Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hell, Part 1

I’m sure many people probably don’t like the idea of an entire article on hell, and I want to make it clear that I don’t focus on why people go to hell in this article, but what hell is.
Why write/read about hell? I can think of at least three reasons why Christians should know a lot about hell:

  • The realization of the details of hell should make the Christian cling tighter to God.
  • The realization of hell should motivate the Christian to save sinners.
  • The knowledge of hell should help Christians persuade sinners.

Before we look at the details of hell, however, I think we should look at a little background—on heaven and hell. That will comprise Part One.


Christians who have passed on are now in “paradise,” or “old heaven.” In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), heaven is referred to as “Abraham’s Bosom.” The heaven that Christians (and God) are currently in isn’t old, but it will be in comparison to the new heaven and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1) that is created, which will include the new Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 21:2) and all of our mansions Jesus is currently preparing (John 14:2), when Jesus comes again to claim His throne and judge the world in righteousness. ( Acts 17:31)
(Note: “Heaven” or “heavens” may refer to the sky, and therefore the original heaven may remain forever, for whereas the “sky” has been affected by sin, “heaven” has not.)


Similarly, people who are dead but are not covered by the blood of Jesus to save them, now are in hell (or Hades), but not in the “Lake of Fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15) The definition of Hades is “the abode of the dead,” but basically, it is hell, for those who God finds favor in go to heaven (“Abraham’s Bosom,” Luke 16:19-31), and Jesus says in the same parable that the rich man in Hades was “in torment.” The Bible refers to Hades synonymously with what we refer to as hell (“…the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”—Matthew 16:18; “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!”—Luke 10:15) It is clear that hell is already being experienced because the Bible states, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment...” (2 Peter 2:4) “Gehenna” is another term for the “place of punishment,” but it’s synonymous with hell as well, so much so, that, the NASB (the most accurate readable translation of the Bible to date) considers them interchangeable (see Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; James 3:6) Eventually, however, complete judgment will come—the “Day of Judgment” or “Day of Wrath” will come (2 Peter 3:7; Romans 2:5)—and then Hades and all it contains (including death itself) will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14). This implies that hell will get worse (Hell "inside" the Lake of Fire). I think of the deceased unregenerate people’s current state as the torture chamber before the execution—the flogging before the cross.

(Note: Some believe that those now in “Hades” are actually on earth—under it, in secret chambers. Greek mythology states that Hades is “under the earth.” This is intriguing but unrealistic. At death, we know that the spirit separates from the body, so why would the spirits stay on this earth?)

~ Kingdom Advancer

September 21st, 2006


Austin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Austin said...

Interesting. Many things come to mind, but I will only mention a few.

Gehenna is a valley outside Jerusalem, and it has come to represent punishment for sin, but most scholars believe that gehenna is temporary.

Hades (Greek) is used interchangeably with Sheol (Hebrew). According to the Bible, ALL DEAD SOULS go to Sheol/Hades, where nothing happens at all to them - it is just meaningless existence.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave [sheol], where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."
-Ecclesiastes 9:10 {NIV}

It should be pointed out that the Bible does say that good people do go to sheol/hades. David is there; Moses is there; Jesus was there for three days. Look it up.
The Bible indicates that the Hebrews, for the most part, believed that death was the end. David, Moses, and some others seemed to have a pretty good idea that there would be a resurrection. Indeed, the New Testament teaches a resurrection! At that point, the souls from sheol/hades will be given a body. Some of them will later receive the second death, the lake of fire.

Clarification: The Bible does not seem to suggest that anyone is in hell right now, but rather that they are simply dead in sheol/hades awaiting judgment. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is just a parable, a story, used by Jesus as an illustration. Nobody interprets his other parables as literal - is this one different? Probably not. Does anyone believe that the good will one day be turned into literal sheep and the bad into literal goats before judgment? No one I know believes that. Jesus told parables to convey an idea, not to teach doctrine.

Austin said...

Oh yeah, thanks for answering my question. Looking forward to your remaining posts on the subject.

Kingdom Advancer said...


Gehenna does literally meaning "Valley of Hinnom," but 'Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary' says that Gehenna means either 1)"place of punishment or misery" or 2)"hell."
It would be temporary only in that those in Gehenna will eventually be thrown into the Lake of Fire. (That's not exactly a better scenario.)

As I said in the original post, "Gehenna" is used interchangeably with "hell" in the NASB. In the passages I listed, Young's Literal Translation (which is what you suggest to use in your homework assignment) is one of the few (if not the only) translations to use Gehenna rather than hell.

'Harper's Bible Dictionary' considers "Gehenna" as similar (if not the same) to "hell or hellfire," stating that in the New Testament the word "Gehenna" is used ONLY as a term for hell or ETERNAL (not temporary) damnation, and never as a geographic location.
'Easton's Bible Dictionary' says that Gehenna is "uniformly rendered as 'hell.'" It also states that in the "process of time [it] became the image of the place of everlasting destruction." Not temporary destruction: EVERLASTING.

Jesus talked much about Gehenna (or hell). If this was temporary punishment, why wouldn't he focus on the permanent?

