Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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> I guess you could go one or two places. You’ve got to go someplace...
[Steve] What do you believe happens to you after you die?
> Well, you either go to heaven or you go to hell.
[Steve] What would that be like, if you end up in hell?
> Burning in eternal fire.
» It maybe pain or terrible or hot or—yeah. Maybe like that.
> Well, that’s eternal damnation.
[Steve] What happens if you don’t go to heaven?
> I’m going to hell. I’m going to burn. I don’t want to burn.
[Steve] Who would want to burn? In fact, why would God punish people forever in hell? After all, life’s pretty short—so is it fair that the penalty for a brief lifetime of misbehavior earns an eternity of torture and pain? Doesn’t eternal hellfire seem excessive? Why would a loving God send people to be tormented in hell forever?
If you’re a thinking person—you can’t take it lightly. These and other questions about the doctrine of hell are puzzling to many Christians but they must be answered.
On this edition of Beyond Today we’ll explore key questions related to the concept of hell, examine what the Bible has to say about it, how it relates to the nature of God and what lies ahead.
[Announcer] Join our host Steve Myers and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today !
[Steve] Did you know that the Bible says there is no hell? Now before you change the channel or stop the video, here’s what I mean: The kind of hell most people believe in is not real.
Now—don’t misunderstand: the Bible does teach there will be judgment for every single human being. God’s Word is clear: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
But the question is: What is that ultimate punishment for unrepentant sinners? There are many incorrect ideas out there that are taught by Christian churches.
What do you think hell is like?
> It’s a lot worse than—way beyond imagination. Yeah. You put your hand on a stove when it’s real hot on—what do you call them things?
[Steve] Like a burner or something?
> Burners? Yeah. Hell’s about a million times worse than that. And you can’t breathe down there, and you’re constantly attacked alive, physically. Your skin—from what I understand—burns, literally burns off of you.
[Steve] Not a nice place to end up.
> Oh it’s a lot worse than any—beyond what anybody could imagine.
[Steve] Do you think that hell is a real thing?
» Yes, I do.
[Steve] Well, why do you think it’s a real thing?
» I mean, just because of the stuff that people are doing right about now—it’s got to be something, you know what I mean? So I just figure, if you’re raping or murdering somebody, where are you going? Obviously you ain’t going to heaven cause you sinned. So I think there is a hell.
[Steve] When you think of that idea of hell, how would you describe it?
> Not a very nice place to be.
[Steve] Like—what would it be like?
> Supposedly it’s hot and you’re not having a lot of fun. You know, no air conditioning.
[Steve] Like a day like today?
> And all the food has hot sauce on it…
» He’s not going to just send us here and then punish us forever and ever, unless we do things that are really, really bad. It is in the Bible. The Bible very specifically does reference hell, and it does say never-ending, and it does say eternal and endless.
> If you, you know, if you’re good and you go to heaven and you’re in God’s graces. But if you’re bad, you fall from His grace and you go to hell and it’s punishment and torture and everything else.
[Steve] Eternal torture. Endless agony. Infinite affliction. That is what so many believe. But the Bible doesn’t teach that! I hope if you think any of that is true—that you’ll take the challenge today and study what the Word of God truly says. In a moment, we’ll begin to discover what Scripture actually teaches and realize it’s something quite different.
A recent poll has shown that ⅓ of Americans believe as those people do—that hell is “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.”
The people I spoke with on the street were sincere individuals who think like so many others. Most seem to still believe what they’ve been incorrectly taught since childhood or some assume what they’ve heard about is true. Some have never taken the time to think more deeply about it, and study God’s Word to compare what they’ve been taught to what the Bible really says. Have you accepted the challenge to do just that?
An alternate notion that’s often taught by Christian churches is the fictitious idea that hell’s everlasting punishment comes in the form of being shut away from God forever.
Like you said that, you believe some are going to go to hell. What’s that going to be like?
[Steve] Some think this state of no return is a never-ending suffering of a different kind. This belief has become more and more popular. Today, in America 4 out of 10 adults believe that hell is “a state of eternal separation from God’s presence.”
» So we ultimately have the choice of whether or not we want to live with God, or whether or not we don’t. I mean, if we get to the final judgment, and we get to a point where we’re in God’s presence and we’ll feel burning, we’ll feel that guilt for everything we’ve done. We’ll feel all of that and we won’t want to live with God forever.
> It’s a real place. I mean, you could say the same thing about heaven if you wanted to make that turn on it, but I think it’s real. I mean, no proof—like I said, I haven’t been there, but I believe it’s real. Sure.
[Steve] What is hell like?
> Well, the Bible talks about gnashing of teeth. I believe that hell is simply, really, an absence of Jesus.
[Steve] Many do believe that the Bible teaches hell is a place outside of the presence of God—an eternal solitary confinement in absence of Jesus. But wait a second, God loves you and wants you to know about His real plan and purpose. These traditional ideas about eternal torment or everlasting isolation from God are just not biblical. Now there’s no doubt that God will judge all, but the truth of God’s purpose and the destiny for mankind actually corresponds to His holy righteous spiritual character and doesn’t contradict the fact that God is love. More on that in just a moment.
