The ancient literal text says that hell is real, but not everlasting.
Hell is described as finite in both space and time. And all punishment is proportional, because Yahweh does justice! The text specifies repeatedly that only the Father and those who live in Him (namely, the Son) live continually/perpetually.
A very long time ago, after the messiah Yahshua (Jesus) warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing, the doctrine of ‘eternal hell’ crept into Christianity through mistranslation of a single word. It is time to set the record straight, with the literal bible itself.
This bible study is not about favoring any one religious denomination over another. Indeed, it is nondenominational, that is, literal. The literal words themselves cross denominations and bring them together, going back to the ancient languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
This study presents a matter of great principle and textual honesty.
Thinking Logically About The False Doctrine Of An Everlasting Hell
I am passionate about the literal text of the bible, so I read the old testament in Hebrew and the gospel in the Aramaic language spoken by the messiah Yahshua. This article is based on research from these literal bible sources, and written especially for the benefit of Christians who wrongly claim that torment in hell is everlasting. Read for yourself – according to the ancient literal bible text, as set forth in detail below, torment outside this world is described exclusively with finite terms of a limited duration. The time period of any given punishment is described in terms of an “age” (alma in Aramaic) or “eon” (aion in Greek). And in most cases, the punishment is described in even shorter duration, as we see in the many Psalms and the Old Testament prophets who spoke of the wicked that are burned like chaff (which burns in mere seconds).
I can’t emphasize this enough: if the gospel was going to suggest infinite torment, the apostle writer could have done so literally by saying ‘time that does not end’ or ‘time that cannot end’. Or something along those lines. But those words do not appear in the literal gospel anywhere in regards to punishment. Rather, only the Father (and those who live in the Father, namely the Son) are described with special words indicating perpetual life. The fallen do not have perpetual life or perpetual torment, but rather the wage of sin is death.
Accordingly, those who preach infinite punishment or torment do so of their own assumptions and dogma because their assumptions are not supported by the literal gospel. The Messiah invited us to follow His word, not the translator’s word. At best, the word is written on our hearts — I don’t think it’s possible to write a desire for infinite torment of creatures on a loving heart.
The bible instructs that (1) only the Father lives indefinitely, (2) if you remain in the Father you live as He lives, from world/age to world/age and beyond, (3) if you depart from the Father you die because that which is outside the Father is eventually destroyed in its season. The promise of ‘everlasting life’ and ‘everlasting torment’ are both simplistic mistranslations favored by modern preachers. In reality, the literal Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek translation is that your life continues from a world/age to a world/age as long as you remain in the Father; if you ever depart from the Father’s protection you’re dead, even if that death occurs 7 worlds from this one. You may live from world to world for a while, but there is no explicit literal guarantee in the gospel that you will live for infinite time.
Indeed, many angels are recorded as starting off in the Father’s protection, but upon transgressing they are captured in chains of darkness and scheduled to be utterly destroyed at their judgment day. The text does not claim they are tormented infinitely, but rather they are “destroyed” after their time in prison. In Revelation, Satan too is tormented for a finite time described as a “world/age worlds/ages”. Ages and worlds are by definition finite in space and time. The literal text of the bible could have easily said ‘tormented for time that does not end’ or ‘time that cannot end’, but it does not say that. I repeat – the literal text does not say that time does not end, or is somehow suspended (i.e., outside time). Rather the literal text refers exclusively to finite planetary bodies (worlds) and finite time periods (ages). To claim more than the literal bible says is to require reliance on mistranslations. Mistranslations take you away from the Father. This article proves all of these statements with biblical citations.
The English word ‘hell’ is derived from the words sheol and gehenna, which describe a finite prison or grave and a place of complete destruction and death by fire, not everlasting existence and torture. For example, regarding Gehenna, the fire was not quenched for a limited time, just like Jeremiah declared to the ancient Jews, “If you will not hearken unto me … then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” Jeremiah 17:27. And in 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 the literal fulfillment of this prophecy occurred when the Babylonians burned the city. Is that fire still burning in Israel? No. Is the Gehenna trash fire still burning in Israel today? No. But if a fire is unquenchable, doesn’t it last forever? No, unquenchable simply means it burns all of the fuel given to the fire. So the Jeremiah ‘unquenchable fire’ was unquenchable because no man was able to extinguish it. It’s that simple to understand once we see the fulfillment of the verse in 2 Chronicles. So too with the Mark 9 “unquenchable” fire.
Now granted, it is inherently challenging for us humans to use our simple letters and language to define things we do not yet fully understand, let alone an underworld that we have not seen. But when priests and scholars blatantly mistranslate ancient words to concoct an everlasting torture prison – that is dishonest and evil.
Indeed, it was the Pharisees and the Greek & Egyptian mystics who preached eternal hell. The original Christians did not preach eternal hell (nor did Moses or David or any writer in the Old Testament), but rather it crept into Christianity around the same time that Latin was spread through Catholicism, which was hundreds of years after the messiah was crucified – remember that He warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing and false prophets.
Due to obvious Latin, English, etc mistranslations of just a handful of words over millennia, most mainstream religious groups have been able to propagate the evil and hateful and false doctrine/prophesy of an everlasting torture prison called ‘hell’. Why? Because most Christians are swayed by bible translations and commentaries above the literal bible. The Father destined it to be so.
I invite readers to read for themselves in context every occurrence of the words for ‘age’ and ‘word’ in the literal gospel. To help you get started, I’ve constructed two charts available here with every occurrence of the Aramaic word “alma” in the gospels of Matthew and John. You can literally read for yourself today what alma means to you, and see how it is illogical to translate it as ‘forever’.
2. The Literal Bible Shows Hell Is Not Everlasting
In all three of the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), the conclusion is the same: torment is described exclusively with finite terms in the literal bible.
A. Are You Reading An Ancient Literal-Based Bible?
I encourage all readers to find the oldest and most literal bible they can access, to help them search on their own the true meaning of the Hebrew word “olam”, and the Aramaic word “alma” used at the time of the Messiah, and the Greek word “aion”. If you are open to reading Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus), then you should use the Peshitta text of the bible. Or if you prefer Greek as your original language, then you can use Young’s Literal Translation.
•The messiah Yahshua spoke Aramaic. The ancient ‘church of the east’ near Syria preserved Aramaic primacy through the Peshitta, by a letter counting system (here, scribes counted every letter when preparing copies of the 1st century gospel to ensure accuracy). (Source: Ktaba Qadisha). Logically, it’s a more reliable method of preservation than simply deducting that whichever copy in the hands of a fourth century wealthy Roman church survives the spoils of war must be the primary source, especially when even that oldest copy post-dates the life span of the apostles by several hundred years and reaches into the time when wealthy Greeks / Romans were commissioning gospel translations for their libraries.
•Scholars agree (as historian Josephus confirms) that the 1st century Hebrews of Yahshua’s time did not speak Greek with any meaningful fluency, let alone read and write Greek. So how would the early gospel spread in Greek? And even for hundreds of years into the millennium, the Hebrews greatly resisted speaking Greek (the language of their oppressors), just as they resisted Babylon’s corruption of the Hebrew language while captive and in exile for over 400 years.
• Scholars such as Glenn David Bauscher have chronicled probably upwards of 1,000 separate evidentiary points through interlinear works in support of Aramaic primacy. It’s a bit overwhelming, in a positive way. So then, why has Greek become so popular with modern churches and academics? The answer follows historical decision-making and concentrations of power:
• As a mercantile language, Greek spread throughout the developing world in the early millennium in the name of commerce, so the ‘Christian’ church had an incentive to cater to the majority and also gravitate to wealth. This still happens today – it’s the business side of Christianity that is realistically not Christianity at all. Penning a translation that catered to the desires of those with money was a way to earn income in the 1st and 2nd century A.D. (and especially in the third century church institution), just as it is today. “He who pays the piper…”
• The Romans spoke Greek, and when the Romans conquered cities and towns they forced their culture on others (with Emperor Constantine being perhaps the epitome of this recurring phenomenon throughout history).
• The oldest preserved manuscripts, such as (but not exclusively) the Codex Vaticanus, were written in Greek, and are dated in the era of approximately 300AD. Even if papyrus P52 (excerpt from the Gospel of John in Greek) was not mistakenly dated it would still be sourced to a time when Greeks / Romans were obtaining gospel translations for their libraries.
So if you want to get as close as possible to the gospel from the time Yahshua walked the earth, read the Aramaic Peshitta for yourself. Here are some independent translations that can provide a helpful start:
• Paul Younan. Click here for the translation.
• David Bauscher. Available here. This scholar studied Greek for a couple decades and so he is well positioned to explain the evidence that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic. Indeed, Bauscher spends a lot of time with footnotes in his work pointing out where the Greek texts appear (logically and empirically) to be translations of Aramaic. Very eye-opening.
• AENT. Available here. The Aramaic text in the Aramaic English New Testament is derived from the most ancient Aramaic sources within the family of Eastern Peshitta texts.
• Herb Jahn. I post several of his translations on my website (example here). His interlinear translations are particularly nice for students new to Aramaic because they invite you to read every Aramaic root word, one-by-one, and then compare the translation as used in the sentence. So it feels like a respectful way to read (albeit slow), and it helps you learn basic Aramaic words (before you start learning derivative words and conjugations). I’ve found this literal method of reading to be very important to a genuine study of the gospel. Moreover, I think Jahn’s translations are best used in conjunction with the following translation:
• Janet Magiera. Available here. This woman has also developed a literal-based translation, and what is especially likable is that it comes with a study guide for Aramaic words, so you can cross-reference every occurrence of any given word, and its different possible translations – very thorough.
B. Hebrew & Aramaic Definitions of Time (Olam & Alma)
“Alma” (Aramaic word) and “Aion” (Greek word) both mean “age(s)” or “eon(s)” – a finite duration. These words also translate as “world” depending on the context.
“Olam” (Hebrew word) refers to an age or multiple ages, and is also dependent for its definition upon the context in which it is used. Sometimes the context refers to unknown duration or extent from our perspective, as for example with regard to the Father’s glory.
The gospel record shows that Yahshua spoke temple Hebrew and the Aramaic language of the people. At the time he walked the earth, formal torah teaching and study was generally performed in ancient Hebrew (albeit with Aramaic script), whereas in general society and interpersonal matters virtually all Israelites people spoke Aramaic. (Source).
1. Olam (a Hebrew word)
Because the word “olam” requires a context in order to have meaning, the word is protected from priests who try to mistranslate it or translate it in a vacuum. Indeed, it’s dishonest where modern bibles claim “olam” means “everlasting” in every context. Take some comfort in Psalm 12:7 highlighting that scripture is protected. Here with ‘olam’, we see it is protected by context.
Given the seriousness of the matter at issue here, if ‘olam’ ever meant ‘everlasting’ then there should be some statement in scripture defining it clearly as a time period that does not end or that cannot end. I have never found any such statement in the bible. Moreover…
The evidence we have is that biblical persons such as Abraham, Job, Moses, and David did not believe in (or write about) an everlasting torture prison after death. See e.g., J.W. Hanson citing Warburton. Leland’s Necessity of Divine Revelation. Rather, it was certain Egyptian Mystics and Greek Philosophers and Jewish Pharisees who originally preached this doctrine (see e.g., Warburton, Leland’s Necessity of Divine Revelation), and it was apparently adopted by the hierarchical ‘Christian’ church sometime around the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. (many years after the Messiah warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing).
As one researcher has stated emphatically, “Nothing is better established in history than that the doctrine of endless punishment, as held by the Christian church in medieval times, was of Egyptian origin and [ ] adopted by the Greeks and Romans.” J.W. Hanson citing: Warburton. Leland’s Necessity of Divine Revelation]; see also HyperTexts by Michael Burch (”That the Old Testament does not teach even post-mortem punishment is universally conceded by scholars, as has been seen; and that the Egyptians, and Greek and Roman Pagans did, is shown already. That the doctrine was early in the Christian church, is equally evident. As the early Christians did not obtain it from the Old Testament, which does not contain it, and as it was already a Pagan doctrine, where could they have procured it except from heathen sources?”). See also, Did the Jews Believe in Eternal Torment?, by Charles Russell.
In the old testament, ‘olam’ is frequently used to emphasize the duration of some covenant or kingdom on earth. We can also read prophecies in the old and new testament that this planet is finite in both space and time. It will not be here forever.
A good example of determining the meaning of ‘olam by context is found in Jonah 2:6. This scripture shows that ‘olam sometimes indicates a period of time with a definitive near-term end:
I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me olam [lEaulm]; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, YHVH, my Elohim.
Hebrew Transliterated: LQTShBY HUrYM YUrDThY H’aUrTSh BUrChYH B’yDY L’yVLM VTh’yL MShChTh ChYY YHVH ‘aLHY.
We know from the scriptures that Jonah’s experience lasted for three days and three nights (Jon. 1:17; Matt. 12:40), not forever. Jonah’s case is important in understanding the true meaning of ‘olam. Shut away in complete darkness inside the great fish, Jonah would have had no means of judging the passing of time. Eternal Life v. Everlasting Punishment, by Bryan Huie
And here are some other examples where “olam” refers to a definite/limited period of time that could not logically be everlasting:
o Exodus 21:6 “then hath his lord brought him nigh unto Elohim, and hath brought him nigh unto the door, or unto the side-post, and his lord hath bored his ear with an awl, and he hath served him — to the age.
o Hebrew Transliterated: VHGYShV ‘aDNYV ‘aL-H’aLHYM VHGYShV ‘aL-HDLTh ‘aV ‘aL-HMZVZH VUrTSh’y ‘aDNYV ‘aTh-’aZNV BMUrTSh’y V’yBDV L’yLM.
o If olam meant everlasting here, then it would make one man the everlasting servant of another man.
o Leviticus 25:45-46 “and also of the sons of the settlers who are sojourning with you, of them ye buy, and of their families who are with you, which they have begotten in your land, and they have been to you for a possession; and ye have taken them for inheritance to your sons after you, to occupy for a possession; to the age ye lay service upon them, but upon your brethren, the sons of Israel, one with another, thou dost not rule over him with rigour.”
o Hebrew Transliterated: VGM MBNY HThVShBYM HGUrYM ‘yMKM MHM ThQNV VMMShPhChThM ‘aShUr ‘yMKM ‘aShUr HVLYDV B’aUrTShKM VHYV LKM L’aChZH. VHThNChLThM ‘aThM LBNYKM ‘aChUrYKM LUrShTh ‘aChZH L’yLM BHM Th’yBDV VB’aChYKM BNY-YShUr’aL ‘aYSh B’aChYV L’a-ThUrDH BV BPhUrK.
o If olam meant everlasting here, then it would again make one man the everlasting servant of another man.
o Deuteronomy 15:17 “then thou hast taken the awl, and hast put it through his ear, and through the door, and he hath been to thee a servant age-during; and also to thy handmaid thou dost do so.”
o Hebrew Transliterated, VLQChTh ‘aTh-HMUrTSh’y VNThThH B’aZNV VBDLTh VHYH LK ‘yBD ‘yVLM V’aPh L’aMThK Th’yShH-KN.
o Just as noted above with Exodus 21:6, if olam meant everlasting here, then it would make one man the everlasting servant of another man.
o Zeph. 2:9, Jer. 25:27 and Jer. 49:6
o Zeph 2:9, “Therefore, I live, An affirmation of YHVH of Hosts, Elohim of Israel, Surely, Moab is as Sodom, And the sons of Ammon as Gomorrah, An overrunning of nettles and salt-pits, And a desolation — unto the age. A residue of My people do seize them, And a remnant of My nation inherit them.”
o Hebrew Transliterated (Zeph 2:9) LKN ChY-’aNY N’aM YHVH TShB’aVTh ‘aLHY YShUr’aL KY-MV’aB KSDM ThHYH VBNY ‘yMVN K’yMUrH MMShQ ChUrVL VMKUrH-MLCh VShMMH ‘yD-’yVLM Sh’aUrYTh ‘yMY YBZVM VYThUr GVY YNChLVM.
o Jeremiah 25:27, “And thou hast said unto them: Thus said YHVH of Hosts Elohim of Israel, Drink ye, yea drink abundantly, And vomit, and fall, and rise not, Because of the sword that I am sending among you.”
o Hebrew Transliterated (Jer. 25:27) V’aMUrTh ‘aLYHM KH-’aMUr YHVH TShB’aVTh ‘aLHY YShUr’aL ShThV VShKUrV VQYV VNPhLV VL’a ThQVMV MPhNY HChUrB ‘aShUr ‘aNKY ShLCh BYNYKM.
o Jeremiah 49:6, “And after this I turn back the captivity of the sons of Ammon, An affirmation of YHVH.”
o Hebrew Transliterated (Jer. 49:6): V’aChUrY-KN ‘aShYB ‘aTh-ShBVTh BNY-’yMVN N’aM-YHVH.
o If olam meant forever here, then the sons of Ammon would become a “desolation forever” and “rise no more” (Zeph. 2:9, Jer. 25:27), but we see that YHVH does eventually “turn back the captivity of the sons of Ammon” (Jer. 49:6). And recorded history also confirms (according to Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (§ 119)) that the Ammonites were still a numerous people in Palestine hundreds of years later in the second century A.D.
o Isaiah 32:13-15 “Over the ground of my people thorn — brier goeth up, Surely over all houses of joy of the exulting city, Surely the palace hath been left, The multitude of the city forsaken, Fort and watch-tower hath been for dens unto the age, A joy of wild asses — a pasture of herds; Till emptied out on us is the Spirit from on high, And a wilderness hath become a fruitful field, And the fruitful field for a forest is reckoned.”
o Hebrew transliterated: ‘yL ‘aDMTh ‘yMY QVTSh ShMYUr Th’yLH KY ‘yL-KL-BThY MShVSh QUrYH ‘yLYZH. KY-’aUrMVN NTSh HMVN ‘yYUr ‘yZB ‘yPhL VBChN HYH B’yD M’yUrVTh ‘yD-’yVLM MShVSh PhUr’aYM MUr’yH ‘yDUrYM. ‘yD-Y’yUrH ‘yLYNV UrVCh MMUrVM VHYH MDBUr LKUrML VKUrML LY’yUr YChShB.
Here are some biblical examples where “olam” refers to a past time, and is best translated as “old” or “of old”. Genesis 6:4, Deuteronomy 32:7 (“remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations”), Joshua 24:2, 1 Samuel 27:8, Job 22:15.
Now consider this modern translation of Psalm 45:6: “Thy throne, O God, [is] age-during, and for ever [Heb. olam va’ad], A sceptre of uprightness [Is] the sceptre of Thy kingdom.”
• Hebrew transliterated, KS’aK ‘aLHYM ‘yVLM V’yD ShBT MYShUr ShBT MLKVThK.
• The King James Version incorrectly translates olam va’ad as “for ever and ever,” which would not be logical because the Bible uses this same Hebrew phrase, olam va’ad, in Exodus 15:18 (perhaps best translated as YHVH reigns — to the age, and beyond)’. If olam meant “forever” by itself, why do we find constructs (such as va’ad) which tell us there is a “beyond” this “forever,” as in Exodus 15:18.
And see Daniel 12:2-3 (Note the contrast between olam and olam va’ad.): `And the multitude of those sleeping in the dust of the ground do awake, some to life age-during [olam], and some to reproaches — to abhorrence age-during. And those teaching do shine as the brightness of the expanse, and those justifying the multitude as stars to the age and olam va’ad.
o Hebrew Transliterated, VUrBYM MYShNY ‘aDMTh-’yPhUr YQYTShV ‘aLH LChYY ‘yVLM V’aLH LChUrPhVTh LDUr’aVN ‘yVLM. VHMShKLYM YZHUrV KZHUr HUrQY’y VMTShDYQY HUrBYM KKVKBYM L’yVLM V’yD.
See also Micah 7:18 — YHVH delights in mercy and his wrath is not ongoing (Ead).
As a concluding thought here, scholars will note that the Hebrew noun ‘olam is related or derived from the verb ‘alam, which means “to hide,” “keep secret,” or “obscure.” Knowing that, it helps confirm that this question is meant to be a saga of uncovering something hidden or confusing. Remember Proverbs 25:2, “The honor of Elohim is to hide a word; and the honor of sovereigns to probe a word.”
2. Alma (an Aramaic word)
Note that because “alma” (Aramaic word) means both world and age, it is showing the interconnected relationship of space and time. In this, the literal bible shows another example of how it is thousands of years ahead of modern science.
When we recognize the finite limitations on a planet’s space, we must also recognize the finite limitations on a planet’s time. The Book of Revelation and Book of Isaiah confirm the current earth and its heavens will be destroyed in due time – they are both finite in space and finite in time. Rev. 21:1-7; Isaiah 65:17-25. The place of torment, also, is described in the bible as being a place (a world) that is finite in both space and time; or if you prefer, hell is not everywhere.
The plural expression Ealm Ealmyn translates as “an age/world ages/worlds”. Never in regards to punishment, but only optimistically in reference to the Father and Yahshua is this phrase (Ealm Ealmyn) ever followed by the word amyn (“continuing” or “perpetual” or “amen”). The word amyn (“continuing”) does not appear after the punishment period of the fallen ones, Ealm Ealmyn (“age/world ages/worlds”).
Indeed, in Rev 21:4, the text refers to the new earth when it says ‘and death not will be’. Note that this same statement is conspicuously absent to describe the dragon’s punishment. Rather, the dragon’s punishment is explicitly described as “second/dragon death” in the very next passage at Rev 21:8. After this phrase ‘second/dragon death’ appears in Rev 21:8, the dragon is not discussed again in the Book of Revelation, neither in Chapter 21 nor in Chapter 22. That is because the text just told us that the dragon is dead, no longer in existence.
If misread, the phrase age-during even fails to capture the essence of the unknown that the word ‘olam’ and ‘alma’ better captures. Perhaps only with a humble approach to studying the ‘ages’ does one realize that he does not know for certain when one age ends and another begins, let alone would he confidently predict the future (prophecy). Perhaps the humble man just recognizes that alma means alma.
So, if we are literalists (to minimize adding or subtracting from the bible), we see the words “eternal,” “everlasting,” and “forever and ever” were added (translated) into the bible by men of the hierarchical churches (Catholic & Protestant), who changed the Greek word “aion,” and the Aramaic word ‘alma,’ and the Hebrew word “olam.” Just how these false translations came into existence is covered in more detail in section three below.
So I invite readers to read for themselves in context every occurrence of the Aramaic word “Alma” in the gospel of John and the gospel of Matthew. See charts above.
Aramaic Grammar Note. The Aramaic suffix “n” at the end of a noun makes it plural. There are very few instances where “alma” is plural in the literal gospel: EaLMiYN (see for example Matthew 6:13). In 1 Pet. 1:25, note that Peter uses the plural Ealmyn alone (i.e., without writing Ealm before it) – this further emphasizes that Ealmyn is translated ‘worlds/ages’, not forevers.
Likewise,another key grammatical point is that the Aramaic definite article “a” (aleph) attached to the noun provides context. Usually there is an “a” on the end of “alma” so it means the world/age. But where there is no “a”, then the word is “alm” – meaning a world/age. Some other useful grammar tips: (1) “Oe” at the beginning of ‘alma’ means the word is prefaced by “and” or “yet”, (2) “B” at the beginning of ‘alma’ means the word is prefaced by “in”, (3) “D” at the beginning of ‘alma’ means the word is prefaced by “of”, (4) “L” at the beginning of ‘alma’ means the word is prefaced by “to” or “unto”, and (5) when both “D” and “L” appear together at the beginning of ‘alma’, the translation “age-during” will usually make sense, but the best practice still remains to translate everything literally: “of to the age/world”. Indeed, the literal translation better captures the idea of the subject being both “of” (springing from) and also “to” (pointing toward), as we see with shapes like the torus for example.
