Saturday, September 1, 2007



Is God an "angry Judge" - who tortures helpless sinners ages without end?
by Roderick C. Meredith

YOU HAVE probably never heard where your ideas about "hell" came from. So open your mind to some startling truth you may not have understood before!

You probably have heard of the idea of a horrifying, nightmarish place of never-ending torture for lost sinners. Atheists say religious people use this concept of "hell" as a means of playing upon the emotions of people who are sincerely trying to find God's will.

But where did they - and where did you - learn these ideas?

God's Purpose

The primary reason so many men and organizations of men have a false conception of hell is that they view it just as an isolated doctrine. God created man in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). In the garden of Eden, he told man the way that would lead to eternal life. Then he told man that going the wrong way - the way of selfishness and greed - would lead to DEATH (Gen. 2:17). But Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), told the woman, Ye shall not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). "You have an immortal soul." Man has been believing that lie about the immortal soul ever since!

God's purpose is to develop holy, righteous character in man. God gave ancient Israel his Ten Commandments, "that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever" (Deut. 5:29).

God's decrees are always for man's good. They are not designed as arbitrary decrees that God uses as an excuse for plunging men into flames of fire! Notice that God offered Adam and Eve life on the one hand, and death on the other. Adam and Eve would not have been offered LIFE if they already were immortal souls. Man was created mortal and in need of eternal life from God through his Spirit.

If man rebelled against God and made himself miserable through sin, then the kindest thing that God could do would be to let man die. Then, stubborn, sinning man would be unable to bring any further misery on himself or others by his wrong ways. He would just cease to exist, and would thus not interfere with the happiness of others who sought eternal life. That is why we read that the SOUL that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:4).

But men have disagreed with God and his Word, and have come to believe in an entirely different reward for the wicked. So, where do men get their ideas of "hell"?

What Is "Hell"?

You will be surprised to learn that Jesus Christ himself went to "hell" when he died! In Peter's inspired sermon on the day of Pentecost, he said, "He [David] seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:31).

So - according to your Bible - Jesus went to hell!

The "hell" where Jesus was for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40) after his crucifixion is translated from the Greek word hades. Hades simply means "pit" or "grave." When the Authorized Version of the Bible was made, Englishmen commonly understood that "hell" could mean a grave, pit or hole in the ground. They often spoke of burying their potatoes in hell for the winter. The "hell" where Jesus went was simply the grave - the rock hewn sepulcher where he was buried. Unless you live until Christ comes and are changed from mortal to immortal (I Cor. 15:53), you will go to this same "hell."

The second Greek word translated "hell" is tartaros. It is used only once in the Bible (II Pet. 2:4) and refers to the condition of restraint of the fallen angels. It never refers to men.

Gehenna is the third Greek word translated "hell." Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, was located out-side of Jerusalem. It was a place where trash, filth and the dead bodies of animals and despised criminals were thrown. It was like some of our city dumps today. Ordinarily, everything thrown in this valley was destroyed by fire - completely burned up.

In Jewish thought, this burning, smoking Valley of Hinnom was associated with the future punishment of the wicked. So it was natural for Jesus and the apostles to use the word gehenna - derived from the Valley of Hinnom - when referring to the lake of fire, which will be the fate of the wicked. This lake of fire is described in Revelation 20:14-15.

These, then, are the three Greek words that are translated into the word "hell" in our Bibles. In the Hebrew there is only one word that is translated "hell." That word is sheol. It corresponds to the Greek word hades, meaning the grave, or pit.

Worms In Hell?

A familiar passage is found in Mark 9:43-48. Jesus was showing that it was better to rid ourselves of anything - even a job, an association or a habit that we loved as much as our right arm - than to let it cause us to disobey God and thus be cast into hell (gehenna), "into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

The "hell" to which Jesus referred was gehenna - deriving its name from the Valley of Hinnom. There were ledges along the edge of this valley.

Smith's Bible Dictionary gives a description of this valley. If anything, especially a dead body, landed on a ledge above the fires, it would be devoured by many worms or maggots that were kept alive by the animal and vegetable substances deposited there.

It was to these worms that Christ was referring when he said, "Their worm dieth not." But Christ didn't mean that each individual worm continued to live forever! He wasn't teaching the immortality of worms!

Actually, these worms, or maggots, are the larvae that develop from eggs deposited by flies. They continue for only a few days in this larva form, then pupate and finally emerge as flies, later dying.

The Greek word that was inspired and translated into the English word "worm" in this passage simply means a grub or maggot. It is a collective expression for all the worms that devour dead matter. These worms do not die, but pupate and become flies. Later, these flies like all other animals will return to the dust from which they come. "All are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Eccl. 3:20).

The "fire that never shall be quenched" is a description showing that God will permit nothing to put out or quench this fire. It will simply burn up the bodies of the wicked. Naturally, those who preach "hell fire" use this passage to frighten unthinking people into believing that sinners will suffer eternal torment in hell fire - evidently with worms chewing on them at the same time!

Whom Do You Fear?

Instead of fearing what some misguided preacher may tell us about hell, let us see what Jesus said to fear. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna]" (Matt. 10:28). Here we find the clear statement that God can destroy both our body and soul in Gehenna, or the lake of fire. There is no mention made of burning forever and ever, and yet never quite burning up. But it does speak of destruction.

Recall that God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed him, they would surely DIE. Their lives would be cut off - destroyed. Jesus told his disciples: ". . . wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction [not eternal life in "hell fire"], and many there be which go in thereat" (Matt. 7:13). Then he said, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (verse 19). What happens to a tree when it is cast into the fire? Why, it is burned up - destroyed.

