Note: This topic, “Hell”, is also presented in a “Bible Study” format. You can access it in the “Categories” column under the title, “Hell Bible Study”.
Is it biblically true that your “lost” loved ones will be writhing in unimaginable pain and torment in the fires of hell every minute of every day throughout the trillions of years of eternity? Does the Bible actually teach that trillions of years of excruciating torture in hell’s fires will be their fair and just punishment from our loving, merciful and just God, as recompense for the comparatively few years that they lived on earth? As you begin reading this article, I ask you to consider all of the evidence before making any decision, as to whether I’m right or wrong. I will be presenting literally dozens of scriptures throughout this article, and I ask you to read through the end of it, before you cast your verdict. I will begin with a couple of illustrations.
What would be your impression of a nation whose justice system gave everyone the same sentence regardless of his or her crime? Would you consider it to be fair and just for a poor unemployed man who stole bread and milk from a grocery store to feed his family, to receive the same “death sentence” as a brutal serial killer who tortured women and children?
How would you view a judge who sentenced people to 50 years in prison for the misdemeanor of “jaywalking”, a minor violation that took only five seconds to commit? Would you consider this judge to be fair and just? Could anyone convince you that he was a kind, merciful and loving man?
The answer to these questions is obvious. All would agree that the punishment in both scenarios was completely unjust and inappropriate. Yet, the Christian Church expects the world to accept and embrace a God who the Church claims is kind, merciful, just and loving, while simultaneously declaring that their God will punish sinners for trillions of years without end, in return for living disobedient lives for seventy years on earth. The Church expects the world to view their God as fair and just, while Adolph Hitler, who tortured and killed millions, including women and children, receives the same eternal hell-fire punishment as the poor unemployed grocery store thief who stole bread and milk for his family. (Once again, I ask and challenge those who espouse this doctrine not to rush to judgment about my position on this issue until considering all of the biblical evidence presented in this article. I am sure that you want to believe and speak the truth about this subject based upon all of the scriptural evidence, because you certainly do not want to be slandering God’s character, by saying that He tortures people for trillions of years, if it is not true according to the Bible).
If we would reject and denounce any nation or judge who practiced the forms of inequitable justice in my illustrations, why should we expect others to accept and embrace a God who conducts Himself the same way?
Any unbiased reader would have to agree that it is a major contradiction to call the judge and nation unjust and unfair, while maintaining that their God is fair and just, even as He does the same things. Fair and just nations and judges practice equitable justice. And, likewise, a fair and just God reflects fairness and equitable justice in all of His dealings with His children.
However, although this seems to be a reasonable and logical conclusion to arrive at, the most important thing is what the Bible says regarding this subject. And, it will probably surprise you to discover that the weight of biblical evidence overwhelmingly contradicts the widespread teaching that God punishes sinners forever. It will be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our loving and just God does not torment people in hell for eternity.
The Bible does clearly state that there is an everlasting or eternal hell fire; in fact, it is mentioned several times. However, there is not one text in the entire Bible that specifically and unequivocally states that people will suffer in pain and agony for endless ages in that fire. There are a few passages, which seem to “imply” the eternal tormenting of sinners, but not one which specifically states that this is the case. On the other hand, there are dozens of scriptures that directly contradict the few vague texts being used to support the eternal torment doctrine.
It is necessary to mention that the hell fire will be a real experience for unrepentant sinners; for them it will be a place of indescribable pain, agony and torment. Jesus described it as a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42-50). I am not denying the reality of hell, but I am declaring that the weight of biblical evidence does not support the idea of sinners’ living in torment there forever. However, the devil and his evil angels will spend eternity there, according to Scripture. In fact, the everlasting hell fire was prepared for them (Matthew 25:41). Why did it need to be an “everlasting” fire for the devil and his evil angelic forces? Because God created angels as “eternal beings”, according to Jesus’ statement in Luke 20:36, where He said that, after the resurrection, we will not die because we will be equal to the angels. In other words, angels are “eternal beings”; they do not die. Therefore, the fire prepared for them needed to be everlasting, as stated in Matthew 25:41. Thus, the devil and his angels, who caused this “nightmare” experience of sin, with all of its suffering and heartache for billions of people, will indeed be tormented in hell forever, and rightly so. The devil and his angels have been tormenting billions of people over thousands of years, and are culpable for billions of them not receiving eternal life in heaven. No one should question the justice of their eternal punishment. Their case, as “eternal beings” and as the originators of sin, is uniquely different from the case of those whom they have deceived on earth.
Now, what does the Bible say about the hell fire and sinners’ punishment in it? Jesus said it is an everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41). The Bible also states that it is a fire that will never be quenched (Isaiah 66:24; Luke 3:17; Mark 9:43-48). And, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, this everlasting hell fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, and he will be tormented there forever along with the “beast” and “false prophet” described in the book of Revelation (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
These scriptures clearly teach that there is an eternal hell fire; it is also clear that the devil, his angels, and the beast and false prophet will be tormented forever in that fire. However, thus far, we have had no specific reference to people living in eternal torment in hell.
Before we list the numerous scriptures that completely disprove and refute this eternal torment dogma, we will examine the few passages used to support this doctrine. You will find a “common thread” running through all of these texts. They all share the usage of the words everlasting, forever or eternal. However, you will soon see that none of them specifically states that people suffer in pain and agony eternally. They will refer to the fire itself burning forever, to the devil’s being tormented forever, to smoke ascending forever, and to worms not dying, but none of these texts clearly and unequivocally states that people will be suffering in pain and torment throughout eternity. We shall now examine each verse individually.
Proponents of eternal torment refer to Matthew 18:8, but this passage simply warns about being thrown into the everlasting fire. It does not say you will suffer there eternally. They also mention Matthew 25:41, but this text also simply states that the wicked will be put into the everlasting fire. It does not declare that they will agonize in it forever.
Eternal torment advocates also cite Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:43-48, which speak of the wicked being cast into a fire that will not be quenched, and these texts also mention worms or maggots that will not die. As with the other passages, these verses do not state that the wicked will be in painful torment within that fire forever. Also, these texts do not say that the wicked people themselves do not die, but rather that the “worms and maggots” don’t die. In fact, the wicked people are referred to as corpses or carcasses. The Hebrew word used is peger (when spelled in English), which literally means corpse, carcass or dead body. Therefore, this scripture contrasts, not compares, the people with the worms or maggots. The worms are alive, but the people are dead! A more detailed explanation of this text and its proper interpretation is presented later in this article.
