It seems that nowadays speaking about hell is not the trend. Many people do not believe that hell exists. Theologians and Sunday school teachers avoid speaking about this topic. Many people do not believe there is a hell because they feel that it goes against the portrait of a loving God. The punishment of hell is too severe; even the greatest of criminals should not be condemned to go to hell for eternity, much less those who do not believe that they are bad people. How could these people be sent to hell forever just because they do not know Christ? It is because they all have been influenced by the wrong view of hell.
For more than 2,000 years the Chinese have accepted the beliefs of Buddhist religion from India about the 18 layers of hell, the mountain of knives, cauldron of boiling oil; the West has Dante’s description of hell, describing how demons tear the bodies apart, carrying out all kinds of cruel punishments. Those are all incorrect view of hell, mixing pagan mythology with the truth of the Bible.
Some people do not believe that hell exists and others don’t want to talk about it. Nobody knows where it is, but not knowing doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Today, we will ask a few questions to find out what the Bible says about hell.
WHAT IS HELL?
In the Greek language there are three words that mean “hell”, actually they refer to different places.
( 一) tartarus ( 彼後2:4; 猶6) ：是囚禁惡天使，等候審判的地方。應該翻作｢無底坑｣。是囚禁特別兇惡鬼魔的地方。可能在另外一個空間，稱為無底坑，表示它深不可測，沒有邊界，像太空之大，爬不出來。這並不是囚禁人靈魂的地方，更不是人靈魂永遠歸宿之處。
(1) Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6): It is a place where the evil angels were sent to be held for judgment on the Great Day. It should be translated into “bottomless pit”. This is a place where the especially ruthless wicked demons are imprisoned. Perhaps in another place called the bottomless pit which is deep and unmeasurable, without boundaries, as big as the outer space, where it is impossible for them to climb up and get away. This place is not where people’s souls are imprisoned, nor it is the final destination of people’s spirits.
( 二) hades 陰間：不信的人死後暫時停留，等候末日白色大寶座審判的地方。天主教的煉獄從這發展出來，給人第二次的機會，只要受夠熬煉，就可以上天堂。耶穌講過財主與拉撒路的故事，財主在陰間受痛苦，非常熱與渴。難怪天主教說是煉獄，但天主教所講的煉獄，與聖經所講的陰間不同，乃是錯誤教義，不應該相信人有第二次悔改的機會。
(2) Hades: This is the place where unbelievers will be kept temporarily after they die. This is the place where they will wait for the last judgment of the Great White Throne. The idea of purgatory that the Catholics believe in developed from this place . They think they will get a second chance after suffering enough to be able to get to heaven. When Jesus spoke about the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man was suffering in Hades, he was extremely hot and thirsty. No wonder the Catholics said it is purgatory, but the purgatory that Catholics talk about is different from the Hades that the Bible speaks about. It is false teachings, do not believe that people have a second chance to repent.
( 叁) gehenna 地獄：來自舊約欣嫩谷( 書15:8; 王下23:10) ，是耶路撒冷城外低窪之地，燒垃圾的地方，是骯髒、有蟲、有火之處。所以主說：｢蟲是不死的，火是不滅的。｣現在以色列已經把這地方修輯好了，成了做生意、熱鬧的地方。不過那地方仍然稱作｢地獄｣，有些餐館、商店仍然用地獄這名字。猶太人不讀新約聖經，不相信地獄，甚至不相信陰間，認為只是墳墓的同義詞。我們知道有地獄，因為耶穌說得最多。
(3) Gehenna: Comes from the Old Testament, the Valley of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8, 2 Kings 12:10), a small valley outside of the city of Jerusalem, a place where garbage is burned, it’s filthy, full of worms and there is fire. That is why the Lord said: “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Nowadays, Israel has made this place into a lively place of business. However, that place is still called “Hell ” as well as some restaurants and stores that are in the area. The Jews don’t read the New Testament, don’t believe in hell and don’t believe in Hades, they think it is a synonym of the word tomb. We know there is a hell, because Jesus talk about it the most.
( 四)lake of fire 火湖：｢死亡和陰間也被扔在火湖里，這火湖就是第二次的死。｣啟示錄特別用上一個新字：｢火湖｣，或｢硫磺火湖｣。那時還沒有火藥的時代，硫磺是最易燃燒、燒得最猛烈的東西。｢硫磺火湖｣告訴我們那是烈火包圍的地方。我們只知道這是痛苦的地方，像燒垃圾的地方一樣，有不滅的火、不死的蟲。人間無論多苦都不會像它。滅亡的人晝夜在良心煎熬下，永遠帶著後悔的灼熱、燃燒感。
(4) Lake of Fire: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Revelation specifically uses a new word: “Lake of fire ” , or “Lake of burning sulfur”. In those times gun powder was not discovered yet, sulfur was the most flammable substance which burned very fiercely. “The lake of burning sulfur”, tells us that is a place surrounded by blazing fire. We only know that it is a place of suffering, like a garbage incinerator. It is a place of unquenching fire and worms that don’t die. Nothing on earth compares to that place. Those who perish will be tortured by their consciences day and night, burning with regret forever.
