Misconception of Hell Part 1   7 comments

Far too often,we human beings try to redesign God in our image. One way we do that is by misinterpreting His communication with us — the Bible.

Take the concept of Hell.

The Bible describes “hell” as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Where did the idea of hell as a place of fire and brimstone come from? Revelation 21:8 talks about a burning lake of fire where the antiChrist will be thrown in the end times and Genesis 19 describes fire and brimstone destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Preachers for centuries have riffed off that imagery for its effect, but neither image is really a description of hell.

The word the Bible uses to describe hell “Gehenna” comes from a valley adjacent to Jerusalem where the Jews (under kings Ahaz and Manasseh) sacrificed their children to the god Molech. In Jesus’ day it was a nasty place of constant fires used to burn refuse and the bodies of criminals. When Jesus used the word Gehenna, He was speaking of the city dump of all eternity. Fire was a part of it, but the emphasis was really on separation and loss.

The New Testament provides varied descriptions of hell — fire, a bottomless pit, a burning lake, darkness, death, destruction, everlasting torment, a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, a gradation of punishment. The variety of descriptions argues against applying a literal interpretation of any particular one. For example, in a place of absolute darkness, does fire emit light? Fire consumes, but the people who would provide the fuel are never consumed. The concept of graduation of punishment is also something to consider. Does Hitler’s part of the fire burn more painfully than the part inhabited by an honest pagan? Does he fall more rapidly into the abyss than the pagan? Is utter darkness darker for Hitler? Does he wail and gnash more loudly than others?

Although you have to be careful of assigning a symbolic status to God’s word, the images of torment in hell appear to be a metaphor and not a literal burning fire in eternal darkness. The symbolic nature does not lessen hell’s potency. On the contrary, their combined effect describes a hell that is worse than death, darker than darkness, and deeper than any abyss. Hell is a place with more wailing and gnashing of teeth than any single description can portray. It is a place that exceeds our capacity to imagine and describe in human language.

7 responses to “Misconception of Hell Part 1

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  1. Great post. Above all things, I see Hell as an eternal separation from God.

    Most of the objections I hear about Hell are from non-believers who make it out to be the torture chamber of an immoral God.

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    • You would think, wouldn’t you, that someone who has spent their lives ignoring and even actively hating God would not want to spend eternity in His presence?

      I don’t think they understand what heaven will be — praising God for all eternity.

      Hey, there’s a blog post in there!!!!

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      • I think exactly that and wrote about it the other day.

        My belief is that there will be many in Hell that chose to be there and would not leave to spend eternity in the presence of God, even if they could.

        The whole thing is very sad.

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  2. Reblogged this on That Mr. G Guy's Blog.

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  3. Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

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  4. Pingback: A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF HEAVEN AND HELL | Citizen Tom

  5. Very well explained. Whether these verses are meant to be taken literally or not, it is just as you say…. they certainly picture a horrible existence in a literal Lake of Fire/Hell. Lord bless you!

    Like

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