Tag Archives: Last Judgment

Case Closed

21 Nov
The jury is in, the verdict read … case closed! Few thoughts could be more sobering. The day is fast approaching when every person who has ever lived will have their lives reviewed before the all-knowing eyes of God (2 Corinthians 5:10). But don’t let this alarm you – take heart! Millions have already found the judgment message in this Study Guide to be very good news! On four occasions when the book of Revelation mentions the great judgment, it brings forth praise and thanksgiving! But did you know that the Bible mentions judgment more than a thousand times? Almost every Bible writer refers to it, so its importance cannot be overemphasized. In the next few minutes, you’re going to get a real eye-opener in this neglected subject.
First Phase of the Final Judgement

1. The angel Gabriel gave Daniel the prophecy of the 1844 heavenly judgment.  The first phase of the judgment is called the pre-advent judgment because it takes place before Jesus’ second coming.  What group of people will be considered in the first phase of the judgment?  When does it end?

“Judgment must begin at the house of God.” 1 Peter 4:17. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”  Revelation 22:11, 12.  (See also 1 Timothy 3:15.)

Answer:   It ends just before the second coming of Jesus.  Those (living and dead) who claimed to be Christians–“the house of God”–will be considered in the pre-advent judgment.  (The 1844 date is established in Study Guide 18.)

Jesus stands with His faithful people in the judgment and promises them a positive verdict.

Jesus stands with His faithful people in the judgment and promises them a positive verdict.

2. Who presides at the judgment?  Who is the defense attorney?  The judge?  The accuser?  Who are the witnesses?

“The Ancient of days did sit, … his throne was like the fiery flame.”  “The judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9, 10.  “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. “The Father … hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” John 5:22. “The Devil, … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12:9, 10.  “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Revelation 3:14.  (See also Colossians 1:12-15.)

Answer:   God the Father, the Ancient of days, presides in the judgment.  He loves you very much (John 16:27).  Satan is your only accuser.  In the heavenly court, Jesus, who loves you, your best friend will be your attorney, judge, and witness.  And He promises that judgment will be “given in favour of the saints.” Daniel 7:22, NEB.*
*The New English Bible, (C) 1961, 1970 by the Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.

Evidence presented in the judgment comes from the books of heaven.

Evidence presented in the judgment comes from the books of heaven.

3. What is the source of evidence used in the pre-advent judgment?  By what standard will all be judged?  Since God already knows everything about every person, why have a judgment?

“The judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:10.  “The dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:12.  “They … shall be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:12.  “We are made a spectacle [theater] unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” 1 Corinthians 4:9.

Answer:   Evidence for court comes from books in which all details of one’s life are recorded.  For the faithful, the record of prayer, repentance, and forgiveness of sin will be there for all to see.  The records will prove that God’s power enables Christians to live changed lives. God is pleased with His saints and will delight in sharing the evidence of their lives. The judgment will confirm that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1.
The Ten-Commandment law is God’s standard in the judgment (James 2:10-12).  Breaking His law is sin (1 John 3:4).  The righteousness of the law will be fulfilled by Jesus in all of His people (Romans 8:3, 4).  To claim that this is impossible is to doubt Jesus’ word and His power.
The judgment is not to inform God.  He is already fully informed (2 Timothy 2:19).  However, the redeemed people will be coming to heaven from a world that has been degraded by sin.  Both the angels and the inhabitants of other unfallen worlds would certainly feel uneasy about admitting anyone to God’s heavenly kingdom who might start sin all over again.  Thus, the judgment will open to them every detail and answer every question.  Satan’s real aim has always been to discredit God as unfair, ruthless, unloving, and untruthful.  This makes it even more important for all beings in the universe to see firsthand how extremely patient God has been with sinners.  The vindication of God’s character is the prime purpose of the judgment (Revelation 11:16-19 15:2-4 16:5, 7 19:1, 2 Daniel 4:36, 37).  Note that the praise and glory are given to God for the way He handles the judgment.

Every facet of a person's life will be reviewed in the judgment.

Every facet of a person’s life will be reviewed in the judgment.

4. What portion of a person’s life is considered in the pre-advent judgment?  What will be confirmed? How will rewards be decided?

“God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14. “Let both [wheat and tares] grow together until the harvest.” “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.”
Matthew 13:30, 41. “Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12.

Answer:   Every detail of life will be reviewed, including secret thoughts and actions.  For this reason, this first phase of the judgment is also called the investigative judgment.  The judgment will confirm who will be saved of those who claimed to be Christians.  It will doubtless also confirm as lost those whose names are not judged in the pre-advent judgment.  Although we are saved by grace, rewards will be given based on works, deeds, or conduct, which prove the genuineness of a Christian’s faith (James 2:26).

Second Phase of the Final Judgement

5. What group is involved in the heavenly judgment during the 1,000 years of Revelation chapter 20?  What is the purpose of this second phase of the judgment?

“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? … Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”
1 Corinthians 6:2, 3.  “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.” Revelation 20:4.

Answer

Answer:   The “saints,” or righteous people of all ages who Christ takes to heaven in the cloud at His second coming, will be participating in this second phase of the judgment.
Suppose a family discovered that their much-beloved son who was murdered was not in heaven.  But the murderer was.  Doubtless they would need some answers.  This second phase of the judgment will answer all the questions of the righteous.  The life of every lost person (including Satan and his angels) will be carefully reviewed by the righteous, who will then totally agree with Jesus’ decisions regarding the reward for each one.  It will become obvious to all that the judgment is no arbitrary matter.  Instead, it simply confirms the choices which people have already made to serve either Jesus or another master (Revelation 22:11, 12).  (For a review of the 1,000 years, see Study Guide 12.)

Third Phase of the Final Judgement

6. When and where will the third phase of the final judgment take place?  What new group will be present at this phase of judgment?

“His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem.” “And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” “All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem.” Zechariah 14:4, 5, 10. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.” Revelation 21:2.  “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall … go out to deceive the nations … to gather them together to battle.” Revelation 20:7, 8.

The wicked will try to attack the holy city.

The wicked will try to attack the holy city.

Answer:   The third phase of the judgment will take place on the earth at the close of the 1,000 years of Revelation chapter 20, after Jesus’ return to earth with the holy city.  All the wicked who have ever lived, including the devil and his angels, will be present.  At the close of the 1,000 years, the wicked dead of all ages will be raised (Revelation 20:5).  Satan immediately launches a powerful propaganda campaign to deceive them.  Amazingly, he succeeds in convincing the nations of earth that they can capture the holy city.

7. What happens next?

“They went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city.” Revelation 20:9.

Answer:   The wicked surround the city and prepare to attack.

The third phase of the judgment will interrupt the plan to attack the city.

The third phase of the judgment will interrupt the plan to attack the city.

8. What interrupts their battle plan, and with what results?

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:12. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:10. “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:11, 12.

Answer:   Unexpectedly, without warning, God appears with almost paralyzing brightness above the city (Revelation 19:11-21).  The moment of truth has arrived.  Every lost soul since the world began, including Satan and his angels, now faces God in judgment.  Every eye is fastened upon the King of kings (Revelation 20:12).
Each Person Sees Own Life Reviewed Then each lost soul recalls his own life story:  God’s constant, warm, pleading calls to repent that wooing, still, small voice the awesome conviction that often came the repeated refusals to respond.  It is all there.  Its accuracy is incontestable.  Its facts are irrefutable.  God wants the wicked to fully understand.  He will provide any details desired in order to make all things clear.  The books and records are available.
No Cover-Up God is not involved in some celestial cover-up.  He has destroyed no evidence, erased no tapes.  There is nothing to hide.  Everything is open, and every person who has ever lived plus all the good and bad angels will be viewing this drama of all dramas.
The Lost Fall to Their Knees Suddenly there is a movement.  One lost soul drops to his knees to admit his guilt and openly confess that God was more than fair with him. His own stubborn pride kept him from responding. And on all sides now, people and evil angels are likewise kneeling. Then in one great, almost simultaneous move all remaining people and evil angels, including Satan, fall prostrate before God (Romans 14:11).  They openly clear the name of God from all false accusations and give witness to His loving, fair, merciful treatment of them.
All Confess That the Sentence Is Fair All confess that the sentence of death pronounced upon them is fairthe only safe way to handle sin. Of each lost person it can be said, “Thou hast destroyed thyself.” Hosea 13:9. God now stands vindicated before the universe. The accusations and claims of Satan have been exposed and unequivocally discredited as the perverse lies of a hardened sinner.

Fire from heaven will eradicate sin and sinners for eternity.

Fire from heaven will eradicate sin and sinners for eternity.

9. What final steps will eradicate sin from the universe and provide a secure home and future for the righteous?

“They … compassed the camp of the saints about, … and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.  And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:9, 10.  “For they [the wicked] shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” Malachi 4:3. “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.” Isaiah 65:17. “Look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:13. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, … and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them.” Revelation 21:3.

Answer:   Fire from heaven will fall upon the wicked.  The fire will completely eradicate sin and sinners from the universe forever.  (See Study Guide 11 for full details on hellfire.)  This will be a time of deep sadness and trauma for God’s people.  Virtually every person will have a loved one or friend in the fire.  Guardian angels will probably shed tears over the loss of the people they protected and loved for years.  Even Christ will doubtless weep over those He loved and plead with so long.  At that awful moment the anguish of God, our loving Father, over the terrible cost of sin will defy description.
New Heavens and Earth Then the Lord will wipe all tears away from His redeemed people (Revelation 21:4) and create new heavens and a new earth lovely beyond description for His saints.  And best of all, He will reside here with His people throughout eternity.  No thinking person would want to miss that.

The sacrificed animal represented Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

The sacrificed animal represented Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

10. How did the “day of atonement” service in the Old Testament earthly sanctuary symbolize the judgment and God’s plan to eradicate sin from the universe and restore perfect harmony?

