The Hell There Is!




The doctrine of hell is so frightening that numerous heretical sects end up denying the reality of an eternal hell. The Unitarian-Universalists, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christadelphians, the Christian Scientists, the Religious Scientists, the New Agers, and the Mormons—all have rejected or modified the doctrine of hell so radically that it is no longer a serious threat. In recent decades, this decay has even invaded mainstream Evangelicalism, and a number of major Evangelical figures have advocated the view that there is no eternal hell—the wicked will simply be annihilated.

But the eternal nature of hell is stressed in the New Testament. For example, in Mark 9:47–48 Jesus warns us, “[I]t is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” And in Revelation 14:11, we read: “And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Hell is not just a theoretical possibility. Jesus warns us that real people go there. He says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13–14).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035).

In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II wrote that too often “preachers, catechists, teachers . . . no longer have the courage to preach the threat of hell” (p. 183).

Concerning the reality of hell, the pope says, “In point of fact, the ancient councils rejected the theory . . . according to which the world would be regenerated after destruction, and every creature would be saved; a theory which abolished hell. . . . [T]he words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel he speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Matt. 25:46). [But] who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement in this regard” (pp. 185–6).

Thus the issue that some will go to hell is decided, but the issue of who in particular will go to hell is undecided.

The early Church Fathers were also absolutely firm on the reality of an eternal hell, as the following quotes show.

 

Ignatius of Antioch

“Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil teaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him” (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1–2 [A.D. 110]).

 

Second Clement

“If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment” (Second Clement 5:5 [A.D. 150]).

“But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’” (ibid., 17:7).

 

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” (First Apology 12 [A.D. 151]).

“We have been taught that only they may aim at immortality who have lived a holy and virtuous life near to God. We believe that they who live wickedly and do not repent will be punished in everlasting fire” (ibid., 21).

“[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons” (ibid., 52).

 

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

“Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire” (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 [A.D. 155]).

 

Mathetes

“When you know what is the true life, that of heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it, then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world” (Letter to Diognetus 10:7 [A.D. 160]).

 

Athenagoras

“[W]e [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one. . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated” (Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177]).

 

Theophilus of Antioch




“Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God. . . . [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire” (To Autolycus 1:14 [A.D. 181]).

 

Irenaeus




“[God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and b.asphemous among men into everlasting fire” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

“The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever” (ibid., 4:28:2).

 

Tertullian

“After the present age is ended he will judge his worshipers for a reward of eternal life and the godless for a fire equally perpetual and unending” (Apology 18:3 [A.D. 197]).

“Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility” (ibid., 44:12–13).

 

Hippolytus

“Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them” (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]).

 

Minucius Felix

“I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them” (Octavius 34:12–5:3 [A.D. 226]).

 

Cyprian of Carthage

“An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life” (To Demetrian 24 [A.D. 252]).

 

Lactantius

“[T]he sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire, the nature of which is different from this fire of ours, which we use for the necessary purposes of life, and which is extinguished unless it be sustained by the fuel of some material. But that divine fire always lives by itself, and flourishes without any nourishment. . . . The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment. . . . Thus, without any wasting of bodies, which regain their substance, it will only burn and affect them with a sense of pain. But when [God] shall have judged the righteous, he will also try them with fire” (Divine Institutes 7:21 [A.D. 307]).

 

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. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We b.aspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. 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” (Catechetical Lectures 18:19 [A.D. 350]).

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004





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8 comments

  1. Mark Gazel Reply

    My God My god forgive them for they do not Belive , they are my brothers & sisters in Christ. We are the children’s
    Of Your handmaid, She is our Mother
    ( Mother Mary) Pls Lord I beg You and
    I know You Love Her , Your Daughter (Mary). Pls help me, My god give me Strenght , Peace and Love so I can pray for all of us to make my Mother Mary Your Daughter happy. Lord be done unto according to Your will. I believe my Lord every of Your Living words . Amen
    pray

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Hell is an invention of the Church. The four words translated as Hell in the bible, are not the same as the hell discussed in this article.

    Let’s start with Hell itself. This word, of German origin refers to the pagan Norse underworld. So right off the bat we start with paganism. This word was used to translate four other words:

    Sheol – in the OT, this word means dead, grave, or place of permanent unconsciousness, depending on the context of the language. It was not a place of punishment. Everyone good and bad alike went there. At the end of time you would be awakened from Sheol, judged and rewarded or destroyed. Fair enough…. then along comes Jesus. After Jesus, the Church tells us, we have to believe, say and do the right things and if we fall short, rather than being destroyed, we will instead be tormented and tortured for eternity, starting instantly after death. That’s the “good news” of Jesus. I fail to see how our situation has improved.

    Jesus referred to Gehenna, I think it was 11 times. This was an actual place, the Jerusalem town dump essentially, where all the sacrificial remains and refuse from the city was thrown in a permanent fire that fed “gnashing teeth” of wild animals and the “twisting worm” of smoke drifting continuously through the valley. Jesus spoke of Gehenna allegorically. You have to really want to turn Jesus into a monster to think he spoke of it as a real place where people would be sent to eternal torment. The worst disgrace for a Jew in those days was to be thrown in the dump rather than be afforded a decent burial. The Jewish audience understood the allegory. [sidebar – the Romans did not let victims off the cross – they left the bodies up to rot and then threw what was left in the dump – it’s highly unlikely that Jesus was the rare exception taken down]. The dump has been closed for a long time now. There’s nothing in scripture that refers to it being relocated at the bottom of a volcano or something bizarre like that.

    As the “word” spread west, the pagan place known as Hades worked its way into the NT. Hades, for those who don’t know, is purely pagan, given that Hades is the brother of Zeus and Poseidon! Hades was also meant to be used allegorically, and the Greeks, Romans and other westerners would have understood that allegory, just as the Jews understood the Gehenna allegory. Tartarus, which I think was mentioned only once, refers to the lowest level of Hades and is the destination for Satan and his demons, as I understand it.

    The “Hell” that we understand today, did indeed come from humans, mere mortals, not from Jesus, or the bible, as well documented by the author in this article. Hell turned out to be very useful for controlling people. What was needed was to make it even worse – so it was made “eternal;” however it turns out that the original word for “eternal” really means “for an age.” It does not mean eternity as we understand that word today. As the concept developed, Milton and Dante dressed it up to make it even more deliciously vicious and tormenting – but again, this is men making stuff up.

    Google “Brazen Church” and read their analysis of the “Hell” in the bible. It covers much more than this and provides all the sources. Clergy in most denominations know all that I wrote above, but they never tell this to their sheeple, do they? Why is that? Are they afraid you’ll stop going to Church and putting money in the basket if you realize that the only Hell is the one based on fear that they planted in your mind as a child?

  3. Luisa Prochiner Reply

    Denying the existence of hell will not eliminate it! It is self-deception.

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      Luisa, which Hell? There are four of them. Is it OK to deny the existence of Sheol, referred to in the Old Testament where it was not a place of punishment? How about Hades? Can we deny that one? After all Hades was the brother of the Greek gods, Zeus and Poseidon – why is that pagan stuff in the bible? One of the Hell’s Jesus spoke about was Gehenna, the Jerusalem town dump. It’s gone. We don’t have to deny the existence of Gehenna – it’s simply gone. It was shut down long, long ago. It was a real place, but of course Jesus wasn’t a monster – he referred to it allegorically and the Jews of the time understood him. The Church turned Jesus into a monster by making people believe Gehenna is real. Don’t take my word for any of this – look up all those words, and while you’re at it, look up the original Greek word aionion and discover that it does not mean “eternal.” Eternal Hell is not biblical.
      |
      The self deception comes in trusting that the Church is telling you all that you need to know about Hell and where it comes from.

  4. twilla duron Reply

    Patrick Gannon, you are so correct,God would not be a loving God if he let people live in pain for ever.

  5. Bien Bones Reply

    Does the Bible indicate whether the dead experience pain?

    Eccl. 9:5, 10: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol,* the place to which you are going.” (If they are conscious of nothing, they obviously feel no pain.) (*“Sheol,” AS, RS, NE, JB; “the grave,” KJ, Kx; “hell,” Dy; “the world of the dead,” TEV.)

    Ps. 146:4: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts* do perish.” (*“Thoughts,” KJ, 145:4 in Dy; “schemes,” JB; “plans,” RS, TEV.)

    Does the Bible indicate that the soul survives the death of the body?

    Ezek. 18:4: “The soul* that is sinning—it itself will die.” (*“Soul,” KJ, Dy, RS, NE, Kx; “the man,” JB; “the person,” TEV.)

    “The concept of ‘soul,’ meaning a purely spiritual, immaterial reality, separate from the ‘body,’ . . . does not exist in the Bible.”—La Parole de Dieu (Paris, 1960), Georges Auzou, professor of Sacred Scripture, Rouen Seminary, France, p. 128.

    “Although the Hebrew word nefesh [in the Hebrew Scriptures] is frequently translated as ‘soul,’ it would be inaccurate to read into it a Greek meaning. Nefesh . . . is never conceived of as operating separately from the body. In the New Testament the Greek word psyche is often translated as ‘soul’ but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means ‘life,’ or ‘vitality,’ or, at times, ‘the self.’”—The Encyclopedia Americana (1977), Vol. 25, p. 236.

    What sort of people go to the Bible hell?

    Does the Bible say that the wicked go to hell?

    Ps. 9:17, KJ: “The wicked shall be turned into hell,* and all the nations that forget God.” (*“Hell,” 9:18 in Dy; “death,” TEV; “the place of death,” Kx; “Sheol,” AS, RS, NE, JB, NW.)

    Does the Bible also say that upright people go to hell?

    Job 14:13, Dy: “[Job prayed:] Who will grant me this, that thou mayst protect me in hell,* and hide me till thy wrath pass, and appoint me a time when thou wilt remember me?” (God himself said that Job was “a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.”—Job 1:8.) (*“The grave,” KJ; “the world of the dead,” TEV; “Sheol,” AS, RS, NE, JB, NW.)

    Acts 2:25-27, KJ: “David speaketh concerning him [Jesus Christ], . . . Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,* neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (The fact that God did not “leave” Jesus in hell implies that Jesus was in hell, or Hades, at least for a time, does it not?) (*“Hell,” Dy; “death,” NE; “the place of death,” Kx; “the world of the dead,” TEV; “Hades,” AS, RS, JB, NW.)

    Does anyone ever get out of the Bible hell?

    Rev. 20:13, 14, KJ: “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. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” (So the dead will be delivered from hell. Notice also that hell is not the same as the lake of fire but will be cast into the lake of fire.) (*“Hell,” Dy, Kx; “the world of the dead,” TEV; “Hades,” NE, AS, RS, JB, NW.)

    Why is there confusion as to what the Bible says about hell?

    “Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the Bible persistently rendering the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell. The simple transliteration of these words by the translators of the revised editions of the Bible has not sufficed to appreciably clear up this confusion and misconception.”—The Encyclopedia Americana (1942), Vol. XIV, p. 81.

    Translators have allowed their personal beliefs to color their work instead of being consistent in their rendering of the original-language words. For example: (1) The King James Version rendered she’ohlʹ as “hell,” “the grave,” and “the pit”; haiʹdes is therein rendered both “hell” and “grave”; geʹen·na is also translated “hell.” (2) Today’s English Version transliterates haiʹdes as “Hades” and also renders it as “hell” and “the world of the dead.” But besides rendering “hell” from haiʹdes it uses that same translation for geʹen·na. (3) The Jerusalem Bible transliterates haiʹdes six times, but in other passages it translates it as “hell” and as “the underworld.” It also translates geʹen·na as “hell,” as it does haiʹdes in two instances. Thus the exact meanings of the original-language words have been obscured.

    Is there eternal punishment for the wicked?

