Bible Articles on the Topic of Afterlife

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

Hell

In the [King James Version] of the Old Testament the word ‘hell’ appears thirty-one times: Deuteronomy 32:22; 2 Samuel 22:6; Job 11:8; 26:6; Psalms 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 55:15; 86:13; 116:3; 139:8; Proverbs 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11,24; 23:14; 27:20; Isaiah 5:14; 14:9,15; 28:15,18; 57:9; Ezekiel 31:16,17; 32:21,27; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; Habakkuk 2:5.

The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?

Any[one] who feels that heaven, rather than earth, will be the location of God’s Kingdom, (i.e. the promised reward), needs to explain away the following points:

Bible Basics: Hell

The popular conception of hell is of a place of punishment for wicked “immortal souls” straight after death, or the place of torment for those who are rejected at the judgment. It is our conviction that the Bible teaches that hell is the grave, where all men go at death.

Responsibility To God

If man has an “immortal soul” naturally, he is forced to have an eternal destiny somewhere — either in a place of reward or of punishment. This implies that everyone is responsible to God. By contrast,...the Bible teaches that by nature man is like the animals, without any inherent immortality. However, some men [and women] have been offered the prospect of eternal life in God’s Kingdom. It should be apparent that not everyone who has ever lived will be resurrected; like the animals, man lives and dies, to decompose into dust. Yet because there will be a judgment, with some being condemned and others rewarded with eternal life, we have to conclude that there will be a certain category amongst mankind who will be resurrected in order to be judged and rewarded.

Bible Basics: The Judgment

Bible teaching concerning the judgment is one of the basic principles of the one faith, which must be clearly understood before baptism (Acts 24:25; Hebrews 6:2). Frequently the Scriptures speak of “the day of judgment” (e.g. 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17; Jude 1:6), a time when those who have been given the knowledge of God will receive their reward. All these must “stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10); we “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10) to receive a recompense for our lives in a bodily form.

Bible Basics: The Nature Of Man

The majority of human beings seem to spend little time meditating about death, or about their own nature, which is death’s fundamental cause. Such lack of self-examination leads to a lack of self-knowledge, and therefore people drift along through life, making their decisions according to the dictates of their own natural desires. There is a refusal — albeit heavily masked — to take on board the fact that life is so short that all too soon the finality of death will be upon us.

Martin Luther and William Tyndale on the State of the Dead

On December 19, 1513, in connection with the eighth session of the fifth Lateran Council, Pope Leo X issued a Bull (Apostolici regimis) declaring, “We do condemn and reprobate all who assert that the intelligent soul is mortal” (Damnamus et reprobamus omnes assertentes animam intellectivam mortalem esse.) This was directed against the growing “heresy” of those who denied the natural immortality of the soul, and avowed the conditional immortality of man. The Bull also decreed that “all who adhere to the like erroneous assertions shall be shunned and punished as heretics.” The decrees of this Council, it should be noted, were all issued in the form of Bulls or constitutions (H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, 1937, pp. 483, 487).

Notes on Hele

Much has been written on that small word that is used in combination with the words “conceal” and “reveal.” Disputes still arise from time to time among some...about the word, especially its pronunciation. Some say it should be pronounced “heel” to rhyme with “meal,” while others say it should be pronounced “hail” to rhyme with “mail.” Then there is an opinion that whatever we say, it is still a matter of speculation. After all, none of us lived in the days when it was used in its original sense. Another opinion is that we have a pretty good idea as to what English words sounded like then. The purpose here is to provide brief notes on that small but controversial word.

Sheol and Hell in the Old Testament

Below are all of the passages from the New International Version of the Bible where the Hebrew word “sheol” is found in the original Hebrew Bible text. The words highlighted in yellow are the English translations for “sheol,” as found in the NIV. This is an exhaustive list. It is noteworthy that the NIV never translates “sheol” as “hell.” In contrast, the King James Version translates “sheol” as “hell” in roughly half of the instances where “sheol” appears in the Hebrew text. As for the Revised Standard and New American Standard versions, they don’t even bother translating the word into English. These two versions leave “sheol” untranslated, which although better than the sometimes flawed and ambiguous renderings of the KJV, still leaves the reader uncertain as to the word’s meaning. The NIV is the only translation that renders “sheol” into English in the most accurate, understandable and consistent manner.

Who Are the Angels that Sinned in 2 Peter 2:4?

“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment”.

Five Reasons Christians Are Rejecting the Notion of Hell

More and more Christians are beginning to reject the traditional view of hell which states the unjust will experience “eternal, conscious torment”. Perhaps you’ve seen this change in the Christian landscape and grown confused as to why so many of us are experiencing shifting beliefs. While my Letting Go of Hell series goes further in-depth on many issues surrounding hell, here are 5 key reasons to help you understand why we are rejecting the notion of “eternal, conscious torment”:

Gehenna: An Emblem of Endless Punishment?

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna). (Matthew 10:28)

Two Hells? Gehenna Contrasted With Sheol/Hades

The Old Testament is often quoted in the New, but it is an indisputable fact, that though quoted by our Lord, when speaking about hell or Gehenna, it is not quoted to show that hell was a place of eternal misery, but in reference to temporal punishment. Indeed, it was impossible for him or his apostles to quote the Old Testament for such a purpose; for we have seen, from Dr. Campbell and others, that it did not [provide] them anything to quote.

God Kept Hell A Secret For Four Thousand Years

Ever since the early ages of the Christian church, it has been generally believed that there is a place of woe, to which the wicked are consigned forever. Its tortures have been a fruitful theme of pulpit declamation, and have had a powerful influence on the minds of the old and the young. There are four words in the original language of the Scriptures, all translated hell (though not invariably), each of which, it has long been supposed, denotes this place of woe. Of late, however, that opinion has been discarded. The most learned writers of the present age have conceded that three of them—Sheol, Hades and Tartarus—do not mean such a place. But while they concede these words, they are positive that Gehenna does have such a meaning. The history, therefore, of the opinions in regard to the place, and of the word by which its existence is supposed to be proved, becomes a matter of much interest.

Sheol Enumerated: Hell in the Old Testament

Words, which are signs of ideas, were used by the inspired writers in their ordinary acceptation, as they must be by all who speak and write to be understood. In order, therefore, to have a correct view of their language, it is necessary to ascertain what sense they affixed to their words, and this we can only learn by consulting scripture usage. That men have attached ideas to some scripture terms which they were never meant to convey, will not be denied. That this is not the case with the words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna, which we propose to examine, ought not to be taken for granted.

Tartarus Real?

1st. Was the Tartarus in the heathen Hades real, or was it fictitious? This question ought to be fully examined; for if it was fictitious, the mere fancy of the poets, Mr. Stuart’s hell is built on the sand. But he is so confident it was a reality, he says, “That in the heathen, Hades was a Tartarus, a place of punishment and suffering, is too well known to need illustration and proof on the present occasion.” We are surprised that he should take this bold ground, for we shall show from his own statements that the heathen Tartarus was a mere fiction. Sorry are we to think he should allege our Lord in this passage [Luke 16:19-29] sanctioned a heathen fable for truth. That Tartarus was a mere heathen fable, and had its origin in heathenism, we shall now show.

The Gehenna Controversy: Any Severe Punishment

That the term Gehenna, in the New Testament, designates punishment, all admit, but the question is, What is that punishment?

The Gehenna Controversy: Destroy Both Soul and Body

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

The Gehenna Controversy: Facts Stated Respecting Gehenna

Facts stated respecting Gehenna, showing that it does not express a place of endless punishment in the New Testament.

The Gehenna Controversy: Never Shall Be Quenched

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell (Gehenna) fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:43-49)

The Gehenna Controversy: Set On Fire Of Hell

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (Gehenna). (James 3:6)

Two Courts

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

What Did Peter Mean By Tartarus?

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarosas), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. (2 Peter 2:4)

An Honest Look at Death and the Afterlife

This week we once again read a double Torah portion, combining the parashot [scripture passage] of Behar [Leviticus 25:1 to 26:2] and Bechukotai [26:3 to 27:34] to complete the book of Leviticus. The main themes of these parashas [passages] are the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, as well as God’s rewards and punishments for those who follow His ways and those who do not.

The Village Tax Collector Died (Yerushalmi Hagigah Version)

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus... (Luke 16:19-20)

Nephesh

The word nephesh occurs 754 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

God’s Spirit and His Breath

“If He should set His heart on it, If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, All flesh would perish together, And man would return to dust.” (Job 34:14-15)

Why is Hadēs Translated as “Hell”?

Question: In Matthew 16:18 (KJV), it is written,

Luke Viewed This As A Parable

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus...” (Luke 16:19-20)

Modern Jewish View on Hell

Unlike most mainstream Christian pastors, most modern-day rabbis do not believe in the concept of souls being endlessly tormented in fire after death.

Rashi’s Version of the “Reversal of Fate” Folk-Tale

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus... (Luke 16:19-20)

Seven Jewish Versions of the Reversal of Fate Folk-Tale

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus... (Luke 16:19-20)

Paul’s Desire To Depart

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” (Philippians 1:23)

The Great Salvation: The Rich Man and Lazarus

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, recorded in Luke 16:19-31, the believer in disembodied existence after death in torture or happiness — “heaven or hell” — thinks he finds positive proof of his theory. It is with this passage of Scripture the same as with the few others that seem, superficially viewed, to sustain the popular dogmas. There are preconceived notions that cause readers to read into the Scriptures what is in their minds but what is not in the texts themselves. Instead of reading the words of the text there is a reading “between the lines”. To avoid this mistake — a mistake that many make unconsciously — it is necessary to have in mind the general teachings of the Scriptures upon the subjects involved. One with the popular theory of the nature of man and the state of the dead in his mind will read into this parable “immortal soul” and “never-dying spirit,” without perceiving that no such words are there. “The rich man died,” they will read in their minds, “The body of the rich man died.” “In hell he lifted up his eyes” to them is, “In hell his immortal soul lifted up it’s eyes,” forgetting that their theory says the soul is immaterial without parts, and therefore has no eyes to “lift up”. Throughout the entire parable there is this same reading in of terms and phrases that are only in the mind of the reader, and thus a false conclusion is reached by a false method of reading. If it were remembered that “immortal soul” is a phrase of pagan invention and not found in the Bible the folly of supplying it in the text would be seen. With the Scripture definition of death in the mind and Platonic fiction out of the mind the words, “The rich man died” and “The beggar died,” would be accepted in harmony with the fact that when a man dies “his breath goes forth, he returneth to his earth and in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalms 146:4) and “the dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

The Great Salvation: The Spirits In Prison

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

Hell: What Is It and Where Is It?

