What Does Hell Look Like?
Hell Is A Mistranslation
What Does Hell Look Like? Nothing - It's Just a Mistranslation, by John Lilley
Many people wonder about hell. I recently did some research to see what people search for on Google about hell, and here are some of the searches people perform: What does hell look like - Did Jesus go to hell - visions of hell - map of hell - layers of hell - gateways to hell - a walk through hell - Who is in hell - children of hell - go to hell or not - Am I going to hell - Is hell real - Is hell a real place ...etc.
Obviously, the main thing people wonder about hell is whether it's actually real or not. Want to know the answer? Here it is:
Hell is just a mistranslation. The word "hell" should never appear in any English Bible, because it is not in the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. The word "hell" does not appear in the most literal and accurate English Bible versions like The Concordant Version and Young's Literal Translation. The mindset of Godly people in Bible days regarding death (they assumed it was unconscious in line with the Old Testament's clear teaching) did not allow them to think of the "lake of fire" or Gehenna fire as nebulous spirit fires. They assumed those fires were physical fires that would burn on earth in the future. And indeed this can be easily proven from Scripture as well. (See my book Hell Is a Mistranslation for more details on this.)
The word "hell" and the concept of eternal punishment are only found in some English Bibles because the translators blatantly mistranslate a few important Greek and Hebrew words due to a mindset they inherited from Middle Ages Catholicism (the pagan idea of conscious death). Thus they artificially insert the words "hell" and "eternal/everlasting/forever/forever-and-ever" into our English Bibles when there are no words that carry those meanings in the Hebrew/Greek original-language manuscripts of the Bible.
When the underlying Greek and Hebrew words are translated accurately into English, the concept of eternal punishment disappears from the Bible, and it becomes clear that the Bible's message about God's ultimate plan for humanity is very different than most Christians think it is. The video below explains the eight misconceptions that must be overcome in order to understand the message of the (accurately translated Bible).
As I explain thoroughly, verse by verse from the Bible in my book
Hell Is A Mistranslation
(click to read it at no cost to you, $9.99 value), hell is not a real place - it's just a mistranslation.
If you didn’t speak English, but were fluent in the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages in which the Bible was written, and you read through the Bible a thousand times in Hebrew and Greek, you would have no idea what “hell” is. It would never cross your mind that such a place existed.
If you then learned English and heard someone talking about “hell”, you would immediately say, “Hey wait a minute, what is this place called hell?” You would be very confused, because no word meaning “hell” as we understand it today is anywhere to be found in the Bible’s Hebrew/Greek manuscripts.
In the book Hell Is A Mistranslation I give you details on the multiple words in Hebrew and Greek that often get translated as the one word “hell” in our English Bibles.
But here I want to briefly explain why the word “hell” is in many of our English Bibles even though it’s not anywhere to be found in the original-language manuscripts of the Bible.
If the word “hell” is not in the original-language manuscripts of the Bible…why is it in many of our English Bibles?
How Hell and Eternal Punishment Were Artificially Inserted Into Christianity...and Found Their Way Into Many English Bible Translations
As I said, the word “hell” is only in many of our English Bibles because the translators who translate the Bible from Hebrew/Greek into English for us take various different Greek and Hebrew words, each with its own simple distinct meaning in Greek or Hebrew, none of which mean "hell", and translate all these different words as the single English word “hell”.
But why would they do such a thing? Why would translators creatively insert a word, and top of that, translate many different and distinct words (none of which has the same meaning as the word they creatively insert) as that one word, to produce a blatantly and horribly inaccurate translation into English?
The reason they would do such a thing is simply…because they believe in hell. In other words, they unconsciously say “We have to get the word ‘hell’ into our translation somehow, because after all, hell is a real place because our religion has taught us it is a real place.”
I’m not commenting on the translators’ heart motives, I’m simply saying that they are members of a religion that believes in hell, and therefore they cannot help themselves from ignoring the plain literal meanings of several distinct Hebrew/Greek words and inserting the single English word “hell” instead. I don’t think most translators knowingly deceive us, I think they just believe in hell because their religion believes in hell, so they naturally find a way to put it into their translation.
The reason so many modern Christians believe in hell is simple:
Christianity was combined with paganism by the powers-that-be in the middle ages to form the “catholic” religion.
“Catholic” means “universal” – in other words, the rulers of the day said, “We want a religion that will please everybody, Christians and pagans alike.” The rulers formed the Catholic religion as a combination of paganism and Christianity because they were having a hard time dealing with Christians (who refused to bow down to them, claimed Jesus was their King, etc). Well, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” (in order to lead ‘em and control ‘em). In this new “Catholic/universal” religion, many elements of paganism were combined with elements of Christianity, so the rulers could please and more easily control both pagans and Christians.
Fast forward to today.
Despite the Reformation, some elements of paganism still remain in the “Christian religion”. One strong element of paganism that was (mostly) purged out by Martin Luther and the Reformation was works-based salvation. The Reformation also succeeded in getting rid of some of the more ridiculous stuff (like paying money so your loved one has a better time in purgatory, etc.), and as a result the new “Protestant” church (which “protested” some of the ridiculous pagan/Catholic stuff) was much closer to the original truth of Christianity founded by Jesus, the twelve apostles, and the apostle Paul. However, to this day, some elements of paganism still remain in “Christianity”.
To give you a less-important example of this, did you ever wonder why the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection is called “Easter”? “Easter” is just another name for the pagan goddess Ishtar, the ancient Babylonian/Egyptian goddess of sexual freedom. (The Easter bunny is the same concept as the Playboy bunny – “breeding like rabbits”, etc.). What does Easter/Ishtar have to do with Christ? Zero – nothing. Yet virtually every Christian church has an Easter/Ishtar service.
Leftovers from paganism! You see, this was the whole idea of the “Catholic/universal/Christianity-paganism-combo” church – to combine paganism with Christianity so as to please/control both pagans and Christians! With an “Easter” service, the pagan Ishtar-worshippers were happy and the Christians were happy! (Another example of this type of combination was Ishtar-mother-goddess-worship being morphed into Mary-worship. Fortunately, the Protestant church did get rid of that one with the Reformation.)
Now, I know modern sincere Christians have no intention of celebrating anything to do with Ishtar the pagan goddess of sexual freedom – but that’s exactly my point. Millions upon millions of modern Christians unwittingly and unknowingly celebrate something, use pagan terminology about something, and even schedule their celebration of it according to paganism. They do this without even giving it a second thought! They just assume all is well and that everything they do and believe is correct just because their religion said so. My point is simple:
There are still some pagan leftovers in “Christianity”, and most Christians do not detect these leftovers.
Now, calling a celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection “Easter” is not a big a deal compared with the two primary pagan leftovers that still cling on in the religion of “Christianity”. The two most important, harmful, and unbiblical leftovers from paganism that still remain in the religion of Christianity are eternal punishment and conscious death.
Before you call me a heretic, I exhort you to do as the Bible commands you in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and “Test everything, hold on to what is good”. Because what I’m explaining in this article is the simple answer to so many things about God and the Bible that seem to make no sense.
Like, “Why would God burn billions of people for trillions of years (forever) when they never even heard the word ‘Jesus’ in their lifetimes and our own Bible says they can’t believe without hearing it (Rom. 10:14)?”
Or, “Why does a nice Chinese peasant who worked hard to provide for his family, committed some sins like the rest of us, never heard of Jesus, and died, get the same punishment as Hitler – screaming in agony with no end, ever?” (Remember the Bible makes it clear that observation of nature is enough to realize God exists, but it’s not enough to save you – you must hear the message of the gospel in order to get saved – see Romans 10:8-9, 14; in other words, according to the religion of “Christianity”, billions are doomed to eternal punishment simply because they were never lucky enough to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it just me, or does that make zero sense?)
Or, “How could God predestine (choose beforehand) certain people not to go to hell, while predestining the others to go to hell?” What a horrendous thought! If you believe in hell, Ephesians 1:4-5 is the most horrific thing you could ever read!
Or – here’s the biggie that summarizes them all:
“Why would God create billions of precious people in His image, knowing beforehand that the vast majority of them would end up screaming in agony for trillions upon trillions of years – forever?”
(For more seemingly unanswerable questions about “Christianity”, see my article The 10 Most Difficult Questions For Christians and the Bible’s Simple Answer in the Hell Mistranslation section of this website.)
The answer to all these questions is exceedingly simple: Hell does not exist. The word “hell” is not in the Bible. It is a mistranslation due to tradition. The concepts of eternal suffering and conscious death are nothing but pagan leftovers that still cling to Christianity.
Let me give you some more detail on this so you can obey the Bible’s command to “test everything and hold on to what is good”. I realize this article is a bombshell to many of you and I don’t expect you to “just believe me”, I expect you to test it.
If you have Scriptures coming to your mind and are thinking “What about this verse?” and “What about that verse?”, that’s a good thing, because it shows that you are testing what I’m saying.
My book Hell Is A Mistranslation: God's Ultimate Plan For Humanity Revealed In the Accurately Translated Bible will give you a full picture of what the Bible says about God and His plan for the world, when you translate it accurately. (Click on the ad on the top right or bottom of this page to learn more about it.)
The Bible commands us to "test everything" (1 Thess. 5:21). As I explain things to you from the accurately translated Scriptures (the basics here on the website, thoroughly verse-by-verse from Scripture in the book), I encourage you to also test what Middle Ages Catholicism has taught Christianity, even as you are testing what I say.
The Other Massively Important Word That Is Always A Mistranslation If You See It In Your English Bible
You also need to know about another extremely important word that is always a mistranslation when you see it in your English Bible:
Now, let me assure you that the word “immortal” (as in the body believers will receive at the rapture) in 1 Corinthians 15:53 IS correctly translated, so in all practicality there IS such a thing as “forever” (because an immortal body does not die).
However, every time you see the word “forever/eternal/everlasting/forever-and-ever” in your English Bible, it is always a blatant, ridiculous mistranslation of some form of the Greek word “eon” (“age”) or “eons” (“ages”) – as in “Satan is the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and “this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4), or the Hebrew word/phrase "from/to olam" (no direct equivalent in English - it refers to a relatively long but unspecified period of time, but it can be easily proven that it does not to refer specifically to eternity or endlessness).
The Hebrew word "olam" and the Greek word "eon", which sometimes get translated as "forever" or "eternal" or "everlasting" or "forever and ever" in popular English Bible versions, are often used in Scripture to refer to situations that obviously last only a finite period of time (see just one example below, though there are dozens). Yet translators sometimes arbitrarily translate them as "forever/eternal/everlasting".
My book contains a full, Scripture-by-Scripture explanation with abundant proof of what the Hebrew word "olam" and the Greek word "eon/eons/eonian" actually mean.
Another important thing to realize is that the phrases "eonian life" and "eonian punishment" do not refer to eternity or endlessness, they instead refer to "life/punishment pertaining to an age or ages" - in other words, these phrases refer to the millennium and the New Jerusalem age. The term "eonian life" is used in Scripture interchangeably with the terms "the kingdom", "the kingdom of heaven" (which refers to the source, not the location, of the kingdom - remember, "Thy kingdom come...on earth..."), "the kingdom of God", and "the ages of the ages" (a phrase like "King of kings" that refers to the greatest of a group); all these terms refer to the millennium and the New Jerusalem age. (And by the way, the end of the book of Revelation, the New Jerusalem age, is not the end of the story of mankind! The apostle Paul tells us what will happen after that, at the "consummation" of God's plan, in 1 Cor. 15:22-28.)
So a person who does not "inherit the kingdom" and receives "eonian punishment" will be dead ("the wages of sin is death" - not hell!) during the millennium and the New Jerusalem age. Their punishment is death, missing out on life during the millennium and the New Jerusalem or "the ages of the ages", the greatest two ages of human history that God has planned before He reaches the consummation of His plan for us.
Hasting's Dictionary of the New Testament states correctly that there is no word in the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible that directly refers to eternity or endlessness. (The words "immortality", "incorruptible", etc., refer to it indirectly.)
