Associated Bible Students

New Haven, Connecticut

A Loving God! - A fiery "hell"?

With the faith of many waning, Christians need to be armed with the facts as to the correct interpretation of hell. A short study on the subject reveals the logical and harmonious truth. The key to understanding any doctrine is to square it with these four character attributes of God: Love, Justice, Wisdom, and Power.

Laying a Reasonable Foundation
The Attribute of Wisdom

Throughout His word, God urges us to seek after truth. "Come now, and let us reason together..." Isa. 1:18 Our responsibility as Christians is to reflect in our thoughts, words and conduct God’s glorious character. Jesus encourages, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt. 5:48 Wisdom would dictate that this is impossible in our fallen flesh. But, God provided a way in which we could be perfect of intention so that our wills might perfectly conform to His. "...Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption..." 1Cor. 1:30 Through Christ, we have the potential to understand and emulate God’s character and purposes.

Therefore, if we are not sure of the doctrine of hell, it behooves us to seek to know God and His plans that we might glorify Him. His word exhorts: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2Tim. 2:15 Thus, to glorify God’s name and character, we must rightly interpret his word by reasoning together with its message. Only by doing this will we truly understand God’s wise and gracious plan.

In His wisdom, God created a plan which would permit experiences to teach the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and yet provide a means of salvation. "God...will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time." 1Tim. 2:4-6 If all are promised this opportunity in due time, the concept of a fiery hell awaiting the majority now is certainly unjust.

The Attribute of Justice

Let us reason on God’s Justice. When God created Adam, He provided for every need with the condition that Adam would remain obedient: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But 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. 2:16-17 Notice that the just penalty for disobedience was death, not eternal torment. Ezekiel confirms: "...the soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezek. 18:4 And Paul states, "the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23

God’s justice is absolute: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life. For this cause, Christ came into the world to pay the penalty for Adam’s sin: a life for a life. "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:17-18 Thus, God’s justice was balanced by His love.


The Attribute of Love

"God is love...There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment." 1John 4:8 & 18 Is there fear associated with the doctrine of hellfire? Would love permit for an eternity of torment? Most of mankind cannot understand why God has permitted the evil of this present life, let alone an eternity of flames scorching raw flesh! Could any of us take the hand of our worst enemy and place it on a hot burner? Our instincts of love would not permit for such an inhumane act. Even in current death sentences the most heinous of crimes, only the most humane forms of execution are used. Anything more would be considered sadistic and cruel. Would a God of love not have at least the same compassion upon those who have broken His laws? Jeremiah stated, "It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." Lam. 3:22-23 Has not man been created in God’s image, and has he not inherited this trait of compassion from God? Would a God who tells us to love our enemies, create in us a desire to burn them forever? Could ultimate joy truly exist in a heaven reverberating with screams from below?

Consider the lesson of the Hebrews who built altars to the false god Molech, and sacrificed their children on the fire. God cried out, "...I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination..." Jer. 32:35 If God’s love could not conceive of such cruelty, how could He create a burning hell?

The Attribute of Power

God is all powerful. He certainly could create a place where fire burns forever upon writhing flesh, but His attributes of love, justice and wisdom would not permit for this to be so. God has used His omnipotence for good. Everything He created is "very good." The heavens declare His glory and love for His creation.

God’s power will ultimately bring all back from their graves: those who have lived righteously in Christ will receive a resurrection of life and those who have lived selfish or evil lives will receive a resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 NAS "...when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Isa. 26:9 Those who did not accept life through Christ now will have this opportunity to learn righteousness in due time. But what happens to the incorrigible? "Death and hell (grave) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Rev. 20:14 The punishment of second death will extinguish life forever and death will be swallowed up in victory! 1Cor. 15:21-58 This is the result of God’s almighty power.

Origin of a Fiery Hell

The idea of a fiery hell may have come from the teachings of the 6th C. Persian prophet, Zoroaster who taught that a "Lord of Lies" who lived in the dark reaches under the earth recorded the deeds of men as debits and credits. Furthermore, ancient Egypt, Greek and eastern religions have taught various versions of many hells to which the soul must continuously migrate.

As paganism mingled with Christianity under the influence of Constantine, these concepts attached themselves to the symbolic statements of the New Testament. While some lessons taught by Jesus in symbolic parables were thought of as literal, other definitions remained figurative: such as wheat, fish, sheep, weddings, fig trees, vineyards, and leaven. Slowly, the inconsistency of such logic was forgotten and hell’s imagery born of Constantinian compromise became Church doctrine.

An exhaustive word search reveals the true meaning of the word hell. (See booklet reviews page 4.) Briefly, in every case of the Old Testament, the word is translated from the Hebrew word sheol which means grave. Both good and bad went there, but the biased translators assigned the English word hell if it was a bad person. Job prayed to go to sheol (hell/grave) to hide from his pain. Certainly, he would not pray to go there if it were to burn forever.

In the New Testament, the word is translated from three different Greek words: hades meaning grave; gehenna meaning garbage dump; and tartaroo meaning a place where the fallen angels were sent between heaven and earth. In every case where the concept of hellfire is used, the context is highly symbolic.

The Loving Conclusion

We suggest from our lesson on God’s character that fire symbolizes destruction and that a literal hellfire is the machination of Satan to slander God’s loving, just, wise and powerful character. If you have always been ashamed of the doctrine of hell and how it contradicts our loving Heavenly Father’s character, study to show yourself approved unto God by rightly dividing His word of truth. Let us praise God for His mercy. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee." Psa. 76:10


Write: for these words are true and faithful...Rev. 21:5


"And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful."