Is Hell a Place of Unending Torture? – SDA | Friday DIVE


Tonight, we continue our series on Hell … What is it?  Where did it come from?  What is its purpose?

A quote by Doug Batchelor – SDA evangelist …

“… no doubt there are some of you who may be thinking that it’s not spiritually correct to talk about hell … that it’s negative … we want to be positive  …

“… but I need to talk about what Jesus talks about.  Amen … if you don’t want to hear everything the Lord talks about, then you don’t want to be coming to this church because we’re going to cover everything Christ covers and the Lord had a lot to say about this subject and it is sobering but I’m going to try and present some of these things in the context of clarifying who God is … what he’s like ….

“… misunderstanding this subject means misunderstanding God in his love and his character … you can tell something about a government and the justice of that government by the way it deals with the criminals … and the world has a lot of grave misunderstandings about God his Justice his government in connection with this issue.”


One of the purposes for this series of Bible studies is … among others … to help us look at the way we see/understand God … and to facilitate change if necessary.




On October 7, 2023 … Hamas fighters invaded Jerusalem and killed about 1410 people.

Since then, Israeli forces have killed about 30,000 Palestinians.

Some have judged the Israeli action as excessive … others have called it a genocide … but others have justified it.

Among the arguments used to justify the actions of the Israelis are

  • Israel’s “right” to defend itself against Hamas
  • the actions of the USA against Afghanistan after “9/11”
  • the actions of the USA against Japan, after Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor … which culminated in the use of atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • last, but not least … the actions of Israelites against Amalekites, as referenced in 1 Samuel 15:3.

For me, the one that concerns me the most is that last one … because it is one that PM Netanyahu invoked prior to launching the Israeli’s response to the Hamas attack … and, more importantly, because 1 Samuel 15:3 is in the Bible (and, therefore, the argument most likely to be used by some some Christians to justify the war against the Palestinians).

Notice what 1 Samuel 15:1-3 says …  Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LordThus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt.  3 Now go and attack(strike) Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.  But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”    

  • What do you think about that story? 
  • Do you believe it really happened … as narrated? Do you believe God really said that?   

I have my doubts about that story … because of the image of God that it presents.

A God that would give such a command doesn’t seem Christlike.

There’s a school of thought that … IF a passage presents an image of God that puts God in a bad light, THEN you can choose between accepting the image as presented in passage as is or questioning the limitations of the writer(s) of the passage, given that the passage was not written in real time.

To help explain what I mean, I want to share another passage and a commentary on the passage (in Numbers 21:4-9).

Numbers 21:4-9 … Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.  And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”  6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.  

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.”  So Moses prayed for the people.  

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”  So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.   


What do you think about that story in Numbers 21:4-9?   

Do you believe it really happened?


  • As you think about it, I want to share part of an article I came across …
  • It’s written by Jim Somerville, co-Founder of A Sermon for Every Sunday and Pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church … and it’s entitled, Snakes on A Plain?

Feel free to borrow that title for your sermon on Numbers 21:4-9. I’m not using it. But I am preaching that passage this Sunday and it’s a doozy … NOT because I can’t believe that God’s people were plagued by poisonous serpents out there in the wilderness, BUT by the way the author of Numbers so casually suggests it was God who sent them.  

“Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died” (Numbers 21:6).   

Is that true? Is that what happens when you complain about your food? Did the mothers of ancient Israel used to say to their children, “You’d better eat your vegetables or a poisonous snake is going to bite you!”

Here’s what I’m guessing: I’m guessing that something really did happen out there in the wilderness, that the people of Israel were gathering firewood and uncovered a nest of vipers and some of them got bitten and died.  And I’m guessing that the ones who escaped came to Moses, terrified, begging him to do something, please! And I’m guessing that Moses may have employed some of the Egyptian magic he had learned in Pharaoh’s palace, making a serpent out of bronze and putting it up on a pole. And I’m guessing that the next time someone got bitten, and looked at that serpent, and DIDN’T die — that’s the one they talked about. 

This is how it is with stories: they get bigger over time, they take on meaning that wasn’t there in the beginning.  A story about an encounter with poisonous snakes in the wilderness becomes a morality tale about how you shouldn’t complain about what God has provided, but even then, if you confess your sins and repent, God can save you. 

This is when I have to remind myself that the BIBLE was WRITTEN by PEOPLE: people who were inspired by God, certainly, but people who were also limited by human understanding. So … 

      • you have what actually happened (snakebite / appeal to Moses / bronze serpent),
      • and then you have the author’s interpretation (sin/punishment/ repentance/salvation).
      • On top of that you have your own interpretation: What do you make of a story like this one in the 21st century?  

This is where I often suggest that you ask:

NOT did it really happen this way?   
BUT what on earth is God trying to say?   

I’m still working on that question as I prepare for Sunday, but I’m having some ideas, and I hope that I will be able to share something with my congregation that sounds like good news … Even in a story about snakes.  







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