A Few Questions About Hell – #10 Post of 2011

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Hell is an important doctrine of Christianity that seems to dismay many Christians and non-Christians, alike.  In a recent blog post, I recounted an example of a woman who is deeply disturbed by the existence of hell.  There is no way to give an exhaustive treatment of this subject in a blog post, but I wanted to make an attempt to answer a few basic questions about hell.

Question 1: Does God send people to hell without their choice?

Answer 1: No.  Those who go to hell after they die have made conscious decisions to reject the knowledge, the light, of God they’ve been given while alive.

Question 2: Do those in hell seek to escape once there?

Answer 2: No.  Hell is what they want, a place where they can be away from God and follow their own desires.  They may not like aspects of hell, but they would prefer to reign in hell than submit in heaven.

Question 3: Does God torture those in hell?

Answer 3: No.  If we are thinking of God inflicting physical torture, like a prison camp warden, the answer is “no.”  The torment that those in hell feel is the absence of a relationship with God.  Since all humans were made for this relationship, than those without it will certainly suffer.  This torment will be terrible, and nothing that anyone wants to experience, but those in hell desire something something that it is impossible for God to give – happiness without Him.

Question 4: Is there any chance that people in hell will repent?

Answer 4: No.  The door of hell is locked on the inside.  God knows each human heart through and through, and He knows that those in hell will never repent regardless of how much they are evangelized.  Hell is where God confirms the choices of those people who reject Him, a rejection that they will maintain forever.

Question 5: Is it fair for those in hell to be there forever?

Answer 5: Yes.  Remember, they will actively reject God forever, so their separation from God must also last forever.

Question 6: Is hell a punishment for those in it?

Answer 6: Yes.  In the sense that the people in hell are there because of their sinful actions, it is a punishment.  They are given what they deserve for their actions.

Question 7: Can those in hell be rehabilitated?

Answer 7: No. Because they will never repent of their rejection of God, they cannot be rehabilitated.

Question 8: Will God send anyone to hell who doesn’t deserve to be there?

Answer 8: No.  God is the ultimate standard of justice, so it is impossible for God to do anything unjust.  It would be the ultimate injustice for God to send someone to hell who would freely love him, so those who are in hell are justifiably there.  No mistakes are made.

I know that this brief Q and A only scratches the surface, but these are some of the most common questions I’ve seen.  I hope that they are helpful to you.

  • Bill,

    The view you express is that of C.S. Lewis. When sitting under Dr. Geisler’s teaching I bought into that view. However, after hearing a sermon this last fall, I had to reevaluate this view. The sermon was on Matt 25:31-46, the sheep and the goats. Matt 7:21-23 could fall under the same issue. Notice in the sheep and goats story that those who are told to go away to eternal punishment are those who failed to do what I’ll call “good works.” Their lack of good works seems to indicate they did not truly know the Lord. We can understand that they were more into their own comforts than being the hands and feet of the Lord (sounds like a lot of Christians today – practically all of us to various degrees). Yet, they seemed to think they knew the Lord and would have expected to have eternal life, not judgment. They did not freely jump to hell in joy to escape the glances of God, but rather had to be told to go there.

    This does not reflect the view of C.S. Lewis. No doubt rejecting Jesus outright would be cover the Lewis position, but here we seem to have rejection of Jesus without intent. If it is true that these people truly want to avoid the presence of God, then it would follow that most Christians today do not want to go to heaven by the same actions.

    How do you resolved this discrepancy?

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Hell is what they want, a place where they can be away from God and follow their own desires.”

    Does this include Muslims, Hindus, perhaps Jews? Many of these faiths put themselves through great discomfort to follow ‘their’ Gods, that is to say the Gods they truly believe to be the true One. Surely it would be inaccurate to say they are rejecting the Christian God in order to follow their own desires. You presumably would not accept the same lable from them.

  • Walt, If I can stick my oar in, I think the problem is that, while the “two models” are quite clear, the heart of man is twists and turns to live in inconsistency.

    We may delight in singing songs that proclaim that Jesus is Lord, and live as we darn well please. We can say we love God, but reject Him every time there is a choice to be made. Who are we really?

    It is so easy for us to say one thing with our lips, and have another in our heart. We lie, and we lie to ourselves. We often believe our own lies. One of the common counseling techniques is to help the client become more “integrated” by looking at his deeds as contrasted with his stated beliefs. The deeds often (not always) arise from the true beliefs, while the lips give cover, saying what I think is appropriate for me to believe. I can choose to say with my lips that Jesus is Lord, but if in every choice I make, I choose what I want, who is really Lord for me?

    I rather think that “on that day” when we “know as we are knows,” one of those things that will be clear is the truth that is behind all the lies we tell. Our deeds may well be part of that revealing. When the pretense is stripped away, it will be plain if we are a sheep of His pasture, who screws up a lot, or if we are a really a rebel who is trying to pass. At that point, there will be no doubt as to our choice. We will have made it, happily and without repentance, over and over. Choosing for “not God” will be the choice we have made and will continue to make.

    It is not “by works,” Matthew 7:22-23 makes that very clear. In spite of their works, they were told “depart from me, I never knew you.” but similarly, and for the same reason, Matthew 7:21 says “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’…”
    Both are windows into who I am, but either can be a cover act for my inward rebellion.

    On that day, all will be truth, and seen in the light of reality. I will choose as I have chosen. God’s decree and my own desire will (at least on this one occasion) be in perfect harmony.

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Walt,
    Thanks for your comment. I would quibble with a couple things you said. I don’t think it’s clear from the verses that the goats thought they knew the Lord before the judgment. You could easily understand these verses as indicating that they are just meeting him for the first time at the judgment – it’s not obvious to me which it is.

    Second, their lack of good works is the reason given for their receiving eternal punishment in the verses, but there could be other reasons as well, reasons that are not mentioned. My reading of these verses is that Jesus is trying to contrast the rewards in the kingdom of heaven that the faithful believers will receive with the punishment that the non-believers will receive. The faithful believers are characterized by their good works and the non-believers are characterized by their lack of good works. There is no mention of faith in these verses, but we know from many other texts in the Bible, including many from Matthew, that faith is a requirement for eternal life. Just because these specific verses don’t mention faith doesn’t mean we can forget the role of faith.

    So, I don’t think the goats necessarily knew Jesus from before and it is still necessary, from other verses in the NT, to understand that the goats did not have faith – they did not believe in Jesus. Given all this, I think we can still understand them as having made a choice to not follow God.

  • Ian A

    I was wondering if people would look at this website where a totally different view of hell is put forward by Jay Guin from the Churches of Christ. It is at http://oneinjesus.info/2008/08/surprised-by-hell-evaluating-the-evidence/

  • Ian,

    I would ask these questions:
    – Why resurrect from the dead those who will be burned up (Dan 12:2)? Why not just leave them dead?
    – In Mark 9:42-28, why mention that hell is where the fire never goes out and the worm never dies if it wasn’t significant to the passage?
    – aeon can refer to “an age” rather than “unending,” however, when connected with God, it normally means without end or bound, just as all of God’s attributes are without bound. If we arbitrarily put a limit or bound on hell, then why should we not put a bound on heaven? In other words, eternal life, is then not necessarily forever either.
    – Rev 22:15 indicates there are people outside of the gates of the new city. How could that be if they all got burned up during destruction of the old earth.
    – Rev 20:10 indicates that the devil, the beast, and the false prophet are to be tormented day and night for ever and ever. This is the same lake of fire for the second death.
    – Straightforward reading indicates the traditional view, contrary to what that website says. One has to ignore phrases and say “that’s not what is really meant” in other places in order to make annihilationhism to work.

    Eric and Bill,

    Thanks for your responses. It is true their behavior didn’t match the lips, but that seems rampant these days. As Eric indicated, whether one screws up occasionally versus has a general trend of faithfulness may make the difference. That these folks, according to Bill, did not know Jesus may be possible, since this is people from all the nations, but they seem to be trying to defend themselves (in line with what Eric said), but in defending themselves, are they wanting to go to judgment rather than glory as C.S. Lewis would say? The Matt 7:21 verse is definitely a case of people supposedly being followers, even if only by lips, who may be surprised to hear Jesus’ words. Maybe it is true that deep in their hearts they really are avoiding God, but Mt 7 just doesn’t seem to indicate that.

  • I don’t think its so much an issue of “deep in their hearts” as what is the truth, verses what is the pretense. It would seem perfectly possible that one would make a show of profession (whether by proclamation OR by works). while inwardly having never done a thing that was not from self-intrest and self-lordship. When the truth is known, I expect such will still refuse the lordship of Christ. They would far rather choose Milton’s phrase “Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven”

  • A perhaps related thought –
    I do have in this vein a private caution, by which I mean something not spoken to in the Bible, yet I which I think is consistent with what we have been told. I think it likely descriptive (in a limited way), but which I would be prepared to drop quickly if Holy Scripture were shown against it.

