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The Contender
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0 Points

Biblically, can people in Hell be saved?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/28/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,365 times Debate No: 30823
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




This question is very rarely touched upon biblically at all. Most of the alleged 'hell' verses in the Bible, particularly in the Gospels, don't even have anything to do with the afterlife.

There are a few passages that seem to optimistically suggest pretty plainly that a time will come when those in Gehenna/'Hell' will receive salvation. Many passages go far enough to seem to suggest that eventually all men, along with all of creation, will be redeemed and saved.

There is a boatload of arguments against this that I've grown up around, but frankly none of them hold much water in my opinion. I'd love to debate the exegesis of it all out with somebody who disagrees.

Thanks so much,


Opening Remarks

As no framework has been outlined and this debate is relatively short (three rounds in total), in this round I will put forward a few verses appropriately bolded for emphasis which I deem anathema to the concept that people in hell can be saved. I will refrain from making any arguments based off these verses, but I would like to afford my honorable opponent some chance to anticipate my arguments in order that he might tailor his appropriately.

All verses from the RSV-CE [1].

Luke 16:26

'And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'

Matthew 25:46

'And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'

Hebrews 9:27

'And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment,'

2 Thessalonians 1:9

'They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,'


I accept, and await my opponent's arguments.

Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for your response; I'll try to briefly respond to all those verses and then throw in some that I think bode well for my argument.

Luke 16, (The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus), is simply not about the eternal states of heaven or hell. Almost unanimously, theologians from Martin Luther to N.T. Wright have agreed on this point. Here's why. First, the NT word for 'hell' is 'Gehenna.' 'Hades' is used in Luke 16. Hades never refers to anything close to 'hell' in the bible - it was simply the 'abode of the dead,' if you will. Look into its NT usage if you doubt this. It is only used twice in the whole NT I believe, and its other use in 1 Corinthians 15:55 makes clear that it refers to simply death. Similarly, the NT term for the heavenly afterlife is generally 'new heavens and new earth' (Rev 21-22). Luke 16 uses 'Abraham's bosom,' a Jewish mythological setting where souls may possibly go prior to resurrecting on the last day. Bottom line: neither Hades nor Abraham's bosom have anything to do with the literal afterlife; they are simply used as imagery to display the severity of Jesus' accusations against the Pharisees.

Side note: Gehenna was a real place - it was a valley outside Jerusalem where garbage was burned day and night, and wolves would come and fight over it. In 1 Chronicles I believe, it is described as a place where children were at one point sacrificed. Jesus' use of the word 'Gehenna' was employing modern-day imagery to illustrate what post-mortem judgment would resemble.

Matthew 25 has been simply translated poorly. The words translated 'eternal' simply don't mean eternal, and are used throughout the NT and other Greek writings as 'ages.' 'Aion' is the word - where we get our word 'eon' from. It is best translated as 'age of punishment' and 'age of life.' It says nothing about the duration of either time-wise. An alternative translation could mean something like 'divine punishment' and 'divine life.' Both of these are arguable. Eternal is simply an unreasonable translation - any literal bible translation like YLT never uses the word 'eternal' for 'aionian.'

Hebrews 9 is a non-issue for me. I agree completely. A person dies once and is judged. But all I'm proposing is that after judgment there is still hope.

For 2 Thessalonians, I would say that the same thing I said for Matthew 25. Poor translation on 'aion.'

My argument now. I admit that there is not much biblically to support my side. There is some, absolutely, but not a large amount. This didn't seem to be a question the writers of scripture were enormously concerned with. Nevertheless:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

For God has bound all people over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32)

...we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1:19-20)

For if, because of the offence of one man, death ruled through that one man; how much more will those receiving the overflowing grace, that is, the gift of being considered righteous, rule in life through the one man Jesus the Messiah!
In other words, just as it was through one offence that all people came under condemnation, so also it is through one righteous act that all people come to be considered righteous. (Rom. 5:17-18)

...making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph. 1:9-10)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[e] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient...the Gospel was preached to those who are dead. (1 Pet. 3:17-18, 4:6)

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Rom. 8:19-21)

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. (John 12:31-32)

Finally, my best argument is probably the closing scene of Revelation. After the Lake of Fire judgment scene, the New Heavens and New Earth (the eternal state for God and his people) is described in a new scene.

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new"...To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death...And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day"and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

And he showed me a pure[a] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 21:5, 6b-8, 22-26, 22:1-2).

This is very dense, but there are a few key points. Jesus is 'making' all things new. This verbage is in the present tense. Even when the Creation is re-made (Rom 8, Rev 21), there will still be more redeeming left to do. There will still be those who 'have their part' in the lake of fire. But.. 'he who conquers will have his heritage.' 'Kings will bring their glory' into the new, perfect Jerusalem. 'Its gates will never be shut!' Nations and unredeemed peoples will still be entering into this heavenly city. The story doesn't finish. The ending is especially wonderful - a 'river of water of life' flows out of the New Jerusalem into the whole world! The 'tree of life' is on either side, and there will still be 'healing of the nations' for those outside.

The imagery switches from sinners being in the 'lake of fire' to those 'outside the city.' This isn't a contradiction. Imagery changes in prophecy (ex: Daniel 1-2 switches from scene to scene when portraying the same concepts).

The ending of Revelation is a parallel of the start of Genesis. The story of the Bible is the story of 'all things' and 'all men.' God created a good world, sin entered and destroyed it, and God reconciled his whole corrupted universe back to himself. It ends with a beginning of New Creation. Heaven comes down and 'marries' earth. 'God's dwelling is with his people.' And, just as the old Israel was meant to bring God's salvation to this old earth, the New Jerusalem will be a light that calls sinners in the New Earth to God's salvation.

Note: The "lake of fire" imagery is representative of "Gehenna." Remember that Gehenna was a valley outside Jerusalem? There is here a "New Jerusalem/heaven" with "Gehenna/lake of fire" outside it. The imagery matches up. God is making all things new!


AlwaysMoreThanYou forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


chrisiacovetti forfeited this round.


I concede.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by AlwaysMoreThanYou 3 years ago
Really sorry about this. I might as well concede the debate, because there's no point making my arguments in the last round.
Posted by JeremyMcNamee 3 years ago
I would like to except but I don't believe in hell, so it would turn more into an "is hell real" debate...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Heineken 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro wins.Concession.