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Thursday, May 04, 2006

a hell of a subject - introduction

If you've never participated in HeyJules' Monday Night Thoughtball, you really should. It's a great way to discuss important topics with a wide variety of informed people.

This week's question was: Will different people experience hell differently?

I left a comment there, stating my belief that hell is essentially separation from God, and therefore is something that many people already experience here on earth. We do not have to wait until death to experience heaven and hell.

A number of other commenters remarked that hell is "a real place" of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" where people "will live in misery, hopelessness, and apparent isolation." This goes on "FOREVER." What's more, "everyone deserves hell." They believe this "because it is BIBLICAL."

Well, I've read the Bible, and I respectfully disagree.

What I'm planning to do is to write a series of posts examining what the Bible says about hell.

By way of introduction, let me point out first that there are three Greek words that can be translated as "hell". The word tartaros appears in 2 Peter 2:4, describing a place where demons are kept in chains. The same concept appears in Jude 6 without using the word. Nowhere does it suggest that tartaros has anything to do with human beings, so I won't mention this one again.

The word gehenna appears in exactly seven passages, six of which are in the gospels -- four in Matthew's gospel alone. Some of these are parallel passages -- different versions of the same story. I'm going to look at each of these passages to see what they say about hell.

The word hades is the place where all dead people go, according to Greek mythology. This word is used in several places in the New Testament. Some English versions translate this word as "hell", while others translate it as "depths" or "grave," or leave it untranslated. I'll examine whether these passages can add anything to our knowledge about hell.

Additionally, the words "fire" or "flames" are used in several places in the New Testament, as are the words "death," "destruction," and "perishing". I'll look at these also.

I don't yet know how many posts will be in this series, but I'll begin (tomorrow, I hope) by looking at gehenna.

Incidentally, Rich at God's Upside Down Kingdom has some thoughts and a link to another thoughtful post about universalism, and Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed has a poll about hell that has attracted several commenters from all different points of view. This must be the week to blog about hell.

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At 5/05/2006 10:00 PM, Anonymous Rich(luthsem) said...


We must of had a "hell" of a week. Great post!

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