The sentimental view of Hell

Here’s an interesting fact: Jesus preached about hell a lot while Paul never mentioned it by name. Have you ever wondered why?

The reason has to do with their different audiences. Since Jesus mostly preached the law to those under law, it was necessary for him to be a hellfire preacher. Hence his references to the “fiery furnace” (Mt 13:42, 50), the “eternal fire” (Mt 18:9, 25:41) and the fire that “never goes out” (Mk 9:43). As we saw in the last post, the condemning ministry of the law reaches its ultimate expression in the eternal condemnation of hell.

What does that mean for you?

If you are seeking God’s approval through the law, then you need to know about hell. Hell is for “workers of lawlessness,” said Jesus to the law-conscious (Mat 13:42). If you’re going to choose the faithless path of self-justification and law-keeping, you’d better be prepared to do whatever it takes to avoid hell, even if it means chopping off sinning limbs.

Paul, in contrast, preached mainly to those under grace. Since the bad news of hell (getting what we deserve) is inconsistent with the good news of grace (getting what we don’t deserve), Paul never mentions it. Sure, he did say on one occasion that there would be everlasting destruction for those who don’t heed the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Th 1:8-9). But most of the time Paul simply preached the benefits of grace rather than the consequences of rejecting it.

Like Paul, you and I have been commissioned to preach the good news of heaven rather than the bad news of hell. But lately I find myself fielding questions on the latter because of what I call the sentimental view of hell. By “sentimental” I mean romanticized and unscriptural. This view of hell is not the one you grew up with but it may be one you’ve heard about via Facebook.

The sentimental view of hell basically looks like this:

1. Hell doesn’t exist

Then why does Jesus warn against it? There are 20-plus scriptures in the New Testament that refer to a fiery hell, a fiery furnace, or eternal fire. Some say, “Those fiery scriptures are actually referring to the burning destruction of Jerusalem. Since that happened already, those scriptures have no relevance for us today.”

Certainly the destruction of Jerusalem was hellish. The Romans killed a lot of people. But they didn’t destroy anyone’s soul. Yet Jesus said hell was a place where both body and soul would be destroyed together (Mat 10:28). Either Jesus was confused or hell is real.

In fact, hell has to exist. Hell is essential for the same reason the tree of knowledge of good and evil was necessary in the Garden of Eden. Without the opportunity to make choices contrary to God’s wishes, there is no freedom of choice and without freedom there is no love.

Think of it like this: One woman is forced into a loveless marriage while another marries her childhood sweetheart. Both women are married but each has a different view of marriage. The first woman sees marriage as a hellish prison; the second sees marriage as a blessing from heaven. I’m not making value judgments about singleness vs. marriage. I’m trying to show you that the value you place on marriage depends on whether or not you are free to marry.

We will never value our “marriage” to God unless we freely choose it. We are creatures of liberty. We do not respond well to coercion. If God were to force himself upon us, many would hate him.

hell_ChestertonThankfully, Jesus is gracious and kind and a shot-gun wedding is the last thing he wants. He hasn’t come to our door with a battering ram but a gentle knock. The Lover of our souls woos and waits to see what we will do with his love. Of course, the smart thing to do is to respond and let him in! But if you resist him, he will not force his way in.

Those who claim hell cannot exist might as well argue that lies cannot exist or death cannot exist, yet they do – not because God wants them for us but because we reject the better gifts he showers upon us.

2. Hell is not that bad – it’s a place of purification/restoration

Jesus described hell as a place for the cursed, “an eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41). In the scriptures that describe hell, there is never the slightest hint that anything good happens there. Instead we find phrases like “raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Heb 10:27) and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mat 13:42,50). That doesn’t sound blessed to me.

Although Peter spoke of our faith being tested by fire, he was referring to the fiery trials of life, not the consuming fire of hell (1 Pet 1:7). And Paul spoke of a metaphorical fire that tests our works (1 Cor 3:15). Hellfire, in contrast, tests nothing. It just devours and destroys.

3. Hell is neither hopeless nor permanent

Hell is typically described in the Bible as a place of destruction (see the scriptures listed in this Table). What will it be like?  Jesus said the destruction of hell would be like the destruction of Sodom, meaning complete and total (Lu 17:29-30).

In the Old Testament, the Lord said no one would ever live in Sodom again (Jer 49:18). And by the time the New Testament came around, Sodom had become a byword for total obliteration.

Go look for Sodom on a map and you won’t find it. Why not? God destroyed it. It’s gone for good. “No one will ever live there again,” (Jer 49:18). That’s what hell will be like, said Jesus. There is not one scripture that hints at exit doors for hell.

4. Hell is located within Jesus somewhere – so it’s all good

And yet Jesus referred to a place of “outer darkness” (Mt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). Wherever hell is, it is not sequestered inside the kingdom. On the day of judgment Jesus will say to the sheep “come to me” and to the goats “depart from me.” In many of the parables Jesus taught, there was a clear distinction between those inside with him and those outside without him. Paul had a similar understanding:

Jesus will render vengeance to those who do not know God and do not heed the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer everlasting destruction and be shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. (2 Th 1:8-9, my paraphrase)

As you can see, none of these four sentimental notions is based on scripture. Indeed, they are all 180 degrees opposed to scripture. So how is it that they have gained such wide appeal? Maybe it’s because no one reads the Bible any more. When you swap the Good Book for Facebook your theology is bound to be shaped by “Likes” and “Shares” rather than What Jesus actually said.

hell_RutherfordThere are some loud voices on Facebook. I hear them whenever I say outrageous things like “Hell is completely unnecessary” or “The bad news of hell has no place in the good news of heaven.” Preach the gospel of grace on Facebook and you’ll encounter haters, critics, and stone-throwers. Try and engage with these folk and you will be met with the proverbial “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I’m not bagging Facebook. I’m just saying it’s a dumb place to learn about hell.

Although, now that I think about it…


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108 Comments on The sentimental view of Hell

  1. And now, let the hand-wringing begin…

  2. Regardless of what position you take, you will find conservative scholars that have rethought their position on this all over the map. I started rethinking the matter while in graduate school in Biblical Studies when I looked at pro and con of arguments. It was not sentimentality that started making me rethink things, it was that traditionalists were not doing a great job of dealing with the historical, grammatical, covenantal, and historical context of the Bible. I started rethinking these things over ten years ago, when I was still legalistic and well before I heard of the “grace” message. Let us not be so quick to fall into dogmatism and insist that one view is the “orthodox” view.

  3. i would be very upset if there was no eternal torment. i wanna see the devil and his cohorts suffer there forever!

  4. Here is what I think Hell is… it’s people who cast off, shun, treat with contempt… anyone who has a different view of scripture or what happens after we die, than they do. It’s people who NEED Hell to scare you into a relationship with Jesus.
    I completely understand where you come from on this… but I just feel that a lot of what is being talked about (what you are calling a “sentimental view”) is being talked about in light of what the people believed at the time. For instance, what the predominant view of “Hell” was at that time.” How burning always represented “Refinement”…
    Things like that.
    I guess I don’t know how exactly Hell looks.
    I DO believe that people can and will deny the limitless Grace of Jesus… but I think we might be surprised at just “who” is denying it.
    Most people who are talking about it are not “Trying to be sentimental or soft” we just really Trust that Jesus is THAT GOOD and THAT LOVING.

  5. This article makes people who discuss these things on Facebook sound kind of stupid and vain (looking for ‘likes’ etc), and while this may be true in some cases in general I see it differently.

    I don’t think that people are not reading the bible, because it’s the very thing they are fighting and arguing over day after day on the threads I see, However I do think that many people are delving into the actual meaning of words (Gehenna, Hades, Sheol, Age / Eternity, etc) rather than just reading everything literally and at face value, and they are doing so within the context of ancient culture (e.g. looking at how the ancient Hebrews viewed ‘eternity’, etc). Many of them are sharing links to other sources and really studying in ways they never have before.

    Personally I think it’s great we have the internet and access to many resources, which means ordinary people are able to explore things in depth and within the context of ancient culture and language, rather than just blindly swallowing everything they’ve been taught because “Pastor Freddy said it and he’s been to bible college”.

  6. Grace and peace be multiplied to you. 2 Peter 1:2

  7. chrisvanrooyen // April 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm // Reply

    We will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, but will our thought processes be changed. Would you be able to be happy in heaven with the knowledge that your only child is in hell ?
    Alternatively what truth will you be exposed to that will enable you to live without pain in heaven.

  8. Seems Rob Bell in his latest book called Love Wins proposes a type ‘temporary hell’ or a chance for the lost to hear the Gospel after they die, just like Jesus preached to those in Abraham’s bosom after the crucifixion. This takes a lot of extrapolation of scripture based on his idea of a super gracious God. Sometimes it seems some folk need to hear the Law first before they appreciate Grace enough to choose Jesus? I have friends who came to Christ through fear, after failing to respond to the good news but who subsequently moved into grace. Fortuitous?

    • ‘temporary hell’ is that the 21st century name for “Purgatory”?

    • mormons believe that everyone has a second chance to accept “the gospel” if they didn’t accept it while they were alive on earth too. they are so legalistic that they even do baptisms by proxy for the dead… that is why they do genealogy – to find the names of everyone who has ever lived and died.
      (please note that i put quotes around “the gospel” bc what they believe is not The Gospel at all!)

  9. Paul, you have a Facebook presence and a page. I learned grace from you. Facebook is full of people with both good and bad theology, but I find it a bit incongruent to make a blanket put-down of those who learn and grow on Facebook, since you are part of it.

    The thing is, we who have come to see hell as the myth it is, have not come to it lightly. But we have come to it gladly! There is such great freedom in knowing that our Abba created no such place for the creatures He loves.

    Grace means the law is over. No law, no sin, no punishment. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love cannot consign anyone to eternal torment or separation. In fact, there is no place where God isn’t present. Hell does not fit this picture.

    I love you, brother. But I can’t agree with your position.

    • I’m not sure what you find incongruous Pat. As I say in the post, I’m not attacking Facebook. Indeed, it would be hypocritical of me to do so. I’m simply sharing my observation that FB debates tend to be dominated by the loudest voices in the room rather than the words of Jesus.

      And I’m certainly not trying to put anyone down. Rather, I am attacking an idea that I feel has led some to reject portions of the New Testament – a slippery slope if ever there was one. You are right in saying that love keeps no record of wrongs, but no one is going to hell for their wrongs. Sin has not been the issue since Calvary. Rather, the NT writers from Matthew through to John all speak of the consequences of rejecting love and grace. This is not your old time hellfire sermon. This is Hebrews 12 – plus many other vivid passages.

      • But it seems to me that many reject “other” portions of scripture.
        To support a burning hell philosophy. Wouldn’t you say that is true as well?
        He is NOT WILLING that ANY should perish (one among many)… so,
        Many will perish??? How strong of a Savior is this??
        Just thinking out loud here….
        I personally think the Great Divorce by CS Lewis is a WONDERFUL piece on this.

      • Yes, I too love The Great Divorce, which is why I quoted it in my first post on hell.

      • I also wish that there was more emphasis on the words of Jesus.
        In particular…love and bless your enemies – Jesus even indicated that this is what makes you become like your Heavenly father. He also said to love not only those that love you, and to forgive seventy times seven – in other words, without limit. (From what I can tell a lot of Christianity does not follow these instructions anyway – they create divisions and condemn their enemies).

        So I am nonplussed as to why Jesus would tell us to do these things if God himself won’t do them.

      • That’s OK, Paul. I don’t see my rejection of hell as a rejection of scripture, but better understanding of it. I don’t debate on FB but mainly comment where I agree. At least, I’ve learned to do this, LOL. I take the softer approach that says people have to come to different views on their own, with the Holy Spirit’s help, and by studying and prayer. Which I have done.

        What I am saying is that seeing hell as a myth came to me by that route. I find the ‘categories’ of wrong (ie sentimental) views of hell to be blanket statements that are not true in the least for most of us who reject hell. And I am disappointed to read them. You know I like you very much. Still, I wanted to have input, because there is more to the story.

      • janet cadieux // May 1, 2013 at 1:41 am //

        I agree with you, Paul. It appears that some cannot yet come to grips with the fact that universal salvation from the curse of the law is not universal salvation where their salvation has been made complete, upon their taking on the initiative to believe the good news. God has given all mankind a freewill choice to accept the good news or not, and they are misrepresenting His very character, of Love, that they proclaim, by now teaching that because God is love, He does not give us a choice. In fact, where there is love, there is ‘choice’. God said that from the beginning, too. “I place before you life and death, blessing and cursing, CHOOSE life”. The curse came with the law being added, and all became sinners. We did not have a choice to not be a sinner, but the new covenant is the means to give all men the right to choose that tree of life. Having been reconciled back to the place where Adam was before the fall, He is now knocking on the hearts of men, but we have to take that offer to let Him in. The door does not open by force, but God is patient and longsuffering, willing that none should perish. He does not overthrow OUR will, so that He can have His own, however. That too, is not the way of love. Love does not seek it’s own way. The bible must be read in context, and I am with you, many are going down the slippery path of choosing with the very freewill they have, to deny the word of God as truth.
        God bless you, Paul! His words still hold true today. Jesus did not speak lies.

  10. Pat- You are not saved by Grace alone! That is where the universal error comes in. The Bible says we are saved by GRACE THRU FAITH (Eph 2:8,9) Grace is worthless without FAITH. If you don’t place your faith in the Grace God has provided it will not do you any good. Faith is what “takes” -receives the gift of Grace. but for those who don’t place their faith (trust) in God’s grace there is a place called hell for them.

    • You know, I think Pat IS saved by Grace alone, because even this “Faith” is not of yourselves. Eph. 2:8,9
      Once you make it a formula, you have to have the right medicine…. so who’s do we buy??
      Obviously… you’re pretty convinced that Pat didn’t buy the right one huh???
      Grace alone.
      In my opinion.
      Gal 2:19 For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (KJV)

      • I don’t doubt Pat’s salvation and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus gives people a final opportunity on their death bed. The issue I have is trying to indoctrinate others with ideas that may seem nice, but don’t have a strong Biblical foundation. This idea is being presented as a higher level of belief in grace, but at the same time it eliminates the need for any belief at all. I’ll refer to the most basic, well known verse on the planet. God so loves the world, on that we agree, but it also says whoever believes (in Jesus) will have everlasting life (John 3:16).

      • righteousness came by faith, not of the law. an obedience ‘of faith’.

    • You do not conjurer up your own faith,this is something you must understand ,Romans 12 3 For I say, through the grace GIVEN unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath DEALT to every man the measure of faith.
      Faith and grace are given and this is not of yourself.

  11. Paul, What struck me is that Hell has to exists in order for heaven, Love etc to exist and like you said free will. If there was no hell and everyone got into heaven regardless of what they believe, do, or say then most would be there and not love God like you said. Again like I said above We are saved by Grace THRU Faith. Either by themselves is worthless you need the balance of both TY

  12. chrisvanrooyen // April 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm // Reply

    If love does not see evil as a debt,holds no record of wrong. Why is it necessary for a eternal witness to the payment of a debt.

  13. Might be good to clarify what is salvation. From my understanding, the word ‘sozo’ means to be healed and made whole, but it’s been taught at church as ‘going to heaven when you die instead of hell’. The bible seems to be very unclear on the afterlife in my view.

    • I think the Bible is deliberately unclear. God knows we are a curious species. I think we would be even more obsessed with the afterlife – at the cost of the present life – if the Bible had more to say about it.

      • TY. That thought is new to me and it makes perfect sense. Grace really sets one free to be themself: a whore who washes feet with tears because she loved much, or a Pharasee who refused even common hospitality of a foot wash to his guest because he loved little.

  14. Good article indeed! Hell exists for the devil and all who stubbornly rejects the beloved Son of God, Jesus, who is the love of God. It’s not about an unloving God who sends people to hell but rather people who believes they are more important than receiving God’s loving kindness.

    You know, it’s really hard to get along with this kind of people who believes they are more important than everyone, even God.

    It is about people who so are wrapped up in themselves that they exclusively define what is good and what is bad for themselves and not come to terms with the real standard (the law of Moses) and how much they needed grace and mercy like everyone else.

    Anyone to continuously treat Jesus (who represents the best of God’s grace goodness) knowingly, with unbelief, to the end has done a great injustice and great contempt to God’s kindness. Like it or not, they deserved the same treatment like the devil.

  15. Perhaps even before we discuss the issue,where is hell,does it exist,the first question should be “what is hell”?

  16. The only way to make a strong, valid point is to base it on Scripture. There are a lot of “I feel” this about God explanations, with no reference to any verse. There also seems to be a concerted effort to bombard the comment thread with these feelings. If a strong Biblical case can be made, that would go much further with most believers. However, most seem to agree a definitive conclusion may not be possible. Maybe that’s why some are resorting to feelings. It’s a dangerous game, to have people gamble their eternity on feelings. If you can’t prove without a doubt that everyone will eventually end up in heaven, it’s probably a good idea to teach people to accept Christ in the guaranteed present. In my opinion, the strongest Biblical point made in a comment was from David Weaver. The Bible says by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). Paul referenced Romans 3:22, which also says through faith. 

    • janet cadieux // May 1, 2013 at 1:52 am // Reply

      Yes, and God has given every man a ‘measure of faith’. Understanding that the ‘measure’ is speaking about having an ability to know there is a God, for the creation itself proves it, where man is without excuse. When the bible speaks of all having been given a measure of faith, it is not speaking unto salvation, but unto the God given gift, that all mankind can freely choose. God wants a relationship, and there is no relationship in this new age, forced view of us not having a choice in the matter. WOW, what is wrong with people? If we do not have a choice, how is that a relationship? Would someone speak on that? Thanks.

      • Just a thought, Janet: if you were a mom of a toddler, would you give your toddler the choice to run across the road whenever she wants to or disobey you whenever she likes even if it means certain death? No, you would discipline her and teach her it’s not safe. Did God not create each person on the planet for fellowship with Him to become His child? Wouldn’t he do His utmost to lead them to make the right choice?

        I see where you’re coming from but sometimes God protects us from our bad choices. I sincerely hope that He will do that in the end with all those who have unwittingly turned away from His love in their stubborn blindness, hurt, and ignorance.

      • janet cadieux // May 1, 2013 at 10:36 am //

        Hi, Of course I would do everything I could to teach my children to not go down the wrong road, but that does not mean I could control them from doing so, nor would I want to.

        Easy answer, when you come to grips with the reality that in order for God to create humans to have a capacity to love Him back, and that His type of love cannot be forced, or does not flaunt it’s OWN will, as the bible says, there is no real good reason to think otherwise, in mho. God Bless, Jan

      • You said it well, God wants a real relationship. Which by definition has to be with someone who wants to be in the relationship. Since we’re created in God’s image, we have a free will. Our free will to choose Him or not is what makes it a real relationship. God uses His free will to love us all, our free will is to accept it or not. He made accepting Him an awesome, sweet deal that we did nothing to deserve – joint heirs with Christ (Rom 4:13). If someone said to you look you’re on a path to death. I’m going to save you and give you a gift of every blessing beyond what you could ever imagine (Eph 3:20). Would you consider that person an enemy? God is not obligated to tell us the alternative to accepting Him, but He did to give us yet another reason to choose life.

      • janet cadieux // May 2, 2013 at 1:57 am //

        Hi Jim,

        YES! I wholly agree. Without the freewill choice, there could be NO relationship. God created us for the very purpose to have one with Him, and those who think that He would save someone without it, are just simply misled. It is a ‘knowledge’ thing, though, in mho, and not a salvational issue. God will correct His own!

        God Bless you!

      • P.S. Without an alternative, there is no choice. 🙂

      • chrisvanrooyen // May 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm //

        Please be clear on what makes a person choose is it the measure of faith you speak of, but you say this is not for salvation. So what is unto salvation without qualifying this what you are saying leads me to a conclusion that you believe a person is saved because they are good. If this is incorrect please explain what leads to salvation what enabled you to accept Jesus why did you make this decision.
        Many people believe they were good enough to realize they were not good enough.

      • janet cadieux // May 2, 2013 at 10:57 am //

        Faith is a gift. It was given to all men. It must be worked out, however, for faith without that working out is a dead faith. (Not works of the law, either, brother. ) The work of God is to believe. I do not have time to quote the verse. So, to answer your question, I believed. Those who do not work out the faith God gave them by believing, will ultimately be cut off. Not by works of the law, but as it says in the book of Romans, because of unbelief.

      • chrisvanrooyen // May 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm //

        I would advise that you read carefully what you have said and work out who is doing the saving.

      • janet cadieux // May 3, 2013 at 1:18 am //

        Hi Chris,

        Due to the fact that Jesus saved the whole world, (yes,that includes all who were not yet born), over 2000 years ago, from the ‘curse of the old covenant’, and it’s law, and gave every man, (yes, that includes those not yet born at that time, including you), I do not understand your question. Salvation was OF the Lord, having one’s salvation completed, and confirmed, which is what the preaching of the gospel is for, is what we ALL are responsible for. I would have you look into that fact. It does not matter that the church has lost it’s way on this, fact it is still fact. God Bless

  17. Yes, try living with someone like Hitler who thinks he’s right all the time and everyone else is wrong until the end of his life. Not giving anyone a chance to change his mind on what’s the real truth and humbles himself that he needs a Saviour.

    That is really bad indeed. I doubt it that anyone of us could stand such a person, let alone God, who abhors all evil in this world.

    • chrisvanrooyen // May 1, 2013 at 7:41 am // Reply

      Yet millions of people followed him gave their lives for and shared his vision. If no one followed him he would have been just another pride driven man.
      The only thing between Hitler and you and me is Jesus.In Jesus we all have equal value.

      Your description of Hitler in your first sentence describes every non believer that I know.

  18. I think we an argue back and forth for ever on what we think eternity is like and what hell is like. As Paul says, the Bible is deliberately unclear and I believe that is because God wants us to want Him because of who He is, rather than wanting what he has to offer…an escape from Hell. We don’t know what will happen the moment after we die, just as we don’t know what happens to us the moment before conception.

    My mother had rejected Jesus all of her life and it was only when she was a child she attended church because it was the thing you did back then. When mum was dying, I spent most days at her hospital bedside and the only time I left was to get a breath of fresh air and a cup of tea from the cafeteria. During one of my quick outings from mum’s hospital room, I ran into a friend and I explained what I was doing there. He said that he believed that before a person died, Jesus came to them and spoke with them. He then went on to say that they had some sort of peace about them and were then able to let go of their physical bodies. I thanked him but I felt that he was making it all up to give me comfort so I pushed it out of my mind. Two days later, I was sitting next to mum and an old song came into my head. I then looked at my mother who had been unconscious for a week and she had a look of peace on her face, an expression I have never seen my mother, even when she was asleep and it was then I remembered the words of my friend. The next night she passed peacefully. I truly believe Jesus gave me a song to tell me He had been there and Mum was now with Him. People may not believe me but this is my testimony of God’s love and gentleness with me in a time of stress and distress and isn’t that is what He loves to do…come to people in distress and give them comfort.

    • Joesph prince tells the story of,I think it was his grandmother our grandfather,whom Jesus came to visit on there death bed,It seems very possible to me that if we pray for our family, that Jesus will honor that and pay them a visit.I understand that Stalin on his death bed, sat up and shook his fist up at heaven,then died,Did a family member pray for him? Was it a last defiant act? who knows?

      • What happened to Stalin on his death bed, no one will ever know. However, I like your idea that if we are praying for a loved one, Jesus will honour our prayers and pay them a visit. But that leaves me wondering about those who have never had the opportunity to know about Jesus and those whom has never been prayed for. I don’t know if anyone is rejected by Jesus because they never heard of Him or that those who love them have rejected Jesus. Its just too much for my little brain to understand.

  19. I think God knows human better than us. When he decided that there is Hell, I think he knows who deserve to be there. Well, it sounds cruel, doesn’t it? But do we know every thing like the way God knows?

    When we question what is fair and what is not to our God, do we see things like God sees? My point is Jesus himself said that there is Hell. For whom? For the devil and his subordinates as well as them who persistently reject Jesus’ graces. And I believe that Jesus knows exactly what he said.

  20. I love the “shotgun wedding” concept. Who wants to be forced to marry at gunpoint? But the concept of eternal hell seems to follow on that concept too. It’s like being forced to love the one who loves you. Or like the guy who woos the girl, offering his sweet, kind love with the shotgun in his back pocket. He says to her, “I’m offering my love, but if you don’t love me back, I’m going to annihilate you forever.” Chilling.

    Many times in the Bible, God says that all people will be saved and come to Him.

    It’s God’s will that none should perish but all should be saved and come to repentance. Is God not able to bring about His own will? Is he too weak to reach everyone with His gracious love? The Bible says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I don’t think that will be a bowing of the knee in fear and forced obedience, but God will strip away those lies that blind people to His true love and grace and they will bow down in pure adoration.

    Maybe my views are wrong and I know there are many scriptures that seem to indicate an eternal hell. Although I’m a little weary of how the original translations of the Bible were done as they began with a very condemning and judgmental law-based church system. My gut tells me that a God of pure love has the ability to reach the hardest heart. It’s not a matter of free will if His persuasive powers can cause everyone to turn to him voluntarily eventually.

    Interesting food for thoughts – this article and the comments.

  21. David Weaver, you put it so clearly. We are saved by GRACE through FAITH. If you extend a helping hand to someone in a pit, and they refuse to come out. What’s more they spit on,insult you,take sides with your enemy. Their faith is in themselves or something else or,They prefer to live forever with your enemy than accept your gracious gift. ,Will you command a regiment to take them(to heaven) by force? Is that love? I think not. I believe Love gives you the freedom to choose,but will do everything within it’s power to woo you. You can still say NO at the end of the day. Hence the only other place left for such a person is Hell where his owner the devil will be.

  22. some people just want to watch the world burn……….hard to understand.

  23. Once again, great post Paul. Enjoyed reading all of it. You really have a unique gift of teaching/explanation with such clarity. What more can I say?

    A true believer will come to realise if he/she has not already that hell does exist. I learned so much about a topic I really normally hate through ur class so thank you.

  24. Hi Paul. have you read “here gates will never be shut?” – its neither for or against hell but brings all positions to the table, well researched, and leaves you with a sense of hope.

  25. What I have learned is that eternal hell is mythological and based on pagan concepts. Jesus did not talk about it. ‘Eternity’ in the bible is aion / olam meaning an age or length of time. The length of it is determined by whatever it is attached to. It;s even used to describe how long Jonah was in the big fish so saying “Jonah was in the whale FOREVER makes no sense”. A lot of scholars are realising that the word hell should not even be in the bible since it is a mistranslation – in fact the NIV has the word nowhere in the OT.

  26. “If you are seeking God’s approval through the law, then you need to know about hell. Hell is for ‘workers of lawlessness . . .'”

    Yep. Great post addressing many of the issues that arise with Law-keeping folks that I converse with. Sharing on my facebook page, ha!

  27. St. Paul never used the word Hell but, he referred to the fate of the wicked more than any other NT writer. Chan said that Paul describes the fate of sinners with words such as “parish, destroy, wrath, punish, and others more than 83 times in his letters. To put this in perspective, Paul talked more about the fate of the wicked more times in his letters than he mentioned God’s forgiveness, mercy, or Heaven combined. So, if St. Paul, who received in revelation from Jesus Himself, what he believed, taught, lived, and wrote about, believed in Hell as a place of eternal punishment and great suffering, who are we to reject this reality?
    It is good to note that all of Paul’s letters were written to Christians. Some might say that all these warnings were not for believers but were directed only to unbelievers but that is not true. Paul never says believers are exempt from his warns or that these warnings are for unbelievers alone. For example in Romans 2 Paul is speaking to ALL who do evil not just to unbelievers. As a matter of fact Paul uses words such as “all, everyone, every human being, each one etc. when he gives these warnings.

  28. Thank you Paul. Do you know if Steve McVey ever recanted his distorted teaching of a non-existent hell? My introduction to grace was ‘Grace Rules’.

    • I have no idea what Steve’s views on hell are. I too enjoyed Grace Rules.

    • Define evil Travis? Are you talking about for eg, Ministers that sexually abuse young female and male church members? Born again profess homosexuals, Born again white colour crime criminals who got away with it, ministers that have stolen alot of money from the offering and lying about it, preachers who go about preaching condemnation and religion to try and tame the sheep; when they fully know that grace is the way to go, serial liars, those that seek out Pornography, Believers that brutally beat up their children, claiming they have an evil spirit, parents that acts rotten to their children with their overbearing strict region and lack of love; cursing their children every day that if they are not perfect, (like them), they would go to hell. Believers that sometimes curse God inwardly when they don’t get their own way, Believers that rarely pray, go church or think upon or consider God/Christ, Believers that secretly imagine have sexual relations towards a married person, Believers that think such wicked thoughts constantly towards other Believers and non Believers; Born again Christians that has the worlds goods and sees their brother or sister in need and don’t give a …. And the list goes on and on. Thank God hur for the grace and mercy of Christ otherwise hardly any of us will end up in glory lol.

      • Travis // May 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm //

        well i would call that living a life that is contrary to being new in Christ as new nature, so I would doubt they are being lead by The Spirit, or even have The Holy spirit

  29. At first, I was a little disheartened that we were discussing Hell. I was so enjoying Grace now that I started understanding it. Yet, now, in a way I’m glad you were moved to write this, because it dovetails nicely with a conversation I’ve been having with Abba lately. If we are to be the judges in the Kingdom, I think it is quite possible that none will see hell….at least from me. I can think of numerous times in my life where I did something really stupid, then thought, “Oh, if only I had seen this, or done that, Lord how I pray I could change that”
    Having experienced that regret, I don’t think I could honestly say to anyone after we ALL bow to Jesus as Lord, and all doubt of his Supremacy is revealed “Tough….you’re cast out.”
    I understand that I don’t necessarily have a biblical foundation for this, but surely God wouldn’t tell me that my compassion from experience is worthless…would He?

    • True true Travis, about living contrary; but as long as we all realize that they are still a new creature, no matter what, thou they may not be led by the Spirit in all things, they have the Spirit if they are born again. “The Spirit will always be in you,” “Christ will always be with u and in u.” Christ will never leave us, its we that sometimes go astray or leave him.

  30. Some are open for love some analyse the proposal before accepting love to be received. I believe heaven is God’s dwelling place which is manifested the moment we accept Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts, for those reject that proposal in love the choice is a place where God is not present. Heaven proves Hell exists, just like light proves darkness.

  31. I think if we could ever place a ‘limitation’ on God it will be that He HAS to remain always Love & Righteous (L&R). Most on this forum seems to be familiar with God’s Love and His name is JESUS, but we cannot forget His Righteousness i.e. JUDGEMENT! God in His all-knowing and perfect wisdom has provided a way to satisfy both these traits and His name is JESUS.

