Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“Forever Fires”

Categories: HEAVEN & HELL
     So, I have a question about hell.  A preacher at a congregation is saying that through his studies, he is starting to believe that hell is not the traditional "fire and brimstone" that Christians think, but instead, it might just be "death of the person's spirit".  I haven't gotten a chance to ask him for the verses that he says support his belief (he did mention Isaiah).  He believes people have been leaving out these verses over the years.  I am pretty sure what I believe about hell – that there is an eternal punishment – considering I have been praying over the subject and studying; also, I thought that Matthew 25 and the parable of the sheep and goats was a very good answer to the question of what hell is.  Anyways, I was wondering if you have heard this argument before and might know what verses he is referencing; also, I would love to hear your opinion and any other verses concerning hell that you might have.

Hesitant About Heat

Dear Hesitant About Heat,

There are several very clear texts that deal with what happens to lost souls when they die.  Mk 9:47-49 says that hell is a place where “the worm never dies, and the fire is not quenched” – the exact opposite of annihilation.  Jesus also told the story of a rich man that died and went to torments (Lk 16:22-23).  In torments, the rich man was in constant burning anguish without relief (Lk 16:24).  Abraham told the rich man that he would remain in anguish and that there was a great gulf eternally fixed between those in Paradise and those in torments (Lk 16:25-26).  Four times in the book of Matthew, hell is described as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:12, Matt 22:13, Matt 24:51, and Matt 25:30).

In order to take an annihilation point of view, you would have to take every verse that deals with the torment, suffering, and pain associated with hell and somehow explain how they are all figurative… this includes the story of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16.  If the rich man didn’t literally descend into torments, then we must also say that faithful Lazarus wasn’t literally escorted into Paradise.  Taking that story as figurative cuts both directions.

The verses in Isaiah that are often referred to as “proof” of annihilation of the wicked are verses like Isa 26:14 and Isa 43:17.  However, these verses are taken out of context and deal with physical death (in which case, the person’s body does cease to have life – our physical bodies aren’t eternal).  The fact is that nobody talked about hell more than Jesus, and Jesus always talked about it as a physical place that was reserved for the wicked (Jude 1:13).  Yes, the wicked will be destroyed – their souls will forever be separated from God in a place of burning and pain.  Though some good brethren believe that hell is not an eternal location and that the wicked are destroyed at death, we don’t believe that this holds up to biblical scrutiny.