Jehovah Witnesses say hell is unreasonable

The below article is a continuation of this fiercely debated article between myself and Emeth, a Jehovah Witness.


To Jehovah Witnesses (JWs), hell is a symbolic place that should never be taken to be literal. In fact every verse in the bible that mentions hell, eternal torment, lake of fire, gnashing of teeth, worms never dies, eternal destruction, etc are all considered symbolic by Jehovah Witnesses, all of them. If you were to ask a Jehovah Witness which portion of the bible is symbolic and which is not symbolic they will tell you that all references to hell in the bible are symbolic, and the rest are not. Jehovah Witnesses will also tell you that the book of Revelations is symbolic, yet they have a booklet called “Armageddon – A catastrophic end” which is based on the book of Revelations but for some reason they don’t consider this to be symbolic. All mentions of hell in the Book of Revelations are considered symbolic by Jehovah Witnesses, yet not Armageddon because it doesn’t contradict their religion.

JWs claim that God won’t send people to hell because (1) it is unreasonable (2) it is repugnant to justice (3) it is contrary to the principle of love and (4) it is entirely unscriptural. Before we look at these objections, let’s look at the issue that JWs like to bring up in conversations about hell to confuse people. If you were to ask a JW what happens after a person dies then he would say nothing then quote you this verse: “The dead are conscious of nothing at all” (see Ecclesiastes 9:5), and will probably also quote from Psalm 146:3-4 to prove their point further that dead people are actually dead. In my conversations with JWs I always wonder what point they are trying to make by quoting these verses since nobody disagrees that dead people are actually dead. In their booklet called “Where Are The Dead”, they say “We are mortal and do not survive the death of our body. The life we enjoy is like the flame of a candle. When the flame is put out, it does not go anywhere. It is simply gone.” Do JWs believe in annihilationism – a belief that when people die they result in total destruction and they will never ever live again? No they don’t! You are probably confused because it seems like that’s exactly what they believe. JWs believe in the resurrection of the dead, just as the bible teaches. They say: “You see, Jehovah promises that the dead will live again. (Isaiah 26:19) They will be brought back to life. That is the hope of the resurrection…….During a period of a thousand years, the dead will be resurrected and given an opportunity to join the faithful humans on earth in serving Jehovah.

So when JWs say nothing happens after a person dies, they actually mean nothing happens until that particular person is resurrected, along with all humans who ever lived, and appear to God for judgement. (It’s important to also note that they believe there are people who were buried outside Jerusalem who would not be resurrected because they are not worthy of a resurrection). Let us make it clear that the bible teaches the resurrection of the dead, and people would only appear to God on Judgement Day after the resurrection. So there is no disagreement at this point, except on two points. (1) The bible is clear that all dead people will be resurrected, while JWs say people in Gehenna won’t be resurrected. Jesus said “ 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 5:28-29). JWs says Luke 12:5 confirm their argument that those in Gehenna won’t be resurrected, but there’s no such suggestion whatsoever otherwise we would be sitting with a major contradiction. You can read Luke 12:5 yourself and determine if there is such a suggestion. Point (2) of disagreement is that JWs believe Judgement Day to be nothing but a second opportunity for those who have done evil, while Jesus said “those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”. So judge for yourself if JWs are lying or Jesus is lying. Can “condemn” mean “second opportunity”? Let’s note that other English translations use the word “judgement” (including authorised JWs bible – NWT) instead of “condemn”. Synonyms of “judgement” or “condemn” are convict, sentence, doom, find guilty, censure, denounce, revile, slam, reprimand but not a single synonym close to “second opportunity”, yet JWs say those who did evil will be given “an opportunity to join the faithful humans on earth in serving Jehovah”. In summary, people die, get resurrected, and face judgement.  

Let’s now look at the objections. Is hell unreasonable, repugnant to justice, and not consistent with the principle of love? (We’ll look at the scriptural basis of hell afterwards). These objections are interlinked, so it’s important to answer them concurrently. In my conversation with a Jehovah Witness called Kerry, she said that we can’t compare God to a judge because God should not be a judge to begin with, but rather a God of love and forgiveness. This is one of the primary arguments of Jehovah Witnesses to try and lessen the parallels between how God’s justice works compared to how our civil justice system works. But what does the bible really say? The bible says “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy” (James 4:12). For the benefit of JWs this is not the only scriptural reference, we are told that “The Lord is a God of justice” (Isaiah 30:18), “For I, the Lord, love justice” (Isaiah 61:8), and that God commands people to “maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15), amongst hundreds of scriptures that refer to God as a Judge.   

How is it possible that God could give us the Law, just as every country has a Law (Constitution), yet God doesn’t expect us to obey that Law? How could God expect people to obey His Law just as every country expects its citizens to obey the Law, yet God doesn’t put measures in place for those who break His law when countries have those measures? How could God not have his place of punishment when countries have their own place of punishment – jail? How could God call Himself a Judge when He is not willing to do the judging, but He’s expected to substitute justice for love? People who suggest that God can’t be the same as civil judges forget that it was God who appointed civil judges for children of Israel (see the book of Judges). I put it to you that our justice system is based on God’s justice system, although this world’s justice system is not as perfect as God’s justice system is.   

