Assignment On Hell

Assignment On Hell

A premise:  whatever the Bible teaches about Hell we are obliged to accept. So what does the Bible teach?

Four Views Among Evangelicals:

  1. Hell is a literal place with a literal fire. Endless conscious Punishment is punitive, not redemptive. (John Walvoord, J.I. Packer, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards)
  2. Hell is eternal and punitive, but not a literal How can a literal fire harm a person’s spirit? The fire is metaphorical, just like “darkness” is metaphorical. Fire is often used in a non-literal way to depict God’s judgment. (William Crockett). Jude 13, Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30, Matt 3:10, 12; 25:41.
  3. Hell may be extensive and prolonged, it is a time of purging for sin, not eternal. This has been called a purgatorial view. Thus, hell is redemptive, not merely punitive. Heb 11:39-40, Mt 12:31-32, (Zachary Hayes)
  4. Hell is conditional or temporary. This leads to either:
    1. Universalism- eventually everyone will be saved (Origin, Karl Barth). Possibility raised in Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins.”
    2. Annihilationism- the wicked will ultimately perish. Hell is absolute death (Clark Pinnock, Michael Green, John Stott). “The wages of sin is death.”


Biblical language on Hell

  1. Sheol. Simply mans the realm of the dead, the grave (Ps 49:14, Dt 32:22).  Used 65 times in OT, sometimes translated grave, hell, pit, or transliterated Sheol.
  2. Hades. This is the NT equivalent to Sheol. (Mt 16:18, Rev 1:18, 6:8, 20:13, 14)
  3. Genennah. Always translated “hell” (Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47, Luke 12:5; James 3:6)
  4. Tartaros, found only in 2 Peter 2:4.

Passages that appear to teach that the wicked will be destroyed: Ps 37, Mal 4:1-2, Matt 10:28,  Mt 5:30, 2 Thess 1:9, Gal 6:8, 1 Cor 3:17, Phil 1:28, Rom 1:32, Rom 6:23, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Peter 2:1,3; Heb 10:39, Jude 7, Revelation 20:14-15.

Passages that appear to teach that the wicked are punished in hell eternally. Mark 9:48, Matt 25:46, Luke 16:23-24, Rev 14:9-11, Rev 20:10.

On Jesus’ symbolic uses of words see Matt 5:29, 7:5, Luke 14:26, Luke 18:22, Matt 19:24, Mark 6:23, Mark 11:23, Luke 9:60.


Questions about these varied views:

Would the God who tells us to love our enemies wreak vengeance on his enemies for all eternity?

What is gained by the physical torment for all eternity?

What if someone doesn’t want to be saved? Can there be a universalism and still be free will?

Is everlasting punishment intolerable from a moral point of view? Should we strive to be like God in his mercilessness? Does God delight in the pains of the lost?

Some passages seem to suggest degrees of punishment (Matt 10:15; Luke 12:47-48, Mark 12:40). How can that be if the wicked are destroyed (annihilationism), or if everyone is saved (universalism)? [do these texts do this?

The God who wants all people to be saved plans to torture people endlessly in physical fire. Who would want to accept salvation from a God like that?

What kind of victory is it for God if most people do not accept Christ and suffer eternally?

Is eternal punishment in Hell a proportionate response to rejection of Christ in this life?

How could immediate annihilation be considered punishment at all? [eternal separation is punishment enough]

[1] William Crockett, ed. Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).