by Cody Francis
There may be no other subject in the Bible that has led to so much anxiety as the topic of hellfire. Many have been driven to despair and hopelessness contemplating a never ending torture chamber of fire. It can be hard for us to understand. How could a God of love torment sinners in hellfire forever? It does not seem consistent with His beneficent dealings with mankind. If the Bible tells us that this is indeed what a God of love does, we must accept it for the Bible is God’s inspired Word, but is this really what it says? What are the Bible facts on hell?
Hell is frequently thought of, and portrayed, as a blazing inferno manned by the devil himself. Is the devil really in charge of hell? Did God create the devil to be the overlord of hell? Is hell in the center of the earth, on some planet in the outer reaches of the universe, or somewhere else? Are there souls writhing in anguish there right now? What are the clear Bible facts on Hell?
Our God of Love
There is a fundamental truth that needs to be kept foremost in our minds with whatever it is that we may be studying. This is found in I John 4:8,16, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love…. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” John, dwelling upon his favorite theme, tells us unequivocally that God is love. God equals love. Everything that is true about love is true about God, for God is love. Everything that God has done, is doing or will do is because He loves us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
A simple glance at His dealings with mankind is sufficient to show us that everything that He does is because He loves us. God created a perfect, beautiful world because He loves us and wants us to be happy. When man fell, God provided a ransom, an escape through His own Son, Jesus. He commanded an ark to be built so that in His love He could save the faithful and still slow down the increase of sin. He called Abraham to another country because of His love. He has given us the Bible to study from because in His love, He wants to communicate with us. He has given us the Law of love, knowing that if we keep it we will be happier. He has sent Jesus to die for us and take our place that we might be reconciled to Him. Jesus has promised that He is coming back because He loves us and wants us to be with Him. Yes, there is no doubt that absolutely everything God does is because of His great love and mercy for us. In the 136th Psalm this is reiterated again and again. In each of the twenty-six verses is repeated, “for His mercy endureth for ever.” In all of God’s dealings with man, His love and mercy are exemplified. This is also true with the subject of hell. God’s love must clearly be seen in the punishment of the wicked, or else it would not be true that God is indeed a God of love.
It is possible, though, to take this to an extreme. There are some that have told me that since God is love, He will not punish the wicked, that God’s love would not do such a thing. This stems from a false belief of what true love is. God’s love is not the false sentimental feeling that is in the world today, but God’s love is a firm principle. Even though God is a God of love, He is also just. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” Psalms 97:2. “For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4. Justice is the foundation of His throne and there is no injustice in Him. God still must be just even though He is a God of love. It is only through Jesus’ sacrifice that He can be, “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. Justification comes only to the one who has faith in Jesus, and for those who refuse to fully accept and believe on Jesus, God can do no more. He has given all heaven in the gift of His Son, and if we are unwilling to follow Him, the only thing that can remain is, “a certain fearful expectation of judgment.” Hebrews 10:27. “The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” Numbers 14:18. The Lord is unquestionably longsuffering, merciful, full of love. Although He is all of these things, it is impossible for Him to forgive the unrepentant guilty. It would be inconsistent with the principles of His throne and government. He bears long with the children of men, calling them to repentance, but once His limit of love is reached, there is no other option but to execute judgment. And how true it is, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” For He says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” Hebrews 10:31, 30. There is no question about it, God is love, but His love will not excuse and pass over those who have rejected our Saviour.
Is Hell Going on Right Now?
Jesus himself gives us the answer, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:… Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:… And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46. Jesus is showing the separation that will occur at the Second Coming, and in so doing He answers very plainly that hell is not going on right now. It is not until He comes in His glory and sits on the throne of His glory that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. This obviously cannot be now, for He is on the throne of grace now. (See Hebrews 4:14-16).
At present no one is suffering from the flames of this fire. “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;” Jude 6. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” II Peter 2:9 KJV. “But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” II Pet. 3:7. Obviously from these verses none have been punished, not even the fallen angels are being punished right now. The fallen angels, the unjust, and the ungodly are all being reserved until the day of judgment and perdition.
