THE DOCTRINE OF HELL AND THE LAKE OF FIRE
Jesus spoke more about Hell and the Lake of Fire more than anyone else in Scripture. According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal, conscious torment. Eternal, conscious torment is the Christian majority position over its 2,000-year history. In the recent past, alternative views about Hell have been embraced, some based on ancient teachings rejected historically by some Christians that deny, reject, or distort the church’s traditional teachings about Hell.
Annihilationism and universalism are the two main divergent views. One advocates what could be termed as soul sleep or loss of conscious existence. The other advocates for salvation to everyone and everything in creation, including the devil and the fallen angels. These views are to be rejected and avoided, as they are counter to the teachings of Jesus.
Universalists believe that everything and everyone will be redeemed and reconciled with God. Universalism often accepts purgatory or curative punishment as viable. The teaching of Jesus builds on the Old Testament concept of final judgment (Isaiah 66:22-24; Jeremiah7:32-8:3).
The Scriptures teach that Hell incorporates final separation from God’s mercy, separation from the people of God’s, unending divine judgment, and divine retribution for sin. Separation, judgment, and retribution eliminate the annihilationist position that denies the torments of Hell, and the Lake of Fire is eternal.
“‘For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make shall remain before Me, says the Lord, so shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. Therefore behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away. Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate. “At that time,” says the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves. They shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped. They shall not be gathered nor buried; they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. Then death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of those who remain of this evil family, who remain in all the places where I have driven them,” says the Lord of hosts.”
Jesus speaks of Gehenna as the place of final judgment (Jeremias). Matthew records Jesus speaking about Gehenna twice in his Gospel, where Jesus calls Gehenna the “hell of fire” (Matthew 5:29). “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
As Jesus discusses Hell more than anyone in Scripture, it is incumbent for the church to acknowledge and embrace the teachings of Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus, is the only other person in the Scriptures to use the term Hell in James 3:6.
- “Whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the Hell of fire” (Matthew 5:22).
- “It is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).
- “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
- “It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the Hell of fire” (Matthew 18:9).
- “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).
- “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of Hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
- “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled than having your two hands, to go into Hell, into the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43).
- “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into Hell” (Mark 9:45).
- “If your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into Hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47-48).
- “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and, after that, have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear, fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into Hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).
- James 3:6: “and the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by Hell.”
The Lake of Fire is a phrase in Revelation that describes the final destination of God’s enemies, including the devil. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the Lake of Fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).
The Lake of Fire will become the eternal destination for humans who oppose God and who reject God’s offer of salvation, which includes the beast and false prophet. Then the beast was captured and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20).
Death, and Hell cease to have the power to torment humanity, as they will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (Revelation 20:14).
The Lake of Fire will be the abode of anyone not found in the Book of Life, and anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15).
The Lake of Fire is described as the “second death,” but the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 20:14; 21:8).
The Lake of Fire is depicted as a place of eternal suffering, including the complete separation from God. The Lake of Fire includes a permanent and inescapable death.
The Gospels recorded Jesus calling the Lake of Fire Gehenna, and do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell (Gehenna), if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to Hell (Gehenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched, but I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into Hell (Gehenna); yes, I say to you, fear Him (Matthew 10:28; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5).
Hell is a temporary fixture that will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and then Death and Hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death (Revelation 20:14).