Answer:   In Study Guide 2, we learned how Satan falsely accused and challenged God and brought the ugly malignancy of sin into the universe. The day of atonement in ancient Israel taught, through symbols, how God will handle the sin problem and bring harmony back to the universe by the atonement.  (Atonement means “at-one-ment,” or “to bring all things into total divine harmony.”)
In the earthly sanctuary, the symbolic steps were:
A. Lord’s goat slain to cover sins of the people.
B. Priest ministered the blood before the mercy seat.
C. Judgment took place in this order:
(1) the righteous confirmed, (2) the unrepentant cut off, and (3) the record of sin removed from the sanctuary.
D. Record of sin placed on scapegoat.
E. Scapegoat sent into wilderness.
F. People cleansed from their sins.
G. All begin new year with a clean slate.
These five symbolic steps represent literal atonement events which are instituted from the heavenly sanctuary, God’s celestial headquarters for the universe.  The first point above is the symbol of the literal atonement event of the first point below the second point above is the symbol of the second point below, etc.  Notice how clearly God has symbolized these great atonement events:
A. Jesus’ sacrificial death as man’s substitute (1 Corinthians 15:3 5:7).
B. Jesus as our High Priest restores people to God’s image (Hebrews 4:14-16 Romans 8:29).
C. Judgment provides records to confirm lives,good and bad, and then removes the records of sin from the heavenly sanctuary (Revelation 20:12 Acts 3:19-21).
D. Responsibility for originating sin and for causing all people to sin is placed on Satan (1 John 3:8 Revelation 22:12).
E. Satan banished into wilderness (1,000 years of Revelation chapter 20).
F. Satan, sin, and sinners eradicated permanently (Revelation 20:10 21:8 Psalms 37:10, 20 Nahum 1:9).
G. New earth created for God’s people.  Everything lost by sin is restored to the Lord’s saints (2 Peter 3:13 Acts 3:20, 21).
The atonement is not completed until the universe and all in it are restored to pre-sin condition with the assurance that sin will never rise again.

After the judgment, sin will be gone forever.  The righteous will be safe for eternity.

After the judgment, sin will be gone forever.  The righteous will be safe for eternity.

11. What is the good news about the judgment as revealed in this Study Guide and listed below?

Answer:   A. God and His manner of handling the sin problem will be gloriously vindicated before the entire universe.  This is the central purpose of the judgment.
B. Judgment will be decided in favor of God’s people.
C. The righteous will be safe from sin for eternity.
D. Sin will be completely eradicated and will never rise a second time.
E. Everything that Adam and Eve lost by sin will be restored to the redeemed.
F. The wicked will be turned to ashes, not tortured endlessly.
G. In the judgment, Jesus is our judge, attorney, and witness.
H. Both the Father and Son love us. It is the devil who accuses us.
I. The heavenly books will be helpful to the righteous because they will show how the grace of the gospel changed their lives.
J. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  The judgment will only make that truth evident.
K. Not one soul (man or angel) will complain that God is unfair. It will be unanimous that God has been loving, fair, gracious, and kind in dealing with all.

12. God promises to acquit you in the heavenly judgment if you will invite Him to enter your life and permit Him to remain in control.  Will you invite Him to enter your life today?

Answer:

Thought Questions

1. What is the difference between accepting Jesus as my Saviour and accepting Him as my Lord? The difference is substantial.  When I accept Him as Saviour, He saves me from the guilt and penalty of sin and gives me the new birth.  He changes me from sinner to saint.  This transaction is a glorious miracle and is essential to salvation.  No one can be saved without it.  However, Jesus is not finished with me at this point.  I have been born, but His plan is that I also grow up to become like Him (Ephesians 4:13).  When I accept Him daily as the ruler, or Lord, of my life, He, by His miracles, causes me to grow in grace and Christian conduct until I am mature in Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
The Problem – I Want My Own Way The problem is that I want to run my own life – have my own way. The Bible calls this “iniquity”, or sin (Isaiah 53:6).  Making Jesus my Lord is so important that the New Testament mentions Him as “Lord” 766 times.  In the book of Acts alone, He is referred to as “Lord” 110 times and as “Saviour” only twice.  This demonstrates how important it is to know Him as Lord and Ruler of our lives.
A Neglected Imperative – Making Him Lord Jesus placed continuing emphasis upon His Lordship because He knew that crowning Him Lord would be a forgotten and neglected imperative (2 Corinthians 4:5).  Unless I make Him Lord of my life, there is no way I can ever become a full-grown Christian clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  Instead, I will end up “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” and, even worse, feeling that I “have need of nothing”. Revelation 3:17.

2. Since the record of the sins of God’s people were transferred on the day of atonement to the scapegoat, doesn’t that make him also our sin-bearer?  I thought Jesus alone bore our sins. The scapegoat, which represents Satan, in no way bears, or pays for, our sins. The Lord’s goat, which was sacrificed on the day of atonement, represents Jesus, who assumed and paid for our sins on Calvary. Jesus alone “taketh away the sin of the world”.  John 1:29.  Satan will be punished (as will all other sinners—Revelation 20:12-15) for his own sins, which will include responsibility for  (1) the existence of sin, (2) his own evil actions, and (3) influencing every person on earth to sin.  God will clearly hold him accountable for evil.  This is what the symbolism of the transfer of sin to the scapegoat (Satan) on the day of atonement is meant to convey.

3. The Bible is clear that God forgives all sins which are confessed (1 John 1:9).  It is also clear that, though forgiven, the record of these sins remains on heaven’s books until the end of time (Acts 3:19-21). Why aren’t the sins blotted out when forgiven? There is a very good reason.  The heavenly judgment is not complete until the judgment of the wicked takes place—immediately prior to their destruction at the end of the world.  If God destroyed the records before this final phase of the judgment, He could be accused of a massive cover-up.  All records of conduct remain open for viewing until the judgment is completed.

