You perhaps have often heard the expression, "The Christadelphians do not believe in a hell." That is not true. We do believe in the hell as taught in the bible. The hell of the Bible is quite different to the hell you hear exploited over the radio, on television, movies, and in many of the pulpits. Let me give you just one example. We heard a minister say, "If the earth on which we live was a solid steel ball and you put a tiny ant on it, crawling round and round, until the ball was all worn away, then the dammed in hell would just begin to fry good." In all the lurid scenes of hell pictured by believers in such a place the thing that suffers is the supposed immortal soul. In our last subject we called your attention to the fact that the Bible never speaks of man by nature possessing an immortal soul, that man is offered immortality through Christ; that he is to "seek for immortality by patient continuance in well doing" (Romans 2:7); that immortality consists of a changed body, "This mortal must put on immortality" and this change of nature will take place when Christ returns to "judge the quick (the living) and the dead at his appearing and Kingdom." (II Timothy 4:1). And only those "accounted worthy will be made equal to the angels neither can they die any more." (Luke 20:35,36)
Bible Hell - What is its meaning? In the Old Testament the word hell is from the Hebrew sheol and means, according to the Diaglott, literally that which is in darkness, hidden, invisible or obscure. The same word in the New Testament is hades and means the grave, the common receptacle of the dead.
Gehenna, the Greek word translated hell in the common version, occurs 12 times in the Bible. The literal meaning is "The Valley of Hinnom," also called Tophet. The place corresponds to a huge dumping ground outside the walls of Jerusalem where the filth and refuse of the city, also carcasses of beasts of all kinds were thrown and fires were kept burning to consume everything put into Gehenna or this valley of Hinnom. Nothing was ever put into this place to preserve it, but rather to destroy it. The Diaglott says, "Gehenna in the New Testament symbolizes death and utter destruction, but in no place signified a place of eternal torment."
Now let us go to the Old Testament where the Hebrew word "sheol" is used. In Ezekiel 31:16, "I made the nations to shake at the sound of his (Assyria) fall, when I cast him down to hell (sheol) with them that descend into the pit." In Ezekiel 32:27 we read, "And they shall not lie with the mighty- which are gone don to hell (sheol) with their weapons of war, and they have lad their swords under their heads." (Hell here is the grave, a fact shown by placing swords of the mighty under their heads.)
In Psalms 16:10, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy one to see corruption." Peter uses this to prove that Christ was raised from the dead. (Acts 2:27,30,31). In Psalms 49:15 we read, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave." The marginal rendering is hell (sheol). From these scriptures in the Old Testament, it is clear that no thought was in the minds of the inspired writers that sheol represented a place of eternal torment.
In the New Testament the word hades (hell) occurs in Matthew 11:23 and "Thou Capernaum which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell" (hades). This prediction of our Lord, says Dr. Adam Clarke, was literally fulfilled; for in the wars with the Romans and the Jews, this city was totally destroyed, so that no trace is now found of Capernaum. To be brought down to hell, the grave, was to be destroyed. In Matthew 1618, "The gates of hell, (hades) the grave, shall not prevail against it"- the church (Christ's followers). Why? Because as we have shown you in previous subjects that the church (Christ's followers) just and unjust, will be resurrected. They can look into the open grave and say, "O, grave (hades) where is thy victory?" (I Corinthians 15:55). One might say: "You had me but I connected myself with Christ, the man who has the key to hell, the grave, and he raised me from the dead."
In Acts 2:27, 31, "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (hades) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." In Revelation 1:18, "I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, amen, and have the keys of hell (hades) and of death." In Revelation 20:13,14 "and the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works, and death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Hell in all these passages of scripture clearly indicate the grave, and not a place of eternal torture in hell fire.
Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom
The Jews looked with horror upon this place. It was a place of utter destruction and annihilation. Paul warned the church against sowing to the flesh, declaring that at the judgment they would reap corruption or the second death. To the church at Thessolonica he writes, "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty agels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (not preservation in hell) from the presence of the Lord ad from the glory of his power; when he comes to be glorified in his saints." (II Thessalonians 1:7-10) Gehenna was associated by our Lord with the final destiny of the unjust. Those who like the sow that was washed but returned to the wallowing in the mire. Peter says of such, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, that after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment end shall be saved." Now listen to verse 28, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," (Gehenna). What is the meaning of the word soul here? In Matthew 16:25 we read, "For delivered unto them." (II Peter 2:21)
Now turn with me to a few places where hell fire (Gehenna fire) the valley of Hinnom is used. Into this valley, southeast of Jerusalem, all the filth, all the dead animals and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed were cast. If you can see this background, then the scripture to follow will be made clear. In Matthew 18:9 we read, "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life (note carefully the expression "enter into life") with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire (Gehenna fire)." Here we have a case of entering into life, i.e., eternal life or being destroyed in Gehenna fire. In Matthew 10:28 the believer in the immortality of the soul thinks he finds positive proof for his belief. The Savior is urging his disciples to be faithful. In verse 22, "But he that endureth to the end shall be saves." Now listen to verse 28, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," (Gehenna). What is the meaning of the word soul here? In Matthew 16:25 we read, "For whoseover will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." Now note the next verse. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" If you will take the trouble to read the revised version or the emphatic Diaglott you will find the words soul in verse 26 translated life. Christ warned his disciples to walk in the way he outlines. In Matthew 10:25-27 we read, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household, fear them not therefore- what I tell you in darkness, that speak in the light- and fear not them which kill the body, bur are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him (God) which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna)." This warning of the Master to his disciples simply means this: Don't just be afraid of man for he can only kill or destroy your body, but rather fear God who is able to "extend the destroying process to very much more serous fate," Saying to those not approved at the judgement, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment (not everlasting punishing) but the righteous into eternal life."
Now read with me Mark 9:43,44, "And if they 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."
Note carefully the Savior's words "It is better to enter into life maimed than to be cast into unquenchable fire" (Diaglott). The fires in Gehenna were kept burning year in and year out. Why? The worms in the dead carcasses of animals were continually at work. Why? Will any reader contend that the worms here mentioned had immortality? The meaning is clear to those who think. Gehenna fire has long since gone out and the worms are all dead. Why? Dr. Parkhurst in Greek Lexicon says, "Our Lord seems to allude to the worms which continually preyed on dead carcasses that were cast into the Valley of Hinnom (Geheena)and to the perpetual fire dept up, to consume them." The final destiny of all who refuse God's gift of eternal life through Christ will perish. In Malachi 4:1 we read, "For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." The scriptures abound in expressions such as these: "Transgressors shall be destroyed." (Psalms 37:38). "The wicked shall not be, ye, thou shalt consider his place and it shall not be." (Psalms 37:10). (If he were in hell burning forever, he certainly would be.) "But the wicked shall perish- into smoke shall they consume away." (Psalms 37:20) "The Lord preserveth all them that love him; but all the wicked will be destroyed." (Psalms 145:20). "Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more." (Psalms 104:35) "But these as natural brute beasts- shall utterly perish in their own corruption." (II Peter 2:12).
We appeal to to study God's word and rid your minds of immortal soulism and accept God's loving offer of eternal life through belief in His only begotten son.