- 1 Summary
- 2 Endorsements
- 3 Concepts
- 3.1 Creation of Hell
- 3.2 Damnation
- 3.3 Purification
- 4 FAQ
- 4.1 Death
- 4.2 Eternal
- 4.2.1 Is the word “eternal” properly translated?
- 4.2.2 Isn’t punishment eternal (Matthew 25:46)?
- 4.2.3 Isn’t death eternal?
- 4.2.4 Isn’t destruction eternal (II Thessalonians 1:9)?
- 4.2.5 Isn’t shame eternal (Daniel 12:2)?
- 4.2.6 How can total restoration be true if the devil burns forever (Revelation 14:11; 20:10)?
- 4.3 Justice & Forgiveness
- 4.3.1 How could a good God send people to Hell?
- 4.3.2 Shouldn’t sin against an infinite God warrant infinite torment?
- 4.3.3 What happens to those who never heard of Jesus?
- 4.3.4 How’s it fair that the evilest can “accept Jesus” and escape hell?
- 4.3.5 How can everyone be saved if some sins aren’t forgivable (Matthew 12:32)?
- 4.3.6 Why would those in rebellion be let out of hell?
- 4.3.7 How can a person pay in jail (Matthew 5:26)?
- 4.3.8 How can people be forgiven if after death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27)?
- 4.3.9 What are meritorious, congruous, mortal, and venial sins?
- 4.3.10 What are indulgences?
- 4.4 Presence of God
- 4.5 Church History
- 4.5.1 What was Gehenna originally referring to in the beginning?
- 4.5.2 What did the church fathers before 150AD believe?
- 4.5.3 When did eternal damnation enter the church?
- 4.5.4 Why would God allow so many to believe in eternal damnation if it was wrong?
- 4.5.5 Wasn’t apocatastatis condemned in a council?
- 4.5.6 Isn’t progressive revelation why eternal damnation isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament?
- 4.6 Other Hell Belief Systems
- 4.7 I Peter 4:6
- 4.8 I Peter 3:19
- 4.9 II Peter 3:9
- 4.10 I Corinthians 15:22
- 4.11 Other
Hell is a real place of intense pain: the punishment for our sins (II Peter 2:9) and correction for a second chance at hearing the Gospel (I Peter 4:6) to “get out” and live for Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:22,26). As opposed to eternal damnation, the first 5 centuries of Christianity and what the Jews have always taught is called total restoration, total reconciliation, or apocatastasis. Just as “all” men die, “all” shall willingly swear allegiance to Jesus and live (I Corinthians 15:22; Isaiah 45:23), for every tongue “under the earth” that confesses “Jesus is Lord” will be saved (Philippians 2:10-11; Romans 10:9). You may have been taught that God gives up on you after you die, but Scripture teaches that God is with you in hell (Psalms 139:7-8) and that He isn’t the kind of person to ever leave or forsake anyone (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus wills [boulomenos] no one to perish (II Peter 3:9), and no one can escape His will [boulemati] (Romans 9:19; Isaiah 46:10).
All agree hell is a place of pain and punishment. Catholics and Orthodox believe in purification. Jews, Greek Orthodox, modern sites (BibleHub, Rethinking Hell, Patheos, etc.), the earliest church leaders, and 4/6 theological schools (150-550 AD) believe in temporary damnation, including Didymus, Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore of Mopsuetia, and Olnmpiodorus:
- Clement of Alexandria (150AD): “God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary (in Hades) leading to conversions, and choosing rather the repentance than the death…
- Theophilus (168AD): “He did not suffer him to continue being in sin forever…having punishment expiated within an appointed time…he should afterwards be recalled…”
- Origen of Alexandria (184AD): He is one of the largest proponents of Apocatastasis (Acts 3:21) who actively fought Gnosticism (I Timothy 6:20) and defended the Trinity.
Creation of Hell
Hell is actually Gehenna + the lake of fire.
