Would a loving God burn people in hell for all eternity? Suppose a 16 year old lived a life of rebellion, they forsook God and committed crimes around the neighborhood. One day they tragically die, lost at the age of sixteen. Would God punish that individual for trillions upon trillions of years, for sixteen years of sin? Would this be fair? If you were in God’s position would you burn that individual for all eternity?
Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, struggle with these concepts. Thankfully they don’t have to, because the truth is radically different from what they believe. Today we want to discover what the Bible, and the Bible alone has to say about this misunderstood subject of hell.
But before we do so, let us pray..
Dear gracious and loving Heavenly Father,
Lord we humbly ask that today you open our eyes so that we may see your love through this subject. Help us to lay aside our preconceived ideas and to simply go by the Bible and the Bible alone. Please Father drive away all distractions, help us to understand your Word today. Please send your holy angels and your Holy Spirit to impress our minds and open our understanding as we study your Word today. We thank you for hearing and answering our prayer for we pray all these things in the name of your Son Jesus, amen.
The beginning of the end
When does hell begin? Are there people there now? The book of Revelation begins to reveal these answers in Revelation 19:11-16 which says
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.”
This individual on the white horse is Christ. He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. His name is the Word of God. And John 1 tells us the word of God is Jesus Christ. So here John the revelator sees the return of Christ, coming with the armies of heaven, all the holy angels. This event is a day of celebration for the saved. For it is written “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Many Christians already know this. But before we continue to answer the question regarding when hell begins the return of Christ begs another question.
What then happens to the lost who are living when Christ returns?
Thankfully the very next verses in Revelation 19 tell us. Revelation 19:17-21 says
“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
If you notice here the verse says that “The flesh of all people” “were killed with the sword” (Revelation 19:18-21) When Jesus returns, all the saved are taken to heaven, and all the living lost perish. It is in this life that we determine our destiny. There is no second chance, no second probation for those who witness Christ’s return. Jesus said that His return “will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy…” (Luke 21:35-36)
For many it will be too late. The hours and days of their probation were spent in useless amusements, video games, sports, movies and the like. Could men realize the value of the sacrifice of Christ, the reality of eternal life and that the decisions they made on a daily basis determine their destiny, these things of the earth would lose their great value in men’s eyes.
Some Christians believe that there will be another few years after the return of Christ for others to be saved. This is not so and a deadly delusion. When Christ returns human life ceases to exist on planet earth. The prophet Jeremiah was shown what was repeated in Revelation 19. Jeremiah writes
“I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void;
And the heavens, they had no light.
I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled,
And all the hills moved back and forth.
I beheld, and indeed there was no man,
And all the birds of the heavens had fled.
I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness,
And all its cities were broken down
At the presence of the Lord,
By His fierce anger.” ~ Jeremiah 4:23-26
At the presence of the Lord, by His fierce anger all the wicked, those who have heard the everlasting gospel and rejected Christ, those who have received the mark of the beast and persecuted the living saints have perished. Some may say, “when the mark of the beast test comes, then I will prepare”. But friends, “beware of procrastination. Do not put off the work of forsaking your sins and seeking purity of heart through Jesus. Here is where thousands upon thousands have erred to their eternal loss. I will not here dwell upon the shortness and uncertainty of life; but there is a terrible danger—a danger not sufficiently understood—in delaying to yield to the pleading voice of God’s Holy Spirit, in choosing to live in sin; for such this delay really is. Sin, however small it may be esteemed, can be indulged in only at the peril of infinite loss. What we do not overcome, will overcome us and work out our destruction.” (Steps To Christ p. 32) God is merciful but tomorrow is not guaranteed, seek the Lord now.
The End of Sin
After the return of Christ, the resurrection of the saved and the emptying of the earth, the apostle John continues to write saying “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven… He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:1-2) Satan who “did not open the house of his prisoners” who were bound to him by sin, is now himself chained (Isaiah 14:17). Chained in a hopeless bottomless pit for a thousand years with no one to tempt, Satan is absolutely miserable. “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” (Revelation 20:5) Revelation 20:5 is a key verse. When Jesus returns all the saved are made alive and taken to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 51-52). “But the rest of the dead” that is the lost, “did not live again until the thousand years were finished”; which means that after the thousand years the lost rise again. Jesus speaking of this says “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29) Jesus said in John 5:28-29 that in the future there will be two resurrections, the resurrection of life for the righteous and the resurrection of condemnation for the wicked, but these two resurrections occur at different times based on Revelation 19 & 20.
After the thousand years, all the lost are resurrected to face their punishment (Revelation 20:5). “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 20:7-8) “Now Satan prepares for a last mighty struggle for the supremacy. While deprived of his power and cut off from his work of deception, the prince of evil was miserable and dejected; but as the wicked dead are raised and he sees the vast multitudes upon his side, his hopes revive, and he determines not to yield the great controversy. He will marshal all the armies of the lost under his banner and through them endeavor to execute his plans. The wicked are Satan’s captives. In rejecting Christ they have accepted the rule of the rebel leader. They are ready to receive his suggestions and to do his bidding. Yet, true to his early cunning, he does not acknowledge himself to be Satan. He claims to be the prince who is the rightful owner of the world and whose inheritance has been unlawfully wrested from him. He represents himself to his deluded subjects as a redeemer, assuring them that his power has brought them forth from their graves and that he is about to rescue them from the most cruel tyranny.” (Revelation 20:7-10, Ezekiel 38:10-12, 18-23, 2 Corinthians 11:14, John 8:44, The Great Controversy p. 663)
“Then I, John,saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2) Satan and the lost then gather together to make one final attempt to remove Christ from the throne, “they together to battle” and “went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” (Revelation 20:8-9)
Now Christ again appears to the view of His enemies. John says
“I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:11-12)
“As soon as the books of record are opened, and the eye of Jesus looks upon the wicked, they are conscious of every sin which they have ever committed. They see just where their feet diverged from the path of purity and holiness, just how far pride and rebellion have carried them in the violation of the law of God. The seductive temptations which they encouraged by indulgence in sin, the blessings perverted, the messengers of God despised, the warnings rejected, the waves of mercy beaten back by the stubborn, unrepentant heart—all appear as if written in letters of fire.” (The Great Controversy p. 666)This is confirmed in the book of Jude 1:14-15 that tells us that before Jesus executes judgment, He convicts all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds. “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 1:14-15)
Terrible will be this day for all those who have rejected Christ. Each individual is punished fairly according to their works and the amount of light they had received for it is written “That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:47-48) After sentence is pronounced “Fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” (Revelation 20:9) And “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) This brings us to our opening question…
The Bible says that the devil will be tormented forever, does that mean for all eternity?
The Bible says in Revelation 20:10 “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone wherethe beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”But this does not mean that the devil or any individual will be in hell for all eternity. For the Bible explains itself in Ezekiel 28:19 when speaking of the devil it says “All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.”
So the devil shall be punished and then be “no more forever”. The punishment of all the wicked is an everlasting death; One which no individual resurrects from, yet people do not continue burning in hell for all eternity.
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.
You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the Lord of hosts. – Malachi 4:1, 3
The day is coming, which means it has not yet come, when the wicked will be stubble. Stubble is not something living, in fact it says that the wicked “shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this” Says the LORD of hosts. The wicked “shall be as though they had never been.” (Obadiah 1:16)
Confusion, fears and troubles relieved
You see friends, Jesus said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) In this verse Jesus tells us that you and I have two options, either to receive eternal life in heaven, or to perish and die the second death with the wicked. Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike have been troubled that if God is loving, why would He make sinners burn for all eternity? But the truth is the wages of sin is not eternal torment but rather the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
Many people have been confused and even drawn away from God because they thought that Jesus is casting people into hell already, and that perhaps one of their friends, relatives or even children is already burning there. But the truth is that hell is a future event which has not yet occurred.
Many people, perhaps even ourself have seen God as some cruel tyrant who takes pleasure in the death of the wicked, tormenting them for endless ages. But “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Jeremiah 31:3, Ezekiel 33:11) You see friends no one need die the second death in hell, because Jesus already paid the penalty for all your sins at the cross. Although it is true “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You can receive that gift today, if you are willing. That gift was purchased with the life of God’s only Son. He came to this earth, not because He had to redeem us but because He chose to redeem us. He knew that to save you from hell, it would cost God everything, including His own life. But He did it for you anyways. A love like this cannot be described with words. “ In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10) Would you like to commit your life to Jesus today? Perhaps your parents took you to church when you were young, but you drifted away. Perhaps you saw God as unfair, hateful or unjust. But today you see Jesus on cross, making every effort to save you from hell. Today perhaps for the first time, you see that God is love. If so I encourage you to simply pray with me as we close this study….
Dear loving Heavenly Father,
We thank you that the truth does in fact set us free. We thank you that you have shown us from your Word today not just justice, but grace. We ask that you fill us with your love, that you forgive us of all our sins today. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to your mercy you saved us. We ask today that you save us from sin, transform our lives day by day, and enter into our hearts so that we may desire and delight to do your will. We thank you for hearing and answering this prayer in Jesus name, amen.
May the Lord bless you as you draw closer to Him every day.