BCEGTH10 – The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven – Chapter Ten

[Many people skim the book’s table of contents and jump straight to this chapter or to the one following on “bad people.”  If you do so, you are depriving yourself of a true biblical understanding of the afterlife.  If you want to read this chapter first, go ahead.  However, afterward I encourage you to go back and read the book from the beginning so that you will have a solid understanding of what the Bible teaches about death and Sheol (Hades).  If you’re not sure you want to invest that much time, then please at least read Appendix II which is a one-page summary of the book.]

Chapter Ten

But What About Hell?

In all this explanation of what happens at death, you have not heard me talk about hell.  In all my years of studying the Bible, I cannot recall a single word that is subject to as much confusion as this one.  I hope to deal with it in this chapter without muddying the clear waters of the Bible’s teaching that we have seen so far.  I wouldn’t even bring it up at all except that when the statement is made, “Everyone is going to heaven.” someone is sure to ask, “But what about hell?”

We have already talked about the fact that the way a word is used is the best way of determining its meaning.  That doesn’t mean that dictionaries are useless.  They provide much help.  But dictionaries are always tracing the meaning of words people use…and never quite catch up.  That’s why Noah Webster’s great work keeps getting updated with new editions. That’s also why, even though my dictionary told me that “bad” meant unfavorable, I should not take it as derogatory when young people describe a new band’s music as particularly “bad.”  Such are the confusions of language and its usage.

The word “hell” is used in a variety of ways that make its meaning particularly hard to nail down.  People say, “Go to hell!”  They also say, “All hell broke loose.”  Is hell a place or an event?  They say, “He’s surely going to hell when he dies.”  And they say, “He made her life a living hell.”  Is hell after this life or during this life?  People say, “The fires of hell will consume souls for all eternity.”  And they called the man who was president when I was born “Give-’em-hell Harry.”  Is hell a matter of the gravest importance or is it fit for nicknames?  When a word can be stretched to communicate this many different ideas, its use is bound to be subject to confusion.

When people ask about hell, I am seldom sure how they mean it.  And for that reason, quick answers usually add to the confusion.  Does the Bible teach that there is a hell?  Well, it depends on what you mean by hell.  If by hell, you mean a place of torment by fire after this life where bad people are forever confined, then the plain answer is no.  The Bible does not teach about such a place.  You have seen for yourself what the Bible teaches about life after death.  It used to be that everyone went down; since the work of Jesus Christ everyone goes up.  Sheol/Hades used to be the common destination for all who died.  Now it’s heaven.  There was no place called hell mentioned anywhere in all that discussion of death and resurrection.  That’s why I never brought up the subject of hell – because the Bible never did.  Everyone is going to heaven and hell has nothing to do with that except…

If by hell you mean a place of torment on this earth that often leads to death, then the plain answer is yes.  The Bible does teach about such a place.  You saw John’s picture of it in the last chapter.  That picture portrayed the great tribulation of sin and judgment.  He called it a lake of fire.

The Lake of Fire

Recall that the lake of fire represents man’s sin and God’s resulting judgment against it.  In John’s description of the new heavens and new earth in the last three chapters of the book of Revelation, he portrays this fire burning on the earth.  (Remember, there is no longer any sea so there is no nether region.)  The heavenly Jerusalem descended into the midst of this fire which was covering the entire earth.  This represents the coming of the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God was the central subject of Jesus’ teaching, and the culmination of all that God had been working toward since man first sinned.  A synonym for the kingdom of God is the kingdom of heaven (the four gospels use the terms interchangeably, as they do the term “eternal life”).  The kingdom of heaven is an especially fitting term for John’s picture because Jerusalem descends from heaven.  In other words, in the midst of the hell we see all around us (that is, the sin and destruction we see all around us) down comes the kingdom of heaven and in those places we have “heaven on earth.”

Have you ever experienced “heaven on earth?”  Most people will say yes.  It marks those times when it seems to you that all is right with the world, at least from where you stand.  You can probably also admit to having experienced a “living hell” at one time or another.  This is the picture John was painting of the world in the time of the kingdom of God (that is, heaven in the midst of hell).