Many have been taught that you either go to heaven or hell when you die, but the word “hell” isn’t in the original Greek New Testament. It’s derived from the Old English pagan word “hel” around 725 AD. Instead, Jesus talked about Gehenna (Matthew 5:22), originally Geennan or Geenes. All Christians equate Gehenna with Hades (Luke 16:23), and Paul equates Hades with Sheol (Acts 2:27; Psalms 16:10). Jesus equates Gehenna with “prison” (Matthew 5:22,25). Tartarus is most likely a part of Gehenna (II Peter 2:4). After Judgment Day, Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Both Gehenna and the lake of fire, though, have the same purpose.
Hell is literally inside the earth.
The phrase “under the earth” describes where hell is located (Philippians 2:10; Revelation 5:3,13). Moses said that Sheol is located by opening the ground (Numbers 16:30-33).
The ruler of hell is Abaddon.
Hell is a place of intense pain.
Most all theologians agree that hell is the worst place imaginable, and you wouldn’t want to spend a single second there. There is no order and very little light (Job 10:22). Gehenna is a place where the worms and fires afflicting you do not end (Mark 9:48). There will be weeping and agonizing gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42). The lake of fire is literally that. It feels worse than 3rd-degree sulfuric burns (Revelation 20:10). Christians should understand that whatever our views on the length or nature of hell, no one is saying that hell should be downplayed.
Hell is a place of punishment.
In God’s first covenant with humanity, He said that a person’s punishment for his sins is equivalent to the measure of evil he caused on another (Leviticus 24:17-21). God will pay for your sins if you accept Jesus in faith (Romans 3:25); but otherwise, you’ll have to pay for it yourself in a spiritual prison, not a penny more or less (Matthew 5:25-26). The degree of your pain is based on your understanding of God (Luke 12:47-48).
Hell is a prison.
Hell is also a place to safeguard the good from the bad (Matthew 5:25; I Peter 3:19). Like earthly prisons, society can only function if bad people are temporarily placed in a separate place for punishment (II Peter 2:9) and reform (I Peter 4:6).
Hell is for those who don’t obey Jesus.
God knows the only way to have a loving society is with people who confess all known sins (I John 1:9), forgive everything (Matthew 6:14-15), and reconcile with everyone (Matthew 5:23-24,25). Hell is for those who know what’s right but deliberately choose to sin out of pain or pride (Hebrews 10:26-27). Accepting Jesus as Lord and obeying Him is the only way to escape hell (Matthew 7:21) because otherwise we’d only be serving our feelings, not God’s law (Matthew 7:23).
Those you harmed will send you to hell.
Although God is our Judge (Hebrews 12:23), it is actually those you hurt who’ll be sending you to hell (Matthew 5:25). It’s like the court system: someone must accuse someone to be sent to jail. Hell is for those people who know they hurt someone but refuse to reconcile with them out of pain or pride (Matthew 5:22,23-24).
Most go to hell.
Damnation is so all will be under God’s control.
Although Christ is all (Colossians 3:11), God is patiently enduring the evil free will of many (Romans 9:22). The last evil is death (I Corinthians 15:26) which will be thrown in hell (Revelation 20:14) and abolished (I Corinthians 15:55) on Judgment Day: the day God judges all people as good or evil (Matthew 25:32; Matthew 12:36; James 1:12). On that day, every evil spirit will be subjugated (I Corinthians 15:24), and everything will be under the control of the Father (I Corinthians 15:27-28).
Jesus is always with you in hell.
Many have been taught that hell is the absence of God, “but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). There is no place that you can run from the Spirit of God and that includes Sheol, what we call hell (Psalms 139:7-8). Jesus Himself will be preaching to those in hell (I Peter 3:18-19; I Peter 4:5-6). This is because death, hell, and our own choices (included in “all of creation”) cannot separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
Time in hell is temporary, not endless.
Similar to purgatory, God actually provides a way for you to be saved through fire (I Corinthians 3:15; Isaiah 22:14). Jesus literally says that you can “get out” of hell once you’ve paid for, or atoned for, your sins (Matthew 5:22,26; Luke 12:59). He also said a person’s time in hell is temporary, based on how much he has sinned (Matthew 18:34). Job asks to be sent to hell for an appointed time, not forever (Job 14:13).
Every spirit in hell will repent.
Those “under the earth” shall bow to Jesus and confess He is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11; Romans 10:9). This confession is not out of a desire for less pain, as we know the fires in hell are eternal (Matthew 25:41). It’s not a forced confession because God doesn’t force anything (I Peter 5:2). This knee bowing is a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy that literally “every tongue” shall swear allegiance to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 45:23). One day, “every tongue” shall confess praise to God (Romans 14:11), and this praise proves that they are “from God” (I John 4:2-3).
Every spirit in hell will be saved.
God has mercy on all (Romans 11:32), and God’s mercy always leads to salvation (Romans 11:30-31; Titus 3:5). Peter, the first pope, literally says that God preaches to the spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19), the same prison of hell (Matthew 5:22,25-26), because they did not obey in their earthly life (I Peter 3:20). The reason “why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead” is that “they might live in the spirit” (I Peter 4:6), because God saves even those who don’t believe in their first life (I Timothy 4:10; Catholic verse: 2 Maccabees 12:45). Those banished from God’s presence won’t be an outcast forever (II Samuel 14:14). The demons roaming in heaven (Job 1:6-7) aren’t reconciled to God right now, but they will be one day, ensuring peace for all those demonic spirits and rebellious humans (Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:10).
All spirits will eventually live in heaven.
There is a difference between the body, soul, and spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23). Our physical bodies are destroyed once (Hebrews 9:27), and our souls’ “second death” happens in Hades or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14; II Peter 3:7). Jesus wills, though, [boulomenos] no one to perish (II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:4), and no one can escape His will [boulemati] (Romans 9:19; Isaiah 46:10). Because of this will, Jesus preaches to those lost in Hades so that each spirit might live (I Peter 3:18-19; I Peter 4:5-6) and be returned back to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In the same way that all men die, whether or not they choose Christ in their earthly life, “shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22). This is because Jesus owns all things (Hebrews 1:2), and all things given to Him shall have eternal life (John 17:2).
Purification is so God can become “all in all.”
All of this is for the purpose of God becoming “all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:23); and, because Christ is literally everything (Colossians 3:11), it’s impossible for part of Him to be eternally damned. Instead, every being and place will be filled with the love of God (Ephesians 3:18-19).
What is death?
The Bible uses many different words for death:
- “Apothanein” is the physical body’s inability to recover to an alive state (Matthew 9:24).
- “Thanatos” is the act of killing another (Luke 21:16; I Peter 3:18; I Corinthians 15:26).
- “Sleep” is a soul disconnected from his physical body (Matthew 9:24; I Corinthians 15:51). This state is neither alive nor apothanein.
- “Nekrois” is a soul disconnected from the Spirit of God, either alive or sleeping (Ephesians 2:1-2; Luke 9:60; Hebrews 9:17).
- Eteleutēsen refers to those who recently have apothanein (Matthew 9:18; Matthew 2:19).
- Destruction [katargēsē] is about nullifying or severing power (Galatians 5:4), not thanatos.
- Perishing [apolētai] is about losing something valuable or glorious (Luke 15:8; John 3:16), not annihilation or thanatos, because it’s used in conjunction with “finding” (Luke 15:24). Perishing can be used to refer to the act of dying (Romans 2:12; Mark 4:38).
- Ruin [olethron] is about taking something which is good and turning it bad (I Thessalonians 5:3; I Corinthians 5:5), not katargese or thanatos.
What happens immediately after death?
Your soul immediately gets judged (Hebrews 9:27) to either paradise (Luke 23:43) or Hades (Revelation 20:13). While some believe in “soul sleep,” the belief that the soul is unconscious until Judgment Day, there are no examples of this in the Bible. Instead, people immediately go to Hades or paradise (Luke 16:22-23).
Can spirits die or be destroyed?
Although the body and soul can die and be destroyed (Matthew 10:28), nowhere in the Bible does it say a spirit can die or be destroyed. Our spirit literally is the breath of life (Isaiah 57:16; Job 33:4), coming from God. Nothing of God can be destroyed because He is immortal (Romans 16:26).
Do we die once (Hebrews 9:27) or twice (Revelation 20:14)?
Hebrews 9:27 uses apothanein for death, while Revelation 20:14 uses thanatos for death. See the other FAQ that explains the difference. Our physical body dies once, but God reconnects those souls to their spirits who were in Hades to be judged on Judgment Day; but, if they are condemned, they are killed again, separating their soul and spirit.
What can people do when they’re dead?
There is “no work or [reasoning] or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol” (Ecclesiastes 9:10), but people are aware of their earthly life and can speak (Luke 16:23-24; Isaiah 14:9-10). Reasoning, knowledge, and wisdom is given in the context of learning new things for doing in their earthly life (Ecclesiastes 9:1,9). This won’t happen in hell, but they are given the choice to repent of their rebellion (I Peter 4:6).
Can I pray for the dead?
Praying for the dead makes sense, but don’t pray that they won’t be in pain or will have peace, for that is the main reason they are there. Prayers for the dead are meant to help them accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I Peter 4:6).
How should I view near-death experiences (NDEs)?
Many have claimed to have died and gone to hell. These near-death experiences (NDEs) are not biblical, so should be taken lightly. Nonetheless, we believe it’s important to consider the fact that many people claim that Jesus rescued them from the place they deserve after they called out to Him (see video 3:05). An atheist (1:14) went to a place like purgatory and came back to become a Catholic Reverend. There are many other Protestant examples of NDEs, too.
Is the word “eternal” properly translated?
Eternal [aionios] can’t mean an “endless amount of time” because Christ’s secret was only kept for long ages [aionios] (Romans 16:25), the demon’s chains were not kept on forever (Jude 1:6), and Sodom and Gomorrah’s fires stopped burning (Jude 1:7). Eternal also describes God (Romans 16:26; Revelation 22:13), yet God created time (II Peter 3:8; John 1:3). A more accurate concept to describe what “eternal” means is to think of a video game simulation. We as the creators can speed up or slow down time for the game agents, for what they perceive as an “endless amount of time” (II Peter 3:8), but their “time” is not reality’s time. “Eternal” can simulate an “end of time” or “long ages” (Romans 16:25; Luke 18:30) or refer to the nature of God (Romans 16:26), depending on the context.
Isn’t punishment eternal (Matthew 25:46)?
See the meaning of eternal. The words “go away,” “into,” and “to” tell us that “eternal punishment” and “eternal life” are locations or eras, not the status of a person (Luke 18:30). A literal reading of the sentence means that the location is a place where punishment does not end, as shown 5 verses earlier (Matthew 25:41).
Isn’t death eternal?
Isn’t destruction eternal (II Thessalonians 1:9)?
Isn’t shame eternal (Daniel 12:2)?
See the meaning of eternal. Shame and contempt will be eternal for those who had to accept Jesus after being punished, in the same way a divorced, adulterous man eternally will be known as not being faithful.
How can total restoration be true if the devil burns forever (Revelation 14:11; 20:10)?
See the meaning of eternal. The devil and his 2 partners are beings who really knew the Spirit in full but still rejected Him; so their sins will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:32). The devil was a murderer and sinner from the beginning, a being without a hint of truth (John 8:44; I John 3:8; Matthew 13:38). Although the devil will not be forgiven, it’s important to remember that a being’s time in hell is temporary, based on how much he has to pay (Matthew 5:26; Matthew 18:34); so, even the devil will get out of hell once he accepts Jesus as Lord (I Peter 4:6). See the meaning of eternal. The “eternity” mentioned in Revelation 20:10 is talking about a very long time, not an “endless amount of time.”
Justice & Forgiveness
How could a good God send people to Hell?
A “good” God by definition would create a painless society because any amount of pain in that society would cause the people to think their God was bad (Revelation 21:4). People cause pain, and the only way to get people to stop doing bad is to discipline them (Hebrews 12:11). Many argue that hell is too much discipline for sin, yet God knows the bare minimum amount of pain needed to both account for their evil (Leviticus 24:19-20) and cause them to turn from hurting others (Luke 12:48). No lighter system on earth has ever been able to eradicate pain (Job 40:2,8); therefore, hell is the only answer.
Shouldn’t sin against an infinite God warrant infinite torment?
The Old Covenant says that punishment should be equal to the amount of injury caused: an “eye for an eye” (Leviticus 24:19-20). It doesn’t say that the punishment should be equal to the righteousness of the man or of God. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and He is lowly in spirit (Isaiah 57:15; Philippians 2:3,5).
What happens to those who never heard of Jesus?
For those who don’t have the laws of God, if they do what the law says, they are saved (Romans 2:14). This depends on their conflicting thoughts, which will accuse or pardon the (Romans 2:15) on Judgment Day (Romans 2:16).
How’s it fair that the evilest can “accept Jesus” and escape hell?
Sometimes we see serial killers, rapists, and murderers as worse than us, yet “no one is righteous” (Romans 3:10). Because no one seeks God (Romans 3:11) without Him intervening (Romans 9:16), even our anger would eventually turn into murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Therefore, your sin is no lighter than the evilest because all sin falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), a glory that is in every way perfect (Matthew 5:48).
How can everyone be saved if some sins aren’t forgivable (Matthew 12:32)?
Salvation comes only by believing in Jesus (John 14:6), whether our sins our paid via Jesus’ death or torture in hell. This means that people can be saved after their sins weren’t forgiven because God preaches to them in hell (I Peter 4:6). Moreover, while some believe the unpardonable sin is not having faith in Jesus before you die, Jesus literally says you can disbelieve Him and be forgiven of this (Matthew 12:32). Saying that the Holy Spirit is evil or unclean (Mark 3:29-30) is gravely unforgivable, yet Jesus didn’t condemn the Pharisees of this because the Pharisees didn’t even believe Jesus had the Holy Spirit, and Jesus did not judge in His earthly life (John 8:15). Humans can’t even sin in this way, besides some Old Testament prophets, because one can’t “speak against” someone if he has not met him (I Corinthians 13:12). Humanity has met Jesus but not the Holy Spirit yet.
Why would those in rebellion be let out of hell?
Those currently in rebellion cannot leave hell (Matthew 5:26), but many have wrongly been taught that those in hell are in a constant state of rebellion. Not only does the Bible never say this, it says the exact opposite: that eventually “every tongue shall swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11).
How can a person pay in jail (Matthew 5:26)?
Some say hell is eternal because when Jesus said we can pay for our sins in the jail of Hades, the implicit meaning is that it’s impossible (Matthew 18:34; Matthew 5:22,26). The context of the payment of Matthew 18:34 was not implicit: Jesus said the literal payment for the servant’s debt came by being sold (Matthew 18:25). The context of being sold is hell (Matthew 18:34). Forgiveness is given to those who forgive, but to those who don’t they are still held accountable to the Old Covenant (Romans 1:20; Romans 3:19). The Old Covenant says the way to pay for one’s sins comes through torture, torture equal to the amount of pain they caused, not “eternal torture”: an “eye for an eye” (Leviticus 24:19-20).
How can people be forgiven if after death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27)?
After death, people are condemned to hell, pay for their sins (Matthew 5:26), and eventually accept the Gospel (I Peter 4:6).
What are meritorious, congruous, mortal, and venial sins?
We agree that there are 2 categories of sin: mortal and venial (I John 5:16), based on the intent of the sin (I John 5:18). If the Catholics believe meritorious congruous works are required to skip purgatory, we disagree with that, as going to Hades is solely about choosing to disobey God or not (I John 3:7; Hebrews 10:26).
What are indulgences?
Some believe you can earn your way out of hell, but this is false. Some people spend more time in hell than others (Luke 12:48), yet the Bible never says you can pay your way out. The only way to reduce your time in hell is to more deeply determine if you really forgave (Matthew 6:14) and repented of all sin (I John 1:9). Any biblical examples of people being punished for their earthly sins is an example of reaping what they sow (Galatians 6:8), but it does not reflect how well their soul was purged of evil (Titus 3:5).
Presence of God
Are those in hell away from Jesus (II Thessalonians 1:9)?
Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you (Psalms 139:7-8; Hebrews 13:5). The Greek translation of “away from” in many footnotes translates it as “comes from.” Looking to the Greek word “apo,” it can mean either one. Even if it means “away from,” it must be talking only about the Rapture because of II Thessalonians 1:10, and we know Jesus will be preaching to those in Hades (I Peter 3:18-19; I Peter 4:5-6). Alternatively, it means the punishment “comes from the presence of the Lord,” more directly denoting He is still with you.
Doesn’t Jesus leave those who don’t want Him?
What was Gehenna originally referring to in the beginning?
Jesus often uses the word “Gehenna” to refer to hell (Matthew 5:22), and most scholars agree that Gehenna refers to the Valley of Hinnom where constantly putting trash meant the fire never went out. This gives evidence that hell was known as a place of eternal fire, not the state of a person being thrown in there being eternal (Jude 1:7).
What did the church fathers before 150AD believe?
Concepts such as eternal damnation or purification were not written about at this point, as the main focus of the early church was spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and combating more important threats such as Gnosticism or anti-Trinity views. It’s impossible to say what they believed, but we can analyze the earliest known texts:
- Ignatius of Antioch (150AD)–depart into unquenchable fire: We agree that the fires are eternal in the sense that they don’t stop (Jude 1:7).
- Clement of Alexandria (150AD): “God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary (in Hades) leading to conversions, and choosing rather the repentance than the death…
- Justin Martyr (151AD)
- Polycarp (155AD)–eternal and unquenchable fire: We agree that the fires are eternal in the sense that they don’t stop (Jude 1:7).
When did eternal damnation enter the church?
Although there were 4 schools that taught total restoration, the Latin (West) North African Tertullian (160–220 A.D.) was the only person at the time to teach it, mainly because he couldn’t stand the thought of reconciling with those who disagreed with him (Matthew 5:24-25). He laughed at his opponent’s suffering in hell. St. Augustine of Hippo popularized it around 354-430 A.D., yet he openly said he hated studying Greek, probably not understanding the 8 different words used to describe death nor the biblical meaning of “aionios” as “long ages” (Romans 16:25-26). They taught unborn babies deserve hell, yet this is irrational as sin is knowing you are disobeying (I Corinthians 15:56).
Why would God allow so many to believe in eternal damnation if it was wrong?
For about 1600 years from Moses to Jesus, all Jews believed eternal damnation was a heresy, and the truth is total reconciliation. Either way, God allowed a big lie to proliferate in His people because He allows sinners to sin (Psalms 1:1). In addition, eternal damnation is technically true for those who never believe in Jesus (John 14:6), but all will choose Him (I Peter 4:6; Romans 14:11) besides the unholy trinity (Revelation 20:10). Also, maybe people would take advantage of knowing they can believe later (Galatians 5:13) and would not properly respect God’s hell. He may have first wanted people to understand how grave it is to disobey God and how terrible the punishment will be.
Wasn’t apocatastatis condemned in a council?
There is currently a debate as to whether apocatastatis and Origen were condemned or not in the Second Council of Constantinople. It’s first worth noting that if you are a Protestant or don’t rely on the authority of others, it doesn’t matter what they said because we believe in sola Scriptura. If you are Catholic or Orthodox, note that most likely the condemnation of Origen was forged primarily by Emperor Justinian in an attempt to control 5th-century political power, some historians don’t believe Origen was condemned in the first place, and its authority as a true council is being questioned.
Isn’t progressive revelation why eternal damnation isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament?
Progress revelation in the Bible is only about justice and salvation because God wanted to first show why justice is faulty (Hebrews 8:7) when compared to mercy (James 2:13). There is no logical reason why God would keep eternal torment from the people of the Old Testament; in fact, God would have more reason to tell them because the Old Covenant was a system of punishment (II Corinthians 3:9), just like hell.
Other Hell Belief Systems
Because metaphors are there to help us understand something more complex (John 3:12), the implication is the real thing must be even worse, not better. For example, ripping out your eye is better than living a life of sin (Matthew 5:29). Most would agree, though, that annihilationism is better than hell, so it’s more likely that hell is a literal place where people burn. Also, unlike most of Jesus’ unexplained metaphors which use a singular example, with hell there is many: worms, fire (Mark 9:48), weeping, and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42). It’s unlikely that this is the only case of a multi-object metaphor.
