When you think of hell, do you envision intense heat and torture, and pitch forks and the Devil and his demons tormenting the souls of sinful individuals who have died? All of this somewhere underneath or inside the bowels of the earth?
Where do these visions come from and how did they make there way into the thoughts and minds of so many?
In the fourteenth-century, a thirty-five year old Italian by the name of Dante Alighieri writes a comedic poem describing a medieval concept of hell. Hell was depeicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth.
The philosophy of the poem is a mixture of the Bible, medieval Roman Catholicism, mythology, and Middle Ages tradition. This view pf hell has stuck with many today and is believed in and taught as a popular teaching in almost all religious organization. But is it accurate as measured up against what is written in Scripture?
The Apostle John at 1 John 4:1 teaches that we are not believe every expression claiming to be inspired by God. That we are to put those expressions to the test to see if they measure up with what is written in Scripture. I do not believe that the majority of the so-called "believing" world has done this. Rather, it has simply accepted something "as truth" without challenge or investigation from Scripture.
John says at 1 John 4:1:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
What Do The Scriptures Say About Hell?
The Scriptures associate death with hell. We can see this in a few places in Scripture. One of them being at Revelation 20:14:
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Scriptures teach that hell is not a place of eternal torment, but a place where the dead go and remain there asleep in death until they are resurrected: Hell is the grave.
Jesus himself showed this to be true as he – a good man – died and spent three days in hell or The Grave. Thus, showing that one can go there and get out of it. Jesus was resurrected out of the death-state because he was dead for three days. Many people miss this.
While in hell, Jesus was not walking around talking to anyone because – in death – one is asleep. Notice what Eccl 9:5, 10 says about persons who die.
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
These Scriptures show that in the Grave the dead no nothing. They do not see, speak, hear, smell, taste, move about, feel, no the passage of time, have no knowledge, no wisdom, cannot plan or devise – nothing. They are dead.
Conversely, those of us who are alive, do.
This was the state Jesus was in when he died and it is the state of all persons who have ever died are in.
One must also consider that Jesus showed a pattern when he died and was resurrected. That pattern was that ALL persons who die can and will be called out of their graves. John 5:28-29 says:
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
Did Jesus' friend Lazarus – who had died -report where he was when Jesus resurrected him. No he did not.
One would think that Lazarus was in a fiery hell, he would have reported it. Likewise, if he was in heaven, he would have definitely reported that. But he didn't because in death – as the Scriptures teach – there is no knowledge.
The teaching of the resurrection – the thought that people come out of hell – shoots the idea of eternal torment in hell in the head and foot. One thought is Scripture and the other stems from a comedic poem: Dantes inferno. The choice is yours to decide which one is the truth.
Why then, do so many people cling tenaciously to the idea that hell is a fiery place of torment?
The reason is because they read a parable Jesus gave of a rich man and a poor man by the name of Lazarus at Luke 16:19-31.
But after close examination of this parable one can see that it is not a literal event (it is a parable or illustration).
The parable is basically speaking of a rich man and a poor man. Both of them die.
The rich man is dead and buried (in this grave). While in hell (his grave), the parable says that he lifts up his eyes and see that he is in torments. Further the parable says that he sees Abraham at a distance and with Abraham is the poor man Lazarus.
So this rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water on his finger to cool his tongue because he is in anguish in a blazing fire.
In a literal sense, this makes no sense. Why?
First because Jesus spoke in parable. His parables are not literal events.
Second, if both the rich man and poor man died, then according to Eccl 9:5,10, thet cannot see, hear, or feel anything.
Thirdly, why would the rich man request of Abraham to literally send Lazarus to him with only a drop of water on his finger; why not buckets of water or a river? If this hellfire is intensely hot, then the drop of water on Lazarus' finger would evaporate once it enters into this hot place. Not only, that Lazarus would be consumed in the fire as well!
Fourthly, if the rich man was existing in a blazing fire, why was he himself not being consume. And, just stated, if Lazarus got close to him with that drop of water on his finger, he too, would have been consumed.
This parable is not a literal event. Jesus is simply explaining in a pictureques way about himself and his mission. He is showing that even when he was sent by his Father and was alive, not all listened to him. Even when he died and was resurrected to life, people – especially today – still do not listen to him.
What is interesting about this parable is that it does not say that rich-man-like persons will not have a resurrection from the dead. In fact, they will. That is why the Scripture at Luke 16:23 it mentions that the Rich Man, while in hell (his grave), looked up. In other words, he was resurrected; he opened his eyes. But at their resurrection back to life, it will not be easy for them as it will be for those who were poor-man-like.
The poor-man-like persons, at their resurrection will be in a favored position with Jehovah. They will be in his bosom position (protected) and will not be subject to the Judgment Day.
The rich-man-like persons, at their resurrection will not be in a favored position with Jehovah. But Jehovah gives them an opportunity to earn his favor. Therefore, they are subjects of the 1000 year Judgment Day period. It will not be easy for them, but a loving provision set up by Jehovah that affords them this opportunity. This is what Acts 24:15 is referring to:
And I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Recall, too, what John 5:29 says concerning these rich-man-like persons:
… And come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment. (NWT)
Where is Hell Itself Tossed In The End
According to Revelation 20:14, hell and death, are both tossed into the Lake of Fire. This shows that hell and the Lake of Fire are not the same thing.
That hell (the grave) is placed into the Lake of Fire simply shows that a time will come when people will not die. If people will no longer die, there will be no need for graves.
This thought is conveyed at Revelation 21:4 speaking of a future time:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
If we are told a Revelation 21:4 that there will be no more death and in a previous verse that death and hell are thrown into the Lake of Fire, then the Lake of Fire is a symbol of the state of being no more or nonexistence. Anything placed in it ceases to exist. Like paper burned in a fire, the paper ceases to exist.
We can also see that hell is not eternal because it goes into the Lake of Fire.
Note: For an explanation of what The Lake of Fire is, see my article: What Is The Lake of Fire
The Common Grave of Mankind
What is called Hell or Hades is nothing but the common grave of mankind. It is the place all living things go when they die. Jesus was no exception. If one considers that Jesus came out of that place after three days dead, shows that others can come out of it as well. The resurrections Jesus performed of persons who had died show that hell is not a place that imprisons persons forever, even in death.
That Revelation 20:14 and Revelation 21:4 say that death and hell are thrown into the Lake of Fire and that death will cease to be, shows that hell is not an eternal place.
Scripture shows that hell is simply the common grave of mankind; that is, it is the eventuality of all who have died and will die. There is no escaping death and their is no escaping entering to a grave or memorial tomb unto the day that Revelation 20:14 and Revelation 21:4 are fulfilled.