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he material on this chart represents an overview of my research into the Doctrines of Hell and Eternal Conscious Torment.  Like many, I once was a firm believer that the Bible taught these doctrines absolutely, explicitly and without question.  I felt that one would have to be either blind or a heretic to not see the overwhelming Biblical support for it.  There is no question that the Bible has a lot to say about God's judgment against sin, retribution , and the final state of the wicked.  We are not left in doubt on these issues; they deserve our utmost consideration, and our greatest attention to detail as we prayerfully study them.

However, I found that as my faith in the infallibility of scripture increased, I became more and more uncomfortable with the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment in Hell.  I began to ask myself, Does the Bible really teach this doctrine, or am I reading in more than what's there?  Does the Bible really present these teachings the way we hear preachers present them?  Eventually I began to see that the Bible scientifically defines its own terms and its own language.  When I began to rely on this instead of my own assumptions of what I felt the Bible had to teach, my confidence in the truth of Eternal Conscious Torment collapsed entirely. A Biblical doctrine with such grave consequences as the eternal destiny of mankind must be explicit. It must be explicit beyond any reasonable doubt. It must frame its language in terms beyond the ability of reasonable men to misunderstand it.  It is my contention that the Doctrine of Eternal Torment completely fails in this regard. In order for it to be maintained we are asked not only to read in absent words and concepts which stretch the limits of credibility, but oftentimes to read exactly the opposite of what the scriptures so clearly say; even when it is obvious that divine care has been taken to prevent us from drawing such conclusions. A doctrine of such magnitude surely cannot stand on such a brittle, teetering foundation.

Yes, the New Testament contains many references to fire, brimstone, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, outer darkness etc. Modern Evangelical theology lumps all these into one large category named 'hell'. But how many have ever taken these verses and their contexts, laid them side by side, and tried to get an idea of the big picture. It is my conviction that when you try to arrange all these verses into one big picture called 'hell', the pieces simply do not fit.  Of course the easy thing to do is put the pieces away, trusting that other, wiser students of God's Word have believed all these to refer to 'hell' so they must.  But could it be that the pieces fit together a better way; one in which each piece fits perfectly to form a 'big picture' very unlike what we have been taught about hell? I believe the pieces do fit together, and this work is intended to give just a small glimpse of what that big picture might look like. 

This chart, in spite of its already large size is in no way comprehensive in the amount of information which can be brought to bear on this topic.  I have attempted only to touch upon major points which I believe show this doctrine to be in serious error while providing links to more detailed information elsewhere on this site. I have endeavored to classify, not only those verses which contain the word 'hell', but every major passage which is commonly brought to bear on this subject. 

Keep in mind that just because a verse mentions 'hell' does not mean it supports this doctrine.  That is the entire purpose of this chart: to consider what these verses actually say and do not say, not what we want them to say, or assume they say. It is also not enough to offer verses which speak of men and women being 'cast into hell'.  The average advocate of this doctrine unleashes a barrage of such verses and believes he or she has proved something. In reality, a verse that is offered as a proof for the doctrine of eternal torment must do three things: 1) It must show that the verse in question speaks of the fate of all wicked mankind throughout the ages, and not of a specific class exclusively, 2) It must show that the verse is clearly describing conditions beyond this life as opposed to inflicting punishment on living men and women, and 3) It must show that these conditions continue throughout eternity.  It will be shown that when carefully examined, NONE of the 'proof-texts' offered in support of eternal torment meet these criteria, and in many cases make such interpretations an impossibility. 

This study has not been approached as an apology: that is, I have not written with a goal of 'explaining away' these passages as if I wished they did not exist.  I feel these passages have meanings which are an indispensable part of God's plan but which have been seriously misrepresented by the doctrine of eternal torment.  It is therefore the purpose, not only to show that these verses are inadequate for upholding that doctrine, but to show how they are better interpreted by an alternate meaning.

If anything, this chart stands as an invitation to the Bible Student to dig deeper. Sometimes things are not quite as cut and dried as we once thought they were.  We should be open to embrace new truths if our much cherished beliefs are found to be in error.  Truth never has anything to fear from a careful and scrupulous investigation of the facts.  It is my prayer that the information presented here will prompt others to begin their own investigation and to themselves make true the command of the Apostle Paul:

PROVE ALL THINGS, HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD
1 Thess 5:21

Contents

SECTION I Verses in Which 'Hell' Has Been Rendered From Gehenna
SECTION I (a) Verses Not Containing 'Hell' But Which Have Direct Bearing On Gehenna
SECTION I I Verses Which Speak of Physical Torment: Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth
SECTION I I (a) Verses Which Speak of Physical Torment: Related to Section II
SECTION I I (b) Verses Which Clarify the Language of Revelation 20:14and 21:8
SECTION III Verses Cited To Teach Degrees of Punishment in Hell
SECTION IV Verses in Which 'Hell' Has Been Rendered From Hades
SECTION V Miscellaneous Verses Sometimes Used To Support This Doctrine
SECTION VI Old Testament Verses in which 'Hell' Has Been Rendered From Sheol
SECTION VII Other Verses Which Speak in Clear Language Concerning of the Fate of the Wicked

 

Index To Scriptures Listed On This Chart

Job 20:4-9 Matt 5:22 Matt 27:33 Acts 2:27 James 4:12 Rev 20:6
Obad 16 Matt 5:29 Mark 6:11 Acts 2:31 2 Pet 2:1 Rev 20:10
Ps 21:8-9 Matt 5:30 Mark 7:11 Acts 3:23 2 Pet 2:4 Rev 20:13-15
Ps 37:9 Matt 7:13 Mark 7:34 Rom 1:32 2 Pet 2:9-12 Rev 20:13-14
Ps:3710 Matt 8:12 Mark 9:43-44 Rom 5:21 2 Pet 2:12 Rev 21:8
Ps 37:20 Matt 10:14-15 Mark 9:45-46 Rom 6:21 2 Pet 3:9 Matt 23:14
Ps 37:35-36 Matt 10:28a Mark 9:47-48 Rom 6:23 Jude 7 Mark 12:40
Ps 59:13 Matt 10:28b Luke 10:10-12 Rom 8:6 Rev 1:18 Luke 20:47
Ps 92:7 Matt 11:21-22 Luke 10:13-14 Rom 9:22 Rev 1:20


T
his index is provided to help find information for a particular verse. It may be helpful after clicking on a reference to scroll up and see which section contains the verse you are interested in.  Information is provided in the section headings as well as for individual verses. Sometimes notes for many similar verses, or verses which explain each other are grouped together.

Ps 104:35 Matt 11:23-24 Luke 10:15 1 Cor 15:26 Rev 2:10
Ps 145:20 Matt 13:40 Luke 12:5 1Cor 15:55 Rev 4:5
Prov 12:7 Matt 13:50 Luke 12:46-48 2 Cor 1:9-10 Rev 5:8
Isa 1:28 Matt 16:16 Luke 13:13 2 Cor 2:15 Rev 6:8
Isa 34:8-10 Matt 18:8 Luke 13:28 Phil 3:19 Rev 11:18
Isa 41:11-12 Matt 18:9 Luke 16:19-31 Col 1:24 Rev 14:9-11
Isa 66:24 Matt 22:13 Luke 17:28-30 1 Thes 5:3 Rev 16:13-14
Jer 7:20 Matt 23:15 Luke 17:29-30 2 Thes 1:7-10 Rev 17:9
Jer 17:27 Matt 23:33 Luke 20:35-36 2 Thes 1:9 Rev 17:12
Eze 20:47-48 Matt 24:51 John 5:28-29 2 Thes 2:8 Rev 17:15
Dan 12:2 Matt 25:30 John 3:16 Heb 2:14 Rev 19:8
Mal 4:1 Matt 25:41-46 Isa 33:14 James 3:6 Rev 19:20-21

 


SECTION I -- Verses in Which 'Hell' Has Been Rendered From Gehenna

The word 'hell' in the English Authorized Version is rendered from three different Greek words: Gehenna, Hades, and Tartarus. Scholars are in practical agreement that Hades and Tartarus should never have been rendered as 'hell' and such mistranslation has been a source of untold confusion. Therefore, the only Greek word which many scholars allow as  properly rendered 'hell' is Gehenna; its twelve New Testament occurrences are listed below.  It should go without saying that if 'hell' is a place of eternal conscious torment, such a doctrine should be explicitly taught in those twelve verses containing the only Greek word which has legitimately (at least according to orthodox tradition) been rendered 'hell' in our English Bibles.
 
