What the Bible and Theologians Say About Hell

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What happens after death has been a debated and documented topic dating back to shortly after the death of Jesus Christ. It is basically impossible to get certain evidence to back up beliefs. We are forced to rely on religious material and theologians to paint a picture for us. Even then it is hard to truly grasp what happens after death. It is proposed that you either go to heaven, or you go to hell. What do we actually know of the latter?

The general consensus of society is that hell is a place full of demons and is controlled by Satan. The belief and understanding of hell has changed drastically since its first understanding. What do the Bible and theologians say about hell? One of the first theologians to document his understanding of hell was Ignatius of Antioch back around 90 AD. Ignatius believed in the existence of hell as an unquenchable fire. There was very little mentioned of eschatology from theologians of early times because it was not their main focus.

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They were still studying the main subjects and religion in general and did not go into too much depth in regards to hell. However, he still believed strongly in the final judgment of God and the rewards and punishments that are meted out, “Physical death seems to be the decisive moment for all men—they pass either to life with Christ or to the unquenchable fire. ” The final judgment is nothing more than a separation of the divine and wretched. He recognizes that Satan has powers of temptation which cause us to sin that must be cast down.

Ignatius viewed hell more as a spiritual torment rather than a physical torment as it is described in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength. ” The people in hell understand the opportunity they missed by not obeying the gospel and by not knowing God. They experience a sort of spiritual torment because they want to repent now but will never be able to as the rich man experienced in Luke 16: “And in hell, as he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side.

So he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this fire. ’” People in hell beg for mercy and can witness those outside of it. They regret their decisions but are unable to repent because they missed their chance. About 300 years later, St. Augustine went deeper into Ignatius’ study of hell. Augustine was the father of the doctrine of predestination. He focused on the immortality of the soul and related hell into the topic.

While exploring the Bible he learned that God is eternal but the human soul is changeable which is why it can suffer eternity in hell. He recognized that sin is unavoidable as a result of the Fall: Faithful to the apostle’s doctrine, he held that “in Adam’s fall we sinned all”: Through pride our first progenitor lost the happy communion with God and forfeited His grace which he originally enjoyed, lapsing into a hopeless moral state the end of which would properly be the everlasting death of the soul; and all of Adam’s descendants share in that sin.

Before the Fall there was no way that Adam or Eve would be sent to hell. At that point in time hell existed only as a home for Satan and his angels. Augustine believed that because of the Fall we are born with original sin and we have no way of saving ourselves, “…only the grace of God can save man; and this grace is a free gift bestowed, like all other things, not as something earned, but solely as God chooses to give it: He predestinates whom He will for punishment and for salvation. This predestination is similar to what is written in Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire. ” In order to be saved and live eternally in heaven with God your name must be found written in God’s book of life. After death, a soul will suffer the hell which it has within itself. Augustine viewed hell as a physical fire in which the damned suffered. But he believed that the torment was not only physical but spiritual as well.

Through his doctrine of predestination he convinced people that the orthodox Catholic Church and its sacraments was the sole channel through which salvation could be secured and the physical fire of hell avoided. The Medieval period and Aquinas brought in some new aspects as well as the reoccurrence of others. According to Aquinas, “The fate of man’s immortal soul after death is fully determined by his life on earth. ” He believed in the final judgment by God shortly following separation from your terrestrial body.

Those that are so defiled by sins that they cannot be cleansed and fitted for final happiness begin their endless punishment at once. Revelation 20:8 mentions some of the sins which defile a person, “But as for the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. ” This is a description of the type of people that are sent to hell. It is full of broken people who got turned off of the straight path in life.

Aquinas also believed in purgatory—the place where souls remain until their sins are burned away, allowing them to go to Heaven. He ultimately believed that hell was punishment in which a person’s body and soul forever suffer everburning fire. This is in direct correlation with Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night, along with anyone who receives the mark of his name. ” The smoke from hell’s everburning fire is eternal and reaches high up into the sky.

The beast is a personification of Satan and those that are defiled with sin ‘receive the mark of his name’ and are doomed for eternity. Luther and the Book of Concord address controversies in regards to Christ in the creeds. The Book of Concord addresses Christ’s descent into hell with many speculations. The controversies are whether it took place before or after His death, and whether He descended only in His soul, or in His deity, or both. Luther makes it clear that Christ descended into hell and destroyed it for all believers, redeeming them from the power of death, the devil, and the eternal damnation of hellish retribution.

He also says that we should stop trying to understand issues like this because we have blind reason and cannot comprehend. In the same way he is saying that we should not try to understand hell because we are foolish and our ideas of what it is are wrong. We should “Wait for the next world, where not only this matter but many others…will be revealed. ” But according to the Christian creed we believe that God and human being (the entire person of Jesus) descended to hell, conquered the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and took from the devil all his power.

This article can only be believed but as long as you hold to the Word you are safe from the suffering of hell. Modern theologians such as Karl Barth offer radical new approaches to the topic. Karl Barth believes that the people who do not receive salvation are “destroyed. ” This implies that people are not sent to hell after their final judgment. Barth pays close attention to Paul’s theology, “One might well think that the talk of the wrath and fury, tribulation and distress which awaits those who do evil is equivalent to ‘hell’ but Paul never uses that ord. ” However, Barth believes in a universal atonement. He extrapolates on this when he says, “If grace is irresistible, if faith is God’s to give as He wills and Christ died for all, then, logically, God’s will ought to be to give the gift to all and universal salvation should be the result. ” In this sense Barth doesn’t believe that people suffer eternity in lake of fire (hell). He believes in the very literal sense of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, thus purging us of any sin.

However, God did not tell us that a universal atonement is the end result for a reason. If we knew this for fact, that hell was of no worry to us and that there was universal atonement, we would indeed “become lax, antinomian even. ” Another modern theologian, Francis Pieper, addresses the devil in regards to hell. Francis Pieper sheds light on the reconciliation of man with God and directly talks about the devil’s effect. He says: [The devil] endeavors to mislead man either utterly to despise the atonement of Christ or to attempt to establish his own righteousness.

As a result of the devil’s success, God must punish the world with dreadful plagues, wars, floods, earthquakes, and other frightful calamities to remind man for what purpose the earth still stands. Pieper believes that the devil is the prince of hell and that he is the cause of man’s sin and separation from God. In Revelation 20:10 it is mentioned how Satan is a deceiver, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever. The devil deceived God and continues to deceive man on a daily basis. Pieper does not believe in people being sent to hell as punishment. He believes that God brings His wrath down upon earth with hopes that men repent and by faith accept the reconciliation with Him. Prior to modern time, beliefs about hell were consistent. The basics were all similar and directly related to what the Bible says. It is only in modern times that theologians have started to speculate and really divert beliefs away from tradition. The theologians in early and medieval times believed that bad deeds and sin got you sent to hell unless you repented.

However, as mentioned, modern theologians believe in entirely different things. Both of the modern theologians researched do not believe in hell at all. This topic is essential to Christian theology because it directly affects the way Christians live their lives. Having knowledge of the negative side to death frightens people and pushes them hold a strong faith with God. It is not peoples’ intention to suffer eternally after death. However, people unfamiliar with Christian theology in general have no clue about the rigors of their negative behavior.

It unveils the danger of living life for yourself. Mark 9:43-48 mentions living unselfishly: If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell, to the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Selfishness, or living life for yourself, will get you sent to hell. Those that recognize they are flawed and beg for forgiveness are saved by God and avoid going to hell. Those that continually live through their flawed nature are unable to see the remorse that will surround them when they die physically. What is most helpful in strengthening personal faith is how easy it is to save yourself from eternal punishment. Simply asking God for forgiveness and choosing to believe in his Word protects you from all that the devil tries to corrupt you with and make you suffer.

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What the Bible and Theologians Say About Hell. (2016, Sep 13). Retrieved from


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