Is Hell a Real Place? A Metaphor? A Myth?

Trees in hell, but they are not burningFrom "Photographs of Hell"

Trees in hell, but they are not burning
From “Photographs of Hell

[Originally published on Helium]

Do you realize how much of Christianity’s teachings are not even found in the Bible? Do you realize how much most churches have been influenced by misquotes, mistranslations and even intentionally taking verses completely out of context? Take the doctrine of Hell, for example. Is it biblical? If not, where does it come from?

I have an interesting exercise for you. Go to the web site and type “hell” into the search box. Undoubtedly, you will come up with a few references. Now, change the version to Young’s Literal Translation and search. You will get back 3 references, all of which are for “Hellenist” and not one reference to “hell”!

Why? Because the honest truth is that “hell” is an archaic word that no longer should be used in modern speech. The English word “hell” literally comes from the same root word as “hole”, and it means just that. In particular, it can mean a hole 6 feet under the ground the grave. The Hebrew word “sheol” and the Greek word “hades” were sometimes (but even that was inconsistent) translated into “hell” in the KJV. However, most modern versions now translate it as “grave” or “pit” depending upon the context.

Yet, some modern versions still retain the word “hell”. Why? Because of indoctrination, that’s why! They are still reading into the text instead of reading the text to see what it says!

It gets even more confusing. There is more than one Greek word that the KJV translated “hell”. So, even when “Hades” is taken out of the mix, some translators still, due to preconceptions, translate Gehenna as “hell”. However, what is “Gehenna”? Well, it is a place (which is why I am capitalizing it). It was the Valley of the Son of Hinnom or Tophet in the OT. It was a place where child sacrifice was performed before the Jews went into Babylonian captivity.

Because of its notoriety, during Jesus’ time, it was a garbage dump. The Jews would take their trash there and burn it. The trash would burn day and night. Executed criminals would be dumped there to be burned up as well. It was a perfect metaphor for the fate of the wicked, the Lake of Fire. The physical bodies would be thrown into the dump and burned up! The Lake of Fire is the “second death“, not a second life in eternal torment (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).

If there is any “hell” as is usually defined, then, it would be the Valley of Hinnom. Do you want to see pictures of “Hell”? In researching for this article, I came across some Photographs of Hell. It’s a beautiful place! It also shows something else, though. Even though the Lake of Fire is “unquenchable”, that is, it cannot be extinguished even with a water cannon, that doesn’t mean it won’t run out of fuel and burn itself out! We know from 2 Peter 3:6-7 and 10 that the entire world will be purified in fire and a new earth will come out of it (2Pe 3:13; Isa 66:22; Rev 21:1).

Where did this notion of an ever tormenting hell come from? To begin with, it came from the pagan teaching of the immortal soul. From the site Do Humans Beings Have Immortal Souls?, we read:

Pagan ideas, filtered through Greek poets and philosophers, found expression in the work of one of the most famous thinkers of the ancient world, the Greek philosopher Plato [and not one of the Apostles!]. Under Plato the concept of the “immortal soul” was fully developed. Greek thought [not even Hebrew thought!] dominated the civilized world, and it was from this source that the Christian Church borrowed ideas about the immortal soul.

This is shocking! How can this even happen? Yet, now get ready for an even bigger shock! The Bible says TWICE that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze 18:4c, 20a). The oldest lie in the Bible was “Ye shall not surely die” (Ge 3:4b), as though somehow human beings possessed immortality, and humankind has bought the lie ever since.

Once people bought into the concept of an immortal soul, something had to happen to those who did not repent. After “Christianity”, at least in name, became the state religion, suddenly, millions who formerly were pagans now became “Christians”, making a heretical situation even worse. They were only nominal Christians, of course. Many of them were the same ones that previously persecuted Christians.

Now, how do you keep them in line? Previously, Christians were those who loved Christ, and many were persecuted for hanging on to their beliefs. Now, with this influx of pagans, it was easier to use fear to control them. Since the concepts of an immortal soul and punishment in an afterlife predominated in pagan religions, it wasn’t difficult to offer the same concepts that were “Christianized”.

So, in a technical sense, “hell” is real in that it is just the grave. We will all go there someday. However, there is no biblical basis for the doctrine of an ever burning ever tormenting Hell. The word “hell” has become so overloaded with misconceptions that its true meaning has been obscured. It would be better for Bible translators to use the words “grave” or “pit” where appropriate and not translate “Gehenna” at all. The concept of Hell, as portrayed in many Christian churches and in Dante’s Divine Comedy, is unbiblical. It was used to control converts that rushed into the church and became “Christian” when Constantine supposedly converted.

The worst part is that the doctrine of Hell is an evil doctrine that portrays God as either an uncaring monster that creates some human beings for the sole purpose of eternal torment or an incompetent and egotistical being that is too powerless to reveal Himself to all of humanity in order to give them a chance at salvation.

It is an offense to God Almighty and a doctrine of demons!

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