Written on December 5, 2006 - Last updated on May 18, 2007
In the King James Bible, the Greek word Hades is rendered "hell" in certain places in the New Testament (as the Hebrew word Sheol is in the Old Testament) like Luke 16:23 and Revelation 20:13-14. But this is not referring to the lake of fire. This is made clear through Revelation 20:14, which says “death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire” (New King James Version).
The Greek word Geenna (or Gehenna) is also rendered "hell" in the New Testament, and this does refer to the lake of fire. I may be speculating a bit with what I am about to explain next, and I don't want anyone to think that I have all the answers... but here is my understanding of the lake of fire:
In Mark 9:43, Gehenna (i.e., the lake of fire) is referred to as “the fire that shall never be quenched”. So this is obviously a very different kind of fire, unlike anything that we have seen in this world. As you read what I am about to explain next, please understand that I am not suggesting that there are not real flames in the lake of fire. That is the idea that many people get, but they are misunderstanding what is being explained.
I do believe that the lake of fire will include real flames, but I believe that it will be something spiritual, and not physical. I believe that it will be even more real than physical. And I believe that it is something that is currently beyond our full comprehension.
To support this view, I want to point out that the lake of fire is “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Since the devil and his angels are spirit beings, I have to believe that this is a non-physical torment. Physical flames could not torment non-physical beings. So, since this is a torment of non-physical beings, I think that it is reasonable to conclude that the flames in the lake of fire must also be non-physical.
Daniel 12:2 says that some will awake to “shame and everlasting contempt”. If this is a physical torment, than I imagine that the physical pain would be so great that they would not even be able to think of all the bad things that they have done...I imagine that they would only be able to think about the physical pain in that case.
In order to understand what I am explaining, one must understand that sin is a moral and spiritual problem, and for that reason I believe that the penalty must also be spiritual. I believe that the "shame" which the lost will feel throughout eternity is in fact part of the punishment.
John 3:36 mentions that the wrath of God is already abiding on those who do not have Christ. So I believe that the emptiness which the lost currently feel is just a small taste of death in its fullness (i.e., “the second death” - Revelation 20:14). One of the most tormenting thoughts could be the realization that they did not have to experience this.
What I am trying to explain is this: I believe that the torment of the damned will be eternal separation from God, and I don't think that any other torment could possibly be any worse than that! Just as physical water is essential to stay alive, so the “water of life” (Revelation 22:17) is essential for spiritual life, and without it is spiritual death. I also believe that it was this death that Jesus tasted for everyone on the cross (See Hebrews 2:9) since the penalty for sin is spiritual (Read my article titled The Penalty For Sin - Part 2 for more info).
In Psalm 42:2, the Psalmist wrote “My soul thirsts for God”. He understood that it was God alone who could quench this spiritual thirst. So I believe that the lake of fire will include an eternal burning spiritual thirst as the result of being separated from that which alone can satisfy our souls...God!
Is Punishment Eternal? By Dave Hunt
Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell Part One, by Alan W. Gomes
Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell Part Two, by Alan W. Gomes
The Penalty For Sin - Part 2
WHAT IS SALVATION?
BACK TO MY HOMEPAGE