    That caution is for folks like me, and perhaps like many who have a taste for theology, and who have strong ideas about truth. And that comes from my conception of God as, not just truthful, but “Truth” itself. Reality. “I AM.” The beatific vision includes some measure of being united with God, with truth –not in the eastern ideas of a drop of water returning to the ocean, but in a way more consistent with the nature of God as triune, with clear and distinct persons existing in undivided unity of essence. I don’t see us as in any way “filling out” the Trinity, but I do see our reconcilement as being according to that nature.

    Now, if this is in any sense true (and it is strictly private theology), then part of “judgment” will involve our willingness to be united with total truth. That may seem obvious, but truth would include all that I have done, and the pain that others have born because of it. It would include the fact that God has made all of that right, but also HOW He made it right.

    In all these things I have strong opinions. Some of those are opinions about my self-declared innocence, some opinions are about the nature of God. I expect many of my thoughts are wrong, in minor, or in major ways. This may be one of them.

    It is entirely plausible that, with the TRUTH fully obvious and undeniable in front of us, that we prefer our own version, our own distortion of truth. And *that* is the issue.

    If I prefer my own distortions to truth, when it is offered to me, how then can I be united to that truth?

    Can I be united to untruth and to truth at the same time? If “untruth” cannot be united with “truth,” then in the Venn diagram, “untruth” is outside. I may renounce “untruth” and be united with truth (this may well involve repentance), or I may be united with my untruth, and forsake truth. God is Truth.

    Again, I would lay this system on no man except as he find it helpful. But I do not know any Biblical account of judgment with which it conflicts.

  • Eric,

    I’d say kind of the same thing, except I wouldn’t limit it to Truth, I would say it has to do with the totality of who God is. Isn’t that what becoming like Christ is about – being more like God? That involves moral beliefs as well as philosophical truths. In that, we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds and coming to new thoughts, new ideas about what is Good, etc., If we are not willing to be transformed in that way, we have a problem. In heaven we are glorified and look like Him completely, but with our own personality. In hell, we look like ourselves and see it relative to God when He is fully unveiled and we cannot avoid Him. I do not think after the resurrection that we can escape God, He is full force in front of us. That is why I don’t like saying we are separated from God. We are for the interim, before the judgment, but after that, the lake of fire, I believe, is God’s holiness burning against sin that can no longer be removed.

  • Truth meaning not JUST philisophical constructs, but moral truth. the way things are, and what has been my role from my begining. In fact, anything, large or small, where I have been telling God, or would tell Hime…”No, That CAN’T be right! it was mostly X.x fault! It really wasn’t that important!, or even “those blasted Armenians are NOT right!!” Doesn’t matter how trivial, if I prefer my version of reality to the reality that is. God.

  • Second, their lack of good works is the reason given for their receiving eternal punishment in the verses, but there could be other reasons as well, reasons that are not mentioned.

    This reads to me like you are adding to the bible and implying extra meaning to solve the conflict that Walt highlighted. Doesn’t the bible specifically warn against this?

    Who gets to say if these verses are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Why should the verses mentioned not be taken literally? If you are prepared to imply extra meaning to these verses to resolve a conflict in your theology, whats to stop you doing the same across other parts of the bible?

    At what point does implying extra meaning in a biblical verse become heresy and false teaching?

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi limey,
    I’m not adding to the Bible or not taking the verses literally. I’m merely pointing out that there are other reasons given in the rest of the Scripture for why people receive eternal punishment, reasons not mentioned in these verses. So, since we can’t have God contradicting himself, then we must conclude that there are additional reasons outside of the verses in Matt. 25 for people receiving eternal punishment. The verses in Matt. 25 are not the only word on the topic of eternal punishment in the Bible.

  • Andrew EC

    These are not really “answers,” so much as one-liners designed to duck hard questions.

    For example, your answers to questions 2, 4, 7 and 8 simply assert that all “unsaved” will continue to “reject God for all eternity.” I suppose it’s comforting to assert that, but it doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny.

    Rob Bell offers the familiar example of the 17-year-old atheist, who may be motivated by rebellion against his parents and society, who may be convinced by weak atheist arguments and who probably has no experience or grasp with serious theology. He’s killed and wakes up in Hell.

