The Problem of Hell: “Traditionalism” vs. Annihilationism

The Problem of Hell: “Traditionalism” vs. Annihilationism

What Does the Bible Teach about hell?

Traditionally, the most prominent view regarding eternal damnation is that the people cast into hell — the lake of fire — will suffer fiery conscious torments forever and ever. Depicting the horrors of this belief was a favorite subject amongst artists in medieval times, resulting in all manner of imaginative and ghastly portraits of people suffering unending agony. Some have since tried to modify this position a bit, suggesting a more metaphorical view, that the unending pain experienced probably refers to the mental anguish of eternal loss and “separation from God”; but it makes no significant difference as both views involve the notion of eternal torment.

This may indeed be the traditionally prominent view regarding human damnation, but is it biblical? That is, do the Judeo-Christian Scriptures really teach it? Will the multitudes of people who reject God, and hence are rejected by God, really be subjected to never-ending misery — with no merciful pause to their agony?

One might contend that it is heretical to even question such a long-standing, widely accepted teaching, but if this doctrine is truly scriptural then its proponents have nothing to worry about. Furthermore,all doctrines, no matter how traditional or popular, must be questioned in light of what the Bible clearly teaches, for it is the God-breathed Scriptures alone that we must look to for truth, not popularity or religious tradition. This is the theological principle of sola scriptura, Latin for “by Scripture alone,” which maintains that the Bible is the final authority regarding all judgments of Christian doctrine and practice.

Because of this sound principle many traditional doctrines and practices have proven to be false over the years and have properly been corrected or discarded. Needless to say it’s a positive thing for Christians to periodically reevaluate their beliefs and practices because it helps prevent Christendom from straying from the Biblical model. Since reevaluating official church teachings is very much a part of the Christian heritage, and is indeed a healthy practice, there should be no problem here in entertaining the possibility that church tradition may be in error regarding this belief of perpetual fiery torment.

Eternal Torment in Hell: The Silent Subject of the Church

I recently read in a major news magazine that this teaching of hell as eternal torture has all but disappeared from the pulpit ministry in both mainline and evangelical churches. Why is this so? Why are Christians who are committed to this doctrine so reluctant to openly and honestly preach it? Why do they mask what they really hell19believe by saying that the unredeemed will ultimately “perish” or be “destroyed” or suffer eternal “separation from God?” Yes, you’ll hear ‘hell’ thrown around now and then, but you’ll rarely, if ever, hear anyone explain what he or she really means when using this term — that is, suffering fiery conscious torment forever and ever with no merciful respite from the misery.

If this is so true, why is everyone so timid about spelling it out loud and clear? The answer is obvious: they’re ashamed of it. They’re ashamed of it because, as Clark Pinnock so aptly put it, the doctrine of eternal torture makes God out to be morally worse than Hitler “who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die. How can one love a God like that? I suppose one might be afraid of Him, but could we love and respect Him? Would we want to strive to be like Him in His mercilessness?” (149). Let’s be honest here and tell it like it is: The doctrine of never-ending conscious torment makes God out to be a cruel, unjust, merciless monster. Who would possibly want to accept salvation from such a God?

Although there are many good reasons for questioning this teaching, the most important reason is the simple fact that the Bible does not teach it. Contrary to the loud claims of its staunch supporters, it is not a Scriptural doctrine, and this is being realized by a growing number of biblically faithful Christians today. The Bible gives strong, irrefutable proof to any honest reader that hell, the lake of fire, signifies literal everlasting destruction for ungodly people,  not eternal conscious torment.

NOTE:  This view is often referred to as “conditional immortality” or “annihilationism,” but I prefer “everlasting destruction” or “literal destruction” based on Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. I consequently refer to it as such throughout this study.

This is the main reason why so many Christians of all persuasions are embracing the doctrine of everlasting destruction not because they’re “going liberal” as supporters of eternal torment claim. It’s a case of going Biblical, not going liberal.

For clear proof that literal everlasting destruction is what the Bible really teaches, let us simply turn to the pages of Scripture; after all, a thorough, honest study of the Bible will always reveal the truth.

Life and Death: The Two Polar Opposites

The apostle Paul summed up the whole matter of people’s reward for sin when he wrote:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Could anything be clearer than this passage? The wages for sin is shown to be death, and eternal life is stated to be a gift from God, not something people already have. This is consistently expressed from Genesis to Revelation, notice:

MATTHEW 7:13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it, (14) but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

JOHN 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life.

PSALM 145:20 (NKJV)
The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.

The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.

NOTE: See the commentary on this proverb in the appendix Old Testament Hell Verses if you don’t believe it is applicable to us today in an absolute sense.

All these passages clearly describe the two separate destinies of the righteous and the unrighteous. The “righteous” are people who are in right-standing with God because they’ve accepted his sacrifice for their sins*, the “unrighteous” are those who are not in-right-standing with their Creator because they’ve rejected his offer of salvation. The former will inherit eternal life, whereas the latter will reap the wages of sin and be destroyed.

*NOTE: Please don’t misinterpret this description of people as “righteous.” Our own righteousness apart from Christ is as “filthy rags” in God’s holy sight (Isaiah 64:6). To become in right-standing with God we must let go of our fleshly ‘righteousness’ in acceptance of God’s “gift of righteousness,” which comes through spiritual regeneration through Christ (see Romans 5:17 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). This is positional righteousness; practical righteous naturally occurs as the believer learns to put off the “old self” — the flesh — and live according to their new nature, which is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Yet those who adhere to the eternal torture doctrine mysteriously don’t accept this blatantly clear biblical truth. They don’t believe that the two polar opposites are life and death; they believe the two polar opposites are eternal life in heavenly bliss and eternal life in burning torment. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? They may not phrase it in such an open manner, but this is what they actually believe if we’re honest about it.

Eternal Life and ImmortalityOnly Available through the Gospel

The offer to receive eternal life as opposed to suffering everlasting destruction is what the gospel of Christ is all about. We see this plainly expressed in this passage:

2 TIMOTHY 1:10
But [God’s grace] has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Notice that life and immortality are only available through the gospel. What exactly is “the gospel?” The gospel literally means “good news.” Its main message is summed up in the famous passage John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Note, once again, what is clearly being contrasted in both of these passages: In John 3:16 perish is contrasted with the gift of eternal life; in 2 Timothy 1:10 death is contrasted with both immortality and life, which are said to be made available through the gospel. If the eternal torture doctrine were true, these verses would be contrasting eternal life and eternal life being tortured, or immortality and immortality in fiery torment. I realize this sounds absurd, but the Bible would certainly speak in such honest, blatant terms if this teaching were true. Do you seriously think that God would be misleading or ambiguous about such an important issue in his Holy Word?


