The Fires of Hell

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Isaiah 66, Mark 9, Revelation 20
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 10

The Fires of Hell

(Isaiah 66, Mark 9, Revelation 20)

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Do people seriously think about hell? How many books and movies have characters who say, “See you in hell?” If the speaker truly believed hell was an eternally burning fire, that statement would not be made casually. If it is eternal torture serious people would make it a very high priority to avoid hell. Instead, most people (including me) think in terms of missing out on heaven. And what does hell say about God? The gospel story is that God is more than fair to humans when He gave up Himself to allow us to choose eternal life. Can “more than fair,” also be more than unjust? Seventy-years of sin deserves eternal torture? Let’s dive into our Bibles and see what it has to say about hell!

  1. Worm Warfare
    1. Read Isaiah 66:23. Have you cited this text to others to prove that even in heaven the Sabbath will be observed?
    2. Read Isaiah 66:24. If you answered, yes, to the previous question, did you continue to cite this verse? (Probably not!)
      1. Does this verse prove that the lost are tortured in a “fire” that “shall not be quenched?”
      2. Let’s take a deeper dive into this text. What does it say is the future for those who rebel against God? (They will die. They are dead.)
        1. Is death the point of dispute between Satan and God in the temptation of Eve? (Read Genesis 3:3-4. Satan asked Eve to rebel against God and promised her that rebellion did not end in death. It was a lie then and it is a lie now.)
    3. Re-read the last sentence of Isaiah 66:24. Whose worm and fire do not die? (The fire does not belong to the person, it ostensibly comes from God. Thus, there is no reason to think the worm belongs to anyone other than God. This simply describes the destruction of the body - it is either burned up or it is eaten by worms.)
    4. Read Mark 9:47-48. What does Jesus add to Isaiah 66:24? (He does not add anything. He merely quotes it in part.)
    5. Context is always important. Read Mark 9:42. Is causing a child to sin a serious matter? (Yes.)
      1. When Jesus says “it would be better for him” what is the alternative? (Whatever normally happens to sinners.)
      2. Did Jesus believe in eternal torture in hell? (He could not have believed in it because everyone would prefer to be drowned to being burned eternally.)
    6. Read Mark 9:43-47. Let me ask a practical question. Is it sin to decide to disobey God, or is that okay if you never act on it?
    7. Read Matthew 5:27-29. Here we find another account of Jesus’ statement. Is Jesus saying that only the act is sin? (No. He says that if you intend to commit adultery it is the same as doing it.)
      1. In that context, what would be the purpose of tearing out your eye or cutting off your hand? (Jesus is engaged in hyperbole. He cannot seriously mean that you should blind or cripple yourself because that would not end your ability to sin.)
      2. Is it reasonable to conclude that Jesus is also engaged in hyperbole when He speaks of the “unquenchable fire” of hell? (It is. But again, note that it is the fire that is unquenchable, not the burning of your body.)
  2. Lake of Fire
    1. Read Revelation 20:4-6. What does this say is the fate of the wicked dead up to this point? (They are dead in their graves. They “came to life” in the second resurrection after the thousand years.)
      1. Have they been consciously burning in hell? (Not according to this.)
    2. Read Revelation 20:7-9. Satan rallies the wicked to attack the New Jerusalem and the saints. What is their end? (Fire “consumed” them. This is the first reference to their encounter with fire, and that fire does not torture them, it consumes them.)
      1. What is the source of the fire that consumes the wicked? (Fire “came down from heaven.” This is not hell fire from deep in the earth. This is not torture. This is the destruction of the wicked.)
    3. Read Revelation 20:10. Assume that upon death the wicked go straight to hell where they are tortured by fire. Will they be tortured longer than the devil? (Yes, because the devil enters fire at the end of the earth. We can see how this makes no logical or jurisprudential sense. Satan suffers less than the lost who died thousands of years ago? That cannot be correct.)
      1. Who does the Bible say will be tormented forever? (Satan.)
        1. Does this seem fair? (Satan is the author of evil and he has been creating misery for thousands of years.)
    4. Read Revelation 20:14-15 and 1 Corinthians 15:25-26. How can hell be thrown into the lake of fire? How can death be thrown into the lake of fire? (The wicked have previously been consumed by fire from heaven. What is left is the system of death. I understand this to say that it all ends here. All evil is forever gone.)
      1. Is Satan gone too? (This is a much closer question, but I think that even he ultimately is consumed so that death and hell can truly be said to have come to an end.)
  3. God’s Attitude
    1. Read Ezekiel 18:32. What is God’s attitude towards the wicked? (He wants them to turn to Him and live.)
      1. What does God say is the alternative to turning to Him? (Death.)
      2. Would a God who does not desire anyone to die determine to torture them in fire forever? (Eternal torture is completely inconsistent with God’s description of His attitude.
    2. Read Ezekiel 18:23. What is the answer to this rhetorical question? (God wants us to answer that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Obviously then, He has no pleasure in the torture of the wicked.)
    3. Read Hebrews 9:25-28. Does this tell us that Jesus took our place? That He suffered for our sins? (Yes!)
      1. I’ve never heard this argument before, but consider it. Hebrews 9:26 argues that Jesus did not have to “repeatedly” die because He is not an actual lamb and He sacrificed Himself. But, if the true penalty for sin is eternally burning in hell, isn’t that the “repeated” that Jesus should have suffered? (If the proper penalty for sin is eternal torture, then Jesus did not suffer it in our place. This is a powerful argument that death, and not eternal torture, is the penalty for sin.)
    4. Read Ecclesiastes 9:1-2. These are the words of Solomon. Is he inspired by the Holy Spirit to make this statement about the future? (If Solomon is saying that our eternal future is the same, whether we are good or bad, that is obviously inconsistent with the rest of the Bible - particularly the points we have been studying in this series of lessons.)
    5. Read Ecclesiastes 9:3. Is this consistent with the rest of the Bible? (If he means that we all die, then that is true.)
    6. Read Ecclesiastes 9:4-5. Is this true? (While it may be true that being alive is better than being dead, it is manifestly false that the righteous dead have “no more reward.”)
      1. Do you quote Ecclesiastes 9:5 to describe the state of the dead? (If you do, stop it because it contains an obviously false statement.)
    7. Read Ecclesiastes 9:7-9. Does God approve of everything that we do? Is life all we have and therefore we should live it to the full?
    8. Read Ecclesiastes 9:10-11. What would be the purpose of working “with all your might” if, as verse 11 states, it makes no difference because time and chance can cause things to go wrong?
      1. Is life even more frustrating because after all our good work we all go to hell?
    9. How should we understand the statements that Solomon makes that are inconsistent with the gospel? (We can believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God by understanding that different texts apply in different ways. Jesus told the Luke 16 story about Lazarus and the Rich Man to illustrate that humans would reject the evidence of His resurrection. Even wise and rich Solomon suffered from depression and wrote things that he did not believe. We should not err by quoting his depressed statements.)
    10. Friend, God loves you and does not have eternal torture in mind for you if you reject His gracious offer of eternal life. But, why be stupid? Choose Jesus and choose eternal life. Why not do that right now?
  1. Next week: End-Time Deceptions.