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Burning in Hell
By Joe Crews

I would like to make a preliminary statement today about the method I use in studying Bible doctrines. You have doubtless noticed that I use many, many texts in presenting subjects from the Word of God. There’s a special reason for this. All the truth can never be found in one text, or even in one book of the Bible. We have to search the Scriptures in order to discover its secrets. That’s why I bring together from many parts of the Bible the texts showing what each writer has said in order to get the full picture. Comparison of these assembled texts makes the subject clear. Occasionally it may seem that two or three texts are out of harmony with all the others and that they actually disagree with the others, but by carefully studying those texts in their context, we soon learn that the contradiction is really in our own minds rather than in the Word of God. These principles must be followed especially in studying the subject that we are introducing today. The subject of hell has been so theologically confused and distorted that it has become a byword for many people. Millions are actually wondering if a God of love will torment the wicked for all eternity or if the fires of hell will ever burn the “badness” out of people.

Now let’s consider the dealings of God with sinners. First, we should understand that there is a heaven to win and a hell to shun. Notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:41-43: “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

There it is friends. Finally, there must be only two classes—the saved and the lost. Everyone will be cast into the furnace or saved in the kingdom. How earnestly we should be seeking to find the right way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. If we take what He said on this subject of hell, we certainly will be on the right road. We could certainly not be wrong. Many people have claimed that Christ taught about some disembodied soul leaving the body at death and flying away to either heaven or hell. That just isn’t true, friends. Jesus must not be blamed for such a teaching as that. Let us turn to Matthew 5:30 for a sample of what He taught about the doctrine of hell: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Jesus taught that it is the body that suffers in the fire of hell and not the soul. These are the words of the master Teacher. There is no vague, mystical soul to leave the body at death and find its way to some place of torment or punishment.

Now the question arises as to when this punishment of the wicked takes place. Again the words of Jesus present a clear answer in Matthew 13:38-42. There He gives the parable of the tares and the wheat. He tells about a man who went out and sowed wheat, good wheat; and then an enemy came in the dead of night and sowed weeds in it, or tares, among the wheat. After it began to grow, the servant came in and told the master about it and asked if he should pull up the weeds. The master said, “No, let them grow together until the harvest and then we can cut them down together, separate them, burn up the weeds, and put the wheat into the garner or into the granary.”

Notice that when Jesus explained the meaning of the terms in that parable He said, “... the harvest is the end of the world.” That’s when the separation is going to take place. That’s when the wicked are thrown into the fire. That’s when the tares are to be burned up. There’s no room for argument or quibbling here. Nobody is going into that furnace of fire until the end of the world. How unfair it would be for God to punish the wicked before they even came to the time of their judgment. Even an earthly court would not send a man to prison for many years before considering his case and pronouncing sentence on him. In 2 Peter 2:9 we find it even more plainly given. Notice these words, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.”

There it is. Now we know that the wicked are not going to be dealt with at all until after the day of judgment. Then they will be punished. Now we are prepared to answer the question, “How many people are in hell right now today?” My friends, not one single person is there now. They are all being reserved until the day of judgment. But where are they being reserved? Jesus said: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29.

This agrees with what Job wrote hundreds of years before: “Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens, That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.” Job 21:29, 30, 32. Friends, the whole teaching of the Scriptures is in perfect harmony on this subject. The unsaved remain in their graves sleeping the sleep of death until the resurrection day. Then they are brought forth to be punished. This brings us to the question as to the place of punishment and the time of punishment. Where will this lake of fire be located? Revelation 21:8 throws some light on this subject: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Please remember that this punishment in the fires of hell is called the second death.

What does that mean? It means that it must take place after the resurrection of the wicked at the end of the millennium. There can be no second death without a second life, of course. Every sinner must be brought out of the grave in the second resurrection and then be cast into the lake of fire to die again, and that’s called the second death.

Does the Bible tell us how these things are going to be accomplished? Yes it does in Revelation 20:7-9: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Here we have a picture of the last chapter in the history of sin and sinners. Under the great archdeceiver all the numberless hosts of the resurrected wicked ones are led up to fight against the holy city which has come down from God out of heaven. You will find that account in Revelation 21:2, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

We studied that even more closely in the broadcast on the millennium. But the result of that unholy attempt to take the city of God is graphically told in these word, “And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” A consuming flame will envelop the great armies of Satan and destroy them from the face of the earth. This is a strange fire in many respects because it not only devours the wicked, but it burns and purifies the earth at the same time. Every trace of the curse of sin will be purged away by the intense heat of that flame. In 2 Peter 3:10 we have the record of elements melting in that fire from fervent heat: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” But then Peter hastens on to add this in verse 13, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Yes, God will reconstruct this world into a perfect, beautiful garden even as it was before the entrance of sin.

