As I’ve studied this issue, the first thing I noticed is that the Bible is the last place people look when hell-bent (pun intended) on convincing themselves that there is no hell. And with good reason. But diversion is always easier than investigation, so that’s where they start.
First they appeal to their own personal revisionist history, wherein
the Catholic Church invented hell to scare people or something to that effect. While there is certainly a tendency among the world’s religions to use it to control and intimidate people, this whole line of argument is a red herring since it is completely unrelated to the actual content of the Bible. Who cares what this or that church said about it? Are they God? (Some think they are, but of course they’re not.) And has it occurred to these wanna-be theologians that the Jewish rabbis may also have a vested interest in denying certain parts of their own scriptures, or re-interpreting them? These are the same sort of people that Jesus had nothing good to say about, because they put their own ’traditions’ over God’s Word. Appealing in this way to commentaries and everyone’s word but God’s is no argument at all.
Then they try to defame the Bible by pointing out the failures of some Christian leaders over the years, as if this is any kind of indictment against the Bible or is somehow God’s fault. If
preacher X doesn’t believe in hell anymore they call him
progressive, but if
preacher Y still believes in hell they call him any number of epithets, question his lineage, and mock his followers. Both such preachers could be guilty of the same sins (as defined by people who don’t even believe in sin), but that doesn’t matter to the critics; they only care whether people accept their self-defined ’truths’. But again, this has no bearing on whether God says there’s a literal eternal hell awaiting the faithless.
At this point there is nothing left to do but attack the Bible itself. I’ve already written about the fact that the Bible canon is not an invention of the Catholic Church or Constantine or anyone else, so that claim just doesn’t hold water. And commentaries, Jewish or not, are not scripture. If we want to appeal to historians and linguists, we have to include the hostile, the friendly, and the allegedly neutral, or we’re just having a popularity contest.
Check This Article for a real, bona fide expert in the Old Testament manuscripts. Nobody has ever been in the same league with Robert Wilson, who mastered 45 semitic languages and dialects, including every language that had any bearing on the OT scriptures. Nobody else’s
experts qualify as such. So any appeal to what the rabbis or other Bible critics say about the OT scriptures as being doubtful or unknown is done away with.
Having established that the Bible is reliable and that only what God says about Hell matters, let’s check some scriptures.
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’... Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Luke 16:22-24, 31 (Note that Jesus is not giving a parable here; he never named names in parables.)
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, 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.’... He said to him, ’If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
God will repay everyone according to what they have done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of... the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
How can it be said any more clearly? You can’t just do a search on the word
hell and say
Well gee whiz, there’s no hell!. That’s not scholarship, it’s incompetence. Jesus did use a real burning garbage dump to illustrate a spiritual truth, as he also did on other topics using everyday things the people could relate to. Only a simpleton would conclude that since these real things existed that they couldn’t refer to anything else. It’s just like the old issue with Jesus’ statement that it was harder for the rich to be saved than for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle. People have actually tried to ’reason’ that a certain gate in the walls of Jersalem was
the eye of a needle! Utter stupidity. He was expressing through exaggeration the fact that the rich tend to be self-assured and thus difficult to convince of their spiritual poverty. Likewise, Jesus pointed to a visible reality, a burning garbage dump, to give people some idea of what hell will be like.
The motivation of the critics is to make believe that there will be no consequences for their present lifestyles. They think that by wishing hell away it will really disappear. But mature adults that face reality know that you can’t wish things away. There is a real heaven and a real hell, and both are eternal. Your destination is determined solely by whether or not you believe the truth about Jesus: that he is God in the flesh, who bought the human race back from the penalty of sin, who rose again from the dead, and who will return. If hell is so scary to you that you have been trying to wish it away, remember that the means of escape is not difficult or far away. All you have to do is accept the truth that Jesus died for you and rose again. Is that so much to ask?