Friends, it may shock you that the word “forever” (or "eternal" or "everlasting") is not actually in the Bible – but it’s not! Satan is not the god of this “forever”, is he? Of course not! So why do the translators take this same underlying Greek word “eon” which they translate accurately as “age” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (Satan is the "god of this age") and translate it as “forever” – a word that means the exact opposite of “age”! – in other places? (Some versions mistranslate this word as “world” in 2 Corinthians 4:4, though it's the same exact word they translate “forever” in other places! “World” doesn’t mean “forever” either! The Greek word is “eon” – “age”.)
Do you see how the translation work on certain massively important words in your English Bible is all over the place, unreliable? You already know the reason the translators do this extremely uncalled-for mistranslating of these unfathomably important words: they believe in the pagan concept of eternal punishment, because their religion has taught it to them.
The crazy translating many Bible translators do with the Greek word “eon” is incomprehensible – unless you realize that they are unconsciously superimposing their religious (pagan leftover) belief system onto their translation work. Any 6th-grader could tell you that “age” and “forever” are antonyms – they mean the exact opposite of each other! (They could also tell you that "world" does not mean anything close to "age" or "forever".)
An “age” is a period of time with a specific beginning and end, while “forever” is time with no beginning or end. Yet these translators will translate the word “eon” as “age” in one verse and as “forever” in another! It is obvious that the underlying Greek word “eon” does not change meaning to the exact opposite of itself, from verse to verse. No word does that. “Black” does not change meaning to “white” – ever.
In the book I give you a reference to an online article by a non-pagan-influenced Greek Bible translation expert about the fact that words do not change their core meaning, much less to the exact opposite meaning.
The translators of our most common English Bible versions sometimes translate “age” (or the Hebrew Old Testament word "olam") correctly, but then just as often they arbitrarily change the translation to a word that means just the opposite (or a totally different word, like "world").
Amazing. It’s the same underlying Greek word, yet they translate it into a totally different English word with an opposite or totally different meaning. You’re reading along in your English Bible and you see the word “age” in one verse and the word “forever” in another verse and "world" in another verse, and you have no way of knowing that the underlying Greek word is the same – “eon”. Absolutely ridiculous translating. Why? Pagan leftovers.
To show you the lengths of ridiculousness to which they go to get their pagan-leftover doctrine of eternal punishment into the English Bible, take the plural Greek word “ages” (“eons”). This plural Greek word is obviously where we get our English word “eons”, which we might use in a sentence such as “I haven’t seen you in eons!” or “I haven’t seen you in ages!”
The very fact that there is a plural form of this word in both Greek and English proves that it does not mean “forever”, because it is impossible to have “forevers” – more than one forever! “Forevers” is not a word (as proven by the fact that Microsoft Word underlines it in red every time I type it) because it makes no sense. So how do many of our modern English Bibles translate the plural word “eons”?
Well, since plural “forevers” makes absolutely no sense, they get super-mega-creative and translate it “forever and ever”. Again, this is utterly incomprehensible translation work unless you realize that the translators believe in the pagan doctrine of eternal punishment.
Shockingly, the translators of our English Bibles are translating according to their pagan-inherited belief system instead of according to the simple meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words. Christians never think to doubt their “expert” translators, so the pagan idea of eternal punishment still clings on in the church.
Meanwhile, Christians just try not to think about the tough questions such as those I posed earlier. The answer to all the seemingly impossible questions about the nature of God, why He would burn so many of His precious creations, predestination, etc., is so amazingly simple:
it’s just mistranslation due to pagan tradition.
So…When you are reading your English Bible,
Every single time you see the word “hell” or the word “forever/eternal/everlasting/forever-and-ever”, you must find out what the underlying Greek or Hebrew word really means.
Otherwise the mind of God (what He is doing with humanity and why, as revealed in the accurately translated Bible) will be incomprehensible to you.
It is literally impossible to discover God’s plan for mankind by reading most common English Bible translations. That is why I recommend the Concordant Bible, which translates the underlying words into English consistently according to what they mean in the original language.
The Joy of an Accurately Translated Bible
When you read a Bible that is actually translated accurately and consistently (without the translators changing their translation of certain words from one instance to another in order to artificially insert their belief in eternal punishment), what a revelation you get!
