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Section 9B .. The Future
The Problems With The Traditional View of Hell

 

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The Problem of Hell Part III... “Eternal Life”.. in Hell?

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

Introduction and Main Index

PART I...  SHEOL AND HADES. Why Are We ‘Translating’ Proper Names? Sheol and Hades Are Exactly The Same Place. Roots of The Word "Hell". Inconsistencies In Translation. Additional Reasons Sheol/Hades Is Not "Hell".... Jacob Expected to Go To "Hell"?, People went Down Alive Into "Hell", No One Can Be Rescued From, Or Be Returned to "Hell". Location of Sheol/Hades, Duration of Sheol/Hades, Affliction in Sheol/Hades? Tartarus.

PART II... GEHENNA. Gehenna, Mentioned in The Old Testament and The New, Was An Actual Physical Location. Jesus and Gehenna. That Deafening Silence. People Who Have Already Received A "Just Recompense".

PART III... ETERNAL LIFE IN HELLEternal Life vs. Eternal Death. Clarifying the Phrase “Eternal Punishment”. John 3:16. Eternal Life Vs. Death. Eternal Life Vs. 'Decay. Immortality of The Soul?. Eternal Life... a Result of Redemption. I Corinthians 15. Jesus "Died" In Our Place. The Second Death. Symbolism of Revelation. Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth.

PART IV... Difficulties with the Traditional Interpretation of The Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. A Biblical Interpretation of This Parable. Where The Idea Of The Torments of Hell Originated. "Choosing" Hell and The 'Joys' of Heaven. Infinite Punishment and The Character Of God. Not “Choosing” Eternal Life. Summary and Conclusion.
 

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PART III

Eternal Life vs. Eternal Death
Clarifying the Phrase “Eternal Punishment”
John 3:16
Eternal Life Vs. Death
Eternal Life Vs. 'Decay'

Immortality of The Soul?

Eternal Life... a Result of Redemption
I Corinthians 15
Jesus "Died" In Our Place
The Second Death
Symbolism of Revelation

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth


Eternal Life vs. Destruction

Clarifying the Phrase “Eternal Punishment”
Most traditionalists point to passages such as Matthew 25:46 for support...

    And these shall go away into eternal (Gr. aionios) punishment: but the righteous into eternal (Gr. aionios) life. [Matthew 25:46]

Since the same word aionios, translated "eternal", is used of both sinners and the righteous, they conclude that the punishment must be just as eternal as "life" is.

While it is true that this verse uses the phrase "eternal punishment", note that it is juxtaposed against the phrase "eternal life". If eternal punishment were true then it would seem reasonable that the verse would have read that sinners go away into 'eternal punishment', but the righteous into 'eternal reward'.

Also note how the book of Hebrews, using exactly the same Greek word in both cases, speaks of "eternal" judgment then, just three chapters later, speaks of "eternal" redemption.

    of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal (aionios) judgment. [Hebrews 6:2]

    nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal (aionios) redemption. [Hebrews 9:12]

It is the result of the redemption that continues on forever, not the redemption itself, which was a once and for all act, 2000 years ago. Similarly, judgment cannot continue on eternally, but takes place once. However, the results of the judgment are eternal.


John 3:16.

Even John 3:16, one of the best known, and most comforting, verses in the Bible, is one of the clearest verses about the fate of unredeemed sinners. When John says believers should not "perish", the obvious implication is that unbelievers do.

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish (Gr. apollumi), but have eternal life. [John 3:16]

Similarly Paul said

    Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished (Gr. apollumi). [1 Corinthians 15:18]

The word perish has been translated from the Greek apollumi which, as earlier shown, means to 'destroy fully' or "kill". As a reminder, note how apollumi has been used in the following examples...

    Now when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy (Gr. apollumi) him. [Matthew 2:13]

    and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed (Gr. apollumi) those murderers, and burned their city. [Matthew 22:6-7]

    And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish (Gr. apollumi) . And he awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. [Luke 8:24]

    by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (Gr. apollumi) [2 Peter 3:6]

Jesus said to be afraid of Him who could destroy both body and soul in hell. In 2 Thessalonians Paul says that those who do not obey the gospel "will pay the penalty of eternal destruction", while the author of Hebrews says that the unrighteous will be "devoured" by a fierce fire.

    And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy (Gr. apollumi) both soul and body in hell. [Matthew 10:28]

    who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction (Gr. olethros, a derivative of ollumi) from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, [2 Thessalonians 1:9]

    but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour (esthió) the adversaries. [Hebrews 10:27]

The argument used by some traditionalists that the words "destroy" or "destruction" should be understood as "irreparable loss" is no more than an attempt to somehow make the word "perish" comply with their belief in eternal suffering. If an everlasting hell were true, then perish would actually mean "never perish".


Eternal Life Vs. Death
In the following ten verses, eternal life is contrasted with death, which is reserved for the unrighteous. In all these verses, death has been translated from the Greek word thanatos, about which there is no argument. It means stone cold dead. We have to go through some astounding verbal and theological gymnastics to take the word death, and make it mean eternal life in hell, away from God.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death (Gr. thanatos). [John 8:51]

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death (Gr. thanatos) into life. [John 5:24]

    For if, by the trespass of the one, death (Gr. thanatos) reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ. [Romans 5:17]

    that, as sin reigned in death (Gr. thanatos), even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Romans 5:21]

    Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death (Gr. thanatos), or of obedience unto righteousness? [Romans 6:16]

    For the wages of sin is death (Gr. thanatos) ; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23]

    For the mind of the flesh is death (Gr. thanatos); but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: [Romans 8:6]

    For since by man came death (Gr. thanatos), by man came also the resurrection of the dead . [1 Corinthians 15:21]

    but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death (Gr. thanatos), and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, [2 Timothy 1:10]

    Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death (Gr. thanatos), that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. [Hebrews 2:14-15]


Eternal Life Vs. Decay
In the book of Galatians, Paul says [All Emphasis Added]

    Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (phthora); but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. [Galatians 6:7-8]

What is noteworthy about this verse is that "eternal life" is set in opposition to "corruption".

The word translated "corruption" is the Greek phthora, which means decay, corruption, destroy, perish. It is derived from phtheiro which means to shrivel or wither, or spoil

A related word, diaphthora (decay, corruption) is used in the following verses

    Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption (Gr. diaphthora). [Acts 2:27]

    he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption (Gr. diaphthora). [Acts 2:31]

    Because he saith also in another psalm, Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One to see corruption (Gr. diaphthora). [Acts 13:35]

    For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption (Gr. diaphthora): but he whom God raised up saw no corruption (Gr. diaphthora). [Acts 13:36-37]

In other words, "eternal life" is set in opposition to someone perishing and decaying, not living forever in an eternal hell.

But, if hell is a place of decay and destruction, then what about the...


Immortality of The Soul?
Few beliefs are more widely held than that of the "immortal soul", a concept that virtually everyone is familiar with, and which usually goes something like this.. every human is both body and soul. The body being the flesh and blood housing for the soul, which is a non physical entity that survives the body after death, living on forever in either heaven or hell. (The theory of reincarnation believes that souls are reborn in new bodies, which is a whole other topic). One or another version of an "immortal soul" is found among almost all religions today. For example, even respected Christian theologian Norman Geisler says

    Were God to annihilate human beings he would be attacking himself, for we are made in his image (Gen. 1:27), and God is immortal. [4]

Of the many references to the spirit in the Bible, never once is it said to be immortal, imperishable, or eternal. There is not a single verse in the entire Bible that says anything remotely similar to "everyone has eternal life; it's only a matter of where each will spend it." Yet, this is what most of the church believes, assuming that the idea has it's origins in the Bible.

It does not.

Most of the argument centers around the Bible telling us that God created mankind in His own image. Therefore, it is taken for granted that the 'created' is just as immortal as the Creator. However, we do not know exactly what being "in God's image" entails. Because God does not have a physical body, we know we are not patterned after His physical likeness, however, theologians through the centuries have thought that our emotions, including our ability to love, decision making abilities etc. are examples of how we are made in God's image. All of which may be very true but, what the Bible clearly states, is that immortality is not one of the attributes we were given at creation. Immortality has not yet been conferred on any man.

On the contrary, Paul says, in 1 Timothy 6:15-16, that God alone possesses immortality.

    who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen. [1 Timothy 6:16]

Note the question asked of Jesus in Matthew 19:16. [Also See Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25, and Luke 18:18]

    And behold, one came to him and said, Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

The man was asking what he had to do to get eternal life.

