Following The Evidence #131

About 16 years ago I was teaching a year 12 HSC class for the Studies of Religion subject. A student, in the course of our discussion, asked me why God needed a hell to burn people in forever. I explained that there are two views on the subject and proceeded to explain the difference between the verb and the noun in terms of punishing (verb) or punishment (noun). If we follow the noun idea, we come up with the concept that punishment is an event from which there is no return. It is eternal in its results. Instead of telling them to work out for themselves which view is the most biblical, I made the mistake of answering a further question when someone said, “Which one do you believe sir?”

Consequentially, someone told their parents that, “Mr. Chadwick doesn’t believe in hell,” (which is not true, I just see it a whole lot differently based on what the Bible actually teaches.) The end of the story was that the head of senior school thought I was undermining student’s faith (when I was doing the opposite) and I ended up having a discussion in the principal’s office. She was an open-minded person who saw the logic in the verb vs noun thing. The matter rested at that.

However, there was a little mischief that went through my mind at this point because the Head of Senior School had a poster of John 3:16(NLT) on her office wall. This is the most quoted verse in the Bible and clearly presents the two alternatives: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I often, when I noticed it, wanted to underline, or circle the word ‘perish.’ These are the two alternatives and perish does not mean eternal life in some other place. The most quoted verse in the Bible and most people miss it! Look up the word perish in the dictionary. The concept of a subterranean holocaust is borrowed from Greek mythology and is based on Socrates’ and Plato’s bifurcated universe, where Heaven, earth, and hell are on 3 levels. The earth is smaller now and we know hell is not down there.

The word ‘hell’ does not occur in the Old Testament, although the King James Version of 1611 (KJV) often translated the Hebrew word “sheol” as hell. Modern translators either leave the word ‘sheol’ or translate it as ‘the place of the dead’ or ‘the grave.’ Notice e.g., Psalm 6:5 or Psalm 139:8 c.f. the KJV and other translations e.g., the NLT. Type ‘hell’ into Bible Gateway and compare the KJV translations with others. In the Old Testament Sheol is the grave or the place of the dead, not a place of everlasting fire for the unsaved.

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