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What is this place called Hell?

Millions are confused about "hell." What is it? Where is it?
Who goes there? And why? Is "hell" a literal place a geographical location?
Or is it merely "a state of mind"?
What does the BIBLE say?


IS THERE ANY chance YOU may "go to hell"? What would you think if somebody told you that even if you were righteous, your chances of going to "hell" would be exactly ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SURE?

What about this thing or this place called "hell"? It is time the cobwebs of confusion were cleared away from this baffling, mysterious subject.


The Day "Hell" Froze Over

A few years ago newspapers carried a tongue-in-cheek article about "Hell freezing over." There is a literal town called "Hell" in Michigan, 20 miles outside Detroit. It has a population of 150. The weather gets cold there during the winter, and "Hell" freezes over regularly.

"Hell" is about 300 miles from another town called "Paradise," with a summer population of 1,000 and a winter population of 250. You didn't know Hell was so close to Paradise, did you?

"Hell" is a very common word in the English language. Most people use it several times a day. It seems to be in vogue. Regardless of what a person wants to say, he seems to fit this word into his phraseology.

"Hell" is also a name of several geographical areas. There is a "Hell's Canyon" in Idaho. It is a deep gorge through which the Snake River flows.

There was even a movie depicting the horrors of World War II called "To Hell and Back." The title was catchy and drew many people to see the movie.

The concept of "hell" is part and parcel of the folklore and mythology of the whole world. Most of the world's religions have some sort of a belief in a "hell" as a place of punishment and torture of the wicked.

But what is "hell," really? Or, what, really, is "hell"?


Common Ideas

A Gallup survey in 1967 showed that 68 percent of Americans believe in heaven, but only 54 percent are persuaded of the reality of hell. Why the difference? Probably, many of those who believe in a heaven simply cannot bring themselves to think that a loving, merciful God could consign any poor wretch to a place of eternal torment!

A survey in New Zealand indicated that six out of ten believe hell is a state of mind. Only 26 percent believed hell was a literal place.

Interviewers of passersby on the street in San Francisco obtained the following descriptions when asked: "How do you picture hell?"

First person: "Honestly, I have doubts there is such a place. I feel hell is a means of scaring people, so they will lead a better life. . . . If there is such a place, I suppose it is craggy and filled with people feeding furnaces or breaking rocks."

Second person: "When I was young I had a dear picture of what hell is like — flames and a devil with horns and a pitchfork. But a person gets over this, just as he does with Santa Claus."

Third person: "The idea of hell is one of the greatest means in the world for teaching children good. Personally, however, I think it is just a Biblical term." (What did he mean by that?) Fourth person: "I would rather not think about it."

Fifth person: "I have never thought of it except as I have seen it staged in operas or plays."

Sixth person: "I picture hell as a big, hot, uncomfortable desert. I think it does exist. Not down in the ground. But since Someone put us here, then He could easily have a place for us afterward."

Seventh person: "Hell is a place of unhappy confinement, like a prison. Not necessarily with flames. More a torment of the spirit. I believe it is an actual area, although not necessarily down any more than heaven must be up."

All of these were interesting comments. But what about you? Are you one of those who would rather not think about it? Is the thought of "hell" too much for your mind to stand?


Baffled Theologians

Today even theologians are perplexed. Most do not believe in a literal "hell." Said one: "The essence of hell is separation from God — not really torture, but torment."

Another described hell as "a condition of human existence." Still another said: "I am fully convinced that Satan as an independent personality does not make sense in the 20th century. . . ." He asserted that many theologians "argue that the devil is out-of-date."

One minister claimed hell is "the loss of communication, insensitivity to spiritual values, the realization of how far short of our capacities we have fallen, the memory of some of the things we have done."

What abysmal confusion!

Isn't it time we learned the TRUTH?

There is no reason why you should remain ignorant. The Bible speaks plainly about the subject of "hell."


The Two Extremes

There are two extremes concerning "hell" in the world. One totally denies that hell exists. It passes hell off as a mere ancient superstition which has no relevance whatsoever to modem life!

The other extreme, believed in by most so-called Bible fundamentalists, pictures hell as a terrible place of never-ending torment. It is ruled over by the devil and his demons who gleefully "roast" sinners like millions of wieners on a barbecue spit. According to this concept, there is a constant weeping, wailing, crying, cursing, shrieking and screaming coming from the mouths of those in hell. Their torment is for all eternity. They are forever doomed!

But consider: If this concept is true, and if all sinners or non Christians go to such a fiery place of torment, doesn't it strike you as unjust and unmerciful since MOST OF THE WORLD IS (FOR MOST OF ALL TIME) NONCHRISTIAN?

Look at the world! Most of its population of 3.6 billion inhabitants are Buddhists, Moslems, Taoists, Hindus, primitivists, atheists, animists, Communists, etc., etc. The Bible says none can be saved unless they believe — and obey — Christ (Acts 4:12).

Therefore, if only Christians can be saved, and if all others are doomed to the fires of a never-ending hell, that must mean that the VAST MAJORITY of mankind has been and is DOOMED!

Doesn't such a concept picture Satan the devil as frightfully more powerful, successful, and intelligent than God? Doesn't it picture God as being woefully impotent and weak, incapable of doing His job?

