WHAT DOES
                                      THE BIBLE SAY
                                      ABOUT HELL?
CONTENTS
 ...
WHAT                              used in an aggressive,
HAPPENED                          profane way, the less
         ...
religions: Zoroastrianism,     about the subject of hell.
    Judaism, Christianity,         Jesus, the prime example
    ...
WHAT DOES                        of life rather than the path
THE BIBLE SAY                    of death and judgment.
    ...
allowed them to experience       choices for which they
that they have literally         will be held accountable.
challen...
race and as individuals              Enter by the narrow gate;
recognize His lordship, give         for wide is the gate a...
acknowledge our sin,
admit that we can’t save
ourselves, and place our
trust in Jesus Christ. John            A Place
3:16...
punishment. Many who                The Wickedness
have chosen to live their         Of Public Enemies.
lives apart from G...
It is the moral and            cruelty that continues to
spiritual condition that God      produce rapists, child
has been...
mankind, religious and             made just to abide by the
non-religious alike:               external requirements of c...
in the sight of God, but     by saying that what we call
    the doers of the law will    sins are merely weaknesses.
    ...
the exact degree of
                                  punishment he will receive.
                                  God wi...
Those who never received         beyond our control. Yet we
special revelation will be       make choices after weighing
h...
more severe sentence than        universe. No one will be
most of his tenants, even        able to appeal His decisions.
t...
and of those under the         and will sentence him/her to
   earth, and that every          receive exactly what he/she
...
and therefore are confident       2:5-6 imply the hope
that we will go to heaven         of another chance after
would lik...
difficult passage, to be sure.    off than those who gained
Just as certain, however, is      the praise of the world but
...
offered to all. The context,     restoration of the theocracy
however, eliminates such an      under David’s Son, but they...
Colossians 1:20. Paul         distinguish between
declared that God’s purpose       a resurrection to
is “to reconcile all...
No, as much as we             declaration, “And do not
would like to think that          fear those who kill the body
ulti...
Scriptures. Paul declared         not be quenched” until God
that God “alone has               has vindicated His holiness...
important for us to consider     “forever” (Dt. 15:17). Paul
the Greek terms that are         counseled Philemon to
usuall...
term denotes a span of               or rebellion. Jesus declared
time and when it denotes             that after His judg...
denoted in these passages.        punishment. Jesus pointed
    In summary, the future        out that on the day of
of th...
farther and farther from          suffering of hell. We can’t
reality through eternity. He      understand the concept of
...
WHAT’S THE                       But the Scriptures make it
FATE OF THOSE                    clear that those who haven’t
...
the Gentile world before the      situation as most of the Old
time of Christ as “having no      Testament believers who
h...
THE FIRE                         called Tophet (literally “fire
OF HELL                          place”). There is a stron...
Then too, it’s important     gospel. Such excesses
to remember that the Bible       have also caused some
often uses fire ...
TRUST GOD                        be sure of one thing—
TO DO RIGHT                      God will do right by them.
       ...
DEFINING                          fallen angels and humans
OUR TERMS                         to rebellion and a destiny
  ...
Gospel—the good news that           Salvation—the rescue God
Christ died for our sins, that      offers us. It may refer t...
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What Does The Bible Say About Hell

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What Does The Bible Say About Hell

  1. 1. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HELL? CONTENTS W hy did someone as good and loving as What Happened To Christ spend so The Subject Of Hell? . . . 2 much time warning us about What Does The Bible “the fire that shall never be Say About Hell? quenched”— a place of It’s A Place Of Choice. . . 4 “weeping and gnashing of It’s A Place Of Truth . . . 7 teeth”? Why did He talk more about the fires of hell than It’s A Place Of Fair Treatment. . . . . . . 12 about the joys of heaven? The subject of hell is so It’s A Place Of Lost Hope . . . . . . . . . . 15 sobering that many are more comfortable ignoring it. But What’s The Fate Of Those Who there is no subject more Never Hear? . . . . . . . . 26 deserving of our honest The Fire Of Hell . . . . . 28 concern. In the following pages, RBC senior research Trust God To Do Right. . . . . . . . . 30 editor Herb Vander Lugt leads us in a discussion that we hope Defining Our Terms. . . 31 will reawaken those of us who are living as if there is no tomorrow for the lost. Martin R. De Haan II Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Design: Terry Bidgood Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. © 1990,2002 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. WHAT used in an aggressive, HAPPENED profane way, the less threatening it seems to TO THE SUBJECT the user. Accordingly, the OF HELL? subject of hell has become C ountless people as prevalent in street talk as among us seem it is absent in Sunday obsessed with sermons. the subject of hell. Even irreligious individuals talk of “going to hell and back” The more hell for something they love. shows up in casual They speak of certainties as being “sure as hell,” or conversation, the impossibilities as occurring less it is actually “when hell freezes over.” thought about. And bad experiences are said to “hurt like hell.” Many otherwise polite It wasn’t always that people regularly inject color, way. Historically, most emotion, and profanity into religions have held openly their conversation by to the idea of an after-death adding a casual or angry judgment followed by reference to hell to almost punishment for evildoers. any combination of words. In the New Encyclopedia Yet ironically, the more Britannica, we read: hell shows up in casual The view that hell is conversation, the less it is the final dwellingplace actually thought about— of the damned after a even in religious circles. last judgment is held by The more such a word is the western prophetic 2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. religions: Zoroastrianism, about the subject of hell. Judaism, Christianity, Jesus, the prime example and Islam. . . . Some of God’s love, spoke of hell modern theologians have repeatedly. He said that again questioned the some would rise from death literalistic view but still to “the resurrection of hold that hell is, at least, condemnation” (Jn. 5:29). a state of separation of He declared that those who the wicked from the go to hell enter the horrible good (Vol.5, p.814). place where “their worm Our present reluctance does not die and the fire to think seriously about the is not quenched” (Mk. reality of future punishment 9:44,46,48). He also may stem in part from an depicted it as a place of inadequate concept of “outer darkness,” where God. We have forgotten there “will be weeping that He is a God to be and gnashing of teeth” feared. The Russian (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). theologian Berdyaev said, Bertrand Russell said “It is remarkable how little he decided to become an people think about hell or atheist when he read the trouble about it. This is the words of Jesus about hell. most striking evidence of But did he act wisely? At human frivolity” (The least he was consistent. He Destiny Of Man, Scribner, realized that hell deserves 1937, p.33). What he wrote to be taken seriously. He more than 50 years ago is knew that it doesn’t make even more true today than sense to say you believe in when he penned it. Christ while rejecting what We do not do people a He and His book say about favor when we remain silent an eternal “lake of fire.” 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. WHAT DOES of life rather than the path THE BIBLE SAY of death and judgment. Over and over, Jesus ABOUT HELL? Himself urged His listeners to make wise choices with questions like: What will it profit a A Place man if he gains the whole of Choice world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mk. 8:36-37). Yet the same Bible also reminds us that most people will risk their eternal HELL IS A PLACE souls rather than feel OF CHOICE obligated or indebted to P eople don’t choose the love and mercy of hell with a full God. In some cases, this understanding of stubborn independence is what they are doing. They easy to see. Some will even don’t have a clear picture of tell you that if there really is the eternal happiness they a heaven and a hell they will miss or the everlasting would rather go to the place separation and darkness below because that’s where they will endure. But their friends will be. Others according to the Bible, say that heaven and God hell is a place of choice. and eternal goodness sound As a result, the Bible boring. Still others are so repeatedly appeals to its angry at God for the pain readers to choose the way and rejection that He has 4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. allowed them to experience choices for which they that they have literally will be held accountable. challenged Him to send Certainly they fail to them to the devil and his understand the full weight place. of their choices. They fail to realize that just as the first man and woman made choices that resulted in The choices may enormous loss, so also we be underrated, who are made in the image but the choices of God continue to be held accountable for the choices are still there. we make. With such choices and consequences in mind, the apostle Paul Most people, however, wrote: are merely ignoring the The wrath of God is long-term possibilities of revealed from heaven their own choices. They are against all ungodliness either counting on the hope and unrighteousness of that God is too loving to men, who suppress the send them to hell, or they truth in unrighteousness, are assuming that they because what may be aren’t bad enough to be known of God is manifest sent there. Many are so in them, for God has preoccupied with trying to shown it to them survive day-to-day struggles (Rom. 1:18-19). that they have chosen not As God’s creatures, to worry about the future. we owe Him glory and In the process, such thanksgiving. God has a people make personal right to expect that we as a 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. race and as individuals Enter by the narrow gate; recognize His lordship, give for wide is the gate and Him thanks, and live in broad is the way that grateful obedience to Him. leads to destruction, and But in our pride, we have there are many who go in refused to glorify God as by it. Because narrow is God. Instead, we have the gate and difficult is become preoccupied with the way which leads to ourselves and our own life, and there are few happiness. We have who find it (Mt. 7:13-14). chosen to love ourselves Proportionately, this is rather than God—to glorify still true. While religion is ourselves rather than the common all over the world, Lord. This is why “the how many people do you wrath of God” (Rom. 1:18) know who actually and rests upon the human race. consistently love God and This divine wrath is a express their gratitude to terrible reality. It is God’s Him? If you think carefully revulsion against the things and honestly, you will have that contradict His holy to admit that no one does. being. It is God’s reaction But Christians freely admit to those who choose evil this and have placed their while rejecting His love. trust for salvation in Jesus Some accuse God of Christ, believing that He vindictiveness. But we paid for their sins when He would be wise to withhold died on the cross. When our criticism and respond as people refuse to believe on quickly as we can to God’s Him, they are choosing to invitation to escape the stand on their own merits. eternal fires. It was Christ To be placed on the road to Himself who urged us: heaven, we must 6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. acknowledge our sin, admit that we can’t save ourselves, and place our trust in Jesus Christ. John A Place 3:16 states: of Truth For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. If you haven’t chosen HELL IS A PLACE to believe on Jesus Christ, OF TRUTH T you are choosing the path he second point to hell. Don’t listen to the we need to see is behaviorists who suggest that hell is a place that you have no real of truth. Even though it is choices of your own. sometimes described as a Reject the New Age place of outer darkness, it is thinking that says you are a place of the light of truth. governed by a non-moral Hell will finally expose the Force. Accept the teaching true nature of all who have of the Bible. If you reject consistently rejected the Christ, you will have no love and grace and mercy right to blame anyone but of God. In the meantime, yourself when you someday the true nature of human find yourself in hell. You hearts is often buried under will have to admit that deceptive appearances. you made the wrong Now, most people don’t choice. You won’t be think of themselves as able to blame God. deserving of everlasting 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. punishment. Many who The Wickedness have chosen to live their Of Public Enemies. lives apart from God don’t In some respects, human look any different than wickedness is terrible to others who openly admit contemplate. Think of what their need of the forgiveness God sees as He looks down and mercy of Christ. on the world of mankind. But present appearances He watches the murders, are deceiving. While the adulteries, thefts, fights, Bible says that most people and physical and emotional are headed for the lake of fire, many of them don’t look as though they deserve Think of the pain, a fire reserved for the devil the anxiety, the and his angels. Evil men like Stalin or Hitler or serial tears, and the killers might seem to qualify, countless victims but not the rank-and-file of that God sees. people who seem to live basically decent lives. Yet from the Bible’s point torment that occur day of view, such evaluations are and night in every part of extremely misleading and the world. He sees the child even deceptive. The Bible abusers—their lust, cruelty, shows us that the fires and and heartlessness. He sees blackness of hell will make wives crying, children eternal statements about abandoned, friends (1) the true wickedness and partners betrayed, of public enemies and governments oppressing, (2) the true wickedness and religious leaders of good people. fleecing their trusting flocks. 8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. It is the moral and cruelty that continues to spiritual condition that God produce rapists, child has been patiently tolerating molesters, embezzlers, and ever since man’s fall into sin. pornographers. When the Read the apostle Paul’s judgment of God falls, and timeless and universal when such persons are description of the human sentenced to the lake of fire condition: described in Revelation They have all turned 20:11-15, the fire will make aside; they have together an eternal statement of truth become unprofitable; about those who have lived there is none who does their lives at the expense of good, no, not one. Their others. throat is an open tomb; What we need to realize, with their tongues they however, is that Romans 3 have practiced deceit; the was not written merely to poison of asps is under tell the truth about those their lips; whose mouth public enemies who will one is full of cursing and day find their rightful place bitterness. Their feet are in hell. It also describes: swift to shed blood; The Wickedness destruction and misery Of Good People. A are in their ways; and the closer look shows that way of peace they have Romans 3:10-18 doesn’t not known. There is no just describe the judgment- fear of God before their deserving character of those eyes (Rom. 3:12-18). we call public enemies. This is a striking Verse 10 expresses the picture of the dishonesty, inclusive argument of the the greed, the profanity, the first three chapters of deceitfulness, and the Romans, when it says of 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. mankind, religious and made just to abide by the non-religious alike: external requirements of civil There is none righteous, and religious law. We were no, not one; there is none made to worship God from who understands; there our hearts and to love one is none who seeks after another as He has loved us. God. They have all When we measure turned aside; they ourselves by that evaluation, have together become the threat of hell becomes unprofitable; there is more of an issue. The none who does good, irresistible fire of judgment no, not one (3:10-12). will expose the enormous We don’t like to think deception that now hides that good people deserve behind social and religious to go to hell. But our good courtesies and proprieties. impression of decent law- We have good reason to abiding neighbors is not a shudder at the thought of real reflection of the truth. standing in God’s presence We think naturally in very on our own merits. If we’re man-centered ways rather honest, we must admit that than in the God-centered apart from Christ we deserve measurement described in to hear Him sentence us to Romans 3. Man wasn’t made hell. In God’s sight, no one to be a decent public servant. is really a good person. He was made to glorify his As many as have sinned Maker and to enjoy Him without law will also forever. We weren’t made to perish without law, and live decent, self-serving lives. as many as have sinned We were made to depend in the law will be judged gratefully on the love and by the law (for not the goodness of God. We weren’t hearers of the law are just 10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. in the sight of God, but by saying that what we call the doers of the law will sins are merely weaknesses. be justified; for when Others affirm that God is so Gentiles, who do not loving that He will never have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not All people, at one having the law, are a time or another, law to themselves, who show the work of the law sense that there written in their hearts, is a God to their conscience also whom they bearing witness, and between themselves their are morally thoughts accusing or else accountable. excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus punish anyone on the other Christ, according to my side of death. They don’t gospel (Rom. 2:12-16). want to acknowledge their All people, at one time sin and believe on Jesus or another, sense that there Christ. But the day is coming is a God to whom they are when they will stand before morally accountable, that God for final judgment. There they have sinned, and that they will see themselves as they need divine forgiveness. they really are. Stripped of all But most men and women their self-righteousness, they stifle these disquieting will recognize their guilt thoughts. Some do so by before God. And nothing denying the existence of a less than the lake of fire will personal God. Some do so ultimately tell the truth. 