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Hell


Elessar78

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Provocative title.

My church does this thing called Theology on Tap for young adults. Basically, meet at a bar/restaurant and a priest talks and discusses Theology with the group. Obviously, most of it came from a Catholic perspective but there was a lot of "historical" tie ins from the Jewish concepts of life after death.

Some interesting things...

-The Catholic Church has never officially declared that any specific individual is in hell.

-There is a lot of debate as to how many people/souls are actually IN hell. Saints say there are a lot and others say not that many.

-The Church doesn't actually acknowledge that hell is this fiery pit, but rather just a lack of relationship with God, being estranged from God. And Heaven the complete opposite.

-Talked about the Jewish concept of Sheol, The Land of the Dead, where the Messiah will one day come and release them back into Paradise (from which Adam and Eve were cast out, and kept out by an angel with a flaming sword). There's a sculpture in downtown DC, near the mall I think, of a flaming sword.

-The final discussion point was if God was solely in charge of Salvation or did we, having been given free will, have the ultimate say in it. For example, come Judgement Day Mother Theresa is standing before God, can she refuse salvation?

I thought it'd be interesting to hear the other Christian perspectives on Hell.

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I don't know if it's how I hear things differently over the years or if the Catholic message has evolved, but I find that priests I've heard reconcile biblical teachings with reality by implying metaphor rather than literalism. They don't come right out and say that, but that's the impression I get. Again, maybe I'm just hearing things differently as my own worldview evolves.

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Meeting in bars to keep the Baptists there quiet? ;)

I agree only God,not the church,knows who is in hell

What hell is and which level people might be in is a interesting way to kill time,but it goes back to the first answer.

Sheol is misused imo and I believe in a distinction between Sheol and or Gehenna

The notion of a holding places separate from whatever heaven and hell actually are is something I have no problem with(is paradise really heaven or the grave hell?....one of them how many angels can dance thingies:))

I'm a free will believer,but I don't believe you can ever truly reject what you already accepted

nor lose it

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To me, heaven and hell are both places that cannot be described. They are so wonderful/terrible that they go beyond human comprehension. Hell is separation from God and all his creation. We don't know what that's like because we are in the middle of part of his creation on Earth. Hell is not of God and, therefore, we cannot know what's there.

Heaven's on the opposite end of the spectrum. We are in the very presence of God, which is something so incredible we can't even begin to imagine what's there.

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I wanted to ask about Gehenna but didn't want to be "that guy" . . . there wasn't a good segueway into it. In all reality, it wasn't a bar per se, it was a restaurant. I don't think we'd ever have it in a straight up bar-bar. And most people kept it respectable, one drink for most, two for a few. Me? I hit a triple. Would've gone for the cycle but my wife gave me an elbow in the side.

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It's an odd concept to wrap my head around, I wasn't raised in the church and go infrequently now, and have read very little of the bible, though I do believe in God. My impression from what little I've read is that if you take the bible literally, it seems like the requirements to avoid it are damn near impossible for anyone to achieve. In some way, I want at least a form of it to exist so that there is penance for those on a Hitler like level. "Not having a relationship with God" seems, from a human perspective, awfully weak since so many people don't believe in God anyway.

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It's an odd concept to wrap my head around, I wasn't raised in the church and go infrequently now, and have read very little of the bible, though I do believe in God. My impression from what little I've read is that if you take the bible literally, it seems like the requirements to avoid it are damn near impossible for anyone to achieve. In some way, I want at least a form of it to exist so that there is penance for those on a Hitler like level. "Not having a relationship with God" seems, from a human perspective, awfully weak since so many people don't believe in God anyway.

That's how it hit me too. I was expecting fire and brimstone but got this and I really don't know what to think about it. I can imagine that being outside the grace of God would be pretty hellish, as in terms of human physical, psychological, emotional suffering and anguish.

---------- Post added October-28th-2011 at 10:18 AM ----------

I'm probably an oddball Christian in my beliefs of heaven and hell. To me its simple, Heaven is going home to God for eternity, the state of mind that we call bliss/perfection. Hell, is anything that isnt heaven.

I think my biggest fear about the afterlife, isn't necessarily eternal torture and suffering if I don't live right. But that it's the darkness. That's it. You sit, aware, in darkness for eternity. Scares the **** out of me. I was probably between 6 or 8 years old when this crossed my mind.

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I think my biggest fear about the afterlife, isn't necessarily eternal torture and suffering if I don't live right. But that it's the darkness. That's it. You sit, aware, in darkness for eternity. Scares the **** out of me. I was probably between 6 or 8 years old when this crossed my mind.

Honestly, that's how I imagine Hell to be. Just completely alone for all eternity.

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That's how it hit me too. I was expecting fire and brimstone but got this and I really don't know what to think about it. I can imagine that being outside the grace of God would be pretty hellish, as in terms of human physical, psychological, emotional suffering and anguish.

Right but my argument is this, and I'm making a broad assumption that in the afterlife, you still have human reasoning, etc. Suppose your average atheist dies and is told he can't enter heaven or be close to God because he had no relationship with him on earth. Would he care, since he didn't believe in the first place? Would he truly suffer emotionally or psychologically? And honestly, is his sin as great as that of a child rapist/murderer? To me, someone like that doesn't deserve fire and brimstone. So if there's an in-between sort of place, does it mirror this world or something similar? In which case, again, would they really care?

Like I said before, I do believe in God but am not a dedicated Christian, don't go to church much, don't really do a lot of "good works." I'm sure I haven't done nearly enough to get into heaven, and since I'm genuinely curious to know what the best the afterlife has to offer is like, it would hurt to not make it there. But I can't imagine I'd be sent to a fire and brimstone sort of existence when I live a generally good life, treat my wife and kids well, take care of my family, etc.

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It's kind of funny how it's acceptable and politically correct to talk about god and use his name in speeches, but if someone in power talks about "satan" or the "devil" they're not taken seriously (by most people).

The idea of a God (of some sort) is rather widely accepted,whereas the one of the devil is less so ....and of course abused or invoked in non PC ways.

positivity is always more PC and acceptable to the masses

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Provocative title.

My church does this thing called Theology on Tap for young adults. Basically, meet at a bar/restaurant and a priest talks and discusses Theology with the group. Obviously, most of it came from a Catholic perspective but there was a lot of "historical" tie ins from the Jewish concepts of life after death.

Some interesting things...

-The Catholic Church has never officially declared that any specific individual is in hell.

That's because the Catholic church basically teaches a form of universalism, in that everyone goes to purgatory and then after a time they will go on to their reward.

-The Church doesn't actually acknowledge that hell is this fiery pit, but rather just a lack of relationship with God, being estranged from God. And Heaven the complete opposite.

That's because the "fiery pit" idea comes more from Medieval lore than from the Bible. What's more is that many affirm what is referred to as annihilationism, where the lost are destroyed by "fire" rather than tortured for all eternity, as the idea of a torture chamber in God's castle seems repugnant.

-Talked about the Jewish concept of Sheol, The Land of the Dead, where the Messiah will one day come and release them back into Paradise (from which Adam and Eve were cast out, and kept out by an angel with a flaming sword). There's a sculpture in downtown DC, near the mall I think, of a flaming sword.

This is where it gets fun, because here is where we start talking about the early Christian and ancient Jewish understandings what happens when we die, and truth be told it looks very different than what is currently taught about the "after-life" in most American churches.

-The final discussion point was if God was solely in charge of Salvation or did we, having been given free will, have the ultimate say in it. For example, come Judgement Day Mother Theresa is standing before God, can she refuse salvation?

Interesting question, although it seems moot in that who would refuse?

Ok, now that I got a couple of my thoughts about the statements that you posted out of the way. Here goes what I understand about the "after-life" and Hell.

Sheol

First I think it is right that we start with the ancient Hebrew concept of Sheol which was understood as the "place of the dead" where all people go when they die, good or bad. (Gen 37:35) Later in the New Testament we hear about this place ghenna, which doesn't refer so much to a disembodied plain but instead it refers to the garbage dump in the Kidron Valley just outside of Jerusalem, where the fires were said to be burning continually. When the idols were cast out of the Temple in Jerusalem during the reforms they were taken here to be burned and destroyed, this was also a likely location of the child sacrifices to Molech. As such it rightly developed a fair amount of stigma attached to the site, to the point that merely mentioning the name would evoke all sorts of negative ideas of evil and burning. It is more from the idea of ghenna that the Christian concept of "Hell" developed, moreso than from Sheol, but for most people the two are mistakenly rolled into one concept not because they want to ignore the differences but more due to the fact that they are unaware that the differences exist in the first place.

Resurrection

In my opinion (shared by others as well) the Hebraic/Christian understanding of what The Resurrection will be has been largely lost or ignored by the modern Christian church. What has happened is that the term resurrection as it applies to what the faithful will experience for eternity is an eternal existence in Heaven as spirits in one fashion or another. Yet, there are serious problems with this, as this idea is more rooted in the gnostic (Greek philosophy) idea that the material world (including our bodies) is evil and only our "spirits" are good, and it is our "spirits" that mysterious thing that exists within each of us is what will live on forever with God after we die. Only, that's not what the Bible teaches. Throughout the Gospels we hear references to the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and we find that the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection. Well wait, does that mean that the Sadducees didn't believe in an eternal reward with God in Heaven? On the contrary, that's exactly what they believed...and no more. On the other hand we have the Pharisees who did believe in the resurrection, now we have a problem right? Because if the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection, yet believed in an eternal existence in Heaven, and the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection then resurrection MUST mean something other than our existence in Heaven. Notice in Acts 23:6 (Paul's trial in Jerusalem before the Sanhedrin) how Paul turns the Pharisees and Sadducees against one another

"When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, 'Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.'"

He knew their differences and he knew the fight that this would start between them, so he pitted them against one another on the very issue of the resurrection. So if resurrection is something other than a disembodied existence with God in the ethereal realm of Heaven, what is it? Well, when we look at Jesus and the New Testament accounts of his resurrection by all rights we are correct in understanding that Jesus was resurrected in body albeit his perfected body. He eats, cooks, and breaks bread with his disciples, and most importantly his body is GONE from the tomb, does that mean it evaporated into dust? Far from it, it means that he was resurrected in perfected form. When we talk about Lazarus, or the dead children who were resurrected from the dead we have no issue with the idea that their bodies that were dead were made alive again, and the same holds for Jesus. Yet, due to the heavy Greek gnostic influences, so far as they pertain to our own resurrection, we have gone from apostolic teaching of the resurrection that matched the Pharisees (remembering that Paul was a Pharisee and a good one) to what more closely resembles the Sadducees.

As such in order to right the ship, we need to reinvest in the Pharisaical teaching of the resurrection of the dead in the way it was meant to be understood. That everyone will be resurrected from the dead in their bodies (sea giving up her dead and so forth) to either live with God on the New Earth or to be cast away from God to suffer the 2nd death. People often begin to argue regarding resurrection in their effort to maintain their idea of Heaven, and I always come back to this question;

If, it is as argued, that when we die we "live" forever with God in Heaven, and our bodies remain in the tomb, dead, then what did Paul mean when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

If our bodies remain dead, then death has not been defeated. Yet, Paul again established in 2 Timothy 1:10 "but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." This is one of the things that the New Testament is insistent upon and that is the faithful will be rewarded with life, and in order to maintain “eternity in Heaven” as the ultimate destination, then it is necessary to completely redefine not only resurrection but also life itself. Seeing how absurd that notion is what makes much more sense in reading the texts is that the New Testament writers and the early Christians believed in and fully understood that the eternal destination for those in faith was the resurrection and life in the New Earth as the New Jerusalem!

John 5:29 and will come out-- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

John 11:24-25 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,

Acts 4:2 much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead.

Acts 17:31-32 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, "We will hear you again about this."

Acts 23:8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.)

Acts 24:15 I have a hope in God-- a hope that they themselves also accept-- that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Acts 26:23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles."

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

1 Corinthians 15:12-13 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;

1 Corinthians 15:21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;

1 Corinthians 15:42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.

Philippians 3:10-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

2 Timothy 2:17-18 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place.

Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Hebrews 11:35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-- not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Revelation 20:4-6 Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.

If we can read these verses about the resurrection of the faithful in some way other than an actual physical bodily resurrection then we are not teaching the resurrection of the New Testament, but instead we are like Hymenaeus and Philetus in that we have swerved from the truth of the resurrection.

So, what does this mean? Well, first it means that the scriptures are to be taken seriously that there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth and that God’s will dwell with His people in the creation that He has made new (notice he didn’t make new things but instead he made the old things new…restored), and that we the faithful will be resurrected from the dead to LIVE eternally. Truly a life-after-death-after-life existence and not a death-after-life one.

Heaven

So what does this mean for Heaven, well logically this puts the “Heaven” that the dead experience as a temporary place of the dead until the resurrection and judgment, as such it much more closely resembles the ancient Hebrew understanding of Sheol as the place of the dead. This is the place where we go when we are dead, and while we await the resurrection, but it is NOT the eternal place of those in Christ for all of the reasons discussed previously.

Hell

Hell, is a bit more tricky because everything that is said about Hell/Ghenna is figurative and there is no true definitive description given (unlike what we see with the resurrection). Instead the one thing we see is that there is fire, from that people jump off and conclude eternal torment, yet fires consume, and if the idea of Hell/Ghenna is to be followed from the 1st century understanding about the burning garbage dump then that fire is there to consume and destroy, meaning it is not eternal torment, but instead a purging or destroying, truly death, ceasing to exist in any form. As such I tend to lean more closely to annihilationism than I do the idea of eternal torture.

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In Dante's "Divine Comedy" he describes Hell in the first volume (Inferno). Because he too feels that Hell is an absence of God and that God is light and warmth, he describes Hell as being cold. As a matter of fact as you descend into the depths of Hell (he has different levels depending on one's sins), it gets colder and colder until finally you see Satan encased in a block of ice up to his waist. His description of Satan is a winged creature-not the red devil.

When I studied it, I found it very interesting since it goes against our "typical" versoin of Hell being a fiery pit.

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In Dante's "Divine Comedy" he describes Hell in the first volume (Inferno). Because he too feels that Hell is an absence of God and that God is light and warmth, he describes Hell as being cold. As a matter of fact as you descend into the depths of Hell (he has different levels depending on one's sins), it gets colder and colder until finally you see Satan encased in a block of ice up to his waist. His description of Satan is a winged creature-not the red devil.

When I studied it, I found it very interesting since it goes against our "typical" versoin of Hell being a fiery pit.

I don't know if you've seen the Divine Epic (CGI film version) but for someone who's never read the literary version, I found that to be fascinating as well, and that last level is exactly as you describe it.

As for me, I was raised Catholic, but I don't consider myself to be very religous anymore. My perception of Hell somewhat mirrors Dante's Inferno in a way. I've just never felt comfortable with the idea that somewhat who is a good person, but "Never had a relationship with God," Could suffer the same exact fate as a serial killer.

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Right but my argument is this, and I'm making a broad assumption that in the afterlife, you still have human reasoning, etc. Suppose your average atheist dies and is told he can't enter heaven or be close to God because he had no relationship with him on earth. Would he care, since he didn't believe in the first place? Would he truly suffer emotionally or psychologically? And honestly, is his sin as great as that of a child rapist/murderer? To me, someone like that doesn't deserve fire and brimstone. So if there's an in-between sort of place, does it mirror this world or something similar? In which case, again, would they really care?

Like I said before, I do believe in God but am not a dedicated Christian, don't go to church much, don't really do a lot of "good works." I'm sure I haven't done nearly enough to get into heaven, and since I'm genuinely curious to know what the best the afterlife has to offer is like, it would hurt to not make it there. But I can't imagine I'd be sent to a fire and brimstone sort of existence when I live a generally good life, treat my wife and kids well, take care of my family, etc.

Yeah, we didn't even cover "the space in between" last night. Which according to the priest was a completely different topic. That's an interesting take about the atheist. Who knows? Can a child rapist/murderer be accepted back into the grace of God if he repents toward the end of his life? Is God that magnanimous? But it's hopeless for an atheist who has lived a "good life" but refused believe?

As a kid, I always wondered what happens to the people who didn't encounter God? It's one thing to deny him after you've heard of him, but what if you're in some tribe in the Amazon or just in a different country before missionaries arrived? Are you destined for hell/separation from God? Seemed unfair. Someone on ES actually explained this to me in the past.

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