Alternatives to Hell

stable_doorYou may have been raised with a picture of judgment that says sinners go to hell where they are tormented for eternity. Unless you say the magic words of a formulaic prayer, you will burn forever along with all the babies and children who never got a chance to put their faith in Jesus.

Unsurprisingly, this traditional picture of hell has come under attack from those who cannot conceive of a good God doing such awful things to his children. But what is the alternative? If the wicked aren’t roasted alive, what does happen to them? Let me suggest three alternatives:

1.    Dwarfs in the stable

In the CS Lewis story, The Last Battle, a humble stable provides a doorway to Aslan’s Country, or heaven. Some wicked dwarfs are thrown into the stable. Although they are surrounded by glorious beauty, they refuse to see anything other than the darkness and dirt of the stable interior. Aslan provides them with a glorious feast which they eat, but they perceive the food to be only hay and old turnips. Lucy begs Aslan to help them see the truth but Aslan replies:

They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in they cannot be taken out.

In Lewis’ picture, hell is the prison created by an unbelieving mind. It’s the self-inflicted torment of distrust that begins in this world and carries on for eternity. Those who refuse to see Christ in this life, are incapable of seeing him in the next.

2.    Prisoners in heaven

But what if the dwarfs could see inside the stable? Wouldn’t that cause them to change their unbelieving minds? These are the sorts of questions posed by universalists. Their view is that those who reject Jesus will be made to stand forever in his presence and keep convincing themselves they want nothing to do with him. A universalist believes all will eventually be saved because who can resist Jesus?

I find Jesus irresistible so I can see the appeal of the universalists’ claim. But what about the Pharisees? They experienced the Son of God walking and talking and loving them but they weren’t impressed at all. In fact, they hated and tried to kill him.

And what about Judas? He saw Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead yet refused to believe Jesus. Even when he realized the error of his ways he preferred death to reconciliation.

And what about unfallen Adam? He saw God as he truly is yet chose to distrust him. If Adam rejected God in paradise, what makes us think others won’t do the same?

Can you imagine a heaven with people who don’t want to be there? Can you picture the haters and the scornful poisoning the well with their bitter conversation? Can you imagine the Pharisees and the religious protesting their imprisonment? It’s bizarre. Yet this is the heaven of the universalist. Everyone is there, whether they like it or not.

Imagine being forced to spend eternity in a place you don’t want to be and made to stare at someone you don’t want to see while everyone waits for you to change your mind on something you refuse to believe. That sounds like eternal torment to me. It’s hell with fluffy cushions.

3.    The second death

The gospel that Jesus preached says there is eternal life for those who want it and an ending for those who don’t.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16)

To perish means to die. Jesus is not referring to physical or bodily death but what he referred to as “the second death” (Rev 2:11). It’s the final curtain for those who, like the Pharisees, “refuse to come to me to have life” (Joh 5:40). Paul had a similar message:

…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. (2 Th 1:8-9)

A similar message of eternal destruction or second death was preached by Peter, James, John and Jude (2 Pet 3:7, Jas 4:12, 1 Joh 3:15, Ju 1:7).

People don’t go to hell for their sins. All our sins were dealt with at the cross. But those who choose to exclude themselves from the Lord exclude themselves from life.

You may ask, “How could God do such a thing?” He’s not the one doing it. “What does God have against sinners?” Nothing – God loves sinners (Rom 5:8). God is not willing that any perish (2 Pet 3:9). He has gone to extraordinary lengths to make death unnecessary. Yet people condemn themselves by preferring the paths of death to the way of life (Pro 14:12).

What about the traditional view of hell?

I appreciate there are some scriptures in the Bible that support the traditional view of hellish torment. But the vast majority of scriptures indicate a once and final end for those who refuse to feast on the bread of life (click on the Table).

“But Paul, well what about all that talk of a lake of fire?” It’s a metaphor representing the second death:

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. (Rev 20:14)

One day there will be no more bodily death and no more grave. Both will come to an end and we will be clothed with resurrection bodies that won’t age or wear out or die.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them… (Rev 20:6)

Choose life!

“Paul, are you saying that only those who pray a formulaic prayer will be saved?” Not at all. Don’t limit God. The take-away of the gospel is, “Choose life.” And it’s an easy choice for we were made to be loved and to love life. The hard choice – the one that cuts against the grain – is the dwarfs’ choice. It’s choosing the lesser things that substitute for love and life.

God doesn’t make it hard to be saved, he makes it easy. Faith isn’t a work, it’s a rest. The real work is in denying who we are, turning away from the Lover of our souls, and hardening our hearts to the goodness of God. God does all the work in saving us from the hellish consequences of our choices. We have to fight him to choose the option he hates.

A desire for love burns in all our hearts. That desire is there to show us the way home. But some never return. They extinguish the flame, deny their humanity, and refuse to come to the party. Even though Jesus stands right in front of them inviting them to feast and dance, they’re not interested.

God will not make you stand in detention for eternity until he hears you say the words he wants you to say. He is a God of love and love must be free or it’s not love. For those who have no desire to receive his love – perhaps because they prefer the lifeless idols of self-trust or the dead religion of the Pharisees – the second death will be a tragic but merciful alternative to an eternity they would hate.

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95 Comments on Alternatives to Hell

  1. I love your blogs. I was just thinking these things the last few days. It’s good to know I’m not alone 🙂

  2. Interestingly, I was having a conversation just yesterday with someone over the traditional understanding of Hell has a place of terrible suffering. The other person brought up Luke 16:19-31. I wasn’t sure how to respond.

    • The parable of the rich man and Lazarus should not be read as the Wikipedia entry for hell. Some use this parable to conclude that Sheol/Hades consists of two compartments – smoking and non-smoking. They say the good guys go to one side, and the baddies to the other. But this interpretation fails two ways: (1) It assumes the parable is literal (it’s not – it’s a parable) and (2) it assumes judgment day has taken place already (it hasn’t). So what is Luke 16:19-31 about? It’s a parable describing the self-inflicted rejection of the Jews and God’s gracious acceptance of the Gentiles.

      • Paul, i agree that the passage is a parable and its main message isn’t about hell. However, because it is a parable, it uses concepts that its intended (typical commonfolk) audience already found familiar – as in other parables i.e. fish, pearls etc.

        In that sense, would it not be true that the parable makes the assumption that the concept of Sheol/Hades/Hell is one that is already understood by the majority of Jewish people in that time?

        I don’t mean to hijack the topic off your post, but this particular passage is hard for me to understand.

      • What if Jesus’s story of the rich man and Lazarus wasn’t a parable? I’m unaware of any other parable in which Jesus gave a name to a character. Isn’t it possible that He was using a real example to illustrate His point?

        But let’s assume it is the parable you describe. Why would Jesus have the rich man beg Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so that they might escape his fate in “this place of torment”? They (the Jews) would simply cease to exist in your view. Is the torment them realizing on Judgment Day that they made a mistake, only to be snuffed out in an instant? That is certainly a consequence with eternal ramifications, but there would likely be a lot of damned yet grateful souls on That Day thinking, “Whew! It could have been a LOT worse.”

        Also, the surrounding text of Revelation 20:14, which you quoted, adds some context, like v.15 (“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”) and v.10, which immediately precedes the judgment of the dead (“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”). Unless you’re going to argue that the lake of fire and the lake of burning sulfur are different places, this all smacks of wishful thinking. I’d really like to believe that the lost will be mercifully and expediently extinguished, but I don’t think that is what the Bible teaches. However, for the sake of all the lost souls, I hope you’re right and I’m wrong.

      • I have a lot to say about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus – it really is a stunning story. But I’ll write a full post one day. I can’t do it justice in <250 words.

      • Paul, I really enjoy your writings. However, I’d have to lean more towards ddrem’s viewpoint regarding the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Still, I’d be interested to hear your take on it at some point. Looking forward to that post.

      • I was writing a reply and then saw ddrem wrote what I was writing. I too think Luke 16:19-31 is not a parable because it mentions real people by name. In our PC world, the talk of a literal hell is avoided. And maybe that’s a mistake. And annihilation would especially appeal to those committing the most heinous crimes. Why not do evil, if in the end, you’ll be annihilated, but if you’ll suffer eternal torment, then maybe you’ll think twice. I’ve heard too many testimonies of people who died and went to a literal place of torment, we call hell, and came back to warn us. I don’t think you should start preaching the Gospel by dangling people over hell, like Paul E says, the Lord’s not into shotgun weddings! But don’t try to be so PC, you deny hell’s existence and the eternity one could spend there. The Good News is no one has to go there because of Jesus Christ’s atonement. Eternal salvation is the only kind of salvation Jesus freely offers. And that is Good News!

      • hoagy, reminds me of the old saying[if you play with fire your going to get burnt.]

      • Whst about the Testimony of the Former Burma Buddest Monk Died and God raised Him. When awoke at His own funniral He was screeming there all in there Mohamed Buddah and all our Teachrrs. If you hear His testimony it is very grafic and sounds like something out of C.S novel. Many of His fellow monks became belivers and although He is under constant house arest and torture He is dtill sticking to His claim of whst He saw. Iv herd to many Testimonies from different people that say they died and they all say of similar things that they saw. What do others think?

  3. Great post Paul…it affirms the true nature of God and the tremendous gift to choose to believe or harbor unbelief , He has placed the desire for love and acceptance in all mankind…but other lesser substitutes blind the mind to what he offers , His love is never coercive or manipulative,

  4. Love point 1 here. Almost like Steve Mcvey’s possible explanation of Hell: Hell is the place where the love of God is felt in it’s most extreme form.

    Explanation: I’m happily married, and let say I cheat on my wife, I then go home the same night after my “cheating” and my wife who knows nothing still treats me the same way, loving, serving, kind. Her love towards me remains the same as what it was before my cheating. Eventually the continual receiving of Her unconditional love and my own guilt in what I did (cheating) will start to eat me alive, a true torture amidst the place where I once experienced the same true love from my wife.

    Thus, Heaven ll is the place where the Love of God is a wonderful experience for those who accepted Him and did not “cheat” “reject” him. While Hell is where the same Love of God is causing a feeling of torture for those who “rejected” him previously.

    So heaven and hell is essentially the same place, only the different experience of those being there makes it Hell or Heaven for them.

  5. Thomas Myers // July 16, 2013 at 12:40 am // Reply

    Wonderfully written once again. It’s funny how someone can give answers to questions that I did not even realize I had. Blessings my brother.

  6. Hi, Paul. Love your blog. I was looking at the list of scripture you posted that seem to indicate that Hell is eternal torment (by those of the traditional view) especially Mark 9:43-46. If they only knew that this was quoted from Isaiah 66, they would probably reconsider their position.

    Is. 66:22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.
    Is. 66:23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.
    Is. 66:24 “And they will go out and look on the DEAD BODIES of those who rebelled against me; THE WORMS THAT EAT THEM WILL NOT DIE, THE FIRE THAT BURNS THEM WILL NOT BE QUENCHED, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

    Though the worm and the fire don’t die and are unquenchable, these consume DEAD BODIES. So they support your third alternative. Some say that these are actually figures of speech that indicate the inevitability of the punishment, that it cannot be stopped. The figure of speech really doesn’t indicate the duration. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

    Still studying this matter.

    • You are right. I put that Mark scripture in the left column merely because it’s suggestive of torment and I didn’t want to be accused of stacking the table in favor of my personal choice.

      • Mike Davis // January 10, 2014 at 2:57 am //

        I once had a discussion probably around 30 years or so ago with the pastor that I believe was a true word preacher. As discussing the topic of hell he alluded to the fact that the words forever was a space of time. Also we discussed Eternal life, and he pointed out that the only thing that really is eternal is God. So therefore when God imputes eternal life into us it is that God life that has no beginning or no ending but has been imputed into us. The word death is defined as separation it can always be used that way I think in the Scriptures. Meaning that one’s spirit and soul is separated from the body. So briefly eternal life is that God life we have when we receive the finished work of Jesus Christ.I believe HELL is real but maybe just for space of time. I’ve never been dogmatic about this but I’ve always KEEP It in the back of my mind which it seems like to be the true personality of my truely gracious and glorious God the father and his son and the Sweet Holy spirit that abides with us. Paul I would like to see your thoughts on this if you get time.

        M Davis

    • thekingskid1128 // August 23, 2013 at 11:18 am // Reply

      Question… although our flesh or “bodies” are not eternal, wouldn’t the flesh and dead bodies represent the ones who rejected Christ and their spirits would be in the literal hell, burning for all of eternity?

  7. Mike Moraine // July 16, 2013 at 1:08 am // Reply

    Great post Paul! I agree with you completely on this one. The wages of sin are death – not eternal, conscious torment. You either have eternal life in the Son or the end is death.

  8. Michelle Cooper // July 16, 2013 at 2:33 am // Reply

    My unbelief in eternal conscious torment is not because I cannot “conceive of a good God doing such awful things to his children.” My unbelief in ECT is because I believe Jesus is a successful Savior. I have come to see that Scripture is not about heaven and hell. It’s about life and death. The wage for sin is death; not ECT. As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive each in his own order. The LOF is the 2nd death, and 1Cor15 tells us that death will be the last enemy destroyed, and God will be all in all. If there is no death, there is only life. In this age/aion we believe through faith which is a gift of God. In the future, after death, those who didn’t believe in this age will believe by “sight”/be seeing the truth of God again “each in his own order”.

    In Rom 10 – we see what Paul wants his brethren saved from – not hell – but the early verses of the chapter tell us he wants them “saved” from trying to establish their own righteousness. With the gift of belief in this age we are saved from trying to establish our own righteousness. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and as believers we have been given the ministry of reconciliation to proclaim the good news of what God has done for the world. (2Cor5)

  9. amazing how things read differently through eyes of love and grace.

  10. God can’t and won’t force anyone to spend eternity with him. That isn’t Love. Everybody get’s what they want in the end. Babies,young children etc are not accountable so my personal belief is they go to heaven. (Also because God showed me that my miscarried babies were with him). I’ve come to realise that people don’t have to necessarily repeat a prayer to be saved. It’s a heart issue.But a choice must be made. E.G. My uncle who claimed he was a muslim all his life suffered a heart attack. Whilst on the operating table, he ‘died’ and had to be resuscitated. He woke up a believer. He told us that he had an encounter with Jesus and KNEW he was the way the truth and the life. Jesus’ love was so overwhelming, he chose HIM!. Infact he received more revelation than the Anglican priest who’d been sent for. The priest was shocked when he started to preach the gospel to him!

    • Jeff Grant // June 29, 2015 at 3:49 am // Reply

      I would love to hear more of your uncle’s experience because I hear that a lot of Muslims have had dreams that lead them to Christ.

    The fact that man was created by a God of infinite love, wisdom, power, and justice, is a guarantee that such existence will not in any case prove an endless curse. Infinite love would desire the final happiness of all. Infinite wisdom would arrange a perfect plan, which, when carried through, would secure the end desired. Infinite power would secure all that infinite love desired, or infinite wisdom devised. Infinite justice could be satisfied with nothing less than what the other attributes of God claimed – the triumph of good.

    John Crenshaw Burruss (1821-?), Voices of the Faith (1887), Page 156
    What more is there to say…

    • Well, there’s this: Freedom is the price of love and pain is the price of freedom. If there’s no real freedom – if there’s no free will and no consequences and everyone makes it in the end – why did God “make” us suffer all this unnecessary pain? Why not just cut straight to the end?

  12. Joyce James // July 16, 2013 at 11:19 am // Reply

    I thank God, Paul, that someone is teaching the truth below – – -BUT HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN the texts that appear to support eternal torment????? Why does God’s Word appear to contradict itself. I have been reading your posts for sometime and mostly find myself happily in agreement.Blessings.

    • First, there are very few scriptures supporting eternal torment (see the Table in the post). Second, those few scriptures tend to be suggestive rather than definitive. Third, they may be figures of speech or idioms (check out at the comments above). Fourth, filter everything you read in the written word through the Living Word, Jesus, and his finished work on the cross. Did Jesus suffer eternally on the cross? He did not. This speaks volumes. God’s wrath is finite – as it should be. God condemned sin in Jesus and BOOM, sin was condemned. The job was done, the work was finished. One day the wrath of God will be revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom 1:18) and BOOM, the job will be done, the work finished. It won’t go on forever and ever.

  13. Very good and interesting read Paul – as always! I love C.S. Lewis – he was so thoughtful, so ahead of his time, and what an amazing ability to conceptualise and portray difficult ideas! Thought – How would you explain the seeming contrast between: “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and **shut out from the presence** of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Th 1:8-9) and “If anyone worships the beast… they will be tormented… **in the presence** of the holy angels and of the Lamb… for ever and ever.” (Rev 14:9-11)? – Is it just semantics – a wonderful ‘presence’ vs a terrible ‘presence’?

    • You sure like to ask the tough ones Adam. I’m not sure the two scriptures can be reconciled, which is why I list them in different columns in the table above. Does Rev 14:9-11 prescribe eternal torment for those who worship the beast? Possibly. Or maybe it’s an idiom. Or maybe it’s a prophetic picture. And what sort of torment or pain is being described? Lot was “tormented” living in Sodom (2 Pet 2:8). Women are “tormented” in childbirth (Rev 12:2). The same word is used to describe all 3 types of torment. So there is some latitude here.

      But I think any interpretation of Rev 14 must be filtered through Rev 15:1 which says God’s wrath is finite – it doesn’t carry on forever – and Rev 11:18 which says those who destroy the earth are themselves destroyed – not tortured forever – and the several references in Revelation to second “death.” As for the big about “the presence,” I think that’s a reference to Judgment Day. We are judged in his presence and some are then excluded or told to depart from his presence while the rest of us remain (Mat 25).

      • Only cause I know you’re up to it Paul 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts! Especially revealing to hear the uses of the word “torment” – thanks!

      • Sorry, can’t agree with your theory here, it seems as if you are subscribing to a theory of Conditional Hell, and the Bible does not teach this. Hell/Hades is a holding place until the White Throne Judgement, but the second death is permanent according to Rev. 20:11-15 – please help me understand the ‘temporary’ nature of this place.

      • I would say death is pretty permanent.

    • Squawks 5000 // January 16, 2019 at 12:31 pm // Reply

      For the Rev 14:9-11 question, I found two points:

      1) Since smoke comes after combustion/burning, smoke can be seen as an effect of judgment. Even without burning, the smoke still remains and can still rise. Smoke rising forever means that the judgment is permanent.

      2) The Greek for “for ever” in Rev 14:11 is “aion” (165). Some verses that use it talk about the “end of an age” (Matthew 13:40), implying that not all uses of “aion” means eternity. For comparison, the word for “eternal” in John 3:16 is “aionios” (166).

  14. paul harding // July 17, 2013 at 12:14 am // Reply

    Thanks, Paul, for another mind-renewing issue you’ve posited. This one is extraordinary. And I look forward to Stern Comments in which the KJV features heavily! I always imagine those contributors dressed in their frilled Elizabethan collars, quills furiously shaking and blotting their candle-lit lambskin. I once was close to being one of these – another futile adherence to effort before I was brought to understand this relationship I have with God as a Gentile: I haven’t moved from Law to Grace, I’ve come from EXCLUSION to Grace.
    I entirely respect the Law, but I live now with all thanks that I now share Jesus’ completion of it.
    Bless you, mate. You’re an uncommon revealer of Grace, and greatly appreciated.

  15. I dont need 1 Bible verse to tell you people that hell is real. Brothers, if you want to debate this…why dont you instead win some souls for the Lord and save them from eternal separation from God…instead of debate doctrine lets be vessels. everyone read 1Corinthians 1:(21-31) please and stop debating doctrines. Lets learn some supernatural keys of how to lead people away from the path of destruction…not debate if hell is a place or a figment of Christs imagination.

  16. While my instinct is to agree wholeheartedly with you: In revelation 20:10 the Devil, the Beast and the False Prophet are cast into the lake of fire to be tormented day and night. These do suffer ECT, if they do then maybe others? In v15 those not in the book of life are also cast into the same lake. So does this not set up a strong argument for ECT?

    • Hi Matt, thanks for your comment. I guess you could put Rev 20:10 in the left-hand column of the table above. I left it out because it doesn’t mention people. Five verses later people are added to the lake of fire but what happens to them? Are they tormented like the devil or are they consumed? Or does something else happen? It doesn’t say. Maybe the devil is made of asbestos or something fireproof so he doesn’t burn up. Who knows? Since the imagery of Revelation is so way-out-there-it-could-mean-just-about-anything, I prefer to resist the temptation to speculate.

      But it’s worth noting that Revelation 15:1 says the wrath of God is finite. Jesus is proof of this. On the cross God condemned sin and that work (of condemning sin) is finished. If it wasn’t, Jesus would still be dead. Finite wrath and ECT do not a happy couple make.

      • Satan rebelled against God and convinced many angels to follow him. As a result both he and his followers for cast out of heaven. He had known and experienced the love and grace of God since the before time. His plan was to overthrow God and become a god himself. Two angels that were also cast out of heaven were named death and hell death so that he had an unholy trinity. He has been at war with God since before creation cause he wanted to be God. Because he is spiritual being his torment will be eternal. That is why the passage talks about the eternal suffering because this is eternal separation from God which Satan and all that had fallen from heaven will experience. Humans are not spiritual beings and our fallen nature’s result of Adam’s fall. Creation was God’s plan to prove to Satan and his followers that he and he alone is God.

    • I would say, follow your instinct, friend. You say that your instinct is to believe what Paul Ellis has written here…Trust that you “have the mind of Christ” and you “know all things”. This is how we walk by the Spirit, If you don’t trust that your heart knows the truth, you will always be confused by your reasoning mind.

    • Squawks 5000 // July 25, 2018 at 2:59 am // Reply

      Don’t forget that the devil not only sins for the entirity of human history, but he also persuaded many to leave God. For comparison, we only sin for at max 120-ish years (modern day). If we say that people get ECT, that means they get the same punishment as Satan, who did bullcrap WAY longer than any man, which would mean that God wouldn’t be just (remember that in the Law, the punishments are almost always proportional to offense). I still believe that the punishment is eternal — it’s just that it is eternal death and eternal separation from God.

  17. Beloved, Please note that in Luke 16: 19-31 the word (parable) is absent/missing.

  18. You are right. Technically a parable is used in order to hide things (Matt 13:13).

    I would say Luke 16:19-31 is a midrash on spiritual blindness.

  19. No Mr Paul. Please do not continue this thread and deceive people. Everyone here seems to be accepting your opinion even though i expected a contradiction from atleast one person. Listen Indeed we are living in a period of grace but grace will not be forever on the wicked. There is a time given to repent and if within that time we don`t we will be cut off.Remember the days of Noah or will you tell me that was also a parable I guess not because Even JESUS CHRIST made reference to Noah. Hell is real The bible says whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of Fire. Someone help me is the another translation for fire. ANother point before the one mentioned above the bible says satan and the beast will be cast into the lake of fire.Please do not twist the scriptures and be led in deception. The Bible says: This is what the Spirit of GOD says explicitly that in the last days many will turn away from the faith and listen to the doctrine of demons. If you say Rev 20: 15 does not say anything about the people who will be thrown into the lake of fire let me take you back to Rev 14:10- 11. It also speaks of the wrath of GOD which you call finite according to the verse you mentioned above.The lake of fire is part of GOD`s wrath and infact the bible says those who end up there have no rest day or night and that was not satan for it specifies in REV14: 11 that those who worhsip the beast and have the mark of his name. So definitely anyone who ends up in hell according to Rev20: 15 will be burnt without rest day or night. Or do you want to tell me this was also a parable. Listen the Bible says when the Holy spirit will come he will teach us all things refusing to believe the HOLY SPIRIT`s revelation of the scriptures simply because we want to feel free committing sin is WRONG. Please everyone in this post disregard any conception that hell does not exist. It is real. satan does not want anyone to know this not even you. Accept JESUS CHRIST as your Lord and Saviour and ask him to help you keep away from sin.

    • Anonymous, did you know that the word for “fire” in I think most of these passages, is Pur, (if I remember correctly) and that is the same word in Scripture used to speak of the breath of God, that refines. The refining fire of the new covenant brought weeping and gnashing of teeth to those in the Jewish system, (remember the stoning of Steven, it’s one example). It was the wrath of God against the old law system that was destroying his people. When you read all these passages in the light of that, are you still so sure that God wants to direct torment towards people? It’s the system of the serpent that he will burn up.

      The wrath of God is like “doing good to the one who persecuted you, in so doing we will heap coals of burning fire on his head”. Would our Father ask of us something he himself does not also do? He repays evil with kindness. Blessings!

  20. Thanks for linking back to this on your post on the coming wrath (which was also great). Found this really helpful & well thought out for where im at. Its followed on from a lot of thinking I’ve been doing about the cross recently, and questions like did Jesus have to die?
    Thanks again Paul.

  21. Matt Clawson // February 16, 2014 at 4:45 am // Reply

    In the original manuscripts of Scripture, hell was NOT mentioned as lasting “forever and ever.” The original terminology states, “Age ending.” The Greek word used here is ‘anion.’ This is where we get our english word ‘eon.’ An eon has a beginning AND an end. Also, when Jesus mentioned ‘hell’ He was referring to a physical place outside Jeruselam called Gehenna, which was a burning trash dump.

    • So you’re saying that when Jesus promises eternal life to those who believe in him he doesn’t mean eternal after all? That’s depressing.

      I talk about Gehenna the rubbish dump in this post.

      • No, no, no. I’m sorry, you misunderstood me. I was bringing up a point to those who say that hell is forever, when in reality, the original manuscripts of Scripture mention hell as a season of time. I was in no way saying that our life in Christ wasn’t eternal. Sorry for the confusion.

      • I think I understood you perfectly. My point is the same word aiōnios is used to describe both eternal fire and eternal life. It cannot mean temporary in one context and everlasting in the other. Wouldn’t you agree that it must be one or the other but not both?

  22. …You quote John 3:16 and assign the greek word for perish, apollumi, the meaning of death and utter destruction, yet in Matt 15:24, Jesus says: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”, which is the same word. It seems selectively translated “perish” without good reason, except for dogmatic prejudice. The same goes for other references to so called “eternal destruction”, which is again totally in opposition to God’s stated goals with the world, his revelation of Grace though Jesus Christ and finally his promise in Rom 14:11 “For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God [acknowledge Him to His honor and to His praise]” (Amp). All I have read agree that this is not a coerced kneeling, but willingly.

    It’s pretty hard to justify the “annihilation theory” once one does a concordant analysis of the Greek words so blithely translated into specific doctrine by King James and religious copied by so many translators. It may not even be possible to justify it all…

    If the purpose of Grace is not to win over everyone and save the whole world, then it must mean that the human will is the strongest known force in the universe, stronger that the God who created it. Yet this is not so.

    I fully subscribe to your contention that we must challenge the traditional (Faustian?) view of hell, yes, but let’s have the broader discussion on the topic as well, not just the one line of thought.

    • In John 3:16, Jesus identifies two groups of people – those who believe in him and those who don’t. It makes perfect sense to me that he would say in Mat 15:24 that he was sent to those who don’t trust him and who are lost, doomed, without true life as a result. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and doomed and in his eyes to be lost is to be lost indeed.

      I don’t know what you have read but there is nothing in Romans 14:11 to indicate the attitude of those kneeling. Paul’s point is simply that all of us will appear before the judgment seat (Rom 14:10). 2 Cor 5:10-11 strongly suggests that some will be appearing before that seat reluctantly, hence the imperative to persuade men now.

      I trimmed your comment because it was in violation of E2R’s stated word limit.

    • God chooses to acknowledge some and others he ignores it is as if they do not exist. He tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son for example. There are many other examples. When God says all or every. we should be careful to see what he sees.A sheep that is lost is as good as dead without the Shepard, it will not survive the comment night.Gods purpose for the world was in place before Adam was created, Adams sin did not surprise God.If part of his plan was eternal torment for man we are all without hope man is not eternal without God, God said he will return to dust and die in the day he ate. God is love and he cannot operate outside of this he tells us what love is.He only gives and never takes away , He is bound by his character and commitmemts, he tells us he is.

  23. On the other hand, there is nothing in Rom 14:11 to indicate that anyone will be forced to kneel either. But taking the wider volume of scripture into consideration, makes it clear to me that God does not force himself on people, he leads them to willingly accept His life. 2 Cor 5:10-11 does not say what will happen after the judgement though and I’m not convinced that that therefore means all bow at the judgement and that settles it. God has clearly stated it is his intention to save all and there is nothing in scripture to indicate that he will not succeed. Actually Isa 55:11 makes it explicitly clear that he will succeed. It may not be in this age or even in the next, but eventually he will. ( That is what I wrote about in the first section that was clipped. Sorry about the >250 words, I assumed incorrectly that the system will let me know when I go over the word limit! 🙂

    I feel that your criticism of universalism is inaccurate and does not represent the view of classic universalists. I’m not bothered with newer ideas or Unitarianism or the combination of the two. You don’t have to agree with universalism, but at least you should ascertain what their position is, rather than misrepresent the view, don’t you think?

    • Roland, you seem convinced about many things, one of which is that my aim above was to misrepresent and attack a particular type of universalism that you hold dear. It wasn’t. I have no great desire to speculate about such things and I think you’re reaching on every point. (How Is 55:10 proves universalism is beyond me.)

      Even if you are 100% correct in your views I hope you can see that the message of universalism and the gospel are different creatures. Universalism deals with future uncertainties; the gospel deals with the here and now. We have been called to preach the latter and not the former.

  24. What about those who know and love Christ but would much rather not have to live forever. Are those that reject Him the only ones who get to opt out of a never ending, eternal existence? I don’t believe in annihalisim in any way, I believe the scriptures are very clear on the eternal nature of existence and that every spirit has God as it’s source which in effect makes them eternal. However, if annihilation is all an unbeliever has to be concerned about – it seems a rather limp and pointless warning. I mean, if you are going to cease to exist what difference would it make? Why would anyone care? I mean if you cease to exist…The bible sometimes uses large bodies of water to illustrate multitudes of people and in my option that is what the “lake” is (a.k.a) the second death. I obviously could be totally wrong, but from what I have read it seems like the fire is metaphorical but the consuming it represents is not.

    • Jeff Grant // June 29, 2015 at 4:18 am // Reply

      Mark, it sounds almost like you are making an argument for the Buddhist concept of Nirvana – often described as a drop of water falling into a large body of water and losing it’s own individual identity to merge with the whole. I don’t think God created us individual and loves us each one just to melt us back into whence we came in that sense. Also, the concept of the immortality of the soul is not a Biblical one, but one that was grafted on from Greek culture (which later effected the Roman church). Jesus talks of life and death, as does the O.T.
      Not wanting to live forever the way we have on earth – that I can understand. Lord set me free from this body of death.

  25. Hi Paul,

    An explanation of 1John 3:15 was what I thought I’d find here.