    Matt. 25:46, KJ: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment [“lopping off,” Int; Greek, koʹla·sin]: but the righteous into life eternal.” (The Emphatic Diaglott reads “cutting-off” instead of “punishment.” A footnote states: “Kolasin . . . is derived from kolazoo, which signifies, 1. To cut off; as lopping off branches of trees, to prune. 2. To restrain, to repress. . . . 3. To chastise, to punish. To cut off an individual from life, or society, or even to restrain, is esteemed as punishment;—hence has arisen this third metaphorical use of the word. The primary signification has been adopted, because it agrees better with the second member of the sentence, thus preserving the force and beauty of the antithesis. The righteous go to life, the wicked to the cutting off from life, or death. See 2 Thess. 1.9.”)

    2 Thess. 1:9, RS: “They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction* and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (*“Eternal ruin,” NAB, NE; “lost eternally,” JB; “condemn them to eternal punishment,” Kx; “eternal punishment in destruction,” Dy.)

    Jude 7, KJ: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (The fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah ceased burning thousands of years ago. But the effect of that fire has been lasting; the cities have not been rebuilt. God’s judgment, however, was against not merely those cities but also their wicked inhabitants. What happened to them is a warning example. At Luke 17:29, Jesus says that they were “destroyed”; Jude 7 shows that the destruction was eternal.)

    What is the meaning of the ‘eternal torment’ referred to in Revelation?

    Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10, KJ: “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, 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 [Greek, basa·ni·smouʹ] 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.” “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.”

    What is the ‘torment’ to which these texts refer? It is noteworthy that at Revelation 11:10 (KJ) reference is made to ‘prophets that torment those dwelling on the earth.’ Such torment results from humiliating exposure by the messages that these prophets proclaim. At Revelation 14:9-11 (KJ) worshipers of the symbolic “beast and his image” are said to be “tormented with fire and brimstone.” This cannot refer to conscious torment after death because “the dead know not any thing.” (Eccl. 9:5, KJ) Then, what causes them to experience such torment while they are still alive? It is the proclamation by God’s servants that worshipers of the “beast and his image” will experience second death, which is represented by “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” The smoke, associated with their fiery destruction, ascends forever because the destruction will be eternal and will never be forgotten. When Revelation 20:10 says that the Devil is to experience ‘torment forever and ever’ in “the lake of fire and brimstone,” what does that mean? Revelation 21:8 (KJ) says clearly that “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” means “the second death.” So the Devil’s being “tormented” there forever means that there will be no relief for him; he will be held under restraint forever, actually in eternal death. This use of the word “torment” (from the Greek baʹsa·nos) reminds one of its use at Matthew 18:34, where the same basic Greek word is applied to a ‘jailer.’—RS, AT, ED, NW.

    What is the ‘fiery Gehenna’ to which Jesus referred?

    Reference to Gehenna appears 12 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Five times it is directly associated with fire. Translators have rendered the Greek expression geʹen·nan tou py·rosʹ as “hell fire” (KJ, Dy), “fires of hell” (NE), “fiery pit” (AT), and “fires of Gehenna” (NAB).

    Historical background: The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) was outside the walls of Jerusalem. For a time it was the site of idolatrous worship, including child sacrifice. In the first century Gehenna was being used as the incinerator for the filth of Jerusalem. Bodies of dead animals were thrown into the valley to be consumed in the fires, to which sulfur, or brimstone, was added to assist the burning. Also bodies of executed criminals, who were considered undeserving of burial in a memorial tomb, were thrown into Gehenna. Thus, at Matthew 5:29, 30, Jesus spoke of the casting of one’s “whole body” into Gehenna. If the body fell into the constantly burning fire it was consumed, but if it landed on a ledge of the deep ravine its putrefying flesh became infested with the ever-present worms, or maggots. (Mark 9:47, 48) Living humans were not pitched into Gehenna; so it was not a place of conscious torment.

    At Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned his hearers to “be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” What does it mean? Notice that there is no mention here of torment in the fires of Gehenna; rather, he says to ‘fear him that can destroy in Gehenna.’ By referring to the “soul” separately, Jesus here emphasizes that God can destroy all of a person’s life prospects; thus there is no hope of resurrection for him. So, the references to the ‘fiery Gehenna’ have the same meaning as ‘the lake of fire’ of Revelation 21:8, namely, destruction, “second death.”