    Do you honestly think that this 17-year-old, upon experiencing the reality of Christianity, would continue to “reject God” for an eternity? If so, you’ll have to give actual *argument* — just asserting that this kid is “willfully disobedient” and will remain so for a million billion trillion years on the basis of teenage rebellion strains credulity past the breaking point.

  • Andrew Ryan

    How can one enjoy heaven knowing any of your friends are suffering in hell? I couldn’t. Even Heaven would be a hell for me if I knew any of my friends or family were suffering so. Does one lose empathy in heaven, or does one forget loved ones?

  • Joshua

    Bill, I find it interesting that you would call “hell” and “important doctrine of Christianity”. Are you saying that one must believe in a place of eternal torment / separation from God in order to be a Christian? Where can we find such a requirement in the Scriptures?

    If that is the claim, was Paul a Christian, since never once did he mention “hell” (Gehenna, Tartarus)? If such a doctrine were so important, why would Paul never once mention it?

    Even when Peter mentions “Tartarus” (or the unique noun-verb “tartarus-ing”) in 2 Peter 2:4, he indicates that it is a place for disobedient angels awaiting judgment, not humans.

    At present, orthodoxy likes to hold up the doctrine of “hell” (a place of eternal torment / separation from God) and claim that it has been the standard teaching for 2,000 years. Yet the view that God intends to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ Jesus was the dominate view of Christians up until the fourth century. The Scriptures show this. Here are few verses:

    1 Timothy 4:10, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Timothy 2:6, Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:10, Romans 11:32, Romans 11:36, and Romans 5:18.

    There will be judgments. Everyone — you, me included — will be salted with fire, as Jesus Himself said in Mark 9:49. All God’s judgments are remedial and not unending.


  • Bill Pratt

    Andrew EC,
    We can come up with a thousand case studies of people who don’t deserve to go to hell because they don’t understand the choice they’re making. I don’t worry about trying to “solve” all of these cases because I know that God is ultimately just. He will not send anyone to hell who would repent and choose to love him when they do understand what choice they are making. I am convinced that when we finally see the judgments God has made about people’s eternal destiny, we will see the great wisdom and justice behind his decisions. There won’t be any mistakes.

    As Christians, we are repeatedly warned not to judge people’s salvation. We do not ultimately know where other people are headed, only ourselves. I know where my heart lies, but I can never know another person’s heart. It is a waste of time, in my opinion, to play these guessing games about where people are headed. We don’t know. What we do know is that there is a hell where people who reject God are separated from people who love God. Who goes to hell? I leave that in God’s hands.

  • Bill Pratt

    I don’t think the doctrine of hell is one of the essential doctrines of the faith which separates Christian from non-Christian. I do, however, count it as important after the essential doctrines. It seems to me that there are numerous mentions of eternal punishment in the NT that clearly indicate a place like hell. I truly wish that you were correct, that all judgments were remedial and that all people will ultimately come to God, but I don’t see this at all taught in the Bible.

  • Joshua

    Bill, If you haven’t (maybe you have), do a word study on “eternal” and “punishment”. Maybe check out the verses I listed, too. Each of them contain the word “all”, which, in different context of each verse, can refer to “all people” or “all things”.

    The reason I asked about making “hell” a requirement to be a Christian is because many Christians will not fellowship with people who, like me, hold to the superiority of the efficacy of Christ Jesus’ obedience over Adam’s transgression, as Romans 5 details very, very clearly. I don’t think language — either Greek or English — can be more clear on that accomplishment than it is in Romans 5:18. And it makes me wonder why trusting that Christ Jesus’ obedience to the Will of God will make Him, indeed, the Savior of the World (not just the potential Savior, as your position would maintain) is so abhorrent to many, including you. To brush it aside and say “the Bible doesn’t teach it”, as you yourself and many others do, is to overlook many, many Scriptures (see sampling above) and God’s intention in making mankind in the first place. (Church history shows that it was the dominate view until the fourth or fifth century.) Again, correction has its place and time. Most importantly, it has its purpose.

    And if I might add, the “hell” you seem to be describing is a very different version than those individuals who are responsible for contaminating Christianity with it. Spurgeon, for example, said in his sermon “Resurrection From the Dead”:

    “Hell will be the place for bodies as well as for souls. There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you have now a real body – a fire exactly like that which we have on earth in everything except this – that it will not consume, though it will torture you.

    You have seen the asbestos lying in the fire red hot, but when you take it out it is unconsumed. So your body will be prepared by God in such a way that it
    will burn forever without being consumed.”

    He and the long list of individuals before him did not see it simply as an eternal timeout corner, without God or His Presence. They saw it as a place of the physical, unending torture of a physical human being. The torture is never ending and for that “your body will be prepared by God in such a way that it will burn forever without being consumed”. So God is actively participating in your torture by giving you a body which can be tortured forever(!).

    By the grace of God in giving me a small measure of His Spirit, to ascribe such horrid practices to the God and Father of Jesus makes me sick. Some want to ascribe to God, our Father, characteristics that would even be slander to the worst of dictators. (At the command of Mao Zedong, millions of Chinese were sent to their graves. We call him a “monster”. What if he had sent billions, not to a grave, but to a never-ending sentence of torture without even the hope of death? What would we call him then?)

    It is truly sad that in this age to be holding to Jesus’ superiority over Adam is so controversial and devisive. But the words are there: Jesus Christ will be the Savior of the World. He is the Lamb of God that is taking away the sin of the world.

    I’m just glad God didn’t give us what our sins deserve, aren’t you? Instead, He graciously granted us belief in Him and His Son.

    Grace and peace,


  • carl

    doesn’t gel with Mary Baxter’s Divine Revelation of Hell…..for whatever that is worth

  • Andrew EC


    I have no doubt that “you’re convinced” God will make it all work out! My point is that your blog is titled “Tough Questions Answered,” and you’re not really answering my not-that-tough questions.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Do you honestly think that this 17-year-old, upon experiencing the reality of Christianity, would continue to “reject God” for an eternity?”

    I’m 35. If I saw evidence for a God, then I wouldn’t reject him (unless he was evil). It’s false to say that I’d reject Him for eternity. I wouldn’t really say that I ‘reject Him’ now – I just don’t think a deity exists. Presumably if an all-knowing God exists then he knows what it would take to prove his existence to me. One can only presume that if He DOES exist, me not believing in Him is part of His plan.

  • Bill Pratt

    Andrew EC,
    I’m sorry I’ve not answered your questions satisfactorily. You are certainly not the first person to use the title of the blog against me! I do the best I can with the time I have and pray that God will use my feeble efforts.

  • Bill Pratt

    God desires all people to come to him, but he will not override your free will to do so. He will always give you an out, and so as long as you desire to avoid him, you can do so. It is God’s hope and mine that you will turn your heart toward him some day.

  • Bill Pratt

    Andrew EC,
    I’m sorry that I haven’t satisfactorily answered your questions. You are not the first person and nor will you be the last to use the blog title against me! I do the best I can with the time I have and pray that God will use my feeble attempts.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “God desires all people to come to him, but he will not override your free will to do so.”

    Was Jesus going against people’s free will when he performed miracles in the bible? Have any supposed miracles since that have changed people’s minds gone against their free wills? I speak to Christians about what turned them to Vhrist. Sometimes it came to an experience they could not explain, that they took as a personal intervention from God. Whither their free will then?

  • Andrew EC

    Andrew Ryan: exactly.

    Bill: I mean you no ill will, and I’m not trying to “use the blog title against you.” I’m trying to point out that *if* your goal is to reach out to atheists, skeptics, nonbelievers, then you ought to realize that this sort of approach — “Well, I don’t really have a good answer to that, but I’m pretty confident God will work it all out” — isn’t going to inform or persuade us. That’s all.

    For me, the Biblical doctrine of Hell was the first thing that got me started asking the *real* hard questions: is this true? How do we know if it’s true or false? What does the evidence tell us? I suspect it’s that way for a lot of people.

  • Are you sure you aren’t Catholic? That’s a very good understanding of Hell.

  • Ian A

    You say that miracles from the New Testament override people’s free will. But at Calvary everybody rejected Him, even Peter, so their free will had not been overriden. It says in the Bible that you shouldn’t presume you are going to heaven, even if you are a Christian, because it is up to God to make the decision, and there will be surprises. So who knows whether the 17 year old atheist will go to heaven or not. The parents will have played a role in the outcome in the way they brought him up. Was he baptised and then rejected God, or not?
    At school we were taught that getting to heaven is like building a wall, every good deed gives you another brick for the wall, whilst every bad deed takes one away. Or if you are really bad like some people you are digging a pit.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “You say that miracles from the New Testament override people’s free will.”

    No I didn’t say that. I asked Bill why the miracles didn’t create the same problem… Actually, I’m short of time – feel free to go read my original post. And Jesus being rejected at Calvary doesn’t affect my point either way.

  • David

    I posted some of this in another thread here, but since this post is on hell, I thought it would be good to post here as well some of what the early Church Fathers wrote about hell and how the Orthodox Church views hell in this article:


    St. Symeon the New Theologian wrote:

    “God is fire and when He came into the world, and became man, He sent fire on the earth, as He Himself says; this fire turns about searching to find material — that is a disposition and an intention that is good — to fall into and to kindle; and for those in whom this fire will ignite, it becomes a great flame, which reaches Heaven. … [T]his flame at first purifies us from the pollution of passions and then it becomes in us food and drink and light and joy, and renders us light ourselves because we participate in His light.”

    St. Isaac the Syrian:

    “It is totally false to think that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is a child of the knowledge of truth, and is unquestionably given commonly to all. But love’s power acts in two ways: it torments sinners, while at the same time it delights those who have lived in accord with it.”

    “Hell in this view is understood as the presence of God experienced by a person who, through the use of free will, rejects divine love. He is tortured by the love of God, tormented by being in the eternal presence of God without being in communion with God. God’s love is the fire that is never quenched, and the disposition and suffering of the soul in the presence of God who rejects him is the worm that does not die. Whether one experiences the presence of love as heaven or hell is entirely dependent on how he has resolved his own soul to be disposed towards God, whether communion or separation, love or hatred, acceptance or rejection.

    Hell, then, is not primarily a place where God sends people in his wrath, or where God displays anger, but rather, it is the love of God, experienced by one who is not in communion with him. The figurative, spiritual fire of God’s love is transcendent joy to the person purified and transfigured by it through communion in the body of Christ, but bottomless despair and suffering to the person who rejects it, and chooses to remain in communion with death.”

    St. John Chrysostom:

    “For now what takes place is for correction; but then for vengeance. And this also St. Paul showed, when he said, “We are chastened now, that we should not be condemned with the world.” …. But then the punishment from God shall be manifest, when the Judge, sitting upon the fearful tribunal, shall command some to be dragged to the furnaces, and some to the outer darkness, and some to other inexorable and intolerable punishments.”

    St. Polycarp:

    “Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but thou art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly.”

    St. Justin Martyr:

    “No more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments.”

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem:

    “We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. …Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past.”

    St. Gregory of Nazianzus:

    “I know a cleansing fire which Christ came to hurl upon the earth and He Himself is called fire in words anagogically applied….I know also a fire that is not cleansing but avenging, that fire either of Sodom, which mixed with a storm of brimstone, He pours down on all sinners, or that which is prepared for the devil and his angels, or that which proceeds from the face of the Lord and burns up all His enemies all around. And still there is a fire more fearsome than these, that with which the sleepless worm is associated, and which is never extinguished but belongs eternally to the wicked.”… its is better to be punished and cleansed now than to be sent to the torment to come, when it will be time for punishing only, and not for cleansing.”

    St. Jerome from the 4th century:

    “There are many who say there are no future punishments for sins nor any torments extrinsically applied, but that sin itself and the consciousness of guilt serve as punishment, while the worm in the heart does not die, and a fire is kindled in the mind, much like a fever…These arguments and fraudulent fancies are but inane and empty words having the semblance of a certain eloquence of speech but serving only to delude sinners; and if they give them credence they only add to the burden of eternal punishment which they will carry with them.”

    St. Basil the Great:

    “The voice of the Lord divides the flame of fire. I believe that the fire prepared in punishment for the devil and his angels is divided by the voice of the Lord. Thus, since there are two capacities in fire, one of burning and the other of illuminating, the fierce and punitive property of the fire may await those who deserve to burn.”

  • Where in the Bible is the word Hell located ? I don’t believe in Hell ! If it is the place “Gehenna” then it is complete destruction of anything thrown into it. Is this true ?

  • I used to be a pastor. I was an evangelical Christian pastor. I accepted the traditional evangelical doctrine of hell as you have articulated it here. I was not happy about the existence of hell, but I didn’t question it or think it was wrong. I just accepted that it was God’s way, because that’s what I was taught. In my study of the Bible, however, I came to see that this doctrine was a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually teaches on the subject of afterlife. Anyone can do the scriptural study that I did and see that this is so. The place to start is to do a word study of “Sheol” in the Old Testament. It was, of course, the place of the dead, all the dead, below the earth in Hebrew thought. It is unlikely that you will believe me when I say that evangelical Christianity is unbiblical on the subject of hell, and because of that, it is unlikely that you will do the word study that I am suggesting. But consider this: If the evangelical doctrine of hell is correct, why does it not address the subject of Sheol including how and when the routing changed such that we now say some of the dead go up to heaven while others go down to hell?

    I hasten to add that I believe Jesus is Lord and the Bible is the word of God. In other words, my abandonment of the doctrine of hell is not due to any loss of faith. On the contrary, it is my faith in Christ and His word that has led me to this point of view.

  • Mike,
    The doctrine of hell is not an evangelical doctrine, but a Christian doctrine that is taught by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches alike. Although the doctrine of hell is not taught explicilty in the OT, it is taught explicitly in the NT in some 20 different passages. I do not believe it is an essential doctrine of the church, but to deny the existence of hell is to go against the historic and overwhelming position of the Christian churches.

  • Robgarb

    Speaking about fire and god i realised that fire has the ability to comfort or consume..

  • Lor8ttaRksn

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with your conception of hell altogether. If hell were a physical place, then how could death and hell be cast into hell (the lake of fire) Rev 20:14? And how could the symbolic beast and false prophet be cast into a literal place – Rev 19:20?

  • Todd

    “To be created sick and commanded to get better” (Hitchens) under the threat of eternal torture is capricious and evil. If god reads your thoughts; requiring that you love him, or else you are condemned to eternal torture, is sadism. For someone to willingly engage in this behavior is the definition of masochism. I shall have no part of being such a slave.

  • Anonymous

    Per Lamberth’s argument from autonomy-Google- we,as independent beings, have no obligation to putative God nor has He rights over us, despite Paul’s prattle!
    Even your notion of Hell is too dsproportional to any wrong-doing!
    Might does not make right!

  • Why do religious people tell me people that do not follow god is gonna be raped forever by demons and satan while they burn in hell? is that true?

  • Do religious people that rape children go to heaven or hell?

  • how many lies do you have to tell before you go to hell?

  • LentusAmor

    Bill, please provide the evidence of hell (other than hell being here now on earth)?

  • Kenny WIll

    If the evangelical doctrine of hell is correct, why does it not address the subject of Sheol including how and when the routing changed such that we now say some of the dead go up to heaven while others go down to hell?
    The reason for the change is because the Bible teaches that before the death of Christ, no one went to heaven as their sins were just covered and not taken away. It’s only after Jesus’ death, paradise were now up and not below in Sheol (the section referred to as Abraham’s bosom). Even David went to Sheol (paradise side). If you do a word study, you’ll realize that there is a word for grave (qeber) and one for hell (sheol), the language used of qeber is different to sheol. No one is ever placed in sheol unlike qeber. I leave it to you to study and see the difference.

  • I’ve done the word studies of Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and hell. And, because I have, it’s become clear to me that the Bible teaches everyone is going to heaven.

  • sean

    This is very interesting. Does this mean that any person who doesn’t believe in God, not on moral grounds but on evidential grounds could be saved after death, the post death experience being the evidence they required to believe in and accept Jesus Christ?

  • 99Loretta

    “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” Acts 24:15

    Someone who has been resurrected from death would most likely believe in God, wouldn’t he/she?


  • sean

    I suppose they would. I was asking about the idea Bill spoke of, that damnation to Hell is irreversible and these people who ended up here wouldn’t want to go to Heaven. There are some who would want Heaven, but are big on the whole evidence thing and the post death experience would satisfy them, thus allowing them to accept Jesus as their Savior. The only way I can see Bill’s model working, is if there’s some time to accept Jesus after death and before Hell.

  • 99Loretta

    The majority of mankind have not been given enough knowledge of God to have been given a fair chance to choose between heaven and hell. The idea that a small baby or someone who had never heard of God would go to hell (or heaven) is not only problematic, but (fortunately) unscriptural as well. There is no awareness in death (Eccl 9:5, 6, 10), and so no ability to make any choice whatsoever.
    Those who have not chosen to serve God during this lifetime simply await the resurrection to life on earth, where they will be educated and forced to choose between life or death (Matt 25:31-46).

  • sean

    Ah, but Bill doesn’t argue a literal Hell. He argues a separation from God. That’s what we have if we die and don’t go to Heaven. This would imply that you can go to Heaven after not going to Heaven, an idea Bill rejects.