The popular theory [believed by most Christians] is that God created this earth for man to inherit in this life only; and that since His intention was to separate the good from the bad when their supposed immortal souls would, by death, forsake their bodies, two places must necessarily be provided. The place for the eternal abode of the good is supposed to be heaven, and that for the wicked is what has been called hell. [In the Bible] we have an account of the creation of the heaven and the earth, but not a word is said about the creation of that place people popularly call hell. Heaven is evidently the place where God dwells; and the earth was created as a place for man to dwell in. It is said, “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens: God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18).

Man, His Origin and Nature

In dealing with the question of man’s redemption, we must, necessarily, consider the question of his origin and nature; and in doing this we are quite conscious of having much prejudice to contend with. There is a popular side to this question, and it has bred and fostered a sensitiveness which makes the task of reducing it to reason and subjecting it to the light of scripture quite a difficult one. He who would undertake to call in question the popular view must not hope to escape the suspicion of being a troubler, bent upon “turning the world upside down.”

The Village Tax Collector Died (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin Version)

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus... (Luke 16:19-20)

7 Fallacies About Hell

Like a lot of people who promote the doctrine of hell as a place of eternal suffering, J. D. Greear insists, in “7 Truths About Hell” on the Gospel Coalition site, that he would happily erase the belief from Christian teaching if he could, but he can’t because it’s in the Bible, so we have to live with it. Besides, it is his view that we can’t fully understand God and his world unless we come to terms with the doctrine. To that end he sets out “seven truths” that he thinks should frame our discussion of the topic.

Justin Martyr: Do Not Imagine That They Are Christians

Justin Martyr, also known as Saint Justin (100 – 165 AD), was an early Christian writer. In his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he wrote,

Longing to Put on Our Heavenly Dwelling

“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven...” (2 Corinthians 5:2)

Parable or Literal Narrative

The account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is the principal stronghold of the popular belief [in the immortality of the soul and a conscious intermediate state]. It is brought forward with great confidence on every occasion on which the popular belief is assailed. A little consideration, however, will reveal its unsuitability to the purpose for which it is used. We must first realise, if we can, the nature of the passage of Scripture in question. It is either a literal narrative or a parable. If it is a literal narrative-that is, an account of things that actually happened, given by Christ as a guide to our conception of the “disembodied” state-then it is perfectly legitimate to bring it forward in confutation of the view advanced in this lecture. But in that case it would not only upset that view, but it would upset the popular view also, and establish the view that was entertained by the Pharisees, to whom the parable was addressed; for it will be found on investigation that it is the tradition of the Pharisees that forms the basis of the parable; a tradition which clashes with the popular theory of the death state in many particulars.

Paul Wants to be Clothed with the Eternal House from Heaven

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Sheol: The Old Testament Consensus

There were 400 silent years – a gap between the closing of the Old Testament prophets and the writing of the New Testament. During this time the doctrine of the intermediate state (that state between death and the resurrection) underwent a sort of evolution. Jews became immersed in pagan communities which held to the doctrine made popular by Greek philosophy: the immortality of the soul.

The Campaign to Eliminate Hell

Hell isn’t as popular as it used to be.

Rich Man and Lazarus: An Intermediate State?

In dealing with this Scripture, and the subject of the so-called “intermediate state,” it is important that we should confine ourselves to the Word of God, and not go to Tradition. Yet, when nine out of ten believe what they have learned from Tradition, we have a thankless task, so far as pleasing man is concerned. We might give our own ideas as the the employment’s, etc., of the “departed,” and man would deal leniently with us. But let us only put God’s Revelation against man’s imagination, and then we shall be made to feel his wrath, and experience his opposition.

The Worm and the Fire

Do not Jesus’ words about the possibility of going into Gehenna, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” show that hell is a place of unending conscious torment? (Mark 9:43-48).

Church of England Panel: Remove Brimstone from Idea of Hell

LONDON — A Church of England commission [on doctrine] has rejected the idea of hell as a place of fire, pitchforks and screams of unending agony, describing it instead as annihilation for all who reject the love of God.

English Etymology of Hell

hell (n.) also Hell, Old English hel, helle, “nether world, abode of the dead, infernal regions, place of torment for the wicked after death,” from Proto-Germanic *haljo “the underworld” (source also of Old Frisian helle, Old Saxon hellia, Dutch hel, Old Norse hel, German Hölle, Gothic halja “hell”). Literally “concealed place” (compare Old Norse hellir “cave, cavern”), from PIE root *kel-(1) “to cover, conceal, save.”

Hell-bent

In December 2013, a hoax began circulating on the internet claiming that Pope Francis had called a Third Vatican Council that, among other things, purged a literal hell from Catholic doctrine. ‘This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God,’ Francis purportedly said. ‘God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace… Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.’ The piece quickly went viral on Facebook and other social media platforms – minus the element of parody. The remarks did not seem too out of line with the new Pope’s own attitude of embrace over condemnation.

Immortality of the Soul: Difficulties to Consider

Those who embrace a belief in the existence of immortal souls (a conscious, immortal essence) should consider the implications of such a belief. It is very common for Christians (and non-Christians) to believe that within all humans exists something which cannot die and which survives death in a conscious state outside the body. Those who embrace such a view should stop to consider some of the “difficulties” that arise if in fact all humans have such immortal souls. These difficulties include:

The Bellow-maker’s Epitaph

A churchyard in Newcastle-on-Tyne bears the following facetious epitaph which nevertheless enshrines a serious Bible truth.

The Immortality of the Soul

It is becoming recognised that the doctrine that the soul of man is inherently immortal has intruded into the realm of beliefs supposed to be Biblical. The doctrine has, at times, crept in by the back door, or, at other times, been brought in with great pomp by philosophers as an aid to revelation. The history of this process has been carefully sifted, and the various forms assumed by the doctrine have been criticized by C. H. Moore, of Harvard University, in “Ancient Beliefs in the Immortality of the Soul with some account of their influence on later views.”¹ On the nature of the “soul” and the duration of its future existence, ordinary men have held, and still hold, the most divergent and the vaguest views. It is important, therefore, that we should know whence the beliefs we hold have emanated and what changes have occurred in them during the period of transmission.

Understanding the Bible: The Hell of the Bible

For centuries clergymen and ecclesiastical leaders have pictured in gory detail the sufferings of the wicked and unbelievers in hell. Some have pictured hell as a sort of everlasting incinerator where the fire burns continually but does not consume. Evangelical ministers have preached that God, whom they believe to be a God of justice and infinite wisdom, condemns millions to this flaming torture from which there is no escape.

That Something Called Self: Where is the I in Myself?

A continuation of the comments, critical and helpful, by our late colleague and friend Philip Wale, on the book THE GOSPEL OF THE HEREAFTER by J. Paterson Smyth, D.D., LL.D., Litt.D., D.C.L.

The Rich Man and Lazarus: The Truth Versus Pharisaic Tradition

On more than one occasion Jesus pronounced woe on the Pharisees and said, “How shall ye escape the condemnation of Gehenna?”¹ He told them that they would see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and they themselves would be cast out.² Then the poor disciples of Christ would be exalted to a place in that kingdom: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”³ All this was plain language. But Jesus wished to tell the Pharisees that it was possible for them to escape that doom, by repentance, and by giving heed to Moses and the prophets. So he pictures the future as they supposed it. He takes one of their own traditions which was current at the time, and makes Dives represent the Pharisee class, and Lazarus the poor disciples. He does this so that he can put into the mouth of Abraham words which condemn the Pharisee for giving heed to the traditions of men and neglecting to heed Moses and the prophets. The whole point of Abraham’s rebuke was, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead.”⁴ The “story” was not invented by Jesus. It occurs in several forms in the Jewish Talmud where the persons depicted are represented as speaking to each other. The great gulf which none can pass over; the flame; the torment; all these are part and parcel of the Talmud story, which Jesus took and turned upon the sneering Pharisees.

The Religion of Egypt: Man in the Afterlife

In addition to the “Book of the Dead” and the “Book of the Opening of the Mouth” already discussed, there was much additional writing devoted to the needs of the dead. This grew in quantity as time progressed, for the Egyptians, when they found something new, did not discard the old. Following is a description of the most important.

Paul’s Desire to “Break Camp"

The words of Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, where he speaks of “having a desire to depart and be with Christ” (Ch. 1, v. 23), are eagerly seized upon by those who hold the popular belief in the “immortality of the soul” to support their contention that at death the righteous go to heaven to dwell with Christ.

"Hades” in the Contemporary Greek World

Question: If the translators of the Septuagint considered that “Hades” was a fair representation of the Hebrew word “Sheol,” is it true, in view of the universal application of “Hades” in the contemporary Greek world, to means “the grave”?

Passing of Heaven and Hell

For many centuries, it has been very widely believed that at death man passed either to everlasting bliss in heaven or to everlasting torment in hell. Of recent years, observers of religious opinion have noticed an increasingly general tendency to abandon these beliefs, particularly the less pleasant of the two. In this article it is intended to treat firstly of the establishment and maintenance of these doctrines of heaven and hell which are in process of passing away; secondly to consider what has supplanted them; thirdly (and this will be the most important part), an attempt will be made to discover the reasons for their passing; finally a very brief” enunciation will be given of the Truth of God, which never passes away.

Many Mansions: Understandest Thou What Thou Readest?

“In my Father’s house are many mansions...” (John 14:2)

A Brief Tour of Reformation Conditionalism

When John Calvin wrote the Orléans draft of his first book, Psychopannychia, in 1534, one wonders how much direct exposure he had, if any, with the radical reformation wing of the Anabaptists.¹ Calvin says that “pious persons invited and even urged” him to pick up his pen to refute “that absurd dogma” that he dearly hoped would remain confined to “a party whose camp and weapons and stratagems I [he] was scarcely acquainted with”.

