Monday, December 10, 2007

After Life (15) - Hell

When I did a Bible study about the nature of hell, I was greatly surprised. I had been taught that hell was a fiery place, where those who rejected Jesus would be tormented forever. My first surprise was that the scriptures give very little information about what happens to those who are condemned at the last judgment. There is very little about their eternal destiny in the Old Testament and the New Testament letters do not add much more. To learn about the destiny of the lost, we have to go to the gospels and the words of Jesus. It is almost as if God only trusted his Son to speak about this subject.

Even Jesus did not tell us that much about the about what would happen to those who reject the gospel. The word “hell” is only used once in Luke’s gospel and twice in Mark’s. It is not used in John’s gospel at all. Clearly Jesus did not spend a lot of time talking about “hell”. We must be very careful that we do not try to add more detail than he has provided.

My second surprise was that “destruction” of those who reject the gospel is the most common theme in the New Testament. Those who are shut out of God’s presence will be not be tormented forever, they will be destroyed. In the next few posts, I will explain why I reached this conclusion.

The New Testament does not describe hell in detail, but uses a number of images to describe what it is like. These images cannot be taken literally. Hell cannot be both fire and darkness, because fire produces light. It cannot be a furnace and a lake. Rather, Jesus used a variety of images to describe different aspects of what happens to those who reject Jesus. These images must be interpreted carefully because they can be understood in several ways.

No comments: