The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Heaven, Yes - Hell, No

The word “hell” is not found at all in this book, so we can go directly to 7:31, as follows: “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.” Wow! God is not only saying that this action was outside what He had laid down as worship, but the burning alive of children was something that had never entered His own Mind. We now have more than a double witness that God did not create Hell, as we have read in Genesis 1:1, Deuteronomy 10:14, and Isaiah 65:17/66:22. We know from John 1:3 that no one else created Hell either. Now we know, too, that the concept of people suffering alive in a fire is foreign to Him. You just can not have, at the same time, a fiery, eternal Hell, and a God who never though of such a place. Given what we have so far, Hell is excluded, but we will keep looking, hopefully to be as exhaustive of this subject as a Strong’s or Young’s Concordance.

It’s a bit off-topic, but chapter 10 has a short, but interesting, account of a practice called “vain or futile” – “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (10:3-4) I think this an early reference to what we today call a Christmas Tree. God calls it vanity/futility. I call it idolatry.

In 15:2, God indicates that no one can escape their fate: “Thus saith the Lord; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to the captivity.” God does not lie, and He fails to say “Such as are for Hell, to Hell.” If Hell were so, He would have said so, just as Jesus stated in John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” As His Father did not, Jesus did not mention the existence of Hell, or any risk of going there. If there were, He would have said so, but His silence is another witness to the non-existence of Hell, we will cover what Jesus says, and does not say, presently.

After many chapters of prophecy, personal troubles, and recording of God’s coming destruction on Israel, Judah, and the various nations in that part of the world, we find this gem in 51:5 – “…Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the Lord of Hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.” Happily, we see here hope and a hint of forgiveness, not a hint of Hell. In fact, in all the threats and promises of destruction, there is no threat or punishment beyond death, as ever.

Thus ends our brief coverage of the long book of Jeremiah, where hell, in word or concept, is not found.

As in Jeremiah’s other book, the word “hell” is not to be found here. Now for those who subscribe to the “abandon all hope” version of Hell, I have chapter 3, verses 26-32. “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord…For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.” Hear that! God will not cast us, you, me, anybody, off forever. Are you not saved? It is temporary.

At the end of the same chapter, Jeremiah calls out to God as to his personal enemies in verses 64-66 – “Render unto them a recompence, O Lord, according to the work of their hands. Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them. Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord.” Hell or eternal torture/damnation are not asked for, so given that we have yet to find Hell up to this point, we MUST, if we are intellectually honest, restrict the meaning of “destroy…from under the heavens” to mean death at the worst.

The fate of Sodom & Gomorrah is often compared with Hell, but we have this word in 4:6 & 9 – “For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom…They that be slain with the sword are better [off] than they that be slain with hunger…” What happened to Sodom was fire of unknown origin, but it happened in the real world. The punishment of Judah and Jerusalem also played out in the real world, but Jeremiah notes that those killed by the sword were luckier than those who died of starvation, and these things played out in the real world as well. Those who believe the fate of Sodom was like Hell would have a hard time explaining how death by sword or starvation would be worse than an eternity in fire, but we have the witness of Jeremiah.

In chapter five, Jeremiah seems to contradict what he wrote earlier: “For the Lord will not cast off for ever…”
He says in verse 20, “Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?” I cannot say with authority that Jeremiah meant forever as we think of it today, but note that it parallels the “long time” in the second phrase.

At any rate, hell and Hell are not to be found in the book of Lamentations, though many would guess that Judah and Jerusalem were experiencing “Hell on Earth” after the Babylonian conquest. Bad times, no matter how bad, are not Hell, however.

I am reviewing the entire KJV, to demonstrate that Hell is a 404 (not found). I have posted this essay on another UR site, but in earlier drafts. It is ongoing, so what I’m posting here is more up-to-date.

Good posts, there is no real mention of hell in the OT, just sheol which means grave. The KJV starts translating sheol into “hell” late in the OT but
with no basis. In fact there may be no basis for the word “hell” in the NT. the greek word “hades” which is simply the greek word for “sheol” is translated into hell, but like “sheol” simply means grave. “Gehenna” another so called “hell” word is the valley of hinnon from Jeremiah and without the hell pre-supposition has no basis for a hell translation. There also is “tarturus” , but again no basis to translate it into hell.
But in Revelation 20 we have the Lake of Fire and the 64K question is whether it’s figurative or literal and what it’s purpose is.

Freakin Ya :smiley: :laughing:

I have considered that 64K question and I note that Death and Hell (grave) are cast into it. If not then, the Bible states that the last enemy to be overcome and abolished is Death. The fire-forever crowd cannot answer how anyone can still be dead and/or in Hell after that. To believe in Hell, you must cling to a limited set of “proof texts” and ignore the whole, overall message of the Word of God.

As to the LoF, I don’t know if it is literal or figurative, and maybe it makes no difference. God describes Himself over and over in His Word as a Refining Fire, and sometimes even as Soap. Second Death or not, the LoF experience must be to accomplish the refining in those cast into it that a life in the here-and-now was unable to do.

“Hell” is found four times in the book of Ezekiel:
As usual, it is translated from the same word, “sheol” the KJV renders as “grave,” “pit,” or “hell”. This inconsistency can be found even in consecutive verses, such as 31:15-17. I don’t care to delve into the whys and wherefores, but just note that it is so.

In Chapter 16, God describes Jerusalem as a cast-off foundling He saved. He goes on to recount all the good things He did for her, and compares her to her “sisters,” Samaria and Sodom. God seems to say that Jerusalem became the worst of the lot, but then says in verse 55, “When thy sister, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.” This is an amazing statement, for the people of Jerusalem were alive, the people of Samaria were in exile, but the people of Sodom were very much dead. Many would relegate them to Hell, but God Himself is saying that they will someday go back to their inheritance. How can this be, unless all are saved in the end?

In Chapter 18, we find God declaring that iniquity is individual, as is righteousness. Verse 20 states that, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Verse 23 goes on to say, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” Then His advice in verse 31, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Note that there is no mention of Hell, but a broad hint that God overcomes sin and wickedness by giving humans a new heart, a new spirit. In other places God states that He will take out the stony heart from men and give them a heart of flesh instead. Man cannot do this – it must be done by God, as He spoke through Ezekiel, in 11:19: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.”
Now here we are at Chapter 28, and I know that a lot of people insist that the subject of the chapter, the prince of Tyrus (Tyre) is actually Satan. No, sorry, for these reasons:

The previous two chapters were all about the literal city of Tyre and the bad fate God had in store for it. Chapter 28 is about the prince of the same literal city, and there is no subject break until toward the end of that chapter.

God says, “…thou art a man and not God…” (verse 2)
But if this prince was really Satan, don’t you think God would have said so? No, literal city, literal prince, and a man at that.

Verse 8: “They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die…” The previous verse speaks of terrible strangers who draw the sword against this prince, but Satan cannot be taken down with literal swords, being a spirit being.

Verse 13: “Thou hast been in Eden…” This does not mean that the prince of Tyre was in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve – as ever, it’s all in the context. See 27:23: “Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad were thy merchants.” Eden is treated as a literal country like any other literal country of the time. For more on this subject, see the books of David Rohl especially Legend.

In view of all the above I must confess that I find verse 14, which is the crux of the whole Satan argument, a puzzle, but I’m not going to set one verse against the context of three chapters of text.

Not only was the prince of Tyre in Eden, but God, in Chapter 31 personifies Assyria as a great tree, “…so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” (verse 9) Eden again, but it is more difficult to make a whole nation out to be Satan, so this gets ignored as a proof.

Chapter 31 goes on to speak of the death of the great tree of Assyria, and we have the usual words so often associated with “hell,” such as “delivered unto death,” “nether parts of the earth,” “the pit,” “the grave” and “the deep.” In verse 15, “the grave” is footnoted as “Or sheol, hell.” Then in verse 16 we do see “hell,” but it is footnoted as “Or sheol.” This inconsistency hides a dishonest translation and theological sleight of hand.

“Hell” is mentioned in Chapter 32 (18-32), but the language of the section makes it clear that the grave and death are being spoken of. The clincher is God stating that, “…I have caused my terror in the land of the living…” (verse 32) Nothing is said about any terror in the realm of the dead, Sheol.

Chapter 37 presents us with the valley of dry bones, the promise of the resurrection. Just as in Genesis, we see men re-created from dry bones as God puts flesh on them. Notice that the finished bodies do not have life until the breath/wind/spirit enters them – then they become “the whole house of Israel.” This is a second witness to the creation of man in Genesis.

Chapters 38 and 39 cover the war of Gog and Magog - notice that of the 5/6ths of Gog’s army which are killed, there is no mention of their fate beyond, death, just as ever, simple death.

So, that’s it for the book of Ezekiel, where neither a fiery Hell, nor eternal torment can be found.

First off, the word “hell” is not found in the book. We do find a few fires, such as the furnace into which Daniel’s three friends were thrown. However hot it was, it was in the literal world of here-and-now (or there-and-then), so it was not Hell. Also, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went in alive, were alive in the fire (as attested by the king), and came out alive, so it was not Hell, since you must be dead to go to Hell. Further, One “like the Son of God” was in there with them, so again it could not have been Hell. This must have been YHVH, or the pre-incarnate Jesus, who dwelt in the heavens. Since we know by now that He did not create Hell, nor did anyone else, He could not have been there. For all these reasons, the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar was not Hell.

Next, Daniel sees fire in a vision. He writes of the Ancient of Days: “…his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before him…” (7:9-10). We know this was taking place in the Heavenlies, because in verse 13, “…one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days…” For all the fire, this cannot be Hell, either.

Hell, then is not to be found in the book of Daniel.

As Daniel, Hosea did not get “sheol” rendered as “hell,” just as “grave,” which is not too far off the mark. Besides the story of Hosea and his family, most of the book is devoted to God’s usual denunciation of the sins, backsliding, and wickedness of the people of Israel. Yet, in the midst of all that, is a statement, almost parenthetical: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction…” (13:14) The apostle Paul echoes this in I Corinthians 15:54. So, for all the evil of His people, God promises to ransom and redeem them from death and the grave – not to send them on to Hell, or any such place. In fact, He states that He will destroy death and the grave, as we shall see in the Revelation.

Thus, Hell is not to be found in the book of Hosea.

There is nothing in this book relating to our thesis, just a few mentions of fire, always in the real world.

Hell is nowhere to be found in the book of Joel.

Amos was the first prophet to write a surviving book, and through him God says against this or that group of people, that for three transgressions and for four, He would not turn away their punishment. It is vital to realize that what God sets as punishment for all these groups, takes place in the real world, not in the afterlife. In Chapter 3, verse 7, He says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” He has yet to reveal the secret of Hell, if indeed there is such a place, just as the incarnate Christ told His disciples, “…if it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2) I know both texts revolve around other subjects, but I take it as a general principle that God will tell the truth about what is and what He will do. Keep this in mind when reading a Bible which, properly translated and interpreted, speaks not of Hell.

We see fire imagery in 4:11: “…ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning…” This is in connection to Sodom and Gomorrah, the fiery destruction of which, as we know, happened in the real world, so it cannot refer to Hell. Anyway, if the burning referred to is in fact Hell, the fire-forever doctrine forbids anyone ever leaving, forbidding even God from plucking anyone out. It is all too easy to formulate a doctrine or dogma, post a few proof texts, and not realize that you are proposing to dictate to God.

There is fire again in 5:6, and once again it is fire in the real world. A few verses later (5:8) we read the implied promise: “Seek him that maketh…the shadow of death into the morning.” Is this not a promise of God’s coming salvation? Note that no conditions are placed on it, just as the morning is for all who see it.

Fire again in 7:4, and the wording seems obscure, but this writer sees no reason to think it refers to Hellfire.

8:11-12 “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” People are still not finding it, while they read what they think are Bibles, but are paraphrases. They are not finding it while sitting under the preaching of those who are constrained by doctrines and dogma which are contrary to God’s Word. Dear reader, my thesis is only a small part of a whole, for the basic message of God’s Word is to believe only in Him, do what is right, and avoid evil & wickedness. Most folks who stop and think will admit this, but men seem to corrupt all that they can, and corruption must be burned away from time to time. In the fullness of time, God will burn it away entirely, but that’s not Hellfire either.

Finally, we do see “hell” in 9:2, “Though they dig into hell…,” but as ever it is footnoted as “Sheol.” Now since Hell is supposed to be a destination in the afterlife, how are living men to dig their way into it? Hoary church dogma places Hell at the center of the earth, but it’s just simpler to think of hell/sheol/grave, and it is so much closer to the original meaning, and you can dig into it too. Can you dig it?

There is little to mention in this book, except fire in verse 18, where Jacob = fire, Joseph = flame and Esau = stubble. As usual, this works out in the real world.

Hell is not to be found, then, in the book of Obadiah.

