Hmmm. A study on hell... "Friend," you say, "everyone knows about hell - it's in the Bible (and you can't argue with God's word) and the idea has been the same for centuries. Why question our doctrine?" That is certainly a fair question.
Rather than start with how I personally came to question traditional hell (since it is rather offensive and emotional) I will start with some facts. If you would like to read my so-called emotional reasons against the traditional doctrine of hell, read the post "Confession: I've always hated hell".
I say 'facts' but I suppose you'll have to take my word for it until you study things out for yourself. I would state the following with confidence:
- The weight of Scripture does not fall on the side of everlasting torment as a doctrine.
- The words death, perish, and destruction are not code-words but are actually meant to be used in their plain meanings.
- Biblical examples of final punishment are always about total destruction.
- Jesus took our place and paid our price - and that price was punishment and death.
- Sheol, Abaddon, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus are at some point in various versions translated as 'hell' and that is extremely misleading and confusing (personally, I would add malicious).
- The idea of the immortal soul (outside of God's gift of eternal life) is not in the Bible.
I could go on, but hopefully you see a pattern of valid biblical reasons to take a second look at our traditional doctrine of hell that purports our Father in heaven chooses to keep millions of human souls 'alive' for the purpose of tormenting them (supposedly in a fiery kind of pain although some modern traditionalists have backed away from that) - and tormenting them for ever and ever. And ever.
Another thing to consider is the almost limitless access we (the masses who live among modern conveniences) have to the Holy Scriptures - the Bible. I am directing this blog towards American Christians. When the doctrine of hell was being formed, its birth was directed by the elite religious few - and to me that means accountability was lacking. The 'sheep' were (for quite some time) unable to read the Bible for themselves, even forbidden. So, they trusted their religious leaders to teach them about God. Obviously, there is much to explore concerning the histories of the Scripture and the doctrine of hell and they will be explored in another post. You may be alarmed (you should be alarmed) to discover the origins of the idea of the immortal soul - and therefore eternal suffering.
My point is: We can check out these doctrines ourselves! It is possible to look up the Hebrew and Greek words. It is irresponsible (in my opinion) to put our trust in tradition and the great thinking of men in the past when we can search these things out for ourselves. We also have the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps you have studied - read some books (like "Erasing Hell") - noticed the verses that support traditional hell, and you're convinced. I still hope you will take another look. Right now you may be looking through a filter that colors how you read Scripture. I think it happens to all of us who have received and trusted Bible teaching through the years - once we swallow the teaching it becomes a part of us. Sadly, there is the danger of false teaching. We do, after all, see through a glass darkly. We need a bright light to illuminate the truth for us - and that light is God's word.
No one wants to realize they've believed the wrong thing - there is pain involved in that. Quite unpleasant and costly. However, I trust you are like me - we want to walk in the truth. So, no matter how far we've traveled down the wrong road, we must turn back for our sake, the sake of others and the sake of the Gospel.
(These thoughts are taken from the first post on this blog called "Pondering the unpleasant".)
Please leave a comment. I value any feedback - critical, supportive, or interrogative (questions)!