Updated: Aug 2
Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, 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.
The Truth about Hades and Hell Fire Hades, hell fire and SheolHere is one very hot topic that would be one of the most misunderstood in scripture. Many people in the past have turned their back on God because they concluded that He must be some evil tyrant that would burn the wicked in hell for all eternity. And yet most people in the world today would not do what many think God is going to do. That would make our God less loving than us and yet He gave His only son to save the world. Some of the greatest theological confusion centers around the biblical topic of Hades and hell fire. As always, the truth can only be found in the Bible.
The word Hell in the Bible The word “hell” is found 54 times in the King James 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”
“Tartarus” is used once, in 2 Peter 2:4, and means “a place of darkness or restraint.” “Tartarus” is where Satan and his demons reside now. It isn’t a place of punishment or flames.
“Gehenna” means a place of fire, brimstone, and punishment (see Matthew 5:29-30, described in Matthew 13:40-42 and 2 Peter 3:7.) Note these flames are still in the future at the end of the world.
“Hades” means “the grave” (Acts 2:31; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 20:14). The body of Jesus rested there and His saints are resting there now awaiting the resurrection.
The Greek word “Hades” is translated as “Hell” in many English Bibles such as the King James Version. In Revelation 6:8, the King James Version refers to “Death and Hell.” It does the same in Revelation 20:14. Yet some English Bibles use the word “Hades” itself, such as the New International Version, which translates both Revelation 6:8 and 20:14 as “Death, and Hades.” Now here is the point; In Revelation 20:14 “Hades” is eventually “cast into the lake of fire.” So as you can therefore see, “Hades” itself is not a fiery place, but is cast into “the lake of fire.”
So Biblically speaking, Hades means the grave. This is easy to prove from 1 Corinthians 15:55, which in the King James Version states, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave [Hades], where is thy victory?” If you look in the Strong’s dictionary, you will find that the Greek word here translated “grave” is “Hades.” By looking at the context, it is obvious that it means “the grave” because it is God’s saints who rise out of “Hades” when Jesus Christ returns. See 1 Corinthians 15:50-55. Therefore, “Hades” cannot mean a place of burning, for who can imagine God’s people writhing in flames as they await the resurrection? That would be absolutely ludicrous! Additional proof this word means “the grave” is the fact that “Hades” was the place Christ’s body rested right after His death. Acts 2:31 reads, “His [Christ’s] soul was not left in hell [Hades] neither [did] his flesh see corruption.” (Italics added.)
Does Hell burn forever? To discover the real truth about hell fire, we must accept what the Bible says above the opinions of men. That said, this subject requires close examination for some texts appear contradictory. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ warned that unsaved sinners will enter “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Many read this and say, “The lost will sizzle forever. Don’t even try to convince me otherwise.” But in John 3:16 Jesus also declared, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” So which is it? Will the damned roast eternally in “everlasting fire” or finally “perish,” and thus cease to exist?
Revelation 20:9 says, “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.” This verse describes the “actual event” of hell fire and is NOT symbolic, and like John 3:16, it declares that the wicked will be devoured and perish, yet the very next verse appears to totally contradict which says, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Note that this verse has symbolism and says that “the devil” and “the beast” (beast is symbolic) will “be tormented … forever” in the lake of fire. But Ezekiel chapter 28 reveals a totally different picture. While initially discussing the ancient “king of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:12), God’s prophet then looks behind the scenes and identifies Lucifer himself, “the anointed cherub” (verse 14), who inhabited “Eden the garden of God” (verse 13), and who was originally “perfect in [his] ways from the day [he] was created,” until “iniquity was found in [him]” (verse 15) Moving on to Satan’s final fate, God declares, “I bring forth a fire from the midst of you, it shall devour you, and I will bring you to ASHES upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold you… You have become a horror, and shall be no more forever” (verses 18 and 19.) So which is it? Will Satan be “tormented day and night” throughout endless ages, or will he become “ashes” and “be no more forever”?
The Bible DOES NOT contradict itself. These are only APPARENT contradictions. The solution is to examine what the whole Bible says about the fate of the lost, discover its overall teaching, and then to closely analyse the difficult verses until you understand them correctly. Once you do, you will find that everything fits and makes perfect sense and that God is NOT an unmerciful tyrant that tortures the lost forever.
First we will look at a breakdown of all the relevant verses and passages and then conclude with a summary.
Hell Fire Is Real Matthew 13:42 Jesus Christ said the lost will finally be cast “into a furnace of fire.” Matthew 3:12 John the Baptist said the lost will end up in “unquenchable fire.”
Punishment for Sin and “Hell” Is Future - Not Now Matthew 13:40 “As the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of this world.” Matthew 25:41 Jesus Christ sends the lost into the fire after His Second Coming. 2 Peter 2:9 God will “reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” Revelation 20:11-13 The day of judgment occurs at the end of the 1000 years. Revelation 20:5a, 13-15 The “lake of fire” occurs at the end of the 1000 years.
The Final Hell Fire Will Be On Planet Earth 2 Peter 3:7 “The heavens and the earth which are now ... are reserved unto fire.” 2 Peter 3:10 “The earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Revelation 20:8-9 At the end of the 1000 years, “They [the lost] went up on the breadth of the earth ... and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”
Hell Will Totally Destroy All the Wicked, Even Satan! Psalms 37:20 “The wicked shall perish ... they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” Psalms 37:38 “Transgressors will be destroyed together.” Ezekiel 28:15, 18-19 Even Satan will become “ashes” on the “earth” as a result of the fire. Malachi 4:1, 3 The “day cometh” when the lost “burn up” and become “ashes.” John 3:16 Those who are lost will “perish.” Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is “death,” not eternal life burning in hell. Matthew 3:12 “Unquenchable fire” will totally “burn up” the wicked. Matthew 10:28 “Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Revelation 21:8; 20:14 “The lake of fire ... is the second death.”
Even The Lake of Fire Will “Pass Away” Revelation 20:7-9 At the end of the 1000 years, the lost are “the earth.” Revelation 20:9 God’s fire falls on them, and they are “devoured.” Revelation 20:14-15 The earth becomes one big “lake of fire” as God purifies it from sin. The lost suffer the “second death” in that lake. Revelation 21:1 Then there is a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth (where the lake of fire was) has passed away. Revelation 21:4 In the New Earth, there will be no more pain, suffering, sorrow, or death.
Note: If the lake of fire burned forever, there would always be pain and sorrow somewhere in the universe and Revelation 21:4 could never come true. But it is true. Sin will be gone forever and pain will cease to exist throughout God’s entire universe!
Where Did The Doctrine Of Eternal Burning Originate? Genesis 3:4 The doctrine of souls burning forever is rooted in the idea that “the soul can’t die.” That idea originated with the serpent who told Eve and Satan's lieEve that if she sinned, she would “not surely die.” But God said she would die (Genesis 2:16-17). God of course told the truth. 1 Corinthians 15:50-55 Only true Christians receive “immortality” at the Second Coming. 1 Timothy 6:16 God “alone has immortality.” Revelation 20:11-15 The lost finally suffer the “second death” at the end of the 1000 years.
The Character and Justice of God Will Be Vindicated 1 John 4:8 “God is love.” He is not a tyrant who will burn people forever. Revelation 20:13 Each person will be judged fairly, “according to his works.” Revelation 20:14-15 After God’s just judgment, the lost will suffer the “second death.” Revelation 15:3 Then the universe will say of God, “Just and true are Your ways, 0 King of the saints!”
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, And there shall be no more death, neither sorry, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things [including the lake of fire] have passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And he said to me, “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:4-5
So far we have discovered Bible passages which teach that the lost, instead of consciously suffering in fiery flames throughout eternity, will “burn up” (Malachi 4:1), become “ashes” (Malachi 4:3), “perish” (John 3:16), “consume away” (Psalms 37:20), and finally suffer “the second death” (Revelation 20:14) at the end of the world. But what about other passages describing “eternal fire” (Jude 1:7) and “torment day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10)? It’s time to closely examine these latter verses, comparing Scripture with Scripture.