Hell, as a lake of fire for eternal punishment, does NOT exist in the Bible!

hell lg.jpg

Now that I have your attention… :)

It’s a bold statement, for sure — especially considering the many years that Christian fundamentalism has taught the exact opposite. However, years of soul searching and countless days/nights reading through all of the “hell texts” have proven… well, the exact opposite. It is nowhere to be found!

As a Type-A personality, I simply want to know and understand the truth and to believe the truth. For 25-30 years of my life, I did believe that there was this place called hell which was reserved for all unbelievers to be burned/tortured forever (it churns my stomach to even admit that) — I was raised believing it and could reiterate that stance to anyone as a way of pressuring them into Christianity.

Let’s get started…

If you read below, you’ll learn that my unbelief in hell is not out of any selfish agenda, not part of an atheistic bend and not part of a liberal lifestyle. I’ve been called a heretic by some, but the original Greek form of the word means “to choose; to have a distinctive opinion” - so…. maybe I’m a heretic? :)

The amount of time I’ve spent reading and researching on this topic is the exact opposite of spiritual apathy and has required a great deal of devotion. It is simply the result of me wanting to understand God for who He is, what He has done and what He wants for his children. Nothing more, nothing less.

Nothing written here is intended to put down or cause ill with those that still hold these beliefs, but I would hope that this may challenge you to think differently.

So, if I haven’t lost you already, please continue…

To set the stage, please take 3 minutes and check out this video by Rob Bell, author of Love Wins. Put aside what any fundamentalist sources have said, whatever opinions you already have of him and please… just “listen” to what he is saying.

Why is “hell” in the modern translations of the Bible?

There was no concept, discussion and practice of an “eternal hell” until roughly 500 years after Christ’s death. That is FIVE HUNDRED YEARS.. This was flat out not taught or believed by any followers of Jesus during that time.

First, some history: The Old English word “hell” was derived from the Old Norse Goddess named “Hel” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hel_(being)). In its original use, the word means “to cover” or to “conceal” and may have referred to the ground covering a dead person. In Pagan cultures, they believed that “hell” was the underworld and was ruled by the “god of the dead”. 

To be honest, when you look at the Bible as a whole, it is quite apparent that this construct of “hell” was a man-made belief, and not from God. Aside from not existing in the Bible, it is not supported by any of the entirety of the gospel.

So where did it start?

Nearly 5 centuries after the death of Jesus, St. Augustine became the primary instigator in promoting “eternal hell” with the Western Church, not to mention being a significantly influential voice in with religious bigotry and hate-mongering the years following. Augustine used a combination of power and violence to force this concept of “eternal hell” into orthodoxy and to ensure it survived and was followed for years to come.

Augustine likely drew a lot of his inspiration from Tertullian, the “Father of the Latin Church”, who “envisioned hell being filled with every philosopher and theologian who ever argued with him”. Additionally, Tertullian “envisioned a time when he would look down from heaven at those people in hell and laugh with glee”. Augustine and Tertullian’s Latin-based “Bible” became a catalyst for scores of error-filled translations that are read around the world today. We would have been far better served to have translated from the Greek and skipped the Latin altogether.

The threat of this “eternal hell” was another ideal way for “Catholics/Christians” (especially church leaders) to increase power and profits. Sadly, the ancient Greek philosopher Celsus once said that "hell" was a good way to control the behavior of the unwashed masses, but that no wise man believed in it.

The foundation of this “hell” is quite pagan and has no origination whatsoever in any scripture. It originates primarily from Greek concepts and is the result of merging mythology and an immortal soul. The influence from Greek mythology and the Roman Empire cannot be understated. It is worth noting that many other pagan beliefs and practices originated over the next several hundred years and found their way into Christendom, bastardizing the first generation church model (read “Pagan Christianity” for more - https://www.paganchristianity.org/).

Sadly, Augustine’s doctrine of “eternal hell” has been used for many years to control uninformed believers and potential believers with a fear complex. It completely eliminates the ability to see a true loving God. Where hell is present in Christianity, there must also be a plethora of fear…. therefore, a Christianity without hell will be one without fear and that is one that is overflowing with love.

What did you believe about “hell” originally?

I was taught at a young age that if I didn’t “accept Jesus in my heart”, I’d go to hell where I would be burned for eternity. I still remember at age 6, the Wisdom Worksheet the Bill Gothard based curriculum that showed a black and white picture of demons pulling a soul down into a fiery arena. It created a lot of fear, anxiety and stress for many years to come. So, it created a “belief” founded deeply in “fear” (though not only fear if I am to be honest). —fast forward— As my wife and I started having children, (and as she was raised with a very similar belief) we started teaching our kids (Zachary, at that time), the same thing.

What triggered your unbelief?

Around 2009-2010, Zachary and I were sitting at our fire pit in our backyard. Zachary was around 8-9 at the time and was/is an incredible artist. After some time of silence staring into the fire, he said: “Dad, I would never burn up my drawings, because I created them and love them. Why would God ever allow us to be burned alive if He loves us?”. Now I now the typical response here is, “Son, He doesn’t do this to us — we decided ourselves.” Well, that just didn’t sit right with me anymore and I had to honestly tell him… “I don’t know, son.” :|

I think what made this time different is that at this time, I had four children already and I was passionately in love with all of them. I understand the pure desires of a father’s heart for his children. I understand admonishing them when they mess up and extending UNCONDITIONAL forgiveness to them, regardless of their choices. Again: UNCONDITIONAL

After all - is that what the Bible teaches us? Turn the other cheek? Forgive 70x7? Forgive? FORGIVE? NO MATTER WHAT is done to us?

And yet — God is somehow held to a different, more destructive and painful standard?

It just didn’t resonate in my soul anymore — the teachings I was raised with, and the way I lived for several decades all of a sudden became putrid to me. That night I started researching every passage in the Bible that mentioned hell, I joined forums to ask others who were in the same spot as myself, I read book after book, I went back and translated more passages from Hebrew and Greek.

And my findings were this: Hell, as a lake of fire for eternal punishment, does NOT exist in the Bible!

Why does unbelief in hell matter?

Oh my… this matters so much. Aside from your own soul’s condition and health, it will so significantly affect how you treat other people. It will affect how you raise your children. I am very passionate about this as I saw how both the belief and unbelief in hell altered my outlook and actions.

Here are some of the things that the belief in hell, as an eternal lake of fire, does:

  • it ignores the documented beliefs and testimonies from the first generation church (we’ll get into this later on)

  • it grossly maligns God’s true character of love and forgiveness by contradicting His constant and unfailing love for all people

  • it makes our relationship with Him founded on reactive fear over proactive true intimacy

  • it denies God’s power to accomplish ALL of His will, and therefore it makes our will and decisions greater than God’s

  • it minimizes God’s complete triumph over death, denying that Christ FULLY accomplished His original mission on earth

  • it hinders truly reaching the world with the REAL gospel

With a belief in hell as a lake of fire set aside for eternal punishment for those that do not believe in God, you tend to treat “unbelievers” as “subjects” — they are a means to an end, a soul to save! You know the words, routines, verses and ways to pressure and sell them on it; and when they refuse… well, walk away and find the next one!

If you abandon this belief, then you’ll automatically notice that “unbelievers” all of a sudden look different to you. They are now real people… with real hurts; real needs. You don’t have to convert them anymore, you just have to love them. Your love to them, without any motivation, will stir about the greatest level of response, making them truly hungry for the real gospel that is motivating these acts towards them.

Without hell, what is the point of salvation?

I only pose this question as I’ve been asked it a lot and I find it quite asinine. Let me put it to you this way:

Does a marriage need to have the threat of a divorce for it to be a fulfilling and loving union? Enough said. Moving on.

What does the Bible specifically say about hell?

So technically, the word “hell” or the possibility of suffering after a physical death does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), which is why most versions after the King James Version dropped it from their translations. But hey — I want this to be a complete commentary on my opinion, so I’m going to even find those instances and prove the misinterpretation.

Nothing like "eternal lake of fire/hell" was even remotely suggested to Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Daniel… In fact, this concept was never even mentioned to the worst offenders in the Bible! There are also no Old Testament warnings in the Old Testament about the need to repent in order to avoid suffering (eternal or temporary) after death. In the Old Testament, when people were warned about needing to repent, it was to avoid suffering here on earth, in THIS current life.

Before we get into it, here are some critical initial notes to keep in mind:


So here you go — all Old Testament/New Testament instances of “hell” in the King James Version of the Bible:


Deu 32:22

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.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

2Sa 22:6

The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Job 11:8

It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Job 26:6

Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 9:17

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 16:10

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 18:5

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 55:15

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

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 86:13

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 116:3

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

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Psa 139:8

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 5:5

Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 7:27

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 9:18

But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 15:11

Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 15:24

The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 23:14

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Pro 27:20

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Isa 5:14

Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Isa 14:9

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Isa 14:15

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Isa 28:15

Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Isa 28:18

And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Isa 57:9

And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Eze 31:16

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.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Eze 31:17

They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Eze 32:21

The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Eze 32:27

And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Amo 9:2

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

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Jon 2:2

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

Hab 2:5

Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:

Original Hebrew: Sheol (shĕ'owl - שְׁאוֹל)

So…. pause for just a second. EVERY single instance of “hell” in the Old Testament was incorrectly translated from “Sheol”, which is to mean — “grave”, or “place of death”. Let’s continue onto the New Testament:

Mat 5:22

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mat 5:29

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mat 5:30

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mat 10:28

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mat 11:23

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Mat 16:18

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.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Mat 18:9

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mat 23:15

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mat 23:33

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mar 9:43

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mar 9:45

And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Mar 9:47

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Luk 10:15

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Luk 12:5

But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

Luk 16:23

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Act 2:27

Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Act 2:31

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Jas 3:6

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Original Greek: Gehenna (geena - γέεννα)

2Pe 2:4

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

Original Greek: Tartarus (tartaroō - ταρταρόω)

Rev 1:18

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.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Rev 6:8

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Rev 20:13

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)

Rev 20:14

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Original Greek: Hades (hadēs - ᾅδης)


So - four words: Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna. Three “graves” and one “physical location” in Israel. THAT, ladies in gentlemen, is where translations of “hell, an eternal lake of fire” came from.

What about the unbelievers?

Aside from living in a figurative “hell” as a result of continual poor life choices of sin and debauchery, what happens to them long-term, in the afterlife? Well, now that we’ve cleared up the “hell” occurrences, let’s just quickly examine two other important and related words:

  • EVERLASTING”: for those that cling to ETERNAL punishment based on some passages that refer to “eternal destruction” or “eternal punishment” (many times coupled with “hell” or “lake of fire”), I challenge you to look at the root words there as well. They are all coming from the Greek word Aeon (aiōn - αἰών) which correctly translates to “an age”, “a period”, or “an indefinite amount of time” —- NOT eternal. More on this word: https://www.hopebeyondhell.net/articles/further-study/eternity/

  • DESTRUCTION”: the word many times displayed after Aeon is Olethros (olethros - ὄλεθρος). This Greek word does indeed mean "punishment", but one of the origins of this word points to a positive connotation, as in "punishment required for and preceding renewal" -- think pruning all the dead parts of a tree or shrub. More on this word: https://www.hopebeyondhell.net/anchor-points-to-peace-by-gerry-beauchemin/

As you can see, understanding the root words for these two key terms is ALSO of paramount importance in understanding these passages.

So… are you a Universalist?

By popular definition, a Universalist is one who believe that all will “go to Heaven” and receive equal benefits/rewards regardless of their choice, belief, religion, etc… I am NOT a Universalist, and this post isn’t so much on who gets into Heaven (and when) as it is about the absence of a physical hell.

All roads do not lead to God, but Christ will search for you (as is in the parable of the lost sheep) until he finds you and you embrace Him!

If you take the original texts used for “EVERLASTING” and “DESTRUCTION” above (as they are often associated with each other), you will see that God is going to work with/through those that do not believe and follow him and will eventually correct them (the amount of time is not stated — remember, “Aeon” is an undetermined amount of time.. He will refine them, prune apart their nasty bits and will do so for an indefinite amount of time. This is where I personally draw Ultimate Reconciliation from.

Take the passage from 2 Thess 1:9 — the context here is addressing those that do not know God nor obey the message of Jesus.

Original translation:

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction …

More accurate and literal translation, using the original Greek:

Who shall be punished with a period of time of punishment required for and preceding renewal

Dr. Peter Bluer wrote a 38 page article on “olethros” and found that the word is most accurately translated to “the state of being lost”. With his perspective, the translation would then read:

“These will pay the penalty in the age of loss from the face of the Lord and the glory of His strength.”

Or alternatively:

“These will suffer the age of loss from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His strength.”

Regardless of the most accurate translation, one thing remains — this is NOT eternal torment. I highly recommend reading more on the 5 primary cited passed as proof for “eternal torment” here: http://www.brazenchurch.com/hell-2-lake-of-fire-lazarus-gnashing-eternal-torment/

While there are also some references that may lean towards Annihilation theory, I believe that Ultimate Reconciliation (referenced in some of the “hell” passages above) would indicate that all souls will eventually come to know the one true God, at some point in time. More on Ultimate Reconciliation: https://www.hopebeyondhell.net/anchor-points-to-peace-by-gerry-beauchemin/

The Bible proclaims this good news:

All creatures in heaven and earth shall bow in worship before the throne.

All things will be restored and be reconciled to God.


In Closing…

You are likely either encouraged or enraged at this point, and I hope it is the former. These are not just my opinions; they are understandings of the original text of the scripture that has been preserved for so many years. It is my goal to understand what the original authors were communicating so I can more closely understand and walk with God. The transformation and peace that can exist when you let go of your belief in hell is nothing short of astounding.

Three primary reasons that I do not believe in hell as a lake of fire for eternal punishment:

  1. IT DOESN’T EXIST - The word/meaning of “hell” is not in the Bible; not anywhere. Furthermore, the passages cited for meaning “eternal punishment” have been grossly mistranslated.

  2. EARLY CHURCH - For the first 500 years of the church, there was no such belief, teaching or practice of “eternal hell”. Augustine forced this Grecian mythologically inspired belief into the church and it took over.

  3. GOD’S CHARACTER - It completely maligns and distorts the true image of God. He is patient. He is long-suffering. His love is perfect and far-reaching. He will draw all people to Himself.

I want to learn more!

Here are some phenomenal resources I highly recommend if you’d like to learn more on the subject: