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GOING TO HELL?…
Hell is a topic that is unavoidable when asking the big questions about life. Anytime anyone thinks about God, it seems a foregone conclusion that one would also consider the ultimate destiny of our souls forever.
In most of evangelical (christian) circles, the concept of hell is pretty rigid. The dominant thought in today’s theology is that if a person doesn’t “accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior” they are eternally lost, consigned to eternal hell where they’ll be conscious and tormented day and night endlessly.
Even if this is the “popular” (more commonly referred to as the “traditional” notion of hell)’ we believe it is badly mistaken, which we will discuss here. We will be rather brief in each of the points we raise, in the hopes that you the reader will be inspired to ask more questions of us and yourself. Share any thoughts you have in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
The very first concern with this traditional vision of hell, which is also referred to as “Eternal Conscious Torment” is that it is inconsistent with the view of a loving God which is expressed by Jesus and the new testament writers. If Jesus, for instance, tells us to love our enemies, does it seem fair that God would punish his enemies eternally for finite sins they committed while they were alive? If we are told to forgive our enemies, it would seem that we are being asked to be more loving than God himself. Some might object here, saying that since we have sinned in the sight of a Holy, Righteous God, he has the right to punish us eternally for our rebellion/disobedience. However, we would suggest it is ultimately more loving of God to allow unrepentant/rebellious sinners to perish, rather than keeping them conscious forever and ever, only to experience the worst possible nightmare that one cannot even imagine. That sounds like nothing more than sadism in the highest possible degree.
There are many, many verses in the teachings of Jesus and other parts of the new testament that describe the “lost” as perishing, or ultimately ending in destruction. We believe that the case is much more powerful for a view of the afterlife called “annihilationism” or also known as “conditional immortality.” To annihilate means to “destroy utterly, to obliterate.” To our understanding, this means the absolute end of something, which makes much more sense in light of many of Jesus’ teachings and the new testament as a whole. “Conditional Immortality” means that there is a condition placed on whether we inherit immortality (eternal life) or if we receive death as our ultimate end.
For the remainder of this article, we will seek to give very compelling evidence that our soul’s destiny does NOT inhabit heaven or hell, but instead it is a choice we must make between either eternal LIFE or DEATH.
Two particular verses we can briefly examine are John 3:16 and Matthew 7:13-14. Let’s start with arguably one of the most quoted verses in the bible, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
We see in the above verse that there is a simple choice between perishing (death) or eternal life. There is no reference or choice between life and eternal HELL.
The next verses to cover are Matthew 7:13-14:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Here we see again the choice between destruction (the ultimate end of), and life, which by context is the eternal life that Jesus refers to elsewhere. We must make it clear again that there is no mention of eternal hell, just destruction.
A few more verses also illustrate the point of ultimate destruction for those who choose not to obey Jesus.
“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.…(Matthew 13:40-42).
The simple questions we must ask ourselves relating to these verses are these: What is the reason for the use of the images of fire? What is it that fire ultimately accomplishes? Is not the end result of a fire to consume and destroy whatever is placed in it? We would suggest here that this is the most logical conclusion we can come to with regards to Jesus’ use of the fiery images.
Let’s consider another verse Jesus uses to teach us about hell:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
Here again we see Jesus teaching us that hell is meant to be a place of destruction. Could it be any clearer than this?
Now let’s examine a verse written by the Apostle Paul, and see if it also offers a clear, unambiguous picture of the afterlife:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).
Are you beginning to see the overwhelmingly definitive picture of the choice before us that God places before us?
We would like to point out here that it is VERY important to understand where the “traditional” view of hell comes from. The concept of the inherent immortality of the soul comes from the Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato, and NOT from Jesus or the Bible. There were many pagan philosophers who converted to Christianity, and their background in Greek philosophy still had a powerful influence on their thinking. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) and St. Augustine (354-430 A.D) are just two examples of early Christian writers who reflected Greek philosophy in their teachings.
There is much more that we would like to add to this article, but we wish to keep it fairly brief so that our readers can have time to digest what has already been shared here. Hope to hear your feedback!