Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in hell?

Feb 19, 2012 by

That is a very good question Anonymous!

My first instinct is to carry you back to the beginnings of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

There was a push by the IBSA (International Bible Students Association) and later by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to differentiate themselves from mainstream Christendom.

By doing this they have created what we call in sales a “market niche”. They have a unique belief system that nobody else can claim and therefore they can claim that they are the only “true religion” of God.

You also have to understand the founders of this religion. Charles Taze Russell was a very successful businessman and Judge Rutherford had put himself through lawschool by selling encyclopedias door to door.

Sound familiar?

Yes Rutherford imprinted his own brand of service to God upon the “faithful” by making them go door to door selling books and magazines just as he had done years earlier for another company.

Getting back to your question:

JW’s teach that “hell” or the Greek “hades” is nothing more than the common grave of mankind. It is the eventuality for every living person. They do not teach that hades is a place of torment or that it is something to be avoided.

Another thing that I find interesting is that even though there have been many references to Hell or Hades or Gehenna in terms of fire, they try to explain this all away by claiming that the verses were symbolic for something else.

This is nothing more than Watchtower speak for: “The scripture doesn’t say what you think it says. It says what WE say it says.”

If you read their explanation for the “Rich Man and Lazarus” parable you’ll be so confused by the time you finish it that you won’t have enough bread crumbs to get home. This is fairly common among JW literature, especially when it comes to prophetical interpretation. I believe that their goal is to get you to suspend what your mind tells you the scripture says and to accept what they say that it says. If they have to confuse you to get you there then so be it.

I think it is very interesting that JW’s fear something far worse than hell. They fear everlasting non-existence. They teach that when you die you’re dead. Nothing lives on afterwards and that anyone not of the “anointed class” of 144,000 (they teach that this is literal number but are symbolic spiritual Jews) who dies will have to wait until after Armageddon has come and then they will gradually be brought back to populate the earth and be subjected to a gradual (1,000 years) return to physical and spiritual perfection.

However, you must die faithful if you are to have an “earthly hope” to be resurrected into paradise. If you lived a life outside the JW’s and failed to take advantage of their teachings and leadership then you will never be resurrected and you will remain dead for an eternity.

Nice motivator!

Much like anything else they seek to draw a dividing line between themselves and any other religious belief so that they can claim divine authority and that they (and only they) have the truth.

With regard to whether it is an actual “burning place” or “hellfire” exists I really don’t know. The words used could be merely metaphor. However the scriptures make it exceedingly clear that it is a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and of “torment” and not a place that I want to go. I’ll just take that much on faith.

Notice the interesting way that Jesus Christ Himself put this:

Luke 12:4-5

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

My question is simply this: If “hell” is simply a grave and you’re just DEAD then why would someone fear being thrown into hell? It doesn’t make any sense unless hell is somewhere you would not want to be.

Check out the next scripture:

James 3:6

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

WHAT? If hell is just a grave then how could it set something on fire?

The most damning of all of these scriptures has to be this one:

2 Peter 2:4

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

Okay just a little logic here.

If hell is the grave then you can’t keep angels there. They aren’t dead and are stated to be held in “gloomy dungeons” for judgement.

There are just too many references to hell being a gloomy place of fiery torment for us to believe it is anything else!

Now we may not LIKE that there is a hell. We may have a real problem with it. We may feel that a God of love can’t possibly punish people in hell. Yet here it is boys and girls in black and white.

You can argue until you’re blue in the face and the scriptures will still say the same thing!

I hope this answers your question Anonymous!

Yours in Christ,

Doug Shields

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  1. Jon

    Excellent article.

  2. Thanks Jon!


  3. Anonymous

    Very good response for the JW that comes to see me every week or two. Thanks.

  4. Great! Glad you like it!


  5. Chelsey reyna

    The Bible teaches that god is love, there is no wickedness in him, therefore why would anyone believe that he would send anyone to suffer permanently in hellfire?