Another text used to support the eternal torment doctrine is Revelation 14:9-11. This passage states that the wicked will be tormented with fire and brimstone, and that the smoke will ascend forever. Notice that it does not specifically state that the torment will last forever, but rather that the smoke resulting from that torment will ascend forever. Once again, we still have no direct, unequivocal statement of people suffering in pain and agony forever. And, later in this article, this passage will also be explained in a more detailed manner, which also accords with Scripture.
Eternal torment proponents also refer to Daniel 12:1-2 in their effort to support this doctrine. They point out that the wicked receive everlasting contempt. Is everlasting contempt the same as suffering in pain and agony throughout endless ages? Of course not! As with the previous scriptures, this passage does not specifically refer to the eternal torment of sinners. The “Webster’s New World Dictionary And Thesaurus” defines the word contempt as, “The feeling one has toward somebody or something one considers low, worthless, etc”. So, this word simply shows how those who ignored and rejected Christ’s infinite sacrifice will be viewed. Daniel 12:2 also uses the word “shame” to describe how the wicked will be viewed. God will forever regard them as having been shameful and of “low value” because of their rejection of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this scripture actually directly contradicts the hell doctrine that is being taught today by eternal punishment proponents. It is commonly taught that the “lost” go directly to hell when they die, but this text states that they have been “sleeping” in the dust of the earth; they are not looked upon with shame and contempt until after they “awake” (are resurrected).
Advocates of this doctrine also mention verses six and seven in the book of Jude. Verse six describes the fallen angels who are in everlasting chains. Note that it does not say that wicked people are in everlasting chains. Verse seven states that Sodom and Gomorrah are an example for us of God’s vengeance, as they suffered eternal fire. If they are an example of God’s vengeance, what can we learn from this? Is the “eternal” fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah still burning? No! Have the wicked inhabitants of those cities continued to live on in agonizing torment down through the centuries in that fire? No! They died in that fire, and the Bible states that this is an example of God’s vengeance. Therefore, this passage actually contradicts the eternal torment dogma.
Sometimes verse thirteen in the book of Jude is also cited to support this doctrine. This verse states that the “blackness of darkness” is forever reserved for the wicked men described in this passage. Does this text specifically declare that these men will be tortured throughout eternity? No! It says that darkness is reserved for them. And, it is interesting that Job also refers to the grave, or place of the dead, as a place of darkness (Job 17:13). Therefore, this passage is probably referring to the darkness of eternal death, which awaits the wicked. It certainly does not state anything about suffering pain and agony throughout eternity.
Matthew 25:46 is another text often mentioned by those who teach this doctrine. This verse proclaims that the wicked will receive everlasting punishment. Does that necessarily mean that they will be tormented in the hell fire forever? Couldn’t it simply be referring to a punishment that produces everlasting results? Isn’t the eternal death of the wicked an everlasting punishment? The wicked perish forever! It is significant that the destruction of the wicked is also called a sudden destruction in 1st Thessalonians 5:3; furthermore, it is described as a swift destruction in 2nd Peter 2:1. How can it be sudden, everlasting and swift? There is only one logical and reasonable explanation. It is sudden because it comes unexpectedly and takes the wicked by surprise. It is swift because it is accomplished in a short period of time when compared to eternity. It is everlasting because it produces everlasting results. The wicked are destroyed and gone forever.
The other passage used by those who espouse the eternal torment doctrine is found in Revelation chapter twenty. They point out the statement in verse ten that the devil is cast into the lake of fire where the “beast” and “false prophet” are, and that they are tormented there forever. And, I completely agree that this will be the fate of the devil, beast and false prophet. However, it does not say that this is also the fate of wicked people in general. In fact, in verse nine, it says that the wicked are devoured in the fire! The Bible clearly states that, whereas the devil is tortured forever in the fire, the wicked are simply devoured by the fire. The Greek word for devour is katesthio, when spelled in English. This word is never used, not one single time, in all of Scripture to describe an eternally ongoing process. It always describes something that is consumed and gone. Also noteworthy, is the fact that katesthio is never used to describe the devil’s or antichrist’s fate in the fire. Why? Because they will suffer forever as the Bible plainly states, and they will never be consumed and gone. But, katesthio is used for wicked people, because they do not suffer forever, but rather are consumed by the fire and perish. In a “last-ditch” attempt to support this hideous doctrine, some declare that the fire that devours the wicked in verse nine, is a different fire than the one that the wicked are cast into in verse fifteen. If that is true, the wicked dead would have two resurrections, because, as per Revelation 20:5, they would be raised after the “millennium” (the thousand year period mentioned in Revelation chapter twenty), and destroyed by God in the fire described in verse nine, only to be resurrected a second time and thrown back into the fire again in verse fifteen. This is absurd, and it contradicts Scripture. Hebrews 9:27 clearly states that men die once, and then they face the judgment; not that they die twice before the judgment. Also, the death which the wicked experience, as mentioned in verse fifteen, is called their second death; but, if their “death experience” referred to in verse fifteen is in addition to their death mentioned in verse nine, then their death told of in verse fifteen would actually be their third death. Why would it be their “third death”? They would have died their first death before the millennium when Jesus returns (Revelation 14:14-20; Revelation 19:11-21). Then, they would have died their second death, as described in verse nine, after the millennium. Therefore, if their verse fifteen death is in addition to their verse nine death, the verse fifteen death would be their third death. This, of course, would also contradict the Bible. I find it amazing that preachers and theologians will even contradict other scriptures in order to maintain this dubious doctrine that portrays God as a vindictive, cruel tyrant. Obviously the fire of verse fifteen is the same fire that destroys the wicked in verse nine, and is simply “replayed” in John’s new vision beginning in verse eleven, when he states: “Then I saw”. This wording often begins a new vision for John in the book of Revelation, and his visions frequently overlap and restate previous scenes. It should also be noted that the wicked people’s experience in the fire is called a second death. It is not called an “everlasting torment”. It is certainly not a coincidence that the devil’s ultimate fate is never referred to as death, whereas the final fate of wicked people is repeatedly called “death” throughout the Bible. It is highly significant that this passage in Revelation chapter twenty clearly differentiates between the devil and wicked people, when describing their experience and fate in the hell fire. The devil’s fate in the fire is described as torment forever (Rev. 20:10), whereas the fate of wicked people is referred to as “death” and being devoured (Rev. 20:9; Rev. 20:15). When you study this passage in Revelation closely, you find that it actually contradicts the eternal torment doctrine.