Something is surely wrong with such a concept of hell! The Bible reveals that God IS ALL POWERFUL, the ALMIGHTY God. Satan can do nothing unless God permits it (Isa. 14:12-14, Luke 10:17, Job 1:8-12). When Christ Himself commanded the devil to leave, he immediately slunk away (Matt. 4:1-11).

God is also ALL MERCIFUL. He is a God of LOVE (I John 4:8-10). Therefore, it is totally inconceivable that such a mighty, merciful God would allow Satan to thwart His plan, that He would allow billions of human beings to be lost and doomed to hell, even though they NEVER HEARD the name of Jesus Christ even so much as uttered during their whole lives! Such a God would not be a God of love, but a sadistic monster, an evil fiend!

Thank God that such a concept of "hell" is totally erroneous — AND THE BIBLE PROVES IT SO.


The Greek Words

Actually, there are three Greek words used in the Bible, all of them translated "hell." They do NOT refer to the same thing. Their meanings are totally different.

One word is tartaroo. It is used only once in the entire Bible — II Peter 2:4 — and refers to the condition of restraint of the fallen angels. It never refers to men!


"Hades"— the Grave

The second Greek word often translated "hell," in English, is hades. The word hades comes from two roots which literally mean "unseen," "unknown," "unperceived," or "unconsidered." It always refers to the grave, the place the dead are buried! You can see the connection easily. When a dead person is buried, he is out of sight, unseen — no longer known or perceived. He is gone. The word grave: is never used in the Bible to refer to gehenna fire, or the final hell fire! It always refers to the GRAVE! The Old Testament Hebrew word translated "hell" is Sheol. It has the same meaning as hades and refers to a grave or pit or hole in the ground.

Hades (the grave) is the "hell" Christ was in for three days and nights (Acts 2:26-27). The Moffatt translation renders this verse: "because thou wilt not forsake my soul in the grave, nor let thy holy one suffer decay." (When the King James translation of the Bible was made, Englishmen commonly spoke of putting potatoes in "hell" for the winter. They used the word to refer to a pit or hole in the ground)

The King James translators themselves knew that bade: meant "grave." They so translated it in I Corinthians 15:55. It could not possibly refer to the lake of fire or gehenna, because we read in Revelation 20:14 that "death and hell (the GRAVE)" will both be cast into "the lake of fire." Hades, then, refers to the grave — the abode of the dead — not God's final punishment upon the wicked!

Hades is the "hell" that every human being, except those who are alive and changed to meet Christ at His second coming, go to when they die! All men alike, saint and sinner, rich and poor, kings and slaves, whether white, black, brown or yellow, go to this "hell" when they die. No one escapes!

Solomon explained it clearly: "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place (THE GRAVE); all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Eccl. 3:19-20).

Think on that a moment. If men go to a fiery hell when they die, then so do cats, dogs, rabbits, chipmunks, skunks, deer, elk, moose, and every kind of animal! Isn't it ridiculous to think "good" animals go to heaven, but "bad" animals go to hell forever and ever? Animals don't sin. But Solomon said men have the same fate as animals — one is no better than the other in death. Both go to the grave and turn to dust after they die!

Solomon understood. He declared: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (Ecd. 9:5). Solomon said in verse 10: "For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

How dear, then. When people die, they go to the GRAVE and remain there. Their bodies turn to dust. The Bible says nothing about them being plunged instantaneously into a fiery "hell."

Yet there is one more Greek word translated "hell" which we have not covered. And, it does indeed refer to a fiery type of hell fire!

Let's notice just what this "hell" is, when it occurs, and how long it lasts — and who will be sent there!


"Gehenna" — "Hell Fire"

What is the fate of the wicked, those who reject God and despise Christ?

John the Baptist spoke about the final fate or destiny of the wicked. Seeing evil-minded, blasphemous Pharisees and their ilk coming around him as he preached the Gospel, John was moved to exclaim: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet [fitting) for repentance" (Matt. 3:7-8). He thundered to these hypocrites, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (verse 10). Speaking of Jesus Christ, he said, "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will BURN UP the chaff with unquenchable fire" (verse 12).

Here John described the fate of the wicked. Like worthless brush, thistles, or the chaff of the threshing floor, they will ultimately be cast into a fire and burned up! This fire doesn't just "singe," or scorch; it thoroughly CONSUMES whatever is cast into it!

What strange fire was John talking about? Let's read on, and see what Jesus Himself had to say about this mystery.

Jesus first mentioned hell in Matthew 5, the "Sermon on the Mount." Jesus declared, "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say unto his brother, Raca, {"vain fellow") shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of HELL FIRE" (verse 22).

What "hell" was Jesus talking about? And what did He mean by these strange-sounding remarks?

The Greek word for "hell" Jesus used in these verses is geenna (usually spelled and pronounced Gehenna), and refers to the ancient dwelling place of the sons of Hinnom, a valley just outside the city of Jerusalem which came to be used as a garbage dump or rubbish pit. Filthy, dirty garbage, dead bodies, and corpses of criminals were thrown into this valley and burned up. Jesus used this figurative expression as a symbol of the final HELL FIRE which will consume the bodies of the incorrigibly wicked!

But when will the wicked perish in this fire? When will unrepentant sinners be cast into Gehenna fire? Turn to the Book of Revelation, where we find the answer.