My thoughts on a topic that most people seem to want to avoid, Hell, you know, fire and brimstone, red skinned devils with pitchforks flaying the poor souls that have defied a vengeful god.
There are several words used in the Bible that have been translated to “Hell”.
Hades is the god of the Greek afterlife and represented the underworld where all souls went. From its depths in Tartarus to the heights of the Elysian Fields, depending on your worth in life, this is where you went and were rewarded or punished accordingly.
There is also Gehenna.
Gehenna, Gehinnom and Yiddish Gehinnam, are terms derived from a place outside ancient Jerusalem known in the Hebrew Bible as the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; one of the two principal valleys surrounding the Old City. Wikipedia
Gehenna was a location near Jerusalem where trash and the dead that were not worthy were burned. As an actual location, it probably looked like Hell and undoubtedly smelled like what most thought of the literal hell.
The outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, possibly a description of the separation from the light, after all, it is usually described for those left out of some event such as the wedding feast.
The Lake of fire,
The Judgment of the Dead
11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
A key phrase I often pick out is the second half of verse 14 “this is the second death” often called the death of the soul.
The word Hell itself is translates from sheol. http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7585.htm
Sheol is, again, the underworld where all go after death.
So, where do we, modern man, get our Ideas of Hell as a place of eternal suffering with tornadoes of dead bodies flinging about amongst the dancing daemons?
Lets look to Dante Alighieri, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferno_%28Dante%29 and his interpretation of the nine circles of hell.
This is the image most people have of the punishment awaiting the unrepentant sinners when they die, but I would ask, “Is God a sadist?”
Any parent that truly loves their children would not wish to see them suffer for eternity no matter what they did wrong. We see this every day with individuals that do wrong and are punished by the justice system. Their parents stand up and say they are good people and are often saddened by what has happened.
Our Heavenly Father wants all his children with Him, not just the ones that always obey, but all…even those that have gone astray.
We are not forced into the presence of God, we are begged to come to it and all are welcome. So when someone tells you, “You are going to Hell,” know that they don’t know what that is and that the Love of our Father is stronger than the hate of man.