First, a quick explanation of the Infernalist doctrine. Infernalism is the theological name for the soteriology believed by most Christians, which is the idea that if someone has committed a single sin in their lifetime — which every single human aside from Jesus has done at some point while they’re still a young child — they’re immediately destined for an eternity of suffering in the lake of fire with no chance of escape unless they happen to believe (and, some will argue, do) the right thing(s) before they die. Because of this idea, many Christians believe that God wants them to teach as many people as possible how to avoid such a fate, because if the non-Christians of the world don’t do something very specific to get themselves saved, they’re going to end up suffering this horrific punishment. And if Infernalism were true, yes, it would indeed be important to urgently spread the message of how to avoid such an outcome to as many people as possible
This raises some questions, though. You see, literally nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (meaning the books of the Bible that are normally, and mistakenly, referred to as “the Old Testament”) does God warn any of His chosen people about this possible destiny. You won’t find a single passage anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that even hints at the idea of never-ending conscious torment in fire for people who don’t “get saved” before they die, or even for not obeying the Mosaic law perfectly during their lifetime (which is impossible to do anyway, raising a whole other set of questions about the fate of Israelites who sinned prior to Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection; although those of us in the body of Christ are aware of the fact that the word “salvation” had a completely different meaning for Israelites than it does for us Gentiles today, but that’s a whole other discussion). And so, if teaching people that the punishment for sin is never-ending torment in the lake of fire, as well as explaining how to avoid ending up there forever, was actually as urgent to God as many Christians believe it to be, why did He never warn any of His chosen people that this could be something they might experience, not to mention how to avoid it? (And before you theorize that maybe He did warn some of them ”off screen,” an important rule of scriptural interpretation is that if something isn’t recorded in Scripture, there’s no basis for assuming, much less asserting, that it happened.)
That’s not all, though. If Infernalism is true, nearly every Gentile to exist from the time Adam was created to the time Paul began his ministry is going to suffer for eternity as well (that’s 4,000 years or more worth of Gentiles who never had a chance, since they all sinned as children yet never heard of a way to escape the supposed consequence of their sins). With very few exceptions, God didn’t speak to Gentiles prior to sending Paul to the nations, and they weren’t given Scripture of any sort either (in fact, even when Jesus sent His disciples to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry, He specifically told them not to go to Gentiles but rather to only share the Good News with Israelites, which seems to contradict the urgency of evangelism if the Gospel of the Kingdom had anything to do with avoiding everlasting torment the way most Infernalists believe it did), so they were entirely unaware that this horrific torture chamber was pretty much guaranteed to be their fate if the Infernalists are correct, since, again, every one of them had sinned at least once as children, and basically none of them knew how to “get saved” until Paul began telling Gentiles how to do so. Remember, aside from Cornelius (who still needed Peter to come tell him what he needed to know in order to get saved himself, otherwise he would have been out of luck too, at least if the Gospel of the Kingdom was the same as Paul’s Gospel), the Jewish believers didn’t preach to Gentiles, pretty much leaving the Gentile portion of the so-called “Great Commission” completely up to Paul. (For those of you who are thinking about the “Ethiopian” eunuch right now, there’s scriptural evidence that he was probably actually an Israelite who lived in Ethiopia, but that’s a bigger discussion than I have the space to get into here.) Not only were Adam and Eve not warned that eternity suffering in the lake of fire could be the outcome of their sin, since all they were told was that they’d become mortal and die if they ate the forbidden fruit (even if we read the unscriptural idea of “spiritual death” into God’s warning to them, that still doesn’t even hint at the idea of never-ending torture in a lake of fire), nobody else (Jew or Gentile) from their time to the time Jesus began preaching were either, which makes the idea that God desperately wants humans to know their possible punishment for sin, not to mention how to avoid said punishment, extremely questionable, unless He suddenly changed His mind about the urgency of this warning after Jesus’ resurrection.
Now, yes, there are two passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that Infernalists do try to use as evidence that Infernalism was taught back then, but it becomes clear that neither of them actually do so when they’re looked at closely:
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. — Isaiah 66:24
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. — Daniel 12:2
The passage in Isaiah is used to defend Infernalism a lot, yet almost nobody ever seems to notice a particular word in the passage, which is the word “carcases.” This passage is simply talking about a future time on earth (and not in some ethereal afterlife dimension called “hell”) where people will see literal dead bodies being consumed by fire and worms in the valley in Israel known as Gehenna. The fact that they’re referred to as “carcases” means that they can’t be suffering, since corpses don’t suffer, so this passage does nothing to help support the Infernalist perspective (and nobody reading this passage when it was written could have possibly thought the ”carcases” were actually a figurative reference to souls suffering consciously in the lake of fire, since that concept hadn’t even been introduced in Scripture yet, so to claim that this is what Isaiah actually meant is blatant eisegesis). And there’s nothing in the negative part of the passage in Daniel that any Jewish reader back then could have possibly understood as referring to suffering forever in fire either, since terms such as “shame” and “contempt” wouldn’t have even hinted at such an idea for anyone reading it, not to mention the fact that nobody had even heard of the lake of fire yet (also, the word translated as “everlasting” was the Hebrew word “olam,” which was basically always used in a figurative sense in the Hebrew Scriptures and pretty much never actually meant “without end,” as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere on this website, so that word doesn’t help their soteriology either). Of course, there were a number of references to fiery judgements in the Hebrew Scriptures, but they all referred to the fire purifying Israel and making things right, not to any Israelites being tortured forever in said fire, so those passages definitely don’t help support Infernalism either.
This means that until Jesus began preaching about Gehenna and hades (remember, the word “hell” is a translation in less literal Bible versions of three different Greek words — hades, Gehenna, and tartarus — all of which refer to completely different concepts and places from one another, as well as one Hebrew word — sheol, which has the same meaning as the Greek word hades), nobody prior to that point had any scriptural basis whatsoever for even considering the idea of Infernalism. Some Christians will argue that the Jews back then had come to learn about Infernalism from their captors during the Babylonian captivity, and were using the word “Gehenna” during the time Jesus walked the earth to figuratively refer to an afterlife involving never-ending fiery torment, but aside from the fact that there’s no historical evidence this was actually the case prior to Jesus’ time on earth (at least none that I’ve seen), even if this was true, taking pagan concepts and reading them into Scripture isn’t exactly something one is supposed to do, and so if they were doing that, Jesus would have said, ”Have you not read…?” or ”It is written…” and condemned them for their eisegesis as He so often did.
This also means that if Jesus was talking about an inescapable torture chamber when He spoke of Gehenna, any of His Jewish listeners could have (and should have) pointed out the lack of scriptural basis for this new doctrine He was teaching (and remember, Jesus came to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, not to add entirely unheard of doctrines that nobody could have ever possibly figured out on their own from reading Scripture, which raises problems for the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, I should add). Of course, if one pays close attention to the references that Jesus makes to Gehenna (which few Christians do), they should notice that He was speaking about the same thing Isaiah wrote about in the passage from that book we already looked at, which means that Jesus would have been referring to the same thing Isaiah was: dead bodies being consumed by fire and by worms, not conscious souls being tormented.
Bottom line, there’s absolutely zero basis for the idea that anyone was ever warned about the horrible fate Infernalists believe will happen to non-Christians before Jesus began talking about Gehenna, which means that not only is being warned about this punishment for sin and being told how to escape it nowhere near as important to God as “evangelists” today seem to think it is, it also means that the verse about God loving the world can’t possibly mean what they assume it does, because He apparently didn’t love the world enough to offer any chance of escaping this destiny to the vast majority of humanity for 4,000 years or more (considering the fact that they’d all have been doomed from early childhood if the Infernalists were right). This also means there’s no basis for interpreting those warnings of Jesus the way Infernalists do either, since when they’re read in context it becomes pretty apparent that He was simply warning His Jewish audience about weeping and gnashing their teeth over having to live in the figurative “outer darkness” of the parts of the world that aren’t Israel when the kingdom of heaven finally begins on earth — specifically in Israel — as well as the possibility of missing out on enjoying the kingdom during the Millennium because their corpse ended up in Gehenna during or after the Tribulation (which hasn’t even occurred yet; right now Gehenna is still actually a pretty pleasant place). And when you consider just how clearly Paul taught that everyone will eventually experience salvation, it becomes obvious that the only reason to continue misinterpreting these warnings of Jesus is either because someone wants Infernalism to be true, or because they’re just too lazy or afraid to study the topic deeper to find out the truth for themselves.