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Intimacy with God


John Aziza


Have you ever struggled with the idea of an eternal hell where some of the people you know and love may be tormented forever? If so, you’re not alone. Undoubtedly, all of us have occasionally wrestled with the concept of eternal torment or had the following one-line argument thrown at us: “well, if God is such a loving God then why would He permit millions of people to burn in hell forever?” The fact that most of us have struggled with such haunting thoughts or been victim to the criticism of others over the subject of hell goes without saying


But what if a perpetual hell isn't even biblical? What if this concept is merely the result of a mistranslation of the Scriptural text and a lack of familiarity with the underlying Hebrew and Greek meaning of "forever", "eternal", and "everlasting"? Is it possible that the Scriptures' scheme of final judgment does not support eternal torment? And could it be that the Bible teaches equitable justice and temporary punishment instead? If so, this possibility should not be easily discounted or ignored. After all, hell is no small matter and represents one of the chief reasons why God’s character is frequently under attack and why people often misjudge Him as being callous and cruel. So here are some points to consider in relation to this subject:



By Jeremy K. Moritz (in blue)

Let us suppose for a moment that Hell is as the majority of Christians describe it—namely, a place of eternal torture. Hell is a place where unbelievers and sinners will be [or are currently being] tortured without end in the most unbelievably hideous way that any person could possibly imagine: unquenchable fire that inflicts pain but does not destroy. If indeed this is true, how can we avoid the fact that this is an obvious reflection on the character of God? God is the creator of all things. No one but God has the power to create. Satan did not invent this place of torment; God did. It was God's design. God isn't sitting up in Heaven with His hands tied wishing He had the power to change the system—it's His own system! Even those who try to claim that God did not create Hell still have to accept that it is fully within His power to destroy it. If God didn't create Hell, then why does He allow His most beloved creatures to be tortured in it? It must be recognized that some of the culpability for Hell rests solely on God's shoulders. So what does this say about Him?


Clark Pinnock, professor of systematic theology at McMaster Divinity College, defends the annihilation doctrine with the assertion that "this 'capital punishment' view of the final judgment at least does not involve a deity who is endlessly vindictive and a new creation where heaven and hell exist alongside each other forever.... The traditional understanding of hell is unspeakably horrible. How can one imagine for a moment that the God who gave his Son to die for sinners because of his great love for them would install a torture chamber somewhere in the new creation in order to subject those who reject him to everlasting pain?" (Clark Pinnock, "Fire, ThenNothing." Christianity Today v. 20. March, 1987.)


I cannot think of a more devastating slander that could be associated with someone's name than the one that Christians have attributed to God. Just think of the worst, cruelest, most wretched human beings in earth's history: Attila the Hun, Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, and others. More than likely, Adolf Hitler was the first name to come to mind. But even the ruthless Hitler had not the heart to do the kind of things that are being accredited to God. Nothing that his victims experienced can even come close to the pains that must be present in the common Christian perception of Hell. What is a year's worth of hard labor compared with an eternity in burning flames? What is the murder of 16 million people when compared with billions being kept alive for no other purpose than to ceaselessly extract every ounce of pain from them for trillions upon trillions of agonizing years with no hope of ever escaping? If Hell is really as bad as this, then God has designed a system of judgment that involves far more horrendous practices than even the wickedest of men would ever dream of. What can be said about a God who would create such a place? Is this the God that we are supposed to share with others in what we call the "Good News"?


Besides, if the prospect of eternal torment is the real drive behind our desire to serve God and obey His commandments then how much do we truly love Him? And what part does this motivation play in our overall walk with Him? Now maybe these moral objections are irrelevant because God doesn’t owe any of us an explanation for why He does what He does or how He chooses to do it. Yet it may surprise you to learn that these objections are treated to valid answers in God’s Word. Indeed, the Bible isn’t silent about God's form of justice or the eternal state of man, but perhaps not in the way we might expect. As is often the case, the problem lies in the manner in which we read the Bible, and not in what it actually says.



Borrowed from an online source (in blue)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead” or the “grave.” The New Testament equivalent to sheol is hades, which is also a general reference to “the place of the dead.”


Sheol is an intermediate location for souls awaiting judgment. Under the Old Testament dispensation, it was divided in half by a great gulf, which separated the righteous from the unrighteous, and while the righteous enjoyed paradise, the unrighteous existed in a state of torment (Luk 16:22-23). After Christ’s crucifixion, the righteous no longer reside in sheol, but are immediately taken to be with God in heaven (Lk 23:43; Mat 27:50-54; Jn 5:24).



