Why are we testing The Hell Test? Because The Hell Test asked to be tested – and because it should be tested. The author of The Hell Test says he is an expert on the subject of universal salvation. He doesn’t believe in hell and eternal punishment for unbelievers. He believes they will eventually be saved and go to Heaven.
“We believe that all men (and women) will eventually be saved ONLY because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, not because of any other way. We do NOT believe all religions lead to heaven. The way into Heaven is through Jesus Christ alone.” (tentmaker.org)
It is true that Jesus is the only Way to eternal life in Heaven (John 14:6), but will everyone get there no matter what they believe before death? No matter what sins they commit? No matter whether they repent or ask God’s forgiveness before death? No matter whether they “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31) or not before they die? Whether they believe the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17) or not before their death?
Christian Universalists (their identification) believe that “even the sinful and unbelieving dead — will eventually find reconciliation with God by repenting of their sins and going through a transformation process” (christianuniversalist.org). Is that true? Do the unbelieving dead get a second chance after death to repent of their sins, go through a “transformation process,” and reconcile with God? What would cause an unbeliever, even a God-hater, to change their minds after death and repent of their sins and want to be reconciled to God? And why would God want to save someone after death who rejected Him during their life?
That theory reminds me of some of the spiritual lessons I learned as a teenager while studying Buddhism. Reincarnation was presented as a transformational process that could lead to a god-like state. I learned about the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. The goal was the cessation of dukkha, which included the Buddhist concept of righteousness: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
As I compare the transformational process of universal salvation with the path to the cessation of dukkha, it causes me to wonder if Christian Universalism is just another way of carrying out the teachings of Buddha – but after death instead of during life.
Let’s put The Hell Test to the test.
Question – “If Hell is real and describes a real place, why does the English word ‘Hell’ come from a pagan source instead of the ancient Hebrew writings of the Bible? Why is the word ‘Hell’ not found in the Jew’s Bible which is the Christian’s Old Testament? Furthermore, the word “Hell” has completely disappeared from the Old Testament Scriptures in most leading Bibles. Why? Because the best scholarship demands it. (The word ‘Hell’ comes from the Teutonic ‘Hele’ goddess of the underworld ‘Hell’ of northern Europe. The description of this ancient mythological place has very little resemblance anymore to the modern Christian image of Hell. See any Encyclopedia or dictionary for the origin of the word.) Seeing that the Bible is supposed to be ‘Holy,’ why have pagan religious words been added to our modern English Bibles? Please understand, the English word ‘Hell’ and its concepts are NOT in the Hebrew nor Greek. They come into the English through Northern European mythologies, NOT from the roots of Christianity.” (The Hell Test)
Answer – The first question in The Hell Test is an old technique of putting up a “smoke screen” to hide the real fighting force, or doctrinal issue in this case. Spending time tracking and debating the source of the English word for “hell” is a distraction that takes our attention away from the real issue. The Bible was not written in English. It was written in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament). We can debate whether translators chose the best words for translations later, but first we need to see what words the Holy Spirit chose when He inspired the human authors of the Bible and what He wanted them to know.
Let’s begin with some of the Hebrew and Aramaic words in the Old Testament that deal with death. I’ve listed the words and their basic definitions to help you in your study.
sheol – grave, death, realm of dead qeber – grave, tomb
q’burah – tomb, grave, burial muth – die, dead mot – death
mamot – death mawet – death, die t’mutah – death, die
bor – death, pit gawa – dead body g’wiyyah – body, corpse
r’pa’iym – dead, spirits of the dead nakah – death, murdered, killed, struck down
halal – dead, slain n’belah – body, corpse peger – dead bodies
ittiym – spirits of the dead abad – dead, perished nepes – dead body
sapad – mourn, lament abal – mourn, grieve qadar – mourning
abaddon – destruction shaḥat – pit, destruction tehom – abyss
As with most doctrines (teachings) of Scripture, the Holy Spirit reveals details over time. Name the doctrine (e.g. Heaven, hell, love, hope, fear, salvation, righteousness, justice, morality, goodness) and you’ll learn more about it as you read through the Bible. Things that seemed unclear in the Old are clarified or completed in the New. For example: God introduced the doctrine of the Seed in Genesis 3 and revealed more about the Seed to Abraham and others in the centuries that followed, but we don’t find out that the Seed is Jesus Christ for thousands of years after God first mentioned it in the Garden of Eden. The same is true about what happens to people after they die. God introduced the concept of death soon after creating Adam, but revealed details about what that meant over a period of thousands of years until it was fully revealed by Jesus Christ – who conquered death.
Here are some of the general principles concerning death in the Hebrew Bible.
#1 – Death was something to fear
“… but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17
“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 21:12
“And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 21:15
“He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 21:16
“No person under the ban, who may become doomed to destruction among men, shall be redeemed, but shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 27:29
[The Law of Moses is filled with many crimes punishable by death. Death was the ultimate penalty for crimes against God and man thousands of years ago, even as it is today. People feared death then as they do today because it is the end of physical life as we know it.]
#2 – Death was connected to sin
“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.” Deuteronomy 24:16
“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Deuteronomy 21:22-23
The death penalty is connected to sins against God and against people. There are sins deserving of death.
#3 – Death caused grief
“Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.” Numbers 20:29
“When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.” 2 Samuel 11:26
Death, then as now, causes the living to grieve and mourn.
#4 – Death brought an end to what people could do while alive
“For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?” Psalm 6:5
“For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.” Isaiah 38:18
#5 – Death was not the end of God’s involvement with people
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:9-11
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:7-10
“Though they dig into hell, From there My hand shall take them; Though they climb up to heaven, From there I will bring them down; And though they hide themselves on top of Carmel, From there I will search and take them; Though they hide from My sight at the bottom of the sea, From there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them; Though they go into captivity before their enemies, From there I will command the sword, And it shall slay them. I will set My eyes on them for harm and not for good.” Amos 9:2-4
#6 – Death was not the end for those who sinned against God
“For behold, the Lord will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many … And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Isaiah 66:15-16, 24
More about what the Hebrews understood about death from their Bible in their language in the next part of our study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”