Hell, Hades, and the Afterlife
What does the Bible really says about human damnation and everything linked to it? This website features three books that fully answer the question, plus additional material. The three books are: 1. Conditional Immortality, 2. Hell Know and 3. Sheol Know. The first book is a great introduction to the topic of damnation and the second book goes into a lot more detail. The third book addresses the nature of Sheol (or Hades in the Greek), which is a separate topic, although linked to damnation. Just click the book you want to read and you’ll have access to each chapter. God Bless You!
Why this Topic is Important
As an evangelist, I deal with apologetics issues all the time, including issues about hell, Hades, and the afterlife. For those of you unfamiliar with this topic, it simply means giving a rational defense of the faith to those who ask you. In reading a book entitled Letters from a Skeptic–A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity, Dr. Gregory A. Boyd answers his fathers numerous objections to the Christian faith. These objections were in the form of written letters that were sent back and forth over a long period of time. The father had asked many, many excellent questions that his son, Dr. Greg Boyd, took great pains to answer them very well. Then finally the issue of hell came up. Look what his father states in his letters:
Your last letter put my mind a bit more at ease about who is going to hell, but it didn’t address the problem of hell itself. This is really the more fundamental question…Now tell me, what the hell (excuse the pun) would be the purpose of torturing someone eternally? What’s the point?
Obviously there’s no “lesson” to be learned…So it just doesn’t make sense to me, Greg. And I’m just not at the point where I can pretend to “suspend” judgment about this. The character of God is on trial (emphasis mine) in my life, and this very relevant evidence which needs to be considered.
Did you notice that? Dr. Boyd’s father considers this issue a stumbling block to his acceptance of God and the gospel. He says the “character of God is on trial” and this is a correct observation. This is no light matter with unbelievers. Dr. Boyd then responds very lovingly with several options. One of those options is Conditional Immortality (although he does not call it that.)
You said it about as forcefully as it can be said. Hell is a real theological problem, I must admit it! To be perfect honest, Dad, I’ve never been able to make much sense of it myself. But I have enough grounds for believing in Jesus and in the Bible to accept what they say on this matter, even though it doesn’t make perfect sense to me…(after several points, Dr. Boyd then goes on…)
A fourth and final point, Dad, is this: you wondered why God would not, after a time, finally put the rebellious out of their misery. Why doesn’t He just perform a divine act of euthanasia and exterminate the damned? You should know that a number of very reputable evangelical theologians maintain that this is exactly what the Bible teaches.
They maintain, on the basis of an analysis of the scriptural text, that the Bible itself teaches that God will ultimately annihilate all who are not “in Christ.” The punishment is “eternal” because it has eternal effects, not because it is endured eternally. Such theologians point out that only such a view of hell squares with all the biblical talk about the reprobate “perishing,” “being destroyed,” “burned up like chaff,” eternal torture…In this view, then, God’s judgment and mercy converge on the same act. God judges the rebellious even as He mercifully puts them out of existence…
It is very important to see how Dr. Boyd’s father responds to this information which he had never heard before (since he had never heard this point of view before.)
I’ve recently been reviewing our letters back and forth over the last two years, Greg, and I must say we have really come a long way!…Your response about hell really helped. I especially liked that “annihilationist” view you mentioned. That was a major obstacle for me…It seems to be the only loving and just alternative. Letting someone go on…strikes me as sadistic. (Then he continues with a follow up letter to his son after becoming a believer….)
Well, as I told you over the phone, I finally “took the leap.” Hallelujah! Looking back on it, it seems that things really began to change for me when you convinced me of the Bible’s inspiration and helped me make sense out of hell. I’m not sure why, but I think it was at that point that I really started to “see the light.”
(Letters from a Skeptic, Dr. Gregory A. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO, 1994, pages 160, 164, 166 &189 respectively)
I think the point is a very powerful one for me. It is all about the character of God. Dr. Boyd’s father picked it up and yet many believers don’t see it. The God we tell unbelievers about, in their mind, is unjust because we don’t explain things fully to them. God can (and will) take away their life. However, they will first suffer, in proportion for their sins. How many have turned away from the faith because they wrongly believed tradition and not the scriptures? Thankfully, Dr. Boyd shared this option with his father and his father is now going to have immortality because of it.
NOTE: Dr. Greg Boyd now holds to the doctrine of Conditional Immortality himself and has come out publicly in favor of it.
Most people don’t realize the many problems that arise from presenting the so called Traditional position. See Questions and moral problems for those who hold to the eternal torture.
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi makes similar comments in his excellent book, Immortality or Resurrection?
Few teachings have troubled the human conscience over the centuries more than the Traditional view of hell as the place where the lost suffer conscious punishment in body and soul for all eternity. The prospect that one day a vast number of people will be consigned to the everlasting torment of hell is most disturbing and distressing to sensitive Christians. After all, almost everyone has friends or family members who have died without making a commitment to Christ. The prospect of one day seeing them agonizing in hell for all eternity can easily lead thinking Christians to say to God: “No thank you God. I am not interested in your kind of paradise!”
It is not surprising that the Traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment has been a stumbling block for believers and an effective weapon used by skeptics to challenge the credibility of the Christian message. (Immortality or Resurrection? A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, Biblical Perspectives, Berrien Springs, MI 1997, p.193)
As an evangelist myself, I want to preach a message that is accurate. The character of God is at stake. Yes, God is holy! Yes, God will judge sin! (If you are not a believer–I urge you to come to Jesus (Yeshua)). However, this topic is very important and the wrong answer can put up unnecessary stumbling blocks to the unsaved and even to believers. Look at this comment left on another web site that also teaches Conditional Immortality:
I accepted Christ a few months ago. What an awesome experience the first few weeks were! Then came visions of the majority of mankind being thrown alive into a pit of fire, where they would scream and whither for eternity. I saw faces of people I loved, people I knew-burning, withering, and screaming in pain! I was in terrific fear, fighting back “God, why?” So, I prayed, “Let me understand, Lord, for I do not want to question Your righteous judgment!” But peace did not come. I was so shaken that I had to get therapy and prescription medication. I then noticed all the times the Bible used the word “perish,” “destroy,” “everlasting destruction,” “death,” and plus something in me telling me that a God who is love would never do this-Your website has brought me peace. I prayed for discernment, and I have it now. Thanks.
I think this is sufficient evidence to show that this is a very important topic. How many believers are suffering under the weight of the false teaching of eternal torment-for their unsaved loved ones already gone? How many children are taught the wrong view of a God who will torture them for eternity in hell if they don’t accept Jesus and they are tormented by it themselves here! The truth of God’s Word helps us see the ultimate fate of unbelievers and helps us motivate them to come to salvation today, to life, to everlasting life.
Read these actual comments from our previous guestbook.
Have you ever felt like these people?
My name is John and I have been a pastor of several small Baptist Churches in the past. I have a degree in religion from Oklahoma Baptist University and attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eventually I got into other lines of work. I have been thinking about getting back into the ministry if possible lately…but I decided not to for a while because I realized that my spiritual life is not what it used to be. Part of the problem is that I have been feeling for a couple of years that I am not close to God like I should be. At times I feel upset with God. I finally realized that the reason is that the doctrine of hell is making me feel that either God is not truly a God of love…or that if He is then the Bible is incorrect in teaching that God will torture the unsaved for eternity. Either way this represents a serious crisis of faith. The logical inconsistency at times seems to be driving me almost insane. The doctrine of hell as understood by tradition and by most in my churches has been bothering me daily for most of my life. Because of my training I know a little about Greek and about church history and about Jewish and Greek and Roman tradition. So I can tell that you are correct in most, if not all of your arguments. I am beginning to think that what you are teaching is really the truth. I feel a great sense of hope that my attitude toward God will begin to improve as I begin to understand Him better. Keep up the good work and I will try to study the subject more. Thank you for your work and may God bless you.
Just want to say thanks for your huge article on hell. I have been struggling with this for many years–almost to the point of losing my faith. It’s terrifying to understand how a tradition can be so ingrained in us that we can’t see the wood for the trees. I came to your site through a forum run by one who takes the Traditional view on hell. I have also been reading John Stott – I haven’t actually got to the end of your writing but am well into the process. It’s like scales falling from my eyes and also like a great weight has been lifted.
I cannot even begin to describe the catharthis my mind, body and soul went through while reading this book. You may have saved my life and/or my sanity as a result. You see, i live in San Francisco, and recently renewed my quest for religious truth. Such quest occurred after attending a very blasphemous Easter event hosted by a local organization called the sisters of perpetual indulgence (i purposely did not capitalize their name, because i do not respect or admire their work). These sisters (actually men is elaborate drag) essentially mocked God and the Lord Jesus Christ by encouraging lascivious and offensive behavior, and even had a “sexy Jesus” contest, not at all befitting to the Son of Man.
My quest led me into the darkest spiritual prison imaginable, and consumed my every waking moment. I rapidly descended into a confusing world of evangelical Christianity, which on the one had told me that there is a loving God that wants me to love him with all my heart and mind, but that it’s unlikely that all my efforts with result in salvation- and my punishment would be spending eternity burning with billions of others. This warped view created in me a sense of anxiety and paranoia I’ve never known before. I even had thoughts about leaving my family and moving into the woods so i would get away from all the ungodly people i was around, including family. I had terrible thoughts that my daughter might be better off dead, because God wouldn’t allow an innocent child to burn in hell for all of eternity. I thought of departed family members roasting in the lake of fire because they were Catholics, and all Catholics were deceived by false doctrines, and therefore by extension were worthy of eternal torment.
Out of desperation, i tried to correct my sinking ship by doing good works and praying often, which is certainly a good thing and something I’ll continue doing for the rest of my life. However, the huge difference is that i was previously doing it not so much out of love (although i told myself this), but out of sheer terror. I was en route to the loony bin, suicide or heart attack if i continued. My family was scared of the monster that i had become- albeit a softly spoken monster, but one nonetheless. I finally decided to search out opposing positions, because i just could not believe that a loving God would allow the majority of those that ever lived to be subjected to an eternity of horrible pain. That’s when i found your site and book. My anxiety slowly started to dissipate, i was able to eat again, i no longer scared everyone in my family, and i started to develop a genuine love for our merciful heavenly father.
I’m not sure if the scar of this experience will ever go away, but I’m sure glad to have come out on the other side still intact. My faith is Jesus Christ has never been stronger, and i look forward to continuing a loving relationship with him.
Thanks for listening and God be with you,
I came across this website a few weeks ago as I started researching the topic of hell, whether it’s eternal torment or eternal destruction. At first I stood firm in my belief about hell being eternal torment, but it started to sink more in my head of the simple clarity of the words death and destruction for the unsaved. It intrigued me and I began doing more research online. Your website is the most well-done one I have come across so far and have thoroughly enjoyed learning from it and I often go back to re-read sections or get references.
It’s comforting to know that there are other Christians out there who believe in this. Eternal torment has always disturbed me and honestly has always been something I hated about God, even though I love my Savior, and eventually caused me to distance myself from Him several years ago after having my first child. My son was the most precious thing to me and it infuriated me even more that God would allow souls to be born just to be tormented forever if they ended up not choosing Christ before dying, and that I didn’t hold the fate of my son’s soul in my hands.
One day as I pondered this matter and was thinking bitterly to God about it, I felt His amazing love once again, just like He always shows it, and felt this great sense of peace and Him telling me that I didn’t need to worry, that He is God. I felt so relieved even though I didn’t understand, and little did I know that about a year later He would prompt me to step outside of my Traditional box and dare to learn from someone else’s perspective.
Your website is very easy to read and understand…very uncomplicated and very knowledgeable. Makes far more sense now. Growing up I do remember always finding it very odd that Jesus” death on the cross took the place of mine, because in the back of my head, I was like, but his dying was a few hours of agony, certainly not eternity in torment. And I always found it odd that death actually meant a continual state of dying.
Thank the Lord for your website. I will enjoy getting to meet you someday in eternity 🙂 You helped change the way that I will now be sharing part of the Gospel to others.
I’m from Australia. Thanks so much for your site. My love for God has dramatically increased! Now I’m able to have more confidence in telling others about God’s love and that He doesn’t torture people forever in hell even though eternal destruction is not to be taken light with. Thanks for solidly biblically refuting the Traditional view on hell. I felt a sense of relief when you addressed Revelation 20:10 because out of all past pro-Conditional Immortality articles I’ve read, you are the only one that addressed and successfully explained it. Again thanks very much for your efforts.
I am very glad that I came upon your site. I came to the same conclusion a few years ago after losing my grandfather who was a devout Catholic. I began to research the subject to really find out that no one except our Lord has immortality, and that this is the gift that He promises to those who believe in His beloved Son. But I find it extremely hard that most people who claim to believe in the word of God embrace so many false doctrines.
It is also difficult because they believe that what I share is something new, and pretty much suggest that I sound like a heretic, propagating false doctrines. I feel at peace with God now more than ever knowing more of his true nature, and this gives me the boldness that I never had before, because even tough I believed the Bible, I always had this burden about this doctrine that I could not get rid of. I just wish that I could meet believers of like mind on this issue.
If you know of any groups of believers like this I would appreciate if you could let me know who they are. I live near Barrie, Ontario, Canada.
God bless you!
Thank you so much for your website and for the wealth of solid biblical insight you have given.
I grew up attending several different denominations of Christian churches, and I was taught the Traditional view of hell. All the churches I have attended as an adult have taught the Traditional view.
I’ve always wondered why the word, “perish” didn’t actually mean “perish” or “be destroyed.”
I was taught that it meant “be eternally tormented.”
I have always wondered why the Bible said eternal life was a gift if it was something we already were going to have no matter where we ended up. Now I know I was right to question these things.
Paul never preached about eternal torment, only of the gift of eternal life one could receive by putting their faith in Jesus. How sad it is that so many people only hear of a God that will send them to hell where He will torment them eternally instead of the God who gives eternal life as a gift because of His great love.
I got saved in 1984-from a NA background-I didn’t believe in hell-we had reincarnation & karma. I read Mary K Baxter & Bill Weiss bks & didn’t like them. Those bks are horrific-they’re portrayal of God & Jesus didn’t seem the same as the Bible.
Most bks about hell teach the Traditional view. I only heard of Conditional Immortality last year through “lamb & Lion” website-David Reagan. As I trusted his view on prophecy I have decided to check it out for myself.
I have read all of hell-know-I’m looking up the passages still-excellent stuff. I’d read Isaiah 66:24 many times and always read it as a view into hell-which I think Perry Stone teaches as well-but it says Dead Bodies-not souls in hell.