Theology of Hell


Just as in Judaism, Christians of various denominations differ considerable in their theology on Hell.  Apart from the heritage from Judaism, the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles and later developments had different levels of interpretations and meanings.


New Testament: 



In the New Testament, there are three words from the original Greek which have been translated into English as “Hell.” These are:


γε‘εννα (gehenna): A Hellenized version of the Hebrew Hinnom, which is both a name and a place in the Levant. It was here that King Ahaz burnt his children in fire, and made other profane offerings, for which YHWH arranged his defeat (2 Ch 28:1-5). Often this valley is referred to as the valley of “the sons of Hinnom,” or Ben-Hinnom in Hebrew. References to Gehenna, then, generally allude to the fires of profane sacrificial practices. The implication is that someone who is burned in Gehenna is being offered up to some other God — or to no God. This is the word most commonly used in the New Testament as “hell.” Note that in ancient Judaism, even in the Hellenized Judaism of the 1st century, the crime of King Ahaz was still regarded with some horror — thus, the name of Gehenna was treated with trepidation and fear.


αδης (hades): This is the name of the Greek god of the underworld, as well as the name of his underworld domain. Much of the time the god Hades was seen as the underworld equivalent of Zeus, who at least theoretically ruled above ground. However, there appear to be portions of the underworld beyond his control, or with which he does not involve himself. In Hellenistic literature the word hades was used to mean a variety of things: a grave or tomb; the domain of the dead; the dead, collectively (e.g. one's ancestors or forefathers); or what it had originally meant, the place where dead spirits end up after dying. In terms of the New Testament, it appears to mean a grave, or more specifically, a “dead end”     


ταρταρος (tartaros): This is a portion of the underworld in which those few dead who especially offended the gods during life, are trapped in eternal torment. Here one finds Tantalus, Sisyphus, and others enduring such fates. This word most assuredly refers to everlasting punishment, exactly as it did for the Greeks who told myths about Tantalus and the rest. As with the name Gehenna, Tartarus carried a rather horrific connotation, indicating as it did unending torture. Sheol is the Hebrew name and is associated with jewish theology which we have already covered

Usages of the Greek Names of Hell




















Gehenna is found in 12 verses: Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
Hades is found in 10 verses: Matthew 11:23, 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.
Tartarus is found only in one verse, 2 Peter 2:4.


The verses in which Gehenna is found, speak of it as a punishment for wickedness or misconduct; for instance, the first three Matthew verses are:


"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.... 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.... 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 5:22, 29, 30)


The verses using Hades speak of it as an underworld place, and metaphorically to mean destruction; for instance, the Luke 10 verse:


"And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! "(Lk 10:15)
















Tartarus, as noted, is only in one verse, and that is as a place of eternal torment for the “sinful angels”:

"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 "(2 Pt 2:4)


We can safely say, then, that the word Tartarus was not intended to apply to human beings; Tartarus might, for all we know, be some place other than the human Hell 


Special Case: Revelation


Revelation uses Hades exclusively, but there, it is clearly used to mean a place of torment for the wicked

The “Bosom of Abraham” - Purgatory awaiting redemption to complete


A complication is presented by Luke 16:23. This term "Bosom of Abraham" occurs only in this context of Luke 16 and not anywhere else.  Evidently  it is clearly stated as a parable. As a rule Parables cannot be treated as true for doctrinal purposes.

 The parable is as follows:


"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades [the rich man] lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”


Following the Jewish interpretation this introduces a two-tier afterlife or underworld;
a pleasant one, the “bosom of Abraham,”where the righteous goes  and
an unpleasant one, Hades, a place of torment where the unrighteous goes.

According to early Judaism the abyss between the two could be jumped over by the intercession of Abraham.  However as the parable seems to indicate that by the time of Jesus, the abyss could not be crossed by any means.  At least that what the parable says. Was it the jewish teaching? We really do not know..


Since the use of parable in defining doctrine is forbidden, we shall have to skip any deduction that may be made from it.  It can be true, and  it can be wrong.




























                                                              Matt 7:19, 13:40, 25:41
“everlasting fire”                                           Matt 18:8, 25:41
“hell fire”                                                        Matt 5:22, 18:9, Mark 9:47
“furnace of fire”                                            Matt 13:42, 50
“the fire that never shall be quenched”   Mark 9:43, 45“
the fire is not quenched”                            Mark 9:44, 46, 48
“unquenchable fire”                                    Matthew 3:12
“fire unquenchable”                                    Luke 3:17

“Where their worm dieth not”                     Mark 9:44, 46, 48

“wailing and gnashing of teeth”                Matt 13:42, 50

“weeping and gnashing of teeth”             Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30

“torments”                                                  Luke 16:23

“tormented in this flame”                            Luke 16:24
“place of torment”                                        Luke 16:28
“eternal damnation”                                    Mark 3:2
“damnation Matt 23:14, Mark 12:40,     Luke 20:47
“damnation of hell”                                     Matt 23:33
“resurrection of damnation”                      John 5:29

outer darkness”                                       Matt 8:12, 22:13

everlasting punishment”                          Matt 25:46

Medieval image of hell in the Hortus deliciarum
of Herrad of Landsberg (c. 1180)







Ten Foundational Verses for Eternal Punishment in Hell: Justin Taylor


 In his contribution to the book in Two Views of Hell, Robert Peterson sets forth ten passages that as part of the “overwhelming evidence” to support the historical interpretation of hell as everlasting punishment. 


1.      Undying Worm and Unquenchable Fire (OT)


Isaiah 66:22-24  For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.


And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me.
For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.


2.      2.  Everlasting Life/Everlasting Contempt

Daniel 12:1-2 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.


       3. Eternal Fire/The Fire of Hell


Matthew 18:6-9  Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.


4. Eternal Punishment/Eternal Life

Matthew 25:31-46 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” . . . Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . .  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


5. Undying Worm and Unquenchable Fire (NT)


Mark 9:42-48  Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”


  6 Everlasting Destruction


2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.


7. The Punishment of Eternal Fire


Jude 7 Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.


8. 8 Blackest Darkness Reserved Forever


Jude 13  [These people are] wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.


9. 9 The Smoke of Their Torment Rises for Ever and Ever


Revelation 14:9-11 If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.



Rev. Clarence Larkin's Biblical Chart of Two Age Model


10. The Lake of Fir


Revelation 20:10, 14-15  And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. . . . Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.


There are a number of NT passages that do not use the word aiōnios, but nevertheless confirm the fact that endlessness is involved.


For example, the punishment is described in terms of “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43; where the parallel in Matt 18:8 speaks of “eternal fire”), and
“where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit “never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (3:29).
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the permanence of the condition of those being punished is described thus: “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26).

The unchangeableness of the condition of punishment is implied also in the many passages that speak of the judgment with its resulting rewards and punishments, which depend on the acts committed in this present life.


Immediate response to this series of descriptions are:
Evidently these are not descriptions of reality. 
For example if there is constant fire and flame, how can there be darkness? 
If humans are in their flesh, the fire will simply burn them and they will be dead then and there.  How can the worms live in the fire without dying?

If the hades is occupied by the souls without bodies, what effect can there be for fire? 
What effects can have darkness on a soul without the human eyes which he has left behind.
They have no eyes to cry or weep nor teeth to gnash. 
Evidently they are not real fire nor darkness or torture.

What is this fire and what does it do to the Spirit of Man?

If it is place of judgement, who is the judge in the hell.
What has the fire and pain to do with the judgement?
Who tortures these people in the hell?  Is it God or Satan.

What is the purpose of this fire?
What does the loving God the Father of  these people get from putting these guys through fire?
Revenge of insulting Him? Glory of God in showing off his authority and power?
What else can it be?
Only seeing this as a process of refining can explain the Hell.


The best explanation is that God allows each freewill to create their own world according to their action.  In order to safeguard others God will have to separate the unrighteous from the righteous and gather the righteous alone which is heaven.


The question is:  Is this a one time process or is it an ongoing process separating the righteous every Yom Kippur?

Hell as Self-Exclusion

The Catechism of the Catholic Church which, when published in 1992, Pope John Paul II declared to be "a sure norm for teaching the faith", defines hell as eternal fiery punishment for refusing to love God:

We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves:
"He who does not love remains in death.
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,
and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."

Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.

To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, which is described (in quotes) as "eternal fire."




The Catechism published by Pope Pius X in 1908 defined Hell by using the word "state" alone:

"Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned,
and in which they are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity,
and are in dreadful torments."

