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Saturday, September 5, 2009

(26) What is Hell?



When Christians talk about the afterlife and the two choices, heaven or hell, do they really know what they are talking about? Perhaps not. One problem we have today in all the Christian world is we have translated the word 'hell' incorrectly. The word we use in English is actually a German word. So what happened?

First of all here are the results to the poll of "What is hell?"
  • 51% said hell is a place of torment for unrepentant sinners
  • 21% said it is not one of the choices given
  • 12% said it was only a symbolic place meaning separated from God
  • 9% said there is no hell
  • 6% said it was a place for satan and his angels only
  • 0% said it was only a place on earth in the end times
The most important thing to realize is that 'hell' is not a place on earth, nor a place where only satan goes, nor is it only symbolic. It is a real place. But what is it for real? Technically, the word itself is not in the Holy Scriptures. If we go back to the original languages of the Scriptures (Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek) we find three main words that Scripture describes as an afterlife, She'ol, Hades, and Gehenna. There are other words used in scripture for places of the afterlife, some are mentioned in this lesson. Unfortunately, today we translate all three words as 'hell' and may have well destroyed the true meaning of the final place of the afterlife, especially when some of it may only mean death.

The abode of the dead or as Deuteronomy 32:22 calls it, the realm of the dead. The Greek equivalence to this word is Hades and was substituted for She'ol when the Greek manuscripts were created. But of course you should keep out all of the mythological non-sense that many of these stories have added, e.g.; Styx. Perhaps this is where we associate Hades with Hell since many mythological stories and Hollywood have sewn the two together by placing a man in charge of it-namely satan or the god Hades himself.  The NIV translation uses the word 'grave' in its place.  Any of these words are okay to use when you are referring to this place since it only means one thing-the resting place of a body.  Where do their souls go? Using the example that Jesus used while He was on the cross, souls that lived according to God's word will live in a place called Paradise after death. Other scripture calls it the "side of Abraham" (Luke 16:22). Perhaps this is the place that those "dead in Christ" shall rise from on the return of Jesus that Paul writes about 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

This word is Greek and is translated from the Hebrew term Ge Hinnom, or Valley of Hinnom. Hinnon was an area just outside the city of Jerusalem that was used as a garbage dump where its inhabitants, trash and unwanted items, were waiting to be burned; a refuse waiting for destruction. In Matthew 23:33, Jesus talks about this place but too many translations uses the word 'hell'.
  • You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Those who have not accepted Christ or who did not live by the Law on the point of their death will have their souls cast into Gehenna, a waiting place of torment until the final judgement is upon them. They have gone into the first death (loss of the flesh). And now they await the second death (loss of soul). But while they wait in Gehenna they will be tormented. They gnash their teeth in their waiting because they know they have passed the chance to believe. It would be like being on death row and you see the guards coming your way. You have no chance to repent and no chance of escape. You will now reap what you have sowed.

But, Gehenna and She'ol, even Paradise are not the final places. After the judgement, all of those who lived for Christ and are resting in Paradise and those living at the time of His return will go to live with Him forever in heaven. But those who are in Gehenna and are in torment will be judged for their sins and then thrown into the final death. They will be thrown in along with She'ol (Hades) and Gehenna because once the judgement has happened there is no more need for these places. Death will be swallowed up in victory.

After the judgement comes the real "hell" for many. The final destruction of their soul. Gehenna is just the waiting area while the real place of destruction perhaps does not have a biblical name save "lake of fire" where satan and his angels will be tormented day and night forever. While those who have been judged righteous will live forever in heaven.

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