The typical foundation of universalism that all religions lead to God is false. All religions, even some forms of Christianity, will lead you to hell because they ignore submission to Jesus Christ. Truths of Jesus can be found in all religions, but only by accepting Jesus can you go to heaven (John 14:6). It is true that all of Hades will eventually praise Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:10) because Jesus will be preaching to them (I Peter 3:18-19; I Peter 4:5-6). “Universal Salvation,” then, is true if they accept that people can “get out” of hell (Matthew 5:26) but false if they don’t accept Jesus (John 14:6).
No because “destruction” is katargēsē (Galatians 5:4), defined as nullifying or severing power, but this severing doesn’t mean that the person ceases to exist: it’s talking about severing the body from the soul (Matthew 10:28). The metaphors commonly used (Malachi 4:1,3) are talking about the destruction of power, not the life (Malachi 4:6).
Yes, conditional immortality is true: that without the tree of life, immortality cannot be achieved (Genesis 3:22; Revelation 2:7), giving further evidence to the fact that one’s time in hell is temporary (Matthew 5:26; Matthew 18:34). There is no biblical support that any soul can or has achieved immortality without the tree (known as universal immortality), and we know that those in hell don’t eat of the tree’s fruit (Revelation 22:19). Immortality is given only through the Gospel (II Timothy 1:10).
Temporary resting place
We generally agree that most of purgatory is similar to what we see as Hades, such as the purification aspect (I Corinthians 3:15), although we may disagree on who goes to purgatory and do disagree that some souls are eternally damned. We do not believe purgatory is a part of heaven, because suffering only happens in Hades, which is under the earth (Numbers 16:30-33).
I Peter 4:6
Is the Gospel preached to the physically dead or just spiritually (I Peter 4:6)?
“Spiritually dead” is an oxymoron because a spirit cannot die, being of God (Isaiah 57:16; Romans 16:26). While “nekrois” can be used to refer either to those alive without God’s Spirit (Ephesians 2:1-2) or sleeping dead without God’s Spirit (II Corinthians 1:9), the previous verse uses the phrase “living and the nekrous” (I Peter 4:5), which elsewhere is used to signifying when nekrōn is referring to the sleeping dead (Acts 10:41-42). The word “even” signifies that the intended audience is not only the obvious physically alive but also physically dead.
Isn’t I Peter 4:6 talking about those who recently died?
Some say the dead in I Peter 4:6 is talking about those “now” dead because of the dispersion, but the verse says “nekrois euēngelisthē.” “Nekrois” never means “recently or now dead”: it always means “currently dead” (Hebrews 9:17). “Recently dead” always uses the word eteleutēsen (Matthew 9:18). The main reason I Peter was written is that the elect was not fully following the Gospel of having a renewed heart (I Peter 2:1; 3:9,12), not even understanding what baptism really is about (I Peter 3:21). It’s impossible to say that the preaching was to the alive and that’s why they live in the Spirit for the alive were given this letter because they were so uncontrolled that their prayers weren’t even answered (I Peter 3:12; 4:7). Therefore, Peter is reminding them that even though the evil maligned them (I Peter 4:4) and many die failing to love their persecutors, God doesn’t give up on them (I Peter 4:6; Psalms 139:7-8).
Isn’t the preaching of I Peter 4:6 once in the past?
Some say the aorist euēngelisthē means it happened once in the past, but most scholars of aorist tense agree that it gives an undefined impression. Even so, past preaching to the dead doesn’t negate future preaching to the dead.
I Peter 3:19
Are the “spirits in prison” physically alive or dead (I Peter 3:19)?
- The immediate context of this verse is physical death (I Peter 3:18).
- Although spirits are prisoners to Satan (Isaiah 14:17; Hebrews 2:14-15), the word “prison” [phylakēn] always is a place, either physically (Matthew 14:3) or spiritually (Matthew 5:22,25), never a people group. Therefore, we can deduce this prison is Hades because spirits can’t be held by physical prisons.
- If this was talking about alive spiritual imprisonment, the word synekleisen would’ve been used (Galatians 3:22-23).
Was God preaching the Gospel or proclaiming victory to the imprisoned spirits (I Peter 3:19)?
