Note: Hell is a subject that I intend to study afresh which will be followed by a revision of this article. In the meantime, I am leaving this article here in its current state. The thoughts and Scriptures included here can serve to stimulate thought and study. —Tim
In this article, I look to dispel ten of the most common myths about hell.
10. Hell doesn't exist.
Let's get this one out of the way up front.
Admittedly, no living human today can prove scientifically that hell exists. Neither can one prove scientifically that hell does not exist.
This is why it's called faith.
I can understand people who don't believe in GOD questioning the existence of hell, but there are numerous polls and surveys that indicate that a significant percentage of believers don't accept that there is a hell.
Look, people, either GOD's word is 100% truth or it isn't.
If it isn't 100% truth then He isn't God. He is either GOD or a liar, which we know cannot be true.
The Scriptures speak of hell from cover to cover, and no person taught more about it than Jesus.
For example, consider these words of Jesus:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. ...
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
(Matt. 5:21-22, 27-30 NIV)
In another place, Jesus said:
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
(Luke 12:4-5 NIV)
The Bible is very clear, friend: hell is a very real place indeed.
9. Hell is a figurative term that refers to eternally ceasing to exist.
I have heard of some who twist certain Scriptures to the point that they believe that hell is simply a figurative term that refers to a soul ceasing to exist ("eternal destruction" to mean "destroyed for eternity").
Friends, it is extremely dangerous to take any passage of Scripture and build a doctrine around it without considering the entirity of GOD's message.
Even a casual reading of the Scriptures disproves this myth (for example, Matt. 10:27-28; 18:8; Matt. 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:4-5; Phil. 3:18-19; Jude 21).
8. Hell is temporary.
The truth is that this life is our test.
We get one chance to live—one opportunity to pass the test.
After death, the righteous will inherit the kingdom they have been citizens of during their life on earth, and the unrighteous will be told to depart from Jesus.
The Lord told the apostles about this sifting which would occur at His return:
46 “Then [the unrighteous] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Matt. 25:46 NIV)
Whatever the verdict at our judgment, that's it. Our one chance is over. The result, either way, is eternal.
7. Life in hell will be somewhat like earth.
Often times, in our movies, books and music, hell is portrayed as being similar in nature to life on earth today. People running around killing and committing all sorts of evil acts.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Hell was designed as a place of torture and torment. On earth our lives are consumed with many things. In hell, there is only one concern, and that is how bad the pain is away from GOD's presence (which is a great segway into the next myth).
6. Hell won't be that bad.
It is very common for people to talk about hell in a joking manner, or to make light of it.
The Bible says these people are fools:
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
(Prov. 1:32 NIV)
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.
9 Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
(Prov. 14:8-9 NIV)
The Bible is clear that hell is all about suffering. Repeatedly, hell is referred to as a lake of fire and brimstone (for example, Rev. 20:10, 14-15; 21:8), and a fire that is never satisfied nor put out (Mark 9:43-48). It burns...and burns...and burns, forever.
5. A loving GOD won't send people to hell.
GOD is love (1 John 4:8).
He doesn't want any human to experience hell.
It is not His will that they go there (2 Pet. 3:9).
At first glance, the thought that GOD would punish people with eternity in hell seems very unloving. But life is more complicated than this.
For example, what if someone murdered your best friend and the police caught the killer, but when the killer stood before the judge, the judge said, "I simply love this person too much to send them to prison for life." If the judge showed this much love toward the killer, would they be showing any love toward you or toward your friend who was murdered?
Now multiply this situation by 24 hours (per day), times 365 days per year, times 50 years (random estimated avg lifespan of humans for all generations), times untold billions of people who have lived on earth and you start to get a small glimpse into the magnitude of the complexity of judging humanity's actions.
See, GOD is indeed love and He is also our righteous and holy judge. He must be fair in His decisions, otherwise He would be a GOD who shows favoratism, which would make Him a liar and unloving to those who didn't receive His favor.
GOD's love requires that all sin be punished. It's the only way things can work.
4. Only the "worst" humans will be sent to hell.
Often times, to us, it makes sense that life is about being a "good person." Obey the law, be kind and courteous to others, and help people when you can. When you die, if you've been a good person, GOD will "let you in" to heaven.
But GOD is very clear that He doesn't think the way that humans think. His thoughts are much higher and greater than ours (Isa. 55:8-9).
GOD has given us commands for our good (Deut. 6:24; 1 John 5:3).
When we break a commandment, that's sin. We're all guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23). When we break one aspect of GOD's law, we're guilty of it all (Jam. 2:10).
GOD is holy and just (Lev. 20:26; Psalm 5:4; 33:4-5; Hab. 1:13) and His character demands that all sin must be punished. The punishment for sin is death—blood (the life source) is required as payment (Lev. 17:11). Someone must pay the blood death penalty for your sins.
3. People have experienced "hell" on earth.
Every person endures periods of suffering and trials in this life. It comes with the territory.
Some people have endured extreme tragedies and unthinkable treatment.
But I promise you that no human, regardless of the severity of their suffering, has endured anything as bad as hell. To think otherwise is foolish and a failure to fear GOD.
Do you know what is the worst thing about hell?
GOD is not there.
Think about this:
At no moment during life on earth has any human ever been completely and totally outside of the presence of—and blessings given by—GOD. It's something we've never experienced.
Jesus said that GOD makes the sun rise and the rain fall upon the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45), and Paul said that it is in GOD that we move and breathe and live (Acts 17:24-28).
Even the staunchest human enemy of GOD receives blessings from Him every day.
In hell, GOD's presence is nowhere to be found, and there are zero blessings to be enjoyed.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians:
6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
(2 Thess. 1:6-10 NIV)
In truth, nothing on earth ever comes close to being described as hell.
2. You're destined for hell with no hope.
I've heard people despair that there was no hope for them, that they could never be "good enough" to be saved.
You're right, you could never be good enough. That's why it's called grace.
GOD offers us what we don't deserve. GOD's will is that you be saved—that you repent and turn to Jesus to receive forgiveness of your sins.
The Christians at Corinth had a very ugly (sinful) past, but Paul wrote to them that GOD had forgiven them:
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(1 Cor. 6:9-11 NIV)
The truth is that no one is ever so deep in sin that GOD is unwilling to forgive them.
The most evil king of Judah, Manasseh, who offered his own son as a human sacrifice and filled the streets of Jerusalem with blood (read more: July 11 - Manasseh Leads Judah to Sin), received forgiveness from GOD when he humbled himself and repented.
Anyone can be saved. Don't allow Satan's lie to keep you from GOD's love.
1. Hell is Satan's playground.
Probably the most common myth about hell, in my opinion, is the view that the devil runs the place and is happy there, as though it were his home.
The truth is that hell was created as the punishment for Satan and his fellow angels who rebelled against GOD (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10) and they are tormented there day and night for eternity.
Hell is nobody's playground. And it certainly is no joke.
If hell's fire is strong enough to torment a creature as powerful and strong as Satan, what do you think it's going to feel like to humans?
Please, friend, be desperate to avoid this terrible place.
We don't like to talk about hell or think about hell today because it is such a "negative" subject. People like to hear about happy subjects. We don't like to think about death either, but that shouldn't stop us from making the proper preparations, such as life insurance and a will.
If you want to learn how to avoid hell, read the book of Acts and do what they did.
I've written about this here as well: