The Biblical Truth About Hell

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What does the Bible really say about Hell? Is Hell biblical? If you want to learn the truth about Hell then you need to watch this teaching.

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The Biblical Truth About Hell

by Lex Meyer

Many people claim that Hell is the absence of God, but this can't be true because the Bible says, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” King David wrote this psalm, so it should cause us to wonder why he would be speaking about making his bed in hell. It should also make us wonder why God would be there with him. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our beliefs about Hell?

The word translated “hell” in this verse is the Hebrew word “Sheol”. David had no problem with the idea that he would make his bed in Sheol because he understood that everyone eventually dies, and they rest in Sheol until the resurrection. We know this because David also wrote, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." He knew he would go to Sheol, but he also knew that his soul would not be left there because he believed in the resurrection.

If you look up the word Sheol in many Bible translations, you will find that it's often translated as “hell”, however, the modern concept of “hell” does not line up with the Biblical descriptions of Sheol.

The word Sheol occurs sixty-five times in the Hebrew Bible. The King James Bible translates thirty-one of those occurrences as ‘hell’; another thirty-one as ‘grave’, and three occurrences as ‘pit’.

Why would Bible translators use two different concepts to translate the same word? This causes a lot of confusion about death.

If every instance of the word Sheol were translated “Hell”, then we would conclude that both Joseph and Jacob went to hell.

“Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ‘For I shall go down into Hell to my son in mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him.” - Genesis 37:34-35

Many people don't realize the Bible actually explains that all people go to Sheol when they die, which means if Sheol is Hell, then everyone goes to hell when they die.

“What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave [Sheol]? Selah” - Psalm 89:48

The word “hell” is used approximately fifty-four times in most Bibles, and is translated from several different words including "Sheol," "Hades," "Gehenna," and "Tartarus". All of these words have different meanings and usage in the Scriptures, and their collective translation as "hell" has caused major confusion about death.

The word Hell was derived from the Old English word "helle," and is related to the Old Norse goddess named "Hel". In its original use and etymology, the word Hell literally means "to cover, or conceal," and may have simply referred to the ground covering over the dead person. However, in many pagan cultures, it was believed that Hell (or Hades) was the underworld, and was ruled by the god of the dead.

The more popular modern version of this concept refers to a place of fiery torment and is understood by many to be the home of Satan and his demons. It's believed that the unrighteous dead go immediately to hell to be tortured in flames for eternity. Many people also believe that Satan and his demons are in charge of actively torturing those damned souls. However, in spite of the fact that none of these ideas can be traced back to the Bible, they remain the popular mainstream view of hell today.

The Bible never says that Satan is in charge of Hell or even that he is currently living there, in fact, the Bible says that Satan will be cast into the lake of fire after the thousand year reign of the Messiah.

The idea that Satan oversees Hell is rooted in the Greek belief in Hades as the god of the underworld. When people say that Satan is in charge of Hell, they are rehearsing pagan mythology, and confessing Satan to be the god of the underworld, and participating in a modern “Christianized” version of the pantheon.

The Bible says that Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit during the thousand year reign of the Messiah and that he will be released for a short time to deceive the nations before being cast into the lake of fire. The Bible also speaks of fallen angels who were imprisoned in Tartarus to be held for judgment.

"For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment" - 2 Peter 2:4

This is the only place in the entire Bible that the word Tartarus is used, and it refers exclusively to a prison for fallen angels. The word “Tartarus” is also found in Greek mythology, and it means an abyss or a bottomless pit. Although it's not mentioned by name, it's most likely the same “bottomless pit” where Satan will be imprisoned for a thousand years, as well as the “abyss” into which the legion of demons begged Yeshua not to send them.

In Greek mythology, Tartarus is a deep abyss that was used as a dungeon of torment and served as a prison for the Titans. Plato said that Tartarus was the place where souls were judged and punished after death, which might be where we get the idea that humans could end up there. However, the Bible never says that humans will go there, and it's presumptuous to jump to such a conclusion without any Scriptural warrant.

It's obvious that not all fallen angels were sent to Tartarus because during Yeshua’s ministry, He encountered a number of demons and unclean spirits who were not imprisoned. The context of what Peter said indicates that he was referring to the fallen angels who sinned around the time of Noah. He was most likely referring to what the Bible calls “the sons of God” who took human wives and produced half-human offspring.

"the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose... There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." - Genesis 6:2, 4

The Genesis record mentions both giants and mighty “men of renown," which sounds similar to Greek mythology about giants known as Titans, and the demigods who were said to be the half-human offspring of gods mating with humans.

The Greeks believed the Titans were cast into Tartarus, and Paul explains that the gods of the pagans are actually demons. So, in this particular case, there seems to be some connection between the Greek and Biblical concepts of Tartarus as a prison for fallen angels. However, this does not mean we should look to pagan mythology for understanding because they have twisted the story so much that it no longer resembles the truth. We must always let the Scriptures guide our understanding, and not allow ourselves to be influenced by pagan myth, even when it resembles the Biblical record. Therefore, when Peter speaks about the fallen angels imprisoned in Tartarus, we must not confuse the events in the Bible with pagan myths.

As I mentioned earlier, the abyss, spoken of in Revelation, is most likely a reference to Tartarus, since it is a prison for Satan during the thousand year reign of the Messiah.

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit [abyss] and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit [abyss], and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.” - Revelation 20:1-3

We see that Satan will be bound in the abyss for a thousand years while Messiah is reigning on earth. This also gives us a better understanding about why the legion of demons begged to be cast into the swine and not the abyss. They knew the abyss was a prison and Yeshua had the power to send them there, so they begged Him for mercy.

“Jesus asked him, saying, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.” - Luke 8:30-33

It's obvious that legion was terrified of the abyss, and yet the Bible simply describes it as a temporary prison, not a place of fiery torment or judgment. If the demons were terrified of the temporary prison, what does that say about the punishment they will receive in the lake of fire?

Satan will be bound for a thousand years in the abyss when Messiah returns, but where does he currently live? According to popular theology, Satan is the ruler of Hell, yet the Bible never mentions him having such authority.

The Bible describes Satan as “going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” He is currently dwelling on the earth, tempting people to transgress the commandments of the Almighty. He is not the god of the underworld, the Bible actually calls him “the god of this age.”

The idea that Satan is the god of the underworld comes from various pagan religions including Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Germanic, and Celtic mythology, and is completely unbiblical.

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was the god of the underworld, and Anubis was the guardian of the dead. In Greek mythology, Hades was not only king of the underworld but also its namesake. In Norse mythology, it was Hel, the daughter of Loki, who presided over the dead, and it's no coincidence that the underworld was also called Hel.

One of the biggest problems with using the word “Hell” is that it has become associated with the lake of fire. This is quite problematic because the Bible tells us that Hell (Hades) will be “cast into the lake of fire.” If Hell is the lake of fire, then how can it be cast into the lake of fire? It's illogical to say that Hell is cast into Hell. So, either Hell is not the lake of fire or the word “Hades” should not have been translated with the word “Hell”. Either Hell and Hades are synonymous, or Hell and the lake of fire are, but it's impossible for Hell, Hades, and the lake of fire to all be synonymous.

If the subject of Hell is not already confusing enough, we must also consider who goes there and why. If sinners go directly into hellfire punishment at death, this negates the whole purpose of the great white throne judgment that will take place at the end of the age.

If the unrighteous begin their punishment at death, then they are being punished unjustly since they have not received a fair trial for their actions. This line of thought leads us to an unjust god who condemns and punishes people before they are found guilty. Therefore, it's not only a logical fallacy to claim that Hell is the lake of fire, but it's also an attack against the justice and righteousness of God, claiming that He condemns people before they are judged.

The Bible teaches that God is a just God who makes righteous judgments. Which is why it's so important for us to have an accurate understanding about death and Hell because we don't want to believe lies about the Almighty.

He is a righteous and just Judge, but the confusion about Hell has inadvertently soiled His good name by turning Him into one who acts unjustly. This should cause us to carefully examine our beliefs, making certain that we are not bringing further shame upon His glorious reputation by our ill-placed faith in unbiblical doctrines.

Because there is so much confusion about this subject, I tend to avoid using the word “Hell” when speaking about the places and events associated with death and judgment. When I refer to the place of the dead, I typically use the word “Sheol” instead of “Hell” or “Hades”, because those terms have become so entwined with fiery punishment that it's difficult for people to separate them.

For example, if I were to explain that everyone goes to “Hell” when they die, people would immediately reject what I was saying based on their preconceived ideas about what Hell is. Likewise, when I refer to the “lake of fire”, I tend to avoid using the word “Hell” because I don't want to feed into the popular bias that Hell is a place of fiery torment, therefore I prefer to use the word “Gehenna” or I simply call it the “lake of fire”.

Gehenna is the name Yeshua used for the place of fire and punishment. However, like “Sheol” and “Hades”, it is usually translated as “Hell” in most English Bibles. The Greek word Gehenna, was actually a reference to the valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem.

The Bible mentions the valley of Hinnom a number of times, and explains that people burned their incense to the pagan gods, Molech and Baal, and even burn their own children in the fire as they worshipped there. However, Jeremiah prophesied that the valley of Hinnom will be turned into a burial place for those who do wickedness.

"And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart. 'Therefore behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away.'" - Jeremiah 7:31-33

This is no doubt why Yeshua refers to the fire of Gehenna as a place of punishment for the wicked. He made reference to it a number of times in phrases like, “whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of Gehenna fire”, and “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.”

Notice that Yeshua said, “your whole body to be cast into Gehenna," indicating that it is a bodily destruction. Likewise, He indicates in another place that both the body and the soul will be destroyed in the fire of Gehenna.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].” - Matthew 10:28

This is significant because it shows that the soul is not kept alive in an eternal state of torture separate from the body (as many people teach), but the soul is actually destroyed by the fire. This is why the lake of fire is referred to as the “second death," because the Scriptures teach us that “the soul who sins shall die.”

In the first death, the soul sleeps in the grave, but in the second death the soul is destroyed.

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