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Relevant Verses: Rev. 6:19-11; 1 Peter 3:13-20; Phil. 1:21-24; Luke 16:19-31; John 3:16

Leading Question: “Typically Seventh-day Adventists do not believe in an eternally burning hell, yet they do believe in hell. What’s the difference?”

Comment: From a biblical point of view, the word hell either translates as the word grave or sheol. In the Old Testament everyone who died went down to sheol. That’s the “cold” hell. The dead are gathered to their fathers in this cold hell of Sheol. They are cut off from God and very everything living.

In the New Testament the “hot” hell is depicted as a lake of fire in Revelation 20. Vivid imagery is used to describe that lake of fire. These are the entities that end up in the lake of fire:

false prophet
anyone whose name is not in the lamb’s book of life

Immortal Worms: Mark 9:42-48 and Isaiah 66:24;

Mark 9:42-48 (NIV): “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.”

Isaiah 66:24 (NIV): “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

Comment: Both in Mark and Isaiah (which Mark quotes) the worm is not a symbol for eternal life, but of destruction. Just like “eternal” fire burns until there is nothing left, so the worm devours until there is nothing left.

Eternal fire that consumes and destroys:

Mal. 4:1 (NIV): “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

Jude 7 (NIV): In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Comment: Like the worm that is an agent of destruction, the fire consumes until the fuel is burned up. That’s the way the fires of hell are. They do not last forever, but only as long as the fuel remains unconsumed.

Saints in Purgatory. A Second Chance? The doctrine of purgatory teaches that after a person has died, a cleansing or a purging is possible so that one can advance to heaven. Several passages of Scripture show that such a teaching is not in harmony with God’s word. Ecclesiastes 9:10 teaches that once a person dies it is all over; Ezekiel 18:20-22 declares that sin is strictly an individual matter; and Hebrews 9:27 indicates that judgment follows death with no intermediate state:

Eccl. 9:10 (NIV): Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Ezek. 18:20-22 (NIV): The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.

Heb. 9:27 (NIV): People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment . . . .

Eternal Life Only Through Christ. In the New Testament, 1 John 5:12 makes it clear that eternal life is not “natural,” but only comes as a gift of God.

1 John 5:12 (NIV): “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

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