The word “hell” shows up in 2:2, when Jonah prays to God from deliverance from the “belly of hell,” uh, fish. The word, of course, is footnoted “Sheol.” Jesus referred back to Jonah in the sense of His coming three-day sojourn in a tomb, as Jonah was in the fish for the same length of time, but neither was Hell if we are talking about eternal conscious torment in fire.

Jonah must have expected God to smite Nineveh after forty days, and was unhappy to see it spared, given all he had been through. Is this not exactly how people today feel about their personal enemies? That after all they have had to suffer, their enemies should just go to Hell. They forget that they are surely the enemy of some other person, who just might want them to go to Hell as well. Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies because we all come before the same judge, and must pass the same test before the White Throne. We must put up with them forever as well, if there is no Hell – a sobering thought.

After Jonah moved east of the city, a direction away from God, He gave Jonah a gourd, and showed him how things are alive one day, and dead the next, just as the grass Jesus mentioned that grows today and is tomorrow thrown into the fire. Jonah was upset by the death of his worthless gourd, but God showed him that the people of Nineveh were of much more worth. Now if God spared the pagan Ninevites, we should not be the Jonahs of the present age and relegate any person or group to Hell.

We can find the salvation of all in Jonah, but not Hell.

Lots of folks look to Chapter 4 as telling of a future time when swords are made into plowshares, spears to pruninghooks, and the nations not learning war anymore. Two verses later, we see what is less quoted: “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (verse 5) Note the use of “all,” and the lack of conditions and exceptions to those walking with God. Micah goes on to say that God will gather the lame, the outcast, and those He has afflicted.

In Chapter 6, God pleads, “O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me…what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (3-8) As we wind up the OT and the minor prophets, I think it is important once again to remind the reader that nowhere does God promise or threaten anyone, for any reason, with eternal torment in fire. He does give them dire warnings of oppression, destruction, and captivity, but those are things worked out in the real world, and are the consequences of His people’s own actions and choices. He talks like an aggrieved parent, hoping for better things from His children, and promising them a better future, not a hopeless future in Hell.

Micah gives us another clue about our personal enemies: “Then she that is mine enemy…shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.” (7:10) She is not sent to Hell, just “trodden down.”

Micah concludes: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities ; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Ask yourself, reader, if this sounds like a God who sends sinners to Hell, or a God who corrects and redeems them?

Hell is surely not found in the book of Micah

In case anyone is ready to say that “…the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” (1:2) means that God will send them to Hellfire, let me say again that nowhere has He yet said such a thing, and as I have pointed out many times, all these cursings and outpourings of wrath exhibit themselves in the real world. It is vital to read and understand what God is saying, not what you may think He is saying because you are reading through a theological filter. Perhaps you have heard or read the dictum that “Text out of context is pretext.” Well, this is not different – we must compare any text with its context, and with God’s message as a whole. If we think of Hell in terms of a theory, it is not being supported so far by the data (the Text), as I pointed out at the end of every OT book so far. To gather the whole counsel of God, we must keep up our textual gleaning.

In 3:18 we see a mention of Assyria’s nobles dwelling [resting] in the dust, which I read as the dust of death. This would be Sheol or the grave again, the realm of the dead, a place in the real world. Any supernatural reality is unproven, except the Spirit of Life having returned to God who gave it.

Hell is not to be found in the book of Nahum.

Many believe God’s judgment to be the separation of the righteous from the wicked – one to Heaven and one to Hell. Yet, here is something for them to think on: “…we shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.” (1:12) The parallels between judgment and correction here suggest a very different outworking of God’s dealings with men.

In passing, we come across the verse which sparked a revolution in the mind of Martin Luther, and spread to much of the world: “…but the just shall live by his faith.” (2:4) We will yet see more amazing texts.

In the next verse is the last instance of “hell” in the OT, and as ever, it is footnoted as “Sheol.” It speaks of a man who “enlargeth his desire as hell,” simply a way of referring to the way death or the grave devours all living in apparently unending numbers, much as Abner asked in II Samuel 2:26, “Shall the sword devour for ever?” God tells us that it will not.

Fire in 2:13: “…the people shall labor in the very fire…” but this does not refer to people in the fires of Hell, but to them working to acquire things which are simply ephemeral – things which fire may take, our personal wood, hay, and stubble. The next verse is a poetic vision of our future: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Hell is not to be found in the book of Habakkuk.

Ho-hum, the book begins with the usual threats of destruction against Judah, Phoenicia, Assyria, Moab, Ammon, etc. In 3:8 we read of what looks like the end of the world: “…all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” Those who think this is a fire of destruction cannot explain what comes next: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” (verse 9) God goes on to say, “In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings wherein thou hast transgressed against me…they shall trust in the name of the Lord….The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity…and none shall make them afraid…thou shalt not see evil any more.” (verses 11-15) No, this cannot be a fire of destruction, but a fire of refining and cleansing.

Hell cannot be found in the book of Zephaniah.

This whole book, short as it is, is concerned with the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple, after some of Judah had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. It has nothing relevant to our thesis, therefore…

…Hell is not to be found in the book of Haggai.

In Chapter 3, Satan (footnoted “The Adversary” in my KJV) makes one of his few appearances – he’s a minor figure really. In 3:2 Jerusalem is described as a “brand plucked out of the fire,” and that is not a Hell reference, just a figure of speech. If you take a burning brand out of the fire, you can quench it and save it from being totally burned up. Given what God and His prophets have said about Jerusalem and its fate, we know that 3:2 refers to the city being ruined by the Babylonians and rebuilt under the authority of the Persians – things all happening in the real world. Anyway, it is not easy to think of a whole city in Hell.

There is fire again in 11:1-2, but the context is in the real world – Lebanon and Bashan, not Hell.
Chapter 12, verse 1 gives us yet another look at how God made the universe: “…the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” As elsewhere, there is no mention of Him having made Hell. There is fire in verse 6, but the context is the real world – Judah and Jerusalem.

There are lots of hints dropped in this book about Jesus of Nazareth, such as 13:6 – “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Contrary to church dogma, Dante, Milton, and Baxter, Jesus is just not going to send His friends to Hell, even if it does exist, and we have yet to find evidence for that. Just imagine Jesus in a Westboro Baptist picket line, carrying a sign reading “My friends in Hell” – sounds a bit absurd, yes?

Hell is just not to be found in the book of Zechariah.

We have more hints of Jesus here, as in 3:2-3 – “…he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s sope: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver…” We see this process as involving people, and only compared to gold and silver, which do need fire for refinement. The soap hints that He cleanses us, not just the sons of Levi, but maybe all mankind.

Now, at the very end of the OT, I run into a snag, in Chapter 4. It begins, “…the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up…it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Then there is verse 3, “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this…” What are we to make of this? Is it speaking of Hell, of the 70 AD siege of Jerusalem, of nuclear war, or of the Lake of Fire? I honestly don’t know, but it seems to indicate a coming time of judgment. Eventually, we will know, and for now, the chapter gives us no hint if this happens in the real here-and-now world or not.

Hell, then, cannot be concluded from the book of Malachi.

Further, given all the above, neither Hell, nor the concept of it can be supported by the whole or any part of the Old Testament. It is just not there! Those who want to latch onto unproven and unprovable passages (as regards my Thesis), such as Malachi’s Chapter 4, are just grasping at straws, I think. I have seen some passages that give me pause, but as a whole, the No Hell thesis fits the text and the textual evidence much better than the Hell thesis.

The Gospel According to Matthew

First of all, let’s see what this term “gospel” means. In the dry dictionary sense, it refers to various accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ. Most of us are aware that it means “good news,” from the Greek word “euangelion.” “Angel” and “evangel” come from the same root word.

With that understood, how can “gospel” in any way, in any sense involve the possibility of eternal, conscious, torment in everlasting fire? That is NOT good news, reader, and if this Hell really exists, and many or most of humanity is going to such a place, then the message/evangel/gospel is Bad News for most of us. Moving into the New Testament as we are, my sub-thesis is that the Gospel IS good news, and therefore Hell cannot exist. Let us go forward like good Bereans, then, and see if these things are true…or not.

The first thing of interest that we see is Jesus’ name (1:21) – my KJV footnotes His name as meaning literally, “Savior,” and the same verse adds “…he shall save his people from their sins.” Note here that it is sins Jesus will save His people from – not Hell. Just as I stated that the Gospel and Hell cannot both be true, Jesus as the Savior of the World, and Hell, cannot both be true. Jesus saves the whole world, or He does not. A hint is given in this verse because of what is not said – is there no mention of Him saving His people from Hell because there was/is no need to say so? Because there was/is no Hell to save them from? As I said about the creation, silence here is quite a lapse if Hell actually exists.