The reason the Bible doesn’t speak in such ludicrous terms is because this doctrine of eternal conscious torment in not a biblical teaching. The above passage, 2 Timothy 1:10, makes it plain that until Jesus was raised for our justification, the power of death was not destroyed and therefore immortality was not available to us — life was not available to us. This is because we are all sinners (see Romans 3:23 and Ecclesiastes 7:20) and consequently all deserve death, “for the wages of sin is death.” God cannot overlook this because he is perfectly just. One person cannot pay the penalty for another because both are sinful and deserve death. The only way we can escape this imminent death penalty is if a sinless person, who does not deserve death, dies in our place.

So what did God do? Because he so loved the world and didn’t want anyone to perish, he gave his Son as a sin sacrifice in order that we may have the gift of eternal life. The difference between wages and a gift is that wages are earned while a gift is free. Jesus paid the death penalty that we’ve all earned so that we can have the free gift of eternal life. The LORD did this so that we could fellowship with him forever instead of reaping the wages of sin, which is death.

This fact that God Himself wants to have a relationship with us explains why the gospel is also referred to as “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). ‘Reconciliation’ means to turn from enmity to friendship. The gospel is good news indeed because, not only does it grant eternal life to those who accept it, but, more importantly, it enables us to have a relationship with the Creator of the universe!

Notice what John the Baptist declared would happen to those who reject the gospel:

JOHN 3:36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

The passage could not be plainer: those who reject the Son “will not see life.” God’s word is absolute, and this is an absolute statement: Those who reject Jesus Christ will not see any life at all. This includes even a sadistic life in roasting agony for all eternity. Such people will be justly-but-mercifully put to death, absolute death, for this is the wages of their actions. But our loving Creator doesn’t want anyone to perish like this; he has provided a way to eternal life through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Do you see the simple, beautiful, clear message of the gospel here? God is just trying to save his beloved fallen creation, humanity, from the wages of sin. Ezekiel 18:32 reveals the heart of God well on this matter: “ ‘For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘Repent and live!’ ”

Jesus Taught Everlasting Destruction

Didn’t Jesus preach that those who reject the gospel and refuse to repent will suffer never-ending torment in hell? Many ministers adamantly claim this, but what did Jesus say as recorded in the Bible itself? By all means, let’s examine what Jesus himself taught on the issue starting with a statement we’ve already looked at:

MATTHEW 7:13-14
“ ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ ”

Seriously, how much clearer could Jesus possibly be here? Destruction is the fate that awaits the “many” that are thrown into the lake of fire, not perpetual undying torture in flames of torment. And please notice, again, that this is in contrast to life that will be granted to the “few.”

Jesus repeatedly made this very clear. Consider, for example, his simple statement, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5 NASB). This mirrors Jesus’ statement in John 3:16 regarding the fact that those who believe in him “… shall not perish, but have eternal life.” “Perish” in both these texts is not referring to the death we all must face at the end of this present earthly life. No, Jesus is obviously referring here to a perishing that those who believe in him will not have to sufferthe second death, which takes place on the day of judgment when the damned are cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15 verifies this; verses 14 and 15 of this passage state: “The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

In Matthew 10:28 Jesus solemnly declared what would happen to people when they experience this “second death”:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One [God] who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

NOTE: “Hell” in this text is translated from the Greek word Gehenna, which is an illustrative reference to the lake of fire. We’ll examine Gehenna in the next chapter.

Notice that Jesus is telling us explicitly what God will do to unrepentant sinful people on the day of judgment: He will destroy both soul and body in the lake of fire, his chosen instrument of destruction.

Jesus is dealing specifically here with the subject of the second death and yet he says absolutely nothing about spending eternity in undying conscious torment. If this were true Jesus would tell us to “fear the One who is able to preserve the soul in hell.” But this is not what Jesus taught. He didn’t teach it because it is not a biblical doctrine. Religion may teach it, but the Bible does not. God is going to unenthusiastically issue out the wages of sin and justly destroy the unrighteous, not sadistically torture them forever. Scripture clearly states:

JAMES 4:12
There is only one lawgiver and judge, the One [God] who is able to save and destroy.

You see, God is going to do one of two things with people: he’s either going to save them, that is, grant eternal life to those who respond favorably to his love and gracious gift of life, or he’s going to justly but mercifully destroy them. He may or may not necessarily be the one who personally executes this sentence, but he is certainly the One who authorizes it. In this sense, at least, it is indeed God Himself who destroys the ungodly.

This fact that God is either going to save or destroy people based upon their freewill decision to accept or reject the gospel is clearly illustrated in this passage from Hebrews:

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Those who believe will be saved from the second death and granted eternal life whereas those who do not will be destroyed, both soul and body, in the lake of fire. It’s that simple. Why do religionists insist on making this simple truth so complicated and perverse?

Do People Choose to Go to Hell?

I’ve heard many people object to the above passages which state that God Himself is going to “destroy both soul and body in hell,” specifically adherents of the eternal torment view who for obvious reasons cannot take the word “destroy” literally. Their objection is that God isn’t going to destroy anyone because “people choose hell.” What they mean by this, of course, is that, consciously or subconsciously, people choose never-ending agony. Their reasoning is that we should not attribute something to God that he’s not guilty of — in this case, destroying people in hell — since people choose their fate.

NOTE: It must be understood that those who adhere to eternal torture define the English word ‘hell’ as “eternal conscious torture.” So whenever they use the term ‘hell’ this is what they really mean.

I’ve never heard anyone who truly has biblical knowledge of this subject to argue this point, regardless of which view they adhere to, whether eternal torment or everlasting destruction. Let me explain why:

Christians are said to be saved, but saved from what? Many Christians don’t realize this but we are actually saved from God’s wrath — yes, we are saved from God Himself. We saw this earlier when John the Baptist declared “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Here’s further scriptural verification:

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Since we have now been justified by his [Jesus’] blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him?

Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

For God did not appoint us to suffer [his] wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you can see, Christians are saved from God’s wrath which, according to Romans 2:5 above, will be executed on the day of judgment referred to as “the day of God’s wrath.”

NOTE: Many people will experience God’s wrath poured out on this earth during the second half of the future 7-year Tribulation, but the vast majority of unsaved humanity will not experience his wrath until the day of judgment.

Yet, what exactly is God’s wrath? In the Old Testament anyone who incurred God’s wrath was to suffer destruction at his hands (see, for example, Psalm 106:23 and Ezekiel 20:13). In the same way, when God’s wrath is poured out on judgment day, whoever’s name is not found written in the book of life will suffer destruction at his hands. That’s why Hebrews 10:31 states that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

souls01As James 4:12 above plainly states, God is either going to save people or destroy them. That’s why Jesus said in Luke 12:5 to fear God because he alone has the authority and power to cast people into hell, the lake of fire. And, as shown above, what did Jesus clearly say God would do to people there? He said He’s going to “destroy both soul and body” (Matthew 10:28). The Greek word translated as “destroy” in these two texts is repeatedly used in the Bible to describe the eternal fate of the unrighteous, as we shall observe in the very next section. So there’s absolutely no question that God is going to destroy people who reject his offer of salvation; this is simply the result of incurring his wrath. The question is what does “destroy” mean? Does it literally mean destroy, as I contend it does, or does it refer to never-ending torment? In either case, the uncontestable fact is that God Himself is the One who’s doing the destroying.

There’s nothing morally or judicially wrong with the fact that God is going to irreversibly destroy sinful people who reject his gracious gift of eternal life. The Bible repeatedly makes it clear that the wages of sin is death, and God has also made sure that every human heart instinctively realizes this (see Romans 1:32). Thus, people who reject God’s redemption through Christ in favor of living a sinful lifestyle are indeed choosing the wages of their actions, death — whether consciously or subconsciously — and God, who respects their freewill, will unenthusiastically accommodate them. He alone is the ultimate authority and giver of life and therefore he has the authority and right to take life away — if he must.

After all, justice demands the execution of the penalty of the law. In this case the penalty of the law is death — eternal death — death with no hope of resurrection. The apostle Paul refers to this sentence as “everlasting destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Its execution is necessary in order that God may be just. A government which never calls offenders against the law to account is contemptible and wicked. The Biblical doctrine of eternal punishment is our assurance that God is essentially and unchangingly holy and just.

So, to answer the question, do people “choose hell”? Certainly not in a literal sense. After all, people are not going to willingly and gleefully jump into the lake of fire on judgment day. No, God is going to judge them, dispose of them in the lake of fire and utterly eradicate them there. Why? Not because people choose hell, but because people choose sin, and the wages of sin is death. And God, who is the ultimate authority, lawgiver and judge, is the One who will execute this death sentence. He, once again, may not necessarily be the one who personally executes this sentence, but he at least executes it in the sense that he authorizes it. Although, based upon the scriptural evidence, I personally believe that God Himself executes the sentence (we’ll observe support for this as our study progresses, even though the matter is inconsequential).

Incidentally, the very fact that some people who adhere to the view of eternal torment argue that God is not Himself guilty of tormenting people forever proves that the idea of eternal conscious torture is indeed a profoundly disturbing concept which naturally offends our moral and judicial instincts. The only way these people can accept this idea and live with themselves is by believing that their good, loving God is not the one carrying out this sadistic sentence.

“Destroy both Soul and Body” Means Complete Annihilation

We’ve viewed some pretty clear biblical texts which plainly state that unrepentant sinners will ultimately perish and be destroyed. Let’s dig a little deeper and trace these words to the original language in which they were written.

The words “perish” (from John 3:16 and Luke 13:3,5) and “destroy” (from Matthew 10:28 and James 4:12) are both English translations of the Greek word apollumi (ah-POHL-loo-mee) which literally means “to destroy utterly” or “to perish” (Bulinger 220; Vine 164).

NOTE: All spellings and pronunciations of biblical Hebrew and Greek words are based on Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

Apollumi is used most often in the Bible simply in reference to the natural death we all must experience at the end of our present lives — the first death. For example, notice how apollumi is used in this following text by Jesus’ disciples when a squall threatened their lives as they and Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee:

MARK 4:38
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown (apollumi)?”

As you can see, apollumi here simply refers to drowning. Apollumi is used 26 other times in the New Testament in reference to the first death. Likewise, Homer, in his epics of Greek antiquity, used apollumi chiefly of death in battle.

The apostles, like Jesus, used this very same word, apollumi, in reference to the second death — the eternal fate of the ungodly:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (apollumi); but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.

They perish (apollumi) because they refuse to love the truth and be saved.

2 PETER 3:9b
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish (apollumi), but everyone to come to repentance.

All these texts are indeed referring to what will happen at the second death and yet, once again, there is mysteriously no mention whatsoever of eternal roasting in conscious torment. In view of such blatantly clear biblical evidence, how can adherents of the eternal torture doctrine possibly maintain their view? Their theory is that, in all these cases, the Greek word apollumi does not literally mean “to destroy utterly” or “to perish,” but rather that the idea is “not extinction, but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well being” (Vine 164/Pearlman 387). This theory is a good example of trying to make the Scriptures line up with one’s favored doctrine rather than lining up one’s doctrine with what the Scriptures literally teach.

There are a number of good reasons for rejecting this theory. First of all, the Bible itself provides very certain proof of what apollumi really means when used in reference to the second death: apollumi is used by Jesus in Luke 17:29 to describe the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “ ‘But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed (apollumi) them all.’ ”

NOTE: Jesus no doubt spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic during his earthly ministry but Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had his words recorded in Greek.

Since apollumi is used to describe this destruction, the question must be asked: how were the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah and their inhabitants destroyed? Was the well-being of these cities merely ruined? No, Genesis 19:24–28 verifies that they were completely burned to ashes. This includes all the people in them, all the animals, and even the vegetation — in fact, all the land of the entire plain which these cities occupied! Peter also verifies this:

2 Peter 2:6a
If he [God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes

“Ashes” here is the Greek word tephroo (tef-ROH-ro) which means “to incinerate, i.e. consume” (Strong 71), and apollumi is the Greek word used to describe this absolute incineration as shown above in Luke 17:29. My point is that apollumi, in this case, refers to utter destruction and perishing in the sense of complete incineration. The idea “not extinction, but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being” does not fit here at all because the well-being of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t merely ruined; these cities were completely and finally destroyed by incineration — forever obliterated!

But there’s more: Peter goes on to state that this utter incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what will happen to the ungodly:

2 Peter 2:6
If he [God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

We know Peter is specifically referring here to what will happen to the ungodly on judgment day when they’re thrown into the lake of fire — the second death — because this will be the only time that all the ungodly will experience a fate comparable to the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. If the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah is a true, trustworthy example of what will happen to the ungodly when they suffer the second death, then we must conclude that the ungodly will, in fact, be incinerated; and if it is certain that the Greek word apollumi definitely refers to absolute incineration in reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, then it naturally follows that apollumi must also refer to absolute incineration when it is used in reference to the second death because the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of the second death.

So, as you can see, by following the hermeneutical law of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture we have a clear understanding that the Greek word apollumi, when used in reference to the second death (e.g. Matthew 10:28), refers to nothing other than complete and final destruction. Thus the silly theory of “not extinction, but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being” is proven false.

Yet there’s much more scriptural proof that apollumi refers to literal destruction when applied to the second death. To start with, there are many other biblical words, besides apollumi, which describe the second death strictly in terms of complete and irreversible death and destruction…

The Wages of Sin is Death, Not Eternal Conscious Torment

Let’s begin with the Greek word thanatos (THAYN-ah-tohs). This word simply means “death” (Strong 35), the express opposite of life according to Romans 8:38 and therefore the cessation of conscious existence. Thanatos is most often used in the Bible simply in reference to the death that all human beings must one day experience — the first death (e.g. Acts 23:29). The first death therefore refers at least to the cessation of conscious existence in the physical realm.

Thanatos is also used in reference to the second death — the destruction of both soul and body in the lake of fire. In fact the Greek word translated as “death” in the phrase “the second death” is thanatos. For instance, “ ‘He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death (thanatos)’ ” (Revelation 2:11). The text refers to those who “overcome,” which is simply a reference to all true believers (see 1 John 5:4); they will not be hurt at all by the second death. The second death has no power over spiritually born-again believers because they’ve been saved from God’s wrath through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. That’s why Jesus said:

JOHN 8:51
“I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word he will never see death (thanatos).”

This is obviously not referring to the first death here; after all, Christians who have faithfully “kept his word” have been physically dying for centuries. No, this is a reference to the second death. Jesus’ promise is that true believers will never experience the destruction of the second death in the lake of fire. This coincides perfectly with what Jesus said in John 3:16, that those who believe in him “shall not perish but have eternal life.”

As important as it is to point out what the Bible does say, I think it’s sometimes important to point out what the Bible does not say as well. In this case, notice that Jesus does not say, “if anyone keeps my word he will never see eternal life in conscious torment.” Jesus doesn’t say this, does he? No, he simply states that those who keep his word will never see death — the second death — the destruction of soul and body in the lake of fire.

The second death is the ultimate consequence of sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), “sin… leads to death” (Romans 6:16), and sin will “result in death” (Romans 6:21). “Death” in all these texts is the Greek word thanatos; and they all refer to the ultimate penalty of sin — the second death.

The Bible clearly states in James 1:14-15 that “sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (thanatos).” Note that sin ultimately gives birth to death, not life in everlasting fiery torment. This is again emphasized later in James:

You should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save that sinner’s soul from death (thanatos).

We clearly observe here that if a person is not brought back from the error of a sinful lifestyle, their soul will die! When did Jesus say a soul would die and by whom? He said that God Himself would “destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). So we know this text is definitely a reference to the second death as well. Notice that a sinner’s soul is not saved from never-ending roasting torment, but from death. The Bible’s repeatedly clear on this matter.

Let’s briefly examine some other New Testament words that describe the second death strictly in terms of death and utter destruction:

“Their Destiny is Destruction”

The Greek word apoleia (ah-POHL-lee-ah), which is the noun form of apollumi, refers to utter destruction and is often used in reference to the eternal fate of the ungodly, i.e. the second death. This is the case with the aforementioned Matthew 7:13-14 where Jesus stated “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction (apoleia) and many enter through it.” Jesus spoke of this destruction in direct contrast to the “life” that would be granted to the righteous “few;” so obviously apoleia is the direct opposite of life, namely death.

In 2 Peter 3:7 apoleia is used to describe the destruction of the second death:

2 PETER 3:7
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction (apoleia) of ungodly men.

The day of judgment is the day when ungodly people will suffer everlasting destruction. This is their “eternal punishment” as God destroys “both soul and body in hell” (please notice that I said “eternal punishment” and not “eternal punishing;” there’s a difference).

This is the ultimate destiny of God’s enemies as Paul verifies in Philippians 3:18-19: “For, as I have told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction (apoleia).” Thus the Bible repeatedly refers to God’s enemies as “doomed to destruction (apoleia)” or “prepared for destruction (apoleia)” (for example, John 17:12b; 2 Thessalonians 2:3 & Romans 9:22).

Apoleia is also translated as “destroyed” in reference to the eternal fate of God’s enemies: “…they will be destroyed (apoleia)” (Philippians 1:28), “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed (apoleia)” (Hebrews 10:39).

The eternal destiny of ungodly people who reject God’s love in Christ is destruction — they will ultimately be destroyed. Seriously, how much plainer could the Bible be on the subject?

“They will be Punished with Everlasting Destruction”

The Greek word olethros (OL-eth-ross) which means “destruction” (Vine 165) is used by Paul to describe the eternal punishment of the second death:

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ: (9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (olethros) from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

The first part of this text reveals that God will punish those who reject the gospel, and verse 9 reveals exactly what this punishment will be: everlasting destruction. This obviously refers to destruction that lasts forever and not to an endless process of destroying without ever quite destroying as supporters of eternal torment weakly argue. After all, to perpetually destroy without ever destroying isn’t really destruction because the destruction never actually takes place. It would be everlasting torment but not everlasting destruction.

hell01Adherents of eternal torture also argue that if, in fact, “destruction” refers to complete extinction it would be unnecessary to describe it as “everlasting.” Yet the reason the destruction is described as everlasting is obvious: “Everlasting destruction” is a reference to the second death. The second death is different from the first death in that everyone is resurrected from the first death to face judgment. There is, however, no such resurrection from the second death; it is a death that lasts forever — an “everlasting destruction” — destruction that lasts forever.

The text goes on to reveal that this everlasting destruction shall proceed “from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” This is further proof that it is God Himself, the supreme authority and judge, who will execute the everlasting destruction of the second death.

The New International Version translates verse 9 as “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” This translation is acceptable as well, as both versions could be read together as such: God will punish the ungodly with everlasting punishment which proceeds from his presence and, consequently, removes or eradicates them from his presence forever (Fudge/Peterson 60).

To shed a bit more light on the meaning of olethros, the Greek word translated as “destruction” in this text, the verb form of this word, olothreuo (ol-oth-RYOO-oh), is used in Hebrews 11:28 in reference to the death angel — “the destroyer” — who slew all the first-born of Egypt (see Exodus 12:29). So we’re talking about destruction in the sense of slaying here, which will be executed by God himself on “the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).

“If You Live according to the Sinful Nature you will Die”

Let’s examine yet another Biblical word used to describe the second death, the Greek word apothnesko (ap-oth-NAYS-koh). Apothnesko simply means “to die off” (Strong 14) — to cease to live — and is exclusively translated as “die,” “died,” “dies,” “dead,” “dying” and “death” in the New International Version of the Bible. Unsurprisingly, apothnesko most often refers to the death all humans and animals must face at the end of their earthly sojourn. For instance, apothnesko is used in Matthew 8:32 in reference to pigs which “died in the water” and also in Revelation 8:9 and 16:3 in reference to millions of sea creatures which “died.” We can confidently deduce that apothnesko refers to the utter cessation of life in these cases. Apothnesko is also used a myriad of times in reference to the (first) death of human beings (e.g. Acts 9:37).

Let’s observe how apothnesko is used in reference to the second death in a passage already briefly viewed:

For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die (apothnesko); but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Those who embrace sin and reject God will one day reap the wages of their actions; they will die. We know this isn’t a reference to the first death because even those who “by the Spirit… put to death the misdeeds of the body” will also one day die. So this is a definite reference to the second death where God will “destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Here’s a case where Jesus used apothnesko in reference to both the first death and the second death:

JOHN 6:48-51a
“I am the bread of life. (49) Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, yet they died (apothnesko). (50) But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die (apothnesko). (51) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

In this text Jesus is likening himself to the “bread of life… that comes down from heaven” in comparison to the earthly “bread,” manna, which God miraculously provided for the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert (see Exodus 16:15,31).

