They will be reduced to nothing by the same destructive fire which consumed Sodom and Gomorrah. Note Jude 7: Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the penalty of “eternal fire.” But is that fire still burning? Obviously not. When it had finished its work, the fire went out. Until then nothing quenched it. “Eternal fire” then obviously does not mean a fire which goes on torturing the wicked endlessly. The Greek adjective aionios means “related to the [coming] age.” The sense then is “the fire of the age to come,” millennial fire or future fire. The fire which destroyed Sodom is not still burning, nor will the future “eternal” fire burn forever. The very fact that that the flames at Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning proves that the same future fire is not a perpetually burning hell for perpetually conscious human beings.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges observed this rather simple fact about the language here, found also in Matthew 25:46 (“everlasting punishment”): “The adjective aionios = ‘of or belonging to an aion or period of time, past, present or future.’ It does not therefore in itself = ‘unending.’”
Bibles which translate the words as “everlasting punishment” or fire do not do justice to the language facts. They simply reinforce what has been wrongly taught in church.
The hell-fire referred to by Jesus has not yet appeared. It appears at the second coming of Jesus. Jesus described two possible destinies: Either to be thrown bodily into Gehenna or to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus advised drastic steps now, in terms of cutting off sin, lest we be destroyed in that future fire. Two individuals, the Beast and his agent the False Prophet, are destined to be thrown alive into the Lake of Fire while others opposing Jesus at his Coming will be killed first ... (Rev 19:20-21)
One of the most amazing scriptural twists connected with hell-fire is the idea that “the worm which never dies” (Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:44-48) means the “never-dying consciousness” of man! It is hard to imagine how such a concept could have entered the minds of churchgoers. It is a testimony to the fact that many churchgoers are not Bereans. They accept gullibly what they hear preached. Believing that a worm is equivalent to an immortal soul is amazing! The Greek word means “maggot” or “worm.” The Greek word is skoleecks (we are using modern Greek pronunciation here, since that is the way we have taught it, with some other colleges, at Atlanta Bible College). Skoleecks means a worm, often a maggot found in decaying food or bodies.
The Bible does not ascribe to man a “never-dying consciousness.” That notion is the old Platonic falsehood about the immortality of the soul. Scholars of the Hebrew Bible know well that such a picture of man is without foundation in Scripture. The Bible thinks of man as a psychosomatic unit, not a person who can go on living apart from his body. Adam was not told “your body will return to dust and you will go on living”! Rather he was warned that he, the person Adam, would return to the dust from which he was originally taken (Gen. 3:19). Funeral services propagate the Platonic, unbiblical view of man, when they promise the congregants that the dead have “passed away,” rather than (as the Bible says frequently) “died,” or fallen asleep in death, as Jesus plainly said of Lazarus (John 11:11, 14). (For a full list of verses describing what happens when we die, please consult our The Amazing Aims and Claims of Jesus, Appendix 2, available from 800-347-4261 or http://www.focusonthekingdom.org/books.html)
The concept of an “undying soul” is an import from the world of pagan philosophy, and it is advisable for those seeking the mind of Christ to abandon it, since it does not reflect the thinking and spirit of Jesus.
Man is naturally mortal. He therefore must gain immortality by obeying the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mark 1:14, 15) now, receiving a downpayment of immortality by being sealed with the holy spirit (Eph. 1:13; 1 Cor. 12:13), and achieving immortality finally at the future resurrection. Jesus said that the reward of the faithful will be acquired “at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). 1 Corinthians 15:23 announces that the faithful will be raised from death “at the coming of Christ.” Until that resurrection from death, the believers are of course asleep in death, sleeping the sleep of death, as David called it(Ps. 13:3). Daniel 12:2 is one of the main and most basic testimonies to that future resurrection of the dead. The dead are presently unconscious in the dust of the ground. They will awake from that condition to receive “the life of the age to come” (poorly translated in our versions as “eternal” or “everlasting” life).
The Hebrew text, well known to Jesus, speaks of “multitudes of those who are asleep in dust-land. Some will wake up to the Life of the Age.” Daniel was well informed about the state of the dead. He was told to go to the end of his life, and later rise for his portion in the Kingdom of God (12:13).
The rabbis had understood correctly that the destiny promised in Daniel 12:2 means “the life of the age to come.” They were right to think of that life as belonging to the “age to come.” Since it was life acquired only by resurrection and since resurrection was the great event associated with the future coming of the Messiah, it followed that it was the Life of the Age (to come) — the future great age of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Jesus well understood that the opposite destiny was to perish in the fires of Gehenna. Jesus took “hell” with utmost seriousness and warned those he taught that they should follow him as their Savior and teacher. Few of the sayings of Jesus are more threatening than this: “For I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear Him who after He has killed you has the power to throw you into Gehenna fire. Yes, indeed, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5).
... The wicked according to Jesus will be killed and then cast into the destructive fires of hell as the place where the corpses will be disposed of. Being thrown alive into the lake of fire is apparently reserved for two special individuals, the Beast and the False Prophet (see Rev. 19:20).
