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October 22, 2009 / brockbruce

Tales from the Darkside:Hell

During the month of October we are doing a series called Tales from the Darkside: The Occult, Hell, and the Devil. I am going to be posting some additional material here, starting with some notes on hell from Mark Driscoll at The Mars Hill Blog.

How is God’s kingdom manifest in hell?

Jesus speaks of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Furthermore, eleven of the twelve occasions that hell is spoken of as Gehenna in the New Testament are on the lips of Jesus.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible explains Gehenna saying,

English transliteration of the Greek form of an Aramaic word which in turn is derived from the Hebrew phrase “the Valley of [the son(s) of] Hinnom.” The name properly designates a deep valley delimiting the territories of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah (Jos 15:8; 18:16). It is commonly identified with the W?di er-Rab?bi which runs from beneath the western wall of the Old City, forming a deep ravine south of Jerusalem. The place became notorious because of the idolatrous practices which were carried out there in the days of Judah’s kings Ahaz and Manasseh, especially involving the heinous crime of infant sacrifice associated with the Molech ceremonies (2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6; 2 Chr 28:3; 33:6; Jer 19:56; 32:35). The spiritual reformation of King Josiah brought an end to these sinister proceedings (2 Kgs 23:10). The prophet Jeremiah referred to the valley in picturing God’s judgment upon his people (Jer 2:23; 7:30–32; 19:5, 6)… Subsequently, the valley appears to have been used for the burning of the city’s refuse and the dead bodies of criminals. Interestingly, a well-established tradition locates the scene of Judas’ suicide and the consequent purchase of the Potter’s Field on the south side of this valley. The ravine’s reputation for extreme wickedness gave rise, especially during the intertestamental period, to use of its name as a term for the place of final punishment for the wicked (Enoch 18:11–16; 27:1–3; 54:1 ff.; 56:3, 4; 90:26; 2 Esd 7:36; cf. Is 30:33; 66:24; Dn 7:10). Jesus himself utilizes the term to designate the final abode of the unrepentant wicked (Mt 5:22; 10:28; 18:9). Since Gehenna is a fiery abyss (Mk 9:43), it is also the Lake of Fire (Mt 13:42, 50) to which all the godless will ultimately be consigned (23:15, 33), together with Satan and his hosts (Mt 25:41; Rv 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15). Gehenna must be carefully differentiated from other terms relative to the afterlife or final state. Whereas the OT “Sheol” (cf. NT “Hades”), uniformly designates the temporary abode of the lost between death and resurrection when referring to the place of the departed spirit of man, “Gehenna” specifies the final place where the wicked will suffer everlasting punishment (cf. Ps 49:15, 16 with Mt 10:28). “Tartarus” occurs only in 2 Peter 2:4 and identifies the particular abode of the angels who fell in the primeval satanic revolt.

(Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988). 844)

Wayne Grudem defines hell as follows: “Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1148.) Grudem also observes that the denial of the traditional view of hell often indicates a movement away from orthodoxy. “Because the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment is so foreign to the thought patterns of our culture, and, on a deeper level, to our instinctive and God-given sense of love and desire for redemption for every human being created in God’s image, this doctrine is emotionally one of the most difficult doctrines for Christians to affirm today. It also tends to be one of the first doctrines given up to people who are moving away from a commitment to the Bible as absolutely truthful in all that it affirms. Among liberal theologians who do not accept the absolute truthfulness of the Bible, there is probably no one today who believes in the doctrine eternal conscious punishment.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1151, n. 16.)

In the closing chapter of our book Vintage Jesus Dr. Gerry Breshears and I spoke of hell in this way:

Not only will Jesus judge with perfect justice, he will also sentence the unrepentant to perfectly suited punishment in hell for their sins. (Eccl. 12:14; Matt. 12:36; Luke 12:2–3, 47–48; 20:47; Rom. 2:5–7; Rev. 20:12–13) Some who wince at the doctrine and find it incompatible with the loving nature of Jesus may be surprised to discover that Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone in Scripture. (Matt. 8:11–12, 29; 13:40–42; 18:8–9; 22:13; 24:50–51; 25:30, 41, 46; Mark 9:43–48; Luke 12:46–48; 16:19–31) In fact, British philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell.” (Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 17) Tragically, unless he turned to Jesus before his death, Russell came to agree with Jesus, discovering in the most painful way that Jesus rules even in hell, over Satan, demons, and unrepentant sinners…(Rev. 14:9–11) God is literally holy, we are literally sinful, Jesus literally died to forgive our sin, and if we fail to receive his forgiveness, we will literally stand before him for judgment and be sentenced to a literal hell as an act of literal justice. To be honest, the doctrine of hell does not bother me. It makes perfect sense that guilty people would be sentenced and punished for their evil. What has always bothered me is heaven. How could a holy God allow any sinner to enter heaven? Furthermore, how could a loving God allow evil to continue without stopping it forever and bringing justice to all of the victims before wiping all their tears? Indeed, the joys of heaven and not the pains of hell are more difficult for me to reconcile with the character of a good God. The cold, hard truth is that for those who do not love Jesus, this life is as close to heaven as they will ever get. Hell awaits them.

Lastly, perhaps the most haunting verse regarding hell in all of Scripture is Revelation 14:10 which shows Jesus ruling and reigning over hell ensuring that Satan, demons, and sinners are punished as Scripture says “according to their work.”


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