Is Hell real? We examine and challenge the Christian teaching about an eternal hell.
Recently, I spoke the truth of "hell not being eternal" to a person bound by traditional Christian beliefs. This led to church elders contacting me about my discussion. They first told me that they love me and my family, but I am no longer welcome at their church. After some contemplation, I guess I would rather be outside religious walls than in them, anyway.
When discussing this with a friend of mine, he pointed out something very interesting to me. He made the point that all one has to attack is the false doctrine of an eternal Hell, and most Christians feel their beliefs are being threatened. And truly, the Christian church's doctrines are on shaky ground if followers cease to believe in an eternal Hell. Why? As my friend so wisely pointed out, traditional Christian doctrines are founded on the premise of Hell in order to invoke fear. It is fear of not pleasing God and suffering for an eternity if one is not absolved of sin (our mistakes). Ergo, Christianity's teachings are based upon fear and not promoting love or unity. Fear is not something that stems from a loving God but must be man-made as it creates separation. Fear is definitely torment, though we often do not recognize it; but God is love. How does Hell fit with Jesus's teaching about love? It really doesn't; thus, something is awry. So, you might wonder, "What is hell?"
What had gotten me into trouble with my former church was something so simple to fact-check. I had only mentioned to the traditional, fundamental Christian that the word "hell" is not in their Bible (at least not in the original Greek or Hebrew languages that the Bible was written in), and neither are the words "forever" and "eternal," as in "eternal punishment" or "eternal damnation."
Wrongly Translated Words Used to Support the Hell Teaching
The original Bible word mis-translated as "forever" or "eternal" is the Greek word "aion," which means "a set period of time" - meaning it has an end. (Why would Greek to English translators change this Greek word to mean "eternal," "everlasting," and "forever"? Could it have been to support the idea of an everlasting Hell?)
And what about the words rendered as hell in our Bibles? Two words mis-translated as "hell" actually mean "grave" (in the Hebrew Old Testament: sheol; and in the Greek New Testament: hades). One other word was also mistranslated as Hell in the New Testament, but it was actually a real trash dump/ancient idol site outside of Jerusalem's walls in Jesus's day (the Greek word: gehenna). Jesus would have used Gehenna as a metaphor in his teaching to show that the condition of one's mind, through incorrect thinking, can become full of worthless trash or even a place of false idols (incorrect beliefs). Nothing in the New or Old Testaments point to an eternal Hell ever being taught by the earliest of Christian leaders: Jesus, himself. But, what we do see in the Bible is more of a manipulation of text being changed to support a doctrine that formed hundreds of years later as Christianity grew.
Fire Is Not Hell
Jesus said, "All will be salted with fire," when he taught about what has been mis-translated as "hell." Fire in the Bible is a representation for the "spirit of truth," or even God who salts us (allows us to undergo life trials for learning) to eventually arrive unto a mind of peace, love and joy. All of us will need to learn to think differently, getting rid of thoughts that are contrary to peace and love (guilt, shame, condemnation, fear, worthlessness, etc.) - for what IS hell but beliefs that we hold that are contrary to the truth of who we are? Hell is the belief that we can, somehow, be separate from the Life Source, call that energy, Spirit or God; but it is also the idea that we are separate from each other and everything.
Why was I such a threat to the whole church that the elders would meet and then call me? Was it out of love for me, believing me to be lost? No, it was all motivated by fear - fear of losing control.
Here is a simple thought to consider:
Since God is all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent), then why wouldn't He simply create those who He knew would make the choices He did prefer and therefore not have to destroy anyone for making the choices He didn't prefer? Otherwise, we have a blood-thirsty God who is evil, if He created people whom he already foreknew He would have to destroy because of bad choices. Could a just God really make the choice to destroy maliciously, when there was no need to create that which He knew HE would have to destroy later? If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, He should have easily been able to create those whom He desired and save us all from ever existing and facing wrath, when we make incorrect choices. Again, religion doesn't make any sense when you think it through logically.
I believe God foreknew everyone as stated in the Bible:
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son..." Romans 11:2
"God did not cast away His people whom He foreknew." Romans 11:2
It says in the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament that when his disciples asked him, "Who then shall be saved?" his reply was, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God." Jesus answered them quite plainly that all would be saved, for in man's sometimes limited thinking salvation of all is impossible. And when you really think about it, mankind has put the concept of God creating an eternal hell into religious teachings. For if this were true, the Bible would have mentioned hell as a creation of God in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." It does not say that God created hell. Why is that? Man must have created hell in his own mind; for that is what hell is...a state of mind.
Jesus told us who creates hell if we pay attention to Matthew 23:15 "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!"
If we are eternal beings, then we have always been (in God - in spirit). Therefore, we will always be. Anything that has a beginning, must have an end. You cannot create eternal from the temporal. God will save all.
From a poem entitled, "A Ghost Speaks," by Gloria Ladd: "Your joy is your heaven, your sorrows your hell."