Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gehenna

I was thinking about the typical Christian view of Hell again. I was wondering when people started viewing Hell as a place of eternal conscious torment.

Did the Jews of Jesus day hold this belief? Were the audiences of Jesus thinking this when He talked about Gehenna (that is often translated as Hell for us)?

Wikipedia on Rabbinical Judaism's view of Gehenna:

The picture of Gehenna as the place of punishment or destruction of the wicked occurs frequently in the Mishnah in Kiddushin 4.14, Avot 1.5; 5.19, 20, Tosefta t.Bereshith 6.15, and Babylonian Talmud b.Rosh Hashanah 16b:7a; b.Bereshith 28b. Gehenna is considered a Purgatory-like place where the wicked go to suffer until they have atoned for their sins. It is stated that the maximum amount of time a sinner can spend in Gehenna is one year, with the exception of five people who are there for all of eternity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gehenna#In_Rabbinical_Judaism
And:
There is much rabbinic material on what happens to the soul of the deceased after death, what it experiences, and where it goes. At various points in the afterlife journey, the soul may encounter: Hibbut ha-kever, the pains of the grave; Dumah, the angel of silence; Satan as the angel of death; the Kaf ha-Kela, the catapult of the soul; Gehinom (purgatory); and Gan Eden (heaven or paradise). All classic rabbinic scholars agree that these concepts are beyond typical human understanding. Therefore, these ideas are expressed throughout rabbinic literature through many varied parables and analogies.

Gehinom is fairly well defined in rabbinic literature. It is sometimes translated as "hell", but is much closer to the Catholic view of purgatory than to the Christian view of hell, which differs greatly from the classical Jewish view. In Judaism, gehinom — while certainly a terribly unpleasant place or state — is not hell. The overwhelming majority of rabbinic thought maintains that souls are not tortured in gehinom forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be twelve months, with extremely rare exception. This is the reason that even when in mourning for near relatives, Jews will not recite mourner's kaddish for longer than an eleven month period. Gehinom is considered a spiritual forge where the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden").[23]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_eschatology

So we didn't inherit our beliefs about Hell from the Jews.

Jesus didn't spell it out clearly as I've pointed out here in my longest post ever.

Where did we come up with the idea that God's plans to torture billions of people for eternity?


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6 comments:

reformedlostboy said...

I get it from the understanding of the magnitude of my sins against Holy God.

The greater my view of God has become then the greater my sins against his nature are recognized.

Why is it that so many take issues with the justice of eternal damnation? Simply because we don't understand how completely worthless we are as creatures made in the image of God as we choose to reject the purpose for which we were created. We have no value apart from Jesus Christ.

Jonathan said...

Hi, thanks for your comment... even when we don't see eye to eye on the topic. I appreciate your feedback.

Personally I think the death penalty is pretty severe. God may simply think destruction and death is a justice for those who do not chose to follow Him. Some may not accept his offer of eternal life... so they won't live forever.

If Scripture was clear on the eternal conscious torment theory, I'd be OK with it. But when I looked for myself I just don't see it.

I conclude it's not an essential. I'm OK agreeing to disagree on this one. Either way the taking God's path for life is the best choice for now... and the rest will make sense when we get there.

reformedlostboy said...

Right on. I can agree to disagree as long as we are doing so in the bond of peace with a desire to be unified and of one mind in Christ. In that fashion I ask; which part of my comment do you disagree with?

Jonathan said...

Thanks reformedlostboy for agreeing we can disagree. :)

I may have misread you, but it looked to me you were questioning me "taking issue with the justice of eternal damnation". As in you see no problem with God planning on torturing people in a conscious state for eternity.

If this was clearly taught in Scripture, I'd go along with this view. But I don't see it.

I've been impressed lately more with how much God the Father loves us all. I don't want to view God anymore as the bad guy who wants to torture us because we are worthless... and Jesus as the good guy who steps in a says: "No God... I've got him covered". I think Scripture supports the idea that God made us in His own image, and He loves us all more than we can imagine. Some of us are like the prodigal son who don't want to live under our Fathers roof... but His love continues either way.

Those that don't choose eternal life with God may simply get death and destruction (the way Scripture frequently describes it).

But I accept I'm in the minority with these views. I may be wrong. Either way I want to point people to Christ because of His love for us and His plan for us... (not emphasizing that God loves you, but if you don't love Him He will torture you).

Sorry if I go on about this topic too much... I know it's a HOT topic, but I don't want to get too heated about it myself. :)

God bless!

Jonathan H said...

I think you're on to something here. I've been exploring the same issues, and coming up with similar answers.
You might like to take a look over at
http://gritintheoyster.wordpress.com/

Jonathan said...

Thanks Jonathan H. (I'll clarify to others reading that I am not talking to myself here, even if it may appear so). I'm encouraged by reading some of your blog. I sense God is at work in each of us, as we painfully sort through our religious baggage. God bless.