 It should come as the utmost shock that NONE of these verses speak of eternal conscious torment. The problem lies not in what these verses say, but the assumptions which are brought to the text upon reading them.  For example, when one reads a verse stating that some shall be 'cast into hellfire', they assume that such a verse is talking about a place of eternal torment beyond this life, although the passage never specifically states this.  However, such verses are then quoted as 'proof' that such a place of eternal conscious torment exists. 

I ask the reader to carefully consider the twelve occurrences of Gehenna listed below, noting that none of them teach eternal conscious torment unless these assumptions are already implanted in the mind of the reader then brought to the text.  The reader must then ask himself or herself; if these verses do not explicitly teach eternal conscious torment, then where are the verses that do? Let THOSE be quoted, if they may be found at all, in defense of this doctrine and not these which rely completely upon our assumptions.

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes
Eternal
Conscious
Torment?
Notes Expanded Notes
Matt 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No It is of no small consequence that these first three appearances of Gehenna appear in what is commonly referred to as 'the sermon on the mount'.  An understanding of this sermon should never be divorced from the unique purpose for which it was given; namely to prepare the hearts of men for the promised Kingdom of God which had drawn nigh unto them.

At this point, this kingdom was being offered only to the Jewish nation, and as such, only a Jew would know what Gehenna was.  All speculation aside, Gehenna is NOT 'hell'. Gehenna was the city garbage dump in which the bodies of reprobates were thrown denying them a proper burial and signifying their unworthiness for a resurrection and future place in God's kingdom. Gehenna then becomes at its onset a fitting description for the final destruction of the wicked; a destruction from which there will be no resurrection.

Modern theology not only must use speculation and tricks of language and logic to turn Gehenna into 'hell', but they also hide these processes from the average Bible student by simply rendering Gehenna as 'hell' without making them aware of the convoluted process by which this was accomplished.

This first occurrence of Gehenna in the New Testament should immediately cast the popular notion of hell in a suspicious light. The verse makes almost no sense and stands as an enigma if the popular notions of the meaning of Gehenna are true. What possible logical reason is there, and what type of mental justification can we make for the differences in punishment for saying 'Raca', on the one hand, and 'thou fool' on the other, that one should be punishable by being brought before the Sanhedrin, and the other eternal conscious torment in flames for all eternity ?

What the reader is never told is that the progression of punishment described was the known judicial law of Jesus day.  Gehenna Fire denotes simply the most severe form of punishment the judicial system could inflict: not only death, but to deny one proper burial and cast them into the garbage dump signifying their unworthiness of a resurrection.  

Matt 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No See Below
|
|
|
V
Matt 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No
Matt 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No Carries the same thought as the two preceding verses though not appearing in the same context.
Mark 9:43-44 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No  
These verses are famous and among the most quoted to prove the doctrine of eternal conscious torment from the scriptures. Unfortunately they fail miserably in doing just that.

Note the ominous quotation  that ends each; 'Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.'  How does this teach eternal conscious torment? What we are never told is that this is a quotation of Isa 66:24 shown in the next section.  There the fire and worms feed upon CARCASSES, which are, literally,  DEAD BODIES. By all valid rules of interpretation these verses have nothing to do with the conscious torment of immortal souls in hell, nor can they be made to do so without violating the text. Those who seek to use these in proof of this doctrine need to answer one simple question; how do you eternally torment a dead body?

The following facts must accounted for:

1) There is no mention of physical torment spoken of in these passages
2) There is no mention of an immortal soul in the passages.
3) They are a quotation of an Old Testament passage.
4) That Old Testament passage says that the 'fire' and 'worms' feed on DEAD BODIES, not immortal souls.

Oddly enough, some modern theologians, recognizing these problems but not willing to live with the implications, say that because 'Gehenna' in these verses MUST refer to an eternal hell, then the 'Carcasses' or the 'Worms' of Isa 66:24 MUST be a reference to immortal souls.  God will ultimately judge this type of 'scholarship' which would void His word in order to maintain tradition. Let them then produce those verses WHICH CLEARLY TEACH THAT GEHENNA MUST REFER TO A PLACE OF ETERNAL CONSCIOUS TORMENT.

Because these verses are directly related to Matthew 18:9 and 5:29-100, all six references are thus irrelevant concerning eternal conscious torment.
 

Mark 9:45-46 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No
Mark 9:47-48 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No
Matt 10:28 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. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No  
These verses are often quoted as some of the strongest for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. But unless one already has been indoctrinated with this teaching, one has to ask how these verses can teach that at all? Far from saying that immortal souls burn forever in Gehenna, it is Gehenna which will destroy both the body AND the soul.

We are not to fear the death of the body only because God has purposed to give life (soul, Gk. psyche) back to every man in the resurrection .  Man does not ultimately hold the power of life (soul) and death.  We are to fear the one who can destroy not only our body, but ultimately our prospects of any future life by casting us into Gehenna, a fate which was reserved for those unworthy of resurrection. (See Above)

Evangelical theology postulates that 'destroy' here does not mean 'destroy' but 'torment eternally'. The only thing 'tortured' in an explanation such as this is the language of scripture which wears on its face an illegitimate attempt to squeeze in a doctrine where it doesn't belong.
 

Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No
Matt 23:33

 

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Yes, By Implication
(See Notes and Verses in Next Section)
No  
The 'damnation of hell' is literally the 'judgment of Gehenna' and carries with it the meaning of Matt 5:22 above.  Those found worthy of such a judgment were considered nothing but criminals who's bodies were denied proper burial and cast into the city garbage dump (Gehenna) thus signifying their unworthiness of a resurrection and no part in God's kingdom.  This comment toward the Pharisees stands as a scathing rebuke of Jesus toward the religious and political leaders of his day, but has nothing to do with the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in hell.
 
Matt 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Undetermined by word usage No 'Child of hell' =Son of Gehenna. See above notes. The Pharisees were intent on making proselytes who were no less worthy of the judgment they themselves deserved.  Once again, the verse in no way teaches eternal conscious torment.
James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. Undetermined by word usage No Who but a Jew would understand how a tongue might be set on fire of Gehenna? The implication is that the tongue has more power to destroy than any of our members. It is 'set on fire of Gehenna' because to the Jews Gehenna represented the ultimate symbol of death and destruction. 
 
SECTION I (a) -- Verses Not Containing 'Hell' But Which Have Direct Bearing On Gehenna

While not containing the word 'hell', the following verses are listed here because they bear directly on those listed above.  Matthew 18:19 is listed because it appears in the context of those verses above, showing that Gehenna Fire is an eternal fire. Therefore those verses listed above are eternal by direct association. The reference from Matthew 25 is listed because it also mentions this 'eternal fire'.  Additionally this 'eternal fire' is mentioned again in Jude 7 also listed below. The remaining verses are the Old Testament references, which  contain the language Jesus was quoting within the context of his usage of Gehenna.  His hearers would have been familiar with such language and would not have drawn arbitrary conclusions about the meaning of his words as much of evangelical theology does today.  Not only do those verses which contain Gehenna fail to teach eternal conscious torment, the verses below which clarify them fail to as well.  We must conclude according to all reliable  laws of interpretation and language that GEHENNA IS NOT A PLACE OF ETERNAL CONSCIOUS TORMENT
 

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes Eternal Conscious Torment? Notes Expanded Notes
Matt 18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. Yes No Appears within the context of Matt 18:9 shown above and listed here for clarity. This verse shows that Gehenna Fire is an everlasting fire; thus making those punishments associated with Gehenna (whatever they may be) eternal by implication in all verses in which Gehenna appears.
Matt 25:41,46 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Yes No This is considered by many to be THE verse proving eternal torment. In their minds, obviously 'everlasting punishment'='eternal torment'.  What seems obvious to many who have not been indoctrinated by this teaching, is that unless you first assume what the 'punishment' is, then this verse has no bearing at all on eternal torment  The verse does NOT say 'these shall go away into everlasting torment'. Again, let those who cling to this assumption list those verses which CLEARLY state it.