Now along comes John the Baptist, and then the Pharisees and Sadducees. He tells them, “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” (3:7-8) He must have been thinking back to Chapter 24 of Jeremiah – the very good and very bad figs. Well, figs grow on trees, and he tells them “…the ax is laid unto the root of the trees…every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (3:10) Does this represent Hell? Read on: “…he [Jesus] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (3:11-12)

I submit to you that this is the same fire, and certainly not Hellfire, because Jesus baptizes with it, and baptism is part of the Good News, is it not? We know by now that God’s fire is for cleansing and purifying, so if the proverbial trees are cut down and cast into the fire, it means that the unrepentant have their wood, hay, and stubble burned away – the dross of sin and wickedness - leaving the gold, silver, and precious stones, even if a small amount. Looking ahead to I Corinthians 3:15, we know that, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” This can not possibly be more clear: even if you go through the fire, you are saved, and this should put paid to any fire = Hell arguments.

Let’s not move on quite yet, for there is more in verse 12, which says that Jesus will baptize you (you, me, everybody) with the Holy Spirit and with fire. My take on this threshing-floor exercise is that it applies to all, and that the kernel of wheat is us, both the grain and the chaff. They are present together as part of the same seed head. Threshing the wheat involves beating the grain to separate the grain from the chaff, and winnowing to blow the chaff away, either with a fan or using the wind. Thus the chaff, standing in for our wood, hay, stubble - our carnal natures, is separated and burned. Now if you want to think the fire was Hellfire because it was unquenchable, there is really no need or justification for thinking the fire was any different from any other fire which burns until there is nothing more to burn, thus unquenchable. The wheat, being a symbol of our spiritual riches, is gathered into a barn representing the Kingdom of God. I used to think that the wheat was one class of people and the chaff another, but the clue is in the detail that they are together until the threshing. We are both wheat and chaff until our carnal natures are cleansed away. We will return to this theme again.

Chapter 4 and along comes the tempter/devil after Jesus has fasted 40 days. He tempts Jesus four times, and Hell is not mentioned. Just as in the book of Job, he is operating on the earth, and no other place or domain is evident.

In 5:19 Jesus describes who will be called least and greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and in that we see no hint or threat of Hell at all, just as we did not see it in the Law as given to Moses. In the following verse He goes on to say that one’s righteousness must be of a high order to enter this same kingdom, but do not think that heaven is closed to the unrighteous forever – remember that we have already seen that the wicked and such suffer loss, but are saved as through fire. That is how this writer puts it together.

On the other hand, Jesus amplifies the message of the Law, explaining that not just killing is a matter for judgment, but so are hurtful attitudes and/or words – a very high standard indeed, of righteousness! Now in verse 22, we see “hell fire” for the first time. Now, we are in the Greek-based NT, so it is not footnoted as “Sheol,” but as “gehenna.” This is not Hell, for Jesus is merely saying that bad actions cross over from the area of safe moral action into unsafe areas, where being executed and having your dead body burned with other refuse in Gehenna, a physical place in the real word, was possible. Theo-illogical sleight-of-hand has been at work here. To illustrate this point, Jesus describes three real-world situations in verses 23-26, none of which involve Hell. Moving on to verses 27-30, Jesus speaks of cutting off an eye or a hand, rather than having your whole body cast into hell. Well, that’s Gehenna again, and what I said above applies here as well. Better to cast off the part and live in the safe moral area than to keep the part and veer off into sin and dangerous moral territory, to be executed and have your body (body only, note!) burned in the city dump with other refuse, for that is exactly what Jesus was talking about, IMHO.

Winding up Chapter 5, Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies…bless them…do good to them…pray for them…” (5:43-48) This does not make a lot of sense if Hell is to be the destiny of the evil, the unjust, the wicked. Is it just possible that Jesus told us this because He plans to remake such people as good, just, upright? Did He not say, “Behold, I make all things new.”? Yes, He did, in 21:5 of the Revelation, and that would surely include all men.

In 6:14-15 and 7:1-2, we run into the idea of forgive and be forgiven by God, or fail to forgive and God will fail to forgive you. Conversely, judge not and be not judged, or judge and be judged by the same standard. I suppose these are often cited, but Hell is not mentioned, and it works equally well for the fire-forever crowd and for those preaching eventual reconciliation. We know by now that God is not angry forever, so will He withhold His forgiveness forever? Will His judgment against us stand forever? My guess, based on what we have seen so far, is that He will not, but these verses can go either way.