  • 99Loretta

    Actually, he is arguing a literal place called Hell: “Answer 2: No. Hell is what they want, a place…”
    Hell is a state of death where there is no knowledge and/or doings. It is also likened as a “sleep” in the bible. You can’t make a choice there because you are not alive and not aware.

  • sean

    I guess I’m confused. I understand that there will be this “resurrection to life on earth, where they will be educated and
    forced to choose between life or death” but we don’t go to Hell before that? there’s a time where we cease to exist and then re-exist?

  • 99Loretta

    Those who die without God(and enter into the grave/death/hell/non-existence) will be resurrected on earth and allowed to enter into God’s kingdom on earth. Those who refuse to serve God will go into the second death – annihilation.
    Revelation 20:12-14, Matthew 25:31-46


  • sean

    I think you’re in slight disagreement with Bill here. What you’ve said above is that people “who die without God(and enter into the grave/death/hell/non-existence) will be resurrected on earth”

    This clearly says that people go to what can be called hell, and then come back. This may be an issue simply of what each of you is referring to when you are saying Hell, but Bill’s point was that people in Hell will never repent and will never leave. You’re suggesting something that is not that. Namely, people not only get out, but can even repent and go to Heaven. This is, to my reading of what Bill has said, not what he thinks about this subject. I’m not going to moderate who’s got the scriptural evidence on their side so there’s no need to quote scripture. (unless it’s going to help you clarify how your statement of people can come back from hell, and Bill’s assertion that they can’t/won’t are not different assertions.)

  • 99Loretta

    Yes, you’re correct that Bill and I are in disagreement. His assertion is that there is a place called Hell where sinners are left forever. The scriptures state plainly that hell is actually a state of death where there is no knowledge nor doings. God does not torture his beings to eternity, the incorrigible are to be destroyed forever.
    The bible is filled with references to the resurrection. Most of mankind will die first (and hence be in death/hell) and then be resurrected to life on earth, otherwise it would not be a resurrection from the grave.
    Yes, much of mankind will be resurrected out of death/hell/the first death (as opposed to the second death).
    “the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth.” John 5:28, 29
    Those who willfully and knowingly reject God’s kingdom on earth will be returned into death. This is called the second death and there will be no resurrection from it. Revelation 21:8

  • Thaddeus

    I would tend to disagree with you here. Good works are not a requirement for salvation (we cannot earn salvation through works), but they are an outward witness to salvation. In other words, if we have faith we should have fruit. That is why faith without works is dead. If there is no fruit there is no faith, and without faith there can be no salvation.

    The Church of Laodicia in Revelation 3 is a symbol of the last day church. They believe they are rich and in need of nothing, but are really poor, wretched, blind, and naked. They believe they are saved, but in reality are horribly lost. Their trouble is that they are blind to the wretched condition of their lives. I am just awakening to this condition in my own life and I see the spiritual apathy in my own church.

  • Thaddeus

    I would ask these questions:
    Why is there a resurrection at all if the wicked are in hell and the righteous in heaven? Why not just leave them there? The Bible clearly shows death to be a sleep where thoughts perish and where the dead praise not the Lord. Why would a second death be different? The resurrection of the damned must happen so that every human being that has ever lived can acknowledge that God is just and right.

    Mark 9:42-48 – Unquenchable fire could also be fire that cannot be put out, not that it never goes out. The worm doesn’t die, it doesn’t say the person doesn’t die. Worms eat the dead. Both these statements can be read to mean that the worms eat and the fire burns until the sin and sinner is completely destroyed.

    Revelation 22:15 – The format of chapter 22 is divided into sections. The chronological order of events seems to end in verse 5. The vision ends and the angel instructs John what to do with the message. Finally Jesus gives the final appeal in v. 12-21. Couldn’t this also be read as Jesus making a distinction between the saved and the lost? Just like he did for the sheep and goats?

    Revelation 20:10 – I agree that does seem like they are tormented for eternity, but the Bible refers to the lake of fire as the second death in verse 14. Also, death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. So is death a literal thing that can be burned forever and ever? Isn’t Hades hell? Revelation is almost entirely symbolic and a plain reading cannot be applied in most situations. This is a book of prophecy. Also, forever in the Bible can also refer to “until it ends” like a slave who decided to remain in service to their master. The would serve forever and ever, yet obviously they served their entire life.