    What it reads is quite straightforward, I agree. What’s baffling me is Apostle John’s assertion that a believer might actually be spiritually dead by virtue of his works.
    “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer—and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
    ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭TLV‬‬

    What I’m hearing is “having the slightest reservation about a person, based on his/her established pattern of behaviour that rubs one off the wrong way, is hating them and that’s equal to being a murderer!”

    The goal isn’t to be allowed to live in sin but I thought at salvation, we received eternal life and had passed from death unto life; that our occasional stumbles don’t change our state. Is my “assumption” wrong? Please, can you explain what John saying here, in light of our understanding that we’re the righteousness of God and have been made alive?
    Thanks in advance …

    • Since a believer is defined as one who has Christ in them, then one who lacks eternal life is not a believer. The preceding verse (“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”) makes it clear that John is not talking about believers.

      • Thank you for responding, Paul.
        Pardon me but for some reason, I still see the conditional clause. Allow me to paraphrase: “even though you are a believer, if you “hate” your brother, you’re technically a murderer and can’t have eternal life in you!”
        Does it mean, then, that we keep going from life to death, every time we slip up? Scary thought!

      • It may be scary, but it’s a fiction. Verse 14 does not say “Anyone who does not love crosses back to death,” but “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” And the two examples John gives in the preceding verse (Cain, the world) are not people who have Christ in them.

      • reikster // March 29, 2019 at 8:24 am //

        But if a believer hates his brother the believer is a murderer. So it means that eternal life is not abiding in him. Can a believer be a murderer and still be saved in the light of this verse?

        I dont really understand your answer or this verse. Could you please explain?

      • If this is an unbeliever then why does John day if you hate your “brother”?

      • If this is a believer, why does John say they have no eternal life?

  26. In the mid 80s it was reported by a News Paper with headline (sciontists hear sounds of the damed)were in Alaska doing exspriments. They wanted to hear what the center of the Earth sounded like with spetitual Drills and Microphone quipment. What they herd once is harrowing so much so many of the Sciontists ran away and never returned to the site. At first they thought the sound was static but after they cleaned up the tape they were horrified by the sounds they heard. If you ever are brave enough to hear the recording which I have you can quit clearly hear millions of people screeming in the disstance and you can hear a mans screems. The leading sciontist was qouted saying in an interview with an Americsn Radiostation,what ever is down there can stay down there.

  27. Paul,

    When I first came to this blog, and then posted links from it to another grace blog, I was told to “Run” from your blog because it was a “gateway to universalism.” I was kind of skeptical of what I was told. That’s why I have asked you so many questions. Now that I’ve read some of your views, I think you do lean towards universalism or are at least willing to see it as an option. Please correct me if I am wrong. You said quote: “I know some people will be upset because I refuse to condemn the lost to an eternity of fiery torment.” Describing hell as fiery torment forever doesn’t even scratch the surface of what it really is, so I have no problem describing it that way. The awfulness of the eternal separation from God could never be completely described, so putting it that way is light indeed. I don’t see why you have a problem with it? The story (not parable) of the rich man and Lazarus leaves no doubt that the unbeliever will be in excruciating torment forever. I know a lot of my questions have answers within your blog, but at least one or two replies would be nice. Some of your views on hell seem to contradict each other.


    • It’s quite possible that all of my views on hell are wrong. In fact, since the Bible is so vague on the subject, I expect they will be at least somewhat wrong. I have written elsewhere on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

      • Thanks for your honest reply Paul. If Jesus described it as eternal fiery torment, then I feel comfortable describing it that way. I admit that I don’t like thinking about the subject too much, because it’s like I mentally put myself there for a moment, and it is not a good state of mind to be in for too long. It’s not a pleasant subject, but like you said, Jesus talked about it a lot, so we must talk about it but only according to His spirit.


    • Helen Teichroeb // April 16, 2019 at 4:20 am // Reply

      I too accepted what I had been told was the meaning of the word translated sometimes as hell and sometimes as the grave, other times as death, in our bible…(why is the same original word given so many meanings, at the discretion of the translators?). But eventually I was willing to study into it some to see for myself…. I understand it’s scary to even entertain the idea that we could have been wrong about this. But if you are willing to let scripture translate itself for you, a good tool is the book by Julie Ferwerda about hell. Lots and lots of scripture to study in it, so no need to worry that it’s based on opinion.

  28. Hi Brad,

    Appreciate your input; but your assessment is a tad flawed. If you search, you will find the Paul E. Absolutely disagrees with universalism. And he has been “challenged” often by universalists. Generally in a very civil manner.

    As one (among many on this site) who originates from deep involvement in works/grace (they rarely admit to this; you have to study the beliefs of a works/grace believer not theirs words) I want to say this to you >> keep reading here, be your own man, be willing to stand alone (though you won’t be) if you find truth here.

    Like mixing oil and water. If you try to fit grace into a mixed message gospel. It will never work. And counselers of said beliefs will not be able to give you sound truths. I know: It finally clicked when I freed from such teaching and read BOTH sides objectively.

    Don’t get me wrong; I sometimes disagree with Paul, but not on his solid grace message.

  29. What must I do to be saved?

  30. I would like to point something out if that’s ok 🙂 you say that Adam saw God face to face and still disobeyed. While that may be the case, God still ended up saving Adam and giving him a second chance through faith and grace. And also Peter, he denied Jesus and yet Jesus offered him grace and mercy. While there may be people who will ultimately reject God upon death, I don’t think we can say for sure that someone who does once will do again. Sometimes God allows us to disobey so that we come to the full realization of life without God. Maybe ultimately that is what hell is. But either way, the argument with Adam doesn’t really hold, at least not in my opinion 🙂

  31. It’s some three weeks now since Jesus led me into this site and since then my knowledge and faith in Jesus has increased. Dr. Paul, you are a blessing to me. Your posts and articles destroyed my doubts daily. My wrong belief of Lazarus and the rich man has been perfectly corrected. Please could you further show me that hell is not a place for everlasting torments for sinners? Please, help.

    • You can find other articles on hell in the Archives > Subject Index > Hell. Thanks.

    • We need to remember that even if the parable with Lazarus and the rich man is real (which I don’t believe it is), it would only be Hades, which is the place of the wicked dead. It says that on Judgment Day Hades will be emptied so whatever Hades is or does to people (in terms of pain or whatever), God’s plan is for people to not be there anymore.

  32. I feel like this doesn’t explain 1 John 3:15. It merely plugs it here as scripture for something else. Not losing salvation from hating.

  33. One question on hell — why couldn’t people “repent” or accept Jesus on Final Judgment?

    • The Bible is silent on that, but I find it intriguing that Judgment Day, in Greek, is Krisis Day, or Decision Day. Most people think of Judgment Day as though it were Krima Day. Krima means a decision that has been made; krisis is the process of making the decision. Who is making the decision? Jesus or us? That is the $64,000 question!

  34. I know that in Final Judgment (Decision Day), Jesus said multiple times that he and people could talk with him. Paul says all Christians must make an account, and Jesus’s parables heavily imply that non-Christians also could make a case.

    With the interaction allowed, I realized that there are non-believers who are aware of Jesus yet reject him yet still want to go to heaven. During judgment, after the decision, they could potential do a last-second switch “just to make it”. What would happen, is it possible, and how is the process “just”?

    • Makes me think about the parable of the workers in the vineyard – all got paid the same amount at the end of the day, no matter how long each had worked there that day.

  35. I can’t help but remember that in the beginning of Genesis, God prevented us ( Adam and Eve ) from eating from the tree that would give us eternal life. So since, now, the only way to eternal life is through Jesus, those who don’t know Jesus will not live eternally, in any capacity.

  36. “Can you imagine a heaven with people who don’t want to be there? Can you picture the haters and the scornful poisoning the well with their bitter conversation? Can you imagine the Pharisees and the religious protesting their imprisonment? It’s bizarre. Yet this is the heaven of the universalist. Everyone is there, whether they like it or not.”

    I’ve been a universalist for 15 years and I have never heard anyone say that, not even once. That is not what we believe, at all. Not even close.

    • What would you say?

    • I’d say Jesus wins and he and the Father are one, so they both “would that all would be saved” Id say Adam‘s decision to partake in the knowledge of good and evil does not supersede Jesus’ act of bringing innocence back to mankind. When Job came to his senses he realized we cannot stand in the way of the will of God. And if God wants to save all, he won’t be doing it against their will…when the veil is lifted they will joyfully bend their knee! It’s only because of the knowledge of good and evil that anyone chooses now not to know it.

      • The difference, of course, is Job repented while he lived, while those who died in their stubborn unbelief must repent in their death – something for which there is no scriptural support. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen; I am saying it’s not in the Bible. Indeed, the Bible says little about what happens after death, so who knows. But I think it is safer to assume the worst and share the love of Jesus as though lives depend on it.

  37. Christine, could you please explain what you, as a universalist, believe about the concept of hell. I’m trying to understand this better. Thanks!

  38. Kevin Chayyim // December 15, 2020 at 5:15 pm // Reply

    Jesus only used the idea of hades/shoel in the parable as the place of torment because it was the traditional and accepted belief of the pharisee concerning the afterlife,so Jesus just wanted to use what they know to teach them and not as a fact but a story. There are many other stories in the old testament that were not true facts but were used to convey a message:’just like the story of the talking trees’,but do tree talk,never,though it is believed they radiate sound waves,but the story was based on talking trees,not real fantasy,like the avengers infinity war movie,only a story. Its clear JESUS was very precise in using well known people and places which the pharisees knew in their own belief,to teach them,like using what you are used to against you. Jesus used kings,servants and farmers when he was talking to servants and farmers cause it was their breaking point,paul became like gentile to win them over,in same way did Jesus use the pharisees knowledge to break their greedy hearts.

  39. Kevin Chayyim // December 16, 2020 at 7:23 am // Reply

    I don’t think the lake of fire is a metaphor but the consuming fire of God described as gehenah, a place that Jesus used to describe the fate of unbelievers,also jude 1:17 says that what happened to sodom and gomorrah is an example of what awaits the wicket ,even peter said so,they were burnt up by fire,gehenah is a firery pit where junk and filthy things and people were thrown into and as a result the ones that reached the bottom burnt up completely while the people at the edge decayed and as the cycle of life goes,maggots would appear on the dead bodies. So the lake of fire is real and it will burn the unbelievers into ashes and it will be a sign of the consequence of sin,the people themselves that got burnt will be forgotten but their ashes will remain, and their remnants will be seen with disgust for they didn’t enter eternal life but into shame and everlasting contempt or disgust.

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