Hell May Not Be What You Think by L. Gomes
In the beliefs of Christianity, there are three main views on the subject of final punishment (or as some call it, hell). The most popular of the three is Traditionalism, which teaches that humans have immortal souls and the ones who are not in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire and be tortured for eternity. The second view is Universalism in which the lake will burn off all evil, purify the lost, and send them to Heaven. The third (and what I believe is the most biblical view) is Conditionalism, in which the lost are cast into the fire and completely and utterly erased from existence forever. Although Traditionalism is overwhelmingly accepted as truth by the Church, I have come to believe that there is more biblical evidence supporting Conditionalism and complete and total destruction than eternal conscious torment.
Some might say, “But hell is in the Bible!” The following words from the original Greek and Hebrew are translated as 'hell' in various modern translations: Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus. Sheol and Hades are sometimes translated as ‘hell’ and sometimes as ‘grave’ (which can be misleading.) They are actually a temporary intermediate state between earthly death and final judgment (according to Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man). According to the Greek New Testament, Gehenna is the lake of fire, and Tartarus is a prison for fallen angels where they are held until judgment. None are places of unending torture. These translations of different words into the word ‘hell’ (a Germanic word, meaning to conceal) can be confusing to anyone studying final punishment.
One reason Traditionalism is so popular is the belief in the immortal soul. If everyone is immortal, it would make sense that they must go to either Heaven or hell forever. However, the immortal soul is not actually in the Bible! God is the Creator of the universe, and if he pulled himself away, it would cease to exist. It is not possible to be immortal unless God wills it. The idea of everyone’s immortal soul actually came from Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, very few people could read the Bible for themselves, and Greek philosophy leaked its way into the church. Since the common yokel had no way of checking for himself, he had to go along with what he was told. Unfortunately, even though we can read the Bible for ourselves, most still cling to the biblically unfounded tradition of the immortal soul.
Since the only immortal souls are the ones God grants and sustains, how can people stay alive and be tortured forever? God would have to keep them alive, and torture billions of his beloved creatures he individually and meticulously handcrafted. The Bible clearly states that God loves all of us and sent his only Son to die for our sins! (John 3:16) So why would he turn around and continually sustain and torment those who reject it? A good, sinless, pure God would never do such a terrible, even purely evil thing! The doctrine of hell paints God as a Torturer of humanity, and drives away atheists and new Christians.
If you look through Scripture, you will find countless verses in the Old and New Testaments that say the wicked will be killed (Isaiah 65:16,) destroyed (Deut. 29:23,) burned up (Psalm 37:20,) crushed underfoot (I Cor. 15:25,) and erased from existence. And the phrase ‘eternal destruction’ means to be destroyed and never put back together, not to be destroyed over and over again for eternity.
Fudge also says, “Nor is it appropriate to choose an opinion supported by a handful of texts at best and to discard an alternate view that has the support of many multiples more of scripture passages from Genesis to Revelation.” The Bible is constantly pointing out that God is all powerful and his enemies will be destroyed, not kept alive and tortured for eternity.
(Mom's note: Give that young man an "A"!)