Fires of Hell Burning Out
today are facing a real challenge to the traditional doctrine
of a literal fiery hell. Martin Marty, a chronicler of American
religious trends and professor at the University of Chicago
Divinity School, observes that "hell has disappeared and
no one noticed."
the faith of many waning, Christians need to be armed with the
facts as to the correct interpretation of hell. A short study
on the subject reveals the logical and harmonious truth. The
key to understanding any doctrine is to square it with these
four character attributes of God: Love, Justice, Wisdom, and
a Reasonable Foundation The Attribute of Wisdom
His word, God urges us to seek after truth. "Come now,
and let us reason together..." Isa. 1:18 Our responsibility
as Christians is to reflect in our thoughts, words and conduct
God’s glorious character. Jesus encourages, "Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is
perfect." Matt. 5:48 Wisdom would dictate that this is
impossible in our fallen flesh. But, God provided a way in which
we could be perfect of intention so that our wills might perfectly
conform to His. "...Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto
us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption..."
1Cor. 1:30 Through Christ, we have the potential to understand
and emulate God’s character and purposes.
if we are not sure of the doctrine of hell, it behooves us to
seek to know God and His plans that we might glorify Him. His
word exhorts: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the
word of truth." 2Tim. 2:15 Thus, to glorify God’s
name and character, we must rightly interpret his word by reasoning
together with its message. Only by doing this will we truly
understand God’s wise and gracious plan.
His wisdom, God created a plan which would permit experiences
to teach the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and yet provide a
means of salvation. "God...will have all men to be saved,
and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one
God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time."
1Tim. 2:4-6 If all are promised this opportunity in due time,
the concept of a fiery hell awaiting the majority now is certainly
Attribute of Justice
us reason on God’s Justice. When God created Adam, He
provided for every need with the condition that Adam would remain
obedient: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely
eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou
shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof
thou shalt surely die." Gen. 2:16-17 Notice that the just
penalty for disobedience was death, not eternal torment. Ezekiel
confirms: "...the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
Ezek. 18:4 And Paul states, "the wages of sin is death."
justice is absolute: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,
and a life for a life. For this cause, Christ came into the
world to pay the penalty for Adam’s sin: a life for a
life. "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one;
much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift
of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
Rom. 5:17-18 Thus, God’s justice was balanced by His love.
Attribute of Love
is love...There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth
out fear: because fear hath torment." 1John 4:8 & 18
Is there fear associated with the doctrine of hellfire? Would
love permit for an eternity of torment? Most of mankind cannot
understand why God has permitted the evil of this present life,
let alone an eternity of flames scorching raw flesh! Could any
of us take the hand of our worst enemy and place it on a hot
burner? Our instincts of love would not permit for such an inhumane
act. Even in current death sentences the most heinous of crimes,
only the most humane forms of execution are used. Anything more
would be considered sadistic and cruel. Would a God of love
not have at least the same compassion upon those who have broken
His laws? Jeremiah stated, "It is of the LORD's mercies
that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not."
Lam. 3:22-23 Has not man been created in God’s image,
and has he not inherited this trait of compassion from God?
Would a God who tells us to love our enemies, create in us a
desire to burn them forever? Could ultimate joy truly exist
in a heaven reverberating with screams from below?
the lesson of the Hebrews who built altars to the false god
Molech, and sacrificed their children on the fire. God cried
out, "...I commanded them not, neither came it into my
mind, that they should do this abomination..." Jer. 32:35
If God’s love could not conceive of such cruelty, how
could He create a burning hell?
Attribute of Power
is all powerful. He certainly could create a place where fire
burns forever upon writhing flesh, but His attributes of love,
justice and wisdom would not permit for this to be so. God has
used His omnipotence for good. Everything He created is "very
good." The heavens declare His glory and love for His creation.
power will ultimately bring all back from their graves: those
who have lived righteously in Christ will receive a resurrection
of life and those who have lived selfish or evil lives will
receive a resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 NAS "...when
thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world
will learn righteousness." Isa. 26:9 Those who did not
accept life through Christ now will have this opportunity to
learn righteousness in due time. But what happens to the incorrigible?
"Death and hell (grave) were cast into the lake of fire.
This is the second death." Rev. 20:14 The punishment of
second death will extinguish life forever and death will be
swallowed up in victory! 1Cor. 15:21-58 This is the result of
God’s almighty power.
of a Fiery Hell
idea of a fiery hell may have come from the teachings of the
6th C. Persian prophet, Zoroaster who taught that a "Lord
of Lies" who lived in the dark reaches under the earth
recorded the deeds of men as debits and credits. Furthermore,
ancient Egypt, Greek and eastern religions have taught various
versions of many hells to which the soul must continuously migrate.
paganism mingled with Christianity under the influence of Constantine,
these concepts attached themselves to the symbolic statements
of the New Testament. While some lessons taught by Jesus in
symbolic parables were thought of as literal, other definitions
remained figurative: such as wheat, fish, sheep, weddings, fig
trees, vineyards, and leaven. Slowly, the inconsistency of such
logic was forgotten and hell’s imagery born of Constantinian
compromise became Church doctrine.
exhaustive word search reveals the true meaning of the word
hell. (See How to Study the Bible - Topical Study.) Briefly,
in every case of the Old Testament, the word is translated from
the Hebrew word sheol which means grave. Both good and bad went
there, but the biased translators assigned the English word
hell if it was a bad person. Job prayed to go to sheol (hell/grave)
to hide from his pain. Certainly, he would not pray to go there
if it were to burn forever.
the New Testament, the word is translated from three different
Greek words: hades meaning grave; gehenna meaning garbage dump;
and tartaroo meaning a place where the fallen angels were sent
between heaven and earth. In every case where the concept of
hellfire is used, the context is highly symbolic.
suggest from our lesson on God’s character that fire symbolizes
destruction and that a literal hellfire is the machination of
Satan to slander God’s loving, just, wise and powerful
character. If you have always been ashamed of the doctrine of
hell and how it contradicts our loving Heavenly Father’s
character, study to show yourself approved unto God by rightly
dividing His word of truth. Let us praise God for His mercy.
"Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee." Psa.
Events: Churches Reconsider Hell’s Fury
resent article in U.S. News & World Report reveals, "For
much of the 20th century, hell didn’t fare well ... paled
by the flames of Hiroshima and the Holocaust, hell’s frightful
imagery lost much of its fury. By most accounts, it has all
but disappeared from the pulpit rhetoric of mainline Protestantism.
And it has fared only marginally better among evangelicals."
confirm this, the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England
has recently redefined hell as a non-place or a state of nothingness.
In addition, Billy Graham states, "When it comes to a literal
fire, I don’t preach it because I’m not sure about
it." (Time, 9/15/93) And, the Dec. 1992 issue of Christianity
Today quotes Clark Rinnock of McMaster Divinity College: "The
wicked do not experience eternal conscious punishment, but rather
cease to exist."
appears that many credible Christian minds, made uncomfortable
by the thought that billions of the unsaved will agonize eternally,
have decided to reconsider hell’s fury. They can no longer
deny that there is a plausible harmony of the scriptures proving
that God is love and has a loving plan for man.
we turn, we hear reports about psychics. Tabloids are thirsty
for stories on psychics who search for missing children; ads
saturate the airwaves encouraging viewers to call their psychic
friends and learn their fortunes; and movie stars, royalty,
and even politicians consult psychics to receive direction on
critical issues of life. Seeking advice from psychics today
is as common as consulting physicians or theologians. But what
should our position be as Christians on this phenomenon?
scriptures say there is only one source for true wisdom ––
God’s word. 2Tim. 3:16-17 They warn of lying wonders in
the end of the present Gospel age. They also tell of the activity
of Satan and the fallen angels who would interfere with men’s
affairs so as to draw away the faith of many. "...the working
of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders... And for
this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should
believe a lie..." 2Thess. 2:9-11
with the scriptural facts, the true follower of God would be
very sceptical of these so-called prophets. Is it any wonder
that a fallen angel would be able to inform psychics of the
location of dead bodies or tell of someone’s past or present?
All this would give credibility to their guesses of future events
which may or may not come to pass. Anyone can make educated
guesses. As for us, we will leave the future to the true prophets
of old whose words were written for our admonition.
scriptures are clear, "Beware of false prophets..."
We must avoid anything akin to spiritism or occultism. There
are but two masters. One is God and the other is the god of
this present evil world, Satan. Matt. 6:24; 2Cor. 4:4; Eph.
2:2 This "prince and power of the air" is not the
only angel who left the ranks of the righteous angelic realm
to practice lawlessness. A host of angels fell before the flood
of Noah’s day and are now those who whisper in the ears
of any who will lend them. The increasing popularity of New
Age thinking has opened wide the door for these evil spirits
to influence and deceive. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly,
that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving
heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." 1Tim.
4:1 See also Acts 16:16-18; Jude 6
only way to avoid falling into the snare of these seducing spirits
is to "Put on the whole armour of God [His truth and character],
that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph. 6:11-12
you have given heed to these evil influences, do not despair,
but do be aware and heed the scriptures. Call upon the Lord
for grace to help and determine not to have anything more to
do with them. "...as for me and my house, we will serve
the LORD." Joshua 24:15
Prospects: "If a man die, shall he live again?" --Job
we read the story of Job we find a small hint of the resurrection
that is to come in the earthly kingdom promised. Job asked,
"If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my
appointed time will I wait, till my change come." Job 14:14
Job trusted in the promise of a resurrection. Job did not realize
that his experiences would be an illustration of hope for us.
recall that Job lost everything and suffered greatly as a test
of his faithfulness to God. At the end of Job’s painful
trials, the scriptures relate: "And the LORD turned the
captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD
gave Job twice as much as he had before." Then followed
a list of what he received. Job 42:10-13 Observe that although
Job’s animals were restored twofold, his children were
not. Did God neglect his promise?
|WHAT JOB LOST:
||WHAT JOB GAINED:
there was no mention of Job’s disappointment for what
he received, we can assume there is more in this lesson to follow.
If we look at Job’s experience from his perspective, he
fully expected a resurrection of his children who were lost
in death, and hence he was not disappointed. He saw God’s
promises in process of fulfillment. "That in the dispensation
of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all
things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on
earth." Eph. 1:10 Job will indeed receive twofold when
the resurrection work is complete and all his children return
entire experience is an illustration of the life of mankind
since the fall of Adam. Adam lost everything as a result of
God’s test upon his obedience. The past 6,000 years have
God’s test upon his obedience. The past 6,000 years have
been very painful and many lessons have been learned from this
permission of evil. But God has promised that he will restore
all that was lost in Adam. "And he shall send Jesus Christ,
which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive
until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath
spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world
began." Acts. 3:20-21
what a blessed thought that every man, woman and child now in
their graves will come forth to be reunited with their families.
May this lesson from the experiences of Job be a blessing to
you as we await "the fulness of times."