Posts Tagged ‘hell’

Universalism is the natural place most Christians with a conscience arrive at….it is impossible for me to comprehend that anyone with even a miniscule amount of compassion could hold to the concept of a loving, merciful God sending people to eternal torment in Hell….it is beyond the pale of my comprehension. Even the most fundamentalist Christian will usually at some point realize the whole concept of Hell is ludicrous to say the least….this idea of people being tormented by demons in a place burning with fire and brimstone because of some “original sin” is just plain crazy, but it has been a part of human myths for millennia, with one of the earliest accounts called the Epic of Gilgamesh dated around 2000 BC.

No rational human being with an ounce of reasoning would ever consider the perverted idea of any type of eternal punishment for sins committed while in this finite existence as sane, especially the so called sin that is a consequence of being born. Is there anything rational about punishing a finite being for things done in this finite body, by making him eternal so he can be inflicted with everlasting pain and suffering, all because he didn’t confess Jesus as Lord? Talk about overkill, or hasn’t God heard of the punishment fitting the crime? Why would a merciful God punish people by using pain and suffering anyway? Doesn’t that go against the whole idea of grace, mercy and compassion? Even our human justice system tries to rehabilitate people who commit crimes, not torture them. It would be like sentencing a person to life in prison, of solitary confinement, with daily floggings, deprivation of food and water, excessive stifling heat….for the crime of: his neighbor chipping a tooth on a cookie he baked for him! Only a flawed mind could conceive of and believe in the horrors of Hell presented as a just punishment from God, by those who claim to be followers of Christ….kinda makes you wonder?

The only way to truly experience freedom is by bursting out of the cocoon of the Bible that so many Christians are encased in. My quest that led me beyond Universalism, started with many small steps; the first of which was being honest about what the Bible really says. The first big, wake up call I got was when it dawned on me that the concept of Hell used in Scripture comes directly from mythology, so I asked myself: why was Jesus promoting a belief in Greek mythology? The terms Hades and Tartarus used in the Bible as the place of judgment, were common pagan ideas that began centuries before Jesus time in the 1st century. So, I thought to myself: if the concept of Hell presented by Jesus in the Bible was no more than a Greek myth, what other pagan ideas found their way into Scripture? To my shock and utter amazement, practically every idea I had assumed was original to the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, was no more than philosophical and mythological belief systems of various individuals, and cultures throughout history. Now, believe me, this took awhile to sink in….not to mention the big looming question of how could the Bible possibly be redeemed as the Word of God when it appeared to be no more than a compilation of philosophies and myths?

The one thing the Bible does retain though is its historical value as a written record of the progression of man’s thought throughout the centuries, drawing from all the common ideas over a span of 1500 years and presenting them in a somewhat coherent form, and at best developing those ideas in a positive way. Many of the problems arise when people claim that the Bible is the literal word of God and try and force their interpretation of it on others, instead of seeing its humanity. For the time period in which Jesus taught, his ideas on the equality of all peoples were way ahead of their time, and stands as a principle that is true for all times….that one concept of all men being created equal, I believe is the foundation of the teachings of Jesus and secondly the stress given to forgiving others, this is what gives the Bible it real value.

It is ironic that the doctrine of Hell, adamantly held to by many Christians as a truth being taught by the one and only God, is actually not new to the Bible at all….it is in fact a myth that originated with the ancient Greeks. Tartarus, and Hades are both Greek gods that pre-date the New Testament by at least 700 years.

Tartarus is used only one time in the Bible as the place where the Angels who sinned are chained until judgment. The Greek philosopher, Plato wrote that souls were judged after death and those who received punishments were sent to Tartarus.

2Pet.2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

Tartarus in Greek mythology, is both a deity and a place in the underworld even lower than Hades. In ancient Orphic sources, Tartarus is also the unbounded first-existing entity from which the Light and the cosmos are born.

In Hesiod’s Theogony c. 700 BC, the deity Tartarus was the third force to manifest in the yawning void of Chaos. In The Iliad (c. 700), Zeus asserts that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth.” It is one of the primordial objects that sprung from Chaos, along with Gaia (Earth) and Eros (Desire).

Now doesn’t it seem a bit odd that the Bible states that God is sending the angels who sinned to a mythological place called Tartarus?

The word Hades refers both to the ancient Greek underworld, the abode of Hades, and to the god of the underworld. The term hades in Christian theology (and in New Testament Greek) is parallel to Hebrew sheol (שאול, grave or dirt-pit), and refers to the abode of the dead.

In older Greek myths, the realm of Hades is the misty and gloomy abode of the dead where all mortals go. Later Greek philosophy introduced the idea that all mortals are judged after death and are either rewarded or cursed. Very few mortals could leave this realm once they entered. Five rivers are part of the realm of Hades, and their symbolic meanings, are Acheron (the river of sorrow, or woe), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (oblivion), and Styx (hate).

Also, what I find extremely interesting is that one of the five rivers of Hades is “Fire” which is a direct parallel to Revelation where it is written that Hades is cast into the lake of fire. So, my question is why is the mythological realm of Hades, being spoken of by Jesus as a real place of judgment?

Rev.1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore Amen; and have the keys of hell (Hades) and of death.

Rev.6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (Hades) followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Rev.20:13-14 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (Hades) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell (Hades – the Grave) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Kind of makes one question where the whole doctrine of eternal damnation came from?

If God is the only standard for Good…how can there possibly be a Hell created by Him? How can the Greatest Good create a place like Hell to cause eternal suffering?

Matt.19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

It is not conceivable that the Greatest Good which is God, could possibly create a place that is outside the bounds of His Mercy. It is one thing to be outside of God’s Grace because of being lost in unbelief, and quite another to be sent to a place of torment for eternity, that was created by the very God who is portrayed as the Greatest Good, with no hope of ever being reached by Him.

By the very act of God pouring out His Mercy on mankind, He takes that which is sinful and changes it into that which is pure by Grace alone ….therefore all that is sinful can at some point be covered by God’s Grace. The doctrine of eternal Hell as a place created by God that excludes God’s Mercy from ever reaching it, is impossible in a universe created by a God of Love.

The way I like to think about God’s universal Love is that those who are lost keep seeking until they find the door provided by Christ’s death on the Cross….once that door is found reunion with God happens. This is far different from the idea of a place created by God where lost people are sent to, forever slamming the door on any hope of reconciliation from that point on. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the perfect example of God’s eternally reaching Love and Mercy that is always there to reach out to a lost soul.

Gehenna: The Garbage Dump

Gehenna (translated as Hell) was the place outside of the old city of Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnon where waste was dumped; not only trash and garbage were disposed of there, but also corpses of humans and animals were burnt in the dump. In translating the Bible, the word Gehenna has changed from the meaning of a garbage dump to that of Hell: a place of eternal torment where the souls of unbelievers go.

The word Gehenna, “Hell” occurs twelve times in the New Testament (listed below). If each time the word Gehenna is used it is replaced by “Garbage dump”, a whole different understanding of what is being said comes into view.

What I see being said in Matthew 5 is the comparison of one part of the fleshly body being corrupted, to that of the whole of the body being corrupted; this can be likened to an infection that if not taken care of will spread to the whole body. Next, Jesus brings the idea of God into the picture as He who is able to destroy both the soul and the fleshly body in Gehenna. The Soul is our conscience selves, that which we shape and form in this life by our actions. I call it Soul Shaping. It is what we take from this life into eternity….if all our actions in this life are for naught and in jeopardy of being burned up in the Garbage Dump, then our lives will have been lived in vain. Much like the works of wood, hay and stubble that will be tried in the fire, spoken of by the Apostle Paul (1Cor.3:12-13 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.).

Matt. 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell (Gehenna – garbage dump) fire….29) And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump). And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump).

Matt.10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna – garbage dump).

Matt.18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump) fire.

Matt.23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell (Gehenna – garbage dump) than yourselves.

Matt.23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (Gehenna – garbage dump)?

Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump), into the fire that never shall be quenched:…45) And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump),, into the fire that never shall be quenched:…47) And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump), fire:

Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell (Gehenna – garbage dump); yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (Gehenna – garbage dump).

Hades: The Grave

The word Hades has been translated eleven times as Hell in the following verses, where they imply that it is a place of eternal torment. Instead of a place of eternal torment, Hades is the Grave which is death; the place where dead bodies go. In the book of Acts where it states that when Jesus died His Soul was not left in the grave and neither did his flesh see corruption, it is clearly speaking of Hell as the “Grave”, that is to say the place where the fleshly body goes after death. The soul on the other hand is the part of us that is shaped by the actions we do in this life, whereas our spirits can be thought of as the spark of life that God breathes into each one of us, or the light that touches each soul that enters into this world (John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.).

Bodies are given us at conception without any choice on our part, whereas our souls can be shaped and formed by our actions giving purpose to our lives….this is what I believe our time on this planet is all about.

Matt.11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell (Hades – the Grave) for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matt.16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (Hades – the Grave) shall not prevail against it.

Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell (Hades – the Grave).

Luke 16:23 And in hell (Hades – the Grave): he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Hades – the Grave): neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption….31) He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell (Hades – the Grave): neither his flesh did see corruption.

1Cor.15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave (Hades – the Grave): where is thy victory?

Rev.1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore Amen; and have the keys of hell (Hades – the Grave) and of death.

Rev.6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (Hades – the Grave) followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Rev.20:13-14 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (Hades – the Grave) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell (Hades – the Grave) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Tartarus:

Tartarus is used only one time in the Bible as the place where the Angels who sinned are chained until judgment. The Greek philosopher, Plato wrote that souls were judged after death and those who received punishments were sent to Tartarus.

2Pet.2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

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