We have covered all of the texts used to substantiate the Church’s eternal-torment doctrine, which maligns the character of our gracious, merciful, kind and loving God. Although some of these passages could imply the eternal tormenting of people, there is not one that specifically and unequivocally states that this is the case! When you put these few vague and inconclusive references up against the massive, solid Bible evidence which I am about to present, it is difficult to understand why so many theologians still insist on misrepresenting our fair and just God. They insist that you must believe that our merciful and loving Jesus, who the Bible states “has no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11), will torture them throughout eternity. Based on a seventy-year lifespan, and if hell’s duration was limited to one trillion years, that is the equivalent of nearly 30,000 years of torment for each and every single minute that they lived on this Earth. That equals fourteen billion “units” of punishment as recompense for every single “unit” of disobedience! And, these numbers are based on spending just one trillion years in hell. However, eternal-torment advocates tell us that lost souls will be tormented there for trillions of trillions of years! This would eventually equal millions of years of pain and agony as supposed “just punishment” for each and every second that they lived on this Earth. Any reasonable and unbiased person should certainly agree that this is pure sadism.
In view of the fact that they have no actual, clear and unequivocal Bible texts that specifically state that lost sinners will suffer pain and agony in hell throughout eternity, proponents of this sadistic doctrine attempt to resort to feeble arguments of supposed logic. They ask why God would throw sinners into an everlasting fire if they are not going to suffer in it forever; moreover, they question why the Bible repeatedly refers to the hell fire as being eternal or everlasting, if sinners’ only experience a limited time of suffering in it.
I will answer their questions of logic with biblical and logical answers. To begin with, this frequent emphasis on the fact that the hell fire is never going to be extinguished, gives sinners the clear and forceful message that they are doomed to perish in this fire. “This fire is not going out, so they are not getting out alive.” However, undoubtedly the main reason that the Bible repeatedly refers to the hell fire as being eternal is because that is the accurate description of the fire. It is an eternal fire! God is accurately describing the hell fire’s duration. Do eternal torment advocates want God to use different, deceptive language to describe it? It is certainly not God’s fault that theologians have taken the duration of the hell fire, and then applied that duration to everything that is thrown into the fire. Also, it is important to remember that the fire needs to be eternal to punish the devil and his evil angels because they are “eternal beings”.
Furthermore, just because things are thrown into a particular fire does not necessitate that the items themselves will continue to burn for the entire duration of that fire. If you have told your friends to come to your home to enjoy an all-day bonfire in your backyard roasting hotdogs and marshmallows on an autumn day, does that mean that everything thrown into your bonfire will burn all day long, just because you’re making an all-day fire? Absolutely not! During the course of the day you will probably throw in some small twigs and branches that are consumed in minutes. You may also throw in some paper or plastic plates and cups from your meal, which will literally be consumed in seconds. And, there will unquestionably be logs in your fire that will burn for hours before being totally consumed and gone. You told your friends the truth when you said that it would be an all-day fire, but that did not mean that everything put into the fire would burn all day long! The various items put into your all-day fire actually burned for varying durations of time before eventually being consumed and gone. How long each item burned was determined by the composition of each item. This is a very important point. God is making an eternal fire, but that does not mean that everyone put into that fire will burn eternally. As with my all-day bonfire example, their duration of time in the fire before being totally consumed and gone, will be determined by their “sinful composition”. The more sin that is present, the longer they will burn.
This brings us back to the other supposedly logical question asked by eternal torment advocates. As I previously mentioned, they ask why God would throw sinners into the same everlasting fire that He uses for the devil, if they are not also going to suffer in it eternally. I have a very logical answer to their logical question. How many hell fires should God kindle to handle the various durations of punishment? Should He have a one-day fire for some; a one-week fire for others with more guilt; a one-month fire for those with even more sin; a one-year fire for those who had an abundance of sin throughout their lives; a ten-year fire for those who committed heinous sins against numerous people; and a seventy-year fire for those who are in a class by themselves, spending most of their lives murdering and torturing, such as Hitler and Stalin? I think God’s plan is much better. He uses the same fire to deal with all of the varying durations of punishment. And, He is making it eternal because it is being prepared for the devil and his angels who are eternal beings, as proven from Scripture earlier; moreover, so that it can “justly” torment them throughout eternity, because they were the ones who originated sin on this planet and who are responsible for billions of people losing their opportunity to have eternal life in heaven. Therefore, the fire must be eternal; one “logical fire” to handle all durations of punishment.
Eternal torment proponents remind us that the overwhelming majority of Christians espouse the eternal torment doctrine, and that it is only a very small percentage of believers who disagree with this teaching. If adherents to this doctrine think that such an argument increases the likeliness that their position must be correct, they have a faulty sense of biblical history. The majority of people have been wrong the majority of the time throughout history. There were only eight people who went aboard Noah’s ark. There were only seven thousand in all of Israel who had not participated in idol worship of Baal, which was probably less than one percent of the population. There were only 120 disciples in the “upper room” before Pentecost; this was after three years of tireless ministry by the greatest preacher, teacher and prophet in history, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said that only few would enter into eternal life, whereas many would travel the path to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Therefore, to base the correctness of your doctrinal position upon whether the majority of people are in agreement with your position, is a dangerous and slippery slope that biblical history suggests will probably result in embracing doctrinal errors.
