Trying to Understand Hell


I have been thinking about Hell for awhile now. Sounds strange. I am not worried about going there, but I trying to formulate my own views on what it is and who ends up there.

“Christians” for too long like to damn people to hell. If you do bad things, you will go to hell. That is a common view among many Christians. You have Calvinist who believe only a few people are going to go to heaven and those have been chosen before time. Other Christians believe that hell awaits those who fail to accept Jesus and many who don’t have a clue who goes, but they don’t want to be there. Confusing isn’t it.

The surprising part is that only Christians and Muslims talk about hell. Other religions have a temporary hell like aspect, but not an eternal hell. The Jewish faith is a little different. The current message is that the afterlife doesn’t matter, but this life is what people should focus on. This hasn’t always been the case though. Maybe it stems from the years of persecution and the fact that they no longer have a temple in which to worship God as their faith calls for. In any case, there seems to be a disconnect between the Tanakh / Old Testament and current views.

Job 14:13 Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!

Job 17:13-15 If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, (14) if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ (15) where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?

Job 24:19 Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters; so does Sheol those who have sinned.

Job 26:6 Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering.

Psa 9:17 The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

Psa 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Psa 30:3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Psa 49:15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah

Psa 55:15 Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

Psa 86:13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Psa 139:8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

Pro 15:11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD; how much more the hearts of the children of man!

Pro 27:20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.

Isa 14:11-15 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. (12) “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! (13) You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (15) But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Isa 66:22-24 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. (23) From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. (24) “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

Dan 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

I could go on, but you get the point. There is a view of heaven in the Jewish faith as well as Sheol. Many Christian translations have put Sheol to mean hell, but I don’t think that is what it is supposed to be. There are verses that talk about ransoming of life from Sheol as well as people who sin going there, so it seems to be more of a waiting place. There are depths of Sheol, so it sounds like there are levels to it. The deeper you go, the worse you were. There was a concept of an afterlife and punishment to some degree for a sinful life in Jewish belief.

From some pagan belief, we have the current view that hell is this fiery place where the Devil reigns and torments those who were sent there. Not a scriptural view, but it is held onto tightly. It is a view that takes up the performance oriented view of mankind. If you fail to live up and perform, you will be punished for eternity. Fun right!

The New Testament is more forward in addressing the concept of Hell and how you get there.

Mat 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Mat 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Mat 13:38-43 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, (39) and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. (40) Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, (42) and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Rev 20:13-15 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. (14) Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (15) And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The Christian view of hell is a lot more cut and dry than the Jewish view. What happened to make the leap? Jesus

Sheol would have been the waiting place until God passed judgment on them. Jesus came to bring judgment on all of mankind, so there is no more hanging out in the same place right?

Rev 20:5-8 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (7) And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison (8) and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

You have Jesus ruling over all of the Nations for a thousand years along with those who shared in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over those. The second death references Rev 21:8. After the 1000 year period, the devil comes back and lies to the nations and the people get a second choice to choose between God and what they desire. If people go to hell when they die the first time, who are these people? These are people who have seen Jesus and not just accepted Him based on faith.

This is where I get the disconnect with common view of hell and what I have read.

Luk 12:46-48 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. (47) And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. (48) But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Rom 2:14-16 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (15) They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (16) on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Those who don’t know the law but demonstrate it still show that they understand the nature of God. People who have never heard the gospel as to be judged on their actions instead of their faith. This seems to lead into that second group.

I know it is not part of the biblical cannon, but the book of Enoch mentions four groups of people. The first group would be those who are saints and already have a place secured in heaven. This would those who believed in Jesus and have been saved by faith. The second group are those who are not damned to hell, but have not secured a place in heaven. They have done good in their life, but not embraced God and have another chance at redemption. The third group have heard the message of God but have refused it. They lived a good life and have a second chance of redemption. The fourth group are those who did wicked in the sight of God have been condemned to the hell. There is no chance for them.

I kind of like this idea as it helps me understand that 1,000 year period where people have a second chance. It isn’t in the Bible, so I can not say for certain that it is the word of God.

My faith and belief says that I am to share the message of salvation to all. All who embrace it and accept are award salivation through appropriation. While I like the idea of a second chance for those who don’t accept, I am not going to stop sharing my faith with others hoping that it is true.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Trying to Understand Hell

  1. societyvs

    “In any case, there seems to be a disconnect between the Tanakh / Old Testament and current views.” (Xander)

    I don’t know if there is exactly a ‘disconnect’. Some faith streams in Judaism choose to reject a literal heaven/hell dichotomy. In fact, there is no hell in Judaism because there is no hell in the pages of the Tanakh. All there really is proof for is a death (sheol – also a waiting place) and a ‘resurrection’. So death is not neccesarily the ‘end’.

    “The Christian view of hell is a lot more cut and dry than the Jewish view” (Xander)

    I don’t know about that – can’t really get more simple than death – waiting place – judgment – heaven. It’s quite similar to Christianity except we use ‘hell’ and ‘waiting place’ is not discussed much theologically.

    However, I do think how to get to hell is cut n dry also, let me quote some exact words from the passages you used: “will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace”; “they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done”; and Rev 21:8 is a list of things to avoid doing unless you want to ‘die’.

    I find in these passages, and many more like them, that Christians are to be judged by their actions. There is no pass for them because Jesus died and was able to forgive them.

    “Those who don’t know the law but demonstrate it still show that they understand the nature of God. People who have never heard the gospel as to be judged on their actions instead of their faith. This seems to lead into that second group” (Xander)

    I disagree with this two people menatlity – those who have heard the ‘gospel’ (which is not law as Paul is discussing) and those who have not. I would contend Christians have not even really heard the Jewish law – nor understand it – nor are subject to it. All Paul is saying we (Gentiles) do not know the law but in our hearts we can judge what is right and wrong – let this be our guide. In our cases, we have the bible and the actual teaching of Jesus – we have a standard to live by making Paul’s statement to the Romans almost void.

    “It (Enoch) isn’t in the Bible, so I can not say for certain that it is the word of God.” (Xander)

    What is really weird is how much of the texts used in the bible either quote or address this book – and it did not make the bible. Revelations, Jude, and aspects of the gospels are find some inspiration in this book – yet it was not considered the ‘word of God’. If we go by that standard, and I am more than willing to, Revelations and Jude are for sure not the ‘word of God’ and aspects of the gospels are suspect.

    • ** I don’t know if there is exactly a ‘disconnect’. Some faith streams in Judaism choose to reject a literal heaven/hell dichotomy. In fact, there is no hell in Judaism because there is no hell in the pages of the Tanakh. All there really is proof for is a death (Sheol – also a waiting place) and a ‘resurrection’. So death is not necessarily the ‘end’. **

      There is no specific hell in Judaism, but there is an afterlife with an implied different outcome depending on the life of the person. It isn’t just some resting place for the dead.

      ** I don’t know about that – can’t really get more simple than death – waiting place – judgment – heaven. It’s quite similar to Christianity except we use ‘hell’ and ‘waiting place’ is not discussed much theologically. **

      Who gets resurrection under Judaism? What happens to those who are not resurrected? Judaism doesn’t answer these questions. That is what I mean when I say there is a more definite answer with Christianity.

      ** I find in these passages, and many more like them, that Christians are to be judged by their actions. There is no pass for them because Jesus died and was able to forgive them. **

      But the comparison is of the weeds or the sons of the evil one. Those who accept Jesus are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are cast into the fire as they are removed from the kingdom.

      ** I disagree with this two people mentality – those who have heard the ‘gospel’ (which is not law as Paul is discussing) and those who have not. I would contend Christians have not even really heard the Jewish law – nor understand it – nor are subject to it. All Paul is saying we (Gentiles) do not know the law but in our hearts we can judge what is right and wrong – let this be our guide. In our cases, we have the bible and the actual teaching of Jesus – we have a standard to live by making Paul’s statement to the Romans almost void. **

      I disagree. I think Paul is saying that although people did not know the law, they still up held the law. That is to testify that God is written on the hearts of men and are subject to judgment. The law exposes actions and thoughts as sin. It does not save a person as a person who doesn’t not know the law can still uphold it.

  2. societyvs

    “But the comparison is of the weeds or the sons of the evil one. Those who accept Jesus are the sons of the kingdom” (Xander)

    But what does it mean to ‘accept Jesus’ then? Accept him as what exactly? In that parable it is fairly clear that one’s actions deem them as a weed…how else would someone become the son of the ‘evil’ one?

    “The law exposes actions and thoughts as sin. It does not save a person as a person who does not know the law can still uphold it.” (Xander)

    But this seems to be the exact point Paul is making about the law – it’s on our hearts (somehow) and we innately have some reference point for good and bad. Paul is actually not saying anything bad about this except it ‘exists’ and the Gentiles do not need the ‘law’ since this process is already at work within them (exposing their flaws and what they need to work on).

    As for the law and salvation, what exactly is salvation in that context? The law exists to help keep society in a smooth running order and to show people the boundaries they should not be crossing. The law may only be salvific in it’s simple essence to show us the results of our actions and how to safeguard ourselves against ruining our lives (and those of others).

    It seems to me Christians are failing to make the very simple comparions between Jewish law and our American and Canadian law systems. They are similar in their intent and use. One could ask, will American law save you?

    • ** But what does it mean to ‘accept Jesus’ then? Accept him as what exactly? In that parable it is fairly clear that one’s actions deem them as a weed…how else would someone become the son of the ‘evil’ one? **

      Accept Him as Lord over your life. He is God. You trade Him the old life (savior aspect) exchange for a new life.

      ** As for the law and salvation, what exactly is salvation in that context? The law exists to help keep society in a smooth running order and to show people the boundaries they should not be crossing. The law may only be salvific in it’s simple essence to show us the results of our actions and how to safeguard ourselves against ruining our lives (and those of others).

      It seems to me Christians are failing to make the very simple comparions between Jewish law and our American and Canadian law systems. They are similar in their intent and use. One could ask, will American law save you? **

      Interesting point. Is American or Canadian law from God?

      Salvation from the penalties of sin is the context. Jewish law wasn’t so the nation would run smoothly. It was setup because Israel wanted to be told what they needed to do to be right with God without having to be in His presence. The law was given so that Israel knew what had to be done to reach the standard of God.

  3. societyvs

    “Accept Him as Lord over your life. He is God. You trade Him the old life (savior aspect) exchange for a new life.” (Xander)

    I do accept him as lord (in sense of a leader) and his teachings as authoritative. As for the new life, well that’s a work in process.

    “Interesting point. Is American or Canadian law from God?” (Xander)

    True…but are you Jewish? Why do you keep referring to a Jewish law you are not subject to?

    “The law was given so that Israel knew what had to be done to reach the standard of God” (Xander)

    Would you say that standard has changed? It seems to me you think so.

    • “Would you say that standard has changed? It seems to me you think so.”

      To a degree yes. The standard was so high, that it is unattainable by man. The death of Christ removed us, both Jew and Gentile, from having to try and follow the law in order to be right with God.

  4. societyvs

    “To a degree yes. The standard was so high, that it is unattainable by man” (Xander)

    You are aware this is a viewpoint/perspective about the law and may not neccesarily be true? That being said, neither you or I are subject to it anyways.

    “The death of Christ removed us, both Jew and Gentile, from having to try and follow the law in order to be right with God.” (Xander)

    This is intriguing because of it’s weirdness in logic. Why exactly did God present to Moses on Sinai with the commandments then? To condemn them or liberate them?

    • “This is intriguing because of it’s weirdness in logic. Why exactly did God present to Moses on Sinai with the commandments then? To condemn them or liberate them?”

      The commandments were given to the people so they could follow God. The remainder of the law was given to condemn them.

      Exo 19:10-24 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments (11) and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. (12) And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. (13) No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

      Notice how they can not touch the mountain, until the trumpet sounds a long blast. Then they can ascend the mountain up into God’s presence.

      (14) So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. (15) And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” (16) On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. (17) Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. (18) Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. (19) And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.

      (20) The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. (21) And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. (22) Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.”

      The trumpet sounds and God tells Moses to warn the people that they should proceed into His presence in an orderly fashion so no one gets hurt in the process.

      (23) And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.'” (24) And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.”

      What Moses says is wrong. They could have gone up on the mountain after the trumpet sounded. That is what God wanted. God gave the people the 10 commandments, but they responded with

      Exo 20:18-20 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off (19) and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (20) Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

      God would have stopped with the 10 commandments and had a personal relationship with each person (as He ahd with Moses), but they didn’t choose that. They didn’t want the relationship with God in that aspect.

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