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Preface: This course is based upon the personal correspondence course initially developed in 1954 that began under the direction of the late C. Paul Meredith in the old Radio Church of God. Various portions have been updated for the 21st century (though much of the original writing has been retained). It also has more scriptural references, as well as information and questions not in the original course. Unless otherwise noted, scriptural references are to the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright Thomas Nelson Publishing, used by permission. The KJV, sometimes referred to as the Authorized Version is also often used. Additionally, Catholic-approved translations such as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) are sometimes used as are other translations.
You are probably familiar this world’s idea of a horrifying, nightmarish place of never-ending torture for lost sinners.
But is that what the Bible teaches?
It’s time we QUIT ‘swallowing’ the IDEAS and THEORIES of confused humanity, and begin STUDYING the truth for ourselves in GOD’S Word!
Now, we in the Continuing Church of God rarely use the word ‘hell’ as its often understood meaning in modern times is in error. The word ‘hell’ originally meant to cover or to hide. Another old meaning of the word was ‘a tailor’s receptacle’ according to Merriam-Webster. Over a century ago, it tended to mean being underground.
There are three different words in the New Testament–Hades, Gehenna, or Tartaroosas–which the King James Version of the Bible translated as ‘hell’ And not one of them means what most people think the word hell means.
The fact of the three different Greek words being translated as hell, as well as various understandings and traditions, has resulted in confusion concerning what the Bible is teaching related to punishment.
Furthermore, since the term has become highly used in cursing and in various vulgarities it is often not appropriate to use.
The Common Idea
Before going further, let’s notice a generally accepted common belief in the Western world about hell. Here’s the terse and brief summation of this popular belief, from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Hell, in many religious traditions, the abode, usually beneath the earth, of the unredeemed dead or the spirits of the damned. In its archaic sense, the term hell refers to the underworld, a deep pit or distant land of shadows where the dead are gathered. From the underworld come dreams, ghosts, and demons, and in its most terrible precincts sinners pay—some say eternally—the penalty for their crimes. The underworld is often imagined as a place of punishment rather than merely of darkness and decomposition because of the widespread belief that a moral universe requires judgment and retribution—crime must not pay. More broadly, hell figures in religious cosmologies as the opposite of heaven, the nadir of the cosmos, and the land where God is not. In world literature the journey to hell is a perennial motif of hero legends and quest stories, and hell itself is the preeminent symbol of evil, alienation, and despair.
Many believe some version of the above.
From the Pagans
Now where, and how, did this popular belief about hell ORIGINATE?
The Encyclopedia Americana states:
The main features of hell as conceived by Hindu, Persian, Egyptian, Grecian, and Christian theologians ARE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME.
The Western religious leaders through the Middle Ages borrowed the doctrine of eternal torture FROM THE PAGAN PHILOSOPHERS. Certain of these writers of the Middle Ages had such tremendous influence on the Christian-professing world, that their writings and teachings came to be generally accepted and believed, until it became the doctrine of the Christian-professing world.
Among these influential writers were Augustine (345-430 A.D.), and Dante Alighieri (1265-1321 A.D.). Dante wrote a popular book now known as, “The Divine Comedy,” in three parts – Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
There is another book titled “Dante and His Influence,” which sums up the history of the Christian-professing doctrine of hell. This factual history says that:
… of all poets of modern times, Dante Alighieri was, perhaps, the greatest educator. He possibly had a greater influence on the course of civilization than any other man since his day…
Dante … wrote, in incomprehensible verse, an imaginative and lurid account of a dismal hell—a long poem containing certain phrases which caught the attention of the world, such as “all hope abandon, ye, who enter here!” … to the Inferno … (Page TN. Dante and His Influence. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922, pp. 3,7,8).
His ‘Inferno’ poem was based on the writings by the ancient pagan writers Virgil and Plato.
Dante’s writing had a tremendous impression and influence on popular Catholic thought and teaching, as well as, later, many Protestants. Dante is reported to have been so fascinated and enraptured by the ideas and philosophies of PLATO and VIRGIL, who were pagan philosophers, that he reportedly believed they were divinely inspired. Dante has ‘Virgil’ accompanying him to see various levels of the inferno, purgatario, and paradiso.
In 1320, Dante’s set of poems was original titled “The Comedy.” Yet beginning in 1555 it became known as “The Divine Comedy.” Many improperly took Dante’s descriptions as at least indicative of, if not actually, God’s plan for humanity.
As far as “purgatorio,” now more commonly called purgatory, goes, the Roman Catholics tend to consider that it is like the inferno and is also a place of torment. Their 15/16th century saint Catherine of Genoa claimed that those in purgatory, “suffer torments which no tongue can describe nor any intelligence comprehend.”
Yet, the Roman Catholic purgatory is not in the Bible. Nor was it part of the original Christian faith. Purgatory was essentially adopted by Rome in the 6th century with other clarifications (such as related to ‘indulgences’) added later.
