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Misunderstanding Hell

02 Feb

Most people do not like to talk about this subject for it brings fear to their minds, But in reading the following article over at formerly fundie it is necessary to discuss it again. The author and owner of that website thinks that hell does not exist because according to him it was not specifically mentioned in the OT You can read his arguments at the following link:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/if-hell-is-real-why-did-god-wait-so-darn-long-to-warn-us-about-it/

His main question is the most interesting part of his article and he asks:

If hell– a place of eternal conscious torment– is real, why did God wait so darn long to warn us about it?

Yet who is to say that God did not tell us about hell in the OT?  As we read about the actions of Cain versus Abel how would God be able to punish Cain if the latter was not already informed of God’s rules and laws? The only time we are told in the Bible that God gave a set of rules to his followers is when the Israelites were at Mt. Sinai. If that was the first time God told humans about his rules then how could the Bible consider Noah, Enoch, and Abraham to be righteous?

We have to use some common sense here and not be super literal when it comes to biblical content.Scholarly work helps perpetuate this misunderstanding. While the biblical view of sheol in the OT is not lost in their biblical references, scholarly work tends to distort what is meant by that word. For example:

Sheol is spoken of as a land (Job x. 21, 22); but ordinarily it is a place with gates (ib. xvii. 16, xxxviii. 17; Isa. xxxviii. 10; Ps. ix. 14), and seems to have been viewed as divided into compartments (Prov. vii. 27), with “farthest corners” (Isa. xiv. 15; Ezek. xxxii. 23, Hebr.; R. V. “uttermost parts of the pit”), one beneath the other (see Jew. Encyc. v. 217, s. v.Eschatology). (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13563-sheol)

Maybe so but we talk about ‘the gates of hell will not prevail…’ does that reference mean that hell is a place with gates? Of course not. The word gates has an altogether different meaning there and is not talking about physical gates.Scholars tend to read far too much into certain descriptions of the word or place called Sheol. Another example

Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, That You would set a limit for me and remember me! (Job 14:13 NASB)

Is sheol an actual hiding place? No but those who infer that it is are reading into the words of Job their own literal ideas about his reference to sheol. Again we can look to another modern example to shed light on this point of view. Many people say ‘I am in hell’ but does that mean they are physically in the lake of fire? No it means that they are caught in a situation that displeases them and brings no enjoyment.

People can be too quick to apply their own literal ideas instead of taking the time to do the hard work of exegesis and obtain the real intent of Job’s words. Then we must appeal to more common sense here as the OT uses the word sheol 65 times

https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=NASB&quicksearch=sheol&startnumber=1

This tells us that God did speak of hell or something similar long before the NT writers and Jesus got around to mentioning the word hell. Since the concept of sheol exists and existed in the OT, we know that God mentioned this punishment even though he may not have been as explicit as he is in the NT. The concept cannot exist if God did not tell someone in Israel about this awaiting punishment.

We have to point out that just because OT people used the word in a certain way doe snot mean that they were not told or not aware of the exact nature of sheol.

when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow.(Gen. 44: 31 NASB)

So to answer that author’s nonsensical question, yes God told us in time since 2,000 years is plenty of time to warn people about hell. To say that God did not warn us soon enough is ridiculous because we have had NT on hell since the time of Christ, which brings us to another problem with this question. That author says;

Judgement? Yes. But hell? No.

This conclusion by the author is basically stating that Jesus sinned and lied about hell. Jesus talked about hell being a real place but if there is no hell, according to that author,  then how can we trust anything Jesus said? {all scripture here will be taken from the NASB}

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Mt. 5:22)

If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.(Mt. 5:30)

But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:5)

So he undermines the perfection & teachings of Jesus because he does not want to accept the idea that hell is an actual place and a place of eternal punishment.

There are a couple of other questions in that article that should be addressed here as well

Why didn’t the New Testament church use hell as a motivating tool? When we read the story of the early church in Acts we find them spreading the good news of Jesus– but they never warn anyone about hell.

They did. They mentioned it in the gospels and throughout the rest of the NT books. But more important, Christianity is more than simple fire insurance. it is a dedicated life to God and his son who have set down rules to follow. It is not a lifestyle meant to simply protect people from going to hell.God wants people to love him for whom he is not because they only want to escape hell

Did the early church use hell as an evangelistic tool in a literal sense as that author describes some modern believers of doing?

Hard to say. we do not have the minutes of every church service or every conversation made by early believers. We do not know everything the early believers said or what ideas they used in preaching the gospel.

If God had finally made the reality of hell clear, why did the New Testament church completely forget to mention it?

The fact that he is reading about hell in the NT tells us that the early church did mention it and did not forget about that punishment. His argument is moot as t ignores the facts right in front of his eyes. Hell may not be mentioned as often as that author would like but again, the NT writers had other things to write about other than hell. Certain issues, like God’s instructions for the operation of his church, who leads it, how a follower of Jesus is supposed to live and so on take far greater priority than talking about hell.

Hell is mentioned enough times in the NT for everyone to get the idea that it exists, it is real and it is something that God will use to punish those who truly do not repent of their sins. Hell does not need to be mentioned on every page of the NT for it to be real.

And it definitely should have been central to the faith and practice of the New Testament church– but it wasn’t.

That author is misguided because Jesus’s life and sacrifice is central to ‘the faith and practice’ of the church not hell. He is very confused about this issue and forgets why Jesus came to earth and died for our sins. We do not preach fire insurance but rather we reach about Christ who was crucified for our sins and rose again so that we may have eternal life.

Hell is real and it is as the Bible describes even if it is not mentioned in the OT exactly as it is in the NT. I end with this quote:

he fact that theology develops within the Old Testament and between the Old Testament and the New Testament does not mean that the Bible is contradictory or contains errors. It only indicates progressive revelation, that God revealed more of himself and his plan of salvation as time went on. That some Old Testament saints believed in Sheol, while the New Testament teaches clearly about heaven and hell, is nor more of a problem than that the Old Testament contains a system of atonement by animal sacrifice now made obsolete in Christ ( Heb 10:4-10 ) or that the Old Testament teaches God is one ( Deut 6:4 ) while the New Testament reveals a Trinity.(http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/sheol/)

There is no contradiction between hell and sheol, The NT does not state that sheol does not exist and the OT does not state that hell is imaginary. We just have to make sure we read the Bible correctly and follow the Holy Spirit to the truth about both places so that we have no misunderstanding. Hell is real and we should take it as real because Jesus said it was real. Saying hell isn’t real means that we remove Jesus as sinless and he is not our Messiah.

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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in academics, Bible, church, controversial issues, faith, Justice, leadership, theology

 

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