Saturday, July 12, 2008

What the "hell"???


My Dear Ones,

For quite some time now the motivation of many who come before the God of Love. YHWH, has not been so much because they are in “hope of HEAVEN“.. But, sadly, rather because they “FEAR HELL“.

Many well-meaning people, Including Actor, Kirk Cameron, admits that his faith first sprang forth based on “fear” (Terror) and “Guilt”.

In a CNN.COM* interview Cameron himself stated, “…and if all my sin came out as evidence of my guilt, on the day I stood before Him I would be absolutely guilty. I wouldn't be able to bribe my way out of a courtroom. I wouldn't be able to buy my way with all my money and celebrity. I would ultimately have to give an answer for the life that I have lived”

Later, he admits he came into contact with Ray Comfort, who uses a rather confrontational “Hell, Fire and Brimstone” methodology in how he presents the Good News (Gospel).

Cameron says in the Article the following regarding Comfort, “I heard a message that Ray Comfort had given and has given for years called 'Hell's Best Kept Secret' and I was so inspired by it and shook up over it that we got together…”

In any type of “Fear/Guilt Methodology” of “Saving People from Hell” the argument goes that Mankind is fully deserving of “eternal suffering” and that if they don’t “get right with God” then they will suffer forever in a place of torment.

In essence, the message becomes “Make God your friend or God will not only kill you but he allow to be tortured forever and ever.”.

Thus, the question becomes asked of many “If you were to die tonight are you sure you would go to heaven … and not hell?

Comfort and Cameron throw this question around with great abandon. Yet, is it the right question to ask to truly bring a person before a God said to be LOVE???

I will let the reader go and take a look at the whole “Cameron” interview* but take a look at the focus.. “Fear, Guilt, Sin, Law & HELL” are emphasized over and over.

Ray Comfort (Way of the Master) and Cameron would have people thinking that this way of “Evangelism” was the way Jesus did it .. But to focus of HELL truly makes the LOVE OF GOD seem more like something one “BETTER DO NOW OR BURN IN HELL FOREVER, AND EVER”
* Link:

Motivational toward action?… Yes!.. Correct theology? Well, frankly NO!

For some people who live in fear and guilt anyway this method may bring them to a point of making a decision to follow a path, a faith or a teaching…

…But, is it the method God would desire used? … I think not!

Does it “draw people to the light and love that is GOD?” or does it not make God appear as a wrathful, hateful, egotistical megalomaniac who, a bit like “Vlad, the Impaler”, wishes to not only get rid of those who oppose his will??? .. but beyond Vlad’s cruelty (for his victims eventually passed on) an eternal “Hell” would go on and on and on.. Making God appear to surpass Vlad in cruelty if this were true.

Of course many will defend their faith in “Eternal Suffering’ until.. Well. “Hell freezes over” (sad LOL) but defending an errant teaching does not make that errant teaching right and some reading this came to Christ using this way of teaching.. Or even use it themselves without being aware that it is not biblically correct.

“WHAT???” Say some, “ARE YOU SAYING THERE IS NO HELL???.. Blasphemer!!!! Well, get yourself some heavy sun block you infidel because you are gonna need it!!!”

No, I will not and neither will anyone else if the Bible is true because in spite of traditional dogmas and popular teachings regarding the “traditional Dante’ version of Hell” taught by so many… this version and vision of “hell” is provably incorrect .

First, lets look at the History of the various concepts of Hell from a variety of faiths:
Hell appears in several mythologies and religions . It is commonly inhabited by demons and the souls of dead people.

Hell is often depicted in art and literature, perhaps most famously in Dante's Divine Comedy.
Norse mythology

The giantess Hel rules a dark, horrible underworld for those who die inglorious deaths, such as sickness or old age. Her realm is also called Hel, and this word is the source of the English word "hell." Hel isn't hot like most concepts of Hell, but is very very cold.
Judaism does not have a specific doctrine about the afterlife, but it does have a tradition of describing Gehenna. Gehenna is not hell, but rather a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on their life's deeds. The Kabbalah describes it as a "waiting room" (commonly translated as an "entry way") for all souls (not just the wicked). The overwhelming majority of rabbinic thought maintains that people are not in Gehenna forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be 12 months, however there has been the occasional noted exception. Some consider it a spiritual forge where the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to Olam Habah (heb. עולם הבא; lit. "The world to come", often viewed as analogous to Heaven). This is also mentioned in the Kabbalah, where the soul is described as breaking, like the flame of a candle lighting another: the part of the soul that ascends being pure and the "unfinished" piece being reborn.
Main article: Hell in Christian beliefs
For many ancient Christians, Hell was the same "place" as Heaven: living in the presence of God and directly experiencing God's love. Scripture clearly describes Gods love as a raging "fire"; in the psalms David declares Gods glory shines even in Hell. Whether this was experienced as pleasure or torment depended on one's disposition towards God. St. Isaac of Syria wrote in his Mystic Treatises:
"... those who find themselves in Hell will be chastised by the scourge of love. How cruel and bitter this torment of love will be! For those who understand that they have sinned against love, undergo greater suffering than those produced by the most fearful tortures. The sorrow which takes hold of the heart, which has sinned against love, is more piercing than any other pain. It is not right to say that the sinners in Hell are deprived of the love of God ... But love acts in two ways, as suffering of the reproved, and as joy in the blessed!" This ancient view is still the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Furthermore, in very rare circumstances, the place of the soul in the afterlife can be shifted into a state of blessedness, usually by the prayers of Holy people who appeal to the mercy of God.
Instead, most modern Christians see hell as the eternal punishment for unrepentant sinners, as well as for the Devil and his demons. Virtuous unbelievers (such as pagans or members of divergent Christian denominations) are said to deserve hell on account of original sin, and even unbaptized infants are sometimes said to be damned. Exceptions, however, are often made for those who have failed to accept Jesus Christ but have extenuating circumstances (youth, not having heard the Gospel, mental illness, etc.). As opposed to the concept of Purgatory, damnation to hell is considered final and irreversible. Various interpretations of the torment of hell exist, ranging from fiery pits of wailing sinners to lonely isolation from God's presence. Dante's The Divine Comedy is a classic inspiration for modern images of hell. Most Christians believe that damnation occurs immediately upon death (particular judgment), others that it occurs after Judgment Day. Attitudes toward hell and damnation have softened over the centuries (for example, see Limbo), and most Restorationist groups reject the traditional concept of hell altogether (see Annihilationism, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Universalists).
Main article: Jahannam
Muslims believe in jahannam (in Arabic: جهنم) (which is similar to Hebrew ge-hinnom and resembles the versions of hell in Christianity). In the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, there are literal descriptions of the condemned in a fiery Hell, as contrasted to the garden-like Paradise (jannah) enjoyed by righteous believers.
In addition, Heaven and Hell are split into many levels depending on the actions taken in life, where punishment is given depending on the level of evil done in life, and good is separated into other levels depending on how well one followed God while alive.
There is an equal number of mentions of both hell and paradise in the Qur'an.[citation needed]
Names of hell :
1-al-Jahim 2-al-Hutamah 3-Jahannam 4-al-Nar 5-Hawiah 6-Saqor 7-Sijjin 8-al-Wail
The Qur'an also says that some of those who are damned to hell are not damned forever, but instead for an indefinite period of time. When Judgment Day comes, the formerly damned will be judged as to whether or not they may enter into Paradise. In any case, there is good reason to believe that punishment in Hell is not meant to actually last eternally, but instead serves as a basis for spiritual rectification.[1]
Chinese and Japanese religions
Main article: Di Yu, the Chinese and Japanese (Jigoku) hell
The structure of Hell is remarkably complex in many Chinese and Japanese religions. The ruler of Hell has to deal with politics, just as human rulers do. Hell is the subject of many folk stories and manga. In many such stories, people in hell are able to die again.
The Chinese depiction of Hell doesn't necessarily mean a long time suffering for those who enter Hell, nor does it mean that person is bad. The Chinese view Hell as similar to a present day passport or immigration control station. In a Chinese funeral, they burn many Hell Bank Notes for the dead. With this Hell money, the dead person can bribe the ruler of Hell, and spend the rest of the money either in Hell or in Heaven.
