Is Hell really real?
The concept of hell, a place of eternal torment for those who don’t accept Jesus Christ as Savior is one of the most common beliefs in the Christian faith. Many don’t question this belief because it has been taught to them all their lives and they are not supposed to question the faith But logically thinking, how can a God of love send most of His creation to hell for all eternity where there will be no relief for them in a burning furnace? It doesn’t make much sense does it? Of course it doesn’t because no earthly parent would send their child/den to be tortured forever to punish them. How inhumane is that, is this concept really Biblical? Does it speak of a place where people will be tormented in fire forever? In this article I would like to address this question so that you the reader can come to a decision regarding hell and if it truly does exist as most of us think – a place of eternal damnation where unbelievers burn for all eternity.
The Bible for many is the infallible Word of God and has no mistakes or contradictions in it. The problem with that is the Bible has been translated over and over again. Could it be possible mistranslations occured or were added. Not many have access to the oringial scrolls of the scriptures, but tools exist today to give insight it. So in studying the Bible, the use of concordances and lexicons are used to give us the Greek and Hebrew words which are more accurate than the English versions of what we see today.
In researching the words for hell in the Greek and Hebrew you will find the words used never mean eternal fire torment. The word hell in the Old Testament transliteration is “sheol”. It means in the Hebrew “the underworld or the place of no return”. It is used 65 times in the Old Testament and has several usages such as pit, grave, and of course hell. Its first usage is found in Genesis 37:35.
And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, "For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning." Thus his father wept for him.
In the New Testament, three words are transliterated for the English word hell; the most common one is Hades, geenna, and tataroo. The first use of the word is seen in Matthew 5:22
But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.
The Greek word for hell in this verse is geenna which is a literal place in the Old Testament “This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned. When referenced back to II Chronicles 28: 1-3
Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do right in the sight of the LORD, as his father David. For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
After it was abolished by King Josiah (2King 23:10) the Jewish people used the valley to cast and burn refuse but dead bodies of executed criminals and of animals.
The next usage of “hell” in the Greek is hades, which comes from the gods of the netherworld- Hades or Pluto, and later it was used as hell or grave. Matthew 11:23
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Tartaroo is the final Greek word for hell in the New Testament, which refers to the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead and it is only found one time in 2Peter 2:4,
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment
It is obvious to see that nowhere is it used as eternal fire damnation, the closest it comes to fire is the use of geenna which was used to burn the dead, it was then later used for the eternal punishment. It is taken from the story that Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 16: 22- 31
So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.
"Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'
But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'
"Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'
Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
Buthe said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "
In this passage, Jesus is talking to his disciples about Lazarus and the rich man and how one goes to heaven and the other to hell. The only difference between Lazarus and the rich man is that one had good things happen and one evil things nothing is mentioned of the other. It could be argued that it was before Jesus died on the cross, but it still doesn’t make much sense.
To understand this passage it would benefit going back in the context to see if any light can be shed on the subject. Going back to read several verses before the texts and several after it but it will give a better understanding. In the beginning of chapter 16 (and chapter 15) of Luke we see that Jesus was talking to his disciples in parables. In verses 14-18 we see Jesus addressing the Pharisees because they confronted him. Then in verse 19 Jesus begins telling another parable and this parable deals directly with the Pharisees. In Chapter 17, we see that Jesus no longer speaks in parables. So in understanding these verses we need to realize they are not literal but a parable told to make a point.
In looking at the Hebrew and Greek meanings for the word “hell” we see that it never refers to the eternal torment fire. Again the question remains, how a God who is love will allow most of mankind perish for all eternity? Doesn’t make much sense if you knew how God felt about the Valley of Hinnom and its rituals. Jeremiah 32:35
They built the high places of Baal, which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom [Gehenna], to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mindthat they should do this abomination.
Only a small fraction of a bigger picture was presented in this article; but I hope it begins to present in your mind that perhaps what you have been taught about hell may not be truth, for the truth will set you free. It did for me, because I always came up with a pat answer for someone who asked me the question regarding how a good person like Mother Teresa could go to hell for all eternity because of not believing in Jesus Christ.
When this foundation begins to crumble you will find others will begin to also; but an exciting journey will begin for you as God opens your eyes to more of His truths.
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