The one word that stands in thousands of minds as the synonym of endless torment, is the word Hell. The popular belief is that in the Bible a place or condition of endless woe is denoted by this word. Does the Bible teach the ideas commonly held among Christians concerning Hell? Does the Hell of the Bible denote a place of torment, or a condition of suffering without end, to begin at death? What is the hell of the Bible?
Manifestly the only way to arrive at the correct answer is to trace the words translated Hell from the beginning to the end of the Bible, and by their connections ascertain exactly what the divine Word teaches on this important subject. It seems incredible that a wise and benevolent God should have created or permitted any kind of an endless hell in his universe. Has he done so? Do the Scripture teachings concerning Hell stain the character of God and clothe human destiny with an impenetrable pall of darkness, by revealing a state or place of endless torment? Or do they explain its existence, and relieve God's character, and dispel all the darkness of misbelief, by teaching that it exists as a means to a good end? It is our belief that the Bible hell is not the heathen, nor the "orthodox" hell, but is one that is doomed to pass away when its purpose shall have been accomplished, in the reformation of those for whose welfare a good God ordained it.
The English word Hell grew into its present meaning. Horne Tooke says that hell, heel, hill, hole, whole, hall, hull, hole, halt and hold are all from the same root. "Hell, any place, or some place covered over." The word was first applied to the grave by our German and English ancestors, and as superstition came to regard the grave as an entrace to a world of torment, Hell at length became the word used to denote an imaginary realm of fiery woe.
In the Bible four words are translated Hell: the Hebrew word Sheol, in the original Old Testament; its equivalent, the Greek word Hadees, in the Septuagint; and in the New Testament, Hadees, Gehenna and Tartarus.
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