Did you know there are three main views of Hell? Did you know that there’s not one view or another that is considered to be totally conservative or totally liberal? Christians are very divided in their opinions of Hell.
I sat next to a grieving man in a nursing home crying one afternoon. This man’s commitment to Christ was obvious. His wife passed away and I found myself grieving with him. He had a theological concern that had haunted him for years: the concept of Hell. Through tears he cried, “Jeni, Hell just cannot possibly be forever!” I knew his wife was a very dedicated Christian. Who he was concerned about, I didn’t know. I only knew this matter was causing a tremendous amount of pain for him.
Soon after this conversation, Christianity Today came out with an article outlining the various views of Hell, so I quickly shared it with him hoping to settle his soul. “Did you know there are three predominant views of Hell?” the article asked.
One view has been staring me in the face through the first Bible verse we all learn as children: John 3:16, “shall not perish but have everlasting life.” While I never noticed this before I sure saw it now! Of course we all place the emphasis of this verse on eternal life in the Kingdom. Why didn’t I ever notice that this verse might be saying something about Hell as well?
Perish means to stamp out, to not exist anymore, extinction. My summer annuals perish after they have lived their life through the fullness of summer
The view I was taught as a child was the first view presented in the article: 1) Hell is a place of eternal suffering. It includes fire, damnation, total separation from God and anything good, and the devil taunting you forever.
The other two views I’d never heard of are: 2) Hell is a place where one suffers for a time and then perishes. 3) Hell is extinction, perishing. When one dies they simply cease to exist any longer.
Of course John 3:16 can be a reference for these last two views on Hell, but not for the view I learned about a child. Eternal suffering doesn’t include perishing.
Which view is the right one? I don’t know. I choose to give God my life and follow Him as best I know how so I won’t have to find out and I hope you will too. Is our primary goal in life to be “right” anyhow? Hell? Nobody here knows…