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. the exact degree of punishment he will receive. God will be perfectly fair. A Place The final judgment is of Fair depicted graphically in Treatment Revelation 20:11-15. This is the great white throne judgment. The Judge is none other than Jesus Christ (Jn. 5:24-30). All the unsaved will receive new bodies and HELL IS A PLACE OF will stand to be judged. Then FAIR TREATMENT the books containing the life W e have seen that record of every person and hell is the place the one special book of life people choose, will be opened. The opening even if unknowingly, when of these books shows that they go their own way those who rejected God’s instead of listening to God. gift of salvation will receive We have also noted that hell perfect justice. is a place that will forever In Romans 2:1-16, Paul tell the truth about the real pointed out that God will character of those who have look at what people have rejected and resisted God’s done with their privileges provision for their salvation. and opportunities, and that We are now ready to He will be completely consider a third fact—that impartial and fair (vv.5-11). hell will be a place of fair Those who possessed His treatment. Before anyone Word, the law of verses 12- goes there, he will stand at a 14, will be held accountable final judgment to determine for their response to it. 12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. Those who never received beyond our control. Yet we special revelation will be make choices after weighing held accountable only for options. Therefore, we are what they knew (vv.14-16). all accountable—at least to Jesus taught this same some degree. And God principle when He said that understands to what extent. the servant who knew his He also knows how much master’s will and disobeyed we need His mercy. would be beaten with When the young man “many stripes,” but that who died in a gang war stands before Jesus Christ, he will find that the Lord God’s love will understands all the be just, and circumstances of his short, violent, and troubled life— His justice will his absent father, his be loving. immoral mother, his disadvantaged peers, his complete ignorance of the the servant who had less gospel message, and his knowledge would be beaten despair. The Lord Jesus will with “few” (Lk. 12:47-48). take all these factors into No judge or jury fully consideration. He knows understands the person on exactly the degree of trial. No human being can responsibility of this young evaluate the exact degree man and will give him a of accountability in himself sentence that perfectly suits or anyone else. We are his offense. all profoundly influenced The rich, respectable by hereditary and landlord who died without environmental factors Christ may receive a far 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. more severe sentence than universe. No one will be most of his tenants, even able to appeal His decisions. those who had many In fact, no one will feel the brushes with the law. The need to do so. Every person Lord Jesus will take into will acknowledge Him as account their respective Lord and admit that His privileges. He will see verdict has been absolutely perfectly the underlying greed, selfishness, and pride of this man. He will God, the holy understand the sense of moral Governor of despair that was a factor in the universe, will some of the wrongs done by the tenants. All will receive dispense perfect fair treatment. God, the justice to all holy moral Governor of wrongdoers. the universe, will dispense perfect justice to all wrongdoers. fair and right. It is at this The awesome picture of time that everyone will final judgment in Revelation recognize Him to be all He 20:11-15 led Thomas Carlyle claimed to be, fulfilling the to exclaim: “What a words of Philippians 2:9-11. magnificent conception is Therefore God also has that of a final judgment! A highly exalted Him and righting of all the wrongs of given Him the name the ages.” The Lord Jesus which is above every Christ will take into account name, that at the name of every circumstance, Jesus every knee should overlooking nothing. He will bow, of those in heaven, be the Supreme Court of the and of those on earth, 14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. and of those under the and will sentence him/her to earth, and that every receive exactly what he/she tongue should confess that deserves. Now we are ready Jesus Christ is Lord, to the to develop the solemn fact glory of God the Father. that hell is a place of lost hope. We must take the love-filled, tear-marked Jesus seriously when He warned: A Place Do not fear those who kill of Lost the body but cannot kill Hope the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt. 10:28). We will consider the final and irreversible nature HELL IS A PLACE of this loss in three steps: OF LOST HOPE First, we will examine the W e have seen that so-called “universalist” or people choose “second chance” passages hell by rejecting in the Bible. Second, we the light they have received will consider the passages from God. We have seen that speak of hell as a place that everyone is a sinner of “destruction.” Third, we whose selfishness and pride will study the implications call for divine punishment— of the fact that the terms even the nice non-Christian everlasting or eternal often who has so many fine appear in reference to hell. qualities. We have seen that The “Second Jesus Christ is going to judge Chance” Passages. We every person individually who believe on Jesus Christ 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. and therefore are confident 2:5-6 imply the hope that we will go to heaven of another chance after would like to see everyone death. They view Acts 3:21, get there eventually. We 1 Corinthians 15:22, would very much like to Philippians 2:9-1l, and find evidence in the Bible Colossians 1:20 as verses that the lost will get another which imply that almost all chance to be saved after will eventually be among the death. And there always redeemed. Let’s take a look have been teachers who at these passages. First Peter 3:18-20. These verses declare that It is extremely “Jesus preached to the dangerous to use spirits in prison,” specifically to contemporaries of Noah. a few difficult Some Bible interpreters