Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Literal Hell

Valley of Hinnom, c. 1900
I was accused recently of not believing in a literal hell.  I find it interesting that I could be so misunderstood.

When Jesus spoke about hell, the word he used was Gehenna (Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47, Luke 12:5).

Gehenna's meaning literally means  the "Valley of the son of Hinnom". Some believe that in Jesus' day it was the location of a garbage dump that had fires continually burning to consume the filth and cadavers thrown in it (others question the burning garbage dump explanation).

Some Jews of Jesus' day held some spiritual beliefs about this literal place called Gehenna as well. Gehenna was viewed as the place of punishment or destruction of the wicked. Gehenna was considered a Purgatory-like place where the wicked go to suffer until they had atoned for their sins. It was stated that the maximum amount of time a sinner could spend in Gehenna was one year, with the exception of five people who are there for all of eternity.

I believe Jesus believed in a literal place called Gehenna.  He spoke about fires of Gehenna, and spoke about bodies being thrown into it.  The way he talked about Gehenna makes it sound like it was a bad place that nobody wanted to end up in.

I don't know if Jesus' had similar spiritual views about Gehenna as some other Jews of his day held.

But I do assume that Jesus believed in the literal Gehenna, and he possibly held some of the non-literal views other Jews of that time held.

Other New Testament passages frequently contrasts eternal life for some with death, destruction, and perishing for others.  It seems to me that most Christians believe in literal 'eternal life', but don't accept that death, destruction, or perishing in those same verses should be taken as literally.

So I believe there was a literal place called Gehenna, and tend to lean towards an understanding of a literal 'eternal life' for some, and literally not eternal life for others.

So feel free to accuse me of believing in a literal reading of Scripture in this case. :)

See also:


BV1 said...

Good insight Jon. Luke 16:19-31 makes it very clear also, literally. Sometimes people choose to question the medium to change the message, presenting the medium of translation as a form of linguistical context in an effort to "lose" an unfavourable message. Linguistical context is not scriptural context, and passages like this one in Luke leave no room for misinterpretation. I put my faith in His word, as it is living, active and piercing, unlike any dictionary. (Hebrews 4:12)

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the comment BV1. I can't say I have a complete grasp of how the story of Luke 16:19-31 fits with most Christian afterlife theories. I find it interesting that Jesus here uses the term Hades instead of Gehenna like He uses elsewhere. Hades could have connections to Greek mythology, or with the Hebrew concept of Sheol.

Steve Martin said...

Whatever it is….wherever it is…it won't be pretty. And it does exist because our Lord Jesus spoke of it.

But our message is, our focus is, the love of Christ who loves us and died for us, that we might be His.


Jonathan said...

Thanks for the gracious response. I agree that we are to be known for our love (His love).