All instruction concerning imperative Christian beliefs are inclusive within the concept of proper doctrine.? The preaching of Hell is one of those doctrines that are considered a subtopic within the primary doctrine of Eternal Judgment. It is therefore obligatory that the believer gain proper understanding?of the topic, and not be seduced by whimsy and rhetoric, ?into believing?heresies and apostasies ? doctrines of demons ? so commonly prevalent?in the past, and as well, today.
We have all heard the expression, ??go to Hell,? ? a common American idiom, and as well ??good people do not go to Hell,? and ?hell is right here on earth.?? Regardless of the ease of which we have all used the word ?Hell,? there is disconnect between the seriousness of the topic and its everlasting effect.
The word ?Hell,? as found in the English translations, has two common word roots in the original Greek: ?Hades? and ?Gehenna.?? For purposes of this study we will only evaluate the word ?Hell,? in context with what Jesus said, and not refer to what the Apostles or Prophets uttered.? Hades is found upon the lips of Jesus in: Mt.11:23; 16:18; Lk.10:15; 16:23; Rev.1:18, and Gehenna is to be found in Mt.5:22, 29; 10:28; 18:8-9; 23:15, 23; Mk.9:43, 45, 47; Lk.12:5.
Hades finds it equivalent in the Old Testament word, ?Sheol??? the abode of the dead ? a holding place for souls before judgment. Modern translators believe it is improper to render this word as Hell,?in that its proper designation is a holding place for both the?unrighteous and the righteous dead.? The modern versions use the?transliteration of ?Hades? or ?Sheol,? or flatly, ?the abode of the dead.??[N.T. Vine?s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words] ?Scholars?argue the merit that Hades discontinued in existence, after Jesus had?raised from the dead, since 1Pe.3:19-20 states that Jesus preached to?those ?spirits in prison? and Eph.3:8 states that Jesus led the captives?forth upon his resurrection.? ?Luke 16:19-31 is the best example of the?place ? an abode where the righteous can see the unrighteous, but a?gulf sits between them, to prevent passage from side to the other. ?One?side of Hades [Sheol] is tortuous, while the opposite side is pleasant, and corresponds to the word Paradise, that Jesus mentioned to the thief on the cross.? The word Paradise,?was borrowed, by the Hebrews, from the Farsi [Persian] language and it?literally means a pleasant garden of lush fruit and scenic beauty.
Gehenna or its Aramaic equivalent, Geenna,?finds its reference to something more earthly and geographic ? that of?the Valley of Ge-Hinnom ? a valley to the S-SW of Jerusalem, used for?the dumping and burning of refuse.? King Ahaz had burned his sons as an?offering in the Valley of Hinnom [2Ch.28:3].? In Jer.19:6, it is?referred to as, ?the Valley of Slaughter???because human sacrifices of children were offered to the god Molech. ?Ge-Hinnom is also referenced in James 3:6, as a metaphor for the effects?of an uncontrolled tongue. ??To be practical, it was a garbage dump?with fires that never go out.? Rotted materials and food, dead carcasses?of humans and animals, entrails etc. littered the place day and night,?with the buzzards and dogs left to pick at the detritus.? It was?deliberately used by Jesus so as to prick the memories of what was done?there, as his hearers viewed the scene real-time and smelled the foul?wafting odors.? No better example existed of Hell than the Valley of?Hinnom, especially after Judas hung himself there, according to ancient?tradition.
Tartarus is another special term for?translation into Hell, and is used in 2Pe.2:4 ? referring only to the?fallen angels.? It is a darkened pit ? a place where they are chained.?It is different than Sheol.? ?
Hell has been expressed by the scriptures as a second death, a place?of torment, of fire, of darkness of gnawing and mashing of teeth and?where the worm does not die ? forever.? Descriptions can be found in Mt.?13:42; 25:46, Rev. 2:11; 19:20; 20:6, 10, 14; 21:8.? Isaiah 66:24?prophesies that the millennial people, during the reign of Christ, will?go out and look into the smoky pit to view the bodies of those who?rebelled against God. ?It states that the people will find the?inhabitants of Hell ?loathsome.? The King James uses the literal translation that they are ?abhorring,?? from the Hebrew, ?deraon? and?means to fall backwards in horror ? repulsed.? From this verse many?commentators surmise that the abode of Hell is within the confines of?the physical earth, and the Valley of Hinnom [see above] may be its?final portal, and viewing.
As Ge-Hinnom was a living representative of Hell, so are ?the worms that dieth not.???According to the modern study of Parasitology, the worm known as?Dracunculiasis, and commonly referred to as the Guinea worm disease?[GWD], also African Fire Worm, is a pernicious little worm that enters?the body through drinking water, infected with it its larva.? Once?in-situ, the larva grow to several inches and move outward toward the?skin, or any sensitive or porous area of the body and begins to eat its?way out.? Upon eruption the parasite secrets a toxin that literally?makes the person believe they are on fire.? The infected person jumps?into the nearest lake to cool his skin whereupon the worm releases its?larva back into the drinking water system.?? A perfect example of the?worm never dying!
Photo of the Dracunculiasis erupting from the skin of a?victim.? A match stick is used to collect the worm for destruction or?study, by rolling it up as if a spaghetti noodle. ??[photo: Wikipedia]
Now an argument may be found that teaches that Jesus never gave a??Hell?s fire and brimstone? speech to anyone but the Pharisees.? This is?in error.
To be sure Christ played no games with the religious leaders, since in his own words he said, ??to whom much is given, much is required.??[Lk.12:48]?? The priests, scribes and Pharisees had access to the Holy?Scriptures on a regular basis, while the common folk did not ? hence the?scathing diatribe found in Matthew 23.
The general populous, however, had to rely on the teachings of the?ecclesia.? Scrolls were not cheaply available as Bibles are today, so?Jesus made some allowances.? But in full face of the scriptures,?everyone is still subject to what he/she knows, and will be held?accountable.
After Jesus spoke the beatitudes to the crowds of common people, he?followed those charming words with a serious warning.? Jesus went on to?show that a lower position in life makes no difference in neglecting the?truth of God.? He deliberately uses a metaphor that shows the insulting?expletive of ?RACA? said by Pharisees at the Sanhedrin, out of anger,?was better than the peoples common term of ?FOOL,? used against a fellow?carpenter, fisherman, or merchant. [Mt.5:21-26]
Matthew 5 stands as a definite example of a ?Hell?s fire and?brimstone? sermon for the common masses.? Christ also made clear in that?passage that by using the term [fool] with the accompanied attitude of?hate, was tantamount to murder!?? Jesus cut no slake with the common?poor folk, but he presented a greater patience than he did with the?Pharisees.
In Mt.10:28, Jesus gave a straight forward ?Hell?s fire and brimstones speech to his disciples ? and as well in Mt.18:9.
Jesus never minced words, just because someone was weak, sick or?poor.? He tested the Syrophoenician woman of Mk.7:25-30 incredibly?harshly.? She begged his favor, and he called her a ?dog.?? Yet she found the humility and the creative words to demonstrate faith in his ministry ? ??even the dogs under the table eat the children?s crumbs,? ? and so she was rewarded.
In Jn.5:1-15, we read of a crippled man who waited at the Pool of?Bethsaida for the angel to stir the pool.? Whoever was first into the?water, received a healing.? For thirty-five years he tried with no?success.? Jesus heals the man, but later talks to him privately,?ordering him: ?See you are well, again.? Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.?? Apparently?he was well at one time, but his sins caused his condition.? Whether?his sin was drunkenness and stumbling to his crippled condition, or it?was his mouth that caused him a beating, we are not told ? but Jesus?makes no allowance for this man?s condition when dealing with sin and?Hell.? What could be worse than his lame body?? Death of course, and?death, while in sin, equates to an eternity in Hell.?? ?
In Mk.2:1-12, Jesus tells an absolute cripple that his sins are?forgiven ? as his reward for his friends faithfulness.? It is only?afterwards that he heals the man.
A similar situation is to be found in Jn.8:1-11, a woman is brought?before Jesus as an adulterous.? Christ literally saves her from a?painful and cruel death, but says to her, ?Go now and leave your life of sin.???Apparently, she committed adultery often ? perhaps because she was?married to an old man, or a merchant who was seldom at home. ?Jesus had?pity on her, since the feigned court of public opinion did not judge her?righteously.? Her adulterous partner was missing.? After all, if she?was caught in the act, so was the man.? Jesus, in effect, granted her a?mistrial, because of prosecutorial error and falsification of?evidence.?? She knew how close she had come to eternity.? Though he?saves her, he adds no language to support a liberal view that everything?was perfectly fine.? He did not cover over her sin, but warned her by?ordering her to leave the life she was living.
Poverty, sickness, and ignorance can mitigate our culpability before God, but it can never excuse away our responsibility.
Salvation is a process, where we are taken at our word that we will?follow Jesus.? Even as he ordered the sick, the crippled and harlots to?sin no more, he orders us to do the same.? We cannot make excuses for?our bad behavior.? Salvation is called: ?The Obedience of or to the?Faith.? [Rom.1:5]
?The doctrine of which the apostle Paul wrote, set forth the?fulfilment of the promises by the prophets. It spoke of the Son of God,?even Jesus the Saviour, the promised Messiah, who came from David as to?his human nature, but was also declared to be the Son of God, by the?Divine power which raised him from the dead. The Christian profession?does not consist in a notional knowledge or a bare assent, much less in?perverse disputings, but in obedience.
And all those, and those only, are brought to obedience of the faith,?who are effectually called of Jesus Christ. Here is, 1. The privilege of?Christians; they are beloved of God, and are members of that body which?is beloved. 2. The duty of Christians; to be holy, hereunto are they called, called to be saints.?These the apostle saluted, by wishing them grace to sanctify their?souls, and peace to comfort their hearts, as springing from the free?mercy of God, the reconciled Father of all believers, and coming to them?through the Lord Jesus Christ.?
– Matthew Henry
Without daily introspection and a submitting of our will to God?s?order and design for our life, there can be no growth in our lives.? It?follows then that there is no following of him.? Like the tree that?should have borne fruit, of Mk.11:12-14, 20-21, we are doomed to be?cursed.
Walking with Jesus means attention to his words ? his desires. We?need not be cowering or worried over the effectiveness or volume of our?activities for Christ. ?It is in our sincere faith and desire to please?him where we find fellowship and the peace of mind.? God knows our?failures, faults and abilities, and capabilities. ?Christ spoke of Hell,?because he does not want anyone to go there.? God is longsuffering that?none should perish [2Pe.3:9].? Christ died for the Sins of the World ??for the sins of everyone. [1Jn.2:2] Only those who make the effort to?walk in his way will be saved. It is a choice ? some say an order to?follow the King.? Those who follow, demonstrate a desire to please him?and be obedient. ??Our work is to believe in Christ, and true belief?culminates in direct and positive action.?? If we make the effort to?serve him, he will be near to us in all our stewardship.? A clear?conscience is available, because we obey his word and love the family of?God.? When we fail in these activities, all that is necessary is to be?sincere in our confession and repentance.
Hell is not for those who love God, but it stands as a warning ? so?that we are not weighted down by the things of life and drift away into?envy, ranker, or pleasure.? Our reward is with our King, and it will far?outweigh anything we have endured or given up in this life.