It is a commonly accepted belief, or doctrine, among Christianity that non-believers (or those who have died without faith in Jesus Christ) will suffer in hell (or the lake of fire) throughout eternity.

A Question Exists

I want to start here by declaring that I am not a member of any religion or denomination, and I subscribe to no religious belief system or set of doctrines other than the plain and explicit truth in the scriptures.

This universal belief among Christianity has haunted me for years; but I hold everything I've ever been taught in my life in question until I've had a chance to either confirm it in God's Word, or deny it with God's Word. My only true, infallible teacher is the Holy Spirit that indwells me, in perfect conjunction with the Word of God.

1Jn 2:27 "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (KJV)

I can only fully trust God's Word and the Holy Spirit, both, to reveal the truth to me as I diligently study His Word written in the language I understand. And I trust that if God knows I want the truth, and if He wants me to know the truth, He will reveal it to me consistent with His Word.

The Far Less Popular, But Entirely Possible Answer

Regardless of my diligent study in my attempts to confirm this belief, I find not one scripture anywhere in the Bible that would have me believe that non-believers will suffer throughout eternity. Not one!

In fact, I find overwhelming evidence that they indeed will NOT suffer throughout eternity, and I hereby challenge anyone to present to me any clear and explicit scriptures that prove otherwise.

I am convinced that those whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be destroyed forever, dead once and for all, burned up for good, and cease to exist altogether after the white throne judgment when they are cast into the Lake of Fire.

The Proof

I know some readers are already thinking, "What? You don't believe in hell??"

I never said that. I know there's a hell because it's explicitly written in scriptures. But as I will attempt to prove, hell is not the lake of fire or vice-versa, and I find no shred of explicitly worded evidence in the scriptures that non-believers will suffer in hell, or anywhere else for that matter, throughout eternity.

Now here in Revelation 20, it explicitly states that the devil, the beast and the false prophet will indeed be tormented forever and ever:

Rev 20:10 "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."

No doubt about it! It's explicitly clear. But what about the non-believers, or those who have rejected the Gospel of Jesus and faith in Him?

Rev 20:11 "And 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.
12  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.
13  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Period. End of chapter. Did you notice at the end of the last verse above, the stark lack of the explicit words "...and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." as with the devil, the beast, and the false prophet in 20:10 above?

Can we safely assume that just because they are thrown into the same lake of fire that they will also be tormented forever?  Absolutely not!  It is never safe to form doctrines from scripture based solely on assumptions. (For one thing, the devil was never a human being subject to death as we are. He was created an eternal angel.)

But do notice, in the explicit wording of verse 14 above, the reference to "the second death" as also referenced in the scriptures below:

Rev 2:11 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."

Rev 20:6 "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

And again:

Rev 20:14 "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."


Bible Terms for the Two Eternal Fates

Throughout the scriptures, including the words of Jesus Himself in the Gospels, are these terms used to describe the differences in the fates of believers versus non-believers:

For believers, the terms are: "life", "eternal life", "everlasting life", "life eternal", "live for ever", "enter into life", being "raised up at the last day", "shall never die", "in the likeness of His resurrection", "over whom the second death hath no dominion", etc.

For the non-believers, the terms are: "destruction", "die", "death", "perish", "eternal destruction", "eternal damnation", and the like. (Destroyed for eternity, never to return from it. The "second death" in Rev 20:14)

Now we often hear it preached that the word "death" as used in scriptures means "eternal separation from God".  This is consistent when we consider that being destroyed and ceasing to exist is certainly eternal separation from God!

And let's consider the term "eternal life". The scriptures never add qualifying words to that phrase such as "eternal life with God" versus "eternal life without God". Wouldn't suffering through eternity still mean an eternal life of some sort?

So we do know, per Rev 20:10 above, that the devil, the beast, and the false prophet will most certainly be "tormented day and night for ever and ever." But does this necessarily mean that everyone else cast into the lake of fire will also? Can we safely assume that? Absolutely not! Again, it is never safe to form doctrine from scriptures based solely on assumptions!

All I know is what I read, and I read no shred of clearly, explicitly worded evidence whatsoever in the scriptures that this is so.

The Opposing Arguments

In discussing this subject once with a couple, after they were unable to show me convincing evidence to the contrary, the woman finally exclaimed, "Then what motivation does anyone have to be saved, if they won't be spending their eternal life in hell otherwise!?"

If avoiding "hell for eternity" is the only and best reason we can use for leading others to the Lord, then we're missing the best part.

If living eternally with our Father and our mighty Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the most high, the perfectly loving Creator and Master of our whole universe and everything in it, in a perfect existence where They are, as fellow heirs with Jesus to the entire Kingdom of God is not motivation enough, then what is?

Now let's carefully examine the only two scripture references anyone has ever come up with to defend their erroneous belief that non-believers will suffer throughout eternity. Here's the first:

Rev 14:9  "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10  The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."

This does not convince me at all, and this is why: Notice that they are tormented with fire and brimstone (not in a lake of fire) when the wrath of God is poured out on the earth at the end of the great tribulation period and before the white throne judgment, when "they who have worshiped the beast and have taken the mark of his name will have no rest day or night" as long as they are still alive on this earth during that period of time!

(Also, note that it is the smoke of their torment, not the torment itself, that ascends up forever and ever, just as the smoke from your last campfire ascends even after the fire is put out.)

So from this first scripture reference, we see that this is an event that occurs prior to the white throne judgment.

Now here's the second scripture reference that is typically used to defend the idea of the eternal torment of non-believers in hell. It's a story told by Jesus in Luke 16:23-26:

Lk 16:23  "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25  But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."

This also fails to convince me!  Let's consider that this story was not one of Jesus' parables, but His recounting of an actual event, and let's again ask ourselves: Is this an event prior to the white throne judgment or after it?

It is very clear to me that this was an event prior to the white throne judgment, because the above passage begins, "And in hell he lift up his eyes..."'; and, as we have read previously in Rev 20:14, after the judgment, death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire and destroyed forever.

Therefore, we can clearly prove that this second scripture reference, this event with Lazarus and Abraham as told by Jesus, is also an event that would have taken place before the white throne judgment, not after it!

So we do know from all the explicitly worded scriptural evidence above that, yes, hell does currently exist, and that non-believers are apparently being held "in torments" there.  But hell will ONLY exist until the white throne judgment when it will be cast into the lake of fire and destroyed at the second death, as already proven above.

It is clear that hell and the lake of fire are two very different things!

The Parallel

You see, in our earthly judicial system, a person accused of a crime will sit in jail (a holding place) until trial (judgment), and then at the trial will be found either innocent and set free, or guilty and then sentenced:

The accused is put in jail (a holding place) to be held for trial.
Eventually the trial takes place, and the accused is judged either innocent or guilty.
If found guilty, the accused is convicted and sentenced; or, if found innocent, set free.

Likewise, hell is a holding place for the accused until judgment, and then if convicted at judgment will be cast into the lake of fire (the "second death" sentence).

After all, would it make any sense that those who are now in torments in hell have already been judged and condemned by God?  And then at the white throne judgment they will be brought back before God to be judged and condemned again?  Indeed, that makes no sense at all!


So from all the explicitly worded evidence in God's Word, I am totally convinced that non-believers will not be tormented day and night throughout eternity, but they will be destroyed (annihilated) in the lake of fire after the white throne judgment at the end of Christ's millennial reign, when death and hell are cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed forever.

I confess that I have to believe this, not only because of the scriptural evidence, but because of one more thing:

How will I be able to be perfectly joyful throughout eternity with God the Father and Jesus His Son, knowing that somewhere else in the universe the "unsaved" are being tormented forever, especially if it includes any of my loved ones from this life (like my dad, for example, who likely died without faith in Christ)?

And if it would grieve me so deeply, how much more would it grieve a perfectly loving God?


3 comments: said...

Where is it that you think sinners will go. Why judgement if there is no price for sin. The wages of sin is death. Scripture shows that in the a person will either end in eternal life and enter into the kingdom of heaven or enternal suffering and cast into pit of fire for eternal/eternity. See Matthew 25:41 Romans 2:4-8

Living Waters said...

There IS a price for sin! I can think of no greater price than to be eternally dead--eternally separated from God. We either enjoy eternal life or are earn eternal dead. Dead. Not danagling over eternal flames. Imagine the punishment of realising that because you rejected the LORD Christ Jesus and his sacrifice for your sins you are now not only going to be unable to enter into everlasting life, but you will be extinquished. Dead. The second death. In which there is now no longer any resurrection available to you. Certainly that is fearsome beyond all measure. But fits the nature of God and how he gave us free will more than God torturing those beings He made "in His own image" forever and ever like some cosmic sadist. And like the fellow who generated this blog said (sorry don't remember your name) isn't it an inditemnt of us that we haven't made eternity in heaven with God more of a draw?

Terry Scerine said...

To looking4u (the first commenter):
Obviously you didn't actually read the article at all.

To Living Waters (the second commenter): Thank you for your confirming comment! There are apparently very few of us. You are an encouragement to me.