Muslims, Jews, Christians and others predict a burning eternal hell for the wicked. Is this what the Bible teaches?
Is anyone roasting forever in ...
The term has been used to frighten the 'faithful' into mending their ways. Today it's played down by preachers - when did you hear the vicar at a funeral say the victim was 'burning in hell'.
But 'hell' is a reality - or will be. The concept derives from the geographical location south of Jerusalem - the Valley of Hinnom. It was the refuse dump, where fires continually burned to consume the city's rubbish - rotting vegetation, decaying animal remains and dead criminals.
The apostle Peter foresaw a time when the stored fire within our earth (or from another source) will burst out to consume and purify the planet (II Peter 3:11-14). This is the 'Lake of Fire.'
Bill Faith: A central Bible theme is the subject of life versus death. The focal point of the entire Bible is the death and resurrection of Christ. God emptied Himself and came to this earth as a human being so that He could take upon Himself the penalty of the law, that is, death (Philippians 2:7-8, Galatians 3:13). Death is the curse of the law, the wages of sin; but Christ came so that we should not perish but have everlasting life (Romans 6:23, John 3:16).
Life should never be taken for granted. It is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon us. From the very beginning, God set before us life and death. And He encouraged everyone to chose life rather than death. But the choice is ours to make. Even in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve a choice. He placed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge in the garden. However, He warned that if they ate of the tree of knowledge, whereby they would know good and evil, they would die. Nevertheless they chose the tree of knowledge after being beguiled by Satan.
Later in history, before entering the promised land, Moses instructed the people, "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply ...But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them. I announce to you today that you shall surely perish ...I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life" (Deut. 30:15f).
On the day of Pentecost when God poured out His holy Spirit, Peter exclaimed, "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Finally, in Rev. 22:14 we are told: "blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life."
Throughout the Bible, God asks us to choose the right way of life, to forsake the way of evil and to accept God's offer to forgive our sins. But what about those individuals who do not accept Christ and forsake His way of life. What happens to them?
Many churches teach that those who reject Christ will spend eternity in a never ending fire! An eternal fire that will never be quenched. This teaching is based on the belief that the soul cannot die, but is this true?
The word "soul" is translated from the Hebrew word nephesh (Strong's #5315). It is defined as "A breathing creature." The word nephesh is translated from the primary root word naphash which means to breathe. This is why the Bible explains in Gen. 2:7: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (nephesh). The KJV translates living being as "living soul."
By definition, a soul is a breathing creature. Therefore, when the body quits breathing it cannot exist. Man does not have a soul within himself. He is a soul. Jesus said not to fear man but rather to "Fear Him [God] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt. 10:28). Again in Luke 12:5 Jesus informs us to, "Fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell..." These two verses as well as others that speak of hell fire are translated from the word geenna - (pronounced gheh'-en-nah) - referring to the Valley of Hinnom where the citizens of Jerusalem burned their trash.
Jesus said that God is able to destroy both soul and body in this fire. If He can destroy the soul in this fire, it cannot be immortal! Again, according to Strong's Concordance the word "destroy" is defined as "To destroy fully." The Greek word is derived from two other words, Strong's #575 and #3039. One word can mean, "Off or away, separation, cessation, or departure" while the other word means "Grind to powder." So when the two words are combined we can see that it means to take away and completely destroy. Jesus used this exact same word in John. 3:16 where he said: "Whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." The word perish is the same word translated as destroy in Mt. 10:28.
Yes, there is a real hell fire. Peter wrote of it in one of his letters when he said, "For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire ...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 (II Peter 3:5-7,10).
Life should not be taken for granted. It truly is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon us. Make the right choice, choose life. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and walk the path of righteousness along with him. And finally, remember the words of encouragement that Peter wrote following his graphic description of the coming fire. "Nevertheless we according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore beloved. looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by him in peace, without spot and blameless; and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (II Peter 3:15)
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 No. 3, January/February 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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