not there yet (Rev 20:10) and they live in terror of the place (Matt 8:29).

4. The Jews had little understanding of hell

Why did Jesus talk about fiery-hell so much? Before Jesus, Jewish people weren’t mindful of hell. What terrified them was death and sheol, the place of the dead (see Ps 18:5-6, Hos 13:14). Just as the modern mind is hell-focused, the Jewish mind was sheol-focused. Read the words of Job and you get the impression that some of these guys even had a romanticized view of sheol (eg: Job 17:13).

Jesus puts things in perspective. “There are worse things than physical death – let me tell you about hell” (see Matt 10:28).

5. Jesus’ descriptions of hell cannot be dismissed as prophecies of Jerusalem’s fall in AD70

Rather, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans can be interpreted, if you like, as a picture of ultimate and final judgment by God. I’ll talk more about this in a later post. For now, understand that the “Days of Vengeance” (past) ought not to be confused with the coming “Day of Wrath” (future).

6. Hell is the punch-line to the bad news of the law

Jesus typically preached on hell in the context of the law (Matt 5:22, 29, 30 18:9) and when rebuking the Pharisees and law-experts (Matt 23:15, 33). It’s like he was saying:

If you’re going to preach law, make sure you go the whole way and preach hell. If you’re going to preach carrots and sticks, make sure you’ve got the right Stick.

Hell is the cure for a watered-down law. Hell makes the law scary. The condemning ministry of the law reaches its ultimate expression in the eternal condemnation of hell.

Jesus also linked hell with Judgment Day (Matt 25:41, Luke 12:49, 17:29-30, John 16:6). Again, though, there was a strong link with the law. For instance, when explaining the parable of the weeds, those thrown into the fiery furnace are “those doing lawlessness” (Matt 13:42).

Hell - eternal torment?

7. The lake of fire is the second death

What is the lake of fire? There are three interpretations: (1) it is a literal place of eternal, never-ending torment, (2) it is symbolic of the second death, meaning final destruction, (3) it’s a place of purification and rehabilitation.

I find the third interpretation at odds with the Biblical description of the lake of fire as a place of hurt (Rev 2:11) and weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13:42,50). The Bible says nothing good about hell. (More on this in my next post.)

In my view, the Bible is being most clear when it describes the lake of fire as the second death (Rev 20:14). First death is physical death; only the body dies. But second death is the destruction of both body and soul (Matt 10:28).

I may be wrong about this, but I lean towards the view that second death is not eternal suffering but eternal destruction – meaning, those in it are destroyed or “diminished” in some way and that’s it forever. I appreciate there are scriptures that go either way on this point (click on the Table above if you’re interested), but when Hebrews 10 describes the raging fire of judgment “that will consume the enemies of God,” to me that suggests those who experience it are consumed, not tortured. God’s wrath is finite. You may disagree with me on this, and that’s fine. But I hope you agree that whatever hell is, it’s a place to avoid. Happily…

8. Hell is completely unnecessary

Nobody need go there and it is God’s will that nobody does! How do I know? I’ve seen the cross. I’ve seen the great lengths he has gone to make hell unnecessary. Hell is not for people but the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). Those who choose to follow the devil are breaking their Father’s heart.

Like death in the Garden, hell is not what God wants. It’s something we choose against his most strenuous desires.

9. Hell should not be used as a tool in evangelism

As I mentioned, Jesus preached hell in connection with the law. And those who prefer the bad news of the law to the good news of grace certainly need to hear about hell for it is the baddest news of all.

But to place hell at the center of the gospel is to mischaracterize God as a vengeful punisher who sends people to hell when in truth he is a loving Father who saves us from the hell of our own choices.

God didn’t create us to save us from hell. He made us so that we could share his life and enjoy him and each other. The purpose of life is not “escape hell.” Eternal life is knowing and experiencing God’s love now and for all eternity.

Threatening people with hell is no way to invite them into a relationship with their Father who loves them and yearns for them. When we make hell part of our message, we appeal to people’s worst fears and insecurities. Instead of returning to God like the Prodigal Son they will draw back in fear like the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. Jesus wants no shot-gun weddings.

10. The condemnation of hell has no place in the gospel of grace

Jesus’ gospel was not, “Turn or burn,” but “God’s kingdom is at hand and you can participate in it.” He was not interested in scaring the hell out of people but inviting all to enter the kingdom of heaven.

We haven’t been commissioned to preach the bad news of hell but the good news of the kingdom. As someone once said, “God never delights in people getting what they deserve. He is about saving us from what we deserve.” That’s grace. That’s the good news. And that’s the message the world most needs to hear.



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164 Comments on What about Hell? 10 things to know

  1. Some people want to mention hell in every sermon, and some people want to do away with it completely. I mention it about as much as Paul did. Thanks for posting about this, Paul, and beginning to tackle a subject that is mostly either overused or is explained away

    • I assume you are talking about the apostle Paul? Yes, Paul penned TWO-THIRDS of the NT and said in Acts 20:27 that he covered the “whole counsel of God,” and he only mentioned “hell” once and it was this: “O Death, where is your victory; ‘Hell’ where is your sting?” (It is usually translated “grave.”)

      The other place people seem to use Paul to defend eternal conscious torment is in 2 Thess 1:9 where it often reads, “eternal destruction away from (also “separated from,” “excluded from”) the face of the Lord. But apparently the grammatical construct is identical to that of the greetings such as “grace and peace FROM the Lord Jesus Christ.” The two ways it is translated are:
      1. Eternal destruction AWAY FROM the face of the Lord,
      2. Eternal (‘aionion’) destruction FROM the face of the Lord.

      These are two entirely different renderings with entirely different implications. Only a few translations give the correct meaning without adding the word “away.”

      I think the correct rendering negates “eternal conscious torment” (as coming from Paul) and at least points to annihilationism (but I would say it also allows for the position of the “Ultimate Restoration of all” considering the rest of Scripture).

      • There are four words which, I believe, have been mistranslated hell in the English Bible Versions: Sheol and Hades, Gehenna, and Tararus (ταρταρόω). Sheol and Hades share the same meaning, grave and the after life.
        Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom was a place which Jesus often referred to whilst teaching. For example: if your hand causes you to sin; if you call your brother a fool; pharisees, you brood of vipers; etc. This was the garbage dump where garbage and offal were burnt with unceasing fire. Sulphur was used to keep the fires burning hence the stench. This was also the place where the Jews sacrificed their children to Molech Jer 32:35. The word Gehenna is derived from Gei Ben Hinnom or Gei Hinnom.
        Tartarus (ταρταρόω) 2 Peter 2:4 is described in the Interlinear New Testament as “having cast to the deepest abyss”. There is no mention of fire in this passage.
        There are a number of translations which no longer use the word hell opting to use original Hebrew and Greek words instead. Young Literal Translation and The Weymouth New Testament are two such translations.

  2. hi paul, yep, this sure is a hot topic at the moment everywhere and your post definetely brought a lot of light into the subject for me. thanks for the research. 🙂

  3. paul van gaalen // April 23, 2013 at 12:46 am // Reply

    We could use either phase, but only one is motivated by Love, releasing the Kingdom of God on earth and other releases fear.

    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 john 4:18

  4. kilaltapunyua // April 23, 2013 at 1:00 am // Reply


  5. I can’t get my head around the thought that even though hell is real, we shouldn’t preach it.
    that simply doesn’t make sense. Sure, the gospel is about love, but if hell is real, no matter how much you avoid it, sugar coat it or play it down, its still there – it hasn’t gone away. When the crunch comes, people have to know that if its real, then there’s a good chance they could end up there. It would be cruel in the extreme to not warn them if it is really true.

    So we are back to square one. There is no half way ground, we can say we aren’t sure of what it is, but for the concept to have any meaning it has to be a very nasty place.

    I’ve looked a this subject for nearly 40 years, weighing up every scripture, reading the thoughts of many great writers, modern writers, radical thinkers and traditionalists, all I can say, in light of God’s character (which above all says that God IS love), is if hell is true, in any way shape or form then God as a cruel tyrant who cannot be trusted.

    When I say any way shape or form, I’m talking about eternal death/separation/punishment etc. My heart will not/cannot reconcile God with hell’s existence.

    So where does that leave the scriptures?? A very good question, and one that is going to have to question the very integrity of our beliefs and the way we view scripture.

    I for one, have no qualms in stating very strongly, that if hell is anything to do with eternal separation, death or torment, then I want no part of this God. That God is not the one I know and have grown to love intimately over 42 years.
    Whoever this other God is, can be filed away with the one who told the Jews to commit genocide, kill women and children in the most obscene ways, and commit endless atrocities that only the most vile monster would consider just and holy actions.

    But I know my God – the God of the new covenant – Jesus – and His heart for ALL mankind. And no matter how long it takes, or how difficult the task, he will not lose even one of his precious creation. He’s that kind of God.

    If my bible doesn’t say that, I’m either reading it wrong, or its just a disgusting myth.

    • Chelseataylor6 // April 23, 2013 at 8:36 am // Reply

      You are reading it wrong lol sorry

    • IF hell is eternal death/seperation/torment and IF that is what the rich man is experiencing right now that only asked Abraham for a drop of water he would take your place in a sec if he could have a second chance to know the Lord and spend all eternity with Him.

    • Jim. i hear what u r saying, but we cant deny the fact that the God of the Old Testament is one with Jesus and the same God. How do we reconcile what the God of the Old Testament allowed and even commanded His people to do to their enemies? namely savage and ruthless killing of men women and children? This is something i have been wondering for some time and still don’t have an answer to. Should we just throw away great chunks of the Bible simply because we can’t understand them?
      If that is so, then why not just dismiss everything that we don’t like or doesn’t make us feel good?
      I’m just throwing around some ideas and trying to come to some sort of understanding myself about all these subjects and God’s true character…

      • @garethv111Gareth: What you brought up is interesting because I think I heard JP talking about this and the fact that those men, women and children were hybrids because of those angels who mixed with women before the flood. So those “ruthlless killings” are only a result of his mercy.

      • Gareth. I too am interested in the question of God’s ‘apparent’ personality change from OT to NT. I reckon there is a way that this paradox can be harmonised, without throwing out chunks of the OT. Since Jesus is the exact representation of God, then “If it doesn’t look like Jesus, smell like Jesus, and sound like Jesus, it ain’t God”. But the NT doesn’t/can’t contain enough description of Jesus, to show us the whole of God. What if God is sooo unfathomable, His ways sooo incomprehensible (as is claimed a number of times in OT and NT) that it would take a long long time (perhaps eternity) of being with Him, to “fully get what He’s really like”? We all accept God can an does get angry (Jesus got angry), right? Well, I would hazard a guess that the anger of God is not only unimaginably frightening and powerful, but at the same time emanates from a God who is incredibly and perfectly loving. Can’t we just accept that God is perfectly loving (glimpses of which we see in OT and NT), perfectly angry (ie. no unrighteousness or shadow of evil in His anger), perfectly frightening, perfectly comforting, and purely good? And in accepting this, we might accept that what looks cruel/evil/nasty and un-Jesus-like to us in the OT, is simply due to out murky vision and lack of full understanding. Maybe destroying Sodom was a good, loving, frightening, just, holy thing to do, but just looks dodgy to us mere humans.

      • I agree with you

    • Excellent comment Jim.

    • And no you are not reading it wrong. As I heard Darin Hufford once say, if the kingdom of heaven is within, then is the kingdom of hell within also?

      I can personally see very little in the bible that refers to the afterlife. I’ve heard that the ancient Jews did not dwell on the afterlife but on THIS life. The kindgom of heaven is seen by the church as some place you go after death, but that is not clear in the bible at all.
      When I say to people the bible is not clear on the afterlife, they sometimes scrounge around for one or two verses to prove that it is.

      • chrisvanrooyen // June 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm //

        What do you think Peter was really asking Jesus when he asked if he could build shelters for them, I do not think Peter was as dull as many believe he was. What did Martha say to Jesus when he was on his way to Lazarus,s tomb. from these you can see that some Jews understood the old testament feast,s and ceremonies , and they were fascinated with the afterlife. These are just two new testament examples there are many others.

      • it seems, that at times Jesus was such a contradiction,it was a hard call.

    • If hell is real and so many are going to be torment forever and ever than pray tell me what kind of God would have kept silent at the fall of Adam and Eve? He didn’t mention THE most important thing -Hell, instead he said you would die, thereby remaining pretty much quite for 3000 years…

      • Hell is defined in the Bible as the second death, so actually God spoke about it in the very beginning. No surprises.

      • chrisvanrooyen // May 9, 2013 at 9:47 pm //

        The second death is defined as hell and if the first death happened in the garden then the second death is a return to dust, God said that satan would eat dust the rest of his days, What did satan want with Moses body. Bit way out there but makes one think.

    • Instead of reading all what man teaches, and if you have been reading the bible for 40 + years, then why is Holy Spirit not talking to you? My first year when I dove into scripture with a hunger and LOVE for Jesus Christ I was given revelation of God’s word, and yes, hell is a real place that we need to warn people about. How do I know? Because before I had a hunger for God’s word, I was sent to hell and Jesus took mercy on me and took me out. Jesus said as I was being brought back “Thou shall not have any gods before me”. I got the message loud and clear! I have followed Him ever since because I do deeply Love Him! I have taught in prison ministries and the streets, anywhere I have a chance… I am thankful for a second chance, and if you want to know scripture, ask Holy Spirit to help you. It is not how you perceive God and you have free will to choose. I choose Jesus no matter what anyone says! Most are false prophets and I follow no man, only Jesus! Amen!

    • Why can’t we just say HELL, “Man separated from God” clear enough? God is light! Without light there is no LIFE!

    • Difficult to describe but I have this definite impression that I’ve know Jesus since a very small child and have very definite heavenly impressions from the age of 2, like the Presence has always been around.
      Though as a young adult, the night of my salvation I had a vision of my spirit in prison and falling in a bottomless pit, cold, blackness, no hope, ETERNAL. No flames though, but enough horror in the sense of lostness and darkness that you wouldn’t wish this for your worst enemy.
      Is the Lord allowing this so we will REMEMBER where we come FROM, and where the heart of man is at without LIFE, LIGHT & LOVE?
      Are a lot of these questions and wondering about hell the fruits of our fears?
      As you get to KNOW the Father, the thought of hell itself becomes irrelevant where “death is swallowed up in victory” and “the former things don’t come to mind”.
      Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death… : for the former things are passed away.
      If so, the consciousness of hell will be gone too!
      – Yes, but what about people and death and hell…?
      – Yes but the bible talks about it, and….
      – Yes but the lake of fire and torture forever, doesn’t seem like a loving God could…
      – KNOW THE FATHER… and hell will take care of itself as death is swallowed up in victory.

    • Cheers

  6. If death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire .Then all that’s left is life.If in Corthians 115 22-28 The kingdom is handed back to God the father from Jesus our lord , as it reads then God will be ALL in ALL ,then maybe there is no diminishing in the lake of fire forever ,if the Father is going to be all,in all, then if people diminish this would read all in some or many.

  7. I’m still yet to read the last 3 paragraphs and I have learned quite a lot, since reading this topic. very interesting, I must go back to it,

    I’m being challenge thou, of all the testimonies of supposed saint who are still alive that have given testimonies in the media that because they did not do what they were told by the Lord, he sent them to hell and they heard screams and torments; blah blah blah and they decided to obey the Loed and he took them out of hell or those that have not disobeyed but God wanted them to know the true horror of hell and showed him. Then he came back in his spirit, I don’t know weather I believe what they say that God took them to hell to experience a bit of torment but it sure slaps in the face Paul of what you said, “You may have heard that the good guys go to “Abraham’s bosom” while the bad guys go to the other side. My problem with this is it suggests that Judgment Day has taken place already. Yet Jesus said the eternal fire or lake of fire or whatever-hell-is appears at the end of the age when he returns (Mt 25:41). Has Jesus returned? No. Then nobody is yet in hell..2

    This topic is definetly worth investigating more even thou I normally hate any topic of hell.

  8. Mr Ellis, you are mistaken about Hell. The Lake of Fire is real, literal sulfuric flame, and the torment is eternal and concious. The lost who reject the Lord Jesus Christ will burn there forever in eternal concious punishment and it is not restorative. They hate God on earth and have no place in their heart for Jesus so He has no place in Heaven for them, and, they will be burned forever.

    • Can you expound? Help bring some clarity to how you differ with Paul, and what you base that knowledge on.

    • What a wonderful representation of God’s message of reconciliation you have there Scalar. Have you forgotten that you were once lost yourself?

    • Colleen G. // April 23, 2013 at 8:20 am // Reply

      Just a question for your own ponderings- Have you pulled that conclusion solely from the pages of scripture alone? I ask sincerely as I keep discovering things that I once thought were proven biblical facts only to find out they were human teachings and not really what the whole of scripture says. Honestly.
      Just like the author here said hell just isn’t on my radar so I haven’t dove headlong into a deep study of it. I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb so I have no fear. I’ve got better ways to express the need for a Savior than describing eternal fire and pain. I want people to Love my Abba-Father not come to Him for a get-out-of-hell free card.

  9. Wow, that was incredible Paul! Thank you for clarifying where you stand. That answers a lot of questions I have had about you after reading through “10 Words” again. I thought, how could you present and call people into such a confident view of God’s grace and still believe that an eternal place of conscious torment weighs over all of humanity?

    Interestingly Preston Sprinkle, who did MOST of the research for the book “Erasing Hell” with Francis Chan (a book against “Love Wins”) came out recently that he has changed his view away from “ECT” (eternal conscious torment) towards that of annihilationism (or called Conditional Immortality):


    Also there is a new movie out right now (a drama, not a documentary) about the life of Edward Fudge called “Hell and Mr. Fudge” about annihilationism and how he came to this view and was, at the time, persecuted for it:


  10. I love your blog and appreciate the service you provide by sharing with us. My views on hell have been pretty fluid the last while as I seek to reconcile the idea of a good God with the infernalism I was raised with. I don’t know where I stand; regarding point 7, I found this gave me food for thought about “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and may give you some as well.

  11. ok,ya had to do this,good post, i going to share it,im sure to get feedback, especially from my CATHOLIC friend,this will be right up his alley.

  12. So, in the end….who brought us the “truth” about hell?
    In OT we dont find any preadhing about hell.
    So if you belive in a hell, you have to admit that Jesus came, and he was the one to tell us about hell.

    Well – if that is the “good news” I am very sorry that I live in the new covenant and not in the old. The old covenant was hard and with no grace, but at least the punishment for breaking the law was a short-lived impact.

    But as fore us poor people who was unfortunate enough to be born after Jesus, we shall be tormented and tortured for eternity if we don’t belive the “good news”

    Dont you see the problem?

    • Nope. Didn’t you read the post?

      • Sure I read the post. And I am asking – Are there any preaching about Hell i OT? No, there is not. So if you belive in Hell – WHO brought us the message about hell? The “christian” hell is NOT found any where in the bible if you read it in its original language.

      • Dear Wiggo, “Hell in the Old Testament…

      • Fifi, I had to delete your comment as it violates E2R’s comment policy in several respects. Please keep things short and no cutting and pasting. I am familiar with the article you quoted and rather than show the prevalence of hell in the OT, it shows how the KJV and other versions have historically translated Sheol as hell, a translation which makes little sense now that the meaning of the word hell has changed (as I explain in the post). For the purposes of discussion, let’s keep hell and sheol separate. They are not the same place. The scriptures in the table above do not refer to Sheol/Hades.



      • that paul he just spoils all the fun. ha ha.

    • wiggo, you can find grace Paraded throughout the OT and NT. Including hell. The children of Israel, David, Ruth, and sher nation was under the curse, Joseph’s family to name some. We are not poor my dear, we are rich in Christ and he “is altogether lovely.” We are under a better covenant cuz we are not all the days “subject to the fear of death.” That’s what the law brought. We have it better, much better. We have got to believe that Jesus is wonderful, caring, loving, strong and mighty on our behalf, despite the fact that hell exists. We may not want it, but there is nothing we can do about it.

  13. Rick Shafer // April 23, 2013 at 5:09 am // Reply

    At last, the clear definition of Hell along with CS Lewis’ statement. I have always answered the question, “What will God asked of us on Judgement Day”; I do not go into long theology nor even a short evangelistic “witness”, I merely say, “God will only ask one question: What did you do with My Beloved Son, Jesus” Should the Law be then mentioned that is when I mention “when the Law came 3000 died; when Jesus sent His Holy Spirit 3000 were born to new life in Him; so it is totally your choice”. But then comes the obvious question, “But a nice God would not let His creation to suffer like that or God must be a vengeful, bloody God. I have found that this type of person has swallowed so much of humanism that they are just blind to the Grace of the Father. I end the discussion early before the voices get loud by just asking: Suppose this God stuff is all true! What then would you do with Jesus the Christ the Messiah? It usually gets quiet then.

  14. Nicely written, Paul. Nothing profound to add, but to your point #9; when we use hell as a tool for evangelism, we make God out to the be lesser of two evils and communicate something to the extent of, “Hell is beyond bad, so your choice is that place, or the guy who wants to send you there. Which one do you choose?” That’s the best thing we can come up with?

  15. Hi Paul, how about Rev. 20:13-15? The 2nd resurrection of the dead, these people were judge according to their “works” (er’-gon). Are these people the old testament people?

    • I don’t believe the Bible has any qualifiers there. I will talk more about being “judged for what we have done” in a later post in my series on eternal security.

  16. There are 1st (1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; Rev. 20:4-6) and 2nd ( Revelation 20:12,14) resurrection of the dead according to the WORD. – 1st resurrection: “The dead in Christ shall rise first.” 2nd resurrection: “All of the unsaved, “small and great, stand before God”

  17. It is very very interesting reading everyone perspectives on hell. A topic that I do hate but I am for the first time in my whole life, actually interested in it for now, only because of the way you presented it Paul. You really have a way with words, praise be to God. He has blessed you with a unique gift of teaching and explanation.
    Personally, I wish there was no hell but let God be true and every one a liar, there is a hell, whether we like it or not and I believe different departments of hell but even what you wrote Paul, kind a challenged me on that. This scripture came to mind, over and over since I read this post, “They were tormented day and night and they had no rest.” After reading ur post, I am now wondering what that really means. I still have not enough time to read all of it, been busy but wow! This is a hot topic. I heard a true story about some Australians that wanted to dig deep in the earth and as they digded deeper, there was a strong smell and extreme heat, then they digged deeper and then the investigators heard loads of different voices and screaming. I told a Believer about it and he said it’s true, he saw it on the internet.
    I want to do a full investigation on what you written Paul then I’ll come to a conclusion and leave it at that, least I dwell on what is evil instead of good.

    • Growing up in Australia, I heard that story too, but was told it was Russians! I guess wherever you live the story involves people on the far side of the world.

      • My God Paul, you heard it too, I wonder how many more people heard it. It freaked me out but I am more freaked by Born Again Beleivers claming that God sent them to hell for a reason and they saw things we would not see in our worse nightmares. You have a very young girl on youtube claiming she saw Micheal Jackson and the Pope in hell and I’m like, I just have reservations about the claims. Not sure if I believe them but I believe there isa hell.

      • I wasn’t freaked out, more amused. It has all the hallmarks of an urban myth.

      • lol….. You are emotionally stronger than me Paul

      • JBlackwell // April 23, 2013 at 10:27 am //

        FIFI, as you stated in an earlier post and here, I too, wonder/question when people talk about their “experiences” in hell. Some well-known, greatly-revered preachers tell stories of their own accounts. What about these stories in light of what Paul said in this post that nobody is in hell YET (which I do believe as well). If we can’t accept their accounts, why do we follow anything else they teach. I’m speaking from a charismatic background of which I’ve recently began questioning some of the teachings.

      • i new the Russians had something to do with it, Poor Micheal Jackson,it seems he has been in on everything,. interesting, just the discussion of it is a little creepy, the enemy is still threatening….” you know a Australian is just a american with a attitude” the English kicked you out ,we lift.

  18. So what do you mean, “Eternal Destruction?” Like they will be like wiped out.

    • Is there any other kind of destruction? I think it’s significant that when describing God’s judgment, Jesus referred to Sodom and said, “It will be just like that” (Lu 17:28-30). Where is Sodom on the map? It’s gone. It’s history. Anyway, I encourage you to check out the scriptures in the table above, look at the meaning of the words in the languages in which they were spoken, and draw your own conclusions.

      • Paul, what do you make of the restoration promised of Sodom and Samaria in Ezekiel 16 where Israel is considered worse than both Sodom and Samaria and yet God promises to restore them all?

      • Not much. The NIV says restore but that word doesn’t appear in a literal translation. It seems odd to suggest Sodom would be restored since (a) it was completely destroyed leaving nothing to restore, (b) God said it would never be restored (Jer 49:18), (c) it never was restored, and (d) even in Biblical times Sodom had become a byword for survivor-less destruction (see Is 1:9).

      • Paul, A few thoughts in response to your dismissal of Ez 16: a) the word is –“shub (7725): to turn back, return.” In the interlinear it is a word that can be translated as restore as it means “a returning, bringing back.” b) Of course the rule is context, which I believe means “keep reading.” The prophets are replete with passages where God pronounces a final destruction upon Israel and other nations only to say a few chapters later, “And yet…” where He goes on about His mercy and a restoration. The Story ends with “all things new” (not all new things) and God “reconciling all things to Himself” until He is “all in all.” c) “Survivorless destruction.” Absolutely. There shall be no more embodiment of what causes sin, tears, or death. The evil of Sodom shall no more be operative. Isaiah says “all mankind… will look upon the dead bodies of those destroyed and loathe them.” How does “all mankind” look at mankind (itself) in this way? Also we are given the image of the “dry bones,” being resurrected.

        Anyway, Ez 16 is not pivotal by any means. The overarching problems I see with “annihilationism” have to do with one, it doesn’t change the assurance problem and two, the Biblical meaning of justice is restorative which means it necessitates the reconciliation of the perpetrators in the redemption and healing process since we are all inextricably linked together with others.

      • Philip, you missed the most important one – God said Sodom would not be restored (Jer 49:18). I am aware that God’s prophecies of judgment over Israel were often followed with proclamations of mercy, but Sodom is not Israel.

        I had a quick look at your site and it seems that the main arguments against what you call annihilationism are emotional. They are conclusions arrived at by default – by attacking straw men (eg: trusting in one’s faith) – rather than based on actual scripture (that I could see). I don’t want obscure references from old prophets; I want to hear it in plain words from Jesus et al.

        I’m really not trying to provoke or anything – as I say, my own thoughts on the subject are not set in concrete. But when Jesus (Mt 10:28) and Paul (2 Th 1:9) and the other NT writers say “destroy,” I’m inclined to think they meant what they said. I also understand restorative justice. Indeed, I am a beneficiary of God’s restorative justice. But restorative justice only works when both sides want to be reconciled.

        You will no doubt have responses to all my points. In the interests of keeping these comments brief, can I ask you to limit any response to this question: How does ultimate reconciliation account for what Jesus says to the goats in Mt 25:41 & 46?

      • I cannot interpret Christ’s words in Matthew 25 apart from His Person. Jesus came to fulfill the Law, the word of God, AS the Living Word of God. And God’s word/Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish all that He sets out for it to accomplish (Isa 55:11). The sum of the law is love set within the Shema: “The Lord thy God is ONE GOD and you shall love…” But every word/command of God through Christ becomes a promise. In the old covenant the “ten words” bring forth death; in the New they bring forth the promise of life. In Jesus EVERY WORD is fulfilled…FOR us and then IN us!

        In the Greek, when Jesus sums up the law, it’s in the indicative tense, “YOU WILL LOVE.” Not, “You should love” or “Love!” (imperative) or “You might love.” (subjuncitve). It’s a prophetic word and a creative command. Jesus is the Word through whom God creates all things. (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics p. 782 of IV.2).

        But “Annihilationism” makes God TWO for it attributes to Him two minds with two distinct purposes/outcomes: One to create and the other to un-create. It denies the overarching purpose and power of God through the Incarnation to recover His creation’s original value. The lost coin, sheep and son never lose their value just because they are lost! There is only ONE Lord, one faith, one Father, one fire, fulfilling the one purpose of God: “Let us make man in our image.”

      • Paul, I also believe in “eternal destruction.” You bet sin and evil will be eternally destroyed. That is why I don’t believe in “eternal conscious torment” because it depicts sin/evil/death/rebellion cycling forever. It apparently punishes sin with infinitely more sin! To have sin/death/hell an active reality parallel a holy God negates the promise of the “death of death” and at its core it is pure pagan dualism (good and evil co-existing eternally).

        But “eternal destruction” is a very vital part of understanding the ultimate reconciliation of all. “Annihilation” is what God does to ALL our sin. “I am crucified [destroyed] with Christ, nevertheless I live.”

        As far as Matthew 25 is concerned there are too many misconceptions to unravel here. I am writing a post to cover the many ways it is interpreted and the implications of each. It will be ready by your next post on “hell” to share with any who are interested to know why the final destruction of persons (“annihilationism”) stops short of accounting for all that God has revealed about His Story in His word.

      • Why is it that I can’t find one universalist who can give me a straight answer about the goats and what happens to them?

      • Paul, A word about your accusation that our site is primarily “emotional.” I feel that was unfair to publicly make that judgment when you only spent a few minutes reading it.

        We focus on Scripture but in the context of the Big Picture. As you say in your book, “We need to have a whole Bible theology.” But like Jesus we also appeal to our God-given emotions. Jesus said He was “filled with compassion” when He saw the crowds. Jesus appealed to the Pharisees’ God-given emotions when He said things like, “How many of you would give your child a stone…” or “How many of you would not help a poor child or ox that has fallen into a ditch on the sabbath?” I think that what you call “emotional” Jesus would call “compassion.”

        We need to ask, who put that deep desire in our redeemed hearts for all mankind to find life in Jesus and to worship Him? For there to be restoration and justice on the earth? For all to see what we see in the beauty of Christ? Where did that come from? Do you think you produced that apart from God? Please do not pass off the challenge to look deeper at the Story through your God-given emotions and negate something Jesus Himself did.

      • Are you suggesting I do not know what compassion is?

        I measured my words earlier because I didn’t want to provoke you but since you are provoked anyway let me now speak plainly. I have no problem with emotions. I have a BIG problem using emotions and mood music and especially children to elicit unthinking theological responses to questions that have little to do with the gospel or the great commission. “Is Davey in hell?” No, kid, Davey’s not in hell. Davey doesn’t even exist. And if he did he wouldn’t be in hell.

        I understand that the video is trying to correct a misperception, but it does so by first perpetuating that very misperception. Using children to advance dubious theological agendas is shameless enough. But putting hellish fears in their young mouths so you can knock down straw-men arguments is abhorrent. You may have a different perspective from the hellfire and brimstone preachers of old but you are engaging in exactly the same sort of manipulative fear-mongering. And last time I checked, fear is an emotion.

      • Woa, wait a second. I am confused. So your accusation of “emotional” was on account of the movie trailer? I need to hear what you are saying because I have not even seen the movie. It was just a launching place for a discussion on the subject of annihilationism and why we believe it falls short of framing “good news.” But I will consider removing it if people felt I was using it to be manipulative in any way. In fact I probably will since YOU thought it was(!)

        Somehow we were on different wavelengths and I apologize. I NEVER would accuse you of not having compassion Paul. So I apologize for that insinuation. I thought you were talking about our appeal to our God-given desire and hope that “none should perish but all should come to repentance.” Our appeal to how we are wired as human beings.

        But please let us back-up here. I do respect your opinion and I continue to learn from you. I am reading 10 Words again and am being immensely blessed once again. I took offense at your accusation but now I understand what you were referring to.

        So please, let there be grace and peace my brother…

      • Philip, yes, sorry, I should have made that clear – it was the movie trailer on your site that pressed my buttons. As a father I am sensitive to how children are used in the media and this really bugged me. It probably wouldn’t bother other people and I certainly don’t want to come across as the Thought Police – which is why I measured my words earlier. Normally posts with links in them don’t make it past WordPress’s spam filter – I never get to see them – but somehow your’s made it through and I thought it might be good to include some different opinions on this thread.

        I understand now that in your last comment you were referring to something completely different. Yes, that desire that none should perish is godly and God-given. However, I can’t build a theology on a desire especially given Jesus’ reaction to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem (which was a prophetic picture of ultimate judgment). Jesus wept over Jerusalem because his desires (“to gather your children”) were not their desires (“but you were not willing” – see Mt 23:37). If Jesus was ultimately going to get his way, he would not have said that. Neither would he have warned us about goats and discarded branches and weeding angels and eternal fire and all the other things.

        Even though I do not make hell part of the gospel, I take Jesus’ warnings seriously. It seems to me that those who preach ultimate reconciliation do not.

      • Paul, I am very glad we were able to clear that up. As you do, I also believe the most important message in the world is that God is madly in love with all humanity and died to save them all. (BTW, if you only knew what an amazing statement that is coming from a recovering 5 pt Calvinist!)

        I DID say that I was going to give an answer to the “goat question.” I said I needed to write a post on it because Matt 25 is wrought with religious baggage (you have obviously had to deal with some of it yourself). Just like you were not able to communicate your view above in <250 words neither can I. But I will try and give the main gist here at some point during your series on hell.

        As far as Jesus weeping, He wept over Lazarus even though He knew He would raise Him from the dead! He weeps because He feels the pain from human sin and death. But you can't determine the end of The Story by taking a glimpse half way through when everyone and everything looks hopeless. You can't "build a theology" by pulling pieces out of the middle of the Story. God said "All things reconciled"…and "all things new" for He will be "all in all" (literally "everything to everyone." 1 Cor 15)

        Taking Jesus' warnings seriously? Urgency? I do indeed feel an urgency. But I will have to wait to comment on that at another time.

      • Jesus wept for different reasons. He didn’t weep because Lazarus had rejected him, but because he was dead. To suggest the story is not over for those Jerusalemites who died in their sin and not resurrected is to add to the story that the Bible writes. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb 9:27). The only way your story works is if that is not true. Jesus warned the Pharisees that if they died in their sin they would not be able to go with him to heaven (John 8:21). He gave them none of the hope you are offering.

        There are many scriptures distinguishing the resurrection of the righteous from the ungodly. None of them say the ungodly rise to get another shot at accepting grace.

      • YES PAUL ALAS! NO MATTER HOW DAUNTING THAT SOUNDS “There are many scriptures distinguishing the resurrection of the righteous from the ungodly. None of them say the ungodly rise to get another shot at accepting grace.” THAT IS ACCURATE.

      • Indeed stern warnings to repent (change their thinking) or face consequences but never without hope. Jeremiah said, “In this I have hope: His mercies NEVER come to an end… For no one is cast off by the Lord forever….” (Lam 3–read whole chapter, talk about stern!) Judgment, yes, as I will point out in our article on Matt 25, but never the absence of hope in God’s love and presence. He will “never, never leave us or forsake us.”

        We can lob verses at each other all day but it all comes down to through which “lens” you choose to see the Story. You are seeing (at this point) that God will have no choice but to annihilate billions of His image-bearers that He created knowing they would be disposed of. But God said, “Let us make mankind in our image” and “It is finished.” Since His word “will not return void” that is what I expect He will do.

        There are many coming to see this “greater hope.” I just returned from a conference with Francois Du Toit who wrote The Mirror Bible (endorsed by Baxter Kruger, John Crowder, and Steve McVey, btw). Francois is clearly teaching the ultimate restoration of all. He taught that the lost coin “never lost its value” and that “underestimating this great salvation has always been the biggest sin of the church.”

      • Yes, I am familiar with these teachings and the men who preach them. I have written numerous articles and study notes challenging ultimate reconciliation. I have also supported these men and recommended their grace books on this site, so I find it saddening to learn that they think we who disagree with them are committing the “biggest sin.”

        I know a thing or two about lenses but I can’t buy into any lens that flat out contradicts the words of Jesus and indeed every single NT writer. I have read Lamentations 3 and I am left scratching my head as to how you can lift one verse out of context to overthrow both what Jesus said and, indeed, what Jeremiah said in that very chapter. “Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them! Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD.” How does that fit in your story?

      • Again Paul, your message of grace is revolutionary for the Church and I am so thankful for your voice. But your “radical grace message” leaves us begging the question: who is ultimately responsible for me finding my way to God? God’s free-will or mine? Our free-will leads us down many paths into our far countries and pig sties even into death and destruction. (The word “lost” -apolumi- also means “destroyed”) But the “lost” sheep is sought after, the “lost” coin is found and the “dead” son is come back to life (Jesus is the one telling these stories!) Your theology leaves it up to my faith about God rather than in Christ’s faith in His own creative/redemptive work on my behalf. Gal 2:20 says, “I live by the faith/faithfulness OF the Son of God…” and there is only “ONE faith.”

        The radical grace message demands ultimate restoration in order for it to be consistent. Many are naturally moving in this direction. However, last I read, those who endorsed du Toit are declaring they are still “agnostic” regarding UR not wanting to be “dogmatic” about it. Our website declares how we are not dogmatic about what “we” believe but we ARE dogmatic about what the one Body of Christ believes, together!

        Lamentations 3? Context of the word through the Living Word…keep reading: “And he will swallow up on this mountain, the covering that is cast over all peoples, THE VEIL that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever…Behold I am making all things new” (Isa 25:7; Rev 21).

      • Philip, your questions on free will are larger than this thread but it seems to me that the history of the world testifies to the enormous value God places on our freedom. Your argument that grace demands the coercion of those who freely reject grace seems a perversion to me. For God to take away our freedom in the final act would be out of character and inconsistent. It would lead to a heaven full of rebels who don’t want to be there and saints unacquainted with the God who wooed them.

        Yes, the gift of God’s righteousness is the result of Christ’s faithfulness, but it is only received by those who believe it (see Romans 3:22). Paul did and so do I but not everyone does.

        Do you seriously believe the prodigal son was destroyed? You know his “death” was metaphorical right? You know it’s a parable right? And the lost sheep was simply lost, nothing more. I can relate to these parables because at one time I was lost and now am found. I was in the pig sty but I’ve come home. But I was never destroyed. That’s just playing with words.

        Philip, forgive me, but I am finding this conversation to be somewhat frustrating. In your previous post you implied that I’m preaching the biggest sin in the church but now you’re thankful for my voice. I can’t deal with this sort of word-chopping, flip-flopping, scripture-bashing double-talk so I’m going to have to let you go.

      • I believe if man cannot look upon the face of God,that anyone who is not born again would have a problem in heaven,since if they where not born again they would fry.l

      • I see my mistake Paul. I misspoke by associating the word “destroy” with “lost.” I meant to say that the words “perish” and “lost” are from the same Greek word.

        But you were right to call me on that. Sorry about stirring up an “argument over words.”

        Regarding “coercion”–I don’t believe in divine coercion either but in my opinion I believe we have underestimated in our human minds the power and scope of “divine romance” which we are told is “beyond comprehension.” (Eph 3)

    • Earl Vordenberg, nice to have some sense of humour up in here lol

      • thank you, fifi, Ill be here all week,tip the waiter, and try the beef………I think my humor is a gift,being free from fear,and other negatives etc, I believe allows you to see what God intended you to do, I am noticing the negatives I had in the beginning,some forty odd years ago,have become my strengths,I had ,had a severe [little boy rejection problem] at that time,and know is the opposite,know feeling completely accepted,and though I grew up under great teachers,Bob Mumford, Derek prince,and though they were personal friends,Bob more then anyone,his teaching then and now is Grace based,i could not grasp it because of my rejection problem, there were problems with the discipleship,movement,which was because of certain people,it caused some damage,all is forgiven God has healed.but it certainly makes clear to me,how the enemy can keep you blind,for so long,but I believe his timing is PERFECT and I will be used.since I have been free.I have noticed this sight and Bobs teachings,complement each other,I can NOW combine the freedom I have with the teachings from him and grow, his teachings have always been about growing and maturing.
        ps: my wife says im a name dropper, sorry, it fit into the context,pray for me about that,and pray that the Lord provides a way for me to fellowship with Bob before he passes on.

        pss: The enemy HATES this teaching, because he realizes,the more you KNOW WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST,THE MORE DANGEROUS YOU WILL BE.

    • Thats food for thought JBlackwell. It just seems so cruel that God would allow someone to temporarily experience hell; to teach them a lesson. If i’M WRONG and theydid go there, sorry Jesus, I know all my sins are covered. Glory to you Lord.

      It don’t sit well with me when I hear it, my peace erodes slowly for a while; so it may not be true, I wish to God I knew for sure. Then I thought about all the terrible experiences I recieved soon after I got saved and God never instigated most of it but allowed it. How he had to speak to me in an audible voice to calm me down,Cuz I had my head slashed against the wall several times and an angel saved my head from bursting open, how I literally floated off my bed, and God saved me from falling, how unseen demons touched my body all over slightly – literally, how someone came from the bottomless pit and smelt like fire and brimstone, I did not see him in his full horror but I just got saved and I felt like all hell broke loose. The atmosphere in my home changed – literally, I felt God had his hands on my head everywhere i went, I literally felt like passing out everywhere, Jesus stepped into my body fully and moved my eyes and head to look at the lost and all i strongly sensed was pity, mercy, overwhelming love and compassion. Why this all happened to me, I don’t know but I only know why two happend. So maybe its true. Man, this subjects deep.

  19. The only thing Im confused about is this sounds like universalism? Or do those who reject Jesus just eventually get evaporated? But doesn’t that go against the we are eternal spirits? that spirits can’t die? I think the only reason hell is eternal is because human spirits are eternal so your choice to reject Christ is an eternal one? Otherwise why evangelize? even Hitler and the Boston terrorist eventually get a break and evaporate?

