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HELL — man's idea vs. The Bible

Is God an "angry Judge"?
A God who tortures helpless sinners ages without end?


Shocking as it may seem, you may go to "hell"! Many of your loved ones are right now in "hell"!

But don't be alarmed!

You have probably never heard the truth about what "hell" really is — and where your ideas came from in the first place. So open your mind to some truth you may not have understood before. Don't blindly accept anyone's ideas, but, "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21).

You may have been taught about the idea of a horrifying, nightmarish place of never-ending torture for lost sinners. Many religious people use this conception of "hell" as a means of playing upon the emotions of people who are sincerely trying to find God's will.

But where did they — and where did you — learn these ideas?

Bear in mind that anything relating to the future of man or anything supernatural cannot possibly be known by mortal man unless God himself reveals the answers.

A standing witness that the people of this world are in utmost confusion about spiritual matters is the fact that there are hundreds of different sects and denominations in this world — each one having its own different ideas. Who has the truth?

Jesus said, "Thy word is truth."

It is time we quit swallowing the ideas and theories of confused humanity, and begin to study these things for ourselves in God's Word!


Man's Idea of Hell

As in nearly everything else of a spiritual nature, mankind is confused and divided as to the kind of future punishment the wicked will receive. Even most churches have changed or modified their beliefs on this subject over the years.

However, the common present-day belief on hell is given in the Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 14, page 81. Here are some excerpts from its article titled "Hell": "Hell as generally understood is the abode of evil spirits; the infernal regions, where the devil rules supreme, and where lost or condemned souls go after death to suffer indescribable torments and eternal punishment either for wickedness inherited from the sin of Adam or for more or less serious infractions of the divine law."

Notice that the devil is supposed to rule supreme in hell. He is often pictured with a tail, a pitchfork and a fiendish smile — delighting himself in inflicting these "indescribable torments" on lost sinners.

Continuing the article: "Hell, in the theological sense, has no place in most primitive religions, nor has heaven. . . There was no thought of dividing the future state into separate and distinct conditions of existence. Even so late a writer as the author of Ecclesiastes declares that 'all [men and beasts] go unto one place' (Eccl. 3:20) and 'there is one event to the righteous and [to the] wicked' (Eccl. 9:2)."

The men who compiled this encyclopedia found that the early religions — which they term the "primitive" religions — had no idea of "heaven" or "hell" as we know them.

Note, too, their comment that even so recent a writer as the author of Ecclesiastes believed that all living things went to one place — the grave! It might interest these learned gentlemen to know that GOD ALMIGHTY inspired the author of Ecclesiastes! But perhaps, they reason, God didn't know what he was talking about. He wasn't "educated" yet. Is that the way you reason?

But let's continue with another excerpt from this encyclopedia article on "The popular idea of hell as a place of punishment — either redemptive or rigidly retributive in character — did not come suddenly and full-formed into existence. It is the product of centuries of thinking on the great problem of reward and punishment which, instinctively almost, man associates with human deeds."

So today's concept of hell is admittedly a product of man's instinctive thinking. It did not come fully revealed from God, but rather "is the product of centuries of thinking" — using human reason to decide what only GOD can reveal!


God's Purpose

The primary reason so many men and organizations of men have a false conception of hell is that they view it just as an isolated doctrine. They fail to look at the overall purpose of God in putting man on this earth, of offering him the gift of eternal life for obedience, or of everlasting punish-MENT (not punishing) for disobedience.

God created man in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). In the Garden of Eden, he told man the way that would lead to eternal life. Then he told man that going the wrong way — the way of selfishness and greed — would lead to DEATH (Gen. 2:17).

But Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), told the woman, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). “You have an immortal soul."

Man has been believing that lie about the immortal soul ever since!

God's purpose is to develop holy, righteous character in man which would make him fit for eternal life. God gave ancient Israel his Ten Commandments, "that it might be well with them, and with their children forever" (Deut. 5:29).

God's decrees are always for man's good. They are not designed as arbitrary decrees which God uses as an excuse for plunging men into flames of fire! Notice that God offered Adam and Eve life on the one hand, and death on the other. Adam and Eve would not have been offered LIFE if they already were immortal souls. Man was created mortal and in need of eternal life from God through his Spirit.

If man rebelled against God and made himself miserable through sin, then the kindest thing that God could do would be to let man die. Then, stubborn, sinning man would be unable to bring any further misery on himself or others by his wrong ways. He would just cease to exist, and would thus not interfere with the happiness of others who sought eternal life. That is why we read that the soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:4).

But men have disagreed with God and his Word, and have come to believe in an entirely different reward for the wicked. So, where do men get their ideas of "hell"?


What is "Hell"?

You will be surprised to learn that Jesus Christ himself went to "hell" when he died! In Peter's inspired sermon on the day of Pentecost, he said, "He [David] seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:31).

So — according to your Bible — Jesus went to hell!

Any student should know that the New Testament was written in the Greek language and that the King James translation into English is sometimes a little misleading. Actually, there are three different Greek words, each with a different meaning, which have all been translated "hell" in the King James Version of the Bible.

The "hell" where Jesus was for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40) after his crucifixion is translated from the Greek word hades. Hades simply means "pit" or "grave." When the King James translation of the Bible was made, Englishmen commonly understood that "hell" could mean a grave, pit, or hole in the ground. They often spoke of burying their potatoes in hell for the winter.

So the "hell" where Jesus went was simply the grave — the rock hewn sepulcher where he was buried. Unless you live until Christ comes and are changed from mortal to immortal (I Cor. 15:53), you will go to this same "hell."

The second Greek word translated "hell" is tartaroo. It is used only once in the Bible (II Pet. 2:4) and refers to the condition of restraint of the fallen angels. It never refers to men.

The Greek word denoting a place of punishment is gehenna. This is the third Greek word translated "hell." Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, was located outside of Jerusalem. It was a place where trash, filth, and the dead bodies of animals and despised criminals were thrown. It was like some of our city dumps today. Ordinarily, everything thrown in this valley was destroyed by fire — completely burned up.

In Jewish thought, this burning, smoking Valley of Hinnom was associated with the future punishment of the wicked. So it was natural for Jesus and the apostles to use the word gehenna — derived from the Valley of Hinnom — when referring to the lake of fire which will be the fate of the wicked. This lake of fire is described in Revelation 20:14-15.

These, then, are the three Greek

words which are translated into the word "hell" in our Bibles. In the Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew, there is only one word which is translated "hell." That word is Sheol. It corresponds to the Greek word hades, meaning the grave, or pit.

Before we consider the scriptures where these words are used and find the astonishing truth about what "hell" really is, let's briefly inspect some of the theories of men on this subject.