Category Archives: Hell

Avoiding Hell

Avoiding Hell and going to Heaven?

The average Evangelical Christian thinks that avoiding Hell and going to Heaven is the Gospel or Good News. Well, I suppose avoiding being tortured for ever and ever would be something that you would want to avoid – if it were true.

Therefore, according to the traditional Evangelical, the Gospel is not really something you experience much in this life but what you experience way in the future. The bonus, is that you may even get to escape a sort of ‘hell on earth’ (the tribulation)- if of course you are fortunate enough to be raptured!

Is it Good news?

lostTherefore, is what we are proclaiming Good News to the average person around us? To a single mother depressed and struggling to look after her young kids, does the Gospel of Hell avoidance seem at all attractive? Likewise, to the young man with a drug addiction; the man who has recently been made redundant or the housewife facing cancer? No, some people are already in a kind of hell – they really don’t need to be told its going to be even worse!

If the Gospel is nothing except an escape from future punishment then it’s not good news at all by any stretch of the imagination. Good news is when you win the lottery or get a tax refund – not the avoidance of certain death in a car crash because your remembered to wear a seat belt! When Noah preached to his generation, warning them of the coming flood – that wasn’t good news! It was bad news! Yes, it was the truth but it wasn’t the Gospel!

Its about Jesus

No, the Good News is about Jesus Christ! It’s that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we might not perish but have eternal life – not escape from hell. Without Jesus in our lives, we are indeed perishing! Some of us maybe do better in life for a while but all of us eventually die!

However, the true Gospel is a Gospel of hope because its the good news of how God intervenes and intervened in human history through the person of the son Jesus Christ. At the cross Jesus overcame death and brought the possibility of immortality and life after death through physical resurrection!

2 Timothy 1:10 “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:”

The Gospel therefore, is great news when you realise that it proclaims an end to the the blood shed and the hatred in the world at the moment: a coming kingdom and age in which will righteousness will dwell but a kingdom that can be tasted now!

 

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Previous related post on the topic of Hell:

The first person to preach Hell?

Love never fails (Part 1)

Gods brilliant plan (Part 2)

How big are God’s plans? (Part 3)

God is a universalist (Part 4)

Jesus is God’s plan (Part 5)

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The threat of Hell!

Some Arminian preachers claim that you need the threat of Hell to save people. In other words, you scare them to love and believe in God in order to make that ‘correct’ choice! Then, you continue to threaten them to keep them saved!

Is Calvinism fair?

Calvinists on the other hand, believe that God only purposes to save a select bunch – who miraculously seem to live in only certain parts of the world and at certain times in history. Odd that, you would have thought God could have been a bit more even handed – rather than be accused of racism! Indeed, most people have no choice, it doesn’t matter how wicked they are, they will respond because God wills so – according to the Calvinist? Unfortunately, the rest get to be eternally tortured in the flames of Hell. Sounds just like what Jesus would do to me!

In support of Calvinist theology though, the Apostle Paul seems to be a good example of unconditional election and grace as he lies in the dirt face down staring up into the face of the resurrected Jesus (who he didn’t believe in). At that point though, what choice did he have – really?

So, I get Calvinism as far as grace goes. When I was born of physical parents I didn’t  decide to get born. Likewise in the new birth; the decision wasn’t mine. Indeed, no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. That’s called grace.

God has a quota of saved souls?

What doesn’t make any sense though, is that a god of love and infinite power would decide to cap the quota of saved people at a few million in a few nations of the world. In other words, God is like Donald Trump building walls to keep people out of the kingdom! Therefore, rather than us choosing God – as Arminians believe – God chooses to reject most!

Dare I hope?

What if then, the Gospel (Good News) isn’t about saving people from Hell but saving them from a hellish life NOW! Jesus came to deliver us from this present evil age or (eternity) aeon. He delivers us from sin; he forgives all our sins; he fills us with the Holy Spirit; he heals us; he showers his gifts upon us. He wants relationship with us now! That is what (eternal) or life pertaining the age is!

Therefore, people don’t need a threat of Hell to be reconciled to God; they need to taste his infinite love!

What if, dare I believe it or hope, that Jesus does win in the end; that he is in fact the saviour of all men especially those who believe; that he will draw all men to himself and that the coming age will be one full of righteousness when all shall know the Lord? Scripture specifically says he wants to save all so why is it such a stretch to believe that he might get his way in the end? Or, is the devil too powerful and man so wicked, that no matter what God does, all he can do eventually – is whisk a few fortunate souls away in a rapture!

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Previous related post on the topic of Hell:

The first person to preach Hell?

Love never fails (Part 1)

Gods brilliant plan (Part 2)

How big are God’s plans? (Part 3)

God is a universalist (Part 4)

Jesus is God’s plan (Part 5)

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The first person to preach on Hell?

Who was the first person to preach on Hell?

Answer: John the Baptist. Now that might surprise you but I do need to qualify my answer before you bash me over the head with a King James Bible!

The KJV and the OT

fireUnfortunately, the King James Version (along with many others I might add) has muddied the waters because it incorrectly and confusingly translates several different words as Hell including: Hades, Sheol, and Gehenna. In fact, literally the word Hell doesn’t actually occur in the Bible!

If, by Hell though, we mean a place of eternal punishment in the the after-life, then this concept is not found in the Old Testament! In fact, the Old Testament tells us very little about the after-life – except that there is going to be a resurrection of the dead – alluded to in Daniel:

Daniel 12:2 “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

It was probably this scripture that informed Martha of her belief in resurrection:

John 11:24: “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Even today, Judaism believes in the resurrection of the dead but not eternal punishment in Hell.

Therefore, when the King James Version of the Bible uses the word Hell in the Old Testament – this is NOT describing a place of eternal punishment. It is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word Sheol – the place where the dead are imagined to reside. The Greeks had similar but more complex idea that they called Hades.

Hell by John the baptist

Back to our question and answer though, was John a hell-fire preacher and if so – what did he mean by it?

Matthew 3:7: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

3:10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptise you with water but He who is coming after me is mightier than I whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand and he will thoroughly clean his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”

What is clear, is that John is not speaking of a place of eternal punishment and torment. No, John knows that he is the messenger and last Old Testament’ prophet prophesied in the last book of the Old Testament:

Malachi

Malachi 3:1 “Behold I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me”

Malachi 4:6 “Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”

The End of the Age

Therefore, John would certainly be aware that when Messiah came, the age (aeon) would be expected to end and new one would begin called the millennial kingdom.

Malachi 3:2 “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.”

Consequently, what John is announcing is CHANGE! The Old System is going to be purified by fire – its time to clean house; get ready for the owner of the house to visit! There is going to be a big bonfire!

Malachi 4:1 “For behold the day is coming burning like and oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble and the day that is coming shall burn them up”

Jesus and Hell (Gehenna)

Now we understand this, it is much easier to understand what Jesus the Messiah meant by Hell. Jesus uses a word: Gehenna. By the way, no one else uses this word (only the Apostle James). Gehenna is a real place: the valley of Hinnom – the rubbish tip outside the walls of Jerusalem.

2 Chron. 28:3. “Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.”

Therefore when Jesus talks about people being cast in to outer darkness, the wailing and gnashing of teeth and sheep and goats etc, those listening would understand the context is the Messiah establishing the kingdom on earth!

We will look at this in more depth in my next article.

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Previous related post on the topic of Hell:

Love never fails (Part 1)

Gods brilliant plan (Part 2)

How big are God’s plans? (Part 3)

God is a universalist (Part 4)

Jesus is God’s plan (Part 5)

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What is the lake of fire?

Here is a description of the ‘lake of fire’: the circle of the earth as seen from space in flame:

Lake of fire – the end of the world!

lake of fire2 Peter 3:7 “but the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men.”

2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away in a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up”

2 Peter 3:12 “looking for and hastening the coming day of God because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Lake of fire – Final punishment

This is what Jesus refers to in Matthew 25:41 as the judgement at the end of the age or the day of God.

YLT “Then shall he say also to those on the left hand, Go ye from me, the cursed, to the fire, the age-during, that hath been prepared for the Devil and his messengers;”

46 “And these shall go away to punishment (pruning) age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.” YLT

This same event is described in Malachi 4:1:

lake of fire“ For behold the day is coming burning like an oven and all the proud yes all who do wickedly will be stubble and the day that is coming shall burn them up says the Lord of hosts that will leave them neither root or branch. But to you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet!”

Malachi 3:2 “But who shall endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like launders soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the Lord and offering of righteousness”

This event is also described in Daniel 12:1

YLT ‘And the multitude of those sleeping in the dust of the ground do awake, some to life age-during, and some to reproaches — to abhorrence age-during.

Lake of fire – The great white throne

These events are described in Revelation 20:

Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him who is sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven did flee away, and place was not found for them; and I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which is that of the life, and the dead were judged out of the things written in the scrolls — according to their works; and the sea did give up those dead in it, and the death and the hades did give up the dead in them, and they were judged, each one according to their works; and the death and the hades were cast to the lake of the fire — this is the second death; and if any one was not found written in the scroll of the life, he was cast to the lake of the fire.

A new heavens and earth

angelsIf you turn over now to Revelation 21 we find the promise of a new heavens and new earth just as in 2 Peter.

Revelation 21:1 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”

In this new world there isn’t a hell, hades or lake of fire. How do I know? Because, as the following verse makes clear, there is no longer and pain or death including the second death (lake of fire).

Verse 4 : “ and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes there shall be no more death nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away”

Therefore, in the age to come there isn’t a secret concentration camp where the wicked are tormented for ever and ever! Indeed, the Bible is clear in several places, that God is never angry for ever:

Psalm 103:8 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. “

This is a glorious Gospel because it presents Christ’s ultimate victory through the cross. The whole creation reconciled.

Colossians 1:20 “and by him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross”

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Download my FREE PDF book: “Christ in You.”

Further reading:

Christ descended into hell

A hellish confusion

Why don’t we talk about hell

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Christ descended into Hell!

The Apostles Creed

The Apostles Creed is one of the first early Christian creeds and contains  and interesting and important line of theology: he descended into hell.

descendedI believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was

conceived by the Holy Spirit,  born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified,

died, and was buried; he descended into hell.

On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to

judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic and apostolic Church, the

communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Definition of terms

Before we begin though, let’s define our terms clearly because as I discussed in an earlier article: (a hellish confusion) the biblical words Sheol, Hades and Gehenna are all confusingly translated Hell in some translations!

In this article, when we speak of Hell we are speaking of the temporary abode of the dead – in other words Hades/Sheol.

What do we know?

What do we know about Hell? The scriptures confirm the Apostles Creed, in that they tell us that when Jesus died – He descended into Hell. This seems to be a subterranean region in the centre of the earth?

Acts 2:31 “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”

Ephesians 4:9 “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”

Victory over death

Therefore, the victory of Christ’s resurrection is a victory over death and Hell. Jesus won the battle and now possess the keys to the prison! He now has complete access to every prison cell!

Revelation 1:18 “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

Therefore, He is not only the Lord (master) of the living –  but of the dead also!

Romans 14:9 “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.”

1 Corinthians 15:5 “O death, where is thy sting? O grave (Hades/Hell), where is thy victory?”

Hell is not forever

One day then, Hell will cease to exist because it will be emptied completely.

Revelation 20:13 “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.And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

Indeed, even at His resurrection and prison break He even seems to have let a few people out early!

Matthew 27:52 “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

What did Jesus do in Hell?

Consequently, Jesus not only broke in, he plundered Hell on his exit! So, even though he was there only for a short while, He spent his time preaching to the dead (which proves that the dead are aware!) Specifically, he preached those who rebelled and were destroyed in the flood of Noah.

This is a mind boggling concept. I mean, how would you like to go and preach to the dead in Hell for three days – a pretty tough assignment I would imagine – they probably don’t get many visiting speakers!

