A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF HELL
An "Eye-For-An-Eye, Reap-Exactly-What-You-Sow"
compared to the Church's standard teaching:
The "One-Size-Fits-All, Burn-In-Hell" Eternal Punishment
The following essay gives all the Biblical evidence that in the afterlife, God implements an “Eye-For-An-Eye Reap-What-You-Sow” type eternal punishment and does not implement the standard “One-Size-Fits-All Burn-In-Hell” type eternal punishment that the Church advocates. I’ll start the essay with the difference between Hell and the Lake of Fire.
The Difference Between
Hell and the Lake of Fire
There are two facilities for the unsaved in the afterlife as recorded in the Bible: Hell and the Lake of Fire. The difference between Hell and the Lake of Fire is similar to the difference between jail and prison. Ideally, jail is a temporary, short-term, pre-trial holding facility where people accused of various crimes are detained before their trial in front of a judge. Prison, on the other hand, is a more permanent, long-term, post-trial facility where people convicted of crimes serve out their punishments after their trial. Using this analogy, Hell is God’s jail and the Lake of Fire is God’s prison.
Hell (God’s “jail”) is the temporary short-term pre-trial holding facility where unsaved people are detained before their trial in front of Almighty God. Isaiah 14:9-20 and Luke 16:19-24 tells us that Hell is also a group facility where the bodies are still “alive” and so they can all still see, speak, hear, feel, move and communicate with each other. So in Hell, people haven’t really started their punishment yet because they haven’t yet been to trial. They are just being detained before their trial.
The Lake of Fire (God’s “prison”) is where people actually get punished. The Lake of Fire is the eternal, long-term, post-trial facility where people serve out their sentence after their trial in front of Almighty God. And in the Lake of Fire, Isaiah 66:24 tells us the bodies are all dead and so none of the bodies can see, speak, hear, move or communicate with each other, and so each soul is in solitary confinement being imprisoned inside his own dead body for all eternity. And since dead bodies cannot feel the flames of the Lake of Fire either, God has to punish the soul directly; otherwise the soul would experience nothing at all.
The Lake of Fire is located in a place described as “outer darkness” in the KJV of Matthew 8:12, 22:13, and 25:30, and is also called “blackest darkness” in the NIV of Jude 13. We learn from Revelation 20:14-15 that this eternal abode of the unsaved is named the Lake of Fire. Some people wonder how a glowing Lake of Fire can be called “outer darkness” at the same time. But the Lake of Fire could easily be located in a gigantic region of outer space called “outer darkness” if there were no stars anywhere near this vicinity for millions of light years.
Although the Lake of Fire (God’s “prison”) is located in “outer darkness”, Hell (God’s “jail”) is located in a hollow part of the exact center of the earth. We know this because Jesus said that after he died he would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the
belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three
days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
(Matthew 12:40 NIV)
When Jesus was in the heart of the earth, he preached to “those who are now dead”, symbolizing Christ preaching to all those who never heard the gospel.
“For this is the reason the gospel was preached
even to those who are now dead…”
(1 Peter 4:6 NIV) (See also 1 Peter 3:19-20 NIV)
After mankind’s trial before God is over (Revelation 20:11-15), God will never again need the Hell chamber as a temporary “jail”, so God destroys the useless Hell chamber in the Lake of Fire.
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14 KJV)
Hell in the Original Languages
“Sheol” is the only OT Hebrew word that is translated as “Hell”. But “Hades” is just one of the three NT Greek words translated as “Hell”. Sheol means the “grave”, the “pit”, the “abyss” or the “abode of the dead”, thereby referring to a “place” everyone goes after they are dead and not just the wicked. Although scholars say that Hades means essentially the same thing as Sheol, its use in the New Testament generally refers to the abode of just the wicked and not the righteous.
“Tartaroo” is a Greek word translated as “Hell” that is used by Peter referring to a place where some particular fallen angels are detained and are still awaiting their judgment before Almighty God.
“Gehenna” is the Greek translation of another Hebrew word “gehinnom”. Supposedly the word “gehinnom” represents the fires that used to burn in the “Valley of the Son of Ben Hinnom” centuries earlier when formerly idolatrous Israelites used to sacrifice their own children to the pagan gods Chemosh and Molech at this site. Since most everyone spoke Greek at the time of Christ, in Mark 9:47-48, etc. Jesus used the Greek word “gehenna” in place of the Hebrew word “gehinnom” as a metaphor that in the afterlife the wicked would also be cast into a place of continual burning. And in Revelation we learn that the Gehenna metaphor represents a real place called the Lake of Fire.
The Lake of Fire
In Mark 9:47-48 (KJV), Jesus says the following:
“And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better
for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye,
than having two eyes to be cast into [gehenna] hell fire:
Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” [Brackets mine—“gehenna” is the original Greek word
in this verse that is translated as “hell”]
When Jesus speaks about “gehenna” (the Lake of Fire) in the Gospel of Mark, it turns out that he is actually quoting from Isaiah, in a passage that refers to the weekly worship of Christ in Heaven long after Judgment Day has passed.
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I
will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so
shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come
to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from
one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship
before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and
look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their
fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” (Isaiah 66: 22-24 KJV)
Isaiah tells us that the bodies in the Lake of Fire are not alive but are DEAD. The word “carcasses” in Isaiah 66:24 comes from the Hebrew word “peger”. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament tells us that the Hebrew word
“peger refers to the corpse of men…and not just the
body immediately after death, but the corpse in which
decay and stench have started.” (Ref. #1)
Many Christians mistakenly believe that the fire mentioned in Isaiah 66:23-24 is simply referring to a particular fire that will be continually burning outside of Jerusalem during the thousand-year reign of Christ here on earth and that this verse does not refer to the Lake of Fire where all the damned will reside after God’s Judgment. But that particular interpretation is mistaken for five reasons. First, the context of this verse is not the millennial reign of Christ but is the new heavens and the new earth. Second, according to Revelation 21:1, the new earth does not appear until after God’s Judgment has occurred and after this current earth has passed away. Third, this verse says “all flesh shall come to worship me”, but according to Zechariah 14:16-19 and Revelation 21:7-9, many nations will continue to rebel against Christ even during his future thousand-year reign here on earth. So, the only time that all mankind will worship Christ will be after God’s Judgement in heaven and on the New Earth. Fourth, bodies eventually get burned up in fires on earth and therefore, fifth, the fire would eventually go out here on earth. So, the only way the bodies can never be burned up or the fires never go out is if this verse is referring to the supernatural Lake of Fire itself, and not simply referring to a particular fire that is continually burning outside of Jerusalem during Christ’s thousand-year reign here on earth.
Moving on, the body in the Lake of Fire is long dead and so obviously the body cannot feel the flames any more than a dead person feels any flames while his body is being cremated.
Both Revelation 20:14 and Revelation 21:8 tells us that the body in the Lake of Fire is dead.
“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of
fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's
name was not found written in the book of life, he was
thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14,15 NIV)
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers,
the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery
lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
(Revelation 21:8 NIV)
After the body of a condemned soul dies the first time, the condemned soul receives a second living body to inhabit for the rest of eternity. This second body is alive while it is in Hell (God’s jail, where people await their trial before God) and is still alive when the soul faces its trial before God. But this second body dies when it is cast into the Lake of Fire. That’s why the Lake of Fire is also called “the second death”, because the soul’s body dies a second time as it enters the Lake of Fire. The condemned soul continues to inhabit this dead body within the Lake of Fire throughout all eternity. Since both Isaiah 66:24 and Revelation 20:14,15 tell us that the body in the Lake of Fire is dead (and therefore cannot feel the flames of the Lake of Fire in any way) then the only other reasonable alternative is that God punishes the soul directly and that the flames themselves do not play any role whatsoever in punishing the sinner in the Lake of Fire.
So remember, although the Lake of Fire has flames, since the body in the Lake of Fire is dead, then these flames to not cause any pain to either the dead body or to the soul itself.
An “Eye-For-An-Eye Reap-What-You-Sow” Eternal Punishment
The standard doctrine of the Church for unsaved people is that they all receive the same identical punishment after they die: they all burn in Hell. Even the standard competing doctrine of annihilation still has all the unsaved receiving the identical punishment—everyone burns up completely until they disappear. Well, rather than everyone getting punished in the same way in the afterlife, I propose instead that God punishes different sins in distinctly different ways in the afterlife.
“But”, you might ask, “Aren’t all sins equal in the sight of God? Isn’t that why God punishes everybody the same way in Hell?”
No, all sins are not equal in the sight of God. In God’s Old Testament Law murder was punished by execution, violence by an “eye for an eye”, miscellaneous crimes by whipping, stealing by remuneration, and dietary sins had no punishment at all. So all sins are not equal in the sight of God. And since God commanded Moses to punish different sins in different ways, God probably punishes different sins in different ways in the afterlife too, especially when it comes to sins of violence.
Consider this. That the most evil residents in the Lake of Fire will likely be among the most violent and abusive people the world has ever known. So would God punish a heroic volunteer firefighter who just happens to be an atheist with the identical afterlife punishment that God would use to punish serial killer-rapists, 9/11 terrorists, Hitler and Satan himself? That would be strangely inconsistent with God’s Old Testament laws concerning violent criminals who seriously or permanently injure their victims. For God said the standard courtroom punishment for violent criminals should be
“fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As
he has injured the other, so he is to be injured...but
whoever kills a man must be put to death.”
(Leviticus 24:20-21 NIV)
Evidently for crimes of violence, God’s plan for justice on earth is for the punishment to fit the crime precisely—not exact “two eyes for an eye, or four fractures for a fracture, and certainly not exact a life for a tooth.” The just courtroom punishment was to injure the criminal in the exact manner in which he injured his victim, not more than he injured his victim and certainly not differently than he injured his victim (i.e. a “life for a tooth”). Further, all courtroom punishments were to be short and quick, not slow and drawn out like torture.
It should come as no surprise then, that in the afterlife, God’s plan for eternal justice and punishment might be based upon the same idea. For it is written:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man
reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his
sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the
one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will
reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)
The first part of this passage clearly refers to punishment in the afterlife. But one doesn't sow corn and get wheat, or sow wheat and get barley. One reaps exactly and precisely what one sows. This means God intends all afterlife punishments to be individualized to precisely match the sins that were sowed here on earth. In other words, in the Lake of Fire, murderers will be murdered, thieves will be robbed, rapists will be raped, etc. Likewise, punishment in the afterlife for the most violent citizens in the Lake of Fire has an exact parallel to God’s standard of courtroom punishment for violence on earth—an “eye for and eye”. Therefore, in the Lake of Fire, a man reaps exactly what he sows: not more than he sows, not different than he sows, but exactly and identically what he sows. In addition, a person’s punishment in the afterlife will literally come from his own hand—from “his own sinful nature”. In other words, the sinner in the Lake of Fire literally punishes himself! (Continue on the next page to read the details of how God can easily accomplish this type of afterlife punishment in the Lake of Fire.)