How Does Learning the Truth About Hell Affect You?

THOSE who teach that hell is a place of torment promote a gross misrepresentation of Jehovah God and his qualities. Granted, the Bible does say that God will destroy the wicked. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) But righteous anger is not God’s dominant quality.

God is not malicious or vindictive. He even asks: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” (Ezekiel 18:23, King James Version) If God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, how could he for all eternity delight in watching these ones being tormented?

God’s preeminent quality is love. (1 John 4:8) Indeed, “the LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:9, The Holy Bible​—New International Version) In return, God wants us to develop heartfelt love for him.​—Matthew 22:35-38.

Fear of Hell or Love of God​—Which Motivates You?

The teaching that souls suffer in hell promotes a morbid fear of God. By contrast, a person who learns the truth about God and comes to love him will develop a healthy fear of him. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it,” explains Psalm 111:10. (The New American Bible) This fear of God is, not abject terror, but awe of and profound reverence for the Creator. It engenders in us a healthy fear of displeasing him.

Consider how learning the truth about hell affected Kathleen, a 32-year-old former drug user. Her life had been filled with parties, violence, self-hate, and immorality. She admitted: “I would look at my one-year-old daughter and think, ‘Look at what I’m doing to her. I will burn in hell for this.’” Kathleen  tried to stop using drugs, but nothing worked. “I wanted to be good,” she said, “but everything in my life and in the world was so pathetic. There seemed no reason to be good.”

Kathleen then met Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I learned that there is no burning hell. The Scriptural evidence made perfect sense,” said Kathleen. “Knowing that I would not have to burn in hell was a tremendous relief.” But she also learned of God’s promise that humans could live forever on an earth cleansed of wickedness. (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29; Luke 23:43) “I now had a real hope​—to live forever in Paradise!” she exclaimed.

Would Kathleen be able to stop abusing drugs without the threat of a fiery hell hanging over her? She related: “When I had a strong craving for drugs, I would pray, begging Jehovah God for help. I thought of his view of such defiling habits, and I did not want to disappoint him. He answered my prayers.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) This fear of displeasing God enabled Kathleen to break free from her addictions.

Yes, cultivating love for God and a healthy fear of him​—not fear of torment in hell—​can motivate us to do God’s will in order to enjoy lasting happiness. The psalmist wrote: “Blessed is every one that feareth Jehovah, that walketh in his ways.”​—Psalm 128:1, American Standard Version.

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Some Bible translations create confusion by rendering two different Greek words​—Geʹen·na and Haiʹdes—​as just the one word, “hell.” In the Bible, the term Geʹen·na refers to total destruction, without hope of a resurrection. By contrast, those in Haiʹdes, or Hades, do have the hope of being resurrected.

Thus, after Jesus died and was raised up, the apostle Peter assured his audience that Jesus “was not left in hell.” (Acts 2:27, 31, 32; Psalm 16:10; King James Version) The word translated “hell” in this verse is the Greek word Haiʹdes. Jesus did not go to some fiery place. Hades, or “hell,” was the grave. But Jesus is not the only one whom God releases from Hades.

In connection with the resurrection, the Bible says: “Death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.” (Revelation 20:13, 14, KJ) Emptying “hell” will mean restoring to life all those whom God judges worthy of a resurrection. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) What a marvelous hope for the future​—seeing our dead loved ones brought back from the grave! Jehovah, the God of infinite love, will do this.