The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Hell on Earth View - a subset of UR

Actually, that’s not what I am trying to communicate. I believe that people create their own “hell on earth” by their own sinful choices. It is corrective only in the case where one wishes to escape the misery he has created for himself (e.g., the prodigal son). Sin’s consequences end at death for the sinner; however, the collateral damages of his sin can negatively influence the lives of others for generations.

I agree that there isn’t anything corrective being done in the grave. Basically, if one never repents, then he has chosen to live in his own hell on earth unto death. But the good news is that Christ returns to Restore all things, which includes those who die in their sins.


I know of several on various UR boards that essentially hold to this view, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it summarized. Thanks for doing that for us.

I don’t know if it’s another ‘official’ subset UR view, or if it’s part of the Hell on Earth view, but there are also some URists who hold that this life is (also) the Lake of Fire.


Thanks for your post.

Regarding the Lake of Fire, I too see it as applying to this life, not the after-life. If you look closely at Rev 20 you see that it is the “dead” who are standing before God. I believe this is referring to those who are “dead in sin.” They are condemned to suffer the natural consequences of their sin; this is the Lake of Fire.

Rev 20:11-15 NKJV
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.


Excellent summary, Todd; my heart was warmed from reading it :smiley: It’s always exciting to find someone espousing a view so similar to one’s own!


I can really see how a lot of that passage could fit well with the idea of the Lake of Fire being here and now. The only part that confuses me as to how it fits is verses 14 and 15. Do you have a view/ explanation on that?

Hi Melchizedek,

The following may or may not be how Todd understands this passage, but as one who shares his view that punishment is entirely confined to this world, I thought I’d offer my interpretation for your consideration.

I see Rev 20:11-5 as being a figurative description of the judgment that God brought upon the unbelieving people of Israel at the end of the Mosaic dispensation in 70 AD. It is simply a more climactic and closing description of what John had previously described in Revelation 6:12-17, making chapter 20 a recapitulation. Notice that in both passages we find “the heavens” (the sky) and “the earth” (the land masses) being “removed” (which is simply figurative, prophetic imagery signifying the overthrow of a nation or existing social order). Notice also that in both passages we have all different classes of people: in Rev 6:15 we read of “the kings of the earth, the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful,” which corresponds to “the great” in Rev 20:12. In chapter 6, “everyone, slave and free” corresponds to “the small” in chapter 20. Finally, we have the image of one “who is seated on the throne” in Rev 6:16, which corresponds to John’s later description of “a great white throne and him who sat on it” (20:11). Both chapters are simply different perspectives on the final overthrow of the Jewish nation in 70 A.D., when all the righteous blood shed on the earth came upon the spiritually dead men and women of that “crooked generation.” Jesus even applies language similar to what John uses in Rev 6:15-16 to the severe calamites that were soon to come upon the doomed capital city of Israel (Luke 23:28-30).

Moreover, as Todd pointed out, there is no valid reason to understand the “dead” spoken of in Rev 20:12 as being literally dead. They are “dead” in the same figurative sense that many members of the church in Sardis at that time were said to be “dead” or “about to die” (Revelation 3:1). It may be objected that they cannot merely be spiritually dead, since John says he saw “Death and Hades” give them up unto judgment. However, if this language is to be understood literally, then it must also be believed that “the sea” (in addition to death and Hades) is also the abode of the literal dead, because John names it as a place from which they came as well. If “Hades” is a literal “place” to which some people literally go when they physically die, then, to be consistent, “Death” and “the sea” are literal places to which others literally go as well, because John says all three “gave up the dead” which were “in them.” One must also believe that “Death” and “Hades” were literally “thrown” into a literal “lake of fire.” But “Death and Hades” (though figuratively represented as two horsemen earlier, in Rev 6:8) are not literal things that can literally be “thrown” anywhere - whether it be into a literal “lake of fire,” or into outer space.

Consequently, unless one believes that “the sea,” “Death” and “Hades” are all different places where the physically dead literally dwell prior to the resurrection, and that both “Death” and “Hades” can be literally thrown into a literal lake of fire, then one will have to admit the absurdity of a strictly literal interpretation of this passage. Moreover, if this is a depiction of a general judgment following the resurrection of the dead, then those standing “before the throne” (a common Hebrew expression meant to convey to the reader the solemnity and divine appointment of an event) have been raised immortal. But if that’s the case, why then would John call them “the dead?” At the literal resurrection of the dead, death is said to be “destroyed,” and “swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15). It would be the most inappropriate of all descriptions to refer to those who have been “made alive in Christ” as “the dead.” In light of these several considerations, I find the only reasonable interpretation to be that this is a figurative description neither of the literal dead, nor of those who have been resurrected, but instead of those who, though still alive physically, were dead in their transgressions and sins.