    When Jesus spoke of Lazarus he said that Lazarus was “asleep” and he was going to “wake him” likening death to being asleep. Lazarus said he knew nothing while he was dead, he spoke of neither going to heaven or hell while being dead, he said he only remember being alive and being resurrected. The Bible also states at Psalm 146:4- his spirit goes out and he returns to the ground on that very day his thoughts perish. Ecc 9:5- the dead know nothing at all…

    I think that speaks for itself as far as the state of the dead. If they cease to exist and are conscience of nothing, it would be hard for them to be tormented for eternity in hellfire.

  6. 1 Peter 3:18-20

    “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive in the spirit, in which He also went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built. In the ark a few people, only eight souls, were saved through water.…”

    I think that speaks for itself…don’t you?


  7. By the way…Chelsey Reyna, I don’t know what Bible you read but the one I read mentions NOTHING about Lazarus saying that he remembered nothing. Read John 11 and then get back to me.

    You stated: “Lazarus said he knew nothing while he was dead, he spoke of neither going to heaven or hell while being dead, he said he only remember being alive and being resurrected.”

    Chelsey, your words are an outright fabrication and not what the Bible says. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the scriptures about anything that Lazarus said after his resurrection. You see this is exactly what happens when Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to “cow” people into submission. They find that most people don’t know their Bible at all and so they aren’t “called on the carpet” very often. Well this Christian knows his Bible and quite frankly I find your “adding to the scriptures” quite distasteful and a blatant attempt to mislead my readers.


  8. One more thing Chelsey that may make you think about your beliefs:

    You stated: “The Bible teaches that god is love, there is no wickedness in him, therefore why would anyone believe that he would send anyone to suffer permanently in hellfire?”

    What if “hell” is a state of being removed from God? What if hell is merely the realization that you had a chance at eternity with the Father and you missed it because of your pride, arrogance and failure to take the appropriate actions when you had the chance?

    I don’t know what hell is. I don’t know if it is physical pain and anguish or mental. I don’t know if there is actual fire or if that is merely a metaphor. However I do know enough from what I’ve read in the Bible to not ever want to go there.

    Perhaps hell isn’t God’s choice Chelsey. Perhaps it is ours.


  9. Arin richardson

    I go back and forth with a j w she does know the Bible better as far as knowing where to find scriptures, The funny thing is all the scriptures they point out, are the same ones I point out showing that the father, son, and Holy Spirit are one, she says Jesus was a mediator . I say look here I and the father are one she says yes like your husband and you are one. I say why does Thomas say my lord and my God if Jesus is just a mediator. It says there is only one God yes but then is Jesus a god? How can there be two God when it states all throughout scripture. Yahweh is God =1 god three roles father son Holy Spirit. Don’t mind punctuation I’m in a hurry. She says Jehovah is God Jesus is mediator. I just don’t know how they think their separate. Either they are 1 or we have more than one God which scriptures make clear Yahweh Is God ONE GOD. Plus Jesus allows praises to go to him if he were not God that would be idolitary or hypocritical or whatever you want to call it . If he were not God it would be wrong. Sorry I’m in a hurry.

  10. Arin you are right. The scriptures bear out that Christ is God. The JW’s do not accept that and have changed scriptures to fit their theology. That’s why they have their own version of the Bible.


  11. Amen brother. Couldn’t have put it any better. Facts are facts.

  12. Raul sanchez

    Excellent article, on this. Religion an it’s like any other Religion they are aways changing there doctrine; but guest what the bible never change’s,scripture teaches ; heaven & earth will pass away but his words will be forever, also in malachi 3 : 6 it says for I am the lord, I change not; amen.

  13. Thanks Raul!


  14. Steve Vos

    Doug. Thanks for your work. My brother spent 20 years in JW. He left and is now unchurched. He still doesn’t believe in hell. Has all these JW commentaries to explain it away
    If Jesus is Saviour but there is no hell. What does he save you from? Can one be saved without having Jesus as Savior?
    Steve Vos

  15. You make some good points Steve.

    What makes the Watchtower so insidious is that even when someone leaves them, they remain “damaged goods” from a Christian perspective. I’ve also observed that when a JW leaves the organization it’s pretty much grudgingly accepted by his friends and family. They’ll say things like, “He was weak.” or “When the world gets done with him he’ll be back.” however God forbid he should take up any other church or religion. That is the unforgivable sin in the minds of the JW faithful and that they can never forgive.

    Finally, until he addresses the programming loops in his mind, one of which you just stated in your comment, he will continue to be lost, and susceptible to returning to the JW’s at any high stress point in his life. It isn’t unusual to see JW’s go back to the fold even after decades of being out. Events like a death of a family member, job loss, or simply getting older can have a drastic effect on a former JW and will trigger embedded loops and programming that exist far below the surface.

    I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it.

    I’m reminded of what Christ Himself said when confronting the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 23:15:

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

    The Watchtower and their followers fit this description so well that it is almost spooky.


  16. Anonymous

    A God of love really can’t possibly punish people in hell. Therefore, either hell exist and God is not all good, or hell
    doesn’t exist, meaning the bible is wrong. If the bible is wrong about the existence of hell, it could just as easily be wrong about the existence of God. Might as well just throw it all out.

  17. And that is certainly your prerogative Anonymous. Everybody gets to make a choice and you sound like you’ve made yours.

    You obviously missed the comments. If you’re right, then you’re good to go. If you’re not…you’ll most likely be spending eternity in the “smoking section”.


  18. In real life, deceiving ourselves usually results in more pain for a longer period of time than we would have experienced otherwise.

    I’m reminded of the smoker who tells everyone who questions his poor choice of habit “We all gotta die of something!” and then he finds out he has stage four lung cancer. The alcoholic, who proclaims he doesn’t have a problem, until he kills a father of three while drinking and driving. The sex addict, who insists that her choices are a “lifestyle”, testing positive for HIV.

    There are always consequences for our choices, or lack of them.

    We all long for a life where we can do whatever we want, whenever we want and still wind up skinny, rich, healthy, and fulfilled. Life simply doesn’t work that way.

    Neither does God.

    If we truly accept what the Bible says about God and the afterlife, then we have a choice:

    Accept the free gift of redemption that Christ offers, or not.

    Did you notice that I didn’t pin a laundry list of conditions on the back end of that statement? God doesn’t do “take-backs”. Only men who usurp His authority do that. Organized religions typically attempt to place strict limits on God’s mercy. They do this by taking all sorts of scriptures out of context and when it suits them, changing the meaning of the scriptures by changing the words used in their version. They busy themselves in imposing strict conditions on redemption specifically designed to make us believe that the shed blood of Christ isn’t quite enough to get us into heaven. Instead we have to work for these groups or give them money. The Watchtower organization is merely one of thousands that do this for their own power and material gain. However, if you are a sincere student of the Bible, and read it instead of depending on someone else to read and interpret it for you, you’ll find that reconciliation with God really is just as simple as a decision, made in a moment. It is a decision that you get to make yourself. Nobody else can make it for you.

    We may not like that there’s a price to pay for our choices or lack thereof, but we pay that price whether we like it or not. I think the same goes for those who refuse to accept Christ. And for all you “fence sitters” out there, even when we abstain from making a choice, that too is a choice.


  19. Anonymous

    I agree wholeheartedly I have a very dear friend who who is a Jehovah Witness & we have to agree to disagree these people r brainwashed

  20. Anonymous

    Did u believe in baptism

  21. Robert Woods

    I think it was a great answer..my father n law is jw and all he talks abt is the 144 .000 And the 1000.00 yrs mullinem…why yu worry abt this whn god said wat ever it is in heaven. So why worry abt to get in with the 144.000 whn god has already select these peoples already..ibeen trying to get him to take in consideration that new that Adam and Eve was going to sin..this why he needed to bring jesus forth…

  22. Anonymous

    Read Revelation 20:15
    Then Revelation 21:8

  23. Dan


  24. Anonymous

    This idea that a God of love could not create hell is the result of spiritual ignorance.
    ( I don’t mean to offend – sorry)

    This mistake comes from a distorted image of love and sin.
    Gods love is not permissive love – as one would spoil a child.
    Love that does NOT punish is NOT true love – rather it is self-love.
    Self-love is what the world calls “love” and it is NOT Agape.