The judgment of the unsaved has not yet happened. It will happen both at the second coming and for those who will have died before Jesus returns it will occur at the event known as the second resurrection — so-called because Scripture teaches a “first resurrection.” That first resurrection is for the faithful only — the faithful of all the ages. Revelation 20:4 speaks of this great event, and it will bring back to life all those who have died in Christ (including the saints of the Old Testament times). It is the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and in 1 Corinthians 15:23, and Jesus spoke of it as “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). Jesus described those who come back to life at that time as “sons [products] of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). They are the ones “worthy to take part in that [future] age” (Luke 20:35). They will be granted immortality, which is indestructible life. Their task will then be to rule and reign with Jesus in the Kingdom which he will establish on a renewed earth (Dan. 7:14, 18, 22, 27, etc; Rev. 5:10; Matt. 5:5).
The two possible outcomes for men and women were spelled out clearly by Jesus in many places, but with particular clarity in Mark 9:43-48. In order to follow the biblical plan and program it is essential to give up the idea that a person is conscious in death. If Christians are rewarded the second they die, then what is the point of their future resurrection? Churches have attempted to deal with this question by advancing the ancient falsehood that we are bipartite creatures with an immortal soul. If that is the case, so the Church has argued, then that immortal soul, which inevitably remains conscious, must go somewhere while the body goes to the grave. But the whole theory is flawed by its Platonic, philosophical premise. Man does not in fact possess that ever-conscious immortal soul. Rather the whole man dies and his only hope of recovery and “after-life” is to be raised from death, resurrected when Jesus comes back (or for many others at the second resurrection). John Brown is not in fact in possession of a soul which goes “marching on” while his body is in the grave. John Brown and even Mary and the “saints” are dead and will be resurrected only in the future when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15:23 is quite decisive on this point).
Some churchgoers are relentless in their opposition to this simple program. They will fall into the trap of pulling isolated verses out of context to reinforce what they would prefer to believe. Starting at the end, rather than the earlier chapters of Ecclesiastes, they will quote Ecclesiastes 12:7 which speaks of “the spirit returning to God who gave it.” This sounds enough like what they have heard in church about the after-life, to be convincing.
But they forgot to read Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 10 which, if language has any meaning at all, propose that the dead are conscious of nothing at all and that there is no praising God or activity of any sort in Sheol or the world of the dead to which we are all going. If one closes one’s eyes to Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 10 and many other equally clear biblical statements about the state of man in death, one is doomed to misunderstand Ecclesiastes 12:7, speaking of the spirit which returns to God. Refusal to believe the straightforward propositions of the Bible (for example “the dead do not know anything,” Ecc. 9:5) encourages confusion in the mind. This is reinforced by church talk about “going to heaven” or “so and so is now safe and happy in heaven.” But the spirit in Ecclesiastes 12:7 is not a conscious immortal soul (that idea has to be imported from paganism), but rather the life-energy of a human being which leaves him when he, the whole person, dies and goes to the grave. Without the sustaining breath of life a human being is dead, not alive in any sense.
“Absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8) is frequently called on to support a doctrine that death is not really death at all but a change of location in full consciousness. But Paul in that passage is at pains to tell us that he wants to be in possession of a new body when Christ returns. At that point he will be equipped with a new immortal body and he will then be with Christ forever. Paul had explained the program quite clearly to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15 and in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 he explained that there is only one way to be “with the Lord [Jesus]” — it is by taking part in the resurrection/rapture event of the Second Coming. You cannot be “made alive” (1 Cor 15:22) if you are already alive! The whole concept of life after death is defeated if in fact we are to be alive after life. Death, that is non-consciousness, is overcome only by resurrection, and resurrection is the great collective event to be brought about by Jesus at his future return to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth. Resurrection restores dead people to life, brings them back to consciousness. Resurrection is a pointless non-event if no one is really dead before being resurrected. Falsehood trades on incoherence and illogicality.
Jesus is the only human being to have attained so far to immortality. He promised that he would spend three days in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40). ... Jesus said on the Sunday following his ... crucifixion ... “I have not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). Jesus, said Peter, was not abandoned to the place of the dead (Acts 2:31). God rescued him from death on the ... morning of the resurrection day, by bringing him out of his tomb and giving him life forever.
After being resurrected to life from death Jesus knew that he was destined to ascend to God, his Father. Unfortunately some modern translations, like the NIV, mislead their readers quite badly in John 13:3, 16:28, and 20:17. In those three verses the NIV makes Jesus speak about going back to the Father or returning to the Father. The Greek text does not say that. It speaks of Jesus going to the Father, not going back to the Father. Jesus had not been there before, since his “genesis,” which means his “beginning to be” (Matt. 1:18, genesis), was in the womb of his mother, an essential characteristic of every human being, and Jesus was a human being, not a hybrid angel-man or God-man.
This leads us into our other main topic, the question of identifying the Jesus of the Bible by his origin. [See the next blog below]The above article is based upon http://www.focusonthekingdom.org/99.htm#1