Who Are The Residents Of Hell?
Dr. Joe Temple


We have been answering some questions about Hell as part of a series of messages on the theme Simple Questions Often Asked . We have reviewed some of the terms which are used in the Word of God for our English word Hell , and have found significant characteristics of that awful place.

Reasons for Hell

We have discussed with you the reason for Hell—why there is a Hell. There is a purpose for it. One thing we discovered is that Hell was never intended for you; Hell was never intended for a human being. God prepared Hell for the Devil and his angels, and individuals who go to Hell go there as intruders. They are intruders to such an extent, we discovered from the Word of God, that God found it necessary to enlarge Hell. We recognize that we are using human terms to describe spiritual things because of our limited understanding. This is called anthropomorphism .

Reality of Hell

We not only looked at the reason for Hell, but we looked at the reality of Hell, and we discovered that it is a very real place—a place of torment, as the Scripture very plainly declares. We will conclude our discussion on the subject of Hell with a reference to the residents of Hell and the possibility of their release from Hell.

Residents of Hell

Open your Bibles, please, to the second epistle of Peter as I suggest to you that the residents of Hell may be designated as spirit-beings—beings of the spirit world. Notice verse 4 particularly:

II Peter 2:

4For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

This is just part of a statement which the Apostle Peter makes to show that God does not excuse sin. He is saying that if God did not excuse the angels that sinned, and if God did not excuse the sinners of Noah's day, what makes you think that He is going to excuse the sin in the day in which we live? But we read the verse for the simple statement in the middle of it that the angels who sinned were cast down to Hell. A companion verse to this one is found in the epistle of Jude, where emphasis is placed upon the same thought in verse 6:


6And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

This is a verse which contains one of the Greek words for Hell . Here we are told again that Hell is occupied by spirit beings—angels who have sinned.

Evil Trinity in Hell

Turn with me, please, to the book of Revelation, chapter 19, as I suggest to you that not only is Hell occupied by spirit beings, but Hell will be occupied by the satanic activity. You are familiar with the phrase, The Holy Trinity —God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We have made reference time and again to the evil trinity—Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, comparing Satan to God, the Antichrist to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the False Prophet to the Holy Spirit. We would emphasize that this satanic trinity—please notice what I am saying—will be in Hell at the appointed time, as is indicated in Revelation, chapter 19, verse 20:

Revelation 19:

20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

You will recognize that the word beast in verse 20 is another word that is used for the Antichrist, and you will recall that “lake of fire” is a phrase which describes the eternal state of torment. The Antichrist and the False Prophet, we are told in this verse, will be residents of Hell. Notice in chapter 20, verse 10, these words:

Revelation 20:

10And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The judgment of the satanic trinity will be completed at the end of the age. So we can say without fear of contradiction that the residents of Hell are spirit beings, the residents of Hell are the satanic trinity, and, as discovered from a careful perusal of the Word of God, Hell will be populated by sinners.

Definition of Sinners

Because there is such confusion in our day and and time as to what we mean by the word sinners , it might be wise for us to recognize their character as it is described in relation to Hell. Notice Revelation, chapter 21, verse 8:

Revelation 21:

8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

We will not take the time to examine the individual words in this verse of Scripture; they speak for themselves. But I would like to emphasize that oftentimes our attention is focused upon outward, overt sins such as murder and adultery or fornication, as suggested by the word whoremongers . The Bible mentions in this verse with the same emphasis, as in the same class, individuals who we may think are worthy of Hell—the fearful and the unbelievers.

Destiny Because of Conditions—not Character

I ask you to turn to the gospel of John, chapter 3, that I may emphasize that men are not sent to Hell because of their character; they are sent to Hell because of their condition. Notice what I have said. The character of the residents of Hell is plainly described in Revelation, chapter 21, verse 8, but John, chapter 3, verse 18, emphasizes to us that it is not the character of men that determines their destiny in Hell; it is their condition:

John 3:

18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Condemned Already

Did you notice that when I spoke of the satanic trinity, I spoke of them in the future? Let me emphasize that the sentence which will be passed upon them will be passed upon them in the future. But I would also emphasize that individual human beings should not think of the lost condition as a future state. They should recognize that the lost condition is a present state. We should not speak of people who are going to Hell; we should speak of people who are worthy of Hell at this very moment. Look again at verse 18 of John, chapter 3, and let the words fix themselves firmly in your minds:

John 3:

18He that believeth on him [the Lord Jesus Christ] is [this very moment] not condemned: …

Someone said to me only a week or so ago, “How can you speak so boldly of your relationship to Jesus Christ? How can you speak with such assurance of your destiny when you leave this world?” The individual continued, “Isn't it rather presumptuous on your part? Isn't it an indication of pride? Does it not indicate a false conceit? How can you speak so definitly?” I said, “I can speak so definitely because the Word of God speaks so definitely.” The Word of God says, “He that believeth on Him is this very moment not condemned.” The Word of God emphasizes that there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus—therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus—therefore now no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The Word of God emphasizes, Beloved, that NOW are we the sons of God. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).

Continue looking at verse 18, if what I have just said is so, then the remaining portion of the verse must be true as well:

John 3:

18…but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Accepting Christ

Notice the emphasis: “He that believeth not is condemned already.” Friend, it is not up to you to make a decision when you get good and ready. I have often been told by folk, “Oh, I am not going to reject Jesus Christ; I just haven't made up my mind about Him.” Then you have rejected Him. At this moment, everyone within the sound of my voice is either saved or lost. He is either condemned or free from condemnation. He that believeth not is condemned already—not because he has had time to sin a lot and pile up a lot of judgment against himself, but because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

I challenge you to look deep into your hearts to determine your condition before the Lord, and if you have not received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, receive Him now. No, not at the end of the service, but right now, while you sit there in our seat. It is possible for you to recognize before God that you are a sinner, to realize that the Lord Jesus Christ died to save you, and to lift your heart to Him without even bowing your head. Say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I do receive You now as my Savior,” and on the basis of the gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 12, you have the authority to call yourself a child of God. I hope that no one within the sound of my voice will be counted among the residents of Hell. There is no need for it.

Though the majority of you will not be counted among the residents of Hell and perhaps none of you will be, if I were to ask you to tell me whether you have a loved one about whom you are concerned, I suppose that nearly every person here would indicate that he has a loved one about whom he is concerned—concerned that he might be among the residents of Hell.

Is There a Release from Hell?

Though a question such as I am about to propose might not arise in a group like this which has had the opportunity of looking into the Word of God, it does arise often, and it arises from a real heart of love. The question is, “Is there any release from Hell? If people are consigned to Hell, will they be in Hell forever? Is there any way out?” This is a question, I say, that arises from a heart of love because individuals who have unsaved loved ones do not want to think about their spending an eternity in Hell.

As we try to answer the question, may I suggest that the answers are given from a twofold standpoint. They are given from the standpoints of truth and tradition—from the Scripture and from the Apocrypha. The reason I call your attention to this is that you need to recognize the answers so that you can evaluate them.

Two Releases from Hades

Looking at the answer from the standpoint of truth according to Scripture, we would say to you that the Bible describes two releases from Hell. I trust that you will listen carefully to me from here on because if you leave this place and say that Joe Temple said that the Bible describes two releases from Hell and then you do not elaborate, folk are going to be terribly misinformed; they will misconstrue the statement. Yet in the interest of accuracy, I must say to you that the Bible describes two releases from Hell.

Before we think about those releases, refresh your minds about what I have said in the review of the terms which are used in the Scripture concerning Hell. There is one Hebrew word transliterated, the word Sheol , and a companion word in the New Testament, a Greek word transliterated, the word Hades . They both mean the same thing—the place of the dead. Those words are not used with any suggestion as to whether the dead were righteous or unrighteous; context has to determine that.

With that thought in mind, I would like to remind you that Hades was a place of two compartments, as described in chapter 16 of the gospel of Luke. There was an upper compartment, which was called Abraham's Bosom , and there were in that upper part of Hell the beggar who died a righteous man and Abraham and the Old Testament saints. The Lord Jesus Christ referred to this same place, but He called it Paradise . When the thief made request of Him on the Cross concerning his future, you will remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said to him, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The lower part of Hades, or Sheol, is Hell, a place of torment. In this same chapter, chapter 16 of the gospel of Luke, it is recorded that the rich man was in Hell, the lower part. Being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw the beggar, Lazarus, in Paradise. You recall that he said, “Send Lazarus to dip his finger in a glass of water and put just a drop on my tongue because I am in torment.” Abraham said, “There is a great gulf between these two areas, and no one goes from Hell to Heaven, and no one goes from Heaven to Hell.”

Release When Jesus Arose

That is the place into which the Lord Jesus Christ went when He died. That makes it possible for me to discuss with you the first release from Hell described in the Bible—the release which occurred at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord Jesus Christ died, His body was laid in the tomb. He Himself was very busy before He came back and came out of the tomb with a glorified body.

More Than One Ascension

One of a number of things in which He was busily engaged is described for us in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 8:

Ephesians 4:

8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

This refers—listen closely to what I am saying—to one of the ascensions of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are more familiar with the ascension that occurred from the Mount of Olives when He took His disciples out as far as Bethany, and there on the Mount of Olives ascended into Heaven in their sight. They saw Him go up into the Heavens, and two heavenly beings came and said, “Ye men, why are ye standing here gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go” (Acts 1:11). That was His final ascension, but before that, He had made an ascension, and with Him a great host of people who are described in verse 8:

Ephesians 4:

8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,…
9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth [He descended first into the heart of the earth.]?
10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

This sentence is rather involved, but boiling it down into simple language, it says in one brief sentence what is described in the so-called Apostle's Creed . Many of you have repeated the Apostle's Creed in unison as you have gathered in various churches, and one of the things you have said is that you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ descended into Hell.

Good News for Spirits in Prison

I don't know whether you knew what you were saying when you said it, but this is what you were talking about. He descended into Hell, into Paradise. He gathered together all the folk in Paradise and announced to them (That is what Peter meant when he said in I Peter, chapter 3, verse 19, that the Lord Jesus Christ had preached to spirits in prison.) the good news. “I have finished the work.” He said to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, “All those animal sacrifices that you offered whereby you were considered righteous because you believed God's promise, all those sacrifices which pointed back to Me, I have come to tell you that everything if fulfilled. Now let us go back to the place that is prepared for you.”

Where did they go? Up into Heaven. Someone says, “Heaven? Which one? There are seven of them. To which one did they go, and why did they go to Heaven?” The answer is found in II Corinthians, chapter 12:

II Corinthians 12:

1It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one [now notice] caught up to the third heaven.

Yes, the Bible speaks of only three. It is Hollywood that has fixed in your minds that there are seven. Notice what Paul said in verse 3:

II Corinthians 12:

3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4How listen carefully that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Present With the Lord

We will make no further comment on that verse. We have read it just to emphasize that Paradise was moved from the center of the earth to Heaven, where it is today; that is why you can read with confidence in II Corinthians, chapter 5, that the very moment you are absent from the body, you are present with the Lord. Those Old Testament saints had to wait. They had to wait there in Paradise, in the heart of the earth, until Christ had finished His redemptive work, and then they were moved to Heaven. What privileged individuals we are; we go into the presence of the Lord the very moment our breath leaves our bodies.

You see why, in the interest of accuracy, I have to say that according to truth and Scriptures there is a release from Hell. It has already been accomplished. It occurred at the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Released to Face God's Judgment

Go back with me, please, to the book of Revelation as I remind you that there is a release yet pending from Hell which is in the center of the earth. That release will occur at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice that one release occurred at the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and another will occur at the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 20, verse 12, John said:

Revelation 20:

12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;…

Then look at verse 14 and find where those dead came from:

Revelation 20:

14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

You see, Hell as we know it today is in the center of the earth—a prison, with fires there, torment there. Yes, it is very real. But when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, Hell will be taken from the center of the earth and will be cast into the lake of fire, which is related to God' s new creative activity.

Earth to be Destroyed

You do realize, do you not, that this earth upon which we live will someday pass completely out of existence. If you insist that Hell remain in the center of the earth, the you would have some grounds for saying that Hell will pass out of existence because this earth is going to be destroyed. But He has arranged to move Hell from the center of the earth to the lake of fire, which I say is related to God's new creation. No information is given in the Scripture as to its location.

So in answer to the question, “Is there a release from Hell?”, there was, when God took all who were in Paradise to the third Heaven where God is. There will be a release from Hell in the center of the earth, but it is no encouragement to you today, and it is nothing for you to pin your hopes on because it will result in an eternal place of punishment known as the Lake of Fire .

The Error of Tradition

You will recall that I said the question, “Is there a release from Hell?” may be answered in two ways—according to truth and according to tradition. I have already answered the question according to truth, but because I want you to be familiar with the answer according to tradition, I would remind you that some people consider Hell an intermediate place between death and eternal punishment. This place is called by two terms—Purgatory , which means “a place of cleansing,” and Limbo , a Latin word which suggests the idea of suspension, of something not settled. Tradition teaches us that Hell is a place from which men may be released through prayers, through offerings, or through the good works of those who are left upon the earth.

