It is important that we defend God’s reputation when it comes to the issue of Hell. If Hell according to the Bible is an unending, suffering place where people go after death for their personal beliefs, then God is no different than the god of terrorists who are sadistic torturers. A loving God would not force anyone to live with them after the grave, but a loving God who created freedom yet tortures you for your beliefs is a contradiction.
The OT says nothing about where people go after the grave.
The word Hell is an English translation for the Hebrew and Greek words Sheol and Gehenna. We know what the Bible says about Hell when determining what these two words refer to in the Bible. The Hebrew word Sheol is seldom translated any more with the English word Hell. Sheol is referred to as a place of darkness – the grave – where all go regardless of beliefs. Job, called a very righteous man in God’s eyes, expressed a desire to go to Sheol to escape tremendous suffering (Job 10:21-22).
Gehenna is the Greek word translated as Hell in the NT.
It is used by Jesus eleven times in four conversations (Mt. 5:22, 29, 30; Mt. 10:28 (i.e. Luke 12:5); Mt. 18:9 (i.e. Mk 9:43, 45, 47); Mt. 23: 15, 33). Matthew’s Jewish audience was most familiar with the history behind Gehenna. Gehenna was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter where Israeli children were burned as sacrifices to false gods (Jer. 7:30-31; 19:2-5). Gehenna clearly illustrated the horries of physical death.
Jesus used Gehenna to explain spiritual death is just as tragic. Matthew 5:29 best illustrates this: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in Hell (Gehenna).” Jesus warns that lust can lead toward the tragedy of adultery – betrayal of one’s partner and children causing the breakup of the family. Jesus wasn’t suggesting lust or adultery dooms one never to enter Heaven after death. Spiritual death – living a self-centered life – is no less tragic than physical death.
Jesus didn’t think scaring the Hell out of people lead to authentic living.
Jesus simply encouraged avoiding a life full of regrets by living an unselfish life. Jesus focused more on what leads to true happiness on earth than our destination after the grave. Jesus when asked about eternal life focused on the present – love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-28). No one is going to Heaven if such actions are required according to God’s standards. Jesus desperately tried to convince people life is too short to not focus on living a loving life.
The Bible does assures us that a faith in God will lead to Heaven where our bodies are transformed (Philip. 3:20). Jesus did promise the thief on the Cross he would enter paradise so there is hope even if full of regrets. But, the Bible focuses more on our lives here on earth that can lead to a life not full of regrets when looking back. After we die the Bible speaks of trusting God for justice for victims as well as believing in a merciful God full of a thousand chances.
The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.
Then, only the book of Revelation can be used to suggest Hell is real. The writer is speaking of events in their lifetime (Rev 1:1; 22:6), not some future Armageddon. References to the lake of fire are surely symbolical to warn against evil behaviors. God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). There is no hope for those who perpetuate evil caring only about themselves. A book clearly full of symbolic language, most understandable and applicable to the author’s immediate audience, mustn’t be used to contradict the rest of the Bible. The Bible does not say those on the wrong side of certain beliefs on earth are destined to burn forever in a place called Hell.
Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience.
Does God not know what we know? Fear only leads to concealing or doing what should be expected. Encouragement from God, parents, and friends is what leads to life transformation to obtain higher than just non-bad standards. The word Hell in the Bible is clearly a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Scriptures only say after death that all are judged by our merciful God. No such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. God not only respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, but God does not torture people after death for such decisions. God only seeks a relationship to inspire you to be the kind of person you deep down desire to be.