The point of John’s picture is that we should seek the refuge of God’s presence in the midst of the trouble that consumes the earth and our lives.  Here is how one of his Jewish ancestors painted a picture with a similar point:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the LORD, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
  Psalm 91:1-10  NASB

Whether it is portrayed as the protective wings of a great bird or the protective walls of Jerusalem, the meaning is the same:  God is a refuge for those who look to Him.

Can God really be a refuge in the midst of a lake of fire?  Hear what Isaiah said:

“Who among us can live with the consuming fire?
Who among us can live with continual burning?”
He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity,
He who rejects unjust gain
And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe;
He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed
And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;
  Isaiah 33:14-15  NASB

Living for God’s pleasure provides the ability to survive in a world abounding in evil.  More than survive, we can actually thrive and be an encouragement to others.

Did you ever hear the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?  Those are the names three Jewish boys were given by their Babylonian captors.  When the cream of Israel’s population was deported from Jerusalem in the 6th Century B.C., these three bright young men were among the exiles.  In Babylon they were ordered to worship an idol, a false image of God.    It was the image of Babylon’s king.  When they refused, they were threatened with death by a fiery furnace.  Undaunted, they steadfastly refused to bow to the image.  The unseen God of all creation would be their only object of worship.  It was ordered that they be cast into the flames.  The fire was so hot that some of the guards actually died getting the three prisoners in there.  Yet for all this, the three Hebrew youths were unscathed by the flames.  Afterward, not even the smell of smoke could be detected in their clothes.  It seems there was a fourth presence in that fire with them.  It was like the “shield and bulwark” of God.  It was like “the river of the water of life which flowed from the center of a heavenly Jerusalem.”  Get the picture?  We can survive and thrive in this world!

Remember, in John’s picture a new Jerusalem descends from heaven into the midst of the flames.  Therefore, the city is encircled by those flames.  The twelve entrances are so that people can come from any direction.  In the old heavens and earth, Jerusalem, the city of God, was located only in the Middle East.  Through Jesus Christ, God has made the beauties, glories, and protections of Jerusalem transcend physical location.  No matter where a Jew – or Gentile, for that matter – lived, this Jerusalem would be accessible.

Outside are the flames but Jerusalem is inviting.  That’s why John says,

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.  Revelation 22:14 NASB

We gain access to this city of God’s refuge by mending our lives.  Not in the sight of other people, but in the sight of God Himself.  Changing our lives in people’s eyes is relatively useless.  To please God we must change our thoughts and motives as well as sometimes our actions.  It’s the inside that God cares about.  Sure, there are tough times in this world, but they should provoke us to run to God.  We must run to Him, however, with all our hearts.  A half-hearted love will not be enough to get us into His kingdom.  Let us return now, however, to the subject from which we’re fleeing: hell.

The term John used is “lake of fire,” but other Bible writers use other terms.  Yet the connection is easily seen.  Let me show you what I mean.


The city of Jerusalem was built on a hill.  Actually, several hills.  The most well-known is Mount Zion.  That’s why you’ll find the terms Mt. Zion or Zion used in the Bible as synonyms for Jerusalem itself.  The valley that lay just outside the city to the south and west was called Gehenna.  This place was what you might call the city dump.

In the Old Testament, this area goes by the name “valley of Hinnom.”  The “Ge” in Gehenna means “valley” so you can see how the word evolved.  This valley of Hinnom was not always a dumping ground.

Jerusalem was, of course, the capital of Israel and therefore the residence of its kings.  Not all of Israel’s kings were good.  Some were pretty bad.  A couple of them sacrificed their sons in the fire to pagan gods in the valley of Hinnom.  A later king of Israel who was very good, Josiah by name, was troubled by what his predecessors had done.  He therefore defiled the place and made it into a receiving ground for trash.  A contemporary of his, the prophet Jeremiah, began using the place as a figure of speech to describe Jerusalem’s future if they did not repent.  The coming destruction of the nation would be so bad, he would say, that the dead bodies were going to have to be burned in the valley of Hinnom because there wouldn’t be enough room or time to bury them.  Unfortunately, this word picture proved all too descriptive of what ended up happening.  His book of Lamentations describes the horror of what came upon Jerusalem.  The glorious city was turned into an ash heap.

The Bible is not unique in taking place names and using them as a figure of speech to communicate an idea.  If someone has “met his Waterloo” then they have experienced the defeat that ended their career.   Waterloo was a real place in Europe where Napoleon was finally defeated.  There is a figurative meaning of Waterloo therefore, in addition to its original literal meaning.  The same thing is true of a building complex in our own nation’s capital of Washington called Watergate.  It was the scene of a political burglary which led to the downfall of a president.  Through that process the word has come to have a meaning beyond that of a specific location.  Political scandals are, in our time, commonly referred to as “Watergates” or “somethinggates.”

Gehenna, then, was a valley just outside Jerusalem used for dumping and burning trash that came to symbolize destruction and shame.  It could be contrasted with Jerusalem itself which symbolized glory and life.  Therefore, John’s picture at the end of Revelation was of a Jerusalem with flames burning outside.  Another way of expressing the flames would be to say that Gehenna was outside.  And that’s the way Jesus used the term Gehenna.

For Jesus, Gehenna was an alternative to the kingdom of God.  He mentions it several times in the Sermon on the Mount.  The subject of this teaching by Jesus is how to enter the kingdom of heaven.  It contains the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule.   It describes a place of safety in this world for those who “practice their righteousness” before God rather than men.  Peace in the storm, if you will.  Since the kingdom of God is eternal, the destruction outside it is eternal.  That’s why it’s sometimes called “eternal fire.”

What Is Eternal?

When I was in the eighth grade, some of our history class took a trip to Washington D.C.  One of the sites we saw was the tomb of President John F. Kennedy.  It was the temporary set-up with the white picket fence that preceded the permanent stone memorial.  Nonetheless, the eternal flame was already there.  Why did they call the flame eternal?  Because it was to never go out.  Things that are eternal don’t end.

The kingdom of God is eternal.  It will never end.  Therefore, its alternative of Gehenna, or flames will never end.  That’s why there is eternal destruction.  It coincides with an eternal kingdom.  When the only Jerusalem was earthly it was subject to corruption.  There were times when, rather than being a place of refuge, it became a death trap.  Just before the destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jeremiah was warning the people to leave the city for safety’s sake.  Jesus gave a similar warning in His day.  Those that heeded Him were spared the devastation that fell on the city in 70 A.D. at the hands of the Romans.  The unseen Jerusalem, however, that is governed by God Himself is not subject to corruption.  Therefore, it is eternal.  There is never anything but goodness inside; there is never anything but trouble outside.

Now there are some people who think that the kingdom of God that Jesus was describing has nothing to do with this life, but only the afterlife.  I can see why those people would view the flames as referring to something after this life.  For the flames of destruction are the alternative to the place of peace and life.  But it seems impossible to me in reading the Sermon on the Mount to deny that Jesus’ words are directed at living this life.  And since the kingdom is something to be sought and entered in this life, so also are the flames something to be avoided and fled from in this life.

The rest of the Bible writers seem to agree for they are constantly using the figure of fire and burning to symbolize God’s anger at, and judgment of, sin in this life.  For example, the prophet Isaiah writes,

When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning,  Isaiah 4:4  NASB

As we’ve seen, burning represents the wrath of God in response to our sins.  He loves us, but He hates and must judge sin.  Just because you love your children does not mean you love every thing they have ever done.  Haven’t you had to discipline them?  After the discipline, however, you call them to your bosom.  And if we read on in this passage of Isaiah we see him drawing along the lines that are now becoming familiar to us:

then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy.  There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.  Isaiah 4:5-6  NASB

In the midst of the earth’s destruction is a place watched over by God.  He is unseen, but we can believe that He is watching, and that everything we do matters to Him.

The little New Testament book of Jude which sits just before the book of Revelation says this about “eternal fire:”

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1:7  NASB

Jude is telling us that the destruction of those two infamous cities is an example of the punishment of eternal fire.  They were cities on the earth.  Therefore, eternal fire burns on the earth and destroys godless civilizations.  Do we not see the flames of destruction licking at the heels of our own nation?  How safe are our streets?  How secure is our prosperity?  To the degree that we seek the unseen Jerusalem of godly living before Him we will find relief from the flames of His judgments.  But even if the whole nation does not repent, you can find a place of protection in the midst of destruction.  Look to Him every day.