So what does John mean when he says that “the sea gave up the dead,” and that “death and Hades delivered up the dead in them?” I submit that John is simply using figurative language that would have been very familiar to his first-century Jewish readers. The “sea,” “death” and “Hades” are images derived straight from Isaiah chap 28:15-18, and Amos chap 9:2-3 (cf. Obadiah 1:4). In describing these spiritually dead people as being delivered up by the sea, death and Hades, John is saying that nothing could screen the guilty people of the Jewish nation from the retributive judgment which God, in his sovereign counsel, had determined to bring upon them.

In Isaiah 28:15, we read of the wicked people of Israel saying,

“We have made a covenant with Death, and with Sheol (the Hebrew equivalent of “Hades”) are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hidden ourselves.”

Although they comforted themselves with their “refuge of lies” and “hiding places of falsehood,” it was ultimately a false sense of security they enjoyed; their covenant partners, “Death and Hades,” still delivered them up to national destruction. For in v. 18 we read: “Your covenant with Death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with Sheol (Hades) shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then shall you be trodden down by it.” In other words, there was nothing the ungodly people of Israel could do to protect or screen themselves from the impending national judgment God had purposed to bring upon them. “Death and Hades” (which are simply figures/metaphors representing their “refuge of lies” and “hiding places of falsehood”) would not aide or protect them, but would instead give them up to destruction (the casting of Death and Hades into the “lake of fire” referred to in Rev 21:14 represents the disannulling of Israel’s “covenant” with them). Israel was thus forced to learn that God cannot be mocked; as a nation, their doom was inevitable.

In Amos 9:3, we find similar language to that which is in Isaiah: “If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight in the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.” Of course, this language is not literal, but figurative. No one was literally hiding at the top of Mount Carmel, or hiding at the bottom of the sea. The language is used in reference to the living, who (as in Isaiah) are represented as hiding themselves under falsehood and lies - as taking refuge at “the bottom of the sea,” and as making “a covenant with death and Hades,” to protect them from the national ruin God promised to bring upon them because of their unfaithfulness to him. But it was all in vain, for, as John says, they were given up to judgment.

The “books” by which these people were judged according to what they had done (cf. Daniel 7:10, from which the imagery is taken) may represent the books of the Jewish law. Because they clung to the Mosaic law instead of embracing Jesus as their Messiah, they were judged by the law (Rom 2:12, etc.). In attempting (unsuccessfully) to live by the law and receive their righteousness through it instead of through faith in Christ, the curses of the law ultimately fell upon them. Deuteronomy 28:49-57 (see also Dan 9:1-19) provides us with a horrifying description of the culmination of the judgment which God threatened to bring upon the nation of Israel for their unfaithfulness to the Old Covenant. Under this covenant, the ultimate consequence of national sin was a national judgment in which the capital city, Jerusalem, would be overthrown and the temple destroyed. This national judgment that God threatened would fall upon Israel for their unfaithfulness to him is the “hell” (Gehenna) of which Christ spoke in the Gospels, and is the judgment of which John describes in the book of Revelation.

The “book of life” represents God’s record of those who, by faith, are in right-standing with him and thus come under his covenantal approbation (Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; cf. Exodus 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28; Mal 3:16-17). The Jews who were found in God’s book at this time were those who believed on Christ and embraced the gospel of his death, resurrection and Lordship. Consequently, they were spared from the terrible judgment that came upon their unfaithful nation. They fled (according to the directions of Christ) to the mountains of Judea for safety, until the violent siege was over (Matt 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-19; Luke 21:20-24). And in this way their lives were spared, just as Christ promised them.

This national judgment against Israel is referred to by John as the “second death.” But why? Answer: because it was to be the second national “death” of the Jewish people. In Deuteronomy, God warned Israel of this judgment if they were unfaithful to God by breaking covenant with him (Deut 30:15-20; cf. 28:15-68; Daniel 9:12). This national “death” became a reality for the Jewish nation when God executed judgment upon Israel through the instrumentality of the Babylonians (circa 586 B.C.). We find God threatening this divine judgment in Ezekiel 18. Later, God refers to this first death of the Jewish nation (the Babylonian captivity) in the well-known vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:11-14).

Thus, the Babylonian captivity was the “first death,” during which time the whole house of Israel was said to be (figuratively speaking) dead and in their graves for 70 years. The “second death” was God’s judgment of Israel through the instrumentality of the Romans, which culminated in the total destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the desolation of the Temple, and the exile of the people from their land (incidentally, the Jewish era of Jesus’ day is referred to by scholars as “Second Temple Judaism”). Having been raised from their “first death” and returned to their land, their nation was ultimately destroyed by another Gentile people a second time. Much of the Jewish population was killed in this judgment, and the rest were scattered among the nations (Deut 28:64; cf. Luke 21:20-24).

This judgment is also described as a “lake of fire” which brings to mind those passages in the Old Testament in which national judgment against Israel is said to be with the fire of God’s wrath. In Isaiah 31:9, God says his “fire is in Zion” and his “furnace is in Jerusalem.” Similarly, we read in Ezekiel the following:

“And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are dross of silver. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you. I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD; I have poured out my wrath upon you.”” Ezekiel 22:17-22

The expression “lake of fire” is used four times in Revelation, and in every instance refers to God’s wrath or judgment in the world. Because of the fearful divine judgment manifested in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24), the image of “fire” and “sulfur” became frequently used in the OT as an emblem of God’s judgment and wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth (Num 11:1-3; 21:28-30; Deut 4:24; 9:3; 29:23-24; 32:22; 2 Sam 22:9, 13; Job 18:15; Psalm 11:6; 21:9; 29:7; 50:3; 68:2; 78:21; 79:5; 83:13-15; 89:46; 97:3; Isaiah 9:19; 10:17; 30:27-33; 34:9-10; 42:24-25; 47:14; 66:15-16, 24; Jer 4:4; 17:4, 27; 21:10-12; 48:45; Lam 2:3-4; 4:11; Ezekiel 21:31; 22:18-22, 31; 38:22; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 5:6; Obadiah 1:18; Nahum 1:6; Zeph 3:8; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:2). It is thus highly appropriate that John would use similar imagery when describing the terrible judgment that was soon to fall upon the unbelieving people of Israel.


Thanks. You make a great case for applying it to 70AD. I had not heard that explanation of the “second death” before; very interesting, and it makes perfect sense. I also agree that if this passage was referring to those who have been resurrected, they would certainly not be described as “the dead.” And if this were the literal dead, how could they be standing?


Wow, thanks for that synopsis. There is much to ponder there, and it does make a lot of sense to me. I’ll chew on all that for sure. :ugeek: And believe me, I totally understand where you’re coming from with the literal vs. figurative interpretation thing; I’ve been aware of the issue there for some time. Revelation is a highly symbolic book, and it seems more natural to interpret the symbols with like symbols from other places in scripture, rather than inventing our own (like the dispensationalists who are famous for it :wink: ).

This seems to fit nicely with a partial preterist view as well, and I definitely have strong leanings in that direction.

Todd, if you have anything to add to this, I would appreciate that as well.


Aaron’s approach to this is very convincing, but I think these passages can also be understood from the viewpoint that they apply to man’s situation from the time of Christ up until the end. To be cast into the Lake of Fire is to be in great distress. The one who is dead in sin must suffer the consequences of his sin (see Tenant 5 in the first post). In Romans Chapter 1:18-32 Paul describes an example of people overcome in sin of whom it is said that God “gave them over” to uncleaness (v24), vile passions (v26), and a debased mind (v28). This, I believe, is a perfect example of being cast into the Lake of Fire. These people have become corrupted as a result of their destructive addictions.

Regarding v14 where Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire, it could be said that their dominion over mankind is in great distress because Christ overcame death and the grave, and will destroy it at some future date.

Rom 6:9 NKJV
knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.

Regarding the term “the second death,” I have tended to view this as a second kind of death. Physical death would be the first death and spiritual death would be the second. The only problem with this explanation is that the order is reversed which is counter-intuitive. Aaron’s explanation makes good sense, and may very well be correct.

Verse 15 (in Rev 20) seems to say about the same thing as v12, so I don’t really see any new issues here.



Thanks again for the link to this as I have somehow missed following this thread. Also thanks Aaron for your expansion of some of the themes. I agree with Melchi - a lot to chew on :smiley:


you said: Regarding the Lake of Fire, I too see it as applying to this life, not the after-life. If you look closely at Rev 20 you see that it is the “dead” who are standing before God. I believe this is referring to those who are “dead in sin.” They are condemned to suffer the natural consequences of their sin; this is the Lake of Fire.