    What does the Bible say the penalty for sin is?

    Rom. 6:23: “The wages sin pays is death.”

    After one’s death, is he still subject to further punishment for his sins?

    Rom. 6:7: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”

    Is eternal torment of the wicked compatible with God’s personality?

    Jer. 7:31: “They [apostate Judeans] have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.” (If it never came into God’s heart, surely he does not have and use such a thing on a larger scale.)

    Illustration: What would you think of a parent who held his child’s hand over a fire to punish the child for wrongdoing? “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Would he do what no right-minded human parent would do? Certainly not!

    By what Jesus said about the rich man and Lazarus, did Jesus teach torment of the wicked after death?

    Is the account, at Luke 16:19-31, literal or merely an illustration of something else? The Jerusalem Bible, in a footnote, acknowledges that it is a “parable in story form without reference to any historical personage.” If taken literally, it would mean that those enjoying divine favor could all fit at the bosom of one man, Abraham; that the water on one’s fingertip would not be evaporated by the fire of Hades; that a mere drop of water would bring relief to one suffering there. Does that sound reasonable to you? If it were literal, it would conflict with other parts of the Bible. If the Bible were thus contradictory, would a lover of truth use it as a basis for his faith? But the Bible does not contradict itself.

    What does the parable mean? The “rich man” represented the Pharisees. (See verse 14.) The beggar Lazarus represented the common Jewish people who were despised by the Pharisees but who repented and became followers of Jesus. (See Luke 18:11; John 7:49; Matthew 21:31, 32.) Their deaths were also symbolic, representing a change in circumstances. Thus, the formerly despised ones came into a position of divine favor, and the formerly seemingly favored ones were rejected by God, while being tormented by the judgment messages delivered by the ones whom they had despised.—Acts 5:33; 7:54.

    What is the origin of the teaching of hellfire?

    In ancient Babylonian and Assyrian beliefs the “nether world . . . is pictured as a place full of horrors, and is presided over by gods and demons of great strength and fierceness.” (The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, Boston, 1898, Morris Jastrow, Jr., p. 581) Early evidence of the fiery aspect of Christendom’s hell is found in the religion of ancient Egypt. (The Book of the Dead, New Hyde Park, N.Y., 1960, with introduction by E. A. Wallis Budge, pp. 144, 149, 151, 153, 161) Buddhism, which dates back to the 6th century B.C.E., in time came to feature both hot and cold hells. (The Encyclopedia Americana, 1977, Vol. 14, p. 68) Depictions of hell portrayed in Catholic churches in Italy have been traced to Etruscan roots.—La civiltà etrusca (Milan, 1979), Werner Keller, p. 389.

    But the real roots of this God-dishonoring doctrine go much deeper. The fiendish concepts associated with a hell of torment slander God and originate with the chief slanderer of God (the Devil, which name means “Slanderer”), the one whom Jesus Christ called “the father of the lie.”—John 8:44.

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      I wish there was a “Like” button for that informative response.
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      I always thought it odd that the “good news” of Jesus was that instead of languishing unconscious in Sheol, after his arrival we would suffer for eternity in one of the other Hells. Our situation surely did not improve. The RCC catechism generally refers to Gehenna – which as you noted, was an actual physical place – a dump which has long since been closed.
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      Christians seem not to notice that if the Catholic concept of Hell is valid, that they worship the most evil god possible; one who preaches proportionate justice in his book (eye for an eye), but distinctly disproportionate justice in sending mere humans to billions and trillions of eternal years of torment though we live here but a handful of decades. In reading the NT scriptures you really have to want to turn Jesus into a monster to insist that he was speaking literally when he referred to the town dump as hell. And it’s important to remember that Hades is based on Greek mythology. Hades, god of the underworld was brother to Zeus and Poseidon. Not to mention that the word Hell (Hel) itself is of Norse pagan origin.
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      The Church has been committing psychological abuse for centuries with these lies and it’s time for it to stop.

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