Hell Fire, When & Where is it?
There has been a lot of confusion about what happens to the wicked as their punishment. The Bible testimony is clear, and when you study a Bible doctrine, it has to agree with ALL of the other Scriptures found in the Old and New Testaments! If your understanding of any doctrine does not agree with ALL of the other Scriptures in the Bible then you need to question your understanding instead of God's holy Word! In Isaiah 8:20 it says, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." If our thinking does not speak according to God's word, then we do not have the truth! Let's untangle some of the confusion on the topic of "HELL FIRE".
What Does "For ever" Mean?
"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." Revelation 20:10. Most people just don't understand what the Bible means when it uses the word forever. Let us look at an example of how it is used. "But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever." 1 Samuel 1:22. Is Samuel still in the earthly tabernacle serving before the Lord? No! The Bible even qualifies this in verse 28 of the same chapter. "Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there." 1 Samuel 1:28. It was as long as he was alive that he was to serve before the Lord. The Bible says that Samuel died (See 1 Samuel 25:1). It is obvious that the word forever here is meant a certain period of time.
Here's one more example. "And thou shalt anoint them as thou didst anoint their father (Aaron), that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations." Exodus 40:15. Are we to still recognize the priesthood of Aaron and his sons? Wasn't the earthly priesthood, with all its types and shadows, done away with at the cross? "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:14. The death of Christ ended the earthly priesthood, which was said to be an EVERLASTING priesthood, because we have Jesus as our GREAT HIGH PRIEST. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." Hebrews 4:14. There are many other examples in the Bible that use the words for ever, everlasting, eternal, etc., that do not mean without end. If you have ever driven in the heart of Chicago, or any large city, during rush hour, you would probably say, "It took forever to drive through there!"
Let's look at another text. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, 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." Jude 7. Is Sodom and Gomorrah still burning today? Of course not! The fire went out centuries ago. Sodom and Gomorrah are EXAMPLES of what eternal fire will be like. They burned up but the fire went out! In 2 Peter 2:6, it says, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that should live ungodly;" The apostle Peter even stated that these two cities were an EXAMPLE, and they were turned into ASHES because of their sins. Ashes is the lot of every person who chooses to rebel against God and His holy Law, the Ten Commandments.
Satan Reduced to "Ashes!"
For example, let's look at the arch-deceiver, Satan. The Bible reveals his sentence of eternal death. Under the symbolism of the king of Tyrus, as representing Satan, we read, "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, the gold; the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. (14) Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (15) Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. (16) By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I WILL DESTROY THEE, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. (17) Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (18) Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore I will bring forth a FlRE from the midst of thee, it shall DEVOUR thee, and I will bring thee to ASHES upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. (19) All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and NEVER SHALT THOU BE ANY MORE." Ezekiel 28:13-19. The Bible says that Satan, who used to be the covering cherub before he was cast out of heaven, will be destroyed with fire and brought to ashes, and he shall never be any more.
Nowhere in the Bible does it promise eternal life in hell fire! "For the wages of sin is DEATH; but the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23. Those who believe in an endless burning hell are actually saying that "Death is eternal life in hell, and life is eternal life in heaven." According to the Bible, "He that hath the Son hath LIFE; and he that hath not the Son of God hath NOT LIFE." 1 John 5:12. "And this is LIFE ETERNAL, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3. The only way that we can have any life at all is through Jesus Christ!
Let's look at one more Scripture concerning the destiny of the wicked. "For, behold the day cometh, that shall bum 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 souls of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts." Malachi 4:1,3. The wicked are going to burn up into ASHES as wood in a campfire is reduced to ashes.
When Does "Hell" Begin?
There is another important question that we need to answer. When does hell fire begin? Is it burning now? Let's search the Bible to find the answer to these questions! "The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are KEPT IN STORE, RESERVED unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." 2 Peter 3:7. To keep something in store or reserve something means to wait for a future time before you use it. When you reserve a motel room, you are planning to use it sometime in the future. So, Peter is saying that the heavens and the earth and ungodly men are RESERVED for a certain time, in the near future, to be burned with fire. When is this time? "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to RESERVE the unjust unto the DAY OF JUDGMENT to be punished." 2 Peter 2:9. (Note: the wicked are RESERVED unto the DAY OF JUDGMENT.) The execution of this Judgment happens sometime after the second coming of Christ. "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that am in their groves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they which have done evil, unto the RESURRECTION OF DAMNATION." John 5:28,29. There are two resurrections mentioned in God's Word. First, the resurrection that gives LIFE, and second, the resurrection that brings eternal DEATH.
When is the "resurrection of damnation?" "And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and JUDGMENT was given unto them: And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a THOUSAND YEARS. (5) But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the FIRST RESURRECTION: on which the SECOND DEATH hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Revelation 20:6.
The first resurrection happens at the second coming of Christ where they meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). Then they, the righteous, live and reign with Christ a thousand years, but the rest of the dead, or the wicked, lived not again until the thousand years were finished. So, after the thousand years, the wicked are resurrected from the dead, and they, the wicked, and Satan and his imps, are burned up with fire that comes from God out of heaven. "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. (8) And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. (9) And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and FlRE came down from God out of heaven, and DEVOURED them....(14) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:7-9,14,15. Oh friend, the testimony of God's word is plain! So far, we learned that 1) The words "for ever" do not always mean without end. 2) Hell does not last throughout eternity. 3) Hell fire takes place at the end of the thousand years, or as some people call it, the millennium.
So, you may ask, what about the story, found in Luke 16:19-31, "The Rich Man & Lazarus?" Many people use this parable to prove their point of eternally burning hell, and that hell is going on right now. If you believe that, friend, then you will find your belief will contradict about 182 texts that say otherwise! The Bible does not contradict itself, but only people do in their interpretation of Scripture! Therefore, the point of this parable, found in Luke 18:19-31, is that they have Moses and the prophets, so let them hear them, for they will not be persuaded even though one rose from the dead (See verse 31). This parable given after four other parables one right after another (Luke 14:16; 15:3; 15:11; 16:1; 16:19, etc.), and four of those parables begin with the phrase, "A certain..." The rich man and Lazarus represent two classes of people. The one represents a class who have had great privileges and light from heaven; they are rich, but they have not made God their dependence, and the class that represents Lazarus, are those poor who have made God their dependence. Also, parables cannot be used to prove a doctrine, but only to reinforce a doctrine.
The lessons Christ taught in this parable are these:
1. It is in this life that men determine their destiny.
2. There is no probationary period after death.
3. By his own choice, man fixes a gulf between him and God.
4. The parable draws a contrast between the wealthy who do not make God their trust and the poor who have trusted God.
From this parable we can draw this conclusion: Jesus came to break down the wall between Jews and Gentiles. He came to give all an equal opportunity for salvation. This parable has no reference to a future punishment or the condition of man between death and the resurrection. There is NO support here for the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
Where Did "Eternal Burning Hell" Come From?
This doctrine came right out of paganism and pagan religions. You can find it in Egyptian literature, and you will read it in Greek and Roman literature. "Eternal Hell" is based on a doctrinal error of the "immortal soul" which came from the Occult and brought into Christianity through the Catholic Church, and it was adopted into the Protestant movement from Popery. Read carefully the next quote from history; "Let it be registered as the genuine genealogy, that Pagan Plato was its father, and the profligate Pope Leo its fosterfather. Born and bred by the Pagan philosophy, the protégé of Popery, this notion of the soul's immortality has become a pet dogma of popular Protestantism, which with a strange forgetfulness of its low lineage, openly declares it to be the honorable offspring of a true orthodoxy!" Mr. Panton Ham, of Bristol England. "You Greeks believe that the soul is created, and yet is made immortal by God, according to the doctrine of Plato." Josephus, Dissertation on Hades. Listen to what Plato has to say; "...Souls are God. They go two ways after death; the wicked to the place of torment, the pure and innocent to the August assembly of the gods." Plato. This widely believed doctrine, of the immortal soul and eternal hell, came straight from PAGANISM! The Jews did not believe this false teaching until their captivity. "It is indeed known that the immortality of the soul was not known to the Jews, but by commerce which they had with the Assyrians during the time of their captivity." Herodotus, p.111. The Jews lost their doctrinal purity through an unlawful relationship with the heathens!
Thoughts From History!
Justin Martyr said, "lf you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this truth, and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say that there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians." (A.D. 165). William Tyndale wrote, "In putting departed souls in heaven, hell and purgatory, you destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection." Dear friend, how can you believe that God is love and believe, at the same time, that He bums people throughout eternity? To believe this, friend, is to say that Adolf Hitler is more merciful than God is! Hitler tortured his victims, but he finally put them out of their misery, and you're saying, God is not as merciful. The truth is that God does burn the wicked, including Satan and his angels, but it only lasts until they are burned up into ASHES.
Back to the Library