Hell? (Part 2)


Last week I talked mostly about the usage of “Hell” as a word in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  I also talked some about how the King James Version of the Bible used the term “Hell” frequently in the both the Old and New Testaments whereas the RSV and NIV used the term only in the New Testament. We saw that “Hell” was a substitute for a more accurate translation such as “Grave” in some instances or “Gehenna” in others. It is for this reason that “Hell” as a concept for the final destination of the unsaved has been greatly misunderstood. Today I will explore the actual fate of the unsaved.


First consider these prophetic texts.

*   (Psa 37:20 NIV)  But the wicked will perish: The Lord's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish--vanish like smoke.

*   (Psa 92:6-7 NIV)  The senseless man does not know, fools do not understand, {7} that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.

*   (Isa 1:28 RSV)  But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.

*   (Mal 4:1-3 NIV)  "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. {2} But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. {3} Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty.

*   (Isa 66:22-24 NIV)  "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. {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. {24} "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."


Now consider what Jesus said about the wicked and Hell (Gehenna).

*   (Mat 10:28 NIV)  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

*   (Luke 12:4-5 NIV)  "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. {5} But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Now consider what else Jesus said about Hell (Hades).

*   (Mat 11:23 KJV)  And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

*   (Mat 16:18 KJV)  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Here are a few more verses about Hell (Hades).

*   (Acts 2:25-27 KJV)  For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: {26} Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: {27} Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

*   (2 Th 1:8-9 KJV)  In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: {9} Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

*   (Rev 6:8 KJV)  And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

*   (Rev 20:13 KJV)  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

*   (Rev 20:14-15 KJV)  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. {15} And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.


OK, if we stop here it is apparent that “Hell” is the grave or a pit when the term “Hades” in the Greek or “Sheol” in the Hebrew is translated as “Hell.” Neither of these is anything like the traditional concept of Hell and nothing at all to do with eternal punishment or eternal punishing.


The only “Hell” in the Bible that has any resemblance to the traditional Hell is the one translated from the Greek word Gehenna. So, let’s look at some of the more problematic scriptures relating to this concept.

*   (Mat 18:8 KJV)  Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

*    (Mat 25:40-41 KJV)  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. {41} Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:


So is this fire actually a fire that burns forever and ever? Or, is it a fire with everlasting consequences but not a fire that burns without an end to the burning?

*    (Phile 1:13-15 KJV)  Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: {14} But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly. {15} For perhaps he (Onesimus the slave) therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;

*    (Jude 1:7 KJV)  Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

It’s not obvious but in every case mentioned the key term, everlasting, for ever, or eternal, is the same Greek word, aionios. Now it’s clear that Sodom and Gomorrah are no longer burning. And it’s equally clear that Onesimus is dead and no longer being received. So we must conclude that everlasting can have more than one meaning depending on context. The context here is that of an event that passes away, namely the destruction of the wicked. Let’s look at two more  Biblical examples of such language.

*   (2 Pet 2:6 KJV)  And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

*    (Exo 21:5-6 KJV)  And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: {6} Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.


We just heard about Sodom and Gomorrah and Peter confirms what we already concluded. But the servant passage is new and yet another example of how usage or context can change meaning. Does anyone seriously contend that any of those servants are still serving their master’s?


Let me conclude with a few modern examples of how we use such words today.

*   Events are sometimes immortalized with an eternal flame.

*   I will never forget that day.

*   I will love her forever.

*   We hope the Middle East conflicts lead to everlasting peace.


Alright already! Enough is enough. I started off listing many scriptures that clearly stated the wicked will perish, vanish like smoke, be forever destroyed, and consumed. But that’s not all, evildoers will be stubble and set on fire, not a root or a branch will be left to them, they will become ashes to be trampled on, and their bodies will be dead and set on fire with a fire that will burn out but not be quenched.


So do we want to take a few weak references and harmonize them to the strong ones or make the many strong ones harmonize with the weak ones? To me that answer is simple. And my God is a God of justice, compassion and mercy. He will kill the wicked and burn them up just as the garbage was burned up in Gehenna. They will be consumed by that fire and utterly destroyed. God desires that none should perish and He certainly will not torture the wicked continually with no ending.