In a follow up to our recent episode of That God Show, folks have asked for a comprehensive list of Scriptures that refute the traditional teaching of hell. While this might not be exhaustive, I’ve put together 25 verses that strongly illustrate what the Bible teaches on the issue. As one will see, to believe in the traditional hell, one will have to directly argue against the language the Bible uses in these 25 passages which unanimously describe the fate of the unjust as being annihilation– not eternity in a conscious hell.
Here’s what the Bible says, and precisely why I have argued that if one were to read the Bible without preexisting ideas of traditional hell, one would not walk away believing in it. Here’s the list:
Psalm 1:6 “But the way of the ungodly shall perish”
If one believes in eternal conscious hell, they don’t believe the ungodly perish at all– but live forever in hell.
Psalm 37:20 “But the wicked shall perish… they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.”
If one believes in eternal conscious hell, they don’t believe the wicked will be “consumed.” Instead, they believe the wicked and tortured and never consumed.
Psalm 69:28 says that the wicked are “blotted out of the book of the living.”
This continues the consistency of scripture which tells us the wicked die– not that they are eternally living in a conscious hell.
Ps. 34:16, 21 “evil brings death to the wicked.”
Of course, if one believes in eternal hell, one doesn’t believe that evil brings death at all, but brings life– in hell.
Psalm 92:7 “… shall be destroyed forever.”
If one believes in eternal conscious hell, they don’t believe those who are lost are “destroyed” but again, that they live forever.
Prov. 24:20 “the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.”
To believe in eternal conscious hell means one believes they will not be snuffed out at all.
Dan. 2:35 “the wind swept them away without leaving a trace.”
This continues the theme of totally destroyed– there’s not a trace of the wicked. This is the opposite of eternal life in hell.
Isa. 1:28, 30–31 “rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.”
Obadiah 1:16 It will be as if the evil “had never been.“
This speaks to ceasing to exist– not eternal life in hell. In the traditional hell it will not be “as if they had never been” because they’ll live eternally and still “be.”
Mal 4:1 “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.”
Here God is quoted directly– the evildoers are destroyed like straw thrown into the fire, and nothing is left. This shows total annihilation (they no longer exist). To believe in eternal hell, one would have to argue that God was mistaken and that they aren’t destroyed in the fire at all– but live forever in the fire without being consumed, which is the exact opposite of what God claimed.
Again, as I said on That God Show, hell is NOT in the Old Testament. Instead, they believed that the wicked are destroyed– that they die and do not get resurrected to eternal life. This is the testimony of the whole of scripture. To believe in eternal conscious hell is to really be at odds with the terminology we see scripture use. These same claims of annihilation and destruction continue in the New Testament:
Matthew 10:28 “Rather, fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Here Jesus himself teaches against hell– saying that those who are lost experience the death of their soul. If one believes in eternal conscious hell, they believe Jesus was wrong on this point, and that souls don’t die at all, but will live forever in hell.
John 3:16 “…whosoever believeth in him should not perish”
Again, to believe in hell, one must believe Jesus was wrong in John 3:16 and that people don’t “perish” at all, but live forever in hell.
Matthew 7:13: “broad is the road that leads to destruction“
Jesus in his warnings continues with the repetitive testimony of scripture: the consequence of rejecting reconciliation with God is destruction– not everlasting life in torment.
Jesus on a variety of occasions uses the metaphor of fire that consumes not tortures: Matt. 7:19; 13:40; John 15:6
Philippians 3:19 “whose end is destruction…“
There’s that pesky word “destroyed” again. Those who believe in eternal hell don’t believe one is destroyed in hell, but lives there forever.
2 Thessalonians 1:9 “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction …”
Getting repetitive yet? Seems like the Bible is getting pretty clear that the consequence of rejecting God is destruction, not eternal life in hell.
1 Cor 3:17: “God will destroy that person”
There’s that word again that doesn’t mean tortured in hell, but just means what it says– destroyed.
2 Cor 2:15-16: “those that perish“
Again, if Paul meant hell, he should have said it– seems like everyone talks about perishing, being destroyed– but doesn’t talk about hell.
Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death..“
Growing up we’re taught that the “wages of sin is hell” but nope– it’s perishing, dying, being destroyed.. the opposite of eternal life in hell.
Hebrews 10:39 “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
Another version of the same term… destroyed.
James 4:12a “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.”
Seems like every biblical author wants us to understand to be “destroyed” is the natural consequence…
2 Peter 2:3: “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Revelation 20:14 “This is the second death…”
Those who believe in eternal conscious hell don’t believe in the second death– they believe everyone is immortal, and that some will live forever in hell. Rev 20:14 is clear that they die– they don’t live forever in hell at all.
So there you go folks– the testimony of the whole of scripture does not testify to hell as a place where you are alive and tortured for all eternity. Instead, from the beginning to the end of scripture we are warned that refusing to be reconciled to God– the author and sustainer of life– results in a natural outcome: the finality of death which is the ultimate destruction.
I would encourage you to just read the Bible– and read it without the lens of hell that you grew up with. If you read it without those lenses to distort what you see, you’ll find that eternal hell isn’t what the Bible warns us about– it warns us about a second death.