Micah Redding — humanity, technology & the future

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There Is No Hell (part 1)

There is no hell.

Period. The bible never once mentions it. It's simply not there. Instead, we have clear indications of what DOES exist, and it's not at all like hell.

Now, by "hell", I mean the idea of eternal conscious torment for the wicked.

The bible teaches that the final state of the wicked is complete destruction. There may be punishment of the wicked before their final destruction, but destruction is always the end result.

I'm going to show that the bible simply doesn't mention the prevailing doctrine of hell.

But first, let me address a few things.


Hell is important, and no one believes in it

Here's the thing: nobody actually believes in hell. Well, almost nobody. If Christians in general believed in hell, the possibility of eternal conscious torture for all their friends and family (and themselves) would haunt them constantly. They wouldn't sleep - they would devote every moment to evangelizing.

When I was growing up, I really DID believe in hell. And it haunted me. It tortured my thoughts.

People who have not had this experience simply don't really believe the doctrine they are proclaiming. They're living in denial of their own beliefs.

Some people would argue that even if there isn't a hell, we shouldn't rock the boat. These people tend to think that the teaching of hell is useful, even if it's not necessarily true. Let me ask:

Do you believe that the truth about God is important?
Do you believe that it's okay to obscure the Glory of God?

The truth is, the doctrine of hell is one of the primary sources of disillusionment with Christianity. Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell both mentioned it in rejecting Christianity. One person has said, "the doctrine of hell has created more atheists than anything else in the history of the world". Millions of people have recoiled in horror from believing in a God who would torture humans in ways we humans have never even imagined torturing each other.

The issue is not what God has the "right" to do. God has the right to send everyone to a torture chamber, and spend all eternity torturing us and laughing in glee.

But God has revealed that he is not like that. His revelation of himself was designed to constrain him in certain ways. For example:

God cannot lie. He has the right to lie, but he doesn't.
God is good. He has the right to be evil, but he says that he isn't.
God is love. He has the right to hate, but he has revealed that THAT is not him.

I understood this when I was young. People would say things like, "we can't limit God with our ideas". But the problem is that God has chosen to limit himself. God has chosen to reveal himself to us, and his revelation is that he is LOVE.

If God reveals that he is love, and defines in detail what love means, then we have to expect God to act consistently with that revelation. And if he doesn't act in that way, that calls into question the whole idea of God at all.

That's exactly where millions of people stand. The God they have heard about is inconsistent and unloving.

The doctrine of hell is important, because it tells us what kind of God we have. The doctrine of hell is important. And it's wrong.


The Idea of Justice

Unfortunately, when trying to disprove a pervasive concept, we have to spend our time arguing against interpretations of certain passages of scripture. This gives the impression that we are fighting an interpretive uphill battle. The truth is, the "proof-texts" for hell are so few and out-of-context that without 2,000 years of Catholic-pagan teaching behind us, no one would come up with the idea of hell on their own.

So, to even the balance here, let's list a couple of cursory arguments against hell on the basis of justice.

The basis of justice
The biblical idea of justice is "an eye for an eye". In that passage, God forbid anyone from inflicting punishment disproportionately greater than the crime. Some countries cut off the hands of thieves. The bible excluded this punishment. Similarly, the biblical idea of "an eye for an eye" excludes the idea of an eternity of infinite conscious torment.

The penalty for sin
The bible teaches us that The penalty for sin is DEATH, not eternal conscious torment.

Jesus paid the price
The penalty for sin is expressly stated to be "death". And Jesus is expressly stated to have paid the penalty for ALL the sin of ALL humans. So what does the penalty for all the sins of all the humans of all time look like? According to the bible, it looks like Jesus spending 3 days in the grave. Not in hell. Not in eternal conscious torment.

If the penalty for sin was eternal conscious torment, then Jesus DID NOT pay the penalty for our sins, and our savior didn't save us from anything.

Hell is futile
The bible reveals that God wants good for all people, even the wicked. God does not take pleasure in the downfall of the wicked. God wants all to repent. But there is no way that God can wish the good of wicked people, and simultaneously torture them forever.

After 1000 years of ultimate torture, any principle of justice will have been fulfilled. Any further torture could only be for one's own perverse enjoyment. But God is not like that. He would love everyone in hell, and want good for them.

Hell can serve absolutely no righteous purpose, because there is no end and no possibility for salvation, even when these people repent from their evil actions.


Summary

The biblical ideas of justice, the nature of God, the penalty for sin, and Jesus' ability to save, all require us to reject the idea of hell. To believe in hell is to believe that God's revelation of justice and of himself is meaningless. And we're not even dealing with the biblical concept of mercy.


Next: There Is No Hell (part 2) - The Scriptures, Waiting Around

Lalo:

I think this makes sense. I am a Christian, but I was raised not to be afraid of God, more like love him. We have a very strong relationship now, and I think such an amazing God wouldn't send people to such a horriable place, would he?

Tom Varney:

The doctrine of hell contradicts the Word of God itself-there is ample proof of this in the Word of God-for further confirmation -go to my Website on www.tomvarney.com.au- or contact me personally on my email address, Sincerely Tom Varney.

tim:

How can you sit here and say that God's mercy HAS to reach to all people.....if it HAD to then we would not to be talking about mercy. Mercy is unmerited and so is grace. This would then mean that we don't deserve it. And what about justice. If God allows fallen humans beings to dwell in heaven with Him where there is no sin (also realizing that these people didn't accept Christ) then he would not be just and he would cease to be God. If people can live in peace with God even without accepting Christ, then Christ died for nothing.

micahtredding:

Tim, you should read the rest of the series. This article is simply an introduction, and doesn't express the viewpoint you're arguing against here.

Nora:

Why would a loving God create a hell of eternal torture? An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a kinder law. Consider for a moment, the number of times the God of the Old Testament mentions his people worshiping another God; a god they had not previously known. There was no hell concept in the Old Testament, but supposedly with the New Covenant, there was. The only catch, was that people had to PRAY to a human god; a god they had not previously known. The first commandment of the 10 commandments was, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me!!! Now talk about sin!!! In order to escape the legendary hell of the New Testament, they would have to worship someone as the actual God who created them, who may or may not have walked the Earth 2000 plus years ago. People are being told that there is a place of torment worse than death and that they would be better off to cut off a limb than to go there where their soul would suffer for an eternity. They have used FEAR to make them break the first commandment. What if, it is a con??? a scam??? What if a bunch of power hungry egomaniacs of old decided to try and set up a religion and get people aka sheep to join? Could they have leveraged typical tyranical and abusive tactics to get people to pay them money now instead of their synogogs? That equates to approximately 23.33% of their gross... first, second and third tithes. Do you have any suspition for lenders who charge double digit interest? The tithes of the Old Testament were taxes intended to support the community, the clergy, the elderly, widows, fatherless, and their festivals. I can't help but notice a huge financial incentive to convince people to pay. They might also need a REWARD as well as FEAR. The reward of eternal life is also thrown into the promises they teach. Probably nothing is as painful as death by fire!!! If you were an evil schemer looking at ways to get gullible people to pay you money, you could have made up the concept of an eternal conscious torment such as hell to really suck in your audience. Would a loving God invent eternal torture? The price for having the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis was death. Every creature we see die, seems to relax and give up the ghost when the pain becomes too intense. Why would this short and often unfair life be a middle ground to eternal life in heaven or hell? The spiritual abuse put upon people with this doctrine really makes their life sad. It is even hard if we explore the love of God, to maintain that love if anyone including your worst enemy has to endure an eternity in torment. I don't see how this New Covenant law sets anyone free philosophically. It isn't more loving. It is worse than the ravages of nature. It is merciless! It isn't forgiveness. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, then how can anyone really believe that someone would endure for billions and trillions of years; ETERNITY in the pain of a firey death? The New Testament was added to the Torah way after the time of Christ. Isaiah 14 is the only place in the bible to talk about Lucifer and if you read it, it says he was a man, who said he would ascend above the heights of the clouds and be like the Most High, but instead was brought to the grave. This is the only place in the bible that talks about the "purpose that is purposed on the whole earth." What if the whole thing with worshipping a man is a test on the whole earth? Ultimately, none of us know what will happen after we die for sure. It sure would be nice to have a strong mental concept of a LOVING god, CREATOR of the Univers rather than a human god bringing us a covenant involving creatures suffering immortal torture by fire.

dougie:

Just a question... why would GOD "punish" those who don't repent for (1000 years?) THEN after that destroy them? If HE is going to destroy sinners anyway...why inflict the punishment part? This makes no sense. I agree with you ..there is no "eternal torture hell" .. but I think GOD has a plan to save all. Romans 5:18 has always had me thinking this "5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men"" From reading that... it would seem that Jesus was sent to make it "right". Is what Adam did not able to be undone by our Lords sacrifice? Many seem to think Jesus has Failed. Even though they dont say that literally, their words confirm this. I believe there will be punishment for the wicked...but I believe this punishment will cleanse them of that wickedness. One last thing to think about. Did GOD know that Adam would sin? Of course... He is GOD. It was not a surprise. From teachings I have heard all my life it seems people think GOD is caught off guard...when its GOD who actually created evil/sin (yeah He says this in the Bible...but I know everyone knows that). And if GOD created sin and sin came into the world through Adam (which GOD knew would happen) then I believe HE will/has corrected this and in the END (after the wickedness is taken off the wicked) we will all be together. Wouldnt it be just like GOD to have the end be totally different than the majority of Christians think it will be. From burning in an eternal hell hole to EVERY person actually "living" in eternal peace. Just something to think about.

Mike Burch:

There is a simple, logical proof that there is no hell, according to the Bible itself: http://www.thehypertexts.com/no%20hell%20in%20the%20bible.htm Please feel free to share the link with anyone it might help.

Jeff:

Two hard questions I am having a hard time with. Hebrews 9:27 where it talks about one death then judgment. This does not seem to mesh with Annhilation of the wicked. Matthew 25 is tough too where the word eternal never changes in the same verse. It referred to eternal life and eternal punishment not eternal death. If this is the case the fire in revelations may be true? I have seen stories of those who experienced fire like hell torture in near death experiences like Lazareth but Hebrews 9:27 seems to contradict the one death with the Story of Lazareth unless it meant a different death. Love an answer. Thank you. Jeff

micah:

Jeff, Judgment happens when we encounter God. What that judgment results in can be discussed, but this passage (Hebrews 9:27) simply says that we die, and then face it. If judgment results in being annihilated (as I've argued here), there is nothing in this passage to contradict it. Matthew 25 talks of an eternal punishment, but it says nothing about an eternal on-going torture or punish*ing*. I've discussed this here: http://micahredding.com/blog/2008/09/15/there-no-hell-part-3-scriptures-getting-destructed -Micah

Mike Burch:

Jeff, if we try to believe every verse in the Bible, things become confusing because different Bible writers clearly believed different things. The Hebrew prophets never mentioned hell or punishment after death. The Hebrew word "Sheol" clearly means "the grave." This can be confirmed by reading any accurate modern translation of the Bible and searching the Old Testament for the word "hell." Even highly conservative Bible scholars no longer translate Sheol or Hades as hell. There is no mention of "hell" in the latest Bible produced by the Roman Catholic church, either in the OT or NT. There is no mention of "hell" anywhere in the OT of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, produced by the famously conservative and literal Southern Baptist Convention. Judgment and hell after death were pagan beliefs. Most of the books of the Bible say absolutely nothing about hell or punishment after death. The few verses that seems to describe such things are not credible, because there is no verse in the entire Bible where the creation of hell was announced and explained. How can a loving, wise, just God send billions of people to a hell they knew nothing about? Hell has always been about making money and mind control.

micah:

Mike, Sounds like you're actually arguing that all the bible writers were in agreement. :) My views have somewhat evolved since writing these essays, but I really don't think there are any passages that talk about eternal conscious torment. -Micah

Mike Burch:

Michah, I think most of the Bible is consistent about there not being a hell, but there are a few verses in the NT that seem to suggest a place of suffering after death. But those verses are hard to credit, because if God created such a place, it would seem incumbent on him to warn all human beings about the danger of going there. But that's not what the Hebrew prophets seemed to be saying. Rather, they pointed out that wrong actions in this life could lead to terrible suffering. But when they spoke about the end times, they seemed to be speaking of a heaven with no suffering for anyone. For instance, in the famous Valley of the Dry Bones vision, Ezekiel said that he saw all Israel resurrected, "an exceedingly great host," and that the people only believed in God after the miracle, not before. Ironically the only Jews who believed in hell, according to Josephus who was an expert on Jewish beliefs and a contemporary of Paul, were the Pharisees! They had probably "borrowed" hell from the Greeks, after Alexander the Great conquered Palestine during the "silent period" between the writing of the OT and NT. That would explain a lot, as it's hard to understand how anyone could believe in hell when the Hebrew prophets said that all Israel would be saved, along with the Gentile nations like Sodom and Samaria.

Mike Burch:

The annihilation of the "wicked" would turn God into the Devil, if everyone is imperfect and God saves some human beings, but not others. Take King David, for example. David was a mass murderer who slaughtered every woman when he "smote the land." He ordered the slaughter of the lame and blind when Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites. And he never "repented" because with his dying breath he order the assassination of Joab, ostensibly for having shed innocent blood. But it was David who had offered Joab the captaincy of his armies if he slaughtered the lame and the blind! The great heroes of the Old Testament were mass murderers who killed and enslaved women and children: Moses, Joshua, Caleb, King David, et al. A God who can save mass murderers doesn't need either hell or annihilation. And what would mothers say and do, if God annihilated their children or tortured them for all eternity, while saving someone like David ... or Abraham, who sent one son to die in the desert and was willing to slit his other son's throat, and almost did? I'm not perfect, but my sins pale in comparison to the sins of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, David, Solomon, et al. How could anyone call God "just" if he saved such men and destroyed others? David said God could simply not impute sin. He believed in grace long before the time of Jesus, according to the Bible. But a God who shows grace to one person but not others would be a respecter of persons. If he destroys or tortures people for not believing things that cannot be proven, that would make him wildly unjust. How can an unjust God judge human beings? In all the near death experiences I have studied, no human being was ever judged by God, Jesus or an angel. Sometimes people reviewed their lives and ended up coming back to earth, as if there was something left for them to do or learn. But beings of unconditional love do not "judge: other beings, or torture them, or annihilate them. If God does such things, his love would be greatly eclipsed by the unconditional love of human mothers. But in his epiphany on Divine Love, Paul said that Divine Love keeps no record of wrongs and never fails. He also said that if God is not Love, all the words of the Bible are just clanging gongs and tinkling cymbals. And that probably explains why Paul talked about all men being saved in a number of passages. A God of unconditional love who is able to save does not need hell or annihilation.

Nora:

Mike Burch, I've noticed the same things you bring up. Thanks for this post. History is written by the victors. I liked your point about human mothers. I have thought about this as well many times in the context of giving up one's life for another. How many women of antiquity made that sacrifice for one tiny baby in childbirth or any many circumstances of valient selflessness for their's or other people's children...thinking of the young teacher in Newtown, CT who hid the children in the cupboards, told the shooter that the kids were in the gym, and was shot by the gunman. She is one of many such heroins who have given up her life. If posed with the notion of giving up our lives to save everyone who ever lived on the planet earth, I think it wouldn't be hard to decide on what would be right. Yet, when posed with the notion of giving up your life for one small life, with uncertain outcomes of character, that really seems the greater sacrifice. Men have shown the same valour in battle, often for only one friend. Now there is also the business of suicide bombings. The thoughts some might be thinking... It is all so grotesque.

I would love to believe that Mike:

Molinism would not make God a mass murderer as this life alone is a gift to all creation but seems like hell to some. You would have to explain away all the ambiguity left for us to have to have faith. You would have to explain why demons still create false religions by spirit writing and the like. They all have one thing in common... They all place Jesus on a lower level than He claimed to be. What would be the point? Molinism is a type of Calvinism where God does and acts based on pre destination. His predestination is based on His foreknowledge. William Lane Craig teaches this.

