The word hell is often used by Catholics, Protestants and Pentecostals to explain the coming punishment and it scares a lot of people. When we open our Bibles we do find the word “hell” and therefore it is easy to assume that this concept of “hell” is biblically correct, but the common interpretation of this word is from Babylon, and not from the truth that Abraham’s children were given. The Bible teaches that “the dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and “they shall be as ashes under their feet” (Malachi 4:3) . There is a penalty for sin which is death. The Bible compares the death of the ungodly with the death of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1:7). These cities were burnt by fire and brimstone from heaven. Today only the ash and the brimstone remain, but nothing is burning now. The fire has stopped. Eternal life was to be given to the faithful, but those that would not follow Christ would be sentenced to death, meaning they would not receive “eternal life” in hell, but that they would become as if they never had been. When we find the word “hell” among the words of Christ, it is worth noting that He spoke within the Jewish mindset and not the pagan. For He said,
“all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44).
Christ came to confirm that what they had been taught through the law and the prophets was correct. The word Christ used which is translated to “hell”, is “gehenna”, which is an area outside Jerusalem’s city wall where they burnt garbage. Sometimes the fire burnt for days until there was nothing left to burn. The use of the word is often misunderstood today. A fire that cannot be extinguished until everything is burnt up, is incorrectly interpreted as a fire that will never stop burning. To be able to burn man for eternity, God has to recreate the man that is burning over and over again, or to make him inconsumable, but this is not in harmony with the word of God.The word “forever” is used in the Bible, but the Hebrew expression that it is translated from does not necessarily mean ‘a never ending period of time’. It can also mean ‘a limited period of time’. It depends in what context the word is used. In the story of the prophet Jonah who was swallowed by a great fish, it says that “her bars was about me for ever” (Jonah 2:6), but Jonah was only there 3 days and 3 nights. The last argument used to maintain the pagan interpretation of hell in the Christian faith, is that the apostles have used the Greek word, “hades”. Hades was the Greek word for the kingdom of death, where there was said to be fire and misery. After an ancient copy of the gospel of Matthew was discovered, it has been speculated that the gospels and the New Testament writings were originally written in Hebrew. The most important thing is not what word was used in the Greek, but what Christ and His apostles really believed. They were Jews not Greeks. They had a Jewish understanding of death, and not Greek. The Old Testament is clear that the loss of eternal life is final, the decision is eternal and that the dead will be burnt up. The doctrine of hell as we know it among Christians today is a myth that originates in Babylon. A myth that the Greeks and the Romans subsequently adopted into their own beliefs. Even though myths often changed or developed, the Babylonians believed in a under-world that was populated by demons. (Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, The British Museum Press, 1992, p.63).
They believed that the demons were placed there by the gods to punish the sinners. The Bible on the other hand says the Devil is in opposition to God, and not someone who works with Him. Of the Babylonian teaching it is written,
“The underworld is always described as in complete darkness, dusty and unpleasant. All the dead, without exception, wander there, thirsting for water and having only dust to eat… Apart from these spirits of the dead (gidim), the underworld is also the home of the dead gods, of some demons (who are described as the ‘offspring of arali’ and who issue from the underworld to bring tribulation to mankind…” (Ibid. p.108).
In the Sumerian poem “Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld” a conversation is described;
“between Gilgames and the ghost of his dead servant Enkidu which makes it clear that while life in the underworld is most unattractive, it can be made slightly more tolerable if surviving relatives make regular offerings to the dead of food and drink, so that it is desirable to leave as many descendants as possible. Those who have no children have a hard time indeed after death, while those who do not even receive proper burial are worst off: the person who died in a fire or whose body lies in the desert does not even have a gidim in the under-world.” (Ibid. p.181).
This Babylonian myth must have created a lot of sorrow among the poorer families and those who were dying and did not have a family. In the same way this Babylonian myth was passed down and made to fit with Christian doctrine by the Catholic Church. The doctrine of purgatory has created problems for millions of poor people and for those without families during the Middle Ages. It supposed that the families of the deceased could reduce their time in purgatory by their own good deeds, and by paying indulgences to the Church, but if they did not have Catholic family members,
“Roman Catholic theologians are not in agreement as to the nature of the suffering in purgatory. Some teach that the pain of purgatory is chiefly a sense of loss in being separated from God. Others, following Thomas Aquinas, teach that souls in purgatory suffer intense and excruciating physical pain from fire” (The Gospel According to Rome, James G. McCarthy, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1995).“Another way in which the living can help the dead is by acquiring special credits, called indulgences, that cancel out temporal punishment [1032, 1479]. Roman Catholicism teaches that the church has the power to dispense indul-gences from a vast reservoir of merit called the treasury of the Church [1476, 1477]” (Ibid p.94).
It was a tough time for those who did not get enough attention after their death or for those who did not receive a proper burial in the time of Babylon and in the Catholic Church during the Dark Ages. Christ knew of these pagan doctrines that flourished when He walked the earth. His attitude was of a different character, because He knew those things claimed by the heathen were not true. There was no reason to worry for the dead. He said, “Let the dead bury the dead” (Luke 9:60). God hid the burial place of Moses from the children of Israel in a time when they had been guilty of worshiping Baal and Peor (worshiping the dead). Therefore the tomb of Moses was hidden from them so they would not think that, even though Moses had been a godly man, they could pray to him or make his grave a place of worship. In Babylon there was a belief which had influenced everyone except the Jews. The Babylonian hell was an underworld with god’s or demons ruling in it. A teaching which today has become Christian. “The notion of an underworld peopled by terrifying demonic beings, which foreshadowed the medieval hell, seems to have been a theological invention of the first millennium B.C.” (Gods, Demons and Symbols of ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, The British Museum Press, 1992, p.28).
What the Bible said about Hell and Sodom in the Bible, and how it reveals what “hell” is really about: