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We know that we feel physical feelings through electrical impulses that send information to our brains through our nervous system. Once we die, we no longer feel pain due to the lack of a physical nervous system and, oh yeah, a brain. How could we ‘feel’ the excruciating flames of hell for eternity? Does God make you feel this torment for all eternity out of pure malice because you wouldn’t worship him?

This is the 16th question of 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer.

Literary devices are used by writers to help them convey a message. As you read the Bible or any other work, you will come across two types of literary devices. One is unavoidable, the other is optional. Literary elements are considered inescapable. They include setting, characters, mood, and theme. Literary techniques, on the other hand, are optional and help the writer express meaning to the reader. Literary techniques include metaphor, simile, alliteration, and hyperbole, all of which may allow the reader a greater understanding of the message the writer wishes to convey.

The Bible is made up of 66 different books with 40 authors contributing their writing styles over a period of 1500 years. It should come as no surprise when an author is expressing the consequences of hell, life after death, and an immaterial realm, that he would employ the use of metaphors and other literary techniques to convey a meaning that would be difficult to grasp.

Got Questions responded, “The variety and symbolic nature of descriptors do not lessen hell, however—just the opposite, in fact. Their combined effect describes a hell that is worse than death, darker than darkness, and deeper than any abyss. Hell is a place with more wailing and gnashing of teeth than any single descriptor could ever portray. Its symbolic descriptors bring us to a place beyond the limits of our language—to a place far worse than we could ever imagine.”1

Where does the Bible say we will “feel the excruciating flames of hell for eternity”? That was the first question that came to mind when I read #16 in his list of 50 questions Christians Can’t Answer. Well, it doesn’t. There are several passages that imply that and I list a few below.

Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” (NIV)

Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” (NIV)

Revelation 20:10, And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. (NIV)

Matthew 18:9, And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (NIV)

Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (NIV)

How we end up ‘feeling’ hell is debatable. Taking the literary techniques expressed by the authors as literal meaning is silly, and to imply that would be absurd.

You will not find popular media or Hollywood implying we have a soul or any kind of immaterial realm after death, at least not in any kind of Christian religious sense of the word. A Time magazine article, which was advocating stem cell research stated, “These [embryos] are microscopic groupings of a few differentiated cells. There is nothing human about them, except potential, [or] if you choose to believe it, a soul.”2 Another example J.P. Moreland gave in his book The Soul, was from a popular T.V. show The Walking Dead. Moreland wrote, “In the first season’s final episode, a scientist shows a group of ordinary people a video of the inside workings of a live human brain. It looks like a complex web of wires and nodes, with a multitude of flashing lights traveling to and fro. He then declares matter-of-factly that all of the electrical activity that they see is actually the real you. When those ‘lights’ go off, you cease to exist.”3

As for the second part of the question “Does God make you feel this torment for all eternity out of pure malice because you wouldn’t worship him?” There are a couple of things to consider.

First, God does not make anyone enter hell. Everyone is given a choice, and He will not force anyone to live in His presence.

Secondly, scripture makes it clear what will happen to those to sin and do not accept the gift of salvation.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (NIV)

Ezekiel 18:4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die. (NIV)

Ezekiel 18:20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. (NIV)

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 5:24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (NIV)

John 10:27-28 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

As you read these verses and many others you clearly see there are two options. Two fates. Two choices. Life and death. Life for those who accept the gift God has to offer, and death for those who don’t. John 3:16 made it quite clear some will have eternal life, others will perish. These verses say nothing about living in some kind of eternal torture or punishment.

Some may quote Revelation 20:10 as a pushback on eternal punishment. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The Greek word forever is ‘aion’ which does not necessarily mean unending. It can be an unspecified period of time, and our word eon (a geologic period of time) comes from that Greek word aion.

In 1Cor 2:6 “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” Paul uses the same Greek word for age and you can see it does not mean an unending period of time. (NIV)

These questions, and others you may encounter, presuppose a world view that embeds a conclusion before you can even respond. They are often one-sided and uncharitable toward the person being asked the question, but if you sit down and give them some thought, you will find most can be easily responded to.

Sources:
1. Houdmann, Michael S. “Is hell literally a place of fire and brimstone?” Got Questions. Gotquestions.org, n.d. Web. 15 October 2016.
2. Moreland, J.P. The Soul. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014. Print.
3. Ibid.

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Burning in Hell by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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