Who Goes to Hell?

What is Hell? For centuries, the idea of hell has fascinated people. Everyone who has lived has clearly wondered what happens when they die. Throughout the Western World during the Renaissance, there were three varied views about this: the view of the Greeks, the ideas expressed by Dante, and the Christian view of the Bible. Predictably, some of the ideas in these views are similar, although very different in matters of who is there and what their punishment is. They have progression in matters of why people are there, and what the levels of punishments are, but none of them show the Christian view.

In the Greek view, all are punished. Equally, everyone goes to hell. Even the mightiest of heroes go there, as readily shown by Hector’s death in the Iliad, “The shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon his soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades” (Illiad 22.371-72).  Every soul goes to hell, even those who are the greatest by Greek standards. Having traversed there, their sentence is then pronounced by judges. Everybody is judged to be punished, from the good to the evil. If you had lived an extraordinary life, you went to the best part. However, most of the dead souls end up as shades, floating around eternally like leaves because of their mediocre lives. Obviously, Greeks believed that everyone went to Hell and were judged according to their deeds.

In Dante’s hell, a slightly different view of Hell is expressed: all who were not baptized went to Hell with progressive punishments. In Dante’s Inferno, it says, “That they sinned not; and if they merit had, ‘tis not enough, because they had not baptism” (IV. 34-35). If one who was not baptized died, that person went to Hell, no matter how they had performed during life because they had not entered into the realm of God via baptism. Having been decided their eternal place of residence, they were subsequently judged by Minos, the former King of Crete. “Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it; girds himself with his tail as many times as grades he wishes it should be thrust down” (Inferno V. 10-12). Everyone is judged by Minos to see where in Hell they belonged. If their sin was small, their punishment would be small. Likewise, if their sin was excessive, so would would their punishment. In Dante’s view, all unbaptized went to Hell, with sin being punished according to severity.

In the final view, Christianity, all the unrighteous are punished in Hell, and punished equally. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20.15). Every person who has not accepted God’s free gift of eternal life with Him will consequently be sentenced to an eternal separation from Him which is called Hell. All sinners are judged equally based on this status. They are then thrown into the burning pit called Hell and eternally separated from God because of their unbelief. If one is not a Christian, they are unsaved and must dwell in Hell for eternity.

In the Greek view, everyone went to Hell and were judged according to works. Dante’s view was slightly different in the fact that only the unbaptized went to Hell. Clearly, their precise level of punishment is still determined by their deeds, however. The Christian view holds that those who are unsaved go to Hell, and are punished because of their rejection of life with God and their unrepentance of sins. Although these views are somewhat similar, it is obvious that the Greek view and Dante’s view differ from the Biblical one. Their punishment is the greatest deciding factor because of their greatest difference. How is this? While the Christian and Dante’s view both restrict the occupants of Hell, Dante’s limits it even more by requiring baptism. In the Bible, it says nothing about needing to be baptized to be saved, but only that it is a symbol of the faith. Only God can save a soul from Hell.


Faith and Deeds

“You see that a person is justified (saved) by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) At first glance, this sounds like a works-salvation verse. Further, it seems to indicate that the Bible is not in agreement over how salvation comes about. But this isn’t so.

Too often we individualize deeds and faith. We separate them into two separate camps. This is why the verses in James seem to be contradictory to the Bible. In context, the meaning of this verse become more clear. In earlier verses James makes the point that a man cannot claim to have faith and not have deeds. For if faith is “not accompanied by action” his faith “is dead” (vs. 17). We must realize that deeds confirm our saving faith in Jesus Christ. They do not complete it, but they confirm and prove that we have a relationship with Our LORD. James gives examples of this in the following verses. He says, “Was not…Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” He then makes the point that works and faith go hand and hand, and that works complete our faith. “[Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” This must be why God said, after Abraham showed a willing attitude, “Now I know that you fear God…”* By performing a faith-based action, Abraham, in a sense, completed his faith that was in his heart.

There is something necessary in us needing to transform what is spiritual into something more physical and tangible. I believe this is why actions are a necessary part of faith. As humans, we are both spiritual and physical beings. Faith is surely a spiritual thing that is possessed in the soul and the heart. What James tells us is that we need to transform this faith from being solely a spiritual thing and into a physical thing. He tells us that this is accomplished by our actions that are done in faith and that our physical actions confirm the faith that is spiritually within us. And so the gap between the physical and the spiritual is bridged and we see faith in more tangible ways on a day to day basis. This is crucial as our actions and not our spirit will be judged and observed by others. And if they see faith in our actions they will see Christ. But, without actions they will see nothing.

Another thing worthy of mentioning, is that James does not specify what kind of works are confirming works. Although we may desire a list of things to do, this is not the point of faith-based works. I think that he purposely does not tell us things to do because there really isn’t anything we can do that will complete our faith. Rather, it is necessary for faith to be in place already in order to do actions that confirm our faith. Thus, there is not list of things one can do to become saved and finish what Jesus started; but rather, it is a heart issue of whether or not we are doing these actions because we have faith. For although faith without deeds is dead, deeds too without faith are dead.


*- Fear does not mean fear in the sense of being afraid, but rather having a deep respect and a deep passion for having an intimate relationship. See Proverbs 2:1-8.


Have you ever thought about what heaven will be like? I do all the time. Someone once told me that we are like glass cups. Jesus gives us the free will to choose what shape and size we will be made in. As we choose what we want to look like He slowly molds us with fire to that shape (see Mark 9:49). Some of us will choose to be large glasses, others only want to be small glasses. Before we choose, however, Jesus lays out the conditions: none. He tells us he will make us as small as we want or as large as we want. But He also gives us a promise. He promises to fill us up entirely when we get to heaven. When we enter heaven we will be full!

This is a great analogy. It shows how Jesus promises us that He will satisfy all of our needs in heaven. He will fill us up completely. It also goes to show that our choices can limit or increase the amount He will fill up. Each of us will be perfectly content in heaven, but some of us will be filled up more (more intimately close to Jesus). Amazing isn’t it! The power we hold. Ironic isn’t it that we will gain more by ‘seemingly’ giving it up?

Christ’s Death: It had to happen

According to the definition of a traditional inheritance: we could not have inherited God’s gift of eternal life had Jesus not died. In order for the offspring to receive the gift, the elder generation must die, and therefore pass over the inheritance. If Jesus had suffered the cross, but then before he had died he came down from the cross (or was helped down), he would not have died and passed on the inheritance. Or say that Jesus was not fully God (and fully human), then the inheritance could not have passed from the Father to his children because God did not die (Also, you can not “pass on” something you do not already possess. Therefore, God must have eternal life *). Thus, according to inheritance, Christ’s death must have occurred. It could not have happened any other way.

*- This may be why, in Acts 20:32, Luke uses the word “inheritance” to describe our relationship with Christ. Also, we are “heirs” according to many passages in the Bible to (see also Hebrews 9).

Declarations…..Francis Chan

“Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made” – Francis Chan

And this is why I believe that any good works you do to either gain salvation, or that you just do outside of faith in Jesus Christ, are not really good works at all but are sinful works. Any good that you do to try to earn salvation, is not motivated by love for God or His people, it is motivated by selfishness. It is, “if I do this, look what I’ll get back from it: salvation!”. Also, any good that you do apart from Jesus is (90% of the time) for you own benefit, image, or just pride and is therefore not a good work, but a bad one! Man is born evil, therefore apart from love (and love is given by God and defined by God) he can do no good.