Later on in the chapter Jesus told His disciples

    And every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life. [Matthew 19:29. Also See Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30]

The word Jesus used was "inherit", which clearly indicates that not everyone will have everlasting life. Romans 2:6-7 teaches that eternal life is granted according to works, while 1 Corinthians 15:53 teaches that the redeemed will not become immortal until the time of their resurrection.

    who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: [Romans 2:6-7] (the Greek word translated incorruption means unending existence, and has been translated immortality in the KJV.

    For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. [1 Corinthians 15:53]

In other words, immortality is conditional, depending upon one's acceptance of Christ. It is a gift of God which He gives to the redeemed when they are resurrected.

Origins of the Concept of Immortality
So where did the ideas of the immortality of the soul come from?

The idea of an afterlife or an immortal soul predated Christianity, and was nowhere more common than among the ancient Egyptians. For example The Book of the Dead, which is the modern name of an ancient Egyptian funerary text, consisted of a number of magic spells, charms, passwords, etc. intended to assist a dead person's journey through underworld, and into the afterlife. These were necessary in order for the dead person's spirit to "pass" numerous tests, or be forever in limbo.

The Greeks adopted the Egyptian ideas of immortality and an afterlife. A large part of Phaedo, written by Plato around 360 B.C.E is an argument in favor of the soul outliving the body. [5]. As Christianity spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, many converts, especially men of learning who became church leaders, came from a background of Greek philosophy. And some of the previously learned ideas carried over into Christianity. For example,

    Clement of Alexandria. "Philosophy has been given to the Greeks as their own kind of Covenant, their foundation for the philosophy of Christ... the philosophy of the Greeks... contains the basic elements of that genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human... even upon those spiritual objects." (Miscellanies 6. 8)

    Tertullian. I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, "Every soul is immortal." [6]

    Augustine of Hippo who systematized Christian philosophy said this..."But when I read those books of the Platonists  I was taught by them to seek incorporeal truth, so I saw your invisible things, understood by the things that are made". [7]

In innumerable passages, the Bible clearly states that eternal life is a result of redemption.


Eternal Life... a Result of Redemption
In the following sample verses, the words "life" and "eternal life" are strictly associated with the righteous. As Christians know, eternal life is only found through Jesus Christ, inasmuch as those who don't obey the Son "will not see life...".

    that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. [John 3:15-16]

    He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. [John 3:36]

    but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.  [John 4:14]

    For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  [John 6:40]

    And Paul and Barnabas spake out boldly, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  [Acts 13:46]

    to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life:  [Romans 2:7]

    For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life.  [Galatians 6:8]

    And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  [1 John 5:11]

    These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.  [1 John 5:13]


I Corinthians 15
is the great 'resurrection chapter' in which Paul devotes the first half to the resurrection of Jesus, and the number of people who saw the risen Lord. He then goes on to stress the fundamental importance of the resurrection for all Christians.

    For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. [1 Corinthians 15:16-22]

In fact, later in the chapter, Paul said...

    The last enemy that shall be abolished is death (Gr. thanatos). [1 Corinthians 15:26]

But note the inconsistencies in translation in many of the English versions. Every single time the word Hades appears in the New Testament, it is translated into "hell" in the KJV, and left untranslated in the ASV, except for 1 Corinthians 15:55. Hades is either translated into "death" or "grave" only in this verse .

    ASV: O death (Gr. thanatos), where is thy victory? O death (Gr. Hades), where is thy sting? [1 Corinthians 15:55]

    KJV: O death (Gr. thanatos), where is thy sting? O grave (Gr. Hades), where is thy victory? [1 Corinthians 15:55]

    NIV: Where, O death (Gr. thanatos), is your victory? Where, O death (Gr. Hades), is your sting?"

    The translators apparently did not want to translate Hades into "hell", or even leave it untranslated, because hell is supposed to be an everlasting place of punishment for the damned, and it would make absolutely no sense for Paul to claim victory over hell.

However, the NIV goes one step further, translating Hades into "the realm of the dead" in two instances. [Emphasis Added]

    because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead (Gr. Hades), you will not let your holy one see decay. [Acts 2:27]  

    Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead (Gr. Hades), nor did his body see decay. [Acts 2:31]

They were obviously trying to avoid the impression that Jesus could have been abandoned to a fiery hell. Sadly, their efforts were misguided, since Hades never has never meant hell as a place of punishment and torment.

In summary, the resurrection of believers is a victory over death itself, and, by extension, a victory over Sheol/Hades as the place of the dead. In fact there are almost fifty New Testament verses (that I was able to find) that, one way or the other, speak of "death" as being the fate of the unsaved [See Footnote 3]


Jesus "Died" In Our Place:

Also consider that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) and since we have all sinned (Romans 3:23), we are all under the penalty of death. However, the whole point of salvation is that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He died in our place so that we would not have to.

Believers often stress His terrible anguish on the cross.

However, if the wages of sin is an eternity of pain and torment, then Jesus' comparatively short, and very temporary, suffering did not come anywhere near the suffering an unrepentant sinner will experience. How then can we claim that He took on the penalty for our sins?

The fact is that the wages of sin is death, not eternal life in hell. As the book of Hebrews says [Emphasis Added]

    But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death (Gr. thanatos) for every man. [Hebrews 2:9]

Jesus died in our place, which however, does not mean that we are saved from physical death on earth. Christians die every day. What it means is that we are saved from ....


The Second Death
We tend to think of death as pretty final, but there are four passages in the book of Revelation which speak of the "second death". The first three are

    He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death Gr. thanatos). [Revelation 2:11]

    Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death (Gr. thanatos) hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. [Revelation 20:6]

    But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death (Gr. thanatos). [Revelation 21:8]

However, the fourth passage specifically ties death and Hades together, and says that both will be cast into the lake of fire. This makes obvious sense. Since no one will die in God's kingdom, there will be no need of Sheol/Hades.

    And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death (Gr. thanatos) and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (Gr. thanatos), even the lake of fire. [Revelation 20:13-14]

If people burn forever in this lake of fire, then it cannot be termed the second "death". Someone has to die before there is a death. And someone does. Note that in all three verses, John uses the Greek word thanatos, which clearly means total destruction.

Besides which, If we equate Hades with an eternal hell, then an obvious problem arises, inasmuch as, if Hell is supposed to be the place of fire, why would it be cast into the Lake of Fire?

So let’s return for a moment to that verse from Psalm 9:17, which says...

    the wicked shall be turned (Heb. shûb) into hell (Heb. Sheol), and all the nations that forget God"

The Hebrew word shûb means 'turned again', or 'return', which indicates that those who have not been redeemed, are sent back to Hades, and suffer the "second death" when Hades is cast into the "lake of fire".

Which brings us to the question of whether the lake of fire is literal or symbolic.


The Symbolism in Revelation
A commonly quoted passage, in favour of the traditional viewpoint, comes from the book of Revelation which says...

    And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name. [Revelation 14:9-11]

This verse, perhaps more than any other, comes the closest to supporting the traditional view of Hell. However, one verse does not a doctrine make, especially when that verse is flatly contradicted by numerous others. Every 'Christian' cult in the world, and every false teacher in the church, draws on the Scriptures to support their beliefs and teaching. [See Section Literal Doctrines of Demons]. So, to avoid these dangerous mistakes, Christians must consider the whole counsel of God when formulating doctrine. A wealth of Scriptural evidence corroborating one viewpoint cannot be thrown out in favour of one, or two, isolated verses that appear to support another. [For More on This subject See Context is Crucial]

In any case, notice that this passage from Revelation does not speak of anyone being eternally tormented. It says "the smoke of their torment" ascends forever.

Sodom and Gomorrah: The imagery of fire and brimstone is taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:24. As Jude 7 says... Sodom and Gomorrah experienced "the punishment of eternal fire."

    Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; [Genesis 19:24]

    Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. [Jude 1:7]

These two cites once existed on the southern tip of the Dead Sea, but there is no "eternal fire" burning there. They simply suffered a fiery destruction that had eternal consequences.

Edom: As previously mentioned, the prophet Isaiah [34:8-13] prophesied that Edom would be permanently turned into a "burning pitch", and since this fire can never be quenched, the smoke from it would ascend for ever. The ancient land of Edom is in what is now southwestern Jordan, between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. And, as everyone should know, there is no place in the area where literal smoke rises up night and day.

God often used metaphoric language, well demonstrated by the passage in Matthew 5:29-30, in which Jesus instructs us to cut out our eyes, or cut off our hands or feet, if any of these organs are the cause of us stumbling. Even though there is not a single verse in the Bible that says we are not to literally dismember ourselves, Christians still rightly interpret these instructions of our Lord on the basis of common sense. They understand that Jesus was simply, but graphically, emphasizing the seriousness of sin.

And, when it comes to symbolism and metaphoric language, the book of Revelation has no peers, containing some of the most bizarre imagery found in the Bible. So a 'proof text' drawn from these chapters is very suspect. When Revelation 20:14-15 says "death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire", we have to understand that God does not physically pick up this place called Hades and chuck it into a fire, but the terminology is a symbolic, but vivid illustration of the annihilation of Hades and the unredeemed.

So, when Revelation 14:9-11 says "the smoke of their torment" ascends forever, it vividly expresses the idea that, just like Edom, and Sodom and Gomorrah, the sentence passed on the unrepentant sinner will be permanent.

But doesn't the weeping and gnashing of teeth that Jesus spoke about signify pain and suffering?


Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

Other verses that proponents of eternal suffering point to, are the seven times Jesus talked about "weeping and gnashing of teeth", about which there are two separate points to be made.

1) Gnashing. According to several English dictionaries, the word Gnash means to express a strong emotion, usually rage

    If you say that someone is gnashing their teeth, you mean they are angry or frustrated about something. [English Collins Dictionary]

    to show you are angry or annoyed about something bad that you cannot do anything to stop [thefreedictionary.com]

    "to grind or strike the teeth together, a grinding or grating together of the teeth in rage or anguish." [Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary]

    "to strike together or 'grind' the teeth, esp. from rage or anguish, to strike the teeth together, as in rage or anguish [The Oxford English Dictionary (Vol. IV, page 244) ]

Gnashing of teeth is consistently a description of anger in Scripture. It is used several times in the Old Testament, always to express the idea of an enemy that is ferocious

    He hath torn me in his wrath, and persecuted me; He hath gnashed upon me with his teeth: Mine adversary sharpeneth his eyes upon me. [Job 16:9]

    Like the profane mockers in feasts, They gnashed upon me with their teeth. [Psalms 35:16]

    The wicked plotteth against the just, And gnasheth upon him with his teeth. [Psalms 37:12]

    The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; He shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: The desire of the wicked shall perish. [Psalms 112:10]

    All thine enemies have opened their mouth wide against thee; They hiss and gnash the teeth; they say, We have swallowed her up; Certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it. [Lamentations 2:16]

In the New Testament, the word translated gnashing is the Greek brugmos, derived from the verb brucho, which means to grate the teeth in pain, or rage. Brugmos is used by no one else in the New Testament, but Jesus (in the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" sayings).

Brucho, on the other hand, is only used once in the New Testament. When Stephen was allowed to answer the trumped up charge of blasphemy, he accused the council of being stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, and resisting the Holy Spirit. Stephen also said they received the law but did not keep it, and were betrayers and murderers of the "Righteous One". [Acts 7:51-53]. Verse 54 goes on to say

    Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed (Gr. brucho) on him with their teeth.

This is a significant passage because it sheds light on the term "gnashing of teeth." Stephen's persecutors immediately went on to stone him to death so, obviously, they were filled with rage, not remorse, which completely agrees with the Old Testament portrayal of "gnashing", and the English dictionary's definition of the word.

While there is no question that Jesus said the people in outer darkness were also weeping, people weep for many reasons. When the two emotions are combined, one gets the impression that the damned cry bitter tears, and grind their teeth in fury.

2) The Circumstances.
If one were to make a list of the seven times Jesus used the phrase weeping and gnashing of teeth, there are obvious differences between the conditions in which people do so. In three instances the person(s) were thrown into "outer darkness".

    but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 8:12]

    Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 22:13]

    And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 25:30]

In two other verses, they were cast into "the furnace of fire".

    and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 13:42]

    and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 13:50]

In one instance the person was "cut asunder".

    and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 24:51]  

 The final one says nothing about the physical conditions surrounding the ones weeping, except that they were cast "without".

    There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and yourselves cast forth without. [Luke 13:28]

Anyone on a witness stand, in any court in the country, making contradictory statements like this, would not only be called to task, but certainly would not be taken seriously. Therefore, if Jesus literally meant both "outer darkness" and "the furnace of fire", both of which cannot exist simultaneously, then it becomes very difficult to trust Him, and we can safely ignore most, if not all, of what He said.

Or, does the fault lie with us?

The Bible uses a variety of literary genres. We have to recognize the characteristics of each in order to interpret the text properly. For example, parables cannot be treated as history, and poetry/apocalyptic literature, with it's generous use of symbolism, cannot be treated as straightforward narrative.

In other words, since we can safely take for granted that Jesus was not contradicting Himself, the option that we are left with is that He was making a point, and not literally describing future conditions.

Which brings us to Jesus' parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus which, most assume, is a literal description of hell.

Continue On To PART IV... Click HERE


End Notes
[9] Greek Version... http://www.21stcenturysaints.com/resources/APOC_PETER.pdf. 
Ethiopic version... http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/apocalypsepeter-roberts.html

[10] Apocalypse of Paul. Scanned and Edited by Joshua Williams Northwest Nazarene College, 1995. Wesley Center Online.
http://wesley.nnu.edu/sermons-essays-books/noncanonical-literature/apocalypse-of-paul/

[11] Jonathan Edwards. The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners. http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/je-justice.htm

[12] William G. T. Shedd. W. G. T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886; reprint, Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1980), [13] Jeremy K. Moritz HELL: Eternal Torment or Complete Annihilation?
http://jeremyandchristine.com/articles/eternal.php

 

Footnote 3... Forty Nine New Testament Verses that, In One Way or The Other, Speak of "Death" as Being The Fate of The Unsaved [All Emphasis Added]

1. To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; To guide our feet into the way of peace.  [Luke 1:79]

2. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.  [John 5:24]

3. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my word, he shall never see death.  [John 8:51]

4. The Jews said unto him, Now we know that thou hast a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my word, he shall never taste of death.  [John 8:52]

5. who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them. [Romans 1:32]

6. Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned: - [Romans 5:12]

7. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.  [Romans 5:14]

8. For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.  [Romans 5:17]

9. that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Romans 5:21]

10. Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [Romans 6:3]

11. We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.  [Romans 6:4]

12. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection;  [Romans 6:5]

13. knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him. [Romans 6:9]

14. Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  [Romans 6:16]

15. What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.  [Romans 6:21]

16. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  [Romans 6:23]

17. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.  [Romans 7:5]

18. and the commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death: [Romans 7:10]

19. Did then that which is good become death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; - that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.  [Romans 7:13]

20. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?  [Romans 7:24]

21. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.  [Romans 8:2]

22. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: [Romans 8:6]

23. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  [Romans 8:38]

24. whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; [1 Corinthians 3:22]

25. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. [1 Corinthians 15:21]

26. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.  [1 Corinthians 15:26]

27. But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. [1 Corinthians 15:54]

28. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? [1 Corinthians 15:55]

29. The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law:  [1 Corinthians 15:56]

30. yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead:  [2 Corinthians 1:9]

31. who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver: on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us; [2 Corinthians 1:10]

32. to the one a savor from death unto death; to the other a savor from life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? [2 Corinthians 2:16]

33. But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: [2 Corinthians 3:7]

34. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.  [2 Corinthians 7:10]

35. but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,  [2 Timothy 1:10]

36. But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man. [Hebrews 2:9]

37. Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;  [Hebrews 2:14]

38. and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. [Hebrews 2:15]

39. Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear,  [Hebrews 5:7]

40. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.  [James 1:15]

41. let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.  [James 5:20]

42. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. [1 John 3:14]

43. If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request.  [1 John 5:16]

44. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.  [1 John 5:17]

45. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.  [Revelation 2:11]

46. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.  [Revelation 20:6]

47. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.  [Revelation 20:14]

48. and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.  [Revelation 21:4]

49. But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.  [Revelation 21:8] [PLACE IN TEXT]

 

Lake-of-Fire-Back

Hell Part I

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