What Did Jesus Teach (about hell)?

What Did Jesus Teach (about hell)? January 9, 2013

The traditional view of hell rests on four pillars: that the OT says nothing; that the Jewish view at the time of Jesus was one of eternal conscious punishment; that Jesus’ view was thoroughly Jewish; and that the NT authors follow Jesus. Edward Fudge, in Hell: A Final Word , subjects each of these to examination in a readable, accessible format. The first pillar is wobbly; the OT does speak about the “end” of the wicked and the idea is one of a “consuming” fire (not tormenting fire). The second? Wobblier. There were three views: a consuming fire, a purifying fire, and a tormenting fire. Third? Today we sketch Fudge’s short chps on what Jesus taught, and I shall sketch his sketch.

1. Gehenna, Jesus’ typical term, is a trope for the place of destruction/fire south of Jerusalem. It cannot be proven to have been the dump in the 1st Century.

2. What happens there? The wicked are destroyed, they perish there. Matt 10:28: “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell/Gehenna.” The issue is if “destroy” means “destroy” or “preserve forever in a destroying state.”  Fudge thinks traditionalists ruin the meanings of words on this one: destroy means destroy, not preserve forever. Had he meant preserve forever he could have said it that way. He then lists eleven uses of “destroy” in the NT and shows that each means “destroy”: why not in Matt 10:28? [Matt. 8:25; 12:14; 16:25; 21:41; 22:7; 26:52; 27:20; John 11:50; Acts 5:37; 1 Cor. 10:9-10; Jude 5, 11.]

3. Gnashing of teeth means anger, not pain. Cf. Acts 7:52-54.

4. Eternal punishment fits with other uses of “Eternal” as an adjective: salvation (Heb. 5:6), redemption (9:1), judgment (6:2), punishment (Matt. 25:46), destruction (2 Thess. 1:9). Big conclusions: the term refers to something in the Age to Come, it is endless and it refers to the result of an action. An action leads to something being permanent: one is not redeemed forever, one is redeemed and then lives forever; one is not judged forever, one is judged and then has consequences forever. [I sense a technicality here that is not as tight as Fudge says it, but there’s a good observation here.] Eternal punishment refers to eternal capital punishment. The second death. 2 Thess. 1:9 says it is “eternal destruction” so that eternal punishment is eternal destruction —  and eternal fire refers to fire that destroys forever.

5. Rich man and Lazarus: it’s a parable; Fudge sees Jewish folklore at work here; it’s Hades not Gehenna; this parable says nothing about hell; it’s not literal; it aims to motivate Jesus’ contemporaries to care for the poor with the threat of irreversible consequences. [There are negations here that are not necessary, but in the main I agree with much of what Fudge says in this section.]

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  • phil_style

    Thanks for this summary Scot.

    I suspect one of the “objections” to the Lazarus story being a non-literal parable is the one that claims Jesus’ never uses a “named” person in a parable, therefore this explanation must be literal (in the non-parable sense). I realise you might not want to get into this, but that is the objection I’ve heard from most people on this matter. It seems to be used as a trump-card. I think the objection is weak, but I’ve a hard time convincing people of this – mainly because to me the objection is not convincing enough. I’d be interested to hear other’s thoughts on this objection – and sorry Scot if this derails any discussion you might have otherwise intended….

  • Percival

    If the case for the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) as a trash dump is weak, as Scot believes it is, then doesn’t it make sense that Gehenna is more likely a trope for accursedness? Since abominations to the god Molech were the source of its infamy, it seems to me that the idea of destruction is implied but accursedness is more directly intended.

  • Scot McKnight

    Percival, that’s what I have argued: yes, it is a trope for the judgment of God against wickednes

  • Two key considerations need to be brought to bear on this post. Both affect how one discerns what Jesus meant by Gehenna.

    1. When “the age to come” did commence or will commence. (For me, it’s clear that it had to have commenced sometime in the late first-century century after 70 AD but before all Jesus’ original disciples had died. Otherwise, Jesus and His apostles prophesied the imminent coming falsely. In other words Albert Schweitzer had it right when he said Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, but wrong when he said Jesus failed in that regard.)

    2. How one defines eternal life and when it commences. (Gehenna was always contrasted with eternal life, life, or the kingdom of God. Therefore, the timing and meaning of Gehenna alternative should be matched with the timing and meaning of the eternal life alternative.)

  • Excellent breakdown. The discarded burning animal carcasses is a busted myth? Dang. I’ve used that. I’ll have to stop.

  • What do you mean when you say “trope?” I don’t think that is a very precise word.

  • Percival (2) and Scot (3),

    Good point. Accursedness contrasts with the blessedness of kingdom life (i.e. eternal life, etc.)

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    Destroyed forever. Perhaps that explains why no one has yet written the book about dying and going to hell and returning to tell us about it. 🙂

  • Adam

    @Phil_Style #1

    An approach to the name thing that I’ve heard is pay attention to who has the name. Lazarus is a beggar and the Rich Man has no name. The point of the name is to highlight who is more important in the story and Jesus is making a clear distinction that the Rich Man is not very important. I see the real lesson here being, neglecting Lazarus has eternal consequences.

  • Phil Miller

    Actually, there have been a few people who claim to have died, experienced hell in some way or another, and written a book about it… I personally don’t know how much stock I’m willing to put in such things – not much, generally.

    The thing I find interesting is that when Jesus does speak of judgment, He rarely, if ever, speaks of it as something for “outsiders”. It’s always in the context of God’s judgment coming on the Jewish people.

    I guess that’s the thing that I find missing in many Christians conversations about hell. We always make it about other people. When the prophets cried out to judge the wicked it was always with a good bit of fear and trembling, because they in doing so they were asking for God to judge Israel as well.

  • Phil – It’s usually the living who talk/write about experiencing “hell.”

  • Phil Miller

    Well, yeah, what I was meaning was people who have near-death experiences or were “clinically dead” in some way who came back to tell about it. I have heard a handful of stories of such things.

  • I got that. ;-D

  • Stephen W

    I’ve often wondered if, by naming the beggar Lazarus, Jesus isn’t making a sly point of a different kind. The rich man asks that Lazarus be sent from Hades to his brothers to warn them of the consequences if they do not repent. Abraham replies that if the rich man’s brothers don’t believe Moses and the prophets, then a man returning from the dead won’t convince them.

    A while later, a man named Lazarus actually does return from the dead and… the religious leaders plot to kill him again!

    This could be coincidental of course.

  • Sherman Nobles

    Stephen @14, that’s a great observation. I had never thought of that.

    I appreciate that Fudge and Scot both recognize the story of the rich man and Lazarus as a parable. If one takes it literally, then being rich results in torment in Hades, and the key to making it to paradise seems to be suffering terribly in this life. Understanding it as a parable though enables one to consider what point(s) Jesus was making.

  • Sherman Nobles

    I too have heard many testimonies of people who have clinically died, experienced a hellish reality, and then restored to life. Some share of crying out to God and being saved, even then being taken to see heaven before returning to life changed. And of course there is Jonah who drowned, was in Sheol, the realm of the dead, felt isolated from the presence of the Lord, and afflicted, who cried out to God and was raised to life again and given another chance to understand the love of God for everyone and everything, not just the chosen. Anyhow, it’s interesting that all the testimonies hellish NDEs I’ve heard resulted in salvation for the person and the salvation of many others.

    Frankly, I believe people are experiencing not Hell, but the full reality of “this present evil age” (Gal.1.4) which God saves us from. And if God allowed the kingdom of darkness to continue forever, then there would be a Hell. Thank goodness though that even the “gates of Hades” cannot prevail against the church!

  • Tanya

    I’ve wondered about the fact that God seems to “threaten” Israel over and over with eternal destruction, and with walking away from them forever — but He never actually does it. Kinda like parents who say, “I’ve had it, this time you’ll be grounded forever.” But it never really happens. I’ve wondered if hell makes sense on that level.

    I’ve still never been able to reconcile an actual hell with everything else we proclaim about God never, ever giving up. To the best of my knowledge, no Bible story ever ends like this: “And Ahab died, and was utterly destroyed forever.” (Or, if you like, “went to hell.”)

  • Stephen W

    On the subject of testimonies of people who have experienced “the afterlife”, I admit to finding them interesting however I don’t feel they’re much use in forming any kind of solid opinion for one simple reason – they’re not consistent. I’ve read and heard of experiences that would seem to indicate a traditional hell, some that would seem to line up with Lewis’ “separation from God” version of hell and some that seem universalist. Not heard from anyone whose experienced annihilation though…

  • Mark Edward

    Regarding Lazarus being named. That some use this as a trump card that the parable is a story of literal events is certainly a mistaken premise, given that it is entirely an assumption. Various Jewish teachers of Jesus’ day told parables with named characters, even historical ones, without ever intending to come across as telling a literal story.

    To me, Jesus’ use of the name Lazarus is actually a point in favor of the non-literal nature of his parable. He’s being typological. Lazarus is the Greek form of Eliezar, the name of Abraham’s Gentile servant who nearly became his heir if not for the birth of Isaac. Jesus’ character of Lazarus / Eliezar is poor, sick, and hungry (the epitome of those whom the Law says to care for), but he also represents those ‘left out’, whether Jewish outcasts or Gentiles as a whole.

    To me, the use of a name strengthens the symbolic reading, not the literal one.

  • Phil Miller

    I’ve wondered about the fact that God seems to “threaten” Israel over and over with eternal destruction, and with walking away from them forever — but He never actually does it. Kinda like parents who say, “I’ve had it, this time you’ll be grounded forever.” But it never really happens. I’ve wondered if hell makes sense on that level.

    I think this is why Jurgen Moltmann’s perspective on the cross is helpful. On the cross, Jesus actually experienced the God-forsakeness that God continually threatened Israel with. So by experiencing such a thing for Israel and for us, He took the brunt of the threat so we don’t have to.

  • Kenton


    “There is evidence however that the southwest shoulder of this valley (Ketef Hinnom) was a burial location with numerous burial chambers that were reused by generations of families from as early as the seventh until the fifth century BCE. The use of this area for tombs continued into the first centuries BCE and CE. By 70 CE, the area was not only a burial site but also a place for cremation of the dead with the arrival of the Tenth Roman Legion, who were the only group known to practice cremation in this region.[15]”

    -Wikipedia article on Gehenna

    ‘Cause if you can’t trust a team of anonymous contributors and editors on the internet… who CAN you trust? 🙂

    The footnote text reads, “Gabriel Barkay, ‘The Riches of Ketef Hinnom.’ Biblical Archaeological Review 35:4-5 (2005): 22–35, 122–26.” Anybody read it/have access to it?

    Because my interpretive lens is still that Gehenna was a place “on the outside”. It was the place outside of Jerusalem. (No debunking that, right?) So if you wanted to live “on the inside” – in the place where God reigns, (Remember this is all in a context of Jesus’ inaugurating the “Kingdom of God.”) you couldn’t do the evil of verbal insults (Matt 5:22), sexual exploitation (5:29), or mistreating children (18:9). Not that God is going to “kick your @$$” or “snuff you out”, but that God is saying you can’t do those things when and where He reigns as King .” Those who want to do those things have to go “outside” to the place where it smells rotten and it destroys your soul.

    I know, I know, that sounds like annihilationism, but I don’t think that’s what He meant. I still think the party for the younger brother is open to the older brother if he wants to join it.

  • Sherman Nobles

    The fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is also described as “eternal”, Jude 7. It was fire that did not last but hours; it was not endless or forever but came from God in judgment. Also, it’s significant that the word translated “punishment” in Mat.25.46 is kolasis and can be understood as chastizement. And considering it was the “kids” (baby goats) who were separated from the “flock”, which pictured selfish immature people being separated from mature selfless people, chastizement seems to me to fit better. God brings things into our life to help us grow up, become mature, and start caring for the needs of others.

    In short, I do not see in any of Jesus’ teachings the threat of endless conscious torment. But I do see that God is active in our lives today, and if necessary, will bring judgement and chastizement to us to stop us in the ways of death and destruction.

  • Chris

    I think one interesting thing to note about the Lazarus parable, is that Lazarus is Eliezer in Hebrew which is the name of Abraham’s servant. I feel there is some tie and symbolism going on with both Abraham and Eliezer (Lazarus) being mentioned in this parable.

    Something to think about it!

  • I’m curious to ask (of all of you) what, if any, correlation is there to hell as a fire that purifies?

    Wild guesses permitted too. 🙂

  • NateW

    Once more, I’m going to chime in and say that our prideful modern conception of time is a large part of what makes this difficult. Notice the present moment right now… Will you EVER experience any other time than right now? To be able to humbly admit that NOW is all there will ever be is to grasp what is meant by “eternal”. Thus “eternity” bears within it the assumption that I must admit ignorance of anything that lies beyond the horizon. Eternal experiences encompass all that we can see and know, but what lies beyond this is outside the realm of eternity and to claim to know it is pride. Eternal life is life lived NOW, without end in sight. Eternal death is pain NOW without end in sight. This does not necessarily mean that there is no end. Eternal conscious torment and the reconciliation of all things are not mutually exclusive.

  • Jeff

    So to sum up about Gehenna it seems it was a burial ground, not a garbage dump. It was accursed by Josiah in 2 Kings 23:10 because it was used for child-sacrifices.

    From the Jewish Encyclopedia on “Gehenna” – Because of the extent of Gehenna the sun, on setting in the evening, passes by it, and receives from it its own fire (evening glow; B. B. 84a). A fiery stream (“dinur”) falls upon the head of the sinner in Gehenna (Ḥag. 13b). This is “the fire of the West, which every setting sun receives. I came to a fiery river, whose fire flows like water, and which empties into a large sea in the West” (Enoch, xvii. 4-6). Hell here is described exactly as in the Talmud. The Persians believed that glowing molten metal flowed under the feet of sinners (Schwally, “Das Leben nach dem Tode,” p. 145, Giessen, 1892).

    There are three categories of men; the wholly pious and the arch-sinners are not purified, but only those between these two classes (Ab. R. N. 41). A similar view is expressed in the Babylonian Talmud, which adds that those who have sinned themselves but have not led others into sin remain for twelve months in Gehenna; “after twelve months their bodies are destroyed, their souls are burned, and the wind strews the ashes under the feet of the pious. But as regards the heretics, etc., and Jeroboam, Nebat’s son, hell shall pass away, but they shall not pass away” (R. H. 17a; comp. Shab. 33b).

    The fire of Gehenna does not touch the Jewish sinners because they confess their sins before the gates of hell and return to God (‘Er. 19a). As mentioned above, heretics and the Roman oppressors go to Gehenna, and the same fate awaits the Persians, the oppressors of the Babylonian Jews (Ber. 8b). When Nebuchadnezzar descended into hell, all its inhabitants were afraid that he was coming to rule over them (Shab. 149a; comp. Isa. xiv. 9-10). The Book of Enoch also says that it is chiefly the heathen who are to be cast into the fiery pool on the Day of Judgment (x. 6, xci. 9, et al.). “The Lord, the Almighty, will punish them on the Day of Judgment by putting fire and worms into their flesh, so that they cry out with pain unto all eternity” (Judith xvi. 17).

