By Gordon Anderson
MEMORY VERSE: “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1.
STUDY HELP: Testimonies, vol. 1, 23–40.
INTRODUCTION: “God sets before man life and death. He can have his choice. Many desire life, but still continue to walk in the broad road. They choose to rebel against God’s government, notwithstanding His great mercy and compassion in giving His Son to die for them. Those who do not choose to accept of the salvation so dearly purchased, must be punished. But I saw that God would not shut them up in hell to endure endless misery, neither will He take them to heaven; for to bring them into the company of the pure and holy would make them exceedingly miserable. But He will destroy them utterly and cause them to be as if they had not been; then His justice will be satisfied. He formed man out of the dust of the earth, and the disobedient and unholy will be consumed by fire and return to dust again. I saw that the benevolence and compassion of God in this matter should lead all to admire His character and to adore His holy name. After the wicked are destroyed from off the earth, all the heavenly host will say, ‘Amen!’” Early Writings, 221.
On what verses is the doctrine based of the eternally burning hell where the wicked suffer forever? Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43, 47.
NOTE: In the New Testament, both Jesus and John the Baptist spoke of the fire that could not be quenched. The expressions “inextinguishable” or “cannot be quenched” have been interpreted to mean “eternal” or “everlasting,” but it simply means unquenchable, describing a fire that no one can put out. It will burn so long as there is anything to burn. Both testaments contain examples of everlasting,” unquenchable fire. Jude 7 describes the fires that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah as “everlasting.” Yet these fires are not burning today. They were unquenchable; no man could extinguish them and they burned so long as there was anything to burn. Jeremiah 17:27 describes the fires which would destroy Jerusalem as unquenchable but these fires of destruction have long ceased.
What did Jesus mean by “everlasting fire” and “everlasting punishment”? Matthew 25:41, 46.
NOTE: In both verses, the word “everlasting” derives from a Greek word “aionios.” Some would interpret “everlasting punishment” to mean everlasting punishing. Thus they claim that it is not the sentence that is eternal but the infliction of suffering. In other words, they believe that men will take eternity to die, rather than suffer eternal death. But 2 Thessalonians 1:9 makes clear that it is the destruction, not the suffering that is everlasting. The corresponding Hebrew word is “olam.” The following verses show the use of ‘olam’ (everlasting, eternal) in the Old Testament. Genesis 17:7, 8, 13, 19, Exodus 40:15, Numbers 25:13, Deuteronomy 33:27. The meaning depends on the context. If applied to God, it means “without end.” If applied to men, the context shows how long it will last.
What words are translated as hell in the old King James Version of the Bible?
Sheol: Psalm 9:17. Throughout the Old Testament, the word mistranslated as “hell” is the Hebrew word “Sheol.” It is also translated as “grave” (around 30 times e.g. Psalm 6:5) or “pit” (once in Job 17:16). Sheol means the place or abode of the dead, the grave. The Old Testament writers had no concept of a place in which the dead are still conscious and are suffering eternally.
Hades: Matthew 16:18. This is one of the Greek words that is mistranslated as hell in the New Testament. It is also translated as ‘grave’. This would be a better translation. In classical Greek or in Greek mythology, Hades is the name of the god of the underworld. Many believe that Jesus used the word in this sense in Matthew 16:18, but there is no evidence that the word is ever used in the New Testament other that the common everyday [Koire] meaning the place of the dead, namely the grave.
Gehenna: Mark 9:43–48. “Gehenna” is the Greek word for the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem, also called Tophet. (See Jeremiah 19:2, 6, 11, 12.) It was once used for the worship of Moloch and became a rubbish dump into which the bodies of animals and criminals were thrown. To prevent pestilences, constant fires were kept burning to consume the corrupting material. Tartarus. 2 Peter 2:4. In Greek mythology Tartarus was a place lower than Hades (the place of the dead or the grave) where divine punishment was meted out. In 2 Peter 2:4, the apostle says “For God did not spare the angels who sinned but in chains of darkness having cast them down to tartarus [or symbolically into the deepest abyss] delivered them unto judgment having been kept.” The SDA Bible Commentary, on page 605 of volume 7, comments on this as follows: “Writing to people who lived in a Hellenistic atmosphere, Peter employs a Greek term to convey his thought, but does not thereby endorse either the Greek idea of Tartarus or the popular Jewish concept of Gehenna. Here, Tartarus refers simply to the place of abode to which the evil angels are restricted until the day of judgment.”
NOTE: “God’s word, rightly understood and applied, is a safeguard against spiritualism. An eternally burning hell preached from the pulpit, and kept before the people, does injustice to the benevolent character of God. It presents Him as the veriest tyrant in the universe. This widespread dogma has turned thousands to universalism, infidelity, and atheism. The word of God is plain. It is a straight chain of truth, and will prove an anchor to those who are willing to receive it, even if they have to sacrifice their cherished fables. It will save them from the terrible delusions of these perilous times. Satan has led the minds of the ministers of different churches to cling tenaciously to their popular errors, as he led the Jews in their blindness to cling to their sacrifices, and crucify Christ. The rejection of light and truth leaves men captives, the subjects of Satan’s deception. The greater the light they reject, the greater will be the power of deception and darkness which will come upon them.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 344.
