hell

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Hell is the separation and alienation of God, chosen by incorrigible sinners. In the New Testament, hell is pictorially referred to as a "fiery pool," "darkness," and Gehenna (after the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, a place of burning for filth). Hell is described as punishment, suffering, torment, eternal perdition, howling and teeth grinding. Scheol and Hades, two terms often translated as "hell" and "grave" from the original biblical languages, usually refer to the realm of the dead. The Bible teaches that unrepentant sinners will suffer the second death in the fiery pool, but it does not make it absolutely clear whether this means annihilation or deliberate spiritual alienation from God. (2, Thessalonian 1,8-9, Matthew 10,28, 25,41.46, Revelation 20,14-15, 21,8, Matthew 13,42, Psalm 49,14-15)

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"If your right hand seduces you to waste, cut it off and throw it away from you. It is better for you to ruin one of your members and not drive your whole body to hell "(Mt 5,30). Hell is something very serious. We have to take Jesus' warning seriously.

Our approach

Our beliefs describe hell as "the separation and alienation of God, chosen by incorrigible sinners." We do not state whether this separation and alienation means eternal suffering or a complete cessation of consciousness. In fact, we say that the Bible does not make this absolutely clear.

When it comes to hell, we have to listen to Jesus, as with many other topics. If we take Jesus seriously, if he teaches about grace and mercy, we should also take him seriously when he talks about punishment. After all, mercy does not mean much, unless we are spared by something.

Warnings about fire

In a parable, Jesus warned that the wicked are thrown into a furnace (Mt 13,50). In this parable he did not talk about cremation but about howling and gagging. In another parable, Jesus describes the punishment of a servant who had received forgiveness, who did not forgive his fellow servant, as "torment" (Mt 18,34). Another parable describes a wicked man being bound and thrown out into the darkness (Mt 22,13). This darkness is described as a place of crying and chattering teeth.

Jesus does not explain whether people in darkness are suffering from pain or grief, and he does not explain whether they grind their teeth out of regret or out of anger. That's not the purpose. In fact, he never describes the fate of evil in detail.

However, Jesus warns people in clear terms that they are not attached to anything that would result in being cast into eternal fire. "But if your hand or foot seduces you to waste, cut it off and throw it away from you," Jesus warned. "It is better for you to be lame or crippled to life than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into eternal fire" (Mt 18,7-8). It is better to deny oneself in this life than to be "thrown into the infernal fire" (v. 9).

Does the punishment of the wicked last forever? The Bible can be interpreted in various ways on this point. Some verses suggest eternal punishment, while others suggest a limited duration. But either way, hell should be avoided in any case.

This reminds me of a book by InterVarsity Press on this topic: Two Views of Hell. Edward Fudge argues for annihilation; Robert Peterson argues for eternal suffering. On the cover of this book are two men, both with their hands in front
the head in an expression of fear or horror. The graph is meant to express that,
Although there are two views about hell, it is horrible no matter how one sees hell. God is merciful, but the person who opposes God rejects his mercy and suffers.

The New Testament letters

Jesus used a variety of images to punish those who reject God's mercy: fire, darkness, anguish, and destruction.

The apostles also talked about judgment and punishment, but they described it in different ways. Paul wrote, "Disgrace and anger, but those who are contentious and disobey the truth obey the injustice; Distress and fear over all souls of the people who do evil, first of the Jews and also of the Greeks "(Rom 2,8-9).

Concerning those who persecuted the Church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote: "They will suffer punishment, eternal perdition, from the sight of the Lord and from his glorious power" (1Th 1,9). Therefore, in our beliefs, we define hell as "separation and alienation from God."

The Old Testament punishment for rejecting the Mosaic Law was death, but anyone who consciously rejects Jesus deserves greater punishment, Hebrews 10,28-29 says: "It is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God" (v. 31) , God is merciful over any imagination, but when a person rejects his mercy, only the judgment remains. God does not want anyone to suffer the horrors of hell - he wants everyone to come to repentance and salvation (2Pt 2,9). But those who reject such a wonderful grace will suffer. That's her, not God's decision. Therefore, it is said in our beliefs that hell was "chosen by incorrigible sinners." That's an important part of the picture.

The final victory of God is also an important part of the picture. Everything will be brought under Christ's control, for he has redeemed all creation (1Kor 15,20-24, Kol 1,20). Everything will be fixed. Even death and the realm of the dead will be destroyed in the end (Offb 20,14). The Bible does not tell us how hell fits in with this image, nor do we claim to know it. We simply trust that God, who is full of justice and mercy, will bring it all to the best of luck in the best possible way.

The justice and the mercy of God

A God of love would not torment people for all eternity, some say. The Bible reveals a God who is compassionate. Rather, he would free people from their misery instead of letting them suffer forever. The traditional doctrine of eternally punitive hell, many believe, is misrepresented by God as a vindictive sadist who sets a horrible example. Moreover, it would not be right to eternally punish people for a life that lasted only a few years or decades.

But rebellion against God is infinitely horrible, say some theologians. We can not measure evil at the time it takes to commit it, they explain. A murder may only take a few minutes, but the consequences can extend to decades or centuries. Rebellion against God is the worst sin in the universe, they say, so it deserves the worst punishment.

The problem is that people do not understand justice or mercy well. People are not qualified to judge - but Jesus Christ is. He will judge the world with righteousness (Ps 9,8, Joh 5,22, Rom 2,6-11). We can trust his judgment, knowing that he will be both just and compassionate.

When the subject of hell is addressed, some parts of the Bible seem to emphasize pain and punishment and others use the images of destruction and end. Instead of trying to reconcile one description with the other, let's both talk. When it comes to hell, we have to trust God, not our imagination.

Of all that Jesus said about hell, the most important thing is that Jesus is the solution to the problem. There is no damnation in him (Rom 8,1). He is the way, the truth and eternal life.

by Joseph Tkach


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