As you can see, apothnesko appears twice in this passage. The first time, in verse 49, it is obviously used in reference to the death which all of us humans must face at the end of our earthly lives, the first death, as Jesus points out that the Israelite forefathers who partook of manna, the earthly “bread,” died. The second time apothnesko appears (verse 50) it is used in reference to the second death as Jesus declares that those who partake of him, the heavenly bread of life, will not die, but “will live forever,” as he goes on to say in verse 51

We know for certain that, in verse 50, Jesus is not referring to the first death because even people who partake of the bread of heaven — that is, accept Jesus as Lord — will one day die. No, Jesus is referring to another death — the second death.

We could succinctly sum up this passage as such: Those who partake of Jesus, the heavenly bread of life, will not suffer the second death, but will live forever.

Let’s look at another very similar statement of Jesus’ in which apothnesko is used:

JOHN 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies (apothnesko); (26) and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (apothnesko). Do you believe this?”

Apothnesko appears twice in this passage as well; and, like the previous passage, the first time it is used in reference to the first death and the second time in reference to the second death.

For verification, note that Jesus states in verse 25 that those who believe in him will live even though they die. All Jesus is saying here is that, because he is the resurrection and the life, those who believe in him, even though they will die (i.e. suffer the first death), they’ll be resurrected unto eternal life. Jesus spoke of this resurrection when he stated:

JOHN 5:28-29
“… a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (29) and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

We see two classes of people referred to in this text: “Those who have done good” will rise to live; this is referring to the resurrection unto eternal life spoken of in Daniel 12:2. Revelation 20:6 states that “the second death has no power over” the people who partake of this resurrection. This explains why Jesus states in John 11:26 above that believers in him “will never die” — they will not suffer the second death. The other class of people — “those who have done evil” — will rise to be judged and condemned. Condemned to what? Condemned to the second death where Jesus said God would “destroy both soul and body.”

As we have observed from the texts we’ve examined in this section — Romans 8:13, John 6:50 and John 11:26 — the Greek word apothnesko, meaning “to die,” is used to describe the second death. Why? Obviously because the people thrown into the lake of fire on judgment day will die. Certainly there will be a period of conscious suffering as with any execution, however long or brief, and no doubt this suffering will be meted out as divine justice requires for each individual; but the final, everlasting outcome for all people thrown into the lake of fire is that they will die. If this were not so, the above passages would not use apothnesko to plainly describe the second death.

The Language of Destruction

As we have plainly seen, the usual, basic meaning of the Greek word apollumi —  “to perish” or “destroy utterly” — is backed up by many other biblical words which likewise describe the second death strictly in terms of literal death and complete destruction.

hell03Let us briefly review what Jesus and the apostles plainly taught would happen to ungodly people at the second death. They taught that:

  • the ungodly would die (John 11:26; Romans 8:13),
  • that they would experience death (John 8:51; Romans 6:23; James 5:20),
  • that destruction would occur (Matthew 7:13; 2 Peter 3:7),
  • that both their souls and bodies would be destroyed (Matthew 10:28; James 4:12),
  • and that they would perish (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9).

So there you have it in a nutshell — Jesus and the apostle’s description of the second death: die, death, destruction, destroy and perish. We could appropriately describe these terms as the “language of destruction.” As we have seen, this “language of destruction” is consistently used to describe the eternal fate of the ungodly; not the language of eternal conscious torment, not the language of “eternal separation from God,” not the language of “ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being,” but the language of destruction.

My obvious point here is that if the eternal fate of unrepentant sinners is to be some sort of perpetual life or existence in separation from God in utter  roasting misery and torment, God could have said so. He could have used words which have for their basic meaning “separation from God,” “existence in torment,” or “life in misery.” But he did not do this. He consistently used words which have for their general, usual, or basis meaning “die,” “death,” “destruction,” “destroy,” and “perish.” If language means anything at all, we have no choice but to conclude that the second death will be a literal death — utter, awful, complete and final.

Yet, as if this consistent biblical usage of “the language of destruction” isn’t enough evidence, the Bible gives numerous easy-to-understand examples to back it up. Let’s look at these examples…

NOTE: You can purchase a low-priced book version of HELL KNOW, which contains additional material, here (350 pages); or get the eBook for only $2.99. Both links allow you to “Look inside” the book.

A new Condensed Version is also available! It cuts out all the “fat” and is freshly edited to boot. You can order copies here for only $6.72 (153 pages) or get the eBook for only 99 cents!

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  1. Roy
    Nov 15, 2016

    In the very beginning, God explained to Adam just what death is, surely Adam had no true understanding of what death was. So, God broke it down for him, nowhere in God’s explanation to Adam is there any mention of eternal torment. Surely, a loving, merciful Father would warn his child of this fate that is more horrible than none existence, eternal death. Did God forget to warn Adam of this? I don’t think so!

    “For the day of the Lord is near all the heathens: as thou holy hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drank upon my holy mountain, so shall the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, but they shall be as though they had never been!” ~ Obadiah 1:16

    Here again God explain the fate of those who live in sin, they shall be as though they had never been! To be as though they had never been, is to be as they were before they were born, non-existent.

    “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” ~ Malachi 4:1

    Here again, God explains the fires of hell; it burns as an oven. He tells of it purpose: to leave neither root nor branch. If as the Word of God teaches, that “it is the spirit that liveth and the flesh profit nothing,” then the spirit of man is very root of man. If the fires that burns as an oven (hell) destroy the very root of man leaving neither root nor branch, then the fire of hell has destroyed all traces of any evidence that that man ever existed.

    This teaching that man is immortal (living in eternal torment) is what caused the fall of man. This is what Satan said to the woman in the garden, that man shall be as the Gods, he went on the say that God is a liar; he says God was lying when the LORD said that man would surely die. Don’t people realize that when they claim that man is immortal that they agree with Satan/the snake when he states that God is a liar? If God says I can die leaving neither root nor branch I will not call my God a liar and believe the snake.

    I believe you are doing a great work here, the God of the bible that I have come to know and love is not a monster!

  2. Rick
    Nov 11, 2016

    Hey i so want to believe in the hell at the day of judgement day and that its not some place under the ground where we are tortured .
    And that the sinners finally will be annihilated.
    Some texts like these ones seems to show that some are tortured after death after all .Maybe you can help me understand them better

    then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment .

    Deuteronomy 32:22

    King James Version
    For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

    Deuteronomy 32:23

    I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.

    Deuteronomy 32:24

    They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

     Deuteronomy 32:25

    The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.

