What the Bible Says About Hell, Part 2 (My Commentary)

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Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

This is part of a series that begins with a roundup of Biblical passages about hell and some brief comments from Glenn Miller here:

It is a good idea to set out objectives at the beginning so what I am looking for in my exegesis are

  1. Any indications of injustice done to either those sentenced to hell, or those allowed into heaven i.e. whether the people are being treated as they deserve
  2. Any right actions taken in the sentencing process.
  3. Any hints about God’s character

A passage from Daniel

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2

This verse talks about the fate of humans at the final judgment. It describes the dead as ‘asleep’ and says that some of them will awake to shame and everlasting contempt. I do not know whether by ‘sleep’ the writer wishes to say that the dead are unconscious or he was merely emphasizing their location – buried in the ground.

“The word “contempt” (דראון derâ’ôn) means, properly, a repulse; and then aversion, abhorrence. The meaning here is aversion or abhorrence – the feeling with which we turn away from what is loathsome, disgusting, or hateful. Then it denotes the state of mind with which we contemplate the vile and the abandoned; and in this respect expresses the emotion with which the wicked will be viewed on the final trial.” – Barnes Notes on the Bible

Glenn Miller is right in saying that this says nothing about mind-numbing torture or even torture at all. It merely says that those ruled to be on the wrong side of the law will experience shame (as they should) and be looked on with contempt.

Question: The actions committed by those judged to be in the wrong are contemptible, but should that feeling extend to the people themselves at the final judgment?

The Weeping, Gnashing of Teeth and Darkness Passages

“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 8; 11, 12

Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (matt 22.13)

But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’  49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.  50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (matt 24.48ff)

Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (matt 25.28ff)

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.  29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13.28ff)

These passages have in common that the evildoers will be (1) thrown out (2) into the darkness (3) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This fits with what we already know that evildoers will be separated from the rest of the community (as they should be). I do not know what the darkness signifies and I am not inclined to guess, but it is a very mild word with which to describe torture.

The outer (τὸ ἐξώτερον)

The Greek order of words is very forcible. “They shall be east forth into the darkness, the outer (darkness). The picture is of an illuminated banqueting chamber, outside of which is the thick darkness of night. – Vincent’s word studies

Gill’s Exposition of Entire the Bible says “The allusion in the text is, to the customs of the ancients at their feasts and entertainments; which were commonly made in the evening, when the hall or dining room, in which they sat down, was very much illuminated with lamps and torches; but without in the streets, were entire darkness: and where were heard nothing but the cries of the poor, for something to be given them, and of the persons that were turned out as unworthy guests; and the gnashing of their teeth, either with cold in winter nights, or with indignation at their being kept out.”

If that is so, then the dominant theme is exclusion and the people weep and gnash their teeth (not as I can see yet) at some horrible torture, but at being excluded from something so wonderful and being forced to do without it. The passage from Luke especially emphasizes this.

One passage has the wrongdoer being cut into pieces before being thrown outside, which is weird because I can’t see what purpose it would serve. Destruction, perhaps, but you can only read so much into one parable. It might be construed as torture, but it is done before he is thrown out, not afterwards and it is not lasting, but something that is done once. And even so, it still wouldn’t tell us what goes on in hell. Like the passage that has the wrongdoer being tied hand and foot before being thrown out, it might just be about subduing him. It’s too strong a picture to mean nothing. I’m going to move on before I slaughter this parable.

The Weeping, Gnashing of Teeth and Fiery Furnace Passages

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (matt 13.40)

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous  50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 13.47)

Once again, there is the theme of separation and exclusion. The weeds and the bad fish are separated from the crops and the good fish. But in these parables, they are not thrown into darkness, but into a furnace. What happens in the furnace is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” not “screaming and pain” – the same picture used in the previous passages. Now, feel free to disagree but I think the consistent use of “weeping” instead of “screaming” rules out torture in these passages. Weeping is something people do when they’re very sad. Screaming is what they do when they’re being tortured. One can probably come up with a post-hoc rationalization for why weeping would be used to describe a place of torture so go ahead if you feel inclined to.

That still leaves us with what the fire in the picture is about. Like the darkness, I don’t know but there are speculations. For instance, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says:

‘And shall cast them into a furnace of fire,…. Not a material, but a metaphorical one; denoting the wrath of God, which shall fall upon wicked men, and abide upon them to all eternity: which is sometimes called hell fire, sometimes a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; and here a furnace of fire, expressing the vehemency and intenseness of divine wrath, which will be intolerable; in allusion either to Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, or as some think, to the custom of burning persons alive in some countries; or rather, to the burning of chaff and stubble, and the stalks of any unprofitable things that grew in the field (f), for the heating of furnaces, and is the very language of the Jews, who used to compare hell to a furnace;”

I’m not terribly impressed with the explanation, but I’ll go with it.

The “More Bearable” Passages

“I say to you, it will be more bearable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 “But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you.

And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” (Matt 11.23)

Pretty self-explanatory, no? It seems that Jesus is saying that some people will have a worse result of the judgment because they had more evidence and so rejected more evidence, which brings up the question of how the amount of evidence you reject affects your punishment.

The Consolation Passages

And it came about in the twelfth year, on the fifteenth of the month, that the word of the Lord came to me saying, 18 “Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and bring it down, her and the daughters of the powerful nations, to the nether world, with those who go down to the pit; 19  ‘Whom do you surpass in beauty? Go down and make your bed with the uncircumcised.’  20 “They shall fall in the midst of those who are slain by the sword. She is given over to the sword; they have drawn her and all her multitudes away. 21 “The strong among the mighty ones shall speak of him and his helpers from the midst of Sheol, ‘They have gone down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’ 22 “Assyria is there and all her company; her graves are round about her. All of them are slain, fallen by the sword, 23 whose graves are set in the remotest parts of the pit, and her company is round about her grave. All of them are slain, fallen by the sword, who spread terror in the land of the living. 24 “Elam is there and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who went down uncircumcised to the lower parts of the earth, who instilled their terror in the land of the living, and bore their disgrace with those who went down to the pit. 25 “They have made a bed for her among the slain with all her multitude. Her graves are around it, they are all uncircumcised, slain by the sword (although their terror was instilled in the land of the living), and they bore their disgrace with those who go down to the pit; they were put in the midst of the slain. 26 “Meshech, Tubal and all their multitude are there; their graves surround them. All of them were slain by the sword uncircumcised, though they instilled their terror in the land of the living. 27 “Nor do they lie beside the fallen heroes of the uncircumcised, who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war, and whose swords were laid under their heads; but the punishment for their iniquity rested on their bones, though the terror of these heroes was once in the land of the living. 28 “But in the midst of the uncircumcised you will be broken and lie with those slain by the sword. 29 “There also is Edom, its kings, and all its princes, who for all their might are laid with those slain by the sword; they will lie with the uncircumcised, and with those who go down to the pit. 30 “There also are the chiefs of the north, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who in spite of the terror resulting from their might, in shame went down with the slain. So they lay down uncircumcised with those slain by the sword, and bore their disgrace with those who go down to the pit. 31 “These Pharaoh will see, and he will be comforted for all his multitude slain by the sword, even Pharaoh and all his army,” declares the Lord God. 32 “Though I instilled a terror of him in the land of the living, yet he will be made to lie down among the uncircumcised along with those slain by the sword, even Pharaoh and all his multitude,” declares the Lord God. (Ezek 32)”

Once again, the dominant themes are of shame and disgrace faced by Pharaoh and all the other evil kings who have gone to the grave. And note also that Pharaoh is to be ‘comforted’ at having his old enemies there with him (powerless to hurt him, Glenn Miller says). This passage seems to be talking not about the final judgment, but about the first death (which we all die, after which comes judgment).

