There is no need to live in fear and doubt — YOU CAN KNOW what and where hell is, who goes to hell and whether any can leave hell. Read the answers plainly written and explained from God's Own Word.
THE RESTAURANT was crowded with businessmen and women of Pasadena discussing their day's business over lunch. Fitted in between a bank building and a hat shop, this particular restaurant was long and narrow so that many of those sitting in the rear could not see what was going on toward the entrance. About 12:30, when people were still standing in line waiting to get a table, three women walked in. Two were rather skinny, one was overly plump, all were unkempt and disheveled. About halfway to the rear of the restaurant, the fat one burst out in a loud voice screaming, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! Hell fire and brimstone!" Panic struck! Diners jumped to their feet, dishes clattered to the floor as patrons tried to leave through the nearest exit in response to the one word they had heard over the hubbub of conversation — "FIRE! " But the fat one went on "witnessing for Christ," crudely informing all of the patrons of the restaurant they would go to hell and suffer in ever-burning flames unless they accepted Jesus Christ! While she was screaming this message at the top of her lungs, her disheveled partner bent near a patron's ear and whispered, "If you died today, would you be ready to meet Jesus?" Recovering from his shock, the manager invited these three self-styled prophetesses to leave his establishment. Things quieted down, and the hum of conversation again returned to near normal — but few were talking about business anymore. The name of Jesus Christ had been used in a very unsavory situation — people's stomachs were upset, food had been spilled on some clothing, nerves were shattered and on edge, the train of thought of those discussing business over their lunch had been forgotten — for some the whole day had been ruined! But despite her crude manner of presenting it, does the hell fire this plump prophetess preached really exist?
World of Confusion!
At the close of the 20th century when mankind seems to have more knowledge on any given point than he has ever had in his entire history, there is more confusion, mixed-up ideas and superstitions prevailing about this burning issue of hell than ever before! God-defying atheists and narrow-minded scientists loudly proclaim they do not even believe God exists, much less a heaven or hell. On the other hand are religious people who, for sake of dogma, or because it suits their sense of justice, believe there is an ever-burning, never-consuming, torturing hell fire that awaits those who do not make a profession of their Christ. Sincere, though deceived, these individuals insist that the message from God to mankind is that if a man does not accept and love Jesus in his given span of near 70 years, the Eternal God of heaven, All-Wise, All-Loving, All-Merciful will heap unimagined and excruciating pain in the ever-burning flames of hell upon that soul for all eternity — because of 70 years of sin. Many claim that this is the very power of the Gospel! That if you remove the punishment of hell, and the pains of everlasting suffering, from the good news, the Gospel message, no one would accept God's other teaching. Hell, in their good-news-Gospel, becomes the place where God wreaks vengeance on "sinners!" If this be true, and the governments of this earth were to follow the example of this All-Wise God — then criminals, instead of being put in jail, or put to death, should be TORTURED! Those who claim to be God's representatives on earth, from a dignified priest to the street-corner evangelist, all demand that you choose now whether you will spend eternity in heaven or in hell! Two things are taken for granted here: one, that everyone must choose NOW; and two, that eternity will be spent in hell.
The Source of Truth!
Where can we go to find the real truth of this matter? If there is an ever-burning, torturing hell fire that the God of heaven has in store for those who sin against Him, then certainly it behooves each of us to find out the details regarding it! Does science have the answer? Has anyone scientifically seen and examined hell? Felt and smelled of hell? Observed it in all of its excruciating agony and returned to tell of its existence and conditions? NO! Science does not have the answer! An encyclopedia can only give you what men have thought about hell throughout the ages of the past! The only source that talks with real authority on this subject is the Word of God! "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). The Bible is the only source that speaks with absolute AUTHORITY on this subject — a subject beyond the realm of modern science, and yet modern science, as far as its knowledge concerning the dead goes, completely agrees with the Bible in every detail. Instead of trying to imagine what hell might be like, let us go directly into the pages of God's Word and find out what God has to say — letting the Bible completely interpret itself — not letting our imagination run wild on any point — really proving all things! The doctrine of hell this world propounds determines, by the use of stark fear, to force you into acceptance of the Gospel. This is not the Spirit of God, because God's Word says, "For God has NOT given us the spirit of fear; but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND!" (II Tim. 1:7) The truth from God's own Word will agree with God's Spirit of true love, yet will certainly not detract from God's power, and will throughout its entire explanation be completely sound-minded! The over-all, principle choice that GOD lays down for every individual is found in the much-preached but little-understood "golden text" of the Bible, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." On the one hand God says that if you accept the sacrifice of His only begotten Son you will have everlasting life. On the other hand, if you do not accept the Savior Who died for you, you must "PERISH!" How does hell enter into this? What is hell? Where is hell? Who goes to hell? How long do you stay in hell? Can you leave hell?
What Is Hell?
Confusion is in the mind of today's Christian because he is told either that the Bible does not mean what it says or that wherever "hell" is mentioned in the Bible it is a hell of fire for the eternal torture of the damned. God's Word plainly reveals that there is more than one kind of hell. There are three different Greek words, each having a different meaning, which have been translated "hell" in the King James Version. The Greek word hades simply means "pit" or "grave." In 1611 when the King James Version was translated, the Englishmen spoke of putting their potatoes in "hell" for the winter — that is, simply in a hole in the ground! There has to be a place for those who die and that place we are all in common knowledge of: the grave. If men immediately when they die either go to heaven or hell, then God's Word would not have said, "For David is NOT ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:34) and "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he Is BOTH DEAD AND BURIED, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day" (Acts 2:29). At the time Peter was preaching his first inspired sermon on that day of Pentecost in 31 A.D. — 50 days after Christ first ascended to the Father in heaven from this very "hell" — he says that the great patriarch David is still in hell! Let us understand this! "Because thou wilt not leave my [David's] soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One [Jesus Christ] to see corruption" (Acts 2:27). This is quoted in your New Testament from Psalm 16:10, where David prophesied of the coming of Jesus Christ, of His crucifixion and death, of His burial and stay in the grave, "hell" — but not long enough in that grave to suffer "corruption," that is the decaying of the flesh. Yet after Christ was resurrected, David still remained in the grave, in his sepulcher, completely corrupted and nothing but dust at that time. By comparing this scripture with the Old Testament, we find that this hades-hell of the New Testament is the same as the sheol-hell of the Old Testament. God's Word describes this hell very plainly. It is merely the grave where everyone goes when he dies. It is not "the abode of the dead" in the sense that dead spirits are walking around in a dark, cold cavern somewhere in the heart of the earth, but merely the resting place where all those who have died await a resurrection. That is why the triumphant Psalm is quoted in I Corinthians 15 — the resurrection chapter — where it states, "O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55) All the individuals who have died and rotted and turned to dust will eventually be resurrected — some to eternal life, some to judgment. This hades-hell will not have an eternal hold on those who spend time there. The description of this hell is not left to the imagination of men but very clearly defined. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [sheol-hades — hell] whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9:10). Your Bible describes this as a very dead place! How else would you describe the grave? "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead KNOW NOT ANYTHING, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now PERISHED!" (Eccl. 9:5-6) God's Word is" very plain-spoken. In the grave, "hell," where you or anyone goes upon death, is neither a place of physical or mental activity of any kind. "His [man's] breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day HIS THOUGHTS PERISH!" (Ps. 146:4) Any scientific experiment which can be enacted and observed completely backs up these Bible statements. But this is as far as science can help us. This is the only hell that science is cognizant of. Churchmen try to confuse this hades-hell by admitting that it is indeed the grave, but going on to explain that only the body goes to the grave while the soul goes elsewhere. This doctrine can nowhere be proved within the pages of God's Word (Write for the article "Do You Have an Immortal Soul?"). God's Word very clearly says that David, not David's body, is both dead and buried and is not in heaven! And if David is not then surely no one else is.
The second Greek word translated "hell" is tartaroo. It is used only once in the Bible. "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell..." (II Pet. 2:4). The word here, very loosely translated hell, is not a place but a condition. It refers to the condition of restraint that God has imposed upon those angels which rebelled against Him and followed Satan the Devil. This word — tartaroo-hell — is never used in reference to man. When Satan and his demons rebelled against God, He put them in a condition of restraint — much as modern governments put criminals in a condition of restraint — where they must remain until their time of judgment (Jude 6). Science has never observed this tartaroo-hell! Churchmen are confounded by it! God's truth is very plain concerning it!
The REAL Hell
The Greek word gehenna denotes a place of punishment. Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, is a place just outside Jerusalem where trash, filth and dead bodies were thrown to be burned up. It was a city dump and there was always a fire burning to consume the refuse that was thrown there. Jesus Christ and the disciples and apostles after Him used this word consistently when they were referring to that "hell" which will BURN UP sinners! Gehenna-hell is a synonym for the lake of fire into which the unrepentant dead are to be cast at the end of time. This is the only hell in the Bible which is associated with flames or fire. No inner caverns in the bowels of the earth are mentioned. No ice-filled rooms where people's feet are sticking out and being tickled by demented spirits are talked about in God's Word in reference to this gehenna-hell. It is never described as a fire in which the damned live, but a fire in which the damned DIE! To explain the usage of the two basic words used in the Greek language and translated "hell" in the English language in the King James Version: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second DEATH. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14-15). The word translated "hell" in Verse 14 is hades, the grave. The grave itself and those which are not found written in the book of life are going to be cast into the lake of fire — gehenna-hell. This will empty the grave — hades-hell — and it will cease to exist — no dead will ever again be buried in the grave. They will be burned up. Those who refuse to live by God's law, who insist on rebelling against the way of life that God knows brings happiness, health and peace, are going to be cast bodily into this gehenna-hell, the lake of fire, to terminate their miserable existence, to put them out of their misery, to END their life!
Why Does God Use Gehenna-Hell?
God's plan of salvation is a 7000-year plan. For 6000 years of this time God has allowed mankind to go his way, under the influence of his own mind and directed also by the mind of Satan the Devil. Man has tried every way he can think of to govern himself to bring peace, happiness, health, prosperity, but has failed miserably! Down through the ages God has selected some few whom He called out of this world to realize His plan of salvation, to repent of their ways which are contrary to His laws, and to change their way of life to agree with God. When Jesus Christ returns to this earth in the very next few years, He will for the first time in mankind's history set His hand to save the whole world — that is, all people who are alive on the earth at that time. He will offer them the same salvation that He has in the past only offered to a few whom He has called out of the world. Then, at the close of a thousand years of this reign, all of those who have ever died, but never had a chance to know the True Jesus and His true Gospel message, will be resurrected and given their ONE opportunity to obey and by the strength of God's Holy Spirit enter into His Kingdom! At one time or another every man who has ever existed will stand with his mind open and his understanding clear to live a life of overcoming with God's Spirit and endeavor to enter into His Kingdom. There have been, and there will be, however, some few who will utterly REBEL against doing God's will — who will set their wills against obedience to His laws so completely that nothing can be done with them. These will be the individuals God refers to in His Word as those who have committed the UNPARDONABLE SIN! God in His mercy has planned that these individuals should be completely done away with — made to CEASE TO EXIST! It is set down very plainly: "For the wages of sin [the transgression of God's law, living contrary to the very nature of life itself] is DEATH [the cessation of life]" (Rom. 6:23). Lest anyone should question what God meant by this, He firmly stated: "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" (Ezek. 18:4). Regarding this to be of utmost importance, God was not satisfied with stating it once but restated it so that there would be no question that He did not mean just the body and not the soul, but very firmly reaffirmed, "THE SOUL THAT SINNETH, IT SHALL DIE" (Ezek. 18:20). God's promise to all people is life or death! Not life or life! God realizes that men are weak, that they are subject to vanity — He created them that way! He has not devised this lake of fire in order to torture human beings, but only to rid them once and for all from off the face of the earth — to do away with their lives. Knowing that they cannot continue to live the way they want to live, but that they would only bring misery and pain and suffering on themselves throughout eternity if He allowed them to live, God mercifully puts an end to their life. And even in this act God is NOT pleased. "For I have NO PLEASURE in the death of him that dieth" (Ezek. 18:32). God does not want anyone to be thrown into this lake of fire! But those who insist on living contrary to the laws of life are going to be mercifully snuffed from existence by this method. "For if we sin willfully AFTER that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain FEARFUL looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall DEVOUR the adversaries" (Heb. 10:26-27). Therefore we see from God's Word that hell fire is NOT held over the head of every individual to force him into accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Savior — it is NOT a threat of pain and eternal punishing that the Merciful and All-Powerful Eternal God is levying against those who refuse to hear His Gospel — but a final judgment, a doing-away-with the individuals who reject Him AFTER they have received a knowledge of His truth. The time when the REAL fear of a REAL hell fire comes on an individual is AFTER he has sinned willfully against the knowledge of God's truth that has been opened to his mind!