Ancient Taoism had no concept of hell, as morality was seen to be a man-made distinction and there was no concept of an immaterial soul. In its home country China, where Taoism adopted tenets of other religions, popular belief endows Taoist Hell with many deities and spirits who punish sin in a variety of horrible ways.
In Hinduism, there are contradictions as to whether or not there is a hell (referred to as 'Nark' in Hindi). For some it is a metaphor for a conscience. But in Mahabharata there is a mention of the Pandavas and the Kauravas going to hell. Hells are also described in various Puranas and other scriptures. Garuda Purana gives a detailed account on hell, its features and enlists amount of punishment for most of the crimes like modern day penal code.
It is believed that people who commit 'paap' (sin) go to hell and have to go through the punishments in accordance to the sins they committed. The god Yama, who is also the god of death, is the king of hell. The detailed accounts of all the sins committed by an individual are supposed to be kept by Chitragupta who is the record keeper in Yama's court. Chitragupta reads out the sins committed and Yama orders the appropriate punishments to be given to the individuals. These punishments include dipping in boiling oil, burning in fire, torture using various weapons etc. in various hells. Individuals who finish their quota of the punishments are reborn according to their karma. All of the created are imperfect and thus have at least one sin to their record, but if one has led a generally pious life, one ascends to Heaven, or Swarga after a brief period of expiation in hell.
Tour of Vedic universe
As diverse as other religions, there are many beliefs about Hell in Buddhism.
Most of the schools of thought, Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna would acknowledge several hells[citation needed], which are places of great suffering for those who commit evil actions, such as cold hells and hot hells. Like all the different realms within cyclic existence, an existence in hell is temporary for its inhabitants. Those with sufficiently negative karma are reborn there, where they stay until their specific negative karma has been used up, at which point they are reborn in another realm, such as that of humans, of hungry ghosts, of animals, of asuras, of devas, or of Naraka (Hell) all according to the individual's karma.
There are a number of modern Buddhists, especially among Western schools, who believe that hell is but a state of mind. In a sense, a bad day at work could be hell, and a great day at work could be heaven. This has been supported by some modern scholars who advocate the interpretation of such metaphysical portions of the Scriptures symbolically rather than literally.
Bahá'í faith
The Bahá'í Faith regards the conventional description of hell (and heaven) as a specific place as symbolic.[2] Instead the Bahá'í writings describe hell as a "spiritual condition" where remoteness from God is defined as hell; conversely heaven is seen as a state of closeness to God.[2] Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane,[2] but has stated that the soul will retain its consciousness and individuality and remember its physical life; the soul will be able to recognize other souls and communicate with them.[2]
Bahá'u'lláh likened death to the process of birth. He explains: "The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother."[3] The analogy to the womb in many ways summarizes the Bahá'í view of earthly existence: just as the womb constitutes an important place for a person's initial physical development, the physical world provides for the development of the individual soul. Accordingly, Bahá'ís view life as a preparatory stage, where one can develop and perfect those qualities which will be needed in the next life.[2] The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the current Manifestations of God, which Bahá'ís believe is currently Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved,"[4]
The Bahá'í teachings state that there exists a hierarchy of souls in the afterlife, where the merits of each soul determines their place in the hierarchy, and that souls lower in the hierarchy cannot completely understand the station of those above.[2] Each soul can continue to progress in the afterlife, but the soul's development is not dependent on its own conscious efforts, but instead on the grace of God, the prayers of others, and good deeds performed by others on Earth in the name of the person.[2]
Maya faith
In Maya mythology Xibalbá is the dangerous underworld in nine levels ruled by the demons Vucub Caquix and Hun Came. The road into and out of it is said to be steep, thorny and very forbidding. Metnal is number five, the lowest and most horrible of the nine hells of the underworld. It is ruled by Ah Puch. Ritual healers would intone healing prayers banishing diseases to Metnal. Much of the Popol Vuh describes the adventures of the Maya Hero Twins in their cunning struggle with the evil lords of Xibalbá.
Unification Church
The Unification Church teaches that hell is the condition of being separated from God's love. Hell can be said to exist in this world as well as in the afterlife. Those in the state of hell can repent and change their condition, both before and after death. The Divine Principle, the main textbook of church teachings, says:
It is not God who decides whether a person's spirit enters heaven or hell upon his death; it is decided by the spirit himself. Humans are created so that once they reach perfection they will fully breathe the love of God. Those who committed sinful deeds while on earth become crippled spirits who are incapable of fully breathing in the love of God. They find it agonizing to stand before God, the center of true love. Of their own will, they choose to dwell in hell, far removed from the love of God.[1]


So, which concept then is the correct one?

Well, let me state emphatically that those who walk in truth need never worry about “hell” to begin with… However I found the following resource recently I think gives a fairly good overview on the Subject:

The Biblical Doctrine of Hell
From "The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment"By Thomas B. Thayer**Written in 1855
The word Hell, in the Old Testament, is always a translation of the Hebrew word Sheol, which occurs sixty-four times, and is rendered "hell" thirty-two times, "grave" twenty-nine times, and "pit" three times.
1. By examination of the Hebrew Scriptures it will be found that its radical or primary meaning is, The place or state of the dead.
The following are examples: "Ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave." Gen. xvii 38. "I will go down to the grave to my son mourning." xxxviii 35. "O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave!" Job xiV 13. "My life draweth nigh to the grave." Ps. lxxxviiI 3. "In the grave who shall give thee thanks?" lxxxvi 5. "Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth." cxlI 7. "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Ecc. ix. 10. "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there." Ps. cxxxix. 8. "Hell from beneath is moved to meet thee, at thy coming. It stirreth up the dead for thee," &c. Isaiah xiV 9-15.
These passages show the Hebrew usage of the word sheol, which is the original of the word "grave" and "hell" in all the examples cited. It is plain that it has here no reference to a place of endless torment after death. The patriarch would scarcely say, "I will go down to an endless hell to my son mourning." He did not believe his son was in any such place. Job would not very likely pray to God to hide him in a place of endless torment, in order to be delivered from his troubles.
If the reader will substitute the word "hell" in the place of "grave" in all these passages, he will be in the way of understanding the Scripture doctrine on this subject.
2. But there is also a figurative sense to the word sheol, which is frequently met with in the later Scriptures of the Old Testament. Used in this sense, it represents a state of degradation or calamity, arising from any cause, whether misfortune, sin, or the judgment of God.
This is an easy and natural transition. The state or the place of the dead was regarded as solemn and gloomy, and thence the word sheol, the name of this place, came to be applied to any gloomy, or miserable state or condition. The following passages are examples: "The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me." Psalm xvii 4-6. This was a past event, and therefore the hell must have been this side of death. Solomon, speaking of a child, says, "Thou shalt beat him, and deliver his soul from hell;" that is, from the ruin and woe of disobedience. ProV xxiiI 14. The Lord says to Israel, in reference to their idolatries, "Thou didst debase thyself even unto hell." Isaiah lvii 9. This, of course, signifies a state of utter moral degradation and wickedness, since the Jewish nation as such certainly never went down into a hell of ceaseless woe. Jonah says, "Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardst me." ii 2. Here we see the absurdity of supposing sheol or hell to mean a place of punishment after death. The hell in this case was the belly of the whale; or rather the wretched and suffering condition in which the disobedient prophet found himself. "The pains of hell got hold on me: I found trouble and sorrow." Ps. cxvi 3. Yet David was a living man, all this while, here on the earth. So he exclaims again, "Great is thy mercy towards me. Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell." Ps. lxxxvi 13. Now here the Psalmist was in the lowest hell, and was delivered from it, while he was yet in the body, before death. Of course the hell here cannot be a place of endless punishment after death.
These passages sufficiently illustrate the figurative usage of the word sheol, "hell." They show plainly that it was employed by the Jews as a symbol or figure of extreme degradation or suffering, without reference to the cause. And it is to this condition the Psalmist refers when he says, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Ps. ix. 17. Though Dr. Allen, President of Bowdoin College, thinks "the punishment expressed here is cutting off from life, destroying from earth by some special judgment, and removing to the invisible place of the dead" (sheol).
It is plain, then, from these citations, that the word sheol, "hell," makes nothing for the doctrine of future unending punishment as a part of the Law penalties. It is never used by Moses or the Prophets in the sense of a place of torment after death; and in no way conflicts with the statement already proved, that the Law of Moses deals wholly in temporal rewards and punishments.
This position, also, I wish to fortify by the testimony of Orthodox critics, men of learning and candor. They know, and therefore they speak.
1. CHAPMAN. "Sheol, in itself considered, has no connection with future punishment." Cited by Balfour, First Inquiry.
2. DR. ALLEN, quoted above, says: "The term sheol does not seem to mean, with certainty, anything more than the state of the dead in their deep abode."
3. DR. CAMPBELL. "Sheol signifies the state of the dead without regard to their happiness or misery."
4. DR. WHITBY. "Sheol throughout the Old Testament signifies not the place of punishment, or of the souls of bad men only, but the grave only, or the place of death."
5. DR. MUENSCHER. This distinguished author of a Dogmatic History in German, says: "The souls or shades of the dead wander in sheol, the realm or kingdom of death, an abode deep under the earth. Thither go all men, without distinction, and hope for no return. There ceases all pain and anguish; there reigns an unbroken silence; there all is powerless and still; and even the praise of God is heard no more."
6. VON COELLN. "Sheol itself is described as the house appointed for all living, which receives into its bosom all mankind, without distinction of rank, wealth, or moral character. It is only in the mode of death, and not in the condition after death, that the good are distinguished above the evil. The just, for instance, die in peace, and are gently borne away before the evil comes; while a bitter death breaks the wicked like as a tree." 2
These witnesses all testify that sheol, or hell, in the Old Testament, has no reference whatever to this doctrine; that it signifies simply the state of the dead, the invisible world, without regard to their goodness or badness, their happiness or misery. The Old Testament doctrine of hell, therefore, is not the doctrine of endless punishment. It is not revealed in the Law of Moses. It is not revealed in the Old Testament. To such result has our inquiry led us; and now what shall we say of it?
Do we find the doctrine of endless punishment revealed in the use of the word Hell? Let the facts answer. There are three words translated "Hell" in the New Testament, Hades and Tartarus, which are Greek, and Gehenna, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew words Gee and Hinnom, meaning "the valley of Hinnom."
