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Will There be Different Punishments in Hell and the Lake of Fire?

how to get out of hell

Just when I thought the Bible God couldn’t be crueler, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher names James Bachman found a way to make God a bigger dick than I ever thought possible. Bachman, pastor emeritus of Roanoke Baptist Church, in Roanoke, Indiana, is the author of the ‘Parson to Person’ column that appears weekly in the West Bend News. Two weeks ago, Bachman answered the following question:

Are those who are in hell receiving less punishment than they will after the judgment?

Bachman replied,

Yes, their present punishment in hell is equal for rejecting Christ and not believing on Him. – “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:12. Hell is a terrible place of continual torment in flames. – “And in hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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.” (Luke16:23-24)

At the end of this world all unbelievers will be delivered up from death and hell to be judged justly for additional punishment according to their own sins. – “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”(Revelation 20: 12-14)

An earthly illustration would be a bad criminal being put in a county jail until after his trial and sentencing. Then he is sent to prison where he
will spend the remainder of his sentence. For unbelievers who start out in hell, they will have to spend the rest of eternity after their judgment in the lake of fire, still experiencing hell but also at the same time, additional suffering for each of their sins.

….

Most IFB preachers believe that Hell is a temporary holding place in the bowels of the earth for non-Christians after they die. Then, at the end of time, the inhabitants of Hell will cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14-15 says:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The Lake of Fire, then, is the eventual permanent residence for all non-Christians. Billions of people will reside in the Lake of Fire, subject to excruciating torture day and night for eternity. Why? Because they were born to the wrong parents, lived in the wrong country, worshipped the wrong god, or believed the wrong things. Sure, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Donald Trump will be there, but most of the inhabitants of the Lake of Fire will be just ordinary, good people who, on balance, tried to live good lives, or people such as Jews in WWII who were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis, or people who were blown to bits by mankind’s war machine, or children who died ignominiously of curable diseases, thirst, or starvation.

Many of the residents of the Lake of Fire will end up there without ever hearing the name of Jesus or the Christian gospel one time. Evangelicals such as Bachman explain how this is just by saying that no sinner deserves salvation; and that all sinners deserve Hell and the Lake of Fire. Consider yourself lucky if you are one of the elect, the chosen ones. Such lines of argument fall flat, failing to adequately explain how a just God could banish people, through no fault of their own, to the Lake of Fire for not hearing the gospel. Really, God?

Evangelicals also argue that according to Romans 1 and 2, all humans have moral consciences given to them by God, rendering them without excuse. Further, all any of us need to do is look at the created universe and connect the dots. Somebody bigger than you or I created the universe! In 1960, gospel artist Mahalia Jackson sang:

Who made the mountains, who made the trees
Who made the rivers flow to the sea
Who hung the moon in the starry sky
Somebody bigger than you and I

Who made the flowers to bloom in the spring
Who writes the song for the robins to sing
Who sends the rain when the earth is dry
Somebody bigger than you and I

(He lights the way) He lights the way
(When the road is long) When the road is long
(And He keeps you company) He keeps you company
(With His love) With His love to guide you
(He walks beside you)He walks beside you
(Just like he walks with me) Just like He walks with me

When I am weary, filled with despair
Who gives me courage to go on from there
And who gives me faith that will never never die
Somebody bigger than you and I
(Somebody bigger than you and I)

I am more than willing to admit that it is possible for someone to look at the night sky and conclude that a creator of some sort created everything — a deistic God, perhaps. However, how one gets from A GOD to that God being THE GOD of Trinitarian, Protestant Christianity is a whole different discussion. Evangelicals answer this objection by saying that if an unbeliever — say an aborigine in Australia — looks at the night sky and says to himself, “a God of some sort created this,” the Christian God will either take that into account on judgment day (giving them lesser punishment in the Lake of Fire?) or will send an Evangelical missionary to their door to tell them who, exactly, created the universe.

Evangelicals go to great lengths to cover their asses on the question of what happens to people who have never heard the gospel. Press them long enough, and Evangelical apologists will eventually appeal to mystery, the alleged justice and fairness of God, or God’s thoughts and ways not being our thoughts and ways. Evangelical Apologetics 101 teaches that if your answer to a difficult question is lacking, just appeal to God’s unknowing ways or run to the safety of the house of faith.

Where Bachman’s God becomes especially cruel is when those who land in Hell are punished further in the Lake of Fire. In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16 tells that the rich man died, went to Hell, and is tormented day and night. According to Bachman, the rich man went to Hell because he rejected Jesus Christ. Never mind the fact that the Bible says otherwise; that the rich man went to Hell because of how he lived in light of those suffering around him. He was indifferent to the plight of Lazarus, and now he is being punished in Hell for his indifference.

Bachman believes that the inhabitants of Hell, some of whom have been suffering for thousands of years, will be delivered from Hell, only to be re-judged for their sins and cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer worse torture than before. Imagine the rich man getting his release from Hell, a brief respite from pain and suffering, only to be told that he was headed for a more violent torture chamber, one that will remind him for all eternity of all the ways he slighted the Christian God and broke his rules. Bachman’s God wins the “Worst God Ever” award.

Years ago, I was listening to a cassette tape of a sermon by evangelist Rolfe Barnard, a Calvinistic Southern Baptist preacher. Back in the day, Barnard was, by far, my favorite preacher. Barnard described the Lake of Fire as a fiery, smoky pit located outside of the New Jerusalem — the home of God’s elect. On judgment day, says Barnard, the elect will stand nearby and watch as God judges their friends and loved ones and casts them into the Lake of Fire. On this day, there will be no tears. God’s chosen ones will praise his name and give glory to his holiness and justice every time he tosses a person in the Lake of Fire. Imagine the perverseness of this illustration. Imagine standing by and watching as God throws your children and spouse in the Lake of Fire, knowing that they will be horrendously tormented for eternity. “Praise Jesus! My son is facing the just desserts for his sin and rejection of Evangelical Christianity!! Woo Hoo! Jesus, you are awesome!” Talk about sick, disgusting theology.

Evangelicals make all sorts of theological arguments. I am weary of them all. I just want to know what they believe about judgment, Hell, and the Lake of Fire. Forget all the ‘splaining and Bible proof-texting. Just tell me whether or not all non-Evangelicals will be tortured by God for eternity in the Lake of Fire. How you answer this question tells me all I need to know about you as a person, your God, and your religion.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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15 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Skylar

    I believe I have made progress in my exit from Christianity. For when reading such passages as these or even being reminded of them before it used to scare the shit out of me. However, now I see how wrong, unfair, messed up, and sadistic, the concept of hell and eternal punishment is. I am amazed I used to believe this crap. ?

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    Someone’s a dick, and it’s not any god. This pastor dude is definitely one of those who will scare more people away from his religion.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    If there is a God who isn’t a dick, Hell would reserved for those who condemn people to it for no fault of their own.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Is it any wonder that so many evangelicals are judgmental and cruel? The deity they created is a monster, but they call him good.

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Belief of the sort embraced by James Bachman demonstrates the terrible madness of the Bible. There will be no tears shed while people are openly tortured? The audience will be busy rejoicing in God?
    Isn’t this just the perfect example of how sick the Christovirus can make us? How clear does it need to be? The Bible tells the truth. Just read the pages and get ready to run for your life!

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      And more than ‘no tears being shed,’ Brian. Some denominations teach that those in heaven will actively be able to spend eternity rejoicing in, and gloating over, those in hell and saying ‘I told you so.’

  6. Avatar
    Infidel753

    The whole concept of punishing people for not believing in the right things is asinine. It is no crime to remain unconvinced, especially unconvinced by a bizarre story which makes a virtue of having no supporting evidence (“faith”).

    No evolutionary biologist believes that anyone should be punished for not believing in evolution — a theory supported by overwhelming evidence. Because sane people realize that not believing something cannot be a crime.

    Even for those who were arguably guilty of moral shortcomings (the smug rich who never did anything for the poor, for example), the punishment of being tortured for all eternity far exceeds anything that morality could remotely justify. A just God would give them some proportionate punishment during their lifetimes, to scare them into changing their ways while it would still do the poor some actual good.

    As a system of cosmic justice, the whole thing makes no sense. As a system of fear-mongering contrived by ancient priests to terrify a population of uneducated primitives into obedience, it makes perfect sense. It’s painfully obvious which is the true origin of this set of beliefs.

  7. Avatar
    dale M

    Same mentality as Nazism. Religion, like the old impoverished Soviet Union, is just too powerful to be taken down from the outside. These empires usually crumble from within and then FLASH!!!, they R gone. We, as atheists do support Religion by being indirectly, enablers. U can’t just attack or attempt to outlaw religion. U have to offer something better …. much, much better. Nihilism will not do. I have always believed in fighting fire with fire. Why? Because fire works! So, why not use it? What is he FIRE that keeps religion going? It’s FAITH!! We don’t and shouldn’t attempt to replace it. We need to develop one for ourselves. It must take into account all the nastiness that religious FAITH is based upon. We need to strike it from our FAITH. We still need to develop one. Our FAITH must B hinged heavily on HOPE through SCIENCE and ENGINEERING.

    What’s the difference? Evangelicals provide a backdoor out of HELL that is so narrow that, it would probably B easier to thread a camel through a keyhole. Their expression. Not mine. We need 2 provide a much larger backdoor 2 enable everyone an escape route from that insufferable Evangelical hell-hole of a religion. But this is a backdoor from ALL religions. But HOW?

    I offer this as a thought experiment.

    What if NATURE were to offer the possibility, that we could create our own “backdoor”. What if, after losing a loved one, a family or friends, we could all strive together to bring them back? It would force religion to laugh at us. They would quickly become the ‘unbelievers”. This would not only plant a very dangerous seed in their midst, but germinate it as well. In fact, we ourselves would have to posit the unthinkable. It is US that would resurrect Jesus and His disciples. Not the other way round. The “AFTERLIFE” would B seen not as a hidden place outside reality, but a place within reality but outside our PRESENT cosmos ……. BACKWARD TIME TRAVEL.

    This would require a very robust Space program. Not the government driven NASA, but a private Free Enterprise Corp. My strong belief in this is that, if U desire anything badly enough in life, U must WORK 2 make it happen!!! Those opposed to such a project, would B seen as unbelievers, uber-socialists, even potential 5th column “communists” attempting to BLOCK the return of their Messiah.

    So. What if this doesn’t happen in our lifetime? What if Nature doesn’t allow it in the distant future? Do U care? Evangelicals have waited some 2 millenniums already. Socialism doesn’t work! Now it’s our turn!! I said, it would B built upon FAITH in the scientific method. That’s all I said. This is what we should B doing. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard!! Religion says it HATES SOCIALISM. Well !! This would B a hell of a test 4 them ….. wouldn’t it ?? And would any of us really care if WE brought Jesus back to judge us all ? We all do this anyways. The Man would B seen as He really is …. stripped of all pretenses …… stripped of His evangelical image ….. a King without His supernatural clothing. Just another Jew …. to B pitied but, magnanimously, on our part ….. welcomed to that future century.

    And Jesus judging US would B like Him taking poison to hurt you and me. It would B His crisis. Not ours.

  8. Avatar
    Caroline

    I watched the PBS series Independent Lens last night. The film was called ‘We Believe in Dinosaurs” and it’s about Ken Hamm’s Ark Park and Creation Museum. One thread of the film was the idea that if Creationists admit that science proves overwhelmingly that the Earth is more than 6000 years old they will have to admit that other things in the Bible will have to be discounted too. So they choose ignorance and a completely unlikely story. There’s also the usual ‘public schools indoctrinate our children’ message, and then the filmmakers show us a clip of Ken Hamm and Co. instructing children exactly how do respond to Creation naysayers – Just say, “Were you there?” Evangelicals evidently don’t know what the word indoctrination means. I don’t get it, but this kind of belief system has never been my reality. One guy in the film who had been one of the first shareholders in the Ark project no longer believes in Creationism. He no longer lives in Kentucky and is happy about that. How sad that religious beliefs can divide families and friends (much like our current political climate). I recommend the film, but it’s pretty discouraging to think that people believe this stuff so fervently.

    • Avatar
      Hugh D. Young

      I personally know a couple people who admit that the whole story is pretty far-fetched, and childish, but stay with it, ‘just in case’. I admit that going on 6 years after walking away, I still struggle with, at times OUTRIGHT TERROR of ending up in hell! But what is the alternative……Going back to the ‘god’ I was taught, and HATE, if somehow he exists in that form, and going thru the motions, pretending that I ‘love and trust’ him? Like an ‘ALL KNOWING’ entity wouldn’t just see right through all that anyway…..

  9. Avatar
    TW

    Like many who have exited Evangelical Christianity, and then finally faith, my journey was arduous and agonizing, the effects of which I am still feeling and likely will in some form or fashion for the rest of my life on this planet. But it was my critical examination this doctrine, the doctrine of hell that was my “last straw”. What god would transform human bodies, and make them immortal, simply so they can experience eternal torture and suffering for their finite existence here?

  10. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I was so lucky to grow up Catholic. I was taught that there were indeed sins so vile that, if you didn’t manage to repent of them before death, you got a one-way trip to Hell, a horrifying place. (However, my liberal nuns hedged on what those horrors might actually be. One idea was permanently occupying a terrible black void of emptiness, forever separated from God, light, joy, and any semblance of happiness. I suspect this might indeed have terrified my teachers, but I was too young to make sense of it.)

    But for Catholics, those who try hard to be good people and follow God ‘s commandments (as interpreted by the Church, of course), who confessed their sins, did their best to undo whatever harm they caused, and prayed their penances–they would go to Purgatory, a truly horrible place where they would suffer just penance for just crime(s) (aka sins) and then be restored to the company of God and those in Heaven. It isn’t a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card, but it does make God seem more-or-less reasonable if you don’t question it too closely. (At least, that was my understanding of official theology at the time of my deconversion, some 40 years ago. They might have moved the goalposts.)

    But for a girl who took stealing from the cookie jar seriously, it was very comforting to be able to tell that to a priest, say a few prayers, and know that I was right with God again. At least, until Daddy bought more frosted oatmeal cookies.

  11. Avatar
    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Hi Bruce. I was wondering something. Do you think the current, living members of Christian Fundamentalist and Conservative Evangelical churches are living in their own religious Hell right now in the United States? I see so very many horror stories from people who were once members of such churches—and I am not talking about stories exclusively from atheists, agnostics, and nones. Many people who remain Christians but have left their fundie churches feel as if they were living in Hell on Earth. I read their stories all of the time.

    I wonder how many of the people who sit in the pews at fundie churches on Sunday morning are sitting there with soul-torturing pain and enduring in quiet desperation because they know something is terribly wrong with “their religious system,” but they are so frightened by their preacher and the monstrous image of God he and the system have indoctrinated them with that they are afraid to speak up and even more afraid to leave the church. It seems to me that living in abject fear and emotional rancor within one’s mind 24/7/365 would be its own living Hell. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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