According to the 'Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains,' the Greek word for Gehenna, in most languages, "is rendered as ‘place of punishment’ or ‘place where the dead suffer’ or ‘place where the dead suffer because of their sins.’"
This suggests the dead suffering now, in hell, not resting, waiting for the end of the world.

Kingdom Advancer said...


Sheol is simply a term for the "grave" or "death." When the Bible speaks of the wicked "going down to Sheol," generally it means dying physically, not being punished spiritually. All go to Sheol, yes, but all do not stay there. Jesus promised the criminal on the cross that "this day you will be with Me in PARADISE."(Luke 23:43) There would be no waiting involved. The criminal would pass through Sheol into the presence of God in a matter of seconds: "to be absent from the body is to be present with God" (2 Corinthians 5:8);"To live is Christ and to die is gain."(Philippians 1:21) If one believes that Paul has gained, or that the criminal is in paradise, one must believe that David and Moses are also out of Sheol, unless they're bound for damnation. They may have stayed there until the point of Jesus' work was completed, but that is it. (The last time the word "Sheol" is used in the Bible is Habakkuk 2:5)
Sheol is not "meaningless existence" for either God's people or His enemies. As I stated, God's people are in His presence in paradise now. "O Death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."(1 Corinthians 15:55-57) Death would still sting if we knew we had to live "meaningless existences" in Sheol indefinitely after death. But since Jesus abolished the power of sin, those who have trusted in God are no longer bound to Sheol. (Moses WAS there; David WAS there) Likewise, if what I'm saying were not true, men like Hitler must be enjoying their "meaningless existences" right now. The longer Jesus tarries, the longer punishment must await. But as I've already established, Gehenna (HELL) is being experienced right now, AS IS HEAVEN.

Also, the argument against the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is not legitimate. No, we will not be sheep and goats, but "foolish virgins" will get left behind. The "wheat" will be separated from the "chaff." The "bad trees" will be hewn down and tossed into the fire. You say Hades is a place where "ALL DEAD SOULS go" and "where nothing happens at all to them." But, regardless of how analogical this parable is, Jesus says that Lazarus was taken to Abraham's bosom and the rich man went to Hades, where he was "IN TORMENT." This is not a prophecy of the future--this is a parable of every day deaths.
The Bible uses Hades only in extremely negative senses. Hades is the "abode of the dead" whereas Sheol is "the grave." Christians are not "dead," they are ALIVE IN CHRIST. Sheol and Hades are not interchangeable, for Sheol is Hebrew and used only in the Old Testament; Hades is Greek and used only in the New Testament. Revelation reveals that all of Hades will be tossed into the Lake of Fire (20:14). Where will Moses and David and the others be if they're in Hades now? The Bible uses Hades as interchangeable with hell when it uses terms like "the keys of Hades" and "the gates of Hades."

The Scripture passage from Ecclesiastes seems convincing,but again--this is from the OLD TESTAMENT before Jesus uttered the words, "It is finished," and the writer of Ecclesiastes, who spoke incessantly of "vanity," was emphasizing that we only have one life to live. We cannot do anything for this earth once we're dead. We do not reincarnate; we do not come back as angels. "It is appointed man once to die; and then to be judged." (Hebrews 9:27)

The summary is that all bodies experience death (go to Sheol), but none stay there--anymore. They either go to Hades/Gehenna where they are tormented and wait for the ultimate judgment (see Revelation 14:10,11), or they immediately go to heaven to be with God.

Kingdom Advancer said...

By the way, I appreciate you reading my blog and I also appreciate your criticism--I consider it constructive.

Austin said...

I don't have much time, so I'll just make a few notes.

The reason Sheol does not appear after Habbakuk is because after the minor prophets (Habukkuk being one of them), the rest of the Bible (the New Testament) is in Greek, so of course they wouldn't use a Hebrew word. You cannot honestly say that Sheol never appears in the New Testament because of the work of Christ - it's because they used different languages! Sheol was not a Greek word. Hades is used instead because it has the same meaning, aside from all the mythological aspects that accompany it. These myths apply only to the pagans; when Christians used the word "hades" they meant the core meaning of the word, "the abode of the dead." Any translation of Hades or Sheol as punishment for the wicked is a false translation. Gehenna and the lake of fire are used for this purpose. That's why most translations often see fit to translate "gehenna" as "hell," but neither sheol nor hades is ever translated as hell except in the KJV and a few other versions.

You said, "Revelation reveals that all of Hades will be tossed into the Lake of Fire (20:14). Where will Moses and David and the others be if they're in Hades now?" You missed the part before that where it said that hades would give up its dead.

"and death and hades gave up the dead which where in them...Then death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire."
-Revelation 20:13-14 (not the whole thing, Version: NASB)

Hades gives up its dead before it is thrown into the lake of fire, so there is no one in it when that happens. People are thrown in later, if their names are not found written in the Lamb's Book of Life. David, Moses, and others do not fit this description.

Gehenna was a trash heap (including corpses), and a burn pile where the fire never went out. This is a picture of punishment. You said it was never used in the New Testament as a geographic location, but that is someone's opinion. When Jesus used the word, he was using the geographic location as a picture of what punishment for sins would be like. He borrowed this picture from the Pharisees, only he used it against them instead of in the same way that they used it - they used it to threaten other sinners so that they would obey the rules of the Pharisees.

Kingdom Advancer said...

I'll start at the bottom:

"This is a picture of punishment. You said it was never used in the New Testament as a geographic location, but that is someone's opinion. When Jesus used the word, he was using the geographic location as a picture of what punishment for sins would be like..."

Yes, Jesus uses Gehenna as a picture for hell, just like a painting of fire "pictures" fire. So you agree that Gehenna is basically hell, then? (And if "most scholars" believe it is temporary, then you must believe that it is being experienced now, for why would it not begin to be experienced until God was throwing them into the Lake of Fire anyway?)

Austin said...

I don't know what Jesus meant, or why he used gehenna as a model of punishment. The people who heard his teaching probably understood what he was saying.

Corpses were thrown into gehenna. Jesus told the people if they said to their brother, "Raca," they would be answerable to the Sanhedrin, but the real Sanhedrin wouldn't have done anything about it, so maybe he meant they were worthy of that as far as God's concerned. Then when he said that whoever says to his brother, "You fool!" would be in danger of gehenna's fire, maybe he was telling them that whoever treats his/her brother this way is worthy of being thrown into the corpse pile of gehenna. He was using a picture. He didn't say there was some after-death place similar to gehenna where the condemned dead would suffer. There's no reason to assume that gehenna meant anything besides the physical place, which Jesus used to show people what they would end up having done to them if they were evil. Maybe he was saying that people who live that way (hating their brother) would end up as just another corpse on gehenna's fire.

Kingdom Advancer said...

First of all, I want to apologize for--as you can see, my replies to your comment is coming in pieces. (I'm trying to balance replying with writing a new post.)

But anyway, I think there is reason to assume that Gehenna means more than just the physical place as an analogy for the physical consequences of evil. Look farther down in Chapter 5 of Matthew (verses 29 and 30). Jesus is talking about dismembering yourself to avoid going to hell(translated from Gehenna). I doubt He means this in the literal sense, because He later states in Chapter 10, to "fear the One who can destroy both SOUL and body in hell[translated from Gehenna]." There's nothing to make us believe that Gehenna--the physical entity--destroys the soul. But Gehenna as a term for hell certainly shows that the soul is "destroyed"--as in, lost forever. Luke 12:5 states it even clearer: “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell(Gehenna); yes, I tell you, fear Him!" If you're dead, why would you care if you were tossed onto the burning corpse heap? Perhaps if Gehenna means more than that?
And lastly, Mark 9:43 states that hell(once again, translated from Gehenna), has "unquenchable fire." Could the fires of the Valley of Hinnom really be considered unquenchable? I don't know all about this valley, so, perhaps, in a practical sense, the Jewish people would've considered it unquenchable. But certainly, we know the eternal fires of hell are unquenchable.

I think these passages do point to an after-death place of punishment, unless it can be satisfactorily proven that all these terms merely stand for the Lake of Fire. But 2 Peter 2:4 states that demons are already in hell, although it does state "reserved for judgment."

Austin said...

Good points, except the part about Matthew 5:29-30.

Jesus was not laying out doctrine; he was being sarcastic as a way of mocking the teachings of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees and other teachers of the law taught that sin was external - e.g. they prevented themselves from lusting by closing their eyes when women walked bye, etc.

Jesus had just got through pointing out that lust is deeper than that - "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." To Jesus - ergo to God - sin effects the heart before it effects the eyes and hands.

Therefore, Jesus showed that the ridiculous act of dismembering yourself is what naturally follows from the Pharisee's way of thinking.

Basically, he was saying something like: "Well then, if your eye is what causes you to sin, and not your heart - and if physical actions are the sin, not your evil hearts - they you might as well gouge out your eyes! After all, wouldn't it be better than going to gehenna with both eyes?!"

Austin said...

I think I need to do a better job of explaining what I meant by Jesus not laying out doctrine in the Sermon on the Mount. I didn't explain that clearly.

Many people like to take the sermon and dissect each verse into its own teaching or command. Jesus was not listing out commands one at a time, he was explaining his theme - elaborating.

When a pastor gives a sermon, every sentence is not its own little doctrine by itself that serves as a life principle - on the contrary, a pastor usually has, oh say, three major points, all wrapped around one underlying theme. The rest of the sermon is explaining and supporting these major "rules," but each individual sentence is not a separate rule being listed by a pastor. Jesus was not listing doctrine; he was explaining, just as any teacher does and should do.

"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out..."

This is not a piece of his doctrinal statement; he's making a point. He had just pointed out that when you LOOK at a woman lustfully, you've ALREADY committed adultery IN YOUR HEART. The heart sinned first; the physical part (looking at her lustfully) came later. So he says that if your right eye is really the cause of your sin (which it's not), and not your heart, then gouge it out!!! Wouldn't you rather have one eye than suffer in gehenna?! He was mocking the Pharisees' attention to only the external.