    Deuteronomy 32:26

    I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:

    • Rick
      Nov 11, 2016

      This and Lazarus and the rich man seems at least to me to show torture immidiatly after death for some. Even if the parable of Lazarus and the rich man isnt strictly litteral what is the point of it if not to warn people for hell ?
      And it wont be forever anyway because hell is to be thrown in the lake of fire later but it sounds like a very long time Rick

      • Rick
        Nov 11, 2016

        Also the Bible talks about a furnace of affliction .

        • Dirk Waren
          Nov 11, 2016

          You’re referring to Isaiah 48:10:

          See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

          This is not referring to either Sheol (Hades) or the second death (i.e. the lake of fire), it’s referring to Israel’s severe afflictions, including the Babylonian captivity, the God-approved consequence of her unrepentant apostasy.

          Thank you for your feedback, Rick. I encourage you to read & study both HELL KNOW and SHEOL KNOW for further exposition on human damnation and all linking topics.

          If you have any further comments or questions please write me directly at

          God Bless You, Brother, as You Seek & Serve! Amen.

      • Dirk Waren
        Nov 11, 2016

        The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is addressed and explained in SHEOL KNOW in this chapter. For access to all the chapters click “SHEOL KNOW.”

        A lot of the confusion in the body of Christ concerning the nature of human damnation can be traced to failing to distinguish Sheol (Hades) from the Lake of fire (Gehenna, aka hell).

    • Dirk Waren
      Nov 11, 2016

      The fist verse you cite is 2 Peter 2:9. Observe how the Berean Study Bible and the King James Version — both literal word-for-word translations — translate this verse:

      if all this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

      The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

      Where does the LORD “hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment”? The answer is Hades, as shown in Revelation 20:11-15. On the Day of Judgment they will be resurrected from Hades and judged; whoever’s name is not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death where God will “destroy both soul and body” (Matthew 10:28). Hades corresponds to Sheol in the Hebrew. Sheol (Hades) refers to the intermediate state of unredeemed souls (people) between physical death and their resurrection on Judgment Day.

      For a thorough study on the nature of Sheol (Hades) see my web-book SHEOL KNOW. I recommend the published version because it’s unabridged, which you can purchase for a low price here.

      As for your quotes from Deuteronomy 32:21-26, these verses are part of a prophetic song concerning Israel’s apostasy, which brings God’s certain judgment. Israel’s neglect of God’s goodness and her apostasy would bring God’s outpouring of wrath. Here’s my explanation cut & pasted from the published version of SHEOL KNOW:

      Those who claim that Sheol is a torture chamber in the heart of the earth where unrighteous souls suffer constant roasting torment until their resurrection on Judgment Day sometimes cite Deuteronomy 32:22 to support their view, but they’re not too enthusiastic about it because it lacks the diabolical details inherent to their position. Thankfully, the meaning of the verse is clear within the context.

      The LORD Himself is speaking and His verbiage shows Him to be quite angry. Verse 21 reveals why: the Israelites engaged in unrepentant idolatry and therefore a “fire” was kindled by God’s wrath that “burns down to the realm of the dead below” (verse 22). The “realm of the dead below” refers to Sheol while the “fire” is figurative of the punishment that will be inflicted on the unrepentant due to God’s wrath, provoked by their stubborn idolatrous spirit. Their precise punishment is detailed in the rest of the passage:

      • The Israelites’ crops will fail (verse 22).
      • The LORD will “heap calamities” on them and many will perish as God spends his “arrows against them” (verse 23).
      • The failure of their crops will result in famine (verse 24).
      • God will send a “deadly plague” (verse 24).
      • They will be struck down by the “fangs of wild beasts” and the “venom of vipers” (verse 24).
      • On the streets and in their homes “the sword” will take them out, which is figurative of any deadly weapon of evildoers or foreign invaders (verse 25).
      • God’s sentence for the community of idolaters—young and old—is death, for that is the wages of sin (verse 25).

      While this might seem like a harsh punishment it’s in line with the terms of the Old Covenant that the LORD had with the Hebrews. The terms were simple: blessings for obedience to God’s law and curses for disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28). If the Israelites were willing to humbly repent of their idolatry it would’ve resulted in God’s mercy and forgiveness, but this obviously wasn’t the case. They were obstinate about their sin.

      As you can see from the passage itself, the LORD’s wrath against the idolatrous Israelites would result in the sentence of death through various means. This explains why verse 22 says that the fire of God’s wrath burns down to the realm of the dead below — because the outcome of God’s wrath is death for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The souls of those who die would be housed in the realm of the dead in the heart of the earth below, i.e. Sheol.

      You see? The passage is simple to understand when you grasp both the nature of Sheol and the biblical penalty for sin — death, not constant fiery torture.

      With this understanding, notice that absolutely nothing is said about souls in Sheol suffering roasting torment without a tiny bit of water for relief; neither is anything said about a “paradise” compartment that also supposedly exists in Sheol. Why not? Because they’re false doctrines foreign to the Scriptures.

      • Rick
        Nov 13, 2016

        Thanks alot! This makes so much sense !
        God bless you!

  3. kate
    Mar 10, 2016

    If apolomi means detroy, perish and lose, couldn’t it mean that we simply be translated at lose instead of death, so that the wages of sin is loss not death. Don’t get me wrong I really want to believe eternal destruction and find your book amazing, I just need to not have a doubt in my mind so that I can be at peace with this as it has been emotionally troubling me for quite some time that God would eternally torment people I love. I want to believe this but need to look at all angles

    • Dirk Waren
      Mar 11, 2016

      Hi Kate.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      “Context is King” is a hermeneutical law and so what’s important is the meaning of apollumi in context of human damnation. This is covered and proven in this section, which shows that the common definition of apollumi — “to destroy utterly” or “perish” — applies.

      Moreover, this definition is backed up by numerous other Greek & Hebrew words variously translated as die, death, destruction, destroy and perish, as the rest of this chapter and subsequent chapters of Hell Know illustrate.

      All this is further reinforced by the numerous simple-to-understand examples of literal destruction that Christ and other biblical characters used, like weeds thrown into fire, Luke 19:27 and the very word for “hell” itself, Gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom. See Chapter Two for more details.

      All this is further backed-up by the fact that eternal life and immortality are only available to people through the gospel of Christ (2 Timothy 1:10). This is covered in detail in Chapter Four.

      Hell Know is a detailed work and so practically any question you have is answered in the book. The published versions go into even more detail. I encourage you to take your time and study out the issue in detail; the rightly-divided Word speaks for itself. But if you have any further questions/comments please contact me at — thanks! 🙂

      Your Servant,

    • Dirk Waren
      Mar 11, 2016

      What I was trying to get across with my previous post is that the issue of human damnation doesn’t hinge on the meaning of a single Greek word (as important as that is); it’s a case of many factors pointing in the same unmistakable direction of literal everlasting destruction.

