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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

What is Hell? Pt 1 - The Fall of Lucifer

The idea of Hell as a place of eternal fire where one burns for ever and ever after death was something I grew up with since childhood, as a Roman Catholic, this was the central issue peddled by the Vatican. The Catechism has always insisted that after death, the discarnate souls of the unsaved  suffer intense pain, at a level nothing here on Earth can match. When I was converted to faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, I have found that this teaching of a literal eternal hellfire remained unchallenged within the Protestant faith. Even just a few years ago, I came across the front cover of a Christian magazine carrying a snapshot of Methodist minister, preacher and author David Pawson, who looked as if to be smirking. Behind the snapshot was an image of a volcanic lava lake, very much like that of  Kilauea Crater on the Hawaiian summit of Mauna Loa.

The message Pawson was immediately conveying on the cover was not addressed to unbelievers, although he firmly insist that all of the unsaved will end up in such a lake. Rather, the cover illustration was about the fate of true Christian believers who had either slipped from their faith, failed to overcome their sinful desires, sinned wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, or for that matter, divorce and then re-marry. Such believers, according to Pawson, will lose their salvation and end up in the lake of fire.

It is of little wonder that Catholicism and Arminian theology (of which Pawson advocates) has led to liberalism and spawned a crowd of atheists, who visualise God as a crushingly cruel tyrant and sadistic bully whose existence is an offence to human intelligence. Darwinism, for one, grew to mainly discredit Biblical Creationism, and once this had been achieved, then the Christian faith is robbed of all merit altogether. To the educated and the academic, the idea of a literal hellfire remain in the imagination of the deluded.

Yet the fiery hell of the Catholic faith continues to be preached by eminent men of the evangelical Protestant faith. Authors and preachers such as David Pawson, Dan Corner, Fred Phelps, Hal Lindsey, Dave Hunt, Norman Robertson, Tim LaHaye and a host of others all agree on the issue of a literal place of burning for the unsaved dead.

In Matthew 25:41-43, we read of the Lord Jesus teaching this:

Then he will say to those on his left (hand) "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."

And John wrote this in Revelation:

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Then death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
If any one's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:10-15.

Little wonder that the teaching of a literal fire of hell is believed on by both Catholic and Protestant faiths! But as I emphasised in the two passages above, the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. Apparently, God's intention in creating man was not to perish in a fiery lake. The whole intention of creation was to share and partake in the intense love existing between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a Trinitarian love which had existed from eternity past and will continue into eternity future. Accompanying this love is peace and joy, a high form of happiness. They make a magnificent combination of emotions that are entirely unspoilt by any sin or its consequences. And it is, and will be, ours for the taking.

The angelic realm was created before the Universe, the planet Earth and mankind. God did not want his creation to be automatons, loving him by force or even by obligation. So God gave each angel free will, the ability to love and serve willingly.

Lucifer was the chief of the angelic realm. Apparently, he was to be guardian of the planet Earth, and according to Ezekiel 28:13 in the KJV, he was given the role of worship leader of the entire realm. It is worth quoting the entire text from the KJV:

Son of man, take up a lamentation the king of Tyrus and say unto him, Thus says the Lord GOD; Thou sealed up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius (ruby), topaz and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets (harps) and of thy pipes were prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
Thou wast perfect in all thy ways from the day thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee.
Ezekiel 28:12:15.

Until iniquity was found in you! How could it happen?

Lucifer was startlingly handsome, of glittering beauty. I believe that he had a double role of leading the entire realm in worship to God, he was also put in charge of our planet. The whole of evil originated in the heart of this being. How could this happen? After all, this guy had absolutely everything one could wish for. He was stunningly rich, he had need of nothing, he never grew up in a slum environment, neither did he ever experienced poverty or hardship. His work was a joy, not a burdensome task. I would go as far to say that he was fulfilling the happy roles we as true believers will one day fulfill in God's presence for ever. Then it happened.

Worshipping God was not enough for Lucifer. He wanted to be God himself. As pride filled his heart, he was in effect saying, "Move over, God. I want to be the centre and focal point of worship from now on."

When this was denied, Lucifer shook his fist at God and dared the whole realm to leave their established positions and follow him as leader and ruler of his own kingdom, to be set up on our planet. Amazingly, a third of the entire angelic population made up their minds to accept Lucifer as their leader as they were thrown out of the heavenly realm to settle upon the Earth. The other two thirds, however, remained true to God.

Students of the Bible are not sure when this particular event occurred. Some think that it occurred after Adam and Eve were created, and Lucifer arrived on this planet from Heaven to tempt Eve by speaking audibly to her through a snake. Others, including myself, believe in the "Gap Theory." This means that there was a period of time between Genesis 1:1 and verse two. The fall and rebellion of Lucifer took place before Adam and Eve were created. Verse two says that after God created the heavens and the earth, that the earth was without form and void. The Hebrew words for "Without form and void" indicates a state of chaos. If Lucifer rebelled after the creation of the Earth but before the six day creation, this could indicate that Lucifer's rebellion threw the planet into chaos, and God had to make sweeping changes to render it habitable for mankind.

Lucifer, which, after the fall, became known as Satan and the Devil, took full charge of man's affairs, but already knowing of his coming defeat when God promised that the seed of the woman will bruise his head.

The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ sealed Lucifer's fate. As promised, he and his angels are destined for the lake of fire. Which leads to a problem worth considering. Is the lake of fire literal?

What is fire? For flames to exist, something material and tangible must be consumed by burning. Fire burns wood, paper and coal. It has the power to turn iron red hot and eventually melt it. Volcanic lava is heated rock, mainly basalt. Lucifer and his angels are spirits who has never had physical bodies. If that is true, then how could literal fire hurt them?

And this leads us to the question: If the Catholic Church insists that discarnate spirits of the unsaved dead are thrown into a literal lake of fire, then without bodies to consume, how would the fire affect them? And what is being consumed by the fire? And returning to the subject of Lucifer, if before his fall he was wearing precious stones, how could this be relevant if this guy was (and still is) a spirit and had no body? Were the precious stones to be taken literally?

In Revelation 20:10-15, along with Matthew 25:41-46 a fiery end is stated for the wicked. In Matthew 13:42 a fiery furnace is also stated by Jesus Christ. Yet in Matthew 8:12, 22:13 and 25:30, there is talk about eternal darkness. This seem to indicate something like outer space, where there is complete darkness, with nothing tangible or of any source of light. There seems to be an inconsistency between literal fire and this darkness. Fire is a source of light. For millennia, fire was always used for torchlight. Could this eternal fire and outer darkness be illustrations of the state of being separated from God's presence?

That, I believe, is a strong possibility. Although I'm being cautious here, the idea of fire and darkness being illustrations seems to be backed by the statement, "weeping and gnashing of teeth," which appears in all verses, along with Matthew 24:51 where the sinner is thrown out of the banquet.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth indicates mental and emotional torment, including anger, along with a sharp feeling of regret, rather than physical pain. Experience has shown that physical pain result in screaming and hollering. We don't seem to see any of this in the Bible, but much about weeping and gnashing of teeth (gnashing of teeth indicating anger at his own decision to reject Christ as Saviour during his lifetime). Another indication of emotional torment is found in Luke 13:28. Here we are told that unbelieving Jews will be thrust out of the Kingdom of God. Again we see the emotional torment of weeping and gnashing of teeth, but this time as these sinners see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sitting inside. It is important to note at this point that the mental and emotional anger and torment will be experienced by both the fallen angelic realm and lost sinners alike.

What can we conclude from all this? That every lost sinner will be shut out from the Kingdom of God, most likely in outer darkness. They will be in mental and emotional torment as if immersed in fire. They will have very strong desires for love and company, but these will eternally remain unfulfilled as their separation from God will also result in intense loneliness. They would have had a glimpse of the magnificent beauty of the Heavenly Jerusalem, and even recognise believers whom they mocked and laughed at during their lifetimes. This will add a deep sense of regret when they realise that all this was offered to them, if only they would have believed.

There is no need to be condemned to eternal separation from God. Jesus Christ is right now offering a free gift of salvation to all who would receive it by faith.

In my next blog, I shall be looking at the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16.

Your comments on this topic would be welcome. God bless.


  1. We need to understand that only a very small portion of infrared light is visible to the naked eye. Temperatures below about a thousand degrees do not register, but cause intense pain and damage. I Corinthians 15:44 says, "...There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." How do we know the spiritual body is not affected by heat? Revelation 7:6 would seem to indicate the Christian's is. Once again, is I believe we are better off simply accepting God's word literally.

  2. This is a really good post Frank, and much food for thought. I feel that many people can be troubled by this, no pun intended, hot topic! The first thing that troubles me is what happens to all those people who, not necessarily rejecting Christ but just not knowing Him, die without ever being Christians? I mean, was Moses a Christian, or Joseph or Abraham? They were not, yet I think most people accept they will be saved. Secondly, if God calls some and not others, how can a person not called by Him be condemned? In my own life, I have a calling from God, to live as a Christian; I'm not aware that any of my friends or family have a similar calling; will I be on my own in Heaven? Questions, questions, questions and few real answers!

    The 'fire and brimstone' brigade will say that every non-Christian is 'gonna burn' for eternity. What about all those people on the planet before Jesus was born? All those Chinese, Africans, early Europeans, Malaysians and so on and so on? If God hadn't made known His presence to these millions and millions of people, how can He condemn them for not seeking Him out or living in His ways? It doesn't make sense quite frankly. So, we are left with very hard questions that deserve an answer; we will find them in scriptures but we need to be very discerning. Thanks for opening up such a highly contested post.

  3. The thing that I have noticed in the Bible is that 'Lucifer' means 'lightbearer' and Lucifer is quoted in Isaiah ch.14 as being the king of Babylon, and 'Satan' means 'adversary'. Satan is quoted as being a 'murderer from the beginnining' and the king of Tyre spoken of in Ezekiel ch. 28 is quoted as being 'blameless in your ways from the day you were created'. So there appear to be many things that people say about this issue, that don't quite tie in with scripture. I have my own views on who is referred to as Lucifer, but have not put any writings together fully on those views. The main thing really is that people seek the Lord while He may be found.