Five Essential Bible Truths – Part 3
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Who’s Burning in Hell Right Now?

King Saul, the first king of Israel, was 61 years old when he died during the Philistine attack at Shunem about 1011 B.C. Many people believe that Saul and others on the battlefield that day went directly to hell when they died because they consistently refused to obey the Lord. (1 Samuel 28-31). According to this theory, King Saul is still writhing and jumping about in the eternal flames of hell fire 3,000 years later.

Saul’s misery must be beyond expression. He cannot get water, food or any comfort. The only thing worse than the heat knows that his torment, as far as eternity goes, has just begun! He is tormented and discouraged beyond words because there is no second chance – no way out of hell. The roar of hell’s furnace drowns his plea for relief. The saints playing harps in Heaven, on the other side of the abyss, do not pay attention. Saul cries, begs and sobs at the thought of suffering years without end.

Think about it, if there is a burning hell where sinners writhe in eternal torment, it must be an awful place! There is no way out, no hope, no end. Every time the devil turns up the thermostat, the hostages of hell curse God and demand release from their misery. Many Christians believe this scenario about King Saul is literally true and use the story of the rich man and Lazarus to prove it. (Luke 16: 19-31) A few years ago, George Gallup surveyed American Christians regarding their views on Heaven and Hell. Almost 87% of the individuals surveyed believed they were going to Heaven and 91% said they knew someone in hell or someone who was going there. Therefore, Christians commonly accept the reality of Heaven and hell. The Gallup poll pointed out one fascinating piece of information. Most Christians believe that God would actually torment people with hell fire forever and ever!

Nobody is Burning in Hell Yet

Is there a burning hell right now? The weight of the evidence in the Bible says no – not yet. Here is why:

  1. Jesus paid the penalty for sin. If the penalty for sin is burning in hell for millions of years, then we can only surmise based on this reasoning, that Jesus failed and did not stay in hell long enough. Why would God require human beings to pay a higher price for sin that He required our Sin Bearer pay?
  1. God is fair. He will not torture people forever and ever because they lived in sin for just a few years. In human terms, a justice system is considered fair if it stands firmly on this principle: Punishment should be commensurate with the crime that was committed. Does God do less? Should King Saul be tormented for three millenniums and then throughout eternity when he lived a mere 61 years?Should anyone be tortured forever and ever?
  1. God is love and Heaven will be a wonderful place to live. However, if we must witness loved ones agonizing in the flames of hell and not to be able to do anything about it, how content and at peace will we be? (One person responded to this question by saying to me, “It all depends on who it is.”)
  1. The Bible teaches there will be two resurrections. (Revelation 20:4,5) The first resurrection is for the righteous and it will occur at the Second Coming. The second resurrection will occur at the end of the millennium and is for the wicked. Why would God resurrect the wicked dead (who are already burning in hell) only to put them back into an earthy body and torture them some more?
  1. Finally, if hell exists, where is it?

Things Still Do Not Add Up

Most Christians also believe that good people go immediately to Heaven when they die. The following four reasons indicate this is not a possibility:

1. The Bible teaches there is a resurrection of the righteous. If the righteouses go immediately to Heaven when they die, why does the Bible say there is a last day resurrection? (Actually, there are two resurrections.) Some people suggest the first resurrection for the spirit of the righteous dead to reclaim their Earthy body. However, if the human spirit is a living entity outside the body, why is a body even necessary? If Abel has been in Heaven for almost 6,000 years, why would he want the body he had so long ago? Think about the individuals who had physical deformities while they were alive. Would their spirit want to return and live in a deformed body again for a moment? Furthermore, if a body returns to dust after death (Psalms 104:29; Ecclesiastes 3:20), why would Jesus wait until the Second Coming to gather some dust to together to reform the old body? He would certainly create a new body any time He wants. Interestingly, the Bible says the saints will not have the same body in Heaven as they had on Earth anyway. (1 Corinthians 15:50)

2. The Bible teaches there is a final judgment. If we go to Heaven or hell at death, this would mean that a person’s final judgment is at death, for God would have to decide our destiny at that moment. However, this is contrary to the Biblical concept of a judgment that occurs at an appointed time. (Acts 17:31) Consequently, Abel, the first man to die, was not sent to his eternal destination at his death, for the time that he would be judged would not occur for thousands of years.

3. The Bible teaches that the dead know nothing. (Ecclesiastes 9:5) God knows the devil uses curiosity about death to trap people who believe his sophisticated lies. (John 8:44) Therefore, God expressly forbids us from trying to communicate with those who have died. God said, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or cast spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” (Deuteronomy 18:10,11)

4. The Bible teaches that one day God will put an end to sin. Living in Heaven or hell for eternity requires immortality. Immortality is only granted to the righteous at the Second Coming. (See 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.) The wicked never receive immortality. In fact, the Bible clearly says, “the souls who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) Think about it. If wicked people were granted immortal souls or spirits, the blight of sin and sinners would last for eternity!

Conditional Mortality

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them access to the fruit from the tree of life that would keep them alive indefinitely. When they sinned, God separated them from the tree of life so they would eventually die. “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24)

The Promise of Death

God warned Adam saying, “…You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16,17) Did God mean by this statement that the body would die, but the soul would live forever? That is what the devil wanted Eve to believe. Satan said to Eve, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4) Satan led Eve to believe that she was immortal like God, and therefore, not subject to death! What a mean trick!

Man is Mortal

God did not take an everlasting soul and place it within Adam’s body at creation. Instead, Adam became a living soul when God created him. “The Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) In other words, God united Adam’s body with His own breath of life and Adam became a living human being. When Adam’s body lost the breath of life, Adam ceased to exist. Man is mortal which means man is subject to death. God is immortal which means He is not subject to death. Notice what God said about man’s mortality at the time of the flood, “Then the Lord said, My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his (remaining) days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3) The Bible makes it clear that God alone is immortal. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17) Paul’s further explains that God will grant the gift of immortality to the saints at the Second Coming! “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” (1 Corinthians 15:54)

Without the Resurrections – We Are Dead

Every dead person will be resurrected – eventually. Here is a brief scenario. At Jesus’, Second coming, several things happen. The righteous dead are resurrected and called to meet Jesus in the air (First resurrection). Righteous people who are alive also join the people who are resurrected to meet the Lord in the air. The brilliant glory of Jesus slays the wicked people on the earth who are still alive at the time of His coming. (The devil will have no one to deceive during the millennium for the earth is desolate.) Jesus, accompanied by the saints, returns to Heaven for 1,000 years. In Heaven, the redeemed saints review the results of God’s judgment to satisfy themselves that God’s decision is fair for each person. At the end of the 1,000 years, the Holy City descends to Earth with the saints inside. At this time, the wicked people from all ages are resurrected (second resurrection) to see the reality of God. Think about it – every person who has ever lived on this Earth will witness the final revelation of Jesus. Satan stirs the vast multitude of wicked people to attack the City of God (Revelation 20:7-8), but Jesus suspends the final act of rebellion so that He can explain the plan of salvation and reveal why each person was not saved. After this revelation, every wicked person will bow before God admitting that God is love and He performed his judgment fairly. (Isaiah 45: 23,24; Romans 14:11,12; Philippians 12:10) The wicked people, overcome by their sense of loss, then turn upon each other in hopeless rage and God, in mercy, ends the carnage with fire from Heaven. (Revelation 20:9)

Difficult Texts

Most Christians do not understand the resurrections because they do not understand man’s condition in death. More than 50 times in the New Testament, death is called sleep – for that is exactly what it is like. (See John 11:11-14.) Death after life is exactly the same condition as death before life. There is no knowledge or intelligent thought process before life and there is no intelligent thought process after life. Death is a state of silence or nonexistence.

Many Christians disagree with this view on death. They offer many texts to demonstrate the immortality of man’s soul or spirit, an eternally burning hell, and the concept that the righteous dead are now in a state of blissful existence in Heaven. Let us look at several of these texts and see what is actually written:

Spirit Returns to God

“And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the (ruach) spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) Some people use this text to prove that the spirit returns to God at the time of death. They believe this text proves there is a consciousness when the body and soul are separated and that the spirit (Hebrew word: “ruach”) returns to God who gave it. The Hebrew word “ruach” means wind or breath. Notice how this same word is translated a few verses earlier: “As you do not know the path of the (ruach) wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

The definition of “ruach” is simply wind, spirit or breath and this text says that “ruach” returns to God. Ecclesiastes 12:7 are true for both the righteous dead and the wicked dead! Since the breath of life was given to both groups of people, the breath of life returns to God who gave it when we die, regardless of our behavior!

Job’s use of the word “ruach” may help clarify its meaning. He says, “As long as I have life within me, the (ruach) breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak deceit.” (Job 27:3,4 KJV) An unrefined translation of Job’s comment might read, “As long as I have life in me and the breath from God in my nose, my lips will not speak lies.” Neither Solomon nor Job used the word “ruach” to mean a conscious spirit roaming the Heavens.

King David also knew that death brought an end to consciousness. He said, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their (nephesh) spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” (Psalms 146:3,4) The word “nephesh” means breath. This word is used many times in the Bible to describe the breath in living creatures. Notice: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils (nephesh) breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) “Everything on dry land that had the (nephesh) breath of life in its nostrils died.” (Genesis 7:22)

David knew that the dead were in the grave and not in Heaven praising the Lord. He said, “It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to silence; it is we (the living) who extol the Lord…” (Psalm 115:17,18) The Apostle Peter also knew that the dead were not in Heaven. On the day of Pentecost he spoke about King David saying, “Brothers, I tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day…For David did not ascend to heaven…” (Acts 2:29,34)

Solomon also leaves no room for doubt regarding this topic. He explains the state of the dead very clearly. He says that the dead are unaware of anything taking place on Earth. He wrote, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have any part in anything that happens under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,6)


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