    God created man to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But man, being given a perfect will/choice, failed and received eternal death – I think God knew this was going to happen. The only way to satisfy both L&R was to provide an escape (Jesus). But to satisfy Righteousness the escape has to be selected by FREE choice – else God would end up with ‘robots’ ‘again’ which is not what he was looking for in the beginning. For this reason the choice for Jesus has to be made in this life. Now what happens after this life is what we are dealing with in this post.

    To me it sort of makes logical sense that after JUDGEMENT God recreates the world and those who accepted Christ (based on free will) – the rest (devil, demons, death, unbelievers) needs to be wiped out forever. Now for me it makes sense that God might want to completely remove/devour/erase the evil for what is remaining to be perfect in all respects and hence I can sort of go with the thinking that evil will be removed instead of it remaining in a ‘different’ place??? If evil were to remain in hell then it means that evil remains and I don’t think the original motive was to create evil – so it must be removed – forever??

  32. I’d just like to add Paul, that if you’ve genuinely studied it from both sides, then it is not a sentimental view at all – it comes from real effort and study. Many have done this, in fact some have spent literally decades doing so, and have come to the conclusion that eternal hell is a pagan myth and should never have been in the bible to start with. Some of the very early Christian teachings believed in the salvation of all. Augustine did us a disservice in this I think.

    • Grace, you seem to think you’re the only one here who is open-minded. I have corresponded with universalists and those who preach historical reconciliation and I have not found one who can give me even a bad explanation of Jesus’ words in Matt 10:28 or 25:41. I would certainly be open to their interpretations but they simply don’t have any. Do you?

      Check out the comment thread in this post and the last one and you will find that among those who disagree with my views, not one has made the slightest effort to explain why Jesus said would he said. Their arguments are based on feelings (“I can’t believe God would do such a thing!”) or passing references to obscure OT prophecies at best. So “sentimental” seems a very fitting label to me.

      • What does Jesus mean by Matthew 25:41? That verse has always bothered me. It implies that if we don’t help the poor, we will go to hell. Was he speaking to those under the law?

  33. I just know one thing. The God that saved me and who I know as my Father is unable to torment and tourture anyone for ever and ever. He disciplin his children, but it’s always with a purpose and a goal.
    Someone who is going to tourment billions for ever and ever, does not have any purpose. That is pure cruelty, and nothing else.

    If you belive in a god who is so full of cruelty and so evil that he is going to toment billions upon billions for all eternety – I am sorry to tell you – you dont know my God.

    And I don’t want to know the god you serve.

      • Amen bro’ 🙂

      • I gave a writing piece on “100 reasons NOT to believe in Hell” You did not allow that through either. If you have a teaching that you don’t want others to be “confused” about. That is fine. PLEASE say so then.

        I get the whole “Pastor/ Shepherd” thing. Another Pagan idea btw… but if you want an open dialogue then it would be nice if you’d allow ALL of the conversation. This to me is just typical of “church” Little C.

        For the record… I do not consider myself a “Universalist” … but the way that you are shutting people out… certainly gives me an interesting perspective. I personally believe that the ones who “won’t be at the Party” are the ones who can’t see how TRULY LOVING and FULL OF GRACE and MERCY that God IS. They stay away, because, like the rich young ruler, and the Prodigal’s older brother. God is not “works” enough for them. It’s the BUMS who will be at the party.

        I like to think that God is so much better than we humans. That’s why I’m really hopeful that He is not into handing out Fear and Wrath as many of His followers like to do. I could be wrong. But so could you.

      • I get hundreds of comments every day and many I don’t have time to read so I just click “approve.” However, if they are long, I click “delete” as they violate E2R’s comment policy. You should also be aware that comments with links are filtered out automatically before I see them as they are either spammers or people selling something.

        As for those who disagree with me, I am happy to publish their views – as you can clearly see under these hell posts – but the deal is they get to disagree on any post one time only. If they keep coming back hammering at the same nail (or me) then they are testing the bounds of decency. My view is, you’ve made your point now move on.

        You may think this stifles discussion, but I have not seen too much healthy discussion take place between people who disagree. Typically such discussion degenerates into ugliness and I want E2R to be beautiful.

        So, no censorship, but no flame-wars either. These comment threads are primarily meant to be about the posts. Longer discussions are better held on E2R’s FB page.

  34. I honestly haven’t come to a definite conclusion whether there is a hell or not. I’m just putting all these arguments out there because for the last few months I can’t help questioning everything I’ve learnt in my Christianity for the last thirty years! I’ve loved all the responses – it helps me see things from everyone’s perspective. Maybe I’ll never come to a definite conclusion in this lifetime. One thing that niggles at me is why the apostles gave their lives for the gospel if there was no hell? Why bother suffering so much. It’s all quite confusing but I will continue to investigate it.

    • kathleenbee dear, read as much as what Paul wrote with a bible on ur lap and allow the Holy Spirit teach you, he will lead you in to all truths. I too battled with it, as soon as I got saved and then this stinking duty creature came from the bottomless pit, I soon believed after. We may not understand hell fully, but if Christ says it there, then it is there.