Thus, what 'everlasting punishment' may be must be established from other scriptures which speak in clear and specific language.  'Everlasting punishment' simply does not supply us with enough information about what the punishment might be. Eternal Torment would be an everlasting punishment if other clear verses could be produced which state this, but then again eternal death is also an everlasting punishment. What say the other scriptures?
 
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. 2 Thess 1:9

Isa 66:24 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh

 

Yes No How, in the name of all that's sacred, can this verse possibly teach eternal conscious torment in hell?  The only way it can is by first assuming that it MUST. Even then, such an interpretation not only stretches credibility to its limits, but completely smashes it to bits.

If 'Carcass' or 'worm' can be interpreted to mean 'immortal soul burning in hell' then surely words have no meaning and we are hopeless to determine with any certainty the true meaning of ANY Biblical word or phrase.

For the Biblical meaning of 'unquenchable fires' and 'undying worms' see below.

This verse, along with Matthew 5:22 listed in the previous section, is the key to understanding the true meaning of Gehenna and the way in which Jesus used that word.  Isaiah 66:24 is quoted three times in Mark 9 in connection with Gehenna

However, instead of using Jesus' quotation of this passage to interpret Mark 9, many assign an interpretation to Mark 9 based on assumptions and pre-conceived ideas, then attempt to read such an interpretation back into Isaiah 66:24 where it clearly does not, and cannot fit. Such handling of scripture is a recipe for disaster.

The fire and the worms of Gehenna clearly feed on carcasses; literally dead bodies. Far from supporting the doctrine of eternal torment, this verse is fatal to it. 

Jer 7:20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched. Verses Listed For Comparative Purposes Only What is an 'unquenchable fire'? We are accustomed to answer that it is a fire that never, ever, EVER goes out, nor could it.  We answer this way because of what we have been taught, not because this is what the Bible says, or how the Bible uses this phrase.

The verses containing Gehenna listed above are always quoted to prove the teaching that 'hell' contains fires that will never, ever, EVER go out, but the language is taken from the verses listed to the left.  Why are we never quoted these to explain the language Jesus was using?  Let the BIBLE define what an 'unquenchable fire' is, let us not just assume it.

These verses show that in each case the 'unquenchable fire' eventually did go out.  Even in our English language, 'unquenchable' does not carry the meaning of something that will never cease.  An unquenchable fire is not one that by necessity NEVER goes out. It is however one that CANNOT BE PUT OUT. For example, a firefighter may not be able to put out a fire, it is therefore unquenchable.  Is does not however follow that the fire will NEVER go out.  The fire will burn until it accomplishes its purpose or runs out of fuel to burn, man being powerless to stop it. An 'unquenchable desire to know the truth' is not a desire which of necessity which will NEVER cease. It is a desire which will continue relentlessly until it accomplishes its ultimate goal, nothing else being able to quell or satisfy it.

This is the way in which this phase is used in the Bible. See the verses to the left.

The reasoning which infers: 'since immortal souls cannot burn up, the fires of hell will never go out' is simply begging the question.  There is nothing in the Bible which ever states that the fires of Gehenna burn immortal souls which can never be destroyed.  Furthermore, there is not one verse in the entire Bible that teaches the immortality of the soul. On the contrary, Isaiah 66:24 tells us exactly what the fire does burn:

And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched

What about the worms that do not die? To say that an 'undying worm' is an immortal worm is to say what the Bible does not.  Simply, like the fire, the work of the worms cannot be stopped, nor will they die until they accomplish the task of complete and utter destruction.
 

Jer 17:27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
Eze 20:47-48 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched
Jude 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. If an 'unquenchable fire' can eventually go out after it accomplishes its purposes, what of an 'eternal fire'? While this verse is sometimes quoted as proof for an eternal hell, a simple reading of the verse shows nothing of the kind. This verse is plainly talking about the CITIES of Sodom, Gomorrah, and those surrounding who suffered the vengeance of eternal fire. But we must be careful not to draw conclusions which the Bible does not say.

Notice carefully how an argument which attempts to make this mean that the inhabitants of these cities are burning eternally in hell simply destroys the force of Jude's argument.  These cities are set forth as examples of the wrath of God on sin, but how are they set forth as an example; by suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. But how would this be an example to anyone if this meant 'immortal souls burning in hell'.  No one can point to anyone burring in hell as an example of God's wrath against sin.  No one can SEE that anyone is burning in hell. Immortal souls in hell set forth no example. What can be seen and used as an example is that these cities were destroyed, and never rebuilt.  The fire not only reduced these cities to ruin, the judgment of God  also ensured that they could never recover under the vengeance of an eternal fire.

Scripturally speaking, an unquenchable fire is one that man cannot put out, but will burn until it accomplishes its goal or runs out of fuel.  An eternal fire, or everlasting fire is one that is permanent in its effects as long as God decrees it to be so. These are the meanings of these terms derived from the way the Bible itself uses these terms, not an arbitrary interpretation of what they MUST mean

Incidentally, the verse, nonetheless, speaks nothing of conscious torment.

 
SECTION I I -- Verses Which Speak of Physical Torment: Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

The following seven verses containing the phrase 'weeping (or wailing) and gnashing of teeth' are almost universally applied to the doctrine of eternal conscious torment.  Because 'hell' is assumed to be the place where this condition exists, these verses are universally applied to this doctrine based on that assumption only with little regard for what these texts actually say. These verses represent not only one condition that brings about 'weeping and gnashing of teeth', but three. By reason of assumption, all three conditions are applied to the doctrine of eternal torment, then quoted as proof that such a teaching exists in the scriptures. This is a classic case of circular reasoning.

Of the most interest is the fact that NONE of these speak of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' as an ETERNAL condition. This is of no small significance.  Not only do those passages which do speak of an eternal punishment (see above) fail to mention any torment, those that speak of torment in punishment fail to mention that such a punishment is eternal. The one who seeks to equate these verses with the doctrine of eternal conscious torment does so only on the basis of three assumptions, none of which can be determined from the texts themselves:

1)That these passages apply to all the wicked throughout eternity in contrast to a specific class of people.

2) That these verses describe a condition of mankind beyond this life

3) That such a condition extends throughout eternity.

So we have three facts that MUST be reckoned with:

1)Those passage which speak of an ETERNAL punishment fail to mention any torment in such punishment.
2) Those passages which speak of torment fail to mention that the condition is eternal.
3) None of these verses mention 'hell' at all (Either Hades or Gehenna) and the phrase 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' is NEVER used to describe either.

Clearly someone has clouded these issues in order to uphold much cherished beliefs.
 

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes Eternal Conscious Torment? Notes Expanded Notes
Matt 13:40-42 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this age. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth No No

Torment yes, eternal no

These verses are the most significant of this section because they speak of a 'furnace of fire' which brings about 'weeping and gnashing of teeth', thus equating them with 'hell' in the minds of many.  This reasoning, however, stands on the flimsy assumption that all references to fire must refer to 'hell'.

This view also ignores the fact that Jesus is discussing events which are to happen specifically at the close of THIS AGE, and the punishments to befall those wicked who are alive at that time.  These verses are not generalized descriptions of what 'hell' is like, but specific prophecies for the end of the age although they are almost never preached in this way.

In the end of the age the angels will gather the wicked then living and cast them into 'a furnace of fire'.  You can bet that when living, breathing men and women are cast into a 'furnace of fire' there will indeed be 'weeping and gnashing of teeth'.  There is however nothing to suggest that such a fire is 'hell', or that it continues eternally. Had Jesus meant to express this thought he could have easily spoken once more of Gehenna, but it is very telling indeed that he did not. The phrase 'weeping and gnashing' of teeth is NEVER used to describe Gehenna.

Please see our work "The Furnace of Fire and the Wrath of God", parts one, two, and three, for a detailed study of these events.

The exact fulfillment of these verses is given in the book of Revelation showing that the 'furnace of fire' is not 'hell', but the 'great winepress of the wrath of God'; much of which is indeed torment by fire.  This winepress is representative of the seven last plagues God pours out upon the earth just prior to the close of the age. As Jesus himself said 'As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this age.' Compare Jesus words of these events to those described in Revelation 14-16.
 
