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for my path.
Psalms 119:105

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The Truth About Hell

The Wages of Sin
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Romans 6:23

Recent comments by Pope Francis regarding the subject of Hell have brought this topic to mind afresh. Is it a literal place where sinners are tormented forever? Or is it the condition of death itself, which the Bible refers to as a “sleep”?

The Bible clearly teaches that by divine decree there is an adequate yet just punishment for sin. What is the nature of this punishment? Our text declares that the “wages” of sin is death, and one might think that such a statement of fact would settle the question in the minds of all; but there are differing views as to what the Bible means by “death.”

We all realize, of course, that the Bible was not written in the English language, and that the versions we use are translations from the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New Testament. There was a time when this presented a real barrier to critical Bible study on the part of any except those conversant with the Hebrew and Greek languages. But now Hebrew and Greek concordances of the Bible are available, in print and electronic versions, in which can be found the true meaning of the original words used in any text on which there may be a variance of opinion. This is a great help.

It is also important to realize that the Lord often speaks to his people in pictorial, or symbolic language. Many of God’s most precious promises are presented in picture form, as for example, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”—Ps. 23:1,2

Likewise, when the Scriptures describe the “wages of sin,” pictorial language is sometimes employed. If we fail to take this into consideration we cannot hope to find and appreciate the harmonious testimony of the Word on this important topic.

The word “hell” is used many times in both the Old and New Testaments, and on occasions the expression, “hellfire.” The Bible also speaks of a “lake of fire,” and of “everlasting fire.” This language is related to the punishment for sin, and regardless of our individual views on the subject, must be taken into consideration if we are to attain an accurate understanding of what the Bible means when it tells us that “the wages of sin is death.”

The first human sin recorded in the Bible was the one which caused the death penalty to be imposed upon Adam and Eve. They had been forewarned as to the result of disobedience—“Thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) After they disobeyed, the penalty fell upon them: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19) No explanation is given as to what it would mean for them to die; no hint, that is, that some part of them would not die, but would continue to live and suffer after the body died.
While there are many symbolic expressions used in the Bible, death, the punishment for sin, does not seem to be one of them. Death and life are presented as opposites. “The wages of sin is death,” but the “gift of God,” Paul wrote, is “eternal life.” To us it seems essential that in our search for the truth we should be guided by this basic and clearly stated fact. We should recognize, in other words, that whatever symbols the Lord may use to illustrate the idea of death, they must be interpreted in harmony with this fundamental truth of God’s Word.

There are other non-symbolic expressions used in the Bible to describe the divine punishment for sin. They are synonymous with the word death. One of these is “perish.” John wrote, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

The word “destroy” is also used to describe death. Jesus said, “Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) We all know what is meant by the destruction of the body, and here Jesus tells us that not only the body, but the soul, as well, is destroyed in “hell.”

Taking these plain statements of the Bible into consideration, the pattern of truth which appears is that through sin the human race lost the opportunity of continuing to live, hence has been going into death; that God in his love sent Jesus to redeem the race, and that in the resurrection all will be awakened from the sleep of death and given an opportunity to live forever. We believe that the Bible’s testimony on the subject of hell will be found to be in harmony with these plainly stated truths concerning the “wages of sin” and “gift of God.”


Click here for a very detailed study on the topic of Hell