At 7:12 we encounter the Golden Rule, and what a wonderful rule it is! But have you ever wondered if God follows it? Jesus says, “…this [the Golden Rule] is the law and the prophets.” If that Law is in fact a transcript of the mind of God, and I think it is, then the Law’s silence on the subject of eternal torment in fire speaks volumes. Is the God of the Bible One who relegates any to Hell for any reason? We know two things by now, at least: God creates good and evil to exercise His purposes in the here-and-now. God gives us broad hints of eventual salvation and blessings for all. On Hell, He is silent.

Moving on, we quickly come up against the broad and narrow ways, in 7:13-14. The narrow way leads to life and the broad way leads to “destruction.” Does this have anything to do with entering the Kingdom, or Hell? Note that everything Jesus has said so far in the Sermon on the Mount concerns how His hearers should live in the world. I see this in the same light as the cutting off of an eye or hand in order to live without sin in the world, and not end up in Gehenna, burned with the trash, in the real world. Is there more to this, an eternal application? Yes, certainly, and I suppose it is time for me to tackle a big stumbling block. Many people hold to the idea that your fate is sealed at death, but I cannot find that concept in my Bible. People who follow natal astrology believe that everything about you is set by the positions of various heavenly bodies at the moment of your birth. I noted many years ago that the daily horoscope in your newspaper is distributed by the same syndicate as are the comic strips – a big clue. There are even better reasons to think that natal astrology is bunk. Does death sealing your eternal fate really make any more sense? Let’s look ahead and take a quick look behind the veil. We know that those not making the grade at the White Throne Judgment are cast into the Lake of Fire, and we know that it is the second death. Remember that Death and Hell (footnoted “Hades”) are also cast in. That’s a bit confusing, but it is not the end of the story. In fact, we see a time much further from us than the filling of the Lake of Fire, in I Corinthians 15:25-26, “For he [Jesus] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” I ask you a fair question reader: How can anyone still be dead and/or in Hell after that? Further, verse 28 states that all these things happen so “…that God may be all in all.” Again, how can anyone still be dead and/or in Hell if God is going to become All in all? We will return to these passages later.

Fire again in 6:19 – “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Yes, this might be, and probably often is, used as a picture of Hell. However, earlier in His sermon, Jesus spoke of the lilies which grow today and tomorrow are fuel for the oven. He said nothing bad about the lilies, and if we are going to pick up every instance of “thrown into the fire” to refer to Hell, then we must settle on a capricious God who sends the innocent lilies as well as the bad-fruit trees into Hell. I think I’d rather see them as real-world illustrations.

After His tree comments, Jesus speaks of those He never knew, who He commands to depart, apparently not allowed to enter the Kingdom. Our brief peek behind the veil, just two paragraphs ago, applies here. These people are not yet worthy of the Kingdom, or to be in the presence of Jesus, so they will depart for more refining, cleansing, and repentance – it makes at least as much sense as them being whisked off to Hell, and the passage does not say they will be.

In 8:12, Jesus remarks on those “…cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This seems to be worked into Hell thinking, but it is just a loss of status for those cast out. Picture a Sabbath dinner, the sun having set on Friday night, and some are kicked out of the house into the dark outside, just like the unfortunate wedding guest of Matthew 22:13.

An odd thing here is to notice something mentioned only four times in the OT: devils, demons. The devils in charge of the two men of Chapter 8 know who Jesus is, and what their fate is (torment), but we don’t have a clue as to what they are exactly or where they come from. Given their association with Hell, we will see what we can gather from the New Testament.

Another item we will keep an eye on is the assertion that Jesus said more about Hell than anything else. Well, it sounds absurd on the face of it, and it might fly with people who do not read their Bibles. However, see 9:35 – “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching…preaching the gospel [good news] of the kingdom, and healing…” Verse 36 goes on to say, “…he was moved with compassion on them…” so it’s not easy to picture a compassionate Jesus, Who later sends many of them to Hell. No, Hell is not mentioned here, nor any dire warnings. Stay tuned.

Jesus tells us in 10:26, “…there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” Then comes verse 28, a puzzle – “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” “Hell” is footnoted here as “Gehenna,” and I can only figure this out by seeing it as a comment on those killed here who will later be resurrected to life, becoming living souls again. Then, there are those who are executed for crimes, have their dead bodies burned in Gehenna (real world again), and are later cast into the Lake of Fire for their shortcomings. But that is just my own interpretation.

In 11:23, we have “hell” again, and it refers to a whole city, Capernaum, being “brought down to hell.” Now “hell” in this case is footnoted by a new word, the Greek “hades.” Let’s check this out. Hades was the name of the Greek god of the underworld, and also of the underworld itself, The Hebrews called the realm of the dead “sheol,” and when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, “sheol” was rendered as “hades.” A form of this word, “aides,” means exactly what “sheol” means: the unseen – that is to say, the realm of the dead, the grave, the pit. It is the best equivalent in the Greek language, but there was a price to pay. The Hebrews had the correct take on the state of the dead, but after the good news began to go out to the gentiles/nations, many Greeks began to be converted. It was inevitable that they would bring in, at least subconsciously, their old, pagan biases. After the permanent schism between the old Hebrew religion and Christianity, about 150 AD, I’m sure religious thinking became more Greek. Later, Latin speakers, who were well accustomed to re-alignments between religions, such as merging their gods with Greek gods, brought a whole new spirit of syncretism to Christianity. By about 500 AD, a lot of pagan temples, holidays, and beliefs had been grafted into the religious tradition handed down from the time of Acts, but that is far beyond the scope of this essay. This half-pagan Christianity reached the Saxons, both on the Continent and in Britain, and their Hel became Hell in time. You see, the Saxon, Germanic, and Norse Hel was their goddess of the underworld. This underworld was called “Helheim,” meaning “the House of Hel.” Interestingly, the roots of the word “Hel” hark back to the original meanings of Sheol and Hades – covered and hidden. [Source: Orel, Vladimir. 2003. A Handbook of Germanic Etymology. p. 156, 168.] The true Britons, now pushed into such corners as Wales, had a more pure version of Christianity, as it had arrived in Britain in the first century – but that is another story. Since the Saxons had Hel, goddess and realm, and the Greeks had Hades, god and realm, I suspect the Saxons had long contact with the Greeks before they moved north and west – again, that is another story. That, reader, is my take on how “hell” got into the English language, and some of my historical information may not be accurate, but the very similarity of “hel” and “hell” should send the serious Bible student on a word-study quest. It should also give pause to anyone who subscribes to the doctrine of Hell, as the very name of this Saxon underworld exposes the pagan roots of Hell for all to see.

By the way, my researches on “hades” took me to my Oxford English Dictionary, a reference dictionary if there ever was one, and it stated that the word “hades” did not enter the English language until about 1600 AD, having to do with some theological controversy.

Jesus, in 12:26, speaks of Satan’s kingdom, but where and what would that be? Remember that when Jesus was tempted, Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world, “…All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Were all these kingdoms really Satan’s to give? It’s a sobering thought. In 12:29, Jesus speaks of the “strong man’s house,” and again, it is the domain of Satan. Jesus speaks of binding Satan and plundering his house, but Hell is not mentioned as Satan’s kingdom or his house. What is mentioned in the Bible is the Earth, where Satan goes to and fro, and walks up and down, as we read in Job 1:7. Elsewhere, in the Gospel of John, Jesus calls him the “prince of this world.”

Now we come to a tough one – the Unforgivable Sin. Jesus identifies it as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, something so serious that it will not be forgiven, “neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (12:32) In case you might think this act is a fast track to Hell, look at the footnote, for “world” is footnoted as “age.” Since the next age to come, the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom, is undoubtedly not the last (see I Corinthians 15:23-28), this sin may well be forgiven in time – a long time.

Parallel to the parable of the wheat and chaff, Jesus tells His disciples the parable of the wheat and tares, in 13:24-30. The wheat and chaff are together until the threshing, but the wheat and tares are not even the same species. In this parable the non-wheat stands for the wicked, for Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of the parable to His disciples in 13:37-43. He states that “…the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the Devil…” Note that these tares are harvested first, bound, and cast into the fire. Hell? I think not, unless you insist on overlaying the Hell doctrine on everything in sight. No, the great consuming, purifying fire at the end of this grand story the Bible tells is the Lake of Fire, burning to ashes or the Second Death. Happily, we know by now that this second death is not the end, for the last enemy to be overcome is Death itself. It is axiomatic that this overcoming of death must involve the release of the dead from the Lake of Fire, just as the sea gave up its dead at the first resurrection. Yes, it’s just that simple.