Should Hell be Taught to Nonbeliever?



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  • Should Hell be Taught to Nonbeliever?

    Do you think the concept of hell should be taught to non believers or even immature followers? When Jesus was living on Earth it seemed he taught with geniune love to nonbelivers and from what I recall did not mention hell to them, but was really hard on the Pharisees and mentioned hell a few times. It seems like that new immature believer will eventually ponder about the question and ask about it to his or her friend in Christ. To the unbeliever it would not make sense to teach about hell when they don't even believe in God yet. My answer would be to look for God's timing and consider your audience. What do you think?

  • #2
    The subject of Hell has been used as entertainment

    I am with you on your position, as are scripture. Hell, Hades or Sheol was indeed made an issue by Christ to those who had pride in their religious stations. I personally have never felt that preaching Hell as a message to a non-believer is acceptable. What such a message does is motivate them to salvation by means of fear.. or as I call the “fire escape” confession. Christianity is not a fear-based faith, it is a love based faith… bound in mercy, grace, and unconditional acceptance. Our motivation for seeking the finished work of Christ is coming to grips with our destitute sin nature, and finally our need of a redeeming Savior. Granted, eternal torment might be a fraction of a message to help a person understand the destiny of those without Christ. However, scripture indicates torment was only intended for Lucifer and the fallen host, that a human’s soul was never intended for this end. This is one of the reasons why I don’t find it proper to center on. Although, I do find Jonathan Edwards classic “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God” entertaining and somewhat stirring

    Baptists pastors like Paul Washer sensationalizes hell, fire and brimstone messages to a degree. I love his heart, but he can transverse the Hell rail at times You will find historically, that listeners through the ages are enthralled by this message. Herod did not want to kill John the Baptist because the cutting message John spoke caused him to feel moved, although completely unrepentant. Fear, mystery, macabre, daring, excitement… all stirs the listener. Have you read Dante's phantasmagorical vision of Hell from the ''Divine Comedy” circa 1310 or thereabouts? The play was quite the sensation of the time and has had a prominent place in drama and literature since. However, images of Dante's Inferno need to be purged from a biblical worldview, because it still confuses many. For example, Satan and his hordes will not be torturing lost souls as the famous paintings of Hieronymus Bosch or Bruegel depict as inspired by Dante’s play. The Devil and demons themselves will be tortured, not initiating torture. According to Revelation 20:14, hell is not Satan's final destination. His final destination is the lake of fire into which not only Satan but also Death and Hell are cast there as well.

    Like a roller coaster is a rush for the physical senses, a scourging message on hell can be an emotional rush, but should not be the keynote message of salvation in my opinion. However, the Holy Spirit will indeed lead uniquely in every occasion if allowed. What may be the direction of His leading may not always be in accordance to our understanding.


    • #3
      Hmm, I squirmed a bit here. I do believe that the descriptions of hell in the Bible should be expressed to nonbelievers. I am in no way a scholar (far from it), but if my memory serves me correctly, one description given by Jesus was of a burning fire (the refuse dump outside the City of Jerusalem that was continually on fire containing worms and trouble). Also Jesus spoke of an outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The image is of horrible loneliness and blackness and irreversible separation from God.

      Eternity is forever. There will be no way out of hell and no second chances. That's why I would think that God wants Christians to be diligent to deliver warning signs of consequences as well as express love to the unsaved. We need to tell the world why it is so important to receive the pardon that God extends to all men through the cross of Jesus Christ.


      • #4
        I agree, in context to the Spirits leading. According to the Gospels, Jesus spoke 11 times on the subject of Hades. However, if we intellectually relay our faith doctrinally, we will immediately estrange the listener by obverse content. If I have started developing a new relationship with a tender yet lost soul as a seed planter, my ability to communicate with that person may be instantly compromised if suddenly I started speaking of burning in hell. In all things, the Holy Spirit must govern the tongue, not the mind.

        Christ did not speak of hell in the midst of those who had ears and who could hear. He did not mention it to the Samaritan at the well, in the house of Matthew the tax collector, nor to those who cried "Have mercy son of David." He proclaimed the torment message of impending judgment for those who were calloused and who would not hear. He spoke unto the Jewish leaders saying "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell [Gehenna] than yourselves." Matthew 23:15. Eighteen verses later, Jesus used gehenna for the eleventh time. Continuing in the same address, he said "Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell [Gehenna]?"

        There is but one occurrence of Gehenna outside the teaching of Christ. It's the only time the word occurs outside the gospels, where James, writing to Jews shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, said "And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell [Gehenna]." While this is the only passage speaking of Gehenna outside the gospels, it is consistent with how Jesus defined it. James condemned misuse of the tongue, specifically in terms Jesus used the first time he used the word in Matthew 5:22, where he spoke of cursing one's brethren putting one in danger of the hell of fire [Gehenna].

        From these twelve Gehenna passages, we learn that Gehenna would be the familiar valley on the southwest side of Jerusalem where an imminent fiery judgment was coming on the Jews of the generation in which Jesus was crucified. It was unquenchable fire on that generation in that generation. It was a national judgment against the Jews. Gehenna was to the Jews of Jesus' day what it was to the Jews of Jeremiah's day-where the term originated-the city dump! But it entailed all the horror of being rejected and abandoned by God to the merciless enemy who surrounded the gates and who would cause their dead carcasses to be thrown into the burning, worm-infested place. Thus, when Jesus used the term He used it in the same sense that Jeremiah did: as Jerusalem then was abandoned to Babylon's invasion, so Jerusalem of Jesus' day was about to be abandoned to Roman invasion-unless they repented. None of them associate hell with Satan nor that Satan's domain is hell.

        One other observation deserves to be made. As we've seen, the word Gehenna occurs sparsely in the Bible-none in the Greek Old Testament, and only twelve times in the New Testament, eleven by Jesus, and one by James. Amazingly, the word is nowhere used in the book of Acts. Luke recorded thirty years of preaching by Paul (who claimed to have declared “the whole counsel of God”) and others in Acts, yet the word is not used once. Not only does Acts not record any of the teaching on hell that we've just seen samples of, it doesn't even mention the word! The gospel being preached in Acts didn't contain such a concept at all when preaching the Good News, but it did carry judgment against the resistant Jews about the inescapable fiery judgment that was coming upon them if they didn't repent, much as Christ had spoke against the rebellious leaders.

        In 2 Peter 2.4, the Greek word translated “pits of darkness” here, the only time it's used in the Bible, is Tartarus. Again, the KJV gave us hell, though there is no reason to translate it so. The passages speak of angels that were being punished when 2 Peter was written, to show that God knew how to treat disobedience among angels. It says nothing about fire, torment, pain, punishment of anyone else, or that it will last forever. It simply doesn't pertain to human souls.

        Then there is the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" passages. "but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:12 and "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and yourselves being thrown outside." Luke 13:28

        The above scriptures are often referred to as proof that while dead, the wicked are aware and suffering, weeping and gnashing their teeth. Matthew 8:12 is often listed as proof of suffering in hell. In actuality, Jesus does not say anything in these verses about the weeping and gnashing of teeth in reference to hell (Hades/Sheol). Nor does he say anything about weeping and gnashing of teeth in Gehenna. Nor does he say that these are weeping and gnashing their teeth while in a condition of being aware while dead apart from the body. Nor did he say anything about those weeping and gnashing as “spirit bodies”. These explanations originated with the Catholic church and were embraced by the Protestants later on.

        The two referenced scriptures depict the end results of the Jewish rejection of their Messiah in the resurrection. The Kingdom was taken from them and given to a “nation” producing its fruitage. (Matthew 21:43) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are figured as sitting in this kingdom because it is this “nation” that becomes the seed of Abraham, not by blood and flesh, but by faith. (Galatians 3:26-29) Of course, the language of the parable is pictorial, not to be taken literally. The children of the kingdom, the Jews as a whole, were cast out into outer darkness. There they were weeping and gnashing their teeth. They were cast out when Jesus stated: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who killed the prophets, and stoned them that were sent to you how often I would have gathered your children together, as hen gathers her offspring under her wings, but you would not allow it! Look, your house is left to you in desolation. Truly I say to that you will not see until the time comes when you will say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh!’” — Luke 13:34,35.

        Finally, to dispell the confusion about The Rich Man and Lazarus found in (Luke 16:19-31). This was not an actual occurance, but rather a parable to relay a point. In exposition, Jesus had been teaching about materialism and money -- the unjust steward, serving Mammon, and stewardship. His audience includes his disciples (16:1) as well as "the Pharisees who loved money" and ridiculed his stand on money (16:14). Jesus affirms the validity of the Law, rightly interpreted (16:16-18) -- important to the Pharisees. The parable we are studying this week condemns the Pharisees for their love of money and neglect of showing compassion for the poor (16:19-31). Here again, Jesus uses a harsh lesson because he knows he is in ear shot of the hard hearted Pharisees.

        "In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side." (16:23-24) The Greek word used here for "hell" is Hades, the place of the dead not torment, and in Jewish thought, the intermediate place of the dead prior to the final judgment. Though Greek Gehenna is usually used to refer to the place of final punishment, in Jewish literature torment can be a feature of the intermediate state as well as of the final state of the wicked.

        This study shows that when John the Baptist and Jesus used these terms, they used language familiar to the Jews whom they taught. The Jews had heard this language no other way than in scenes of national judgment (ex. Isa. 33.10-11; Dan. 7.9-12). While it is easy for us to read these passages from the point of view of enduring conscious punishment, we should read them as the Jews who heard them first. In review, we learn Christ was addressing the rebellious when he spoke of unending fire or torment, and no where afterwards, during the dispensation of grace, was hell mentioned as part of the Good News about the finished work of Christ.


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