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What Is Hell? Part 2

Is it the grave or eternal fire?

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • January 14, In the year of our Lord, 2018


  1. Our friends in the Watchtower Society,
    1. commonly known as “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”
    2. teach many strange doctrines,
      1. including that hell is merely the grave.
      2. Therefore, when you die,
        1. you cease to exist.
        2. At the resurrection,
          1. you will be raised temporarily
          2. to hear their message again.
            1. If you reject it again,
            2. you die again with no hope of a future second resurrection.
  2. I love these people, but
    1. they have various doctrinal issues that you would not pick up on your own.
    2. You have to have someone teaching you their doctrines.
  3. The biggest problem with their teaching of hell
    1. is that they equate hell with Hades or Sheol.
    2. They believe Hades (NT) and Sheol (OT) simply refer to the grave and
      1. they believe hell also refers to the grave.
  4. They have two underlying positions that lead them to this conclusion:
    1. They appeal to your feelings saying that God would never cast anyone into hellfire and
    2. they believe the dead have no conscious awareness.
  5. I will be quoting from one of their books, “Make Sure of All Things Hold Fast to What Is Fine.”


  1. State of the Dead
    1. The JW position:

      “Impossible for the Dead to Be Tormented; They Are Unconscious”

      “The soul itself is dead”

      1. Ecc 9.5, 10

        For the living know that they will die;
        But the dead know nothing,
        And they have no more reward,
        For the memory of them is forgotten.
        (Ecclesiastes 9.5)

        Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (Ecclesiastes 9.10).

    2. Refutation Summarized:
      1. Then consider what immediately follows 9.5,

        Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
        Nevermore will they have a share
        In anything done under the sun.
        (Ecclesiastes 9.6)

        1. JWs believe they will live again under the sun, but
        2. this says they will never have a share in anything done under the sun.
  2. Translation Problems
    1. KJV of 1611 leads them in their misinterpretation.
      1. Hell in 1611 meant hole, or covered pit; grave or what we think of as hell.
      2. Hades meant the place of departed spirits
      3. Gehenna (hell) meant the place of torment for the wicked.
    2. However, you will read in your Bible the words “grave” and “tomb.”
      1. The Greeks had a different word for grave and tomb.
  3. The Upright Go to Hell?
    1. The JW position:

      “Upright as well as wicked people go to hell”

      1. Psa 16.10

        For You will not leave my soul in Sheol [Hell, KJV – NIV misses],
        Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
        (Psalms 16.10)
    2. Refutation:
      1. This prophesied of Jesus and His resurrection.
  4. Deliverance from Hell?
    1. The JW position:

      “Hope held out for those in hell; deliverance possible”

      1. Acts 2.31–32

        31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.  32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.  (Acts 2:31–32).
    2. Refutation Summarized:
      1. Peter distinguished between soul and flesh.
      2. Both David and Peter referred to the resurrection of Jesus.
  5. How the Bible Uses “Life”
    1. The JW position:

      “Scriptures contrast life and death, not life in happiness and life in torment”

      1. Deu 30.15, 19

        “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…” (Deuteronomy 30.15).
    2. Refutation Summarized:
      1. The Scriptures do not speak of existence in hell as life.
      2. It is existing, but
        1. it is not eternal life,
        2. which the Bible always speaks of in a good way.
  6. Suffering Before and After Death
    1. The JW position:

      “Any Suffering One Experiences Before Death; Afterward He Is Aware of No ‘Pain of Loss’ or ‘Separation from God’”

      1. They give some passages that people of people suffering now.
        1. Matthew 8.6 speaks of a servant paralyzed.
        2. Hebrews 11.36–37 speaks of those who suffered for their faith.
      2. Then they give Ecclesiastes 9.5,

        5 For the living know that they will die;
        But the dead know nothing,
        And they have no more reward,
        For the memory of them is forgotten.
        (Ecclesiastes 9.5)
    2. Refutation:
      1. I encourage you to write in your Bible at the beginning of Ecclesiastes:

        Life as viewed from under the sun
        Pro 23.17–18
      2. That passage says,

        17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
        But be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day;
        18 For surely there is a hereafter,
        And your hope will not be cut off.
        (Proverbs 23.17–18)
      3. And remember the context of Ecclesiastes 9.5, the following verse,

        6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
        Nevermore will they have a share
        In anything done under the sun.
        (Ecclesiastes 9.6)
      4. Yet, they believe they will have life again under the sun,
  7. VII.The Rich Man and Lazarus
    1. One of the clearest teachings in Scripture
      1. on the nature of suffering for the wicked after death and
      2. that we continue to exist after death is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
    2. The JW position:

      “Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) a Parable or Illustration”
    3. They argue further:
      1. “Abraham was dead in the grave…”
      2. Then they go on to say what each element represents.
    4. Refutation:
      1. First, let’s read the text:

        19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” (Luke 16.19–31).
      2. Consider the evidence that this was not a parable, but an actual event:
        1. Characters are named.
        2. Jesus began, “There was a certain rich man…”
        3. Through His narration Jesus used language “is” and “was”:
          1. “is” 2x
          2. “was” 7x
        4. Jesus spoke of these events as history.
        5. He did not provide an interpretation.
        6. He did not introduce or speak of it in terms of comparisons.
  8. VIII.Revelation 14.9–11

    9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14.9–11).

    1. The angel spoke of drinking of the wine of the wrath of God full-strength.
      1. When do they drink it?
      2. John said that this will happen
        1. in the presence of the holy angels and
        2. in the presence of the Lamb.
          1. Does that not give you a picture of something beyond earth?
          2. Does it not give you the impression
            1. that the people experiencing the wrath of God
            2. shall be able to see the angels and the Lamb?
              1. That is the picture, for
              2. it shows just how bad they will have it.
                1. Not only shall they suffer torment, but
                2. seeing Jesus they will know
                  1. that they could have had the experience of heaven,
                  2. mentioned earlier in the chapter.
    2. They shall experience torment of fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
      1. This shows that the wicked will continue to exist.
    3. The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.
      1. The JWs argue that the torment the wicked have
      2. is just before they die,
        1. knowing that they shall not be resurrected.
        2. How does that fit “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever”?
    4. They do not rest ever.
      1. If they cease to exist after death,
      2. this part of the angels proclamation makes no sense.


  1. Hell is real just as you have thought.
  2. I know that you cannot remember everything that I brought up.
    1. The thing to do is
      1. questions and
      2. always check the context.
    2. Also, being familiar with your Bible is the best thing you can do.