We do not need to feel intimidated by challenging topics, such as the Trinity, hellfire, or the existence of a Creator. If we rely on Jehovah and on the training he provides, we can often give a persuasive answer, one that may reach the heart of our listeners. (Col. 4:6)
Many religious teachers — especially in Christendom — say that God has the eternal fate of hellfire in store for the wicked. But is that really what the Bible says?
Good and Wicked in Same Place
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17, King James Version)
Here, instead of the word “hell,” more modern translations such as Lamsa and The Jerusalem Bible have preferred to retain the word that appears in the Hebrew text, “Sheol.” But to what exactly does “hell,” or “Sheol,” refer?
“All that your hand finds to do, do it with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
If those in hell, or Sheol, cannot think or know or act, surely they cannot be suffering.
It is not, then, surprising that even faithful servants of God went to Sheol. Jacob, Israel’s patriarch and not a disembodied soul or spirit, thought he would go there when he died, and Job hoped that God would hide him there and thus bring his sufferings to an end. (Genesis 42:38; Job 14:13)
38 But Jacob answered, “My son will not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left. If anything happens to him on your journey, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow.” (Genesis 42:38 HCSB)
If only You would hide me in Sheol and conceal me until Your anger passes. If only You would appoint a time for me and then remember me. (Job 14:13 HCSB)
Would these two faithful servants have hoped — or even asked — to go to a burning, fiery hell along with the wicked? Certainly not!
They knew they would go to sheol after their death, but would have a possibility to be called back to life. For a lot of righteous men the Bible’s metaphor for death as sleeping down in the dust was not something which would bring them to believe in heathen teachings or Greek philosophical thoughts. Like the King of Judah Hezekiah (Isa. 38:10), God’s prophet Jonah (Jon. 2:2), and the sons of Korah (Ps. 49:15) knew they too would enter sheol. They were not afraid of going to sheol because they believed in the One God of Israel and His promises.
If one acknowledges the Bible’s teaching that sheol is the state of death the many Bible passages with men of God asking to go to sheol or to be relieved from pain and suffering by death, make sense.
Hell-fire to fear as a place for eternal torture?
Is there any reason to fear the prospect of eternal torture in Hell? The Bible teaches no such thing.
“no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Endless torture is not a just punishment for the sins of a few years of mortal life. Nor can it be reconciled with the character of a righteous and loving God.
Idolaters cast children into the fire, in sacrifice to Moloch. God condemned this as
“something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind” (Jeremiah 7: 31).
God would not do what is far worse, for eternity.
The Bible does not teach many of the things that it is commonly believed to contain, and Hell-fire is one of them. Attention to the real meaning of Bible words and recognising use of figurative language would avoid much misunderstanding.
The tragedy is that Hell-fire doctrine, which puts people off religion, need never have arisen if men had confined their ideas to what the Bible teaches about hell.
In the Bible there is a place known as hell, but there is no place of eternal torment for people who have died.
The Old Testament word translated ‘hell’ is from the Hebrew ‘sheol’ meaning ‘the place of the dead’ / ‘abode of the dead‘ or ‘the grave’; and the same meaning applies to the Greek word ‘hades’ in the New Testament and Greek Old Testament.
Hell in the Bible is none other than the grave, the place where men and women are laid out of sight in the unconsciousness of death. The English word ‘hell’ means a hidden, covered place. Both good and bad people go to hell (the grave).
Jesus “made his grave with the wicked” (Isaiah 53: 9). Of the wicked it is said,
“Let them be silent in the grave” (Psalm 31: 17).
In death the body returns to dust, the spirit returns to God who gave it, and no thinking part remains to feel anything.
“The dead know not anything”
“In that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146: 4; Ecclesiastes 9: 5, 12: 7).
The righteous can go to hell (the grave) and come out again. God says,
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave (sheol); I will redeem them from death” (Hosea 13: 14).
The righteous will be saved from the grave by Resurrection, as Jesus was. His lifeless body was in hell for three days, but was not left there.
“His soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:31).
Until the Resurrection, both righteous and wicked remain in the same place: the grave.
“Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12: 2).
Bible teaching is that our mortal lives end in death. Both righteous and wicked remain dead until Resurrection and Judgment occur at the Return of Christ. The outcome will be eternal life for some, and a shameful end for others, but no endless suffering.
Another word translated ‘hell’ is ‘Gehenna’ – meaning ‘Gai (valley) of Hinnom’ – a place near Jerusalem in which fires kept burning to consume rubbish; this word indicates total destruction.
Jesus taught that God is the only one to fear.
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Gehenna)” (Matthew 10: 28).
Sodom suffered the punishment of “eternal fire” (Jude 7) when it was turned to ashes, but it is not still burning!
Fire is used in Scripture for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment. God punishes sin with death, in which there is no consciousness.
Scripture examples of divine judgment show that the punishment is irresistible, swift and decisive, but never cruelly prolonged. Destruction is sudden and its effects last forever.
- Ezekiel 18:4 – What the Bible teaches about Soul and Spirit
- Grave, tomb, sepulchre – graf, begraafplaats, rustplaats, sepulcrum
- Days of Nisan, Pesach, Pasach, Pascha and Easter
- Jesus three days in hell
- Jesus and the fallen angels in hell
- Fallen Angels
- Death and after
- Satan or the devil
- Where does Satan lives?
- Sheol or the grave
- Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:21-26 – 1. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 20:13
- Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:27-30 – 2. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 20:14
- Matthew 10:24-31 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Do Not Fear – Preach!
- Matthew 11:20-24 Encouragement for John and Reproach for cities 5 Reproached Cities a Lesson for Judgment Day
- Matthew 13:36-43 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Zizania in the Field Explained
- Matthew 13:47-50 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Dragnet
- Matthew 16:13-20 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Building a Hades-Proof Congregation
- Dave Norris and his writings on the Belgian Bible Students
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #4 Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures
- Departed Souls Await Judgment
- We are redeemed; we are “bought with a price”
- A Ransom for all 2 Corresponding price
- I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell
- Word of the day Gehenna – hell; any place of extreme torture or suffering; a place or state of misery.
- The New Testament ‘hell’
- O Death, Where is Your Victory?
- Psalm 88: The Land of No Recall
- Ezekiel 31, November 14, Wednesday
- Ezekiel 32, November 15, Thursday
- Did Jesus go to hell?
- Salted with Fire
- Sheol Examined
- Hell…and How to Get There – Brian Zahnd
- What is Hell? (Part One)
- The nature of Hell
- Gehenna and “the Society’s” Dark Lenses
- A definition of hell 
- Levels of Hell
- Climbing out of Sheol
- This World is the Shit Show of satan. Time to Turn the TV Off.
- Study – Words Translated To Read Hell
- What Did Jesus Do on the First Holy Saturday?
- Chapter XIV: He Descended Into Hell
- Where Was Jesus For The Three Days?
- Be It Large Or Small
- The New Testament ‘hell’
- The Immediate Judgment
- Between death and resurrection
- Hell – A Place of Rest or Torment?
- What is Hell? (Part One)
- The Nature of Hell (Part 1) – Hell Lost in Translation
- The nature of Hell
- The Harrowing of Hell
- The History of Lucifer (Satan) Part
- Sheol and Lent
- Resurrection Was a Hot Topic in Jesus’ Day
- Hell, Sheol, Gehenna, and the like…
- The Broad Road To Hell vs The Narrow Road To Life
- If you are worried about hell
- Watch Your Tongue
- Urgent! Investing in the Hereafter – Part 1
- You’re Fired
- Vatican: Pope did not say there is no hell
- Know sins and say no to sins!
- Is Sodom here and now?
- There Is No Hell. So, Nobody Is Going There.
- A Tour in Hell
- Is Gehenna the same as the lake of fire?
- Hope in Gehenna?
- John Calvin on Gehenna
- Gehenna applies to the church, not the world
- Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy
- Is Literal Hellfire Torment A Bible Teaching?
- Reality of Hell…
- Why hell is forever
- The Garbage Dump of Hell
- First Century Jewish Beliefs About “Purgatory
- Psalm 84: Dwelling Place
- Review | Gehenna: Where Death Live
- The Kingdom Series: …Or Not Going to Hell
- The Deceiver – Part One
- To Hell with Hell
- There Is No Hell, Look It Up