What “Hell” Means

The subject of hell is a difficult one, partly because my own views differ from most other people’s. So I thought I’d state a few facts about hell so you can do your own research.

What will make your own study difficult is to do with translation. You may know that the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The good thing for us is that people hundreds of years ago took the time to translate these scriptures into English. Great. But it’s not that straightforward! There are difficulties finding equivalent English words to translate into. Now several words in the Bible, including ‘Sheol’ [shee-ole], ‘Had-ace’ or ‘Hades’, ‘Tartaros’ and ‘Gehenna’, have all been translated as ‘hell’.

This means that, when you hear the word ‘hell’ used in the Bible, you don’t know straight away what is meant. In Acts, it says that Christ descended into hell. And we know he didn’t go into fiery torments, so the word doesn’t always mean that. Professional theologians have used their great intellects to invent all kinds of new ideas. One is that, although hell always refers to a fiery place, there’s a safe zone somewhere in it for Christ and others. The ‘compartmentalized hell’ has been a popular idea, but people will naturally wonder, when we tell them they face ‘hell’, whether they might just get into the ‘good bit’! Dear, oh dear.

No, ‘hell’ in this case means ‘the grave’. In the old days, farmers would ‘hell’ their potatoes—that is, plant them in the ground. (The word is of Germanic origin, meaning “to cover over”.) So sometimes, being ‘in hell’ just means ‘being dead’.

There are other uses that mean something a bit more what we’re used to. When ‘Gehenna’ is translated as ‘hell’, it means a place of “eternal fire”. The Greek word was pinched from the name of a big rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, which was continually on fire. It contained not only rubbish but, before Christianity’s influence ended the practice, unwanted babies were thrown in there too. Truly, a terrible picture of a terrible place.

Then there’s the mention in the Book of the Revelation of a ‘lake of fire’, where the unsaved masses will suffer for all eternity. It tells us that, at the end of time, both death and hell will be thrown into the lake of fire. So the main point to be made here is that hell and the lake of fire are not the same thing.

If all this talk of Greek words has caused any confusion, just take this away with you: if you’re not a believer in Christ when judgement comes, you will spend ages and ages in a state of intense discomfort and despair, and the worse thing is that these ages of suffering will never end.

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~ by Animus on December 20, 2014.

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