Matthew Revelation

The Harvest Is The End Of The Age

The harvest is the end of the age. Matt 13:39

So shall it be at this end of the age. Matt 13:40

Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. Rev 14:15

The Reapers Are The Angels

The reapers are the angels Matt 13:39

The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just. Matt 13:49

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. Rev 14:17
 
And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; Rev 14:18
 
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. Rev 14:19

Wicked Cast Into Wrath

And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: Matt 13:50

And cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. Rev 14:19 

Torment By Fire

A furnace of fire. Matt 13:50 and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. Rev 16:8

And men were scorched with great heat. Rev 16:9

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matt 13:50 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. Rev 16:9
 
and they gnawed their tongues for pain Rev 16:10
Matt 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. No

 

No

Torment yes, eternal no

|See Above and to the right.
Matt 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth No

 

No

Torment yes, eternal no

 
To use these verses, and the condition 'outer darkness' to teach the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is to miss the entire point for which they were written.  As in the two previous verses, these are speaking of a specific group of people, the Jewish nation and in particular its leaders who had rejected Jesus.  The key to proper understanding lies in the context of Matthew 21-22:

When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons... Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof...  And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them... And Jesus answered and spake unto them  (the Pharisees) again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come... But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.  And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

These verses were aimed directly at the Jewish national leaders, the Pharisees. By rejecting their Messiah., the Jewish nation was cast into 'outer darkness' for the past 20 centuries, and has endured untold persecution, weeping, and gnashing of teeth at the hands of gentile nations.  The parable of 'wedding garment' shows that the Jewish nation was powerless to stop this without submitting to the authority and righteousness of their Messiah.  Their status as 'children of the kingdom' would not get them into the 'wedding', and they were thrust out.  
 
The Pharisees knew that Jesus was speaking of them.  How is it that most modern evangelicals do not? We can praise God that the Jewish nation will be restored in the coming kingdom age; thus 'outer darkness' is not 'hell', nor is it a permanent condition.  Then again, the Bible never said it was.
 

Matt 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. No

 

No

Torment yes, eternal no

Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. No

 

No

Torment yes, eternal no

Matt 24:51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. No

 

No

Torment yes, eternal no

 
This verse correlates with Matthew 13:42-50 shown above.  The 'hypocrites' are literally 'counterfeits' and correspond with the 'tares' of Matthew 13. This is a warning towards an unprofitable servant in the end of the age who begins to beat and make gain of his fellow servants, reasoning that Jesus is delaying his return.  Jesus warns that they shall meet the same fate as the hypocrites (the tares) when he returns. This punishment refers to the same 'furnace of fire' described in Matthew 13 and detailed in Revelation 14-16.

'Cut asunder' refers to the most brutal of the Roman forms of scourging; a fitting symbol for the wrath of God that such a one will be made to endure. Even so, the verse in no way states that such a punishment is eternal.
 

Matt 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. No

 

No

Torment yes, eternal no

This verse, from the parable of the talents carries with it the same type of warning which Jesus made toward the Jewish national leaders. In this case, however, the warning is for anyone who would aspire to attain the kingdom which was first offered to the Jews, then afterward to  'a nation which would bring forth fruit meet for repentance'.  Jesus warns that any man who fails to use the talents God has granted him will find themselves debased and under judgment (in 'outer darkness'). They will weep bitterly when confronted with the reality of the position from which they have fallen, and judged according to the amount of light they sinned against. This is shown by the parallel of this verse as given in Luke 12: 46-48 which contains the following information:

And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
 
For further explanation see Section III

Again, nothing indicates this is an eternal condition. and no mention is made of 'hell'.  For more information see also our chapter: The Day of Judgment
 

SECTION I I (a) -- Verses Which Speak of Physical Torment: Related to the above

The following verses expand upon and are related to those above. Other clarifying verses are listed so that we may compare scripture with scripture and arrive at a proper and Biblical conclusion. These passages are considered perhaps the strongest on this doctrine. These are some of the most misunderstood verses in all the Bible and require diligent study and a sensitivity to the symbolic context in which some of them occur. They each fail to maintain the doctrine which they are set forth to prove. Our interpretations of these verses simply must not be guided by emotion or assumption but by a careful and consistent comparison of scripture with scripture.

 

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes Eternal Conscious Torment? Notes Expanded Notes
Rev 14:9-11 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. No
(See Next Two Verses and Notes)
No

Torment yes, eternal no
See Notes

 

Many advocates of Eternal Torment feel that in this passage they have found their most irrefutable proof.  I have heard it said that for one to reject that this passage teaches eternal torment in hell  they would have to be an infidel. Quite to the contrary, I believe it is the doctrine of Eternal Torment that has completely failed to understand this passage.

Obviously, the passage contains the terms, 'fire', 'brimstone', 'torment', 'smoke', and 'forever and ever'. One who has already been indoctrinated with the teaching of an eternal hell really cannot be faulted for equating this passage with that concept. However, what is almost universally overlooked, is not what this passage says, but what it does not say.  In order for this passage to teach the doctrine of eternal conscious torment, it must prove three things: 1) That the passage applies to all wicked men and not just a specific class, 2) That the passage speaks of a condition which pertains to mankind beyond this life, and 3) The passage teaches such a condition must continue throughout eternity.  It is my earnest contention that none of these can be proven from this passage.  I further contend that the passage not only has no application to the doctrine of eternal torment, but has a much more likely and sound interpretation.  On account of the gross misunderstandings surrounding this passage, we will comment at some length.  We will cover the three points listed above one at a time.

First, does the passage say that the specified torment applies to all the wicked throughout the ages. No, it applies to a specific class: And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink etcIt is amazing to me the number of Christians who cannot begin to explain what the 'beast' or its 'mark' is, but they are sure this passage teaches 'hell'.  However, according to the passage, it is only this specific class to whom these warnings are issued.

Second, does the passage teach that this is a torment of mankind beyond this life?  Again the text answers no! Notice carefully that the standard interpretation equates 'fire and brimstone' with the 'lake of fire and brimstone' first mentioned in Revelation 19:10. But notice carefully (see verse listed below) that in that very passage (Rev 19:10) the only ones who go into that 'lake of fire' are the beast and false prophet, the rest of mankind is simply killed. Wicked mankind does not go into the lake of fire until after the 1000 year reign of Christ, and the Great White Throne judgment described in Revelation 20. If in fact the 'fire and brimstone' from Revelation 14, is referring to the 'lake of fire'  from Revelation 19 and 20, then we must ask why the warning is separated from its execution contextually by six chapters, and chronologically by over 1000 years!
 
What we have here is a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the proverbial trees. We have become so blinded by our assumptions that we cannot see that the fulfillment of this passage is not found in Revelation 19 and 20, but begins immediately following in the Harvest which is described, beginning in Revelation 14:14 and continues through Revelation 16.  The harvest which is described in Revelation 14 in which the wicked are cast into 'the great winepress of the wrath of God' is simply a symbolic representation of what follow in Chapters 15-19; the seven 'bowl' judgments of God's wrath.  When the first bowl is poured out in Revelation 16:2, what do we read?
 
And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

Here we see beginning the exact fulfillment of those warnings given in Revelation 14.  The warning is for a specific class of people, and the torment falls on that same class of people. Those worshipping the Beast, its image, or have taken its mark! The torment by fire is mentioned in Revelation 16 verses 8 and 9:

And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

This same event is described in Luke 17:28-30 shown to the left.  Notice that in the day the Lord is revealed (not in an eternal hell), it rains FIRE AND BRIMSTONE from heaven, just as it did in the days of Lot.  In Revelation 14-19 we find the detailed account and fulfillment of these events.  They are not 'Hell' but the torment of those who are found worshipping the beast at Jesus return.

What does Revelation 14:10 mean when it says that the wicked shall be tormented "in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb". We have seen that this verse cannot refer to the lake of fire, but instead refers to the seven last bowl judgments of God's wrath. Consider 2 Thess 1:7-10 shown to the left and compare it to Revelation 14:9-11.
 
Most believers have been told over and over that both of these passages refer to "hell". However, what most do not realize is that IF both really do refer to hell, then clearly they contradict  each other.  Look carefully at the two passages. Is the torment IN Christ's presence (Rev 14:9-11), or AWAY FROM his presence (2 Thes 1:7-10)?  Is there a contradiction here? The fact is, there is no contradiction once we realize that neither of these verses refer to "hell" at all. After the seventh trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15 Jesus takes the kingdom. We are told that he "descends" and calls the elect out to meet him "in the air".

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 
1 Thes 4:16-17

It is immediately following this that the bowl judgments are poured out upon the wicked. Christ comes, 'and all his holy angels with him'. Jesus meets the righteous, 'in the air', the angels perform 'the harvest' and the wicked are literally tormented in their presence. How harmonious the Bible becomes when we simply read what it says without inserting our pre-conceived ideas. In contrast, the passage from 2 Thessalonians refers to the eternal destruction (the second death) with is forever away from the presence of Christ and his saints.

Which brings us to our final point: Does this passage teach that the torment of Revelation 14:9-11 extends eternally? No it does not.  First of all consider the following from Revelation 15:1: Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. If these seven last plagues complete the wrath of God against those worshiping the beast, then surely God's wrath cannot extend eternally beyond them.  So what is the meaning of the phrase: 'And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever'?  The language is clearly symbolic and is taken from Isaiah's account of the destruction of Edom shown to the left.  Edom was to be destroyed but was the smoke to literally arise forever?  In the same symbolic language describing the destruction of Babylon in Revelation 19:3, we also read that its smoke arises 'for ever and ever'.  These terms denote the magnitude of events that will never be forgotten in the minds of those who witnessed them.  They will ever stand as a memorial to God's severe judgment  against sin.  Those who teach that 'the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever' must be taken in a strict literal sense must reckon with the following facts:

1) The passage does not say that the torment continues eternally, only that the smoke of the torment will rise up eternally.

2) The language is taken from an Old Testament passage in which the figure is clearly not to be taken literally and also an earthly condition. In Isaiah 34 it is the land which burns with fire and brimstone which would not be quenched.  This is in perfect agreement with Luke 17:29-30:

But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
Luke 17:29-30

Thus this passage speaks not a word about an eternal hell. If, as we are told time and again, we are to let the Bible define its own language and symbols, then this verse can only be taken in the same way in which the same language was used in Isaiah's prophecy which it was taken from.  Anything else would be misleading and dishonest. For those who feel the passage MUST be taken as a reference to an eternally burning hell, then it is for them to also explain why the exact language this passage is taken from speaks not a word about hell but of the land being turned to fire and brimstone as a purely earthly judgment

We are left only with the words 'they have no rest day and night'. This is undoubtedly true as long as the seven bowl judgments continue, terminating with the battle of Armageddon and bringing about the deaths of these individuals in Revelation 19:21. 

 Please see our work "The Furnace of Fire and the Wrath of God", parts one, two, and three, for a detailed study of these events.

Isa 34:8-10

For it is the day of the LORD's vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.

Verses Listed For Comparative Purposes Only
2 Thess 1:7-10 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Yes

 

No
Luke 17:28-30 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. No No

Torment yes, eternal no
Rev 19:20-21 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Yes
(See Next Reference)
No
(See Notes, Next Three Verses, and Next Section)

The first mention of the 'lake of fire' occurs in Revelation 19:20.  That the 'lake of fire' is obviously symbolic is discussed below and in the next section. We have to ask what is meant by the casting of the beast, false prophet, and the Devil into this lake.

The first two occupants of the 'lake of fire' are the Beast and False prophet, but when we enquire as to their identity we generally get a different answer for each person we ask.  The modern evangelical will answer along these lines: The Beast is the 'Antichrist', a powerful word leader who will arise in the end times and via one world government rule the entire earth. The False Prophet is a religious leader who with the Antichrist leads the world into one united false religion. While this is a rather novel (and I might add relatively new) teaching concerning the Beast and False Prophet, there are problems with this interpretation.  If this be the case, then one would assume that these are humans. That would seem to follow without question.  But the trouble is this: If these are indeed human, then they are the only two wicked humans who will escape the Great White Throne Judgment.  These would go into the Lake of Fire BEFORE the judgment, in contrast to the rest of wicked mankind who go into the lake of fire FOLLOWING judgment. Not even Satan is thrown into the 'Lake of Fire' prior to this judgment. The Bible is clear that every child of Adam must appear for judgment to give account; how do these escape?  I suppose we could say that their wickedness is such that it precludes judgment and they are sentenced to the lake of fire directly, but that would be a matter of pure guesswork.

I feel the obvious answer to this problem is in the interpretation placed upon the 'Beast' and 'False Prophet' by the protestant faiths for 350 years: that these are not men at all but mere symbols for satanic systems. The 'beast' represents those worldly political systems, and the 'False Prophet' those religious systems which deceived mankind.  Notice how beautifully this fits with the imagery of Revelation 19-20.  In Revelation 20, Jesus reigns for 1000 years with his saints.  In order to do this, those political and religious systems which stood in opposition to His Kingdom must be done away with.  Thus we see them cast into the 'lake of fire' immediately preceding this reign.  By going into the Lake of Fire they are done away with permanently and eternally. 

Someone might immediately object that it makes no sense to cast 'systems' into a lake of fire.  How would one do that anyway?  This ignores two basic facts: 1)The language is obviously symbolical.  It is only those who need to take it literally in order to hang onto a much cherished belief who seem to not be able to see this, and 2) Revelation 20:14 states that 'death and hell' are also cast into the lake of fire.  Therefore the question is unavoidable no matter what conclusions you draw concerning the Beast and False Prophet.  How do you cast something abstract like death into a literal lake of fire? The answer lies in the obviously symbolic nature of the passage. Please see below and the next section for more detail.
 
We are left only with the Devil of whom it is said along with the Beast and False prophet: 'shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever'.  It matters little what conclusions we reach on the meaning of this phrase, because as the next two verses indicate there is nothing said of mankind being tormented forever and ever.  This is clearly a designation which is applied only  to the Devil, The Beast, and The False Prophet.

It does not follow, as some suggest, that this verse 'proves' that whatever is cast into the lake of fire is thus tormented forever and ever.  How would you or could you torment death?  How could you torment the grave (Hades, see section IV)?  In addition, we find elsewhere the following in clear and non-symbolic language:
 
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; Heb 2:14
 
Clearly the Devil is to be destroyed. So, if the Devil is to be destroyed, and the Beast and False Prophet are systems, then how can they be 'tormented day and night forever and ever'? We have to look for what this might mean within the symbolical language in which it is written.

In Revelation 20:10, the word “tormented” is the Greek basanizo, which originally meant a means of testing and examination. It was used of a touchstone for metals, and later to scourge in a general sense. It is this latter usage from which the translators derived the English “torment.” However, the implication of the passage signifies that Satan’s shame and dishonor will give him a mark of infamy forever, and his destruction is reward for his failure to test out at the proving stone. It will be a witness against him forever by all who behold him.  This fits perfectly with the description of Satan given in Ezekiel 28:18:

You have defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of you, it shall devour you, and I will bring you to ashes upon the earth IN THE SIGHT OF ALL THEM THAT BEHOLD YOU

Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.  Yes No
(Verse does not pertain to man. See Notes, Next Two Verses, and Next Section)
Rev 20:13-15  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Yes No
(See Notes, Next Verse, and Next Section)
There is one very stubborn fact concerning the 'lake of fire' that will always hang over the doctrine of eternal torment: No human is ever said to experience pain and suffering after having been thrown there.  We cannot say of the human race what the Bible says concerning the Devil ,the beast, and the false prophet: and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

To the contrary, inserted within the immediate context of this lake of fire in relation to mankind is: This is the second death. The meaning should be obvious to those who have not already made up their minds that the 'lake of fire' must be taken literally at all costs.  The 'lake of fire' is an obvious symbol who's relation to mankind God has taken extra care to explain.  For mankind, this lake of fire means a second death. If we were meant to take the lake of fire as literal then why insert this phrase which would serve only to confuse its meaning?

The fact remains that these are the only two passages which speak of humans being cast into the 'lake of fire'.  Neither one speaks of any torment beyond, and both call this condition 'the second death'.  That 'second death' itself must be taken symbolically in order to avoid doing violence to the text is explained in the next section.
 

Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Yes No
(See Next Section)
SECTION I I (b) -- Verses Which Clarify the Language of Revelation 20:14and 21:8

While these verses do not mention hell or torment, an understanding of them is imperative for the proper interpretation of Revelation 20:14 and 21:8.  Here theologians have reversed the obvious symbolism in order to make the symbol a reality and the reality a symbol. Whereas the Bible says that the 'lake of fire' IS the second death, the symbol is reversed to mean 'the second death' IS the 'lake of fire'.  These verses show the impossibility of doing that, and remaining faithful to the Bible's use of language.

The lake of fire is described using two constructions, the first in Revelation 20:14 'This IS the second death', and the second in Revelation 21:8 'Which is (or, that is to say) the second death'. The first group of verses describes the way 'second death' was used earlier in the Book of Revelation. The second group shows the familiar way in which Revelation defines its own symbols.  Unfortunately the same logic is never applied to 'the lake of fire').  The last group shows the scriptural use of the Greek phrase ho estin (that is ) which is uses in Revelation 21:8. The purpose of all these scripture citations is to show the absolute fallacy of taking an obvious symbol as something literal in its most strict sense.

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes Eternal Conscious Torment? Notes Expanded Notes
Clarifying 'Second Death'
Rev 2:10-11 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Verses Listed For Comparative Purposes Only

 

The 'second death' is first mentioned in Revelation 2:11.  While the Book of Revelation is one of deep symbolism, there is nothing in this passage which would lead one to believe that 'second death' was merely a symbol for a much greater reality.  In fact, most who read Revelation have no problem understanding most of what they are reading until they hit the deep symbolism beginning in Chapter 4.  After that the reader often gets bogged down in images of beasts, dragons, human-faced locusts, etc.  The point is simply this, if 'second death' is merely a symbol, or a label for a much greater reality, then why does the reader have to wait another eighteen chapters for the symbol to be explained? How are we to know within the quite straightforward language of Revelation Chapter Two that 'second death' doesn't mean literally SECOND DEATH? What reason would we have for believing otherwise?

Furthermore, when the phrase appears again in Revelation 20:6, it again appears in quite straightforward language with nothing indicating that it might be a symbol for something much greater.  Now, look at Luke 20:35-36 shown to the left.  The resurrection of the just means something very special; it means that those so resurrected cannot die again.  Having been raised from the first death, these righteous who come forth are not subject to die a second time. However we know that not only will the righteous be raised, but all will be raised:

And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Acts 25:15

It is however this one special class who will be raised as such that they cannot die a second time, and Revelation 20:6 carries this exact thought.  Those raised in the first resurrection are not subject to a second death. We have no reason to believe that the language is a riddle.  We have no reason but to take it for exactly what it says. The 'second death' MEANS THE SECOND DEATH! He that overcomes will not DIE A SECOND TIME.

Shortly after, in Revelation 20:14 we are met with a rather enigmatic phrase: ' And death and hell (Hades - See Section IV) were cast into the lake of fire.'  The reader would have encountered this 'lake of fire' twice before this in Rev 19:20 and 20:10 where the Beast, False Prophet, and the Devil were cast into it.  However, the phrase at Revelation 20:14 seems problematic: How do you cast death and Hades into a lake of fire? Death and Hades are not material things, personages, or humans. How do you cast these into a lake of fire? I have yet to have one believer in eternal torment who can answer the question in any kind of meaningful way.  But the verse should not present a problem because the key to its interpretation is inserted immediately following:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

The lake of fire is merely a symbol for a concept the Bible student would already be familiar with, the second death.  It is a fitting symbol for ultimate destruction in that anything submerged in a lake of fire is ensured utter and complete destruction, never to be recovered.  Men are subject to die once.  All men will get a resurrection based on Jesus' ransom sacrifice on our behalf. But those who die a second time go into the symbolic lake of fire from which no one will be recovered, because having spurned their Savior, there is no greater ransom that can be paid on their behalf.  Death and Hades also going into this lake of fire indicates that they will cease to be eternally. As Paul wrote:
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1Cor 15:26

Therefore the lake of fire stands as a symbol of final, total, irrecoverable destruction.  To mankind this means a second death. Nothing could be clearer.

For absolute proof that the 'lake of fire' is symbolic, please see the next two groups of verses.

Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Luke 20:35-36 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
Clarifying Revelation 20:14
Rev 1:20 The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Verses Listed For Comparative Purposes Only

 

 

How often are we told that we must let the Bible interpret its own symbols.  The verses in this group show how the Book of Revelation does just that.  Revelation 20:14 is a verse like those in this section, however in this one case only modern theology reverses this symbol making the symbol the reality and the reality into a symbol.  This is done for one reason only: To hold onto the doctrine of eternal conscious torment which is nowhere taught in the Bible but must be maintained by whatever means possible.  Imagine the absurdity of reversing the order of other symbols which are described in this way:

The seven Spirits of God ARE seven lamps of fire

The seven mountain ARE seven heads

The ten kings ARE ten horns

The people and multitudes ARE waters

The righteousness of the saints IS fine linen

And then try to maintain these things in the strictest most literal way possible. No one would accept any such interpretation as anything but foolishness.  This is however exactly what is done at Revelation 20:14.  We read that the lake of fire IS the second death.  'Second Death' is what explains the symbolical 'lake of fire'.  How is this not clear to those who read these verses?

Rev 4:5 And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Rev 5:8 Having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
Rev 16:13-14

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Rev 17:9  The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Rev 17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings
Rev 17:15 The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues
Rev 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Clarifying Revelation 21:8
Matt 27:33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull Verses Listed For Comparative Purposes Only The reader here might not realize what 'Golgotha' means, therefore the obscure is clarified by the translation, 'the place of the skull' The latter half of Revelation 21:8 exists in the Bible for a reason: to keep men and women from reaching the wrong conclusion regarding a very important symbol.  As we have seen in the previous group, Revelation explains its symbols in a very distinct way: symbol followed by interpretation or explanation. An interpretation which makes the 'lake of fire' literal while making 'the second death' figurative must reverse this logic.

In this group, which clarifies Revelation 21:8, the construction is even stronger by using the Greek phrase ho estin, or in English 'that is ..' A study of the way this phrase is used in the New Testament makes it clear that popular notions about the lake of fire are simply incorrect.  The Bible did not say, as we would expect if the doctrine of eternal torment was true,
 
 'the lake of fire, which is called the second death.'
 
 On the contrary it uses a construction whereby the first clause is ambiguous and is clarified by the second clause:
 
 'that lake of fire, that is to say, the second death'. 
 
We are clearly to take the second clause in a literal, explanatory way, not the reverse. Please study the examples to the left to see for yourself how the New Testament uses this terminology.

If we were indeed supposed to take this in the reverse order from what the construction demands, as we are told by popular theology, then we can once again be sure that words and phrases have no meaning and can be twisted to whatever means best suit us.

The 'Lake of Fire' IS 'The Second Death', not the reverse

 

Mark 7:11 If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. The reader would not know what 'Corban' is, therefore this is clarified by the second clause, 'a gift'
Mark 7:34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. What is 'Ephphatha'? Once again 'ho estin' is use as the connective between the first obscure phase and the one that clarifies it, 'Be opened'
Mark 15:42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, The reader might not know what the 'preparation' was, therefore, again, this is clarified in the second clause, the preparation is the day before the Sabbath
Col 1:24
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is  (that is to say) the church:
This verse is the strongest of the group. Without the explanatory second clause the reader might not know how Paul's sufferings benefited Christ's LITERAL body. How could they? 

So, Paul used to the second clause connected by 'which is' to clarify and explain the first. The church is not literally Christ's body.  Indeed Jesus had a glorious spirit body upon His resurrection, but the Church is not literally His body.  It is His body only in a figurative and symbolical sense.

