The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Conditionalist View of Hell: Distinction From Hades

Rethinking Hell


Is there really such a place called Hell?

I was recently interviewed about my book, Eternity: Heaven or Hell?, by Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date. We discussed what has become a very controversial topic among many Christians, and that is the duration of time those in Hell will spend. Eternal or limited? I share from the Bible why I am convinced that Conditionalism is the biblical view of final punishment. Tempers can flare over this topic, so I ask you to read this interview in blog format as a good Berean, testing the Scriptures to see what God will teach us.

The Reality of Hell

Chris Date: Let’s talk about chapter 4 which is the chapter on Hell. We Conditionalists are sometimes accused of trivializing Hell, softening it, weakening its significance, that kind of thing. But, the way that you open this chapter suggest that you don’t think what the Bible says about Hell is trivial at all. In fact, you talk about how Hell has been trivialized by the world. Tell us about how Hell has been trivialized by the world and why you think it is instead a very important topic.

Dr. Reagan: Hell has indeed been trivialized by the world, as I point out in that chapter. I give a lot of examples of people trivializing it, and sadly I could have given many, many more. It’s just unbelievable the way people shrug off Hell, saying such crazy things such as, “Oh, yeah, I know I’m not doing very well in this life, but so what? I’m going to spend eternity partying in Hell!” AC/DC in their 1979 song “Highway to Hell,” they actually celebrate it.

I also see this flippancy so often on television. I was watching a famous star who was celebrating his 75th birthday. The people who were there on TV were honoring him, and they said, “We also have some video celebrations.” The first video said, “Hey, buddy, how are you? I’m sorry I can’t be there, but I’ll meet you in Hell and we’ll party forever.” This is the trivialization of Hell!

Then there’s the frequent use of Hell mainly thought of as just a curse word and not a real place. What I try to do is to emphasize that Hell is a very, very real place. It’s a horrible place. It’s horrible beyond anything that we can possibly imagine. It’s not to be taken as a joke.

I think another reason Hell has been trivialized is because the Church has ignored teaching about it, and so most people don’t know much about Hell.

Absent From the Pulpit

Chris Date: That touches on the next question I was going to ask you, because you also mention at this point in the chapter that it seems pastors seldom preach about Hell nowadays. Why do you think that is?

Dr. Reagan: Would you want to preach about Hell if you believe the Traditionalist Viewpoint? I believe the reason the average pastor hardly ever mentions Hell, and certainly never devotes a sermon to it, is because he is embarrassed by it. I give him credit for one thing. I give him credit for believing what he thinks the Bible teaches concerning Hell, but that is not what the Bible teaches. When you read the various verses on Hell, the Bible does not teach eternal torment. If you believe that, well then who would want to get up and delivers a 45 minute sermon on how God is going to torment people for all of eternity? You’d be turning God into a cosmic sadist, like someone who enjoys pulling the wings off of butterflies. And so, I think they are uncomfortable with teaching Hell, they are embarrassed by it, and so therefore they just ignore it.

Hades Versus Hell

Chris Date: You go on in the chapter to make a very important distinction, and one that I think is too often over-looked by Traditionalists when it comes to this debate over the nature of Hell. I can’t count for example the number of times I’ve been challenged by Traditionalists based on the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, as recorded in Luke 16. What’s this important distinction that you talk about toward the beginning of the chapter?

Dr. Reagan: That parable is one of the greatest sources of confusion about Hell. You are right when you say that people are so confused about that parable, and that has to do with translation. The Bible makes it very clear that there’s a difference between Hades and Hell. In the Old Testament, Hades is called Sheol, and in the New Testament the Greek word is Hades. Hades is a temporary holding place of the spirits of the dead. When a person who is unsaved today dies, he goes to this place called Hades, to a compartment called Torments, and his spirit is held there until the time of his resurrection. At the final resurrection for all those who died in unbelief, that time he is condemned and put into Hell. So, nobody is in Hell right now. Hell today is empty.

The first people to go to Hell will be the False Prophet and the Antichrist. The third being will be Satan himself. Hell, also called the Lake of Fire, was originally created as an eternal abode for Satan and His demonic angels. But, there’s a difference between those two. The problem is that the King James translators as well as even some modern translators often translate Hades as Hell. They don’t do it consistently, but rather mistranslate it rather inconsistently. Sometimes they will call it Hell, and sometimes they will call it Hades when these are two entirely different places. For example, at the end of the book of Revelation is says that Hades is going to be thrown into Hell, so we know they are not the same place. We need to keep that clear, but again, there is a lot of the confusion and it’s due to improper translation between the words Hades and Hell.

