The concept of Hell has been mythologized as a future destination by the majority of Christians. That’s what they’ve been taught from childhood by well-meaning parents, Sunday school teachers, preachers, and frightened peers. Therefore they miss the point of a large part of the Bible. There’s far more value in understanding hell as a metaphor of a present state of mind or being.
I’m writing this as part of the May Synchroblog topic — “What the Hell?” You can see the responses of others (to be listed after May 22) at the end of this post.
Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have life more abundantly.” Life today—not life after you’re dead.
Life in its abundance is full of the fruits of the Spirit – love, peace, joy, hope, goodness, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and self-control.
Life without joy is hell. Life without love is hell. Life without patience is hell. You can fill in the rest.
When you start inserting this concept (life without joy/peace instead of death or hell) into scriptural passages, they start to make more sense.
The Bible is a poetic, literary, and mystical description of life as it exists in the present, both the Old and New Testament. Look at these verses – insert life without joy/hope/peace – and then see if they don’t make more sense for the world today.
1I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 2O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3O Lord, you brought up my soul [also translatable as life, seat of emotions and passions, or activity of the mind] from the grave [Sheol], restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit [Sheol]. (Ps. 30:1-3)
For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul [also translatable as life, seat of emotions and passions, or activity of the mind] from the lowest hell (Sheol). (Ps. 86:13)
If I ascend up into heaven, thou [art] there: if I make my bed in hell (Sheol), behold, thou art there. (Ps. 139:8)
God is in hell, too? Some will argue that God’s back is turned so he doesn’t see you suffering. But these passages are meant to give assurance that God is with you in your pain and sorrow and absence of joy…willing and ready to draw you up out of despair and give you life—today.
You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to experience hell. Most of you know that. Anytime you feel despair because you lack joy, hope, peace, etc. in your life—you can describe it as “hell.”
You also don’t have to wait until you’re dead to experience the kingdom of heaven. That’s the whole point of my new ebook, In Living Color: Heaven, just released in May, 2014.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated by some as “hell” was Gehenna, the valley of the son of lamentation. This was a real place at that time, the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; where child sacrifice used to take place to the god, Moloch. That would certainly be an image of a place where there is no joy, no hope, no love, etc.
Another New Testament word translated as “hell” is Hades, ruled by Pluto, the god of the lower regions. In Biblical Greek, it is associated with Orcus, the realm of the dead, a dark and dismal place in the very depths of the earth, the common receptacle of disembodied spirits. Usually Hades was simply the abode of the wicked (the immature, the undeveloped), Lu. 16:23, Rev. 20:13,14; a very uncomfortable place. It was only later that this word took on the connotation of the grave, death, or hell.
I’ve been to hell and back. I’ve experienced an absence of joy, peace, hope, etc. I’ve been dead (metaphorically), and then I rose from the dead to new life, too . I think you’ve probably been to hell and back. You’ve probably been one of the living dead, too.
What’s the big deal about hell? You can be saved from it if you follow the example of Jesus, who is the door, the way [i.e., the example] to true life. Following his example will bring life with an abundance of peace, joy, hope, love, kindness, etc.
Here are the other responses to this topic:
Jeremy Myers – Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven?
Wesley Rostoll – Hell, thoughts on annihilationism
K. W. Leslie – Dark Christians
Angie Benjamin – Hell Is For Real
Glenn Hager – Abusing Hell
The Virtual Abbess – What The Hell?
Kimbery Klein – Hell, if I know.
Michael Donahoe – Hell Yes…or No?
Liz Dyer – Hell? No!
Loveday Anyim – Why the hell do you believe in hell?
Linda – If you died today, where would you go?
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.