Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is the Devil in Charge of Hell? (Hell)

Well? Does God really keep the devil on His payroll - is he the chief superintendent of hell measuring out the punishment of the lost? Nearly the entire world holds to a very unbiblical view about hell, and you owe it to yourself to know what the Bible really says about it. Don't be fooled, because what you think about hell certainly affects what you think about God's character! Take a few moments to get the amazing facts you need to know today!

How Many lost souls are being punished in hell today?

"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9, KJV).

There is not one single soul in hellfire today. The Bible says that God reserves, or holds back, the wicked until the day of judgment to be punished.

When will sinners be cast into hellfire?

"So it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:40-42). "The word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).

Sinners will be cast into hellfire at the great judgment day at the end of the world - not when they die. God would not punish a person in fire until his case was tried and decided in court at the end of the world. Nor would God burn a murderer who died 5,000 years ago 5,000 years longer than one who dies and deserves punishment for the same sin today (Genesis 18:25).

Where are sinners (who have died) now?

"The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28, 29). "That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction?" "Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb" (Job 21:30, 32, KJV).

The Bible is specific. Both the wicked and the righteous who have died are in the graves "sleeping" until the resurrection day.

What is the end result of sin?

"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). "Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:15). "God ... gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

The wages (or punishment) for sin is death, not everlasting life in hellfire. The wicked "perish," or receive "death." The righteous receive "everlasting life."

What will happen to the wicked in hellfire?

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

The wicked die the second death in hellfire. If the wicked lived forever being tortured in hell, they would be immortal. But this is impossible, because the Bible says God "alone has immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16). When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, an angel was posted to guard the tree of life so that sinners would not eat of the tree and "live forever." (Genesis 3:22-24). The teaching that sinners are immortal in hell originated with Satan and is completely untrue. God prevented this when sin entered this earth by guarding the tree of life.

The Bible is clear, the wicked are obliterated. The Bible says the wicked suffer "death" (Romans 6:23), will suffer "doom" [destruction] (Job 21:30), "shall perish" (Psalm 37:20), "shall be cut off" (Psalm 37:9), "shall be slain" (Psalm 62:3). God will "destroy" them (Psalm 145:20), and "fire shall devour them" (Psalm 21:9). Note that all of these references make it clear that the wicked die and are destroyed. They do not live forever in misery.

When and how will hellfire be kindled?

"So it will be at the end of this age. The Son of man ... will cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:40-42). "They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them" (Revelation 20:9). "The righteous will be recompensed on the earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner" (Proverbs 11:31).

At the end of the world, God Himself will kindle hellfire. As the holy city comes down from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2), the wicked attempt to capture it. At that time, God will rain down fire from heaven upon the earth, and it will devour the wicked. This fire is Bible hellfire.

How big and how hot will hellfire be?

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).

Hellfire will be just as big as this earth because it will be the earth on fire. This fire will be so hot as to melt the earth and burn up all "the works that are in it." The atmospheric heavens will explode and "pass away with a great noise."

How long will the wicked suffer in the fire?

"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Revelation 22:12). "And then He will reward each according to his works" (Matthew 16:27). "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not ... do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few" (Luke 12:47, 48).

The Bible does not tell how long the wicked will be punished before receiving death in the fire. God does specifically state, however, that all will be punished according to their deeds. This means some will receive greater punishment than others, based upon their works.

Will the fire eventually go out?

"Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; it shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!" (Isaiah 47:14). "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth." "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:1, 4).

Yes, indeed, the Bible specifically teaches that hellfire will go out and that there will not be left "a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before!" The Bible also teaches that in God's new kingdom all "former things" will be passed away. Hell, being one of the former things, is included, so we have God's promise that it will be abolished.

Is God a Torturer?
If God tortured His enemies in a fiery horror chamber throughout eternity, He would be more vicious and heartless than men have ever been in the worse of war atrocities. An eternal hell of torment would be hell for God also, who loves even the vilest sinner.

