Does the Bible really say that people will burn in hell forever?
How can that kind of God be loving and just?
Or does the Bible say something else?
The Bible didn't create Christianity.
Christianity (death and resurrection of Jesus) created the Bible.
The Bible came 30-70 years later.
The Bible is the record of what Jesus said and did.
Traditional Christians have been taught for centuries that Adam was the first human that God created, the first person on earth.
There are genealogy lists in the Bible – particularly Genesis 10, Matthew 1 and Luke 3 – that make it possible to calculate the approximate number of years elapsed between Adam and Jesus and thus determine that Adam's life began about 4000 BC. Many historians and Bible scholars have done exhaustive research on the genealogies and nearly all come to essentially this same calculation.
God initially created a world in which there was no pain, sorrow or death. It was paradise. Everything we regard as bad is the result of Adam's sin of eating forbidden fruit.
There is now incontrovertible evidence from archaeology and scientific testing that humans have been on earth for tens of thousands of years, long before Adam.
Christians who believe there was no human activity on earth prior to 4000 BC are simply ignorant of the facts, or denying the facts, of modern archaeology, science and historical research.
There has always been pain, sorrow and death on earth. That's just the way it is and always has been. Most of the earth's history has been very violent; actually, the world has become better rather than worse.
Genesis 1:27 says, 'God created man [generic] in his own image, male and female he created them.'
In the next chapter, Genesis 2:8 says, 'Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man [individual] he had formed.'
It is clear that Adam was not created in the Garden of Eden, as most traditional Christians seem to believe.
We don't know if there was a time gap between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and, if so, for how long. If there were no time gap, the first human was probably Adam. If there were a time gap, the first human was probably someone else.
The Bible does not compel an interpretation that makes Adam the first human. Adam was the first sinner (see 1.4) but not necessarily the first person.
Many traditional Christians – and their leaders and institutions – are threatened by discussion about people who lived before Adam because it could disrupt some long-held church doctrines:
• Age of earth and six-day creation
• Perfect world, and no death, before Adam's sin
• Original sin (every human born guilty because of Adam's sin)
However, the question cannot be ignored in light of all that archaeology has uncovered in the past fifty years. The evidence is now overwhelming that there was human activity on earth long before 4000 BC.
Doubters will not respect Christians and the Christians' Bible unless Christians are intellectually honest.
Most traditional Christians have a very limited view of earth's history and focus almost entirely on events in the Mediterranean/European region during the past three thousand years.
It's helpful to step back and look at the long global picture as God sees it.
From God's perspective, as summarized in the chart below, God just put humans on earth a second ago! He just now completed the sixth day of creation and began the pause mode (seventh day) to let humans rule the earth and exercise free will.
There have been other major pivot points – as each day (age) of creation and the birth/life/resurrection of Jesus. The Bible says there will be more pivot points in the future – Jesus' return/judgment and a new heaven and new earth.
These changes are all part of a massive unfolding divine plan outlined in the Bible. Only part of it has actually happened so far.
THE TABLE ABOVE gives perspective for the number of people alive at time of Adam and at various times ever since. Experts who study populations from ancient to modern estimate that more than 100 billion people have already lived on earth.
Two facts stand out:
Adam was placed by God in the Garden of Eden approximately 4000 BC. Adam did not originate there; he was put there from the outside. 'God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.' (Genesis 2:15).
Adam and Eve's first born son (Cain) murdered his brother (Abel), and God rendered this punishment:
We are now learning about ancient cities of that time through archaeological excavations. One example is Catalhoyuk, Turkey, built prior to 4000 BC in the same general area as the Garden of Eden:
If people lived in cities like Catalhoyuk before 4000 BC,
If Adam was put in the Garden of Eden about 4000 BC according to Bible genealogy,
There had to be a time gap between Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:15,
ADAM AND EVE WERE NOT THE FIRST HUMANS ON EARTH.
The Bible passage above, plus massive archaeological and scientific evidence of other cities in existence at that time, is reason to believe that there was a time gap between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and therefore Adam was first sinner but not first human, as examined in 1.4.
There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning in the world long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world 'through Adam.' (Note: 'through Adam,' not 'because of Adam.' See 1.4.3 for study of Romans 5).
There has been death on earth ever since the Big Bang. Rather than a paradise, it appears that the earth was – and to a large degree still is – a very dangerous and violent place. Man's role is to make it more orderly and hospitable.
The strongest evidence of long ages of prehistoric death comes from deposits of oil, coal and limestone.
OIL. Crude oil is created over millions of years from tiny plants and animals in sea water, called plankton, trapped and buried under many layers of sand and mud. After about 150 million years of heat and pressure, plankton turn into oil and gas in pores of underground rock, like water in a sponge. The rocks fold and form a dome that catches oil and creates a good drilling site.
COAL. Coal is created from giant plants and ferns that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in swamp forests. They died and formed layers at the bottom of the swamps. The dead plant material was subjected to high temperatures and pressures that transformed it into peat and then into coal.
LIMESTONE. Ocean-dwelling organisms such oysters, clams, mussels, and coral have shells that are broken down by waves and settle on the ocean floor where they are compacted over millions of years, creating limestone. As tectonic plates shift, sea bottom is often thrust up as dry land, and limestone is quarried to make Portland cement and many other products.
Stars are born when large gas clouds collapse from gravity. They form hot cores that gather increasingly more gas and dust until nuclear fusion develops deep in their interiors.
The more massive the star, the faster it burns its fuel supply and the shorter its life. The most massive stars burn out and explode after only a few million years. Stars the size of our sun burn out in about 10 billion years. Smaller stars burn out slower.
We can now observe the death of stars – supernovas to black holes – with telescopes catching light emanating from them millions of years ago, long before Adam's sin.
'God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.' – Genesis 1:28
If the earth were perfect before Adam sinned, God would not need a class of creatures (made in God's image) to subdue and rule over it.
'Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.' – Genesis 4:10-17
If the earth were perfect before Adam sinned, God would not need someone to work and take care of the Garden of Eden.
If would make no sense for God to warn Adam (before he sinned) that the penalty for disobedience is death if no death on earth had ever yet occurred. That concept would have been totally incomprehensible to Adam unless he had already seen death.
Some people interpret the Bible to say that God intended the world to be perfect – all beauty, no pain, no sorrow, no death – but Adam's sin fouled God's wonderful plan and brought death into the world and condemned people to eternal hell.
That interpretation of death – thought to be a bad and unintended tragedy – seems completely out of context with other things we know about God and creation.
If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then no man's action is unforeseen or able to disrupt the divine plan.
Genesis 1 tells us that at the end of each day of creation, God said it was 'good.' As the final statement, God looked at all that was happening – including death in every life form he created – and said it was 'very good.'
All evidence points to an earth that has always been subject to death. God intentionally designed it this way to prevent suffocation from overcrowding and to make way for new and better life.
Life on earth is temporary by intentional design, not by unforeseen events or miscalculation.
After creating animals, God said it was 'good,'
After creating humans, God said it was 'very good,'
Animals and humans have been dying since creation,
Death is not a mistake, problem or punishment caused by sin,
DEATH IS A NORMAL PART OF GOD'S DESIGN PLAN.
If a Bible 'day' is a long period of time [see 1.2],
If the life-and-death cycle was operative on earth before Adam,
If sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12),
SIN IS NOT THE CAUSE OF DEATH.
God's first recorded words spoken to humans were, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it' (Genesis 1:28, prior to Adam and Eve).
Without death, multiplication would eventually suffocate life because of overcrowding. Death is necessary to facilitate new life.
Not only do individual creatures die, but entire species die. Scientists say that 99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct.
Death clears the way for new life. God's plan of slow topographical, climatological and demographical changes – and the adaptation and improvement of life forms to those changes – results in death clearing the way for continual upgrades that come only through re-birth.
Throughout this site, the interpretation of 'death' is its plain and ordinary meaning: End of existence, no more consciousness.
Death is an intregral part of the cycle of life. Death is not a design flaw. Death is the result of normal aging as God intended, not the result of sin.
This site shows how the Bible teaches that, after death of the body, there will be physical resurrection, judgment and hell, then eventual final death in hell (end of existence).
The Bible says there is only one exception to final death. See 3.6 for the one exception, 'eternal life', offered to some people. This is the core of the Christian gospel (the good news) ... eternal life through personal faith in Jesus Christ.