Speaking of the harvest of the righteous and wicked, Jesus said he would tell the reapers, "Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matt. 13:30). The tares, of course, refer to the wicked, and the wheat to the righteous. When literal tares are burned, they are BURNED UP. What about these types of sinners that are burned up? Was Jesus using wrong examples, or did he mean what he said?

The obvious answer is Jesus meant exactly what he said. The fate of the wicked will be Gehenna, or the lake of fire that the Bible mentions. But this fire is a lot hotter than most people think!

The wicked are human, mortal beings. Flesh and blood is subject to burning up. When the wicked are cast into the lake of fire, they will be burned up - destroyed!

From Genesis to Revelation, life and death are set as the two opposites - the fate of the righteous and the wicked respectively. God told Adam, ". . . dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). No mention here of being plunged immediately into "hell fire." The reward for disobedience was death.

Later, David wrote of the wicked, ". . . into smoke shall they consume away" (Ps. 37:20).

Still later, Malachi speaks of the fire that will burn the wicked: "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 . . ." (Mal. 4:1, 3).

Can anything be plainer than that the wicked are to be burned up - completely destroyed? That is why Jesus said, ". . . fear him which is able to DESTROY both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28).

Wages of Sin

The apostle Paul summed up the whole matter of man's reward for sin when he wrote, "For the wages of sin is DEATH; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). If you believe this scripture means what it says, then you know the truth. But, unfortunately, theologians often fail to understand what Paul said.

Could anything be more clear than this scripture? The wages, or reward, of sin is shown to be death, and eternal life is stated to be a gift from God - not something we already have.

Death means just that - the cessation of life and consciousness - total oblivion! In spite of the vain attempt of many preachers to make death mean separation from God, you cannot reconcile this with Scripture. Neither does death mean eternal life in nightmarish torments of an imagined "hell."

This "hell-fire" doctrine that is used to frighten so many ignorant human beings is a LIE. Its author is the father of lies - Satan the devil! If you are one who has gullibly swallowed that doctrine and suffered mental agonies from the fear of a man-made "hell-fire," God help you to study all the scriptures on this subject and find his truth.

But remember that the penalty of death will be caused by fire. Paul warns in Hebrews 10:26-27:

"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation, which shall DEVOUR the adversaries."

This is a FEARFUL WARNING to those who know God's truth and still refuse to obey it! This is not an unreasoned fear of a harsh, stern God who delights in punishing sinners. Rather, it is the sober realization that unless we surrender to God's will and his way of love, and refuse to let anything turn us aside, God will take away the life he has given us.

Yet this same passage shows God's infinite LOVE. He will not take away people's lives because of ignorance or weakness, but because they willfully and knowingly refuse to obey their Creator. This rebellious attitude in itself would bring them, and those about them, nothing but eternal trouble and misery if they were allowed to live forever. So God in his mercy and supreme wisdom has decreed the penalty of DEATH for such people.

The Lake of Fire

When the Bible says, "The wages of sin is death," it is not referring to the death we see around us every day. This death is referred to in I Corinthians 15:22, which says, "In Adam all die," and in Hebrews 9:27, which says, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." These passages describe the first death - a death caused by a person wearing out physically and from which he can be resurrected.

Revelation 20 shows the time of later resurrections, and when the wicked are cast into the lake of fire. Study it carefully. The first three verses describe Satan being bound for a thousand years, and the resurrected saints, who are in the first resurrection, ruling the world under Christ.

So according to your Bible - Jesus went to hell! . . . where Jesus
went was simply the grave - the rock hewn sepulcher where he was buried.

The first part of verse 5 is an inserted thought that tells us, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." So the heathen, the atheists and all who were not called to a full knowledge of God's truth, are not resurrected until after the thousand-year reign of Christ. This is the second resurrection. For them the book of life is opened for the first time (Rev. 20:11-12).

But just before then, at the end of the thousand years of peace in the world tomorrow, the devil will go forth to deceive the nations who were not imbued with God's Holy Spirit. He will be overcome and "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (verse 10). Notice that the word are is in italics in the Authorized Version. It is an inserted word to complete the meaning, and should be rendered "were cast" - because the beast and the false prophet are human beings who will be burned up when they are cast into the lake of fire just before the thousand years begin (Rev. 19:20).

At this point, you may be thinking about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man - and wondering if the rich man wasn't pictured as being forever in eternal torment. He definitely was not! But he was in mental torment as the fire of Gehenna was about to end his life. For the full and interesting proof of this, write immediately for our free booklet titled Lazarus and the Rich Man.

Now continuing in Revelation 20, notice in verse 13 that the remaining dead are raised in a third resurrection and are judged "according to their works." These are the wicked who were called in this life and who rebelled. Verse 14 continues, "And death and hell [hades, the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Here is a plain statement revealing that Gehenna, or the lake of fire, IS the SECOND DEATH.

Truth Makes Free

The Bible reveals a very different God from the one so often preached today.

It seems that men either try to do away with God's power altogether by preaching as though God had gone "way off' and left man to work things out according to human reason, or they go to the opposite extreme and look upon God as an "angry Judge" who is just waiting for an opportunity to punish helpless sinners throughout all eternity.

The Creator of heaven and earth is now permitting man to sin and suffer in order to learn certain lessons. If man will accept God's truth as it is revealed, learn these lessons God intended, he will be given eternal life in God's kingdom. But if he stubbornly persists in going the way that leads to wretchedness and misery for himself and others, God in his mercy will cut off his life by casting him into the lake of fire - which is the second death.

Untold suffering and mental anguish have been caused by the false doctrine of an angry God plunging everyone who did not follow certain denominational teachings into a terrifying "hell fire" of everlasting torments.

Most people have been bound by denominational teachings, and too few have been willing to study all the scriptures on the subject to see what the Bible really says. But Jesus said of those who were willing to continue in his word, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

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