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Where the Hell is Hell?

Joe Iverson, January 2008

Many years ago, I became convinced that what I had heard about Jesus and Gospel
was indeed true. Jesus Christ came to earth to redeem mankind. He was born of a
virgin, lived a perfect life, healed the sick and performed many miracles. He was
crucified, died, and three days later rose from the dead. I truly believed and have
never doubted these truths since.

I didn't just want to know about Jesus, but also I wanted to experience an encounter
with God. During my quest for truth, I must have prayed that God would confirm
my faith somehow. God answered that prayer one day when had an experience
which I can only describe as being touched by the Lord during a time of prayer with
a friend. Some might equate this with being “slain in the Spirit”. I don't place much
significance on the experience itself now. The important thing is that this was a
turning point in my life. One of the first things I said immediately after this
experience is that I want to know more, I want to read the Bible. Like the Apostle
Paul, I proclaimed to myself “I want to know Christ” (Phil 3:10).

I began to attend church and a Christian group on campus. I have since been a
member of three different churches, an honorary member of two others, and a
visitor of dozens more, all of varying denominations. Additionally, I must have
read over a hundred Christian books on different themes related to the Faith. I also
volunteered as a short term missionary for two years, and earned a graduate degree
from a Christian College. All this exposure to distinct expressions of the Christian
faith, and especially the great diversity of God's people has been an eye opening and
wonderful experience. I truly feel privileged for being allowed to know so many
fellow believers who all worship the same God.

Though I have never doubted the fundamentals of the Christian faith, I must admit
there have been many church teachings which I have never quite understood. While
I'm aware of the chapter and verse that are often quoted to support such doctrines, I
remained unconvinced. No big deal, I reasoned. I can accept the church's teaching
on faith and leave it at that.

Thus, I have never expressed these doubts until now. And so here it is. Please don't
burn me a the stake, for I fear I am becoming a heretic according to mainstream
Christianity.

Death and the Soul


There are some verses which appear to support the afterlife (apart from the
resurrection), and verses which teach the opposite. But the weight of evidence is on
the side of death meaning death, and not life somewhere else in some other state.
Adam died. Abraham died. Moses died. All the Old Testament people died and
were buried. No one died and went to heaven or died and went to hell (except for
the rich man and Lazarus, but the details of the story make it unlikely that this is
anything more than parable). They just died and were buried. Jesus verified this
truth in John 3:13: "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came
from heaven, the Son of Man." The only hope believers had in both the Old and
New Testaments was to be raised from the dead at the resurrection, which was
believed to be a future event. Here are some passages from the Old Testament:
“But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.”
(Ps. 49:15)

Notice the psalmist writes "redeem my life", not just his body.

“But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up
and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth
to her dead.” (Isa 26:19)

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life,
others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan 12:2)

In the New Testament, consider the following stories: “That same day the
Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 'Teacher,'
they said, 'Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must
marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among
us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to
his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on
down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose
wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?' Jesus replied,
'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At
the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like
the angels in heaven.'” (Matt. 22:24-30)

I would love to have seen the look on their faces when Jesus said, “You are in error
because you do not know the Scriptures...” Although the Sadducees didn't believe in
the resurrection, they knew that everyone else listening that day did believe in it,
including Jesus. Notice they did not say, “in heaven, whose wife will she be?” The
same holds true for this account: “Jesus said to her 'your brother will rise again'.,
Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'” (Jn.
11:22) She did not say he was in heaven with the saints. Rather, her only hope to
see her brother again was to wait until the resurrection day. Of course, for Lazarus,
this day came early.
Many Christians believe that man has some kind of immortal spirit that continues to
live after this life is over. This belief is also common in other religions, but has no
biblical support. The Apostle Paul's often wrote of the resurrection from the dead as
his and our only hope to gain eternal life. “I want to know Christ and the power of
his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in
his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:10)

This does not contradict Paul's statement “We are confident, I say, and and willing
rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).
Paul knew that he would be with Christ after he died, and to him this would be
immediate. Think about it. If you are dead in the clinical sense, by definition you
would not be conscious. That is, you would experience neither pleasure nor pain,
nor the passage of time. When that great day of the resurrection finally arrives and
you are raised from the dead, it doesn't matter if you had been for dead five minutes
of five thousand years, that moment is your next moment. It will be as if you never
died. Life will go on among the living, but to a dead person there is no time.
Perhaps you've had the experience of being given a powerful drug before surgery
and did not sense the passage of time. This happened to me one time when I had
oral surgery. I was given a drug, closed my eyes, then opened them and the surgery
was over. To my surprise about 45 minutes had elapsed, but I felt as if I only closed
my eyes for a few seconds. So you will not have to “wait” ten or a hundred or a
thousand years. When you are raised from the dead, you'll have to ask the former
corpse next to you, “Hey, what year is this?” He replies, “I don't know, the last
thing I remember was that we hit an iceberg and started sinking.”

Furthermore, what is the point of a judgment day and resurrection if everyone is


already in heaven or hell? Suppose you die and go to heaven. You're having a great
time hanging out with Jesus and the saints. Suddenly, an angel announces that it's
time for the resurrection so you all have to go back to earth to get you bodies. “That
old thing” you say to yourself, “why would I want my old body back?” And what is
the point of a judgment day if everyone has already received their sentence or
reward? “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..”
(Heb 9:27) It doesn't say we will die once and then are judged twice. In order to be
just, would not the judgment always precede the sentence or reward?

Some call this doctrine which states that death is really death “soul sleep”. And
they would point out that this is a heretical doctrine held by some cults such as the
Jehovah's Witnesses. So maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses are on to something here.
Most of their doctrine is simply not supported by the Bible, but I have to agree with
them on this one point. Other than that, they're crazy. They don't believe Jesus rose
from the dead bodily. They use a very poor translation of the Bible. And worst of
all, they believe Jesus died on a telephone pole! If you don't believe me, check out
any of their literature which depicts Christ's death and you'll see that he's not on a
cross.
Speaking of Christ's death, there are a lot of stories about what Jesus did during
those three days in the tomb. What did Jesus do between his death and resurrection?
Did he go to heaven? hell? paradise? Abraham's bosom? Why is it that the same
Christians who believe Jesus died and rose again have so much trouble believing
that he was really dead when he died? All four gospels say the same thing, “Jesus
died and was buried”. That's it! He didn't go anywhere or do anything. Isn't that the
whole point of being dead anyway, that you no longer have to do anything or go
anywhere, just like being retired. He didn't become Jesus the Friendly Ghost and fly
around the universe to take care of unfinished business. Were not his last words “It
is finished”? Finished. His redemptive work on the cross was done! And on the
third day he rose from the dead, which means that he had to be really dead first, not
alive like some ghost finding its way back to the body it left to make it alive again.

At this point, I would like to quote William West on the matter (reference at end):
"What does the Bible say about an immortal soul and or spirit? Nothing. Together
soul and spirit are used almost 1,100 times in the King James Version, but not one
time is immortal even used in the same verse with either one. Immortal and
immortality are in the Old Testament 0 times, in the New Testament, immortal one
time, immortality five times, all by Paul. What does he say?
1."Now unto the King eternal, immortal" [1 Timothy 1:17].
2.Only God has immortality [1 Timothy 6:16].
3.Christ "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the
gospel" [2 Timothy 1:10].
4."To them (Christians) that...seek for glory and honor and immortality" [Romans
2:7].
5."This mortal must put on immortality" [1 Corinthians 15:53] at the resurrection.
6."This mortal shall have put on immortality" [1 Corinthians 15:54] after the
resurrection.
Why are we to "seek for" that which we are born with? Why will we "put on
immortality" if the only part of us that will ever be immortal, has been immortal
from birth (or before birth)? The fact that a person must "seek for...immortality" and
immortality must be "put on" at the resurrection is conclusive proof that a person
does not now have it. If Romans 2:7 and 1 Corinthians 15:53 teaches nothing more,
it teaches that no part of a person now possess immortality.
If the soul or spirit is immortal and will never die, can there be a resurrection of the
dead? Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? If yes, the resurrection of
what? Will your dead body be raised from the dead or do you believe a soul that is
not dead will be raised from the dead?"

