As Christians, we know that we are not saved by our own good deeds and righteous works, but by the Love and mercy of God. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to suffer for our sins; and if we believe on Jesus and accept Him into our hearts, we are forgiven.--And, as John 3:36 promises, "He that believes on the Son of God has (now possesses) Everlasting Life"!
We can understand how someone who has heard the Good News of God's Love in Jesus, yet who wilfully and rebelliously hardens their heart and completely rejects the Lord's mercy and Salvation, is worthy of Hell! Jesus said, "He that rejects Me and receives not My Word has one that judges him: The Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the Last Day!"--John 12:48. But the question that has troubled many sincere Christians and students of the Word of God down through the ages has been this:
"What about the people who never heard the Gospel?--The poor, ignorant heathen who never even heard the name of Jesus? How could a God of Love send them into everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone when they never even had a chance to hear the Gospel or know how to get saved?
"And what about the untold millions of people of different religions who are fairly righteous and are trying to do the best they know how, living up to whatever light they have? How could God send them to Hell just because no one ever preached the Gospel to them and showed them the Love of God so that they would want to get saved? Are they going to be sent to eternal torment in the flames of Hell, even if they were kind, sweet people who tried their best to worship and please God, even though they never really knew Him or His Word and Truth?"
No, thank God, He is not going to send them to Hell! They may not all go to Heaven--that wonderful Celestial City reserved only for the saved (Revelation 21:24,27)--but they are certainly not all going to Hell! I am personally convinced, from a thorough study of the Scriptures, that God has made some other provision for the ignorant, unevangelised unsaved, those who never heard the true Gospel of Jesus Christ!
God is going to have mercy on them and give them their chance! If they never even had a chance to hear and believe the Gospel in this life, then the Lord will see to it that they get their first chance in the next life! You may ask, "But how could they believe the Gospel in Hell?" The answer to that is that by far the vast majority of the hundreds of millions of unsaved do not go to Hell when they die, contrary to what certain churches may have led you to believe.
When we think of Hell, what do we think of? We immediately think of the Lake of Fire, "Gehenna", burning with fire and brimstone, "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched".--The place where the wicked and damned Christ-rejecters suffer torment.--Mark 9:43-44 and Revelation 21:8, 14:9-11. Most preachers tell us that all those who do not believe in Jesus, upon the moment of death, are immediately tossed into this terrible Lake of Fire!
That such a Hell exists, there can be no doubt! And there can be no doubt that wicked people such as Hitler, the Antichrist and some of the other monsters of history definitely deserve to go to such a place of punishment! But what about the millions upon millions of ignorant heathen and peoples of other religions?--Or even good, moral people who are nominally Christians but never knew Jesus personally and never were saved! Do they deserve to go to such a place of torment? Obviously, no!
It might surprise you to learn that of the 22 times the word "Hell" is mentioned in the New Testament, only 11 times is it the original Greek word "Gehenna", the Lake of Fire. The other 11 times, the original word used was "Hades" which literally means "the unseen state" or "the unseen world".--It does not refer to the Lake of Fire! In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word invariably translated as "Hell" does not refer to a fiery Hell either; the original Hebrew word used, "Sheol", also means "the unseen state", or the Spirit World.
Another important point is regarding the word "grave" which appears 65 times in the English Old Testament! Of the 34 times it appears, it does literally mean a grave where the dead are buried, but 31 times, when the Bible talks about people "going down to the grave", the original Hebrew word was "Sheol"--"the unseen World" of Spirits!
What is "the unseen world", mistakenly translated as "Hell" and "the grave"? Obviously, it is the unseen Spirit World, the World where the spirits of the departed dead live! So--unless they were horribly wicked--where do the spirits of the unsaved go when they die? They go into Hades, the unseen state. They don't get thrown immediately into Hellfire--neither are they just stuck in a grave, a hole in the ground--but they pass on into the invisible, unseen World of the Spirit.
"For it is given unto men once to die, and after this the Judgement"--Hebrews 9:27. But when does this Judgement occur? At the moment of one's death, as many preachers insist? No! Revelation 20:5,11-15 clearly states that the unsaved dead are not raised and judged until the end of the 1,000-year Millennium!--Which hasn't even begun yet! So where are the unsaved dead waiting until then? Revelation 20:12-13 gives us the answer: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them. And the dead were judged according to their works." Hades, then, the Spirit World, is a waiting state where the spirits of the unsaved dead wait to be judged and sent to their final destination.--And this will not occur until the "Great White Throne Judgement" at the end of the Millennium!
Why did the churches never tell us this when it's so clearly in the Bible? Why did they never want to admit that there's some other place to go besides Heaven and Hell? Why? Many an unsaved person or potential believer has been turned away by this false doctrine of the churches, and just couldn't believe in a God Who would send everybody, including ignorant babies and children, into a fiery Hell! It's terrible what some churches are guilty of! Think how they've offended so many people's understanding of the justice and grace and Love and mercy of God by their doctrines!--That "if you don't believe just the way we believe, you are going straight to Hellfire, period!--No alternative, no in-between!"--When the Scripture makes it clear that there is an in-between!
Here then is the next question: If those who never heard the Gospel are awaiting their final judgement in the Spirit World, can they believe on Jesus there, after they have died, receive His forgiveness of sins and be saved and liberated? It may surprise you to know that the answer is yes! If ever anyone would believe, it would be when they wake up in the next World and find out they were very wrong and that Jesus is the Truth!--Then they would be sure to believe if someone would only tell them! But some people insist that once a poor lost sinner has died, his "moment of grace" is over and he can no longer believe the Truth and be saved!--Even if he wants to!
But if this is really the case, then why did Jesus Himself, while spending three days and nights in the heart of the Earth between His crucifixion and His resurrection, spend His time "preaching unto the spirits in prison" there if there was no hope of their Salvation? 1Peter 3:18-20 says, "Christ suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. For which cause He also went and preached to the spirits in prison; Which long ago were disobedient, when once God waited patiently in the days of Noah."
1Peter 4:5-6 goes on to say, "God is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged just like men (living) in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit!" Think of it! Jesus spent three days in the belly of the Earth, down where the disobedient spirits of the unsaved dead were imprisoned, and He "preached the Gospel to them"! "Gospel" means "Good News"--the Good News of Salvation!
If it isn't possible for the departed dead to believe and be saved, why did the Son of God Himself preach to them? Why did He preach the Gospel to them and tell them how to get saved if it wasn't possible for them to repent and be sorry for their sins and to receive forgiveness, salvation, and to be delivered from their imprisonment? There would have been no point to it, and Jesus would have been wasting His time!
Why did He preach them the Gospel? Just as a matter of information so they could be all the more miserable for the rest of Eternity in an everlasting spiritual prison? Do you honestly think that Jesus went down there and preached the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation, to the prisoners just to make them feel even worse by not giving them any hope at all?
The truth of the matter is, according to the Scripture, the Word of God, Jesus preached to them the Gospel, and I am convinced that if they believed it they were released! Remember, some of them had been waiting there since the days of Noah, for thousands of years! All the millions of people who lived before Jesus came and never before knew how to be saved, received an opportunity to hear the Gospel from Jesus Himself! And if they received it and believed it, they were forgiven for their sins and released from their imprisonment!
Not only did the spirits in prison and the spirits awaiting in the Spirit World get a chance to hear the Gospel then, but they are probably hearing it right now as well!--And God's Word indicates that they will have the opportunity to receive the Truth right up until the Final Great White Throne Judgement of the unsaved itself! As Revelation 20:12,15 say: "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 if any man was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire." (And remember, the Great White Throne Judgement is only for those who were not saved in this life. Those who received Jesus in this life will have already been raptured and taken to Heaven at the Second Coming of Christ 1,000 years before this final Judgement.)
It says if they were not found written in the Book of Life, they were cast into Hell! So obviously, some people were found written in it at that final Judgement. If there weren't any people in the Book of Life, why even bring it out at this time? Why not throw them all straight into Hell-fire? Why is it brought out? Just to "make one last check, just to be certain that none of the people there are saved"? No!
Obviously, there are two groups of people resurrected to face the Final Judgement: Those whose names are written in the Book of Life, and those who are not. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life must be those who died unsaved, but repented of their sins and came to the Lord in the Spirit World. Of course, the utter reprobates, the unrepentant defiant wicked who have no intention of repenting and receiving the Truth, will be damned to Hell! That is clear. But what about those who at this Great White Throne Judgement are found written in the Book of Life? Where do they go?
The 21st and 22nd Chapters of Revelation tell us that only the saved who believe in Jesus by faith live inside New Jerusalem, the Eternal Heavenly City of the blessed; but it tells us that there are also people living outside the City on the beautiful New Earth! It says, "the kings of the Earth do bring their glory and honour into it (the City)."--Revelation 21:24. Who are these "kings of the Earth" if--according to the churches--the only people around are either those who got saved in this life, who will therefore be enjoying the Heavenly City, or those who did not get saved in this life, who will therefore be damned to Hell?
Revelation 22:2 says that in the City is "the Tree of Life...and the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations." What nations will need to be healed? None of the resurrected saved in their immortal bodies are going to need healing, because Revelation 21:4 promises that for us "there shall be no more pain nor death nor sickness, sorrow or crying".--So who are these nations that need healing?
It obviously refers to the unsaved people outside the City! These kings and nations outside the City are a class of people who were not bad enough to go to Hell, the Lake of Fire, nor are they yet the born again, believing Bride of Christ, those who have the right to enter and enjoy the Heavenly City! "The kings" and their "nations" are the people who apparently have not yet received Jesus and His free gift of Salvation, but whom God has mercifully spared from Hell, and given them the opportunity to learn about Him and His Love on the beautiful New Earth.
Even outside the Heavenly City it's going to be a literal Paradise like the Garden of Eden, and those who end up there are going to think it's Heaven on Earth for sure, and be very thankful to God for His mercy! They may have had to wait a long time in the Spirit World first, but they will finally be released and be thankful for the Lord's Love and mercy, as we, God's saved children from within the City, minister the healing leaves of the Tree of Life to them. Eventually they too will come to a full knowledge of God and His Salvation, and thus be able to enter and enjoy the wonderful Heavenly City where God Himself dwells! Doesn't that fit your idea of a loving, merciful, all-wise God, much better than the churches' cruel and unscriptural doctrine of a hateful Hell forever for all who were never even offered the opportunity to or the knowledge of how to receive Jesus in this life?
There is such a place as Hell, the Lake of Fire, a place of spiritual damnation, but it is just for the worst, the most rebellious and defiant and disobedient and wicked and cruel and horrible people, monsters like Hitler, the Antichrist, the Devil and his fallen angels! They'll all go to the Lake of Fire, you can be sure of that! The Bible makes it quite clear that the most wicked "shall have their part in the Lake which burneth with Fire and Brimstone: which is the Second Death!"--Revelation 21:8.
The Lake of fire is punishment only for the very worst! To be cast into the Lake of Fire you've got to be a pretty wicked sinner who has been really defiant of God, rejecting every opportunity He has given you to repent!--A proud, rebellious sinner who refuses to yield to God's Love, and who, like the Devil himself, defiantly cries, in the words of the infamous poem, "Invictus": "My head is bloody but unbowed! I am the master of my own fate!"
Let me tell you, for those who finally do end up in Hell, the Lake of Fire, it will be because they fought their way there every step of the way over everything God could possibly do to keep them out of Hell! They will have insisted on going to Hell and will have fought their way into the Pit of Hell itself!--Determined to go to Hell despite every merciful, loving opportunity God gave them to be saved and repent!
What about you? Have you received the love and forgiveness of God through His Son Jesus Christ? If so, you're saved and bound for Heaven when you die! But if you haven't received Jesus, believe on Him and receive His Spirit into your heart now! Don't decide too late and have to wait a thousand years in the Spirit World for your final fate to be decided! Why end up in Hell, or end up only being allowed to live on the New Earth surrounding the Heavenly City? Wouldn't you rather be one of the saved who lives with God Himself in the indescribably beautiful Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, enjoying all of its wonderful pleasures of Paradise? You can be! Receive Jesus now!--Revelation 21:3; 22:14. God bless you with His Eternal Salvation!--In Jesus' name, amen!
I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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