"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God . . .
And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."

Revelation 20:12,15

"Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from me, you
cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels.'"

Matthew 25:41

Oh c'mon! Does Hell really exist?

Let's answer that question with another question. Does Heaven really exist? Both Heaven and Hell have the same foundation — God's Word. In fact, there are more statements in the Bible about Hell than there are about Heaven. So, if Hell is a fable, then so is Heaven.

Okay...So, why did God create Hell?

Very simply, He created Hell for Satan and the demons. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 that Hell was "prepared for the devil and His angels;" and 2 Peter 2:4 says that God cast the demons "down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved for judgment..."

So? What's that got to do with me?

Let's go back and read Matthew 25:41 again: "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and His angels.'" Psalm 9:17 says: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."

Wait a minute! It says "wicked".
Are you saying I'm wicked and deserve to be condemned?

No. I'm not saying anything one way or the other. But, here's what the Bible says about us.

  • "As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10)
  • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
  • "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

How about it? Do you fit into any of the above categories? Let's start with the easy one — lying. How honest are you on your expense report, time card, tax return? Or, when was the last time you called off sick and you weren't sick, or you told a 'whopper' about something that happened or didn't happen just to make yourself look better?

Maybe you're one of the 'unbelieving' because you don't believe Jesus was and is the Son of God. Or, do you check your horoscope, call a psychic advisor, or use crystals and spirit guides to help you get through the day? Then, you fall into the 'sorcerers' list.

Regardless of whether you think you fit into that list or not, the fact is that from God's perfectly holy, perspective — and apart from being covered by Christ's righteousness — you do! (And so do I!)

As for whether you "deserve to be condemned", here are some other verses to consider.

  • "He who believes on Him is not condemned, but He who does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)
  • "Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life." (John 5:24)

In other words, being "condemned" has nothing to do with whether we're "good" or "bad". Until and unless we receive Christ as Lord and Savior (trust Him and Him alone to save us), we are already condemned!

I can't believe in a God who would send people to Hell!

That's a pretty common argument these days and certainly not without merit. But the fact is that most people who say that do so because they don't want to believe in a God who would do that. I don't want to believe that either. How wise is it, though, to decide something so important based on a subjective emotional feeling for what we hope or want to be true?

Instead, let's look at what the Bible says on the subject. You might be surprised to find that portions of the Bible seem to support the idea of no eternal punishment. Let's look at a few.

Jesus said: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) That's from the familiar King James Version of the Bible.

Some other Bible translations render that verse as follows:

  • "God loved the people of this world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who has faith in Him will have eternal life and never really die." (Contemporary English Version)
  • "For God so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed." (Complete Jewish Bible)
  • "For God had such love for the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever has faith in Him may not come to destruction but have eternal life." (Bible in Basic English)
  • "For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life." (Good News Bible)

Notice that all of the above verses speak about the unbelieving dying, perishing, or being utterly destroyed. That's the same as the original Greek written 2000 years ago.

Here are some other Bible verses that seem to say the same thing.

  • "The soul that sins, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4b and 20a)
  • "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
  • ". . . He who turns back the sinner from the error of His way shall save a soul from death. . ." (James 5:20)
  • And don't forget John 5:24 in the previous section that says those who accept Christ as Savior have "passed from death to life."

Notice that there's no eternal punishment in those words. Yes, they speak of eternal condemnation, but not eternal punishment. In the original Greek, the above words mean exactly what they say — death. Period.

One other thing to consider here is this.

  • Revelation 20:10 says that Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet will be "cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone" and "will be tormented day and night forever and ever."
  • And Revelation 21:8 says that sinners will be cast into "the Lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

The first verse above says that Satan, etc. will be tormented forever. It doesn't say anything about humans being tormented forever. And the second verse says the lake burns with fire and brimstone, not people. It says that people will suffer a "second death."

So then, I'm right? No burning forever in hell fire?

Not so fast! There are also Bible verses that appear to say the wicked will be punished forever and ever.

  • In His parable of the King's response to people who did not give assistance to the sick or naked or thirsty, etc., Jesus concluded: "Then He shall answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life." (Matthew 25:45)
  • And the Apostle Peter wrote: "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust for a day of judgment, to be punished." (2 Peter 2:9)

Wait! Now you're saying that God will send people to Hell?

No. I'm not saying anything one way or the other. The fact is, we have some verses that say the unrighteous simply die, and we have other verses that say they'll be punished forever. How do we decide which one to believe? And what if we make the wrong decision? You could join other critics and unbelievers who reject Christ and say the Bible contradicts itself — in which case, why are you reading any of this to begin with?

We believe the Bible is God's inspired inerrant Word — meaning it's all true and does not contradict itself. Therefore, we can't simply decide what to believe based either on church tradition or on what we hope is true. Instead, we have to delve deeper to try to discern what the Lord wants us to see. In Isaiah 1:18, the Lord says, "Come, let us reason together . . ." But, how can a finite human mind even begin to comprehend the infinite mind of God? It involves asking difficult questions . . . questions that don't make sense . . . questions for which there don't seem to be any answers. For instance . . .

  • Is it possible for "eternal" or "everlasting" to apply to something that is established (set, fixed) once and forever, regardless of its duration (how long it lasts)?

    Or to put it another way, can "eternal" mean a "forever state of existence" but not necessarily an "actively ongoing procedure"?

  • Also, wouldn't someone who's being eternally punished have to be alive? And if alive and being eternally punished, wouldn't that mean they have "eternal life"? (Granted, it wouldn't be a good life, but it would still be life.)

    And if that's the case, does that mean that John 3:16 is untrue . . . or is it, most likely and appropriately, that our understanding is incomplete?

We could probably come up with other questions that pit one idea against the other. Perhaps the best example of what we're doing with these questions is found in magnets. No matter how hard you try, you can't force two magnets together. In much the same way, we can't force these two views about eternal death or eternal punishment into agreement. They are diametrically opposed to one another. That is, they are each valid and equal, and yet opposite of each other. And as opposites, they can never be reconciled — at least not by our limited and imperfect thinking.

I'm so confused!

Me too! If you think about it, there really is only one Person who can understand these two perspectives and bring them into perfect agreement. And that's the One who said, "the first shall be last and the last shall be first", "He who would lose his life will find it and he who would save his life will lose it." Those are called oxymorons, and God majors in making sense of the nonsensical.

After all, He thought the best way to save the world was to come to earth in the form of a helpless baby born in a feeding trough, live homeless most of His adult earthly life, and die a horrendous death on a cross! No other god would ever do it that way! No human would do it that way! But, our God did . . . !

So, it's reasonable to conclude that He could say the unbelieving will die and the unbelieving will suffer eternally. And from His omniscient (infinitely wise, all knowing) perspective, there is no conflict.

So . . . now you're saying that maybe some people
will be punished forever and yet maybe not?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Is there a place of eternal torment for wicked humans? I'm not 100% convinced. Do the unsaved simply die, eternally separated from God and any consciousness at all? I don't know. Some Scriptures seem to say so.

Here's what I do know. The Bible says, with absolute confidence and no disagreement or confusion . . .

  • there's only one way to God (John 14:6);
  • those who believe in Jesus Christ will never die (John 3:16 and 11:25);
  • everyone who believes in Christ will have eternal life and be raised up at the last day (John 6:40);
  • everyone who believes has eternal life (John 6:47); and
  • there is one mediator — Jesus Christ — between God and us (1 Timothy 2:5).

The Bible also tells us that . . .

  • everyone who doesn't receive Christ as Savior is already condemned, regardless of anything else they do (John 3:18);
  • the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9);
  • murderers, drunkards, adulterers, sexually immoral people, and others like them will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21); and
  • no one who is immoral, impure, or greedy has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5).

The Bible may leave us confused about whether or not someone who rejects Christ will be tormented or punished forever. One thing's certain, though: those who reject Him won't live in Paradise or Heaven forever.

Here's something to think about. Imagine you're standing there before God's judgment throne with millions and millions of other people. Suddenly you realize that you're one of the "unbelieving" and that you're about to be swept away for all of eternity. No more chances to say "yes". No making excuses that you didn't understand or no one told you or you didn't have time. Your eternal destiny is settled . . . and waiting . . .

During the few seconds or minutes you're waiting to be taken away, you're suddenly struck with another frightening realization. You had a chance to choose and you made the wrong choice! Now, you don't know what awaits you on the other side. Will you simply cease to exist (which I think is pretty scary) or . . . will you actually go to that place we call "Hell" where "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"?

Won't those few seconds feel like an eternity? And won't the uncertainty of what awaits you be Hell . . . ?

"It is appointed unto men once to die,
but after this the judgment."

(Hebrews 9:27)

"Behold, now is the favorable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation."

(2 Corinthians 6:2b)

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