Cast into Hell: Gehenna in Luke’s Gospel

It feels misleading to have a title like “Gehenna in Luke’s Gospel,” which gives the impression that I’m going to look at all the instances where Luke uses the word γέεννα (gehenna). Strictly speaking this is true, but Luke only uses the word once. When he does, he paints a grim but illuminating picture of final judgement in which God ends the life of the lost forever and then does away with them completely.

History Of Hell: Hell Before Augustine

Imagine if somebody said, “No Christian leaders taught the doctrine of eternal torment prior to Augustine.”

A Brief History of Conditional Immortality and Answers to Critics

The men who led the church after the apostles died. They are called the Early Church Fathers. Some of them overlapped the apostles and, of course, learned their theology from them and from their writings, which were later collected into one volume under the title “The New Testament”.

What Is Our Soul?

Souls are on the way out. Not just in our culture or in science, where some Christians may suspect “naturalism” as the culprit, but souls are on the way out of our Bibles. This is because of the ways in which our translations are getting better at conveying what was originally intended.

Conditional Immortality: What It Means and Why It's the Best Label

Alas! The hell debate has a terminology problem. First, traditionalism is nondescript and sometimes considered pejorative. It’s also not quite accurate: there were several traditions in early Christendom, with eternal torment dominating in the Western church from around the fourth century. Next, universalism can refer to the inclusivist outlook on world religions, which evangelical universalists typically deny in favor of an eternal opportunity to respond to the gospel. Finally, conditionalism (short for Conditional Immortality) is sometimes reduced to a view about the mechanics of human mortality/immortality instead of pertaining to ultimate destinies in the context of eschatology.

Hell

The popular conception of hell is of a place of punishment for wicked ‘immortal souls’ straight after death, or the place of torment for those who are rejected at the judgment. It is our conviction that the Bible teaches that hell is the grave, where all men go at death.

Hell, A Final Word: The Surprising Truths I Found in the Bible

Hell: A Final Word by Edward W. Fudge, is a very exciting book to review since the movie Hell and Mr. Fudge could be so great with potential to ignite real Scriptural investigation. Hell and Mr. Fudge, A Little Story About a Big Lie is a full length movie predicated on this book and his previous ones. Please see the trailer of the movie at hellandmrfudge.com. The aim of the producers (and of the book’s author) is to enlarge the conversation; to cause people to stop and consider why we believe what we do and to alert them to the abysmal lack of support for commonly held beliefs. This movie will provide a most excellent talking point for speaking to neighbors and friends. (“Have you seen/read the new movie/book about hell?”) What a gift that the subject is so boldly on the table now. I was a guest at an Ethics class at the University of Southern Indiana recently and spoke to an atheist who had given a presentation against Christianity the previous evening. One of his severest criticisms of the Christian faith is its doctrine of everlasting torment. He was relieved to hear that there are Christians who do not believe in that eternal torture. Hell and Mr. Fudge was recently shown in Nashville and a viewer had this to say:

Justin Martyr’s History of Hell

What the early church really believed about the immortality of the soul, “hellfire” and its relevance to today, from the life of Justin Martyr. Who Was Justin Martyr?

Remembering the Christian Departed

Bishop of the Church of England, N.T. Wright tells us in his introductory remarks [in his book For All the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed] that he has long seen a mismatch between what the early Christians believed about life after death and what most ordinary Christians today believe. “Mismatch” is a kind word, but let it serve as a red flag to us, for unless we line up with Scripture, we are making it up as we go (or following others as they did).

Soul Sleep of the Swiss Brethren

During the period of Martin Luther’s challenges to the church, a somewhat parallel yet independent course of reform was taking place in Zurich. This Swiss Reformation led by Ulrich Zwingli was just as convinced as Luther that Scripture should take precedence over traditions, but how that worked itself out was very different. Both were strongly committed to ‘Sola Scriptura’ and both began to question some long standing practices. Zwingli had a freer hand in Zurich than did Luther, and wanted to implemented changes slowly in full view of Council. He thought he should preach only as much as the church was ready to absorb, but a group of young radicals, most notably led by Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz and George Blaurock, pressured for immediate compliance to scripture. We will look at only one aspect of this reformation movement; that of Soul Sleep.

The Fallacy of Accent

The fallacy of accent is employed whenever an emphasis is placed on a written or spoken communication in a way that materially alters its original or intended meaning. To interpret any piece of literature logically, one must be sensitive to the context and original meaning intended by the author and not alter that meaning by misplaced emphasis. This can be done quite subtly. Without changing a word, a piece of written material can be made to say something entirely different than what was intended by the author. A common form of this fallacy is the altering of punctuation, which is particularly significant for biblical research because the original text of Scripture contained no punctuation marks. For instance, the addition of a comma can dramatically alter the simple sentence, “God made man,” (as in God created man) to “God, made man” (as in God became man). What a big difference!

Why I Am An Annihilationist

I am an annihilationist. That means I think the Bible teaches annihilationism. Annihilationism is the view that eternal life is the gift of God, and that those who do not receive this gift will not live forever. Stated more negatively, annihilationists deny the more popular Christian claim that the Bible teaches the traditional doctrine of eternal torment in hell, and we affirm instead that the Bible teaches that the lost will one day die forever. It is important to realize then that annihilationism is not simply a denial that the Bible teaches eternal punishment. Rather, it is a particular view of what that punishment will consist of.

Tyndale and His Purge of Purgatory

Four hundred years ago, England was suffering ecclesiastically under the grip of Papal tyranny. King and people were controlled by a system of authority so ingeniously contrived that it gave practically unlimited spiritual power over the bodies and souls of men and the wealth of the whole country.

The Soul of Man

One of our local vicars is a member of the Labour party, and the group to which he belongs is very much alive to the value of propaganda. One form of their activity is the staging of debates on all kinds of social and political problems. These are advertised in the Press, and no doubt attract audiences interested in such subjects. When, however, a debate was advertised on the unusual subject, “Is there inherent immortality?” in which the vicar was to take the affirmative side, at least one member of the public thought that an opportunity was afforded of hearing a discussion on a subject of some importance, and perhaps of letting fall a word in season from the aspect of Bible study advocated in The Testimony.

Hell and the Devil from a Jewish Point of View

Commenting on the decision of the Dean of Arches (that the denial either of the eternity of punishment, or of the personality of the evil one, is sufficient to justify a clergyman in refusing the “Holy Communion” to a parishioner), the Jewish Chronicle says, “We Jews may congratulate ourselves upon the different reading of our own Scriptures. Our God is mercy itself. He inflicts punishment for the expiation of sin, not from revenge. With the expiation of the sin the punishment ceases. The object is attained, why continue the torture? Further, what else is the belief in God and Satan, but the belief of the ancient Persians in Ormunzd and Ahriman, the former the god of light and all that is good, and the more powerful of the two; the latter the god of darkness and evil. Surely the name does not make the difference. Yet the God of Israel declared, ‘I form the light and create the darkness; I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things.’ Here we alight upon another of the errors of Christianity, which even as it personified the Spirit of Holiness, transforming this abstract noun into the Holy Ghost and the memra ( ארממ ) of the Targum; the logos of Philon into the Son of God, so it took a mere figure of speech—a poetic abstraction called the adversary—Satan—for a real being, converted him into a kind of rival god, always fighting with the second person of the Deity, just as Ahriman is constantly in antagonism with Ormunzd. Has a Jew not occasion to thank God for having been born in a community free from these darkening and mischievous errors?”

When Are The Righteous Rewarded?

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:42-43)

Hell and Mr. Fudge

An eccentric stranger hires Edward Fudge for a bizarre project: He wants Fudge to investigate Hell.

Ancient Ideas about the Afterlife

Egyptian: At death, the soul goes to the kingdom of the dead where it must recite secret formulae from the Book of the Dead. Judgment involves the demon Ammit devouring an unworthy soul, whereas the good would live on in the Fields of Yalu and accompany the sun on its daily ride. Only those who could secure embalming and a sarcophagus had a way into the afterlife.

Hades

Hades (/ˈheɪdiːz/; from Ancient Greek Ἅιδης/ᾍδης) was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. Eventually, the god’s name came to designate the abode of the dead. In Greek mythology, Hades is the oldest male child of Cronus and Rhea considering the order of birth from the mother, or the youngest, considering the regurgitation by the father. The latter view is attested in Poseidon’s speech in the Iliad.[1] According to myth, he and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated the Titans and claimed rulership over the cosmos, ruling the underworld, air, and sea, respectively; the solid earth, long the province of Gaia, was available to all three concurrently.

Rich man and Lazarus

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (also called the Dives and Lazarus or Lazarus and Dives) is a well-known parable of Jesus appearing in the Gospel of Luke.

Sheol

She'ol (SHEE-ohl or SHEE-əl; Hebrew שְׁאוֹל Šʾôl), translated as “grave,” “pit,” or “abode of the dead,” is the Hebrew term for the place of the dead, the common grave of humans of the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, regardless of the moral choices made in life, a place of stillness and darkness cut off from life and from the Hebrew god(s).[1]

Wrested Scriptures: The Rich Man and Lazarus

This is a stock passage cited by many religious groups to prove that souls of the departed go to torment in hell or bliss in heaven.

Egyptian Folk Tale

An Egyptian folk tale, to which attention was drawn by H[ugo] Gressmann, tells the story of an Egyptian who was reincarnated after his death as Si-Osiris, the miraculous son of a childless couple. When his ‘father’ one day remarked on how a rich man had had a sumptuous funeral while a poor man had been simply buried, Si-Osiris took him to Amnte, the land of the dead, where he was able to see the rich man in torment and the poor man in luxury. The explanation is added that the good deeds of the poor man had outweighed his evil deeds, but the opposite was true of the rich man. The general motif of this story found its way into Jewish lore, and it is attested in some seven versions, the earliest of which concerns a poor scholar and the rich publican, Bar Ma’jan... Because of his one good deed Bar Ma’jan had a great funeral, but the poor scholar had a simple burial. One of the scholar’s friends, however, had a dream in which he saw the poor man after his death in paradisial gardens beside flowing streams, while the publican was standing on the bank of the river but unable to reach the water. Thus the scholar receive no reward in this life, in order that he might have a full reward in the next, while the publican received his reward for his one good deed in this world, so that he might have no reward in the next. It is clear that Jesus’ parable bears some relation to this folk tale.

The Rich Man and Lazarus Parable

The imagery of the parable is borrowed from the opinions of the heathen concerning Hades, or the invisible world, the state of the dead-which the Jews, in the time of the Saviour’s ministry had in part imbibed. There is sufficient evidence, both internal and external, to prove that the passage is a parable.

Wrested Scriptures: Fire Not Quenched (Mark 9:43-48)

“The fire is not quenched.”

Wrested Scriptures: Into Everlasting Punishment (Matthew 25:46)

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

Wrested Scriptures: Cast into the Lake of Fire

“These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

Gift of Life: The Doctrine of Conditional Immortality

In 2015, Adventist pastor Jefferson Vann created a series of brief, 4-minute long audio commentaries on the doctrine of conditional immortality. He titled the series: Gift of Life. In the audio link below one will find a compilation of all 23 Gift of Life segments, in the order that they originally appeared.The segments include:

Hell, Hades, Tartarus, Gehenna and Paradise

There is much confusion and misunderstanding over the word “hell.” This audio lecture provides an introduction to the meaning of hell and several related key words pertaining to the afterlife and future judgment.

Hell-bent

Christian ideas about the afterlife drew from and expanded on ancient traditions that conceived of the afterlife as a single, neutral zone where everyone ended up, regardless of their behaviour in this life. The ancient Jews had no concept of ‘heaven’ as a place of rewards, or ‘hell’ as a place of punishment, but instead held that all humans went to a shadowy and monotonous afterlife after death: Sheol. Rewards and punishments accrued to people in this life, not in the life to come. Similarly, the ancient Greeks believed that everyone went to the lethargic and gloomy underworld of Hades.

Heaven and Hell

In this episode, Tim Mackie explores the popular misunderstandings and distortions of the concepts of heaven and hell in Western culture. This will help us rediscover what the Scriptures are actually trying to say. This is really just an effort to clear the ground and help people rebuild these concepts. Tim starts on page 1 of the Bible and work through the first 3 chapters, looking at the themes of life, death, the grave, eternal life, and eternal death, etc.

A Final Word With Edward Fudge

Edward Fudge, author of The Fire That Consumes, joins RethinkingHell.com contributor Chris Date in a two-part interview to discuss his story, the recent movie that tells it, and his latest and final book on the topic of final punishment, Hell: A Final Word.

The Goodness of God with John Stackhouse

Dr. John Stackhouse, Jr., Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada, joins RethinkingHell.com contributor Chris Date to discuss his switch from traditionalism (the view that the wicked will be tormented forever) to that of conditionalism (the view that the second death is a literal cessation of consciousness and life). Along the way, Dr. Stackhouse talks about his lecture, “Hell and the Goodness of God.” and whether the challenge to the traditional view of hell is part of a reformation that is going on within Christianity today.

The Case for Annihilationism

Listen to Dr. Glenn Peoples make a positive case for annihilationism.

Erasing Hell with Preston Sprinkle

Dr. Preston Sprinkle, co-author of Erasing Hell with Francis Chan, discusses why, having leaned toward the traditional view of hell when the book was published, now finds himself leaning toward conditionalism. Although now leaning toward conditionalism (the view that the second death is a literal cessation of consciousness and life), a few passages still give him pause—which are discussed and considered in this 2-part dialog with Rethinking Hell’s contributor, Chris Date.

Traditional Objections to Conditional Immortality Answered

An evangelical Christian attempts to persuade his fellow evangelicals to rethink the traditional view of hell. In this Rethinking Hell podcast, Chris Date looks at the most frequently cited Bible passages traditionalists use to support their view, and answers the most commonly held traditional objections to conditional immortality and the final annihilation of the unsaved. Chris also shines a spotlight on some of the extra-Biblical arguments that traditionalists put forward, revealing how little traditionalists have to stand on.

The Worms of Hell: A Dispensational Challenge

Part 2 of a discussion between Rethinking Hell’s host Chris Date and guest Dr. Robert Taylor, author of Rescue From Death: John 3:16 Salvation. Their discussion addressed differences among conditionalists (those who believe in conditional immortality) and why consistent Dispensationalists must believe in the annihilation of the unsaved. In the following audio portion, Dr. Taylor looks specifically looks at why Isaiah 66:24 needs to be taken literally and historically and not divorced from its context.

The Traditionalist Fallacies of Suffering in Matthew’s Everlasting Punishment

Part 2 of a discussion between Rethinking Hell’s host Chris Date and guest Dr. Robert Taylor, author of Rescue From Death: John 3:16 Salvation. Their discussion looked at the topic of conditional immortality, and in the following audio portion, Dr. Taylor looked specifically at the “eternal punishment” described in Matthew 25:46. He notes that:

Heaven is Not My Home

This world is not my home I’m just a passing throughMy treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blueThe angels beckon me from heaven’s open doorAnd I can’t feel at home in this world anymoreOh lord you know I have no friend like youIf heaven’s not my home then lord what will I doThe angels beckon me from heaven’s open doorAnd I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

The Sleep of the Dead

What happens when you die? Is there an intermediate state? What does the Bible teach about the dead before resurrection? These questions are important for our study of the kingdom of God. If you go straight to heaven when you die, you’re not going to care very much about what happens when Jesus returns. You may find it marginally interesting, but it’s what’s next for you. In this way, the doctrine of heaven-at-death eclipses Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom. However, as it turns out, the Bible teaches that the dead are asleep until the resurrection on the last day. In this lecture you’ll learn the primary texts that support conditional immortality and you’ll see how this Hebrew notion compares to what other cultures and religions say about the intermediate state and afterlife.

The Truth About Heaven

Pastor Steve Taylor shares with a truth that many Christians are coming to realize: that at death Christians are unconscious until the resurrection when Jesus returns to establish God’s kingdom on the earth. Steve draws not only from decades of Bible study, but also from his vast experience in ministry as he has counseled with those who have lost loved ones. Listen in to hear what the Bible really says about the afterlife.

The Truth About Hell

Most Christians believe that hell is the place that one goes to immediately at death if he or she is unsaved. In hell a person is supposedly tormented without relief, not for ten, twenty, or thirty years, nor even for a million years, but for all of eternity. This grotesque mythology has grown out of exaggerations by people like Dante whose imaginations, no doubt, got the better of their exegetical powers.

The History of Hell

In this show John Roller articulates with lucidity the shift from the biblical notion of annihilation to the pagan mythology of eternal torment. From the earliest days Christians believed that at death one was asleep until the resurrection when Jesus returned to establish his kingdom. Only then would hell exist as a means by which God would destroy the wicked and rebellious. However, through the late second century influence of Athenagoras of Athens, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian of Carthage, the hell doctrine combined withe the Greek philosophic idea that souls are immortal into the grotesque abomination that is so popular today. Listen as how the history of hell underwent a remarkable shift in the second century.

Objections to Conditional Immortality

In this episode, David Burge presents a positive case for the doctrine of conditional immortality (the belief that dead people are asleep until the resurrection at the return of Christ). More than half a dozen difficult verses, which are often used to support the belief in the existence of immortal souls, are discussed and explained in detail, showing where frequent misunderstanding often arises. The verses which are discussed include:

Eternal Fire: Burn it Up

Dr. Edward Fudge joins a discussion on annihilation (aka “conditional immortality”), presenting the doctrine, which is gaining popularity, as an alternative to the traditional view of an everlasting, fire-burning hell.

Abraham’s Bosom

booz ́um (κόλπος Ἀβραάμ, kólpos Abraám; κόλποι Ἀβραάμ, kólpoi Abraám): Figurative. The expression occurs in Luke 16:22-23, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, to denote the place of repose to which Lazarus was carried after his death. The figure is suggested by the practice of the guest at a feast reclining on the breast of his neighbor. Thus, John leaned on the breast of Jesus at supper (John 21:20). The rabbis divided the state after death (Sheol) into a place for the righteous and a place for the wicked (see ESCHATOLOGY OF OLD TESTAMENT; SHEOL); but it is doubtful whether the figure of Jesus quite corresponds with this idea. See HADES; PARADISE.

Hades

hā ́dēz (Αἵδης, Haídēs, ᾅδης, haídēs, “not to be seen”): Hades, Greek originally Haidou, in genitive, “the house of Hades,” then, as nominative, designation of the abode of the dead itself. The word occurs in the New Testament in Matthew 11:23 (parallel Luke 10:15); Matthew 16:18; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13 f. It is also found in Textus Receptus of the New Testament 1 Corinthians 15:55, but here the correct reading (Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, the Revised Version) is probably Thánate, “O Death,” instead of Háidē, “O Hades.” The King James Version renders “Hades” by “hell” in all instances except 1 Corinthians 15:55, where it puts “grave” (margin “hell”) in dependence on Hosea 13:14. The Revised Version everywhere has “Hades.”

Hell

hel (see SHEOL; HADES; GEHENNA):

Resurrection

rez-u-rek ́shun (in the New Testament ἀνάστασις, anástasis, with verbs ἀνίστημι, anístēmi, “stand up,” and ἐγείρω, egeírō, “raise.” There is no technical term in the Old Testament, but in Isaiah 26:19 are found the verbs חיה, ḥāyāh, “live,” קוּם, ḳūm “rise,” קיץ, ḳīc “awake”).

Sheol

shē ́ōl (שׁאול, she‘ōl):

Sheol

Hebrew word of uncertain etymology (see Sheol, Critical View), synonym of “bor” (pit), “abaddon” and “shaḥat” (pit or destruction), and perhaps also of “tehom” (abyss).

Annihilationism

Annihilationism (also known as extinctionism or destructionism) is a Christian belief that at the Last Judgment those not receiving salvation are destined for total destruction, not everlasting torment.

Limbo

In the theology of the Catholic Church, Limbo (Latin limbus, edge or boundary, referring to the “edge” of Hell) is a speculative idea about the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned. Medieval theologians of western Europe described the underworld (“hell,” “hades,” “infernum”) as divided into four distinct parts: Hell of the Damned, Purgatory,, and . However, Limbo of the Infants is not an official doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Purgatory

In Christian theology, and especially in Catholic theology, Purgatory (Latin: Purgatorium, via Anglo-Norman and Old French) is an intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven”. Only those who die in the state of grace but have not yet fulfilled the temporal punishment due to their sin can be in Purgatory, and therefore no one in Purgatory will remain forever in that state or go to hell. This notion has old roots.