    • If our spirits are eternal, why would we need the gift of eternal life? Why would Jesus warn that our souls can be destroyed (Mt 10:28)? David, when I did this study one thing that really struck me was how little scriptural support there is for much of what we have been taught by tradition. And where the scriptures are vague, the room for manmade opportunity arises. Just look at the comments above. Presumably everyone here is reading the same Bible yet even in this little thread you have complete disagreement on some pretty fundamental issues. Let every man be determined in his own mind.

      • chrisvanrooyen // April 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm //

        Amen! To dust you will return. God said it.

      • Yes. I am now wondering if the word ‘eternal judgement’ and ‘eternal damnation’ is in the Scripture. 🙂

      • chrisvanrooyen // April 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm //

        Being destroyed forever sounds eternal to me.

      • chrisvanrooyen // April 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm //

        Sorry to put it more clearly a end in itself is eternal. How could God say I am the beginning and the end. He has no end. And he cannot lie.

      • chrisvanrooyen // April 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm //

        To put it even more clearly, the end could be the beginning of eternity,and the beginning the beginning of the end. For me language itself points to another dimension.

      • your just a good wordsmith,if you get a chance Mason Williams[ classical gas ],was a excellent wordsmith,a pleasure to read.

    • Everything God creates is eternal the big question is has God with our free will given us creation ability.

  20. Good post. I rarely think about Hell and usually it crosses my mind when someone who is trying to be funny says that he would rather be in Hell because all the interesting people will be there as only the boring and ‘good’ people will be in Heaven. Gosh….that annoys me. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending Jesus to condemn us. He sent Jesus to tell us that God isn’t angry with us and that He thinks we are the best part of His creation. I simply cannot accept that those who reject Jesus will go to Hell, just as I cannot believe those who have never heard of Jesus or those who are deceived into atheism will be sent there either. After all God says that he loved us even when we were still His enemies.

  21. Rick Shafer // April 23, 2013 at 11:02 am // Reply

    Oh my goodness! All these questions, forceful denials, “MY God will save everybody”. And here I have been thinking that Believers were the final joy left to us until Jesus comes. Don’t believe or accept an eternal damnation Hell? I think I will believe what Jesus stated and inspired–there is a Hell and it is the place where all those who denied, refused or cult believed-deceived is waiting. Try reading “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. Or just read The Revelation of John. End of line.

    • Colleen G. // April 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm // Reply

      While we were yet sinners Christ bled out and suffered to death in the most horrible way imaginable. God hating sinners because they are too naughty doesn’t fit that event. Not saying there isn’t a hell of some sort but God isn’t out on some sinner hating power trip.

  22. So then again why did Jesus tells us to preach the “good news” if you can believe what you want or not at all and still get to heaven Why? why did the apostles have to suffer so much and be martyred? why didn’t they just keep quiet and let everyone get to heaven in their own way? Take it further, why even have a Bible at all? if we can do our own thing believe our own way just let God straighten it out when we die? Im sure you will enjoy a house with Hitler and sadam hussen as neighbors?

  23. Don’t you reckon hell is seeing the one and only Holy Trinity and then not getting to spend eternity in their presence? Can never-ending fire mean anything if you’ve see the Glory and you will be without it?

  24. chrisvanrooyen // April 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm // Reply

    Hell is a mechanism that we choose to enable us to deny God. And yes it is real.

  25. Paul, I am just trying to get clarity and was mainly pointed at Bevie post. 🙂

    • Okay, cool beans. It’s been a weird day.

    • HI David. I really don’t know if there is a hell or not. To be honest, I don’t know much really. I am just going on my heart and on what I believe is the loving character of God. I do know that none of us get what we deserve. I also know that God’s grace brings us closer to Him, when we deserve to be separated from Him for all eternity. Maybe that is what Hell is….not the literal fires and brimstone that cartoons and films depict but eternal separation from God. After knowing God and His love and Grace, I reckon eternal separation from Him would be akin to Hell for me.

  26. I think the most important thing to know about hell would be to know you’re not going. If you know you’re saved and not going to hell, you can be passionate about other things; like heaven or sharing the love God has poured into your heart. One thing is certain, whatever hell is, we ought not use our finite minds to judge the God of heaven and earth. God is good and God is love, even when we have trouble understanding every detail of the universe. 🙂

    • bingo,it seems the enemy causes to many distractions, an old friend used to tell me, what ever gets between you and the lord is sin.

      • We don’t need any distractions, since looking to Jesus is the key to our victory. 🙂

        Just to add a general comment. I hope this is obvious, but I never intended for any part of my comment to be directed at Paul. Blessings!

  27. So satan lives on earth only. Non Christians who are dead are in hades waiting for judgement Christians live in heaven, now and when they die. OT believers are in hades also waiting? So where did Jesus go for the two days before he rose? Oh dear, this is doing my head in! If this is totally off point feel free to ignore until you cover it in another post.

    • Sue, I don’t think anyone can answer these questions definitively and I think that’s intentional. The Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity about the after-life. Sure, it’d be a nice subject for a Discovery Channel documentary but ultimately God doesn’t want us to be so disengaged from the here and now. I’ve been in church for four-plus decades and I’ve heard every crazy theory under the sun about the devil and where he lives and what he gets up to. None of that stuff ever brought me closer to Jesus.

  28. This is a hot topic indeed. Thanks Paul for sharing your views. I will make a study on this also. It’s the first time that I’ve heard of hell as a place of destruction of mind and soul. I will print this and study closely. Is the word ‘eternal torment’ in the Scripture?

  29. Hell is real. And it is eternal. It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. People choose hell.

    I also believe that the law has it’s purpose. The ministry of Ray Comfort, ‘The way of the master’ shows how the law is applied to a non-believer. A proud of heart person cannot receive God’s grace. He gives grace to the humble. We are humbled when we realise we have need for a saviour. It is then we step into God’s grace through faith.

    I know God reaches people in different ways and via different methods, and using the law is one of them.

  30. Paul, I just want to make sure I understand what your saying. Unless I misread, Are you saying then the saved spend eternity in heaven with God and the unsaved will cease to exist – the 2nd death (of the spirit)? kind of like what happens to animals etc?

    • I’m saying, check out the scriptures in the table above and draw your own conclusion. This hell-stuff isn’t the gospel. It’s not something we have to agree on, frankly. We will all be judged on our response to Jesus not hell. All you need to know about me is that I was raised one way (eternal torment) but now lean the other (eternal destruction). But I may change my mind again! What happens to the animals? The Bible doesn’t say.

  31. hmmm… i agree that hell is connected to the law and doesn’t need to be used to spread the good news. most people who know they are sinners don’t need to be told they are sinners – there is something inside of them that already knows that they aren’t “good enough”… “hellfire and damnation” messages do not in any way offer sinners a solution to the problem they already know they have… they don’t need a prognosis – they need the CURE!
    if hell is defined merely as living in separation from God, then unbelievers are in hell in the here and now – and i don’t see any of them going up in flames! rather, it’s believers who are baptized with fire… the way i see it – being made “one with the fire” is what prevents us from being being “burnt up” by it….

  32. Thank you Paul for sharing the reality of Hell and the fact we are not going there. This is really Good News. The knowledge that this Good News was bought for me by Grace, is Good News. Reconciliation to God is Good News, heaven is Good News and the rescue from hell is Good News. We should share Hell as Good News. Hell is not a fearful word anymore than Grace is a licentious word. They are both good words when you are able to share them as Good News. I use Luke 18:18-23 to share the Grace message because so many choose their performance over following Jesus

  33. Gracefully written, Praise God!…one footnote tho…”there was a certain man named Lazarus”…not a parable. But, I must say I love your site here. I subscribe & enjoy!
    thank you so much,

  34. Apart from some of the singing in church my testimony of a taste of hell is: When I was born again it was under the ministry of Dr Billy Graham 20 odd years ago now. My life was a complete mess. I remember the spirit brought deep conviction of sin and righteousness and judgement, just as Jesus said he would. It was a work of God the Holy Spirit, not man. It felt very hot at the time!! I realised I owed God personally a huge debt I could not pay. My point is that I was brought to a point where my spiritual bankruptcy was completely obvious to me. God did that. But ….. then he showed me the cross. Jesus already paid my debt for me. I believed and received Him and became a child of God. Did I deserve such mercy …. no! But I thank God for it. What if I had chosen to pay the debt myself? I can only think if Hebrews chapter 6 vs 4-7. I think CS Lewis was spot on. My testimony is that it’s all true. There will be a Judgement. Should we preach it? How, without understanding the gravity of sin, how could I really understand the depths of his mercy and love and what he did for me?

