By Olatokunbo Odunuga
In recent times, the matter of Hell had been very prevalent in Christian publications-books, DVD’s, CD’S etc. And such publications had sold tremendously. Apart from indicating copyright, some expressly forbid reproducing part of the publications in any form without written consent of the publishers.
Some who reported that they had been to Hell or Heaven and back invoke curses or wrath of God on whoever dares to dub the DVD’s or CD’s. I am amazed that someone could be so priviledged to have beheld the glory of Heaven and still be in the mood to curse. I expect even those who had fathomed the abysmal depth of infernal Hell to be so sobered that Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14, 17 should be in their view for evermore Those curses are boldly threatened in fearful sentences on the DVD’s and CD’s.
I observe that much emphasis had universally been placed on Hell, which has a limited span (not eternal) compared with the more dreadful Lake of Fire, which is eternal. About three-quarters of what is termed Hell in KJV Bible are not really so. Let me give an examplw out of dozens as a food for thought. In Psalm 16:10 in KJV, David was quoted to have declared ” For thou [God] Wilt not leave my soul in hell……”. For crying out loud! I wonder how a man after God’s heart would have got to Hell in the first place. NIV rendered : “..because you will not abandon me to the grave”. Good News Bible also rendered “grave”. Many others rendered ‘world of the dead’ and ‘place of the dead’.
Incidentally KJV renders the 31 Sheol, the 10 Hades, the 11 Gehenna and the only Tartarus as Hell in all the 53 places where they appear in the Bible.
2.0 I ventured to show a chart that shows varieties of bible renderings for Hell in various versions but the fb could not accept it. I will endeavor to explain the chart as follows:
For the Greek words that KJV translated HELL in 53 places, NKJV, NIV, NASB, NLT, Good News Bible, Amplified Bible in diverse places rendered as Hell, A region of the dead, Depths, Underworld, Depth of Death, World of the dead, Place of the dead, The world below, Grave, Death, The nether world, The unseen state, Place of the departed spirits, Exceeding depth of affliction, A lower world, The realm of the dead, Symbol of an abysmal depth of affliction, The dark abode of the gathered dead, Power of the infernal region, State of disembodied existence. To play safe in some instances, and rather mislead or confuse humanity, the literal original words [SHEOL(Hebrew), and the greek-HADES, GEHENNA and TARTARUS] are retained intact. In short KJV rendered ALL the 53 original words as HELL and others did as follows : 39 times in the NKJV, 13 times in NASB, 18 times in Good News Bible, 12 times in NIV, 17 times in NLT and 12 times in Amplified Bible. Let us have it at the back of our mind that NKJV is generally a loyalist to KJV, not intending to be far deviated from the highly respected KJV. But let us listen to what N.T. Professor Gordon Fee and O.T. Professor Douglas Stuart have to say:
Recognising that the English of the KJV was no longer a living language and thoroughly dissatisfied with its modern revision (RSV/NRSV) – it was decided by some to “update” the KJV by ridding it of its “archaic” way of speaking. But in so doing, the NKJV revisers eliminated the best features of the KJV (its marvelous expression of the English Language) and kept the worse (its flawed text). This is why for study, you should use almost any modern translation rather than the KJV or the NKJV” – (Pg. 40, How to Read the Bible for all its worth – 3rd edition).
3.0 Probably because of allegiance to KJV, the translators of NKJV retain ‘hell fire’ in Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10: 28 and Mark/Luke parallels instead of keeping to literal “gehenna”. I think it would have been a bit more acceptable if they had rendered them as ‘Lake of Fire’ in quote which is what ‘Gehenna’ actually symbolizes. The translators of Emphasised New Testament, Goodspeed Translation, Moffat Translation, J.B. Phillips Translation, Weymouth Translation did not render ‘Gehenna’ as ‘Hell’, and they are all highly commendable translations.
KJV is called ‘Authorised’ but the authorization was not from God but from a human royalty King James I of England in the early 17th Century. In their book “From God to Us”, Norman L. Geisler (Ph.D), Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and William E. Nix, Ph.D, an editorial and educational consultant based in Texas, it is recorded as follow – “in January, 1604, King James I was summoned to the Hampton Court Conference in response to the Millenary Petition which he received while on his way from Edinburgh to London following the death of Elizabeth 1.
Nearly one thousand Puritan leaders had signed a list of grievances against the Church of England, and James desired to be peacemaker in his new realm and placed himself above all religious parties. He treated the puritans with rudeness at the conference until John Reynolds, Puritan President of Corpus Christi raised the question of having an authorized version of the Bible for all parties within the church. The king expressed his support for the translation because it would help him to be rid of the two most popular translations then – Bishop’s Bible and Geneva Bible. He did not like these two versions. He also saw it as an opportunity to raise his esteem in the eyes of his subjects” unquote.
4.0 Of particular note is ‘Tartarus’ in 2 Peter 2:4 which KJV rendered as “hell” but which Darby Translation, New Jerusalem Bible and most of the afore-mentioned Bibles did not subscribe to. Besides, Tartarus (the abode of fallen angels) is not for human beings while Hades[ hell or Abraham’s bosom (paradise)] is for human beings. Fallen angels are not reserved for Hell where human beings are presently but for the Lake of Fire. In fact, there is an interval of 1,000 – 7,000 years between Hades and Lake of Fire because many had departed this life since the time of the Dispensation of Innocence etc and others will depart at the time of the Rapture. Some of the misconceptions about Hell are due to the controversial translations of the word “Gehenna” in Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47 and Lk. 12:5 as Hell. You also may please still check other Bible versions. Gehenna is a greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Ge Hinnom”, which means valley of Hinnom, also referred to as “Tophet” in Isaiah 30:33. It was a valley in Southern Jerusalem – a literal place – the city’s dump where refuse and worst criminals were thrown to be burnt. The fire burned continually, and so symbolizes the place of eternal punishment. I think we should tremble more at the prospect of the dreadful Lake of Fire than Hell.
5.0 Now I have been struggling to come to grips with the idea that God would have been consigning some people who had died into eternal perdition before the final judgment which would even take place 1000 years after the Rapture. If so, Rev. 20:5, 12 will be irrelevant, superfluous and meaningless. Besides, the subsequent Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-12) and the Lake of Fire will serve no futher purpose. It is quite clear from Luke 16:19-31 that Hell is indeed a dreadful place of torment but it is not the ultimate. The place of fire and brimstone that burns for ever is the Lake of Fire, not Hell (Sheol/Hades) or even Tartarus (Rev. 19:3, 20:10, Mt. 24:50). Rev. 20:14 had even informed us that the highly dreaded “Hell” is not the main-the main as it also will be cast into another more fiery fire? The biblical position is therefore that the complete Hades will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
In a similar vein, I am also wondering if departed believers have already gone to heaven finally as it is often declared by many. In John 3:13, the Lord confided in us that no one except Himself had ever been to heaven. In essence all the righteous ones from Abel onwards are not in heaven yet, but in paradise. Our permanent stay in Heaven will be in the New Jerusalem, which is for eternity after the 1000 years Millennial Reign.
6.0 In summary from the foregoing, Hell is the opposite and negative alternate to Paradise (Abraham’s bosom) and both presently feature in Hades (or Sheol). Hell’s torment is presently on course but Lake of Fire, in which Hell itself will be consumed (Rev. 20:14) is yet futuristic in a thousand years after the Rapture, and it will be activated after the Great White Throne Judgement.
Though Hell is on course now, the third Heaven (The New Jerusalem) is after the 1000 year Millennial Reign. So Hell and Heaven are neither opposite nor alternate. The opposite and the alternative to the New Jerusalem (Heaven) is the Lake of Fire. Brother, the only person from Biblical account to have glimpsed Paradise in Hades and the Third Heaven was Paul (2 Cor. 12:2, 4).
May God grant us superabundant grace that either here or hereafter, we would behold the glory of the third heaven. Shalom!
– ODUNUGA, O. O.