You hear it all the time: “No one spoke more about Hell than Jesus!”
But, is that true? Is Jesus really our primary source for the doctrine of Hell?
On the one hand, yes, Jesus is where those who teach the Doctrine of Eternal Torment go to most often for verses that support their view. That is true. So, in one sense one could affirm that “No one spoke more about Hell than Jesus!” in as much as the verses used to prove that view are taken from the mouth of Jesus.
When Jesus talks about places where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”, and when he describes that place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” where “the smoke rises forever and ever,” what Jesus is talking about is NOT about what happens to anyone after they die.
How do I know this? Because the Bible tells me so.
Just look at Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and others and you’ll see them using the exact same language that Jesus does. But, here’s the thing: None of those prophets are using those phrases to describe what happens to anyone after they die.
So, what ARE they describing? In every single case, those Old Testament prophets used that exact language – known as “Apocalyptic Hyperbole” – to warn people of an imminent attack of an invading army that would destroy their city and take them captive into slavery.
“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the
men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not
die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24)
This is about an actual, literal destruction. It does not describe a spiritual judgement. It describes, in very poetic terms, what would happen when those armies invaded and destroyed the people in that land.
So, when Jesus uses that same language [in Mark 9:43-48] to warn the Jewish people of his day about the coming invasion of Jerusalem by the Roman armies [which he did in the Olivet Discourse and which happened about 40 years later in AD 70, exactly as he warned them it would], he is not speaking about what happens to anyone after they are dead.
This language is always reserved for warning real people about real-world destruction that will take place in their lifetime.
Not only that, but the context of Isaiah chapters 60-66 (where this verse above is found), references the
coming of the Messiah, the destruction of the temple, and the inauguration of the New Covenant—all of which have already been fulfilled.
As author and New Testament scholar Steve Gregg demonstrates:
“That these events have a first-century fulfillment was the view of the New Testament writers, who often quoted from this section, invariably applying its statements to their own times.” [See “All You Want to Know About Hell” by Steve Gregg].
He then goes on to provide examples:
• Isaiah 61:1-2 fulfilled in Luke 4:18
• Isaiah 61:11 fulfilled in Mark 4:28
• Isaiah 65:1-2 fulfilled in Romans 10:20-21
• Isaiah 65:13-14 fulfilled in Luke 6:20-25
• Isaiah 66:1-2 fulfilled in Acts 7:49-50
• Isaiah 66:20 fulfilled in Romans 15:169
So, this passage in Isaiah 66:24 that Jesus quotes in Mark 9:43-48 is about an event which has already taken place in 70 AD, when the Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Romans. It’s not about what happens to anyone’s soul after they are dead.
Every other reference Jesus seems to be making about a place of Eternal Torment can be traced back to this same misunderstanding of Apocalyptic Hyperbole. Jesus is not describing what happens to anyone after they die. Jesus is describing the fate of people alive at the time if they did not repent of their desire to rebel against the Romans and bring about the Kingdom of God by force.
So, the truth is this: No one spoke more about the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 than Jesus. And no one in the New Testament is more misquoted on the topic of Eternal Torment than Jesus who never actually had anything at all to say about such a thing.
Why? Because not only did Jesus not believe it, he knew that this was not taught anywhere in the Old Covenant scriptures and that the idea had crept into Judaism from pagan sources and corrupted the Jewish people’s idea of who God was and what God was like.
Keith’s next book, “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” releases Nov. 9, 2019 on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brad Jersak.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife are returning to El Paso, TX after 25 years, as part of their next adventure.