What will be left when the fire goes out?

"'For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,' says the LORD of hosts, 'That will leave them neither root nor branch.'" "'You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,' says the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 4:1, 3).

Notice the verse does not say the wicked will burn like asbestos, as many today believe, but rather like stubble, which will be burned up. The little word "up" denotes completion. Nothing but ashes will be left when the fire goes out. In Psalm 37:10, 20, the Bible says the wicked will go up in smoke and be completely destroyed.

Will the wicked enter hell in bodily form and be destroyed both soul and body?

"It is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:30). "Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20).

Yes. Real, live people enter hell in bodily form and are destroyed both soul and body. The fire from God out of heaven will fall upon real people and blot them out of existence.

Will the devil be in charge of hellfire?

"The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10). "I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. ... You ... shall be no more forever" (Ezekiel 28:18, 19).

Absolutely not! The devil will be cast into the fire, and it will turn him into ashes.

Does the word "hell" as used in the Bible always refer to a place of burning or punishment?

No, the word "hell" is used 54 times in the Bible, and in only 12 cases does it refer to "a place of burning."
The word "hell" is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated below:

In the Old Testament
31 times from "Sheol," which means "the grave."

In the New Testament
10 times from "Hades," which means "the grave."
12 times from "Gehenna," which means "the place of burning."
1 time from "Tartarus," which means "a place of darkness."

54 times total

Note: The Greek word "Gehenna" (mentioned above) is a transliteration of the Hebrew "Ge-Hinnom," which means the "Valley of Hinnom." This valley, which lies immediately south and west of Jerusalem, was a place where dead animals, garbage, and other refuse were dumped. Fire burned constantly, as it does at modern sanitation dump sites. The Bible uses "Gehenna" or the "Valley of Hinnom" as a symbol of the fire that will destroy the lost at the end of time. The fire of Gehenna was not unending. Otherwise it would be still burning southwest of Jerusalem today. Neither will the fire of hell be unending.

What is God's real purpose in hellfire?

"Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). "For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more." "The enemies of the LORD ... shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away" (Psalm 37:10, 20).

God's purpose is that hell will destroy the devil and all sin and sinners and make the world safe for eternity. One sinner, if left on this planet, would be a deadly virus forever threatening the universe. It is God's plan to blot sin out of existence for all time.

Eternal Hell Would Perpetuate Sin
An eternal hell of torment would perpetuate sin and make its eradication impossible. An eternal hell of torment is not part of God's great plan at all. Such a horrible theory is slander against the holy name of a loving God. The devil delights to see our loving Creator pictured as such a monstrous tyrant, and he alone can benefit from such teachings.

Eternal Hell a Man-made Theory
The "eternal hell of torment" theory originated not from the Bible, but from misguided people who were (perhaps inadvertently) led of the devil. And, incidentally, while a fear of hell may get our attention, our salvation is the result of learning to love and obey Christ.

Isn't the work of destroying sinners foreign to God's nature?

"'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?'" (Ezekiel 33:11). "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them" (Luke 9:56). "For the LORD will rise up ... that He may do His work, His awesome work, and bring to pass His act, His unusual act" (Isaiah 28:21).

Yes, the work of God has always been to save rather than destroy. The work of destroying the wicked in hellfire is so foreign to God's nature that the Bible calls it His "strange act." God's great heart will ache at the destruction of the wicked. Oh, how diligently He works to save every soul! But if one spurns His love and clings to sin, God will have no choice but to destroy the sinner with his sin when He rids the universe of that horrible, malignant growth called "sin" in the fires of the last day.

What are God's post-hell plans for the earth and His people?

"He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time" (Nahum 1:9). "For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind" (Isaiah 65:17). "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. there shall be no more pain" (Revelation 21:3, 4).