passages to try believe that Peter was to override many referring to the preaching done by Noah while he was clear ones. building the ark. Others teach that between His have held the viewpoint death and resurrection of another opportunity Jesus went to the realm after death. Some Bible of the unsaved dead and students refer to themselves announced what He had as universalists because done. Still others believe He they believe that eventually went to the prison house for everyone or almost everyone fallen angels and announced will end up in heaven. They His redeeming work to them. believe that 1 Peter 3:18-20 We may choose any of these and 4:6, and 1 Timothy interpretations. It is a 16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. difficult passage, to be sure. off than those who gained Just as certain, however, is the praise of the world but that we should not take a must face God’s judgment difficult passage like this after death. and use it to overrule other First Timothy 2:5-6. passages like Hebrews 9:27, This passage is also quoted which states, “. . . it is as a proof of a second appointed for men to die chance after death. It tells us: once, but after this the There is one God and one judgment.” Mediator between God First Peter 4:6. This and men, the Man Christ is another verse often used Jesus, who gave Himself a to prove that people will ransom for all, to be receive another chance. testified in due time. Peter wrote: Those who view this For this reason the gospel passage as offering another was preached to those chance for salvation after who are dead, that death point out that the they might be judged ransom price was paid according to men in the for all, and that it will be flesh, but live according “testified” to all “in due to God in the spirit. time.” Some people in This verse refers to the this world never receive proclamation of the gospel an opportunity to hear to living people who later the gospel, and many died. The preaching was who do, hear it under very done while these individuals unfavorable circumstances. were alive. They were judged Therefore, “in due time,” harshly by the world, but under conditions more they now enjoy the bliss of favorable after death, the heaven. They are far better gospel of salvation will be 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. offered to all. The context, restoration of the theocracy however, eliminates such an under David’s Son, but they interpretation. Paul made never predicted a day when this statement in connection the unsaved dead would be with his injunction that converted and translated to God’s people pray for all heaven. men (not just for a small First Corinthians 15:22. select company), and with Paul’s words “For as in his declaration that God Adam all die, even so in desires all people to be Christ all shall be made saved (not just Israelites). alive” are sometimes taken He asserted that Christ’s to mean that all will ransom was universal in eventually be saved. But availability and that the that isn’t what Paul said. gospel testimony is to go He declared the simple truth out everywhere. There is no that just as every person indication here of another dies because he is united gospel offer after death. with Adam as a member of Acts 3:21. Peter spoke of the sinful human race by “the times of restoration of natural birth, so every all things,” and this to some person who is united with Bible scholars implies the Christ shall experience a idea that in the end all will glorious resurrection. We be saved. But a careful study did nothing to become a of this verse makes it clear member of the human that Peter was speaking race, but we must believe about the restoration of on Christ and be born again Israel as predicted by the to enter Christ’s family. We Old Testament prophets. who have done this are now They spoke of Israel’s return “in Christ” and therefore to the land and the recipients of eternal life. 18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. Colossians 1:20. Paul distinguish between declared that God’s purpose a resurrection to is “to reconcile all things to condemnation and a Himself . . . through the resurrection to blessedness, blood of His cross.” Standing we see Colossians 1:20 as by itself, this seems to teach teaching that through the that eventually every blood of the cross God creature will be brought into provided for the restoration of the whole universe to the harmony He intended for As much as we it—the harmony that was would like to think broken through sin. The that ultimately all day is coming when all creatures will be brought into will be saved, we subjection to God. They will cannot honestly acknowledge the authority of use the Bible to the triune God and submit to Him. They will confess the build a case for it. lordship of Christ to the glory of the Father (Phil. 2:10-11). a saving relationship with In the case of the evil spirits God. William Hendriksen and unredeemed human quotes a minister who used beings, this subjection will this verse as the basis for the be imposed, not welcomed. following statement: “In the On the other hand, the good end everybody is going to be angels and redeemed people saved. I have hope even for will submit joyfully and the devil.” rejoice in the fact that But when we interpret rebellion has ceased and this verse in the light of the a new harmony exists in many passages that clearly God’s universe. 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. No, as much as we declaration, “And do not would like to think that fear those who kill the body ultimately all will be saved, but cannot kill the soul. But we cannot honestly use the rather fear Him who is able Scriptures to build a case to destroy both soul and for it. body in hell” (Mt. 10:28). The “Destruction” The Greek word here for Passages. Having pointed “destroy” is apollumi. It out the solemn fact that occurs scores of times in the the Bible does not give us New Testament. Jesus used reason to look for a second this term when He said that chance for salvation after new wine would “ruin” an death, we are now ready to old wineskin (Lk. 5:37) and consider the implications of when He referred to the the word destruction when food we eat as “the food used to describe the which perishes” (Jn. 6:27). destiny of the wicked The fact that the Greek and unbelieving. In terms sometimes rendered 2 Thessalonians 1:9, for “destroy” or “perish” can example, we are told that mean “to bring to an end” those who refuse to know or “cease to exist” has led God and to obey the gospel some Bible students to say “shall be punished with that the unsaved will everlasting destruction be resurrected, judged, from the presence of the punished according to their Lord.” The word here is works, and then annihilated. olethros, the same word They point out that the used in 1 Corinthians 5:5, doctrine of human 1 Thessalonians 5:3, and immortality comes from 1 Timothy 6:9. Greek thought rather than Jesus made the solemn the Hebrew or Greek 20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. Scriptures. Paul declared not be quenched” until God that God “alone has has vindicated His holiness immortality, dwelling in in the punishment of all sin. unapproachable light, whom However, they look forward no man has seen or can see” to a point in eternity after (1 Tim. 6:16). These Bible which nothing sinful or scholars are well aware of painful will exist in the our Lord’s statement that entire universe. the unredeemed go into Most orthodox Bible “everlasting punishment” scholars have not accepted (Mt. 25:46). But they see this teaching. They have eternal extinction as eternal difficulty equating “eternal punishment, pointing out punishment” with “eternal that Jesus didn’t say eternal nonexistence.” They also conscious punishment. think of mankind in God’s These teachers, image as created for an however, are not simple eternal conscious destiny in annihilationists. They either heaven or hell. take seriously the Bible The “Forever and verses that speak of the Ever” Passages. We resurrection, judgment, and have shown that the Bible appropriate punishment of does not promise or even the lost. But they believe imply that the lost will have that the eventual destiny another chance for salvation of the unsaved will be after death. We have also extinction. They view hell as observed that the Greek a grim reality. They recognize words translated “perish” or that the terms destroy and “destroy” in relation to hell destruction can mean more can either denote eternal than annihilation. They conscious ruin or eventual declare that “the fire will extinction of being. So it’s 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. important for us to consider “forever” (Dt. 15:17). Paul the Greek terms that are counseled Philemon to usually translated receive Onesimus back as “everlasting,” “eternal,” his slave “forever” (Phile. or “forever and ever” in the 15). In all of these cases, Bible. In relation to hell, do they really denote endlessness? And do In relation to they indicate that the hell, do the lost will endure conscious terms translated punishment throughout all eternity? “everlasting,” In view is the Greek “eternal,” or word aion (usually rendered “forever and ever” “forever” or “eternal”) and the Greek expression tous really indicate an aionas ton aionon (normally endless conscious rendered “forever and punishment ever”). In and by themselves, they do not throughout necessarily denote eternity. all eternity? When Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament the word aion relates to this from Hebrew to Greek, they world only, not to eternity. used the term aion to denote But the same term was also the “everlasting hills” of used to depict God as the Genesis 49:26 and to depict eternal One, “from ever- the servant who voluntarily lasting to everlasting” (Ps. had his ear pierced to 41:13; 90:2; 106:48). It is indicate that he wished obvious that the context to remain with his master must determine when this 22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. term denotes a span of or rebellion. Jesus declared time and when it denotes that after His judgment of absolute endlessness. the nations the lost will Kittel’s Theological “go away into everlasting Dictionary Of The New punishment, but the Testament tells us that when righteous into eternal life” aion is used in any of its (Mt. 25:46). Of the people forms in relation to this who will worship the world, it denotes the “time Antichrist and his image, or duration of the world.” we read, “And the smoke But when used of God or of their torment ascends the world entered at death, forever and ever; and they it denotes “timeless have no rest day or night” eternity.” The Greek mind (Rev. 14:11). In addition, basically thought in terms the beast, the false prophet, of two ages—the present age and Satan will be cast into that will end and the future the lake of fire, where “they age that is timeless. The will be tormented day and New Testament writers night forever and ever” “borrowed” this usage. (Rev. 20:10). Whenever they used the The Greek word word aion in relation to God, translated “tormented” spiritual realities, or life after in these last two verses is death, they had absolute basanizo which, according timelessness or never-ending to the lexicons, denotes eternity in mind (see Vol.1, physical or mental distress, pp.197-209). torture, or harassment. Only The words aion and conscious beings can suffer aionion are used several this way. Therefore, we must times in relation to the fate conclude that eternal of those who die in unbelief conscious suffering is 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. denoted in these passages. punishment. Jesus pointed In summary, the future out that on the day of of those who die as judgment the inhabitants unbelievers or rebels is not of ancient Sodom would be pleasant to contemplate. treated with more mercy When Jesus talked about than the people in Judea hell, He spoke of “weeping who had deliberately and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. rejected Him and His 8:12), of “the fire that shall apostles (Mt. 10:15). He never be quenched” (Mk. also spoke of the servant 9:43,45), and of a place who would be punished “where their worm does not die” (Mk. 9:44,46,48). Even if many verses are We are wise to inconclusive regarding the assume no more— eternal conscious suffering and no less—than of the lost, Revelation 14:11 and 20:10 indicate that at the Bible says the very least, some of the about hell. lost will suffer conscious torment for all eternity. lightly because he had little We must be careful that knowledge of God’s will (Lk. we do not go beyond the 12:48). Scriptures and portray hell C. S. Lewis, in his book as a place where all the lost The Great Divorce, pictures will scream in pain forever the lost as having to live and ever. This picture gives with themselves and one a wrong impression of God. another unchanged from He is not only perfectly what they were on earth. holy