"Hell" is a topical issue debated on by many religious denominations. Some believe that there is nothing like burning hell. To them, hell simply means the grave. However, there are others who believe that hell is a burning fire and that, that fire will burn eternally. In the midst of debate and arguments, there is truth somewhere. Let God and His Word always be true, and every man, organization etc a liar (Romans 3:4).
In chapter 8 of one of Jehovah witnesses' tracts entitled LET GOD BE TRUE, the page had a topic "Hell, a place of rest in hope". In that article, the writer suggested that, all that there is to hell is the grave because the Greek word gehenna from which 'hell' is taken means the grave. However, in the 1st April, 1952 edition of LET GOD BE TRUE, the Jehovah witness organization, suggested that gehenna does not refer to hell, but to the valley of Hinnom which lay outside of the south and west walls of Jerusalem - a clear contradiction on their stand on hell.
It must be noted that, the Lord Jesus Christ taught more about hell than all other writers of the Bible put together. Below are what the Lord said about hell.
He told the city of Capernaum that because of its sin, it would be brought down to hell (Matthew 11:23).
The Lord said, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:47,48).
The Lord called the Pharisees a generation of vipers and said, "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33)
The Lord said," The rich man died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments" (Luke 16:22,23)
In the Day of Judgment, Christ will say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
The word hell is found 54 times in the King James Version of the Bible. 31 times, it is a translation of the Hebrew word "shoel"; 10 times of the Greek word "hades"; 12 times of the Greek word "gehenna"; and once of the Greek word "tartarus".
In the Old Testament, the word "shoel" is translated "grave" 31 times and is translated "hell" 31 times. In four instances, the Hebrew word "shoel" is translated "pit".
In several cases, it is true that where "shoel" has been translated "hell", it could have been translated "grave". However, in other cases, the context and the way the word "shoel" is used in the sentence clearly shows that, it refers to a place of punishment and not merely to the grave. Let us look at some of these passages.
Solomon warns against wicked women by saying, "Her house is the way to hell" (Proverbs 7:27); and "her guests are in the depths of hell" (Proverbs 9:18).
When Solomon used the word "shoel", he evidently was speaking of some place other than the grave, for all men both good and bad go to the grave. He was warning immoral men, not that they would die and be placed in the grave, but that they would be punished in hell for their sins. Solomon gives us this advice, "Thou shalt beat him (thy son) with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:14).
It is very plain that Solomon is referring to something besides the grave, because no matter how much a rebellious son may be beaten, they will die and go to the grave and no amount of beating will bring a person out of the grave, but a wise chastening of a loving father, may be a means used by God to keep a wayward son from going to hell.
The word "hades" is found in the New Testament 11times. 10 times, it is translated "hell" and once "grave". ("O death where is thy sting? O grave (hades) where is thy victory? – 1Corinthians 15:55). Should the word "hades" have been translated grave in every case? We think not. When Jesus warns the city of Capernaum that it will be brought down to hades and that it would suffer more severe punishment than the city of Sodom (Matthew 11:23,24), He was speaking of some place other than the grave, because apostle Jude said the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were then suffering the vengeance of everlasting fire (Jude 7).
When Jesus said that a certain rich man died and was buried and in hades, he lifted up his eyes being in torment, he evidently was speaking of some place beside the grave, because there are no torments in the grave. People who are in the grave do not lift up their eyes nor do they remember things that happened before they died. Men try to get around this story by telling us that it was a parable, but the Bible does not say it was a parable. Instead of Luke saying as he often did, "He spoke a parable unto them saying..." Jesus said, "a certain rich man..." showing that He had a certain rich man in mind as He spoke.
The Lord Jesus said if we call our brother a fool, we would be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22). It is then foolish to say that He was warning men that they would be burned on the rubbish heap outside of the city of Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus Christ taught that we should fear God rather than men, for man may kill our body, but only God can cast into hell. If Jesus was referring to the place of burning outside of Jerusalem in Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:5, He could not be teaching us to fear God, because men would have had the power to cast into the place of burning, but only God can cast into hell.
To emphasis the terribleness of hell, Jesus taught that if our eye offends us, we should pluck it out rather than to be cast into hell; that if our hand or foot offends us, we should cut it off rather than to be cast into hell (Matthew 18:9, Mark 9:45-48).
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by calling them serpents and a generation of vipers and asked them how they could escape the damnation of hell (Matthew 23:33). If hell is nothing more than the grave, how can it be connected with damnation?
To be consistent in our thinking, if we believe that Heaven is a literal place, we must also believe that Hell also is a literal place. The Bible teaches that both Heaven and Hell are literal places. The Bible speaks of the lowest hell (Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 86:13). David spoke of making his bed in hell (Psalm 139:8; Isaiah 14:15). Ezekiel speaks of being cast down to hell and of going down into hell (Ezekiel 31:16,17).
Repeatedly in the scriptures, hell is connected with fire or burning. Jesus called it hell fire (Matthew 5:22;18:9). He spoke of it as a furnace of fire (Matthew 13:42,50). Five times, hell is called the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20;20:10,14,15; 21:8).
The story of the rich man in hell shows that, hell is a place of consciousness (Luke 16:23,24). It is a place of suffering (Jude 7), a place of pain ( Psalm 116:3), a place of torment (Luke 16:24,25,28), a place of wrath (Ephesians 2:3, Colossians 3:6), and a place of everlasting damnation (Mark 3:29).
Hell is a place of remembrance. Abraham told the rich man to remember the good things he enjoyed while living on earth. The rich man remembered his five brothers that were on the earth. The sinner will remember his past sins without being able to indulge in them. He will remember the many opportunities he had to accept Christ. He will remember the prayers and pleading of godly parents. He will remember hearing many Gospel sermons. He will remember the wooings and strivings of the Spirit of God. He will remember every time he rejected Christ.
Hell is not only a place of remembrance, but it is also a place of remorse. The sinner's soul will be filled with the deepest remorse over every sin he committed. In hell, he will realize the folly of having sold his soul for a mess of portage of worldly pleasures. He will be filled with remorse for having spurned the love of God and for having rejected the Gospel Truth.
Hell, however, will not burn eternally since there is only one form of eternal life. The reason why the Christian will live eternally is because he has eternal life in his soul given by God. Anything that will live eternally, must receive eternal life from God. The Spirit of God will not be in hell. Since hell was created or prepared (Mathew 25:41),it must end someday, even if it lasts for hundreds of trillions of years. Anything that has a beginning has an end. Hell does not have God's eternal life in it. It will therefore end someday.
QUOTE: Smyrnaean Church Age, 1960
"But I stand here on the authority of the Word of God and deny that the unbeliever goes to an eternal hell and burns there eternally. In the first place, hell, or the lake of fire, or whatever you want to call it is not eternal. How can it be if it had a beginning? In Matthew 25:41, it says that "everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels." Now if it was prepared, then it wasn't without a beginning. If it had a beginning then it can't be eternal. Of course you might stumble over the idea of the word 'everlasting.' But that word means "from the ages to the ages" and has different meanings attached to it. In I Samuel 3:13-14, God told Samuel that He was going to judge the house of Eli forever, and that they would offer no more sacrifices "forever" as His priests. And in II Kings 2:27, Solomon thrust out the last descendants of Eli from the priesthood. That was four generations or so later. Now you can see that "everlasting" does not compare with what is "eternal", or that which had no beginning or end. Here in this case the word everlasting means "to the vanishing point." That is what happened. They vanished.
Look at the word, "destruction" over in II Thessalonians 1:9,
"Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction."
In the Greek, "destruction" positively means annihilation. And the word, "destruction", does NOT mean destroying. Now "destroying" means something going on and on in decay. So what can everlasting annihilation mean? It doesn't mean to keep on annihilating, or that would make the word "destroying", instead of "destruction". It means to destroy to the ending point. End it.
You might wonder now, when you can use that word, "eternal", and not use it the way we have been taught. That is easy. When it applies to God it means to be without beginning or end, and ever enduring and never ceasing. And when you talk of eternal life you have that in mind which is the life of God. "This is the record, that God has given us eternal life, and that life is in the Son. He that hath the Son hath life." Now then, only sons of God have life eternal, the kind that never had a beginning, but always was. That is right. You have something in you right now that is eternal--without beginning or end. It is the Spirit of God. It is a part of God Himself. It is the life of God.
Now if a sinner is going to go to hell and then suffer the same as you are going to heaven and enjoy heaven, then he has the same kind of life you have already.
Well, then there might be those who say eternal life signifies the welfare of the children of God. It is their welfare and enjoyment that is at stake. On the other hand the sinner goes to his punishment, so that we can reduce the second death to a matter of punishment and place. Eternal life means heaven, and eternal punishment means hell. You would be surprised at the men who have been exalted as theologians that believed that. But do you know what that does? It makes eternal life a matter of geography instead of a Person. Eternal life is God,--the Lord Jesus Christ. How anyone could believe such a thing, that eternal life is a matter of place, is more than I know. It makes me stagger to think of it.
No sir. There is only one kind of eternal life. God has it. If we have God, we have eternal life in and through Him.
So you see, that word eternal, or everlasting, can be applied in various ways, but when it applies to God, He being what He is, it has one meaning. It is the duration of God. You can't apply it like that to any other thing. God alone is eternal, and because He lives, we live with Him.
Now don't let anyone say that I don't believe in a lake of fire and in punishment. I do. I don't know how long it will last, but it will eventually be removed. In Revelation 21:8, it says that those sinners mentioned will have their part in the lake of fire. But the true interpretation of the word is not 'part' but it is 'time.' See, there you have it.
So the wicked shall be cast into hell (Hades or the grave) and hell into the lake of fire. Separated from God. What a terrible thing that will be.
But with the righteous it shall not be so. They don't have to fear. They have been redeemed by God. They are in His bosom. They are the overcomers. And who is he that overcometh? He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ.
Why will this overcomer, this believer escape, and go into realms of eternal life and bliss? Because Jesus paid a price to ransom us from sin. He filled the gap of separation, and we who were afar off are now made nigh by the blood.
And they will never come into condemnation. They will never be in that lake of fire. They can never be lost for He will lose none of them. Not one of the redeemed will be anywhere except where Jesus is.