Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hell, It's Not THAT Bad...Right? -Pt. 1

What exactly is hell? Ask 50 different people and you would probably get 50 different answers. Most people would probably give a description similar to the picture to the left; souls being tormented by red devils with horns, wings, and pitchforks with fire all around. Most paintings and images of hell we see are of this nature. From these images, we imagine hell being a place that we can see and touch, but how accurate are these depictions of hell? Do we even have a clear picture of what hell is?

The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines hell as:
(1): a nether world in which the dead continue to exist : hades
(2): the nether realm of the devil and the demons in which the damned suffer everlasting punishment :a place or state of misery, torment, or wickedness : a place or state of turmoil or destruction
This definition seems to be right in line with the cultural view of what hell is. But, as I have said in a previous post, we cannot just stop with the modern definition because the meanings of words change. So, as before, we are going to look at some of the more clear verses in the Bible so we can get a Biblical view of what hell is, and also see if what we find is at all a reasonable punishment from God.

"33 For a burning place has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it." -- Isaiah 30:33 (ESV)

"14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
'Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?'" -- Isaiah 33:14 (ESV)
The prophet Isaiah starts us off with two verses that describe hell being a place of fire. In the first verse, Isaiah tells us hell's fire is kept burning by God's very own breath. The fire that God kindles is described as a "consuming fire" and "everlasting burnings" in the second verse, and the godless are terrified knowing what is to come.
"12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." -- Matthew 3:12 (ESV)

"50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- Matthew 13:50 (ESV)

"13 Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" -- Matthew 22:13 (ESV)

"13...for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever." -- Jude 1:13 (ESV)
These next four verses open our eyes a little more about the fire of hell and some other aspects of it. The first two verses from Matthew describe again the fire of hell as a "furnace" and the fire being "unquenchable." As we all know furnaces burn with intense heat, but this heat, as we remember from above, is intensified by God's very own breath! In the second and third verses Jesus describes that there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" combined with the "unquenchable fire." The third and fourth verses also bring in another element of hell - darkness. Jesus describes it as "outer darkness" and Jude as "the gloom of utter darkness." This implies that all the fire that is burning like an unquenchable furnace does not give off any light. Jude describes the darkness as "gloom." The Greek word used is zophos, which is defined as "gloom (as shrouding like a cloud)". So, the "gloom" Jude was referring to is an encompassing darkness.

"3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him..." -- Revelation 20:3 (NKJV)

"...and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." -- Revelation 20:10 (ESV)
In this first verse from Revelation, we are given yet another element of hell. It is a "bottomless pit." So, now we see hell as a free floating experience. There is no sure footing, no walls to brace yourself, and nothing solid for stability. The second verse describes the souls in hell being "tormented day and night forever and ever". This is self explanatory.
"23...being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.'" -- Luke 16:23-24 (ESV)

"9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might," -- 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV)

"10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb." -- Revelation 14:10 (ESV)
In the verse from Luke, Jesus is telling a parable. We see that the man crying out is conscious and well aware of the torment, fire, and anguish. This shows that the souls in hell are aware of all that is going on. The verse from Thessalonians reinforces the eternality of hell. Laced throughout the verses that I have laid out, there is the concept of hell being eternal. The souls in hell will always be there, they will not be let out or annihilated after a period of time. The verse from Revelation, again, reinforces torment by fire, but also revels to us that hell, and everything about it, is "God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger"!

"41 Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." -- Matthew 25:41 (ESV)

This verse from Matthew tells us that hell was not originally made for humanity, but rather for Satan and his fallen angels. So, if hell was made initially for Satan and his angels, who goes there now?

"4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die." -- Ezekiel 18:4 (ESV)

"15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." -- Revelation 20:15 (ESV)

"10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." -- Revelation 20:10 (ESV)

"'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.'" -- Revelation 21:8 (ESV)

These verses briefly and concisely show who is headed for hell. This is not a full description. For the list that God will use, look at Exodus 20:2–17. These are the Ten Commandments, I will some time in the future dig into these.

We now have an idea of what hell is; eternal, conscious, torment in a lake of fire, like that of a furnace that is kept blazing by God's breath. Free floating, falling, no stability, nothing solid to grab hold of. Oppressive darkness all meant solely for Satan and his angels. Why would a "loving" God create and send people to such a place? This does not seem reasonable - or is it? Do we have a warped sense of God? This sounds like an angry and hateful God. In my next post I will lay out from the Bible God's character and nature and see if hell is reasonable and if we have a correct view of God. Before I go, I have one more verse for you to think about:

"2 but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear." -- Isaiah 59:2 (ESV)
Please leave comments on this, I really do want to hear them!

-- The Wretch

2 comments:

Wiseguy said...

Wow. That's terrifying stuff. God is holy, let the earth tremble.

It sad today that what you have written would be considered so "extreme" and "radical". But most of it was simply quoting the Bible, and who will argue with the Lord? The same people haven't realised that God is holy, and therefore He is extreme and radical far above what we can imagine.

So, as Psalm 2 says, may we join trembling with our mirth and kiss the Son, lest in His ire, we perish from the way.

Interesting comment about the "original purpose" of hell. First, I'd like to say that the word "angel" can refer to any messenger or servant of someone, such as the angels of the churches in Rev 2-3 and other examples. Indeed all the wicked are "angels" in this sense, of Satan, they are his children.

Martin Luther said, "If anyone tries to find God apart from Jesus Christ, all they find is the devil." We are either God's children through Christ, or the devil's children, and his children.

Secondly, it is not really correct to speak of God's "original purpose" as if that were different from His "final purpose" for "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning to the end." In everything God does, and everything He creates and works, His counsel stands forever eternal and unchanging. So hell, as His breath of wrath on the wicked, has not, nor will ever change in purpose. Jude of course explains that hell is prepared also for the false teachers and hypocrites.

In other words, God is not surprised, God had the same purpose in store when He prepared hell, as what it will be used for - the everlasting torment of the enemies of His Church, who are His enemies.

The Wretch said...

Thanks Wiseguy. You are correct about God not being surprised and Hell's purpose changing. I should have been more clear about that! Thank you for the comment!

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