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Did Jesus Warn About Hell?

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Atheists and pretend-Christian theologians are always ready to downgrade or destroy biblical thinking, even though their efforts are usually so blatantly ignorant or willingly ruinous. And if there is nothing new to think about, they resurrect older arguments. Truth doesn’t matter!

One of the arguments doing the rounds right now is that Jesus did not warn anyone about the existence of hell… therefore, hell doesn’t exist. And if it doesn’t exist, Jesus died for no reason. Which means the Gospel is useless and of no value, and sin is an illusion. So, did Jesus warn about hell? Yes, He did!

A Prime Text

A major text proving Christ spoke about hell is Luke 16:19-31. The usual Pharisees were deriding Christ over the matter of divorce. This led on to the account of the rich man and the beggar. The beggar died and angels took him into “Abraham’s bosom”. Then, from verse 22-on, we are told,

“22 … the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.”

There is an obvious comparison here and the use by Christ of typical Hebraic argumentation! The poor man, who was faithful to God, was taken into “Abraham’s bosom”. That is, he laid his head on Abraham’s chest in an attitude of love and agreement; he was in the same place - Paradise. That is, he entered the ‘good’ side of Hades/Sheol/Paradise, where God’s chosen go at death; a place of blessedness awaiting resurrection.

Because Christ’s intent was to compare the end of those who are not acceptable to God and those who are, Christ then said that the rich man, so reliant on his own efforts and his wealth, went to hell. It is there in black and white! In this text, “hell” is hades, a locative noun – indicating hell to be a real place. Another name for this place is Orcus… death… and hell. If we follow the Jewish thinking of the time, we find this place to be divided into two distinct areas – the dark miserable part known to most people who die, where they roam without solace, and the other area occupied by those whom God loves and accepts. This appears to be ‘Paradise’, a place where the saved go before their resurrection to Heaven. Either way, Christ is here referring to the area given over to the unforgiven and lost… Orcus. In biblical Greek this is a dark and miserable place.

Whether the word is sheol, orcus or hades, they all mean that place known as Orcus, “the region of departed spirits of the lost”. Some translators are unhappy with these meanings, but Christ Himself calls the place ‘hell’ (possibly using the word sheol, hades or orcus). Now, whether or not translators are happy, Christ clearly indicates that the place where the rich man was sent was horrible! Thus, what translators are unhappy about is, well, irrelevant. As for the word meaning simply ‘the grave or death’, well, it is not a good translation, because hades et al appears to be a place where souls are active in some way. And, the doomed are kept separate from the saved souls in paradise.

Hell is never said to be a place of permanent residence of the dead, but a transitory place where they await being sent to “the doom of Gehenna”. In fact, ONLY Christ used the word ‘hell’ just four times. So, to say He never mentioned hell (et al) is to admit to ignorance or deception. The text tells us that the rich man in hades was in torments (basanos), meaning acute torture and pain in hell, a place of retribution. In the parable the rich man looked up (implying separatedness) and saw Lazarus, the poor man, alongside Abraham (that is, in Paradise). He ‘looked up’, because in Jewish thought the doomed enter the lowest part of the earth or hell.

The rich man called out in anguish, that Abraham would send Lazarus with just a dip of water on his finger, so as to give him respite. Christ mentions that the reason for this was that the rich man was in a place where he was covered by flames and was in immense unyielding pain and torture. Abraham, unlike so many foolish Christians, denied the request, for, as he said, the rich man had denied God all the time he was alive. It was why he was tormented – an indication that hell means suffering. Abraham added that he could not send Lazarus anyway, because the gulf between hell and paradise was totally separate and no-one can leave one to go to the other. The rich man asked if his living relatives could be warned of the horrors of hell, which he calls the “place of torment”. The text carries on, but we are left in no doubt at all, that Jesus was speaking of the horrors of hell! There was no real need to keep emphasising hell, because all Jews knew about it as a place of torment, a fact.

Jesus also warned of hell as a place of perdition in Matthew 11:23, 16:18; and Luke 10:15 (a repeat of the Matthew text). The comparative quotes are intended to show hell to be a place of terror and unending suffering. So – how can ignorant people tell us Jesus never mentioned hell? Know your Bible!! 

© September 2020

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom