My concluding thoughts on hell.
As mentioned before, I don’t think it really matters how one views hell in terms of being a Christian. God is not going to send anyone to hell because they have an erroneous view of hell.
Though many Protestants and Catholics believe in eternal conscious torment, it is not the only view. Other positions can be held such as conditional immortality (annihilationism), temporary torment, Christian Universalism, and the nonexistence of hell. None of them are necessarily heretical views in terms of salvation.
There is relatively little that is said about hell in the Bible. In the Old Testament, hell (Sheol) is referred to as a place where all people would go when they die. In the New Testatment, Paul never talks about hell. Almost all of the passages about hell in the NT are either from what Jesus said or the book of Revelation.
When Jesus talked about hell, the only group of people that he specifically mentioned about being damned in hell are the scribes and Pharisees.[Mat 23:2 KJV] 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
[Mat 23:33 KJV] 33 [Ye] serpents, [ye] generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Jesus never threatened sinners about going to hell. The Bible never says demons are torturing people in hell. And it does not say the devil is ruling over hell.
A major factor that determines how one views hell is how literal should the passages of hell be taken. I believe they should not be taken too literally.
In Matthew, it talks about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands and feet. However, nobody seems to take these literally.[Mat 5:29 KJV] 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. [Mat 18:8 KJV] 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast [them] from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
In Luke 16, Jesus talks about the story of Lazarus in hell (Hades). However, is Jesus narrating an actual event or a parable? I believe it’s the latter.[Luk 16:23 KJV] 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
I could find only one passage regarding eternal punishment in the Bible. Matthew 25 talks about everlasting punishment, however it’s for people who do not take care of the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, and in prison.[Mat 25:44-46 KJV] 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
I think most would agree the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. So, why should we then choose to take the parts about hell to be literal?[Rev 6:8 KJV] 8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Though we don’t know what hell exactly would be like, I do believe there are only two possible fates for people after they die – either heaven or hell. However, I do not make any hard claim about the nature of hell. I do make the claim that it’s most likely not what is popularly believed about hell. All these descriptions of hell are either not in the Bible or it’s taking the passages of hell too literally.