IS THERE A HELL? Everyone would like to know…but most do not want to approach the subject or even speak of it….unless it is in a profane way. Nevertheless, it is a subject…unlike heaven…that brings up fears and distrust. One could rationalize that if there is no hell….why would there be a heaven? Who wants to be forever in eternity with the most evil in this world. Would it then cease to be heaven? I am so glad that God is in charge for we most likely will not have a definite answer until we breathe our last. The closest we have come to knowing what happens after life is the “near death” experiences of those who returned to life as they had known it and spoke of the great peace; the bright light…and not wanting to return. Surely if they were headed toward hell there would have been fear not peace.
When recently I watched the slowly moving lava of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii on various programs, this question of hell was not in my mind. Then I saw the amazing pictures taken by the U.S. Geological Survey and immediately the thought raced through my mind “That looks hotter than hell!” But who knows what hell is like…or how hot it really may be…or if it is literal or a terrible state of mind? Looking at these pictures certainly makes one shiver at the idea that being thrown into such a pit could possibly be a reality. Such is the cause of nightmares! As I write, this just happens to be All Hallows Eve which traditionally was to honor all saints and martyrs in the Christian faith …more commonly known today as Halloween here in the United States…but that is another subject.
Many religions speak of hell and look at the subject in different ways. Although we are not trying to cover every religious belief in this writing, below are some words from those who speak for their faith.
CHRISTIANITY The Holy Scriptures of the Christian faith has many verses concerning hell. The art of the early Christian painters was often painted to interpret the Scriptures as many in the masses did not read. The agony…the torture…the gruesome scenes would be enough to scare anyone! The love of God is what leads us to salvation…not fear…we are told. Yet, in both the old and new testaments of the Holy Scripture, hell is spoken of. (See a few listed at the end of this writing.)
JUDISM The Jewish faith also acknowledges hell…but a different type of hell as expressed by Rabbi Aaron Moss:
“The Jewish mystics described a spiritual place called “Gehinnom.” This is usually translated as “Hell,” but a better translation would be “the Supernal Washing Machine.” Because that’s exactly how it works. The way our soul is cleansed in Gehinnom is similar to the way our clothes are cleansed in a washing machine. Put yourself in your socks’ shoes, so to speak. If you were to be thrown into boiling hot water and flung around for half an hour, you might start to feel that someone doesn’t like you. However, the fact is that it is only after going through a wash cycle that the socks can be worn again. We don’t put our socks in the washing machine to punish them. We put them through what seems like a rough and painful procedure only to make them clean and wearable again…. So too with the soul. Every act we do in our lifetime leaves an imprint on our soul. The good we do brightens and elevates our soul, and every wrongdoing leaves a stain that needs to be cleansed. If, at the end of our life, we leave this world without fixing the wrongs we have done, our soul is unable to reach its place of rest on high. We must go through a cycle of deep cleansing. Our soul is flung around at an intense spiritual heat to rid it of any residue it may have gathered, and to prepare it for entry into Heaven. Of course, this whole process can be avoided. If we truly regret the wrong we have done and make amends with the people we have hurt, we can leave this world with “clean socks.” That’s why our Sages said, “Repent one day before you die.” And what should you do if you don’t know which day that will be? Repent today.”
HINDUISM The Hindu believes in various levels of hell. “Naraka is the Hindu equivalent of hell where sinners are tormented after death.[ It is also the abode of Yama ,the god of Death. It is described as located in the south of the universe and beneath the earth. The number and names of hells, as well as the type of sinners sent to a particular hell, varies from text to text; however, many scriptures describe 28 hells. After death, messengers of Yama bring all beings to the court of Yama, where he/she weighs the virtues and the vices of the being and passes a judgement, sending the virtuous to Svarga (heaven) and the sinners to one of the hells. The stay in Svarga or Naraka is generally described as temporary. After the quantum of punishment is over, the souls are reborn as lower or higher beings as per their merit. In a few texts, a hell is described as a bottomless pit of darkness where souls are trapped for eternity and deprived of rebirth. “
ISLAM According to islamreligion.com, there are different levels of both paradise and hell. “Hell is an infernal place of punishment for unbelievers and purification for sinful believers. Torture and punishment for the body and the soul, burning by fire, boiling water to drink, scalding food to eat, chains, and choking columns of fire. Unbelievers will be eternally damned to it, whereas sinful believers will eventually be taken out of Hell and enter Paradise. Paradise is for those who worshiped God alone, believed and followed their prophet, and lived moral lives according to the teachings of scripture. Hell will be the final dwelling place of those who denied God, worshiped other beings besides God, rejected the call of the prophets, and lead sinful, unrepentant lives.”
BUDDHISM: In only a few words, this is the basic belief of the buddhist: “There is a hell realm where sinful beings are born, and suffer, and the heaven realm where meritable beings are born. Buddhists believe in reincarnation. This means you will keep going through the cycle of life over and over again until you reach enlightenment (a state of mind where you are completely peaceful and in harmony with the world around you). Depending on how you lived your previous life, you will be reincarnated to a life suiting how you treated others before. When you reach Enlightenment you will go to Nirvana. Nirvana could be called the equivalent of the Christian idea of Heaven. Buddhism is in actuality a Way of Life, in strict accord with the Laws of Nature. Life in Buddhism denotes a unit of mind, which is a unit of dynamically fluctuating energy. Buddhism acknowledges several planes of life, animal, humans, form and formless existences; heavenly realms and hell realms. They exist in the form of energy. However, whether in heavenly or hell realm, form or formless existences, these beings must finally escape from Samsara into Nirvana (enlightenment). Buddhism is about mind culture and only with development of mental development can craving be eradicated and production of kamma be halted.”
None of the above may convince you that a loving God would hurl those souls into such a terrible place, but throughout history the wisest and smartest of men and women have studied the words they feel were given to man by God. If there is no hell, not to worry. The worrisome part is not truly knowing for the Holy Scriptures tell us a “a great gulf is fixed” between the living and the dead. No one from either place…heaven or hell…has returned to tell us the actualities.
As a Christian, I turn to the Holy Scriptures that gives us some insight to faith….for if we can believe God for His salvation, we must also believe Him for other matters. I only believe it will be a fearsome or delightful experience to look into the face of our maker…and have to give an account.
SCRIPTURES FROM THE HOLY BIBLE (Old and New Testaments):
Hebrew: sheol (or hell) Numbers 16:33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
Luke 16:24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
After reading all this, do you feel despondent, sad, discouraged….on this Halloween? If so, I have some good news as you turn to God for His answers to life and death. THE PROMISE OF GOD in Romans 8:37-39 “Nay in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present or things to come…nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. “