Psalm 36 presents a contrast between the thoughts and desires of a man with wickedness in his heart and the love of God. How does a loving God deal with someone intent of harming others? What will happen to wicked people? Will they burn in hell forever?
A Blazing Distortion
via Amazing Facts
An Amazing Fact: The sun is a fantastically hot cosmic-radiation powerhouse, with a surface temperature of about 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Its interior temperature is estimated as high as 18 million degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure at the center of the sun is about 700 million tons per square inch. That’s enough to smash atoms, expose the inner nuclei, and allow them to smash into each other, interact, and produce the nuclear fusion that gives us our light and heat. In fact, the material at the core of the sun is so intensely hot that if you could capture just enough to cover a pinhead, it would radiate sufficient heat to kill a man one mile away!
This is the kind of heat that most people imagine when they conjure up ideas of hell — yet many Christians don’t think that even that kind of heat will actually kill anybody in hell. Instead, it will tortuously burn sinners for all eternity, while the devil himself metes out various forms of punishment for sin.
It’s just one reason why the idea of hell evokes feelings of such fear and hopelessness. It’s no wonder that many people are turned away from Jesus with this apparent contradiction of a God that is love but who is willing to send people to ceaseless torture for 70 years of wrongdoing.
Yet the Bible’s real message about the existence of hell is surprisingly good news, and knowing the truth about it will help you understand God’s character so much better. It’s true, God’s reputation is affected by this topic! Don’t believe in ideas straight out of pagan beliefs; rather, you owe it to yourself to know what the Bible really says about hell.
Question: So the devil isn’t in control of hell?
The Bible says:
- “The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10).
- “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. … And never shall thou be any more” (Ezekiel 28:18, 19).
Absolutely not! The devil will be cast into the lake of fire, and it will turn him into ashes along with every person and angel that followed him. God Himself will kindle hellfire (Revelation 21:2), raining it down from heaven, and it will devour the wicked. This is Bible hellfire (Matthew 13:40–42).
Question: Wait! Doesn’t hell last for all eternity?
The Bible says:
- “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it” (Isaiah 47:14).
- “I saw a new heaven and a new earth. … And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1, 4).
- “Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. … And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 4:1, 3).
The Bible specifically teaches that hellfire will go out. The Bible also teaches that in God’s new kingdom, all “former things” will pass away. Hellfire, being one of the former things, is included. Notice also that Malachi 4:1-3 says that the wicked will be stubble, having burned “them up.” The little word “up” denotes completion. Nothing but ashes will be left when the fire goes out — the wicked are completely destroyed (Psalm 37:10, 20).
Think about it: If God tortured sinners in a fiery horror chamber for eternity, for about 70 years of sin, He would be more vicious and heartless than any war criminal has ever been. And God loves everyone, even the worst sinner, so eternal suffering would be hell for God.
Question: Then what is God’s purpose for hell?
The Bible says:
- “Depart from me … into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
- “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
- “The wicked shall not be. … The enemies of the Lord … into smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm 37:10, 20).
God’s purpose is that hell will destroy the devil and all sin and unrepentant sinners and make the world safe for eternity. One sinner left on this planet would be a deadly virus forever threatening the universe. It is God’s plan to isolate sin and blot it out of existence for all time.
Plus, an eternal hell of torment would perpetuate and immortalize sin and sinners. The “eternal hell of torment” theory originated not from the Bible, but from myth that has snuck its way into modern Christian belief. And, incidentally, no one will be in heaven because he feared hell. People are saved because they love and obey Christ.
Question: What happens to those in hellfire?
The Bible says:
- “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
The Bible is clear: the wicked are obliterated in hellfire. If they lived forever, they would be immortal. But this is impossible, because the Bible says God “only hath immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16). Immortality is a gift given only to righteous humans at the judgment.
The Bible says the penalty for sin is “death” (Romans 6:23), and “destruction” (Job 21:30). The wicked “shall perish” (Psalm 37:20), “burn” up (Malachi 4:1), “be destroyed together” (Psalm 37:38), “shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:9), and “shall be slain” (Psalm 62:3). These references and many more make it clear that the wicked die and are destroyed.
The Bible does say that the wicked will receive their just rewards—some greater than others—based on their works (Revelation 22:12; Matthew 16:27; Luke 12:47, 48). But they do not live forever in misery.
Question: But doesn’t the Bible speak of the wicked being tormented “forever” in Revelation 14:11 and in other places?
The Greek word translated “for ever” in this verse is “aion,” where we get the word eon, which means “an indefinitely long period of time; an age.” It is used many times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended. (To check in a concordance, look up the word “ever.”) It is like the word “tall,” which means something different in describing men, trees, or mountains. In Jonah 2:6, “for ever” means “three days and nights.” (See also Jonah 1:17.) In the case of man’s punishment, this means “as long as he lives” or “until death.” (See 1 Samuel 1:22, 28; Exodus 21:6; Psalm 48:14.)
So the wicked will burn in the fire as long as they deserve, until death.
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