[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
Hell A Terrifying Mystery
Atheists, agnostics, and secular materialists ridicule the religious concepts of heaven and hell. To them, and other non-religious people, it appears totally illogical to condemn people to an ever-burning hellfire when they had no way to avoid it. Why do the vast majority of professing Christians believe that sinners who never even heard the name of Jesus Christ are being tormented forever?
Today’s common idea of hell comes mostly from the famous poem by Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia or The Divine Comedy. It was written more than 700 years ago. Dante’s poem consists of three parts, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso—or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. His vivid description of souls writhing in agony colors the beliefs of millions even to this day.
What does your Bible really teach about hell? Are there immortal souls even at this moment writhing and screaming in the flames of hell? You may be shocked to learn from your own Bible that no one is burning hell right now! That’s right! And you can prove it from your own Bible!
Perhaps you have wondered about your future. Have you asked yourself, “Will I go to hell when I die?” Perhaps someone has even cursed you and told you to go to hell. My friends, let’s understand! The Bible refers to three conditions or three states of hell. But what is hell? And will you go there? Stay tuned for the surprising answer!
Who Believes in Hell?
Warm greetings to all our friends around the world!
What happens to you when you die? Will you go to heaven, or hell? Or will you just sleep in the grave until the resurrection? Think of all the billions who have ever lived. Did their lives have any purpose? Will they have a future hope? What is the truth? Is death the end? Is there life after death?
On today’s program, we’ll answer those questions. And we’ll be offering you an inspiring free booklet titled, Is This The Only Day of Salvation? My friends, you need to know the truth about life after death! This booklet reveals from the Bible the inspiring hope we ALL have beyond death! Are all those who never heard the name of Christ burning in hell? Wouldn’t that be unfair? This booklet explains the truth about those billions of people blinded over the past several thousand years, and reveals their future hope of salvation! This free booklet, Is This the Only Day of Salvation?, answers that question and explains the resurrection from the dead, and the amazing White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20. Relatively few professing Christians understand the inspiring truth of the White Throne Judgment. You need to understand! This free booklet will give you comfort and encouragement from your own Bible, and it’ll give you hope for the future. Contrary to what many believe, there is hope for the thousands of disaster victims whose life was cut short. And there is hope for your deceased loved-ones. You need this inspiring booklet. You need the truth about hell and what happens when you die! Just request YOUR FREE booklet, Is This the Only Day of Salvation? You can order this free booklet on our Web site at tomorrowsworld.org, or you can call the number on your screen. Be sure to write down the address and phone number to order your free copy. Just ask for the booklet on salvation.
The idea of a tormenting hellfire can be troubling to anyone. What do people believe regarding the existence of hell? According to a 2015 Pew Forum report, 58 percent of Americans believe in Hell (“Most Americans believe in heaven … and hell,” Pew Research Center, PewResearch.org, November 10, 2015).
That’s a big drop since a Gallup Poll in 2007 found that 69% believed in Hell. The Pew study found that 82 percent of evangelicals profess a belief in Hell. Even 27 percent of “nones”—people claiming no particular religious affiliation—say they believe in Hell (“Americans More Likely to Believe in God Than the Devil, Heaven More Than Hell,” Gallup News Service, News.Gallup.com, June 13, 2007).
But where did their beliefs come from? The most common idea of hell today was popularized in the famous poem by Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia or the Divine Comedy written in the 14th century AD. The poem consists of three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso—or Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. The poet Virgil guides Dante on his journey through hell. At the entrance to Hell is the foreboding sign, ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE (Elio Zappulla trans., Inferno, A New Verse Translation, Canto III, p. 39).
Virgil tells Dante about his tour of hell: “I’ll be your guide, and you will follow me / And I will lead you through a world of pain / Where dead souls writhe in endless agony / And clamor, as they cry, to die again” (Canto I, p. 24).
My friends, what is the source of your belief? Is it the colorful imagination of a medieval poet? Is it from ancient doctrinal traditions with pagan roots? Is it something you heard from a preacher, taken from a false idea of the Bible that you’ve never proved for yourself? What does your Bible really say about hell?
What really is hell? The word “hell” in your Bible, actually has three different meanings! From the biblical perspective it’s three different places or conditions: FIRST: Sheol (in the Hebrew) or Hades (in the Greek) means “pit” or “grave.” SECOND: Gehenna means the valley of Hinnom. Symbolically, it refers to fiery judgment, the lake of fire. And THIRDLY: Tartarus, which signifies the confining of fallen angels.
So you see, to use the word “hell” for all three meanings does NOT accurately communicate the truth of the Bible! You need to ask, “What particular hell are you talking about?” We’ll discuss the truth about biblical hell in the next part of our program, but first I’d like to offer you our free eye-opening booklet, Is This The Only Day of Salvation?
Who Goes to Hell, According to the Bible?
In the first part of our program we saw that today’s POPULAR idea of a tormenting hell-fire came from a 14th century poet, Dante Alighieri. My friends, false ideas of life after death come from a false premise. The false premise and teaching of an immortal soul leads to all kinds of wrong conclusions.
Jesus told us that God is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna fire, that’s in Matthew 10:28. But can the soul be destroyed? Don’t you have an immortal soul? You may be surprised to learn that the early Roman Catholic teachers such as Origen and Tertullian adopted, from ancient Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras and Plato, the philosophy of the immortal soul. The philosopher Tertullian wrote: “For some things are known, even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many…. I may use, therefore the opinion of Plato, when he declares: ‘Every soul is immortal’” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p. 547).
My friends, we believe in the Bible, not Plato! Let’s see what Jesus said in the most famous verse in the Bible. It’s called the golden verse of the Bible. The most precious verse of the Bible. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should NOT PERISH but have everlasting life.” Jesus came that we might NOT perish or be dead for eternity. He came that we might NOT be destroyed forever or lose our life forever! Yes, the Bible teaches that humans are Mortal, not IM-mortal. As it states in 1 Corinthians 15:53, “[T]his mortal must put on immortality” at the Resurrection.
So, what happens to the mortal body at death? Does it go to Hell? First, remember that there are four words (one in Hebrew and three in Greek) translated “hell” in the English Bible. And each has a different meaning. What’s incredible in most discussions of the subject of Hell, is the assumption that the word “hell” automatically means eternal fire! It does not!
In the New Testament, there are three Greek words translated “hell”—and each has a different meaning. They are: Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus. The Greek word “hades” also means “grave” or “pit” as does the Hebrew word Sheol. It does NOT mean a place of fire. So when someone says the word “hell” it COULD SIMPLY MEAN (based on the Bible) THE GRAVE—NOT an ever-burning fire. In fact, both the NKJV and the NIV, as well as other more up-to-date translations, often leave the word “hades” un-translated. Be sure to underline those words in your Bible as you study this subject. Listen! The word Gehenna refers to the fire that will destroy the soul—that’s what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” or Gehenna fire.
The fourth word translated “hell” in the Bible is based on the Greek word “Tartarus.” This denotes a condition of restraint—and it does NOT apply to humans, but to fallen angels. Notice 2 PETER 2:4, “…God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment….” Tartarus is the hell for fallen angels.
But what happens to humans? Where does the body go when it dies? In the King James Version of the Bible, the Hebrew word often translated “hell,” is Sheol—which simply means pit or grave. It does not mean a place of ever-burning Hell fire! The Hebrew word Sheol occurs 65 times in the O.T. and in the King James Version it is translated as “grave” 31 times; “hell” 31 times; and “pit” 3 times. The New International Version of the Bible translates the word SHEOL as “grave” and never translates SHEOL as “hell.” The word SHEOL simply means a “pit” or a “grave.”
So, if we ask the question, “Who is BURNING in Hell?”—if we mean SHEOL, or THE PIT, or THE GRAVE—the answer is: “No one!”
We asked the question, “Will you go to hell?” Let’s realize, my friends, that every human being who has ever lived AND died, IS STILL DEAD. As it tells us in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment….” Yes, generally speaking, unless one is cremated, every human being who dies will be buried in a grave, or the hell of hades or sheol. So, in one sense, we all go to the hell of the grave, waiting a future resurrection. And no one right now, is burning in the hell of Gehenna or the lake of fire described in Revelation 20:14–15, which takes place at the end of the White Throne Judgement period.
Again, what is hell? As we saw, from the biblical perspective, it’s three different places or conditions: FIRST: Sheol (in the Hebrew) or Hades (in the Greek) means “pit” or “grave.” SECOND: Gehenna means the valley of Hinnom. Symbolically, it refers to FIERY judgment or the lake of fire. And THIRD: Tartarus, which signifies the confining of fallen angels.
But certainly there is a fire that will destroy the incorrigibly wicked?
What Does it Mean to Be Cast Into the Lake of Fire?
We’ve seen that the word hell in the Bible refers to three different places or conditions. The Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades in your Bible simply refer to the grave. But when the Greek word Gehenna is used, it refers to a fiery judgment as in Matthew 10:28. When and where is that fiery judgment? Long time viewers of Tomorrow’s World are familiar with God’s plan for all nations. First, we look forward to the Kingdom of God in the near future with the return of Jesus Christ to rule all nations for a thousand years. At the end of the Millennium or the thousand years, God will resurrect billions of people to physical life in the general judgment referred to as the White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20. At the completion of the judgment period, a full lifetime, every human being will have been given his or her full complete opportunity to be saved from eternal death. Read about this judgment in Revelation 20. Revelation 20:11, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, [this is the Resurrection to Judgment] and books [Greek, biblia, meaning the Bible] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:11–12).
Yes, billions of people will have their first opportunity for salvation, to be saved from eternal death. The Book of Life will be opened to them! However, at the end of that judgment period, those who refuse to obey God, those who have sealed their character as evil, will be thrown into the lake of fire. Read that in Revelation 20. “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14–15).
My friends, incorrigibly wicked human beings will be resurrected from Hades, the grave, given their final judgment, and completely destroyed in the lake of fire. They will perish. They will die the SECOND death, from which there is no resurrection. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, God is “able to destroy both soul and body” in Gehenna fire. That lake of fire will eventually encompass the whole earth, and it will purify the earth as you read in 2 Peter 3. God will prepare the earth for the New Jerusalem that will come down from heaven as you read in Revelation 21. Let’s read about that fire that will purify the earth, and how we should respond to that warning, 2 Peter 3:10, “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.”
The hell of Gehenna fire will eventually encompass the whole earth, preparing us for the NEW heavens and NEW earth. And who will be in that lake of fire? Turn in your Bible to Revelation 21. Faithful Christians will have inherited the earth, and eventually “all things” or the entire universe, as we’ve explained on previous programs. But the wicked will be destroyed. Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. [And WHO will be in the lake of fire? Verse 8] 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.”
My friends, you will not want the lake of fire. If you strongly desire to change your life, if you want to repent of your sins and be baptized according to Acts 2:38, we have representatives in many regions around the world. Just contact the nearest regional office listed in Tomorrow’s World magazine, or contact us at Tomorrowsworld.org.
The Apostle Peter gives us encouragement, and a warning. “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11).
But what about the scriptures that talk about an eternal fire?
Hope for the Dead
We’ve seen that the Bible plainly speaks of the SECOND death, the death from which there is no resurrection. The wicked, both their soul and body, are destroyed forever. They experience “everlasting punishment,” as Jesus said in Matthew 25:46. They will be dead forever. But some may ask about the expression in the epistle of Jude, the seventh verse. Jude writes concerning the judgment of evil people. Jude 7, “…as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
So, isn’t there an everlasting or eternal fire? Obviously, the fire is not still burning in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Greek word for “eternal” in this verse is aionion, meaning age-lasting. This is the way Young’s Literal Translation renders it: “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these, having given themselves to whoredom, and gone after other flesh, have been set before—an example, of fire age-during, justice suffering.” In other words, the fire of judgment lasts only for the age in which it was intended.
After the earth is finally purified with fire, the fire will cease and the new heavens and earth will prevail. There will be a fire burning on the earth throughout the Millennium, which will eventually engulf the entire planet. That is the fire into which the beast and false prophet will be cast, as you read in Revelation 19:20. A thousand years later, Satan the devil and his demons will be cast into that fire also—and they, Satan and his demons, will be tormented forever as it states in Revelation 20:10. “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are….” Notice that the word “are” in the NKJV is in italics. It should read, “where the beast and false prophet WERE CAST.” Yes, Satan the devil and his demons will be tormented forever. Revelation 20:10 “…And they [Satan and his demons] will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Yes, the lake of fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels” as it states in Matthew 25:41. By contrast, the wicked human beings thrown into it will perish and be destroyed!
Thank God for His awesome plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. One of the most amazing truths of your Bible is the White Throne Judgment. It gives hope for billions now in their graves. Our inspiring free booklet Is This The Only Day of Salvation? will help you understand the true hope of the resurrection. Be sure to request your free copy. Is there an ever-burning hellfire? No, there is not! My friends, the good news is that no one is now burning in hell. All are in the grave awaiting the resurrection. God is just! Eventually, the incorrigibly wicked will be thrown into the lake of fire and will be destroyed forever. We pray that all of you will choose God’s way of life, and receive the GIFT of eternal life!
A 2015 Barna Research report polled people who said they had made “a personal commitment to Jesus” and discovered: “About one in seven admit they don’t know what will happen after they die (15%)” (“What Do Americans Believe About Jesus? 5 Popular Beliefs,” Barna, Barna.org, April 1, 2015).
But YOU CAN know! You need to know the truth about hell and the afterlife! Again, this inspiring free booklet Is This The Only Day of Salvation? is vital to understanding life after death. You need this booklet. Call now for your free copy.