1. HADES. This word occurs eleven times, and is rendered "grave" once, and "hell" ten times. It may be profitable first to consider what one of the most accomplished orthodox scholars says in regard to it. "In my judgment," says Dr. Campbell, "it ought never in Scripture to be rendered hell, at least in the sense wherein that word is universally understood by Christians. In the Old Testament the corresponding word is Sheol, which signifies the state of the dead in general, without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery. It is very plain that neither in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, nor in the New, does the word hades convey the meaning which the present English word hell, in the Christian usage, always conveys to our minds. The attempt to illustrate this would be unnecessary, as it is hardly now pretended by any critic that this is the acceptation of the term in the Old Testament." 1
1st. HADES is put for the grave, or the state of the dead. Our translators have so rendered it in 2 Cor. xv 55. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave (hades), where is thy victory?" Let us look at some other passages where it is rendered "hell." "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption." "He spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption." Acts ii 27, 31. Was the soul of Christ ever in hell, in the orthodox sense of the word, as a place of endless torment? But the sacred writer himself explains the word, when he says he is speaking of the resurrection of Christ, that is, from the grave, or the dead.
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed him." ReV vi 8. There is no necessary connection between death and a place of endless punishment, as all men die, good or bad; but there is a connection between death and the grave, or the state of the dead; and there is a propriety in representing the last as following the first. "And death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them." ReV xx. 13. This is the reverse of what is usually taught and believed of hell; for the leading idea is that it will not give up those who are in it. Surely the hell the Revelator speaks of is not a place of endless torments. This is further confirmed by the next verse, where it is said, "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire," that is, utterly destroyed. Of course, then, this hell cannot be a place of endless woe, since it is not itself endless.
These passages, which are without point or meaning in the common view of hell, are full of significance when we give to hades, or hell, its true sense. For we know that the grave (hades) will deliver up its dead, and that death and the grave will be destroyed in the resurrection, when death shall be swallowed up in the victory of immortal life. Then with a meaning it will be said, "O grave (hades, hell), where is thy victory?" for then will be fulfilled the saying, "O grave (hades, hell), I will be thy destruction." Hosea xiiI 14.
2d. HADES is also used in a figurative sense to represent a state of degradation, calamity, or suffering, arising from any cause whatever.
"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell" (hades). Matt. xi 23. The parallel passage is in Luke, x. 15. No one supposes that the city of Capernaum went down to a place of endless woe. The word hell here, as Dr. Clarke says, is a figure to set forth "the state of utmost woe, and ruin, and desolation, to which these impenitent cities should be reduced. This prediction of our Lord was literally fulfilled." Bp. Pearce says, "It means, thou shalt be quite ruined and destroyed." So also Hammond, Beausobre, Bloomfield, and others. The last named says it is a "hyperbolical expression, figuratively representing the depth of adversity."
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus furnishes another example. "And in hell (hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torment." It will be remembered that the Jews had borrowed their ideas of torment in a future state from the heathen, and of course they were obliged to borrow their terms to express this. Accordingly, after the manner of the Greeks, Hades, or the place of departed spirits, is represented as receiving all, as Sheol did, good and bad; but we have also the additional idea of separate apartments or districts, divided by a great gulf or river; on one side of which the blessed are located, and on the other side the damned, near enough to see each other, and converse together, as in the case of Abraham and the rich man.
It must also be remembered that this is only a parable, and not a real history; for, as Dr. Whitby affirms, "we find this very parable in the Gemara Babylonicum." The story was not new, then, not original with Christ, but known among the Jews before He repeated it. He borrowed the parable from them, and employed it to show the judgment which awaited them. He represented the spiritual favors and privileges of the Jews by the wealth and luxury of the rich man, and the spiritual poverty of the Gentiles by the beggary and infirmity of Lazarus; and while the former would be deprived of their privileges and punished for their wickedness, the latter would enjoy the blessings of truth and faith.
The question may arise, "If Christ employed the language used by the Jews to express the torments of hell after death, did He not virtually sanction the doctrine?"
If so, then He sanctioned their views as set out in this parable, which, as we have already shown, they borrowed from the heathen. He puts Himself on a level with the Pagan poets, and teaches a heaven and hell in Hades, divided by a great gulf, torments by flame, conversational intercourse between the blessed and the damned, &c.
Now no one believes in such a hell as this. A material hell of fire, and torments by flame, have been long ago abandoned. And the Savior cannot be understood as believing or teaching future torments, by using this parable, any more than He can be supposed to believe and teach the existence of Beelzebub, the Philistine god of flies (or filth), when He alludes to him, and uses his name as if he were a real being. See Matt. x. 25; xii 24.
So He says (Matt. vi 24), "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "Mammon" is the name of the god of riches; but surely no one would pretend that Christ, by speaking of serving him, sanctioned the doctrine that he was really a god. And yet He speaks of his service in the same connection, and in the same language, with that of the true God; showing the latitude with which these comparisons and figures are used, without sanctioning the errors on which they are founded. He takes their own language and opinions in both cases, without believing or approving, in order to teach and warn them.
Dr. Macknight (Scotch Presbyterian) has spoken well on this point. "It must be acknowledged," he says, "that our Lord's descriptions (in this parable) are not drawn from the writings of the Old Testament, but have a remarkable affinity to the descriptions which the Grecian poets have given. They, as well as our Lord, represent the abodes of the blessed as lying contiguous to the region of the damned, and separated only by a great impassable river, or deep gulf, in such sort that the ghosts could talk to one another from its opposite banks. The parable says the souls of wicked men are tormented in flames; the Grecian mythologists tell us they lie in Phlegethon, the river of fire, where they suffer torments," &c. Then he adds, "If from these resemblances it is thought the parable is formed on the Grecian mythology, it will not at all follow that our Lord approved of what the common people thought or spake concerning those matters, agreeably to the notions of the Greeks. In parabolic discourses, provided the doctrines inculcated are strictly true, the terms in which they are inculcated may be such as are most familiar to the ears of the vulgar, and the images made use of such as they are best acquainted with." Whittemore's Notes.
The sum of the matter is, that Christ takes up a parable or story current among the Jews, and, without approving the heathen opinions on which it was founded, uses it to show that the Gentiles (Lazarus) would be received into the Gospel kingdom with Abraham and Isaac, while the Jews (the rich man) would be thrust out into darkness and desolation. And this judgment he represents by the figure of casting into hell, as He had described the destruction of Capernaum by saying it would be "thrust down to hell."
A perfect commentary on the parable is found in such passages as these: "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Matt xxi 43. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye see many coming from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and sitting with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, while you yourselves are thrust out." Matt. viiI 11, compared with Luke xiiI 28, 29. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but, seeing ye put it from you, and judge (show) yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." Acts xiiI 46.
2. TARTARUS. This word occurs only once, and then in a participial form, in 2 Peter ii 4. "If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, &c. Tartarosas. This is of the same character with the parable just considered, Tartarus being the place of torment in Hades, where the rich man was supposed to be. Bloomfield says that "Tartarus here is derived from the heathen, and chains of darkness from the Jewish mythology;" and adds "it is an expression truly Aeschylean," that is, dramatic, not literally true, a figure of something else.
It cannot be supposed that the divine apostle believed in the heathen hell or Tartarus, of which we have given some account in Chapter iiI, and which the heathen themselves confess is a mere fable, an invention of legislators and poets. His use of the word does not prove his belief of the doctrine of torments after death, any more than Jude's mention of the dispute between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses, makes him responsible for the truth of that idle and ridiculous fable of the Jews. It might as well be argued that he believed the angels or messengers were bound in literal "chains of darkness," as that he believed they were literally cast into Tartarus or the heathen hell. Both expressions are figures to represent the desolation or destruction into which they were brought by their disobedience.
This is not the place to enter into the question of who are meant by the angels, or to give an exposition of the passage. Whether men or spirits, the word "hell" here furnishes no proof of their endless punishment - and this is all we are concerned with in the present inquiry.
3. GEHENNA. This word occurs twelve times in the New Testament, and is always translated "hell." But as the Evangelists repeat the same discourses, the Savior did not really use it more than six or seven times in all His ministry. The following are the texts: Matt. V 22, 29, 30, x. 28, xviiI 9, xxiiI 15, 33; Mark ix. 43, 45, 47; Luke xii 5; James iiI 6. By consulting these passages the reader will see how many of them are simply repetitions, and how very few times this word is used, on which, nevertheless, more reliance is placed than on all others, to prove that "hell" is a place of endless torment.
The following from Schleusner, a distinguished lexicographer and critic, will show the origin of the word, and indicate its scriptural usage: "Gehenna, originally a Hebrew word, which signifies valley of Hinnom. Here the Jews placed that brazen image of Moloch. It is said, on the authority of the ancient Rabbins, that to this image the idolatrous Jews were wont not only to sacrifice doves, pigeons, lambs, &c., but even to offer their own children. In the prophecies of Jeremiah (vii 31), this valley is called Tophet, from Toph, a drum; because they beat a drum during these horrible rites, lest the cries and shrieks of the infants who were burned should be heard by the assembly. At length these nefarious practices were abolished by Josiah, and the Jews brought back to the pure worship of God. 2 Kings xxiiI After this they held the place in such abomination that they cast into it all kinds of filth, and the carcasses of beasts, and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed. Continual fires were necessary in order to consume these, lest the putrefaction should infect the air; and there were always worms feeding on the remaining relics. Hence it came, that any severe punishment, especially an infamous kind of death, was described by the word Gehenna, or hell." 2
It is proper to add that Schleusner also says that it was used to represent the future torments of the wicked, and attempts to show it by quoting the texts given above. But this, as the reader will see, is assuming the whole question; it is taking for granted the thing to be proved.
In Jeremiah xix., it seems to be used as a comparative symbol of the desolation of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, or, as Dr. Clarke thinks, by the Romans. The Lord says to the prophet, "Go forth into the valley of the Son of Hinnom (Gehenna, hell); and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee...I will even make this city as Tophet (or Gehenna); and the houses of Jerusalem and the kings of Judah shall be defiled as the place of Tophet," &c. Here Tophet, or Gehenna, is employed in the way of comparison to set forth the utter overthrow of Jerusalem; as we say of a place, "It is barren as a desert," "It is silent as the grave," &c.
Isaiah says, "They shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." lxvi 23, 24. Here the unquenchable fire and the undying worm of Gehenna, or hell, are used as figures of judgment to happen on the earth, where there are carcasses, new moons, Sabbaths, &c. Gehenna, with its accompaniments, was an object of utmost loathing to the Jew, and came to be employed as a symbol of any great judgment or woe.
We say of a great military or political overthrow, "It was a Waterloo defeat." So the Jews described a great desolation by a like use of the word Gehenna - "It was a Gehenna judgment;" that is, a very terrible and destructive judgment.
In Matt. V 29, 30, there is mention of the "whole body cast into hell." No one supposes the body is literally cast into a hell in the future state. The severity of the judgments falling on those who would not give up their sins, is represented by Gehenna, which, as Schleusner says, was "a word in common use to describe any severe punishment, especially an infamous kind of death." These wicked people should perish in a manner as infamous as that of criminals, whose bodies, after execution, were cast into Gehenna (hell), and burned with the bodies of beasts and the offal of the city.
The same thought is expressed in Matt. xxiiI 33, where "the damnation of hell" is a symbol of the tremendous judgments coming upon that guilty nation, when inquisition would be made for "all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, slain between the temple and the altar." Vs. 34-39.
Mark ix. 33, 45, 47, are repetitions of Matt. V 29, 30, with the addition of "the undying worm and the unquenchable fire," which is a repetition of Isaiah lxvi 24. There is nothing in the passage to show that the Savior used these phrases in any sense different from that of the prophet; who, as we have seen, employs them to represent judgments on the earth, where, "they shall go forth to look on the carcasses of the men who have transgressed against me...for they shall bury in Tophet (the place of sacrifice in Gehenna or hell) till there is no place;...and the days shall come that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the Son of Hinnom (the Hebrew for Gehenna or hell), but the valley of Slaughter." Jer. vii 19; Isa. lxvi 24.