'for his body's sake' (not literally, but figuratively, that is to say) 'the church'. Hence:

body = figurative, symbolic
 church = explanatory, reality

In the same way:

'the lake of fire' (not literally but figuratively, that is to say) 'the second death'. Hence:
 
lake of fire=figurative, symbolic
second death=explanatory, reality

SECTION III -- Verses Cited To Teach Degrees of Punishment in Hell

The following ten verses are used to teach the doctrine of 'Degrees of Punishment in 'Hell'.  With the exception of Matthew 11:23-24, in which the Greek word Hades has been rendered 'hell', 'hell' appears nowhere in the context of any of these.  Hades should never have been rendered 'hell' and will  be discussed in section IV.  Why, if all these passages teach degrees of punishment in hell, do none of these say 'in hell'?

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes Eternal Conscious Torment? Notes Expanded Notes
Matt 10:14-15 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.  No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

It is amazing how our assumptions can trick us into reading something into a passage of scripture that simply isn't there. We have been taught that these passages teach degrees of punishment in hell. The problem is, that while these passage DO teach degrees of punishment, none of them say 'in hell'.

Nor do they imply that these punishments take place 'in hell' because they tell us in clear and unambiguous language the time period in which they do take place: In the day of judgment. 

If the punishments to be meted out described in these verses take place IN the day of judgment, then it is clear that they do not speak at all of any punishment following the judgment.  It is not the fault of the Bible that mankind has developed a faulty view of the duration, nature, and purpose of God's judgment.  Suffice it to say that these verses do not mention hell (with the exception of  Hades in Matthew 11:23, see Section IV) and as such have nothing to do with the doctrine of eternal conscious torment.

There will be punishment and retribution for sin.  But as these verses show, the time and place for that punishment is not hell for all eternity, but in the day of judgment following the resurrection. The day of judgment is one of the central themes of the Bible, and there are literally dozens of passage that detail this judgment.  I invite you to learn more about the judgment by reading our work:
 Man Became a Living Soul

and in particular the chapter
: The Day of Judgment

See also our article:
In The Day of Judgment: Does The Bible Teach Degrees of Punishment in Hell?

 

 Matt 11:21-22 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

Matt 11:23-24 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.  No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

Mark 6:11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.  No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

Luke 10:10-12 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.  No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

 Luke 10:13-14 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

Luke 12:46-48 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.  No No

Torment yes, eternal no

 

The passage speaks of some being beaten with "many stripes", and some being beaten with "few stripes", so there is clearly an indication of degrees of punishment.  But where does such punishment take place?  In hell? Does the passage anywhere state that this takes place in hell?  Can those who teach that this is the meaning of the passage prove it?
 
In this passage, if Jesus had meant us to understand "degrees of punishment in hell" then he certainly has used obscure language to express that idea. Do the terms "few" and "many" have any real meaning if hell is torment in flames for all eternity without end?  Why use such obscure language if this is what was meant? 
The passages does not say 'lighter stripes' and 'harder stripes', it says 'few', and 'many', which are both finite and thus have nothing to do with eternal torment in hell.  This passage is a parallel to Matthew 25:30 treated in Section II. Please see notes in that section.
Matt 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. No
Uncertain from text
No These three passages are parallels one to another and each carry the same thought.  The more light one claims to have had, or the more privileged one esteems themselves before men, the greater their judgment will be.  These comments were directed toward the Pharisees who felt they above all men were favored in God's sight.

The Greek word for 'damnation' here is 'krima', and does not carry the exact sense in which it has been rendered in the King James Bible.  The word  represents a judicial sentence, as opposed to the Greek word krisis for the process of judgment.  The verse has nothing to do with punishment in hell, but carries the same thought as Luke 12:46 shown above: those that knew God's will and did not do it, in the judgment will be beaten with many stripes.  Those who did not know God's will will be beaten with few stripes.
Mark 12:40 Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. No
Uncertain from text
No
Luke 20:47 Which devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. No
Uncertain from text
No

SECTION IV -- Verses in Which 'Hell' Has Been Rendered From Hades

The Greek word Hades appears eleven times in the Greek text of the Bible.  With the exception of 1 Cor 15:55, it has been uniformly rendered 'Hell' by the translators of the King James Bible. It is important to note that the majority of Bible scholars admit that 'Hell' is an improper translation and Hades should have never been rendered as such.  Newer Bible versions either transliterate the word, or render it as 'grave'.  Being the exact equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, the word represents the death state.  Please see our chapter Hellfire and Damnation for more information.

Hades is to be emptied of its occupants (Rev 20:13-14), therefore by definition, being only a temporary condition, no matter what conclusions we draw, these texts have no bearing whatsoever on the doctrine of eternal torment.  

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes Eternal Conscious Torment? Notes Expanded Notes
Rev 20:13-14 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death No No Here we see clearly that Hades is to be emptied of its occupants and done away with.  It is therefore a temporary condition.  Every man is guaranteed  a resurrection from Hades; the death state.  Hades is to be abolished, symbolized by its being cast into the lake of fire.  As the apostle Paul stated:

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1 Cor 15:26

Rev 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. No No Death and Hell = Death and the grave
Rev 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death No No That is, the keys of death and the grave, which Jesus conquered by resurrection.
1 Cor 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? No No Here Hades has been rendered properly as it should have been elsewhere.  It is simply the grave, or the 'death state'.
Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. No No Please see our chapter A Weekend in Hell or in the Tomb for more information.  Jesus' soul was his very being.  God promised not to leave Jesus in the grave, or in the state of death.  This verse has nothing to do with the doctrine of eternal torment, nor does it teach an intermediate state for 'souls' (Greek psyche, life) between death and the resurrection.
Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption No No
Matt 16:16 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. No No That is, the Church which Jesus built could not be brought down to destruction, ruin, and a state of non-existence.
Matt 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. No No Was the city of Capernaum brought down literally to a place of fiery torment?  No Capernaum was overthrown and destroyed.  The city lays in ruins to this day.  It was brought down to ruin, death and destruction. 
Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. No No
Luke 16:19-31 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. No No Concerning this passage, the eminent theologian E. W. Bullinger wrote:

'In dealing with this scripture, and the subject of the so-called "intermediate state", it is important that we should confine ourselves to the Word of God, and not go to tradition.  Yet, when nine out of ten believe what they have learnt from tradition, we have a thankless task, so far as pleasing men is concerned'

I am most aware that almost all advocates of eternal torment will never be convinced that this passage is a parable.  The truth is that they so desperately NEED this passage in order to maintain their doctrine.  It is sad that so many cling to this passage to teach literal torment in hell when making the passage literal contradicts so much else of what they hold to be true.  Is being poor a guarantee of salvation?  Does being rich and having nice clothes damn anyone to hell?

Lightfoot, in his commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud wrote concerning this passage:

Whoever believes this not to be a parable, but a true story, let him also believe those little friars whose trade it is to shew the monuments at Jerusalem to pilgrims, and point exactly to the place where the house of the 'rich glutton' stood.  Most accurate keepers of antiquity indeed! who after so many hundreds of years, such overthrows of Jerusalem, such devastations and changes, can rake out of the rubbish the place of so private a house, and such a one too as never had any being, but merely in parable.  And that is was a parable, not only the consent of all expositors may assure us, but the thing itself speaks it.

The main scope and design of it seems this, to hint the destruction of the unbelieving Jews, who though they had Moses and the Prophets, did not believe them, nay, would not believe , though one ( even Jesus) arose from the dead.  For that conclusion of the parable abundantly evidenceth what it aimed at: "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."

The teaching here is not that of Jesus, but that of the Pharisees in which he used their own false doctrine to 'condemn them out their own mouths'.  We have commented on this passage extensively elsewhere.  For more information please see our Chapter A Weekend in Hell or in the Tomb

Bullinger also writes concerning this passage:

It will be asked, is it possible that our Lord would give utterance to such words without giving some warning to us as to the way in which He used them? Well, the answer is such that, warning has been given in the uniform and unanimous teaching of Scripture. His own words: "they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them," addressed to the Pharisees through the rich man may be taken as addressed to us also.  We have (as they had) the evidence of the Old Testament (in "Moses and the Prophets"), and we have also the evidence of the New Testament, which accords with the Old.  If we "hear them", it would be impossible for us to suppose, for a moment, that Christ could be teaching, here, that which is the very opposite to that of the whole Word of God

Once again it must be noted that the passage speaks only of Hades which is to be emptied of its occupants and done away with prior to the judgment.  Therefore, no matter what conclusions are drawn from this passage, they ultimately have no bearing upon the doctrine of eternal torment.