Born Again: I respect your views. I believe you are sincere, but I believe you are sincerely in error. No disrespect, you are the example of the mysticism that runs rapid in UR. Humanistic, vain ideologies. I suggest praying for more revelation of your views. God bless.

(The following quote is from the thread “Final Thoughts on UR…”) viewtopic.php?f=12&t=676&st=0&sk=t&sd=a#p7370


Perhaps I’m misunderstanding Todd, but I don’t think he’s saying that the same corruption to which sin inevitiably leads is also the source of sin. In his original post on this thread he wrote, “Mankind was unwillingly subjected to futility and disobedience through being created to dwell in corruptible bodies” (my emphasis). In other words, it is the mortal/corruptible (though not corrupted) state in which we were created that leads to sin (which in turn leads to corruption, however one understands the word). The point I think he’s making (and which I would agree with) is that sin can only arise from an imperfect state. But when our nature is perfected, sin will be no more.

It is my understanding that our propensity to sin arises from what is called “the flesh” in the NT, which appears to be a way of referring to the “lower” aspect of our nature that is common to all animals (and which is distinct from the “higher” aspect of our nature which bears God’s image and is able to be influenced by his Spirit). Christ seems to refer to these two aspects of our nature in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” His meaning appears to be that, while our “spirit” is “willing” to resist temptation, our “flesh” is not, and easily yields to it (cf. Rom 7:25, where a similar idea seems to be expressed by Paul). Now, it is my understanding that all sin is a violation of the “higher,” moral aspect of our nature, the expression of which is our conscience. Our conscience, which is God’s law written on our hearts (Rom 2:14-15), is transgressed when, due to the influence of temptation, a good understanding yields to a contrary choice. Moreover, there would be no temptation to transgress this law were there no corresponding desire (which, according to James, always precedes the committing of sin - James 1:14-15). But from what source do these desires come? Answer: according to Paul, it is “the flesh” that appears to be the source of the “desires” or “lusts” that rise up in opposition to God’s law (Rom 13:14; Gal 5:16-17, 24; Eph 2:3; cf. Rom 8:6-8).

Now, in 1 Cor 2:14-15 and 3:1-3 Paul contrasts those who are “spiritual” with both those who are “of the flesh” and those who are “natural” (psuchikos) or “soulish” (as the Concordant Literal translation renders it). Being “of the flesh” and “natural” seems to describe those who are, to a greater or lesser degree, being driven or influenced by the animal aspect of our nature. Significantly, in chapter 15 where find Paul is contrasting our present mortal bodies with our future immortal bodies, he characterizes the former as “natural” and the latter as “spiritual.” Now, as was the case in 1 Cor 2:14-15, the adjectives “spiritual” and “natural” do not describe the substance out of which something is made, but the force or principle that is animating or influencing it. And the fact that Paul makes the same distinction between “spiritual” and “natural” as he did earlier in this epistle suggests to me that Paul is trying to show that our resurrected bodies will be somehow under the governing influence of, and in harmony with, our “higher nature” in a way that our present bodies are not. That is, the “weakness” of our present nature will be replaced with that which is fully compatible with the “willingness” of our spirit. With the permanent removal of the animal aspect of our nature, those desires that sprang from it (and which produced a conflict with the moral aspect of our nature) will be no more. And with an absence of those desires which, when yielded to, lead to sin, sin will consequently be impossible to commit.

This would explain why Paul could say that, when death is abolished, sin (which he identifies as “the sting of death”) will be no more (1 Cor 15:54-57). It is also significant that the “power” by which Christ will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” is the same power by which he will also “subject all to himself” (Phil 3:20-21) - which, along with 1 Cor 15, suggests to me that the resurrection of the dead and the subjection of all people to Christ will be a single, instantaneous event. And, as Todd argued, if “death” is indeed the “last enemy” (and there is no indication that Paul has in view anything other than literal death in this chapter) then this presupposes that any other enemy (e.g., sin) will have been previously abolished.