Pope John Paul II stated on 28 July 1999, that, in speaking of Hell as a place, the Bible uses "a symbolic language", which "must be correctly interpreted … Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy."

Some have interpreted these words as a denial that Hell can be considered to be a place, or at least as providing an alternative picture of Hell. Others have explicitly disagreed with the interpretation of what the Pope said as an actual denial that Hell can be considered a place and have said that the Pope was only directing attention away from what is secondary to the real essence of hell.

Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–1988) said that

"we must see that hell is not an object that is 'full' or 'empty' of human individuals,
but a possibility that is not 'created' by God
but in any case by the free individuals who choose it".

The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, with imprimatur of 2007, also says that

"more accurately" heaven and hell are not places but states.

Capuchin theologian Berard A. Marthaler also says that

"hell is not 'a place'".  


Traditionally in the past Hell has been spoken of or considered as a place. Some have rejected metaphorical interpretations of the biblical descriptions of hell, and have attributed to Hell a location within the earth, while others who uphold the opinion that hell is a definite place, say instead that its location is unknown.

In a homily given on 25 March 2007, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
"Jesus came to tell us that he wants us all in heaven and that hell, of which so little is said in our time, exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to his love." 

Journalist Richard Owen's interpretation of this remark as declaring that hell is an actual place was reported in many media.  But in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1035), over whose production Benedict presided when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we read: "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God".

Writing in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, Joseph Hontheim said that

Nature of suffering in Hell

It is agreed that hell is a place of suffering.

Roman Catholicism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather. . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire", and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire". The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

Although the Catechism explicitly speaks of the punishments of hell in the plural, calling them "eternal fire", and speaks of eternal separation from God as the "chief" of those punishments, one commentator claims that it is non-committal on the existence of forms of punishment other than that of separation of God: after all, God, being above all a merciful and loving entity, takes no pleasure in the death of the living, and does not will or predestine anyone to go there (the Catholic stance is that God does not will suffering, and that the only entities known to be in hell beyond a doubt are Satan and his evil angels, and that the only suffering in hell is not fire or torture, but the freely-chosen, irrevocable and unescapable eternal separation from God and his freely given love, and the righteous, who are in heaven; thus the Church and the Popes have placed emphasis on the potential irreversibility of a mortally sinful life that goes un-absolved before one's death, and the dogma and reality of the place or state of hell). 

Another interpretation is that the Catechism by no means denies other forms of suffering, but stresses that the pain of loss is central to the Catholic understanding of hell.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said that the suffering of hell is compounded because God continues to love the sinner who is not able to return the love.  According to the Church, whatever is the nature of the sufferings, "they are not imposed by a vindictive judge"

"Concerning the detailed specific nature of hell ... the Catholic Church has defined nothing. ... It is useless to speculate about its true nature, and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding."

Pope Pius IX stated exclusions that seemingly apply to infancy, incapacity, invincible ignorance:

"Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.  Quanto conficiamur moerore, p8

The Church proclaims the availability of redemption, but it does not teach universal salvation, which would constrain God, nor it does have defined detailed doctrines on edge case such as the state or location of unbaptised infants who die, since these go beyond what has been specifically revealed.

 Pope Benedict XVI commented on the Catechism passage given above:

"There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. ... In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell. ... For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God". Spea salvi p45, 46

Writer Mark Shea notes that the Church prays in her liturgy that all will be saved. You can’t pray for the impossible.

The recent controversial view of Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book Dare we Hope that all Men be Saved?, which draws on speculation by St Edith Stein, proposes that "it is legitimate for Catholics to none-the-less hope for the possibility that Hell will be empty, without using that as an excuse for sin. Balthasar's view is that:

 God's "mercy" and "goodness" are greater than his "justice",
 between the misdeeds of the creature and the goodness of God
 there is no equilibrium."


The varying Protestant views of "hell", both in relation to Hades (i.e., the abode of the dead) and Gehenna (i.e., the destination of the wicked), are largely a function of the varying Protestant views on the intermediate state between death and resurrection; and different views on the immortality of the soul or the alternative, the conditional immortality.

 For example, John Calvin, who believed in conscious existence after death,  had a very different concept of hell (Hades and Gehenna) to Martin Luther who held that death was sleep.

