Article of Faith

December 2, 2012

To Hell with Hell

By Femi Aribisala

Pull Quote: Sooner, rather than later, hell will disappear forever from the English bible.

Jesus says: “It is written in the prophets, ‘and they shall all be taught by God.’” (John 6:45).  However, new believers are not allowed to be taught by God.  They are quickly indoctrinated in churches where the fear of God is often taught by the commandment of men. (Isaiah 29:13).  As a result, they read the scriptures with minds already made up.  They start their walk with Christ with assumptions and presumptions that have nothing to do with the word of God.

A prime example is the bogus Christian concept of hell.  The idea of God torturing sinners in a fiery furnace for eternity is a staple diet in Christendom.  However, it is completely without true biblical foundation.  The concept was developed long after the bible was compiled essentially as a manipulative devise for populating the churches.  It was then extrapolated into the scriptures by bible translators 1600 years later.

The word hell itself had nothing to do originally with a place of torment.  It came from the anglo-saxon words “helle” which means “a hidden place;” and “helan” which means “to cover or conceal.”  Thus, something that covers the head is a “helmet.”  “Helliers” “helled a building” by roofing it. Farmers “put potatoes in hell” by burying them in the ground to preserve them in winter.  This original meaning was then corrupted by Roman Catholics into a place of fiery eternal torture controlled by demons.

Hellish distortions

English bible writers indiscriminately translated four different Hebrew and Greek words as “hell,” even though they have different meanings and refer to different things.  The first is the Hebrew word “sheol,” which simply means a place that is unseen.  Sheol is not exclusively a place of punishment.  Faithful Jacob went to sheol. (Genesis 37:35).  Righteous Job pleaded to go to sheol. (Job 14:13).  David spoke of going to sheol. (Psalm 49:15).  Even Jesus went to sheol. (Psalm 16:10).

“Hades” is the Greek equivalent of sheol that is also confusingly mistranslated as hell in the English bible.  It refers primarily to what is unseen to the natural eye in the grave.  Hades is not a place of eternal torment.  “Abraham’s bosom,” where righteous Lazarus was carried when he died, was in hades. (Luke 16:23).  When Jesus died on the cross, he went to hades. (Acts 2:27-31).  Hades is also used with reference to national judgments.  Jesus said Capernaum would go down into hades; meaning it would be destroyed. (Matthew 11:23).

The Greek word, “tartarus,” is also confusingly mistranslated as “hell” in the English bible.  The word is used in Greek fiction to denote a temporary prison for fallen angels.  It is not applied to human-beings in scripture, and says nothing about the eternal fire and torment commonly associated with the Christian hell. (2 Peter 2:4).

Lastly, the word “Gehenna” is also mistranslated as hell in the English bible.  This is by far the most idiotic mistranslation of all.  Gehenna is actually a valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem which operated as a dump for incinerating refuse.  This means it did not need to be translated at all.  Other areas in the vicinity of Jerusalem, such as Gethsemane and Calvary are not translated.  So why have a different rule for Gehenna?

On eleven occasions when Jesus referred specifically to Gehenna, it was changed in the English bible to hell.  But there is nothing to suggest Gehenna refers to is anything other than the valley outside Jerusalem.  Jesus warned those living in the environs of Jerusalem that, unless they repented, their city would be destroyed imminently with their dead bodies dumped in Gehenna.  That is exactly what happened in AD 70, as the historical record confirms.

Imagine me telling people in Lagos that if they are not careful, they will end up in Kirikiri; a notorious prison island.  Then translators decide to change my “kirikiri” to “hell.”  Would you consider this a faithful translation?  Of course, people who lived far away from Jerusalem probably would not have known what Gehenna was, any more than people in Jerusalem would know about Kirikiri.  But the truth is that Jesus did not threaten any Gentile with the prospect of Gehenna if he did not repent.  Gehenna only has relevance for people living in Jerusalem at a certain time some two thousand years ago.

None of the mistranslated hell passages in the bible say anyone of our day can go to the Christian hell.   None of them says Satan’s domain is hell, according to popular Christian folklore.  Though they speak of men being killed and destroyed in Gehenna, none of them speaks of men being tormented there.  In short, Gehenna is not the Christian hell and should never have been translated as such.

Hell fiction

Nobody in the bible was ever threatened with eternal torment as Christians are today by pastors.  God forgot to mention it to Adam and Eve.  Cain killed his brother Abel, but was not threatened with it. (Genesis 4:11-12).  Sinners were destroyed by the flood without any warning of endless torment.  Nothing was said about it to the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah and Nineveh.  Nothing was said because the Christian hell does not exist.  It is essentially the product of the evil imagination of men.

Moses threatened the Israelites with every conceivable punishment if they disobeyed God, but completely forgot to mention hell.  No disciple of Jesus preached about it.  Not once is it mentioned in Paul’s thirteen epistles.  There is nothing in the scriptures about fiery ovens, bowls of hot oil or torture racks.  However, such graphic details are readily found in such Christian folklores as Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and Dante’s “Inferno.”  They are also the subject of countless Hollywood horror movies.

If we are tempted to use Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus as indicative of the existence of hell, let us recall that this took place in hades; a temporal grave.  Jesus says: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29).

Jesus does not indicate how long this resurrection of condemnation will take.  But it cannot be eternal because of scriptures indicating there will be a restitution of all things. (Acts 3:21).  At the end of time, every knee will bow in worship to God. (Isaiah 45:23).  God is love: he is not hate.  It is his mercy, and not his judgment, that endures forever. (Psalm 118:1).  Today’s believers are merely the “first-fruits” of salvation.  In the ages to come, God promises to return and rebuild the tabernacle of David: “so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord.” (Acts 15:16-17).

Christians should not persist in an illogical faith.  We cannot insist the penalty for sins is eternal damnation, and then say Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.  Jesus did not spend eternity in hades.  He was only there for three days.  Therefore, the growing trend in the more modern translations including King James indicates that sooner, rather than later, hell will disappear forever from the English bible.  Hell will go to hell; which is where it truly belongs.