Do you believe in hell?
ABC News "20/20" aired a special featuring
Pastor Tom Brown and others on the subject, Do you believe in hell?
Let us know what you thought about the special by
What is Hell?
History Channel interviewed Tom Brown about the subject of hell. The two
hour documentary was aired on December 27, 2004.
We thought you would like to know the
questions they asked him and Tom’s answers.
here to watch Tom's part in the the documentary.
HC: Talk about original sin and its
importance to your belief system.
TB: The passage that clearly mentions this is Romans
5:12: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death
through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.
on the sin nature to us, however, we are condemned not because we have the
sin nature but because we have acted upon it: death came to all men, because all sinned. Hell is for
people who deserve it through their “own” sins. Adam simply passed on the
propensity to sin or what is called the "sin nature".
HC: Who goes to hell?
TB: "Then he will say to those on his left
from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil
and his angels. (Matt 25:41)
From this statement we can conclude that those who purposely reject Christ
and those who have a superficial faith in Christ will go to hell. Jesus called hypocritical believers goats.
Real believers are sheep, and they prove that their faith is genuine by
their good works.
HC: Are all unbelievers condemned to
TB: This question is often asked of me because it seems
to others that it is unfair that
some should be condemned solely because they did not become Christians. I
like to answer this question with Abraham’s prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah.
"Far be it from you to do such a thing — to kill the righteous with the
wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you!
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25)
the hearts of all people. Jesus is the Savior from sin. According to the
Bible, without Him and the Holy Spirit, a person cannot truly live a
righteous life, so I believe that unbelievers cannot be
saved, not simply because they are not Christians, but they have rejected
the way to be right with God. Through acceptance of Christ, we are given the
power to live righteously. So without Christ, the scriptures show that no
sinner can truly live holy and thus avoid hell.
Peter makes an important statement about
"If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what
will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1 Peter 4:18)
This passage shows how difficult it is for
the righteous to be saved, so those who have rejected Christ, which is God’s
way to be saved, will surely find it “impossible” to be saved. With man’s
own efforts, salvation is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
The Bible says that God appointed Jesus Christ to be the judge on judgment
day (John 5:22). Here's the question, when you stand to be judged and
you see it is Jesus as the judge, what religion would you have have wished
to be part of?
HC: Is hell a literal, physical place?
TB: No, at the present it is a spiritual place since souls (which are not physical) are there. However, it
to a dead person that it is physical. The future place called
the “Lake of Fire” will be a physical place since people are cast into it after the
resurrection of the dead.
Jesus said, "Do not be amazed at this, for
a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and
come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done
evil will rise to be condemned." (John 5:28-30)
So we see that the damned will also be
given a resurrected body, so in the future, the Lake of Fire will be a
physical and spiritual place.
Today, hell is like a jail (spiritual
only). In the future, the jail will be thrown into the Security Prison—the
lake of fire (spiritual and physical).
HC: What do we know about its location,
size and appearance?
TB: I do not think we know much about it in those
terms. However, the phrase “lake” of fire means a “pond.” It does not speak
of a huge place. I find this interesting, because God does not take much
space or time to send damned souls for punishment.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of
fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found
written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev
The Bible also speaks of it in terms of fire and of it
being in the center of the earth. Ironically we know the center of the earth
is very hot. Whether hell is actually located in the center of earth, I do
not know, but I find nothing to preclude it from being there. Of course
being a spiritual place means that you cannot dig deep enough to find souls
there, since they would be invisible to the eye anyway.
HC: If a sinner sincerely repents and
accepts Jesus, will he enter heaven no matter how heinous his sin was?
TB: Jesus thought anyone who truly repented could be
saved. Consider the thief on the cross.
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you
come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42-43)
The Bible calls this man a criminal. Yet,
his repentance and sorrow was so evident that Jesus promised him eternal
life that very day. So it is clear that someone can enter heaven no matter
how heinous his sin was.
HC: Does punishment in hell vary
depending on the type of sins committed during one’s earthly days?
TB: Yes and here is a passage to prove it:
"That servant who knows his master’s will and does
not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with
many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving
punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given
much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with
much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47-48)
In our criminal system we have various
degrees of punishment based on the seriousness of the crime and mitigating
factors. This statement proves that God's judgments are based on many
factors. If someone lived in an area which makes being a Christian very difficult, God
will consider that in determining the level of punishment.