How Hell Fire Works!
Long ago God set an example in His Word of what this fire is like, how it works, and what the result, of it is. "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 vengeance of ETERNAL FIRE" (Jude 7). Sodom and Gomorrah, the two sinful cities in the valley of the Jordan by the Dead Sea suffered, as you can read the account in Genesis 19, from a great fire that fell from heaven consuming everything it fell upon. All the people in those cities were burned to death. The cities themselves were consumed and ARE NOT THERE for us to see today! But they are NOT STILL BURNING! They have suffered as an EXAMPLE of the vengeance of eternal fire. THEY ARE BURNED UP. The eternity of this fire is its everlasting effect! God explains that this is going to be exactly the penalty for those who insist on disobedience to Him. "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 [those who become the Sons of God in His Kingdom] 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). When physical bodies come into contact with flame they burn up! David very graphically describes this in the Psalms. "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). Yes, that is what GOD says! Very plain and easy to understand! There is no mystery about it, no strange fire that burns forever and yet does not consume anything. No sadistic God on high who desires to execute pain on a human body forever because of sins committed over a period of a few years. Only a loving God Who, after offering a human being His Very Own Spirit and Mind and Power determines to it that individual out of his misery when that simple human being finally rebels against his Creator and refuses to hear any of His advice and to use any of His power. There is a very real hell fire — a very real pain — a very real DEATH! "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son [born into the very Kingdom of God — this is the purpose of life, the plan of creation from the beginning, the reason why you draw breath now]. But the fearful, the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone [gehenna-hell]: which is [by GOD'S own interpretation, NOT by the imagination of mankind] the SECOND DEATH" (Rev. 21:7-8).
Whom You Really Need to Fear!
God offers salvation, not suffering! You do not need to fear men's imaginations. You do not need to fear the unreasoning tortures of an ever-burning hell, but you Do need to have a healthy respect for the One Individual in all creation Who is able to save you from being BURNED UP in a lake of fire-gehenna-hell — and grant you LIFE FOREVER with Him in His Kingdom! "And fear not them which kill the body [those who kill and execute God's chosen people, making them martyrs because they believe the truth of God], but are not able to kill the soul [in Luke's account the word is "life"]: but rather FEAR HIM [fear God, not hell or the Devil] which IS ABLE TO DESTROY both soul and body in [gehenna] hell" (Matt. 10:28). Do not fear the imaginations of ignorant men's minds. Do not fear that the Devil will plunge you into torture for eternity. But do begin to see how powerful and loving and reasonable and true your Creator really is. Begin to have that respect and awe — that proper fear, respect and honor due to the greatest Power in the universe — that fear that is the beginning of wisdom, not the beginning of terror. Seek this God of truth; believe His Word, and His Word ONLY! Ask of this great God and He will grant to you the Spirit of love and of power and of a SOUND MIND!