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Chapter 7 - What About Those Who Reject Christ?
Most people are familiar with the word 'hell'. However, most only use it as a sort of punctuation in their vocabulary. Few consider it real. This may be because our popular culture has used images of hell as elements in fictional horror stories and even cartoons.
Some of the confusion about hell results from the different biblical words that are often translated as 'hell'.
1. The Grave - There are several words translated into English as the 'grave'. In general, they usually mean the location of the physical decomposition of the body.
2. Hell - Gehenna - The Greek word 'Gehenna' is the translation of 'valley of Hinnom' which was a narrow ravine on the south side of Jerusalem where garbage was burned and some of the dead were thrown. This word was used metaphorically to illustrate the unpleasant aspects of Sheol or Hades.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. - Matthew 23:15
3. Hell - Sheol - Hades - These words are used to refer to the place the soul resides after death but before judgment. This had been divided into two realms (as seen with the illustration of Lazarus and the rich man). The righteous (those with faith) seem to have rest, while the unsaved seem to have torment.
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. - Psalm 9:17
4. Hell - Tartarus - This is the location of some angels whose particular rebellion required their confinement.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; - 2 Peter 2:4
5. Outer darkness. This may not specifically count as a description of hell, but it is difficult to consider what else it might describe.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. - Matthew 25:30
There is a second resurrection described in the bible which seems to include the rest of those who were not the believers described in the first resurrection. This is often called the 'Great White Throne' judgment and is based upon what works people have done in their lives.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:11-15
These verses contain a lot of information both for what is said and what is not said. One key element is the phrase 'judged every man according to his works'. While no specific mention is made of individual 'punishment' (other than being cast into the lake of fire), there is an implication that there is proportionality of judgment according to what one has done in life.
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