HC: Can souls be condemned to hell for
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman
lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your
right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better
for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be
thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and
throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for
your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:28-30)
Sin is defined as wrong thoughts or deeds.
Obviously deeds are worse, and they sometimes fall in the category of
crimes, however, Jesus taught that “anger” was “murder” in the heart. Lust
is adultery of the heart. The “Criminal System” cannot judge thoughts,
because they really do not know what the person was thinking. God, however, is
all-knowing and will take into consideration our thoughts when it comes to
HC: Is the Devil a symbol of evil or
TB: He is real. He is an angel. Angels are real beings,
albeit, spiritual beings. Satan was one of three archangels. God would not
make the Lake of fire for the devil and his angels if they were not real.
You do not make a place of punishment as a symbol.
HC: Why does God allow the Devil to
TB: I get this question all the time. A simple answer
is that we need to be tested to show whether we are sincere believers or
Do not be afraid of what you (Smyrna) are about to
suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you,
and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the
point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Rev 2:10)
God has a plan to remove him from having
any influence upon us. He will throw him into the Lake of Fire when Christ
returns. However, he is here to “test us”. A test can either be failed or
pass. Upon failure you lose your soul. Upon passing you gain your
HC: What does the Book of Job tell us
about God’s relationship with Lucifer?
TB: The book of Job does not mention Satan as Lucifer.
It does mention him as “Satan”.
One day the angels came to present themselves
before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan,
"Where have you come from?" (Job 1:6-7)
This account tells us that Satan is
accountable to God. He is not above God. The name Satan means accuser. This
name lets us know his primary function. He is always trying to find fault
with us. He will even tempt us so he can find fault with us. He wants us
damned with him. Misery loves company.
HC: Describe the hellish vision of the
Book of Revelations.
TB: Most of the visions in Revelation are devoted to
the tribulations on earth and so if these descriptions are horrific, how
much more will hell be? Revelation however does give us the description of
hell being eternal torment as the Lake of Fire.
In Jesus teaching about hell He mentions
those in it as being in agony. Consider the story of the rich man and
Lazarus. The rich man died and went to hell and he says, “I am in agony
in this fire.” (Luke 16:24) Nearly everyone has been burnt and has felt
the stinging pain and how it continues. So this is the description the Bible
uses to show how painful hell really will be and how that pain will never go
HC: What other biblical depictions of
hell do you find especially powerful? Please describe them and what they
TB: But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown
outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of
teeth." (Matt 8:12)
Darkness is another description of hell and
yet this seems to be the opposite of fire, for fire gives off light. Yet,
Jesus describes hell as a place of darkness. Darkness is the absence of
light. Light is knowledge. I believe darkness is what you find in
prison—ignorance, denial, blame, anger. In hell, people will be blaming
others for being there. They will be angry at God for sending them there.
They will protest their being cast into hell. They will never acknowledge
the truth, for darkness and ignorance reigns in hell
HC: Are there different hells—or
different names given to hell—found in different biblical passages?
TB: The Greek word for hell is geena (gheh'-en-nah).
This place was a valley in Jerusalem where some scholars believe that dead
corpses were thrown into. So geena is the place of the spiritually
dead. Here is another term for hell:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned,
but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons (2 Peter 2:4)
The Greek word for gloomy dungeons,
sometimes translated hell, is tartaroo (tar-tar-o'-o); which means
the deepest abyss of Hades. This describes the worse part of hell. There are
places in hell worse than others, just like in prison; there are worse
places than others. Dante's Inferno is not too far from the truth.
HC: How is hell different in your
belief system as compared to other Christian sects?
TB: I think our belief is quite similar or possibly
even the same as main line denominations.
There are two “Christian sects” that most
main line churches, including ours, would not accept as true Christians
because their belief is very different from the Bible, and that would be
Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. Ironically neither of them believe in
hell. True Christians since the beginning of Christianity have always
accepted the existence of hell.
HC: Since the Devil is a shapeshifter
and the great deceiver, how can we ever know who is possessed by or in
league with him?
TB: Dear children, do not let anyone lead you
astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He
who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning
from the beginning. (1 John 3:7-8)
A person’s lifestyle is the only way we
could know. Even that, however, must ultimately be left to God. Sometimes we
might assume because people have fallen into sin that they must not truly be
a believer, but we all become weak at some point in our lives. The question
is whether the person continues to adopt a sinful lifestyle. Another way to
tell whether someone is in league with Satan is by their teaching.