    The sinners in Gehenna will be filled with pain when God puts back the souls into the dead bodies on the Day of Judgment, according to Isa. xxxiii. 11 (Sanh. 108b). Enoch also holds (xlviii. 9) that the sinners will disappear like chaff before the faces of the elect. There will be no Gehenna in the future world, however, for God will take the sun out of its case, and it will heal the pious with its rays and will punish the sinners (Ned. 8b).

  • Mark Edward

    Chris, see my comment above!

  • Percival

    Lisa #24,
    OK, I’ll bite. But it depends on what you mean by hell. Hades? The lake of fire? Gehenna?

    Our God is a consuming fire. His holiness is sometimes portrayed with the image of a fire. However, destruction and purification can be seen as two sides of the same thing. A fire can destroy everything that is destructible, like chaff, wood, hay, and stubble, and leave what is not destructible, like gold. This may indicate that when the scriptures talk about things and people being completely destroyed that there was nothing there that was worth keeping; that is, when God decides that it is time for his holiness to cover all heaven and earth, that there is no place left for undesirable wicked junk. A sobering thought to be sure.

    To me, this show why the eternal suffering of the wicked doesn’t fit the plan of God. Do the scriptures anywhere indicate that God will preserve wickedness somewhere for all eternity? But some will say that this eternal hellish existence is a kind of eternal death outside of the presence of God. But this distinction seems meaningless. Where is this place outside of the presence of an omnipresent God? On one hand, there is God’s omnipresence and on the other hand, there is a sense of royal presence that depends on God’s holiness being made manifest somehow. In either case, the Bible seems to teach repeatedly that his manifest presence will pervade the new heavens and earth. Does God mean to keep wickedness in another universe? God’s ways are mysterious and the details of his eternal plans have not been revealed to us, but there are good biblical reasons to believe that He means to transform or get rid of everything that is offense to His holiness.

  • Thank you, Percival. Interesting thoughts on a tough topic! I was thinking “lake of fire” from Jesus’ discussion. The topic is out-of-my depth. I appreciate your willingness to take the time to respond.

    Jeff (#26)…you say
    “The sinners in Gehenna will be filled with pain when God puts back the souls into the dead bodies on the Day of Judgment, according to Isa. xxxiii. 11 (Sanh. 108b).”

    I don’t think the Hebrews idea of soul involved ghosty sort of things…that could be put into bodies. I think linguistic evidence show that the word meant something more like “whole person”… More like how we use the word when we say something like, “50 souls were lost at sea.”

  • D. Foster

    Thought everyone would find this info about the relations between the Rich Man/Lazarus parable and the supposed Jewish original interesting.

    Firstly, N.T. Wright cites that there is a Jewish variant of the story in his book, “Jesus and the Victory of God,” which is where I think the current rumor mill about this story began.

    Secondly, as far as I can tell, the origins of this parallel between Jesus’s story and Judaism stem from late German scholar Joachim Jeremias’s book, “The Parables of Jesus,” which was a huge influence on the scholar Ben Meyer, who in turn is one of N.T. Wright’s heros.

    In Jeremias’s work, he references a tale in the Jewish Talmud about a tax collector named Ma’Jan and a poor student of Torah–a story supposedly similar to the Lazarus parable.

    The problem with finding the actual story is that the Talmud is a vast work, much of it difficult to find translated online. I can’t find an actual translation of the story itself, but I stumbled across this footnote from a portion of the Talmud where the tax collector–actually named Ba’ya, not Ma’jan–is referenced. Here is the footnote:

    (37) According to Kohut Aruch Completum, vol II, p. 140, Ba’ya is derived from the Arabic, meaning an informer. In the case in question he had denounced the tax defaulters in the Government, an act which, of course, aroused the enmity of the people. According in Rashi, the subject matter of the text is connected with this name as follows: The funeral of the said collector coincided with that of a very pious man, but accidentally the coffins were exchanged, so that the honour intended for the Rabbi was paid to the other, and vice versa. An explanation of the happening was given by the Rabbi in a dream to one of his pupils who was disturbed at the occurrence, and he also informed him that severe punishment was in store for Simeon b. Shetah in the world to come for the neglect of his duty in tolerating eighty women in Ashkelon guilty of sorcery. Simeon, on being informed about it, took a serious view of the matter and had them executed. The relatives of these women, however, inflamed with a passion for revenge, plotted against his son, charging him with a capital crime, as a result of which he was sentenced to death. On his way to the place of execution the condemned man protested his innocence so vehemently that even the witnesses were moved to admit the falsity of their evidence, giving as ground for their former act their feelings of enmity against Simeon b. Shetah. Yet their latter statement was not accepted, according to the law expounded in the text, that a witness is not to be believed when be withdraws a former statement. The source for Rashi’s story is found in J. Sanh. VI, 3; 6, and in J. Hag. II, 2, with slight variations.

  • Jeff

    Lisa (#29),

    I was just pasting what the Jewish Encyclopedia had written about Gehenna. I don’t agree with that interpretation either. The NRSV has it “your breath is a fire that will consume you”. What is also curious is that the Greek Translation (LXX) has the verse saying something different. “Now you will see, now you will perceive; the strength of your spirit will be vain; fire will consume you”

  • Sherman Nobles

    Hell is such a foundational filter of the popular Christian world-view that ECT is seen in many passages of scripture that do not specifically affirm ECT. This is especially true when people read Jesus warning of being cast into “Hell”, when He actually warned of one being cast into Hinnom Valley. It English translations correctly translated Gahenna as Hinnom Valley or the valley of Hinnom instead of mistranslating it as Hell, people would not be so likely to read ECT into those passages. If one sticks to interpreting these passages based on the historical context as recorded in scripture it is likely more people would understand Hinnom Valley as being a metaphor for the destruction that comes in a person’s life because of sin, both natural and supranatural (aionian, age to come).

    If Jesus, or Paul, or John for that matter, intended people to believe that the kingdom of darkness lasts forever, that people are bound in sin forever, then it would have been specifically and repeatedly taught. And a good word to convey that concept would have been Tartarus, the hellish realm of Hades where people who angered the gods were tormented forever. But of course, Tartarus is not warned of for humans. In fact, the one place Tartarus is mentioned, it is said that sinning angels are consigned there until the judgment. “IF” these sinning angels are the angels that people think of as being demons today, then this present evil age for us is Tartarus for them. And I suppose if Jesus fails to save anyone and leaves them as slaves in this present evil age forever, then that would be Hell. I trust though that Jesus truly is the savior (in deed not in title only) of all, especially we who believe.

  • Rachel

    Interesting discussion. I’m wondering if anyone has anything to say about the fire mentioned in 1 Cor. 3
    Bless x

  • Buck Eschaton

    Gehenna, definitely the place of human sacrifice. I understand Jesus saying that you are going to go to Gehenna and kill people to keep whatever delusions you have going. Since you cannot deal with reality and decline to love one another you will end up sacrificing your children and neighbors in Gehenna. I think we should take literally the statement “War is Hell”.

  • How does Fudge counter the argument based on the resurrection “of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15)? In other words, what is the point of a resurrection body for the wicked if not for some sort of eternal bodily consequences?

  • jesse

    Todd, the righteous are raised with immortal bodies. The wicked are raised with mortal bodies and are judged and destroyed. Conditional immortality states that only those who are in Christ will be made immortal. Those who reject Christ are only mortal and therefore can’t live forever.

  • Tim Chambers

    Curious what Scott or others here think of Andrew Perimen’s view of Gehenna as judgetment, but specifically as MILITARY historic judgement: in short, that Jesus words are referencing the story of Babylon’s attack of Jerusalem (Jer. 7), and putting dead bodies of Jews into the valley, foreshadowing and warning of Rome doing the same:


  • Mark Edward

    Tim (37),
    That’s a very possible reading, in addition to the symbolic understanding (that the Valley of Hinnom represented accursedness). I would say it’s a heavy dose of both.

