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Hell, Eternal or Not?

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:12-15)

I watched a video about hell from a Bible teacher that I trust. I was a little disappointed though. He claimed that sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) meant Hell, but according to my research and a straightforward reading of old testament scripture, sheol and hades can mean the grave or hell depending on the context. For example: “Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, That You would set a limit for me and remember me!” (NASB) Job is talking to God about hiding him in a grave until he takes the time to remember him. What Job didn’t realize is that God was still with him and never left him. This verse is rendered in the King James Version as: “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!” This is clearly not talking about Hell. Hell is a place of punishment and fire, not a hiding place.

He also said that the Lake of Fire mentioned in the book of Revelation means hell, but this “Lake of Fire” is only mentioned in Revelation and is mentioned in direct relation to the Great White Throne judgement, the final judgement of those that didn’t accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Revelation also proclaims that both death and hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire, so it must be a separate place. Therefore, I would have to conclude that the Lake of Fire is not the same as Hell. Hell is a temporary holding area of punishment until the final judgement and then those that never accepted Christ are judged and tossed into their final judgement place in the Lake of Fire.

He also said that he doesn’t believe in eternal punishment. He believes in conditionalism or that sinners are punished in accordance with the sins they have committed. He said that if eternal punishment were true, that would turn a, “God of justice into a cosmic sadist”. I’ll have to disagree with him on this one too. To us, as humans, there are big sins and little sins and the more sins you commit the more punishment you deserve. God is not like that. God is completely holy and all sin has equal value and is equally punished. Only the precious blood of Jesus washes away all sins forever. If you are saved, God sees you without any sin. If you are unsaved, since God is completely holy, any sin that you commit, whether it’s coveting your friend’s fishing pole or committing mass murder is equally punishable by eternal punishment. As a perfect, just and holy God, He would have to punish all sin equally.

I believe that the Bible proclaims that hell is temporary and the Lake of Fire as the final judgement and all that have committed the only unpardonable sin – failure to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior – will receive eternal judgement in the Lake of Fire. Our justice, based on evidence, emotion and a feeble attempt at fairness is a pale reflection of God’s perfect justice.

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