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The Lie of Hell

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‘Bible-believing scholars are increasingly rejecting as unbiblical the old picture of hell as everlasting conscious torment. In its place most often they offer a biblical vision of evil made extinct, along with those people who prefer to perish with evil rather than to let it go.

Leading the way in this important work have been a cadre of British biblical scholars--F. F. Bruce, John W. Wenham, Richard Bauckham, John Stott, J. I. Marshall, Michael Green, and N. T. Wright—to name but a few.

With this book, The Lie of Hell, we welcome to the conversation the fresh perspective of Anglican rector Roger Harper. Utilizing what some have called “red-letter hermeneutics,” Harper begins with the teachings of Jesus himself, then he uses those teachings as a lens through which he reads biblical writers in general. The result, whether right or wrong, is a stimulating and nuanced form of conditional immortality likely to invigorate Bible students of all persuasions.’

Edward William Fudge, author of The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment (Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock, 3rd ed., 2011).

A movie, Hell and Mr. Fudge (2012), has been made of Edward’s life and work. See



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‘Roger Harper provides us in The Lie of Hell with fresh and provocative insights on the debate about hell - or what he would rightly want to distinguish as Gehenna and Hades, the words used by Jesus himself in the Gospels. You might not be convinced by all his arguments, nor support his implication that continuing talk of hell deliberately distorts the truth. But the case he makes is born of a close and passionate engagement with Scripture. It deserves serious attention and a serious response.’
David Hilborn
Principal, St John’s School of Mission, Nottingham
formerly Theological Adviser, Evangelical Alliance and
Editor of the Evangelical Alliance Report The Nature of Hell (2000)

Available also on Kindle

A very important book and an exciting read. If you want to get up to speed with how and why this atrocious lie of “eternal conscious torment” in hell came about, and to discern the various schools of thought on the topic, this book will be an excellent primer. You don’t have to agree with everything, indeed as always you are commanded to “test everything and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21), but the main point is undoubtedly true – that God is holy, just and merciful, and not a torturer seeing any sense let alone pleasure in humans being tormented in endless pain “for ever and ever”....
Mathi80 on
5 Stars

Be prepared to think again and take a new look at what happens after death. Try and put all your notions of hell to one side and allow Roger Harper to take you step by step through the words and teachings of Jesus. Roger looks at the original Greek and Hebrew words and what can be learned from both the New and Old Testaments. There is Hades and there is Gehenna and they are different. Knowing that Jesus holds the keys to Hades will be a welcome thought for many people. Roger makes recommendations for the Church of today based on these new insights. Additionally there is an interesting historical chapter which explains how the current doctrine of hell developed. Scholars and theologians will welcome the chapter which reviews other books about hell, the rest of us can skip that chapter!
Please allow yourself to be challenged.'  
'Marshall' on
5 Stars


I brought a Great Books and Presbyterian background to Roger Harper's journey through the lie of hell. His account is clear and direct, eschewing the distractions of many authors of his qualifications. If you believe that the Old and New Testaments are the truth, then this is a completely convincing argument that Hades and Gehenna are two difference places, each generally misunderstood. Further, he effectively argues that this misunderstanding has impeded the acceptance of Christianity in some parts of the world and society, and has kept practicing Christians from understanding Jesus' love for humankind. This is a great book, perhaps even a Great Book.
Dr Redleaf on
5 stars

I find myself caught between those who tell me that hell is a place of eternal torment and should be warned against at every evangelistic opportunity and those who seem to have dismissed it altogether as inconsistent with a God of love and mercy. Although held by wise and godly leaders with much more knowledge than me, I am not entirely convinced by either standpoint. So what should I believe? `The Lie of Hell' rightly begins by establishing that the place to look for truth is in the teaching of Jesus - that is the foundation - and all other teaching needs to come into line with what He has revealed to us. The author then goes on to make a convincing case that the words used by Jesus and translated in our New Testaments as `Hell' - Hades and Gehenna - could very easily describe two separate places; the second being a place of destruction rather than eternal suffering, and the first, although a place of torment, may not be eternal.

As well as looking at both old and new testaments the book also responds to other authors on the subject - which I found very helpful indeed.

This is a very useful and thought-provoking contribution to the debate and I am sure that I will find myself quoting it in future discussions.
Elaine Sharples on Amazon
4 Stars

I first heard about this book on an Unbelieveable podcast with Justin Brierly discussing various views of hell and was intrigued as I have struggled over this issue myself over the years, particularly over the 2 Greek words used in the New Testament- Hades and Gehenna. Then I met Roger at a conference and bought his book and found it brilliant.

It is a very spiritual uplifting book- though it is tackling very heavy subject matter. His approach is very logical anbd thorough, first establishing Jesus as the foundational authority for Christians and then looking at the 2 words used by Jesus and how different they are- one about temporary torment and one about permament destruction. He then goes on to show how all the other teaching of Jesus and the New Testament about the afterlife fits into one of these 2 pictures, and yet what a mess the church has made because we have needlessly conflated these 2 into one word and produced the concept of hellas eternal punishment.

The thesis is simple, but it resolves so many issues that Christians have struggled with for centuries. Every Christian who has thought about the issues of hell should read this book!

canon4folk on Amazon
5 Stars

The Lie of Hell is a very powerful, thought- and spirit-provoking book. To myself and my wife especially it gives us a new way of looking at life and death. I am also reminded that I should study my Bible more often than I do. It is such a good theological resource.

Yes, another book on the hell question. This one, however, has a few new ideas to propound.

The author (an Anglican minister) points out that, whereas much has been written in recent years about Gehenna--representing the lake of fire and ultimate destination of the wicked--too little attention has been given to Hades. The fact that some English versions of the Bible have translated both words as `hell' has caused immense confusion, and it would be better to drop the word `hell' altogether and instead use the transliterations `Gehenna' and `Hades'.

Regarding the former the author is an annihilationist. He exposes as a 'lie' the traditional teaching of the church that the judgment of hell is everlasting conscious torment. Gehenna is grim and painful, but it issues, in God's good time, in cessation of existence. This seems to becoming the mainstream view now among Christians of many types.

Hades he describes as a 'remand prison' where the wicked await the final judgment at Christ's return. Because Jesus, according to Revelation, holds the keys of Hades, he has entry there at will, and the love he shows to the inmates will elicit a positive response from some, who will thus be saved. So, in the author's view, another aspect of the traditional church's 'lie' is the notion that death rules out any further opportunity to embrace Christ's salvation.

In the middle of the book, after he has set out some hermeneutical principles (the chief one being `Listen to Jesus') and examined the biblical vocabulary of hell, he includes a helpful summary of available books espousing different views on the fate of the wicked: annihilationist, universalist, traditionalist and escapist, plus books by people who have had near-death experiences. In my opinion it's worth buying his book for this feature alone. Also helpful is his `history of hell', showing the development of the doctrine down the centuries.

Some readers may consider that the author at times builds too much of a case on fairly obscure Bible passages, reaching conclusions that may be open to question. Others will have wobbles about the `prophetic' element at the end of the book--a record of the author's conversations with God (which I found wordy, hard to follow and tempting to skip). But there are also some sound pointers to the way forward on the hell question, and much to provoke serious thought.

David Matthew on Amazon
4 Stars

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