Today, however, we are mainly concerned with the effects of that fire upon the wicked. After all, this is the Bible picture of hell. It’s not to be located in some subterranean place of darkness. It will be this old world turned into a lake of fire at the end of the millennium. Isaiah 34:9 says that the streams will become pitch and the dust will turn into brimstone. Now we can be sure about the size of hell. It’s just as long and wide as this earth itself—25,000 miles in circumference. How long will the wicked ones suffer in that lake of fire here upon this earth? I can’t tell you the exact length of time, but I can give you this assurance with confidence: It will not be throughout all eternity. This earth is going to be recreated and will be the eternal home of the saints. Sin will never be crowned with immortality. Since the soul of man is not naturally immortal, there can be no such thing as eternal torment. Only the righteous will be given eternal life, and that will be given at the coming of Jesus. You read about it in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54. It says, “... this mortal must put on immortality ... in the twinkling of an eye.”

The wicked are never given eternal life. Nowhere do we find that they are given this gift of immortality. On the contrary, we read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There you have it, the two opposite fates of mankind are life and death; and both of them are of eternal duration. God will never bestow His priceless gift that the wicked might be tormented endlessly in that fire. He will not give them eternal life so that they can suffer in the flame of that torment of hell fire. Only those possessing Christ can possess endless life. Notice this verse in 1 John 5:12, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Isn’t that clear and simple? The wicked people burning in that fire have no connection whatsoever with the Son of God. They have denied Him. They have rejected Him. They have cut themselves off from eternal life. Therefore there can be no connection at all with Jesus Christ. When they are in the fires of hell they are simply burning up there, being punished for their sins. The Bible says they are going to be tormented and punished according to their works. That means that some will burn longer than others. Some will be tormented longer than others; but finally, the end result must be death. The wages of sin is death. They cannot keep on living. It is an incongruous thought, that they would just remain there in existence, being punished, being tormented, marring God’s great universe. He’s going to lift the curse of sin. All the effects of sin will be wiped out. This earth will then be restored to its Edenic beauty once more and to its glory as it was before sin ever came into the garden home.

Pt. #2

In our last broadcast we delved into a subject which is shunned by the great majority of modern religionists. Multitudes have become skeptical about the reality of hell. Under the influence of higher criticism, one doctrine after another has been discarded from God’s Holy Book. Even among those who still hold strong convictions about the punishment of the wicked, the interpretation of man has moulded their understanding of the subject too often. What says the Bible? This is the final arbiter of truth.

Millions have been taught that a disembodied soul leaves the body at death to be punished or rewarded immediately. This is not true. The Bible teaches that punishment will be meted out only after the judgment at the end of the world. Further, Jesus taught in Matthew 5:30 that the body would be cast into hell and not some disembodied soul. Language could speak no plainer. “... for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Friends, that settles it forever doesn’t it? We discovered in yesterday’s broadcast that hell will be this earth turned into a lake of fire. Listen to the vivid description of it given in Isaiah 34:8,9: “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” Add to that the text in Revelation 20:9, “... and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” There you see this earth turned into a burning lake of fire and brimstone in which the wicked are going to be consumed. The wicked will be burned right in this earth itself.

Now how long will they burn? Friends, I don’t know exactly, but I do know that they shall not go on burning endlessly. Finally the fire will go out. The wicked will be burned up. This earth will be recreated and turned into heaven or the new earth. The wicked never receive immortality or eternal life. They have no contact with Christ through whom eternal life is given. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:12. “... the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23. And so those wicked ones who never received the gift of life through Jesus Christ will have to die. They cannot keep on living with immortality.

At this point a question may arise in your mind about some perplexing Bible statements. For example, there is a text which says that the fires of hell are unquenchable. What does that mean? Let’s allow the Bible to do its own explaining of this text in Jeremiah 17:27. The Scriptures tell us that the gates of Jerusalem would burn with a fire that “shall not be quenched.” Now there’s an unquenchable fire, friends. Does that mean the fire will never go out? No, the fact is that the city was burnt to ashes by the fire and had to be built back again, according to 2 Chronicles 36:19-23. The word “unquenchable” means simply beyond the power of anyone to quench or put out. The strange fire of God which destroys sinners cannot be extinguished and no one can deliver himself from the power of it.

Some may say, “But doesn’t the Bible teach that it’s eternal punishment?” Yes, we readily concede to that, but again we must compare text with text to understand the true meaning. Some words of the Bible are used in a different way now than they were used in olden times. Are you sure that the word eternal means without end in every case? Let’s take a look at a text, dear friends and see how the Bible uses it and not the way we might use it in our modern vernacular.

In Jude, verse 7: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Here we are told that the fire which burned Sodom and Gomorrha was eternal fire—but is it still burning today? On the contrary, the Dead Sea rolls over the site of those ancient cities. Second Peter 2:6 tells just how complete the destruction was: “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” Notice that this eternal fire brought the cities to ashes and it is an ensample of what will happen to the ungodly. The same kind of eternal fire will someday consume the wicked and bring them to ashes on the face of the earth. The results of the burning will be definitely without end because there will be no resurrection from the second death.

Another text which has caused some concern is Matthew 25:46, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Please note that this verse reads “punishment” instead of “punishing”. And what is the punishment for sin and sinners? The answer is in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”

You see, friends, the punishment is here called everlasting destruction. Thus we can see that the wicked do go away into everlasting punishment because it is an everlasting destruction from which there will be no resurrection. Thus we see how clear and plain the Bible truth is made by allowing it to explain itself. Now we’ll read a few texts to see how complete the work of destruction will be. Jesus made it clear in the words of Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Oh friends, both the soul and body will be destroyed in that fire on the authority of Jesus’ own word and teaching. Sin and sinners will be wiped out of existence so completely that the universe will be just as clean as it was before the entrance of sin. Here’s the way Malachi describes it: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1. Even Satan, the root of evil, will be brought to ashes along with all his followers. They shall be consumed into smoke. Notice Psalm 37:10, 20: “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.”

My friends, the theology of man has painted our kind heavenly Father as a cruel God who delights in torment. But that picture is not true. How repugnant to imagine that He’s like some ogre who would perpetuate the existence of deathless souls for billions of years just so they could suffer the exquisite torment of unending fire. It was that very thought, by the way, which turned young Robert Ingersal into the world’s greatest infidel.

Now I realize there is another extreme also. Some believe that God is too good to punish the wicked at all. But in between these extremes is the Bible picture of a God of justice who recompenses every man according to his works. Read it in Revelation 20:12, “... and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” This thought is repeated again in Revelation 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” I don’t deny that there will be degrees of duration and intensity, because each must suffer according to his life record, but the end must be death. The wages of sin is death.

Now we shall consider another Bible phrase which has caused some perplexity about the punishment of the wicked. The book of Revelation uses the term, “for ever and ever” in describing the smoke of those who will be burning in the fires of hell. Again we must let the Bible be its own expositor. How is the term “forever” used in the Scriptures? If you will read Exodus 21:1-6, you will find exactly how it is used. There you find the rules laid down for the keeping of a Hebrew servant. “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door posts; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.” Now how is the term forever used here? Well friends, it simply means as long as a person lives. The Hebrew servant was to serve his master forever, which meant only as long as he lived.

In 1 Samuel 1:22, Hannah took her son to serve in the Lord’s house forever. But in 1 Samuel 1:28 we are assured that it was to be for as long as he lived. In Jonah 2:6 the word forever means only the period when Jonah was in the whale’s belly. It is true that the wicked will burn forever in this same sense. They will burn as long as there is any part of them to burn and when they are burned up, the fire will go out.

Friends listen, some day soon the universe will be clean once more. There will be no devil to tempt and no sinners to defile. Rebellion will not rise up the second time. Nahum 1:9 tells us, “What do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.” God has made gracious provision for all to be saved. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Hell was never intended for you or for me. It will be prepared for Satan and his angels. If we get there it will not be God’s fault but rather it will be in spite of His wonderful design to save us. Whoever goes there must do so in spite of the love of God and the cross of Calvary. Only one thing can cause us to go to hell and that is sin. And the greatest sin of all is to refuse the way of escape that has been provided. Listen to me, no one is going to be lost just because he fell into the trap of sin. No one will go to hell because he stole, killed, or committed adultery. He will go to hell because he refused to turn to Christ for deliverance from those sins. The greatest sin is to spurn salvation and the most unanswerable question in all the world is this, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?” Hebrews 2:3. There’s no answer to that question because there is no escape. Let us not neglect the secret of deliverance. Accept Jesus now that you might receive eternal life through Him.


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Hell in the Bible

The word “hell” is used 54 times in the Bible. It is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated below:
In the Old Testament:
  • 31 times from the Hebrew “Sheol,” which means “the grave”
In the New Testament:
  • 10 times from the Greek “Hades,” which means “the grave”
  • 12 times from the Greek “Gehenna,” which means “a place of burning”
  • 1 time from the Greek “Tartarus,” which means “a place of darkness”

What is Purgatory?

A tradition held by the Catholic Church that teaches people who are not good enough to be worthy of heaven, but not bad enough to deserve hell, suffer in an intermediary state until their sins are purged.

But is it in the Bible? Click here to learn more.

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