Gehenna is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Hinnom, which refers to the Valley of Hinnom. According to the Bible, Hinnom was initially used as a sacred site for child sacrifice to heathen gods. It was later polluted by King Josiah and turned into a dumpsite for refuse collected from Jerusalem. To avoid contamination and disease the Jews had continual fires burning there that devoured the foul smelling garbage. Jesus repeatedly used Hinnom and its evocative imagery as analogous for the judgment to come in the afterlife.



By the 4th century AD there existed three predominant views of hell. These three were universal reconciliation, eternal conscious torment, and annihilation. Universal reconciliation was partly accepted by the Churches of Antioch and Alexandria. Rome espoused eternal torment. And both Jerusalem and Ephesus largely adhered to annihilation. Not surprising, Rome’s view would eventually dominate all of the others.


Universal Reconciliation

Those who adhere to universal reconciliation are also known as Universalists. Universalists believe that all souls are reconciled to God and admitted into heaven after serving their sentence in the lake of fire. The passages they rely on to support this belief are 1 Timothy 4:10, 1 Peter 3:19–20, and 4:5–6.


Eternal Torment

Eternal torment, also known as eternal conscious torment, is the view to which most evangelicals today subscribe. This view strictly relies on the English usage and meaning of the words "eternal", "forever", and "everlasting" and teaches that all human souls are immortal and therefore will either spend an eternity in heaven or hell.



Annihilation, sometimes referred to as conditional immortality, teaches that only God has an immortal nature (1 Tim 6:16), and that eternal life is solely obtained by those "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life" (Rom 2:7). Everyone else is eventually destroyed or annihilated in a fiery hell.


Proponents of conditional immortality also believe that since God is able to destroy both soul and body in gehenna (Mat 10:28), eternal conscious punishment is therefore impossible.



And if thy hand offend thee, cut it of: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mk 9:43-44).


Few Christians realize that the graphic language of hell contained in Mark 9 is repeated nearly verbatim in the Old Testament. When Jesus lectured about the dangers of being thrown into "unquenchable fire", He was not introducing a new dimension of the underworld hitherto foreign to the Jewish mind. Rather, He was appealing to a certain concept of judgment that the Jews were both familiar with and recognized from their Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, we may soon discover that the Old Testament is rife with mention of “immortal worms” and “unquenchable fire”. Yet when examined closely, we find that these terms are clearly non-literal and belong to a writing style that is saturated with apocalyptic imagery and symbolic language, which was meant to serve as a stern warning of judgment, as seen below:


Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: ...Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness…for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.… their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls (Is 34:1-13).


And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh (Is 66:23-24).


Stand in the gate of the LORD'S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD…. my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched (Jer 7:2; 20).


But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched (Jer 17:27).


Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched (Ez 20:46-48).


Notice that the judgment decree against Edom in Isaiah 34 is splattered throughout with apocalyptic imagery and symbolic language. God will “melt the mountains with blood” and “fatten His sword with fat”! He will turn Edom’s rivers into tar and its entire geography will be transformed into a combination of sulfur and tar that will burn with “unquenchable fire”! Only the birds and thistles will remain! Yet is this really possible? Are birds and thistles even able to survive such harsh and unlivable conditions?? Finally, God swears that none will ever again pass through Edom’s borders “for ever and ever”. However, as modern day Jordan, ancient Edom has been reinhabited multiple times since Isaiah’s ancient proclamation of judgment. So what exactly is meant by all of this? Since none of these things are actually possible, we must conclude that the intent of these scripture passages is to warn of God's impending judgement in the most sobering terminology possible.


Isaiah 66 is yet another case in point. The words located in verses 23-24 match nearly perfectly with those in Mark 9:44. But does God truly expect us to gaze upon rotting corpses being consumed by “immortal worms” as we pilgrimage to worship in His holy temple? No! Not at all. Such language is not intended to be taken literally! Here again, we are reading the same style of text, which is meant to convey the following warning: “What you have done is so terrible that it will result in severe death, destruction, and loss!”


Now it’s important to realize that the use of symbolic language and apocalyptic imagery is not confined to the Old Testament only. In fact, it is easily found throughout the New Testament as well. Notice: And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, …saying, What city is like unto this great city! …And her smoke rose up for ever and ever (Rev 18:9; 18; 19:3).


So what do these verses mean? Is Babylon truly destined to burn forever and ever?? I greatly doubt it. Yet the phrase “the smoke of her burning rose up for ever and ever” is analogous with the idea that Babylon's destruction will be final and absolute. She will never again recover from God’s fiery judgment. She will be history forever!



(1) The word hell is absent from the Bible. What we find instead are the Hebrew and Greek words sheol and gehenna. These two words do not invoke the same imagery of hell as promoted in “Dante’s inferno” or by other neo-pagan playwrights. In fact, the concept of eternal torment in the netherworld can be traced back to the Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates who largely promoted it.


(2) Eternal torment necessitates the immortality of both righteous and unrighteous souls. But according to the Bible, only God is immortal, not man: Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach... (1 Tim 6:15-16). If ONLY God is immortal then what does that mean for the rest of us? Perhaps man isn’t immortal after all and not everyone gets to live forever as commonly supposed. Also, it should be duly noted that immortality is a conditional gift solely given to the Saints of God: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life (Rom 2:7).


(3) According to the following Scriptures, those who do not receive immortality will be consumed by fire and their souls extinguished in God’s final judgment:


But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away (Ps 37:20).


Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ez 18:4).


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. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 4:1; 3).


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 (Mat 10:28).


If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God (Heb 10:26-27).


(4) “Immortal worms” and “unquenchable fire” are graphic images representing complete destruction. The Biblical meaning of “unquenchable fire” is NOT that it never dies, but rather that it can’t be put out prematurely. The same can be said for “immortal worms”. Every defiant soul will be consumed away as if devoured by indestructible maggots. These pictures represent the complete and irreversible destruction of all evildoers on the Day of Judgment. God’s decree will not fail. Nor can it be reversed or terminated prematurely.


(5) Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire. According to Revelation 20:14, death and hell are destined to burn up in the lake of fire: And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (Rev 20:14). This event is also known as the “second death”. So if death and hell are eventually thrown into the lake of fire, as this passage promises, what becomes of eternal torment in hell??? Many have wisely concluded that this marks the end of death and suffering for all time.


(6) The words "everlasting", "forever", and "eternal" don’t exist in the original languages of the Bible. The Hebrew olam (world) and the Greek aion (age) are translated into English in the following forms: everlasting, forever, forever and ever, eternal, world, age, eon, and era. But these particles of speech may or may not refer to eternity, depending on usage. Notice:


AION (infinite)

The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever (aion): and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? (Jn 12:34) 


Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever (aion). Amen (Rom 1:25).


Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end (aion). Amen (Eph 3:21).


AION (finite)

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (aion), neither in the world to come (Mat 12:32).


And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (aion)? (Mat 24:3)


And be not conformed to this world (aion): but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom 12:2).


OLAM (infinite)

Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever (olam) and ever (olam): and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise (Neh 9:5).


He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever (olam), and they are exalted (Job 36:7).


But the LORD shall endure for ever (olam): he hath prepared his throne for judgment (Psa 9:7).


OLAM (finite)

So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever (olam) to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations (Ex 30:21).


And the priest of his sons that is anointed in his stead shall of er it: it is a statute for ever (olam) unto the LORD; it shall be wholly burnt (Lev 6:22).


Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever (olam). And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise (Deut 15:17).


So clearly, the translators of the Bible relied on their best judgment when choosing how to render the English variants of aion and olam. This suggests that any diligent student of Scripture is equally capable of applying the same discretionary principles in the use of the word aion wherever it appears in the New Testament in relationship to hell.



If God is just, as His Word promises, then how does He define justice? According to the Bible, God’s justice is equitable, meaning it is fair and good:


But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity (Ps 9:7-8).


He is the Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He (Deut 32:4).


Surely, God will not act wickedly, And the Almighty will not pervert justice (Job 34:12).


The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob (Ps 99:4).


…For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him (Is 30:18).


For I, the LORD, love justice… (Is 61:8).

And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more (Luk 12:47-48).


Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you (Mat 10:15; 11:22).


By further inspecting the Mosaic Law, we discover a detailed definition of what equitable justice looks like and how God applies it: …thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Ex 21:23-25). So how does eternal torment square with this kind of justice? In reality, it doesn’t. It is totally paradoxical to ANY form of justice. And that’s exactly why temporary punishment makes the most sense.



Those who believe in annihilation do not claim that God’s judgment results in the instant destruction of the human soul. On the contrary, Annihilationists believe that God allots varying degrees of conscious punishment to different individuals based on their accumulated misdeeds. This means that none of Christ’s warnings about hell are to be taken lightly. While we deny that conscious punishment will be infinite, we realize that it will last for however long God deems appropriate. Hence the following verses are just as consequential to Annihilationists as they are to those who believe in eternal torment:


And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mat 13:50).


And if thy foot offend thee, cut it of : it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mk 9:45-46).


The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb (Rev 14:10).


But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Rev 21:8).