Since we have jail for lawbreakers, then it’s very reasonable that God should have a place of punishment for all who break His Law. If people are not expected to obey the Law and suffer consequences when they don’t, then the Law should not be given at all. So to suggest that hell is unreasonable is to suggest that God was unreasonable to give us the Law in the first place. Doesn’t the bible say God’s Law is perfect (see Psalm 19:7) and wonderful (see Psalm 119:18), so how could we even suggest that it was unnecessary? Didn’t the same God say we should live by this Law, and “carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 26:16). Didn’t the same God say “you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23), or was it was just an idle threat that will never be fulfilled?

To suggest that hell is unreasonable is to suggest that no country should have jail for criminals, but rather they should be given “second opportunity” in life. I wonder what prosecutors, police officers, judges and the society at large will think of a person who says jail is unreasonable but rather all criminals should be released immediately. They’ll probably think that person is mentally handicapped, or hasn’t been in this world for a considerable time to realise the consequences of crime. If you were to go to Germany and say Nazis didn’t deserve jail or death then you’ll probably be the one who is jailed immediately, because Germans know just how wicked Nazis were. Reality is that JWs are not aware of how offensive sin is to God, that’s why they think sin deserves a slap in the wrist rather eternal punishment in hell. Do they understand how offensive was Sodom and Gomorrah to God? Do they understand what Canaanites used to do to children in their worship of Baal? For your info, Canaanites used to throw their children into fire alive so they can please their idol god called Baal. Do you think that kind of behaviour deserves a second opportunity?

JWs also say that God’s love is not compatible with the existence of hell, so we can’t expect a loving God to even think of sending people to hell. Firstly, we know that God is love, and has proved His love to us through Jesus’ DEATH on the cross. Yes, God proved His love by killing Jesus. This is what JWs believe, that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us, yet they claim God’s love is not compatible with justice. It is God’s justice that killed Jesus on the cross, because Jesus carried our sins. Secondly, are JWs suggesting that all these judges who send people to jail and death row are unloving? Are they suggesting that a person can’t be lovingly and be a lawyer, police officer, judge, or soldier because he might have to apply justice? If that’s the case then all these professions are only for hateful people, but JWs won’t admit to that because some of them are holding these professions. Love is not suspension of justice, but rather fulfilment of it. That is exactly what God showed with Jesus. He loved Jesus and He loved us, which meant He had to apply His justice on the cross.

JWs will say hell is too much a punishment hence it’s a repugnant to justice. But we know that hell is not an unjust punishment. The punishment a person gets in a court of Law is based on the number of charges he has been convicted of and the severity of them. If a person is charged with 100 similar crimes and each of them carries 1 year in prison, then we don’t expect him to get less than 100 years in prison. This is why it’s possible for a person to get 5 life sentences even though he’s only expected to live once, because he may have committed crimes that carry a life sentence each. Reality is that people sin at least 10 times a day against God, as each sin is the same as having broken all of them. This can total to more than 100 000 sins in a lifetime, in fact lying alone can get close to that number. If a person were to be convicted of 100 000 crimes in a court of law then we don’t expect that person to get 1 year in jail, but rather a life sentence at the least. God gave us His sentence in His Law, He said “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), not just death but also their part in their lake of fire (see Revelations 21:8). So 100 000 sins carries with them 100 000 death sentences. We know that this is the true measure of God’s justice because He has already proved it. For instance, He killed a couple for lying (see Acts 5), killed Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexuality and immorality (see Genesis 19), killed Nadab and Abihu for unauthorised incense (see Leviticus 10), and had a man stoned for blasphemy (Leviticus 24). So it’s of no use to debate if God is capable of punishing sinners when he has already done it before.

We are told by JWs that hell is entirely unscriptural, but there are so many scriptural references for hell which JWs consider symbolic, but for the sake of argument let us use this one story by Jesus. We are given a glimpse of a man in Hades by Jesus. In the story of the “Rich Man and Lazarus”, Jesus tell us that the rich man died, was buried and he went to Hades where he was in torment, anguish and in blazing fire (see Luke 6:19-31). In this story it is clear that the man is in Hades (translated as hell in English), because he was in torment, anguish and in blazing fire (as translated by NWT). We are told that Lazarus was not in that place. If Hades in this case is nothing but a place for dead people, then Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells that dead people don’t have consciousness, yet this man is crying out for mercy and asking for water, and in his own words he is in “anguish in this blazing fire” (NWT). So how is it possible for a dead person who is not supposed to be conscious of anything to even speak, never mind feel pain? We are told that the man was in agony, so is Hades (which is a place for dead people according to JWs) a place where people are subjected to agony, torment, anguish and blazing fire? This is a major contradiction for a JW, but we know that Jesus was referring to what we know as hell. If Hades can’t be translated as hell in English then that is not a problem. But we do know that there is a place called Hades where people are subjected to agony, torment, anguish and blazing fire, and that is a place that I’m warning you about. But since I’m not writing this in Greek, and Hades is Greek, can I call it hell – the English translation?


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