Suddenly you see that God has a plan for the ages, where each age is a stage in the education of all mankind. Suddenly everything God does makes perfect sense.
But you cannot fathom this by reading a modern English Bible where the word “age” barely appears, even though the word “age” (along with its plural form "ages/eons" and its adjective form "eonian") is found repeatedly in the original manuscripts!
Now, if you are a good student of your (English) Bible, you will have some legitimate questions at this point:
So, what exactly happens to unbelievers, and when?
What really happens when you die?
What about the parable of Lazarus & the rich man? (Simple answer...it's a parable, which by definition is a fictional story, not a true story; and Jesus lifted the details and setting of the story directly from the Pharisees' pagan Talmud, which is why the setting and details of the parable are not found anywhere in the Old Testament or anywhere in the New Testament but instead blatantly contradict everything in accurately translated Scripture concerning death. Israelites 2,000 years ago would have understood the parable very differently than modern Christians - I explain it all in the book.)
You will find Biblical, logical answers to these questions and hopefully any other question you could think of on this subject, in my E-Book Hell Is A Mistranslation.
I ask you not to make a final judgment about what I’m explaining to you concerning what the accurately translated Bible teaches, until you read all the articles on this site in their entirety - and better yet, read the book, where I go into much greater detail and teach much more thoroughly on the subject. It takes a little bit of time to learn what the accurately translated Bible says about God's plan for humanity and to unravel the nonsensical, illogical, and (most importantly) unbiblical teachings of pagan-influenced mainstream Christianity. But isn’t understanding God’s plan for humanity worth it?
The two biggest stumbling blocks the typical Christian might have in accepting what I teach in this article, are the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and Jesus' statements about "hell" and the "worms not dying" etc. The book contains a full accurate interpretation of these passages. But let me just briefly comment on those passages so that you know I'm not "out to lunch".
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is just that - a parable. Parables by their very definition are not literal. They are illustrative stories. Mainstream Christianity, because of its inherited pagan hell mindset, automatically reads this parable superficially and assumes it is literal. While in reality, because it is a parable, they should assume the opposite. (The modern-day equivalent would be your pastor introducing a sermon with a story that the audience knows is not literal, but rather just illustrative.)
The main key to understanding the parable is that it is a made-up fictional story whose setting Jesus took from the Pharisees' pagan Talmud (in order to mock them), not from the Old Testament Scriptures. I believe when you read the interpretation I give in the book, you'll see that it makes perfect logical sense. The key is to put yourself in the shoes of Jesus' listeners that day and try to understand it as they would have, not from a modern "pagan-influenced, middle-ages-Catholic-leftover popular Christianity" perspective.
And a couple quick comments on Jesus' words about "hell" where "their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched".
First, the Greek word is not "hell", it is "Gehenna", a name for a physical location in Jerusalem which is referred to multiple times as a physical location (and never as anything else) in the Old Testament.
Second, Jesus was quoting Isaiah 66:22-24 which clearly is a prophecy of a phsyical fire that will burn dead people in the next age. It will be Jesus' version of the electric chair or capital punishment in the millennium.
We know it is physical fire (not nebulous soul-fire or spirit-fire) because that passage in Isaiah clearly states "all flesh", humans in physical bodies, will look upon evil people's bodies being burned in that fire which will burn in the millennium in the location in Jerusalem to which Jesus referred. The fire is "not quenched", which doesn't mean the fire burns forever, it means the fire is not purposefully put out (it is allowed to burn until all the bodies are burned up).
And what about the "worms that don't die"? "Their worm would not die" is typical of the fancy language the prophet Isaiah uses in many of his prophecies. It's just fly larva, my friends. Flies hanging around physical bodies that will be rotting and burning in the millennium, in the physical location in Jerusalem Jesus referred to in Mark 9:44-48 while quoting Isaiah 66:24 (a location that is erroneously and ridiculously translated "hell" in some English Bibles).
You see, it all makes perfect logical sense when you get the translation right and unravel the pagan pretzel of nonsensical Catholic-inherited beliefs that still cling on in "Christianity". Unraveling the pretzel is necessary because many verses and passages in the Bible have been twisted by mainstream Christianity to try to fit a false pagan-leftover “hell mindset”, and Christians have come to think of these twisted interpretations as normal because they’ve simply never heard anything else. Yet nagging questions (See my article The 10 Most Difficult Questions For Christians in the Hell Articles section of this site) about their faith remain, which they have to push out of their minds.
At the same time, Christians will ignore (or go to ridiculous lengths to try to explain away) many plain Biblical statements such as those found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 1 Timothy 4:10, Colossians 1:20, Romans 5:18, etc., because these statements do not fit their pagan-originated, mistranslation-based “hell mindset”. (The book contains a longer list of these plain Biblical statements.)
Right now you might be thinking of other Bible verses or passages and wondering “How is this explained in light of the fact that the words ‘hell’ and ‘forever etc.’ are not in the Bible?”
Again, those are great questions. It's good that you ask those questions because it means you are seeking the truth and testing what I say. Hell Is A Mistranslation goes into great detail about the mistranslations in most English Bibles, and thoroughly explains from the Scriptures many more aspects of God's plan for humanity. When you read Hell Is A Mistranslation I guarantee you that God and the Bible will make far more sense to you than ever before.
I want to say one more thing before I close this article. You may be thinking right now, consciously or unconsciously, “Boy, if I pursue this, study this, test this, and end up being convinced, I’ll be at odds with my church, my pastor, and my Christian friends on a major point of doctrine! What will they think of me? What will happen?” You know what I say to this question?
I mean really - who cares what people think! Isn’t knowing the truth – knowing God and His Word better – worth the risk of losing less important things? I’m not saying you’re definitely going to lose your Christian friends if you understand what I’m sharing with you. But you might! I’m simply asking: Are you willing to follow Jesus Christ, who is the Word and the Truth (John 1:1, 14:6, 17:17), wherever He may lead? If not, why even keep reading anything on this website?
Please realize I'm not saying you shouldn't become or continue to be a member of the "religion" of Christianity, I'm simply saying you need to discern the difference between the pagan leftovers they may teach you on certain subjects, and what the accurately translated Bible actually says.
Also remember, I never expect you to “just believe me”. Rather, I exhort you to test everything I say, in obedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
At this point I recommend you read my book Hell Is A Mistranslation. I'm not trying to be a pushy salesman, it's just that if you want to know the answers to any questions you may have about this, the book will answer them. That's why I refer to the book so much. It will give you a Scriptural and logical answer to the basic question, “When we get the translations right and sort out all the related misinterpretations of Scriptures, what does the Bible say is God’s plan for mankind?”
Thanks for reading.
- John Lilley
My Book Hell Is A Mistranslation
* Detailed information on the 3 Greek words (and 1 primary Hebrew word) that are sometimes translated as “hell” in your English Bible – and how NONE of them mean “hell”!
* The other mega-important word that is often mistranslated in your English Bible, and how translating it accurately will TOTALLY change your perception of God’s plan for the world
* What really happens when you die – not according to religious tradition, but according to plain statements of Scripture and a thorough look at everything the Bible has to say about it
* 10 powerful Scriptures that are completely ignored by mainstream Christianity because they cannot possibly believe them and believe in hell at the same time
* God’s ultimate plan for humanity as revealed by the accurately-translated Bible
* How properly understanding God’s plan for mankind instantly solves the predestination dilemma while simultaneously removing all pride from believers
* John’s outline of the 5 ages of human history planned by God as revealed in the accurately translated Bible – and WHY God is doing it this way
* WHY God created the world in this age to be subject to some natural disasters and the law of death (something has to die in order for something else to live) - as an eternal lesson for mankind
* The simple reason WHY God allows pain and suffering in this age, WHY He allows Satan to be “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), and how it’s nothing any parent couldn’t understand
* Bonus Section: The Kingdom Time-Gap – A simple term John has coined for a piece of information that instantly solves several more confusing things about the Bible
Click here to read the book Hell Is A Mistranslation for FREE ($9.99 value)!
What Does Hell Look Like? Nothing - Hell Is a Mistranslation Copyright 2010 John Lilley
Return from What Does Hell Look Like (this article) to Is Hell A Real Place (Hell Mistranslation Section)