The concept of an eternally burning hell is taught in most denominations of Christianity. Is this a biblically based concept? While many ministers cite bible verses as justification of this theory, they often misinterpret the meaning of what hell is.
The question of hell brings up the prerequisite question: Are souls immortal? Let’s explore this.
Are Souls Immortal?
Contrary to popular belief, souls are not immortal. So what is a soul?
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2:7 KJV)
Adam was made a living soul after receiving the breath of life. If he was made a living soul, then that means a soul can die. There would have been no reason to describe Adam as a living soul if his soul was immortal. Contemplate on that. So then we know that men are living souls!!!
Ezekiel records the following statement twice in the same chapter:
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezek. 18:4, 20 KJV)
Realize that the word of God often repeats itself when a concept can be misunderstood. This is done to ensure that there is no confusion about a topic. We know from Ezekiel that souls can die therefore it cannot be immortal. Some may argue that this statement is just Ezekiel’s idea of what happens to a soul. Let’s look at what Jesus, God in a fleshly body, says about the soul.
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28 KJV)
Here we see that God can destroy both soul and body in hell. Notice it doesn’t say torture both soul and body in hell it says destroy. This is further evidence that the soul is not immortal straight from the mouth of Jesus!!!
At this point, people will begin to say the bible contradicts itself. Do not listen to such empty statements. Most will come to this conclusion because they do not understand what the bible is saying. It is important to read everything the bible has to say about any given topic.
The following verse is often used to defend the idea of people burning in hell:
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Rev. 20:13 KJV)
This verse is referring to a resurrection of those who are dead when God comes to judge the world. Read verses 11-12 and this will become clear. Notice that there are two types of dead mentioned in this verse. Some of the dead are in the sea and some are in death and hell. Many assume that death and hell describes a place of burning fire. If this is the case, why are some of the dead described as coming out of the sea? This verse describes the two places on earth that humans can be found dead. One is the sea and the other is the ground. Death and hell refers to being in the ground; underneath the surface of the earth’s crust. Note that the bible mentions God created everything in the heavens, the earth, and the waters. When talking about the dead, the heavens are excluded because anything that dies in the sky falls in the waters or to the earth.
Note what the very next verse of Revelation 20 says:
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Rev. 20:14 KJV)
A group labeled death and hell will be casted into the lake of fire. This results from God’s judgment upon them. I BELIEVE (this is a statement of opinion) this to be a different group created based on their works after the judgment of God. I believe this because we know that more people die on ground than in the sea. Casting death and hell (from verse 13) in the lake of fire would mean destroying the vast majority of the people God has created. God created us for life not for death so I believe that death and hell (in verse 14) describes a group that comes out of the judgment.
Notice that death and hell are said to face the second death. This means they will be utterly destroyed in the lake of fire. This is the hell Jesus is talking about in Matthew 10:28.
The Dead are in the Grave
Did you know that the bible teaches that the dead are in the grave which means they are in the earth?
“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (Eccl. 3:19-20 KJV)
God uses Solomon to tell us that men and beasts return to the dust they were made from at death. Notice it says ALL turn to dust again. All means all, right? There is no exception made in these verses.
Read what Jesus says about those in the grave:
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29 KJV)
Jesus Christ says that there is a day coming where all that are in the graves shall be resurrected. Some will try to explain not all are in the graves. Knowing that God is a just and fair God, why would only some be in the grave? In addition, notice the distinction between the two resurrections mentioned. They that have done good will receive the resurrection of life. If those that have done good were already in heaven, then why would they need to be resurrected? Similarly, why would those who have done evil need to be resurrected if they are already punished in hell?
Don’t be confused by theories of where the dead go. We can see that Jesus is explaining that the dead have not received their rewards yet. If heaven and hell are supposed to be the rewards, then we know that the dead have not entered into either. Also note that the reward of good is not heaven; it is the kingdom of God!!! (This will be explained in a later post)
If you don’t believe this, read the following verse:
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2 KJV)
The Second Death
The second death is rarely taught in mainstream Christianity. It is essential to know what the second death is in order to understand whether or not hell is a place where the dead will be burned forever.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4-6 KJV)
This describes the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. The second death is said to have no power over a group of faithful individuals. Notice that some of these people had to be dead because we are told that “the rest of the dead lived not again,” at this point which is the first resurrection.
So what is the second death? Let’s look back at verse we’ve already read.
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Rev. 20:14 KJV)
The second death is being casted into the lake of fire. As we’ve seen, the first death is being in the grave so then we know that the lake of fire is not the same thing. There would be no reason to resurrect people just to put them back into an earthly grave.
In referring to God’s coming judgment Malachi writes:
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (Mal. 4:1 KJV)
Malachi explains that the wicked shall be burned up and there will be neither root nor branch left. This means nothing will be left of the wicked. Remember Christ says that God can “destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28 KJV) This hell is talking about the second death, a complete destruction of those who will not follow God. It is not talking about burning people as an everlasting punishment. Ask this question: if you burned for eternity, would you be destroyed? No.
The second death is to be destroyed completely for not turning away from sin and letting God lead your life. Be sure to read what the bible says about the second death.
The bible does mention someone being tormented day and night forever. Read the following verse:
“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.” (Rev. 20:10 KJV)
Read this carefully because there are commas separating clauses. This could be made into two separate sentences. They would be as follows (written in the future tense): Satan will be casted into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet will be. And Satan will be tormented day and night forever.
Though it is true that the beast and the false prophet will be thrown in the lake of fire alive, the bible does not say that they will be tormented like Satan. Read Rev 19:20 and compare it to Rev. 20:10. There is a clear difference between the two verses.
There is no need for confusion or misunderstandings. There are no verses in the bible that says humans will burn forever in hell as a punishment for the way they live their lives. This doctrine is false and is not biblically accurate. We hope this mini study helps you understand what the bible means by hell. Of course there is much more that can be written about this topic. It is our purpose to introduce the truth and leave room for you to exercise your own will and desire to learn more about God’s word.
Let me make this absolutely clear: THE ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT FOR THOSE WHO WILL NOT FOLLOW GOD IS TO BE COMPLETELY DESTROYED IN THE LAKE OF FIRE. IF YOU WILL NOT LEARN AND REFLECT GOD’S WAYS, YOU’LL BE DESTROY COMPLETELY. YOU’LL CEASE TO EXIST!!!
This is a fate no one should want to experience nor should they have to experience. Following God’s word is the only way to avoid it!!!
-By Bryant Muldrew