In the early 90s, my theology professor -- a blatantly pro-homosexual, pro-abortion atheist -- argued that a loving God could not send anyone into fiery torment. When he had us write a paper on Hell, in reaction to Jean-Paul Sartre's play "No Exit," I seized the opportunity to tell what the eternal abode of the wicked will really be like, according to the Scriptures. Following is a reproduction of my paper on the subject.


HELL!

'To him was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit ... 
and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; 
and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke .. 
The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever;
 and they have no rest day nor night." 
Revelation 9:1, 2; 14:11

by Diane S. Dew 1990 


God is not only loving; he is just and holy. And justice requires punishment for sin.


 

Scripture teaches that the spirits of men are fully conscious after separation from the body at death:

1)  They can speak:
         Isaiah 14:9-11
         Ezekiel 32:21

2)  They can cry:
         Matthew 8:11, 12;
             13:43, 50; 22:13
         Luke 16:24-31;
             13:28
         Revelation 6:9-11

3)  They can hear:
         John 5:25
         1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6

4) They can see:
         Luke 16:23
         John 8:51-54, 45

5)  They can feel pain:
         Luke 16:23, 24
         Revelation 20;10

6)  They have memory:
         Luke 16:28


Rejecting the concept of eternal torment does not change the fact any more than believing the earth was flat made it not round. Either Jesus was a liar, or many modern theologians are in for a big surprise! 


What Americans Believe*:

Is there a Hell?

Yes  64%
No  25%
Don't know  9%
Refused  2%

What will Hell be like?

A real place of suffering eternal fiery torments 34%
An anguished state of existence  53% 
Don't know  11%
Refused  3%

* From a US News Poll 1/31/00


 

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      Since the beginning of time, man has been fascinated with thoughts of the afterlife. This curiosity is reflected in the literature of virtually every culture.
      Just recently, the cover story of a national newsmagazine examined Americans' belief in the netherworld.1 According to a survey published in the Mar. 25, 1991 issue of U.S. News & World Report, 3 out of 5 Americans now believe in Hades (up 4 percent from 1965). Of those surveyed, however, only 4 percent feel they themselves have a good chance of going there. [A January 31, 2000 story in the same publication indicates these figures have not changed much.]
      While 60 percent of Americans believe in the existence of hell, their ideas of the place vary considerably. Nevertheless, and probably as a deterrent, God has revealed more to us in Scripture on the topic of hell, than is even said of heaven.
      The Bible is very descriptive of the intense pain (Rev. 16;10) and torment2 (Luke 16:23-28; Rev. 14;10, 11) experienced by the ungodly after death. Hell is not a mere psychological or emotional distress, a some would suggest, but actual physical agony.3
      Some would suppose that these descriptions are merely symbolic in meaning. Such rationalization might be reasonable in the Book of Revelation, which is clearly metaphorical. However, in the gospel accounts, and elsewhere in Scripture, this is not so. When Jesus spoke figuratively i.e., in parables, he said so. All of his parabolic stories were prefaced with phrases such as, "Hear then the parable..."
      In Luke's account of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus did not preface his story with such a statement; hence, it would be mere supposition to state that he spoke metaphorically. When Jesus taught, his purpose was to instruct and clarify, not confuse.
      It should be pointed out that the original languages in which the Scriptures were written utilized several words in reference to the abode of the dead. The Hebrew sheol4 referred to the place of the dead. Its New Testament counterpart is Hades5, sometimes translated "Hell" (speaking of punishment) or "grave" (when referring to the souls of the righteous). It is also used to define the place where the soul resides between death and resurrection. (Luke 16:19-31)
      Gehenna is the place of torment6 usually spoken of as "hell" in common usage today. The Greek tartarus (2 Pet. 2:4) is thought by many to refer to the nether world.
      At times, sheol is translated "grave,"7 or "pit."8 Translations can vary on the rendering of the word, but marginal helps can clarify any confusion that might arise.
      The doctrine of eternal punishment has been challenged and perverted by many. It is one of the primary doctrines distorted (or denied) by the cults. Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and Christadelphians, for example, teach a complete annihilation of the wicked and deny and consciousness after death.9 (This is sometimes referred to as "soul sleep.") Christian Science and Unitarianism reject entirely the doctrine of final judgment. In every modification of the doctrine, hell is never depicted as more severe than Scripture portray it. Attempts to soothe (unrepentant) sinners' fears, and increase membership, offer only a false sense of security.
      False prophets tell people what they want to hear. (Jer. 23:13-17, 21, 22) Without a sincere love for the Truth, they deceive others as well as themselves (2 Tim. 3:13). They pervert the Scripture, and "twist" the scriptures "to their own destruction" (2 Pet. 3:16). Popularity, however, has never been a test for truth. In fact, Jesus said that we should beware "when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets."10 If they hated and persecuted him, he said, they will do the same to us.11 Daniel was thrown to the lions.12 Jeremiah was cast into a pit.13 Amos was told to leave town.14 John was beheaded.15 Paul was imprisoned.16 Stephen was stoned.17 Jesus was crucified.
      "They will put you out of the synagogues," Jesus said, adding that "the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God." (Jn. 16:2) They love darkness (willful ignorance), rather than light (truth, which exposes sin and error). (Jn. 3:19)
      As humans, the tendency always exists to want to bring down to the level of our own understanding, spiritual things. Since the beginning of history, it has been so. However, spiritual things cannot be perceived by the natural mind; they must be spiritually understood. (1 Cor. 2:13, 14) That is why Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit -- to "teach you all things." (Jn. 14;26)
      What will hell really be like?
      First of all, it will be total separation from God (Mat. 25:41; 2 Thes. 1:9) It will be a place of misery and pain,18 where only the wicked will reside.19 And it will be eternal.20 There will be no escape, "No Exit."
      Throughout the Old and New Testaments, hell was described as a place of fire and burning.21 This "bottomless pit"22 is a "great furnace"23 in "outer darkness" (Mat. 8:12; 22:13), covered with a "mist of blackness (or, darkness)" (2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 13). "There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Mat. 18:41, 42; Luke 13:28)
      The question often arises, How could a loving God commit his creation to such a horrible place of punishment? This question has given way to all kinds of perverted interpretations of Scripture. First of all, it must be pointed out that God is not only loving; he is just. And he is holy. The fact is, "all have sinned" and, therefore, deserve punishment -- apart form Jesus Christ. It was by our own choice that we failed to keep his commandments. The Father has gone out of his way to show us the Truth -- through creation (Rom. 1), in His Word, and by His Son.
      God sends no one to hell; anyone who goes there, goes by choice. God is merciful. But he is also just. "Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness..." (Rom. 11:22)
--Scripture quotations are from "The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version," copyright 1973, 1977 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

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