Hell is not the kingdom of Satan where he will reign over demons and all who are bad. Nor is there anything in Scripture to indicate that hell will be some sort of fellowship of sinners, where life will continue pretty much as it was on earth. The pathetic jokes about plans for “living it up” in hell demonstrate ignorance of its purpose and nature.
There are three Greek words translated hell in our English Bible:
• The word tartaros is found only once in the Bible: “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartaros] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). The angels mentioned here refer to those “who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation [in rebellion]” (Jude 6). Tartaros, then, is a place of confinement for the rebellious angels until the time of their judgment.
• The word hades is found ten times in the New Testament (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13–14). Hades is not the final destiny of those who die without accepting Christ, but rather a place of torment until they are resurrected to stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:13–15). Hades is a place of separation from God and of no escape: “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26).
• The word geenna (transliterated “gehenna”) is translated “hell” twelve times (Matthew 5:22, 29–30; 10:28; 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Eleven of the twelve references are from the lips of Jesus Himself. Geenna refers to the valley of Hinnom, a place outside the southern wall of Jerusalem where children were once sacrificed to the god Molech (2 Chronicles 33:1–6). In later days, it was a convenient place for residents to throw their rubbish; even dead bodies of animals and criminals were disposed there. This “city dump” was a place of decomposition and continuous fire (Mark 9:44) and was used by Jesus to teach about the eventual abode of those who reject Him as Savior. Geenna is also called the lake of fire: “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
NOTE: Purgatory, the imagined place of remedial suffering, has no scriptural foundation. There will be no appeal after the passing of sentence at the Great White Throne Judgment. All who have rejected Christ will be present: “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. . . . Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13–14).
1. If the inquirer is fearful of hell and the possibility of going there, stress the need for certainty about his or her eternal salvation. Explain the gospel. In Christ, he or she need not fear hell: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
2. If the inquirer denies the existence of hell, share material from the “Background.”
3. If the inquirer accuses God of being unjust in condemning people to hell, point out that “the everlasting fire,” according to Matthew 25:41, was prepared for the devil and his angels, not for mankind. If a person goes to hell, it will be because of his willful sin in rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:16–18; John 5:24). Point out that God will forgive and save the person if he or she will receive Jesus Christ. Share the gospel Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.
4. If the inquirer accuses God of being unjust for condemning those who have never had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, remind him or her that God has condemned no one to hell, but that those who end up there will have condemned themselves (John 3:16–18). In the case of those who have never heard, trust God to do the right thing! We can be assured that He will be fair and merciful. There are degrees of rewards to be given at the judgment seat of Christ (Luke 12:47–48; 1 Corinthians 3:12–14). One may logically conclude that there will also be degrees of reckoning for those deprived of hearing the Gospel.
Acts 2:17, 31
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996