How does the Bible describe the ultimate fate of the wicked? Revelation 20:11–15, Nahum 1:6–9.
NOTE: See Great Controversy, 673.
“GOD SHALL BRING EVERY WORK INTO JUDGEMENT”
Does the Bible teach that people are judged at death as to whether they go to heaven or hell? Acts 17:31.
NOTE: See Great Controversy, 548, 549.
What clear indications are we given that our eternal destiny depends on our thoughts, words and actions? Ecclesiastics 12:13, 14, Matthew 12:36, 37.
NOTE: “Avoid anything in look or gesture, word or tone, that savors of pride or self-sufficiency. Guard yourself against a word or look that would exalt yourself, or place your goodness and righteousness in contrast with their failings. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With care avoid every appearance of anger; and though you use plainness of speech, let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of warmth but that of earnest love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill will, no bitterness or sourness of expression. Nothing but kindness and gentleness can flow from a heart of love. Yet all these precious fruits need not hinder you from speaking in the most serious, solemn manner, as though angels were directing their eyes upon you, and you were acting in reference to the coming judgement.” Testimonies, vol. 2, pages 52, 53.
“SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO RIGHT?“
How does God ensure that all men have the opportunity to know of Him? John 1:9, Romans 1: 19, 20.
NOTE: “Wherever there is an impulse of love and sympathy, wherever the heart reaches out to bless and uplift others, there is revealed the working of God’s Holy Spirit. In the depths of heathenism, men who have had no knowledge of the written law of God, who have never even heard the name of Christ, have been kind to His servants, protecting them at the risk of their own lives. Their acts show the working of a divine power. The Holy Spirit has implanted the grace of Christ in the heart of the savage, quickening his sympathies contrary to his nature, contrary to his education. The ‘Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (John 1:9), is shining in his soul; and this light, if heeded, will guide his feet to the kingdom of God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 385.
On what basis will God judge people? Romans 2:12–16, Acts 17:30.
NOTE: “Many thousand who have accepted the change made in the day of rest have done so ignorantly, and unwittingly have placed themselves under the banner of the prince of darkness. The Christian church has accepted the false sabbath, but the day of light has now dawned. The times of their ignorance God winked at, but now He commandeth men everywhere to repent. It is demonstrated that no change is necessary in the law of God. Were there a change needed in the law of God, and could such a change be made, the rebellion of Satan would be justified, and the universe would have to concede that Satan was wiser than God, and had a right to supreme authority. But Jesus came to magnify the law and to make it honorable, and His death on Calvary in the sinner’s behalf, proves the immutability of the law of heaven.” Signs of the Times, November 19, 1894.
“THE JUDGEMENT WAS SET”
How was the judgement pictured to Daniel? Daniel 7:9, 10.
NOTE: “As we near the judgement, all will manifest their true character, and it will be made plain to what company they belong. The sieve is moving. Let us not say: Stay Thy hand, O God. The church must be purged, and it will be. God reigns; let the people praise Him. I have not the most distant thought of sinking down. I mean to be right and do right. The judgement is to set, the books are to be opened, and we are to be judged according to our deeds. All the falsehoods that may be framed against me will not make me any worse, nor any better unless they have a tendency to drive me nearer my Redeemer.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 100.
How does the Word of God make clear that God’s judgement begins while the everlasting gospel is still being preached? Revelation 14:6, 7.
NOTE: See Great Controversy, 435, 436.
“THE THOUSAND YEARS”
What does the Bible reveal as the fate of the wicked when Jesus returns? 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, Revelation 19:19–20.
NOTE: “At the coming of Christ the wicked are blotted from the face of the whole earth, consumed with the spirit of His mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of His glory. Christ takes His people to the city of God, and the earth is emptied of its inhabitants. ‘Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.’ ‘The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled; for the Lord hath spoken this word.’ ‘Because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance,broken the everlasting covenant, therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned.’[Isaiah 24:1, 3, 5, 6.]” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 474.
How does the Bible show that there will be no future second chance for mankind? Revelation 22:11–12.
NOTE: Among the differing concepts of the millennium is the view that Christ will reign on earth and world conditions will improve. Human life span will lengthen though people will still die. Those living during this time will hear and accept the gospel until the final rebellion when God will intervene and take control. See Great Controversy, 321.
Will Christ reign over an improved earth or make all things new? Revelation 21:1–4, Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13.
NOTE: “This same earth, freed from the curse of sin, is to be man’s eternal home. Of the earth the Scripture says, that God ‘created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited.’ Isaiah 45:18. And ‘whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.’ Ecclesiastes 3:14. So in the Sermon on the Mount the Saviour declared, ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’ Matthew 5:5. So the psalmist long before had written, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.’ Psalm 37:11. With this agree the words of the Scripture, ‘The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.’ They ‘shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.’ Proverbs 11:31; Psalm 37:29. The fires of the last day are to destroy ‘the heavens and the earth, which are now;’ but there shall come forth ‘new heavens and a new earth.’ 2 Peter 3:7, 13. The heavens and the earth will be made new.” Story of Jesus, 183, 184.