Eternal torment advocates are also quick to remind us that the respected “church fathers” of past centuries also espoused the eternal torment doctrine. So what? The respected “church fathers” of the Old Testament era committed polygamy, but that did not make polygamy acceptable. There has always been error within the Church, so we must not base our doctrines upon the “church fathers,” but solely upon the Bible! We must not forget that the Bible records that Abraham lied, Noah got drunk, and David committed adultery and murder. Just because these respected “Old Testament” church fathers committed these sins, does not make these sins acceptable. It just stresses the importance of basing our doctrines solely upon the Bible, not upon the church fathers. It should also be remembered that even the precious doctrine of justification by faith had been ignored and contradicted by church fathers for a thousand years, until courageous reformers stood up and challenged the erring church hierarchy of their day during the Protestant Reformation. For many centuries church leaders had misrepresented God’s loving and gracious character regarding justification by faith, just as they’ve also continued to misrepresent His loving and just character down through the centuries by promulgating their eternal torment dogma.
I believe that many church leaders will find themselves being rebuked by God as Job’s friends were in Job 42:7, when God told them that His anger was aroused against them because they had not spoken of God correctly. They had maligned God’s character, and so have the proponents of this eternal torment dogma!
What is the final fate of the wicked, according to the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence? The Bible declares that the soul who sins shall die, not that he will be tortured forever (Ezekiel 18:4; Ezekiel 18:20). It also states that the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment (Romans 6:23). The prophet Malachi declares that the day is coming when the wicked will be burned like stubble, and they will be reduced to ashes under our feet (Malachi 4:1-3). If they have become ashes that returned to the earth under the feet of the redeemed who will occupy the “new earth”, how can they still be burning? The book of Psalms tells us that the wicked will be destroyed, perish and have no future, and that they will be no more (Psalm 145:20; Psalm 37:37,38; Psalm 37:10; Psalm 37:20). I will comment in more detail on these texts a little later.
Although we have already begun laying a strong foundation for supporting the annihilation of the wicked, rather than their eternal torment, we have only just begun to “scratch the surface” of dismantling and eradicating this horrid doctrine. The scriptures that follow will conclusively and overwhelmingly drive the final “nail in the coffin” to this repugnant teaching.
All of the scriptures that I am about to cite have two things in common. They all discuss the ultimate fate of the wicked, and they all utilize the Greek word, “apollumi”, to describe that final fate. This is significant because Scripture always uses this Greek word to mean destruction, perish, kill, die or fully destroy. The only exception to this rule is in a few instances when apollumi is translated as lose or lost, describing things that are lost and can be found, such as in Jesus’ parables about lost sheep, coins and people in Luke chapter 15. However, apollumi is never used to depict eternal torment or suffering.
Before I list the verses that use this Greek term to describe the final fate of the wicked, I will cite numerous other texts that also utilize the Greek word apollumi. Although these passages are not referring to the ultimate fate of the wicked, they conclusively show that this Greek word means to be destroyed, perish, killed or caused to die. Not one time in all of Scripture does it imply to be eternally tormented or tortured.
In Matthew 2:13 we’re told that Herod tried to apollumi, or destroy, the baby Jesus. Herod was not trying to torture Jesus forever, but rather to kill Him.
In Matthew 8:25 and Mark 4:38 the disciples warned Jesus they were about to apollumi, or perish, in the storm. The disciples were not saying the storm was going to punish them forever, but that it was going to kill them.
The Bible tells us that the Pharisees and priests plotted to apollumi, or destroy, Jesus (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47). These religious leaders were not plotting to torture Jesus forever, but to kill Him.
In Jesus’ parable about the wicked vinedressers, who beat and killed the servants sent by the owner of the vineyard, He said the owner would apollumi, or destroy, the wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:41; Mark 12:9; Luke 20:16). Jesus was not saying that the owner would torture them forever, but rather that he would kill them.
In Matthew 26:52 Jesus proclaimed that all who take the sword will apollumi, or perish, by the sword. Once again, Jesus was not suggesting that those who use the sword would be tortured with the sword forever, but that they would be killed with the sword.
In Matthew 27:20 we’re told that the priests influenced the multitude to ask for Barabbas to be released, and for Jesus to be apollumi, or destroyed. They were not suggesting that Pilate should torment Jesus forever, but that he should kill Him.
In Luke 13:33 Jesus stated that a prophet can’t apollumi, or perish, out of Jerusalem. He was not saying that a prophet could not be punished eternally outside of Jerusalem, but rather that a prophet could not be killed outside of Jerusalem.
Acts 5:37 states that Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew many people after him, but later he apollumi, or perished. This text does not mean he was tortured eternally, but that he died.
The Bible states that those who tempted Christ, and those who complained against Him in the days of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, were apollumi, or destroyed (1st Corinthians 10:9-10). They were not eternally tormented; rather, they were killed.
In verse five of the book of Jude, we’re told that some of those who had been saved out of Egypt did not believe and were later apollumi, or destroyed. They were not punished forever, but were killed. Verse eleven compares the evil men referred to in the book of Jude, to those who apollumi, or perished, in the Old Testament rebellion of Korah. Those who participated in that rebellion were not tortured forever, but were killed.
Do you recognize the pattern? The Greek word apollumi means to perish, be destroyed, die or be killed. It is never used to depict eternal torment!
Now we can get back to those other verses I mentioned earlier, which use the Greek word apollumi to refer to the ultimate fate of the wicked. Remember, we already know that this Greek word means to perish, be destroyed, die or be killed.
In Luke 17:26-30 Jesus said that the wicked in the days of Noah and Lot were apollumi, or destroyed. Of course, we know that in both instances the wicked were not inflicted with painful suffering forever, but were killed. It is very significant that Jesus said that it will be the same scenario when He returns; He said, “Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed”. In other words, once again, the wicked will be apollumi, or killed, not subjected to eternal torture.
In 2nd Peter 3:5-12 we’re told that the floodwaters in the days of Noah caused the wicked to apollumi, or perish. Did the floodwaters torture the wicked forever? No! They killed the wicked by drowning them. Then Peter goes on to compare that destruction of the wicked with the destruction that will occur in the hell fire. He uses the same Greek word, apollumi, in verse nine for those who will perish in the hell fire, as he did for those who perished in the flood in verse six. In other words, the wicked destroyed in the hell fire will experience the same fate as the wicked did in the flood, which was death, not eternal torment. The wicked who died in the flood did not drown forever, and, likewise, the wicked who perish in the fire will not suffer forever in it either.
A similar scripture is found in Luke 13:2-5, where Jesus proclaims that all who don’t repent will apollumi, or perish, not suffer eternally. Also, Jesus told Nicodemus, as recorded in John 3:16, that all who believe in Him will have everlasting life, and will not apollumi, or perish. The two options Jesus gave were life or death, not life or eternal torment.
In 2nd Corinthians 2:15-16, The Apostle Paul declares that we are the fragrance of Christ to God. He says that we are the aroma of life to those who are being saved, and that we are the aroma of death to those who are apollumi, or are perishing. Once again, the two options given by Paul were life or death, not life or eternal torment. Furthermore, the Bible plainly states, in 2nd Thessalonians 2:9-10, that those deceived by the Antichrist will apollumi, or perish, rather than to continue living in eternal agony.
Finally, Jesus eliminates all doubt in Matthew 10:28. After telling us not to fear men, who can only kill the body, He tells us instead to fear God, who will apollumi, or destroy, both soul and body in hell! Remember, we’ve already established that apollumi means to perish, be destroyed, kill or caused to die. It is never used to describe eternal torment! Therefore, Jesus is unequivocally stating that both body and soul will be destroyed, killed or caused to die in hell, not suffer throughout endless ages.
At this point, when eternal torment proponents know that their doctrinal position has been biblically defeated, they often resort to attempting to redefine the meaning of death. Many of them will say that the real meaning of death is not to “stop living”, but to be separated from God, which they say is what happens in hell. Therefore, they claim that when the Bible repeatedly speaks of the death of the wicked, it means the same thing as the wicked being alive in hell and separated from God. You know that someone is desperate when they find it necessary to start redefining words in an attempt to make them agree with their position.
I ask you to walk down the street and randomly ask people what it means to die or “be dead”, and you will receive the unanimous response that it means to “not be alive” or to “cease living”. If you consult an English dictionary, you will find that the primary definitions for the words “death”, “dead” and “die” are to stop living, be no longer living, be without life, stop functioning, end or destruction. The only exception to this unanimous understanding of the meaning of “death”, is when you’re talking to an eternal torment advocate who is trying to defend his unbiblical doctrine, and who therefore insists on redefining death as “separation from God”.
I have a question for eternal torment adherents. If the definition of death is “separation from God”, then, to be consistent, when a “believer” dies, wouldn’t he also be “separated from God”, rather than going to heaven? Now, at this point, if eternal torment proponents suggest that believers only go to “sleep”, and they don’t “die”; then, I must remind them that the Apostle Paul said that he was ready to die at Jerusalem (Acts 21:13). Paul also said, “You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together (2nd Corinthians 7:3). And, in Romans 14:8, Paul declared, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.” Furthermore, Revelation 14:13 states, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”. It is obvious that the Bible uses the words “sleep” and “die” interchangeably to depict death. Also, it is certainly significant that Scripture uses the same original Greek word for the wicked who “die”, as it does for the righteous who “die”; both the wicked and the righteous experience death. Therefore, as clearly demonstrated in the scriptures I’ve listed, believers do “die”. And, if to “die” means to be separated from God, then believers would also be separated from God.
However, eternal torment theologians won’t let reason, common sense, logic and honest consistency stand in their way. They’ve already resorted to redefining words in an attempt to save their sadistic doctrine, so they can easily take the next step of compromise by, not only redefining words, but also by only applying their “unique redefinition” to certain situations where their redefinition is necessary to support their doctrinal position. They do this by saying that their “separation from God” definition of death only applies to the death of the wicked, and not to the death of the righteous. Obviously, if we’re allowed to redefine words, and then allowed to selectively use our redefinition only in certain situations when it serves our purpose, we’ve created a format that allows any error-filled doctrine to be presented as truth. I am certain that eternal torment adherents would not allow their opponents, such as myself, to get away with using this kind of unique and selective interpretation. However, that’s alright, because we don’t need to resort to such questionable practices to defend our position, for we have a multitude of clear, authoritative scriptures that support our position, and which don’t require redefining in order for us to make use of them.
Before I move on, I want to make one more point regarding this “separation from God” redefinition of death. Eternal torment proponents agree that God is omnipresent, which means that He has infinite presence; He is everywhere. Therefore, even in hell the wicked are not actually and totally separated from God’s presence. This point is made by David in Psalm 139:8, where David says that whether he ascends into heaven or makes his bed in hell, God is there! So, once again, eternal torment advocates find themselves contradicting Scripture when they redefine death as meaning separation from God in hell. Who do you want to believe, the Bible, or fallible human theologians?
However, some of these theologians still try to save their cruel doctrine by claiming that David could not have meant “hell”, but rather the “grave”, because the original Hebrew word “sheol” is also translated as “grave”, and also because, according to these theologians, the concept of hell is not presented in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, for these theologians, they find themselves contradicting Scripture yet again. The concept of hell, as the place of punishment for the wicked, is indeed presented in the Old Testament. Here are just a few examples. Proverbs 7:27 teaches that the prostitute’s house leads to “sheol”, which is obviously referring to ”hell” for the prostitute, rather than the grave, because righteous people also go to the grave. Psalm 9:17 states that the wicked will be turned into “sheol”, which again obviously refers to “hell” for the wicked, rather than the grave, because, as previously stated, righteous people also go to the grave.
Many more examples could be given that would be similar to these two previous texts, where “sheol” is used to describe a destination that is meant for the wicked, but not for the righteous. And, because we know that the righteous also go to the grave, the other destination that is meant for the wicked only, has to be “hell”. However, there is another Old Testament passage that proves this point beyond the shadow of a doubt. Isaiah 14:15 states that Lucifer, Satan, will be brought down to “sheol”! I ask these eternal torment theologians, is Satan’s destination the “grave” or “hell”? Obviously, Satan’s destination is hell; therefore, also obviously, the concept of hell is indeed presented in the Old Testament, being taught and reinforced in the passages I’ve listed and in others that I could have listed. Furthermore, still more obviously, David is also referring to “hell” in Psalm 139:8, because he contrasts it with “heaven”, when he says that whether he “ascends to heaven” or lays in hell, God is there! And, therefore, we know that God’s presence is also in hell. After all, He is omnipresent, which means that He is everywhere.
