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Bible Study on Torment of Fire for Lost

Email of George on Hell-Fire for Lost

Doug, do you believe /teach in an eternal hell fire for the lost?? (12/22/2014)

My Answer on What Jesus Teaches on Hell and Torment

Hi George

Before we answer what Jesus teaches about an eternal hell fire for the lost, we need to clear up translation errors.

The King James mistranslates Gehenna and Sheol aka Hades as necessarily both Hell, giving us a misimpression if we compare verse to verse. So in Acts 2:31, it says Jesus went to Hades but this is mistranslated as Hell in the KJV. Both Sheol or Hades are simply more neutral terms to refer to the abode of the dead, and does not necessarily imply a place of punishment. It can be, but not necessarily.

Gehenna was a place where a fire continually burned trash outside Jerusalem. The fire constantly smolded. James alludes to this in James 3:6: "And the tongue is a fire,...and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by, 'Gehenna.'" Jesus in Mark makes a similar statement. In Mark 9:43, we read: "It is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into, 'Gehenna,' into the unquenchable fire." This term Gehenna necessarily means hell..

An advocate that Jesus' words on this topic must be spiritually discerned, and not taken literally, concedes that Gehenna was the following when Jesus spoke:

At the time of Christ this was the same valley in Jerusalem where worms did not "die" and were continually feeding on dead rotten flesh, and the fires were continually burning filth and garbage and were never quenched.

So what solves the translation error?

Translators here should always simply use the original term Gehenna or "hell" but not necessarily apply "hell" to Sheol in the OT or Hades in the NT. Otherwise, it creates confusion between a place that is not necessarily punishment (Hades / Sheol) -- although it can be -- and a place that is necessarily final punishment - Gehenna. Then people can study whether Gehenna is literal or figurative or symbolic. I prefer using Gehenna as a transliteration in the NT because then at least the reader knows we are talking about an actual place with necessarily physical characteristics of fire and worms.

Finally, what did Jesus mean? Was this a hell-fire of torment for the lost?

Jesus' reference to Gehenna apparently is drawn from Isaiah:

Isaiah 66:24King James Version (KJV) reads:

24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Some who are unaware of Isaiah disagree on taking Gehenna literally as a result for the lost. Instead, they contend that it is  supposedly some spiritual torment on this side of the grave to perfect us. I don't agree. But here is the argument:

Christ used that burning garbage dump near Jerusalem called Gehenna simply as a SYMBOL picturing a very REAL truth about a certain "fire" that consumes and burns away the carnal desires about us in order to get God’s desired results.

I think this is wrong. Gehenna is the result of dying lost; it is not a spiritual warning of suffering in this life only. That it is a condition of the lost is implied in Isaiah 66:24.

However, In Luke 16:23, 28, Jesus refers to a place after death but before judgment as Hades at this present time, and it has a pre-judgment  torment but no mention of fire. In Luke 16:28  Jesus tells a story of a deceased man who is in "this place of torment," referred to as Hadss in verse 23, and wants his living family members warned. Obviously, whether physical or spiritual, it is a torment suffered by the pre-judgment lost dead, not the living. This Hades is not described as a fire.

In sum, Jesus said the deceased lost go now to Hades that may include torment, but the damned go at judgment to "Gehenna." Once Jesus called it fire -- in Mark's Gospel. This is a place of the burning of refuse outside Jerusalem. I assume Jesus used this for a purpose, and thus I would repeat His warnings of fire and torment after judgment if someone is lost, whether it is physically in Gehenna or whether our physical bodies are transferred to a place like it, or whether our spirits suffer emotional loss that feels like such burning torment "forever." (More on what forever means is discussed later.) Among the three, I believe it is our physical bodies are transferred to a place like Gehenna for a long enough time to constitute a just punishment.

[My 2019 Comment: A Mr. Colucci gave a teaching that made sense about a loving yet just God. An "eternal" torment does not appear just. Is there any reason to think the torment is not eternal? That their "worm" -- whatever that means -- will "not die," but their conscious existence will cease.

First of all, any time we read the word "eternal" in the King James or any NT Bible, it actually does not say that. In Greek, it means simply "age-enduring." I normally do not correct it when the discussion is about "eternal life," for what is the point to say life is not actually "eternal" but "age-enduring." The reason is we don't have any information to suggest the promise of bliss for an "age-enduring" period will be tested once more, with a threat of cessation, or do we? Let's put that question to one side. The path to examine here simply must begin by recognizing this distinction in the Greek language rarely needs to be mentioned, although it is a clear differentiation between the Greek word and our English word "Eternal." 

Second, the argument of Mr. Collucci is that the "second death" spoken about in Revelation is a death that is true death - permanent death. The prior death differs as leaving the spirit alive, but the body is dead. The second death is the death of the spirit forever.  This was defended by Immortality: Only in Christ (Star Publications 2002).  In rebuttal, Wayne Jackson, one competent in Greek, and a good thinker, says because we know the first death did not mean complete death, we have no justification to think the second death is complete death either. So to Mr. Jackson, the concept of death means "separation," not "annihilation." See The Second Death - Separation or Annihilation by Wayne Jackson.

However, this is erroneous. Death means death. Something is extinguished, annihilated. Forever. That's its meaning. The first death destroyed and  killed the body. It is gone forever. This is why a resurrected body is a new body without any infirmities of the old body. That's the first clue that Mr. Jackson has made a leap into a mistake.

So the second death has to go further and kill what was not killed in the first death -- the spirit.  It logically follows that only the spirit is left to suffer extinguishment and annihilation. Hence, that little book that Mr. Jackson criticized is actually correct. And it depicts God more just. The punishment of suffering of the spirit will not continue for more than an "age-enduring" period -- for dozens, thousands, millions, billions, or trillions of years. It will end at the just point God assigns.]