After hellfire goes out, God will create a new earth and restore it to His people - with all the beauties and glories of Eden before sin entered. The horrors of sin and the past will be forgotten. Pain, death, tragedy, woe, tears, sickness, disappointment, sorrow, and all sin will be banished forever.

Sin Will Not Rise Again
God promises that sin will never rise again. His people will be filled with perfect peace, love, joy, and contentment. Their lives of complete happiness will be far more glorious and thrilling than mere words could ever describe. The real tragedy of hell is in missing heaven. A person who fails to enter this magnificent kingdom has made the saddest choice of a lifetime.

Doesn't the Bible speak of "eternal torment"?

No, the phrase "eternal torment" does not appear in the Bible.

Then why does the Bible say that the wicked will be destroyed with unquenchable fire?

Unquenchable fire is fire that cannot be put out, but which goes out when it has turned everything to ashes. Jeremiah 17:27 says Jerusalem was to be destroyed with unquenchable fire, and in 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 the Bible says this fire burned the city "to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah" and left it desolate. Yet we know this fire went out, because Jerusalem is not burning today.

Doesn't Matthew 25:46 say the wicked will receive "everlasting punishment"?

Notice the word is punishment, not punishing. Punishing would be continuous, while punishment is one act. The punishment of the wicked is death, and this death is everlasting.

Can you explain Matthew 10:28: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul"?

The word "soul" has three meanings in the Bible: (1) a living being - Genesis 2:7, (2) the mind - Psalm 139:14, and (3) life - 1 Samuel 18:1, which here refers to eternal life that God guarantees all who reach His kingdom. No one can take this away. The last part of Matthew 10:28 says both soul and body will be destroyed in hell.

Matthew 25:41 speaks of "everlasting fire" for the wicked. Does it go out?

Yes, according to the Bible, it does. We must let the Bible explain itself. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with everlasting, or eternal, fire (Jude 7), and that fire turned them "into ashes" as a warning to "those who afterward would live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6). These cities are not burning today. The fire went out after everything was burned up. Likewise, everlasting fire will go out after it has turned the wicked to ashes (Malachi 4:3). The effects of the fire are everlasting, but not the burning itself.

Doesn't the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teach an eternal hell of torment?

No, indeed! It is simply a parable used to emphasize a point. Many facts make it clear that this is a parable. A few are as follows:
-Abraham's bosom is not heaven (Hebrews 11:8-10, 16).
-People in hell can't talk to those in heaven (Isaiah 65:17).
-The dead are in their graves (Job 17:13 ; John 5:28, 29). The rich man was in bodily form with eyes, a tongue, etc., yet we know that the body does not go to hell at death. It is very obvious that the body remains in the grave, as the Bible says.
-Men are rewarded at Christ's second coming, not at death (Revelation 22:11, 12).
-The lost are punished in hell at the end of the world, not when they die (Matthew 13:40-42).
The point of the story is found in verse 31 of Luke 16. Parables cannot be taken literally. If we took parables literally, then we must believe that trees talk! (See this parable in Judges 9:8-15.)

But the Bible speaks of the wicked being tormented "forever," doesn't it?

The term "for ever," as used in the Bible, means simply a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is used 56 times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended. (To check in a concordance, look up the word "ever.") It is like the word "tall," which means something different in describing men, trees, or mountains. In Jonah 2:6, "forever" means "three days and nights." (See also Jonah 1:17.) In Deuteronomy 23:3, this means "10 generations." In the case of man, this means "as long as he lives" or "until death." (See 1 Samuel 1:22, 28 ; Exodus 21:6 ; Psalm 48:14.) So the wicked will burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. This fiery punishment for sin will vary according to the degree of sins for each individual, but after the punishment, the fire will go out. The teaching of eternal torment has done more to drive people to atheism and insanity than any other invention of the devil. It is slander upon the loving character of a tender, gracious heavenly Father and has done untold harm to the Christian cause.

I want to again thank Amazing Facts for this Bible study. How wonderful to realize that we don't serve a God who would burn people in hell for the ceaseless ages of eternity! I could never serve such a God. How could anyone who calls themselves Christians be happy in heaven knowing that somewhere in the universe people are being endlessly tormented. Praise God for His mercy! We can surely trust the Lord and His plans!

God bless you and keep you!


  1. I am impressed with your long list of proof texts and arguments about the commonly accepted beliefs about hell by this church. But I would like to ask you if you have ever challenged these beliefs for yourself and asked some questions about the underlying assumptions reflected in some of your statements.

    "Is God a Torturer?
    If God tortured His enemies in a fiery horror chamber throughout eternity, He would be more vicious and heartless than men have ever been in the worst of war atrocities. An eternal hell of torment would be hell for God also, who loves even the vilest sinner."

    One of the underlying assumptions here is that if this doesn't happen for eternity then God will not be a torturer. So how long will this type of hell happen before we begin to suspect faulty motives? Do we have to force our sensibilities to twist things around to get ourselves to love a God who eventually will force everyone who fails to love Him into tortuous flames of fire?
    There is something terribly violative about trying to arouse love in our heart while at the same time clinging to such ideas about how God is going to treat us if we don't.
    Are you willing to ask some really tough questions from your own heart outside the box of prescribed texts and assumptions about hell condensed by others? The answers may come to amaze and even inspire you in the end. But before the really good answers can show up we have to be willing to ask the really painful questions.

  2. Clay,

    I think one of the most important things for a Christian, is to always keep an open mind. I always think of the Bereans in this sense as an example. "Searching the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."

    The slippery slope I do not want to go down, however, is beginning to ask philosophical questions about God. My desire (and sometimes this is really hard for me) is to always stay humble before Christ, and to acknowledge above all that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways are higher than my ways.

    I certainly never want to begin trying putting God in the box of my human reasoning, for I know it's impossible to understand Him and His motives.

    All I, or any Christian, can do is to simply accept with child-like faith the truths God reveals to us in His word.

    I find that when I begin trying to analyze God with my human mind, which is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, I do not see Him rightly. But if I choose to believe His word that He "is love," then I see Him always more clearly, and trust that He will explain, someday, those things which I cannot understand now, for I "see through a glass darkly."

    It's good for me to have people like you around, Clay, to make sure my eyes never stray from viewing God as my loving Father. You are so right that it is not our place to ever "suspect faulty motives" from God. Indeed, it is only our place to worship Him.

  3. I think maybe you misunderstand a little of what I said. But that is very understandable since you know almost nothing about me. I am not advocating skepticism of the goodness of God, quite the contrary. What I have been challenging strenuously over the past few years is the broadly accepting teachings about God that I find inconsistent with this very thing that we are unwilling to question. It is not God I am measuring with human wisdom but religion that I question in the light of the clear truths about God's character.
    Maybe you think I am way down that slippery slope you mention, I don't know. But even defining what that phrase means can play into the hands of people who refuse to examine things taught to them by other people that clearly understand the Bible much better. I have discovered over the past few years that God is not put off in the slightest by us challenging anything we believe about what is really true. He is the one who told us to test every spirit. Every church - Advenstists not excluded - is afraid too much of honest and tough questions about their established doctrines. But I have determined a few years ago that I am going to be a pursuer of God and to know His heart above anything that any church teaches me to think about Him. And that has caused me to discover some incredible things I would have never seen in the Bible and the Holy Spirit opened my understanding to things that most people refuse to even consider. I do not say this in bragging in the slightest, I say it because I am amazed that God is so willing to come close to anyone individually if they will just be willing to lay aside all their preconceived ideas and listen with an open heart.

  4. Clay, you've piqued my curiousity! Do you believe differently from the common Adventist doctrine about hell? I'd be very interested to study your view, if you put a post up about the subject on your blog.

    I look forward to studying together, my friend :-)

    God bless you and keep you