A STUDY OF HELL FIRE
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Translators of the King James and other English versions used the single word "hell" to translate various Hebrew and Greek words that are not synonymous. Partly because of this error, universal confusion exists over the state of the dead. Now you can understand the truth about hell and know what really happens when we die. Several hundred years ago the belief in hell as a place of ever-burning torture and torment was almost universal throughout all Christendom. Today, there is much less teaching about "hellfire and brimstone" than in the past. Yet Christianity still either implicitly or explicitly maintains that upon death the good go to heaven while the souls of the unsaved go immediately to "hell."
There amid scorching heat and sulfurous smoke the damned writhe in anguish for an eternity. With deafening screeches and haunting wails, these pathetic wretches agonize over their past sins, having no hope for relief from their pain, let alone redemption. Among Roman Catholics, the teaching is that many will go to purgatory, to be purified of their sins first, before passing on to heaven.
Hellfire and brimstone sermons of many years past have dangled unsaved sinners over the eternal fires of hell, even as they were implored to "come up front and be saved." If sinners did not take immediate steps to get "saved," they may never have another opportunity to get to heaven. The procrastinator was warned that he might miss out.
1.2 THE MEANINGS OF HELL
It means to Cover, Conceal
The Bible clearly teaches the existence of hell both in the Old and New Testaments. We cannot deny that hell exists, but we intend to give the proper, Scriptural understanding of what Yahweh’s Word has to say about hell. Because of traditional teaching, as well as myths and legends, many have the gross misconception that hell is a place of eternal torture of humans, a place where Satan reigns supreme. Yet nowhere does the Bible teach such a thing, or even that Satan lives in hell.
At the root of the confusion about the nature of hell is how some English versions render the concept. Translators chose the single word "hell" to translate no fewer than four Hebrew and Greek words with different meanings: the Hebrew sheol and the Greek hades, gehenna, and tartaroo. Because of this deficiency by the translators, confusion and false ideas about hell prevail to this day.
In Old English usage, hell meant primarily to hide, conceal, to cover. Thus, hell is a hidden, concealed or covered place. Old English literature describes the "helling" of potatoes, which meant putting potatoes into pits in the ground; or the "helling" of a house, meaning to cover or thatch it. The English word hell was properly translated from the Hebrew sheol and Greek hades as a grave or pit, signifying the secret or hidden condition of a dead person.
The Hebrew sheol occurs 65 times in the Old Testament. The King James translates it hell 31 times; grave 31 times; and pit three times. Yet it is the same Hebrew word and means "the grave" Hades is the exact Greek counterpart to the Hebrew sheol. Hades also signifies the grave.
1.2 WORLDLY NOTIONS OF HELL
Erroneous notions about the Biblical hell have made their way into dictionaries and other references. Yet we can see the proper meaning come through in the root words themselves.
The American Heritage Dictionary renders the following under hell:
A. The abode of condemned souls and devils in some religions; the place of eternal punishment for the wicked after death, presided over by Satan.
B. A state of separation from G-d.
C. The abode of the dead, identified with the Hebrew sheol and the Greek hades; the underworld. [Christian Science] Mortal belief, sin or error.
Interestingly, this dictionary also gives the root word of hell as Kel, meaning to cover, conceal, save: From Kel comes Hel; from Old Norse Hel, the underworld, goddess of death. From Germanic *haljo, the underworld, concealed place."
Smith’s Bible Dictionary agrees with many others in stating of hell: "This is the word generally and unfortunately used by our translators to render the Hebrew Sheol. It would perhaps have been better to retain the Hebrew word Sheol, or else render it always by ‘the grave’ or ‘the pit.’"
Sheol and Hades
The only Old Testament Hebrew word translated hell is sheol (Strong’s No. 7585), which corresponds to the New Testament Greek hades. Both simply mean "the unseen state." The King James Bible translates sheol as hell 31 times; grave 31 times and pit 3 times. The marginal reading of hell in many Bibles often reads, "or, the grave." This can be seen in the following: Psalm 49:15; 55:15; 86:13; Isaiah 14:9; John 2:2; 1Cor. 15:55; Rev. 20:13. It is clear that sheol means the place of the unseen dead, the pit and grave. The Revised Standard Version left the word "sheol" untranslated throughout the Old Testament. The Catholic Douay Version renders sheol as hell 63 times, pit once and grave once.
Strong’s Concordance No. 7585 says of sheol: "from No. 7592; hades or the world of the dead (as a subterranean retreat), include its accessories and inmates:-grave, hell, pit." Two other Hebrew words, qeber (or keber, Strong’s No. 6913) and qebuwrah, qeburah (Strong’s No. 6900) designate ones’ earthly burying place. These are translated as "grave" 39 times, as "sepulchre" 31 times; 7 times as "burying place," and 4 times as "burial"
The New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew sheol is hades, No 7592, the abode of the dead before Judgement Day. Hades is translated 10 times as hell, and grave once.
Hebrew is rich in figurative words and metaphors. Both sheol and hades are examples. Sheol and hades are to the unseen world what qeber (the grave) is to the corpse, seen by the living.
1.3 BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION OF HELL AS A PLACE OF SILENCE
The Bible nowhere describes hell as a place of living beings in torturous fire. Neither is Satan said to be there with his red body suit and pitchfork! Such concepts came from Greek paganism and particularly 13th century poet Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy. In this work is a section called The Inferno, in which Dante gives his own ideas of hell, graphically portraying the sufferings of the damned.
Hell as a place of endless suffering was adopted by Christianity in the Dark Ages. It was used to strike fear in the hearts of people, and helped give the Roman Church more power and influence over the masses. The Bible’s teachings about hell and the state of the dead are considerably different from the common ideas. Notice what Ecclesiastes 9:10 says about the state of the dead: "…there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [sheol],
Death obviously is not a place of continued existence in another form. We are not aware of any
thing in the grave. That is why death is compared to sleep, where all conscious of the world a
round us ceases and we are in effect dead to anything happening around us.
Notice what the prophet Isaiah reveals about death (the grave): "For the grave [sheol] cannot
praise you, death cannot celebrate you…" (Isa. 38:18). Once we die, all conscious awareness stops. The Bible says "the dead know not anything" (Eccl. 9:5), and "the dead praise not Yahweh, neither any that go down into silence" (Ps. 115:17).
Neither are patriarchs and peoples of old living in and watching from heaven: "though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: you, O Yahweh, are our father, our redeemer, you Name is from everlasting" (Isa. 63:16).
Notice what Peter tells us about King David: "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepluchre is with us unto this day…For David is not ascended into the heavens…" (Acts 2:29, 34). If David himself has not yet risen from the grave, why do people today think they are destined for heaven (or hell) when they die? Notice the following Scriptures describing what happens to human beings when they die: "Will you show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise you?" (Psalm 88:10) "His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his THOUGHTS PERISH."(Psalm 146:4): "And many of them that SLEEP in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Dan. 12:2)
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
God is so merciful that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus) to suffer and die for the world so as to reconcile man to himself. Yet Hell is mentioned in the Bible as abode for sinners. Some schools of thought say there is no hell that God is not so wicked to the extent of sending people who He created to hell fire whole others say there is hell fire some where.
Can we then say that hell exist? If there is no hell, does heaven exist? If there is hell fire and heaven or paradise who are the occupants of them both? How can one escape condemnation into hell fire? How can one enjot the joy, peace and other goodies associated with heaven or paradise. The ways and manners by which people view the concept of hell fire and heaven need to be researched and documented so that everyone available can have better understanding of the concepts and take decision on where to belong.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Many schools of thought exist on the concept of Hell Fire. The purpose of the present study is to attempt the harmonization of the thoughts and to examine the concept of hell, its nature, heaven and what qualifies people to go to either. Also the nature of occupants in heaven and hell is within the context of the purpose.
1.4 AIM AND OBJECTIVES
The aim of the study is to to make a comprehensive examination of the Biblical and extra Biblical concept of Hell and its attendant fire as well as its nature, origin, the occupants.
The objectives to achieve the above aim are to:
1. carry out a review of the scriptures and other literature in order to gather pices of information in relation hell fire.
2. attempt to harmonize different school of thoughts about definition and existence of hell
3. examine the Biblical instances of and references to hell and heaven
4. Identify the eternal, present and future occupants of hell
5. Recommend to readers and believers what one can do to miss the scourging hell fire
1.5 CONTRIBUTION TO KNOWLEDGE
This study is important for several reasons: Firstly, the finding will help individual to have better understanding about hell fire. Secondly, it will provide comprehensive information for people within and outside the Christiandom in how to be free from damnation in hell fire and stay glued to heaven and its way.
Furthermore, it will serve as contribution to people knowledge about what God is interested in and or not interested in. Finally, it will guide people in taking decision about where to end their journey after leaving the earth to embark on an eternal journey.