Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered that the Bible says absolutely nothing about God being a sadistic torturer because Hell doesn’t exist?
- God not only respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, but God does not torture people after death for such decisions. The word Hell, a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words, was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. No such place as Hell exists according to the Bible. Like God is going to sadistically torture people forever for their beliefs while here on earth a short time!
- Some may not even bother to know God if imagining the Creator is a sadistic torturer. And what God-person wants to tell others or defend such a God? Such a God is no different than the god of religious extremists. The traditional meaning of Hell must be dispelled as a biblical myth for God’s character is at stake. Jesus and the Bible say nothing about Hell.
- Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna, wrongly translated as Hell, to illustrate how spiritual death is just as horrible as physical death. Jesus readers knew Gehenna was a real valley near Jerusalem where Israel children had been sacrificed to false gods (Jer. 7:30-31; 19:2-5). Josephus said this same valley was heaped with dead bodies of the Jews following the Roman siege of Jerusalem around 70 AD. Mt. 18:9 is representative of how Jesus used the word Gehenna in about four conversations: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Gehenna).” Gehenna was used by Jesus to symbolize spiritual death (a life of self-centeredness) is just as horrible as the physical deaths Gehenna was known for. Hell is not a translation of Gehenna, a valley, any more than the city of Atlanta is a proper translation for Chicago.
- Paul wrote most of the New Testament and never mentions Hell. Scriptures only say after death that all are judged by our merciful God. The Hebrew word Sheol in the Old Testament is wrongly translated as Hell. Sheol was used to describe a place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs. Job, an extremely righteous man in God’s eyes, desired to go there to escape his tremendous suffering (10:21-22). God didn’t warn Adam and Eve about Hell as a consequence for rebellion. Noah failed to warn evildoers about Hell before their death by Flood. The popular understanding of Hell is not found in the OT. Recent translations simply translate Sheol as “Sheol.”
- The fear of Hell doesn’t change a person’s heart. We may want to threaten or tell an addict after the 10th relapse there is no hope, but this is not God’s nature. God’s continual encouragement and mercy, not fear or gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for lasting changes of the heart. Jesus didn’t come to save us from Hell. Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us, through mercy and forgiveness, to shun evil and do good. Jesus knew God’s love is the same as perfect, human, love. Jesus came to save us from a life of self-centeredness which only leads to personal, relational, and world destruction.
The Bible doesn’t say as much about the afterlife as one may think. Jesus didn’t think of eternal life as something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth to avoid future regrets. But, why wouldn’t a loving God seek to save all from a life of regrets, even after death? It would not be unlike God to show mercy and give all a second chance when meeting their Creator. Heaven may be more populated than many people imagine. It is not likely though that God will violate anyone’s freedom in life after death if they don’t want to live with their Creator.