There’s no denying the horrible torment that the enemies of God and those who have rejected Him will experience on the Day of Judgment. The “wailing and gnashing of teeth” is language that cannot be mistaken as anything but terrible. The same can be said about Mark 9:45. Jesus warns in no uncertain terms that men would have wished they were dismembered in this life than to experience an afterlife burning up in the fires of hell. In Revelation 14:10, we are warned that those who perish divorced from God will be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb”. Everyone that has engaged in lawless behavior will have their allotted portion in the lake of fire “which burns with fire and brimstone”.


Finally, in respect to the degree of punishment and the length of time that every unbeliever spends in hell, only God knows those exact details. We can just imagine that it might be the difference between one individual whose sins were minimal, burning up like a twig, as opposed to another, whose sins were more egregious, burning up at the rate of a 50 ton redwood. Whatever the outcome, we can be confident in God’s perfect justice:


And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more (Luk 12:47-48).


Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you (Mat 10:15; 11:22).



There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar of, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence (Lk 16:19-26).


The story of the rich man and Lazarus is one of the most commonly cited passages of scripture that is said to teach that hell is a place of eternal torment. However, being commonly cited does not mean that it actually means what they say it means. So here are some questions to consider about this story:


1. Does the word "hell" found in the story appear in the original Greek or does it appear instead as hades, which simply means the abode of the dead?


2. Are the righteous really able to view the agonies of “hell” from paradise and communicate with the unrighteous as depicted in this parable? Or is this a clearly metaphorical picture with implied meaning?


3. Does Jesus refer here to the eternal state of man or rather his intermediate condition while awaiting the dreadful Day of Judgment? In other words, does this parable even apply to eternity?


4. And in comparison with hades or sheol, can those who are thrown into the lake of fire experience conscious torment for a temporary time period without having to be tormented forever and ever? Or does this parable suggest otherwise?


By pondering these questions, it is hoped we can appreciate the allegorical undertones of this parable without resorting to wooden literalism. Also, both Annihilationists and Traditionalists agree with the fact that this parable clearly refers to hades, the transitory abode of the dead, not man's eternal state. In fact, the few places in which the New Testament mentions hades, it does so without ever suggesting that the circumstances there are eternal. So whichever way we choose to look at it, hades does not reflect man’s eternal state. To further bolster this fact, notice the following Scriptures:


For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to tartaros, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment (2 Pet 2:4).


For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (1 Pet 3:18-20).



The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever (AION): and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name (Rev 14:10-11).


According to the preceding verses, those who worship the beast and his image will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. If nothing else, this should be an obvious indication that the penalty described here is not eternal torment. Would Jesus choose to spend all of eternity in the presence of tormented souls? How does this reflect on the nature of God? Does this sound like the same loving and compassionate God described in the Bible? If not, then perhaps we should reconsider our view of hell.

But the final “nail in the coffin” of eternal torment is the corresponding language between Revelation 14:10-11 and Isaiah 34:10. It is amazing how closely the two match! Notice:


…It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever (Is 34:10).


…and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name (Rev 14:10-11).


Both Isaiah 34 and Revelation 14 aptly demonstrate the graphic and symbolic nature of prophecy. Seeing this is so, we should be cautious not to adopt a strictly literal interpretation of these passages.



The universalist believes that even rebellious souls will eventually be reconciled to God after an unspecified period of suffering in the lake of fire. Therefore, people can still be saved even if they die in their sins. This belief is largely based upon the following scriptures:


For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (1 Pet 3:18-20).


Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (1 Pet 4:5-6).


Now it's important to recognize that the above verses expressly refer to Christ’s redemptive work while He was still in the tomb and prior to His resurrection. After His death, Jesus descended into sheol in order to liberate the unbelieving captives by proclaiming the Gospel to them. The Gospel had to go forth to all men, including those who had perished in ignorance under the Old Testament dispensation. As a result, those who believed and trusted in Christ were saved and able to “live according to God in the spirit”. However, we can be confident that this privilege does not extend into the New Testament dispensation. Based on the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, all who reject the Good News post the Crucifiction and die in unbelief receive no second chances: 

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb 9:27).

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near (Is 55:6).

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 Jn 5:10-12).