"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matt. x. 28. Luke says, "Fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell." xii 5.
Here is a mixed reference, figurative and literal, to the valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, hell. There is a literal allusion to casting the dead bodies of criminals into the valley, to be burned in the perpetual or unquenchable fire kept up there for this purpose; but the association of soul and body in the same destruction indicates the figurative use to represent entire extinction of being, or annihilation.
Isaiah employs the phrase in a similar way. "The Lord shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire,...and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; and shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body." x. 16-18. Dr. Clarke says this is "a proverbial expression," signifying that they should be "entirely and altogether consumed." So Christ represents God as able to destroy the wicked and apostate, "soul and body in Gehenna," the word familiarly used to express any great judgment or calamity. 3
But the Savior is not to be understood as teaching that God will annihilate soul and body, because He said He was able to do it, any more than He is to be understood as teaching that out of stones God would raise up children to Abraham, because He said He was able to. Matt. iiI 9. And, moreover, He tells them in the very next words not to fear, because God watched over them, numbering the hairs of their head even, in His special keeping of them, and would surely protect them so long as they were faithful to Him and His truth.
The method of argument seems to be the same as that pursued with the Pharisees, when they complained of His keeping company with publicans and sinners. Matt. ix. "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." If you are righteous, as you pretend, that is good reason why I should not keep company with you, for I came to save sinners. But He did not allow that they were righteous. He only admitted their premises for the time, in order to show the absurdity of their reasoning.
So, here, He says: If you are moved by the selfish consideration of fear to abandon the Gospel in order to save your lives (as Peter was afterward tempted to do), then, to be consistent, you ought to fear the power which can do you most injury. And this surely is God, who can bring destruction and death, not only on the body, but on the soul also, and that amid the most terrible of judgments. And to picture the dreadfulness of this destruction more vividly to their minds, He uses the well-known symbol of Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, the synonym of all that was horrible in the mind of a Jew. 4
Then, in the next words, He proceeds to tell them that really they had no cause to fear either God or men. So long as they did their duty, God, who provided for the sparrow (vs. 29), and numbered the hairs of their heads, in the watchfulness of His love (vs. 30), would surely protect them. And, then, as if to convince them that what He had said was only a supposition, and not a fact, He says: "FEAR YE NOT, THEREFORE, ye are of more value than many sparrows." (vs. 31.)
In the two passages following, Gehenna seems to be employed as a figure or symbol of moral corruption.
James says of the tongue, "It defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (Gehenna). iiI 6. Here Gehenna, that place of filth and corruption and perpetual fires, is made a fitting emblem of the foul passions and corrupt appetites, set on fire by a foul and seductive tongue, which inflames in turn, to the defilement of the whole body.
So, in Matt. xxiiI 15, 27, Gehenna or hell, and the whited sepulcher, "full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness," are fearful symbols of the moral foulness of the "Scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites," whom the Savior was addressing. "Two-fold more the child of hell," signifying that they made their converts two-fold more corrupt than themselves.
The word Gehenna, or hell, then, in the New Testament is used as a symbol of anything that was foul and repulsive; but especially as a figure of dreadful and destructive judgments.
And, now, let us consider some of the facts connected with this word Gehenna. They are the more important because this word is specially relied upon as teaching the doctrine of endless torments, the doctrine of hell, as popularly believed. Whatever other forms of speech may be employed to express the thought, this is surely one of the terms clearly declarative of future endless punishment.
Admitting this statement for a moment, let us see what follows. If this is the word by which the tremendous fact is to be revealed, we shall have it notified to us in a fitting manner. We know with what solemn preparations, and awful accompaniments, the Law was introduced at Sinai; and we may certainly expect this doctrine will be announced with a solemnity and awfulness corresponding to its infinitely greater importance, and which shall concentrate upon it the attention of all the world. Neither the patriarchs, nor Moses, nor the prophets, have uttered a word on the subject; but now a new teacher is come from God, and he is to make known the dreadful doctrine; and the words he selects for this purpose will be employed with a power of emphasis, with a marked distinction, which will shut out all possibility of mistake.
Let us see if it be so. The first time Christ uses the word Gehenna is in Matt. V 22, 29, 30. But not a word of preparation or notice that now, for the first time, the terrible dogma is announced on divine authority. He speaks as calmly as if He were wholly unconscious of the burthen of such a revelation; and the people seem equally unmoved under the awful declaration. And what is singular, it is not presented by itself, in a positive form, unmixed with anything else, as its importance most surely demanded; but is slipped in merely as a comparative illustration, among other judgments, of the greater moral demands of the Gospel, and the strictness with which it enforced obedience.
They, the Jews, had said, "Whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment;" but Christ says, whosoever is angry with his brother without cause, is in danger of a punishment equal to that of the judgment (the inferior court of seven judges); and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (a term of contempt, shallow-brain or blockhead), shall be in danger of a punishment equal to that inflicted by the council (the superior court of seventy judges, which took cognizance of capital crimes); but whosoever shall say, "Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire," or of a punishment equal in severity to the fire of Gehenna.
Now, if Christ used the term Gehenna to reveal endless woe, and that for the first time, would He not have said this, and fixed forever the meaning of the word? And yet not the slightest intimation do we have of any such new and awful meaning. The Jews were familiar with it, and used it constantly to symbolize any great punishment or judgment coming on the earth; and they must of course suppose He used it as they did, since He gave them no notice to the contrary. If, therefore, He did give it the new signification of endless punishment after death, they could not understand Him, and He failed of His purpose for want of such explanation as they, and we, had a right to expect.
But there is another consideration deserving notice. The difference between the sinfulness of saying Raca or Blockhead, and Fool, is hardly great enough to warrant such a difference in punishment as is involved in the supposition. Townsend justly says, to imagine that Christ, for such a slight distinction as Raca and Thou fool, "would instantly pass from such a sentence as the Jewish Sanhedrim would pronounce, to the awful doom of eternal punishment in hell-fire, is what cannot be reconciled to any rational rule of faith, or known measure of justice." There is no proportion between the slight difference in guilt and the tremendous, infinite difference in punishment. But if the comparison is between penalties symbolized by stoning to death, inflicted by the Sanhedrim council, and burning alive in Gehenna, then there is proportion, some relation of parts; because the difference between death by stoning and death by burning is not certainly very great; but the difference between death by stoning and endless torment is infinite.
It is impossible, therefore, to believe that Christ, in this first use of Gehenna, intended to reveal the doctrine, without an accusation against His fidelity and justice.
But let us note other facts equally pertinent.
1. Though Gehenna occurs twelve times, the Savior actually used it only on four or five different occasions, the rest being only repetitions. If this is the word, and the revelation of this terrible doctrine is in it, how is it possible that Christ, in a ministry of three years, should use it only four times? Was He faithful to the souls committed to His charge?
2. The Savior and James are the only persons in all the New Testament who use the word. John Baptist, who preached to the most wicked of men, did not use it once. Paul wrote fourteen epistles, and yet never once mentions it. Peter does not name it, nor Jude; and John, who wrote the gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelations, never employs it in a single instance. Now if Gehenna or hell really reveals the terrible fact of endless woe, how can we account for this strange silence? How is it possible, if they knew its meaning, and believed it a part of Christ's teaching, that they should not have used it a hundred or a thousand times, instead of never using it at all; especially when we consider the infinite interests involved?
3. The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching, and the history of the first planting of the Church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ. In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus, there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort, these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations, never, under any circumstances, threaten them with the torments of Gehenna, or allude to it in the most distant manner! In the face of such a fact as this, can any man believe that Gehenna signifies endless punishment, and that this is a part of divine revelation, a part of the Gospel message to the world?
These considerations show how impossible it is to establish the doctrine in review on the word Gehenna. All the facts are against the supposition that the term was used by Christ or His disciples in the sense of future endless punishment. There is not the least hint of any such meaning attached to it, nor the slightest preparatory notice that any such new revelation was to be looked for in this old familiar word.
We have now passed in review, as far as our limits will permit, the New Testament doctrine of Hell, and we have not, surely, found it to be the doctrine of endless punishment, but something very wide from this. Let us now turn to other phraseology supposed to embody this thought, and to establish it as a doctrine of divine revelation.
1 Prelim. Diss. vi, Pt. ii. 2 Lexicon on Gehenna. The same statements are made by Prof. Stuart, Whitby, Clarke, and others. 3 Our Lord may refer to that great day of wrath, when the Jews and apostate Christians (He is warning against apostasy) would be destroyed amid "tribulation such as was not from the beginning of the world to that time; no, nor ever shall be." Matt. xxiV 21. It is impossible to prove endless misery from this passage, for the soul is involved in the same destruction with the body. The advocates of an endless life of suffering find in this text a greater stumbling-block than any other class of believers; for, if it teaches what is certain and not what is possible only, it necessitates the doctrine of annihilation. 4 Dr. Albert Barnes says: "The extreme loathsomeness of the place, the filth and putrefaction, the corruption of the atmosphere, and the lurid fires blazing by day and by night, made it one of the most appalling and terrific objects with which a Jew was ever acquainted."
** Information Regarding the Author: THAYER, Thomas Baldwin, clergyman, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 10 September, 1812; died in Roxbury, Massachusetts, 12 February, 1886. He entered Harvard at an early age, but left after the first year and began to teach, at the same time studying" divinity He was ordained in 1832, and in 1833-'45 was pastor of the 1st Universalist society in Lowell, where his ministry was important in the history of Universalism in New England. During the crusade against Universalism, in 1840-'9, he established and edited in its defense the " Star of Bethlehem," and with his co-worker, Reverend Abel C. Thomas, wrote the "Lowell Tracts" in the same interest. Mr. Thayer was called to a pastorate in Brooklyn, New York, in 1845, where he edited the " Golden Rule" in the interest of the fraternity of Odd-Fellows. After six years he returned to his old parish in Lowell. In 1859 he became pastor of the Shaw-rout avenue church, Boston, which charge he resigned in 1867. In 1862 Dr. Thayer assumed the editorship of the " Universalist Quarterly," which contains some of his most important literary work. He continued these labors, with an interval of travel in Europe and the East, until his last illness. He received the degree of D.D. from Tufts college in 1865, and he was for many years on the board of overseers of Harvard. Dr. Thayer was a biblical scholar of rare breadth, and a pioneer in Universalist literature. He wrote much verse that has never been collected, and published "Christianity against Infidelity" (Boston, 1833 ; enlarged, Cincinnati, 1849)" "Bible Class Assistant" (Boston, 1840)" "History of the Origin of Endless Punishment " (1855)" "Theology of Universalism" (1862)" and "Over the River" (1864).

Another good overview is found at the following Site:

So, in summary I do believe in the teachings of REAL HELL (Second Death of they who refuse utterly the ways of Love) but NOT the traditional “Eternal Torment” view that is used to intimidate people into living in Fear and Guilt. Such to me would make God different that what He is.. So, don’t try to tell me to GO TO HELL nor threaten me with this… I simply do not listen to those who do because I do not value errant dogmas of men.

If anyone asked me “If I were to die tonight would I be assured of salvation… I would say an emphatic YES! … And no further explanation to any man is required!.. I account to GOD YHWH alone who LOVES MANKIND and shall be fair, moral, just and loving… anything that would show less than these traits is simply not the God I know, love and believe in!


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