According to the Bible, there is no place where anyone can truly be separated from God’s presence. This whole concept is a fabrication of desperate theologians who are trying to defend an unbiblical doctrine. Their attempt to redefine death is ludicrous and unbiblical. As the Scriptures repeatedly state, the wicked eventually “die” in hell. In other words, for the benefit of eternal torment theologians, they cease to live, period. And, let me state one more time, that to “die” does not mean to live forever in pain and agony, which the next couple of paragraphs prove beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Although I have already presented an immense amount of evidence refuting this unjust and sadistic doctrine, we will now apply some “frosting” to the biblical cake that we’ve “baked”; actually, several indisputable layers of frosting. It is significant that the Bible clearly states that only God possesses “immortality” (1st Timothy 6:13-16). Man does not possess immortality apart from the “new birth” experience in Christ. Without that new birth experience, there is no immortality for man. Lost people, of course, have not become born again in Christ; consequently, they have no “immortal soul” to live forever in hell. These are not my words, but rather are precisely what the Bible teaches. As I previously stated, the Bible declares that only God has immortality (1st Timothy 6:16). Because man does not have it on his own, Romans 2:6-7 states that he must seek for it (in Christ, of course). The Apostle Paul plainly states that immortality for human beings is only “brought to light” (made available) through the gospel of Christ (2nd Timothy 1:10). In other words, only those who place their faith in Jesus Christ have access to immortality. This undeniable truth is demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt in 1st John 5:11-12, where it states that God has given us “eternal life” in His Son; furthermore, this passage goes on to state that he who has the Son has eternal life, but he who does not have the Son of God does not have eternal life (Case closed!). Therefore, according to the Bible, it is impossible for people without Christ to possess immortality and live forever in hell!
This fact, that “fallen mankind” does not possess immortality apart from Christ, becomes obvious immediately after man’s fall, as recorded in Genesis chapter three. God found it necessary to ban Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and also to station angels to keep them from accessing the “tree of life”. The Bible clearly states that God did this so that they could not eat from the tree of life and live forever (Genesis 3:22-24). Therefore, the now sinful couple obviously had become “mortal beings” as a consequence of their sin, and God did not want sinful beings to become immortalized by eating from this supernatural tree of life. It is clear from this text, as well as many others that I’ve cited, that there was no “immortal nature” inherent within human beings after they had fallen into sin. And, according to the Bible, it is also apparent that the only means to receive immortality was by eating from the tree of life or by faith in Christ. Of course, the Bible records that God immediately cut off access to the supernatural tree, which left only “one means” to receive immortality, faith in Christ. The Bible plainly teaches that, without faith in Christ, there is nothing immortal within mankind. Therefore, it is impossible for lost sinners to live forever in hell.
This is, of course, in agreement with the rest of Scripture. Throughout the entire Bible the choice that is given to mankind is life or death, not life or eternal torture. The Bible clearly teaches that eternal life is only for those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. However, according to this “eternal torment” doctrine, the wicked also have eternal life. Their eternal life is a terrible and painful one, but it is still an eternal life. This is a blatant contradiction of Scripture!
Now we will go back to those passages in the book of Psalms that I said we would return to later. In Psalm 145:20 God states that He preserves all who love Him, but that He will destroy the wicked. The Hebrew word used for destroy in this text is shamad. This word, shamad, is also used in Psalm 37:37-38, where God declares that a wonderful “future” awaits the honest and good, but He also states that the wicked will be destroyed (“shamad”), and there future will be cut off, or, as the New Living Translation puts it in our modern language, they have “no future”. According to the “Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance”, shamad means to utterly be brought to naught, perish or annihilate. It goes on to emphasize that shamad always expresses complete destruction or annihilation. Therefore, the precise rendering of these two passages in Psalm 145:20 and Psalm 37:37-38, is proclaiming that the honest and good people who love God will be preserved and will have a wonderful future, whereas the wicked will be completely destroyed and annihilated, and will have no future whatsoever! They do not live on forever in torment. They are destroyed, annihilated and gone! As it also states in Psalm 37:20, “they are no more”. In view of the Bible’s usage of the Hebrew word shamad to describe the annihilation of the wicked, it is interesting and even humorous that eternal-torment preachers often refer to people such as myself, who do not accept their eternal torment dogma, as “annihilationists”. Why are we labeled as such? Because we maintain that God does not torture people forever, but rather that He does indeed annihilate them in the hell fire, based on the enormous amount of biblical evidence that supports our position. After all, we have just seen that this is exactly what God teaches us in the Bible. Therefore, I have “good company” in my belief, because God Himself is also an annihilationist. I think that it would be “fair play” for me to also come up with a descriptive title for all of the preachers who cherish proclaiming this “lovely” eternal torment doctrine. I accept the annihilationist title that they have given to me, because it accords with what the Bible teaches. I believe that an honest and accurate title for my opponents would be eternal tormentors or everlasting torturers. Unfortunately for them, however, the Bible clearly reveals that God does not keep company with them in their distorted belief.
There is no comparison between the voluminous weight of biblical evidence which clearly and specifically states that the ultimate fate of the wicked is to be utterly destroyed and to die; this is far more than the few vague texts used to support the eternal torment dogma, which refer to worms’ not dying and to smoke ascending forever. In order to hold on to this eternal torment doctrine, you have to intentionally choose to ignore a mountain of solid biblical evidence, in exchange for a few vague passages. Why would anyone want to do that, just so they can continue to portray God as a vindictive, cruel tyrant who enjoys torturing people forever? One day God will ask preachers and theologians why they insisted on misrepresenting His merciful, just and loving character.