Proclaiming victory is about the death of those spirits, but the context is the Gospel’s life-giving power. Peter wanted the dispersed to share in the defense of the gospel (I Peter 3:15) through their suffering (I Peter 3:17) in the same way Christ’s suffering led Him to preach to those spiritual imprisoned (I Peter 3:18-19). The reason why sharing through suffering logically makes sense is because just as the Flood saved the earth, so too baptism “now saves you” (I Peter 3:20-21), via a shared death and resurrection (Romans 6:3,5). We further know that the context is about saving not boasting because Peter says that Christ already subjugated these spirits, winning them over (I Peter 3:22; Ephesians 6:12).
Was Christ preaching through Noah (I Peter 3:19)?
See our other explanation on “spirits in prison.”
II Peter 3:9
Will God allow anyone to perish (II Peter 3:9)?
No, because Jesus wills [boulomenos] no one to perish (II Peter 3:9), and no one can escape His will [boulemati] (Romans 9:19). Some say this “will” is more like a “want” or “wish”; but even in this case, still no one can resist Jesus’ purpose (Isaiah 46:10). Some believe “perish” is a synonym for death, but this is impossible because it’s used to refer to a lost coin (Luke 15:8). When the Bible says a person perished (Jude 1:11; I Corinthians 1:18), it’s talking about their glory (I Corinthians 9:25; 15:42), not their life (Luke 15:24). Jesus is saying that His will is that no one gets lost from His presence, because not only do we share glory (John 17:22), He wills to never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).
Isn’t the promise of not perishing only for the elect (II Peter 3:9)?
Some say the promise is only for the elect because of the word “you,” referencing the audience of this letter (II Peter 3:1), but the context is Peter showing the scoffers (II Peter 3:3) that the delay in the promise (II Peter 3:4) is due to God being patient with their sins, willing all to repentance (II Peter 3:9). This shows us that the “you” is not just the beloved nor arbitrarily “more” people but the scoffers and literally “all” people.
I Corinthians 15:22
Isn’t only those “in Christ” will be made alive (I Corinthians 15:22)?
In the same way there are no exceptions to those “in Adam” dying a mortal death, it is true with those who’ll live. The word “as” shows us that the first clause is like the second; so, the second “all” means” that for everyone who died, they shall be made alive through Christ’s power. “In” is referring to power; just as “in adam” we inherited a sinful nature (Romans 5:12), so “in Christ” we’ll inherit a spiritual nature (Romans 5:17). This use of the word “all” is used again in Romans 5:18: “justification and life for all men.”
Aren’t they alive in hell (I Corinthians 15:22)?
Everyone in hell is “dead,” as shown in the previous verse (I Corinthians 15:21). It’s previous verse clarifies “dead” is those “fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20). The phrase “will be made alive” is zōopoiēthēsontai, which always refers to eternal life in Christ (Romans 8:11; I Peter 3:18).
Can a person in heaven go to hell?
There are currently beings in heaven in rebellion against God (Colossians 1:20), and God doesn’t take our free will away, as the freewill offering was a prototype of heavenly practices (Exodus 35:29). This means that just like angels rebelled and became demons before the Curse, so this will likely continue for eternity because outside of the Pearly Gates are all kinds of evil (Revelation 22:14-15). Therefore, if they choose to stay in rebellion, it’s likely their name will be taken out of the book of life (Exodus 32:33). If a Christian truly conquers instead of just being lazy or selfish (Matthew 7:21; Revelation 3:16), only then will his name securely be confessed before the Father (Revelation 3:5) because his faith from grace was proven (James 2:22).
How does total restoration better show the glory of God?
- Justice–It’s not just to punish someone based on who the crime was done against (Leviticus 24:19-20).
- Mercy–Mercy always shows God’s glory more than justice (James 2:13; Romans 11:32).
- Life–Life has more glory than death (Romans 8:2; I Corinthians 15:55).
- Faith–Believing in humanity has more glory than giving up (I Corinthians 13:7; Hebrews 13:5).
- Love–Saving someone shows more love than leaving them to their own evil (Romans 5:8).
- God’s Will–If His will is that none should perish (II Peter 3:9), then the most glorious thing is when that happens (I Corinthians 15:22).