Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Will Bad People Burn in Hell?

The Bible’s Viewpoint
Will Bad People Burn in Hell?

Related topics:
Do You Have an Immortal Soul?
Where Are the Dead?
GERTRUDE, a Pentecostal preacher, held firmly to her belief in a fiery hell. The very suggestion that there might not be any such place offended her sense of justice. She reasoned that without the fires of hell, all sorts of horrible crimes would go unpunished. Gertrude remained adamant in her position. As she put it, “I don’t think that I’d want to worship God if there were no hellfire for the wicked.”

Will bad people burn in hell, as many religions teach? If not, what punishment will they receive?

The First Act of Divine Punishment

According to the Bible, God created the first human pair perfect. (Genesis 1:27; Deuteronomy 32:4) He placed them in a paradise garden and gave them the opportunity to live forever. However, the first humans, Adam and Eve, had one restriction. God warned them: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”—Genesis 2:16, 17.

Sadly, our first parents failed that simple test of loyalty and obedience. The Creator was obliged to sentence them to death. “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”—Genesis 3:19.

Had Adam and Eve been in danger of burning in hell, would not God have warned them about such a punishment? The fact is that he mentioned nothing about suffering after death. How could they suffer? They did not have immortal souls that would survive after death. The Bible makes this very clear: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.”—Ezekiel 18:4.*

As the Giver of life, our Creator knows all there is to know about life and death. He tells us in his Word that “the dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) That is why Adam and Eve could not suffer in a fiery hell after their death. They simply returned to the dust and ceased to exist. They were “conscious of nothing at all.”

Can We Suffer After Death?

The Bible says at Romans 5:12: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.” Really, then, is it reasonable to believe that people suffer in hellfire for their sins, when Adam, the one who brought death upon the entire human race, simply became dust after dying?—1 Corinthians 15:22.

We all come under the same law that Adam was under. “The wages sin pays is death.” Moreover, once a person dies, he is “acquitted from his sin.” (Romans 6:7, 23) If both good and bad people die and nobody experiences suffering after death, where is God’s justice?

“The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:5

God’s Justice

God’s purpose for obedient mankind has not changed since he created the first human couple and directed them to have children and take care of the earth. (Genesis 1:28) This is clearly still his purpose, as he later declared: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:29.

Note that the righteous will live on this earth. They will have a life of perfect health and happiness. God’s original purpose to have the earth filled with a righteous race of people will indeed “have certain success.” This will occur when he replaces this present wicked system of things with a new world.—Isaiah 55:11; Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:4.

Billions of people who have died in ignorance of God’s requirements will benefit from a resurrection and will receive instruction for life in God’s new world. (Isaiah 11:9; John 5:28, 29) On the other hand, anyone who refuses to conform to God’s laws will be punished with “the second death.” This is the death from which they will never awake.—Revelation 21:8; Jeremiah 51:57.

Clearly, as a God of love, Jehovah will not torture people in hellfire. (1 John 4:8) Nor will he tolerate wickedness indefinitely. Accordingly, Psalm 145:20 assures us that “Jehovah is guarding all those loving him, but all the wicked ones he will annihilate.” Is that not loving and just?

Do we have an immortal soul?—Ezekiel 18:4.
What is the condition of the dead?—Ecclesiastes 9:5.
How will God punish the wicked?—Psalm 145:20.
*  In the Bible, “soul” means the entire person—not something separate from the body. Genesis 2:7 says: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” Adam was not given a soul apart from his body. Rather, Adam himself was a living soul.

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