3. Aion (Greek)
As scholar Marvin Vincent wrote regarding the Greek translation of aionios, “The word always carries the notion of time, and not of eternity. It always means a period of time. Otherwise it would be impossible to account for the plural, or for such qualifying expressions as this age, or the age to come. It does not mean something endless or everlasting. . . . The adjective αιωνιος in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting.” (p. 59, vol. IV, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament)
An adjective cannot have a greater meaning than the noun from which it is derived. Hourly, for example, cannot pertain to a week, or month, or year. The “ly” indicates it belongs to an “hour.” So too with “aionIOS” — the “ios” ending tells us that it pertains to “aion” that is, an indeterminate period of time. See e.g., Commentary on Matthew 25:46, by Gary Amirault; The Greek Word Aion – Aionios, by John Hanson This amount of time can vary greatly, but it still must remain within the parameters of time.
Eternal could mean beyond time, but to say it means time continues infinitely would be an assumption. Once in an eternal state (outside the time dimension), it would also be an assumption that something (i.e., a human or angel) is indestructible or cannot be utterly transformed into an entirely new being. And assumptions are dangerous. For example, when the bible describes YHVH as living to the ages of ages, why assume that YHVH is categorically limited to that single definition? It would be like saying that because YHVH is described as “the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” that he is the Elohim of only those three men.
4. Testing The Word “Eternal”
Even if something exists outside the time dimension (eternally), why would we assume it cannot be destroyed from whatever dimensions it happens to rely upon? The bible says the Creator can utterly destroy soul and body. Matthew 10:28.
As this article makes clear, ‘everlasting torment in hell’ is a false doctrine. By contrast, the concept of an eternal life for the faithful and law abiding (a life outside the time dimension of this world) is not at odds with the ancient literal gospel. This is because the gospel uses special words to describe perpetual life. But those special words do not describe torment, because torment is described as destruction and death. Indeed, most descriptions of torment are described as chaff burning (in seconds). See the video above (Part 2) for scriptural examples.
Even for the chosen, the literal gospel never used any sentence or phrase that was so explicit as to guarantee a life continuing for a heavenly infinity (everlasting time) such that the soul could not be destroyed later or converted/given back toward a finite world (i.e., if the soul later transgressed YHVH and was cast from heaven to earth).
With that said, I still rationalize that the world ‘alma’ can only be translated as ‘eternal’ if the translator is willing to make a doctrinal assumption (promise of a life outside the time dimension) that is not technically present in the text itself. There is no statement defining ‘alma’ as a life outside the time dimension. And likewise, there is no statement defining alma as a time period that is everlasting or has no end. To the contrary, there is an abundance of bible verses (many are cited in this article) that rely on the word ‘alma’ to explicitly set the context for a limited time period (see my charts for examples).
Perhaps the reason we cannot find the phrase “no end” in the gospel is because we find instead the promise in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I work all new.”
The closest reference to “no end” in the gospel is in Matthew 24:25, and even it is qualified as I explain in my alma chart (click here).
I can find no statement or phrase in the bible that promises total immunity from punishment with no possibility whatsoever of there being an end of time for your existence. If such an immunity was provided, you’d think there would be some further discussion of it as well. There is neither mention of it in the gospel, nor discussion of it.
Note that in Hebrew the phrase for infinite is “no end” (אינסוף, which is the conjugation of אין (no) and סוף (end/bound)).
“And in ancient Greek word “ápeiron”(neuter) is composed by the negative prefix “a” , i.e. the so-called “alpha privative” used to express absence or negation, plus an adaptation of the neuter noun “peiras”/”peirar”/”peras”. The term “”peiron” does not exist in fact in ancient Greek. In ancient Greek philosophy, especially in Anaximander of Miletus ( 610 BC – 546 BC), the “ápeiron” was “an unlimited or indefinite indestructible substance, out of which individual things were created and destroyed”. Therefore the “ápeiron” was the “boundless”, the “infinite”, i.e. “that which has no boundaries”, which has no origin, because it is itself the origin of all things, i.e. the ‘arché’.” (Source).
The bible makes it clear that ages do indeed have an end, as we see for example in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He made all things beautiful in their time, and indeed gave the age to their heart, yet so that man might not find what God has made from the beginning even until the end.”
For those willing to consider the first Book of Enoch (whether in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek or Ethiopic), we see for example the following translation by Michael Knibb, “But you formerly were spiritual, living an eternal, immortal life for all the generations of the world.” Enoch 15:6. Notice how the immortality is put in the context of a limited duration (the generations of the world), which further suggests the word eternal is better translated as age – we see this logically by the context. Indeed, this also reminds of the finite immortality of some people during the five month locust plagues of Revelation – these people can’t die for five months, they are only immortal for five months. See also Ez 4:4-6 (Ezekiel bears Israel’s punishment 390 days for 390 years). It appears our Messiah recognized at least one aspect of the Book of Enoch, as we compare Enoch 15:7 with Matthew 22:29. If you do read Enoch, my experience is that it is helps to not translate “olam”. Rather, just say “olam” and you’ll understand the book better.
C. Definitions of Hell
The word ‘hell’ in most modern bible translations is actually translated from other words meaning different things, such as Gehenna (Aramaic = fiery pit), Sheol (Hebrew & Aramaic = grave or underworld), Tartarus (Greek = abyss of greek mythology), Hades (Greek = underworld). For historical background on these translations, consider the references throughout this article.
Over time, with the help of councils and emperors, the hierarchical church and others consolidated them all into one word, “hell.” In the most literal bibles, each of these different places are associated with a finite place and a finite time. Christians and Catholics accept the finite limitation in space, but too many desperately and wrongly fear a “hell” that is everlasting because that is what is often taught as doctrine.
Recall the references in the gospel of Matthew above. The messiah does not preach of an everlasting torture prison. Rather, we see in Matthew 10:28, “And awe not of them who slaughter the body and are not able to slaughter the soul: and awe of him who is able to destroy soul and body in Gihana, the Valley of Burning.” The aramaic word ‘destroy’ in this passage is ebad (NaOB’eD). Note that it is used explicitly with regard to both the body and soul. It appears therefore that Yahshua was challenging the claims of the Egyptians and their Greek progeny that claimed there was an everlasting hell for immortal souls. See also Matthew 7:13-14 (destruct); and 21:41-44 (pulverize). Revelation 20:14 “And death and sheol were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second/dragon death.” And remember Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto Eloha who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 3:20, “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” Isaiah 26:14 regarding destruction of the wicked. Isaiah 28:28 regarding YHVH does not thresh in perpetuity.
An example of the need for reproof: Peter had been convinced from his childhood that the Messiah would never die (Matt. 16:22), and had to revise his theology when the Messiah corrected him on it shortly before the crucifixion. People should always be ready and willing to do an about-face regarding the false doctrines of men whenever and wherever we are confronted with truth. Ezekiel 33:14-16.
For a useful article refuting the idea that a loving Father would allow everlasting hell, and also providing an analysis of the words that were wrongly translated as “hell”, see: The HyperTexts, by Michael Burch.
“According to Basil Atkinson, 28 Hebrew nouns and 23 verbs are generally translated ‘destruction’ or ‘to destroy’ in [a common] English Bible. Approximately half of these words are used to describe the final destruction of the wicked…. Interested readers can find an extensive analysis of such texts in the studies by Basil Atkinson and Edward Fudge. Only a sampling of significant texts are considered here. Several Psalms describe the final destruction of the wicked with dramatic imagery (Ps 1:3-6; 2:9-12; 11:1-7; 34:8-22; 58:6-10; 69:22-28; 145:17, 20). In Psalm 37, for example, we read that the wicked “will soon fade like grass” (v. 2), “they shall be cut off . . . and will be no more” (vv. 9-10), they will “perish . . . like smoke they vanish away” (v. 20), “transgressors shall be altogether destroyed” (v. 38). Psalm 1, loved and memorized by many, contrasts the way of the righteous with that of the wicked. Of the latter it says that “the wicked shall not stand in the judgment” (v. 5). They will be “like chaff which the wind drives away” (v. 4). “The way of the wicked will perish” (v. 6). Again, in Psalm 145, David affirms: “The Lord preserves all who love him; but all the wicked he will destroy” (v. 20). This sampling of references, on the final destruction of the wicked is in complete harmony with the teaching of the rest of Scripture.” Hell: Torment or Annihilation, by Samuele Bacchiocchi.
The biblical person Job appears to have prayed that he might go to Sheol to be relieved of his suffering so that he might later be remembered by YHVH to be called out from Sheol. See, Job 14:13 (”O that in Sheol Thou wouldst conceal me, Hide me till the turning of Thine anger, Set for me a limit, and remember me.”)
3. The Bible Warns Of False Scribes and Religious Deception
The bible teaches that Satan is an imposter, and his methods are often religious. The bible warns of “the false pen of the scribes.” Jeremiah 8:8. See also Isaiah 10:1. And remember what the Messiah said of the Pharisees (John 5:42), who claimed they knew the word of God, but they relied on their own traditions to set aside the truth. They passed these traditions down through bible translations, based on organized religious hierarchies. (Matt. 22:29). I think we are all deceived in measure, which is part of the saga the bible says would happen (e.g., Eliyah versus Edom).
Indeed, it appears quite clear that not all biblical texts and translations and interpretations are beautiful from the perspective of our Father. Indeed, it is widely recognized that modern bibles have been subject to certain mistranslations, edits, and additions over the years, especially by priests. Some books are canonized and others aren‘t. Even the bible itself advises that many messages are hidden (e.g., Proverbs 25:2), and that we should guard against deception by false priests, scribes, and prophets, though it‘s unclear to what extent these falsifiers were able to succeed in their deceptions (so we have to ‘test the fruit‘ of bible verses).
Examples: Ezekiel 20:25 (“Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. I defiled them through their very gifts, in their offering up all their firstborn, in order that I might horrify them, so that they might know that I am the Lord”); Jeremiah 5:31 (”the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests subjugate by their hands”); Jeremiah 8:8 (false pen of the scribes); Jeremiah 14:14-16 (”The prophets prophesy falsehoods in my name: I neither sent them nor misvahed them nor worded to them: they prophesy to you a false vision and divination and worthlessness and the deceit of their heart…. the sword and famine consumes those prophets: and the people to whom they prophesy are cast out in the outways of Yeru Shalem at the face of the famine and the sword: and there is no one to entomb them — them, their women, their sons and their daughters:”); 1 Kings 22:23 (a false spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets); Isaiah 10:1; Isa. 28:7 (priest and prophet err inadvertently through intoxicants); Lamentations 2:14 (prophets see vain burdens and seductions); Ezekiel 14:9 (”And if the prophet, when he is deluded, and words a word, I Yah Veh delude that prophet, and I spread my hand on him, and desolate him from midst my people Yisra El.”); Hosea 9:7-8 (”the prophet is a fool: the man of the spirit is insane, because of the abundance of your perversity and the great enmity… the prophet is a snare of the snarer in all his ways;”); Jonah 3:4-10 (false 40 day prophecy); Micah 3:5-11 (prophesying for money); Matt. 16:22 (even after following him for sometime, Peter continued to falsely believe the Messiah would never die); Matt. 22:29 and John 5:42 (on the teachings of the Pharisees); Matthew 7:15-20 (”beware of false prophets…by their fruits you know them.”).
And here is additional reading for those inclined to mine these dark caves for occasional jewels of useful perspective: The Edited Bible, by John Van Seters; Who Wrote the Bible?, by Richard Friedman; The Dark Side of Christian History, by Helen Ellerbe; Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart Ehrman; Translation Errors and Forgeries in the Bible, by B.A. Robinson; Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament, by Bart Ehrman; Forgery in Christianity: A Documented Record of the Foundations of the Christian Religion, by Joseph Wheless.
So, bible translators change scriptures all the time to match their theology. It’s a phenomenon (often even a business) that has spawned much division in Christianity and Catholicism. This problem has been so blatant that past monks working in the Vatican have admitted to changing the bible at the request of popes. Frankly, one doesn’t need to be an expert to figure out how insane it is to tell children that they’ll burn for infinity if they don’t follow a particular bible translation. Most people (children included) know little to nothing of the history of mistranslations, edits, book burning, papal dictates, etc., etc.
Shall we ignore these historical experiences? The messiah instructed, as witnessed in the gospel, that he does not want elitism for us here on earth (Matt 23:8-12), but rather, he wants service (Matt 5-7). A bad bible translation serves the same master today as it did in the messiah’s time.
Historically, the group in the Messiah’s time who claimed they were the authority on scripture interpretation were the Pharisees. They amassed much wealth and made their own rules – an example that certainly counsels in favor of personal humility on this issue, as well as caution in dealing with similar organizations and persons today.
Throughout history we see translators could be labeled as heretics, tried for heresy and burned at the stake for translating a more accurate meaning of words against a conventionally held belief. Heresy was simply going against the religious authority and its accepted views of the time. Not only is this problematic on its face, but on top of this, most people strain to grasp that translated texts are not the inspired ‘word of God’ but rather only a translation of a text. And the Bible warns us about translating in error (see quotes above), so we have biblical confirmation this has happened.
I feel that when a man desires everlasting torment to be placed on another creature, that is a man thinking in his most evil state of mind. And indeed this example of condemnation “in the name of God” provides compelling evidence that mankind as a species cannot be trusted with unchecked power over spacetime, lest the evil appetites of torturers (such as those that manifested in full splendor during the dark ages) be permitted to perfect their injustices.
4. Everlasting Hell Is An Evil Doctrine, Propagated Through Hate & Deception
It is natural that we analyze the ‘everlasting hell deception’ logically, because it allows us to check the source and strength of our faith/trust in YHVH. For starters, while it is conceivable to a human being that a superior being could transcend time and then torture the inferior population infinitely for finite crimes, even though the superior being created the inferior being with foreknowledge of its failure, why would anyone ascribe this motive to our Father, especially when there are more literal bible translations out there that require a different conclusion?
Logically, I think our ultimate Authority over earth wants bible readers to be faced with all feasible translations of “olam” and “alma” and “gehenna” etc for several reasons, such as (1) so that we learn something about the nature of fear and love, (2) so that we will take grace seriously, (3) so that we learn something about ourselves and show our true colors, (4) to provide an extreme illustration of the harm that comes from false doctrines of men and the hierarchical church. What does your heart tell you?
In my experience, when a person is told that there is an everlasting hell, he or she may exhibit the following negative behaviors: (1) hope that God does not exist, (2) belief that God does not do justice, and (3) preaching the everlasting hell doctrine to others to help share the burden of their own psychological fear.
Truly, the fear of everlasting torture drains you of love. And if you preach it to others, and it actually takes root in that child, it will drain them eventually too. I think it is evil. That is my personal experience.
The “everlasting hell” translation by men of the church serves an earthly purpose – to increase elitist religious power over the populace. This makes for ‘bad fruit’ from a translation. Isaiah 29:13. Indeed, why would an Authority of mercy punish His creation eternally for finite sins? The bible says repeatedly that the Father is just, and even that “He is not angry at all times.” Psalm 7:11. Where in His law has He ever proscribed infinite torture for finite crime? Our Authority is consistent. Isn’t it more likely that, just as the bible and history confirm, certain members of the church engaged in mistranslation? When I read Mark 9:44 (”Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”) I see the Messiah quoting Isaiah 66:24, which refers to the time period (age) of the millennial reign of Christ. During this limited time it appears there is a finite hell for evildoers that none may escape at that time, rather than a place of infinite torture. See also, Revelation 20:14 “And death and sheol were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Death is repeatedly described in literal-based bibles as extinguishment, not everlasting existence and torture.
And let’s look at some other scriptural examples too. Recall Revelation 9:11 where people who are still alive on earth wish they could die but instead are tortured by lion-headed locusts for five months because they accepted the mark of the beast — finite torture, not infinite. And recall the information about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 – the text never even suggests the rich man’s torture goes on infinitely, so you would be adding to the bible if you presume everlasting torture. Similarly, you would be subtracting from the bible if you presumed there is no punishment for evil. Fire is many things in the bible – a refining and purifying one (Malachi 3:2), a light to guide us (Deuteronomy 1:33), and a consuming fire designed to extinguish evil (Deuteronomy 4:24).
5. Context Is Key
A. Test the Fruit, And Know That Some Is Not Meant To Be Eaten
Context is very important in original bible languages. In many places, the bible tells us to be very careful with the words of scripture. Recall Matthew 13:3-19 (farmer sows good seed [the gospel], but if it falls by the wayside, Satan snatches it from your heart).
There is a Christian spirituality out there that doesn’t require us to pretend we know more than we do. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the Messiah counseled for humility.
Let’s consider some examples directly from the gospel: See John 7:6-8 for an example where Yahshua describes that his ‘time is not yet finished’ and that the apostles ‘time at all moments is here’. And see also John 5:37, where Yahshua is quoted using the word memthum (mem-mem-tav-waw-mem), which is translated as “ever” in the sentence, “And the Father who sent me, he testifies concerning me, not his voice ever have you heard, nor his appearance you have seen.” Who would claim that Yahshua lacked the vocabulary to describe infinity if he wanted to? Would he not use words like zbna (time) and mmThum (ever) and la (not)? So, because he did not use such vocabulary ever to describe infinite time for torment (not even once in the entire gospel), why would churches assume/translate the phrase into the text by mistranslating the word for world/age? What is to be gained by adding leavening to promises about the world/age, or adding fear about a world/age to come? Who has benefitted throughout history from the threat of everlasting torment unless the soul agrees to give its allegiance to their dogma and pay tithes? Answer: mystery Babylon, and her harlots go by many names – they are all over the globe yet they adhere and pay service to the mother church’s core dogma.
B. Historical Insights Into Time and Punishment
In reviewing the history of philosophy and religion with regard to ‘time & punishment’, the key thing to recognize is that human philosophers are just guessing. The philosophers who were powerful and wealthy enough to write books and have them widely disseminated in early biblical times were just able to perpetuate their guesses across the ages, even as their nations fell. And those guesses still retained their original character as guesses. What we see, then, is just a long tradition of educated guessing where younger men ever rely upon older men who were also guessing.
Logic is indeed essential to an honest approach to our question of ‘time & punishment’, and certainly more reliable than the lingering words of once wealthy philosophers and priests that just so happened to find the approval of warring kings and communities.
Like the Greek philosophers, I too cannot prove an answer in physics with 100% certainty – I have no absolute power over space and time in order to both say and enforce my answer! My brain, like yours, is quite limited and susceptible to being fooled regarding reality (as for example by the herb Salvia Divinorum if you need an example). Knowing this, I rationalize that my tools on earth simply help me to assess the relative likelihood of events and concepts subject to my perception. In weighing those likelihoods here, after having researched a great deal of the historical record on this topic, I find it is a smart and defensible risk to trust that everlasting torture is either impossible or else extremely unlikely. And even if I were wrong as to its likelihood, I feel confident logically defending my choice of risk (or risk-analysis) based on the information available to me.
With that said, I recognize the possibility/argument that energy simply exists in the universe, and it could be captured by ‘evil’ or ‘non-sentient pain-inducing’ forces and put to seemingly indestructible uses outside of the time dimension, or on an exponential curve of spacetime that was very ‘long’. And in this hypothetical world, if there were no ‘absolute power’ that adamantly enforced justice, then there would also theoretically be a risk that any type of evil (or again, non-sentient pain-inducing force) could perpetuate itself ad infinitum without checks or balances, and might even be able to cling to a being such as yourself and leave you ‘forgotten’ like a grain of sand in a galaxy on the fringes of the universe – lost and inconsequential, yet still alive in a state that might be described from your hypothetical perspective as everlasting torment. If this state perpetuated for some ‘ungodly’ amount of spacetime, even if ultimately finite, that would seem to be a prima facie injustice. Knowing this, our mind gravitates toward hope (even trust) that there is a power in the universe that helps the suffering, that shepherds the lost, that redeems the sinful, that prevents everlasting torture. Thank goodness for the hope we have in YHVH who searches the dark places, and the biblical messiah chosen to serve as our example of redemption. Right or wrong in hyperdimensional reality, our minds are capable of recognizing this type of hope.
Revelation 21 confirms that this earth will be destroyed at the end of the age, and those who are not saved are also destroyed. I expect there will be some kind of proportional punishment and ultimate destruction (not everlasting torment) for Satan and his armies that lead the charge in the Gog & Magog war at the end of the next age, which is the final age of this earth before the new heavens and new earth are gifted.
With regard to the timeline implications of Revelation 14:9-11, 20:10 and 21:8, I cannot say for certain that some kind of very long punishment is prohibited by the literal text — I just know that my logic abhors the idea of everlasting punishment, and the literal text of the bible suggests that the consequence of sin is death, not everlasting torment. Even if Satan or some other being had attempted to use energy and power to cause perpetual torment to others, I still do not feel that a fair punishment would be to cause him everlasting torment, even as a deterrent to others.
Revelation chapters 20-22 are insightful. We learn that the One speaking is the “beginning and the completion”, also described as the aleph and the tav (21:6). Does the tav go right back into aleph, like in a torus that has no end in some directions? We learn that death (or the dead) and sheol are tossed into the fire. But we also learn in 22:11 that some who do evil will do evil again. And we learn that on the new earth that murderers will be outside the great city (Rev. 22:15). Why is the second death not referred to as the final death? Another translation for the word “second” in Aramaic is dragon. The phrase ‘dragon death’ makes me think that evil simply becomes identified/associated/connected with the dragon that is dead, or perhaps dead in a state like Ouroboros (constantly eating itself in a never-ending circle?
My human logic invites me to ask — while it is exceedingly frightening that any supernatural power could wield an absolute power that large, isn’t it necessary that we hope for an absolute power to protect against that very possibility of everlasting torment? This question puzzles me, and perhaps it is destined to be so.
Remember again that the Hebrew noun ‘olam is related to the verb ‘alam, which means “to hide,” “keep secret,” or “obscure.” Knowing that, it helps confirm that this question is meant to be a saga of uncovering something hidden or confusing.
Can a finite action produce an infinite reaction in a just universe? I think not. From a physics standpoint, we find countless applications of the mathematical value for infinity. Some of these applications help us build things in the physical world, while some are purely theoretical. Moreover, time is one of those dimensions we can take out of many equations for both practical and theoretical applications.
So then, our question of ‘destruction of a person’ in the logical and biblical sense has a strong interplay with theoretical physics – our question might be understood in terms of ‘destruction of matter’ or ‘transfer of energy’. And as we enter these fields of study, we naturally appreciate how little we really know and understand about the current nature of mass and light, let alone their ultimate creation and destruction.
For example, try to figure out whether a photon is a medium or a messenger or a reality, and consider the nature of its mass, and also how a photon is created and destroyed/transferred. If you think you have ultimate answers here, you are lying to yourself. Consider what happens to a photon when it hits a wall of perfect mirrors compared to imperfect walls… I would suggest Feynman’s classic admonition is appropriate for me here “Shut up and calculate”, but what if a key purpose of our discussion about ‘everlasting life’ is to contrast parallels (whatever we can find) between the mathematics of energy transfer and the logic of word meaning and translation.
I think the goal here is to enthusiastically analyze, rather than dogmatically conclude. Here is a fun article to get you started: http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/enoch-and-elijah-and-einstein/; or consider Bars’ work to describe a six-dimensional universe (4 space dimensions + 2 time dimensions): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_time_dimensions
I also think for purposes of moral and logical deduction, it will be just fine for matter to be completely transferred (born again into a new state of being). Whether we claim this makes the human soul eternal or everlasting would then be of little consequence morally, so long as the original state is utterly destroyed/transferred in such a manner that no being of energy (human, angel, or otherwise) can be rationally said to exist in a state of everlasting torment. As we are not physically able to both know and enforce our answer with absolute certainty, we can only decide whether to trust that a righteous answer will be enforced by one(s) with authority. In this, I give my trust to YHVH. It’s a rational choice for me, a smart risk from my limited perspective.
Based on my literal-based bible research, I rationalize that ‘everlasting hell’ is a false and evil doctrine. It is not scriptural, but rather is inherited from the dark minds of evil men.
The literal text of the bible is the truth – it states that all punishment is proportional, and only the Father and those who live in Him (namely the Son), live perpetually.
Take comfort in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I work all new.”