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that
Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and
the Son. (1 John 2:22)
Religious teaching that does not
acknowledge the deity of Christ proves that they are deceived. Again, the
Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons do not accept the teaching of the Trinity—one
God revealed in three persons.
HC: Is the Devil constantly seeking to
invade our earthly realm to tempt individuals into sinning?
TB: Absolutely, he is!
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter
HC: What are signs that someone is
possessed by the devil?
TB: There are degrees of possession or I prefer the
term “influenced”. First, Oppression (sick in body or mind); second,
deception (he tricks people into believing wrong things); third, addiction
(feel helpless). Each degree must be dealt with differently.
HC: How do exorcisms work? Are they
TB: Yes, they are. Hundreds have testified to me that
they were helped. A person must look to Christ, because we have authority
only through Him. Repentance is often necessary to be set free from demons.
A person must also resist Satan. A minister must speak to the demon and
order it to go.
HC: What do the many false legends tell
us about the Devil?
TB: I think Hollywood and folk tales have painted
inaccurate portraits of Satan, such as someone carrying a pitched fork to
poke people in hell or to stoke the fires. The truth is Satan is afraid of
hell. It is a place of punishment for him as well as for those who follow
him. He is not the warden of hell, but soon to be a prisoner of it.
HC: Describe Purgatory and how the idea
of it came about.
TB: The Catholic Church teaches this, not Protestants.
They believe it is a transitional period. It is a Catholic doctrine that was
developed in hopes that insincere believers would be punished temporally so
they would not have to go to hell.
Jesus taught differently. The rich man in
Luke 16 did not receive temporary punishment, even though he believed in
Abraham as his father. His punishment was permanent.
HC: Explain the Christian's Last Judgment;
who is and isn’t saved at that time.
TB: For we must all appear before the judgment seat
of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done
while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)
Everyone, no matter what their religion,
must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The important point to note
is that Christ is the one who God appointed as the Judge. Jesus said,
“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the
Son” (John 5:22).
Obviously, since Christ is the judge, it is to one’s advantage to have
accepted Jesus as the Christ and Messiah. Being a Christian, however, does
not exempt the need for us to be judged. Why would believers need to be judged then, if
they are already saved? The sincere believer will be judge for the purpose
of rewards. In court, some plaintiffs receive judgments in their favor. This
is the main reason Christians will stand before the Supreme Court of the
Universe, to receive rewards for their good works that they did for Christ.
HC: Why do religions so often
“demonize” other faiths?
TB: They try to scare people. Scare tactics often work
to keep people from escaping from false religions.
HC: Modern pop culture often seems to
celebrate Satan as a rebellious anti-hero—is it dangerous to celebrate the
TB: Satan is a worthy adversary and we must understand
his tactics and schemes. He wants to be the hero of the day, instead of God,
and it appears for some, they would rather serve and honor Satan than God.
Satanists and other socially rebellious people will experience the worse
judgment of all.
HC: For many people today, Hell and
Satan are not an important part of their lives—are these people missing out
on something important?
TB: Some prefer to stick their head in the sand. I ask
the question, how important is Al Qaeda to people? The likelihood
that an individual will be killed by terrorists is very remote, however
people want to know about the organization for the purpose of defeating
them. Yet Satan, the ultimate terrorist, likely will wreck damage to most
people, so why don’t they care about what he is doing?
Jesus called Satan a thief (John 10:10),
and a thief prefers not to be recognized. Satan’s greatest feat is the
disappearance act. He pretends to not be here, but he really is. The main
deception that Satan has pulled off is that he does not exist.
HC: Do most people go to heaven or to
TB: Jesus gave a sobering warning on this: "Enter
through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that
leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and
narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt 7:13-14)
Most will go to hell than go to heaven. This should not surprise us,
considering how little Jesus Christ means to people. They say they believe
in Him, but only ten percent of the population will even go to church on
Sunday. How is it possible,
considering that the Church is the house that Jesus built for His family? I
think people need to really evaluate their lives, and see if they are really
serving Jesus Christ. And unbelievers need to reconsider the claims of
Christ. He claimed to be the Messiah and Savior. Either He told the truth or
He is the biggest deceiver of all. I choose to believe He is what He claimed
to be. I have experienced a changed life as a result of my faith.
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