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My Thoughts on Hell

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rethinking hell

I was recently interviewed on the Rethinking Hell podcast who talked with me on how I got saved and what my thoughts on life after death look like. As I was born again, I quickly realized that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and that we cannot live without him. Eternal life is a gift, not something we already possess:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“Jesus… has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:10)

Thus, from Day One of my Christian journey I’ve believed that immortality is conditional, not universal: it is something imparted to us through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This means that those who reject the grace of God will not inherit eternal life but will instead die, and be dead forever:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28)

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:46)

“He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly.” (2 Pet 2:6)

This of course goes against the Platonic idea that the soul is innately immortal and that hell therefore would be some alternative form of eternal life, but in torment rather than in bliss. This idea, known as traditionalism or tormentalism, I’ve never found any strong support for in the Bible.

More on this in the podcast episode, which you can listen to here!


4 Comments

  1. unkleE says:

    I came to this view many years ago, based on reading a commentary on the meaning of the Greek word commonly translated “everlasting” or “eternal”, but literally meaning “in the age to come”. Jesus taught those rejecting him would miss out on life in the age to come, not suffer forever. Glad to see you have this view too.

  2. keithpetersen80 says:

    I respectfully disagree, based on the words of Jesus Himself. Matt. 13:49-50, along with Matt. 25:46 and Mark 9:43, 47, and 48 tell us that hell is eternal torment for those who don’t believe.

    • I appreciate your respectfulness! Let’s take a closer look at the verses you cite.

      “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 13:59-50)

      You say that this tell us “that hell is eternal torment”, but that isn’t stated in the text. After all, things that are burned in furnaces burn up – they don’t remain forever. The same phrase is used in v. 42, where it illustrates the parable of the wheat and weeds. Verse 40 states “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.” The Greek word for “burned” here is katakaietai, which literally means to burn up. The imagery is about something being entirely consumed by fire, not something surviving it for eternity. The weeping and gnashing don’t have to go on forever to be weeping and gnashing.

      “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 25:46)

      You say that this tells us that hell is eternal torment, but the text only says eternal punishment. It is contrasted with eternal life, so logically Jesus must be speaking of eternal death. A death that is permanent and irrevocable is eternal, and based on the Old Testament we know that death was a common punishment in Jewish culture whereas torture was not.

      “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out… And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”

      Once again, you claim that this tells us “that hell is eternal torment” but that isn’t the case. It tells us that it is better to be alive maimed than to go to hell, but that could easily be explained by the fact that hell is eternal death. The Scripture Jesus quotes in verse 48 is Isaiah 66:24 – which is about dead people!

      “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

      What’s being described here is not immortal people suffering pain from fire and worms, but corpses being disgraced by fire and worms preventing a proper burial. That’s what Jesus is talking about: hell as a shameful, eternal death. Not another form of eternal life – only the saved will live forever (John 6:51).

      Blessings!

  3. keithpetersen80 says:

    I’ve read those interpretations before. What I really wanted to see in writing was what I’m sure you put in your podcast episode. I guess that comes from being a retired English prof!

    One thing I can say is that even though I believe annihilationism is wrong, I can live with it much more than universalism. As my boyhood buddy, who’s now a pastor and believes as you do, says, he doesn’t see annihilationism vs. eternal torment as a salvation issue.

    See you in heaven!

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The author

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Check out my YouTube channel!

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