We see, therefore, that the flames that the Bible warns us about burn in this life and on this earth.  They are the wrath of God against sin.  As Jesus Himself said,

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”  Luke 12:49  NASB

Notice the fire is cast upon the earth.  The fire came with the kingdom and like the kingdom, is eternal.

As we saw in the last chapter, the prophets of Israel forewarned of the destruction of their nation using just this terminology.  If it was apt for describing the destruction of that nation, is it not also apt for describing the rise and fall of all nations?  And is it not apt for describing the continual judgments that have been with us on the earth since the kingdom came?

If by “Hell” You Mean Destruction on the Earth in This Life…

During the American Civil War there was a certain general in the Union Army who burned down my hometown.  I’m not complaining; it was his job.  His name was William Tecumseh Sherman.  There were a number of places in the South scorched in the wide path of destruction he left in his “march to the sea.”  His defense to those who protested that his methods were too harsh was, “War is hell.”  Those who wrote the Bible would agree.

Therefore, if by “hell” you mean destruction on the earth in this life brought on by war, disease, famine, earthquake, and such then the Bible supports your thinking.  In this sense there is indeed a hell and its flames are burning even now.  Television news is largely a peek at such flare-ups locally and around the world.

We are not left in such a hell without God, however, for His presence is here for us.  (Remember the heavenly Jerusalem descending to the earth which was covered with a lake of fire.)  God is not far away.  We can call upon Him and live for Him.  We can be protected.  But more than that, we can bring relief and refreshment to others.  Into the hearts of humanity God speaks, and if we listen and respond, then deliverance will become more predominant than disaster.  God has provided the means, but we humans must use our wills for good.

Years ago my wife and I owned a duplex.  We lived in one side and rented out the other.  One night a fire started on the other side.  By the time the tenant told me, it was much too big for me to handle.  I was thrilled to see the fire department arrive.  They had more water than I could have ever produced with my garden hose.  In John’s description of the new Jerusalem, there was a river of water coming out of its center.  In other words, there is more than enough water to douse the flames of evil.  And it is even possible for the smell of smoke to be removed from our clothes.

But If You Mean a Flaming Torture Pit After This Life…

I have not found in the Bible reason to believe that there will be any destination awaiting those who die other than heaven.  I have already shown you what I found the Bible to say about those who die and what happens to them.  If a flaming torture pit were awaiting some who died, then the Bible has taught us falsely about life after death.  If the Bible is false, I give up.

There was no place of flaming torture in the original creation.  There was heaven above, earth here, and Sheol/Hades below.  In the new creation there is only heaven above and the earth here.  What flames there are, burn on earth.  And beyond heaven and earth, there’s nothing else.  If there is no place called hell for the afterlife in the original creation or in the new creation, then there is no basis for believing that the afterlife includes such a place.

This is all the more true when you examine the Bible’s description of the movements of the spirits of those who die.  In the beginning, they descended at death.  Since the resurrection, all rise to heaven.  This supposed afterlife destination of “hell” is never mentioned in these descriptions.  Where then do people get the idea?

Why There Is So Much Confusion About the Word “Hell” in the Bible

We have already discussed the widely varying ways in which people use the word hell, but what about the Bible?  Surely we could look there and find the word used consistently.  Unfortunately, that is not so easy.

Of course, all our English Bibles are translations, with the Old Testament having been originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek.  There are quite a number of English Bibles in existence today and that is a wonderful thing.  Each Bible is translated with different readers in mind, but each seeks to be faithful to the original.  For example, some serve readers for whom English is a second language.  These would employ a smaller English vocabulary than, say, a translation striving for word-for-word correspondence.  Similarly, some versions are paraphrased, using modern idioms.  Others strive to be literal, believing the ancient idioms can be understood one way or the other.  Of course, the way English is spoken has changed over each century so this is yet another reason for new English translations.  As you can see, there are legitimate reasons for English translations to differ.

One of the problems that all translators have had is when to use the English word “hell.”  Historically, four words have at least sometimes been translated as hell.  When I say historically, I am referring primarily to the King James Bible which was translated in 1611.  Those four words that are sometimes translated as hell are Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartaros.  You have seen the Bible’s usage and explanation of the first three words.  The fourth only occurs once in the entire Bible and I will give its explanation in a moment.  The problem is that among the many English translations there has been no uniform way of translating these four words.  Therefore, confusion.

