The teaching that the "wicked" are going to live forever in a place of gross torture is also a pagan teaching that did not come from the Bible. Before we get into that, however, we will consider where the word "hell" itself came from and related questions.
NOTE: You can look up these terms in encyclopedias such as World Book or computer CD versions such as Microsoft Encarta and many denominational church Bible dictionaries also contain this information (though not always).
"Hell" comes from the Norse goddess of the dead named Hel or Hela. Her realm was only an underworld, the grave. It was a place where she protected those who had died of sickness or old age until they were returned to life on the upper world (the earth). It was not a place where wicked were privileged to be put. It wasn't for torture or punishment.
The realm of "Pluto" is the same place in the Roman religion. It also was not a place of torture. Because Pluto was the god of the under world (the ground), his was also the realm of crops, gold/silver and jewels. Those in his realm were blessed with the finest food, riches etc. until they were returned to life on earth. Hell here is the rough equivalent of what Christendom expects in their heaven!
In the Greek religion, that place is Hades. Hades is usually the Bible word translated "hell" in the New Testament. Tartarus is used in Greek at 2 Peter 2:4 and gehenna is the word used at Mark 9:43 and other texts where it is associated with fire and worms. Scanned sections of the Textus Recepticus are included so you can see these word difference, but most modern English Bibles mention the terms in their footnotes or cross references or actually use the correct terms in their text.
Hades was the Greek underworld to which a person went to forget the cares of life on earth while waiting to be returned to earth (resurrected). One had to drink from a river called Lethe to forget the pains of life on earth and flow by the cave of the god Somnos (sleep...insomnia, meaning sleeplessness, comes from this god's name). Upon returning to life on earth, those who have been in Hades must again drink from this river to forget the joys of life in Hades.
Tartarus, the Greek place of punishment, was only temporary and was a place of darkness surrounded by a ring of fire to prevent escape (until late in Greek history). It is used of the condition of spiritual darkness, disfellowshipped state the wicked angels were in even as they plagued the earth and their fellow angels. 2 Peter 2:4. Since they are in it while walking among us, while possessing humans, it is obviously not a literal place, either a dark cave or a place of burning torture.
Gehenna, used a number of places in the New Testament, is from the Hebrew Valley of Hinnom. After pagan religion was destroyed there, the valley was used as a garbage dump to burn refuse and the bodies of those who had been executed for crimes and were not considered worthy of a resurrection. Brimstone (sulfur) was added to the valley to burn the refuse better, kill germs, etc. Wherever the fire did not reach, maggots would grow in the rotting refuse and bodies. This place was a fitting symbol of an eternal second death for those who refuse to obey God. Revelation 20:13, 14. One with no hope of the person being put back together and becoming a living being again.
Gehenna is a Jewish religious term and idea. The concept of an eternal living burning torture has not invaded the Jewish religion as it was taken into Christendom later in their history when they began adopting all kinds of pagan religious doctrines, holidays, images, symbols and customs into the Roman Catholic church. It was needed by them to force membership into their religion and silence questions. Interestingly, the Roman Catholic church has 2 extra books of Revelation (Apocalypse of the Virgin and Apocalypse of Mary) written long after the 4th century and envisioning special burning hells for anyone who rejected the trinity doctrine (something that wouldn't be invented until long after Mary and the apostles were dead).
The Protestant faiths have found their version of hell to be as effective a tool at silencing the masses and stopping any questioning of church teachings and practices.
Mark 9:43 (use of "gehenna") Textus Recepticus
Tartarus reference in Textus Recepticus Greek Concordance
2 Peter 2:4 in Textus Recepticus of King James
The immortal soul doctrine is a large part of the reason why religions are able to threaten people with hellfire.
Immortality of the soul claims that people and angels with always live forever no matter whether they are good or evil. It claims that death is an unreal condition. That death is not the absolute end of our existence, but only a doorway to life in another world somewhere else. This teaching was also taken from pagan religions who have the same teaching. The Bible tells quite different things about the soul, spirit in man, death and immortality. This section will consider the Bible's correct information on those topics.
1 Timothy 6:16, a reference to Jesus who is king of kings and lord of lords is one place the term is used. It says of Jesus, "Who ONLY hath immortality..." This verse was written many years after Jesus' return to heaven and he was the only one besides his Father who yet possessed immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:53, 54 show immortality is promised for those who go to heaven with Christ.
No one else in the Bible but Jesus, his Father, and those who rule in heaven with Jesus are ever said to be immortal or to be granted immortality.
Eternal life, which the righteous can hope for Romans 6:23, is different from immortal/incorruptible life. The angels had eternal life stretching before them, but some decided to become evil...they corrupted themselves just like a crooked politician becomes "corrupt". Someone incorruptible cannot do evil or turn against God. And someone immortal cannot be harmed or destroyed. Jesus and the "saints" are blessed with being sharers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4. Being of the divine nature means they are all in the form of God and made of the same substance as him. And as Romans 6:23 shows, even eternal life is a gift given through Jesus Christ for those who are his followers.
Psalm 16:9, 10 "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Acts 2:25-27, 31; a prophecy about Jesus.
Isaiah 53:9, 10, "And he made his grave with the wicked,...yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thous shalt make his SOUL an offering for sin,..."
1 Corinthians 15:45, "And it was written the first man Adam was made a living SOUL; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." Compare Gen. 2:7.
Jesus soul, his flesh and blood body was offered for our sins and rested in hope in the Bible's hell, the grave.
Job 27:3, 4, "All the while my brath is in me, and the SPIRIT OF GOD is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit."
Psalm 146:4, "His breath goes forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day HIS THOUGHTS PERISH."
Luke 24:39, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; FOR A SPIRIT HATH NOT FLESH AND BONES, as ye see me have." 1 Corinthians 15:50, "...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven..."
The spirit in man is God's own spirit. His life force or energy he shares with all his creatures. It is not a spirit that has thought after we die. Jesus told that a spirit doesn't have flesh and bones as we humans do. Psalms also tells that when a person dies, all his thoughts perish in that very day. Compare Psalm 104:29, 30.
Ecclesiastes 9:4, 5, 6, 10, "For to him that is joined to the living there is a hope, for a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing,... their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished...Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
2 Timothy 2:16-18, "But shun profane and vain babblings:...Who concerning the truth have erred, SAYING THAT THE RESURRECTION IS PAST ALREADY, and overthrow the faith of some." Compare 1 Timothy 1:19, 20.
The idea that the dead began getting resurrected out of the grave at Jesus' first coming, upon his return to heaven, is a false teaching that actually begun in the first century. It is blashemy and vain babbling. Those teaching it were put out of the church.
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Ancient Babel, is the realm where Noah landed the ark after the flood and it is the area where all religions and all cultures can trace their history to their very beginnings. It was here that modern false religion got its start. Because of the bad things those people did to try to make a false religion in opposition to the true God, he confounded their language so they could not understand each other. Hence, the name Babel and our modern word "babble". Genesis chapter 11. (See also Revelation 17:2,5 and 18:3, 4).
Something those early people had learned to do also paved the way for the pagan custom of threatening people with being burned alive in terrible heat and pain....they learned to make bricks. Genesis 11:3. Once they had this knowledge, they could build great buildings, homes, roads and many useful things to a civilization. But that simple technology also gave them the ability to make ovens and furnaces. Being able to make bricks, gave them the ability to make hotter ovens, which made tougher bricks that could take more heat and make even hotter ovens.
And these ovens became a means of enslaving people to false gods.
By the time of King Nebuchadnezzer, Daniel and the 3 Hebrew children, this oven or furnace building was in great use as a means of forcing obedience to the pagan gods and false religion and their political system.
In Daniel chapter 3 is located the familiar tale about 3 Hebrew youths who were thrown into a fiery furnace and had the heat turned up 7 times hotter than normally used for execution. Daniel 3:6, 11, 15, 17, 19. All throughout human history, in pagan and Christian cultures, this and other threats of violence have been used to force membership in their religions. Although Christendom has in most cases stopped being the ones to perform the burnings themselves, but merely threatens the burning on you after you die....it is still the same false teaching.
The gods the Babylonians were serving, gods who demanded the burning of people, are not the God of the Bible, the Israelites or the God of true Christians.
Most people think it is evil just to burn someone for a few minutes until they die....and claim that those who do such acts are monsters! Yet they believe that the God of love is going to do far worse and torture people eternally!! Even though he himself was appalled to find people burning others alive just to the point they were dead, and he said of himself that, "And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons or daughters in the fire; "WHICH I COMMANDED THEM NOT, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY HEART. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place. And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away." KING JAMES Jeremiah 7:31-33. Forevermore, it would be a place of BURYING DEAD PEOPLE, not BURNING LIVING PEOPLE!!
This Valley of Hinnom is the gehenna of the Bible....the place of burying...the place where the wicked shall go.
IF the Almighty never had the thought of burning us or our children in the fire??? If it never even came into his heart!!!!! WHY DO THE CHURCHES WANT TO THROW PEOPLE AND THEIR CHILDREN INTO A LITERAL, ETERNAL FIRE???? ARE THEY BETTER THAN GOD?? DO THEY HAVE MORE PULL OR POWER THAN GOD THAT THEY CAN DO THIS WHEN EVEN HE IS NOT???? The answer is obvious!!!!
For more information from the Bible about these topics, please contact Jehovah's Witnesses or the local Kingdom Hall in your area. Or logon to the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses at www.watchtower.org and find the address of a branch office near you.
The Rich Man and Lazarus Parable Does Not Prove Eternal Torment
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is found in Luke 16:19-31 and is commonly viewed as a literal account of an actual event by those in Christendom and is seen as proof that God is going to burn the wicked alive forever. However, many things in this account give evidence that it is a parable meaning something else and is not literal.
The first bit of information in that story that is not an actual fact is found in verses 20 and 21....Lazarus is viewed as a beggar who had no recourse but to beg for food from the tables of rich people. Yet, Lazarus was not a beggar in a fleshly sense. He had a home with his sisters Mary and Martha and when he was sick he was at home in bed with them taking care of him, certainly not out sitting in the streets being licked by dogs and begging. But in a spiritual sense, Lazarus was a beggar anxious to get spiritual food that wasn't obtainable from the real rich men, the religious leaders, who considered everyone not of their class to be dirt.
Secondly, it is said that Lazarus is taken to Abraham's bosom...for that to be literal, Abraham would have to be in heaven, but we know that Abraham was not a saint or one of the heavenly class since he died before Jesus opened the way to heavenly life...so the resurrection hope that Abraham has is to the paradise earth just like all the faithful who lived before Jesus. They must also have Jesus preached to them so they can become believers and chose for themselves whether they will become Christian. Romans 14:12, Romans 10:10, 13, 14, John 3:16. Obviously, they must have him preached to them before they can put faith in him, but they cannot do that while dead in the grave. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, Psalm 146:4, Revelation 20:4,5)
In the NT or Christian Greek Scriptures, Abraham is a symbol of Jehovah God himself (and Isaac a symbol of his Son, Jesus, the Word). Abraham's wife, Sarah, likewise is symbolic representing the faithful angels up in heaven who act as a wifelike organization to God and serve as a helper in caring for his things on earth. (Gen. 22:12, 16, Romans 8:32, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:22-26, Gal. 6:16).
Also, the parable, if taken literally, indicates that those in heaven can see, hear and talk to those in Hades. How many people do you think would like to live in heaven if they really thought they were going to spend eternity listening to those in a place of burning torment holler, moan and scream at them for water??? And how could they get there to give them water? And further more, what good would a whole glass of water do in such a place much less one drop on the tip of someone's finger?
How are these things to be taken?
In telling this parable, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the false religious leaders of his day, who thought they were rich toward God and were really spiritually starving both themselves and the Israelites who Jesus said were skinned and tossed about like sheep without shepherds because they couldn't get spiritual food from their leaders. (Luke 16:14, 15) As an entire group, they symbolized the rich man in the parable.
Lazarus represented those who gained God's favor by "dying" toward their former lives and wicked course of action by learning Bible Christianity and getting baptized, buried in water symbolizing this death. Romans 6:4-11, Ephesians 2:1-5. So even though Christians undergo this spiritual death and become alive toward God, they are still walking around alive and able to talk to the wicked people symbolized by the rich man.
So how did the Pharisees, the rich man, "die"? Before Jesus came along and began preaching to them, they were acting in ignorance. They just followed the same false traditions and teachings of their parents and ancestors without knowing they were in error. Once Jesus began preaching to them and teaching them, they now knew they had been in error, but they refused him. John 15:22-24 shows how they would have had no sin had Jesus not come and taught them and performed these works. Once they heard, they had no excuse for their sin. Upon rejecting Jesus and true religion, they "died" toward God even though they were still walking around making accusations, requests, trickery and asking questions of Jesus' servants. Both were alive and in the same place, yet because one group was wicked and one righteous, there was a great chasm between them and neither was willing or able to cross over to the other side. It is the same with true and false, wicked and righteous today. Before we learn the truth and accept it and get baptized, we are all dead men walking. Romans 6:4-11, Ephesians 2:1-5.
The rich man further asked that Jesus disciples "water down" the truth and comfort their religious brothers by stopping this work. Many times, they arrested, whipped, imprisoned and killed Jesus' followers trying to get them to stop teaching. A drop or even a whole glass of water is nowhere near enough for true Christians. They become fountains of (John 4:14), baths of water (Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5), burying places of water (Romans 6:3, 4) and floods of water (1 Peter 3:20, 21, Matthew 14:37-39). Never may we agree to condense the waters of Bible truth to a single drop to please self-righteous, money loving, false teachers!!