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As of this moment, I do not believe in Hell. There is not a place called Hell where people are burning, screaming or suffering.

I remember many years ago hearing about someone who dug a hole in the earth so deep, he could hear the screams of Hell. I got really excited at the time, thinking it confirmed my worldview that Hell is a real place that unbelievers go to when they die. There are many reasons why I should not have believed that story, but, first and foremost, I should have rejected it because Hell does not exist. So many believe that unbelievers die and immediately go to this fiery pit of despair. So many are disturbed because they think that many people they know are suffering in this terrible place. But I do not believe this is true. I don’t believe Hell exists.

Now, before you begin to throw things are your computer screen, cursing me out, telling me to go to Hell, hear me out. I did not say that I do not believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment or that I don’t believe in Hell at all. I said that I don’t believe in Hell right now. Let me put it this way, I don’t believe that Hell is open for business yet . . . at least for humans.

When people who have not trusted in Christ die they go to a place to await judgement. I am not sure what this place is or what it is like, but I am increasingly convinced that unbelievers are not in Hell yet. God will not assign them to this darkness until they have been judged. You see, there are two types of people: 1) those who had Christ take their judgement on the cross and 2) those who would rather stand before God on their own to be judged.

The book of Revelation chapter 20 helps me out here:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This suggests that it is not until people are resurrected (Rev. 20:5) that God judges them. God does not judge those who have trusted Christ and are in the Book of Life. But he does judge those who do not trust Christ. They will be judged according to their works and then assigned various levels of punishment based on what they have done (Luke 12:27-28).

Why Do People Believe Hell Exists Right Now?

I could be wrong about this. There may be a Hell before judgement. After all, it would seem that there are certain demons who are already in Hell suffering for their sins.

Jude 1:6

And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. (NAS)

However, even here, the angels are kept in “eternal bonds under darkness.” What is the purpose of these bonds? To hold them until “the judgement of the great day.” Properly speaking, this is not Hell yet. Again, Hell does not open for business until after judgement.

What About the Rich Man and Lazarus?

The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is probably the primary reason most people believe Hell exists right now. And it might very well teach this. Here is the key part:

Luke 16:22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

Doesn’t this prove that Hell (or a temporary type of Hell) exists right now? It could, but I think there is another way to look at it. Parables are very difficult places to arrive at systematic theology. We often try to make them walk on all fours, drawing theological conclusions from every detail. However, parables are only meant to have one main point. The rest of the story supports this point, but should not be taken too literally. For example, this parable speaks about the punishment of Hell being from fire (Luke 16:24). But I don’t think that we need to conclude that Hell is literal fire. Also, this parable suggests that we will be able to see those in hell across a great chasm, but I don’t think this is true. It is just an illustration of the eternality and agony of Hell. I believe that the main point of the parable is directed to the Pharisees, who, as we see just before the parable, were lovers of money (Luke 16:14) and thought that one’s status in the afterlife was reflected by how much money they had. Christ shows that the rich man (who was never named, suggesting his lack of influence in eternity) goes to Hell and the Poor man (who was named “Lazarus,” meaning “God Helps”) goes to Abraham’s bosom (a symbol of high status). I see this as speaking of both men’s places after the judgement, but we need to be careful about seeing this as a doctrine of Hell.

So Where Do Unbelievers Go Before the Judgement?

Where do unbelievers go when they die? I believe it is some sort of waiting place. It is not in the presence of God and it is not a great place to be. Those who die without Christ are existing without their bodies in a state of consciousness, at least to some degree. We don’t know much about them. The Bible is virtually silent on the subject. Their may be some “place” they are all at or they may all be here roaming the earth. This might explain some people’s encounters with ghosts! We are just not sure.

Practical Implications

If Hell is not open for business yet, what difference does that make for us? I think it makes a lot of difference. Foremost of all is this: if God is waiting for the final judgement to assign people to Hell, how much more should we reserve our judgement. It is so hard to think of someone being in Hell right now. Many of us have had loved ones who have died and we don’t believe that they ever trusted Christ. The anguish we suffer because of this is both disillusioning and, often, unbearable. However, we do not have to suffer from such thoughts now. Indeed, we should not suffer from them. One day those of us who have trusted in Christ will stand with God at the Great White judgement throne. Then we will see and understand why people go to hell and understand their various levels of punishment. Because of this, we will understand that their assignment to Hell is just.

So, in the end, let us be very careful about speaking about those who we believe are going to Hell. If God waits until the general resurrection to judge them, how much more should we?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    12 replies to "Why I Don’t Believe in Hell Right Now"

    • C Michael Patton


    • Gareth

      Do you think there is a meaningful distinction in the greek when it differentiates between Hades and Gehenna, both of which the KJV (for example) translate as hell?

    • William Farris

      I don’t see any effective difference between this view – hell not yet – and hell eventually, unless there is some kind of “second chance” scenario a la C.S.Lewis, etc. Hell is metaphorical in scripture: outer darkness, lake of fire, a conflicting set of images. It is perhaps the most difficult stumbling block in witnessing aside from the problem of evil. I get asked all the time “you don’t believe in hell, do you?” to which I reply no, not according to the conventional understanding, including the questioners. At least it helps to build bridges. But this is why John Stott and others adopt an annihilationist view and many are flirting with some kind of universalism. The problem is pretty big and an approach of humility and lacking certainty in these areas is a mature way to engage culture today.

    • Rob

      This really doesn’t solve the problem. It just doesn’t.

    • Richard Amoah

      Hi Guys, am not a scholar but I hope that through me God will speak to you today to resolve this issues. Brothers we have received testimonies from many people testifying that God took their souls to hell and then heaven so that they can testify to the world about this places we believe in by faith even though we have not really see. The bottom line here is Jesus Christ loved us so much that He gave up His throne, left His holy place (heaven) and willing sacrificed His himself for mankind that who ever believed in Him will have life and his name written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).
      Once you have accepted Him as your lord and personal saviour, worship Him in spirit and in truth and live your life according to His laws then this would not EVEN be a topic for discussion. I know you are scared and you are trying to convince yourself that you don’t believe it exist so you can be at ease but you don’t need to be. Accept him if you have not and believe in Him and in yourself that your name is registered to be on the plane to HEAVEN. God be with you my brother. Peace

    • Barry

      I am not sure what the real point is. Even if you were correct that hell is not open for business, YET, if you are going to hell, you are going to hell – now or later – what is the difference. You mention about parables and the leadway they give us to not take the facts in the parable as “Gospel.” What makes you think the story Jesus told was a parable? Many believe it was a literal story Jesus spoke about. It is never referred to as a parable. He names names and speaks of real places without the use of metaphors. I like the creative way you got people’s attention, but you will have to leave me in the category on whether hell is open for business now – Hell yes!

    • Jeff A Ayers

      as usual, translations do matter.
      translating θανατος και ο αδης as death and hades is really not translating at all.
      in what discernable difference is there between “death and hades”.

      And death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them is accurate and and correct theologically.
      Therefore, there were (are) people in hell which were “delivered” up and resurrected to stand at the great white throne judgement.

      What possible difference does it make if you believe someone suffers in Hell for infinity plus 6,000 years?

      Perhaps a more biblical position would be to search out annihilationism espoused by people like Fudge.

      Or a biblical universal-ism, which espouses hell for the unsaved and then cast into the lake of fire after the GWTJ, but will be given eternal life when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This latter position gives the most biblical outcome to the issues of unlimited/ limited atonement issues.

      A proper understanding of John 6, all that the Father gives will come (drawn or dragged) to him, and ALL those he gives will be raised at the last day. And of course, we know that JOhn 11 tells us that when he is lifted up will draw ALL men unto himself.


      From my observation during our Lord Jesus Christ sent me in the company of one holy Angel to go to Hell to see “what is happening there”, I saw hundreds of burning in seas of golden -yellow thick flames of fire. These seas, lakes and rivers of coals of fire mixed with Brimstones had waves and currents in them and heads of people were seen floating and struggling to be free in them.

