The Truth about Hell with John Cortright

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Rev. John Cortright brings thirty years of biblical teaching experience to bear on the critical subject of hell. Most Christians believe that hell is the place that one goes to immediately at death if he or she is unsaved. In hell a person is supposedly tormented without relief, not for ten, twenty, or thirty years, nor even for a million years, but for all of eternity. This grotesque mythology has grown out of exaggerations by people like Dante whose imaginations, no doubt, got the better of their exegetical powers.

John demonstrates from the Scriptures that the dead are in Sheol (also called Hades) where they are unconscious (“asleep”) until Jesus comes to resurrect. Even so, after the millennial rule, a great white throne will be set up and the final judgment will occur. At this time everyone whose name is not found written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire (gehenna) to be burned to death.

John shows that the idea of gehenna (the word translated hell in the New Testament) came from an actual place–the Valley of Hinnom (see picture at right). What’s more, John has actually been there–to the Valley of Hinnom–in modern day Israel and he describes it with chilling detail. Furthermore, John shares what took place there historically so that it became the prototypical way of talking about God’s fiery judgment to be delivered in the last day. If you have ever questioned the typical view of hell, and have been at a loss to reconcile the belief that God will torture people forever with the notion that “God is love,” then this show would be well worth your time.

14 Responses to The Truth about Hell with John Cortright

  1. Matthew says:

    Hi, Sean,

    Listened to the show and enjoyed it very much!

    My question is about Rev. 20:10 which was touched upon briefly. What is your understanding here? Is it possible that the Devil, beast, and false prophet WILL be tormented forever? If the Devil was previously an good angel, aren’t angels immortal (Luke 20:36)?

    If you know of any articles or discussions concerning this text, please share.


  2. John Ha says:

    Howdy Sean and John, Thanks for making this production. I have long been a student and outspoken advocate for people to investigate how the word “Hell” is translated. My greatest investigation is how many times Hades and Gehenna are used in the New Testament. By my count Gehenna is used 12 times, while Hades is used 11 time in the New Testament.
    Thank you both for making the time to share this discussion.
    May God bless your work.

  3. sean says:


    Thanks for listening. John Cortright did address Rev. 20:10 to some degree but we had to cut it out in post-production editing due to time limitations. However, I will try to find the clip and upload it when I get back home (I’m in Georgia at the moment).

    grace & peace

  4. Matthew says:

    Wow, I live in Conyers, GA!

    Look forward to listening.


  5. sean says:


    So sorry for the delay in getting this up. Click here to listen to an addendum on Revelation 20.10 that I had to edit out of the original podcast. Furthermore, I found this paper by Patrick Navas helpful in understanding Revelation 20.10.

    grace & peace

  6. Aaron says:

    I was hoping for a little more understanding on your views of heaven and hell and death.

    My understanding is that you believe that when a person dies, that person is not conscious – and the next thing that person knows is that they will be resurrected when Christ returns. Correct?

    In light of Revelations 20:13 “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” is the experience of deadness the same for unbelievers as it is for believers? I mean, after the period of no consciousness, are both Christians and non-Christians going to be raised from the dead, wherein Christians continue on to reign with Christ and the non-Christians are thrown into the lake of fire just to be dead again? (That’s the puzzling one for me – how and why the unsaved would be lifted from a state of non-existence just to be put back into a state of non-existence.) Also, if the “ressurection” is the hope of Christians and basically means being brought back to life, what is the term for the un-saved being brought back to life since it is basically the same thing – only it just won’t end as sweetly.

    I wonder how the scene of Transfiguration in Luke 9:30 fits into your ideas of death. Jesus is suddenly joined by Moses and Elijah. If they are in a state of blacked-out-ness, how do they appear with Jesus? They are also speaking of Jesus’ departure, which seems to indicate that they have some sort of consciousness if they know of God’s plans. Similarly, what about the appearance of Samuel to King Saul in the OT after Samuel is dead? Samuel tells King Saul of God’s plan for him. This goes against both the idea of a state of no-consciousness and a state of no knowledge.

    One last thing. In both the podcast about heaven and hell, you and your guest said things like “doesn’t this view make more sense and bring you more comfort than the traditional view.” I’m sure this was just warm chatter, but I’d caution against the notion that we choose our theology based on what makes us feel better and what makes more sense in our limited human eyes. If that were the case, I would choose a theology like Mormonism where I am told I can be a god of my own universe one day. That would make me feel real good.

