. . . On Hell

I heard an interesting Atheistic summarization of the Christian argument the other day.

“So, I either believe in God and Jesus, or I’m going to burn in Hell?” they said.

“Some choice.”

Well, yeah . . . when you put it like that.  But do we; Christians, Atheists, Joe Averages, even know what Hell truly is?

Ironically, as I’m writing this, my kids are watching a Tom & Jerry that has Tom being threatened with being thrown into a place of fire, smoke and molten rock by a bulldog with horns, pointed tail and a pitchfork for mistreating Jerry all these years.  That’s pretty much our collective view of sin and its consequences and, unfortunately, it’s become a wedge of dissension used by both sides in arguments against the other. It’s either this, or that: Either clouds, harps and wings, or fire, pointy tails and pitchforks.

Some choice.

But what does the Bible really say about Hell, or Gehenna, as is the term often used in both Old and New Testament of many translations?

Gehenna (Greek), Gehinnom (Rabbinical Hebrew) or Gehinnam (Yiddish), is a term derived from a place outside ancient Jerusalem known in the Hebrew Bible as the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; one of two major valleys surrounding the Old City.   In the Hebrew Bible, the site was initially where apostate Israelites and followers of various Ba’als and Caananite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chr. 28:3, 33:6; Jer. 7:31, 19:2-6).

In the Catholic Encyclopedia, Hell is defined: “. . . in the New Testament the term Gehenna is used more frequently in preference to Hades, as a name for the place of punishment of the damned . . . held in abomination by the Jews, who, accordingly, used the name of this valley to designate the abode of the damned. And Christ adopted this usage of the term.”

So in Biblical times, when Gehenna was referred to, the writer or speaker often meant a literal place, or what that literal place represented to people that followed a certain path of belief. In other words, “If you do these things, this is what you’ll end up doing, and here is where you’ll end up doing it.” Most Jews held the practices of the followers of Ba’al and Moloch in total disdain, so this would have been a very effective argument to stop these “wrong” beliefs of actions.

But how does that relate to us? In today’s terms?  We no longer live in a society that has widespread sacrifice or burnt offerings. So what is Hell to us?

Well . . .

I don’t know. And if most “Christians” are honest with themselves, they don’t know either.

We don’t know, but there are a few things we can speculate.

First of all, let’s say Atheists are right and there is no God.  The way we live our life and the choices we make therein mean nothing to any “eternal destiny” . . . because there won’t be one.  How you live is how you live, the results of which may or may not have any consequence to those around you, but not necessarily on you. It may mean something to do “right”, but only because it’s the right thing to do.

No harm, no foul, no problem.

But what if, as a Christ-follower and a believer in God, I’m right?

I believe that at some point in time a judgment is going to come, and a separation of “wheat and chaff” will come to pass. In other words, a separation of those that not only believed in God, but chose to follow his tenets and live their lives with love, patience, and mercy (i.e. for others), and those that chose not to believe in God and/or chose instead to live in greed, hate, hypocrisy, pride (i.e. for themselves).

(Notice the choices involved; not my choice (for you), not God’s choice, your choice.)

As a result, I believe that those that chose to follow God will then go to live in the presence of God, for eternity.  And those that chose not to believe in God will then have their choice fulfilled and spend eternity in separation from God.

Still doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

But what all is involved within the presence and absence of God?

Well . . .

Those that choose to believe in God see Him as the embodiment of love, peace, patience, grace and mercy.  We believe that we still have all those things available to us here on earth because, despite our best efforts, there is still an element of God here on earth as well.

But what happens when that element is finally, and eternally, removed? What’s left?

Everything else, right?  All the greed, hate, hypocrisy, pride and so on.  And those that chose to live with those things here on earth will get to continue living in them . . . forever. Only, without any element of love, peace, patience . . .

All those minor details left with God, and his followers.


I don’t know about you, but that’s starting to sound like “Hell” to me.

But, at least for me, the kicker will be the knowledge.  Atheists pride themselves on “knowledge”, right. What happens if/when all this comes to pass and now you know, really know, the results of your choices.

And you were wrong.

Living eternally with greed, hate, hypocrisy, pride . . . and anger: Living eternally without love, peace, patience, mercy . . . and hope.

And living with the knowledge that it was your choice to do so.

Might there be some “weeping and gnashing of teeth”?

That, my friends, is Hell.

But please, don’t take my word for it.

Read.  Your.  Bible!

(On a further note: I’ve read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”, and I love Rob and his writing.  I believe he is a sincere and loving man of God.  Yet, I cannot agree with his ideology behind “Love Wins” that eventually all will come to repentance and be redeemed to God in heaven. In other words, eventually all will be “saved”.  It’s just not biblical.  Mr. Bell, and others who accept this theory, are attempting to apply human feelings to an omnipotent God.   Yes, God created us in his image, but who are we to then attempt to throw that image back upon God: To picture a God that, out of pity or regret, chooses to change his mind about eternal destiny.  It would be wonderful to believe that Love truly does win and that an all loving God will see the remorse and shame of his children that chose not to accept or follow Him during their given time in the world and wish to redeem them.  But what does that say to those that did choose to follow him during their time in this world? What does that say about every single teaching of the Bible?  Each story within the Bible points to a God that desires relationship, desires trust in Him, faith in Him and obedience to Him.  If ultimately everyone is redeemed anyway, none of that matters in this world.  And, I’m sorry, but that’s just not biblical.   Is God capable of pity and regret? Sure.  Is God able to cause change? Absolutely.  Does that mean that God, in fact, changes? The answer to that is the answer to everything.  Believe in a God that changes, and you may accept that eventually all can and will be redeemed to Him.  Believe in a God that is eternal, and you must therefore accept that God’s tenets are eternal, God’s choices are eternal and therefore your choices will be eternal.  That’s biblical.)

6 thoughts on “. . . On Hell”

  1. I believe the false concept of natural immortality that was common in the Greco-Roman world tended to distort what was reveled to Israel and then the Church. The recurring theme through the Scriptures is the choice between life and death, not life in paradise or life in torment.

    The often quoted Scripture, John 3:16 says it all. The choice is eternal life, or to perish. Perish means annilhilation even though some will go through considerable gymnastics to assert otherwise. Matthew 10:28 also points to the fact that the soul/spirit can be destroyed by the Lord.

    The everlasting fire that is likened to Gehenna is prepared for the devil and demons, not human beings (see Matthew 25:41). These rebellious and evil spirit beings have been convicted and sentenced to eternal death. If any human being follows them into the everlasting fire, it is because they do not repent of their demonic rebellion.

    Many of the early Church Fathers taught that the presence of God in the world to come, would either be perceived as paradise by those who love God, or as a consuming fire by those who hate God.

  2. I think maybe we sometimes put too much focus on “getting to heaven” and not enough focus on “becoming a heavenly person.” The reward and happiness in the end (and even here) are found in “becoming” more like Jesus Christ , or at least having that desire work in us. Two people can stand side by side right here and now, and one can be in heaven in his heart and one can be in hell. It all depends on the choices they are making and the thoughts they are holding onto. I think if we want to know what our state will be after this life we need only picture ourselves living in a world surrounded by people who have lived the same principles and cultivated the same desires that we have, and also being in the presence of God and Christ. Even if it were possible for those who have persisted in wickedness, with no desire to change, to be in heaven, they would quickly leave. They would be so uncomfortable there that it would be a hell to them. I love this scripture: “Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” -Ether 12:4

    1. Great insight Maryann. As Christians, we need to work on the hearts of other Christians as well as those that are far from God, building each other up so that we are the “light in the darkness” for the world, and that we view our salvation as so much more than a “get out of hell free” card.

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The spiritual life and random musings of a part-time novelist and Spiritual Drifter…"the trouble is not with the law, for the law is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human…"


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