All upon this earth who have died, are now sleeping in the graves until their respective resurrection. (For a detailed study on this subject see Steps to Life’s booklet, The Race to Contact the Dead.) Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” John 5:28, 29. It is not until the resurrection of condemnation that the wicked come forward to receive their punishment. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2. Those who awake at the first resurrection, the resurrection of life, will receive everlasting life, but those who awake at the second resurrection, the resurrection of condemnation, will receive shame and everlasting contempt. It only takes common sense to tell us that the wicked will not receive their punishment until this resurrection of condemnation, and since that has not happened yet, hell cannot be going on right now.
If hellfire were going on right now with the unrighteous souls soaring to a burning spirit world, this would be a mockery of God’s justice. Just think of the person who lived five thousand years ago. He was a very good person and all who knew him really loved him, but tragically there was just one little thing in his life that he loved more than God. He just could not seem to give up that one thing. God gave him chances, but still he clung to this cherished idol. For this one thing in his life, that he valued more than Heaven, he lost his soul. (One thing is enough to bar us from eternal life. Jesus said to the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful, “One thing you lack.” Mark 10:17-22.) If hell were going on now, and a person went directly to hell at death, he would be burning for thousands of years. Then along comes a man like Adolph Hitler, a man responsible for the death of millions of innocent people, at his death he went to hell as well. That would mean that the man who only lacked one thing would be burning for five thousand years longer than one of the wickedest men who has ever lived. Is that justice? Absolutely not! God in his justice and mercy has not set up hell like that. Hell is not, and cannot be, going on now, for the wicked are not rewarded until after the second resurrection.
This fits perfectly into God’s great plan of justice. We know from Scripture that, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” II Corinthians 5:10. There is not one exempted from this judgment. Would it be fair to punish someone before they were judged? Absolutely not! That would be one of the most unjust things that could ever happen, and so God has ordained that the wicked are not punished until after they are judged. (See Revelation 20:11-15) Since this judgment of the wicked is still to come [Acts 24:25] there is no way that the wicked could be experiencing the pains of hell right now. It is not until after the resurrection of the unjust [Acts 24:15] and the judgment that the wicked will be punished for their works.
Where is Hell?
“And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched, they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Isaiah 66:24. The very last verse in Isaiah tells us that the righteous will go and look upon the wicked. Hell then has to be some place where the righteous will be able to see burning. This means that it could not be in the center of the earth, for there are no fireproof elevators to take a person down to look upon hell, then bring them back up again.
The heavens and earth are now being preserved until that time. “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. II Peter 3:7. The present heaven and earth are what is being reserved until the judgment day when this earth is cleansed by the unquenchable fires. Isaiah saw the same thing happening. “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. It streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch.” Isaiah 34:8, 9. Even the very streams and dust became a conflagration. Everything on this old earth bursts into flames and becomes a lake of fire.
By putting all these verses together the only conclusion that we can come to is that the fires of hell will actually be right here on this old earth. “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” At the second resurrection, all of the wicked are raised, (verse 5) the devil deceives them to make a final desperate attack upon the holy city, (verses 7, 8) the final, great white throne judgment takes place, (vs. 11-13) and God ends the sin problem by raining down fire from heaven (verse 9, 14, 15). The shower of fire is so strong that the entire earth becomes a “lake of fire and brimstone.” (verse 10) During this time, the righteous are preserved safely in the Holy City, just as Noah and his family were saved inside the ark. It is here on the battleground of the great controversy that sin will eventually be done away with. God has not created a place in the outer reaches of the universe to be a holding tank for sin, He is going to destroy it right here at the center of the rebellion.
How Long will the Wicked Suffer?
An exact answer to this is not given in the Bible, but we do know that each one is going to suffer according to his works. “Who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds Romans 2:6. Since God is a fair and just God, it only makes sense that each person will be rewarded according to the amount of light that they have had, and the use that they have made of that light. Jesus told a parable that teaches us this same thing. “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself, or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:46-48. All who have rejected light and done despite to the spirit of grace will be punished for the “wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. But there are those who are less guilty than others. In our justice system today there are degrees of punishment. The instigator of the crime receives a much heavier sentence than the one that reluctantly assisted. In God’s great judgment, all factors are likewise taken into consideration. There are some that have not had the opportunities and privileges that others have had. God will not require as much from them. In Jesus own words, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:24. Jesus did not say that Sodom would be acquitted of all its great wickedness. All that have continued to break God’s Holy Law will have a fearful account to render and in the end will receive the due punishment. But he did say that it was going to be better for Sodom than for the cities where a large portion of His ministry had been spent. Capernaum had the “light of the world” in their midst walking and working miracles among them, but still they refused to repent. Their privileges were much higher than Sodom’s and still they continued on the path of destruction. There is no doubt their punishment will be much more severe, for much was given to them, but they did not appreciate and accept the greater light. All who have turned their backs upon divine mercy will suffer the vengeance of hellfire, but some are going to suffer longer than others, and no doubt the devil will burn the longest of all.
The Example of Eternal Fire
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels&’ And these will go away into everlasting judgment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41, 46. Clearly the unrighteous will receive their punishment of everlasting fire. The Bible repeatedly describes hell using such terms as everlasting fire, unquenchable fire, forever and ever, etc. This has led many to conclude that hellfire will go on for the ceaseless ages of eternity, that the wicked will constantly be writhing in pain for billions and billions of years. It is true that at first glance the terms used to describe hell can appear to mean this, but we must go deeper than just the surface to find the true meaning of God’s Word.
In the Bible, we are given an example of what hell will be like. “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 7. God has frequently taught us what future events will be like by giving an example which occurred during the old covenant. Hellfire is just one example of this. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis, is not just an historical story, but an example of what will be in the future as well. We are told that Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as an example of eternal fire. The story is a familiar one; because of the great wickedness of the cities in the plain, God “rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.” Genesis 19:24. We are told that this was “eternal fire,” but are Sodom and Gomorrah still burning today? Of course not Everyone knows that the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah have gone out years ago. You cannot visit a site in the Middle East and have the tour guide tell you that it is the eternally burning fires of Sodom and Gomorrah. We don’t know exactly how long the fires burnt, but we do know that they finally went out. How then could it be eternal fire? The results were eternal. Never again have the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah been rebuilt. It was an eternally consuming fire. It consumed every last object and then, when there was nothing more to burn, the fires went out. “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making then an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;” II Peter 2:6. Peter adds the detail that Sodom and Gomorrah were turned into ashes. Ashes according the Webster’s New World Dictionary is defined as, “the substance remaining after a thing has been burned.” Ashes do not burn. Ashes are what is leftover after something has already been burned. It can clearly be seen from the Bible that Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning, but that “God destroyed the cities of the plain.” Genesis 19:29. Since Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of eternal fire, we can know that the eternal fires of hellfire will, likewise, not continue for the billions of years of eternity.
The Devouring Fire
All through out the Bible hellfire is described as a consuming, devouring fire. “You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them.” Psalms 21:9. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.” Psalms 50:3. “A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about.” Psalms 97:3 “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:27. “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” Revelation 20:9. The fire and judgment that burns the wicked is described as a devouring, consuming fire that burns up the wicked. If something is devoured, it obviously isn’t burning for ages. If something is consumed and burned up, it will not continue to burn, and this is actually the purpose of fire, to burn and devour what it is consuming. (See Judges 9:15, 20; Isaiah 9:18; 10:17; 33:11; Hosea 8:14; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 5:6; Nahum 3:13; Zechariah 11:1: 2:6.) And thus, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, hellfire will consume and devour all that is to be consumed, and then it will go out.
“For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29. The Lord whom we serve is described as a consuming fire. Sin is going to be consumed from His presence. He is holy and only holy beings can stand before Him. [Hebrews 12:14] We are either going to allow Him to consume the sin from our lives now, or if we cling to sin, we are going to be consumed by the fires of the last days.
The Punishment Everlasting
“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but he righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46. Jesus said that the devil, his angels and the wicked were going to experience punishment. Notice it didn’t say everlasting punishing; it says everlasting punishment. There is a difference. Everlasting punishing would be punishing that goes on and on, while everlasting punishment is punishment that does not last forever. That is, the results of the punishment are everlasting, not necessarily the punishing itself. Paul gives us more explanation on the subject. “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” II Thessalonians 1:8, 9. The punishment of destruction is what is everlasting, not the punishing of fire. The fire does its work and brings the result of everlasting destruction.
Immediately there are verses that come to our mind that make us wonder about what we have just started to discover. Doesn’t the Bible say that it will be unquenchable fire, and if the fire is unquenchable how could it devour and go out as Sodom and Gomorrah did? Yes, the Bible does say “fire that shall never be quenched,” Mark 9:43, but once again, what does that mean?
Again there is an example as to what unquenchable fire is. “But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. Jeremiah 17:27. The Lord had threatened Jerusalem, that if they refused to hallow the Sabbath, God’s holy day, God’s judgments would be poured upon it. The judgment threatened was that it would be burned with fire that was not going to be quenched. Once again that is the same wording as used to describe hell. [Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:42-48]. Tragically, Jerusalem did continue to disregard the Sabbath and the rest of God’s Law and it was burnt with fire. “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy….Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions.” II Chronicles 36:16, 19. Jerusalem was indeed burned with unquenchable fire when the Chaldeans destroyed the city and carried away the captives. Any geography or history student knows that Jerusalem is not still burning today. Just because it was called unquenchable fire does not mean that it was going to burn for billions upon billions of years. It simply meant that there was no one that would be able to quench, or put out the fire. It didn’t matter how hard the Jews or anyone tried, it was not going to be put out. You could have called all of the fire trucks and firemen in the world, but they would not have been able to put it out. God had decreed that it was going to be unquenchable fire–no one was going to be able to put it out, but once it had done its work and devoured, as fires always do, it was going to turn to ashes and go out.
Ezekiel talks about another fire that was not going to be quenched. “And say to the forest of the South, ‘Hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: Behold I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree and every dry tree in you; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.'” Ezekiel 20:47, 48. This prophecy given four or five years before Jerusalem was destroyed is probably referring to the forest of the South as the land of Judah. Once again it tells us that the fire will not be quenched, but it gives us more detail about unquenchable fire. He tells us that both the green and the dry trees are going to be devoured. Green trees do not usually burn very well, but not so in this fire. Everything was going to be consumed, whether it was normally combustible or not, it was all going to be devoured. The fire was going to be so consuming that all were going to know that the Lord was the one who had kindled it. So it shall be with the unquenchable fires of the last days. It will be known by all that it is the Lord’s doing and no one will be able to extinguish that fire. It will burn everything, whether it is normally combustible or not. It will do the work for which it was prepared–to devour. Once everything is devoured and there is nothing left to burn, though, it will go out, for there will be no more reason for it to continue.
Forever and Ever
“And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:11. We must remember that we use figures of speech in our language today and that there are figures of speech in the Bible as well. If someone said, “he really got out of bed on the wrong side today,” we would know that he was in a bad mood, not that it literally mattered what side of the bed he got out on. If we said that it was raining cats and dogs, and then literally interpreted that into another language, it would greatly surprise our foreign friend; but we would know that it only meant that it was raining very, very hard. It is the same way with the terms “eternal fire,” “everlasting fire,” “forever and ever.” To the Hebrew mind it is simply a figure of speech, not to be taken absolutely literally, that there will never be an end to the fires. Forever, in the Bible, can mean as long as a person is alive. We can see this illustrated in a couple of Old Testament passages. “Then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” Exodus 21:6. “But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever…. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.’ So they worshiped the Lord there.” I Samuel 1:22, 28. We see two clear examples in which forever simply meant as long as the person lived. The slave obviously could not serve his master after he had died, but it was still said that he would serve him forever. Hannah said that Samuel would serve in the temple forever, but then again she says that he would serve the Lord as long as he lived. “Forever” in the Bible can simply be a figure of speech meaning as long as a person lives. We even use this in our language today. If we are on a long trip, we might say it took us forever to get there. Taking it in its context we know that it just means it took a long time. The same is true with the smoke ascending forever. When we compare scripture with scripture it does not mean that the smoke will endlessly be ascending, but that it will take a long time and it will continue as long as there is something for the fire to burn.
Most of the pagan religions teach that the soul is immortal, and sadly enough this belief has crept into Christianity. The Bible teaches that God is the only one who has immortality. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” “Which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” I Timothy 1:17; 6:15,16. You can read every verse in the Bible and there is not one verse that intimates that the soul is immortal; it is only God who is immortal. Man does not receive the gift of immortality until the Second Coming and then it is only the righteous. (See I Corinthians 15:50-54.)
Instead of the Bible teaching an immortal soul, just the opposite is taught. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die…. The soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4, 20. This is so plain and unequivocal that there should be no room for controversy. The soul is not immortal; it can die. The belief that the soul cannot die was actually the first lie that the devil told, “You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:4. God had said, “You shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17. But tragically, Eve believed the devil’s subtle lie instead of God’s plain statement, and many more have followed her today.
Not only can the soul die, but Jesus said that both the soul and the body were going to die in hell. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. Once again, there is no room for controversy, it is too plain. The soul does not burn in anguish for the ceaseless ages of eternity–it is destroyed. If something is destroyed, it does not continue to exist. God in His justice cannot let the wicked go unpunished, but God in His mercy and love is not going to punish the wicked for billions and billions of years. Both the soul and the body are destroyed.
It has been asserted that because Jesus said that the worm does not die, the soul will not die. “And if your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched–where their ‘worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'” Mark 9:43, 44. Nowhere in the Bible is worm associated with the soul, and only in a few instances is it referred to as a human, and there only denoting the contempt that is placed upon that individual. Jesus is not contradicting Ezekiel or himself, but is emphasizing the importance of fully overcoming sin and if it is not overcome, hellfire will be the result. The word translated hell is actually “gehenna.” Gehenna refers to the “Valley of Hinnom,” not far from Jerusalem. Jeremiah predicted that this valley would be a valley of slaughter where carcasses would be strewn. [Jeremiah 7:31-34]. According to rabbinical tradition it became a place for burning of refuse and carcasses. As Jesus spoke these words, perhaps the smoke was seen drifting to heaven. It brought a vivid picture to the minds of the listeners as they associated this valley of destruction with the punishment of those who continue in sin. If anything escaped the consuming fires, it was devoured by the worms and maggots. Jesus was not teaching that the fires would never go out, but rather giving his hearers a graphic description of the undesirability of hellfire.
The idea that the soul is immortal and that wicked souls will burn for ages and ages is, in reality, underplaying the gospel. The most famous of all verses tells us what we are saved from by believing in Jesus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. By believing in, and following Jesus we are saved from perishing. An eternally burning hell is not perishing. If the damned are writhing in flames for eternity; they really have eternal life! Granted it is not a pleasant eternal life, but it is still eternal life none-the-less. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23. By accepting Jesus we receive eternal life. Eternal life is not something that we have unless we have truly accepted Jesus and are following Him. The wicked do not have eternal life, their lot is death. Is burning for billions of years on end death? Absolutely not The fires of hellfire consume all of the wicked and finally bring death and it is this death that is called, “the second death.” Revelation 20:14.
Ashes Under Your Feet
“‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble and the day which is coming shall burn them up.’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch….You shall trample the wicked for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet. On the day that I do this,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1, 3. Malachi tells us of the coming day when the wicked will be no more. In this world wickedness can look like it gets the victory, but that will not always be. The day is coming when those who may have gained the whole world will be sorry, for they will see that they lost their own soul. [Mark 8:36]. They will be burnt as stubble and as stubble does not burn throughout eternity; it ignites, burns hot and goes out, so it shall be with the wicked. “Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; it shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!” Isaiah 47: 14. For those who have despised God’s grace the end will come. They shall be burnt up. It will be impossible to deliver themselves. The wisest, wealthiest man who has been found wanting will not escape. But after the fire has done its work, every coal will go out. There will not be a flame left. The fires of hell will go out. The wicked will be turned into ashes. No trace of the curse of sin will be left, both root and branch will be destroyed in the devouring flame. That is not saying that all of the wicked will be consumed in a matter of seconds. The wicked may burn for minutes, hours, days, months, perhaps even years. No one knows, but we do know that the fire will eventually turn everything into ashes and not a coal or flame shall be left.
Even the originator and promulgator of sin himself will be destroyed. Speaking of the devil, the Word says: “Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” Ezekiel 28:18, 19 KJV. God’s Word declares that the fire will devour the devil and bring him to ashes and that he will never be any more. Praise God! The devil, that has wrecked havoc upon this world of ours, will ultimately be destroyed and will never be again. The one who has caused all the misery and sorrow that is in the world will have to suffer for all the pain that he has inflicted upon humanity, and then he will come to his end. If, after meting out the full punishment of the devil, God brings him to ashes, we can be assured that the fires will indeed go out. The punishment will be full and complete, but God will not, as a ruthless tyrant, torture his enemies for the endless years of eternity.
The Utter End
God has told us of a time when all evildoers shall be cut off. “But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off….When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it….The future of the wicked shall be cut off.” Psalms 37:28, 34, 38. All sin and sinners will be cut off. Evildoers may appear to triumph now, but it is only for a time. The future of all those who love the things of this world is to be cut off from it forever and the righteous shall see it when it happens. The wicked may taunt and jeer now, but their day is coming. They shall be cut off. Even if you try to search for them, you will not find them for they will be cut off forever. “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.” Psalms 37: 35, 36. Why could he not be found? “But the wicked shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord, like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away.” Psalms 37:20. Into smoke the wicked will be consumed. “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look diligently for his place, but it shall be no more.” Psalms 37:9,10. A time is coming when wickedness and sin will be no more. It will not find a place on this earth. The earth will be completely eradicated from the curse and plague of sin and evil.
One of the most wonderful of all promises found in God’s Word is Nahum 1:9, “What do you conspire against the Lord? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time.” God’s promise to us is that He will win the great controversy in which we are all players. Not only will He win the battle, but He will make an utter end. Sin and sinners will be no more. Every trace and remembrance of sin will be utterly destroyed and affliction or sin will not crop up its ugly head again. Once the battle is won, “it is done.” Revelation 21:6. The entire universe will be free from any stain or spot of sin. Sin and sinners will have been consumed by the fires of hell. Sinners “shall be as though they had never been.” [Obadiah 16]. They will have died the “second death” [Revelation 20:14] to which there is no resurrection. It will be as it was before they were born. (cf. Job 10:18, 19) They knew of nothing and knew nothing at all. There are no emotions, thoughts or feelings. It is simply an endless, unconscious sleep to which there is no awakening. The utter end is finally complete.
God recreates this world and wipes away all our sorrows and heartaches. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:1, 4. This poor earth that has been defiled by sin for over six thousand years becomes a fiery inferno in which both sin and sinners are destroyed, and then God obliterates the remembrance of sin by creating a new heaven and a new earth upon the ashes of the wicked. Thus is fulfilled “for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” Malachi 4:3. The utter end is made and God becomes “all in all.” I Corinthians 15:28.
The reward of the righteous is far greater than what we can even begin to imagine. You will not hear one word of complaint or disappointment at the outcome for “eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9. Whatever you may have had to give up on this earth will be nothing in comparison to the glory of the hereafter. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. The worst possible mistake we could make would be to end up in the lake of fire. Will you make that choice to love Jesus enough to do whatever he asks so that you will be able to walk on that earth made new and have that eternal security that sin has met its utter end?
All emphasis the authors unless otherwise stated.
All texts from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
- Here and Hereafter, Uriah Smith, originally published by Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1897, reprinted by Amazing Facts.
- Hell Fire, Joe Crews, published by Amazing Facts.
- The Race to Contact the Dead, Cody Francis, published by Steps to Life.
- Studying Together, Mark Finley, published by Hart Research Center.
If you would like to reprint or translate this book please contact Steps to Life for permission.
Copyright © 1999 by Steps to Life