    Seriously, don’t take my questions as antagonism. I just hope for a more detailed explanation of your beliefs. Thanks for your time.

  7. Xavier says:

    Aaron, Sean may no longer be active in this thread since the radio show has gone offline. Maybe you should try him at his kingdomready blog.

  8. Sean says:


    I’m here but I just don’t have the time to respond right now. I’m totally busy in school right now and can barely keep up with email. Perhaps Xavier could answer for me.

    grace & peace

  9. Xavier says:

    ummm…I’ll give it a shot Sean…

    Aaron, according to the Bible “the wages of sin is death” [Rom 6.23; cp. 5.12], which means a “return to the ground” from which we were taken, seeing as how God made us from dust and to dust shall we return [Gen 3.19]. This is something every human being[rithgeous and wicked alike] will inevitably experience [Job 14.10ff.Ecc. 9:2ff; 3:19ff.].

    The Hebrew word SHEOL was rendered as the Greek word HADES by the Septuagint translators. Some English translations render it as HELL, GRAVE GEHENNA, and PIT [cp. KJV].

    The Bible also describes the “state of the dead” as “the sleep of death” [Psa 13.3] In the NT “asleep”, [koimao, Mat 9.24; 27.52; Mar 5.39; Lu 8.52; Jn 11.11-13; Acts 7.60; 13.36; 1Cor 11.30; 15.6, 18, 20; 1Thess 4.13-15; 5.6, 10; 2Pe 3.4]. The OT equivalent is “slept with his fathers” (as shown throughout 1–2 Kings; 1–2 Chronicles). This is described as a deep sleep from which people will one day be awakened (cp. Dan. 12:2).

    According to the NT, “the dead in Christ will rise first” [1Thess 4.16-17; cp. 1Cor 15.23; 2Thess 2.1; Rev 20.1-6]. Note that the Greek term translated “meet” [apantēsis] in 1Thess 4.17 is often used of an important dignitary’s reception by the inhabitants of a city, who come out to greet and welcome their honored guest with fanfare and celebration, then accompany him into the city (cf. Matt. 25:6; Acts 18:15; a related term hypantēsis is used in Matt. 25:1; John 12:13).

    Meaning that the subsequent movement of the saints after meeting Christ “in the air” conforms to Christ’s direction, thus in a downward motion toward the earth. Meaning, the establishment of the Kingdom of God ON EARTH!

    Now, according to Revelation 20.11-15, the rest of humanity will be resurrected so that they can be “judged by what was written in the books [of life and death], according to what they had done” [v.12; cp. Matt 16:27,Rom 2:6,14:12,2 Cor 5:10,Heb 9:27,1 Pet 1:17,Rev 2:23,20:12,22:12,Acts 10:42,1 Cor 3:8].

    The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
    “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,and he will reign for ever and ever.”

    And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

    “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was [cp. Ex 3.14], because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.

    The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. THE TIME HAS COME FOR JUDGING THE DEAD, AND FOR REWARDING YOUR SERVANTS AND THE PROPHETS AND YOUR PEOPLE WHO REVERE YOUR NAME, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Rev 11.15-18

    Re: the Transfiguration, only in Luke are we told that the subject of their conversation was the “exodos” which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. So, if we take the previous biblical evidence regarding what happens to and the state of the dead into consideration, this event looks to be an eschatological vision, where we get a precurson [if you will] to Jesus’ future resurrected body in the KOG with the prophets.

    I do not see it as a present reality.

    The word departure translates the Greek form of the word we know in transliteration as exodus (exodos). It certainly brings to mind the escape of the people of Israel from Egypt, and it may signify a redemptive theme in Luke as well as alluding to the experience of Moses, with whose person and experience Jesus stands in superior comparison…

    …it may well refer either to Jesus’ impending death or to the whole culmination of his earthly life. The phrase “which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” echoes Luke’s strong theme of Jesus’ intentional fulfillment of the divine will (cf. Luke’s frequent use of dei, “it is necessary” [Lk 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 11:42; 12:12; 13:14, 16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:7, 37; 24:7, 26, 44) and of pleroō, “fulfill” [Lk 1:20; 4:21; 21:24; 22:16; 24:44, as well as here]).

    Whether Jesus’ resurrection is intended to be under stood as part of his “departure” is not clear. One could also argue for inclusion of the ascension, since Luke is the only Gospel to describe that final departure (Lk 24:50–53; cf. Acts 1:1–11). Also, shortly after the Transfiguration episode Luke has an allusion to the ascension in the expression “received up” (Lk 9:51). The root of the Greek word for that (analēmpsis) is the same as the root for the word used for the ascension (analambanō) in Acts 1:2…

    One might propose in conclusion that, first of all, the three Gospels uniformly present Jesus as the Son of God. In addition Matthew seems to draw mainly on the Moses analogy, Luke on that of a redemptive “exodus” and on the prediction of the chosen Servant, while Mark focusses on Elijah.
    [Green, J. B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I. H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (840). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.]

    The “appearance of Samuel” to Saul is just that, an APPEARANCE fabricated by “a god” [elohim, spirit being] that looks like the dead King [v.13-14]. Historically speaking, the Ancient Near Eastern cult of calling up the dead through mediums was considered to be a dangerous practice probably because more often than not, spirit beings were summoned who took the form of the dead person.

    In any case, the character of this event has long been debated—whether the spirit was really Samuel, or how the medium could command the spirit of a holy prophet.

    As far as the narration goes, the spirit does deliver a true prophecy to Saul, similar to Samuel himself in 28:16–19. But whatever the limits on a medium’s power normally were, in this case YHWH seems to use this “god” to serve His purpose of relaying a mesage to Saul.

  10. Aaron says:

    Thanks Xavier for giving it a shot.
    Good luck Sean in your schooling.

    The explanation of the transfiguration being a vision seems to be no more than conjecture. It doesn’t fit the mold of stated visions throughout the Bible. Visions always involved a spoken message to the viewers, not a background conversation that the reporting disciple does not give any depth of coverage to. If it was a vision, then Jesus had to have it to, in order to talk to folks who weren’t really there. I can’t think of another instance in the Bible of a “community” vision.
    The story of the medium in Samuel is interesting all by itself, and one could just as easily conclude that the appearance was actually Samuel. That is the way it is written, and I don’t have any problem taking it just that way. If it were another way, I think it would have been recorded as such.
    I listened to another podcast today, and I have a few questions about it. I think I will ask them in the other blog since Sean is a bit busy at the moment, and perhaps others will have an answer as well.

  11. Xavier says:

    The Transfiguration event was a vision, Jesus himself says this in the Matthean account [17.9]:

    And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one THE VISION [horama], until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

    The word translated “vision” is the Gk. :

    A sight, spectacle, that which is seen (Act 7:31; Sept.: Exo 3:3; Deu 28:34). Used of a SUPERNATURAL APPEARANCE, a VISION (Act 9:10,12; 10:3, 17, 19; 12:9; 16:9-10; 18:9; Sept.: Gen 15:1; 46:2; Dan8:1). Wordstudy Dictionary

    The Samuel story is recorded in such a way as to be ambigous enough wether we are dealing with the actual personage or an “elohim” who APPEARS as Samuel.

    But I digress, if all of the evidence I have thus given you is innacurate or too far out to be anywhere near within the Biblical context concerning the state of the dead, what is the alternative? That certain “saints” are presently in heaven? If that is true, then what is so special about Jesus ascending to heaven, at God’s right hand no less, if others go there when they die? Most importantly, how can Jesus be said to be the only person who has been raised from the dead? And what’s the point of a resurrection of the dead?

    I recently wrote an article exploring these themes, I don’t know if you happen to read it. Here’s an excert from it:

    <No one, including prophets, patriarchs or kings, is said to be currently alive [conscious and active] in heaven, where only Jesus is said to be at the present because he is the “firstfruits [first to rise from the dead] of those who have fallen asleep [dead]” [1Cor 15.20-23; cp. Acts 26.23]…

    If not one of the kings is said to be presently alive and conscious in the heavens [or under it], we have to surmise that the same applies to the “fathers [ancestors]” of David, which includes those patriarchs who came before him. How do we know? The OT testifies that Abraham was laid with his “fathers in peace” [Gen 15.15; 25.8], the same for Isaac and Jacob [Gen 47.28-31], Moses [Due 31.14-15, 34.5], King David and his son Solomon [2 Sam 7.12; 1K 2.10; 11.21; cp. 2Chro 9.21]. The NT again verifies the unchanging nature of their current state [Heb 11.13-15]…

    Here’s a link if your interested:

  12. mike mosher says:

    Both the lost and the saved in christ are in their graves,and nowhere else according to scriptures.God said marvel not, for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves shall hear his voice. where are they? in their graves.The traditional orthox christendom doctrine is that when you die you go immediately to heaven,but this teaching is not according to scripture.

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