Pardon me for the interruption, as by now, we were to be hearing from Jesus, of what He had to say on the topic of “hell and eternal punishment.”
I considered bypassing this article altogether. I may yet wish I had. It seems though that it’d be unfair to neglect a couple of questions that linger in the web of this complex and very confusing subject without a brief interrogation of that much neglected portion of our Bible, the Old Testament.
Does anything or anyone recorded in the first thirty-nine give us evidence or awareness for our earning eternal torment because of sin, and due to Adam’s rebellion in the garden?
I don’t mean to imply something here. My motives hopefully are pure… well, as pure as the motives of a sin-stained man can be.
I simply struggle with the warning God gave to Adam. You remember, “On the day that you eat from the tree I told you not to eat from, you will be cast into the lake of fire, a place where the worm never dies, and the torment never ends.”
No, you know as well as I, that is not what God said. He said, “…dying thou dost die.” I don’t mean to downplay the effect of Adam’s sin as the entire creation suffered violently and the effects reverberate for as long as there is time, and it took the coming of the Son of God to reverse the penalty of his rebellion, but…
Doesn’t it seem this would have been a good place to mention hell? If this was the punishment incurred for the eating of the fruit and for all of humanity who followed after him?
I’m no master of the Old Testament. I’m no master of anything. At best, my efforts are dilettantish, but can anyone find any reference in the Old testament at all for this place known as hell?
I pause for a moment to allow my King James friends to gather their ammunition. And as expected, in rapid fire succession, the verses assail me; at least thirty times, this term is used in this translation. “So what do you say to that mt?”
I agree the word is there. The problem lies in how the translators chose when and where to use the word “hell” and when they chose instead “death or grave.”
What I mean is that the Hebrew word Sheol, translated all of the above, in the King James translation is rendered “hell” when a wicked person happens to die, and a lot of nicer words whenever the godly pass on from this life. In the original Hebrew, the same word is used to render hell, death, and grave.
The Psalmist could declare, “The wicked shall be turned into hell (Sheol; 9:17),” and Job could cry out, “O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave (Sheol; 14:13).”
The issue here is that the translators of the King James version weren’t inspired writers of Scripture. They were translators. So how did they know when and where to substitute our word hell and when and where to use the much kinder word, death or grave?
Maybe I’m being presumptuous but I wonder if they were being presumptuous? Rather than allowing the Word to say what it says, were they instead rewriting it through years of religious influence?
The better question may be “does the New Testament make clear what seems so unclear in the Old?” and “Do we have a continuous record of the Church’s understanding of the doctrine of hell?”
Up next, a look at the words of Jesus regarding hell (I really do intend to get there), beginning with a story/ parable that plainly seems to warn of this eternal place of torment. Any thoughts on the Old Testament’s seemingly silent stance on hell?