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day it[Assyria] was brought down to the realm of the dead I covered the deep springs with mourning for it; I held back its streams, and its abundant waters were restrained. Because of it I clothed Lebanon with gloom, and all the trees of the field withered away. 16 I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the realm of the dead to be with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, the well-watered trees, were consoled in the earth below. 17 They too, like the great cedar, had gone down to the realm of the dead, to those killed by the sword, along with the armed men who lived in its shade among the nations. (Ezek 31.16ff)”

This is my favorite passage in this lot because it has God initiating mourning not for some righteous nation, but for Assyria, rebellious Assyria. No Bible reading would be complete without something about God’s beautiful and incomprehensible goodness. [Clears throat] Where were we? Oh, right. So the other trees (kingdoms) who had gone down to the grave (destroyed by Assyria I hear) were comforted by Assyria’s demise. This too seems to speak of the pre-judgment death.

So, What Have We Found?

I found no evidence of torture, but indication that there might be none. The only thing I found which might suggest something of the sort is the image of evildoers being thrown into a furnace, but that does not mean that hell will be hurt any more than the darkness image means it will be dark. Anyone using that to argue for torture in hell would have to defend a literal understanding of the word in the parable (it is a parable after all) and explain how hell can be a fire and dark at the same time.

I found that the dominant effect of being sent to hell expressed in these passages is that the people are separated from God and from others and excluded from the joys of God’s kingdom. They will also experience shame.

I found right things done in the passages – the separation of evildoers from others (for safety) and an expression of God’s love even for rebels in Ezekiel 31.

I did find one disturbing thing. The first is the indication that the wrongdoers will be looked upon with contempt at the last judgment. I am perfectly willing to accept their actions as contemptible, but I am not certain that the feeling should extend to the people themselves. They are beings made in God’s image so unless their actions have somehow turned them into beings worthy of contempt… I suppose it is possible. A child who does a right thing is worthy of praise, so does someone who does something contemptible become worthy of contempt, at least in the absence of repentance?

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Tracy

I’m Tracy

12 thoughts on “What the Bible Says About Hell, Part 2 (My Commentary)”

  1. I was reading this passage in Mark this morning and thought about your study:
    Mark 9:43-48 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
    Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
    And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
    Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
    And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
    Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

    There is also the story of the rich man and Lazarus:
    Luke 16:23,24 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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.

    There is Hell fire which makes them miserable in a bodily way.

    1. Disclaimer: I hate trying to get anything but the stupidly obvious out of parables.

      Thanks for pointing out those two. I read the Lazarus passage, but I didn’t find the one from Mark. The full passage from Mark reads:

      ““If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
      “‘the worms that eat them do not die,
      and the fire is not quenched.’
      Everyone will be salted with fire.
      “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

      I like to interpret parables by figuring out what the major point of the story is and sticking to that. I try as much as possible not to deduce anything from the details because they change when the same point is made in a different parable and so they are probably not meant to be used in that way (look at the passages from Matthew where in parables saying (arguably) the same thing, one has the evildoer being tied up and thrown into darkness, another has him being cut into pieces and others have him being thrown into fire – same point, different illustrations). So, I tend to treat all details in parables as if they were symbolic because most of them usually are.

      That said, the main point of the passage from Mark seems to be that (1)it is better to be in heaven than hell, whatever state you are in when you get to heaven and (2) those who cause Christ’s followers to sin are headed for a fate worse than drowning. I think it is obvious that it is better to be in heaven then hell and death is a better fate than being in hell (even if only because God isn’t there). As for the part about the worms and fires in hell, I would read them as describing hell as a terrible place, but I would not interpret them more literally than that. I’m very uncomfortable with literal readings of parables, especially in a passage that advises us to cut our arms off.

      In summary, I agree with your assessment that the passage from Mark describes hell as a horrible place, but I’m not sure about there being a bodily harm or misery there. Maybe if there was a passage which says something to that effect, but is not a parable. I’ll respond to the other parable later.

    2. Here is the commentary on the Lazarus Story from the Glenn Miller Article. I didn’t link to it earlier. Feel free to tell me what you think about it and please point out any more passages you find. I’m yet to write on Revelation, but I plan to so your thoughts will be appreciated.

      Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”

      Notice that this picture of a dead man in some intermediate post-death, pre-resurrection state (‘Hades’ here), is in “torment” (but cf. 2 Peter 2.8: “for by what he[Lot] saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds”), but is able to carry on a very subdued conversation with Abraham. There is no screaming (or even weeping/gnashing, in this case), and the only request he makes is for a simple ‘fingertip’ of water for his thirst. There is fire, but it doesn’t seem to burn him–it only makes him thirsty/warm. His “quality of life” is equated to the quality of life that the beggar Lazarus had during his lifetime (e.g. lack of getting all of his basic needs met in community). He carries on a reasonable argument with Abraham about his brothers, without alternating the sentences with shrieks and screams of pain. This would be quite a disappointment to Dante…

      A couple of exegetical notes:

      1. The Rich Man’s word for being in ‘agony’ is better translated ‘anguish’. So, Bock, Luke:

      “The rich man has gone from self-indulgence to anguish. Luke here uses a different term for suffering that that used in 16:23: ‘odynaomai’ refers to continual pain and grief, especially mental pain, which is why ‘anguish’ is a good way to render the term.” [cf. its usage in Luke 2.48: “When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” And Acts 20.38: “What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.”)

      2. The only type of anguish alluded to her seems to be thirst (i.e. the Rich Man doesn’t seem to have sores, hunger, attending canines–so his situation is already ‘less bad’ than what Lazarus experienced in life), and this fits the only early Jewish parallel we have. Bauckham describes it [HI:FD:99]:

      “It will be useful to summarize the earliest of the Jewish versions, which occurs in the Palestinian Talmud (y. Sanh. 23c; y. Hag. 77d). it tells of a rich taxcollector named Bar Ma’yan and a poor Torah scholar in Askelon. They die on the same day, but whereas the taxcollector is buried in style, the poor pious man is unmourned. A friend of his is troubled by the contrast, until in a dream he sees the poor man in paradise and the taxcollector tormented in hell. His punishment is tantalization: he continually tries to drink from a river but cannot.”

      3. The contrasts between the Rich Man and Lazarus (name means ‘the help of God’) cannot be starker: mansion/outside at gate; feasting/hunger, splendor/squalor, extreme wealth/extreme poverty, burial/none.

      4. We have no idea how long Lazarus has been a beggar, been at the man’s gate begging, or been covered with sores. He is clearly able to talk, but not able to keep the dogs away. The Rich Man, however, probably knows Lazarus’ name, since he refers to him by name later in the story (although this may be pressing the details too much).

      Strictly speaking, this verse AT BEST describes the intermediate state of the Rich Man, between the First Death and the Second Death, as opposed to the “lake of fire” or “hell”. It might not be representative of the final state, although the image of ‘fire’ is still present therein. And even the “torment” that the Rich Man feels may be relative to his ‘comfort and luxury’ experienced on earth.

      And there is a strong possibility that it teaches almost NOTHING about the next life…Many (conservative and moderate) biblical scholars argue that this picture was not intended by Jesus to be taken as a detailed description of hell, but rather solely as an image of status-reversal (i.e, the last will be first).

      It is in the form of a rabbinic parable (cf. esp. the many conversations of Abraham in rabbinic lit), and accordingly was ONLY ‘parsed’ by the reader for the SINGLE lesson point (like “normal” parables are supposed to be taken). Rabbinic parables were never “used” to base factual conclusions on–the audience knew not to make assumptions about the size of Abraham’s lap from this, or about the identity of Lazarus.

      For example, Bauckham does an excellent job of pointing out how difficult it is to sustain the argument that this story teaches ANYTHING OTHER THAN the principle of ‘reversal of fortunes’ [HI:FD:103-105]:

      “The first part of the parable (vv 19-26) is solely concerned with the reversal of fortunes of the rich man and Lazarus. The point is that the rich man’s luxurious lifestyle in this life is replaced by suffering in the next, while Lazarus’s destitution and suffering in this life are replaced by exaltation in the next.”

      “It is sometimes said that the parable does not explain why the fortunes of the two are reversed after death, and so some implicit criterion of judgment must be supplied. It must be assumed that the rich man is condemned because he was not only rich but misused his wealth, or because he acquired it unjustly or because he neglected to give charity to the poor man at his gate. Similarly, it must be assumed that Lazarus was not only destitute but pious. But the claim that the parable does not explain the reversal of fortunes is untrue. The reason is clearly stated in verse 25, where Abraham justifies the reversal to the rich man. Of course, there is something implicit even in verse 25. It is assumed that the state of affairs in the next world is due to God’s justice. The common Jewish eschatological assumption that the next world exists to put right the injustices of this world can be taken for granted. What has to be put right is the fact that one man lived in luxury while another was destitute. The next world compensates for this inequality by replacing it with a reverse inequality. The rich man has already received his good things, it is now his turn to suffer. Lazarus has already suffered enough; he should now be ‘consoled’.

      “For this view of the matter, it is not relevant to condemn the rich man for over-indulgence, dishonesty or even neglecting his duty of charity to the poor (if that means he should have relieved Lazarus’ suffering while remaining rich himself. What is wrong with the situation in this world, according to the parable, is the stark inequality in the living conditions of the two men, which is vividly and memorably conveyed simply by the juxtaposition of the rich man’s expensive luxury and the poor man’s painful beggary (vv 19-2 1). This is why there is no mention of the moral qualities of the two men. The injustice which God’s justice in the next life must remedy lies in the mere facts which are stated in verses 19-2 1. To try to base the fate of the two men in the parable on considerations other than these stated facts is to evade the parable’s clear-sighted view of the flagrant injustice of the situation it sketches. What is not stated is not relevant.

      “In effect, therefore, it is true that the rich man suffers in the next life just because he was rich in this life, while the poor man is blessed in the next life just because he was poor in this life. The reasons why scholars have been so reluctant to accept that the parable teaches this, even though it so explicitly does, are no doubt various. Probably some do not themselves see the inequality described at the beginning of the parable as in itself unjust. But then it is characteristic of the Gospel parables to shift our perspective on things. Others perhaps object to the notion that the eternal destiny of individuals should be determined solely by this one consideration. But this would be the teaching of the parable only if we understood it to be a systematic statement about human destiny after death, whereas in fact it is a parable concerned with the single issue of wealth and poverty. Finally, it may be objected that the notion of justice involved in the reversal of fortunes is unacceptably crude. The inequality of the two men’s position in this life is not satisfactorily remedied by the imposition of a reverse inequality in the next life (especially if the brevity of this life is contrasted with the eternity of the next).

      “If the theme of eschatological reversal were taken as a literal description of how God’s justice will operate after death it would be morally intolerable. However, if it is taken as a popular way of thinking which the parable uses to make a point, it can be seen as serving primarily to express and to highlight the intolerable injustice of the situation where one enjoys luxury and another suffers want. The motif of the eschatological reversal of fortunes for rich and poor surely belongs properly to the religious folklore of ordinary people, the poor. It is their hope in the justice of God against the injustice of this life as they experience it. Jesus in the parable takes up that perception, that hope and a popular way of expressing it. The parable is one of many indications that Jesus was close to both the religious folklore and the concerns of ordinary, poor people.

      Even the more traditional Bock (Luke, in.loc.), who sees–contra Bauckham–a moral to the story about lack of compassion, points out the problem of using this for details about the afterlife:

      “Calling the account an example story implies that its details about the afterlife are graphic portrayals, not necessarily actual descriptions of the afterlife.” (p.1363)

      Accordingly, this story may provide no information about the afterlife. But if it does, the information it yields is hardly that of mind-numbing torture.

      Here is the link once again: http://christianthinktank.com/gr5part2.html

  2. I’m well aware of people taking the Parables to extremes and getting some twisted doctrine from them. But hell and fire are mentioned 5 times by Jesus: Matt 5:22; Matt 18:9; as well as 3 times in the Mark passage.
    I’ve got to go, but I would be careful not to minimize the reality of what Jesus is saying, especially in the Lazurus passage.

      1. My pleasure (not that the topic is!). I’ll take some time to go through the rest of the Scriptures on this topic.
        Unfortunately, it is VERY easy to find commentators who will tell you whatever you want to hear on any Bible topic. We have to be careful to let the Scripture speak for itself. It always had commentary that will bring an issue into focus if we will submit ourselves to It.

