Over time I intend to cover other related doctrines on Hell, however this post will be focused on answering only a few basic questions. As a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) I was taught and believed that hell didn’t exist. I was taught that it was a fictitious imaginary doctrine concocted by the Pope centuries ago, and that all early Christians were Annialationists. SDA do teach that there will be a lake of fire for a short period of time after judgement day, but that once the fires conclude burning the damned will cease to exist body and soul. For myself, studying this topic and finding out what the Bible really teaches was a big deal. Which is why I am going to focus my first Hell post on the following questions:
- Does Hell Exist today and in the future?
- Is Hell eternal or temporal?
Question 1: Does Hell Exist today and in the future?
I believe that it does and this is largely due to the clarity of language in the following verses, for example, we can see that angels exist in Hell now.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6 KJV
Notice the words “but cast them down to hell”. This string of words is in the past tense, and to cast someone or something into a noun implies that said noun exists.
We can also see that people, not just angels, are currently in Hell now:
” 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 3:19-20 KJV
The “He” in the above verse is speaking of Christ. This is why I believe the Apostles Creed states “He descended into Hell”. I don’t believe we are to speculate on what specifically Christ was doing in Hell beyond the words in this short verse. That said, its clear that he went there and preached to them. No matter what you take from that, the fact that this “prison” or Hell exists as a location cannot be soundly refuted, also the fact that people who lived in the days of Noah are there now is also beyond question. I believe it follows logic that other souls after the days of Noah would be there as well because it cites their disobedience as cause.
“And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 13:50 KJV
Again, notice that they are being “cast..into the”. Therefore it follows basic logic that the definite article refers to a noun which would have to exist. It doesn’t say they are being cast into nothing.
Though I will not post it here in its fullness as its rather long, I encourage you to read Luke 16:19-31 by clicking HERE. This is the famous Rich man and Lazarus story recorded by Luke. I have read compelling conservative arguments for this text being either a parable or a literal story.
Those who argue for this to be a literal story will cite that Lazarus is a named individual, which is irregular among the parables of Christ. Those who argue it is a parable cite how the rich man “lifts his eyes” in verse 23, the argument being that a spirit does not have eyes to lift therefore parable.
I would argue that whether this be parable or literal it is still true. Why would Christ use a falsehood to teach a truth? Nobody takes the Parable of the Good Samaratin and argues that it’s not about helping your neighbor because it’s a parable, that would be silly. There are truths clearly conveyed in any parable, you simply look at the language and see what Christ is talking about.
I searched high and wide and found no sane reading of Luke 16 that can possible assert that it is not about hell. If its not about hell then what is it about? The language is just too vivid to be ignored:
“being in torments”…
“cried… have mercy on me”…
“I am tormented in this flame”…
Go ahead and try to make that about something else without leaving the text and importing outside ideas into it. Clearly, we can assert that at the very least this teaches Hell exists even in the time of Christ, which was many years after Noah. This would place the burden of proof that it does not exist today on anyone making the claim.
What of the different names of hell? for an article on this please click HERE as it is beyond the scope of my post and is in my opinion irrelevant to the issues of primary concern. Based on the passages quoted above, I would argue that no matter what name is being used for “hell” in the new or old testament the same people are going there and the torments are always described as being similar in nature.
One can make a strong argument that there is a distinction between the hell that exists now and the one that exists after Judgement Day. That said there is no Biblical reason to distinguish between the torments of the two, instead the more relevant point is that you don’t want to go to either. If anything, I would argue the only Biblical distinction with any meaning is that one precedes the Judgment and the other follows.
Question 2: Is Hell eternal or temporal?
There is a strong argument out there today, not just in SDA, that Hell is temporal. This argument is called Annialationism, they call Hell the consuming fire and state that it burns up the wicked entirely and that they cease to exist, at which point the fire snuffs out. I confess this is a tempting view, I once held it and my argument was why would a loving God burn sinners forever and ever? That question though is more a reflection on my own depravity and a want of understanding than it was as an argument against the eternal conscious torment of hell.
The following scriptures are very clear, just read them as very little commentary is necessary:
“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:11 KJV
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:10 KJV
Some will argue that the above verses don’t say “forever and ever” but actually only say ‘for an age’. They argue that the above is a miss translation of the original Greek. I find it telling that every Bible version I look this up in says “forever and ever”. Even the message paraphrase is consistent with this and that is supposed to be the favorite of the universalists.
For me it is enough to trust all of the Bible translators that ever existed. But for some who wish to rebel against the text this isnt the case so I will quote an analysis of the original Greek. My source is Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.
“Is the English phrase, “forever and ever,” a proper translation of the Greek? Does it mean without end? Is it ever used of something not eternal? Does it refer to eternal torment? These questions are important because the universalist position denies the eternality of Hell fire. Universalists take the literal Greek phrase of “eis tous aionas ton aionon,–into the age of the ages” which is commonly translated as “forever and ever,” “forevermore,” and state that it refers to an age of time, a finite period of time.
It is true that the basic root of “aion” means age. But it is not true that all words derived from that root mean a finite duration of time. The phrase means “unlimited duration of time, with particular focus upon the future–‘always, forever, forever and ever, eternally.”‘
Additionally, the phrase is used to describe both God’s eternal attributes and His eternal nature as well as eternal torment.”
Follow the link to their article above if you are interetested. What I quoted is just their analysis, they also provide scripture references to other times that the Greek phrase is used. The closest English translation is certainly “forever and ever”.
“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:43-48 KJV
The above verses forced me to believe in an eternal conscious torment of hell. They are very vivid, and one has to practice eisegesis to force them to say anything else. Also, when I compared these to the verses that Annialationists use, what i find is that they quote verses off the topic of hell. This I believe is poor theology, if you are going to make an argument for a belief on something you need to assemble all of the clear verses that are speaking on topic. That forms the hermenuetic for how you are to understand unclear verses, or ones that only make a passing reference to the issue at hand.
The most convincing verse in the whole Bible, for me though, in the eternal nature of Hell is the following:
“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” Matt 25:41 KJV
The reason this is so compelling is the word “Everlasting” or αἰώνιον (aiōnion) in Greek is the same word used to describe the following:
Matt 29:19 “and shall inherit everlasting life”
Mat 25:46 “but the righteous into eternal life”
1 Tim 6:16 “and power everlasting. Amen.” [Speaking of God]
Rev 14:6 “having the everlasting gospel”
1 Peter 5:10 “unto his eternal glory by”
Simply put, if hell can be temporal then so can everything else above. I am not prepared to assert that God is temporal, or that his glory is temporal, or that everlasting life is temporal, or that the gospel is temporal….. etc etc
The only logical conclusion, is that Hell and its associated torments exist, and are as eternal as everything else on that list. Some try to use the word “age” or epoch to deny this. I would argue that this would mean the eternal nature of God only exists for an age, or that the everlasting life of the elect is for an age. You can’t have it both ways, if one is eternal they all are. The most important part is, it doesn’t matter how you interpret this either. Hell is still hell defined by the Word and will remain as such regardless of what anyone asserts.
Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
Very good piece. Hell is eternal, Hell is eternal, Hell is eternal…
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interesting. However my newest agenda is not about who is right or wrong. But how well n righteousness we had been during our life with our current belief/denomination or probably the next denomination/religion we want to believe. to expect that yours or mine could be right or wrong,. Does getting the right or wrong answer about topic 17 affect whether our salvation? I realized a right or wrong isnt that important anymore.. whatever doctrine u r in right now just believe the good things n set aside disagreement that may provokes us, christian against christian esp. Peace be with you brother. Aim good, do good to others. The words meant for children is enough for us too..
So are you saying the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth?
If that is the case it’s a contradiction because to make that argument you have to at least assert is that there is one absolute truth. 🙂
I believe the Bible is the word of God. Some teachings in the Bible are clear and admittedly some are not. In my post on hell I argued that the Bible is very clear that hell exists and that it is eternal in conscious torment.
I am unable to argue that it has levels from Dantes inferno or something like that because these are things the Bible is not clear on.
So the key brother to theology is this. Speak boldly when the Bible speaks and remain silent on matters the Bible is silent on.
I recommend shopping around and finding a solid Bible believing Church. If they start teaching or implying you need something other than or in addition to Christ then move right along to another.
I am grateful you decided to begin this blog. I have had lots of unanswered questions from both the Adventist and Baptist. I have reached a point where the truth is increasingly important. My questions are mostly about salvation. You have share a lot of great information. Some I agree with and some I do not, however it has given me what I needed to begin diving deeper into studies on these subjects.
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Hey thank you so much for sharing! I have come to find that those of us that leave a cult end up in different places, but we also end up forming our own small body of believers. It’s a real blessing, other formers seem to get it!
I like your blog and one reason is because you are using bible verses to put up your point……I have a question, there is the issue of blood transfusion Jehovah’s witness say its a sin, is there any verse that points this out?
Hey thanks for reading and commenting! I am familiar with what they believe in a general sense but it is not something I have studied in depth, though I do intend to in the future. Lately the only things I have been looking up about them is their end times beliefs and how they turn it into a false gospel, much like SDA. It’s suprising to see the similarities.
God bless u for ur good works and i encourage u to do more. I have really come to understand many biblical teaching against church doctrines especially on the SDA issues. I pray that the holy spirit open and broadens ur minds on all others matters so ur readers can also get the full understanding.
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Love your blog! Thanks for all you do! Quick question. I grew up learning that Hell (the Lake of Fire) is where God withdraws his presence completely (2 Thess 1:9). Is this accurate? Isn’t Hell where God withdraws His gracious presence and His presence of justice is in full force?
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Good question! There are other passages that say they will burn in the presence of the Lamb etc.
So I don’t think it would be correct to understand this spatially.
Especially since God is creator and sustainer of everything. And that would include Hell.
As to what Paul does mean in 2 Thess, I don’t know for sure. I’ll add it on my list of things to study. Thanks friend!
I agree about not understanding hell in a primarily spatial sense. David says, “Where can I go from your presence, Lord?”. The answer is nowhere. The word rendered presence here indicates the front of the face or the countenance. The idea is the same in Hebrew. Perhaps a good way to understand it is God will fully, finally, and eternally turn His back on them.
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Wonderful read! I enjoyed reading your blog – especially about Hell. This is how I was taught as well–that Hell is eternal. Thank you for putting this together.
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if the believer in Christ has eternal life, then so must the lost according to your post. if the lost are to suffer for all eternity, then they must be immortal just like the saved. How do you reconcile this with the fact that the soul that sins will surely die. How can you die and live at the same time. To me your theology about hell is flawed.
Well no, first off you’re using a secular definition of death not a Biblical one. Death is the eternal destruction of your soul in hell. Secondly, the reprobate are sustained in hell by the wrath of God. They are not innately immortal. Lastly your objection is a rationalization. With respect I don’t see you addressing or even engaging with what scripture teaches about hell.
ACTheologian is right on point here. Death, in the Bible, is rejection by God…separation from His favor. Physical death (severing soul and spirit from the body) is a picture of and a result of this separation but not it’s entirety. Adam was expelled from the garden of God and walked intimately there with God no more.
The scriptures are replete with the imagery of dead men walking: Eph 2:1-5, Romans 8:10, John 11:25, Col 2:13, Col 3:3, John 5:24. The question is not one of duration of existence; every human being will exist eternally somewhere (Heb 9:27, Ecc 12:7, Rev 20:11-15). The question is one of acceptance; will an individual be fully received by Almighty God (Psalm 16:11, 1John 3:2-3, Rev 22:3-5) or fully rejected by Him (2 Thes 1:9, Matt 22:11-13, 2 Peter 2:17).
The lynchpin is the person of Jesus Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection. He is the only accepted one and we are accepted by God in him only (John 3:18, John 3:36, Acts 4:12).
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Thank you for your analysis on this stuff. Particularly the imagery (dead men walking) you pointed out!
Coming to be confident that our Lord was not teasing when He spoke what is recorded in Matthew 16: 27 and 28, among many, many, many other passages, came to transform eschatology for me. Christ destroyed the works of the devil, came back as he guaranteed to end the world or “age” of the Old Covenant, and replaced the Jewish temple and synagogues with His disciples among all nations forever and ever, the New Israel, New Jerusalem Wife of the Lamb.
A few years ago I had a months long correspondence with a very staunch universalist with a strong web presence. I was taken aback by the linguistic gymnastics he was willing to undertake in order to render ‘everlasting’ and ‘forever and ever’ as ‘to the end of the age’. He would say that the fires of hell burn forever until they stop burning. He would say something could be unending until it ends.
On the one hand I really felt for him as it became clear the he was, in part, fleeing from an extreme form of Calvinism in which most people are created for the inescapable purpose of being destroyed.
I had really never dug too deeply into the subject because eternity had always seemed super clear from just a plain reading but as he insisted that the ancient Hebrew idea was not the same as the western idea of eternity I was forced to dig. Ancient Hebrew is incredibly fluid and pictoral. Koine Greek is very specific and ‘scientific’ if you will. What I discovered is that the Hebrew phrases ‘ to the age’ or ‘ to the age of the ages’ which are repackaged in Greek as ‘everlasting’ or ‘forever and ever’ is an accurate attempt to put into specific words a pictoral Hebrew concept of eternality which I found best explained as: To the horizon, and again. It brings to mind a journey whose goal is to actually reach and rest at the horizon. An unending journey. I hope that helps someone.
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Hey thanks! I like your use of the imagery at the end there. I find that most anialationists take that “to the age of the ages” and focus in on the word “age”. In doing so they try to strip it of it’s context and make it a debate about just that word. Which is particularly silly when talking about a book like revelation which is apocalyptic in it’s genre anyways and is going to have uses of imagery similar to how we would expect in poetry. I think you’re handling makes a lot of sense.
When I was SDA I believed that loving God would never send people to an eternal hell and that was kind of it for me. My brain just stopped there. The obvious issue is I was the one defining “love” with my impious reasoning rather than obtaining my definition of “love” from scripture.
I have another post that does attempt to handle that though. The idea is that God’s Holiness, Wrath, and Love are all infinite in quantity. Thus only an infinite love can satisfy an infinite wrath that an infinite holiness demands. That’s my take anyways, you can find the post below if you’re interested.
This particular Universalist wasn’t an annihilationalist, believe it or not. He believed that the fires of hell would go out once all the sin had been purged and that everyone, having been thus purified, would attain heaven. I don’t know if he was a Catholic Universalist or what but that sounds purgatorial to me. I told him that I would LOVE to believe that (and I meant it) but the scriptures wouldn’t let me.
I will read that post eventually. You got a lot for me to work through here and I mean that in the best possible way.
Ah that sounds like Rob Bell. Very un-biblical and it does lean a lot towards a kind of purgatory.
I am not an expert on Rome by any stretch, but as I understand their catechism teaches that purgatory purifies believers to be ready for heaven and eternal hell is for the unbelievers.
Generally, I find when it comes to the super liberal theories like this one you’re talking about, the issue isn’t the topic itself but rather the disagreement on how one should approach, handle, and interpret scripture. If you’re taking the bible seriously and they are not, then there are limits to the places your conversation can go.
Not so with you and I if you haven’t noticed. 😀
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I would like to think you are a intelligent person and in being so…..you would re do your writings also including the meanings of hell as used in the orginal languages of the manuscripts the Bible ws written in. Taking a modern current day meaning is very inaccurate. Words have changed over time and so have their definitions. Ie. Gay meant happy at one time. I do not disagree that the subject of hell by MOST churches including catholic is mis represented. But please do a complete study not just modern day word study before your promote your opinion.. thank you
I try to define my terms based on how they are taught in scripture themselves. Notice I focus on the nature, duration, and context in the eschaton as scripture defines hell. I don’t get more specific than that. While there are finer distinctions that can be made when the original words are examined, and I encourage that, what I was trying to answer here is whether or not eternal conscious torment is true or not. I was raised in adventism and they teach a heresy called annialationism. I’m not really going into more depth than simply debunking that because that’s all that was necessary to me at the time.
If I’d gone any deaper I’d have given ignorant people things to hook onto in order to disagree. I was trying to subvert their nature.