Hell, the Lake of Fire and Universalism Part 1

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Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
September 22, 1997

Last Updated :
February 11, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

Popular Misconceptions Concerning Satan's Appearance, God Casts Down Satan For Being Lifted Up In Pride Due To His Beauty, Hell And Dante's Inferno Poem, Warped Understanding Of Scriptural Truth, Manipulation Through Fear, King James Version Bible Manuscript Sources And Original Languages, Old Testament Hebrew Word Sheol, Lowly State Of Our Human Flesh, Brevity Of Human Life Span, Divine Fire Will Consume Earth, New Heavens And New Earth, The Height Of Heaven And Depth Of Hell, An Old Testament Prophecy: Jesus Would Not Experience Decay In The Grave, Sheol Is Both Hell And Grave, Faith In The Coming Resurrection Of The Dead, Sheol Is In The Earth, Hell In New Testament Greek Is Hades, Spiritual Abode Of The Dead, Apostle Peter Uses Old Testament Prophecy As A Witness In Jerusalem, Jesus Christ Has The Keys Of Hell And Of Death

What if I were to tell you that in spite of the fact that I have been a God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian since the time that I was a young boy, and even though I have strived to faithfully serve the Lord for over forty years now, I am still going straight to hell when I die? In fact, what if I told you that despite what you think, you are likewise going to hell when you die as well? Would you be shocked? Would you consider me heretical, or crazy, or at least doctrinally misguided and confused? Before you jump to any erroneous conclusions, I encourage you to read the following series. One of the things which you will quickly discover, is the fact that while they may not realize it yet, every single person on this planet has an appointment with hell when they die. Are you intrigued? Then read on!

One of the common misconceptions amongst modern Christians who don't have a great deal of time to study the Word of God, revolves around the significance of Satan and Hell in the Bible. Aside from a lack of time on the part of these would-be Bible students, I believe that this problem can also be attributed to a bit of sloppiness on the part of some of the early Bible translators, who may possibly have been influenced by certain religious and/or political forces at the time.

Because of these two points, and a few other factors, when many people hear the word "Satan" or "Devil" or "Lucifer", they usually imagine a caricatural red-suited demon with two short horns protruding from his head, a long pointed tail, possibly a sharp goatee-like black beard, untrusting shifty eyes, dark evil-looking eyebrows, and a trident -- that is, a pitchfork -- held proudly in his hand. As I point out in such articles as "Satan: King of Tyrus, King of Empires", "Leviathan: An Ancient Dragon of the Sea" and "Satan: His Origin, Purpose and Future", this picture of this Denizen Of Darkness is simply not true whatsoever. Satan was created by the Lord as a magnificent creature full of wondrous beauty and light; and it is because of his ability to still appear this way, that many people have been foolishly seduced and deceived by his evil machinations. Consider the following verses:

"Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee."
Ezekiel 28:12-17, KJV

"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."
2 Corinthians 11:14, KJV

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."
2 Corinthians 2:11, KJV

If you are wondering why the Lord refers to Satan as the "king of Tyrus" in the previous verses, please consider reading my article entitled "Satan: King of Tyrus, King of Empires".

At the same time, when many people hear the word "hell", they immediately picture this same character cackling with glee as he prods long-faced lost souls down a steep grade into the agonizing flames of a fiery abyss that is full of thick smoke, the stench of sulphur and agonizing screams. This foreboding scenario is probably adopted from the poem of Alighieri Dante, who as some of you will know, was an Italian poet of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century who wrote the very graphical "Dante's Inferno".

It is truly sad how much our perception and understanding of the Bible has been warped by literary works such as this; as well as by inaccurate Bible translations, and by intentional brainwashing and manipulation by certain denominations -- such as the Roman Catholic Church, for example -- which rely upon fear as a vehicle to subjugate the masses, and to force them to accept said church's authority over their lives. This is not to suggest that there is no such place as I described to you in the previous paragraph, but it most certainly is not the only meaning of the word "hell" in the Bible, as I will proceed to clearly demonstrate in this series.

Many Christians are aware of the fact that the King James Version of the Bible is translated from ancient texts such as the Textus Receptus -- that is, the "Received Text" -- which itself is a collection of ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts which were compiled by the Dutch theologian Desiderius Erasmus during the Sixteenth Century. I discuss this topic more at length in the two-part article entitled "History of the Authorized King James Bible". The primary languages which were spoken by, and/or written by, the Old Testament Prophets, as well as by the Apostles and Disciples of the First Century, were Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Aramaic. Because of this fact, in the Holy Scriptures, four different words were used to denote what has been passed down to us as one word today; that is, the word "hell".

In the Old Testament, the only word that is translated into English as "hell" is the Hebrew word "sheol". This word has a few minor spelling variations in English, but it is not important. As the definitions below from the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew Aramaic English Lexicon will show, this word was used to denote two different meanings; either the spiritual underworld of the dead where the wicked were punished, or the common grave; that is, the ground of the Earth where our physical bodies are buried and eventually decay -- or corrupt -- into the original elements of which they consist. Please notice that in the King James Version of the Bible, this word "sheol" has been translated an equal number of times as "grave" and "hell":

----- Begin Quote -----

sh@'owl {sheh-ole'} or sh@ol {sheh-ole'}

AV - grave 31, Hell 31, pit 3; 65

1) sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
  1a) the underworld
  1b) Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
    1b1) place of no return
    1b2) without praise of God
    1b3) wicked sent there for punishment
    1b4) righteous not abandoned to it
    1b5) of the place of exile (fig)
    1b6) of extreme degradation in sin

----- End Quote -----

If more people were more conscious of their lowly state, perhaps they would not be so quick to reject Salvation when it is offered to them; or be so haughty against the Lord. Following is a group of verses which emphasize the lowly state of our physical body, despite the fact that so many people spend so much of their time, energy and money in order to make their vehicle of flesh look its best:

"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Genesis 2:7, KJV

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
Genesis 3:19, KJV

"And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:"
Genesis 18:27, KJV

"Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?"
Job 10:9, KJV

"All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust."
Job 34:15, KJV

"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."
Psalm 103:14, KJV

"Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust."
Psalm 104:29, KJV

"All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."
Ecclesiastes 3:20, KJV

"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
Ecclesiastes 12:7, KJV

Despite the fact that in reality we are just sentient clumps of dust, as the Apostle Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians, none of us hate our own flesh:

"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:"
Ephesians 5:29, KJV

The Apostle James and other authors of the Bible compare our short existence on this Earth in our physical bodies of dust to the passing of a cloud, or to the grass that eventually dries up, or to a flower that soon wilts, as we see here:

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."
Psalm 90:10, KJV

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
Isaiah 40:7-8, KJV

"But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?"
Luke 12:20, KJV

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Hebrews 9:27, KJV

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
James 4:14, KJV

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
1 Peter 1:23-25, KJV

Returning to our discussion concerning the word "sheol", one example which clearly reveals that "sheol" is located within the depths of the Earth is the following verse that is found in the Book of Deuteronomy. As you read this verse, please notice that it does not say that hell is a place of fire and brimstone; rather, it says that the Lord will kindle a fire on the surface of the Earth which is not only going to burn up the increase -- that is, the produce of the soil, from the Hebrew word "yebuwl" -- but it is a fire so intense that it is also going to reach down to the foundations of the mountains to burn them up. This appears to be referring to the igneous rock strata -- such as granite -- which forms the actual foundation of the Earth:

"For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest Hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains."
Deuteronomy 32:22, KJV

This certainly sounds like a prophecy regarding the future in which the Lord is going to burn up both the Earth and the atmospheric heavens, in order to provide room for the New Heavens and the New Earth. The Apostle Peter likewise wrote about these cataclysmic events, as we see by the following verses:

"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men . . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
2 Peter 3:7, 10-13, KJV

The previous description goes hand-in-hand with the Apostle John's remarks that are found in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation, as we see here:

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea."
Revelation 21:1, KJV

The Patriarch Job and King David also spoke of the contrast which exists between the height of heaven, and the depth of hell within the bowels of the Earth, when they wrote the following lines:

"It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?"
Job 11:8, KJV

"If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there."
Psalm 139:8, KJV

Following is an example where the Hebrew word "sheol" is used in the Book of Psalms. As you may possibly know, this verse is commonly accepted as a prophecy concerning Jesus' time in the grave. In fact, in a moment I will be sharing with you its counterpart in the New Testament, where the Greek equivalent is used in place of the Hebrew word "sheol":

"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."
Psalm 16:10, KJV

In the previous verse, the word "soul" is derived from the Hebrew word "nephesh". In this particular case, I believe that it is referring to the actual physical body. The word "corruption" is translated from the Hebrew word "shachath". This word has a variety of meanings, including corruption or destruction. Thus, this verse is obviously referring to the destruction or natural decay of the human body in the grave; because a soul -- or spirit -- cannot rot or decay.

In Psalm Forty-Nine we find a verse where the word "grave" is used instead of "hell". However, when we look up the Hebrew root in the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew Aramaic English Lexicon, we discover that it is also the very same Hebrew word "sheol". Consider this:

"But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah."
Psalm 49:15, KJV

Either David was again prophesying regarding the coming Resurrection of the Messiah, or else he was fully aware of his own coming Resurrection. King David was certainly not alone when it came to his faith in the coming Resurrection of the Dead. The Patriarch Job expressed similar thoughts. Consider these verses:

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
Job 19:25-27, KJV

If you would like to study additional verses concerning the Resurrection of the Dead and our coming Resurrection Bodies, please avail yourself of my KJV Bible verse lists entitled "Our Resurrected Bodies" and "Resurrection and Rapture", which you can find on the Bill's Bible Basics website in the "KJV Bible Verse Lists" section.

Following are some additional verses which clearly identify "sheol" -- or hell -- as a place that is located inside the bowels of the Earth. In some cases, it represents the common grave, while in others it signifies the underworld where the wicked are punished. As you will learn shortly, it may very well be that hell is actually a multi-tiered system:

"Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them."
Psalm 55:15, KJV

"For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell."
Psalm 86:13, KJV

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow."
Psalm 116:3, KJV

"Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death."
Proverbs 7:27, KJV

"But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell."
Proverbs 9:18, KJV

"The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath."
Proverbs 15:24, KJV

"Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
Proverbs 27:20, KJV

"Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."
Isaiah 14:15, KJV

"I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth."
Ezekiel 31:16, KJV

"Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:"
Amos 9:2, KJV

In the New Testament, we discover that the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew "sheol" is the word "hades". Thayer's Greek English Lexicon states the following regarding this Greek word:

----- Begin Quote -----

hades {hah'-dace}

AV - hell 10, grave 1; 11

1) name Hades or Pluto, the god of the lower regions
2) Orcus, the nether world, the realm of the dead
3) later use of this word: the grave, death, hell

In Biblical Greek it is associated with Orcus, the infernal regions, a dark and dismal place in the very depths of the earth, the common receptacle of disembodied spirits. Usually Hades is just the abode of the wicked, Lu. 16:23, Rev. 20:13,14; a very uncomfortable place.

----- End Quote -----

Please notice that out of the eleven times that "hades" is used in the New Testament, ten of those times it signifies the spiritual abode of the dead -- that is, disembodied spirits -- that is located deep within the bowels of the Earth, while only one time it actually refers to the common grave. It wasn't until later that the physical grave became a more common interpretation of "hades".

As I mentioned earlier, the prophecy regarding Jesus Christ not experiencing physical decay -- or corruption -- in the grave that is found in Psalm 16:10, has a counterpart in the New Testament. In the second chapter of the Book of Acts, we find the following verses where the Greek "hades" is used instead of the Hebrew "sheol". Peter is using this prophecy of the Old Testament to witness to his fellow Jews regarding the Messiahship of Jesus Christ:

"Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption . . . He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption."
Acts 2:27, 31, KJV

Notice that Peter appears to be making a distinction here by using the word "neither". In other words, he seems to be referring to both the earthly grave -- or sepulchre -- where the Lord's body was placed -- and wasn't left to rot, or see corruption -- as well as to the spiritual underworld where disembodied spirits abide. In the following verse, we again see the Greek word "hades" being used, except this time it is translated as the English word "grave":

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV

Following are a few more examples where the Greek word "hades" is used in the New Testament:

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Matthew 16:18, KJV

"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell."
Luke 10:15, KJV

"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
Revelation 1:18, KJV

Please notice that in the final verse that is found in the Book of Revelation, we are told that Jesus has "the keys of hell and of death". The fact that keys are mentioned implies that something must be unlocked. What He is going to unlock are the doors which keep people locked in the dark prison of death. Thus, it should come as no surprise to us that near the beginning of His Earthly Ministry, Jesus in fact told His audience -- by quoting from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah -- that this is precisely what He came to accomplish. Consider these verses:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,"
Luke 4:18, KJV

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:31-32, 36, KJV

Thus, as I explain in other articles, at His Coming, all of those people who have believed in Him, and who are currently "locked" in death -- or sleep -- in their graves, shall be raised to Eternal Life, in a new Glorified Body, and we will then be, even as He is now. As the Apostle Paul wrote in the previous verse "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Consider the following additional verses:

"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
John 5:28-29, KJV

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
1 John 3:2, KJV

"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
1 Corinthians 15:51-52, KJV

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, KJV

Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.

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