SECTION V -- Miscellaneous Verses Sometimes Used To Support This Doctrine

While not containing the word 'Hell', and having no direct relation to verses which do, the verses below are still sometimes brought forth in attempts to bolster this doctrine.  Once again they completely fail in this regard. 

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes
Eternal
Conscious
Torment?
Notes Expanded Notes
Dan 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Yes No Although this verse says nothing of torment, some still try to read this teaching into the words 'shame and everlasting contempt'. The Hebrew words rendered 'shame and contempt', mean literally 'reproach' and 'abhorring' respectively.  These words are representative of how others will consider the wicked, not of how they themselves will feel for all eternity.  

In the resurrection, when the sins and judgment of these are laid bare for all to see, they will forever be looked upon with a sense of reproach, abhorring, and indignity.  Still, the verse says nothing of eternal torment.
John 5:28-29 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. No No This verse carries with it the same basic thought of that above, with one difference.  The word here rendered as 'damnation' (Greek krisis) has been rendered 43 times as 'judgment' elsewhere.  'Damnation' is hardly a fair translation of this word.  'Judgment' represents the whole judicial process as well as the sentence, not merely condemnation.

In the resurrection, only a special class come forth in the first resurrection, the rest come up into a judgment.  It is left for us to decide from other scripture what this judgment entails.  The verse does not speak a word of any pain or torment for these beyond the judgment. Please see also our chapter The Day of Judgment.
2 Pet 2:9-12 The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption No No The advocates of eternal torment see proof of this doctrine in the words 'reserve under punishment for the day of judgment'.  They believe this means that when the wicked die, they are 'reserved under punishment' in hell.  Even allowing that such an exposition is correct (which we do not) still this passage would not say anything of the fate of these beyond the judgment, and thus once again has no bearing on the doctrine of eternal torment.

The obvious meaning of the passage however is completely overlooked.  God knows how to deliver the godly (those living) from temptation, and reserve the wicked (those living, notice 'especially those who walk according to the flesh etc') under punishment even before the judgment.  This is basically saying that the wicked will reap what they sow.  It has nothing to do with an 'intermediate state' between death and the judgment.

The context plainly declares what the fate of these is to be:  They are to be 'destroyed' and 'utterly perish in their own corruption'.  

2 Pet 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment No No This verse does not mention mankind at all, but rather fallen angels.  The word rendered here as 'hell' is Tartarus and is the only time the word appears in the New Testament.  The word is never applied to mankind.

Whatever Tartarus is, it is for fallen angels. Some take this passage to refer to some literal prison, others to fallen condition these angels are currently in.  Either way, the passage has no relevance to the doctrine of eternal torment.
Isa 33:14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling hath seized the godless ones: Who among us can dwell with the devouring fire? who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?  Yes No Those who would offer in this verse as 'proof' for the doctrine of eternal torment surely stretch the limits of credibility.  Obviously they have never heard of a rhetorical question.  The question being 'who can dwell with everlasting burnings?', the answer implied is obviously NO ONE.  However, if eternal torment be true, then countless billions will indeed dwell with everlasting burnings; the opposite of what this passage teaches.

Notice also that the fire is a 'devouring fire'.  It burns up the wicked.  Please see also Section VII for more information.
SECTION VI -- Old Testament Verses in which 'Hell' Has Been Rendered From Sheol

Scholars are in almost unanimous agreement that the Hebrew Sheol should never have been rendered 'hell'.  A simple reading of these passages will show that none of them denote a condition of eternal torment.  Thirty-two times Sheol has been rendered 'hell', twenty-nine times 'grave' and three times 'pit'.  Sheol represents simply the grave, or the death state and is a direct equivalent to Greek Hades listed in section IV.  As such, these also represent a temporary condition.  Death and the grave (Hades, Sheol) are to be emptied and done away with, thus these verses have no relevance to the doctrine of Eternal Torment.

Because this chart is mainly designed to deal with New Testament passages and only those Old Testament passages which have direct bearing upon them, we will not list these verses individually here.  They have each been covered elsewhere in detail.  Please see our chapter Hellfire and Damnation for this information.

SECTION VII -- Other Verses Which Speak in Clear Language Concerning of the Fate of the Wicked
 
These verses are never usually brought forth to teach the doctrine of eternal torment although they speak in plain and clear language concerning the fate of the wicked. Even though NONE of the above verses succeed in proving the doctrine of eternal torment, these clear passages are bent to mean what they so clearly DO NOT say in order to maintain that teaching.  The words 'death', 'destroy' and 'perish' have been redefined in order to make them mean 'torment eternally in hell'.  These verses are clear and speak for themselves; they need no explanation. 

The reader is confronted with a very important decision. When we are confronted by a doctrine which can only be maintained based upon assumptions, twisted interpretations, and traditions, and then contradicted in the clearest terms possible such as in the verses listed below, what are we to do? Is it wise to read clear passages in such a way as to make them bend to a doctrine which is nowhere taught in scripture?  These passages speak clearly:  The wicked are to be consumed, die, perish, and be utterly destroyed.  God could not have made it any plainer. Will YOU listen?

Reference Verse Denotes
Eternal?
Denotes
Eternal
Conscious
Torment?
Notes Expanded Notes
Obad 16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.     The Old Testament teaching concerning the fate of the wicked is clear, and emphatic.  The wicked are to be consumed and be 'as though they had not been.'  Compare the language in these passages to those above which supposedly 'prove' the doctrine of eternal torment.  Could God have used any clearer language to tell us that the wicked are to be destroyed?

Some attempt to teach that 'destroy' does not mean 'annihilate'.  They say for example that just because something is destroyed does not mean it ceases to have any being.  This argument is however silly, and an attempt to twist the clear words of scripture at any cost.  When the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD and destroyed the temple, although there were indeed ruins left, was the temple still a temple?  If you destroy a  glass bottle by melting it back into molten glass, is it still a bottle?

Man is a living soul:  A body fashioned from the dust of the earth, combined with the breath of life which comes from God (Gen 2:7).  Man has his existence only by the combination of these two elements, and man is destroyed by the separation of these two elements.  The body is consumed and returns to the natural elements it was fashioned from, the breath of life returns to God (Eccl 12:7), and the man (the combination of the two) is destroyed.  He is NOWHERE.  He ceases to be as it was before he was born. Please see also our chapter What is Man.
Ps 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth    
Ps 37:10 For a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be    
Ps 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away    
Ps 37:35,36 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found    
Ps 104:35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more    
Ps 59:13 Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be    
Ps 145:20 The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy    
Ps 21:8-9 Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them    
Ps 92:7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever    
Isa 1:28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed    
Isa 41:11-12 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be consumed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that way against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought    
Mal 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch    
Prov 12:7 The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand    
Job 20:4-9 Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?' He will fly away like a dream, and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night. The eye which saw him will see him no more, nor will his place any more behold him    
2 Cor 1:9-10 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;     In every case, Paul makes clear the penalty for sin.  Why does he never mention hell?  The wages of sin is not hell, but death, the end of sin is death, and sin reigns unto death.  

If the price for sin was eternal torment in hell then why use language that would clearly confuse the issue?
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.    
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.    
Rom 6:21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death    
Rom 5:21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.    
Rom 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.     'Not so' says the advocate of eternal torment: ' Those who do such things are worthy of 'hell'' not death as Paul so clearly says. 
2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.     In each case, 'perish' must be read as 'torment eternally in hell' in order to maintain the traditional doctrine of eternal torment.
2 Cor 2:15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:    
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.    
Luke 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.    
1 Thes 5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.     Again these verses are clear and require no explanation.  The end of the wicked is to be their destruction.  If 'eternal torment' was what was meant, then why use language that would clearly confuse the reader?

In every case in this section the advocate of eternal torment is forced to read the language in a way that goes contrary to its natural and plain meaning.

2 Pet 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;    
1 Cor 15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.    
Acts 3:23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people    
Luke 17:29-30 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.    
Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.    
James 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?    
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;    
2 Thes 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming    
Matt 10:28 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.    
2 Pet 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.    
2 Thes 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power    
Phil 3:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.    
Rom 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction    
Matt 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat    
 
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