My Question: concerning hell

Hi everyone,

I once heard that Jesus talks about hell more than heaven in the bible. Then I googled and found it was not true. Does anyone know if this is true or not? Also, why is there so much controversy about hell? What are your opinions about hell based on the word ? What do the jews believe about hell?

3 Likes

Hi Ruth,

This is an interesting topic. It seems that Jesus spoke about heaven approximately 3 times more than he did hell. So whoever said that Jesus talked more about hell than heaven is simply not factual. Also, we don’t actually know all of or how much Jesus talked about any one topic. As John notes, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (John 21:25).

As far as why there is so much controversy about hell, I think that no one wants people to go to hell and many people want to believe that no one would have to suffer such an eternal punishment. However, I think that some people misunderstand what hell is. It is permanent separation from God. Imagine someone telling you that they love you and want to be with you (repeatedly) and you continually rejecting them. If they really loved you they would eventually leave you alone and distance themselves from you. Hell is permanent separation form God. Because God is loving, God gives everyone that spends their entire lives telling Him that they don’t love Him what they’ve always declared that they wanted, which is eternal separation from Him. It is actually the most loving thing He can do in that instance. To force someone into permanent fellowship with Him would be contrary to His nature and unloving.

God doesn’t send anyone to hell. People send themselves there.

Lastly, Jesus in His own words firmly believed in heaven and hell. He was certain about the existence of both (John 14:2, Rev. 1:18, Matt. 8:12, Matt. 13:40-43, Luke 16:29-31, 1 Peter 3:18-20).

I hope this helps.

God bless,
Alex M.

8 Likes

One point worth noting is that our terminology and first-century Jewish terminology differs a lot when it comes to heaven and hell.

About heaven, one should remember that Heaven might not refer to a place in texts from that time. It is often used as a circumlocution for God’s name or God himself. So, the kingdom of heaven means kingdom or kingship of God.

Hell has many counterpart words: sheol or hades for the realm of the dead or the underworld, or gehenna / Gei Hinnom for a pit of destruction. The latter is derived from the Valley of Hinnom where there was a trash dump burning with fire.

In general, when I read the New Testament without doctrinal lenses, I don’t find the simplistic “just believe in Jesus and go to heaven, or otherwise go to hell” teaching there. Just read, for example, Matthew 7:21-23, which is only one example. According to what Jesus teaches in the Gospels, those who do not obey the will of God will be denied the entry to the kingdom of God. These are the practisers of lawlessness (deeds that are against God’s will) and those servants of God who hide what God has entrusted them, in fear of God’s punishment.

So it is not about how much Jesus talked about hell, but the severity of the teaching.

2 Likes

Hell is a hot topic on connect, no pun intended. Here is the best treatment of the subject on connect. It is from a resource that @SeanO put together, It was not shareable so I did a cut and paste. I don’t agree with his conclusion but he does an excellent job of presenting all sides.

I think final judgment is a topic we must approach carefully because we do not know what view of hell the person asking the question has and that affects their view of God. If they think God is going to torture people for eternity and if they have been in a legalistic Church background, their view of God may be quite incorrect due to this teaching. In addition, we know that God will reveal the secrets of men’s hearts on the final day of judgment and it is not our right to do so.

A better approach may be what Paul did when preaching to Felix in Acts 24. He explained the reality of judgment and no doubt the beauty of Christ’s work on the cross. But it does not seem he focused on the idea of hell. Rather, he focused on a God who is just, the reality of sin and the reality of salvation.

Acts 24:25 - As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

A few summary points:

  1. God will judge each person according to the knowledge they possess - the judge of all the earth will do what is right
  2. It is not clear that Scripture teaches eternal torment for those who reject Jesus - it is possible that after they are judged by God they will cease to exist - this view is called conditionalism

Within historic Christianity, there are 3 views of how God ultimately handles sin. The three views of how God handles sin ultimately are:

  1. Eternal torment - some form of eternal suffering or separation from God
  2. Conditionalism - those who reject God are judged and then cease to exist
  3. Universalism - sin is real, but all people will eventually be brought to repentance

God judges the heart

We should not pronounce judgment before the appointed time when God judges men’s hearts. Rather, we should exhort people to come to Jesus and find life in Him.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 - I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 - Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

Romans 2:12-16 - All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

A Person’s View of Hell Matters

People’s view of hell matters and changes the way they view God. When we are answering people who ask about hell, we need to understand that they may have grown up in a very legalistic or judgmental (in the wrong sense of the word) church and may have very incorrect views of God. We do not want to support these wrong views of God.

I would recommend the following two books as great reading if you are really interested in this topic. Francis Chan mainly defends the view that the lost suffer eternal torment, while Steve Gregg presents all three views that have been held within Church history.

Love and justice must go hand in hand - a loving God must also be a just God. There is no mercy without justice - if no punishment is deserved, mercy is a meaningless concept. And if there is no real justice, there is no real goodness. The cross is evidence both of God’s mercy and His justice.

However, I think God’s love and justice can be maintained within a few different views of how God will finally deal with the problem of injustice and sin. For example, once you dive into it you get into questions like: “What did the Church fathers really believe (there is a diversity of views)?”, “What do the words translated ‘hell’ in the Bible really mean (Gehenna, Sheol, Tartarus, Hades) in context?”, “What does ‘eternal punishment’ mean (in Jude 1:7, Sodom and Gomorrah were burned with ‘eternal fire’, but is it still burning today)?” I believe there is more than one valid answer to these questions, though all valid answers must recognize that God is both just and merciful - that sin is real and deserving of judgment and that love does not mean overlooking sin - the cross came at a cost.

The following Bible passage fleshes out how the cross was God being merciful to those who believe while maintaining justice.

Romans 3:25-26 - God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Reasons I Currently Hold to Annihilation

I came to the conclusion that annihilation is the best explanation of the Biblical texts and have yet to hear a rebuttal I find convincing. Here are some reasons that I find annihlation convincing.

  • at this point I’m of the opinion that the idea of an inherently immortal soul is just not in the Bible. It was common in pagan philosophy, but I do not think it can be found in Scripture. The idea of an inherently immortal soul is one of the lynchpins of the argument for eternal torment/separation - if the soul is eternal then obviously God will not be destroying anyone, hence Lewis’ book ‘The Great Divorce’. If Hell is eternal and we do not think God tortures people and we do not think the human soul can be destroyed - what then becomes of the wicked? Lewis basically argues they become their sin, which is an interesting perspective.
  • the word for eternal in Greek - ‘aion’ or ‘aionios’ - does not necessarily suggest endlessness like its English equivalent. Bruce Waltke says, “That neither the Hebrew nor the Greek word in itself contain the idea endlessness is shown both by the fact that they sometimes refer to events or conditions that occurred at a definite point in the past, and also by the fact that sometimes it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying “forever”, but “forever and ever”…Both words came to be used to refer to a long age or period.” G. K. Beale says, “The context of the passage and of the book must determine whether this is a long but limited time or an unending period”. It can also mean ‘age’ or ‘of the age to come’ according to Steve Gregg.
  • eternal fire could be eternal in consequence - it destroys permanently - rather than eternal in duration (Jude 1:7). In fact, this is the very image often used - Jesus talks about the branches that do not produce fruit being burned up and John the Baptist about burning up the chaff with ‘unquenchable fire’. These images suggest the chaff / branches are destroyed.
  • Jesus’ reference to worms not die / fire not quenched is from Isaiah 66 and the people are very much dead in that description
  • the book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature and pressing the images too far is poor exegesis / method - Rev 14:10-11 and 20:10 are often used in support of eternal torment. But I think this is a misapplication of the apocalyptic genre.
  • Jesus talks about both soul and body being ‘destroyed’ in Matthew 10:28 in reference to Gehenna. I am aware of a counterargument that destroyed here can mean ‘ruined’, but I do not find it convincing given Jesus’ other talk of chaff and branches being burned up.
  • In Ezekiel 18/33 God says He ‘takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked’ and we see zero instances of God inflicting torture on people as punishment. I am not appealing to our personal emotions here - but rather saying that God never uses torture on His enemies throughout the OT. Why is He suddenly torturing people in the NT? I think you can make a Biblical - rather than emotional - argument that this is simply inconsistent with God’s character - even His wrath. Our God is a consuming fire - yes - and does allow people to suffer the evil they have devised for others (Haman in Esther or Matthew 18:34), but He Himself does not seek to inflict torment.
  • the idea that because God is infinitely holy He must punish sin with infinite punishment does not make sense to me. It makes an assumption about what God’s holiness means. Whenever an unholy person entered the holy of holies without being clean - like Nadab and Abihu - they were consumed - destroyed. Holiness to me is about being able to enter God’s presence and live - about being set apart - not about the duration of punishment. So I think this argument begs the question / involves circular reasoning by assuming one view of how a holy God responds to sin.

I do believe everyone will be resurrected to a Day of Judgment and that there will be terror / shame for the wicked, but it is unclear to me what that means. After that, I believe the wicked will be destroyed. I am always open to changing my mind if I am presented with good evidence.

4 Likes

HI Alex. Thank you for your reply. I see from your profile that you are an apologist. That’s great. I will look up the scriptures you included.
Mahalo,
Ruth

1 Like

Interesting points! Thanks for sharing. Very good food for thought.

1 Like

Jimmy, wow! What an answer. I can see you have discussed hell before and put great thought into the subject. I will need to reread your reply a few times and meditate on it.
Thank you!

3 Likes

To be clear this is @SeanO material not mine. He has a number of threads on the subject of hell. Use your search feature on the Connect banner and type in hell and then search by @SeanO you will find many good discussion.

I would not want anyone to think that this is my material.
Here are 3 books that will be helpful for your study.

2 Likes

Hi can you expound more on what you said

those servants of God who hide what God has entrusted them, in fear of God’s punishment.

the parable of the talents came to mind. not sure if i’m on the right track thank you.

1 Like

Thx Jimmy for the clarification. Also I appreciate the book recommendations.

Yes, Chris, that is exactly what I referred to. “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” Then the talent of that servant will be given to that which has the most talents, and the wicked servant is thrown into the outer darkness.

Actually, a lot of Jesus’ parables refer to hell, or the “outer darkness”, or “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Parable of the faithful and wicked servants in Matthew 24 also teaches that those who mistreat their fellow brothers and “drinks and gets drunk with drunkards” will inherit the punishment of being thrown into the outer darkness.

Immediately after that Jesus gives another parable concerning the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Those foolish virgins, who did not prepare the spare oil could not make it to the wedding banquet, or the kingdom of God.

Harsh stuff, indeed!

1 Like

One more reason I believe in annihilation of the unrepentant is that the choice presented in the Bible to humanity from beginning to end, as far as I can see, is either life or death, not eternal life in heaven, or eternal life in hell. If the latter choice is the reality, why did not God make it clear in the Garden of Eden? Seems to me it was Satan who suggested we might not die, that is, we might have an immortal soul.

Hi everyone! This reply does not focus on the “Hell” topic alone but rather a general view on the heaven, hell and everything beyond. The idea of God being “just” must reward or punish accordingly but God cannot destroy for there is His “love” amplifies the topics “heaven and hell.” As some have stated, heaven is eternal fellowship with God, while sin is eternal separation. If you notice, we actually do not have any appropriate terminologies regarding that which is eternal. What we have are metaphors in the Bible to help us grasp something about it. By metaphors we turn that which is impossible for us to swallow into bite size portions we can chew for the moment. And so in my own way, I try to divide that which is of Eternal and that which is of Time (universe, earth, physical, temporal).

Keep in mind that we do not fully understand Eternity. Example: Dying a sinner will make a person suffer forever in hell. The word forever means “all future” or “continually” according to google. Now why do we apply a terminology of Time to that of Eternity? In fact, there is no time (hours, minutes, seconds) in eternity. If you use the terminologies of Time to define that of Eternity, you make the hearer/reader feel/understand in terms of Time. It makes one think hell is a forever ticking of the clock and the sinner will burn day and night, day and night. I think of it this way. If we come to Eternity right now, we will lose sense of Time. We cannot be bored in heaven for there is no time that is ticking. We cannot wait in heaven for waiting needs time as well. Eternity will be a totally new realm for us. Where am I getting then? That most of the time we interpret the Bible to overwhelm the hearer in order to force our way into their heads. We want to convince but we forgot that we are already misinterpreting. Our way of putting emphasis to what we want to say is to use the words that will cause discomfort to the hearer. We will think God is unloving if He punish forever a sinner for 1 year and a sinner for a lifetime. We will think God as unjust if he reward forever a Christian for 1 year and a Christian for a lifetime. We are having these issues because we interpret to what we only know. In the Old Testament times and the early New Testament, they do not even have the terminologies we have today. What I’m trying to say is that we must view Biblical topics (like heaven and hell) and interpret carefully. Although we do not have exact words for what heaven and hell is, we must not be too narrow in our thinking, and simply force our thoughts to others. In a way, we interpret heaven and hell like we already finished Time, that we are so sure of it. And so many believers become legalistic. May unbelievers find issues to confuse the Christians.

I pray some of you share my thoughts despite the unskillful construction of this message. Please feel free to message me if you have thoughts on my view regarding Eternity and Time. Thank you.

Hey Jimmy. I just ordered All You Want to know about hell! Thx

1 Like

Thank you for your thoughts. They make sense to me. I do agree that Christians often try to interpret the bible on many subjects in a way that can come across as forceful. I also think it’s important for Christians to be “right” sometimes, instead of being unsure or admitting we don’t have the answer. I just ordered a book Jimmy recommended called All you want to know about hell. I think I will learn some new perspectives. I will share when I do!

You’re welcome.

Be blessed.

1 Like

I’ll offer what I know about Jewish thought from discussions. They don’t believe we inherited a sin nature from Adam. It wasn’t spiritual death but physical. Sheperio in His interview I believe with John MacArthur said the soul goes through a purifying process this is His thought on atonement not that God required a sacrifice but that the soul at death must go through a purifying process to enter into God’s presence. Hope this helps. Look up “Ben Shapiro” including “wretched Todd Friel” Hope this is helpful!

1 Like

Thank you. I will look this up. So in Jewish thought we inherited physical death due to sin instead of living forever on this earth?

I thought the Jews believed a Messiah was necessary to be the final sacrifice , but they just don’t believe it was Jesus. Can you clarify this for me?

I think Jewish thought has changed down the ages. They from my knowledge reject original sin. I don’t really know if they’ve always rejected it but it comes with their current rejection as Christ as Messiah. They see original sin as a New Testament idea. Mromeo8 I am not an expert in current Jewish thought. I’ve only witness to one and that’s the explanation the Person gave me. Hope this helps! Maybe someone else on this board whose more knowledgeable on this subject of Jewish thought can aid.

Blessings! May The Lord increase You in knowledge and love of the truth not just head wise but deed and truth. :pray: