What The Bible Says About Hell – Gordon Wilson

Gordon Wilson

Perhaps there is no Bible subject more unpopular to be discussed than that of hell, unless it is the subject of giving. It may be that it is more unpopular to preach about giving than about hell, because apparently some brethren would rather go to hell than to give an adequate proportion of their money to the Lord! Anyway, this article is not about giving.

There are three words translated by the common term hell in the Authorized Version (King James) of the New Testament. Transliterated and anglicized, these words are: Hades this word exactly corresponds to the Hebrew sheol which is used in the Old Testament. It means the unseen state, the abode of the disembodied spirits. Though it is one time (1 Cor. 15:55) translated grave, it never means the grave alone. Tartarusthis word is used once only (2 Pet. 2:4) and is translated cast down to hell. It is a place where wicked spirits are kept until judgment, and is evidently a division of Hades, the other division where good spirits are kept being called paradise. Gehennathis is the place of eternal punishment for the incorrigibly wicked, and is the only word which ought to be translated hell for the sake of clarity. The Revised Version preserves the distinction between Gehenna and Hades and gives a footnote on Tartarus. This helps to keep us from being confused; and believe me, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others use every possible tactic and antic to confuse us on this subject. This article shall deal with hell, the place of eternal punishment. So we ask the question, What does the Bible say about hell? in reference to Gehenna.

The Bible says hell is the destiny of everybody who is disobedient to the will of God, be it man, woman, angel, or demon.

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 (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

The 20th chapter of Revelation, after telling us that the devil, the beast, and the false prophet were cast into the lake of fire, proceeds to draw a picture of the judgment scene in which all, great and small are to be judged by “the books.” Apparently the Book of God is to be compared with the book of our works and if the comparison is favorable our names are to be entered in the book of life. John concludes by saying, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

The Bible says that the place of eternal punishment is a lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). However, it also describes the same place as one of outer darkness (Matt. 25:30). I am sure both of these expressions could not be literal since where fire is there could hardly be complete darkness, and if either expression is literal it is more than can be proved. The fire probably is figurative, but do not be deceived, the suffering is literal enough. The trouble with a lot of folks is that they think just because we cannot prove the fire is literal that therefore the punishment is not real. But regardless of whether or not you want to make the fire a figure, remember that a figure is always a figure of something. Whatever fire is figurative of, that something is most unpleasant, painful, and undesirable to the soul who has retained his sanity.

The Bible says that hell is a place of torment or punishment. “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30). “…and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever,” (Rev. 20:10) “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). It is clear enough from these passages that man will be conscious in hell. While the punishment of the wicked is called destruction, it could not be annihilation, for the person who ceased to exist could hardly be in torment. Everything the Bible teaches about the immortality of the spirit of man goes to prove that he will be conscious in eternity, and if his fate is that of the unrighteous, he is to be conscious in his torment.

The Bible says man will have a body in hell. There is to be a resurrection from the dead. Since the spirit of man never dies, this is to be a bodily resurrection. The bodies of the righteous will in some manner beyond our present knowledge be changed from vile to glorious bodies, fitted for heaven. What change if any shall take place in the bodies of the wicked we are not informed in the Bible, but the body will be cast into hell with the spirit. “Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). “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.” The teaching here is in reference to the sin of adultery, and our Lord means that we must cut off the sinful desires of the flesh (make ourselves “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”) rather than permit our uncontrolled member to send the entire body to hell.

The Bible says that hell is everlasting. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). In this text two terms are used interchangeably: Everlasting and eternal. Both are from the same Greek word, aionios. This word means till the end of the age, and in reference to temporal things may be limited in its scope. But in reference to that which lies beyond this life it is always unlimited, and it means without end, never ending. Hell shall be a prison from which there can never be an escape. It shall hold the unredeemed sinner just as long as heaven shall hold the saved. One shall not outlast the other.

How trifling, then, are the cares of this life in view of eternity! How great is our loss when the soul is sacrificed for a few pieces of silver, and our hope of heaven surrendered for the sake of an hour’s pleasure! How to be pitied the man whose doom must be the dungeon of hell! How great our responsibility to snatch the unwary from the brink of that eternal fate! Think, sinner, and act. Act while you may have hope of forgiveness and while there is yet time to turn your steps upward toward the city of God.

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