The family from which I came has all intermarried with the Catholic Church. One of the most tragic, heart-breaking things I ever had to go through was to sit in the room where my sister's casket was and see people light candles and put offerings in a box and kneel down and say a prayer that she might be released from Hell. I knew that was foolish. She was a believer; she had been saved; she had walked with the Lord and fellowshipped with Him. Then she did what many young people do—she began to date a man who was a Catholic, and the only way she could marry him was to enter the Catholic Church.

She underwent the course of instruction and joined the Catholic church. I said to her at the time, “Aileen, you can't believe that,” and she said, “Of course I don't believe it; anyone would be a fool to think I do. I am born again, but I have decided that I want this boy, and if it means being out of fellowship with the Lord, then I will be out of fellowship with Him.” I want to say to you that she lived one of the most miserable lives I have ever known anyone to live. When she lay in her casket, I had to sit there and listen to all those sad comments and prayers, see the lighting of candles, and hear the clanking of silver by those who thought it could take her out of Hell. I am not reading a book, Friend; I have had first-hand experience.

Oh, no, I was not unhappy with those people; I was touched by it. They were her friends. They were doing all they knew to do to help her. They did not want her to stay in Hell.

That, Friend, is tradition. It is not truth. There is not one line in the Word of God that would lend support to the teaching of a thing called Purgatory or Limbo —not one word. Someone says, “Well, where do they get such an idea? What right have they to teach such a thing as that?” I say that it comes from tradition and from the Apocrypha .

Origin of Idea of Purgatory

I want you to listen carefully as I read to you from the second book of Maccabees, chapter 12, a portion that gives them the idea, and this is the only place they get it. The reason I want you to listen is that I want you to tell people what you learn. That is the purpose of the ministry of God's Word. “Commit these things to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 12:2). I don't want you just to go out of here and say that Joe Temple said there is no such thing as Purgatory. I don't want people to reply to you, “Well, he just doesn't know.” I want you to know that I am reading from their book of authority.

This book of authority called the Apocrypha has been rejected as sacred, not only by Christian people, but by the Jews themselves because of its inaccuracy. The Maccabees were a family who lived about 100 years before the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth. They were a family who were ruling over the Jewish nation during the Greek domination of the world. Because the Jews were downtrodden and the city of Jerusalem was constantly upset, the Maccabeans revolted against their rulers and died heroic deaths maintaining as much freedom as they possibly could. This particular portion describes a battle in which they were engaged. A number of their own people fell upon the battlefield, and they were disturbed about it. Because they had introduced idolatry into the true worship of God, they observed the custom of praying for the dead.

Judas the Maccabean

Let's listen to the words:

II Maccabees 12:

39Upon the day following, as the use had been, Judas and his company came to take up the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsman.
40Now under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the law. Then every man saw that this was the cause wherefore they were slain.
41All men therefore praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid,
42Betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain.
43And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum [that is, when he had taken a collection] of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection.

Do you see what happened? They took a collection and sent it to the temple at Jerusalem, hoping that these individuals would obtain the resurrection through their offerings. Notice verse 44:

II Maccabees 12:

44For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.

This is why folk put a kneeler by a casket and kneel down and pray for the person who lies in the casket. They are praying for the dead. No. to them, it is not an empty mockery. They are sincere. They believe that they can do something for these people in whom they are so vitally interested, and it is understandable that they would be concerned. Would you not want to do something to get someone out of Hell if you could? Of course you would. They are taught that this is the way in which it can be done. We read in verse 45:

II Maccabees 12:

45And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was a holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.

Did you notice? Judas, the Maccabean, made reconciliation for the dead. His efforts in good works, in money and in prayers would deliver these folk from Hell. So tradition and the Apocrypha teach, but there is not one line in the Scriptures to verify it.

No Hope Outside of Christ

Other than the releases from Hell to which I have referred, and which mean absolutely nothing as far as delivering people from torment is concerned, I would say to you that there is no release from Hell. Hell is a place of eternal torment, described vividly in the Word of God as a place to be avoided.

If you are without a Savior, let me encourage you to trust Him. In one more heartbeat, you could be in Hell in the center of the earth. If you have loved ones who don't know Christ, don't presume; don't say, “Oh, I am praying; they just haven't received Christ as their Savior.” Remember that one heartbeat separates them from Hell. There is no way out once they are in.

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