Wineskins Archive

December 18, 2013

The Point of Hell (July-Aug 2010)

Filed under: — @ 2:32 pm and

by Edward Fudge
August 29, 2010

Evangelical Christians around the world are rethinking the traditional doctrine of hell as unending conscious torment, and a number of the most-respected Bible scholars, teachers and preachers have publicly stated that they do not believe that the traditional view is biblical. For more on that, visit my website at for a variety of multimedia materials, most without financial charge. But that is not what I want to talk about today.

Whether you think of hell as a fire that torments, a fire that consumes, or a fire that purifies, set that thought aside for the time required to read two paragraphs, and think with me about some other questions. Is escaping hell your primary motive for trusting and following Christ? Is it a motive in the preaching recorded in Acts? Whom does Jesus warn about it in the Gospels? Outsiders or his followers? Notorious sinners or religious leaders? What evils elicit his mention of it? Does Jesus thunder hell-fire warnings to prostitutes, dope addicts and low-life criminals? The answers to these questions might surprise us — and teach us something important as well. Jesus specifically mentions hell (gehenna) only 11 times. You will find his statements at Matthew 5:22; 5:29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47 and Luke 12:5. The Greek word translated “hell” is not used anywhere else in the Bible except once in James, speaking of the potential evil of the tongue.

Every time Jesus is reported using the word “hell” in teaching, he is talking either to his own disciples or to the Jewish religious leaders known as Pharisees. Twice he encourages the disciples not to be afraid of people, who can do limited harm to them, but to be afraid of God who can destroy the whole person in hell (Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5). All the other times Jesus mentions hell to his disciples he is warning them not to mistreat or misuse vulnerable women (Matthew 5:29-30), “little ones” (Matthew 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47) or the object of one’s anger (Matthew 5:22). As for as the Pharisees, Jesus warns these rigid and self-righteous morality policemen that God does not approve of their hypocrisy, their external-only religion, or their clone converts (Matthew 23:15, 33). What if we used hell the way Jesus did? Would it change the way we use it now? Would that be a good thing or bad?

Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail without change and without financial profit.

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