Much of the world’s concept of ‘hell’ and purgatory is a product of centuries of human thinking on the great problem of reward and punishment associated with human deeds. It did NOT COME AS A REVELATION FROM GOD, but is rather the product of HUMAN REASON to decide what ONLY GOD CAN REVEAL!
What About the Billions and Billions of Heathen?
Let us consider where this concept of hell, if true, leads us.
On this earth there are close to eight billion people, and some believe that there have been over one hundred billion!
Throughout history, people living in some of the most populous lands as well as remote places on the earth have NEVER SO MUCH AS HEARD ‘THE ONLY NAME BY WHICH HUMANS MAY BE SAVED’ – the name of JESUS CHRIST, For your Bible says, “… there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12).
Now consider the fact that even most who heard the name have been properly told about salvation—they have not known the truth about Christian salvation. So this means that multiple BILLIONS of people on this earth have lived, and DIED, without having SAVING KNOWLEDGE! Now think what that means.
If all UNsaved have gone immediately to a burning hell at death – as commonly believed – then most of the people who have ever lived on this earth have been consigned there without ever having been given so much as a CHANCE to escape it! They, according to the teachings of some churches, are ETERNALLY LOST IN TORMENTING ‘HELL FIRE!’
Can you really believe THAT IS the plan by which an all-wise, all-merciful, LOVING GOD IS working out His purpose here below?
WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
We face these alternatives: Either the Holy Bible is the INSPIRED Word of God, by which the Creator REVEALS the TRUTH on this subject, or else we must fling up our hands and confess we JUST DON’T KNOW – we are IGNORANT on the question. We must believe what the Bible says, or we can believe NOTHING, if we are rational and honest!
IS there even such a thing as ‘hell fire’? What does the BIBLE say about it?
Didn’t Jesus say something about ‘hell fire’?
Yes, but not as commonly understood.
We are about ready for the actual lesson. But first, read these instructions.
Before You Begin
Is your Bible in front of you? If not, go GET YOUR BIBLE – or Bibles if you have more than one translation.
Also have several sheets of paper, and a pen, pencil or computer so that you can MAKE NOTES to help you in remembering what you learn.
Remember – you must open your Bible to EVERY PASSAGE. Try not to say to yourself, “Oh, I think I know what the scripture is referring to” – and then pass over it. You need to KEEP YOUR NOSE IN THE BIBLE, SO to speak. You should READ and REREAD and STUDY EVERY PASSAGE in your Bible. Don’t forget, this is a BIBLE STUDY COURSE – not just a study of these lessons we send you. This lesson is intended to DIRECT YOU to the Bible – to help you LEARN the TRUTH of God’s Word.
Now with your Bible, a good dictionary, and concordance, if you have one, and your stationery all in front of you, here is the METHOD of study. Write down neatly on your paper the lesson TITLE. Next write down the lesson number. As you come to each question section, write down ITS HEADING. Then, at the lefthand margin, print the NUMBER OF EACH QUESTION as you come to it, and WRITE DOWN THE BIBLE ANSWERS, together with any PERTINENT IDEAS that may come to your mind.
Be sure to WRITE OUT THE SCRIPTURE which answers each question. Writing the answers and any comments you wish to make as you go along WILL HELP YOU GREATLY IN REVIEWING AND REMEMBERING WHAT YOU LEARN.
Now we are ready to begin this lesson.
Christ Spoke of ‘Gehenna Fire’
Then there really is a hell, since CHRIST says so, isn’t there?
COMMENT: Well, ‘hell’ is an English word. When Mark recorded these words Christ had spoken, he wrote them in the GREEK language. The Greek word which Mark was inspired to write down, which was translated ‘hell’ in the KJV, was ‘Gehenna’.
And since this same verse also says the sinner is ‘to go into hell, INTO THE FIRE’ (KJV), it follows that Christ clearly stated here that the incorrigible will receive punishment by FIRE as their ultimate fate.
Note that Christ associated the Greek word Gehenna with FIRE.
COMMENT: Mark wrote down the SAME Greek word ‘Gehenna’ here in verse 45 that he used in verse 43. Those who translated this Greek word into English, when they made the English Bible, often have selected the English word ‘hell’ to represent this Greek word ‘Gehenna’.
COMMENT: Again, the Greek word which Mark used in this verse was GEHENNA.
GEHENNA is certainly tied in with fire.
Generally, in CCOG sermons, we would use the term Gehenna (as certain English translations correctly do) when that is the actual Greek word used to better help people understand what Jesus was actually teaching.
Keep in mind, as we read his material, that the Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language, and that the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language.
On the use of the word ‘hell’ in the New and Old Testament, let’s read what an old Bible dictionary, edited by James Hastings, a leading authority on such technical matters, says:
In our Authorized Version the word ‘hell’ is unfortunately used as the rendering of three distinct words, WITH DIFFERENT MEANINGS. It represents,
1. the ‘sheol’ of the Hebrew Old Testament, and the ‘hades’ in the New Testament … It is now an entirely misleading rendering, especially in the New Testament passages. The English revisers, therefore, have substituted ‘Hades’ [going back to the original Greek word] for ‘hell’ in the New Testament …. In the American revision the word ‘hell’ is entirely discarded in this connexion ….The word ‘hell’ is used
2. as equivalent to [the Greek word] ‘tartaros’ (II Peter 2:4), … and,
3. more properly as the equivalent of [the Greek word] ‘gehenna’ (Hastings J., ed. Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2. 1900, pp. 343-344)
So, we see that the real MEANINGS of three different Greek words – ‘hade’, (‘sheol’ in Old Testament), ‘tartaros’, and ‘gehenna’ – have been confused with each other because translators have attempted to make the ONE English word ‘hell’ cover all THREE meanings! But now let us amplify the foregoing facts.
The original Old Testament HEBREW word ‘sheol’ and the New Testament Greek word ‘hades’ mean basically the same thing. These original words have been translated ‘grave’ in many places in the Bible.
THE WORD ‘SHEOL’,… It is never used by Moses or the Prophets in the sense of a place of torment after death; and in no way conflicts with the statement already proved, that the Law of Moses deals wholly in temporal rewards and punishments.
This position, also, I wish to fortify by the testimony of Orthodox critics, men of learning and candor. They know, and therefore they speak.
CHAPMAN. “Sheol, in itself considered, has no connection with future punishment.” Cited by Balfour, First Inquiry.
DR. ALLEN, quoted above, says: “The term sheol does not seem to mean, with certainty, anything more than the state of the dead in their deep abode.”
DR. CAMPBELL. “Sheol signifies the state of the dead without regard to their happiness or misery.”
DR. WHITBY. “Sheol throughout the Old Testament signifies not the place of punishment, or of the souls of bad men only, but the grave only, or the place of death.” (Thayer TB. THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE Doctrine of Endless Punishment. 1855; Universal Publishing House 1871)
Sheol is a reference to the grave, as is the word hades.
‘Hell’ is an old English word, and over 400 years ago, when the ‘Authorized Version’ (also known as the King James Version) was translated, the people of England commonly talked of “putting their potatoes in HELL for the winter” – a good way of preserving potatoes – for the word mainly then meant A HOLE IN THE GROUND which was covered up – a dark and silent place – like a GRAVE.
But PAGAN TEACHINGS gaining popular acceptance caused people to apply to the English word ‘hell’ the FALSE MEANING which came out of the lurid IMAGINATIONS of Dante and some others.
Note, too, that the Greek word TARTAROS, which has also been translated into the English word “hell,” occurs only once in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:4) and does not refer to humans, but to the RESTRAINED condition of fallen angels. Its meaning, translated into English, is ‘darkness of the material universe’, or ‘dark abyss’, or ‘prison’.
Now, what about Gehenna? This Greek word represents ‘the Valley of HINNOM which lay just outside of Jerusalem and was the place refuse was constantly being burned up’. It is first referred to in scripture in Joshua 15:8. It was also associated with pagan fire practices in 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31-32, 19:2-6, & 32:35.
Trash, filth, and the dead bodies of animals and DESPISED CRIMINALS were thrown into Gehenna. Ordinarily, everything thrown into this valley was DESTROYED by fire. Christ used it to picture the terrible fate of UNREPENTANT SINNERS!
But of the foregoing, remember this especially: In MOST of the passages of the NEW TESTAMENT where we see the word ‘hell’ in our English Bible translations, the ORIGINAL GREEK WORD was a DIFFERENT word than the word Gehenna. This other different word is the word ‘hades’ – which does NOT refer to FIRE at all, but has an entirely different meaning.
Yet many translators have used the ONE English word – ‘HELL’ – for these TWO entirely different GREEK words that have TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS!
COMMENT: Many English translations show that. However, were you to look up the ORIGINAL GREEK WORD that is here translated into the English word ‘hell’, you would find it to be GEHENNA.
Theologically, GEHENNA ESSENTIALLY MEANS A PLACE OF DESTRUCTIVE PUNISHMENT, and Christ indicated this would be carried out by FIRE!
COMMENT: To read the ENGLISH translation of these two scriptures – Luke 12:5 and Acts 2:31 – it would SEEM that the word ‘hell’ has the same meaning in both. BUT the original GREEK word which is translated by the English word ‘hell’ in Acts 2:31 in the KJV is HADES.
‘Hades’ means ‘GRAVE’!
HADES is put for the grave, or the state of the dead. Our translators have so rendered it in 1 Cor. 15:55. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave (hades), where is thy victory?” …
Sheol, hades, tartaroos, and Gehenna have often been mistranslated as the same word (though sheol and hades do basically mean the same).
We can plainly see that the English word ‘hell’ has been translated from words with DIFFERENT meanings! So when if come to the word ‘hell’ in our New Testament, we must carefully distinguish whether it is speaking of punishment by fire, or of the grave where the dead lie quietly buried. THESE ARE TWO VASTLY DIFFERENT MEANINGS FOR WHAT MANY THINK IS THE SAME WORD.
When you see the word ‘hell’ in your Bible, if you do not know what term it is translated from, you may wish to look it up in an EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE or some type of Greek scriptural text, if you want to BETTER know its true meaning.
When an incorrigible sinner dies, what happens? When such a sinner is interred into the grave, does he/she lie quietly and silently there, knowing NOTHING and awaiting the RESURRECTION? Or, at death, does the “soul” of the sinner descend immediately into an inferno of eternal ‘hell fire’ torture for sins?
What is the truth? What does GOD reveal about the state of man after death?
COMMENT: The original Greek word which has been translated ‘hell’ in this verse is ‘hades’ (as the NKJV renders it) which, as you now know, means the ‘GRAVE’. Christ did NOT go down into a fiery hell, but merely into a GRAVE. God does not sentence anyone to a fiery hell immediately after they die, but merely to the GRAVE.
COMMENT: How overpowering the evidence is that the unrepentant sinner, or anyone else, does not go to a place of torment at death! They go to the GRAVE–SHEOL, where they know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
You may have heard preaching about people going directly to the fiery tortures of ‘hell’ when they die. But have you ever heard of a JUDGMENT – a FORMAL SENTENCING – of these people by God, BEFORE they go to their punishment?
What did Jesus mean when He said in John 5:28-29, RSV: “the hour is coming, when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth … those who have done evil, to the resurrection of JUDGMENT”?
(Note: Unlike what the NKJV shows ‘condemnation’, the Greek word kriseoos should be properly translated as judgment, which the NJB, AFV, BSB, NASB, ASV, DRB, RVS, DBT, ESV, WNY, and YLT show.)
Christ said the judgment of the evil dead who are now in their graves, is yet ahead. Then how could they now be receiving punishment when they have not, as yet, even received JUDGMENT for their sins? The two ideas obviously contradict each other!
When and where DO the dead go from their graves? Here’s what YOUR Bible reveals.
COMMENT: It is plain that people will receive final judgment from God at some time AFTER they die.
COMMENT: ALL the dead on land or in the sea, wherever they may be, incorrigible and otherwise, are to be RESURRECTED TO ‘JUDGMENT’ IN THE FUTURE (Revelation 20:11-13). No one is, or ever has been, down in a fiery ‘hell’ dancing around on hot coals, shrieking in terror and torment!
What is the PENALTY – the ‘WAGES’, or reward – of sin? Is it ETERNAL CONSCIOUSNESS in torment, or is it ETERNAL OBLIVION? Let’s study further and see.
COMMENT: The ‘wages of sin is DEATH!’ — ETERNAL DEATH for every part of you! ‘Death’ is the OPPOSITE of ‘life’!
God has NOT decreed eternal LIFE in torment for the incorrigible sinner! The punishment revealed in the Bible is eternal DEATH – cessation of life forever. Eternal LIFE IS something we do not now have – it is a GIFT of God given at the resurrection to those that OBEY Him. Eternal life and eternal death are contrasted all through your Bible!
Now notice what God says He WILL do with the sinners – the incorrigibly wicked on whom He has decreed, ‘the wages of sin is DEATH’ (Romans 6:23).
COMMENT: In this parable Christ likened the earth to a ‘field’ (verse 24), the obedient people to ‘wheat’ (verses 25, 29), and the disobedient to ‘tares’ (verses 25, 29, 30).
COMMENT: The original Greek word translated here as ‘hell’, is Gehenna – meaning the Valley of Hinnom. Christ was referring to the fire that burned in the Valley of Hinnom as a type of complete destruction of the wicked by fire. Christ was thus asking these sinning ministers how THEY could possibly escape a DESTRUCTION BY FIRE such as they saw daily at the city dump, located in the VALLEY OF HINNOM just outside of Jerusalem.
Look at the Berean Literal Translation:
33 Serpents! Offspring of vipers! How shall you escape from the sentence of Gehenna? (Matthew 23:33, BLB)
Notice the end result:
1 “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch…” (Malachi 4:1, NKJV)
The biblical fire WILL CONSUME THE DISOBEDIENT! NEVER will they exist again. This is a fearful warning to those who know God’s truth and still REFUSE to obey it!
“For the wages of sin is DEATH, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) If you believe this scripture means what it says, then you know the TRUTH. But, unfortunately, most theologians AND THEIR BLIND FOLLOWERS try to TWIST and DISTORT what Paul said into something else – to eternal life in torment.
The wages, or reward, of sin is shown to be DEATH, but ETERNAL LIFE IS stated to be a GIFT from God – NOT SOMETHING WE ALREADY HAVE.
DEATH means just that – cessation of life and consciousness – TOTAL OBLIVION! In spite of the vain attempts of many preachers to make DEATH mean SEPARATION FROM GOD, YOU CANNOT reconcile this with Scripture. Nor does DEATH mean ETERNAL LIFE in the horrifying torments in Gehenna.
The false doctrine of a non-consuming, but only torturing of an imaginary ‘hell fire’, which has been used to frighten so many deceived human beings, is a preposterous LIE! Its author is the father of lies – Satan the Devil! (John 8:44.) If you are one who has been deceived by this doctrine, and are suffering mental torment because of it, MAY GOD HELP YOU TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH!
And now comes a most interesting revelation! Of what does Gehenna itself consist? Read now IN YOUR OWN BIBLE what God the Father reveals Gehenna fire is GOING TO BE.
If people persist in disobeying God, WHERE did Christ warn they would ultimately find themselves? Mark 9:43-45. Won’t they find themselves in GEHENNA FIRE – A PLACE OF DESTRUCTION?
COMMENT: A LARGE FIRE often has the APPEARANCE of a fiery lake. That is WHY this colossal world-end FIRE IS COMPARED to a ‘LAKE’ of fire! It is not a usual water-filled lake.
COMMENT: ALL of us must die ONCE, because we just ‘wear out’ (Hebrews 9:27), but if anyone dies the SECOND death, referred to in Revelation 21:8, it is because that person has been JUDGED guilty of persistent disobedience. The SECOND death is ETERNAL death!
COMMENT: HERE IS God’s – not some human’s – but GOD’S description of what the coming fire WILL BE! It is yet in the future, having never occurred before. And nothing is said anywhere in the entire Bible about DESCENDING BENEATH the earth into this final Gehenna fire or of TORTURE for all eternity! Rather, the Bible shows DESTRUCTION for all eternity of all unsaved human beings who shall be cast into this lake of fire. Many contrary ideas have been handed down to us from paganism.
COMMENT: Many wonder about 2 Peter 3:10. Didn’t Peter say this globe would be destroyed? Was Peter really talking about the total destruction of the earth? Notice what the context tells us:
7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7).
This fire represents the final judgment of ungodly men. Since this is called the fire reserved until the day of judgment for the ungodly, we know this is the lake of fire which is the second death (Revelation 20:14).
An unquenchable fire is one that cannot be put out. It burns until it has consumed all combustible material. Then it dies out for lack of anything else to consume. Everything will be burned up except for spirit beings who are not affected by physical fires.
Peter used the example of Noah’s Flood as a type of the future cleansing of the earth by fire, ‘by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water’ (2 Peter 3:6). Just as the earth continued to exist after the Flood, so it will continue to exist after the coming world wide Gehenna fire.
The earth will still exist (Ecclesiastes 1:4). The simple explanation of 2 Peter 3:10 is that the surface of the earth and everything on it, including the incorrigibly wicked, will be destroyed by fire. God will then remake the surface of the earth for a habitation for Himself and the rest of the God Kingdom (Revelation 21, 22).
COMMENT: The small PROTOTYPE ‘lake of fire’ of Revelation 19:20, which will burn in the Valley of Hinnom at Christ’s return, foreshadows THE final lake of fire which will consume the entire earth’s surface MUCH LATER, making it a molten mass!
But this lake of fire burns with brimstone—another word for sulphur. Sulphur, depending on whether it is in dust or liquid form, burns at 375-502 degrees Fahrenheit (190-261 Celsius).
Cremation of human remains is done at temperatures from 1400-1800 degrees Fahrenheit (760-982 Celsius).
So, while this lake of fire kills the Beast and False Prophet, it looks would leave some parts of their corpses.
Notice that people will be able to see the corpses of these two men during the millennium:
23 “And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord. 24 “And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:23-24)
This seeing the corpses happens during the time that there are fleshly humans. This is a reference to the millennium (and possibly into the time of the Great White Throne Judgment). Since flesh will be able to see the corpses, this lake of fire is not below the surface of the earth nor out in the heavens nor on/under some other planet.
The reference to their worm (maggot) not dying also ties in with Jesus’ references to Gehenna (Mark 9:43-48), which will also be discussed later in this lesson. Maggots would be expected to end up in their corpses until all that maggots can eat would be gone. Jesus’ comment about their ‘worm’ is probably also an allegorical reference to their corruption.
What will happen to the Beast and the False Prophet will serve as a stern witness to all the rest of the world.
Let’s also see that those verses show this will be noticed during the millennium (“the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow”):
3 It shall come to pass in the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, 4 that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: (Isaiah 14:3-4)
11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, And the sound of your stringed instruments; The maggot is spread under you, And worms cover you. (Isaiah 14:11)
Since the millennium starts after the Beast and False Prophet were tossed into the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 19:20, 20:1-6), we know this is after the start of the millennium. We also know that was a not a world encompassing destructive fire, as the world becomes a better place during the millennium (cf. Isaiah 35:1-7).
Hence, this particular Gehenna fire must be on the earth in only a small area.
The Gehenna fire is literally (Young’s Literal Translation) called an ‘AGE-DURING’ fire in Matthew 25:41. Although Gehenna fire will later ultimately cover the entire surface of the earth and heavens (2 Peter 3:10), its length can, literally, LAST no longer than just before New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Revelation 22:1-4).
Note that the word ‘are’ is in italics in the KJV/NKJV related to the beast and false prophet in Revelation 20:10—that use of italics is showing that the translators added a word that was not there.
Here is a more biblically accurate rendering of what that verse is showing us:
and the Devil, who had been leading them astray, was thrown into the Lake of fire and sulphur where the Wild Beast and the false Prophet were, and day and night they will suffer torture until the Ages of the Ages. (Revelation 20:10, Weymouth New Testament)
Now the above fire is, at this point, basically localized in the Valley of Hinnom as that is where the Beast and False prophet were tossed. It also is a lake of fire with sulphur.
This also looks to be the location that people will see Satan and/or his ashes as is prophesied:
12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart:’ I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ 15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
16 “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, 17 Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’ (Isaiah 14:12-17)
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. 15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
16 “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.
17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.
18 “You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.”‘“ (Ezekiel 28:13-19)
The New Testament says that Satan is the ‘god of this age’ (2 Corinthian 4:4), who has deceived the whole world and is to be permanently cast down from heaven (Revelation 12:7-9). Satan was the one in Eden and both the Old and New Testaments show he will be punished with fire.
Various ones have misunderstood verses 14- 16 of Ezekiel 28. Notice that God is speaking of the beginning of the creation in this account of Satan’s original rebellion. But, just as the Bible so often uses DUAL meanings, so THIS is history and prophecy at the same time!
COMMENT: It will be mortal unrepentant sinners who refuse to obey God who will be tossed in the lake of fire. Their end is both sad and merciful. The second death is actually a type of mercy killing. Those who die in the lake of fire, because of the twisted thinking that led them to become worthy of such a fate in the first place, would, if given eternal life, live out immortality in misery. God puts them out of their misery while He also stops them from inflicting misery on others.
COMMENT: A consuming fire burns things up.
Let’s look at 2 Peter 3:10-12, with a Protestant and a Roman Catholic translation:
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:10-12, NKJV)
10 The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11 Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living 12 while you wait for the Day of God to come, and try to hasten its coming: on that Day the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:10-12, NJB)
Unlike the localized lake of fire where the corpses of the Beast and False Prophet can be seen, and the same localized one where Satan will be seen, this one is NOT simply localized and will destroy the entire surface of the earth as even the elements will melt and the sky dissolve in flames.
This is an extremely hot fire.
The final fire of 2 Peter 3:10-12 will then be followed by the New Heavens and New Earth (2 Peter 3:13).
A place with no more death nor sorrow (Revelation 21:1-4).
COMMENT: Jesus repeated five times for EMPHASIS, that this coming Gehenna fire which shall destroy the wicked, would NEVER BE ‘QUENCHED’. But the vast majority of people have CARELESSLY ASSUMED that the phrase, “go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” (verse 43), is just one more proof that an eternal, tormenting fiery place for the wicked has been roaring CONTINUOUSLY underground, and will continue forever.
Notice now God’s own inspired explanation of UNQUENCHABLE fire.
Christ constantly used the Jerusalem refuse or garbage fire, that burned in the Valley of Hinnom which bordered Jerusalem on the south, to ILLUSTRATE the fire which is to occur at the time of the future purification of the earth’s surface.
But was the fire that burned the city refuse QUENCHED in those days? The fires in the Valley of Hinnom kept burning as long as there were bodies of dead people, animals, or refuse, to BURN. THEN THEY NATURALLY WENT OUT! It is important to notice that these fires accomplished their purpose of consuming the dead bodies and refuse, and that it was only AFTER they had accomplished this purpose that they BURNED THEMSELVES OUT. But they never were QUENCHED, or PUT OUT, prematurely by anyone! The flames merely died out when they had nothing more to consume. It could have been said of these fires, “THEY SHALL NOT BE QUENCHED BY ANYONE.” They didn’t have to be!
So Jesus used the fire in the Valley of Hinnom, which WASN’T QUENCHED by anyone, as a TYPE of the great future worldwide Gehenna fire.
COMMENT: This fire did occur a few years later and it did DESTROY all the houses of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:13). Since God said no person or thing would quench this fire (“it shall not be quenched”), and since it is NOT BURNING TODAY, it obviously went out BY ITSELF after accomplishing its purpose!
COMMENT: “ETERNAL fire” means a fire whose results are PERMANENT or everlasting – NOT a fire that BURNS FOREVER! Sodom and Gomorrah have NEVER been rebuilt.
The fires which burned these cities went out of themselves when they CONSUMED ALL COMBUSTIBLE MATERIAL! Clearly none of these scriptures can be used to show that ‘fire that shall not be quenched’ will torment people forever and ever!