  35. So if there’s no hell, is there any point in preaching the gospel? If everyone is on automatically saved..why on earth did Jesus come and endure the cross? I know it was to reconcile us to father,but that would have been unnecessary if everyone is going to end up in heaven regardless of whether you accept his free gift or reject it. What about Mark 16: 15-15? God sends no one to hell. He doesn’t torment people.I’m convinced Jesus will weep over any soul that rejects his offer of life to the end. He (Jesus) so we would have his very life. Here on earth,even in the midst of evil, we still see God’s influence though some accept and some reject..but hell is a complete and total absence of God,his love and mercy. I’m convinced Jesus will weep over any soul that rejects to the very end. I guess next I will be hearing there is no devil and he too is a myth.

  36. ya know I used to tell people { GOD IS LOVE] know go to 1 Corinth 13: 4 and you will understand Gods Love thats the way he feels about us………………… Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not INSIST on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    8 LOVE NEVER ENDS. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the PERFECT comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror DIMLY , but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
    13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love…BELIEVE HIM, HE WILL KEEP YOU.

  37. You know, my conclusion on hell/Hades and all the rest of the terminologies that is used for that terrible world, is that once you wrote about a final destruction to all those out of Christ, it became a great comfort to me but it caused me to be in two minds until just now, this scripture came to me, Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name”.

  38. Very well written truths from God’s Word. Thank you. Of course, there will be those who are not secure in their salvation and they will try and discredit the truth. God will deal with those Himself.

  39. Nimblewill // May 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm // Reply

    The whole idea that we choose hell over heaven, is worrisome to me. Would anyone in their right mind choose eternal separation over Eternal Love?

  40. I love all of you, this website is interesting, just i want to know you are talking about punishment after death or resurrection? and i think universalism or Annihilationism is more near to God’s Mercy and Just, than traditional doctrine of Hell,

    when i’m asking universalists, they say ask God, and he will reveal this truth to you,
    and they say this is the True Gospel, and it will be preached to all of the world,
    then the end will come, because people will know the truth about loving God, that there is no torment after death, they will become Satan’s primary target, and they will abuse God’s

  41. i think the lake of fire will be for those who will willfully reject God, who will reject God after second Chance?

  42. How about the verse where David says that if he makes his bed in hell there God is? Isn’t He basically saying that God is everywhere? Including hell? I am curious…

    • That’s Ps 139:8 and David doesn’t actually say that – unless you read the KJV. As I explain in this post, the meaning of the English word hell has changed in the 500 years since the KJV was translated. What David said was, “If I make my bed in sheol, you are with me.” Sheol is the place of the dead, it’s the grave or the depths, and this is pretty much how every other English translation has it.

  43. Does God ask you to forgive your enemies – as many times as necessary – when He is not willing to do the same?

    Why does God fail to mention hell in Genesis as the price for sin?

    Why doesn’t the Old Testament ever speak of hell?

    Really Why does Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, never once mention hell?

    Why was hell not part of early Church established doctrine?

    what a questions!

    • Good questions. Here are my answers:

      1. God has forgiven all his enemies. That’s the good news.
      2. Because hell is not the price for sin. All our sins have been done away with at the cross. Hell, as Jesus defined it, is for those who refuse to refuse to come to him for life. What happens when you reject life? You perish (John 3:16-18).
      3. Why does the Old Testament never mention Jesus?
      4. Paul mentions eternal destruction in 2 Thes 1:9.
      5. Why was hell part of Jesus’ doctrine and the New Testament church doctrine?

      What answers!

      • sometimes Paul I think you enjoy this to much

      • I prefer the Right side of the table 🙂 even when I’m thinking, there is no need for torment for ever, imagine even God sitting there, and watching, one sight people are in kingdom, and another one, burning, screaming, forever, just for a short lifetime, so what?, i asked some,
        they said it is not eternal punish[ING], it is eternal punish[MENT], is it different?

  44. Hey Paul,
    I’ve found all of your articles enormously helpful, and especially enjoy the way you convey your messages. Have you read Love Wins? I feel like Rob Bell interprets many of the scriptures having to do with heaven and hell with a totally different contextual understanding. I myself enjoyed the book greatly, but unsure how much of it I agree with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, or possibly a book review 🙂 haha you must get a million requests like this all the time…

  45. Well whether you people are ECT/Anni/universalism, I hate the Doctrine of Hell, it is my wish for all to be saved, we can’t, because we are powerless, but I believe he can, and he will, if he desires to save all, you people are punishing your children to learn or punish them to death? The Bible says his judgement is FAIR, and Isaiah warned us not to say to good, evil, and to evil, good, and i think ECT comes from evil, I pushed one of my Muslim friends about non-ECT belief for purpose and he confessed by saying that eternal hell is to control people in old times and for repent and to prevent from chaos 🙂

  46. I enjoy this article and others. There is nothing with discussion, debate and ideas. Lets just not reject clear New Testament truth. Hell does exist. It is not made for anyone but the devil and his angels. I believe the theory of destruction vs eternal torment is referred to as annihilationism. The 7th day adventist hold to this view. The only flip side to this belief is that you have to believe that the spirit is immortal. So we can agree to disagree without calling one another heretic lol. The gospel of grace is so powerful that the message is Hell is not designed for anyone but satan and God provided a way where you don’t have to go there. True people choose death and reject life but God and His grace are reaching out till the last breath.

    • Typos sorry….I was in a hurry, the flip side to annihilationism is the believe the spirit is NOT immortal
      First line I meant to say there is nothing WRONG with discussion debate or ideas.

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