Life And Death - Hell Examined
Death And Beyond


Lonely Questions
What is Life?
What is death?
Death and God

Souls and spirits
in the Old Testament

If there is a God why does He allow suffering?
Souls and spirits in the New Testament
Hell fire examined
> Life and death in ancient teaching
Can the dead speak to us?
Resurrection hope
Commonly asked questions
‘Be of good comfort’
Understanding and coping with bereavement


Large Christian cathedrals sometimes have paintings and representations of the horrors of hell. Some are in full view of the worshippers as they come before God. Here are some examples - ‘A Damned Woman Carried off by the Devil’, ‘The Last Judgement’, ‘Christ Cursing the Lost’, ‘The Tortures of the Damned’– and a woodcarving found in Worcester Cathedral – ‘Two Devils Roasting a Soul over Hell Fire’. These are just a selection of examples of how hell has been portrayed.

Being tortured without escape has to be the logical view of punishment, if we believe we have a soul that cannot ever be destroyed, an immortal soul. It means to be about to die of the torment, only to be regenerated by the fire for further torment, with this round of suffering continuing without end or release.

The human mind cannot grasp the concept of ‘endless’ pain and yet this doctrine is taught widely. The human heart rebels against such teaching. If you were to believe this, the teaching would destroy you as you thought of your loved one in these circumstances – tortured alive by God without end in a place that He had designed specifically for this purpose. This view of the future of the sinner is taught widely by the churches that came out of the Reformation and fellowships of Christian believers. In the Anglican community, the subject is under discussion. The hellfire preachers of the past used the topic as weapon to make people Christians through fear. Eternal hellfire is a continuing debate. Those who teach it believe it is taught in the Bible, and those who do not believe it, are seen as weakening Biblical teaching to make Christianity easier.

So the question is - What in fact does happen to sinners?
These people are variously described as the wicked, the unrighteous, the damned, the evil ones or the lost. There are four teachings found in Christianity.

  • The soul of a person who has been evil will go to hell to be tormented there forever.
  • God will forgive such people regardless of their thoughts
    towards Him and they will go to live with Him forever.
  • They will first go to a place of cleansing and purification.
  • They will be annihilated and be as if they had never lived.
Let us discover where some of these concepts originated. The true answer becomes clearer when the historical background is known.
The Origin of Hell-Fire in Christian Teaching.
The concept of a soul within us that cannot die first became a ‘Christian’ doctrine at the end of the second century AD. Hell had been taught in Greek philosophy long before the time of Jesus, with Plato (427-347 BC) as the important leader in this thinking.
The teaching of an everlasting place of punishment for the wicked is the natural consequence of a belief in an immortal soul. By the year AD 187, it was understood that life, once we have it, is compulsory; there is no end to it, either now or in a world to come. We have no choice as to its continuance, even if we were to commit suicide to end it.
At the end of the 2nd century Christianity had begun to blend Greek philosophy -human speculative reasoning, with the teachings of God’s Word. Such words and phrases as

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