Judea And Galilee In The 1st Century
In AD 6, Judea, Idumea, and Samaria were transformed from a client kingdom of the Roman Empire into an imperial province, also called Judea. A Roman prefect, rather than a client king, ruled the land. The prefect ruled from Caesarea Maritima, leaving Jerusalem to be run by the High Priest of Israel. As an exception, the prefect came to Jerusalem during religious festivals, when religious and patriotic enthusiasm sometimes inspired unrest or uprisings. Gentile lands surrounded the Jewish territories of Judea and Galilee, but Roman law and practice allowed Jews to remain separate legally and culturally. Galilee was evidently prosperous, and poverty was limited enough that it did not threaten the social order.
Jews based their faith and religious practice on the Torah, five books said to have been given by God to Moses. The three prominent religious parties were the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Sadducees. Together these parties represented only a small fraction of the population. Most Jews looked forward to a time that God would deliver them from their pagan rulers, possibly through war against the Romans.
What Jesus Said About Hell
While Jesus talks plenty about the topic of hell, He rarely gets into specific.Jesus doesnt tell us exactly what hell is or precisely who goes there. Rather he speaks in parables and illustrations. Its not a clear picture, because that was never His point.
A major problem arises when people try to pull absolutes out of these stories. Jesus isnt trying to communicate as a textbook tells us facts. He is painting a picture that uses some artistic liberties. In order to have a better understanding, we must give a deeper look at the specific words he used to describe hell.
What Jesus Said About Heaven And Hell
What the Bible really says about heaven and hell.
Heaven and hell both exist and we know this because Scripture tells us so. The Bible speaks on the reality of hell in the same terms as the reality of heaven. Revelation 20:14 says, Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyones name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The truth is Jesus spent more time warning people about the dangers of hell than He did in comforting them with the hope of heaven. The concept of real, conscious, forever-and-ever existence in hell is just as biblical as a real, conscious, forever-and-ever existence in heaven. Trying to separate them is simply not possible from a biblical standpoint.
Despite the Bibles clear teaching of both heaven and hell, it is not unusual for people, including some Christians, to believe in the reality of heaven while rejecting the reality of hell. A lot of this has to do with wishful thinking. Its easier to accept the idea of a happy and comfortable afterlife, but damnation isnt quite so appealing. This is very similar to the mistake so many people often make when it comes to substance abuse, dangerous behaviors and so on. The assumption that we will get what we want overrides the unpleasant but rational view that things might not end well.
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Is The Bibles Language About Hell Literal Or Metaphorical
For people who believe in hell, theres some debate there, Andy Naselli, seminary professor, said in his video below. Im not positive its either literal or metaphorical there are good arguments for both of them. The metaphors that the Bible uses about hell describe a reality that we cant relate to immediately on earth.
What Did Jesus Actually Teach About Hell
We can summarize it like this: hell is the place of conscious, eternal torment where people experience God’s punishment for their sin. Yes, hell is “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” , but also for those who join them in their rebellion against God . The horror of hell is such that Jesus says, “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” . For those who do not enter the narrow door of faith and repentance in Jesus a place of weeping and gnashing teeth awaits them .
At the end of human history, everyone will appear before Jesus Christ, where he will divide humanity into “sheep” and the “goats” . The sheep will receive eternal life, while the goats “will go away into eternal punishment” .
Jesus uses strong language about hell because it is real and unspeakably horrible. But he not only warned of the dangers of hell he offered the way out. He lived a life of perfect obedience, died a sacrificial death on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead to defeat sin, death, and the devil. He invites everyone to trust in him to receive eternal life rather than the eternal punishment that everyone deserves for their sin .
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Hell Is Outside The City Not Underneath
The picture of hell is always outside the city. Not an underground chamber as we often picture it. Hell was not a place that God created alongside earth. Rather it was introduced by the sin of humankind. God isnt unleashing the power of hell to bring torment, we are. Hell is not an underground chamber that God locks us in. Rather it is our own construct that we build to keep God away from us. Remember, the lock is on the inside.
This is an important distinction. Hell is outside the city because thats where they wanted to be. There is still an illustration of separation. But its outside, not underneath. Jesus makes it clear that people willingly choose to leave the city. Not people that are forcibly locked in a chamber. Hell is not a place people are forced to its a place people choose. Its a place where they can reign in their own kingdom apart from Gods. They are so close to the life God intended for them. Its just outside the wide-open gate. But they refuse to enter and live on the outside, in Gehenna. The trash dump. Worship their own god, themselves.
What did Jesus say about hell? Its outside the city, apart from the Kingdom of God.
What The Bible Says About Hell
Jesus plainly taught the existence of hell. He spoke of hell more often than he did of heaven. With so many references to hell in the Bible, any serious Christian must come to terms with the doctrine. The passages below are grouped in sections to help you understand what the Bible has to say about hell.
Punishment in hell is eternal:
“And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace.
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.
And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.
“And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Hell is a place of separation from God:
They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.
Hell is a place of fire:
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Does God Send Us To Hell Because He Is Unhappy With Us
Hell is not a place that God sends you when He is upset with you or turned off by something youve done. There is a common misconception that God sends people to hell. This doesnt seem right. People throw themselves to hell when they reject Christ. Yes, those who do not accept Jesus will go to hell, but that is because of their choosing. Our God is a God of love. When we are born again through the waters of baptism and make Christ the center of our lives, we have no place in hell.
Suffering in hell is filled with great anguish and is not a place we want to spend the rest of eternity. However, for those who think we are destined to go to hell with no hope are missing Gods grace. God gives us what we do not deserve. Gods will is that we are saved, that we turn to Jesus and receive forgiveness for our sins. Those who go to hell are isolated from everything else, permanently cut off from God and everything good. The good news is that there is hope with God, and the great thing about Gods love is that we can all be saved.
The Lock Is On The Inside
Most people think that hell is the place that God tortures those for not following him. A better picture is that hell is a place of self-torment. They arent there to be tortured for their sins. They are there because they refused healing for their ailment and now they live in self-torment.
The best parable to illustrate this is The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. If you havent read this story you should. Its fascinating. In this story Jesus paints a picture of two men that lived drastically different lives. First a rich man, that remains unnamed, is living a life of luxury. He has everything the world has to offer. And then theres Lazarus. A lame beggar with sores covering his body. He had nothing, but interestingly enough he gets a name in Jesus story.
One day they both die. Lazarus goes to Abrahams side, aka Heaven. And the rich man goes to Hades, aka hell. This is where it gets interesting
While in torment, an important distinction here, not torture, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to him so that Lazarus could dip his finger in the water and cool his tongue. In other words the rich man wants Lazarus to serve him. He hasnt changed one bit. He still thinks hes better than Lazarus.
Hell is a place that is locked up. But the lock is on the inside. Gods not keeping people in hell they choose to stay there. They would rather reign in hell than be a servant in Gods kingdom.
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Hell In The New Testament
In the New Testament, hell is described both clearly and vividly. There are three words used in the Greek for hell Gehenna, Hades, Tartaros, and pyr. Greek Scholar William D. Mounce, states that gehenna comes about later as a translation from Hebrew and Aramaic phrase referring to a desecrated valley south of Jerusalem. In New Testament usage it refers to an eternal, fiery abyss of punishment where both body and soul are judged The Lexham Bible Dictionary states,
It is a noun derived from the Hebrew phrase gy hnwm, which means Valley of Hinnom. The Valley of Hinnom was a ravine along the southern slope of Jerusalem. In Old Testament times, it was a place used for offering sacrifices to foreign gods. Eventually, the site was used to burn refuse. When the Jews discussed punishment in the afterlife, they employed the image of this smoldering waste dump.
What The New Testament Really Says About Hell
There is no place quite like it.
Hell is mentioned in the New Testament numerous times, including in Matthew 8:12, which says, The children of the kingdom will be driven out into the darkness where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Hell is also mentioned related to internal destruction in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, which says, These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power. Hell is also described in great detail in Revelation 14:11, which says, The smoke of the fire that torments them will rise forever and ever, and there will be no relief day or night for those who worship the beast or its image or accept the mark of its name. From these descriptions of hell in the Bible, we know that it is a place of final judgment and anguish. Here are five questions about hell answered.
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Did Jesus Preach Hell More Than Heaven
If you have any serious interest in the subject of hell, you will probably have either read or heard someone tell you that Jesus taught more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. In fact, you may also have read/heard people telling you that Jesus preached on the fearful idea of hell as a place of endless suffering far more than he talked about heaven. But if anyone says that this is true, then their problem isnt theology. Its maths.
John Walvoord, in his contribution to the book Four Views on Hell says that when it comes to the doctrine of hell in the Bible, Jesus himself defined this more specifically and in more instances than any New Testament prophet. All the references to gehenna, except James 3:6, are from the lips of Jesus Christ himself
Some of the initial rhetorical impressiveness of this observation fades away, however, when we realise that all the instances of gehenna, in the Gospels actually amounts to very few. As it is a very Jewish word , it comes as no surprise that Matthew uses it most often. But even in Matthews Gospel, it appears in no more than four contexts . Actually, none of those passages really serve the purpose of teaching about gehenna. That word is used in passing during a teaching on a different subject.
An anonymous writer for RBC ministries tells us and this is part of their radio broadcast as well that Jesus often talked about hell. Actually, he talked far more about hell than about heaven.
The Word Hell Isnt Even Found In The Bible
Well it might be found in your Bible. Let me elaborate.
Most Biblical translations dont contain the word Hell even a single time.
The King James Bible, which is widely considered to be one of the most inaccurate translations, while also being a fixture in traditionalist Christian circles, contains the most mentions of hell at 54 occurrences. More accurate translations like the NASB and even the highly popular NIV show the word hell occurring between 1314 times, ALL of which are found in the New Testament.
Were going to look at each of these occurrences, but before we do, Id like to put these numbers into perspective. Lets look at how often more commonly used words are mentioned in the Bible:
- Heaven 644 mentions
- Kingdom 384 mentions
- Sin 441 mentions
So just to review, we have Judgement mentioned 344 times, Sin mentioned 441 times, and Death mentioned 456 times, and yet we only see Hell mentioned 14 times in accurate translations.
Doesnt that seem weird?
If hell is such a central part of sin, judgment, and death, wouldnt it get talked about at least half as often as these associated words? At this rate, Google wouldnt even know to associate hell with these other words.
Furthermore, IF the common Evangelic view of Hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment is accurate, wouldnt that warrant significantly more discussion than something like poverty, which is talked about over 2,000 times?
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Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven
I sometimes hear pastors and teachers say that Jesus talked about hell more than heaven, and so we should do the same in our evangelism.
In other words, it is is often suggested that Jesus scared people into the kingdom. He threatened people with hell if they didnt believe in Him, and so in our evangelism, we are perfectly justified in using threats of burning forever in hell and other similar scare tactics to get people into the Kingdom of God as well.
And it isnt just the wacko fringe Christians who say this. I have heard it preached from the pulpits of some relatively sane evangelical churches. This sort of approach is also quite common in some of the leading evangelistic approaches of our day. People are trained to tell others that God is holy, righteous, and good, and since one sin is enough to condemn us to hell, God is justified in sending us there if we dont believe in Jesus for eternal life.
And rather than shying away from hell, we are told to use it as a way to invite people into heaven. After all, we are told, Jesus preached about hell more than heaven, and so should we.
But is this true?
References To Fire Are Usually Not References To Hell
Jesus does speak about fire several times in the Gospels . But these references to fire are not references to a place of eternal torture for the unredeemed, but are simply symbols of temporal discipline and destruction that come upon some people as a result of straying from Gods instructions. Fire can even be for purification of believers as seen in 1 Corinthians 3:15.
Sometimes Jesus refers to hell fire , but these are actually references to Gehenna, which I discuss in a later point.
The few references where fire may refer to the everlasting flames of hell are places like Matthew 25:41, and are used in reference to a place created for Satan and his angels. Do some humans end up there? It appears so, but again, this will not be for torture and torment. To explain why will have to wait for the book