Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My 13-year-old's "persuasive" paper for writing class

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.

There are a few verses in the book of Revelation that supposedly prove Traditionalism is correct, but Revelation is a heavily allegorical book with much symbolism. Most of the verses that are about eternal torment aren’t even describing people, but government systems (Rev. 18:10). The Bible also says that Hades and death will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14,) which makes no sense if the lake of fire is eternal conscious torment.

Every Christian knows that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), but I have heard, “which means separation from God in hell,” tacked on after the verse. Edward Fudge, writer of The Fire That Consumes, says, “It would not be proper to interpret dozens of clear statements throughout the Bible to fit one or two symbolic passages in the Book of Revelation. It is a well-established rule of interpretation that one should read symbolic or unclear texts in light of texts that are non-symbolic and clear, not the other way around.” The Traditionalist view depends on a few “proof texts” that are highly symbolic, and ignores tens, maybe hundreds of literal verses that support destruction.

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.

But God is also a loving, just God, and what kind of loving God would torture people for eternity? There is no crime that could ever come close to deserving eternal torment. That is why I believe that eternal conscious torment is a biblically unfounded theology and that those who reject God will come to a permanent end in the lake of fire.

(Mom's note: Give that young man an "A"!)


  1. Thanks for posting this, mom!

  2. Thank you Lucas for writing such a succinct and enjoyable paper. You laid out your points clearly and sequentially. Your post convinced not only me but also Mr. Jerry about the validity of your argument. Please send me any further persuasive writing you do. I hope you share this paper with many people.


I understand this is a difficult subject and there are different views from folks who all value God's inspired word. I value your feedback, corrections and questions. Please leave a comment!