First, let me say that your view of the second death is similar to mine. As I see it, one who is dead in sin has suffered the second death. This describes what happened to the prodigal son when he destroyed his life with riotous living. Instead of living a responsible life he chose to waste all he had in self-gratifying activities and wound up wallowing in the mire of his own sinfulness. Fortunately, he came to his senses, repented, humbled himself and returned to his father. The scripture tells us…

Luke 15:24
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

When he was “dead” (the second death) he was in the lake of fire suffering the consequences of his sin. The same thing is true for anyone who is overcome in sin. The good news is that, just as the prodigal son did, one can repent and find abundant life in Christ. Those who never repent never know the joy and peace of knowing Chirst their entire life, but instead are sentenced to live in their own corruption until death. This is God’s wrath upon the disobedient - this is Hell on Earth.

You asked what happens post-mortem. I thought that my post described what I believe happens then. My understanding comes directly from 1 Cor 15 and Rom 8:18-23. We have little scriptural data on these events, so I can only theorize beyond what the Bible says. The main thing we know from these passages is that Death is the last enemy to be destroyed; after that, God has no more enemies. In other words, once the resurrection occurs there is no need for punishment or judgment because God has no enemies. All of God’s creation join together in praising Him. There is no mention of a gathering for judgment in either of these passages. When one is resurrected according to Paul, he has a new incorruptible body having been freed from the corruption that he had while in this life. That’s what the scripture says.

1 Cor 15:51-54
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

As for the 3 year-old, he sleeps in death just like everyone else until the resurrection when he is united with Christ, and God is all in all.


Aaron and Todd

This is very interesting as I have never come across this way of thinking before.



Thanks for so elequently presenting my case. :smiley: I find it encouraging when independent minds come to the same consculsions.


What about the will of the person? It seems to be that not all of our sin proceeds from the fact of our corrupted flesh, but from the corruption that we hold on to with our wills. If we have harbored selfishness, deceit, covetousness, lust for power, etc. in ourselves, will our natural physical death cause us to automatically give up those things? I’m thinking we will need to overcome, with a willingness to be crucified with Christ. “Whoever loses his life for my sake, shall find it.”

I’m not speculating on the kind of ‘punishment’ that may happen, but it seems to me that some type of teaching/correction/growing/learning process will continue to be necessary.

I admit I’ve only skimmed this thread, and not yet studied it in detail, so please forgive if this has already been addressed, or if I’m misunderstanding something,

I was wondering if anyone might see that physical death was not the penalty for Adam’s sin. Entropy gives evidence the natural world has been subject to decay and corruption since it’s beginning. Origen writing on the subject of Romans 8:20-22 saw the disorder that binds creation and this was long before the laws of modern physics and entropy was known. As a side note I do believe man was living and dying like the other animals until God separated him to a higher order by breathing His hagio pneuma/pure breath into him.

I am just beginning to explore this concept and would love to hear the thoughts of others. I haven’t taken this for gospel just yet however the evidence is mounting.


I appreciate your thoughtful message Todd and have somewhat of a reply written out as to how I see the Lake of Fire. I must admit I could never go with the soul sleep nor the free will you infer in your message as I have had a different doctrine settled in my heart concerning those concepts.

Being pressed for time I cannot submit my completed message on the LOF today but do care to read some thoughts on my preceding post. I believe the great veil that hangs over much of our Theologies is, we concentrate and even pine way too much for this world. I include myself in this accusation.

I see God as “all of time” and I believe Time goes on past the grave where He ever lifts us into higher realms of Himself. Thus God as the Lake of (transforming) Fire working within Himself (time) continues to do His positive work. This would bring me to my last thought which is that i believe to understand the Lake Of Fire one must contemplate what “time” is for they go hand in hand.

Always moving toward Oneness in Him by grace,


Hi Sonia,

People choose to sin because, at whatever moment they are being tempted, their desire to sin is simply stronger than their desire not to sin. Our will always follows our desire, or preference, at any given moment. So what happens when the desire to be selfish, to deceive, to covet, and to have power over others, is not merely suppressed but taken away completely? Answer: The person no longer makes selfish, deceitful, covetous, and power-hungry choices! And why would they if they had no desire to? :slight_smile:

As long as we have a nature from which “unlawful” desires such as these can arise, we will have to rely on God’s Spirit to help us to overcome them by giving us a stronger desire to resist the temptation to gratify them. But if, in the resurrection, we are given a perfected nature from which only “lawful” desires can arise, then sin will be an impossibility - just as it is for God.

I see the penalty of death as starting upon the eating of that fruit, but it is the process of death leading to death. No they didn’t up and die that very day, but the decay started toward that inevidable end. It is the slow poison of death that crept in. They did indeed die, as much as a terminal cancer patient is dead, by all rights.