    God is just.
    How can he allow sin to go unpunished and remain a Holy Just God?
    Hebrews 6 includes eternal judgement as a FUNDAMENTAL Truth.

    Jesus is so clear about eternal damnation that you would have to deny Christ
    to actually believe the contrary.

    People – Love can and DOES punish.

    Is no one a parent here?

  25. SearchfSeatruth

    You are too stuck on proving the JW are wrong and not reading the scriptures. You are forgetting is taught in scriptures.The Bible is harmonious. God heart has never been in sacrifice of humans in fire. See Jeremiah 7:31. Daniel chapter 12 shows us that the souls will be dead til judgement day. Acts 3:23 every soul will be completely destroyed who will not hear the prophet.

  26. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

  27. Anonymous

    This is ridiculous…Read the bible and make sure you understand it before you even think that hell is not real.DO NOT READ YOUR WATCH TOWER book.

  28. N/a

    God is love and God is a just and holy God. Hell is real and the only way to be saved is to believe in Jesus. Repent from our sins, obey Him, surrender you life to Him and accept Him as you personal Lord and Saviour. If hell is not real, what’s the use of salvation? Stop brainwashing your members. Tell the truth! Study the bible and not your Watch Tower book. My sister and her family are on their way to eternal damnation because of your lies and twisting of the Scriptures. Because they believe in JW teaching which is false.

  29. Philip Dalton

    I feel I have a moral duty to set the record straight here, none of these scriptures do the slightest bit of good in refuting the Jehovah’s Witness teaching that “Hell is only the grave” because none of them are actually referring to the grave in the first place. The first two have been translated with the word “Hell” in them from the original Greek “Gehenna”. If you look that up on Wikipedia it’s actually plain as day to see what the verses are referring to. The third one had been translated from the original Greek ” Tartarus”.

  30. David Rankin

    It is true that God will not send anyone to hell. Everyone who enters there will do so in spite of God’s efforts to keep them out. He gave us a conscience. Romans 1, 20 tells us that the natural world around us leaves nobody with an excuse for not believing. He even sent His son to create an escape route for us. The one thing He will not do is take away our free will. Every person makes their own choice, and at the Day of Judgement God will announce to each of us what the reward or punishment that choice has earned us. The Bible tells us that of those who received much, much will be expected, (Luke 12, 48). God is a ‘just judge’ who knows all things, and will ‘judge in Righteousness.’

  31. Anonymous

    I have a friend that is jw and it is hard to talk to her about logical things. She always says “why would a loving God send someone to hell?” I explain to her he gives us the option to follow him and spend eternity in heaven or deny him and spend eternity in hell. We have a conscious and we choose how to live and if we choose the earthly ways we send ourselves to hell. It simply says all of this in the Bible. She thinks that when they die they will not exist until a new earth is created, but if that is true and we all go to the same place why do we even live differently than the rest of the world. Why would I be sentenced the same fate as a murderer or a thief when I lived my life the way God intended will all the trials and tribulations only to be sent to the same place? She also believes only 144,000 people can get into heaven but what about the people who have died and when to heaven and came back? You know it’s not just “dreams” when they say facts that they would’ve never possibly known.

  32. macy

    To add to my other comment the word sheol is used in the Bible. If you look of the word it says a place of darkness to which to dead go. Why would jw use the word death do mean the same thing.

  33. macy

    I have a friend who is jw and can’t speak with her about reasons her religion doesn’t make sense. She always says “ what loving God would send someone to hell?” God gives us the option to worship him and spend eternity in heaven and if we deny him we spend eternity in hell. I tell her this and I also tell her why would I devote my life to Christ and live the way he demands when a murder or a thief or an atheist will have the same eternal fate as me. How is that fair to someone that didn’t live like the ways of the earth but lived how Christ wanted. Being Christian on this earth were the devil is hard and a lot of people simply won’t do it. Our loving God is not the one sending us to hell it is ourselves by denying him and his ways.

  34. Anonymous

    Very much enjoyed reading what you wrote. Thank you.