COMMENT: Punishing is a continuous action. Punishment has a time limit! Torment will end! God is merciful!
COMMENT: When 2 Peter was written, the Book of Revelation had not been revealed. But the two line up and provide details when looked at together.
In Revelation, the new heaven and new earth are mentioned immediately after the account of the Lake of Fire:
1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:1-3).
God renews the face of the earth (Psalm 104:30).
The primary reason so many people and human organizations have a FALSE conception of Gehenna fire is that they view the doctrine of hell basically as an ISOLATED doctrine. They FAIL TO UNDERSTAND the OVERALL PURPOSE of God in putting humans on this earth, of offering humans the choice of receiving the gift of eternal life for those who obey Him (cf. Acts 5:32; Hebrews 5:9), or everlasting punishment (not punishing) for disobedience (Malachi 4:1,3).
God created man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). In the Garden of Eden, He instructed man in the way that would lead to ETERNAL LIFE. Then He told man that doing the WRONG thing – eating of the fruit of the tree which God had forbidden – would lead to DEATH (Genesis 2:17). But Satan, the FATHER of all lies (John 8:44), told the woman, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). He told her she had an ‘immortal soul’! And man has been believing that LIE ever since!
God’s purpose is to develop holy, righteous character in man which will make man fit to receive ETERNAL LIFE. God gave ancient Israel His commandments, “that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
God’s decrees are always for humanity’s good. They are not designed as arbitrary decrees which God has set in order to have some excuse for plunging men into flames of fire!
God created humans in His own image in order that humans might develop holy character so God could entrust them with the precious GIFT of ETERNAL LIFE. Notice that God offered Adam and Eve LIFE on one hand, and death on the other.
If an individual rebels against God, is unrepentant and unteachable, then God knows that one would also ABUSE ETERNAL LIFE! If given eternal life while in this SINNING CONDITION, that person would bring misery on him/her and others for all eternity by his/her wrong ways. Certainly the KINDEST THING God could do is NOT give this person eternal life!
God is love (1 John 4:8,16) and all His actions and plans are based on love.
The gift of ETERNAL LIFE for obedience – and the reward of death – ETERNAL DEATH – for disobedience are stressed all through YOUR BIBLE. Only this is consistent with the Scriptures, and with God’s plan and purpose – and His character of supreme LOVE! God will not, because of His infinite LOVE, take away anyone’s life because of ignorance or weakness, but only if they WILFULLY and KNOWINGLY refuse to obey their Creator.
The warning of Gehenna fire should be a FEARFUL WARNING to those who know God’s truth and still stubbornly REFUSE to obey it! It should bring the somber 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 forever the life He has given us!
Many have wondered about a statement found in Mark 9:44, 46 and 48. In these verses of Scripture, Christ spoke of a worm that ‘does not die’. Who ever heard of the immortality of worms?!
Some people think that Jesus was referring to PEOPLE as worms and was trying to say that these ‘people’ never died – but lived on in AGONIZING TORMENT. Those who say this fail to notice that Jesus does not call the wicked ‘worms’, but instead speaks of THEIR worm, which looks to have literal and allegorical meaning. A similar statement is made in Isaiah 66:24 in which ‘their worm’ refers to the ‘worm’ of the ‘corpses’. Since it is the ‘worm’ OF the wicked, then the wicked themselves CANNOT be the ‘worms’.
The Lexicons define the Hebrew (Isaiah 66:24) and Greek (Mark 9:44) words translated ‘worm’ as a grub or MAGGOT.
Christ was not teaching the immortality of people OR worms! Notice what Jesus really meant.
If anything, especially a dead body, landed on a ledge above the garbage fires of ‘Gehenna’ or even in it, ultimately it could be devoured by many WORMS or MAGGOTS.
It was to these type of worms that Christ was referring when He said, ‘their worm does not die’. But Christ didn’t mean that each individual worm continued to live forever!
Actually, these maggots come from eggs deposited by flies. Here is the cycle. These eggs give rise to larvae – MAGGOTS – WHICH EAT FLESH and other garbage. They continue in this form a few days, then go through a change called pupation, and finally emerge as flies. THE WORMS DON’T DIE – THEY BECOME FLIES!
These are scientific facts, known by any real student of science. And yet some people think that Christ somehow stated that these larvae continued to live FOREVER in that stage of development! This just goes to show that we should always be careful to use wisdom and common sense in studying God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of a SOUND MIND (2 Timothy 1:7). Let’s rightly use the minds God gave us!
The Greek word which was inspired, and translated into the word ‘worm’ in Mark 9:44, simply means a grub or maggot, and is a COLLECTIVE expression – like ‘fish’ or ‘deer’ or ‘sins’ or ‘corruption’ – for worms that devour dead matter, or otherwise destroy the body. These worms do not die, but pupate and become flies. Later, these flies, like all other creatures, WILL return to the dust from which they came. ‘all are from the dust, and all return to dust’ (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
As mentioned before, in Isaiah 66:24, we again find that the inspired word simply means a common grub or a maggot. These worms or larvae also feed on the dead bodies for a few days, and then emerge as flies. Thus, these worms ‘do not die’ but continue to develop into flies just as any normal, healthy maggot! The flies continue to deposit their eggs ONLY AS LONG AS there are dead bodies or other matter for the larvae to feed on.
Isaiah 66:24 specifically points to the fact that others will be able to see what happened to those that transgressed against God. Hence allegorically, their corruption/worm will be historically known—in that sense it also does not die.
Furthermore, we realize that worms do not have immortal souls as Ecclesiastes 3:19 shows that NO LIVING CREATURE IS born with an immortal soul (see also 1 Corinthians 15:53-54; 1 Timothy 6:16).
The Bible is one book that makes GOOD SENSE! So let us always carefully study these perplexing scriptures through, and not jump to our own conclusions.
Let’s live by God’s Word so we may receive the GIFT of eternal life, and not the wages of sin which is death (Romans 6:23). This death will come by a fire which God will not permit to be quenched – BUT WILL BURN ITSELF OUT by consuming this earth’s surface, and all of the wicked who will then become nothing but ashes (Malachi 4:1).
If we will HONESTLY search the scriptures and LIVE by them, we will most certainly inherit eternal life.
Jesus’ PARABLE of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) is perhaps one of the most – if not THE most – outstanding texts used by those who seek to prove there is a fiery hell in which the wicked are suffering excruciating torture today.
Exactly what did Jesus intend to illustrate by this PARABLE? Let’s get the facts straight!
COMMENT: God gave Abraham and his ‘seed’ the promise of the earth for an eternal inheritance. If we are Christ’s, we are considered by God as Abraham’s seed – children – and are thus also heirs with Abraham to receive this promise (Galatians 3:29). Through FAITH we may all become ‘CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM’ (Galatians 3:7). This is an INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP – a close or bosom relationship – to Abraham. We are to be in CLOSE CONTACT with him in SHARING this promise. It is like being TAKEN TO ABRAHAM’S BOSOM (Luke 16:22). And so RIGHTEOUS Lazarus was taken to Abraham’s bosom in this parable.
When, then, did Abraham actually receive these promises? The startling answer of Scripture is – HE DIDN’T! – HE HAS NOT, EVEN YET IN OUR DAY, INHERITED THESE PROMISES!
We learned in Lesson 13 (BNP Magazine Apr-Jun 2018) that Abraham will inherit the promises at the RESURRECTION of the just, when Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
And what about Lazarus, the beggar of Jesus’ parable? He, being intimately RELATED to Abraham, SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING, will also receive the promises when he is resurrected at that same time! Lazarus is a type of Abraham’s children who are to receive the promises at the resurrection.
COMMENT: The word ‘hell’ used here is translated from the original Greek word HADES, which you know means the ‘grave’. It is NOT from the Greek word GEHENNA, which helps represent the future lake of fire that will destroy the wicked forever. The rich man, at this moment, is pictured as COMING UP OUT OF HIS GRAVE through a resurrection.
When Christ comes, the righteous will be resurrected to immortality, and Christ will say, “Come, you blessed [who are here Abraham and the beggar] … inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” (Matthew 25:31-34). Abraham and Lazarus will have ESCAPED, through the sacrifice of Christ, the judgment of eternal death by Gehenna fire – they will have been IMMORTAL FOR OVER 1000 YEARS BEFORE this rich man is resurrected to be burned in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Until then, he has been dead in the grave having NO RECOLLECTION of the passing of time (Ecclesiastes 9:5). But at his resurrection from the grave, the rich man sees the flames of the lake of fire surrounding him, which he KNOWS will DESTROY HIM FOREVER. Being in great MENTAL agony, he asks for just a LITTLE water to cool his tongue which has become dry from his MENTAL ANGUISH. He does not ask for BUCKETS FULL of water to put the fire out. An IMPOSSIBILITY, he knows.
COMMENT: The great GULF between the two will be the DIFFERENCE between mortality and immortality. Those who are made immortal shall never die because they will be born of God (Revelation 20:6). Abraham and the beggar will be on the IMMORTAL side of this gulf – the MORTAL unrighteous rich man on the OTHER, facing eternal death by fire.
And many of the condemned will, like the rich man, want their relatives warned, not knowing that all will ALREADY have had their chance to be saved (Luke 16:27, 28).
How clear that the PARABLE of ‘Lazarus and the Rich Man’ DOES NOT PROVE ETERNAL PUNISHING by God! Rather, by this parable, Christ was preaching the GOOD NEWS of SALVATION!! He was picturing the RESURRECTION TO ETERNAL LIFE and the inheritance of the Kingdom of God on this earth forever.
Christ was also picturing the alternative of eternal life – ETERNAL DEATH IN THE LAKE OF FIRE – If we don’t accept the GOOD NEWS of how we may be saved, and ACT upon it!
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