Mike Burch:

If God predestines some people to be "vessels of glory" and others to be piss pots to be tortured or destroyed, that would make God the Devil. You don't need to worry about "demons" creating false religions. Just look at the occult passages in the Bible. And what about Revelation, which turns Jesus into the greatest criminal in the history of the world? Why would all the animals sing the praises of God and then God turn around and destroy them? Some of the darkest passages ever written are in the Bible. But no Biblical teaching is darker than predestination.

Mike Burch:

Nora, one of the thing that bothers me about Christianity, at least in its darker versions, is how God and Jesus become the enemies of most of mankind. It has been estimated that 100 billion human beings have lived on planet earth. Only a small percentage have read the Bible. So must human being have no knowledge of being in danger of hell, or being eternally destroyed, if they don't jump through the hoops of Christianity. No good mother or father would torture or destroy their children, if they were able to save them instead. But the darker versions of Christianity teach that God punishes human beings for not believing things that can't be proven, and even for not believing things they have no way of knowing. Such teachings turn God and Jesus into monsters. According to Paul, love is the highest value. If human mothers are more loving than God, then they are superior beings to God. For God to be superior, he would have to be more loving than the best mothers. If anyone goes to hell or is eternally destroyed, it seems obvious that one of two things must be true, if there is a God: either God must not be a being of unconditional love, or God must not be able to save.

I would love to believe that Mike:

I do not think we are born but have the right to be adopted otherwise people would die as a dog would not seeing eternal life. However we have a possibility for eternal life unlike an animal. Not sure on that one yet but God said we can see all of His Devine attributes and characteristics through even Nature itself so all will be held accountable and without excuse. I do not know if tribe people or whomever get close enough for Gods mercy. Do I hope there are second chances and that fire is a refining fire after this death? Yes

I would love to believe that Mike:

Jack Dortignac: ["Referring to certain souls in Hades, he describes them as in aionion intoxication. But that he does not use the word in the sense of endless is evident . . . "] Allow me to replace "aionion" in your statement with "eternal": "he describes them in eternal intorixcation" The meaning in English is clear . . . and the word "eternal" also comes from "age", actually from "aion". An English speaker would have no problem understanding my statement, since "eternal" here is hyperbole for "endless" . . . like "endless" debates. Context would define whether the notion is hyperbole or literal. Still means "eternal". Scripture isn't into hyperbole much . . .

I would love to believe that Mike:

I don't believe in torture forever. Just no gift of eternal life. Predestination is based on Gods foreknowledge of their choices so in reality it is free will. Read about Molinism. William Lane Craig holds to this. Corporate Calvinism ?

Mike Burch:

People who have near death experiences often speak of seeing departed loved ones who are kinder, more loving, etc., than in their earthly life. But I have never heard of a singe NDE where people went through a "refining fire" to emerge better people. If there is a heaven where there is no suffering or death, then evil is not possible and no one needs to be tortured or refined with fire. I think the Bible's "hell" verses came from pagan religions and Greek mythology. The Hebrew prophets spoke of a heaven without a hell, where the lion would lie down with the lamb. Torturing a lion with fire will not make it tame. But a dimension where suffering and death are not possible would protect both the lion and the lamb.

Mike Burch:

If people are going to be destroyed, there is no purpose to any sort of punishment. We don't torture animals that are about to be put to sleep. If we are humane, we don't torture anyone, or inflict any suffering that is not remedial. But a God who is able to save doesn't need to inflict suffering at all. Did Jesus tell the thief on the cross that he would enter Paradise after he had been sufficiently tortured? Many Christians make two contrary claims. They say that God can save by grace, but then they say human beings have to be destroyed or "corrected" by fire. Which is it? If a loving God can save by grace, why would he destroy anyone or cause them to suffer? If he can't save by grace, then all Christians will have to go to hell because none of them are perfect, or even close. Did Christ suffer on the cross only to redouble suffering, since Christians will still have to be refined by fire? Why would God give sinful Christians a free pass, then send the saints of other religions to hell ... people like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama? Why would Jesus tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, then refuse to be a Good Samaritan himself? Hell and eternal destruction are vastly unjust, if God is able to save. If God is not able to save, then Christianity makes no sense. There is no "grace" in saving a Christian then in an act of sheer pettiness not doing the same thing for people of other religions. Such wild injustices explain why more and more people are leaving Christianity.