Home Doctrine Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible? (Part I)

Ep.1021: Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible? (Part I)

Hell’s pagan historical beginnings and its Old Testament absence

Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible? (Part I)

Theme Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:22

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It is called Hellfire.  For many centuries the churches have taught that when sinners die they face a punishment of eternal torment and torture in hell. Reading some of the descriptions of how this intense and endless torture works will make your skin crawl and your stomach turn.  Yet, those who adhere to such teaching are firm in their belief that it is thoroughly biblical, and therefore entirely in line with God and His plan.  But is it?  Could God have contrived such a diabolical and heinous place, where screams of agony and relentless pain are the order of the day, now and forever?  What if this teaching is NOT of God but rather of Satan?  What if, by understanding well-established facts and by keeping Bible scriptures in context it could be proven that what many churches have taught for centuries is one of the greatest misrepresentations of God that the world has ever seen?

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There is no doubt this is one of those topics that can easily bring out the reactive parts from all of us. From the pro-hellfire crowd there is the, “If you don’t believe in it then, you are going there!" Or, “Don’t you read your Bible? Revelation says ‘the smoke of their torment goes up forever!’ Duh!” Then from the anti-hellfire crowd there is, “Hello, look up the words, don’t make up the meanings!” or “Don’t YOU read your Bible? God told Adam the penalty for sin was death not torture! Look it up!”

This approach isn’t fun and certainly is NOT at all productive! Why don’t we all take a breath and review a few fundamental assumptions about each other. First, your belief is sincere and based upon both what you have been taught, and what you have thought and studied yourself. Therefore, as I look at that belief - be it in agreement or not - I must be respectful. You carry your belief for a reason, and I will assume your reason is a conviction that it reflects God’s word and plan. Now please, do grant me the same respect. I carry my sincere belief based on what I have been taught and what I have thought and studied and I (like you) am convinced it reflects God’s word and plan. There, I said it...so now what?

Now let’s talk about it. Calmly and scripturally. Now let’s present a point of view that we believe reflects God word and God’s plan. Let’s use reason, let’s keep the things we quote in context and let’s verify them with history as well. If you would, allow me to go first. Check out our May 14, 2018 podcast, “Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible? Part 1”. In this podcast we attempt to present a logical, scriptural pattern of reasoning we believe firmly explains God’s position on the matter in the Old Testament. Why not the New Testament? Two reasons: first, the Old Testament is the foundation upon which Jesus himself based his teachings. Second, the New Testament is the focus of Part II. Listen and then respond if you would like. Tell us where you think we are right or wrong and why. What a great opportunity this could be for us to talk with each other! In Part III we explain difficult texts about hell.

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Comment(4)

  1. I DON’T KNOW IF IT’S IMPORTANT OR ARROGANT OR TABOO TO TALK HELL, YOU KNOW? MAKES US PRETTY ARROGANT ON WHAT GOD IS CAPABLE OF DOING, DEATH MAY BE CONSCIOUS, IN A DIFFERENT QUANTUM OR HIDDEN REALM WHERE THE SPIRIT GOES. I’VE HEARD THESE TALKS A 1,000 TIMES AND I’M STARTING TO THINK. HEY, REMEMBER THE OT? GOD SAVORED THE SMELL OF ANIMAL GUTS, SACRIFICES WERE PLEASING, HE DROWNED THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, BURNED TO DEATH THE EVIL SODDOMITES. THAT’S JUST A LITTLE BIT. TO BE HIDDEN IN SHEOL, IN GODS SPIRIT, AS GOD MAKES TARTAROO. DEATH HAS A STING. DEATH IS AN ENEMY, NOT JUST A ANIHILATION, OR DEATH, NOT INVITED TO THE PARTY

    1. Hi, James – we can appreciate your sentiments, as you bring out legitimate points. We did a 2-part series about trying to understand why the God of the Old Testament seems different than that of the New. Episode 779: Does the Same God Rule in the Old and New Testament? (Part I) Episode 783: (Part II)Episode 783: (Part II) For our series on hell, we showed the historical creation of the concept and then compared to biblical teachings and have come to the conclusion that the Bible does not teach what Dante imagined. Hopefully you have the chance to listen to all three parts of Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible? for our scriptural reasoning. Thank you for writing – Christian Questions

  2. What about the story of the rich man and Lazarus, who was in Abram’s bossom and the rich man in hades awaiting the final judgment. Hades was already firery.

    1. Like many, we have wrestled with this horrifying (and without a purpose of worldwide rehabilitation and reconciliation promised in the Bible) concept and have studied it extensively, comparing every Scripture that could even hint at some sort of eternal torture. Historically it is a man-made belief, and when the biblical accounts are analyzed topically, it harmoniously shows the God of love and His plan for all of mankind, not just the lucky few who happened to be born in the right place at the right time and with the right mental capacity to comprehend the sacrifice of Jesus.

      We recently did a 3-part series on hell called, “Is the Hell of Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible?” (Episodes 1021, 1024 and 1027) and the third episode addressed the Lazarus question in detail:
      https://christianquestions.com/doctrine/1021-bible-hell-part-1/
      https://christianquestions.com/doctrine/1024-hell-taught-bible-part-ii/
      https://christianquestions.com/doctrine/1027-hell-part-iii/

      So, please start with part 3 for each set for the details, but briefly, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is the 5th in a series of 5 parables told by Jesus. There is nothing stating the Rich Man is wicked or the Poor Man is good. Therefore, there is nothing said about the wicked going into eternal torment at death. Obviously the story is symbolic, as interpreting the story literally creates absurdities. All wearing purple and fine linen who eat heartedly every day are placed in a furnace of fire. It would mean unless we are poverty-stricken beggars and full of sores and hanging out with dogs, we would never be able to arrive – not in heaven – but in Abraham’s bosom (which makes no sense – how does everyone fit?) when we depart this life. (No one was able to go to heaven anyway before Jesus died to open the way.) Upon closer inspection, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a remarkable prophecy of the conditions relating to the Jews and the Gentiles and their role reversals of having God’s favor. Jesus, warning the Pharisees, predicted they and the nation of Israel being “rich” with God’s favor and looking down upon the Gentiles pictured by Lazarus, would soon have that favor removed as the Gentiles were given the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel message. Jesus was illustrating the suffering the nation of Israel would experience because of their hardened hearts. With this parable, Jesus accurately predicted the reversal of fortune that happened shortly thereafter for the Pharisees and the nation of Israel.

      God has a comprehensive plan that includes every man, woman and child who ever lived. The Bible describes it in two phases – a heavenly phase for footstep followers of Jesus and an earthly phase for the “everyone else.” There are consequences for what we do, say and think in this life, but it is absolutely not eternal torture with no hope of learning, growing, forgiving or reconciliation.

      May God bless your studies! – Christian Questions

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