    • That’s what boggles my mind. If hell is that bad then I could never thank him enough for what He’s done for me.

  35. Thank you for your balanced and careful thinking about this topic. I really like how you give all viewpoints in a balanced approach….GOD of CHOICES….yet He persues us constantly with His great love! Amazing

  36. Tom Winzenburg // April 26, 2013 at 2:31 am // Reply

    Hi Paul. This may be a bit off topic, but have you by chance read The Parousia by J. Stuart Russell?

  37. Jemjem aeras // April 26, 2013 at 3:49 am // Reply

    wait so if judgment has yet to come… and hell hasn’t come?
    where is the devil and the demons?
    where are the dead who rejected Christ?
    where are the dead who accepted Christ?

    hoping to get a response…

    • Then you may be disappointed for although many will offer you their speculations, the Bible offers few definitive answers on these points. It’s as if we don’t need to know any of this in order to complete the mission.

      • Love that answer…! Great reminder.

      • Yes. Good answer Paul. In my opinion, endless speculation and debate is simply is a weapon of mass distraction. Let us keep our eyes on our Saviour Jesus and our focus on loving each other, and even if we disagree on Hell and Judgement, then let us agree to disagree.

      • Jemjem aeras // April 27, 2013 at 12:24 am //

        haha aww okay. 😛

        well…back to Jesus. 🙂

    • chrisvanrooyen // April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm // Reply

      These questions are only answered by accepting Gods definition of life and not our own. Postponed death is not life.

  38. Asking the question “Can a loving God send people to hell?” is akin to to asking “Can God created something so big that He cannot carry it?”. God justice and love fully met at the cross! But without the cleansing blood of Jesus that satisfy the righteous demand of a just God; a sinner can only expect to receive God’s holy indignation and wrath which he will unleash against all sins and lawlessness. God’s love sent his Son to the cross; now God’s justice demand the believer’s justification. But for the unbeliever: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A SINNER TO LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF A HOLY GOD; not in the past, nor in the present or in all eternity!

  39. Jesus promised salvation to the dying thief who uttered just a simple confession. Many people may have just done the same before they breathe their last. Jesus may also choose to appear to many at their death bed and get them saved. Don’t be surprise to see Hitler in heaven if he had ever called on the name of Jesus even once in his life time. Heaven is sure a highly populated place according to Revelation 5. The notion that “God will have no choice but to annihilate billions of His image-bearers that He created” (see phillip@godslovewins post) does not reflect the God that I know who is not only loving and just but also all-knowing and all powerful. The Lord is mighty to save. Isa 63:1

  40. Strange that you post elsewhere that God’s love is unconditional and never EVER fails, If one person is suffering torment in eternal hell then God has failed in my book. You can’t say his love is totally unconditional and then turn around and say that people go to hell for not having heard the gospel. What about the billions who’ve never even heard of Jesus over the centuries? What about those who have suffered so much pain and abuse at the hands of the church and feel their only option is to walk away altogether? Are they then to suffer for eternity all over again? I am seeing a few contradictions in these articles and which might just show some ‘kicking against the goads’.

    • As I explain in the post above, I don’t think anyone suffers eternal torment.

      As for unconditional love, let’s say I declare my unconditional love for you but you continue to write nasty comments on my blog. Has my love for you changed you? No. You are the same person you always were. It takes two to tango and unless you receive my love you will never experience it. There is no contradiction.

      • Sorry I misunderstood there.
        I also hope you don’t think my comments are nasty because they are not meant to be. Sorry if it seems that way. I just challenge the inconsistencies that I see that’s all.

        I agree with you that the love of God will not be experienced by those who shut it out, and there is suffering away from it (we all do this to some degree don’t we?). I just don’t see all this as being about the afterlife, that’s all. I think it pertains to this life. What happens after this life is anyone’s guess really.

      • My apologies. Nasty was the wrong word. I blame reduced social cues theory.

      • LOL….way to go Paul. You answered that one neatly. I heard the same kind of thing over and over. They think God is horrible cuz hell exist, if god was really nasty, everyone who hates him or don’t believe on him would instantly perish or be lost – forever. If God was really that childish, he would say, ok then, you don’t love me, you think I’m horrible, go to hell and they would. Thank god, he is a gentleman, he will not force. Or may be some want him to force then they will say, he is horrible cuz he uses force. You can’t win LOL.

  41. paul, in your research do you find a difference between hades and gehenna?
    i believe there is a difference – that hades is the place of the dead – and that before Christ, it actually was, at one time, seperated into 2 parts…. but “abraham’s bosom” packed up and moved out to be in Christ when He came to announce his victory over death to all those who died before His death and resurrection…. gehenna, on the other hand, was the trash dump for dead things… things that didn’t have life in them. i don’t think its a coincidence that babies were sacrificed there – it is a picture of the destruction of a person that had potentiental for “life”….

    • the reason i ask is bc you didn’t actually mention gehenna in your post, but what you are describing as hell seems to be what Jesus used the word gehenna for… my summary: hades is the place where unbelievers go when they die – bc there is no Life of Christ in them… heaven is where believers go when they die – to be with Christ bc His Life IS in them… gehenna describes the firey place of destruction where those who do not have Christ in them go after judgement…

    • Yes, there is a difference. Gehenna is the metaphor Jesus used to describe an unfamiliar place that was not the familiar Sheol/Hades. Hades is the place for physical death; Gehenna represents the place of second death.

      • thanks 🙂
        im still trying to wrap my head around why some people don’t believe the unsaved will end up in hell… an egg is receptive to being fertilized and made into a living thing for only so long – if it is unfertilized it is usually consumed by something else that is actually alive….

      • You might be interested in my next post Jennie. In it I will list 12 reasons why the sentimental view appeals.

      • jennie // May 1, 2013 at 1:30 am //

        oh definitely – i’ll be looking forward to it!

    • chrisvanrooyen // April 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm // Reply

      Great comments

  42. I find this strange! Over the centuries there are millions who’ve the Gospel preached to them many times but refuse to believe and be saved. One of the reasons (question) they gave for their unbelief is this: “What about the millions who’ve never even heard of Jesus over the centuries?” Really it is not our problem to worry about the millions because God is just and will deal with them accordingly. May I ask “What are you going to do with the Gospel of God’s grace and love today?”

    • That looks like a response to my comment there. If you look I actually said ‘billions’.
      But either way I was questioning the notion taught in Christianity (generally I mean) of ‘only christians go to heaven’, when probably three-quarters of the world that has lived up to this point would not have even heard the gospel. So there was no opportunity to ‘believe and be saved’.
      However I agree it’s not our problem, and we have to trust God in all this. But it does create some serious questions for many people over ‘Christians are saved, but unbelievers are not’.

      • Pat Hing // May 3, 2013 at 3:42 am //

        Your comment did trigger my thought about the salvation for those who’ve never even heard of Jesus. I purposely used ‘millions’ because I think there are more who are saved than most of us imagine. Please see my post on 28 April 4.21am for my reasoning. Thanks for responding; I was getting bored waiting for someone to say something about my posts.

  43. Fascinating and timely post. So many interesting and lively comments ~ not enough time to read them all, so maybe this was suggested ~ God IS love. Love provides a choice ~ to love or not to love, to receive a gift or not receive a gift. God gives us a choice. He loves us enough not to leave us in the place of condemnation, where we deserve to be, because He is, after alll JUST and HOLY (another aspect of His nature along with being LOVE) and we, after all, are not. What a loving God, a just, holy, perfect and merciful God, that yet while we were still sinners, He sent His son to die for us that we might NOT be judged, found guilty and seperated from Him, who is HOLY and PERFECT, for eternity, but instead because of HIs great LOVE for us, we might, if we choose, spend eternity in paradise with Him, and not spend it in hell, without Him. The key component of it being hell is that we will not be with Him!

    • chrisvanrooyen // May 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm // Reply

      Hi Curlygirl
      What good news we will not be judged only the dead will be judged God is the God of the living and not the dead , Your comments are a awesome reminder of the gift that I have in Jesus not postponed but to be lived out in the present. Time should be of no consequence for us that believe.

      We can choose the nothingness or we can choose Life .

  44. The more I read these comments the more I realize what a fantasy world I lived in for over 40 years. Ever hear of cognitive dissonance? That’s the problem here. You’ve been taught to believe something since childhood by the people you love -and it’s just too hard to just believe the truth. If the bible is true -then why not test it out with solid evidence -outside of the books of the bible itself (otherwise your reasoning is just like the Muslim and the Mormons). I dare you to study early church history and ancient history, if you are honest enough you will soon realize that to trust the books put together by frail and even wicked men should not be trusted as the word of god.

    • Not sure who you are directing these sweeping generalizations towards Todd, but speaking for myself I can assure you that my views were certainly NOT the ones I was raised with. As for testing the Bible, yes, that is an excellent idea. That’s why I’m here in fact. I’ve tested it’s claims and have found God’s promises to be true. I am one satisfied customer.

  45. chrisvanrooyen // June 15, 2013 at 9:11 am // Reply

    I believe that when we see the mess we have CREATED we will understand all things.

  46. look, i see after death, all of you want to go to heaven, sorry, dead is dead, you afraid of death, the wages of sin is death, that Jesus brought us Life, i mean resurrection, remember what he said to the thief, truly i say to you today, you will be with me in paradise(Kingdom of God), this is the correct translation, unfortunately many of the translations are not correct, paradise/heaven is here on earth, it means Kingdom of God, he will remember the thief in first resurrection, thief is not in heaven now, after death spirit returns to God, in safe place, in three days he was sleep to destroy our sins,

  47. The doctrine of hell is central to the preaching of the gospel since this is what Jesus came to save us from. Annihilationism denies the atonement: it implies Jesus did not need to die because it states there is no ETERNAL punishment to save people from!

    • Hi Andrew
      Jesus came to save us from ourselves. if he wanted to save us from hell he would have simply destroyed hell. It is amusing that hell only becomes real to man once he is “saved” before this it has no impact or effect and is a joke I have not met one person that accepted Jesus because of their fear of hell, So it seems hell is for the “saved* or maybe not so saved.

      • that Chris, makes a interesting point, …its shifts the focus,don’t tell the fire and brimstone preachers, I came to give you life, makes for a deeper relationship.

      • A resent news item on the news last night was how a group of gays were attacking some Christians who were protesting them,there signs said [repent or else] and I remember that attitude never did any thing for me,before i knew the Lord,..just what I needed more burden and fear,its my opinion, the gays are having enough of a identity crisis [burden and fear and what ever else you want to throw in there]……….so much for [it is the goodness of God that brings men to repentance and [if anyone comes to me, in no way will i cast him out].

    • chrisvanrooyen // July 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm // Reply

      Returning to dust forever is not eternal punishment.No wait that is just not good enough, I want those that don,t make it to burn so that I can sit on my deck chair by the pool in my golden mansion and listen to their cries of torment, this will remind me of just how good Heaven is.

  48. Hell is real and it is the Lake of fire, but after resurrection, hades is not the hell (prison), he came to preach the good news, the eternal life ( resurrection ) ( Kingdom of God ), who accept him and practicing righteousness, will enter Kingdom of God, and who that reject God even after second chance (2nd resurrection) will be thrown into lake of fire, universalism is saying this: Malachi 3:2-3
    2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, And like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.

    that lake of fire will be refining fire, that indeed Jesus Christ is savior of the whole world, not merely offerer of salvation,

    • chrisvanrooyen // July 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm // Reply

      Hi Eric I am already resurrected, Jesus is coming back to give me my eternal body, not eternal life I have this already. If I did not then when he comes back I would be burnt in the fire, return to dust as promised. You need to be resurrected now.

  49. I read some testimonies about Hell, that Jesus with long hair (may be real Jesus didn’t have long hair) said to an asian girl, Come I wanna show you deeper things of Heaven, then suddenly took her to Hell, WHAT? is Jesus a Liar? NO, how can people insisting on Hell after death, by just some dreams or visions! they are the primary target of Satan, even
    i don’t think Satan is ugly, he is a beautiful angel, and can transform into anyone,

    • Hi Eric, I to have heard testimonies of people who died and came back,after i listen to some it came to my attention that no mention of Jesus etc or anything that came close to him was mentioned,one was a guy who was told not to turn around,and said the voice said you know who this is? and the voice told him he had something for him to do ,and was sending back,and the voice told him,not to make him mad,because you don’t want to make me mad,the man said he saw light from behind him,and felt a lot of love,and then he came back. ok …1.way all the mystery,I don’t get everything right. ,but the holy spirit has become a pretty strong witness as of late in me,to many red flags for me,don’t make me mad?don’t turn around?so much for going boldly in the throne room. it was a little to iffy for me.I used to think a lot of them were cool,then I began thinking, that doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know.

      • Muslims Believe in this, for grave punishment they said after death ALL the people will
        go to hades (real meaning sheol that we name it) and just for one night in our time, one day, the person who practices Law will be punished so lightly but the wicked more severe by angels, then after that awaiting resurrection, when i told them the punishment will be for ever or until resurrection, they started to laugh, they said you are making God a great torturer, his purpose was not to create us to torture us,


  50. If there was no Hell then evil would win and then you would have no fear of God to hold you back from your sin as it says even in Eccl 8:11.Hell is the choice people make to be eternally separated from God.because they see God as a religious tyrannt and celestial killjoy without being conciously aware of it during their daily living,until asked the question.When the choice not to believe is made, God respects that and he has given us free will so if we wish to remain separated from him through unbelief,he will grant your wish forever.But the consequences are dire to say the least. The bible to talks alot about the wrath of God to come collectively and individually.

    • Hell has not overcome fear and sin Jesus has. God,s wrath is not for his children, they unfortunately have the greatest focus on it. The bible talks a whole lot more about the love of God.If there was no hell then evil would win , what a ridiculous statement.

    • Do you really think that Satan is winning hands down by taking Trillions into Hell?
      what a weak God!

      I don’t think God wants to choose just few people and destroy the rest, he knows we are powerless.

      Doctrine of Hell is the Doctrine of Devil (Father of Lies), check the Codex Sinaiticus website and see the Translations of Revelation for yourself.

      • and I forgot to say something, this World itself is a place of torment 😀

      • The attempts to force these ideas about the existence of hell have been unrelenting. In an effort to be more than fair, Paul has allowed attempt after attempt to present the same notion, using every imaginable reference and logic of men. Everything, that is, except for the Bible. There seems to be a realization that these ideas of men on hell are not in the Bible. Sure, there have been a few vague references in an attempt to legitimize these ideas, but the Bible does not explicitly say what they are saying and expect us to believe. If it did, we would not be asked to look into other sources. If the Bible has just one verse that says there are no lasting consequences for not accepting Jesus in this life, it is yet to be shared. All we’ve seen is drawing conclusions that are not there and adding to what the scripture says. The site that we were referred to clearly admits they do not place the same faith in the Codex Sinaiticus as we do in the Bible. The following quote was taken from the site – “These Institutions recognize that events concerning the history of the Codex Sinaiticus, from 1844 to this very day, are not fully known; hence, they are susceptible to widely divergent interpretations and recountings that are evaluated differently as to their form and essence.”

        It is a well known fact that Christians get their beliefs from the Bible. Rather than tap dance all around that – either the Bible says it, or the Bible doesn’t say it. Any presentation of gospel truth must be founded on Biblical proof.

      • I’m not fighting here, I’m going to say, then who translate it to “Forever and ever”? even “forever and ever” is not the correct translations of “αιωνοϲ των αιωνων” notice these two words are not the same if we want to translate it to “forever and ever” I’m not saying exactly the correct translation is “age of the ages” but when I’m comparing them the word AIONOS is the adjective of AION, and it is different from AIONON, something is wrong, I mean AIONOS is sub-AIONON, I mean AIONOS is inside the AIONON (age inside a bigger age) or an age from ages (I don’t know how many ages).

        I can’t say AIONOS means “forever” and AIONON is “ever or forever” too!

        who believes in ECT (eternal conscious torment) brings the verse Matthew 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (the Parallelism) and there are other verses too, I’m just bringing one of them.

      • Hi Eric, I had to trim your interesting but lengthy study as it violated E2R’s comment policy. I appreciate there are scriptures that go both ways on this issue, which is why I listed them in the table above. But wouldn’t you agree that the vast majority of scriptures suggest death rather than eternal conscious torment? The word kolasis (punishment) only appears twice in the Bible (Mt 25:46, 1 Jn 4:18). But the consequences of rejecting life are described as death and perishing many times. Even if you do opt for the poorly supported torment scenario, you will not find any scriptures that say hell is temporary. To come to this conclusion you have to make inferences that contradict what Jesus actually said.

        In Matthew 25:46, Jesus says the righteous go away to eternal life and the unrighteous do not. However you define punishment, you would have to agree that it is something other than eternal life.

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