Age of Accountability
Salvation is the central theme of the Christian faith. In order to be saved you must
make a profession of faith. Christians run into a problem explaining what happens
to those who do not make a profession of faith because they cannot, either because
of their age, disability, or the fact that they never heard the gospel. For now, I will
address the issue of those who are too young to understand and respond to the
gospel. How will God deal with babies, fetuses, and young children who die before
reaching an age of understanding?
First we need to ask the question, is man a sinner because he sins or does he sin
because he's a sinner? The Bible speaks of man's sin nature inherited from Adam.
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Ps.
51:5) So much for the idea of children being innocent. Though incapable of
committing sin, they still bear the blemished human nature passed down through the
generations. Will they be damned for their sin nature? John Calvin, the sixteenth
century theologian thought so. According to Calvin, you are either predestined to be
saved of predestined to be lost. There is nothing you can do, no prayer you can say
that will change your destiny. Babies were not exempt from God's wrath unless they
were among the elect who were predestined unto salvation. Similarly, the eighteenth
century preacher Jonathan Edwards revealed that “reprobate infants are vipers of
vengeance, which Jehovah will hold over hell, in the tongs of his wrath, till they
turn and spit venom in his face!” Reprobate infants? Vipers of vengeance? If this
guy had been born in the twentieth century, he could have rivaled Stephen King in
telling horror stories!!
Though few hold these beliefs today, I did find an even more extreme view on the
internet (how shocking!). See for yourself:
http://www.landoverbaptist.org/sermons/hell.html This guy is convinced that almost
nobody will make it to heaven. He goes so far as to say that if there was any
adultery in your bloodline going back ten generations, you would be doomed no
matter what you do or what prayer you say. Thank you so much for those
encouraging words, Pastor Harry Hardwick of Landover Baptist Church. According
to him all who die as babies are damned, fetuses damned, unevangelized damned,
mentally retarded – damned. Damn, I just can't take it anymore!
Getting back to the age of accountability. Here is verse that may support this
doctrine “He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder
them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” (Mark 10:14) Okay, so
Jesus loves children. That's a nice happy verse, but it doesn't do much to support an
age of accountability. Here's another one “Jesus loves the little children, all the
children of the world, red and yellow..............” Wait, that's not a Bible verse, it's a
song!

The age of accountability is an invented doctrine to make God seem nice or fair, but
it has no biblical basis. Let me state for the record that I do not believe God will
send babies, fetuses, or the mentally retarded to hell, but this has nothing to do with
the erroneous age of accountability doctrine.
In the end, there are four possibilities with how God will deal with young children:
1. All children who are unfortunate enough to die too young to say the Sinner's
Prayer are doomed. This is rare belief, but it's out there. Here's a song verse for this:
Jesus hates the little children, unless they say the Sinner's Prayer........
2. God will “elect” some to be saved, while the rest are doomed.
Jesus loves some little children, all the rest will burn in hell....
3. God will save them all.
Jesus loves the little children, until they reach the age of twelve.......
4. This whole hell thing is a lie.
Jesus loves the little children, and all the old and middle aged............
So far all of my departures from “orthodoxy” have been tolerable to mainstream
Christianity (I think). But now, get your torches ready!

Hell
As I learned and grew as a Christian, hell was the last thing on my mind. The only
time I ever heard an entire sermon on hell was when my tenth grade English teacher
reenacted Jonathan Edward's famous Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon.

I've heard that some people come to faith in Christ for fear of going to hell. This is
understandable. Surely after listening to a sermon on hell, or hearing some
horrifying testimony of someone who claims to have visited, or a had a vision of
hell, one would immediately repent in sackcloth and ashes. Well praise the Lord,
whatever their motives are for wanting to follow Christ. Yet I have to wonder what
kind of disciple of Christ a person would be if he follows Him out shear terror of
the alternative. For me, I became a Christian when I came to realized the Bible is
true, without much thought of hell.

Of course I knew about hell from both my Catholic background and popular culture.
Bad people go to hell when they die and good people go to heaven. I soon learned
that the evangelical doctrine of hell was quite different. Avoiding hell was not so
much dependent on what you do or what you know, but rather who you know. “If
you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that
God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9) You are either
saved or unsaved. Saved people go to heaven, the unsaved go to hell.

I remember a minister friend stating that the worst thing about hell is being
separated from God. “No it's not” I thought to myself, “the worst thing about hell is
being ON FIRE”. Besides, isn't that what they wanted – to be separated from God?
Shouldn't they be happy?

After that unhappy conversation, I filed hell in my mind somewhere between


“hamster” and “hillbilly”. Sometimes, however, I did wonder about hell. Would a
loving God really send billions of people, who were created in His image, to a
subterranean torture chamber for all eternity? And what about people who never
hear the gospel? What about babies, aborted fetuses, the mentally retarded, etc.
Would they also be destined for hell? Or perhaps just some of them? And how
many would be saved in the end? Nobody knows, but I used to think that one third
of mankind would be saved. There's no biblical basis for my estimate, but maybe I
thought this because one third of the angels rebelled against God. I was shocked to
find out I was being overly generous by assigning a mere 66% to hell. I discovered
that many believe that only between one percent and ten percent at the most would
be saved. The rest of the world would burn forever. I found this to be very
depressing.

Eventually, I accepted hell on faith, as I have accepted other Bible teachings by


faith. “Lord”, I prayed “I don't really understand hell or divine justice, but I accept it
as true because your word teaches it. I know you are a righteous and holy God and
whatever you do is righteous and holy.”

Recently, hell came back to the front of my mind. I listened to a testimony given by
this guy Bill Weiss who claims he went to hell and came back to talk about it
(Twenty Three Minutes in Hell). He claims that God allowed him to visit hell to tell
everyone how horrible it is, as if we didn't already know. Okay, I didn't read the
book, but I watched his one hour presentation on line. It was very compelling,
complete with a four minute video of hell (I still don't know how he smuggled a
video camera down there, or how the lens didn't melt in the 12,000 degree heat).

The odd thing is that he didn't have a near death experience, and he doesn't say this
was vision. In fact he was lying in the comfort of his own bed for the entire time,
yet claims to have literally gone to hell in some kind of out of the body experience.
He described his experience in such gruesome detail that it was hard to take. It
would be easier to stomach movies about serial killers than to hear this.

I must confess, I believed the testimony at first, though there were some details that
cast doubt that this might really be hell. One thing is that he describes human souls
being constantly tormented and tortured by demons. This theme is also repeated in
many other visions and descriptions of hell. Supposedly, God prepared hell for the
devil and his angels, but did he mean for it to be some kind of demonic Disney
World where demons take pleasure torturing humans? According to Weiss, the
demons were having never ending fun expressing their utter contempt for
humankind. Another questionable thing is that he claims to have had an out of body
experience, yet in hell he had a body. And though he frequently quoted scripture to
prove he was in hell, it was unconvincing. For example, he claims that Job also
went to hell. Now I just read the whole book of Job and he clearly didn't go
anywhere except into the fish's belly. He was buried alive and I'm sure it was a most
unpleasant experience, but he did not go to hell.

This piqued my interest and I began to read other testimonies. Though some said
they had visions, others, like Weiss, claimed to have actually visited hell and came
back. I guess they only had a one day pass and had to come back to earth to write
books and go on speaking tours. The people who had the visions tried to outdo each
other, each trying to make their description more graphic and horrible than the rest.
Other than that, they didn't have much in common, as it seems they all went to
different hells. However, they all claimed that there is absolutely no escape from
hell (except for them, of course).
The testimonies had a powerful effect on me. For the first time, I actually feared
going to hell myself. I doubted my own salvation. Was I really saved? Did I say the
right prayer? Did I do the right stuff, believe the right doctrine, pray the right way?
For weeks I had trouble sleeping as I was tormented with my own visions of hell.
One vision I couldn't get out of my mind was souls being tortured in individual
sized pits of fire. Worms crawled through their disfigured bodies as flames would
torment them. Between bursts of flame, they would scream and writhe in pain. I
imagined myself lost there too. I was unable to imagine the pain, but I could feel the
loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness of the souls in hell. It was more than I could
bear.

“Help!!” I prayed, “Lord, whatever it costs, whatever it takes, whatever I have to


give up on earth, please don't send me to that terrible place.” I searched the
scriptures, reading everything about salvation to make sure I wouldn't be cast into
hell. But if I'm saved, what about everybody else?

If hell is real, it's damned depressing. I sometimes make deliveries to nursing homes.
I see the old people sitting around in their wheelchairs, chatting and puffing on
cigarettes. They're so close to death's door, and to think most of them will be in hell
for eternity. Knowing this, how can anyone who believes in hell have even a
moment of happiness in this life?

Wait! Stop! There comes a time in your life to question what you believe. The
bumper sticker comes to mind “Don't believe everything you think”. And right now,
I am starting to seriously doubt hell is a biblical doctrine, in spite of how many
people believe it. Maybe the majority is wrong about hell. Maybe we've been
reading hell into the text when it's just not there. After all, the majority view isn't
always the right one, nor is it always wrong. As an example, the prevailing view of
the church for the first four hundred years was universal reconciliation, that is, that
Christ would eventually save everyone. Today this view is considered heresy by
mainstream Christianity. And Pre-Millenniumism, although popular today, was
almost unheard of before the nineteenth century. Truth never changes, but theology
does.

Once again, I read everything in the Bible related to hell to see if there's something
there I hadn't noticed before. I also read dozens of articles and books on line. When
I began my quest, I promised myself I would examine opposing viewpoints, and not
just the stuff that sounds right or agrees with me.

If you are a Christian who believes the Bible, you already know in your heart that
the doctrine of hell is inconsistent with the biblical teaching of a loving God. If
there is a hell, and most people go there, you have to conclude that God really hates
most of mankind. There is no way you can call eternal damnation an act of love.
The only way there could be love in hell is if it is temporary and corrective, rather
than eternal and vindictive. Now I'm sure your pastor has explained to you that the
God who loves you will also judge you. And that God is holy and cannot look upon
sin, and that all sin must be punished or atoned for. All of this is true, but none of
these truths require eternal torment in hell.

Think for a moment of how many people have never and will never hear and
understand the gospel. In spite of the best efforts of missionaries and Bible
translators, many will never hear the good news that Jesus Christ died for their sins.
If hearing and believing the gospel this side of eternity is the only way to avoid hell,
then God has no love for the vast majority of humanity. If there is a hell, there is no
way God would leave salvation from it to luck, chance, or human effort.

At least one modern theologian points out that God is not obligated to give everyone
a chance to be saved. True, God is not obligated to save anyone, but he desires that
all men be saved. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to
be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:3-4) And if he desires it,
he will do it.

If you try to use a logical argument against hell, the hell believers will respond,
“You can't use a human argument against the Word of God. There are many things
eternal which we mere humans cannot understand, so we must accept God's truth
whether or not we understand it.” True enough. If what you think contradicts the
Bible's teaching, it's best to accept the truth you've learned on faith.

In spite of this objection, the hell pushers do the same thing. They claim that
because God is holy and eternal, his punishment must be eternal. This makes no
sense whatsoever. Why does punishment have to be forever? Does not punishment
usually have some redemptive purpose? Would you tell your child to stand in the
corner for eternity? Does eternal punishment even have a point? The hell believers
sheepishly claim that somehow the souls burning in hell forever will bring glory to
God. You might think I'm joking, but I've heard this at least a few times from
believers. If “His mercy endures forever”, and “His love endures forever”, will His
merciless torture also endure forever?

Another argument is that man is immortal and has to go somewhere after death.
This is entirely unbiblical. The word immortal is only applied to God in the
scriptures, as in I Timothy 6:16 "who alone is immortal and who lives
unapproachable light". In I Corinthians 15:53, Paul teaches us, "for the perishable
must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality."
Immortality is something we may gain and it would make no sense for Paul to say
we must put on something we already possess. And Ezekiel 18:4 tells us "the soul
who sins is the one who will die" If a soul can die, it is not immortal by definition.
Finally, "the wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23) Why do Christians in their mind
substitute the word death with eternal damnation? Come to think of it, there are
many biblical words and phrases which many Christians assume are implying hell.
The chart below illustrates this point:
When Christians see or hear: They assume it means:
judgment hell
fire hell
lake of fire hell
the grave hell
the pit hell
undying worms hell
torment hell
weeping and gnashing of teeth hell
damnation hell
fiery garbage dump (Gehenna) hell
Hades hell
outer darkness hell
prison hell
God's wrath hell
death eternal life in hell
salvation fire insurance

Also hell is said to be necessary because man has free will and must make a choice.
“God doesn't send anyone to hell, they choose to go there by rejecting Jesus Christ”
(overheard in many a sermon). Now this is one the most absurd things I've ever
heard in church. You can't reject someone you've never heard of. Although the
gospel has been preached to billions, there are, and have been in the past, billions
who have never and will never hear the name of Jesus in this life. And it's not just
the unevangelized natives in some remote corner of Madagascar. Even your
neighbor, although familiar with the story of Jesus, has possibly never heard and
understood a clear presentation of the gospel. And can you blame him, considering
the thousands of competing religions, sects, cults, and philosophies? How does
anyone understand that Jesus is the way, the truth and life, if he is not drawn to
Christ by an external calling of God?

Then is it your sin that sends you to hell rather the God? And do we not choose to
sin? Maybe you can choose which sins to commit, but since we are born with a sin
nature, we cannot choose never to sin, nor did we choose to be born. “For all have
sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)

Yet another argument in favor of hell is this: Without hell there is no need for a
savior. How can men of such advanced education make such a ridiculous claim?
They have such a limited view of salvation. To them, salvation is just fire insurance.
We are saved unto life, not from eternal damnation. Nowhere in the Bible will you
find the teaching that Jesus died to save mankind from hell. Jesus came and died to
reverse the curse brought on through Adam's sin. Genesis 3:14-19 gives a detailed
description of the results of Adam's sin. The serpent is cursed, the ground is cursed,
and Adam and Eve are judged and given heavy burdens to bear. If there is anyplace
in the Old Testament where there should be a warning of eternal damnation it is
here, but you won't find it.

Free Will
It's time to skewer the sacred cow of free will. The doctrine of free will exists to let
God off the hook , as not many would be comfortable with the idea of a God who
would create billions of human souls for the sole purpose of torturing them for
eternity. Even so, free will doesn't completely exonerate God from creating humans
for this purpose. If He knows in advance that billions of people will not "freely"
choose to believe in Jesus and trust in Him for their salvation, yet still allows them
to be born, live, and die, only to spend eternity in hell, then is that any different than
predestining them for damnation? But If you take free will out of Christianity and
leave the hell in, you are left with Calvinism, a currently unpopular theology.

Anyway, God doesn't send anyone to hell, they choose to go there, right? Can we
get real for a moment? If you believe that people can choose where they will spend
eternity, will you at least admit that only some people can make this choice, as not
every person born is even aware that there is a choice to make? Those who believe
in free will exalt human will over God's sovereign will. They believe that they can
make choices free from divine direction and God is powerless to do anything about
it. That's right, we have power greater than the Almighty himself, as we can choose
our ultimate destiny.

This is admittedly a difficult concept to grasp. Certainly, from our perspective, we


have free will and we do make choices every day. But can we make choices apart
from divine direction? One writer points out that computers make choices, perhaps
millions of choices in a few seconds, but they are not free to do something which is
not programmed in by their creators. We do have a will, but it is not a free will.
Even science and psychology can confirm this.

I once heard a pastor say, "If I believed that God would create people only to send
them to hell, without giving them a choice of salvation, then I would be here today."
But is that not what Christians believe? God knows full well that many will make
the wrong choice. Is He hoping that just maybe his foreknowledge is wrong, and we
may change our ways before it's too late?
Worse still, combining free will with the age of accountability doctrine forces us to
accept the grim irony that abortion and infanticide save more souls than evangelism.
In at least one well known case, a mother drowned her five children in a bathtub,
believing they would go straight to heaven because they hadn't reach the dreaded
age of accountability.

Here is an excerpt from L. Ray Smith's Lake of Fire series (part 15a - reference
given at end):

LOVE NOT THE WORLD—THREE CATEGORIES OF SIN


"Love NOT the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the
world, the love of the Father IS NOT IN HIM. For [for means ‘because’] ALL that
is in the world,
1.the lust of the FLESH,
2.the lust of the EYES,
3.and the pride of LIFE,
is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God
abides for ever" (I John 2:15-17).
Notice that "…ALL that is in the world…"—all the sins of the world, have their
origin in one of these three categories of sin that proceeds "out of THE HEART."
Not out of the "will" or out of the "mind," but "out of THE HEART." The "will"
and the "mind" are subject to the "heart," and not the other way around. The heart is
not subject to the will, neither is the heart subject to the mind, but rather both of
these are subject to the birthplace of all human functions—the HEART!
Simply and unarguably, Jesus states as a fact, that all evil thoughts and sins proceed
OUT OF THE HEART.
Now, with all that said, let’s prove once and for all that Mother Eve and Adam were
(1) NOT spiritually perfect in any way shape or form, BEFORE they actually ate of
the forbidden fruit, and (2) neither did they sin and then partake of the forbidden
fruit through the operation of something called "free will."
"And when the woman saw that the tree was GOOD FOR FOOD… Gen. 3:6:
1."…lust of the FLESH…" (I John 2:15)
and that it was PLEASANT TO THE EYES… Gen. 3:6:
2. "…lust of the EYES…" (I John 2:15)
and a tree to be DESIRED TO MAKE ONE WISE Gen. 3:6:
3. "…the PRIDE OF LIFE" (I John 2;15)
Eve committed EVERY CATEGORY OF SIN THERE IS IN THE WORLD,
before… BEFORE she actually ate of the forbidden fruit.
ALL of Eve’s evil thoughts of pride, vanity, lust, greed, disobedience, and finally
thievery proceeded NOT from Eve’s supposed "free will," but rather from out of her
HEART. And the only reason these sins could come out of her heart is because
THEY WERE ALREADY IN THERE FROM THE BEGINNING. BEFORE Eve
actually ate of the forbidden fruit, she committed every category of sin in the world.
And need I remind us that we were also, ALL IN ADAM, before he ate of the tree
(I Cor. 15:22). Will we deny our own eyes and the Scriptures we have just read?
(end quote)

Mr. Smith goes on to point out something in the story of the Fall of Man that few
have probably noticed. We like to make jokes about how Adam, when asked by the
Lord God what he had done, blames the woman. And the woman, when asked
about what she had done, blames the snake. But the Lord God apparently agrees
with them, at least in part. After the Lord God interviews both Adam and Eve, he
turns his anger to the snake and says "Because you have done this, Cursed are you
above all the livestock...." (Gen 3:14) The Lord blamed the snake too and punished
him far more severely than the man and woman.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise
him up at the last day." (Jn. 6:44)

We don't choose Christ, he chooses us. It's that simple.

"Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Issac.
Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that
God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls, she was
told, 'The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau
I hated.' What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, 'I
will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I
have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on
God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very
purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be
proclaimed in all the earth.'" (Rom. 9:10-17)

God had a purpose for Pharaoh. Do you think Pharaoh could have resisted God's
plan with his "free will"? Is there any free will in Romans, chapter nine?

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him
who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will..." (Eph. 1:11)

Hell in the Old Testament.


There's no hell in the O.T. It's just not there. Try to find it. In some versions such as
the King James Bible, you will find the word hell. This is translated from the
Hebrew word Sheol, which means grave, or the abode of the dead. It does not refer
to the burial plot or tomb, as a different word is used for this. Sheol is also
translated grave and pit. The choice of which English word to use was at the
discretion of the translators.

Sheol was the place of the dead and the destiny for all people. Everyone, whether
righteous or wicked went there when they died. I won't get into a deep description
of Sheol here, but the important thing is that Sheol was never associated with
punishment. The Lord judged and sometimes destroyed nations and individuals.
Death and destruction were punishments, but there was no punishment beyond the
grave.

Yes, there are a handful of scriptures in the O.T. which hell believers use to support
the doctrine of eternal torment. But the only way to get hell out of these verses is to
put your preconceived ideas about hell in there. Even O.T. scholars and most hell
believers are forced to admit that the teaching of eternal torment just does not exist
in the O.T. This is why Jews, both historically and presently do not believe in hell.
Their scriptures, the O.T. and the Torah, do not teach it.
This fact alone calls into the question the doctrine of eternal torment in hell. If it's
not in the O.T., then it would have to be a new doctrine of the New Testament. Not
that it's impossible for this doctrine to appear only in the N.T. After all, there are
many new teachings in the N.T., such as God so loved the world, Jesus is the savior
of the world, salvation by grace through faith, love your enemies, etc.

Do you get the picture? The new N.T. doctrines are good news!! The word gospel
means glad tidings or good news. Would the teaching of eternal torment be good
news? Jesus would have to proclaim, “Listen up everyone. I've got good news and
I've got bad news. First the bad news. God has prepared a special place in the center
of the earth called hell. There, most of humanity, almost everyone who has ever
lived or ever will live, will be cast into this fiery pit to burn and be tortured for all
eternity. The good news is that I have handful of “get out of hell free cards"
available to anyone who is fortunate enough to hear and understand that I've come
to save them. And if you act now, I'll throw in a free set of Ginsu Knives!”

This brings up and interesting question. If hell is real, why did God choose not to
reveal it for thousands of years of human history? Adam was never warned. He was
told “..but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for
when you eat of it you will surely die”. (Gen 2:15) That's right, die, not burn in
hellfire eternally. Later in the Old Testament, the law of Moses is filled with
warnings and exhortations, of blessing and cursing. So where is the warning of a
fate a billion trillion times worse than any judgment or curse on earth?

Maybe God wanted his people to obey him out of love, rather than fear of hell. But
if that's the case, why reveal hell in the New Testament? Doesn't God still want us
to obey him out of love rather than fear of hell. Here's a verse that is not in the
Bible: The fear of burning in hell eternally is the beginning of wisdom.

Degrees of Punishment
Just as our we consider some sins as worse than others, so does the Bible. Although
all sin is offensive to God, there are certain sins which merit more severe
punishment. And there are verses which teach degrees of punishment such as “That
servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his
master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and
does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows” (Luke 12:47-48)
Why do hell believers assume that these punishments must always take place in
hell? Will some people spend eternity in the cooler section of hell? Will some be
hung by their tongues, while others are roasted in boiling lava? Even if hell is just
sitting in a dark cell with no pain or torment, how can we speak of degrees of
anything for all eternity? Eternity is long time to live without any hope of
redemption. Degrees of punishment is just another crazy idea that people come up
with to explain something they don't understand.
Hell in the New Testament
The word hell appears 12 to 23 times in the N.T. depending on version (contrast
this with heaven, which appears 238 times in the King James Version of the N.T.).
Some more modern versions have eliminated hell altogether. Hell is translated from
three different Greek words:

Gehenna (12 times): Jesus used this term 11 times in the gospels and James used it
once. Gehenna is also called the Valley of Hinnom. In Jesus' time, it was a fiery
garbage dump a few miles outside of Jerusalem. Garbage, bodies of the worst
criminals, and dead animals where thrown there to be burned. In previous centuries,
it was a place of human sacrifice, where live infants where put into the stone arms
of the bull-god Molech and burnt to death. To the Jews of Jesus' day, this was a
detestable place, full of filth and bad memories.

Hades (11 times): Similar to Sheol in the Old Testament, it refers the place of the
dead or state of the dead. The word means unseen, unperceived, or hidden. Hades
was not believed to be an eternal place, rather a temporary state while waiting for
the resurrection.

Tartarus (1 time): Peter borrowed this term from Greek mythology to describe a
temporary prison for fallen angels. Tartarus is not described as a place of torment,
nor an eternal place, nor is it ever associated with human souls.

In addition to the the above terms, several words and phrases are thought to refer to
eternal punishment in hell. These include eternal punishment, fiery judgment,
unquenchable fire, damnation, lake of fire, fire and brimstone, and others.

Gehenna: Metaphor for What?


Is hell and appropriate translation for Gehenna. Hell no. Gehenna is a proper noun.
It is the name of real place which existed in ages past and still exist to this day
(today it's a city with trees, grass, and parks – if you want to see actual photos of
hell, do a Google image search on Hinnom). It is never appropriate to change one
proper noun for a different proper noun no matter what you are translating. Proper
nouns are transliterated, that is, the spelling is changed to make the word
pronounceable. No other proper noun in the Bible receives this abuse. Jerusalem is
Jerusalem, the Jordan River is the Jordan River, Paul the Apostle is Paul the
Apostle.

The justification given for this change is that Jesus was using Gehenna as a
metaphor for hell. That's no excuse. Many cities, rivers, and even people are used as
metaphors in the Bible but none are changed to reflect what the translator thinks the
metaphor stands for.

It's true that Jesus used Gehenna as a metaphor, but the questions is, a metaphor for
what? The idea of using a metaphor is that it should have several features in
common with what you are trying to represent and your listeners or readers should
be familiar with it. You may have read the C.S. Lewis classic work, The Chronicles
of Narnia. In the story, the lion Aslan is a metaphor for Christ. He has several
things in common with Jesus:
Aslan Jesus
is a Lion is called the Lion of Judah
is King is King
gave his life to save the Sons of Adam gave his life to save the Sons of
Adam
died on the stone table died on the cross
rose from the dead rose from the dead

Now let's try this little exercise with Gehenna and hell:
Gehenna hell
visible, on earth invisible, location unknown
known to Jesus' audience unknown to Jesus' audience
dead criminals thrown there live sinners thrown there
dead bodies destroyed live bodies and souls preserved
no torment torment
unquenchable fire eternal fire
undying worms animal life in hell unknown
filthy, unclean sanitary conditions in hell unknown

Does Gehenna have anything in common with the Christian idea of hell? The only
things that Gehenna and hell share are fire and judgment, and even these are not the
same. The fire of Gehenna consumed everything whereas the fire in hell consumes
nothing. The judgment of Gehenna was a human judgment and was temporal. The
judgment of hell is divine and perpetual. Another important difference is that in
previous centuries, it was disobedient Jews, following the false gods of the heathen,
who burned their own children in fire. This is something that "never entered the
mind" of the Lord. (Jer. 7:31) Whereas, in hell, according to modern Christian
theology, it is God himself who tortures his own children, not for short time, but for
eternity. Thus, if Jesus was giving us a metaphor for hell, it wasn't a very good one.
And how could he use a metaphor for something his listeners had never heard of?
As I pointed out before, the Jews had no concept of eternal torment in hell. If this is
new teaching, Jesus would have described and named this terrible place before
using any metaphors. Unlike heaven, Jerusalem, and the Nile River, hell has no
name in the Bible.

So maybe Gehenna was the closest thing to hell that his listeners would understand.
Hardly, Jesus could have borrowed term Amenti, the Egyptian hell, just as Peter
used Tartarus from Greek Mythology to describe some kind of prison for evil
spirits. The Egyptians had a hell too, and it is strangely like the Christian hell of
today and centuries past.
“But I say unto you, than whosoever is angry with his brother without 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.” (Matt 5:22)

Now that's odd. If you say “Raca” which is an insult meaning “empty headed” you
could be judged by the counsel, that is, be subject to human judgment. But if you
say “thou fool” you could go to hell for eternity. Maybe it's just me, but I just don't
see the difference between empty headed and fool. They are both insults. Should the
punishment for one insult be a billion trillion times worse than another, almost
identical insult? To be sure, Gehenna was a place of judgment. The worse judgment
that could come down from the court was to be killed and have one's body thrown
into Gehenna. This would disgrace a Jew and make him or her unworthy of the
resurrection. If you want a modern day equivalent, try telling a Muslim that he will
be buried in pig skin after being executed. The above verse has nothing to do with
eternity, torment, or the Christian hell. In fact, not one verse where Gehenna appears
is there any mention whatsoever of torment. The criminals who were thrown there
were already dead. The fire burned their bodies and the worms ate the leftovers.
There was no torment and no eternal punishment in Gehenna.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for
you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for
you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt
5:29-30)

Some Christians in times past have taken this passage literally and mutilated
themselves (I hate to think what other parts they may have cut off). This is not a
difficult passage to understand. Its message is to remove of keep away from your
life the things which cause you to sin. As far as being “thrown into hell”, as
mentioned earlier, Gehenna is a metaphor for destruction. Neither torment nor
eternity is implied.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed
than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot
causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two
feet and be thrown into hell, And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is
better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and
be thrown into hell, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”
(Mark 9:43-48)

Similar to Matthew 5:29-30, and 18:8-9 this passage includes a rather ominous
description of Gehenna. From this passage comes the bizarre speculation that there
are worms in hell, constantly tormenting human souls. The Greek word for worm
could be translated either earthworm or maggot. Since we are talking about a
garbage dump, maggot is probably a better translation. “The fire that never goes
out” is a mistranslation. The meaning is unquenchable, which does not mean eternal
fire. An unquenchable fire is one that cannot be put out, but it does go out by itself
after it runs out of fuel. A forest fire is often considered unquenchable, and fire
fighters don't so much try to put it out, rather, they try control it by limiting its fuel
supply. Eventually, the fire burns out by itself. Unquenchable fire is and expression
found throughout the Old Testament and none of the fires described is still burning.
Also, it's important to understand the context. Here Jesus is quoting an Old
Testament scripture, something which he often did. This comes from Isaiah 66:24:
“And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against
me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be
loathsome to all mankind.” Here the worms were feeding on dead bodies, not living
souls.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land
and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as
much a son of hell as you are. (Matt. 23:15)

Jesus is giving “hell” to the Pharisees here for their hypocrisy. I hope you can
appreciate the sarcasm, as Jesus calls their converts “twice the son of the garbage
dump”. One commentary uses this verse to support the ridiculous idea of degrees of
punishment in hell. How can eternity be twice as bad for some as for others?

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
(Matt. 23:33)

Jesus sums up his verbal lashing of the Pharisees by calling them by a few choice
epitaphs. I'm not sure which version is more misleading. The KJV says “how can ye
escape the damnation of hell?”, the NIV says “being condemned to hell?” A literal
translation in “how can you escape the judgment of Gehenna?” Here the most likely
meaning is that Jesus is referring to national judgment, a common theme throughout
the Bible. Once again Jesus is warning the Jews of the destruction that is about to
come upon them. About forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the temple was
completely destroyed, ending the “good old days” of the Jewish ruling class.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be
afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) (See
also Luke 12:5)

First, understand the context. Jesus is speaking with his disciples only, not
unbelievers, not the Pharisees, nor sinners in general. Notice there is no mention of
eternity or torment in this passage either. Once again, the theme is destruction. Only
God can destroy your soul, and only Jesus holds the key to the resurrection and
eternal life. Some commentators claim that the Greek term for destroy does not
mean annihilate, but rather ruin. Destroy may mean ruin or loss of well being, even
in English. You can say “Alcohol destroyed his life.” He is still alive, but drinking
ruined his life. However, destroy can also mean destroy completely. You can say
“Three houses were destroyed in the fire”. There is nothing left but ashes. Both
meanings are possible. But in this context destroy cannot mean ruin because the
same word is applied to both body and soul. Are we to believe that the writer is
using the same occurrence of the same verb to have two different meanings., i.e.,
destroy (really destroy) the body, while destroy (not really destroy, but rather ruin)
the soul. The message of this verse is to fear the Lord rather than men.

The tongue also is a fire, and a world of evil among the parts of the body. It
corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set
on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

This is the only occurrence of Gehenna outside of the gospels. Here, I believe
James is using Gehenna not only to represent destruction, but also to represent
filthiness. Have you ever heard of the expression “potty mouth”, or say someone
uses “filthy language”? What better way to describe how some people use their
tongues to destroy and spread filth, than comparing it to a fiery garbage dump. The
tongue can spread filth and it can also destroy. An abusive tongue can destroy
relationships, reputations, families, churches, business deals, etc.

“Enter through to narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads
to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:13-14)

This is the verse that the hell pushes use to prove that most people are going to hell
and only a select few are going to heaven. However, there is nothing here about
heaven, hell, or eternity. You may know people now who are on the “road that leads
to destruction” in this life, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or other sins. There is no
reason to assume Jesus is referring to eternity here.

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26)

If losing your soul means going to hell when you die, then Jesus tells us we should
go to hell for his sake in verse 25: "For whoever wants to save his life (soul) will
lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul) for me will find it." Soul and life are both
translated from the same Greek word.

But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 8:12)

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is a figure of speech found throughout the Old
and New Testaments. It represents extreme grief over loss and is often associated
with national judgment and destruction. There is no evidence that this weeping and
gnashing of teeth takes place anywhere other than earth.

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury
every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and
longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked
his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angles carried him to
Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in
torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he
called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of
his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire,' But
Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you receive your good things,
while Lazarus received bad things. Now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those
who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to
us.' He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I
have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place
of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to
them. 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them,
they will repent.' He said to him, If they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they
will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.''' (Luke 16:19-31)

There are three possibilities for this passage:


1.It's a true account of what happened to two souls after their death.
2.It's a parable about hell and what happens when the wicked and the righteous die.
3.It's a parable about something else entirely.

If it's a true account, it's still not about hell. The word translated hell here is not the
fiery Gehenna, but rather Hades, the place of the dead. Hades has never been
thought to be an eternal place, rather a place where the dead go to await the
resurrection and judgment. There is no indication that the condition of the rich man
is hopeless or permanent. To be sure, he is in torment, most likely by what he sees –
the kingdom being taken from him and given to outsiders. Believing this is true
account leaves one with dozens of theological inconsistencies and problems. One
problem is that no judgment has taken place. How can God condemn or reward
souls without judgment? Is this fair? Also, since the resurrection hasn't taken place,
why do both the rich man and Lazarus have body parts? I thought the “immortal
soul” is some kind of disembodied spirit. If the rich man is literally on fire, how can
have a lengthy conversation about it. And this story presents a very disturbing view
of Abraham's bosom, whatever that is. Here, although there is a great chasm
between them, it can't be very wide because the rich man and Abraham are able to
have a conversation. Suppose you die and go to heaven (or Abraham's Bosom,
whatever that is). An angel is taking you and group of saints on a tour, “Over to my
right is the Tree of Life, and to the left of the tram you can see the River of Life,
next you can see the Rec Room..........”, “Excuse me, Mr. Angel” you interrupt,
“what's that fiery inferno, just across the chasm?” “Oh, that's hell, we let you see it
so you don't forget how lucky you are.” “Hey, I can see my Uncle Henry. Hey,
Uncle Henry, I'm sorry.......I tried to warn you. What's that's Uncle? No, I can't send
you a beer........”

So is this a parable about hell? Now, you've been told that Jesus talked more about
hell than he did about heaven because he doesn't want you to go there. So if this is a
parable, where is the warning? How exactly do we avoid hell? The story doesn't tell
us what evil thing the rich man did. In fact, he not accused of any sin, evil,
unrighteousness, or unbelief. He was a man of the covenant. He calls Abraham
father, and Abraham calls him son. Nor are we told that Lazarus is a believer, or a
righteous man, or even a good man. There is no way Jesus would use the image of a
poor beggar covered with sores to represent the righteous. Such a comparison would
be an insult. And what is the sin in being rich? Abraham was rich, Solomon was
rich, and the pastors of America's super churches are rich.

Suppose I start to tell you a story. Two friends, one black and one white, were
riding in a car together having an argument about Jesus. One said, “Jesus is black”,
“No” the other said, “Jesus is white”, etc., The driver was distracted and crashed the
car. As the two friends started floating up to heaven, they kept arguing...............
Okay, I won't finish the joke. The point is that the second I say “the two friends
started floating up to heaven” you know that I'm either telling you a joke or a
parable. Such was the case with Jesus. As soon as he said, “in hades, where he was
in torment”, his listeners knew it was parable. They had never heard of torment after
death, therefore they had no reason to believe Jesus was telling them a true account.
But he did use symbolic language that they would understand. When pastors preach
on this to prove hell, they ignore the rich symbolism that Jesus used. What are the
dogs, the sores, the fine linen, the chasm? Why did the rich man only request a drop
of water, rather than a bucket? Why did he want only his tongue cooled, if his
whole body (or soul) was on fire? Why did he have five brother, not three or four?

This is a parable, but it has nothing to do with eternal torment in hell, or what
happens to people after they die. Remember that here Jesus is addressing the
Pharisees, and as he often did, he is warning them that the kingdom will taken from
them and given to outsiders. If you want to go deeper into this, a lot has been
written on the topic. Here is a source which gives an excellent analysis:
http://www.christianheretic.com/articles/article5.html

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit
on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he
will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from
the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King
will say to those on his right, 'Come, you are blessed by my Father; take your
inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was
hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something
to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed
me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed
you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger
and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or
in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you
did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say
to those on his left 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to
eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not
invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison
and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you
hungry or thirsty or a stranger and needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not
help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the
least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment
but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 25:31-46)

Many years ago, singer Keith Green put this parable to music. Actually, he spoke it,
adding some humorous lines, while playing the piano in the background. At the end
he said, “The only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did and
did not do.” If you take this parable to represent the final judgment, when sinners
and damned to hell and saints are ushered into heaven, you run into several
problems and contradictions:
1.Neither heaven nor hell is mentioned.
2.Neither salvation nor damnation is mentioned.
3.This contradicts the common Christian belief that believers and unbelievers are
judged at different times. Christians are judged at the “Judgment Seat of Christ”,
whereas unbelievers are judged at the “Great White Throne” judgment.
4.It very clearly teaches salvation by works, which contradicts the teachings of the
Apostle Paul and others. Faith, grace, or belief in Jesus is neither mentioned nor
implied. In fact, both groups address the Son of Man as Lord.
5.Although the word everlasting or eternal appears in many English language
versions, it is debatable if the original Greek term implies eternal. The word may
mean an indeterminate length of time, or an age to be exact. In fact, the word used
is the adjective form of age which appears in Matthew 24:3 - “'Tell us,' they said,
'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the
age?'” Many argue that if the punishment is not eternal, than neither can the reward
for the righteous be eternal, since the same word is used. This is true, however, if
we interpret this parable to be a judgment of nations, then neither the reward nor
the punishment would be eternal since no human government will stand forever.
In my opinion this is a parable about the judgment of nations rather than
individuals. Nations will be judged according to how they treated the Jewish people
throughout history. Notice in verse 32 Jesus says “All the nations will be gathered
before him.” National judgment is a theme often addressed in the Bible and Jesus
often talked about the impending judgment upon the nation of Israel. It is true that
all will be judged. The righteous will be judged, the wicked will be judged, even
angels will be judged. We ought not forget that nations will also be judged. If God
judges against a nation, the results could be anything from a temporary famine to
total destruction.

So if Gehenna is not hell, and Hades is not hell, and Tartarus is not hell, where is
hell in the Bible? Perhaps the Lake of Fire, mentioned only in the Book of
Revelation, is hell.

Revelation and the Lake of Fire


Revelation is probably the most difficult book in the Bible to understand. If you ask
a hundred Bible teachers to interpret it, you will get a hundred very different
interpretations. The important thing to remember is that Revelation is a book of
symbols. Everything written in it is true, but almost nothing in the book of
Revelation is meant to be taken literally.

Many believe that the Lake of Fire is hell, and that all the wicked and unbelievers
will be cast there and burn forever without mercy. The Lake of Fire only appears in
Revelation, which was written around 95 A.D., meaning most first century
Christians would never have heard about it. The Lake of Fire is never called hell
and hell is never called a Lake of Fire.

“If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead
or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured
full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in
the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 14:9-10)

“....in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb” If you read this literally,
then either the wicked will be tormented in heaven, or the holy angels and the Lamb
will have to visit hell at some point. Either way, the verse appears to be speaking of
a specific group of people only at a specific time, rather than all of humanity.

“But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the
miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had
received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were
thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Rev. 19:20)

Here only two creatures are thrown into the Lake of Fire, not all sinners.

The next verse is interesting “The rest of them were killed with the sword that came
out of the mouth of the rider on the horse....” (v.21) Since they were all enemies of
the Lord, why were they only killed rather than thrown into the fiery lake?

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur,
where the beast and false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day
and night for ever and ever.” (Rev. 20:10)
Now the devil joins the beast and the false prophet. So far the total population of the
Lake of Fire is three (assuming that 14:9-10 refers to what happens at the Great
White Throne later on).

“The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead
that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the
second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was
thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:13-15).

All the dead are raised and judged, and anyone whose name is not found written in
the book of life is thrown into the lake of fire, though we are not told what happens
to them once they get there. Notice once again, they are judged according to what
they had done, their works, rather than faith, grace or the lack thereof. The book of
life appears only in Revelation and some Old Testament passages. This verse is
proof that the Lake of Fire is not a literal place because death and Hades are thrown
into it. Death and Hades are not physical objects which can be neatly stuffed into a
Hefty bag and tossed into a fiery pit. Here we are told what the Lake of Fire is. It
can't be Hades, since Hades is thrown into the Lake of Fire. It's not hell either, it is
the second death, or more precisely, the death of death. Looking a little further in
Revelation we read, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for
the old order of things has passed away.” (21:4)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral,
those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the
fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8)

The word cowardly could have been rendered “fearful” (as in the King James
Version) or “timid”. Have you ever wondered why someone with a minor character
defect such a timidity is lumped in with idolaters and murderers? Could it be that
the Lake of Fire is not literally hell, but rather some process by which God purifies
his creation? Maybe that's going a bit far, but remember everything in the book of
Revelation is symbolic. There is a dragon, a pregnant woman, horses of various
colors, trumpets, lampstands, living creators with six wings, and a beast with seven
heads and seven horns. No sane person takes these symbols literally.

And why is it called a lake, rather than an ocean, or a sea of fire? In fact, the Greek
term here could have been correctly translated “pond”. A pond of fire? Wouldn't it
be an ocean of fire if it were really hell containing billions of human souls? And
what is the purpose of brimstone in the Lake of Fire? Brimstone is another word for
sulfur. Sulfur, as far as we can tell, was never used to torment or torture anyone.
There is evidence that it was used by the ancients in rituals of purification. If you
wanted to torture someone, you'd be better off using boiling water than sulfur.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our
Lord.” (Rom. 6:23)

Maybe this is a little off topic, but could anything be more clear? Here Paul had the
perfect opportunity to say what most Christians believe today – that the wages of sin
isn't really death, it's eternal torment in hell. But no, he states quite clearly that
death, not eternal death, not spiritual death, not eternal life in hell, not separation
from God, is the wages of sin. This verse is in total agreement with Genesis 2:16-17
“And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the
garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for
when you eat of it you will surely die.'” And then what? Is the Bible silent on what
would happen to Adam after he died? Just look ahead to Genesis 3:19: “By the
sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from
it your were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” If Adam went to
hell when he died, then God lied to him. Theologians explain this obvious
contradiction in their teaching by saying that death doesn't really mean death, it
means eternal life in hell. Nice try, but it's doublespeak and I don't buy it. If you are
still not convinced as to the wages of sin ask yourself what wages did Jesus pay on
the cross? He died. He did not go to hell for eternity. I understand that he is the
perfect sacrifice and maybe would not have to go to hell for eternity, but wouldn't
he have to go to hell for say, at least five minutes, if the wages of sin were eternal
damnation?

What Does This All Mean?


Not believing in hell does have doctrinal consequences. One Bible teacher puts it
this way: "Heresy begets heresy." If there is no hell, then how will God deal with
the wicked? At this point there are only two reasonable alternatives. There is the
annihilation view, which claims that the wicked will be totally destroyed rather than
eternally tormented. And there is the view of universal reconciliation, which claims
that God will eventually save all of humanity.

Personally, I find the universal reconciliation view much more in line with the
overall message of the Bible than the annihilation view. There are more than 400
Bible verses which imply universal reconciliation. I will list just a few here with my
comments. For a more complete argument, see the references at the end.

The Lord speaking to Abraham: "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever
curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Gen.
12:3)

Though there is a curse, it would be hard to explain how all the peoples on the earth
will be blessed if most of them end up in hell.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." (I Chron. 16:34)
This theme is repeated throughout the Bible. If his love endures forever, will his
wrath also endure forever? See the next verse below.

"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime." (Ps. 30:5)

All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your
name. (Ps. 66:4)

"My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever." (Ps. 145:21)

Some day all the earth will worship the Lord. This is another theme repeated
throughout the Bible.

"In that day declares the Lord, I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and
those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame a remnant, those driven away a
strong nation . The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and
forever." (Micah 4:7)

Here, even those who have been punished by the Lord will be restored and blessed.

"When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn
righteousness." (Is. 26:9)

There is good side to the Lord's judgments. Through judgment, the people will learn
righteousness.

"Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough
ground shall become level, the rugged place a plain. And the glory of the Lord will
be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has
spoken." (Is. 40:4-5)

This is beautiful prophecy that the Lord will make everything right and all flesh will
see it and give praise to Him.

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (Jn. 1:29)

Here John announces who Jesus is and why he came.

"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (Jn. 12:32)

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the
world through him." (Jn. 3:17)

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
(Luke 19:10)

If Jesus didn't save the world, then he failed at his mission.

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (I Cor. 15:22)

The same "all" who die because of Adam, is the same "all" who will be made alive.

"...that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and
especially of those who believe." (I Tim. 4:10)

Those who believe in Christ now are especially blessed. Even so he is the Savior of
all men.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11)

"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins
of the whole world." (I Jn. 2:2)

His atoning sacrifice is sufficient to take away the sins of the whole world.

"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of
the world." (I Jn. 4:14)

Jesus is the Savior of the world, not just the potential savior of the world.

"But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one
man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one
man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!"
(Rom. 5:15)

The gift is better and more powerful than the trespass. The same many who died are
the same many who receive God's grace.

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and
therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for
themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (II Cor. 5:14)

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the
ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting men's sins against them." (II Cor. 5:18-19)

God reconciled the world to himself through Christ.

"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the
sea, and all that is in them, singing; 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever.'" (Rev. 5:13)

Have you ever noticed this verse in Revelation? All creatures will worship the
Lamb!

"...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and
under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of
God the Father." (Phil. 2:10-11)

This is my favorite verse of hope. I heard a preacher after reading this verse add,
"Most of them will be forced to (confess Jesus is Lord) by angels and then they will
be cast into the Lake of Fire!" He must have been using the FABV (Fire and
Brimestone Version) Bible because I just don't see that part about anyone being
forced to worship the Lord only to be cast into the Lake of Fire. Only a false god or
arrogant king, such Darius in Daniel chapter 6, would have to force his subjects to
worship him. This verse, along with many others, answers the question about what
will happen to those who have never heard the gospel: They will hear! They will
know the Lord and they will worship him. All the earth will worship him.

The Advantages of Rejecting the Pagan Doctrine of Hell


There are advantages to rejecting the man made doctrine of eternal torment in hell.
You will not have to agonize over loved ones who die without Christ. When an
unbeliever dies, especially if it's a family member of a believer, no one knows what
to say to comfort the bereaved. Christians will not say what they really believe, that
he or she probably went to hell. Instead, they rationalize that just maybe the person
accepted Jesus into his or her heart in the moments before death, but they realize
that's unlikely. Recently, I heard a pastor talk about a couple young people who died
in an accident or something. With tears in his eyes, he said something like, "I pray
they were saved....". Now I appreciate his compassion and concern. But it occurred
to me that how can he think that WE are more compassionate, more caring, more
loving, and more willing to give someone a second chance than the Lord Almighty?

Another advantage is that you will begin to see God in whole new light. You will
not have to deal with contradictory theologies which claim God has "dual natures"
(among humans we call it schizophrenia). You will believe the Bible when it
proclaims, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea." (Hab. 2:14) and "All the earth bows down to you; they
sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." (Ps. 66:4)

You will also look at people much differently. Rather than seeing the vast majority
of humanity as destined for eternal torture, you will see them objects of God's grace,
mercy, and love. Knowing this, you will be able to share the Good News of Jesus
Christ because it really is good news, not the good news and the really, really bad
news.
Most importantly, believing that universal reconciliation as even a remote possibility
will give you hope that you've never had before. You will understand that the good
news of Jesus Christ is really good news for all generations, all races, and all people.
When I first considered this to be possible, I immediately went out and started
sinning again since there is no hell. JUST KIDDING! I praised God! I praised
Jesus! I sang hymns to the Lord. I rejoiced that God is actually much better than I
thought he was. He is much more gracious, loving, and merciful than many of
today's preachers would have you believe. The Jesus that today's Christians believe
is so small and weak compared with the Jesus of the Bible who is the Savior of all.
(Jn. 1:29, 3:17)

Finally, I will admit that I am not one hundred percent sold on universal
reconciliation, but the case for it is much stronger than I once thought. However, I
am convinced that Gehenna is not hell, and if hell were real, it would at least have a
name, and the Bible would have made this doctrine perfectly clear from start to
finish. I am also convinced that man does not possess an immortal soul, as there is
zero biblical support for this pagan doctrine. Immortality may be granted to us
through Jesus Christ, without whom we have nothing.

I've anticipated some of your questions below:

Q: Are you out of your mind? How can you question the church's teaching?
A: How can I not question it? Check out everything I've claimed here and see for
yourself if it's right of not. Would you be least bit surprised if the “authorities and
experts” are wrong about something?

Q: Isn't universal reconciliation just wishful thinking?


A: If wanting all men (or rather, all men, women, and children) to be saved is
wishful thinking then I'm in good company for God also wants this: "This is good,
and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a
knowledge of the truth." (I Tim 2:3-4) The difference between my will and God's is
that I have no power to carry out my desire to save all men, and God does, of
course.

Q: Have you joined a cult or something?


A: No. In fact, I still attend a mainstream church which believes in hell.

Q: What if you are wrong? Are you risking your salvation by not believing in hell?
A: If scoring 100% on a theology exam is a requirement for salvation, then we are
all doomed. I trust only in Jesus for my salvation, not in own cleverness, ability, or
piety. Nonetheless, I believe the everything the Bible teaches and reject pagan
doctrines which are not biblical.

Q: Where did you get this information? What are your sources?
A: I've listed some sources at the end, but the ideas themselves are mine.

Q: Isn't the doctrine of hell central to the Christian faith?


A: With total confidence I can say that Jesus Christ, not hell, is central to the
Christian faith.

Q: If the majority is wrong about hell, are they wrong about other doctrines as well?
A: I certainly think so. For an eye opening list of contradictions, see L. Ray Smith's
website: Exposing Those Who Contradict, The Lake of Fire, part 2:
http://Bible-truths.com/lake2.html

Q: If there is no hell, then what is salvation? What are we saved from?


A: Nowhere in Bible will you find this erroneous idea that salvation is salvation
from hell. When the prison guard in the book of Acts asked "Sirs, What must I do to
be saved?" (Acts 16:30), he was not thinking of being saved from hell since he
could not have even heard of such a thing. Salvation is unto eternal life, not from
eternal damnation.

Q: What about judgment? Doesn't the Bible teach that we will all be judged?
A: Yes! All will be judged, there is no doubt about this. Even angels will be judged.
Judgment does not mean eternity in hell. Even so, judgment day will not be a
pleasant experience for most.

Q: What about the really, really bad people? Don't the wicked deserve to go to hell?
A: If there is a hell, yes, the wicked deserve to go there. However, there are two
problems with this question. One is that if the blood of Jesus cannot save the most
wicked, vile, evil sinner who ever lived, it cannot save you either. The other
problem is that traditional Christianity doesn't teach that only the wicked will be
tortured forever in hell. The traditionalists teach that your uncle, your grandmother,
your children, and maybe even you have about a 99% chance of going to hell for
eternity. That's right - normal, ordinary people will populate hell because they failed
to accept Jesus as savior (whether or not they ever heard of Jesus). Yes, all have
sinned and that sin must be atoned for or punished somehow. But there is no eternal
punishment in the Bible.

Q: If there is no hell to fear, why should we obey God, read the Bible, pray, witness,
and do other such things?
A: Anyone who thinks like this does not really love God at all. If you only obey
God for fear of going to hell, then you are missing the whole point. I know of no
one who pays their income tax out of love for the IRS. They pay out of a
combination of obligation and fear. When Jesus was asked, "Teacher, which is the
greatest commandment in the Law?", Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matt 22:36-37) If
you follow this commandment, you will not need to fear hell in order to obey God.
Q: Didn't Jesus talk more about hell than heaven?
A: Since Gehenna can't be hell, Jesus never even mentioned hell. He did often give
stern warnings of impending judgment and punishment, but never taught eternal
torment in hell.

Q: My pastor says if it's new it isn't true, and if it's true, it isn't new. How can this
new idea be true?
A: Hell is the new idea. Early Christians knew nothing about hell. It wasn't until the
fifth century when some church leaders, who were heavily influence by pagan
doctrines, successfully pushed it onto the church.

Q: Does this mean that all pastors, Bible teachers and scholars who teach hell are
apostates and false teachers?
A: No. No one is one hundred percent right about everything. I still have a great
deal of respect for men and women who give their time and talent to serve the Lord
in those capacities.

Q: If hell isn't a biblical teaching, where did it come from?


A: The doctrine of everlasting punishment predates Christianity. In Jesus' day and
before, there were many mythologies and competing religions making the rounds
and corrupting the people, including covenant people. This is not much different
from the situation today. The evidence suggest that the Christian hell is most similar
to the Egyptian hell. One interesting point is that of all the hells, the Christian hell is
the worst. At least in the Egyptian hell, you might be annihilated or be sentenced to
aimlessly wander rather than be tortured. And in the Hindu hell, although you would
be there for a very long time, perhaps millions of years, eventually you would be
released. But there is no escape, no mercy, and no hope in the Christian hell.

Q: How do you explain all these visions of hell that people claim to have had?
A: There is no need to explain anything when some nut case trying to sell a book
claims to have visited, or had a vision of hell. There are just as many people who
claim to have been abducted by aliens, and they have the scars to prove it! And let's
not forget near death experiences (most of which are positive experiences rather
than hellish, regardless of the person's faith). Truth comes only from God as
revealed in his Word. We should never base our faith on some experience, vision,
or revelation that someone claims to have had.

Q: What is your goal here? Are you trying to convert me?


A: I only want you to examine the evidence I've presented with an open mind. I will
let the Holy Spirit convert you if that's what you need.

At this point, you are probably unconvinced, but perhaps a little bit persuaded that
what I'm claiming just might be true, or at least partially true. If so, that's great.
Please let me know how you react to these ideas. Or maybe you think I'm the one
who needs to be set straight. That's great too. I am an open minded person and I'm
willing to let you make your case. But I do ask that you answer my questions for
you own sake and for mine if you think I'm wrong. I also give you another task if
you want to set me straight. Answer at least some of the questions here:
http://www.harvestherald.com/thirtyquestions.htm
(Thirty Questions for Teachers of Eternal Torment)
And here:
http://www.christianheretic.com/articles/article50.html
(If Hell is Real...)

My Questions
1. Do you believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins? If the
wages of sin is eternal damnation, why didn't Jesus have to go to hell for eternity to
pay for your sins?

2. Is there any difference the meaning of the following two statements: “You are
going to live forever” (repeated in many sermons) and “You will not surely die”
(Gen. 3:4)? Are not today's Bible teachers repeating the oldest lie in the book?

3. Can you offer any evidence that the Old Testament teaches the doctrine of eternal
torment in hell?

4. If you cannot conclude that eternal torment is taught in the Old Testament, can
you explain theologically, biblically, or rationally why God choose not to reveal this
very important truth for thousands of years?

5. All places in the Bible have names. Jerusalem, Capernaem, Golgatha, and the
Jordan River are all real places. If hell is a real place, why doesn't it have a name?

6. Is there any evidence that the Apostle Paul, who did “not shun to declare unto
you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), believed or taught eternal torment in hell?

7. Will you be disappointed if you discover that there is no hell? Are you secretly
hoping there is? Read the story in Matthew 20:1-16. Would you have the attitude of
the workers who bore the burden of the day?

8. If we are saved by grace through faith, why is it that in every reference to hell in
both Old and New Testaments, it's victims are there because of their evil deeds (or
lack of good deeds), not because of their sin nature, lack of faith, or failing to accept
Jesus as savior?

9. Where does the Bible teach that Jesus died to save mankind from hell?

10. Fire does only two things, it consumes and it purifies. Knowing this, if hell is
eternal pain and torment, why is fire used in relationship with hell if in hell nothing
is consumed and nothing is purified?
Notes and References
Scripture quotations taken from the New International Version and the King James
Version.

It's always useful to have a literal translation:


Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, George Ricker Berry, Baker Books, 1992

An excellent book available free online, the author does a complete and scholarly
analysis of several topics such as the soul, hell, Sheol, hades, and Gehenna. He
takes the annihilation position which I don't necessarily agree with, it's a good read
nonetheless:
Unconditional Immortality or Resurrection of the Dead, An Immortal Soul and the
Doctrine of Hell, Is the wages of sin death or Eternal life with torment in Hell?
What the Bible does not say about Hell, William West, http://robertwr.com/

Some questions worth considering:


Thirty Questions for Teachers of Eternal Torment
http://www.harvestherald.com/thirtyquestions.htm
If Hell is Real...
http://www.christianheretic.com/articles/article50.html

Try to take this challenge:


A Challenge to the Doctrine of Eternal Torment
http://www.harvestherald.com/challenge.htm

To be fair, I'm including two sources which take an opposing viewpoint:


Hell Part 1: Assurance of Eternal Torment for the Lost, Matthew McGee
http://www.matthewmcgee.org/hel4ever.html
Hell is Real, Don't Be Fooled
http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/hellreal.htm

Here's an eye opening set of articles on various themes:


Exposing Those Who Contradict L. Ray Smith
http://www.bibletruths.com/

Except for Bible, this book has given me more hope than anything else I've read:
Hope for All Generations, Gary Amirault
http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Hope.html

Articles on universal reconciliation:


The Christian Heretic
http://www.christianheretic.com/2007/03/on-universal-reconciliation.html