    Todd (35),
    Jesus proclaims that the righteous will receive a reward of ‘life’ at the resurrection; the natural opposite is that the wicked would receive a punishment of ‘death’ at the resurrection. Paul consistently portrays /only/ the righteous as receiving ‘immortality’ when resurrected. This would necessarily lead to the conclusion that the wicked, when resurrected, do /not/ receive immortality, but rather remain mortal, and thus succumb to a /second/ death.

  • It’s nout about the subject but there’s some connection and it’s my way of making some publicity of my new blog.
    “In an european country like Portugal I’d say that the majority does not believe in the existence of anything remotely similar to hell. In a way, NT Wright can never say about Portugal what he says about the States. And we could get to the conclusion that sometimes not thinking about hell pays off as looking like a country without unhealthy spiritual fixations. But the thing works backwards, I think. Portuguese people don’t think about hell because they find the idea of an afterlife condemnation as ridiculous (with possible and expectable exceptions like Adolf Hitler). And I’d say that never talking about hell, at least from this portuguese perspective, grows from the feeling that we don’t have anything to do with it. My point, then, is: americans are humbler than the portuguese because when they talk about hell they actually believe they could end up there, the very thing portuguese would never accept.”
    Here: http://werenotportugal.tumblr.com/post/39931560096/wright-america-portugal-and-hell

  • E

    I have been pondering annihilationism for sometime. It’s amazing how often you see it in Scripture compared to any hint of eternal punishment (Revelation notwithstanding). When you look at a book like 2 Peter, it’s difficult not to conclude that annihilationism is the more Biblical choice for the final outcome of those who do not enter the Kingdom. Right now I’m leaning that direction and I’m hopeful that I’m correct. To paraphrase Clark Pinnock – do we really believe that a God who teaches us to forgive and show mercy plan on torturing some poor chap forever and ever because he failed to be chosen by a God who was able to choose Him? The Reformed position may find some technicalities in Scripture to argue for that position, but it overlooks the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  • Kenton

    Tiago (#39)-

    You got to the main reason I gave up my belief in hell (as eternal conscious torment): Fear.

    When it’s all said and done, I think Jesus offers us a life free of fear – freedom from fearing God, and freedom from fearing death. Not just for us, but for those we love too. Fear of hell (ECT) for ourselves or our friends of different faiths is just not compatible with the way of Jesus (I John 4, e.g.). He doesn’t want us to have fear. It spiritually poisons us. It’s unhealthy. It may take some re-learning how to read parts of scripture, but that re-learning is well worth the effort to live a life free of fear.

    Grace to you, today.

  • Thanks Kenton for your reply. I disagree. Um abraço!

  • Interesting. This got me thinking quite a bit, and I appreciate the incredibly civil discourse. Growing up Mormon for twenty years has definitely painted my perspective quite a bit, and even though I left almost four years ago, I’m still getting out of pseudo-Calvinism, and I’ve realized our views of Hell (and God, for that matter) are greatly influenced by our culture, even though we argue it’s the Holy Spirit. Are we to say the Holy Spirit paints a more accurate picture of God in the US about “Heaven”/”Hell” than other countries? Maybe. Maybe not. I personally cannot see God sending His own creation that He made in His own image into an eternal punishment, and even though people say that it’s a matter of “His ways being higher than ours”, we have to remember we have the mind of Christ, as well…for what it’s worth… $.02

  • Patrick


    There is an element among theologians(guys like Moltmann) who see the “judgment” of the resurrected wicked differently than we naturally would.

    We tend to see punishment, Moltmann surmises the judgment as destroying the evil side of us all which we have chosen to elevate and God chooses to kill, not the total person as say Fudge sees.

    There’s enough scripture to support either view. Punishment, annihilation or Moltmann’s views. That’s just a fact. We can never demonstrate clearly one or the other just with verses.

    Moltmann believes Christ’s work and the totality of His character when fully grasped make his view the most reasonable view. Similar to what David above has expressed.

  • Jason


    I agree that in the context of Acts 7 the use of “gnashing of teeth” seems to mean anger, not pain. But the 7 judgement texts include a very important word which Acts 7 does not: weeping. Jesus never divorces weeping from gnashing of teeth. Is it your position that the weeping AND the gnashing of teeth (as seen in the synoptics) is a result of anger and not pain?

  • Arthur

    Yea, I was going to post what Jason did about “weeping”.

    I think we’re missing an important thing here. We don’t know for sure if hell does or doesn’t exist (though I lean toward the former situation, but not the traditional view of who is “going there”), but we do know that Jesus makes very clear a line of distinction between ‘the sheep’ and ‘the goats’ and that some will be let into the party, and the others locked outside the door. Hell revisionism to me always seems to try to be ‘getting out of’ something, like, “well, there’s no hell, so do what you want, everything works out peachy in the end”, and that may be true if peachy equals out to a literal end. Eternal death to me is far more frightening than hell, but thankfully, I’m not ‘in this’ for hell avoidance, but for Christ closeness.

  • dale

    So, if the punishment of hell is short term and completely consumes…what is the punishment? What is it then that says, “I need a redeemer”. I can pay the price for my sins myself. I have been in a fire and still carry painful scars that remind me…anyway, the body is consumed rather quickly if not removed. I could last for a few minutes in a fire before shock overtakes the physical body…and be consumed. No problem. While I am not fully sure of all the teachings in the Bible concerning hell…I am pretty confident that Jesus intended for us to be aware of hell, the price of hell, and inescapability of hell. And with that, we need a Savior.

  • Rick Presley

    Scott, I once asked Edward what is the most convincing text for conditionalism and he said John 3:16. I was taken aback. He pointed out that the alternative to eternal life is to “perish.” Unless “perish” means some sort of life after death, then we have no better scripture than this to demonstrate the mortality of the soul.

  • The reason people cannot reconcile biblical language about the post-mortem fate of the wicked is that no underlying unity exists across the OT and Gospels and into Jude and Revelation. The ancient Jewish notion that excluded an afterlife was blending with the Greek notion of an immortal soul and a place of the dead. Conceptions of divine judgment and final salvation were being informed by ancient Zoroastrian portraits of apocalyptic aschatilogy. The 3rd and 2nd Century Jewish apocrypha and the book of Daniel are full of Persian language and imagery about holding places for the dead and ages of time symbolized by metals. The Gospels likewise blend traditional references to Gehenna (that originally referred to people’s dead bodies being thrown over Jerusalem’s wall on one side of town during the Babylonian Seige that Jeremiah predicted) with notions of post-Mortem fates for the good and the evil. Whereas Jesus likely spoke of Gehenna as the coming slaughter of unfaithful Israelites during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, Gospel editors and the developing Jewish-Christian apocalypses like Matthew 24-25 and Revelation grafted in more Persian conceptions of punishment and paradise in the afterlife like Daniel and Tobit had done. If you are unaware, the entire 1,000 year reign in Revelation 20 is taken directly from Zoroaster–the first apocalyptic millenarian in history. In sum, the Greco-Persian apocalyptic eschatology (e.g., see the Oracles of Hypostases) blending with Judeo-Christian conceptions of the post-Mortem fate of the rightoues and wicked created incongruity in the OT and NT portraits of the afterlife.

  • Thanks for noting that there is not good evidence of a dump in the valley of Hinnom. Largely this is a line built up by tour guides than anything built off of archaeological or historical testimony.

  • Andrea

    I’m so encouraged when our pastors, teachers and theologians are willing to go against tradition to speak truth. Thank you…