Many admit they just don’t know exactly what hell is like. They still believe it’s some kind of punishment but different. This misunderstanding proposes “hell is just a symbol of an unknown bad outcome after death.” The Barna Research Group found that 13% of Americans hold that belief.
Most people would say that God is love. God loves everybody. Why would a loving God create an ever-burning hell?
> That is a tough one. But I was led to believe that God didn’t create hell, it was—something about, it was two angels in heaven and a fallen angel is where hell was produced from. It’s good and evil and something to that effect.
» You talk to a Baptist and they say, you do this and you’ll go to hell. And then you talk to a Methodist and they say, actually, you won’t go to hell for that, but you will go for this. And so it creates a lot of confusion.
> I think people just sometimes hate others, want bad people get punished.
[Steve] Can you describe what that would be like?
» Eternal damnation is the damnation of eternal progression, wherein you are no longer moving forward.
[Steve] Do you think there’s different degrees of punishment?
> Maybe there are, you know, for the, you know, the different degrees of sins and stuff. Some kind of—there might be?
[Steve] That is the problem. There are so many different thoughts, opinions and viewpoints—but which is right? There’s a lot of confusion. Are any of those ideas factual? Well as she said, most just don’t know. They don’t realize that none of those concepts are correct.
After interviewing so many people on the street, it became obvious that so many have not really studied the Bible for what it truly teaches or thought deeply on the subject. Have you taken the time to read what God says in His Word? I hope you’ll continue to watch and take the challenge to discover the truth of Scripture.
Now there are others who believe that righteous people, who are saved, will actually be able to observe the sufferings of the wicked. Now imagine that. If you understand that kind of reasoning, parents could witness the suffering of their own children and delight in it. Husbands and wives would somehow feel joy in seeing their unbelieving spouses persecuted forever. And here’s the worst part, hell depicts God as sadistic, cruel and merciless.
What do you believe about hell? Is it biblical? What’s the truth and why does it matter?
Well let’s remember something that’s critical as we consider the mistaken idea that people are tortured for all eternity.
First: The Bible consistently proclaims that God is love (1 John 4:8).
That’s His character, His personality, His nature. It always has been—it always will be.
We are consistently reminded of this throughout the Bible. Notice in the Old Testament we’re told that very same thing. “…because the Lord loves you… Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:8-9).
The apostle Paul also wrote in the New Testament about the wonderful distinctive qualities of the character of the Father. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
From the beginning of the Bible to its end, God’s essence—his very being of love is described repeatedly: Even here at the beginning of the book of Revelation we’re told: “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come…and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:4-6).
Here’s something to consider: Do these passages harmonize with the idea that a loving God will punish, torture and bring never-ending misery on people in hell? Does it seem reasonable that the penalty for a short lifetime of offense should be perpetual suffering, and torment and pain? Why would a loving God send people to hell forever?
The answer from the Bible is—He won’t. That idea didn’t come from Scripture.
[Steve] Why is there a hell?
> Uh, I guess to keep people from doing bad things. They kind of put it in their mind that there’s something waiting for them that’s not so nice.
» I’m afraid that they’re there for eternity. I’m afraid that everybody had plenty of opportunity to change their behavior.
> That’s something that I thought of more recently. I mean, I kind of had a little bit of a hesitation on following through with, “Look, God loves you,” but at the same time He punishes those that are evil and, you know, fire and brimstone, like I said when I was younger. But lately I’ve also kind of thought about that conundrum, too.
[Steve] It is a conundrum to think that a loving God will punish people for eternity. Some even think that those who have never heard the name of Jesus will be locked in the depths of hellfire forever. Many suppose that that teaching comes from the Bible, but that concept did not originate in the Word of God.
God is a God of love who does not want any suffering. We’re told: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
That is the heart of God—He wants the best for everyone. He even tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Yet, the traditional view of hell would have us believe that God vengefully torments evil people for all time—not just for a few decades or even a few centuries, but His enemies are tortured for an infinite amount of time.
The perception that God sentences people to eternal punishment is so disgusting that it has even turned some away from belief in God.
Where does the idea of hell originate?
> People—some say the Bible.
» I don’t know. I have no idea.
[Steve] Where do you think that concept of hell came from?
> I think that it was something at one time that people made up. Definitely.
[Steve] Scripture says that God didn’t make that up. He says something quite different. Ready for proof?
Here’s a familiar passage—one that you may have memorized. It’s where Jesus Himself taught: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Is there something significant in this famous verse that you may have missed?
What happens to us without the sacrifice of Christ? Jesus said we die—we perish, we do not live forever. In fact, the word “perish” doesn’t mean just to stop living, but to be destroyed, or “to come to nothing”—to cease to exist.
Now that’s a huge difference between what God says and what so many people believe. The Bible tells us that you don’t automatically go on living forever, either in heaven or in hell. Jesus says that we do not have eternal life already in us but that we need to be given everlasting life.
Now here’s another powerful passage that reveals this same great truth. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Now did you notice the contrast described in this verse? What are the wages for sin? Or said a little differently—what do sinners earn? They earn death, not eternal life. They don’t earn continual torture. They don’t earn unending pain. They don’t earn everlasting agony. They earn death. Life ends.
But on the other hand, to the repentant, God gives the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God through our Savior Jesus Christ. So you see, we don’t have life naturally. We don’t have an immortal soul. Eternal life has to be given to us.
And on the other hand, God’s plain teaching is “the wages of sin is death,” to cease living—not a life of ceaseless suffering.
Pretty simple but true. Do you understand this simple truth? It’s not found in just one or two passages, but instead, the Bible makes it abundantly clear throughout its pages.
Notice how plainly Scripture consistently describes this fact. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). A few verses later, God repeats this—giving it emphasis: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
This is significant! What a difference between what God says, opposed to what so many believe. God tells us that souls can die. Have you ever heard that before? Do you realize that the Bible teaches that souls stop living?
God must sustain life—all belong to Him. Souls are what we are. According to His Word; we are living beings. We are souls—we don’t have a soul.
Now what happens to the sinner that will not repent? The Bible plainly says that sinners don’t automatically go on living forever in the punishment of hell. Instead—they die.
You may not have realized that’s what Jesus teaches.
So the challenge is: Are you willing to be honest with yourself and look at biblical fact and consider perhaps you’ve been taught error?
Now because there is no ever-burning hellfire, does that mean there is no punishment for the wicked? Because God is love—does any kind of punishment contradict His character? No. Unrepentant sinners will be punished—but fairly and impartially. Not in the kind of eternal hell in which most people believe.
The Bible records God’s judgment on the wicked. As their punishment, the hardened sinner will be thrown into a lake of fire and will be burned up. Not eternal torture—but a merciful, quick death penalty. Unrepentant sinful people will not burn forever in hellfire. Instead, they will be totally and completely burned up—destroyed and reduced to ashes by the flames of the lake of fire.
Have you ever read this Bible passage? “‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch…You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,’ says the LORD of hosts.’” (Malachi 4:1-3).
God’s Word is clear. Those who choose not to repent of their wickedness and sin will be punished by fire—but not the mythical hell of men’s imagination. It’s not an ever-burning hellfire. It’s not eternal isolation from God. It is not unending emotional, mental, or physical torment. It’s not everlasting shame, regret or pain. It is capital punishment—the end of life.
God says a similar thing in the book of Isaiah: “The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed… The strong shall be as tinder, And the work of it as a spark; Both will burn together, And no one shall quench them” (Isaiah 1:28, Isaiah 1:31).
No one can put out that fire. It can’t be quenched until those individuals are burned up.
Even John the Baptist prophesied about Jesus Christ and the destruction of the wicked who will be devoured by fire.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).
It may sound surprising—the chaff, the wicked, will be burned up. That’s what the Bible teaches. Those who willingly and willfully reject God’s way of life will be baptized in fire—completely immersed in fire—and they will cease to exist. They will not suffer forever.
How does this agree with the loving character of God?
I mean, there is no doubt, He is all-loving, but also completely sinless. He’s holy and He’s just. That means anything unholy cannot exist in His presence. So those who choose to reject His lifestyle must be put away.
God respects human choice. Because of His loving character, He doesn’t force belief on anyone, but instead He wants us to willingly choose His way.
Now since the wicked will not choose His way, they will be consumed by fire and forgotten. They won’t be tortured for all eternity. In fact, God loves them so much He wants their suffering to end.
They will receive their eternal punishment, but not eternal punishing. Their death, their eternal punishment, will last forever, but the punishing ends when they are burned up.
There’s no contradiction. God is a God of mercy and love. He mercifully puts those who will not choose what’s best, out of their misery. God is the God of great wisdom, mercy and righteous judgment.
Now there’s been a lot to consider regarding eternal judgment on today’s program. The truth of the Bible certainly stands in stark contrast to traditional religious concepts.
So I hope you’ll take this challenge and look into it further. You can do this by ordering our free study aid, Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?
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[Steve] When it comes to the topic of eternal punishment and hell, the most important thing is to remember: God is a God of mercy and love.
Only those who willingly and willfully reject God and His way of life will cease to exist.
They will not survive in misery for all eternity.
They will not suffer eternal torment in hellfire forever.
What’s the truth? Your Bible clearly states that they will be consumed—destroyed by fire. They will no longer exist and will be forgotten.
There will be no more crying, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain. The final death of the hopelessly wicked in a lake of fire is a loving act of God’s justice and mercy.
We can all be thankful for His fairness and great plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. He’s planned a wonderful future. I hope you’ll choose to learn more about it.
That’s the program for today. Don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again for another edition of Beyond Today and join me in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.
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