  35. Thank you for your kind words.


  36. George

    According to Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man was in torment “in this flame”.
    According to Strong’s concordance, the Greek word behind “flame” was actually “blaze”.
    And elsewhere using Strong’s and the other incidences of the word flame in relation to the account of the rich man after death, there is an implication the rich mans hands were burned off to stumps.
    But, nothing like this matters to the brainwashed JW’s and their Watchtower extrabiblical authority figure.

  37. “But how would a God of love burn someone alive in flames?”

    Ah the standard JW retort to anything hellfire related.

    Never mind that God punished Sodom and Gomorrah in the very same manner as Hell with fire and brimstone. Never mind that he made Lot’s wife turn into a pillar of salt for nothing more than looking back. Never mind that He allowed Elisha to call out two wild bears to tear asunder forty-two children who were teasing him for being bald.

    I guess JW’s are simply in denial about the consequences of making God angry. If Hell wasn’t real, and wasn’t an awful destination, Jesus wouldn’t have mentioned it in such graphic detail.


  38. David Rankin

    Jehovah’s Witness unGodliness goes a lot deeper than most of you seem to think. The Young Earth Creationist movement is theirs, and a bigger menace to Christianity than Evolution or Atheism. Evolution says, ‘We can explain it all without God.’ Atheism says, ‘We don’t believe God exists.’ Both of these schools of thought have lost their grip on the world’s imagination, and Satan has turned to Young Earth Creationism which claims to believe the Bible, yet contradicts many of its tenets, such as Malachi 6, 3 where God said, “I am the Lord, I do not change.” and the JW’s say that God changed the speed of light by a million times. They claim that God made water flow uphill in Noah’s flood. They claim that God did not make the sun as part of the original universe. This . .type of ‘theology’ was condemned by Augustine as damaging to the scriptures in the sight of unbelievers who have knowledge of the natural world and the laws God has built it on. Romans 1, 20 tells us that the natural world (What I call ‘The Gospel of God’s works’) leaves unbelievers without excuse for not believing. If that is so, the JW’s who claim to be believers have even less excuse. Corinthians, 4, 4 says, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” Christ is God, but the JW’s reject that, in spite of the number of times Jesus said, “I and the father are one.” Belief in YEC/JW doctrine sounds perilously close to the unforgivable sin. Satan is no less cunning now than he was in the Garden of Eden.

  39. Zachna Madison

    Sorry for my harsh or direct to the point language okay but if people are gonna be deceived into accepting the JW’s doctrine and teachings that there’s no such thing as hell or new jerusalem or anything about God’s wrath against the wicked and the unrepentant sinners then are you saying that the Bible just wasted its last pages all for prophecies of nothings? Other than that, if ever it’s true that JW had created their own version of the Bible then it’s sadly a religious deception and blasphemy is also a fair word to incite actually. JW members i believe were hardworking evangelists especially when they go from door to door to spread the gospel. But unless you really carefully and truly search the scriptures and ask of God’s Holy Spirit to teach you and guide you to he truth, it’s still a danger for us Christians because the Holy Bible or the Scriptures survived from the early ages, the dark ages, until the modern world today but we failed to trust the Word of God through it. What’s worse is when we alter and modify the divine words written in it as well just to use it to fit in our own agenda or man-made beliefs. In short, instead of wrapping our beliefs around the Bible, it is the Bible that we wrap around our own doctrines, teachings, beliefs, etc. Not to mention that it’s already hard to take back what you’ve established after you gathered a large number of followers believing in the teachings of your religion, sect or denomination. You can’t just say that your church isn’t the one established by God after gaining thousands of members. It’s never that easy. Do you think the ministers or leaders of the INC or the ADD would just announce how they were misled and wrong all these years just so easy? No! people who had believed in them after all would kill them! I’m not saying that these sects i have mentioned are false churches. I’m just stating an example of religions that gained a whole lot of followers or disciples or whatever they call these people. In the Bible, it says there that we should watch out for false prophets who come into sheep’s clothing and with that said, i may need to end my long statement in here period.

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