Actually, the notions of “heaven and hell” of the Chinese people come from Buddhism, and is not accurate at all. The future kingdom of heaven will not be established in heaven but in the new heaven and new earth. Nowhere in the Bible mentions that we will go to up heaven. And the description of hell by the Chinese is completely different from how the Bible describes it. Using the words “Lake of fire” may be the closest.
There is the misunderstanding that God uses fire to punish people. Fire represents the isolation of humans from God, the anxiety and grief of not having the grace of God. Today, unbelievers, even though they may have sickness and sufferings, they still have the grace of God, God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. They can all enjoy the universal grace that God gives to everyone: A home, the love of friends, food, health, entertainment, they don’t lack these things, there is also the different kinds of artistic talents, insights, they can sing, dance, draw and paint, they can immerse themselves in the enjoyment of art. Today, all the unbelievers can still enjoy the grace of God.
WHERE IS THE LAKE OF FIRE?
14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
到底火湖在宇宙中哪個部份？在星球上抑或地球上？還是在太空某處？這是一個特別的範疇，姑且用dimension 來描寫。有人用另一個dimension 來描寫靈界，就是天使、魔鬼活動的地方。因為聖經說神創造｢諸世界｣( 希伯來書一章) ，或多個不同性質的世界，但在啟21 章說的｢新天新地｣，卻是一個單數字，就是說，將來只有一個天地，再沒有其他世界。再沒有人覺得靈異、神怪的事發生，再沒有玄妙的事，從另一個世界傳過來。因為再沒有別的世界了。
So, where is the lake of fire in this universe? Is it on a star or on the earth? Or where in outer space? It is a special category which can be described as a dimension. Some people use another dimension to describe the spiritual realm, the place where angels and demons live because the Bible says that God created the “worlds” (Hebrews 1), or a world of a different nature, but in Revelation 21 it talks about “a new heaven and a new earth”, which are singular words, which means that in the future there will be only one heaven and one earth, there will not be other worlds. No one will feel supernatural or strange things happening, no more mysterious things passing from one world to another.
Also, it tells us that hell is not a world. It is not in the new heaven and the new earth. Some people believe that it is the black hole in space, a place where the gravitational field is very intense, the whole earth could be sucked into it and become part of it, nothing can escape from the black hole. The spirit of man can be compressed in such a way that it cannot be seen, burned with fire and suffering pain. Will it be really like this? Don ‘t know.
We only know, it is the second death, that is, their resurrected body will also die, thrown into the lake of fire, there is the old Hades, other worlds like the bottomless pit, there are demons and all evil spirits, also the spirits of the sinners. The spirits of a people and the spirits of demons are different because the angels were created as spirits with powers that can exist by themselves, they can work and move. People are different. The man’s body was created first, then God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life then he became a living thing with a spirit. The spirit of man is like a computer software which is placed into a hardware, which is the human body, so the body can work and move around.
在陰間裡，人的靈是靜止的存在，｢沒有工作、沒有謀算、沒有知識、也沒有智慧。｣( 傳9:10) 有意識卻沒有活動。像沒有了硬件的軟件一樣。沒有人的腦袋、手腳配合，存在在一個沒有時間、空間的非世界中。是靜止不動，再也接觸不到任何神所創造的東西，再沒有神的恩典跟隨。但意識中充滿悔恨、內疚，如被不滅的火所燒一樣。
In Hades, the spirit of man exits in stillness , ” there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) There is consciousness but there is no activity. Like a computer software without a hardware. Arms and legs without a brain, existing in the netherworld without time or space. Completely still, never again being in contact with the things that God created, never again having God’s grace following you, yet the consciousness remains full of regret and guilt like a fire that never stops burning.
Right now, everyone who is alive lives under the grace of God, we can enjoy delicious food, feel happiness, that is what God planned for us, that is God’s grace towards all human beings. When you can talk heart-to-heart with a friend and feel happy, that is the grace of God under His plan. To be able to use your artistic abilities, enjoy a piece of art, enjoy audio-visual entertainment, those are the things that God has given us through His creation. When a person dies and leaves the body, all those activities stop, the dead will not be able to be in contact with all the things that God created, but will be in a complete still condition, existing in a place without time or space, where there are no parties, no entertainment, no friends; a place where there is only remorse.
WHO WILL BE THROWN INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE?
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Those whose names are written in the book of life are those who have the live of Christ, that is the book of those living who are citizens of heaven. Whoever is not in the Book of the Dead will be able to live in the kingdom of Christ.
People who do not have the life of the Lord do not like to live as a Christian, they will feel that being a Christian is very boring and that there is no freedom. They think that way because they do not have the life of the Lord . If you had the life of a fish, you would enjoy living in the water, but if you didn’t have the life of a fish you would feel that being in the water is very inconvenient.
It is a joy for brothers and sisters in the church to be able speak with each other open-heartedly. When speaking with people in other group settings people have to be very careful of what they say so that others will not look down at them. The topic of their conversations is usually about success, wealth or their children. And when listening to someone talk, they have to be very careful also, they never know what the other person is up to. If you are better than them, they will be jealous of you; if you are worse than them, they will look at you with contempt. They are never tired of wearing a mask. They will never enjoy church life; they will not like how a person who has the Spirit of God views things. Therefore, at the end, the only place they can go will be a place where the grace of God is no more.
Originally, the lake of fire was not intended for human beings, but for the devil and his emissaries. Here it seems that it was prepared for mankind. Actually, verse 10 says that the devil was first thrown into the lake of fire and verse 14 says that Death and Hades were also thrown into the lake of fire. Sinners were thrown into the lake of fire because they chose to follow them, it was their own decision. Willing to follow the way of Satan, loving Satan’s lifestyle, will make anyone end up with him for eternity.
Some people feel that when they suffer a lot in this world, this world becomes like hell, wars, conflicts, hatred, struggles, plus depression, body, soul and spirit suffering. In fact, even though at the present there is suffering, it is only the physical body that suffers, there are still churches that people can go to, there are people who preach the Gospel, there is still a chance for repentance, you can pray for God’s help, the spirit can be strengthened through the Lord, to overcome the pain, there is still an opportunity to turn back. In the lake of fire there will not be a second chance, there will not be the possibility of turning back, and there will not be any way out.
WHEN WILL BE WICKED BE THROWN INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE?
Many people believe that people go to hell right after they die. Do people go directly to the lake of fire after they die? Of course not, the spirit of a human being will be in Hades awaiting the resurrection of the body at the end of the world, after the judgment of the Great White Throne, then the second death and finally thrown into the lake of fire.
After Christians die, they do not go directly to heaven, they go to Paradise temporarily. Paradise and Hades are incommunicated . In the parable that the Lord spoke about, “The rich man and Lazarus”, the rich man was suffering in Hades forever seeing Lazarus, whom he knew when they were alive. Lazarus was together with Abraham, not suffering anymore, enjoying the warmth of being at home. But he could not cross to the other side because both sides were separated by an abyss. Actually, unbelievers not only don’t get to go to Paradise, but they are isolated in Hades unable to reminisce the good old times with their friends.
WHY IS THERE A LAKE OF FIRE?
Some people believe that the punishment of the lake of fire is too much. Being sent to hell because someone did not have the opportunity to hear and believe in the Gospel is like someone receiving the death penalty because of a traffic violation. How could God be so merciless as to send innocent people to the lake of fire just because they did not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel? Remember that before people enter the lake of fire, there is the final judgment at the Great White Throne. God will certainly have the most impartial way to handle each case.
Know that the spirit is immortal, the devil was originally an angel, he is a spirit, he will never died , he can only be placed in the lake of fire. People’s spirit will never die either and since they do not want the kingdom of God, the best place for them is outside the kingdom of God, in the stillness where there is not time, space or activity. This is already the most merciful solution.
如果沒有火湖，人人進入天國，那是不是好事？我們要記得主的心腸最柔軟，祂整天沒有吃飯，人來求祂幫忙之時，祂一個也不推辭，從來不說：｢辦公時間已過，明天請早。｣這樣好心腸的主，怎會折磨人？但耶穌論地獄最多，新約共提地獄12 次，11 次是主耶穌說的。火湖乃是愛的設計。
If there was no lake of fire and every body enters into the kingdom of heaven, would that be a good thing? We must remember that the heart of the Lord is the most kind one, he had not eaten the entire day, but when people came asking for His help, He did not reject anyone, He never said: “Office hours are over, come back tomorrow.” A Lord with such a kind heart, how could He torment anyone? But Jesus spoke about hell the most, 12 times in the New Testament, Jesus Himself spoke about it 11 times. The lake of fire was set up because of love.
When the court pronounced that a child with AIDS could go back to school. Many kids transferred to another school. They might not get infected with the disease, but people still do not want to be with kids who have AIDS. If in the new heaven and the new earth there is the possibility of sin and death to be contagious, then how could it still be the kingdom of heaven? Many people want to move away when they know that a criminal that was released from prison lives next to them.
If wicked and treacherous people enter the kingdom of heaven, wouldn’t the kingdom of heaven become hell? If we permit a convict sentenced to death, a psychopath, or a brutal savage beast to live with our children and family, wouldn’t it destroy a loving and tender home? Ought they not to have their own place? Therefore, the lake of fire is the kindest way to deal with the problem of wickedness.