1 Peter 3:19 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

1 Peter 4:6 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

Of course, some commentators would say: that in 1 Peter 3:19  the word preach: ‘karusso’, is used in the sense of proclaiming or boasting. However, if you look at how the word is used elsewhere – that argument is very weak:

For Example:

Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach (karusso) and to say, repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In 1 Peter 4:6 the argument for preach in the normal sense is even stronger as the word used is the one we know as evangelise. It clearly says that he preached or evangelised the dead so that they might live according to the spirit – surely suggesting that even perhaps in the lowest depths of Hell, God’s mercy and grace reach out? Maybe God did give them a chance to repent?

Psalm 139:8 “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”

Hells angels

Another of the lower regions or compartments of Hell is called Tartarus. This is the prison of some of the fallen angels or ‘hells angels’ awaiting their punishment:

2 Peter 2:4 “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;”

Jude 1:6 “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

Paradise

Hell is not just a prison though. No, indeed it has a first class accommodation block called paradise (a garden) or Abraham’s bosom: the Jews believed that this is where the pious and God-fearing were kept. Indeed, this is the destination that Jesus promised the penitent thief on the cross:

Luke 23:41 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

It was also the place of comfort that Lazarus is carried to by the angels in Luke 16 after death.

Luke 16:22 “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;”

Hell

Similarly, the rich man of the story ends up in Hell but apparently in the basement somewhere!  Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning and the temperature is over a 100 degrees!

Luke 16:23 “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

Of course, the man doesn’t seem to be repentant at all, he just seems interested in lessening his pain. Thus, he doesn’t seem to have learnt anything in the time he has spent there so far; I mean he seems to think Lazarus should be commanded to help him when in his life-time he never even lifted a finger to help Lazarus!

A second chance?

What if, in this life, unregenerate men and women build the kind of holding cell that they will spend their time in after death till judgement day? Does this mean they are beyond God’s mercy and grace?

As we have seen, Jesus preached the Gospel to those in Hell but there are a few other hints that of God’s mercy:

Jonah 2:2 “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.”

Psalm 86:13 “For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”

Hope for the broken

I hope so, because what about the millions of people that never heard the Gospel before and after the birth of Christ and died in their sins? What about those whose lives are a living hell right now, the abused and the suffering and victims of genocide?

We do know two things about God: He is a righteous judge; he is absolutely fair.

Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”

Everything he does is redemptive and flows out of his love: 

Romans 2:4 “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Anyway, in conclusion, please note that these thoughts are not intended to be a definitive statement on the subject  – so don’t burn me at the stake as a heretic! I welcome your comments and thoughts.

Further reading:

Let’s talk about Hell

Paul Ellis on hell

Lecture on hell – Edward Fudge (Video)

Is the devil in charge of hell

Download my Kindle books on Amazon:

Gods Grace Works BookLatest book Gods Grace Works Every Day

 Kindle book – Christ in You

Kindle book – Christ the End of Law

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A hellish confusion

hellOne of the most misunderstood words and concepts in the Bible is that of Hell. This is mainly because the original text uses several different words for two different places and yet the KJV uses only one: Hell. This has resulted in a bit of hellish confusion!

This is compounded in literature by books such as Dantes Inferno which although fiction, have influenced societies perception of what a possible Hell looks like. More modern books, such as ’23 minutes in Hell’   purport to tell of the author’s experiences as a christian taken to Hell and  tormented by demonic creatures as fact. The problem is – I don’t believe that these experiences match the truth of scripture at all!

The Lake of Fire

Anyway, let me explain it simply if I can. Firstly, the Bible describes the final destination and punishment of the lost as a terrible place of destruction called the Lake of Fire which the Bible also tells us was not created for humans but the devil and his angels:

Matthew 25:41 “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:”

Nobody therefore is in the Lake of Fire at the moment. It awaits the final judgement of the Great White Throne in Revelation 20 before which the unsaved dead will stand and be judged.

Sadly, anyone not found in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire. This is described as the second death – the end of the road!

Revelation 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Gehenna

Jesus describes this terrible place of final destruction but uses another word translated as Hell: Gehenna.

Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehena)”

The Jews listening to Jesus, would have understood Gehenna to be a graphic reference to the rubbish tip outside Jerusalem. Only Jesus and James use this word: Jesus 12 times and James once.

James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.(gehena)

Hades and Sheol

Of course there is another word translated Hell and this is Hades which is what the Greeks understood as the place of the dead or the grave. This word is used a total of 11 times in the New Testament and interestingly enough, the Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament, only mentions it once in his writings:

1 Corinthians 15 “ O death, where is thy sting? O grave (Hades) where is thy victory?”  

Similarly, in the Old Testament Hades the place of the dead is called Sheol and this is also translated by the KJV as Hell.

Hades therefore is the temporary abode of the souls of the dead and one day it will cease to exist. How do we know? Because both Death and Hades are cast in the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 20:14 “And death and hell (Hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

In the teachings of Jesus like Paul, he only uses the word for Hades once: in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16).  If this parable is meant to be taken literally, and there is some doubt to this, the man is already suffering conscious torment in the grave. Could it be that some of the wicked are already being punished in some way? To be honest, I don’t know!

I mean, does this scripture suggest the ungodly suffer punishment now?

2 Peter 2:8 “Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgement”

Does the devil rule Hell?

A myth perpetuated by unbiblical descriptions of Hell, is that in Hell or Hades the devil rules and that demons torment people depending on their level of sin. The Bible says that the devil is not the prince of Hell; he is the prince and power of the air.

Ephesians 2:2 “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”

As an aside, maybe the so-called UFO’s seen in the sky by some are actually demonic manifestations? The fact is, there is nothing to indicate in the Bible that demons torture people in Hades.

There is some evidence however, that there are wicked spirits or angel  bound in Tartarus (the deepest abyss of hell or Hades) at the present moment.

2 Peter 2:4 “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;”

Jude 1:6 “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”

Jesus, when he died descended into Hades down to its lowest depths to proclaim his victory to these fallen spirits or angels.

Acts 2:31 “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” 

Ephesians 4:19 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

1 Peter 3:19 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;”

What happens after death?

So, do we know happens after death? Do the lost go to Hell (Hades) and the believers to Heaven? This isn’t easy to know. Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would be with him that day in paradise (which sounds like Heaven) and yet of course that very day Jesus descended into Hell (Hades) as we have said.

Importantly though, the New Testament  in several key scriptures, speaks of the dead in Christ as sleeping:

1 Corinthians 15:51 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”.

The hope of the believer therefore, is resurrection or remaining alive until the coming of the Lord and receiving immortality – eternal life.

For the unbeliever however, all that awaits is wrath and judgment.

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

Hopefully then, this article although maybe not providing all the answers, has cleared up some of the confusion. Just to recap:

The lake of fire or Gehenna is the place of final punishment and destruction and is at this present time empty.

Hades, the grave or Sheol is where unbelievers are held at the moment for judgement day.

Further reading:

Paul Ellis on hell

Lecture on hell – Edward Fudge (Video)

Let’s talk about Hell

Is the devil in charge of hell

Download my Kindle books on Amazon:

Christ the End of Law
Christ in you the hope of glory
Christ the End of Law KIndle Amazon

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Why don’t we talk about hell? (Part 1)

hellHell is not a subject many christians talk about allot and to be frank, I can understand why – it’s not nice! However, I believe that an incorrect  theology on this subject, actually inhibits the preaching of the Gospel of Grace.

Why? Because on the one hand we are preaching the love, grace and mercy of God towards sinners and then saying that for a life of finite sin, sinners are going to burn and be tormented in Hell infinitely? Is God some kind of sadist?

Eternal torment?

Think about it, do we honestly believe that men and women (possibly those we know, love or work with) are going to suffer torment for ever and ever? Does that seem fair or just by any standard let alone God’s?

I mean, even in the UK, the worst sentence anyone can get for a crime is life imprisonment. However, the courts wouldn’t send someone to prison for a thousand years for a speeding offence, that’s a disproportionate punishment – and obviously unjust!

Abraham in Genesis 18:25, said of God when interceding for the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah: “shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”

Incidentally, Jude refers to this judgement and punishment as suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Obviously the fire isn’t burning today! No, eternal in this context describes the permanence of the punishment – it’s irreversible.

Jude 1:7 “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.”

A finite sin = infinite punishment?

Therefore, it must follow surely that if God is just (and He is) then the punishment should fit the crime. Therefore, if the sentence is infinite then how can that be proportional to a finite offence? For what reasons do sinners need to burn in hell forever? Maybe we can countenance a divine punishment of eternal torture for the likes of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin – especially if we had family murdered in the holocaust – but what about those who were murdered by the nazi’s in the holocaust, many of them not believers? Will they burn in Hell for eternity – maybe with less severity –  but none the less endlessly just like Hitler?

Even though these victims are sinners like the rest of us  (and deserving of punishment because we all have sinned) are they really deserving of endless punishment in Hell – haven’t they suffered enough? Excuse the terrible pun, but wouldn’t their final state be like going from the frying pan into the fire!

Is God angry forever?

Surely, if the sinner is going to be punished justly (and they are) then to do so forever would mean that God is angry forever also?

Micah 7:18 “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

Is universalism the answer?

Now I am not a universalist, I do not believe that the Bible teaches that everyone is going to be saved eventually, (I’m not going to discuss the reasons here). I do wonder though, whether the grounds of universalism are built on this sense of injustice engendered by revivalist preachers preaching hellfire and brimstone and the eternal punishment of the sinner.

Take the infamous sermon: “sinners in the hands of an angry God” by Jonathon Edwards – part of which is reproduced below:

He said: “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrows made ready…[by] an angry God…It is nothing but His mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction! The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath towards you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire…

“You are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended Him…and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment…

“O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of God…You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder.”

Is God really like this? Is He really a kind of Judge Dredd figure that hates the sin and the sinner dangling them like spiders over the flames of Hell? Is this how we are supposed to preach? I know it’s very dramatic and I’m sure everyone in the congregation was scared witless – I certainly would be! However, were the listeners only becoming christians converts out of shear absolute terror of the terrible consequences?

The coming wrath

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t warn people of God’s coming wrath against sin and judgment to come because that is real and terrible. In fact, God has appointed a day when he will judge the world and the judge will be Jesus Christ not Judge Dredd.

Hebrews 10:31 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Acts 17:31 “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

Eternal destruction

Make no mistake , God is going to angry with those who reject his grace revealed through the Gospel. They will suffer punishment for their sins but they will not be tormented forever in Hell they will suffer eternal destruction:

2 Thessalonians 1:8  “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;”

What is eternal destruction? Obviously eternal doesn’t mean that they will continue to be destroyed over an over again endlessly. No, it simply  means that the destruction is final, absolute and permanent forever. No second chance.

The Second Death

This final punishment is described by John in Revelation 20, as the dead small and great stand before the Great White Throne and those not in the book of life are cast in the Lake of Fire -called the second death.

Revelation 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

This Lake of Fire therefore is not eternal torment – it is terminal and final. That is why it is called the SECOND DEATH. It’s the end. This is capital punishment.

Jesus warned us of this complete destruction in Matthew 10:28:

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Gehenna)”

To the believer however, God has promised immortality and eternal life rather than death.

2 Timothy 1:10 “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:”

The believer has a wonderful hope as we will take part in the glorious first resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:52 I”n a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

This is not the promise for the sinner – they will never enjoy immortality.

The Gospel

In the mean time though, we live in a day of grace where God is not judging or punishing men and women. As D.L Moody found out, God hates the sin but He loves the sinner. Therefore, I am a christian not because I’m afraid of the consequences of hellfire but because I’ve met a God of love and kindness in Jesus Christ who forgave all my sins.

That means, that Gospel message is  the Good News that He loves us so much He sent His son so that by simply believing we would be saved from destruction and live for ever!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, (be destroyed) but have everlasting life (live forever).

In the next two articles: “Why don’t we talk about death” and “Why don’t we talk about judgement” , I’m going to be looking more closely the scriptures and further explain what happens after death.

Part 2: A hellish confusion

Further reading:

Paul Ellis on hell

Excellent resource

Lecture on hell – Edward Fudge (Video)

Rethinking evangelism – Edward Fudge (Video)

Rethinking hell – Edward Fudge (Video)

Download my Kindle books on Amazon:

Christ the End of Law
Christ in you the hope of glory
Christ the End of Law KIndle Amazon

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