    • Dirk Waren
      Mar 11, 2016

      I forgot to mention: The issue of Apollumi being translated as “lose” or “lost” is addressed in this section of Chapter Two and the following two sections.

      • Kate
        Mar 15, 2016

        Thanks for your reply, that makes sense. I just want to make sure I get my head around it. Your book is very detailed and well written and i thank you for that. I have now finished hell know and about to read Sheol know and am finding it hard to find fault with what you have written. Which is awesome. I just have one more question which I don’t think is addressed, but it maybe that I’ve missed. I’ve heard eternal torment advocates say that for eternal destruction to be right there would need to be an extra chapter in revelation as it ends with unredeemed outside the gates and this is after the second death and they are still there not destroyed. Have you addressed this. I was fully convinced and then this cast doubt in my mind. Thanks, Kate

        • Dirk Waren
          Mar 16, 2016

          The original publication of Hell Know didn’t address this particular passage because I didn’t view it as a support text for eternal roasting, but I’m including it in the 2016 New Revised Version because you’re the third person who has written me about this statement that Jesus makes in the last chapter of the Bible because it sounds as if there will be wicked people right outside the gates of the new Jerusalem in the eternal age of the new heavens and new earth. Let’s read the passage:

          “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (15) Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
          Revelation 22:14-15

          Obviously there won’t be wicked people just outside the gates of the new Jerusalem because the new heavens and new earth are the “home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). The revised NIV refers to it as the place “where righteousness dwells,” not the place “where righteousness dwells in the city while wickedness dwells without.” The “new heaven and new earth” refer to the coming eternal age where “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”; it’s where the LORD makes everything new (Revelation 21:5). You can read more about this in the Epilogue of Sheol Know.

          The problem lies with the dubious rendering of the Greek text by English translators. The linking verb “are” in the phrase “Outside are the dogs” is not in the original text. This is significant because, by adding ‘are’ to this rendition of the text, it gives the impression that these people will still be alive in the era of the new heavens and new earth. And coupled with the word “outside” it seems like they’ll be hanging right outside the gates of the new Jerusalem.

          The Greek for “outside” is exó, which means “out, outside, (going) forth or (thrown) away.” Adhering to the hermeneutical rule that Scripture interprets Scripture, let’s look at a couple of other passages relevant to damnation that also use this word:

          “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (48) When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away (exó). (49) This is how it will be at the end of the age.”
          Matthew 13:47-49

          Christ gave this natural example to illustrate the way it will be with people at the end of this age. What happens to bad fish that are thrown away? Do they exist forever in a state of constant torment or do they suffer for a bit and then perish? Jesus follows up with verses 49-50 where he says that angels will separate the wicked from the righteous at the end of the age and throw the wicked into a “blazing furnace.” Being cast into such a furnace indicates nothing other than horrible and total incineration.

          This is further emphasized by Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Weeds in verse 40 of the same chapter: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.” What happens to weeds cast into fire? Obviously they burn for a little bit, but ultimately burn up. Why did Jesus use unmistakable illustrations like these? Because they’re unmistakable. Only a stuffy theologian could miss their obvious meaning.

          Here’s a similar passage where exó is used in reference to human damnation:

          “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away (exó) as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”
          John 15:6 (NASB)

          Once again, the point cannot be mistaken: The branches are thrown away into the fire where they are burned. Just like the weeds, the branches burn up in the fire; they don’t burn forever and ever without quite burning up.

          Being “thrown away (exo)” in these passages are a reference to Gehenna — the Valley of Hinnom — which Christ used as an example of the lake of fire or second death (Matthew 10:28). The figurative “fire” is also an obvious reference to the lake of fire. Gehenna was a perpetually smoking trash dump where all manner of refuse was cast for the purpose of disposal and incineration. It’s not a pretty picture, but it drives home a powerful point: Those who choose to be God’s enemies become God’s garbage and will thus be thrown awayexó — and exterminated, like garbage. This is covered in more detail at the beginning of Chapter Two.

          The comparative Greek word exóteros (ex-OT-er-us) is also used by Christ in reference to the lake of fire when he said that the damned would be “thrown outside, into the darkness” (Matthew 8:12), covered in Chapter Five. So when the Lord says “Outside (exo) are the dogs” in Revelation 22:14-15 he was saying that they were condemned to the lake of fire, the “second death.”

          Lastly, the Greek for “practices” in Revelation 22:15 is the verb poieó (poy-EH-oh), which can be past tense, present tense or future tense depending on the context.

          All this info helps us translate the original text of Revelation 22:14-15 as such:

          “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (15) Thrown away (in the lake of fire) are the dogs, those who practiced magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loved and practiced falsehood.”

          Also keep in mind the sequence of events of Revelation chapters 20-22. In 20:11-15 the unrepentant wicked are cast into the lake of fire to suffer the second death. Then chapters 21-22 detail the establishment of the new heavens and new earth, the “home of righteousness.” The wicked have already been taken care of by this point — cast into God’s garbage dump and destroyed. Revelation 22:12-21 is the epilogue of Revelation (and the Bible itself) with Christ speaking in verses 12-16 & 20.

          • Kate
            Mar 16, 2016

            Thanks for clearing this up so well.

          • Dirk Waren
            Mar 16, 2016

            My pleasure, Kate. 🙂

  4. Raul
    Jan 15, 2016

    I’m not sure if anyone ever processed it this way, but I have ALWAYS had an issue with eternal punishment. It just never sat right. As a minister of the gospel and former pastor, I have argued against it in so many ways. This is what I believe God gave me:

    Consider a 70 year old man, a heathen his entire life, and a rejecter of Christ. Not only lost, but did horrible things during his life and lived an impure and unsavory, hedonistic life style. This man dies and is sent to hell to burn for an eternity.

    Now consider an 18 year old young man. He, just as the 70 year old man, is a heathen and a rejecter or Christ. This young man dies and–according to proponents of eternal punishment–is also sentenced to the same hell to burn for an eternity. How is this a fair judgment by a God who scripture says will “Judge each one according to his deeds?
    This 18 year old man has hardly lived! Let’s generously say his age of accountability (which has no number, but is different for every person) was 10. What hedonistic, unsavory behaviors could he have committed, still under mom and dad’s purview for the next 8 years, that would gain him the same punishment of a man doing it for 3 times as long? Is this justice? Not even our human courts with its unjust judges and faulty laws would do such a thing!
    It just does not match up with what scripture says about a loving, just God, who wishes that “None would perish, but that all would come to repentance.”
    I hope that illustration helps someone; it sure helped me.

    • Dirk Waren
      Jan 15, 2016

      Thanks for the feedback, Raul.

      We address those very types of questions in this chapter.

  5. Wayne Cochran
    Dec 1, 2015

    I didn’t read any references here to the Rich Man and Lazurus. The Rich Man sure seems to be suffering without “perishing.” I know most theologians don’t equate this with the final hell (he is in Hades awaiting final judgment?), but it does seem to indicate a long term (if not eternal) suffering. How do you explain this?

    • Dirk Waren
      Dec 1, 2015

      Thanks for the feedback, Wayne.

      This article isn’t just one article on human damnation, but rather one chapter of a detailed book on the subject. Human damnation and everything that goes with it is a vast topic and we couldn’t possibly cover every issue in one chapter. Actually, this website features three books on the topic, two written by me: Hell Know covers the nature of the second death and all linking topics, whereas Sheol Know covers the nature of Sheol/Hades, which refers to the “intermediate state” of unregenerated souls between death and resurrection.

      The Contents Page for Hell Know (with links to all the chapters) can be found here.

      The Contents Page for Sheol Know (with links to all the chapters) can be found here.

      As for the Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus: This is a parable — a symbolic story — which comes in a long line of parables. In fact, it starts out with the very same words as the previous parable in Luke 16. Furthermore, as you indicate, the word “hell” in the story is Hades in the Greek (not Gehenna), which — again — refers to the intermediate condition of unsaved souls between death and resurrection and not to the lake of fire or “second death” (Revelation 20:11-15). As such, even if someone were to misread the tale as a literal chronicling of the nature of Sheol/Hades, it doesn’t apply to the nature of the second death.

      Sheol Know features an entire chapter devoted to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which you can find here.

      God Bless You in Your Studies, brother.

      Your Servant,

      • Wayne Cochran
        Dec 2, 2015

        Thanks Dirk.

        I have been horribly troubled lately about the thought of eternal torture. It seems to be the dominant position in evangelical circles. Folks throw “eternal suffering in Hell” around thoughtlessly … as if they don’t ponder what that really means. I can’t fathom being in alone, in the dark, in unending pain … if you have been there a billion years you haven’t even really started.

        I have always just left in the mystery category and left it to the “Judge of all the earth to do right.” Recent experiences have not allowed me to leave it alone — thanks for shedding some light on a troubling topic.

        I have many more questions (e.g., Do The Beast and False Prophet endure for 1000 years in the Lake of Fire?, etc…) I’ll have to read your books.. are there many other evangelic theologians that share your view?

        • Dirk Waren
          Dec 2, 2015

          Folks throw “eternal suffering in Hell” around thoughtlessly … as if they don’t ponder what that really means. I can’t fathom being in alone, in the dark, in unending pain … if you have been there a billion years you haven’t even really started.

          Well said, Wayne; I know what you mean!

          I have always just left in the mystery category and left it to the “Judge of all the earth to do right.”

          While there will always be some measure of mystery this side of glory (1 Corinthians 13:12), Human damnation (and all linking topics) is a vast topic in the Bible and thoroughly covered, which takes away a lot of mystery. Jesus said it’s those who continue in the Word who are really his disciples; they will know the truth and the truth will set them FREE (John 8:31-32). I encourage you to read through Hell Know and Sheol Know at your leisure, as they will answer practically any question that comes to mind, like the issue of the Beast and False Prophet, which is addressed here.

          Be at peace, brother, and continue in your studies; the truth will set you free. If you have any questions/comments/rebukes you’re welcome to write me at .

          are there many other evangelical theologians that share your view?

          Yes! And more and more as the truth gets out. Some are listed in this section of Hell Know. Then there are the brothers & sisters at Rethinking Hell (Google it). The other book on this website, D. Barry’s Conditional Immortality, lists more advocates of literal everlasting destruction.

          Praise the LORD!

  6. melanie
    Jul 7, 2015
    • Dirk Waren
      Jul 7, 2015

      Thanks for the links to the eternal torturist perspective. I read the first one before and skimmed through the other one just now. Human damnation and everything linked to it is a massive subject in the Bible, which is why both Hell Know and Sheol Know are so long and thorough, but you’ll notice that these articles don’t go into much detail. Why? Because they can’t. For one, there are only a handful of passages that they can cite to support the eternal torture view, which are easily explained, as shown here. Secondly, if they honestly went into more detail it would support the view of literal destruction, as shown throughout Hell Know.

      What is it about “die,” “death,” “destruction,” “destroy” and “perish” don’t they get? How hard is it to grasp Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Weeds: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age” (Matthew 13:40)? How about the simplicity of the King’s judgment in Luke 19:27 (the king in the story represents the LORD, of course)? How about the simple fact that eternal life and immortality are only available through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10 & Romans 2:7)?

      Everything lines up and points to damned people being literally destroyed in the lake of fire, not consciously tormented for ever and ever (Hebrews 10:26-27).

  7. melanie
    Jul 7, 2015

    Thank you. I have told God in three person to F off, because of this unfair hell thing. But the Holy Spirit had show me that God is not the God of torture penalty.

    • Dirk Waren
      Jul 7, 2015

      Thanks for your honest testimony, Melanie!

  8. Peter Gunas
    Apr 16, 2015

    Dear Sir,
    I too wanted to defend our Father from the traditional Biblical position and understanding of hell. I chose the same approach that you have followed on this issue. But then I came to Revelation 14:11 and felt I could not refute it. How do you deal with this verse?
    Respectfully in Christ,
    Brother Peter

    • Dirk Waren
      Apr 16, 2015

      Hi Peter.

      All scriptural passages pertinent to human damnation are covered in either Hell Know or Sheol Know. The particular passage you’re referring to is covered here.

      You can pick up the published version of Hell Know here.

      The published version is freshly edited with extra sections and is just an all-around superior version of the book.

      Your Servant,


      • melanie
        Jul 7, 2015

        Thank you again. Now that I want to go back to God.

        • Dirk Waren
          Jul 7, 2015

          Sure thing, Melanie. God bless you as you seek & serve!

    • D Barry
      Nov 22, 2016

      Hi Peter, I am one of the other authors and wanted to just add a bit of icing onto the wonderful response by Dirk.
      I know you wrote over a year ago, but this link might help others who have the same question as you. Bless you.

  9. Bradford
    Feb 19, 2015

    Enjoyed reading your commentaries. I had never seen someone use the example of the destruction of Sodom to support destruction of the soul at final judgement, but the correlation is fitting. Thanks. Best regards. Brad

    • Michael Douthat
      Sep 19, 2016

      I am 68 years old and have always had a problem with the idea of an eternal torment in Hell. It just doesn’t fit the character of God that I see throughout the Bible. I just discovered good articles like yours that have convinced me that the church got it wrong somewhere down the line. Now my question is “why does God allow us to get so far off base?” I’ve also learned in the last few years that much of modern eschatology teaching was developed in the middle 1800’s which would mean that everyone before that was wrong in the way they taught about the end times. Maybe a child should start life outside of a church and just learn on his or her own from the Bible without the influence of bad teaching. Maybe not a practical idea but you know what I mean.

      • Buck
        Nov 19, 2016

        You really saved my skin with this information. Thanks!

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