  3. I’d suggest it’s unwise to seek to minimize the torment of Hell.
    I’m perfectly willing to accept that Hell may not be a literal lake of fire, that could certainly be a metaphor. But if it is a metaphor, it’s a metaphor for something that is very painful (literally damned painful). I’d suggest that even in the absence of any active torture, knowing the absolute separation from their creator, God and could be Father, seeing the glory that they turned down and in so rejecting lost, may be worse than literally being burned to the point where they’re howling in pain.

    1. I do imagine that hell is a horrible place to be. Whether that is due to being separated from God or from some physical torture, I cannot yet say. So far, I’ve only found one thing in its descriptions that seem to rule out physical torture. So, it’s still possible.

  4. Ok, I’ve got a couple of minutes, and what better way to spend them than in the Bible, even when it’s uncomfortable?
    Fire and the place of eternal separation from God are combined no fewer than 5 times in Revelation. Revelation 19:20; 20:10 20:14; 20:15; 21:8 all refer to this place by the name “Lake of Fire.”

    Daniel 7:11 talks about the same beast as in Revelation 19:20 being thrown into the burning flame.

    Here’s another passage I’ll copy out in full:
    Revelation 14:9-12
    Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,
    he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
    And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
    Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

    Although this is refering specifically to Beast worshippers, there is only one place that all outside of Christ’s protection and service will end up in. We know this from Revelation 20:14,15:
    Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    I do believe that much of the anguish of the Lake of Fire will be from regret and anger, but that there is a literal physical component is very evident. The only alternative is to say that the pleasures and joys of being with God would likewise be only mental and not physical. There is no way to soften this teaching without rejecting the reality of God’s word.

    Even when we have loved ones that are most likely there, we cannot water down God’s word without doing great damage to our faith and trust in Him. I often think of two things on this point:
    1 All of us deserve nothing less than this torment and separation, it is only of God’s great mercy that I and many others have be rescued from this just end.
    2 Jesus’ story of the Rich Man and Lazurus tells us that those we love, if they truly are in Hell, do not want us to join them. Rather it will be a great comfort to them to know that we have escaped.

    Blessings on you as you seek out the truth from the Author of all truth! 🙂

    1. I’m sorry for taking so long to reply. I’ve been busy, busy, busy.

      I was going to do those passages from Revelation after I caught up with my reading note (and some other stuff so thank you for your help. My plan was to post the passages along with some commentary from Glenn Miller, and then write my on commentary later but your comment helped me realize that I was missing something. All this writing the passage first and then deducing things from what is written is good if you have no prior firm convictions about the issue, otherwise it makes it easy to interpret the data to fit your intentions. So, what I’m going to do after everything else on my list is first pick a hypothesis (e.g. Those in hell suffer physical anguish) and see how we can find data to support or oppose that. What do you think of that?

      About the beast from Daniel, the passage says:

      “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)”

      Seeing as the other beasts were allowed to live for some time after the one had been thrown in the fire, I’m not really sure that the fire is the final judgment afterall, no one will be hanging around after the final judgment, right? It’s possible that the final judgment takes some time, though so on the whole it’s a little confusing.

      1. I like your idea of trying out a hypothesis and seeing if Scripture refutes or confirms it, I do this a lot myself. If you are willing to let the Scripture mold your thinking rather than trying to twist the Scripture to what you want to see, God is sure to guide you!

        The passage on the beast being thrown in would certainly not be enough to build a doctrine on, but the end of Revelation 20 is crystal clear. You’re either in the Lamb’s book of Life and get to go to Heaven with Him, or you’re thrown in the Lake of Fire.
        From other passages we can deduce that not every resident of the L of F will have the same punishment, but there will be fire involved somehow for all residents.

        As I said earlier, this is my least favorite doctrine by a long way, but God couldn’t be any clearer. As for why fire and eternal, that starts moving on to God’s absolute holiness and righteousness. When you understand those, you realize why He had no choice but to set things up this way.

        Blessings on you as you study. I’m sure Jesus is watching you with a big smile on His face. 🙂

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