Bible passages as interpreted
by conservative Christians
Liberal Christian Interpretations of passages which deal with the
afterlife in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) and Christian Scriptures (New
Testament) are described elsewhere in this web site.
Conservative Christian interpretations of Biblical passages:
Conservative Christians hold four key principles concerning the Bible. It is
by God, inerrant, internally consistent, and
infallible. As a result, there cannot be any true contradictions between any two passages
in the Bible. Although hundreds of apparent conflicts have been found,
almost all can be harmonized after careful examination. A few cannot be resolved with our
current knowledge; however conservatives trust that a solution will be possible
in the future.
They reject the liberal concept, described elsewhere in this web site, that there is a gradual evolution in
religious thought in the Bible about the afterlife. The Bible is seen as authoritative; it
is believed to give a consistent vision throughout.
Sheol is mentioned throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) as
the grave or the pit where people go after death. Some believe that the dead remain
without consciousness until they are resurrected and judged on judgment day. Others
believe that they are aware of their surroundings, and some of the dead may be tortured
there until judgment. After the final judgment, those people who have been saved will go to heaven;
all others will be sent to hell.
In the original Greek, the Christian scriptures use the
word "Hades" to also refer to this place where the dead await
resurrection and judgment. 1Hades:
has gates that shall not withstand the church. (Matthew 16:18)
is located under the earth (Luke 10:15)
is a place where people will be tormented by thirst and heat from flames. (Luke
The Greek word "Gehenna" refers to a pit of fire; this is
the location normally thought of as "Hell" where people who do not attain heaven
are tortured for all eternity. Gehenna:
Contains fire. Matthew 5:12; Mark 9:43, 45 & 47; James 3:6 refer to
Hell (Gehenna) fire.
Is a location that bodies are "cast into" (Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 18:9; Mark 9:43 & 45)
Destroys both a person's soul and their body (Matthew 10:28)
Is a place of darkness (Matthew 25:30)
Is a permanent location, where torture never ceases.
Revelation 20:10 states that the devil, beast and false prophet will be "cast
into the lake of fire and brimstone...and shall be tormented day and night for ever and
Mark 9:43 & 45 refers to the "fire that never shall be
Is a place where one is separated from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
However, the angels and Jesus will be present at the torturing of the
14:10). It is not clear whether Jesus is merely observing the infliction
of pain on the captives, or is actually directing it.
Is a place of "tribulation and anguish." (Romans
Is the "lake of fire" into which, after the final
anyone whose name is not written in the "book of life" will be
"cast. "(Revelation 20:15)
Is referred to in some of Jesus' parables. Hell is a place of torture (Matthew
18:34) where one is bound hand and foot (Matthew 22:13), cut in
pieces (Matthew 24:51) and whipped severely (Luke 12:47).
Beliefs of Fundamentalist believers and other Evangelicals have evolved significantly over the
past century. "Fire and Brimstone" speeches about the horrors of Hell are rarely
heard today. Many, probably most, Evangelical Christians now interpret these Biblical passages
as largely symbolic. That is, bindings, whippings, intolerable heat, thirst,
worms, and darkness are not
to be understood literally. They still view Hell as a dreadful place - a place of punishment,
but not necessarily of torture. Many view Hell as a location where people will be simply separated from