The solution is to turn to the literal English translations which are likely to transliterate the words rather than translate them.  That is, a literal translation is likely to render “Sheol” as “Sheol” rather than trying to find a matching English word.  This makes all the more sense in the case of a word like Sheol or Hades for which there is no modern English word which matches its meaning.  A notable example of such a literal translation is the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which is available at most any bookstore (or online at the link).  Unless you can read Hebrew and Greek, such a literal translation is your best hope for sorting out a confusing word issue like this.

In the NASB, “Sheol” in Hebrew is rendered as “Sheol” in English all 66 times it occurs.  “Hades” in Greek (New Testament) is consistently rendered as “Hades” in English the 10 times it occurs.  You can verify this at NASB by searching on either of those two terms.  Sheol and Hades, therefore, are transliterated at each occurrence.  Gehenna and Tartaros are, however, translated to “hell” – yet consistently so which reduces confusion.  The 12 occurrences of “Gehenna” are always footnoted with the indication that the literal word is “Gehenna.”  “Tartaros” occurs only once and is translated as “hell” without a footnote.

While the work is tedious, you can see how invaluable the literal translations are, especially ones which are searchable online or for which there is an exhaustive concordance.  Such translations allow you to read each occurrence of the word and determine from all the uses what its meaning is.  If the words are mixed and translated inconsistently, the Bible reader is definitely at a disadvantage.  Appendix I in this book lists every occurrence of all four of these words so that, regardless of which translation you are using, you will be able to determine the actual word used in the original writing.

In this discussion it may have dawned on you that the word “hell” per se is not even in the Bible.  You know very well what Sheol means and that Hades is its equivalent.  Gehenna has to do with judgment and Tartaros has to do with angels (further explanation to come).  If you were a translator, which of these words would you translate as hell?  Especially given the fact that “hell” does not always mean the same thing in English, as we have seen.  See what I mean by confusing?

By the way, I told you at the beginning of this chapter that the issue was very confusing.  I should add that if all Bible study required this much effort, it would not be very practical for most people.  Let me assure you, however, that such situations are rare.  Do not let this one issue discourage you about the practicality and worth of reading the Bible – in anytranslation.  (Just think – if our ancestors hadn’t been disobedient with the Tower of Babel, we might not even have this problem.)  Now back to the matter at hand.

When you lump these four words together, or translate them inconsistently, you get earthly judgment mixed up with afterlife.  That’s why some people think hell is after this life.  The confusion of words caused them to put judgment on the wrong side of death.  All those warnings in the Bible about awful judgment to come are not about things that happenafter this life.  They are warnings about things that can happen in this life.  There is a judgment after this life when we go to heaven and I will tell you more about it in the next chapter.  But the warnings of destruction are so that we might preserve the well-being of our nation (that is, whichever nation of which you are a part) for our children and our grandchildren after us.  If the state of the physical environment that we leave our posterity is important, how much more the moral environment?  As we saw with Sodom and Gomorrah, death does not lead to the fires of judgment.  Rather, the fires of judgment lead to death.  That’s worth repeating.  Death does not leave to the fires of judgment – rather, the fires of judgment lead to death.

Fire and burning are always associated with the word Gehenna but seldom with the word Sheol or Hades.  One of the rare times that fire is mentioned with respect to Sheol/Hades is a parable Jesus told in Luke 16.  This, added to the inconsistency of translation, seems to confirm the idea in some people’s minds that there is a place called hell after this life.  But if you examine the passage closely and in context (which we will do in the last chapter of this book), you will see that it teaches something quite different.

Now comes the explanation of the single occurrence of Tartaros. It was a Greek term referring to a place below Hades where the “Titans” were confined.  The Titans were the predecessors to the Greek gods.  In 2 Peter 2:4, the apostle Peter says that angels who sinned were confined there.  Of course, we know that when the lower parts of invisible creation gave up the dead, all the remaining spiritual powers were thrown up to the earth.  Peter, being a Jew, wouldn’t have believed in “Titans” but he might use the term as something to which his Greek-speaking disciples could relate.  In any case, you wouldn’t want to build a Bible doctrine out of one occurrence of a word.

In the jumble of these different words, you can see how a teaching saying that at death some go up to heaven while some go down to hell might sound like it came from the Bible.  But you have seen too much of what the Bible actually teaches to buy into such an idea.  It would make the Bible into a bundle of contradictions, which it most certainly is not.

If you would like more clarity on all this, you can always take the references in Appendix Iand work each of them one at a time.  If you do, you will find that – and this is consistent with all that I have shown you – Sheol (Hades) is the place the dead used to go before the resurrection.  Tartaros is where certain evil angels were kept before the resurrection.  And Gehenna is the place of judgment and eternal (that is, continual) destruction on the earth that we can avoid if we walk in the light of the kingdom of God.

Therefore, I pause to invite – rather I implore – you, come out of hell and enter into the glory of your Maker, Jesus Christ our Lord!  This is the kingdom of God, about which He taught us in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the gospels and the rest of the Scriptures.  To all who obey Him He gives an eternal – that is, continual – salvation.  See Him who is unseen…and see Him always.

Tidying Up

Let us set aside all the details about words and deal with this idea of a flaming torture pit in the afterlife at gut level.  We’ve seen what the Bible has to teach about death and resurrection.  There was no such place as hell mentioned.  Why should we add in the idea?  We would only do so from preconceived notions or from traditional thinking – neither of which is biblical.  It is not wise to add to the word of God.

Second, such a punishment would be inconsistent with the nature of God.  Since this life is finite and eternity is forever, then it would only be a matter of time before the punishment would outweigh the crime.  It has always been God’s nature to requite us less than our sins deserve, not more.  We saw in the first chapter that death was the punishment for sin.  If there is something called hell after that, then God would be making us pay twice for the same crime.  Moreover, death (especially the way God deals with it) can be called a just punishment for our sins.  This eternal torture pit, however, would have to be called cruel and unusual.  Cruel and unusual punishment is something of which God is incapable.

Third, God’s judgments – both in their warnings and in their executions – are intended to provoke repentance in us.  A judgment which would allow no repentance and relief would be utterly inconsistent with God’s ways.

Fourth, if there were such a flaming torture pit awaiting any portion of humanity after this life, then every one of us ought to be tarred and feathered if we ever become concerned about any other issue!  What would it matter if your whole life on earth went wrong, just so you could avoid that unending fate?  If the plane is headed for a crash and only passengers with parachutes survive, then nothing would matter but making sure everyone had a parachute.  Nothing!

Take a look at those who say that heaven and hell await us.  See if they are concerned only with getting parachutes for everyone they can.  You will notice that they are beset with the same weaknesses and worries of the world as everyone else.  They say they are concerned about the unending fiery torture pit but they walk and drive past neighbors every day without saying a word about it.  One of the rare times they’ll talk about it is when someone like me comes along, and then only to argue.  Again, if you truly believed some were going to hell and you loved them, you would subordinate every other concern in life to keeping them out.

We conclude then that there is no reason to fear a hell which lies after this life and lasts for an eternity.  There has never been more than one destination for those who die, though that destination was gloriously changed through the grace of Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah of Israel.  You and I can thank Him forever that it is His home in heaven to which everyone is going.  You will enjoy your loved ones once again.

On the other hand, there is plenty of reason to fear the hell whose fires are consuming people on this side of death.  The problems that plague humanity are, unhappily, familiar to us all.  We do not have to watch television news to know about it.  Murder, drugs, sexually-transmitted diseases, homosexuality, abortion – these and the judgments they bring are consuming people all around us.  And then there are the more subtle, yet more predominant, sins of greed, lust, bitterness, arrogance, anger, hate, unforgiveness, and more that infect our hearts.  These, too, bring judgments upon us.

Perhaps the flames are consuming you.  There is relief close by.  Call on God and live life His way, beginning with the secrets of your heart.  His righteous and loving presence is the refreshment you need.  And He is the God who, even if the flames completely consume you, will receive you back in heaven as the prodigal son – new clothes, welcoming party, and all!

(For more, see the posts  Judgment Is Upon Us ,   We Must Repent! , or  Walking in the Spirit and Not in the Flesh )

End of Chapter Ten

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