Nevertheless, some still try to suggest that God’s torturing people forever is more loving than destroying them in the hell fire. This ridiculous assertion is easy to make until you or your loved one is the one actually experiencing the perpetual torture. Any family who has watched a loved one suffer during the final days of an excruciatingly painful and terminal disease, knows that, out of love for the dying person, they want the suffering to stop. Although they will miss their loved one, they tell them that it’s ok to stop fighting and to pass into the sleep of death. The family’s love causes them to do this because they don’t want to have their loved one suffer for additional days and weeks when there is no hope of getting well. Now, remember that the torment in hell is not for days and weeks, but for the trillions of years of eternity, according to the eternal torment advocates. If true love causes a family to desire death for their loved one, rather than having them suffer for additional days or weeks, wouldn’t true love also desire the “lost” to die in the hell fire, rather than to suffer in it for trillions of years? Any reasonable person knows that death would be preferable to living in agonizing pain, misery, torment and suffering every day and night, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, millennium after millennium, throughout the trillions of years of a ceaseless eternity. It is an insult to God to suggest that He demonstrates His love to “lost sinners” by torturing them forever!
A final important point to be considered is that the Bible teaches that we will be rewarded “according to our works”, both for those whose deeds have been good, and for those who have done evil (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12; 2nd Corinthians 5:10). In fact, the Bible specifically states that God will reveal His wrath towards the wicked on the day of judgment, by rendering to each one according to his deeds (Romans 2:5-6). If God is punishing each sinner “according to his deeds”, would he give them all the same length of punishment? And, if God is going to render to those who have done evil, according to their deeds, would He punish them for lives of seventy years of disobedience, with pain and torment for trillions of years without end? That would not be punishment based upon people’s works, but would be billion-fold and trillion-fold punishment. That would be far more extreme than the illustration I used of the judge who sentenced the jaywalker to a 50-year prison term. Psalm 62:12 also demonstrates this point. In the King James translation this scripture states, “Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; for you render to each one according to his work”. The original Hebrew word translated as “mercy” is the word “checed”, when spelled in English. This word is almost always translated as “mercy, merciful, kindness, lovingkindness, loving” etc, depending on which Bible translation you use. Therefore, Psalm 62:12 is telling us that, one way that God demonstrates His mercy, kindness and love to us, is by rendering or rewarding each person according to their works; thus, God’s judgment, will be conducted with mercy, kindness and love. He will not use billion-fold and trillion-fold measures of punishment, as sadistically taught by most preachers.
It is also obvious that, if we are rewarded or punished “according to our works”, then the rewards and punishments must necessarily vary based upon those works. Adolph Hitler and the grocery store thief, who robbed to feed his family in my illustration, cannot receive the same sentence of eternal torment in hell, if they are to be justly punished according to their works.
In Luke 12:42-49, Jesus Himself illustrates this principle. He clearly states that unfaithful servants are punished differently according to their personal measure of guilt. Some will be beaten with “few stripes”, whereas others will receive “many stripes”. After stating this, Jesus immediately refers to the “fire” He will send on the earth in verse 49. Is this a coincidence? Probably not, because it is in that fire where the wicked will receive their punishment, or “stripes”, so to speak; some will receive a few, and others will receive many. However, it is interesting to note that none of them will be beaten forever. This agrees with what David says in Psalm 28:3-4, where he tells God to measure out punishment in proportion to their wickedness. Likewise, in Psalm 98:9, the Bible declares that God will judge the peoples of this world with righteousness and “equity”, not with trillion-fold retribution. In the “Webster’s New World Dictionary And Thesaurus”, the first word listed to define “equity” is fairness. God will be “fair” when He judges the wicked and rewards them according to their works.
Now you can see why there is not even one Bible verse that specifically and unequivocally states that people are tortured with pain and agony throughout eternity. Because if there was such a verse, it would contradict numerous other passages of Scripture, and we know that God does not contradict Himself. The Bible does clearly state that the hell fire itself burns forever, and that the devil, his angels, the beast, and the false prophet will be tormented in that fire forever. However, there is not one verse in the entire Bible that specifically states that this is also the fate for wicked people in general. The closest reference to such an assertion is the Isaiah text which states that the worms or maggots do not die in the fire, and the Revelation passage which says that the smoke resulting from the torment of the wicked ascends forever. And, when you stop to think about it, even these two texts are in perfect harmony with the enormous amount of biblical evidence I have presented. Regarding the Isaiah text, bodies are not eaten by maggots while they are alive. The maggots appear after the body dies and is decaying. The maggots are the result of dead bodies. This is very significant! The maggots are the “result”, and in this case, concerning the final destruction of the wicked, the result is eternal death. The wicked are destroyed and have perished forever. Therefore, the maggots do not die, because they represent that “eternal result”. This explanation also applies to the passage in Revelation that speaks about smoke ascending forever. Smoke is the result of a fire. Long after many fires are extinguished, the smoke continues to billow and rise. Once again, the smoke is the result of the fire, and in this case concerning the final destruction of the wicked, the result is “eternal”, eternal death. Therefore, the smoke is said to ascend eternally.
It is much easier and more logical to find such a reasonable explanation for the few vague passages used by eternal torment advocates, than to blindly and stubbornly ignore the multitude of texts that unequivocally disprove this sadistic doctrine.
The real choice presented to people throughout the Bible is not eternal life versus eternal torture, but eternal life versus eternal death. From beginning to end, the Bible presents the choice of life or death.
Why is this issue of great importance? I believe it is extremely important if you truly love God. You would never allow the character of someone you truly loved, to be unfairly and falsely portrayed. If you had a kind and loving earthly father, but people were saying untrue and unkind things about him; wouldn’t you come to his defense and set the record straight? You know that you would! How much more so, should we defend the wonderful character of our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and be willing to make a stand for Them, and to set the record straight concerning Their gracious, kind, just, merciful and loving character?
Only God knows how many millions of people have chosen to reject Christ because of this sadistic teaching that portrays the God of Christianity as a vindictive, cruel and unjust tyrant. Those who choose to continue teaching this ugly and false doctrine will one day stand before Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge, to give an answer for what they have done. Remember, Jesus said that it is better to have a millstone hung around your neck, and be thrown into the sea, than to cause someone else to stumble (Mark 9:42). Only God knows how many have been caused to stumble and reject Christianity because of this ugly and distorted teaching. Romans 2:4 states that it is God’s “goodness” that leads people to repentance. Would the average person, who has not been previously indoctrinated with the Christian eternal torment teaching, consider it a revelation of God’s goodness for Him to punish “every minute” of disobedience with thirty thousand years of painful torment and agony?
