It’s one of those questions that every person wants to ask and every bible scholar cringes to hear:
When an unbeliever dies, will they be tormented in hell forever? Or is there death-after-death?
The basic undercurrent of the question is clear: Can a God of love actually cause eternal pain upon someone? Check the shelves of your local bookstore in the “afterlife” section and you will see that death is a very profitable topic.
For those who read the Bible, there is plenty of information to scare one from the woes of hell with images of where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; where the worm never dies; where the fire is unquenchable; where the rich man begs for permission to have Lazarus dip his finger in water and quench his tongue across the great divide. The list continues as well as the interpretations regarding an unending and eternal suffering.
I’ll be honest with you, the concept of an eternal soul damned to painful separation from an all-knowing God is something that plagued my theology for years. When I ran across Weston Field’s article “Salted With Fire” almost 15 years ago, it gave me some relief as I, to this day, continue my own limited study on this topic. Fields points out that, in at least one place, Jesus’ words directed the keen listener to the soul’s overall termination once God’s judgment of their disobedience was enforced.
From Salted With Fire by Weston Fields
I propose a new translation of the verse, based on the retroversion to Hebrew. In the verses preceding verse 49 (Mark 9:42-48), Mark records that Jesus warned those offending “these little ones,” and declared that one would be better off to rid himself of offending parts of his body than to be cast into hell, where the fire never goes out and “their worm does not die.” It would fit this context to translate verse 49, “Everyone [who is cast into hell] will be completely destroyed,” that is, destroyed by fire.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Fields did not intend for this article to be the end-all of discussion on the un-redeemed-soul’s fate…however, I challenge you to read the article and be engaged!