      There was constant roars of loud weeping, howling and cries for mercy and all sorts of horrible looking creatures, extremely wicked and violence loving were there unleashing all kinds of punishments on humans.

      People burn to charred skeletal frame, maggots take over their forms boring holes from all directions. Still they’d be in great pains.

      All classes of evil spirits take pleasure in afflicting people and fighting against one another there. These wicked creatures, snakes with large round human faces and zigzag teeth are in their billions. Yheu unplug people’s skeletal heads, arms, feey snd use the as ball, weapons to hit each other and other humans.

      But the grayish matter in the rib cages of each skeleton doesn’t tear or burn off. That is the soul and it remembers everything: talks, cries, laments rejecting the Lordship of our Savipur Jesus Christ, or taking His grace for granted, or patronizing the cults, witchcraft, immoral and ungodly lifestyles, skepticism, etc.

      Creatures that are thought to be extinct are also there and all their angers are turned against humans whom God prefers more than there.

      At the peak of the destruction of each individual’s body, the whole bone will.be gathered by a force, carefully arranged, sinews, flesh, hairs, every organ will be in him or her, but they’d be stark naked.

      The evil creatures will recognize him again am pounce on him, cutting his flesh and pulling them out with much pleasure
      Then the fire will envelope him, hungrily licking his body and within a few minutes, he will be burnt to a charred ugly looking hollow skeleton with gray matter inside his rib cage again.

      This cycle is endless and the place is called Hell. Humans are moved from section to section to serve put their various punishments according to the sins they committed in their life time.

      But the punishments for those who misled people from obeying the word of God or twisting it to suit their purposes, are the greatest inside Hell. Every human, all creatures and the fires are always on them.

      On the issue of seeing the ghosts of dead folks. Next time they appear to you, ask them to trll you in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ who they truly are? And their answers will help your understanding of the Holy Scripture which states that it is appointed unto men once to die and after that, judgement.

      Those are familiar spirits; impersonated spirits who have been existing from the first creation who were living in the souls of lots of people who’ve sojourned on this Earth. They’re the emissaries of the devil sent to deceive Earth dwellers, bringing in heresies and beguiling the simple.

      Without receiving the salvation given us by pur Lord Jesus Christ and remaining in Him by acts of obedience, Hell enlarges its mouths and swallows the rebellious.

      Heaven is the direct opposite of Hell. Together, I have had 18 near death experiences. You can get my book titled; “MY DEATH EXPERIENCES” BY ZION ODUM from Amazon or any other online bookstore.



      I have already said what I know is the truth, people are being misled into Hell. But we must tell them the truth: HELL IS ON

    • Greg Wudrick

      What do you think of the view of John Stott who thought it possible that hell may mean the annihilation of the soul rather than eternal conscious torment? I realize some apostates hold this belief but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. In case you haven’t read it here is Stott’s viewpoint in brief, written in 1988.
      I’m a former atheist who became an evangelical Christian over 40 years ago. I hesitate to discuss this topic with other Christians partly due to not wanting to be considered a heretic.
      Not sure if you see or reply to comments on older articles but would like your thoughts if you do.

    • barry kurth

      I enjoyed reading your thoughtful article. Recently I have read (and reread!) David Bentley Hart’s “That ALL Shall Be Saved” and Ilaria Ramelli’s “A Larger Hope”, both of which support the Universal Salvation point of view. And my wife and I recently discovered the wonderful 19th century Scottish author, George MacDonald, whom both C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton thought highly of. MacDonald was also a supporter of Universal Salvation.

      The “Infernalist” view (as Hart terms it) that Hell exists and is forever certainly seems to be the Majority Opinion these days among Christians, although such powerful early Christian writers such as Clement of Rome, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa also rejected the “Infernalist” position.

    • D

      We are already in Hell, that’s why God sacrificed Jesus by sending him to hell… Otherwise there’s no actual sacrifice and those passages “God sacrificed his only son” don’t make any sense.
      Re-read the bible knowing this and it will make more sense. It is also why there’s no hell as we are already here. And Jesus showed us the way.

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