In most Protestant traditions,

hell is the place created by God for the punishment of the devil and fallen angels (cf. Matthew 25:41), and those whose names are not written in the book of life (cf. Revelation 20:15). It is the final destiny of every person who does not receive salvation, where they will be punished for their sins. People will be consigned to hell after the last judgment.



                   Eternal torment view

One historic Protestant view of hell is expressed in the Westminster Confession (1646):

"but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." (Chapter XXXIII, Of the Last Judgment)

According to the Alliance Commission on Unity & Truth among Evangelicals (ACUTE) the majority of Protestants have held that hell will be a place of unending conscious torment, both physical and spiritual.

Some recent writers such as Anglo-Catholic C. S. Lewis and J.P. Moreland  have cast hell in terms of "eternal separation" from God.


Certain biblical texts have led some theologians  to the conclusion that punishment in hell, though eternal and irrevocable, will be proportional to the deeds of each soul (e.g., Matthew 10:15, Luke 12:46-48). But this can happen only after the final judgement.

Another area of debate is the fate of the unevangelized (i.e.,those who have never had an opportunity to hear the Christian gospel), those who die in infancy, and the mentally disabled. According to ACUTE some Protestants  agree with Augustine that people in these categories will be damned to hell for original sin, while others believe that God will make an exception in these cases.


View of conditional immortality or annihilation

A minority of Protestants believe in the doctrine of conditional immortality, which teaches that those sent to hell will not experience eternal conscious punishment, but instead will be extinguished or annihilated after a period of "limited conscious punishment".

Prominent evangelical theologians who have adopted conditionalist beliefs include John Wenham, Edward Fudge, Clark Pinnock and John Stott (although the last has described himself as an "agnostic" on the issue of annihilationism).  Conditionalists typically reject the traditional concept of the immortality of the soul.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians teach the annihilationist viewpoint.

Versus that support annihilation theory:




Psalm 1:6 “But the way of the ungodly shall perish”

Psalm 37:20 “But the wicked shall perish… they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.”

Psalm 69:28 says that the wicked are “blotted out of the book of the living.”

Ps. 34:16, 21 “evil brings death to the wicked.”

Psalm 92:7 “… shall be destroyed forever.”

Prov. 24:20 “the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.”

Dan. 2:35 “the wind swept them away without leaving a trace.”

Isa. 1:28, 30–31 “rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.”

Obadiah 1:16 It will be as if the evil “had never been.“

Mal 4:1 “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”

Here God is quoted directly– the evildoers are destroyed like straw thrown into the fire, and nothing is left. This shows total annihilation (they no longer exist). To believe in eternal hell, one would have to argue that God was mistaken and that they aren’t destroyed in the fire at all– but live forever in the fire without being consumed, which is the exact opposite of what God claimed.

New Testament

Matthew 10:28 “Rather, fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

John 3:16 “…whosoever believeth in him should not perish”

Matthew 7:13: “broad is the road that leads to destruction“

Jesus on a variety of occasions uses the metaphor of fire that consumes not tortures: Matt. 7:19; 13:40; John 15:6

Philippians 3:19 “whose end is destruction…“

2 Thessalonians 1:9 “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction …”

1 Cor 3:17: “God will destroy that person”

2 Cor 2:15-16: “those that perish“

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death..“

Hebrews 10:39 “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

James 4:12a “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.”

2 Peter 2:3: “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

Revelation 20:14 “This is the second death…”

Those who believe in eternal conscious hell don’t believe in the second death– they believe everyone is immortal, and that some will live forever in hell. Rev 20:14 is clear that they die– they don’t live forever in hell at all.





Here is an argument that I found on the internet.



Where is God's Justice? Why did God not tell Adam and Eve about the eternal hell?



Christian Universalism

One of the earliest proponents of the Christian Universalism was Isaac of Syria also known as  St. Isaac the blind of Syria who was the Nestorian Bishop of Nineveh of  Eastern Orthodox Church




St. Isaac (613-700 AD) was born in the region of Qatar on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. When still quite young, he entered a monastery with his brother. His fame grew as a holy man and teacher. He was subsequently ordained bishop of Nineveh, the former capital of Assyria to the north, but requested to abdicate after only five months. He then went south to the wilderness of Mount Matout, a refuge for anchorites. There he lived in solitude for many years studying the Scripture, but eventually blindness and old age forced him to retire to the monastery of Rabban Shabur, on Mount Shushtar. where he died and was buried. 


 St. Isaac the Syrian on the wrath of God

"Just because wrath, anger, hatred, and the rest are used of the Creator, we should not imagine that He does anything in anger or hatred or zeal. Many figurative terms are employed in the Scriptures of God, terms which are far removed from His nature. (The Second Part 39, 19) …

"It is not the way of the compassionate Maker to create rational  beings in order to deliver them over mercilessly to unending affliction in  punishment for things of which He knew even before they were fashioned,  being aware how they would turn out when He created them and whom nonetheless He created. All the more since the fore-planning of evil and the taking of vengeance are characteristics of the passions of created  beings, and do not belong to the Creator. For all this characterizes  people who do not know, or who are unaware of, what they are doing or thinking when something has happened with us human beings, for as a result of some matter that has occurred unexpectedly to them they are incited by the vehemence of anger to take vengeance. Such action does not belong to the Creator who, even before the cycle of the depiction of creation had been  portrayed, knew of all that was before and all that was after in connection with the actions and intentions of rational beings."

Nor again can we possibly say that He acts thus out of retribution, even though the Scriptures may on the outer surface posit this. Even to think this of God and to suppose that retribution for evil acts is to be found with Him is abominable (The Second Part 39, 2)

Isaac did not believe that Christ died on the cross to satisfy God’s anger; however he does not seem to use the Christus Victor motif either. Sin is like “a handful of sand, thrown into the sea”; it never disrupts God’s mercy. Rather, he believed Christ’s death was a display of God’s love and mercy, a way to get humanity’s attention and turn us to repentance.

...I myself say that God did all this for no other reason than to make known to the world the love that he has, his aim being that we, as a result of our greater love arising from an awareness of this, might be captivated by his love when he provided the occasion of this manifestation of the kingdom of heaven’s mighty power—which consists in love—by means of the death of his Son. (The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian pg 36)

The 13th century text The Book of the Bee claims that Theodore the Interpreter, Diodore of Tarsus, and Isaac each believed that mercy would be shown to those in Gehenna (hell). Isaac’s own writings on the subject were rediscovered in 1983 and translated into English in 1995. Isaac believed that both Gehenna and the Kingdom of God contribute to God’s plan of salvation, and that Gehenna is therapeutic and temporary. His argument primarily stems from God’s nature and infinite mercy.

Isaac taught that God is present in Hell and that if anyone suffers in it is because God’s love feels like punishment to the wicked

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. ... It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments those who have played the fool, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. (On the Vision of the Nature of Incorporeal Beings, in Questions and Answers,” Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian The First Part 71, p. 492)

"In love did He bring the world into existence;
In love does He guide it during this its temporal existence;
In love is He going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and
In love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of Him who has performed all these things;
In love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised."



 "And it is clear that He does not abandon them the moment they fall,
and that demons will not remain in their demonic state,
and sinners will not remain in their sins;
He is going to bring them to a single equal state of completion
in relationship to His own Being
in a state in which the holy angels are now, I
n perfection of love and a passionless mind."

Though a theological minority in historical and contemporary Christianity, some holding mostly Protestant views (such as George MacDonald, , William Barclay, Keith DeRose and Thomas Talbott) believe that after serving their sentence in Gehenna, all souls are reconciled to God and admitted to heaven, or ways are found at the time of death of drawing all souls to repentance so that no "hellish" suffering is experienced. This view is often called Christian universalism—its conservative branch is more specifically called 'Biblical or Trinitarian universalism'—and is not to be confused with Unitarian Universalism. 



Christian Universalism teaches that an eternal hell does not exist and is a later creation of the church with no biblical support.

Christian Science

Christian Science defines "hell" as follows:

"Mortal belief; error; lust; remorse; hatred; revenge; sin; sickness; death; suffering and self-destruction; self-imposed agony; effects of sin; that which 'worketh abomination or maketh a lie. '"
(Science and Health with Key to the Scripture by Mary Baker Eddy, 588: 1-4.)

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in an immortal soul that survives after physical death.

They believe the Bible presents "hell", as translated from "Sheol" and "Hades", to be the common grave for both the good and the bad.

They reject the idea of a place of literal eternal pain or torment as being inconsistent with God's love and justice.

They define "Gehenna" as eternal destruction or the "second death", reserved for those with no opportunity of a resurrection such as those destroyed at Armageddon.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that others who have died before Armageddon will be resurrected bodily on earth and then judged during the 1,000-year rule of Christ; the judgement will be based on their obedience to God's laws after their resurrection.

The Christadelphian view is broadly similar, except that they believe the resurrected will be judged on their life before resurrection.


Latter-day Saints

Further information: Outer darkness and Plan of salvation (Latter Day Saints)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches that the word "hell" is used scripturally in at least two senses.


The first is a place commonly called Spirit Prison which is a state of punishment for those who reject Christ and his Atonement. This is understood to be a temporary state in which the spirits of deceased persons will be taught the gospel and have an opportunity to repent and accept ordinances of salvation.


Mormons teach that it was for this purpose that Christ visited the Spirit World after his crucifixion (1 Peter 3:19–20, 1 Peter 4:5–6). Modern-day revelation clarifies that while there, Christ began the work of salvation for the dead by commissioning spirits of the righteous to teach the gospel to those who didn't have the opportunity to receive it while on earth.

Latter-day Saints believe that righteous people will rise in a "first resurrection" and live with Christ on earth after His return.  After the 1000 years known as the Millennium, the individuals in spirit prison who chose not to accept the gospel and repent will also be resurrected and receive an immortal physical body, which is referred to as the "second resurrection". At these appointed times of resurrection, "death and hell" will deliver up the dead that are in them to be judged according to their works (Revelations 20:13), at which point all but the sons of perdition will receive a degree of glory, which Paul compared to the glory of the sun, moon, and stars (1 Corinthians 15:41). The LDS Church explains biblical descriptions of hell being "eternal" or "endless" punishment as being descriptive of their infliction by God rather than an unending temporal period.


 Latter-day Saint scripture quotes God as telling church founder Joseph Smith:

"I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—Eternal punishment is God's punishment. Endless punishment is God's punishment."


Latter-day Saints also believe in a more permanent concept of hell, commonly referred to as outer darkness. It is said that very few people who have lived on the earth will be consigned to this hell, but Latter-day Saint scripture suggests that at least Cain will be present. Other mortals who during their lifetime become sons of perdition, those who commit the unpardonable sin, will be consigned to outer darkness. It is taught that the unpardonable sin is committed by those who "deny the Son after the Father has revealed him".


 However, the vast majority of residents of outer darkness will be the "devil and his angels ... the third part of the hosts of heaven" who in the pre-existence followed Lucifer and never received a mortal body. The residents of outer darkness are the only children of God that will not receive one of three kingdoms of glory at the Last Judgment.

It is unclear whether those in outer darkness will ultimately be redeemed. Of outer darkness and the sons of perdition, Latter-day Saint scripture states that "the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof". The scripture asserts that those who are consigned to this state will be aware of its duration and limitations.



 a special case


These are the people who put their trust in Jesus Christ as their personal savior and maintain it.

Romans 8:1-6  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.




For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.


This salvation is based on two simple actions:

Rom 10:9-10  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness,
and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It should of course be followed up with the consistency 

l  walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit






 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17  Believers Who Have Died and Living will be taken up


13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord


Dead in Christ are in the paradise which was previously Abraham's Bosom.




This word was taken from Isthmian games where the contestants would compete for the prize under the careful scrutiny of judges who would make sure that every rule of the contest was obeyed (cf. 2 Tim. 2:5). The victor of a given event who participated according to the rules was led by the judge to the platform called the Bema. There the laurel wreath was placed on his head as a symbol of victory (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-25).


"…when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (1 Peter 5:4).



Marriage of the Lamb
Church becomes the wife of Jesus - the beginning of the ultimate theosis


The Church is the totality of the believers. They are the bride of Christ. He will come again to take his bride home.  There will be a marriage ceremony when the bride will become the body of the Son of God. 

When all the rest of the humanity is resurrected from their graves and stands before the Great white Throne for judgement.  The wife of Jesus does not come before it.  




What then of the incident recorded in Luke?

"One of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

"And Jesus said to him,“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39–43).




What of the Paradise of which Jesus spoke? The word simply means “a garden or enclosed park”. The thief did not ask to go to heaven nor did Jesus reply that he would do so. Indeed heaven is not mentioned in the conversation. Jesus would not have offered an immediate reward, for it was his consistent teaching that the righteous will: “be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).


