WHERE DOES THE WORD HELL COME FROM?
Webster's Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, under "Hell"
says: "from 'helan' to conceal." The word "hell" thus originally conveyed
no thought of heat or torment but simply of a 'covered over or concealed
place.' In the old English dialect the expression "helling potatoes" meant,
not to roast them, but simply to place the potatoes in the ground or in a
Collier's Encyclopedia (1986, Vol 12, p.28) says concerning "Hell":
First it stands for the Hebrew Sheol of the Old Testament and the Greek
Hades of the Septuagint and New Testament. Since Sheol in the Old Testament
times refered simply to the abode of the dead and suggested no moral
distinctions, the word 'hell,' as understood today, is not a happy
The meaning given today to the word "hell" is that portrayed in Dante's
Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost, which meaning is completely
foreign to the original definition of the word. The idea of a "hell" of firey
torment, dates back long before Dante or Milton. The Grollier Universal
Encyclopedia (1971, Vol. 9,p.205) under "Hell" says: "Hindus and Buddhists
regard hell as a place of spiritual cleansing and final restoration.
Islamic tradition considers it as a place of eternal punishment." The idea
of suffering after death is found among the pagan religious teachings of
ancient peoples in Babylon and Egypt. Babylonian and Assyrian beliefs
depicted the "nether world . . . as a place full of horrors, . . . presided
over by gods and demons of great strength and fierceness." Although ancient
Egyptian religious texts do not teach that the burning of any individual
victim would go on forever, they do portray the "other world" as featuring
"pits of fire" for "the damned."--The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, by
Morris Jastrow, Jr. 1898, p. 581; The Book of the Dead, 1960, pp. 135-200.
"Hellfire" has been a basic teaching in Christendom for many centuries,
it is understandable why The Encyclopedia Americana (1956, Vol XIV,p.81)
said:"Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused by the early
translators of the Bible persistently rendering the Hebrew Sheol and the
Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell. The simple transliteration of
these words by the translators of the revised editions of the Bible has not
sufficed to appreciably clear up this confusion and misconception."
Nevertheless, such transliteration and consistent rendering does enable the
Bible student to make an accurate comparison of the texts in which these
original words appear and, with open mind, thereby to arrive at an
understanding of their true significance.
So, what is the 'Lake of Fire" of Revelation chapter 20? First let's
look at verse 15, it says: "Whosoever was not found written in the book of
life was cast into the lake of fire." But verse 14 says:"And death and hell
were cast into the lake of fire." Is hell itself to be tormented? And how
can death ,a condition, be thrown into a literal fire? The rest of verse 14
reads: This [the lake of fire] is the second death." Rev. 21:8 repeats this
point. What is this "second death"? The Catholic Jerusalem Bible adds this
footnote concerning "the second death": "Eternal death. The fire ... is
symbolic." Very true, for it signifies complete destruction, or
How interresting! "Hell" is to be destroyed! Note, however, that the
Greek word used here is Hades, which, according to Strong's Exhaustive
Concordance of the Bible, means "grave." Are the dead conscious or
suffering in hell, or Hades? The Bible replies:"The dead know nothing...for
neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom,nor knowledge shall be in hell, whither
thou art hastening."--Ecclesiastes 9:5,10, Catholic Douay Version.
However you may ask "Why does Rev.20:10, say that the Devil will be
'tormented' in the lake of fire?" If, as we have seen, the lake is
symbolic, then, logically the torment is also.
In the Bible times, jailers often cruelly tortured their prisoners,
hence they were called "tormentors." In one of his illustrations, Jesus
spoke of a cruel slave as being 'delivered to jailers' (Greek, basanistes',
which actually means "tormentors" and is so rendered by the KJV at Matt.
18:34). So when Revelation speaks of the Devil and others as being
"tormented...forever" in the lake of fire, it means that they will be
"jailed" to all eternity in the second death of complete destruction. The
Devil, the death inherited from Adam, and the unrepentant wicked all are
spoken of as being destroyed eternally--"jailed" in the lake of
fire.--Compare Heb.2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:26; Psalm 37:38.
The Dogma of eternal torment is based on the immortal-soul theory.
However, the Bible clearly states: "The soul that is sinning--it shall
die."(Ezekial 18:4,20; see also Acts 3:23.) Proclaimers of hellfire have
made the true God, Jehovah, appear to be a fiend--a cruel monster--instead
of what he is: a God of love, "merciful and gracious . . . and abundant in
loving kindness."--Exodus 34:6.
Lovingly God has made provision to save men, not from torment, but from
being destroyed. Said Jesus: "God loved the world so much that he gave his
only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him not be
DESTROYED but have everlasting life.--John 3:16.