Right Out Of Hell (ATP)
I have a cousin who believes the greek word that Jesus used for hell – Gehenna – refers to burning the garbage outback, not the way that it is worded in our English Bibles as “fire and brimstone.” He believes that people will eventually, somehow earn their way out of hell over millions or even billions of years. What does the Bible say about Hell?
The concept of hell is a scary one and one of those things that you could do great study on. As with a lot of these type of theological topics, a single Faith Fix is not even remotely enough room to barely touch the subject. So I am going to touch on some basics, answering the question, but not covering all or even really part of its totality.
First I want to say that what we think of as hell isn’t exactly the fullness of what the Bible discusses. Hell is a physical place that exists in the earth today. We see this in the Messianic prophecy of Psalms 16:10. “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” We know that Jesus, after He died on the cross, descended into a place referred to as Sheol, or Hades, or hell. We see this also in Ephesians 4:9, … He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth. However, praise God He didn’t stay there!
Hell is a holding place for those who die but do not go to Heaven while the earth remains. We know after judgement that God creates a new Heaven and a new Earth. We see in Revelation 20:14, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. “ So then, what of this Gehenna?
The actual word used is geena, and your cousin is right in its literal translation. Gehenna was a real place, originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned. Imagine the putridness of such a place! However, Jesus was not actually talking about that place, rather simply using it as a description of what hell is. He was truly trying to scare the hell out of people who were well acquainted with this place. After all, how would you describe such torment the likes of which no living human could fathom?
As for the permanence of hell, the idea of hell not being real or everlasting is simply not scriptural. It is a lie from hell itself and wishful thinking on the part of Christians who don’t like to believe in its reality. Look at Jesus’s own words in Mark 9:43-44, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” Notice what He says: “into the fire that shall never be quenched” and “the worm does not die.” It sounds pretty clear and Jesus made it clear on purpose by saying it then quoting scripture afterward.
Revelation 20:10, referring to the lake of fire which is where hell eventually gets cast into, says, “… and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Again, it’s finality is clear. Though the subject of hell is vast, and you could really spend a lot of time studying it, the concept of it was made simple. The problem is when people struggle with the truth and start to come up with different interpretations of scripture or begin reading into things that are simply not there. It’s a dangerous place to start interpreting Truth based on your ideals or emotions.
Though the Bible is an incredibly complex book, it’s main theme and concepts are not complex at all. Where people so often get into error is when they start trying to explain away things that are uncomfortable instead of learning to understand them. I too struggled with the idea of hell and a loving God, until I understood it. Once when asked how a loving God could send people to hell, He opened His truth to me. He doesn’t send anyone there, they choose it. You may say, “But who would choose it?!?”
Hell, simply put, is the absent of God which means the absent of anything good. God is the embodiment of good, so without Him, good doesn’t exist. Hell is a place made to contain the devil and his fallen angels. Though God never intended man to be there, if they reject Him there is not options. It’s either with Him or without Him.
Whether you understand it fully or not I can say this: there is enough said that I want to ensure I stay as far away from it as I can. If people truly had a concept of what it was they wouldn’t be so casual about their lives. I hear people joke about going to hell and I think, “Dear Lord if you knew what you were saying!” The truth is, as long as Christians side with the devil and water down scripture, those people never will never understand it. It will be a joke to them right up until they realize that it is their permanent future.