Because there is no punctuation in the Greek original, it is possible to translate the words of Jesus like this:

“Assuredly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise”. This is a common Bible expression to give emphasis to the words that follow; for example:


I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish (Deuteronomy 8:19).

Moses was not saying you will perish today, but was emphasising his words;

“Today I am telling you”. This is a manner of speaking often found in Scripture.


So the teaching of the Bible is clear: 
the righteous do not go to heaven, at death nor at any time.
The reward – eternal life -
promised by God is to be on earth
after the resurrection of the dead.


The Kingdom of God is on Earth


Reflection on the inequalities of this life and on the apparent failure of Yahweh to make good on his covenant promises led serious religious thinkers to consider the option of resurrection. The resurrection of ordinary human beings seems to have originated in the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. As a result of several centuries of Persian control of the Middle East region, Jews were brought into contact with Zoroastrian religious ideas and the notion of resurrection.


Zoroaster combined resurrection with the idea of a final judgment, in which the entire human race is resurrected and individuals were rewarded or punished.


This concept clearly appealed to Jewish religious thinkers of the time as an adequate way of coming to grips with the injustices that were so apparent in this life.













Looking into early church fathers we get a glimpse of what they understood from the Apostles.

Early Christian teaching



Jerome was a priest, confessor, theologian, and historian. He was born at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia. Wikipedia

Born: March 27, 347 AD, Stridon

Died: September 30, 420 AD, Bethlehem

Full name: Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus



Where is Paradise?


Among the Hebrew traditions enumerated by Jerome (Trad. Hebr. in Gen.) is one that paradise was created before the world was formed, and is therefore beyond its limits.

Moses bar-Cepha (De Parad.) assigns it a middle place between the earth and the firmament. Some affirm that paradise was on a mountain, which reached nearly to the moon; while others, struck by the manifest absurdity of such an opinion, held that it was situated in the third region of the air, and was higher than all the mountains of the earth by twenty cubits, so that the waters of the flood could not reach it. Others again have thought that paradise was twofold, one corporeal and the other incorporeal; others that it was formerly on earth, but had been taken away by the judgment of God (Hopkinson, Descr. Parad. in Ugolino, Thesaur. vol. 7).

(Moses Bar-Kepha or Moses Bar Cephas (born in Balad in Nineveh, now in Iraq, about the year 813; died at the age of ninety, in 903) was a writer and one of the most celebrated bishops of the Syriac Orthodox Church of the ninth century.)


"Out of the discussions and theories of the rabbins there grew a broad popular belief, fixed in the hearts of men, accepted without discussion, blending with their best hopes. Their prayer for the dying or the dead was that his soul might rest in paradise, in the garden of Eden "(Maimonides, Porta Mosis, quoted by Wetstein, In Luc. 23; Taylor, Funeral Sermon on Sir G. Dalston).


The Essenes at Qumran


The Essenes were a sect of Second Temple Judaism which flourished from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD.  Essenes inhabited the settlement at Qumran, a plateau in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea, citing Pliny the Elder in support, and giving credence that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the product of the Essenes.


Their theology included belief in the immortality of the soul and that they would receive their souls back after death  The Teacher of Righteousness of the Scrolls would seem to be a prototype of Jesus, for both spoke of the New Covenant; they preached a similar gospel; each was regarded as a Savior or Redeemer; and each was condemned and put to death by reactionary factions… The Saint Thomas Christians ("Nasrani") of southwestern India may have connections with the Essenes,and was referred to as "Issani"


The belief of the Essenes, as reported by Josephus (War. 2:8, 11),is as follows: 
"To them paradise was a far-off land, a region where there was no scorching heat, no consuming cold, where the soft west wind from the ocean blew forevermore. In the visions of the second book of Esdras, we have the picture of a fair garden, streams of milk and honey, twelve trees laden with divers fruits, mighty mountains whereon grow lilies and roses (2:19) — a place into which the wicked shall not enter.



By David Radford


A valuable method of Bible study on essential matters would seem to be; examine simple, clear, unambiguous passages and use them as a basis. This is what we are now about to do.

Firstly, we are told where the righteous will NOT be rewarded. Look at the following clear statement:

"No one has ascended to heaven but he who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13).


So, subsequent to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle John can record that NO ONE HAS ASCENDED TO HEAVEN. There was, by the time of writing, one exception − the Lord Jesus − and the writer is careful to include that in the record. (He was, of course, writing under inspiration and therefore the words are accurate.) The teaching of that passage is clear. Other people who had died had not gone to heaven, however good they might have been………….





If people who have died are not in heaven, where are they? A clear Bible principle is established in one of the Psalms:

"The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s;
but the earth He has given to the children of men"
(Psalm 115:16).

This is a wonderful promise; that this beautiful earth, at an appointed time, will be taken from man’s misrule and, under God’s control, will be given to mankind. This is in perfect accord with the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

"Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven"
(Matthew 6:10).

These well-known words of the Lord’s Prayer teach his disciples to pray for the time when God’s kingdom will again be set up on earth. Do you recall these words of Jesus?

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth

(Matthew 5:5).

(To pursue this further look up the  following passages: Psalm 37:9-11; Proverbs 2:21,22; Proverbs 11:31; Numbers 14:21; Psalm 72:19 and Isaiah 45:18. There are many others.)

The ancient Hebrews emphasized the importance of the present life over the afterlife. As with both the ancient Greeks and Mesopotamians, the afterlife, if it was considered at all, was conceived of as a pale shadow of earthly life, much like the Greek Hades. Also similar to the Greek Hades, in the Hebrew afterlife no distinction was made between the treatment of the just and the unjust after death. Instead, rewards and punishments were meted out in the present life, and in the covenant "contract" Yahweh promised to do just that.




The gospel as recorded by Matthew makes constant reference to “the kingdom of heaven”. That is NOT to say that the kingdom is IN heaven. For the other gospel writers speak of “the kingdom of God” and, when you look carefully, they are seen to be one and the same. In other words,



Consider the following two passages, each referring to the beginning of the preaching of Jesus after John Baptist was put into prison:

"From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14).

So, the kingdom for which Jesus taught his disciples to pray (“Thy kingdom come”) will be the kingdom of heaven, that is, the kingdom of God, established on earth.




Jesus once said:

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12).

Since the reward is in heaven there are two possibilities;

The righteous go to heaven to receive it. This is already ruled out by statements such as “no one has ascended to heaven”.

The reward is brought from heaven to earth for the righteous to enjoy on earth, which fits well with “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”.

Also, see the following two passages:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3–4).


Teachings of Jesus


It is significant, indeed, that the word "paradise" nowhere occurs in the public teaching of our Lord, or in his intercourse with his own disciples. Connected as it had been with the thoughts of a sensuous happiness, it was not the fittest or the best word for those whom he was training to rise out of sensuous thoughts to the higher regions of the spiritual life. For them, accordingly, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, are the words most dwelt on. The blessedness of the pure in heart is that they shall see God. If language borrowed from their common speech is used at other times, if they hear of the marriage-supper and the new wine,



It is not till they have been taught to understand parables and to separate the figure from the reality. With the thief dying on the cross the case was different. We can assume nothing in the robber-outlaw but the most rudimentary forms of popular belief. We may well believe that the word Paradise is used here, and here only, in the whole course of the Gospel history, when Jesus was talking to the thief on the cross and it had a special fitness for him. Though he knew about the Kingdom, he was never part of Jesus' disciples. Hence his understanding of the Kingdom of God was that of the jews. Jesus therefore taught him in terms of his understanding in his own terminology.   The answer to his prayer gave him what he needed most, the assurance of immediate rest and peace. The word paradise spoke to him, as to other Jews, of repose, shelter, joy 

In the New Testament, It occurs only in passages that are apocalyptic, and therefore almost of necessity symbolic.


Paul speaks of one, apparently of himself, as having been "caught up into paradise," as having there heard things that might not be uttered (2Co 12:3).


In the Revelation of John we have the message to the first of the Seven Churches of Asia, "the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God," It appears as the reward of him that overcometh, the symbol of an eternal blessedness  . The thing, though not the word, appears in the closing visions of Revelation 22.


Revelation 2-3 Jesus promises ten rewards to those who overcome.

1. Eat of the Tree of Life

2. Not to be hurt in the second death

3. Eat of the hidden manna

4.  Receive a white stone

5.  Receive a new name

6.  Power nations

7.  Clothed in White Robe

8.  Jesus will confess his name before Father God

9.  His name will not be blotted out from the book of life

10. Authority to sit on the throne with Jesus











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