and just, but He He portrays them as moving will be absolutely fair in slowly and inexorably 24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. farther and farther from suffering of hell. We can’t reality through eternity. He understand the concept of admitted that his work was eternity. And we don’t know not a theological treatise just what the bodies of the and didn’t want it to be unredeemed in hell will be interpreted as such. But he like. The biblical doctrine wanted to make us realize of hell is designed to warn that even if there were no sinners. It is designed to extreme physical pain, hell motivate believers to do all would be a terrible place. It they can to reach people is a fact that actions form with the gospel. It is habits and habits develop designed to show us how character. Unless a person terrible sin is in the sight of has been born again through an awesomely holy God. faith in Christ, he will go Therefore, although we into eternity with a nature cannot visualize either the that has been fixed in this timelessness of eternity or life. He dies a sinner and the exact nature of hell’s will be a sinner forever, but suffering, we can be moved he will be unable to carry to godly fear and proper out his evil thoughts or action. And we can inclinations. He will be in ultimately trust God to do torment, but his nature will what is right by friends and be so twisted by his evil relatives who for one reason desires that he will prefer or another refuse the gospel. the misery of hell to the kind With Abraham of old we of activities that occupy the can ask the rhetorical saints in heaven. question, “Shall not the It is perhaps wise for Judge of all the earth do us to avoid excessive right?” (Gen. 18:25), and speculation about the leave the matter to Him. 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. WHAT’S THE But the Scriptures make it FATE OF THOSE clear that those who haven’t heard the gospel are lost just WHO NEVER as surely as those who refuse HEAR? to believe on Christ. Jesus M any people have declared that He Himself is gone through this the only way to God (Jn. life without even 14:6). Peter boldly told the once hearing about Jesus Jewish rulers who had Christ. Even among those arrested him, “Nor is there who live in cultures where salvation in any other, for Christian holidays like there is no other name under Christmas and Easter are observed, there are Can we assume multitudes who never really hear the gospel. And some that God will find who have had contact with a way to open the professing Christians never doors of heaven give Jesus Christ serious consideration because of to those who have what they see in the lives never heard of people who claim to be the gospel of His followers. What about such Jesus Christ? people who will die without ever having heard a clear heaven given among men presentation of the gospel? by which we must be saved” Can we assume that God will (Acts 4:12). Paul referred to find some way to open the all who don’t know Jesus as doors of heaven to them? We “those who are perishing” would like to believe that. (2 Cor. 4:3) and described 26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. the Gentile world before the situation as most of the Old time of Christ as “having no Testament believers who hope and without God in the were saved by God’s grace world” (Eph. 2:12). The through faith even though heartbreaking fact is that they had only a vague people who have never heard concept of Christ. He writes, the gospel are on their way to “The believing Jew was a Christless eternity. accepted and blessed not God will hold those because of the prescribed who never heard the gospel animal sacrifices he offered, responsible for what they nor even his repentance did with the light that they and abandonment to God’s had in this world. Paul said mercy, but because of of the pagans that God had what God Himself was revealed Himself to them in going to do in His only nature (Rom. 1:18-21) and Son at the cross of Calvary” in conscience (Rom. 2:12- (Christianity And World 16). They must give an Religions: The Challenge account of what they did Of Pluralism, 1984, p.153). with this light and will be It’s not imperative that punished accordingly. we accept Anderson’s Sir Norman Anderson, suggestion, because the a respected evangelical, has Bible doesn’t tell us about pointed out that some who the fate of these “noble” never hear the gospel pagans. But we can be become conscious of their certain about one thing: We sinfulness, abandon all can trust God to do right by efforts to earn God’s favor, all those who die without and cry out for forgiveness. having heard the saving He contends that they are to gospel of Jesus Christ. And be viewed in the same that is all we need to know! 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. THE FIRE called Tophet (literally “fire OF HELL place”). There is a strong tradition that the valley T he term fire is often became a city dump where used in connection refuse and the bodies of with the punishment criminals were burned. The of the lost. In Revelation terrible reputation of this 20, the expression “lake of valley plus its association fire” occurs three times to with fire and judgment denote the final destiny of made it an apt symbol God’s enemies. for the place of final Fire is also associated punishment for the wicked. with hell because of the So should we portray Greek word gehenna, the hell as a literal furnace of term most often employed fire where all the lost will to denote the place where scream in pain throughout the lost will go after death all eternity? The Church and judgment. It occurs Fathers, Luther, Calvin, 11 times in the gospels and all the classical theologians, once in the rest of the New and present-day evangelical Testament (Jas. 3:6). The leaders like Francis word itself referred to “the Schaeffer and J. I. Packer valley of Hinnom,” just say an emphatic no. south of Jerusalem. It was They point out that God there that the Israelites will lightly punish those under Ahaz and Manasseh who did not know much (2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6) placed about His expectations children on a fiery altar (Lk. 12:48). A hell in which dedicated to the god all burn in a literal fire does Molech. The specific place not allow for significant where this was done was degrees of punishment. 28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. Then too, it’s important gospel. Such excesses to remember that the Bible have also caused some often uses fire as a symbol. true believers to ignore the In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, biblical teaching about hell our works (or doctrines) or to develop false doctrines are portrayed as “wood, hay, straw” that will be consumed by the fire of judgment or as “gold, Should we portray silver, precious stones” hell as a literal that will endure the fire. furnace of fire In James 3:5-6 the tongue is a “fire,” causes “fire,” where all the lost and is itself “set on fire will scream in by hell.” Hebrews 12:29 pain throughout declares that “our God is a consuming fire.” Jude 23 all eternity? speaks of people who have been doctrinally misled and are in need of being like universalism. But snatched “out of the fire.” a sensitive and accurate In all of these references, treatment of this truth the fire is symbolic. can be used by God to The Bible presents a strengthen Christians literal hell as the place of and to awaken sinners eternal punishment for all to their need of Christ. who die in unbelief or rebellion. Unscriptural and repulsive overstatements about hell have turned some people away from the 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. TRUST GOD be sure of one thing— TO DO RIGHT God will do right by them. Trust Him and do what He T he woman was says. Receive Jesus as your convinced that she Savior.” She did, and today was a sinner who she is a strong Christian needed God’s forgiveness. woman. She also believed the good We don’t like the idea news that Jesus died on of eternal punishment. We the cross for her sins may even find ourselves and destroyed the power repulsed by the concept. of death through His But we need to be careful. resurrection. But she balked God sees and understands when I suggested that she infinitely more than we do. receive Jesus as her Savior. He has proven His love She said she wasn’t sure in so many ways, especially she wanted to go to providing salvation through heaven if her parents Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16; Rom. were in hell. They had been 5:8). He wants you to place churchgoing, loving, honest your trust in His Son. people. But she didn’t think Listen to Him, accept His they had ever heard the salvation, and trust Him to gospel clearly presented. do what is right to you and Sensing her resistance, to all mankind. Accept His I said, “Neither you nor I warning to escape “the know for sure where your fire that shall never be parents will spend eternity. quenched—where ‘their It’s possible that they worm does not die, and believed Jesus died for the fire is not quenched’ ” their sins and trusted Him (Mk. 9:44,46,48). to save them. But we can 30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. DEFINING fallen angels and humans OUR TERMS to rebellion and a destiny of eternal punishment. Annihilationism—the idea Evangelicals—a label that people will not suffer describing those who accept eternal conscious torment in the good news that Jesus is hell but will eventually be the Christ, the only Son of consumed or obliterated in God, who lived a perfect life, judgment, ceasing to exist. died for our sins, was buried, Beast—the violent and and rose again on the third aggressive endtime person, day to offer eternal life to all also known as the Antichrist, who would believe in Him. who will deceive the nations Evil—the absence or opposite before being sentenced by of good, love, and godliness; God to everlasting torment. a condition of spiritual Damned, condemned— independence that resists the terrible state of those God’s plan for us. sentenced to eternal False Prophet—the separation from God. endtime person who will use Destruction—to be ruined supernatural power to bring or consumed. The word is honor to the Antichrist before used repeatedly in the Bible to joining him in a place of describe God’s plan to bring everlasting torment. His enemies first to the grave Fear Of God—a healthy and then ultimately to the dread of resisting or rebelling fires and darkness of hell. against God, with the result of Devil/Satan—the powerful moving toward God rather personal spirit being who than away from Him. Properly through pride and hatred has understood, it is reverential become the chief adversary of awe that results in trust and God and will lead countless love for God. 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. Gospel—the good news that Salvation—the rescue God Christ died for our sins, that offers us. It may refer to He was buried, and that He deliverance from temporary rose from the grave to save all physical harm, but in the who will trust Him. highest sense it speaks of Hell—the place of final God’s loving offer to save us judgment created for the devil, from the past, present, and his angels, and all who die future effects of sin. It is without making peace with available only in the name of God. Described as the lake of Christ, who gave His life to fire and a place of outer save all who trust Him to darkness where the torment is deliver them from eternal characterized by weeping and separation from God. gnashing of teeth. Self-righteous—a term that New Age—a current world- describes one who thinks he is view that sees man as being good enough to merit heaven one with the spiritual life-force by personal effort rather than of the universe, capable of by believing that goodness is a shaping his own destiny gift of God received through through the development of faith in Christ. mind and potential. Universalist—one who Soul—the immaterial part believes that everyone will of man that includes the eventually be saved and intellect, emotion, and will. brought into a right It exists with or without relationship with God. the body. Wrath Of God—the Pagan, Sinner, Wicked, perfect and patient anger of Lost—terms describing those God that will consume all who, for lack of faith in Christ, who persistently and finally are outside the circle of His refuse to acknowledge His forgiveness and life. rightful place in their lives. 32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free Bible Resources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a brief description of each Discovery Series booklet. To get your copy, write to us at the address below and ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below to request your copy today. www.discoveryseries.org/catalog USA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222 Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7

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