Coming Back from Hell Soon

OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, the news media has reported on the changing concepts in Christianity of ‘hell.’ Most articles published told of getting away from the eternal torment definition of hell. Few were analyzing the Biblical words that are involved in either life, death, or the hereafter.


The “U.S. News and World Report” (January 31, 2000), reviewed these changing concepts in an article entitled, “Hell Hath No Fury.” The review began by saying:

“Since long before the Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards, struck fear into the hearts of 18th century New Englanders, the threat of hell has served as a potent incentive to refrain from evil and cling to faith. For preachers like Edwards and his spiritual heirs, the eternal stakes were frightfully clear. There was a hell to shun, and a heaven to gain. Hell and its flaming torments were real.

“Edwards would scarcely recognize the hell of today. After decades of near obscurity, the netherworld has taken on a new image—more of a deep funk than a pit of fire. While the traditional infernal imagery still attracts a following, modern visions of eternal perdition as a particularly unpleasant solitary confinement are beginning to emerge, suggesting that hell may not be so hot after all.”

The writer continued to trace the revisionism of hell that has taken place and reviewed the concepts Early Church fathers had of it being a place of sensory torment (by some), and as spiritual suffering (by others). Also, he noted that other religions had concepts akin to Christian religions, saying:

“The threat of painful retribution in the afterlife has counterparts in nearly every major world religion and in some minor ones as well.” He then proceeds to list some examples such as:


Islam having a crater of fire beneath a narrow bridge that all souls must cross to go to paradise. Those whom Allah judges unworthy, fall in and suffer endless physical torment in one of seven layers of hell.

Hinduism requires that souls on the way to reincarnation must pass through one of 21 hells that burn away bad karma. The most wicked are condemned to the lowest hells, where they may be cooked in jars, or eaten by ravens.

Classical Buddhism has seven hot hells complete with torture chambers, a fiery pit, and a quagmire for evildoers.

Jainism (came from Hinduism 2500 years ago) contains three realms, the lowest containing 8.4 million hells where humans are punished for their sins.

Taoism (Chinese religion) teaches that the dead are sent either to a Buddhist paradise, or to one of several hells.

It is noteworthy that eternal torment is part of the lore of tribal religions in Asia and Africa, as well as of major religions. Why has this happened? The answer was given by Jesus when he spoke of the Devil, the great Adversary of God, and said, “He is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44) All false religion contains this major lie of a punitive hell. The Adversary’s intent has been to dishonor God by making him the author of it.

The article contained two sets of statistics as follows:

Do you think there is a hell?
Don’t know9%
What comes closest to your idea of hell?
Hell is a real place where
people suffer eternal fiery
Hell is an anguished state
of existence eternally
separated from God
Don’t know4%11%


In spite of the tenacity with which Christian religionists hold onto a punitive hell, it is gratifying that this latest write-up on the subject quotes a small but growing number of conservative theologians promoting a third position that the end of the wicked is destruction, not eternal suffering. The article says:

“Proponents of this theory, called ‘annihilationism,’ argue that traditional belief in unending torment is based more on pagan philosophy than on a correct understanding of Scripture. They base their belief on New Testament passages that warn of ‘everlasting destruction’ (II Thess. 1:9) and ‘the second death’ (Rev. 20:14) for those who reject God, and on the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel’s admonition that ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ (Ezek. 18:4) They also raise ethical arguments: ‘How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness’ as to inflict ‘everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been?’ A God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God.”


It was also observed by some of these theologians (and we quote from the article): “that the traditional belief in unending punishment is linked to the Greek notion of the innate immortality of the soul—a belief that is based more on Plato than on the Bible. The immortality of which the Christian is assured is not inherent in himself or in his soul but is bestowed by God.”

Again we see how Satan’s first lie was responsible for belief in the immortality of the soul. God gave Adam and Eve explicit instructions, as recorded in Genesis: “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”—Gen. 2:17

In the Garden of Eden, when Eve told the serpent of these instructions from God, Satan (in his use of the serpent) said: “Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) Hence, as Jesus said of him, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44) Before Plato proposed that man has an immortal soul, Satan proposed it about four thousand years earlier.

Is it not strange that mainline Christianity has preferred to believe Satan’s lie rather than God’s direct statement to Adam? The Scriptures speak of man’s mortality, and make it plain that immortality is a gift from God.

The Apostle Paul writes of it, saying that faithful footstep followers of Jesus will be given immortality as a reward. (I Cor. 15:51-57) This basic error—the teaching that man’s soul is immortal—has been instrumental in believing in a hell of eternal torment.


What, then, is the truth about hell? God gave the ancient prophet named Job enough information to clarify the state of those who die and go to sheol, the Hebrew word for the Biblical hell. Job is among the first of the prophets to confirm that the righteous and the wicked go to hell when they die, whereas—according to the theory of the Dark Ages—only the wicked go to hell. This important truth, as well as other information concerning sheol, is found in Job 14:13-15.

Great calamity had come upon Job. His flocks and his herds were destroyed; his family was destroyed; he lost his health—breaking out with boils from head to foot—and his good wife turned against him, saying, “Curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9) Job prayed: “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.”—Job 14:13-15

According to the teachings of the Dark Ages, sheol, or hell, was a place where God visited his wrath upon his enemies. But here we find Job, a righteous servant of God, asking God to let him go to sheol—the Bible hell—in order to escape his wrath! Job asked to be hidden in sheol until God’s wrath was past.


No one who believed the teachings of the Dark Ages on the subject of hell expected that God would ever remember them favorably once they died and were consigned to eternal torment. But Job did not have that viewpoint. Job, one of God’s prophets, asked to be hidden in hell only until God’s wrath be past, and then he prayed, “That thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me.” (Job 14:13) Job realized that in this prayer he had asked God to let him die, and then he asked the question, “If a man die [if I die], shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time [in death] will I wait, till my change [from death to life] come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.”—Job 14:15

Job, having asked if a man dies shall he live again, answers his own question, and assures us that this is to be the experience of humankind, that those who die—and all die—shall live again, and that they shall be called forth from death in the resurrection. The Creator, having created them to inhabit the earth, will exercise his power to restore them to life, that they might, in harmony with his glorious arrangement, be given an opportunity to live on the earth forever.

Here, then, is one of the Old Testament’s definite assurances that those who go into the Bible hell shall return; that they do not go to hell to be tortured forever, but to rest in death until the Lord’s time comes to carry out the final great feature of his plan of human redemption and salvation.


Job’s experience of suffering continued for a long time, and before he reached the point of asking God to let him die that he might be free from his suffering, he expressed the thought that it would have been better for him had he died when he was a baby. This thought is expressed in Chapter 3: “Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should suck? For then I should have lain down and been quiet; I should have slept; then I should have been at rest.”—Job 3:11-13, Revised Standard Version

This is most revealing, indeed, in view of the creeds of the Dark Ages. In most instances it is believed that babies go instantly to heaven when they die, but this was not Job’s expectation. He declares that had he died when he was a baby, he would have ‘lain still and been quiet.’ Also, ‘I should have slept.’ Concluding this description of what would have resulted from having died as a baby, he says, ‘then had I been at rest.’ Briefly, Job is here saying that had he died as a baby he would have been still and quiet, that he would have slept and been at rest. This does not seem like the description of a happy infant in heaven, or of a tortured one in a creedal hell.

But Job does not leave the thought by describing what it would have meant to die as a baby. In verse 14 he adds that in this condition of dead babies there are also “kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves.” (Job 3:14) ‘The kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves,’ could well be a reference to the custom of Job’s day to prepare one’s own tomb in advance and to fill it with treasure which it was hoped could be used by the dead king or counselor. But in any case, it is here made plain that kings and counselors of the earth in death are in exactly the same condition as those who die as babies. They are quiet, they sleep, and are at rest.


In verse 15, Job adds to the category of those who would be quiet and sleep and be at rest—namely, “princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver.” If it is a sin to be rich, then these rich men referred to by Job did not go to a place of torment when they died, but to a condition of quietness and rest.

In this narrative we find a most surprising statement—surprising, that is, to those who believe in the Dark Age creeds. Job says that “there the wicked cease from troubling.” (Job 3:17) This indicates beyond a doubt that, in Job’s estimation, even the wicked are asleep and are at rest in death. And to this Job adds, “and there the weary be at rest.” Death is a state of unconsciousness, a state which you could liken to rest, where babies and kings and counselors and princes and the wicked all rest in death.

In verses 18 and 19, Job continues: “There the prisoners rest together; … and the servant is free from his master.” There is no exception in death. All are in the same state or condition. They are all resting, waiting, although unconsciously, for the resurrection.

Then Job sums up his soliloquy by adding, “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?” (vss. 20-22) The creeds of the Dark Ages insist that life and misery and bitterness of soul are the heritage of those who go into death, into the Bible hell. But this is not true, as we have already noted. Job prayed to go to the Bible hell in order that he might escape suffering.

All that are in the grave (the Bible hell) are coming back soon. Jesus promised this when he said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs 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 judgment.” (John 5:28,29, RSV) What a glorious day that will be for all mankind!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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