Dear Mr. Hell
the fiery sermon of a friend
Thank you for the hospitality you showed my
family. I admire what you have worked into your children, by the grace of God. You are worthy
to be called "Abba" by them.
I certainly had no intention of doing what we did Saturday night, except maybe to talk about our freedom from sin. I so
sincerely believe that our steps are ordered of the Lord, that I know that
nothing but good can come from it, as He causes all things to work toward that
end in the lives of those who love Him. We both recognize Him as the One Who
I sincerely meant what I said about the
believers at your church. Fine people. I found good fellowship with them after
the service. I think Barb thought maybe I was anxious to leave (and I
appreciated her concern), but the opposite was true. I enjoy fellowshipping
one-on-one with other believers, especially when there are coffee and donuts
I wish, in your sermon, that you had mentioned
which "hell" you were talking about when you said that we believers
are going this-a-way, and others are going that-a-way: "to hell." As
the subject is so weighty, it is important to be precise. I suggest this,
not as criticism (your zeal and love of God are beyond criticism), but as
exhortation. Paul exhorted Timothy to "have a pattern of sound words"
(2 Tim. 1:13), and this is also my desire for the both of us.
You saw some of the notes in my Scriptures. I
have literally spent days tracing a single word through His Book. This can be
done in any version that is supported by an exhaustive concordance. I have used
both the KJV (with an open Young's concordance) and the CLNT. I say this not
to boast (boasting is debarred in the grace of God), but as a testimony of the
love God has put into me for His Word, and a passion for His original thoughts,
unmarred as much as possible by the thoughts of men.
There are three different words
indiscriminately translated "hell" in the King James Version. In 2
Peter 3:4, where the Greek word is tartaroo (English transliteration,
"tartarus,") the KJV has translated "hell." In Matthew 5:29,
where the Greek word is geenna," (English transliteration "gehenna"),
the KJV has translated "hell." In Acts 2:27, where the Greek word is
(English translation, "unseen"), the KJV has translated
"hell." Surely you see the crime in translating three different Greek
words (with three very different meanings), by the same English word.
I believe, as do many others, that God had a
reason for using three different words, and that man cannot simply dismiss this
with a shrug and the flick of a pen. If God had meant to say the same thing in
all these passages, He would have inspired the writers to use the same Greek
word. To ignore these differences is to belittle God's revelation.
Thank God that He has not left us to trust the
KJV translators (or any translator), but has given us concordances (such
as Young's and Strong's), with which to check the translator's work.
Looking up "hell" on pages 474 and 475 of Young's Exhaustive
Concordance, you can confirm with me the separate words
hades, geenna and
tartaroo. Why did we have to consult Young's concordance to discover this?
Because the careless translators did not consider it necessary to define these
differences in the text.
The beauty of the Concordant Version of the
New Testament is that it inserts these different Greek words right into
the text. In 2 Peter 2:4, we read of "the gloomy caverns of
(pg. 548), in Matthew 5:29 we read that "it is expedient for you that one
of your members should perish and not your whole body be cast into
(pg. 20). And in Acts 2:27, we read "For Thou wilt not be forsaking my soul
in the unseen." You're a smart guy, so I'm sure that you can see
the value of such a translation.
It is called "Concordant" because it
puts the concordant definition right into the text. Rather than
translating three, or four, or fourteen different words with one English word
(look up the word "depart" in your Young's or Strong's concordance-pgs.
245-46 in Young's-and you will find at least fourteen different Greek words,
indiscriminately translated by the single English word "depart" in the
KJV. The Concordant version, on the other hand, assigns each Greek word
its own English equivalent, which does duty for that Greek word alone),
or translating the same Greek word by several different English words (for a
good example, see "prosdechomai" on pg. 87 of the Lexicon to the New
Testament in Young's, and you will find six different English words used
throughout the KJV for this one Greek word. The Concordant version, allowing for
English idiom, has reduced this to two.)
How is it, then, that the KJV is a
"pretty good translation," as you say, in light of the minute accuracy
of the CLNT? If you will consider this subject honestly, apart from any inherent
bias toward the "Authorized Version," you will undoubtedly see and
appreciate the value of such a translation as the Concordant Literal New
Okay, Peter. Back to hell. Just where are
those people going, who we are passing while heading the opposite was as them?
Are they going to hades, Tartarus, or Gehenna? To simply say that they are
"going to hell" sheds no light on the subject, only confusion. What
does it matter where they are going? Well, if it doesn't matter to us,
it certainly matters to them (!), and it definitely matters to God, Who
created them for His glory. It would be good of us, I think, to look more
carefully into the Greek text, and not to treat the fate of billions so
Can they be going to Tartarus? Hardly. 2 Peter
2:4 tells us that this place is reserved for "sinning angels." These,
obviously, are not human beings. As those we are passing going "the other
way" are of flesh and blood, Tartarus is not the place for them.
Are they going to Gehenna? No, not unless they
transgress during the thousand-year millennial reign of Christ, which is
unlikely if they die in their sins before its inauguration, as most of them
Gehenna is literally the "vale of Hinnom,"
literally ben-Hinnom. Owned then by the sons of a guy named Hinnom, it is
a literal valley near Jerusalem that one can visit today (perhaps you were there
when you went to Israel), where the city garbage was burned. Some believe it was
also the place where children were offered in sacrifice to Molech. Could be. In
any case, it will be that place in the kingdom (the millennium) where the
carcasses of transgressors will be tossed (see Isaiah 66:24), as a detriment to
further lawlessness. I think it will be quite effective, myself. (Maybe our
American justice system could concoct some equivalent.) Anyway, this is strictly
a kingdom judgment and has absolutely nothing to do with
the so-called "eternal destiny" of men. How could it, seeing
that "the rest of the dead do not live until the thousand years should be
finished" (Rv 20:5), at which time Hinnom ceases to be?
This leaves us with hades, which indeed
is the "place" where the souls of all the dead go, you and me
included, if the Lord does not come for us first. It literally means
"un-perceived" or "unseen." This is proven by checking every
place this word appears in Scripture. (The Hebrew equivalent of this word, as
you know, is sheol. We know this because that word was consistently
translated hades in the Septuagint, or the Greek version of the Hebrew
I wish I had the energy to pursue this subject
in depth. Just know that the soul of our Lord Himself went to hades (the unseen,
Acts 2:29), as did the soul of David (Acts 2:27). If this is the so-called
"eternal torment" of Christianity, how is it that a city resides
there? (I'm speaking of Capernaum; see Matthew 11:23). Yes, go to Israel today
and try to find the ancient city of Capernaum. You won't be able to do it.
Why? Because, as the Lord said, it is abiding in "the unseen." All
this means, again, is that it cannot now be perceived. It's gone.
I know what you meant to say in your
sermon. What you meant to say was that there are unbelievers who will
miss out on the life of the eons, or, as literal translations have it, "eonian
life" (for the Greek word aion.) And that is painfully true.
To avoid the confusion gendered by the
indiscriminate use of the word "hell," you should have said that the
lot of these unbelievers is the lake of fire, which is the second death. I said
you should have discriminated, because the lake of fire has nothing
whatsoever to do with hell. Bereft of a pattern of sound words, however, many
expositors have supposed the lake of fire to be hell. They also suppose
that people will be writhing in anguish there. Nothing could be farther from the
truth, as the Scriptures show.
Examining the text closely and believing what
is written there, and only what is written (we don't want to be
"disposed above what is written"- 1 Cor. 4:6), we find that
only three are cast alive into the lake of fire. These are plainly stated
in Revelation 20:10 to be the Adversary, the wild beast and the false prophet.
Here they shall be "tormented day and night for the eons of the eons."
The "eons of the eons" corresponds
in literary structure to the phrase "Holy of the holies," or
"Holies of the holies," a phrase which isolates a
place, or places, that exceed in significance and glory
other holy places
to which they (or it) are being compared. As no one of a sound mind would assert
that this means "an unending tumbling of holy places upon one
another," why is it that the "eons of the eons," or "the eon
of the eon" or "the eon of the eons" are given that connotation?
Strange that the KJV lumps all of these three, detailed, Scriptural phrases into
the English catch-all: "Forever and ever." But the strangeness does
not end here. If "forever" means eternity, then what the heck does
"and ever" mean? Eternity and then some? God is not so dumb.
No, man has cornered that market. The casual handling of these precise
Greek phrases not only belittles God's precise vocabulary, but forces the
reader to defy logic. As we have seen from the writings of Paul, God does not
defy logic, but rather works within this God-given and worthy human framework.
It can be shown in Scripture (from tracing the
word throughout Scripture in its contexts) that "eon" (Gr.
time, or, more correctly, "pertaining to the eons." "Eonian,"
then (the adjective form of the noun), must also relate to time, or the eons, as
the basic meaning of a word cannot change with the various forms of its parts of
speech (i.e. hour/hourly, day/daily.)
That some suffer eonian separation from God is
unquestionable. That these three mentioned will be tormented day and night for
the eons of the eons (certainly not "forever and ever" as the KJV
translates), is undeniable. We would have it no other way. The fate suits their
crimes. But to lump those human beings (whose portion following the great white
throne judgment of Revelation 20:12 is death, which is sleep) with the
conscious torment of the three worst transgressors in universal history, is to
do unjustifiable violence to the text (and aren't you a pacifist?)
The term "second death" (this is the
lake of fire- Rev. 20:14) carries in its name its own definition. It is death.
Those in the second death (the lake of fire) are dead. As can be
shown in dozens of passages of Scripture (among them Job 14:10-12, Ps. 13:3, Ps.
6:5, Dan. 12:1-2, Ps. 146:4, Is. 38:18, Eccl. 9:5, Jn. 11:11-14, to name but a
few) death is unconsciousness.
At death, as you know, the spirit returns to
God, the body returns to the soil, and the soul returns to the unseen (sheol,
hades), from which it came. The soul, in Scripture, is invariably associated
with sensation, and therefore with consciousness. There is no soul, and
therefore no sensation, apart from the joining of body and spirit. One
beautiful and telling verse from Scripture proves this: Genesis 2:7- "And
forming is Yahweh Elohim the human of soil from the ground, and He is blowing
into his nostrils the breath of the living, and becoming is the human a living
soul." Here we have all three elements of man: body, soul and spirit. Note:
Adam did not become a "living soul" until the breath (spirit) of God
met with the soil (body) of Adam.
Anyway, back to those billions in the lake of
fire. It is not a place of torment except to the Adversary, the wild beast
and the false prophet. To all else there, it is merciful unconsciousness (that
is, death), until all death is abolished at the consummation, an event described
in First Corinthians 15:26.
At the abolition of death, nothing remains but
life. This is both Scriptural and satisfying. At this time, those who have been
held by the second death (the lake of fire) realize the salvation wrought for
them at Calvary ("Lo! the Lamb of God Which is taking away the sin of the
world" Jn. 1:29). This is the beautiful, Scriptural, and immensely
satisfying purpose of God. The reconciliation of all, not the eternal torment of
most, will bring praise to God's name. How else is God to become all in all,
and the Savior of all mankind, as it says He will in 1 Cor. 15:28 and 1 Tim.
4:10 (not to mention the sweeping verses of Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:10, Rom. 5:18, 1
Cor. 15:22, 1 Tim. 2:4, and so forth)?
Yet you do not believe that God means
all when He says all. I can't do anything about that, except to exhort you to
not so hastily brush these verses aside, or cut them short with a table saw to
make them fit a prefabricated length of your human doctrine.
All conscious judgment of unbelievers takes
place at the great white throne, not in the lake of fire. The great white throne
is conscious judgment and repatriation for acts. (Here, yes, there shall be
weeping and gnashing of teeth. A dentist will do brisk business.) The lake of
fire, again, is death, not judgment. Why should these who have been
judged (remember, judgment means making right), go to the second death?
For the same reason we who are now justified by faith go to the first one. We
are justified concerning our sins and have the promise of eonian life
(which not all have, obviously), yet we die for what we still are, that
is, human beings born into the realm of Adam. Suffering, you will find, is for sin-for
what we do-while death is the wage for what we are (before we
even live to commit a single trespass).
If, in your sermon, you wished to emphasize
the indignation, fury, affliction and distress that God will surely visit upon
the head of every human soul which is effecting evil (Rom. 2:8-9), you should
have referred to the great white throne. For it is here (not, by any
means, in "hell") where this happens. (I should also mention at this
time that the throne is white, not black.)
Remember, Peter, I am simply exhorting you to
have a pattern of sound words, and to be very, very careful with what you lay
upon impressionable ears. Your responsibility as a teacher is frighteningly real
and worthy of the utmost care and consideration. As a teacher, you will
experience greater judgment than would any others who would mishandle the Word
Now I come to "Bishop's View" in
your church's newsletter. Bishop Ray A. Seilhamer, having no idea which
"hell" he is talking about, has decided that we who have failed to win
hundreds of souls to Christ have "stopped believing in [hell]." I am
hard pressed to understand how Bishop Seilhamer himself can believe in something
that he apparently has so little detailed knowledge about. Is it
have stopped believing in, or is it geenna? Or perhaps it is
I do not know which it is, for Bishop Seilhamer has not told me. If the
Bishop had told me, perhaps I could start believing in it, if, indeed, I
had ever stopped believing in it. Bishop Seilhamer, apparently, does not
deem it very important to make it concisely clear just what exactly it is
I am to continue believing in.
Venturing a guess, I would have to say that
the Bishop is referring to Gehenna. He must be, for he uses the phrase
"the fires of hell," which, as neither hades (the unseen) nor
Tartarus (lit. tartaroo), are anywhere in Scripture associated with fire,
could only refer to Gehenna.
"All non-Christians," Bishop Seilhamer assures me, are "bound for the fires of hell," that is, for
the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna. Strange. Bishop Seilhamer is here making the
remarkable statement (unbeknownst to him, I am sure) that all non-Christians
will be alive during the Lord's millennial reign, at least long enough for
them to become criminals who are then cast into that burning valley. At this
juncture, were I meeting with the Bishop face-to-face, I would have to ask him
just who it is who "do not live until the thousand years should be
finished" (Rev. 20:5). But Melody would probably stop me from asking
that, being overly concerned with Bishop Seilhamer's tender feelings.
The man-made church, including yours, is
always concerned about social issues and ills, but not much about the Word of
God. The only time that the Word of God is consulted these days, it seems, is to
settle or illustrate some societal evil. I have abortion in mind at the moment.
Abortion is an evil, yes, and we ought to address it, but not at the
expense of mature, Scriptural learning.
It is the same in today's man-made church as
it was in the man-made church of Jesus's day: neglect of the Word of God,
over-concern with social issues, an embracing of the traditions of men rather
than the truth of God, and the persecution (however subtle) of anyone who tosses
stones of truth or mature knowledge into the settled (milk) pool of the system.
Peter, I sense in you the spirit of a
freelancer. You are, in your spirit, untrammeled by the doctrines of men.
Yet now, you are bound by them. Were you to seek these deeper truths, you would
be shunned by the organization. That's why it is so hard for those who
have given themselves to the institution to come to a fuller knowledge of the
truth. If they did, they would lose the financial support, the esteem and
the backing of the institution. Not many are willing to do that.
For many who rely on the institution
for their livelihood, it is a difficult decision to forsake all that was gain to
them and suffer evil with the evangel of Christ (as Paul did; Phil. 3:8, 2 Tim.
"Howbeit, likewise, of the chiefs also
many believe in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not avow it, lest
they may be put out of the synagogue, for they love the glory of men rather than
even the glory of God." (Jn 12:42-43). This is not you. Yet, if you
were to search the Scriptures carefully, unbiasedly and diligently, and come to
see by the spirit that these things I've been speaking to you are true, how
you sign the statement of faith of your institution, which would invariably deny
your Scriptural belief? To entangle yourself in a religious institution can only
hinder your spiritual growth, which is why I am exhorting you to come out
of it. (And yet, God's will be done. I love you in Christ no matter what.)
You have great resources of talent, desire and
strength to do great things. Why bow to the dictates of men when you can soar in
the spirit of God? Before one came telling you otherwise (the gentleman of whom
you spoke), it was your instinct and conviction to avoid the
"higher" education of the institution. Your instinct here, I believe,
was God-given and correct.
I hope I have not said anything offensive. I
write in love. If I do, or say, or write nothing, it only shows that I am
indifferent or unconcerned, and that you are not my friend.
The Lord Jesus Christ be with you,