Chris Date: Yes, that has definitely been a source of a lot of confusion. I’m hoping one day to see that confusion cleared up.

In the fourth segment of Rethinking Hell’s interview of me concerning the Conditionalist View of Hell, Chris and I will discuss how important it is for Christian unity to discuss different views of Hell with love and civility.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan is the Founder and Evangelist Emeritus of Lamb & Lion Ministries. He is a life-long Bible student, teacher, and preacher and he led over 45 pilgrimages to Israel. Dr. Reagan was the host of the radio then television program Christ in Prophecy for nearly 40 years.

18 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Here's a challenge to Dr. Reagan's view:

    He says God is just and will dole out the appropriate punishment in hell for a time period based upon the measure of a person's sins then their soul will be destroyed in the second death.

    Here's where there seems to be some flaw in that thinking and please tell me where I'm wrong…


    Persons A & B are unbelievers with an equal measure of sin.

    Person A dies in the year 1 AD. Their sould went to Hades in a place called Torment. The final judgement comes and they now have to serve (let's say) 1,000 years in hell.

    Person B dies just before the 7 year Tribulation starts (assume they did not take the mark of the beast). The final judgement comes and they now have to serve 1,000 years in hell.

    So, Person B gets 1,000 years in hell BUT Person A gets 1,000 years in hell PLUS all those extra years in Hades.

    So, does Person B just luck out for not having been born 2,000 years ago? Or do they have to serve an extra 2,000 years in hell because Person A had to also for the exact same degree of sins committed in their lives?

    I'm only using the "justice" logic here in my example.

    (btw…I actually am very torn on this subject as I lean towards Dr. Reagan's view that the soul is ultimately destroyed and not tormented forever, but part of me also thinks the agrument can be made for eternal hell. Though I am sure those soul cast in with the devil WILL be tormented forever.)

  • Good thoughts, Billy! The reverse argument could be made about Heaven, when Jesus says in Matthew 20:1-16 the first shall be last and the last first. Those who died in the past have gotten to enjoy Heaven a lot longer than we will (though in a million years it will seem to little matter).

  • Nathan,

    After I posted this and went out for a drive my thoughts were EXACTLY the SAME as your reply!

    That is the story that came to my mind!

    God is in charge so whatever He decided to do, He will do PERIOD. End of story.

    Like I said, I am inclined towards the death of the soul being the ultimate destiny of unbelievers not in the Lake of Fire with the devil et al.

    But these articles, for me anyway, get me to thinking things through, so that is a good thing!

  • First of all, I agree that some debates aren't really the point of the Bible.. The main point is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but although I wish I could agree with you.. some verses seem to state that Hell is eternal too.

    Mar 9:4 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
    Mar 9:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Also in Isa 66:24

    I have read some sites that call ministers false prophets just because they believe in the Rapture.. or because some debate whether we go straight to heaven when we die.. I don't think that really matters enough to call someone a liar..

    I watched you on tv and that day you said this very thing.. that some people believed one thing and some another,, but only through Jesus can we be saved.. not what we agree or disagree about things..or whether we are wrong of right..

  • I would be interested in knowing what scriptures the idea that the Lake of Fire is Hell are based on.

  • I am not sure what you meant, but this verse states hell is thrown into the lake of fire.

    Rev 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

  • Here is one that seems to say Hell is for eternity.

    Isa 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

  • Here is one that seems to say Hell is for eternity.

    Isa 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

  • You have not explained the difference between each view in rapture ready thus far. Please do so in your next RR post our email your explanation to me direct.

  • The fact that hell is cast into the Lake of Fire does not mean hell IS the Lake of Fire. It may be destroyed BY the Lake of Fire, as death most certainly is (Rev 21:4). The Isa reference does not prove an eternal hell or Lake of Fire.It is the worms who will not die but it does not say they will never die. This same phrase is used when Joseph tells his brothers to bring Benjamin to him in Gen 42:20 he told them they would not die while they were doing what he wanted. Also the priests of Israel (Ex 30:20) and Jeremiah (Jer 38:24)were given this assurance.

  • The unquenchable fire does not prove the eternity of hell. There are other unquenchable fires in the Bible (Jer 17:27; Ez 20:47,48. The purpose of the worms and the fire is that they will consume the dead bodies. It does not say the bodies will be lying around eternally, it says they will be subject to the work of the worms and the fire and these will continue that work without being stopped by death (of the worms) or quenching. Their task appears to be the normal task they perform – they will totally consume the carcasses. There are numerous references to unbelievers being destroyed and consumed.
    when Jesus talked about unbelievers perishing (John 3:16) as opposed to being given the glorious gift of eternal life He said nothing about them lingering eternally in hell.

  • Anonymous
    I would be interested to know, from Scripture please, what you see happening to these who finish their judgment? Do they stand around the perimeter of the lake of fire moaning their lot – because there is no mention of them in Revelation among the saved nations surrounding the Eternal City – at least it should be Eternal, unless that has an end as well?

    May I suggest you consider what eternal death means. It isn't like physical death where nothing is known. It is a human spirit totally alert and knowing,cut off from the presence of God, forever.

  • Leslie here:
    Charis you speak about the eternal Lake of Fire. That is your assumption. The Lake of Fire is never given this designation in scripture, but we know God is the Eternal Spirit and Jesus gives eternal life. The eternal punishment from Mat 25:46 has eternal consequences but punishment is not a person or thing it is a noun that signifies an act or process, just like eternal salvation. These acts do not go on eternally, Jesus is not eternally saving us, His wondrous, gracious work of salvation has eternal consequences.

    You seem to presume that when God is all in all (1Cor 15:28) He will inhabit this evil place called the Lake of Fire. But the Bible tells us there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain (Rev 21:4). You ask (rather sarcastically) where those who finish their punishment are. You seem to be joking about the eternal fate of millions of people. My heart breaks for the lost, those who will never experience the love of God. In Rev 20:10 the word for ever and ever is aion, which actually means an age. Granted aiōnios comes from this word but it is never translated as anything other than eternal, it has a further meaning. It is an age without end.

    You have based all your ideas it seems on the assumption that we have immortal souls. There is no scriptural basis for this concept. It comes from Greek philosophy and did not become part of church doctrine until Greeks like Tertullian brought it into church teaching in the early centuries. You say somewhere that there is only one death, but Revelation clearly tells us there is a second death and that this is accomplished in the Lake of Fire. This second death destroys death and there is no reason to believe it will not destroy those people who have not been given eternal life.

    Traditionalism must constantly redefine words like perish, destroy, consume and death. I still can't understand why people who claim to represent the God of the Bible, Who is Love, seems to cling to this evil tradition. It's not biblical. It hangs on a few verses that have been distorted when the scriptures teach from beginning to end that when Adam and Eve sinned they lost their access to the Tree of Life and only the Lord Who is Life can give us the gift of eternal life. Without this gift we will die the second death in the Lake of Fire which may go on for an age and an age.

  • Hi Leslie

    Simply this.

    We are born into this world spiritually dead. When Adam sinned, he died spiritually at that very moment in time. Physical death came years later as a direct result of Spiritual death which is eternal separation from God. We are born Condemned already, before a child can sin their first sin. That’s why God became man to die spiritually and pay the price for our spiritual death. No supposition but bare facts of ‘like it is’.
    By Gods Grace (free gift) through faith we are born again and pass from eternal condemnation (death) into eternal life. JESUS died for the sin of the whole world. That includes those who refuse to accept his free gift. SIN is not the issue, 'punishment' for all sin was born by Christ at Calvary.

    Eternal condemnation just continues for the unsaved. They do not suffer in the lake of fire being punished for their own sins that Jesus died for. They were already condemned and remain condemned because they failed to put their faith in Gods Grace by faith in Christ to be saved.

    Which renders the argument of conditionalism null and void. As to the semantics of death, die etc etc. Totally irrelevant. God 'SAID' is the only thing I am interested in knowing. He is not just Love, He is also supremely JUST. 'Not fair' is an insult to His character and He will not comply to the human image of god and their opinion of what He should do for those who reject His free offer of Salvation in Christ Jesus. He gave His all and was spurned. The Gospel has been rejected, there is no other sacrifice, they remain cut off from God.

    Through the different threads I have repeatedly stressed that fallen man will not be suffering punishment for their sins as Dr.Reagan claims. ALL sin was paid for by Christ. It is failure to believe in Christ to save from eternal condemnation and be saved for eternal life that fallen man remains condemned for ever.

  • Hi Leslie

    Annihilationism and Conditionalism are from the errors formed by the cults including Seventh Day Adventist

    The immortality of both the body and the spirit.
    Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum deals studiously with all the Scriptures used by Annihilationism, and Conditionalism in Appendix V11 in his book The Footsteps of the Messiah.

    The word appollumi does NOT mean utter destruction to the point of ceasing to exist. It simply means to be in a ‘lost state’. The same word is used to refer to the living.
    Likewise ‘apuleia’ . Elsewhere used to mean ‘in a wasted condition’
    ‘phuthora’ means ‘corruption’ the victim is seen to be in a state of corruption (rotting)
    ‘holephros’ the state of destruction of the physical world during the 7 years Tribulation. It does not refer to the destruction of the soul and spirit. None of these words refer to annihilation as in ‘ceasing to exist’.
    ‘katargeo’ means to render inoperate – not ceasing to exist.

    The word ‘death’ never means ceasing to exist. Death only means a ‘separation’ as the spirit from the physical body.
    Genesis 2:7; 3:19 It is the body, not the soul, that returns to dust. It was Adam’s body that came from the dust, not his soul.
    Luke 16: 19- 31explains what happens to the soul at the time of physical death.
    Sheol and Hades does not mean ‘oblivion and death’; the true story of the rich man was in Sheol and only too aware of his surroundings.
    2Tim 1:10; 1Cor15:26,27 speaks of death being abolished, or done away with in connection with its affects on the physical body. It is the first death which is physical, that is done away with. The second death which is spiritual is NOT done away with. It is the abolishing of physical death that makes the Resurrection possible, the second death is spiritual and eternal separation from God.

    Daniel 12:2 prophesied some are to be resurrected to everlasting life and others to everlasting contempt. Consistency in interpretation is a must.
    Matt25:26 some go into everlasting life others into everlasting punishment. (Not to pay for their sins, but the refusal to accept, God’s free gift of Eternal life)
    Mark 9:47,48 unbelievers suffer in the fire that is NOT quenched.
    Hebrews 2:16 salvation is not provided for fallen angels yet they continue in existence and are never reconciled by the eternal punishment.
    Hebrews 6:2 speaks of eternal judgment. ‘eternal’ is the same word used for eternal life. Eternal for the believer means immortality. Referenced to an unbeliever must also mean immortality.
    Jude 7 the punishment of eternal life. The fire is eternal, the punishment is eternal. If only temporary, then it wouldn’t be eternal.
    Revelation 14 The Lake of Fire for ever and ever; the same word used for God who is for ever and ever – is God only temporary.


  • Part 2

    Aionos is also treated by Conditionalism in this crudely inconsistent method of interpretation. In Matt 25:46, it is used both of believers and unbelievers meaning ‘eternal’.

    I don’t have time to press the point any further (I could) that the soul IS immortal for both believers and unbelievers. While I understand the troubled feelings for unsaved loved ones, it has no benefit to make up a story to make us feel better. Right now our bodies, minds and reasoning are all in a fallen state. We cannot trust our own opinions, we must stick exactly to what God has written in His Word or we will deceive ourselves and do Satan out of a job.

    When we finally see Jesus at the Rapture, in our resurrected and glorified bodies, we shall then be like Him. THEN we shall understand, as He understands, and we will know that Eternal Punishment is a MUST for a Holy and Righteous God.

    Meanwhile press home the Free Gospel of Grace. ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’ Acts 16:31. It is by faith alone which demands no works such as repenting of sins, being baptised, cleaning up one’s life, confessing out loud. None of these things are a condition to gain eternal life. Those things come AFTER one is born again if we are obedient in our discipleship to His commands. It is by Grace alone, thru faith alone in Christ alone – it isn’t difficult and God WANTS people to be reborn; we don’t have to agonize with Him over that fact.

  • Hi Charis,
    Leslie here:
    You make a lot of claims with very little substantiation. I believe your definitions of words are highly influenced by your presuppositions. I have looked at all these words in the Greek and they can mean what you say, but they do not exclusively mean those things. You make a choice for their definitions because of the belief you hold. I make different choices because I believe they are more consistent with scripture (eg appolumi = destroy fully). You refer to Gen 3:19 but only a few verses later (3:22) we find Adam and Eve have lost access to that which made them immortal. From the beginning of time humanity has been mortal (1 Tim 6:16) and claims for immortality belong to eastern religions not Christianity.

    I do not believe your assertions concerning cults being the source of annihilationism, I believe this idea predates the eternal torment doctrine brought into the church in the early centuries. I came to this belief through reading the Bible and prayer, in the same way I came to belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. I didn’t know any Christians when I became a Christian and I have always been a Beroean. After I formed my views on the biblical teachings on hell I found other people had come to the same conclusions. Whether the SDAs believe the same thing is irrelevant, if the traditional church has been influenced by Greek philosophy rather than scriptural teaching I am going with the scriptures, irrespective of which group does or does not agree.

    It is quite clear from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man that Jesus is using the Greek idea of hell to illustrate the point that our actions in this life will determine our eternal destinies. Hades is the brother of Zeus in Greek mythology. He was the ruler of the nether world, which was referred to as the domain of Hades. In Greek thought Hades was a place for the dead, which was divided into two compartments, one for the wicked and the other for the blessed. It is significant that Jesus uses the term Hades here.

    Although the Greek view of these two compartments in Hades was a very common concept of hell in Jesus’ time, it was not a concept His listeners would have found in the OT. Even today most would agree that it is very unlikely that believers will ultimately be found seated on Abraham’s lap, while looking down upon those suffering torment in the flames after their death. The parable was not meant to be a teaching on hell, it’s about God looking on as people live their lives here, and this is what will determine their eternal destinies.

    You quote:
    Daniel 12:2. This everlasting abhorrence is from God’s perspective. If God did not eternally abhor rebellion against Himself and all that it created, He would not destroy the objects of His abhorrence.

    Mat 25:46 I have answered elsewhere. As Dr Fudge explains:
    Of the 70 occurrences of the adjective "eternal" in the NT, six times the word qualifies nouns signifying acts or processes rather than persons or things. The six "eternal" acts or events are:
    1. salvation (Heb 5:9)
    2. judgment (6:2)
    3. redemption (9:12)
    4. sin (Mark 3:29)
    5. punishment (Matt 25:46)
    6. destruction (2 Thess 1:9).
    In four of the six, "eternal" refers to the results or outcome of the action and not the action itself. "Eternal judgment" does not mean that the judging will last forever, but that its outcome will. "Eternal redemption" does not mean that the process goes on without end—for the redemptive work was done once and for all—but that its issue will have no end forever. "Eternal salvation" is the result; we do not look for an eternal act of "saving." And the "eternal" sin is called that because its guilt will never be forgiven, not because the sinning continues throughout eternity.

  • Leslie Part 2
    Mark 9:47-48. There are other unquenchable fires mentioned in scripture that quite obviously went out after they accomplished their divinely appointed work. Jeremiah (Jer 17:27) warned Israel that if they rejected his words and refused to keep the Sabbath holy, a fire that “will not be quenched” would be kindled in the gates of Jerusalem. This prophecy was later fulfilled by the Chaldeans (Jer 52:13) when fire utterly destroyed the city. The fire did the work God had decreed it would do, it could not be quenched until its work was done and it finally went out. Ezekiel also spoke of an unquenchable fire that would burn the forest of the south, burning every green tree and every dry tree (Ez 20:47,48) in its path. This image is not of an eternal, ongoing judgment, but rather a judgment that will endure until its consuming work is completely accomplished. The emphasis here is that these fires cannot be put out, they will not be quenched, they will do the work God has decreed of consuming the fuel set before them, in this case, carcasses.

    Heb 2:16. Not sure what point you are making here but Heb 6:2 is covered in Dr Fudge’s quote above. It is clear “eternal” for the believers means eternal life, because that is what we are given by and because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Without this gift of eternal life we are mortal and will die, first the death of the body and then, after the resurrection of the wicked, the second death of the resurrected body and the soul (Mat 10:28). The soul is not immortal, it is the same essence as that of all sentient life (psuche) and the spirit returns to God (Ecc 12:7), He gave it and He can take it back. There is no mention of it going on eternally in the fires of hell.

    Jude 1:7 is a perfect example of reading something into the text that is not there. The fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah did not endure forever, but the consequences of that fire were eternal, just as the consequences of eternal punishment will be eternal. Gen 19:28 reveals that this fire did the work God decreed it would do, early the next morning all that was left was smoke, but Sodom and Gomorrah were eternally annihilated.

    You say “Eternal Punishment is a MUST for a Holy and Righteous God.” I don’t know what you base this concept on but I know the Bible tells us that the eternal punishment that awaits unbelievers will indeed be eternal. These poor, lost souls will never, ever experience life again. They will never, ever know what their eternal destinies might have been had they only accepted the Father’s gracious and wondrous gift of eternal life.


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