Is Hell Eternal? (1 of 3)

Q. I asked a pastor what’s his position on hell because I have never heard him preach on the subject, nor could I find anything in his church’s statement of faith on the website. He said there are different schools of thought among evangelicals on how they interpret hell. Since he wants to be inclusive in reaching all people, he doesn’t want to alienate anyone by preaching on this controversial topic. What’s your view?

A. My view on hell? Or my view on the pastor’s stance? Before I tell you my view, let’s review what the Bible says about hell. The word hell appears 13 times in 13 verses in the NASB. (I use the NASB as it is one of the most literal English translations from a word-for-word perspective.)

  • Mt 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
  • Mt 5:29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
  • Mt 5:30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
  • Mt 10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
  • Mt 18:9 If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
  • Mt 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
  • Mt 23:33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
  • Mk 9:43-44 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,  [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
  • Mk 9:45-46 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
  • Mk 9:47-48 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,  where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
  • Lk 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
  • Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
  • 2 Pet 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

All 11 verses in the Gospels are spoken by the Lord Himself. “Hell” translates the Greek word “geenna”, which is the place of the future punishment called “Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”. This was originally the Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.  

Jas 3:6 does not refer to the fate of the wicked. 2 Pet 2:4 translates the Greek word “tartaroo”, the name of the subterranean region, mournful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews.

Our observations from the above consist of:

  • Hell is where the guilty (Mt 5:22) are sentenced (Mt 23:33) and reserved for judgment (2 Pet 2:4);
  • It is a place of unquenchable fire (Mt 5:22, 18:9; Mk 9:43, 44, 46, 48) where the worm never dies, but also darkness (2 Pet 2:4);
  • The whole body and soul are cast into hell (Mt 5:29-30, 10:28, 18:9; Mk 9:43, 45, 47);
  • God is the One who cast the guilty into hell (Mt 10:28; Lk 12:5; 2 Pet 2:4).

(To be continued)

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