In respect to second chance theology, has the following explanation:


"To understand what happens to non-believers after they die, we go to Revelation 20:11-15, which describes the Great White Throne judgment. Here takes place the opening of the books and “the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” The books contain all the thoughts and deeds of those being judged, and we know from Romans 3:20 that “by the works of the Law is no flesh justified.” Therefore, all who are judged by their works and thoughts are condemned to hell. Believers in Christ, on the other hand, are not judged by the books of works, but their names are found written in another book—the “Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27). These are the ones who have believed on the Lord Jesus, and they alone will be allowed to enter heaven. After death, all that remains for the unbeliever is judgment: And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15). That is why we must trust in Him in this life." —



1). The New Testament's description of hell is borrowed from the Old Testament where it is cloaked in apocalyptic imagery and symbolic language.


2). Jesus taught that God would destroy both soul and body in hell.


3). The Greek word gehenna, translated as hell, is analogous for the valley of Hinnom, a dump site outside of Jerusalem where refuse was burned up.


4). Historically, the Church has allowed for multiple views on hell and was not exclusively committed to the view of eternal torment.


5). According to the Bible, only God is immortal and eternal life is given only to those who seek for it (1 Tim 6:15-16, Rom 2:7). Therefore, eternal life in hell is impossible.


6). “Immortal worms” and “unquenchable fire” are graphic images that are not literal, but represent complete and total destruction.


7). Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire.


8). The Hebrew olam and Greek aion, often translated as “eternal”, “forever”, “forever and ever”, and “everlasting”, contain both finite and infinite forms. They can be translated to mean “world”, “age”, “eon”, or “era” and do not exclusively pertain to eternity.


9). God’s justice is always equitable, eternal torment is not.


10). Annihilation is a fair form of justice which does not exclude conscious torment.


11). Eternal Torment is a slam on God’s just character.


12). The Bible teaches that the wicked are consumed by fire and their souls extinguished.


13). Hell’s consequences are eternal and irreversible—you remain dead forever!


14). The parable of the rich man and Lazarus pertain to sheol, the transitory abode of the dead, and do not describe the final condition of man after Judgment Day.


15). Both Revelation 14:10-11 and Isaiah 34:10 contain overlapping similarities, which means that both should be understood as being symbolic, rather than literal.

16). "They have no rest day or night" (Rev 14:10-11) is indicative of the fact that the punishment of the damned will be ceaseless for the time that they are punished. In other words, while they are being punished, they will not receive intervals of rest, which doesn't mean that their punishment will last forever.


17). There are no second chances after death!


18). The Bible does not always necessitate a literal or face value reading. Context is important.


By Jeremy K. Moritz (in blue)

Support can be found through the Holy Scriptures to back up the case for eternal torture as well as the case for annihilation in Hell. In coming to a conclusion, therefore, one must take this to heart and study all of God's Word to find which model fits best with the overall thrust of Scripture. From my study of the Bible, it seems to say much more about the death of the wicked than about their torture. Numerous verses use the terminology of life and immortality only when depicting Heaven while reserving words such as death, perishing, and destruction to describe Hell. Furthermore, there is not even one verse in the entire Bible that teaches the supposed "immortality of the soul" doctrine so prevalent in most Christian theology. Instead, it is made very clear that only God has eternal life, and He bestows immortality only to those whom He chooses—not to everyone. In reading the Bible for its plain meaning, there is no reason to feel obligated to believe that human beings will be kept alive in a never-ending, torturous Hell.

Furthermore, the Bible gives a very clear picture about the nature and character of God the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ. God is love. All His ways are good. He is more loving than any human being could ever hope to be. Everything in the Bible corroborates this. If, on the other hand, the doctrine of unending, conscious pain for the wicked is added to the message of God, He can no longer be considered loving in any practical sense. This view stands in absolute conflict with the loving character of the Almighty God as revealed in the Bible, and the two cannot co-exist.

There is also very little [if any] corroboration for the belief that human beings might deserve such a punishment. For years of Christian history, great theologians have worked out only meager rationalizations that don't stand up to scrutiny. Similarly, the question of the purpose for such punishment is completely avoided in these arguments. There is no valid reason for a loving God to subject people to torture without end when no more good could possibly come of it.

Finally, it is my opinion that the belief in eternal punishment is a serious detriment to the entire message of salvation. It turns the "Good News" into bad news. Even when people turn to Jesus, it is often not as much to embrace His loving gift as to avoid what they are told is the only other alternative. This significantly alters the way many view the Almighty God and causes countless others to cast doubt on the reliability of the Gospel.

The eternal torment model of Hell creates countless problems when set against the clear teaching of God's character. Neither does it withstand scrutiny in systematic theology. Lastly, and most importantly, the overall credo of scripture plainly teaches against it while frequently reiterating the vocabulary of death for the unrighteous. Keeping all of these things in mind, it seems overwhelmingly evident to me that the only consistent way to interpret God's Word on this subject is to believe in the ultimate annihilation of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire.

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