Could a merciful, compassionate God really allow people to suffer horrifically in the torture of hell? What is the real truth?
[Steve] Do you wonder of a loved one is suffering right now in the burning agony of hell? On the other hand have you ever felt satisfaction imagining the soul of someone you don't like is suffering everlasting torment? It's an age old question, where do bad people go when they die? Have you ever worried about what will happen to you? Stay tuned to Beyond Today as we help you personally answer this vital question, will I go to hell?
Millions believe that their enemies and even some of their loved ones are burning in the fires of hell right now. Can that be true, is that what you believe? Now some churches teach there's no hell while others believe most will be condemned to flames. Believe it or not several years ago a Southern Baptist Home Mission Board study estimated that seven out of ten of all Americans are going to hell. Wow! What do you think? You see on the other hand it's interesting that the Barna Group found a while back that most Americans don't expect to experience hell first hand, just one half of one percent expect to go to hell upon their death. So evidently somebody else is going to hell. Now do you believe that, do you believe there is a hell? That's the question we posed on our street interviews. Let's see what several people had to say about it.
"If you're saved you go to heaven and probably if not you go to hell."
"For a short time on earth to be punished to an eternity doesn't make any sense to me."
"I guess having a good place and a bad place nobody wants to go to hell. Hell ain't meant for nobody."
"As far as hell I think there is, I really do, I think there is."
"You're either going to heaven or hell."
What do you believe when it comes to the subject of hell? Is there a literally burning fire in hell?
Now many believe it's just a superstition. So is it really symbolic just plain fiction or something else altogether? A recent survey found that a majority not only believe in hell but believe it's a real place where people who have led bad lives and have died without being sorry are eternally punished.
Now it may astonish you to find out that this idea of hell is just not true. In fact while Jesus used the term hell its been greatly misunderstood.
I hope you listen for a moment and discover where today's concept really came from and what your Bible actually teaches. Now it does talk about judgment but in a way that's quite different from what you may believe.
So let's begin with a concept of hell as a place punishment. Now where did that come from? Now it may surprise you, Christians did not believe in the idea of an ever burning hell until hundreds of years after Jesus' life and crucifixion. It wasn't the teaching of Jesus or the inspired word of God. It seems the first to expound this view was a man named Tertullian who lived around 200 AD. Now about that same time a Greek manuscript called the Apocalypse of Peter described the lost as they that blasphemed the way of righteousness and under them was laid fire flaming and tormenting them thus shall they ever be tormented.
Now where did they get that out of the Bible?
The fact is they didn't. Ancient Persians, Ancient Greeks and even the philosopher Plato believed in a place where the wicked are punished. Now those aren't biblical things those are traditional things. Those are the things that influenced early Christianity. So by the time you get to 550 AD the Catholic Council of Constantinople validated the teaching of never ending punishment for the wicked.
Now here's where the story gets very interesting. Not much of those tradition ideas changed for a 1,000 years until someone that you are familiar with came along. His name? Dante, Dante Alighieri, in the 14th century he wrote an imaginary description of hell in his work, The Divine Comedy. Now the beginning of that story is known as Dante's Inferno. It's fictional, it's a made up story and he describes the nine circles of hell.
You're probably familiar with the dreadful descriptions of horrors and all the fiery sufferings. Now he created stunning, unforgettable scenes. But did you know that it barely has any reference to any actual biblical passage? Now that didn't change the incredible impact of the ideas of what hell is really like. It stirred it up, it cemented the division that there's a fiery punishment in ever burning hell for the wicked. Now what's so unfortunate is that most people influenced by Dante's vivid imagination really have no idea of just how little he wrote has anything to do with the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.
In fact how would you summarize Dante's effect on the concept of hell? I don't think it's an over statement to say that he had greater impact on the belief of the torments of hell than Jesus Christ Himself. You see popular tradition has replaced the biblical truth about hell. The concept of hell in most ways has become a matter of tradition.
Now if we fast forward 200 years after Dante, Martin Luther regarded hell as a real place but he believed the torment was figurative. He said that hells worst agonies were the terror and utter despair of spending eternity cut off from God. But wait a minute is that tradition or truth? You see that theory is not based on the truth of Jesus' teaching either. Now I hope you don't minimize the influence that these wrong teachings have had even to this very day.
Now here's an example, a while ago the Barna research group reported that four out of ten adults believe that hell is a state of eternal separation from God's presence. The also found that one in eight adults believe that hell is just a symbol of an unknown bad outcome after death. Now here' another idea, as crazy as it may seem, half of all atheists and agnostics say that hell exists. Now those are people that don't even believe in God. So it can be very confusing.
So what is it? Now maybe you think you already know all about what hell really is. Now if you really want to understand if your really want to know you have to ask the question what about tradition? Is tradition real and what does the truth of Jesus teachings all about? What is God's instruction on this? Are you unsure? Maybe your confused, maybe your worried, maybe your disconcerted about your loved ones? Maybe you've always wondered about it? Don't feel alone because it can be difficult to know where to start.
So to help we have a booked called, Heaven and Hell, What Does the Bible Really Teach. This booklet will help you really understand what Jesus taught. You can go online to BeyondToday.tv to download it, read it or request your free of Heaven and Hell, What Does the Bible Really Teach. You can click or you can call us toll free, the call is free, 1-888-886-8632 that's 1-888-886-8632. As always we provide all of our publications free of charge as an educational service.
Now this booklet will help you answer the tough questions in detail such as will a loving God punish people forever in hell? And what about that Bible story of Lazarus and the rich man? Some people believe that the story of Lazarus proves there is a fiery hell. Now we don't have time to cover it on the program today but our booklet has an important section that explains what that story really means. Now you need to be sure and order a copy, you need to know these things. So do you need some peace of mind, some comfort and encouragement get this booklet, find out the truth because there is no doubt that eternal torment is a frightening subject. But don't be taken in by tradition. Get the truth, our booklet will help you truly understand it. And also remember you can follow us on Twitter, you can join our Beyond Today Facebook page as well. I hope you'll log on, leave us a comment, suggest a topic for a future program or just ask us a question.
It is amazing just how many different ideas about the eternal tortures of hell that are out there. Yet these ideas are not found in your Bible. In
Colossians 2:8 Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
American King James Version× Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Now it may surprise you if you're going to properly understand the Bibles teaching about hell first you have to ask which hell are we talking about?
Now that may sound kind of strange but did you know there are four words for hell in your Bible. Now those four words have three different meanings. Let's talk about them for a moment.
The first two words translated hell in the King James version simply means grave or a pit. That's the Hebrew word sheol in the Old Testament and it means the same as the Greek word hades in the New Testament. In fact the New International Version of the Bible always translates sheol as grave, never as that confusing word hell. Most don't realize that the majority of scriptures that use the term hell are plainly talking about the grave and certainly not some fiery torment.
Now we can easily answer that by saying is anyone burning in sheol? Is anyone burning in hades or literally is anyone burning in the grave, that's been buried in the grave, is anyone burning there? No, no one's burning there. Now if we go to that third word translated as hell in your Bible we find that it's based on the Greek word tartarus, that word is only found one time in
2 Peter 2:4 2 Peter 2:4For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved to judgment;
American King James Version× For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
You see tear apart that scripture and it's pretty plain, pretty self-explanatory. It refers to a condition of restraint. Now who does it apply to? Obviously not human beings but rather fallen angels, it applies to demons. The apostle Peter used that reference to Greek folk lore to show that sinning angels are in a condition or a place of restraint. They're awaiting their ultimate judgment for their rebellion against God their destructive influence on humanity. And so so far we've seen that hell can describe a pit or a grave and it can refer to the confinement of sinful angels.
Now here's where it gets interesting. The last word, the word that Jesus used it does refer to a fiery place of judgment. Ah-ha you might say! Now lets notice the word that's used. The word is gehenna which refers to the Valley of Hinnom just outside Jerusalem. Now here's where the confusion has come in. If we go back to the time of Jesus this valley was what we might call the city dump, that's the place where the garbage, the trash and the refuse, everything was thrown there, all the junk and it was consumed in the fires that constantly burned there. The bodies of dead animals and even the bodies of some despicable criminals were sometimes cast into gehenna to be burned. So Jesus used this location and what took place there to help us to understand the punishment the wicked will suffer in the future. In fact Jesus specifically referred to gehenna in
Mark 9:43 Mark 9:43And if your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
American King James Version× If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—
Now that word translated hell, the one that Jesus used in this passage is gehenna. It refers to the fact that unrepentant sinners will be cast into a lake of fire comparable to gehenna, that burning garbage dump. The fires not quenched, why not? Well it will keep burning until the bodies of the wicked like the trash in the old gehenna are consumed. You see an unquenched fire is one that's not extinguished. Does it burn forever then? No, it burns itself out when it consumes everything and has no more combustible material to keep it going. It's like some forest fires today, they just burn until there's no more would to burn. It's not quenched because it goes out by itself when everything's burned up. Now after thinking about that passage is it possible that you may have read right over that passage in the Bible or perhaps took for granted what your church or maybe even what your parents taught you as a child as being the truth? Well think about that for a minute because there's another passage you shouldn't overlook
Malachi 4:1 Malachi 4:1For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
American King James Version× "For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch.
Malachi 4:3 Malachi 4:3And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, said the LORD of hosts.
American King James Version× You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this," Says the LORD of hosts.
You see there will be punishment for the wicked absolutely. But is it an ever burning hell fire? No, as their punishment evil doers will be burned up not eternal torture but a merciful a quick penalty, the incorrigible will not burn forever instead they'll be totally burned up, they'll be destroyed, they'll be reduced to ashes by the flames of the Lake of Fire. Now that's what Jesus taught.
Now it might be surprising but God's word teaches that those who willing, those who willfully choose to reject God's way of life will die. They won't suffer forever. Those who choose not to repent of their evil attitude and sin, they will be punished by fire but not the mythical hell fire of man's imagination. It's because God is a God of mercy, he is the God of love.
The wicked will be consumed by fire and it will be over, they'll be forgotten. It won't be torture for all eternity. They'll receive their eternal punishment but not eternal punishing. Their death, their eternal punishment will last forever but not the punishing.
You see the truth of the Bible should be encouraging it should be encourage you because it shows that God indeed is a being of fantastic mercy, wonderful wisdom, righteous judgment. So don't get bogged down with fabricated traditions but take comfort take encouragement in what Jesus really taught in the truth of your Bible.
Now there's so much more to talk about on this topic but first we have a special offer for you. It's the Good News magazine. This magazine contains important articles to help you understand Bible topics such as the one we're talking about today about hell. What does the Bible really teach and how do you make sense of it? The Good News magazine, it will help give you insight in the issues. That's why you should order your own subscription to the Good News. You can call us free 1-888-886-8632 that's 1-888-886-8632. Remember all of our publications are provided free of charge as an educational service. In fact you could also order your free subscription on the web at BeyondToday.tv where you can search through our literature archives and really do an in-depth study on this topic of hell. Now if you'd like some of the behind the scenes information you can join our Beyond Today Facebook page or you can follow us on Twitter. Go online, leave us a comment or suggest a topic for a future program even ask us a question and don't forget to set your DVR or TiVo so you can watch us at your convenience.
Now we've just scratched the surface of the amazing fact that the doctrine of hell has been molded by the ideas of men. Most believe a mixture of bits of Bible truth combined with common misconceptions non Christian ideas and plain old human imagination. Now we're going to talk about this and discuss it quite a bit more and we're joined by fellow Beyond Today host Darris McNeely. Now as we consider this topic we realize that Jesus taught some very different things about the topic of hell than what most churches teach today, what most people believe today. There isn't an ever burning hell, the Bible doesn't teach that, Jesus didn't refer to that. But I think it certainly leaves the question then what does happen to the wicked.
[Darris] Well Steve, the wicked cease to exist that is part of God's perfect plan that he reveled very clearly in scriptures. The wicked do cease to exist. It's a matter of understanding who that wicked group is, sometimes people think that people who are un-churched, unsaved have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior in this life at this time will be a part of that which creates a great deal of confusion but the wicked in the scriptures referred to will be burned up, cease to exist are really a class of people who have rejected God, made a conscious decision, not out of ignorance, not out of anything beyond their control but have had an opportunity to really know God, His plan and purpose, to know the true God and they make a decision not to accept and obey God, they fall into a category of people that Christ referred to as those who commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Now that is a very small group of people, relative to all who have ever lived but it is a distinct class of people.
So those who know better, they truly understand.
Those that truly know better, yes.
They know better but then they choose to go against God.
The understand His truth, they understand His way, maybe even understand His calling yet say
Christ would never had said that statement to a group of people who were in ignorance because they never had a chance to know Him. He was talking about people who had a full chance and turned from obedience and in a sense blasphemed the Holy Spirit, those sins cannot be forgiven.
Now what's interesting about that is a totally different concept than what is traditionally is taught out there, totally different than the eternal torments of hell that last forever and ever but it doesn't change the fact that these people are destroyed, they're annihilated, they're burned up, they're done, they had an opportunity but they turned against it. But it stills begs the question then, how can a loving God do that if God is really merciful if He's all loving, well why would He destroy people then?
Because He is a merciful God, He is all loving but He is also a God of judgment. Judgment is a part of the scripture it is a part of the plan of God. There is a time of accountability for ones actions. And again taking that group that category that judgment will be rendered. It's an act of love in one sense a person that comes to a point where they do not want God in their life and make that conscious decision and reject God have reached a state of mental depravity that the punishment that God does mead out, it is an act of love because that person really doesn't want to live in a world where God is and will be all that there is and God's way and His perfect plan will dominate and will be the only way. That mind is incompatible and it cannot exist so God in a sense puts them out of their misery. So it is an act of love when you understand the full breadth and the full depth of God's purpose and what He is bringing to pass with His plan for mankind.
I suppose in some ways God hold us accountable, there's a personal responsibility that we have to take, you know if we're given a fantastic gift you know we're accountable for taking care of it and if we don't take care of it if God's given us a beautiful opportunity for eternal life and we turn against that and willingly put it right back in His face we'll it does show that..
And that's what the Bible is referring to in that way. It is wrong for theology for religious people to concoct an idea of ever burning hell fire to scare people to torment people and to misrepresent God.
That's interesting and that's the way it was used sometimes especially in the middle ages to force people that way.
It was misused by the church.
Now here's another misconception that I think we should talk about for just a minute of this idea of when does this happen. Most people have a concept that when they die they either go to heaven or hell but what does the Jesus really teach about that fact, what happens to the wicked or when, when are they punished?
When they are punished is after a period of time that the book of Revelation describes as a millennial or Christ's reign on this earth.
But not when they die?
Not, no as you pointed out when one dies they go to the grave that is another description of hell but it is a grave where their thoughts perish. The time of the punishment of the wicked takes place beyond the Messianic reign after His return, it's more than a thousand years later that we begin to read about in the time line about a time when this lake of fire will consume the wicked, the same lake of fire that Christ did talk about, outlined again and talked about in Revelation 20.
Certainly a time of judgment.
A time of judgment, the word there is taken from that word gehenna which is a reference to what Jesus' listeners in His day clearly understood is a reference to the Valley of Hinnom, a place just outside the city walls of Jerusalem where you said bodies were taken, where refuse was taken and where fires continually burned. That was the reference He was referring to and when people heard it they referenced it and they thought about it and they understood that particular foul place that wasn't where they built their homes and recreated in one sense but what they also would have understood is that everything was consumed.
That's what it was going to be like.
Everything was burned up and ceased to exist. It didn't burn forever and ever and ever and that's what they understood from the concept of the Lake of Fire, from gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom. Very interesting you can go to Jerusalem today and you can walk through the Valley of Hinnom, I've done that, many people do. You actually, you can walk through hell if you will, in that location and today it's an interesting contrast because it is no longer a place where refuse is burned, it's rather, parts of it are like a park like setting. I was there a few years ago and walked the entire length of it and there's a children's school there and children were outside being taught by their instructor at the time in a park like setting. So you get a contrast and you recognize that even as you understand there will be a lake of fire, the wicked will be consumed at a point in time beyond that God's plan and purpose continues on for the righteous.
That's the good news.
That's the good news yes and you also understand that from the concept that He has there of a hell fire, the Lake of Fire, that is described there it consumes the wicked but God's plan goes on.
Now one thing we should probably talk about real quickly for just a couple of seconds is the fact that ok I understand some of this stuff it's new and different, does it really matter? What difference does it really make?
It matters because it's truth, Christ said the truth will set you free. Steve we are pastors we officiate at funerals a lot. I always mention that reference because there's always people setting out at a funeral wondering at times about the fate of their loved one or that person that is in that coffin. Are they in heaven or are they in hell. If they were a bad person and did bad things maybe they are wondering if they didn't accept Christ they are in hell. I always tell them no, they are not in hell. The truth sets you free, that's why it's important. The truth will set you free from ignorance, error, undo suffering about yourself about a loved one that's already died and about the future. Christ does not want us to have a mental problem of fear because of a misunderstanding based on erroneous teaching about this subject.
Yeah and that's an important point. You've got to understand the truth and you need some help so we hope you'll remember our free offers today. They're designed to help you study. In fact we've got this free booklet Heaven and Hell What Does the Bible Really Teach. It'll help you grasp the truth as opposed to these traditional ideas and teachings that we are all familiar with written on hell. It's written to help you know the facts. What did Jesus really teach? And don't forget your free subscription to the Good News magazine, it's a magazine that will help you understand Bible topics and how the Bible applies to what is going on in the world today. The Good News will help you to get to know your God even better with all kinds of articles that are really relevant to your life. So remember all of our publications are provided free of charge as an education service. So call us toll free 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv. In fact don't forget to look us up on Beyond Today Facebook page and get more information, you can follow us on Twitter as well. Set your DVR, TiVo us, record Beyond Today so you can watch us at your convenience.
Now when it comes to the topic of eternal punishment first remember God is a God of mercy, He's a God of love. Only those who willingly and willfully reject His way will cease to exist. They won't suffer forever in hell fire. They won't be tortured for eternity. Your Bible clearly states that they will be consumed by fire and forgotten. Now imagine that. Even the final death of the wicked in the Lake of Fire is an act of judgment and mercy on God's part because God has planned a wonderful future. In fact you need to know about that future. Read your Bible, request our free literature and read it. There is hope there is comfort if you'll listen and then act on what you know. Now that's our program for today. If you missed some of it go online to BeyondToday.tv. Don't forget our free offers and be sure and watch us next time. For Beyond Today I'm Steve Myers, thanks for watching.