A5. The Meaning of
the Word "Hell"
1. WHEN CHRIST GIVES HIS PEOPLE VICTORY OVER SIN, WHAT SONG TO THEY SING?
1MH 1 Cor. 15:55 In this song two enemies are mentioned as having been vanquished by Christ: death & the grave (KJV). The word "grave" (KJV) or "death" (second use of the word "death" in the NIV & NRSV) is translated from the Greek word Hades.
There are three words that have been translated "hell" in the various versions of the Bible. Here they are with some of the ways they are used &/or an explanation of their use or origin. (Based on KJV)
Tartarus (dark abyss) is translated "hell" once;
2. WHAT IS THE FATE OF THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE MARK OF THE BEAST?
2MH Rev. 14:9-11 The wicked will be consumed in the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:9-15) in the presence of God. The phrase "no rest" refers to the Christless spiritual and emotional unrest that sinners must endure during this life.
3. WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT THE "SMOKE . . . RISES FOR EVER AND EVER?"
3MH Rev. 19:1-3 When smoke rises into the air, it never returns. So it rises "forever."
4. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF THE FIRE THAT BURNS UP "BABYLON" (A SYMBOL USED IN REVELATION FOR THE JOINT ORGANIZATION OF GOD'S ENEMIES.)
4MH Rev. 18:8, 21"Found no more at all." The fire's EFFECTS will last forever.
5. HOW DOES THE BIBLE DEFINE THE WORD "FOREVER."
5MH 1 Sam. 1:22, 28 "Forever" (KJV) and "always" (NIV) are synonyms which, in this context means "for the rest of his/her life."
6. WHAT IS ANOTHER BIBLE DEFINITION OF "FOREVER."
6MH Jonah 2:6 Forever sometimes means "while certain conditions continue." In Jonah's case "forever" lasted for 3 days (1:17).
7. HOW WOULD THE WORD "FOREVER" BE USED IN RELATION TO THE SOUL?
7MH Ezek. 18:4 The soul who sins will die. Rom. 6:23 points out that death is the opposite of life. Thus the soul does not live forever. Since the soul is the result of the combination of the body and breath (Gen. 2:7), then the soul is only in existence as long as there is both body and breath acting together. Since the wicked are consumed by the lake of fire, when their bodies die their souls die with them.
8. WITH WHAT EVENT DOES THE BIBLE CONNECT THE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED?
8MH 2 Thess. 1:6-9 Part of the punishment of the wicked comes in connection with Christ's coming.
9. WHERE WILL THE WICKED BE THROUGH ALL ETERNITY?
9MH Ps. 37:9, 10, 20 The wicked will "not be"; "they shall consume ... into smoke" (KJV); "vanish like smoke." (NIV)
10. WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN THE LOST HAVE DIED?
10MH Isa. 47:14 The lost cannot save themselves. After they die, Hell will grow cold. (See Mal. 4:1-3, where the saved are pictured as walking on the ashes of the wicked after the fire had spent itself.)
11. HOW DOES REVELATION DESCRIBE HEAVEN AFTER THE WICKED HAVE BEEN DESTROYED.
11MH Rev. 5:13 John pictures no rebellion anywhere in God's universal kingdom. God's universe is clean. There will never be any more sin or sinners.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE WICKED?
The Bible says:
15 times that they will "die" (cease to live);
12 times that they will "perish" (be brought to nothing);
13 times that they will be "destroyed" (annihilated);
5 times that they will be "consumed" (exterminated).
PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
A parable is a story to illustrate a point. The story itself may or may not be true. Sometimes Jesus told stories that were generally believed to be true, though not true in themselves, could teach the people lessons they might never have learned in any other way. That’s the case with this parable.
Parables cannot always be taken literally (cf. Judges 9:8-15).
Read Luke 16:19-31. This parable cannot be accepted literally because:
A. Abraham's bosom is NOT the home of the saved, (Hebrews 11:10, 16). Abraham's bosom is a FIGURATIVE description of heaven. The description of hell is also FIGURATIVE (they are parallel entities). BOTH MUST BE LITERAL OR BOTH FIGURATIVE.
B. Those in heaven CANNOT talk with those in hell, for the former things will not be remembered (Isaiah 65:17); they will have passed away (Revelation 21:4). The former things would include hell, (Revelation 20:15.)
C. The Bible indicates that the dead (good and bad) are now in their graves, (compare Job 17:13 and Job 21:30-32). They will hear Jesus' voice FROM THEIR GRAVES (John 5:28, 29) and not from Heaven or hell.
D. People will receive their reward at the second coming, and not at death (Revelation 22:11, 12; Matthew 16:27).
E. It would make Jesus contradict Himself (compare Matthew 13:38-42, where Jesus says that the wicked will be thrown into the fire at the end of the world; and Matthew 16:27, where Jesus says that He will reward each person for what he has done when He comes in His glory).
Note that even if taken literally, this parable would refute the idea of disembodied souls going to hell, for it says the rich man has eyes, tongue, and lips. If taken literally this parable would prove that men are cast into hell, soul and BODY, at death.
Bodies of dead people have been exhumed after having been dead for months. It is a well-known fact that the eyes are still in the body even then. So the "eyes" are in the grave, not in hell-fire. (A group of scientists went to a place in the arctic where the entire crew of explorers died. Their purpose was to find out if they had died of lead poisoning. They exhumed the bodies, and one of the photos, that appeared in the National Geographic, showed the face of one of the dead men—whose eyes appeared to be staring out from the grave, though they were frozen solid. This proves that the eyes of dead people go into the grave with them.)
In this parable, Christ was simply using a common belief of the day to illustrate the truth of Luke 16:31: "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" In other words, if we refuse to believe the Bible, there is no hope for us.
(It's interesting to note that a short time later, Jesus raised a real person named Lazarus from the dead. The Jewish leaders saw that many people were believing in Jesus because of the once-dead Larazus. So they tried to find some way to kill Larazus too. [John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,])