I ask you to honestly ask yourself the following questions, and try to answer them from an unbiased perspective. If you had been raised in an environment with no Christian influence or teaching whatsoever, and someone told you that their God punished people fourteen-billion-fold, 30,000 years of agonizing punishment for every single minute of disobedience, would you view their God as being loving and just?
If you heard about some parents who locked their children in a hot dark room for six months each time they had been disobedient; furthermore, that once each day they placed their children’s hands on a hot stove during the entire six months of punishment; could anyone convince you that the punishment was justifiable, because the parents said that rebellion and disobedience were so offensive and repulsive in their sight, which is the reason given by eternal torment advocates to justify the eternal torture of the lost? You would totally reject and denounce such reasoning, and you know it! Yet, Christian preachers present a Heavenly Parent (God), who supposedly punishes billions ofmonthsfor each act of disobedience; moreover, this Heavenly Parent doesn’t just burn the hands once each day, but He burns the entire body non-stop, every second of every minute of every hour of every day throughout the trillions of years of eternity! Is it logical and consistent to declare the parents’ conduct in my illustration to be unjust, unloving and sadistic, but to simultaneously declare that the conduct of a God, whose punishment is a billion-fold more severe and painful, is somehow just and loving? Such an assertion defies reason, logic and any sense of equitable justice. And, even more important, such an assertion defies and contradicts the testimony of Scripture, as has been proven through the dozens of biblical texts presented in this article.
If your child, spouse or sibling was caught shoplifting a few DVD’s, then was brought before a judge, who gave your loved one the same lifetime prison sentence that he gave to brutal murderers; would you accept the judge’s argument that all violations of the law are deserving of the same punishment, because they all reflect the same selfish and disobedient spirit, which is the argument used by eternal torment advocates to justify their “one-size-fits-all” eternal punishment of the lost? You know that you would absolutely and vehemently reject and oppose this irrational argument, and that you would consider such a judicial decision and declaration to be ludicrous; moreover, you would denounce the judge’s sentence as being grossly unjust. Yet Christian preachers present a Heavenly Judge (God), who gives your lost loved ones the same sentence of eternal torment in hell that He gives to genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Stalin. Wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the trillions of years of eternity shall be the fate of your lost child, sibling or spouse, just as it shall be for these mass-murderers and even for the devil himself, according to most Christian preachers.
The feeble argument presented by these preachers, that God views all sin in the same manner, is not only ridiculous, but also contradicts the Bible. God does not view all sin as being the same. Jesus told Pilate that the sin of the religious leaders was greater than Pilate’s sin (John 19:11). Paul told the Corinthians that they were tolerating a sexual sin in their church that was worse than the gentiles would allow (1st Corinthians 5:1). And, it is common knowledge to any good Bible student, that there were many varying penalties for many different sins recorded in the Old Testament. Some sins bore the death penalty, but not all. Some sins were classified as being abominations, but not all. The Apostle John states that there are sins not onto death, and that there is sin that is onto death (1st John 5:16-17). Anyone who contends that God views all sin in the same manner is either dishonest or seriously lacking in biblical knowledge.
It should be obvious that this eternal torment spiel, being promulgated by most Christian preachers, depicts greater injustice than any judge, ruler or government has practiced throughout human history. Anyone who would attempt to characterize the administering of thirty thousand years of torture, as being equitable recompense for each and every minute of disobedience, has certainly flunked the “common sense” and sound reasoning test.
At this point, eternal torment advocates will often suggest that you can’t apply human reasoning to things that deal with God’s purposes and doctrines. Unfortunately, those who make this claim find themselves, once again, contradicting Scripture. God has told us to come and reason together with Him (Isaiah 1:18). We’re told that Jesus had been reasoning with the Sadducees and Pharisees concerning their doctrines (Mark 12:28). The Bible states that on numerous occasions Paul reasoned with Jews and Gentiles, as well as with the Roman ruler, Felix (Acts 17:2; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19; Acts 24:25). The Bible does not discourage the use of sound reasoning, but rather endorses it. In fact, it is when we forget to use “common sense” and sound reasoning that we get into trouble. God gave us brains and He expects us to use them! And, it is readily apparent that sound reasoning demands that we reject the grossly unreasonable, inequitable, unbiblical and unjust doctrine of the eternal torment of human beings. God does not practice that kind of unrighteous and inequitable justice. To the contrary, the Bible states that God judges with righteousness and equity (Psalm 98:9).
It is time for the Church to repent for teaching such a heinous doctrine that maligns the character of God. The kind of God that most preachers have been presenting has a system of justice that they would denounce if it was used by any judge, ruler or government. Such a system of justice that repays every second of disobedience with the equivalent of fifty or sixty years of punishment, would be considered an outrage if employed anywhere on this planet; yet the Church has insisted on attributing a system of justice to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that allegedly eventually repays every second of disobedience with millions of years of punishment! This is an outrage! Church leaders are slandering the character of our gracious Heavenly Father and of our merciful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and that He asks them why they will die (Ezekiel 33:11). The kind of God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, does not punish them throughout the trillions of years of eternity, as supposed justice for a life of seventy years of disobedience. It is also significant that God asks them why they will “die” in this passage. He does not ask them why they will suffer torment forever.
You now have the biblical evidence, and it is obvious that it overwhelmingly contradicts and refutes the eternal torment doctrine. If preachers choose to reject the overwhelming evidence that I’ve presented, their argument is not with me, but with God Himself. I will not be the one who will be calling them to account for misrepresenting and maligning God’s character. They will stand before Jesus Christ Himself, the Righteous Judge, to explain why they have insisted on portraying His character in such an offensive and repulsive manner.
I challenge the Church to abandon this vindictive and sadistic doctrine, which presents a God of torture instead of a God of love and a God of equitable justice. If the Church refuses to do so, the rebuke spoken to Job’s friends for misrepresenting God’s character, will also be spoken to the Church. God declared that His anger was aroused against them, because they had not spoken what was right about Him (Job 42:7). Proponents of the eternal torment dogma should seriously consider these relevant words of admonition spoken by God, for they too are speaking words that are not right about God regarding their “manmade doctrine” of the eternal torment of lost sinners.