4. Some say the judgment took place at the cross.  Others say it takes place at death.  Can we be certain the timing for the judgment as shown in this Study Guide is correct? Yes.  To make it possible for us to be certain regarding the timing for the judgment, God clearly specified it three times in Daniel chapter 7.  Notice God’s specific timing.  God left no room for uncertainty.  The divine sequence is stated three times (verses 8-14, 20-22, 24-27) in this one chapter as follows:
A. The little horn power – ruled A.D. 538-1798.   (See Study Guide 15.)
B. The judgment – begins after 1798 (in 1844) and continues until Jesus’ second advent.
C. God’s new kingdom – established at the end of the judgment.
So God makes it clear that the judgment does not take place at death or at the cross, but between 1798 and Jesus’ second coming.  Remember that the first angel’s message is in part, “The hour of his judgment is come”. Revelation 14:6, 7.  God’s end-time people must be telling the world that the final judgment is in session now!

5. What important lessons can we learn from our study of the judgment? Notice the following five points:
A. God may seem to take a long time before He acts, but His timing is right.  No lost person will ever be able to say “I didn’t understand” or “I didn’t know”.
B. Satan and evil of all kinds will ultimately be dealt with by God in the judgment.  Since the judgment is God’s work and He has all the facts, we should stop judging others and let God do it.  It’s a serious matter for us to take over God’s work of judging.  It’s usurping His authority.
C. God leaves us all free to decide how we will relate to Him and who we will serve.  However, we must be prepared for serious consequences when we decide contrary to His Word.
D. God loves us so much that He has given us the books of Daniel and Revelation to make these end-time issues clear.  Our only safety lies in listening to Him and following His counsel from these great prophetic books.
E. Satan is determined to destroy every one of us.  His deceiving strategies are so effective and so convincing that all but a very few will be ensnared.  Without Jesus’ resurrection power in our lives daily to protect us from the devil’s traps, we will be devastated by Satan.

 

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Is The Devil In Charge Of Hell?

11 Nov
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 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!
The wicked will not be punished until after the judgment.

The wicked will not be punished until after the judgment.

1. How many lost souls are being punished in hell today?

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” 2 Peter 2:9.

Answer:   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.

Sinners will be cast into hellfire at the end of the world -- not when they die.

Sinners will be cast into hellfire at the end of the world — not when they die.

2. When will sinners be cast into hellfire?

“So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and  them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire.” Matthew 13:40-42. “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:48.

Answer:   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.

All who have died, both good and evil, are in their graves awaiting the resurrection.

All who have died, both good and evil, are in their graves awaiting the resurrection.

3. Where are sinners (who have died) now?

“The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29. “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.

Answer:   The Bible is specific. Both the wicked and the righteous who have died are in their graves “sleeping” until the resurrection day.

Jesus died to save us from our sins.  Those who do not accept His gift of salvation will receive death.

Jesus died to save us from our sins.  Those who do not accept His gift of salvation will receive death.

4. What is the end result of sin?

“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:15. “God … gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

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

The wicked are not immortal.  The Bible says they will

The wicked are not immortal.  The Bible says they will “perish”, “burn up” and “be destroyed”.

5. What will happen to the wicked in hellfire?

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.

Answer:   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 “only hath 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 for ever.” 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.
Bible Clear – Wicked Obliterated The Bible says the wicked suffer “death” (Romans 6:23), will suffer “destruction” (Job 21:30), “shall perish” (Psalms 37:20), will “burn” up (Malachi 4:1), “shall be destroyed together” (Psalms 37:38), will “consume away” (Psalms 37:20), “shall be cut off” (Psalms 37:9), “shall be slain” (Psalms 62:3). God will “destroy” them (Psalms 145:20), and “fire shall devour them” (Psalms 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.

At the end of the world, fire will fall from heaven upon the wicked and devour them.

At the end of the world, fire will fall from heaven upon the wicked and devour them.

6. When and how will hellfire be kindled?

“So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man … shall cast them into a furnace of fire.” Matthew 13:40-42. “They went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Revelation 20:9. “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.” Proverbs 11:31.

Answer:   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.

Hell will be the entire world on fire.  It will be 25,000 miles in circumference--its heat so great that everything on earth will be

Hell will be the entire world on fire.  It will be 25,000 miles in circumference–its heat so great that everything on earth will be “burned up”.

7. How big and how hot will hellfire be?

“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10.

Answer:   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 therein.” The atmospheric heavens will explode and “pass away with a great noise.”

Jesus will insist upon just treatment for the wicked.  Their degree of punishment will be fair and according to their works, as He promised.

Jesus will insist upon just treatment for the wicked.  Their degree of punishment will be fair and according to their works, as He promised.

8. How long will the wicked suffer in the fire?

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as  his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12. “And then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Matthew 16:27. “That servant, which knew his lord’s will, and … neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Luke 12:47, 48.

Answer:   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.

God will recreate a new world where no trace of the former evils of this world will be seen.

God will recreate a new world where no trace of the former evils of this world will be seen.

9. 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: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.” Isaiah 47:14. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:1, 4.

Answer:   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 it.” 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 worst of war atrocities. An eternal hell of torment would be hell for God also, who loves even the vilest sinner.

The fires will burn until only ashes are left.  Even the bones will be completely gone.

The fires will burn until only ashes are left.  Even the bones will be completely gone.

10. What will be left when the fire goes out?

“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1, 3.

Answer:   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 Psalms 37:10, 20, the Bible says the wicked will go up in smoke and be completely destroyed.

The fire from heaven will fall upon the wicked and destroy them, both body and soul.

The fire from heaven will fall upon the wicked and destroy them, both body and soul.

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

“It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:30. “Rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20.

Answer:   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.

The devil will be completely destroyed by fire.

The devil will be completely destroyed by fire.

12. Will the devil be in charge of hellfire?

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:10. “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. … And never shall thou be any more.” Ezekiel 28:18, 19.

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

13. Does the word “hell” as used in the Bible always refer to a place of burning or punishment?

Answer:   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.

Destroying sin, sinners, and Satan is the only way to make the universe safe for eternity.

Destroying sin, sinners, and Satan is the only way to make the universe safe for eternity.

14. What is God’s real purpose in hellfire?

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41. “And whosoever was 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 not be.” “The enemies of the Lord … shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” Psalms 37:10, 20.

Answer:   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 isolate sin and blot it 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, no one will be in heaven because he feared hell. People are saved because they love and obey Christ.

Jesus will be deeply saddened when He must destroy those whom He died to save.

Jesus will be deeply saddened when He must destroy those whom He died to save.

15. Isn’t the work of destroying sinners foreign to God’s nature?

“As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” Ezekiel 33:11. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:56. “For the Lord shall rise up … that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.” Isaiah 28:21.

Answer:   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.

After sinners are destroyed, God will create a fantastic new earth for His people, where they will live in peace, joy, and love forever.  Sin will never rise again.

After sinners are destroyed, God will create a fantastic new earth for His people, where they will live in peace, joy, and love forever.  Sin will never rise again.

16. What are God’s post-hell plans for the earth and His people?

“He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.” Nahum 1:9. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Isaiah 65:17. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” Revelation 21:3, 4.

Answer:   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.

Hell-Fire: A Twisted Truth Untangled

22 Oct

By Joe Crews

 

One of the most theologically confused subjects in the Bible is that of hell. It has been fumbled by the clergy and distorted by the laity until the word has become best known as a common vulgarism and expletive. Everywhere people are asking the same questions: What and where is hell? What is the fate of the wicked? Will a God of love torture people throughout eternity? Will the fire of hell ever burn the wickedness out of sinners?
These are questions which deserve sound Bible answers, and the controversy surrounding the subject should not discour- age us from exposing all the truth as it is in Christ. First of all, we need to understand that there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. Jesus taught that every soul will be either saved or lost. There is no neutral place, and there are no second prizes. “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, And them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Matthew 13:41-43.
In view of these two ultimate destinies for all who have ever been born, how earnest we should be in seeking to find the right way. Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The only absolute safety for anyone is to take exactly what Jesus taught about hell. His doctrine is the only one which is wholly dependable and true. He said some will be cast into the fire, and some will shine forth in the kingdom.
Strangely enough, Christ has been charged by many religious leaders with teaching a falsehood on this subject. They have accused Him of teaching that an immortal soul flies away from the body at death to either heaven or hell. This is not what Jesus taught at all. He never gave the least intimation that some disembodied soul separates from the body at the time of death. And surely He did not ever give the impression that the wicked suffer an eternal torment as soon as they die.
Now let’s get a sample of what Jesus really taught on the subject of hell. “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell …” Mark 9:43. These words of the Master prove beyond any shadow of doubt that it is the body which goes into the fire, and not some mystical soul. In Matthew 5:30 He spoke of the “whole body” being cast into hell. That means hands, feet, eyes, and all the other members of the physical body.
In contrast to the doctrine of Christ, modern pulpits resound with dramatic portrayals of imaginary souls leaving the body at death-souls that have neither substance nor shape. This view, popular though it may be, is totally contrary to what Jesus taught. Mark it well, for the great Master Teacher spelled it out repeatedly in the gospels-those who are cast into the fire of hell will go there with hands, feet, eyes, and all the physical features of the body. They will not go in some ethereal state of formless spirit or soul.
Now we are prepared to examine four great facts from the Bible which will illuminate most of the questions which have been asked about the fate of the wicked.
Punishment After the Judgment
The first important fact about hell is this: The unsaved do not go to any place of punishment as soon as they die, but are reserved in the grave until the day of judgment to be punished. Christ explicitly taught this truth in the well-known parable of the wheat and the tares. After the householder had sown the wheat in the field, his servant came to report that tares were growing among the grain. His question was whether he should pull up the weeds while they were still very small. The householder’s answer was, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:29, 30.
Now follow the words of Christ as He explains the meaning of the parable: “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:37-42.
No one can simplify the parable by enlarging on what Jesus said. It is so clear that a child can understand it. He said the tares represented the wicked people, and that they would be cast into the fire “at the end of the world.” It was in the harvest that the separation would take place, and He plainly stated, “The harvest is the end of the world.” How can anyone misconstrue these words of Christ? The whole idea of the wicked going into the fire at the time of death contradicts our Lord’s specific teaching that they would be cast into the fire at the end of the world.
Since the judgment also takes place after Christ comes we can see how impossible it would be for anyone to be punished before that time. Justice demands that a person be brought into judgment before being punished. Peter declared, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” 2 Peter 2:9. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? Suppose a man should be brought into the court accused of stealing, and the judge said, “Put him away for ten years; then we’ll try his case.” Listen, even a human judge would not be that unfair! He would be impeached for such an action. Surely God would not be guilty of such a farce.
If we let the Bible mean what it says, there can be no doubt on this point. The wicked are “reserved” until when? Until the “day of judgment.” To be what? “To be punished”! This means they cannot be punished before that judgment day. Does the Bible tell where they are reserved until then? Christ Himself said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29.
How plain! Jesus said that both good and bad will come forth from their graves to receive either life or damnation. This proves that from the time of death until they come forth in the resurrection they are not receiving any recompense or punishment. It all happens after they come forth. They are reserved until that day just as Peter indicated, but Christ spelled out where they will be reserved-“in the graves.”
If plainer words are needed, listen to Jesus speaking in Luke 14:14, “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Or hear Him again in Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” When is “then”? When He comes with His angels. No reward or recompense is handed out until the resurrection of the just, when He comes with all the angels. These verses are beyond controversy. Taken in their context, they contain no ambiguity or hidden meaning.
Again Christ is quoted in the very last chapter of the Bible, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12. Here He reminds us that “every man”-every person-will receive his just reward when Christ returns to this earth. Job declares “that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction. They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.” Daniel wrote that they which “sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2.  Can there be any doubt where the wicked are reserved before facing resurrection, judgment, and punishment? We have the testimony of Peter, Daniel, Job and the Master Himself. There is no room to quibble. They are reserved in the grave.
Now we come to the second great fact about hell: None of the unsaved will be cast into hell-fire until after the second coming of Jesus at the end of the world. Although we have already seen substantial evidence on this point, let’s look even more. Describing the punishment of the wicked, John wrote: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.
No Second Death Before the Resurrection
Here the lost are pictured in the fires of hell, suffering the punishment for their sins. And what is that punishment? “The second death,” says John. Do you realize what this proves about the wicked? It proves they will not be cast into the lake of fire until after the resurrection takes place. These people die the second death in the fire, but they cannot suffer a second death until they get a second life. They lived the first life in this world and died the first death, going into the grave. Before they can die a second death they must be resurrected-they must be given a second life. This, of course, is what happens at the end of the world. Jesus said, “All that are in the graves shall come forth.”
Now after getting that second life in the resurrection, the wicked will be punished for their sins in hell-fire, “which is the second death.” By the way, that second death is the final, eternal death from which there will be no resurrection. But the point to be noted is the time of this hell-fire punishment-it is after the resurrection at the end of the world. It does not take place at the time of the first death as so many have been led to believe.
Does the Bible tell us how the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire? Yes, it does. John describes the dramatic events that take place at the close of the millennium. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Revelation 20:7-9.
Here at the end of the millennium all the wicked people who have ever lived will come forth in the second resurrection. After describing how the righteous would come to life and reign with Christ during the thousand years, John wrote, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Revelation 20:5.
The rest of the dead, of course, had to be the wicked, and their resurrection will provide opportunity for Satan to take up his continuing battle against God and the saints. He goes out to gather the host of lost ones, who have been raised from the dead. He has people to deceive once more, and he convinces them that they can prevail against the New Jerusalem which has descended from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2). As they march up and encompass the city, the wicked are suddenly cut down by the devouring fire which rains upon them from heaven. This is the hell-fire which is the final punishment for sin.
Location of Hell
The Bible clearly asserts that this fire devours the wicked right here on “the breadth of the earth.” Every Bible writer who speaks on the subject of hell adds new insight on this second death of the wicked. Peter states: “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7. Then he goes on to describe the day of the Lord which will melt the very elements with fervent heat.
The language of Peter is very explicit about the place of punishment for the un- godly. He says this earth is reserved for that fire which will bring judgment and perdition to the wicked. Their punishment will be in this earth. Isaiah declared, “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” Isaiah 34:8, 9.
The prophet portrays the entire planet enveloped in the destroying fire. Even the streams and dust are transformed into an exploding combustion of pitch and brimstone. Isaiah says this is God’s vengeance and “recompense” at the end of the controversy.
David adds to the testimony with these words, “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” Psalm 11:6. Notice that he uses almost the same words as John and Peter in describing the fate of the wicked. All agree as to the place of the punishment (the earth) and the agent of punishment (fire).
This brings us to the third great fact about the subject of hell. Hell as a place of punishment will be this earth turned into a lake of fire at the Day of Judgment. But this also raises some other very interesting questions about the fate of the lost. One of the most intriguing and puzzling has to do with the length of punishment. How long will the wicked continue to live and suffer in that fire?
No one can answer that question precisely because the Bible says they will be punished according to their works. This means there will be degrees of punishment. Some will suffer longer than others. But one thing we can say with certainty-the wicked won’t live in that fire throughout eternity.
Hell-Fire Not Endless
There are several reasons for being so sure on this point. First of all, this earth is also declared to be the final home for the righteous. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek: For they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Peter, after describing this earth exploding and burning with a great noise, saw a new earth filled with righteousness. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:13.
The wicked cannot continue to live in this planet because it has been specifically promised, in its entirety, to Abraham’s spiritual seed (Romans 4:13). After being purged of all the curse of sin, it will revert to the first dominion, and to God’s original plan for it. It will be finally what God intended it to be-a perfect home for a perfect people.
In the second place, the wicked cannot continue to live in this earth because they have never trusted Christ for eternal life. It is only the righteous who receive the gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. …” John 3:16. But what about those who don’t believe in him? They surely will perish. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. Please don’t miss the pointed simplicity of these verses. The wicked are never promised life. They are promised death-eternal death. Only the righteous are promised life-eternal life.
But there is only one way to get life without end, and that is through faith in Jesus. John describes it this way: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12. Let me ask you a question: Do those wicked ones in the lake of fire have the Son of God? Of course not. Then how could they have life? John says, “Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15. Will those murderers in hell-fire continue to have life for eternity? Never.
It would be the rankest heresy to believe that eternal life could be obtained from some other source than Jesus. Where would the wicked get it? Paul declares that Jesus Christ “hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:10. Inspiration reveals no other source of immortality except through the gospel of Christ. Where is a text in the Bible which describes the conferring of immortality upon the wicked? You can read often about the righteous receiving it, but never the unbeliever.
Paul said, “Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
This text speaks of a certain point in time when the righteous will be instantly changed into immortal beings. That time is still future. It occurs when Jesus returns, at the last trumpet sound, when the resurrection takes place. Nowhere in the Bible do we read of the wicked being changed in this manner. And it is precisely because they never receive this gift of eternal life that they are unable to keep living in the lake of fire.
It is inconceivable and unreasonable to fabricate such an event. It is contrary to the Bible and repugnant to the senses. Ezekiel declared, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. No matter what we understand a soul to be, let’s accept the simple Bible fact that it can die and will die as a result of sin.
If the wicked live eternally in the fire, then they have the same thing as the righteous except in a different place. Who could give them eternal life but Christ? John 3:16 settles this issue so clearly and simply. Those who do not believe in the only begotten Son will perish. They will die. They will die the second death-an eternal death from which they will never be raised. That death will never end. It is an endless, eternal punishment, because it is an endless, eternal death.
Unquenchable Fire
Someone may raise this question: What about the unquenchable fire that burns the wicked? Doesn’t that mean it will never go out? Of course, it doesn’t. To quench means to extinguish or put out. No one will be able to put out the fire of hell. That is the strange fire of God. No one will be able to escape from it by extinguishing it. Isaiah says of that fire, “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a fire to sit before it.” Isaiah 47:14. After it has accomplished its work of destruction, that fire will go out. No one can deliver themselves from its flame by putting it out, but finally not a coal will be left. So say the Scriptures.
Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would burn with a fire that could not be quenched (Jeremiah 17:27), but it burned down to ashes (2 Chronicles 36:19-21). Read those verses and see how the Bible uses the word “quench.” It does not mean fire that will never go out. It only means what it says, “unquenchable.” It can’t be quenched.
And what can we say about the expressions “eternal” “everlasting” which are used to describe the fires of hell? There is absolutely no confusion or contradiction when we allow the Bible to supply its own definition of terms. Many make the mistake of applying modern definitions to those biblical words without reference to their an- cient contextual usage. This violates one of the most fundamental rules of interpretation.
The fact is that eternal fire does not mean a fire that will never go out. The same expression is used in Jude 7 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
It is quite obvious that Sodom is not still burning today. The Dead Sea rolls over the place where those ancient cities once stood. Yet they burned with “eternal fire,” and we are told that it was an example of something. What is it an example of? “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” 2 Peter 2:6.
There it is! That eternal fire which brought Sodom to ashes is an example of what will finally happen to the wicked. If this text is true, the same kind of fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha will also burn the wicked in the lake of fire. It will have to be eternal fire. Does that mean it will also burn the wicked to ashes? The Bible says Yes. “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch … And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1, 3.
No words of any language could make it more forceful or clear. This eternal fire burns up eternally. Even Satan, the root, is finally consumed. How consistent the whole picture appears as we let the Bible explain its own terms. What devious manipulation of words would be required to evade the obvious meaning of these words. Yet those who have been prejudiced by a lifetime of tradition can read those words “burn them up … they shall be ashes” and still insist that the wicked are alive and suffering.  Admittedly, there are some ambiguous verses on this subject, but we are finding that they all harmonize when the context is considered, and the Bible is allowed to be its own commentary.
Even Christ’s words in Matthew 25:46 are not confusing when we the obvious meaning. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Many are troubled over the expression, “everlasting punishment,” but notice that it does not say “everlasting punishing.” Whatever the punishment is, it will last eternally. Does the Bible tell us what the punishment is? Of course. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. So Jesus was simply saying that the death would be everlasting. It would never end. It would never be broken by a resurrection.
Paul simplifies it further with these words: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished … ” Now, listen, Paul is going to tell us what the punishment is. “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9. So the punishment is everlasting destruction – a destruction that is everlasting. From it there will be no resurrection or hope of life.
But what about that worm which dieth not? Many have read the words of Jesus about hell, “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:45, 46. Some have interpreted the worm to be the soul. Is that what Jesus meant? Nowhere in the Bible is there any allusion to the soul as a worm.
In this instance Jesus used the word “Gehenna” for the word “hell.” It so happened that Gehenna was an actual place of burning just outside the walls of Jerusalem. No doubt, Christ’s listeners could see the smoke curling up from the Valley of Gehenna, where dead bodies and garbage were constantly being burned. If anything fell outside the destructive flames, it was quickly consumed by maggots or worms. With the vivid scenes of utter extinction before their eyes, Jesus used the Gehenna fire as an example of the complete destruction of hell-fire. The fire was never quenched, and the worms were constantly at work upon the bodies-a picture of total destruction.
Perhaps the most easily misconstrued text about hell is John’s allusion to the smoke ascending “for ever and ever.” For those who are unfamiliar with other uses of this phrase in the Bible, it can be very confusing indeed. But a comparison of verses in both Old and New Testaments reveal that the words “for ever” are used 57 times in the Bible in reference to something that has already come to an end. In other words, “for ever” does not always mean “without end.”
Many notable examples could be cited, but two or three are noteworthy. In Exodus 21, the conditions are laid down concerning the law of servitude. If a servant chose to continue serving the master he loved rather than his freedom when it came due, then his ear was to be pierced with an awl and the Scripture declares, “He shall serve him for ever.” Verse 6. But how long would that servant serve his human master? Only as long as he lived, of course. So the words “for ever” did not mean without end.  Hannah took her son Samuel to God’s temple, where he would “there abide for ever.” 1 Samuel 1:22. Yet in verse 28 we are plainly told, “As long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.” The original meaning of the term “for ever” indicates an indefinite period of time. Generally it defines the period of time in which something can continue to exist under the circumstances prevailing. Even Jonah’s stay in the whale’s belly is described by him as “for ever.” Jonah 2:6.
Someone may object that this could also limit the life of the righteous in heaven, because they are described as glorifying God forever. The terms are the same for both the saved and the lost. But there is one tremendous difference in the circumstances involved. The saints have received the gift of immortality. Their life now measures with the life of God. Immortality means “not subject to death.” The words “for ever” used in reference to them could only mean “without end,” because they are immortal subjects already. But when “for ever” is used to describe the wicked, we are talking about mortal creatures who can die and must die. Their “for ever” is only as long as their mortal nature can survive in the fire which punishes them according to their works.
Soul and Body Destroyed
This brings us to the final fact concerning the fate of the wicked. After the unsaved are punished according to their sins, they will be wiped out of existence, both body and soul. Jesus states it very simply, “And fear not them which kill the body … but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.
In the light of this statement, how can anyone continue to claim immortality for the wicked? Jesus, the only One who can bestow the gift of life, rejects the possibility that those in hell can continue to live in any form whatsoever. The life will be snuffed out for eternity, and the body will be annihilated in the flames.
The psalmist wrote: “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” Psalm 37:20. “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” Verse 10.
The most powerful, definitive words in human language are used to describe the destruction in hell, but people still insist that the writers do not really mean what their words express. “Destroy,” “consume,” “burn up,” “devour,” “death”-do these words have some mysterious, opposite meaning in the Bible than they have in other books? We have no reason to think so. The fact is that theology has made an ogre out of our great God of love. He has been portrayed as more cruel than Hitler. Even though Hitler tortured people and experimented with them, finally he allowed them to die. But God will keep these deathless souls alive for the purpose of seeing them writhe and scream throughout eternity, so the theologians claim.
God’s Justice Vindicated
Not only is such a picture misrepresentative of God’s love, it also distorts His justice. Think for a moment about the implications of a doctrine that would consign every lost soul to an immediate, never-ending hell at the time of death. Suppose a man died 5,000 years ago with one cherished sin in his life. His soul would go instantly into the fire to be tormented for eternity. Then picture another death; that of Adolph Hitler, who supervised the deaths of millions of people. According to the popular doctrine, his soul also would immediately enter hell to suffer eternally. But the man who was lost because of only one sin, will burn 5,000 years longer than Hitler. How could that be just? Would God deal in such a manner? It would contradict the Bible statement that each one must be punished according to his works.
There are two extreme views in current circulation concerning the punishment of the wicked. One is Universalism, which contends that God is too good to allow anyone to be lost. The other is the awful doctrine of endless torment which would perpetuate for all eternity a dark abyss of anguish and suffering. Both are wrong. The truth lies in between. God will punish the wicked according to their works, but He will not immortalize evil in the process.
I truly believe that many honest souls have been turned away from God because of their revulsion at this misrepresentation of His character. They can’t love someone who would arbitrarily keep evil people in endless torment with no purpose in view. No rehabilitation is possible. Only a vindictive spirit of revenge could be served by such an unspeakable arrangement. Is God like that? After hearing the Bible truth about hell, a bank president threw his arms around my shoulders and said, “Joe, I’m a believer again. For years I’ve been an agnostic because I had been taught that God would torture the wicked eternally.”
No More Pain Or Death
Someday soon God will have a clean universe. All the effects of sin will be banished forever. There will be no sin, no sinners and no devil to tempt. It will be just exactly like God planned it in the beginning.
John described that future home in these words, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4.
Can you find any room in those precious words for any suffering on the part of anybody in the whole recreated universe? God said crying and pain would be no more. Do you believe His Word or do you choose to believe man’s surmising? Just four verses before writing this promise, John described how the wicked would be cast into the lake of fire. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” Revelation 20:15; 21:1.
That lake of fire is right here on planet earth according to Revelation 20:9. But please notice that this place where the wicked burn will pass away, and God will re-create the new earth in its stead. The new Jerusalem descends before that fire devours the wicked, and afterwards, according to verse 4, there will be no more sorrow, pain, crying, or death.      In order for no more pain to exist, there can be no eternal hell existing either. The two things are mutually exclusive of each other. We should thank God every day that His plan will finally bring an end to suffering. Satan will not be here to cause pain, and God promises that His new kingdom will not even contain a shadow of a pain.
Hell Not Intended For Us
Finally, we should rejoice that hell was never intended for you and me. Jesus said it was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41. If we stumble into that fire, it will be the most colossal blunder we could ever make. You would have to go there over the broken body of Jesus Christ and in spite of the Father’s love, the Holy Spirit’s pleading, and the heavenly influence of a million angels. The most unanswerable question in the whole world is this: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” There is no answer because there is no escape except through Christ and His cross.  No one will be lost because he sinned, because everyone has sinned. No one will be left out of heaven because he lied, stole, or committed adultery. The only reason anyone will be lost is because he refuses to turn away from his sin into the arms of a loving Saviour who stands ready to pardon and cleanse from all unrighteousness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
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