"I don't care to think about the awful place," says one, "for I don't expect to go thereI have no interest in it." Yet, if the "orthodox" view of it be true, that all except the saints of God go there,that it is the penalty for Adam's sin, that all of Adam's posterity are under that penalty except those few faithful believers in Christ who escape it, then it follows that you, and I, and all, ought to be deeply interested in finding out all we can about that which is represented as the surest and most awful, and most general calamity to which our poor race is exposed. If you and I do expect to escape, we should be anxious on behalf of the others; for in proportion to the world's population even in this enlightened day, the faithful believers in Christ are but as one out of a thousand. Nor will it do to excuse one's self with the idea that "My friends and relations will all escape." You know that many, yea most of your friends and relatives are not faithful believers; and as you look back over the pages of history, it is not a great way back that you find your great-great-grandparents were heathen idolaters who knew not of the Redeemer, and hence could not have been justified by faith in him. Besides, are not all mankind our relatives? and are not all brethren?children of one common fatherAdam?
Subjects like slavery, intemperance, pestilence, or epidemics affecting only a part of the human family, we would and should, as we do, see hundreds, yes thousands, of men and women spending time and talent and money in examining, and arranging for the relief and safety of their fellows. Yet there is no comparison between human slavery, etc., and everlasting torture in misery and anguish, which human tongue, we are told, cannot describe. The most terrible human sufferings of the present, which soon end life and thus bring relief, are really pleasurable moments in comparison to what we are told of hell, which besides will never end while the years of eternity roll.
Oh yes, there are thousands of clergymen who are supposed to have studied all about this awful subject, who weekly meet with about two millions of the fourteen hundred millions of the earth's present population, to consider this very subject which they claim is all-important. They meet in comfortable and elegant buildings, expensively attired, and are entertained by music and oratory, and if the subject they claim as the all-important cause of their assembling is mentioned AT ALL, it is to assure the hearts of those present that they have nothing to fear; for though God will deal most awfully with others, he will deal kindly with them, and instead of delighting to torture them to all eternity, God will be glad to have such genteel people as attend their entertaining church services and participate in the usual suppers, fairs, etc., to adorn heaven. Why will God thus favor them? Not because of good works, they admit; nor because of great faith, we would claim, for they know little of God or his Word, and hence cannot believe much or firmly. Their hopes must therefore be built mainly upon their morality, because they are refined and not vulgar, and specially because they have joined a sect and assented to a creed which they do not know, nor understand, nor believein a word because they are thus acting a lie with a form of godliness without the real power thereof. Do these people really believe
concerning hell? Surely not! To us their actions speak, louder than words. They even count the Salvation Army people fools and fanatics, because they, poor creatures, less intelligent, less learned, BELIEVE the story of the clergy about this awful place they describe hell to be, and honestly act out their belief.
Of all the people in the world to-day who profess to believe this awful doctrine of eternal torment, the "Salvation Army" alone acts reasonably and consistently. And their wildest freaks and fancies are tame compared with what might be expected if they were fully convinced of the truth of the doctrine. The men and women who have ever fully believed the doctrine, are undoubtedly those hundreds who have gone insane from sympathy with their fellows; the effort to save others from everlasting torture unbalanced their reason. We cannot imagine any sincere believer of this terrible doctrine going from day to day about the ordinary affairs of life, or meeting quietly in elegance every Sunday to hear an essay from some of the peculiar servants of the truth on the peculiar subjects often advertised, really believing all the time that at the rate of one hundred a minute fellow mortals are dying, and entering
They could not complacently sit there and think of those hurrying every moment into that awful state described by the good, well-meaning, but terribly deluded man John Watts (whose own heart was infinitely warmer and larger than that he ascribed to the great Jehovah), when he wrote that sweet hymn, which, thank God, sensible people have ceased to love and almost ceased to sing:
Surely men and women believing thus would rush frantically to the heathen and to all unbelievers everywhere, and would describe hell and make people join their churches or set them crazy with fear, or both. Mothers, fathers, and children have become insane from anguish, when their loved ones have been caught in a burning building, though they knew that their pain would endure but a few minutes, yet they pretend to believe that God is less loving than they, and that He can look with indifference, if not with delight, at the billions of his creatures enduring an eternity of torture far more terrible, which he prepares for them and prevents any escape from, forever. Not only so, but they expect they will get literally into Abraham's bosom, and will then look across the gulf and see and hear the agonies of the multitudes some of whom they now love and weep over and will be so changed (become so like their present idea of God), so hardened against all pity and so barren of love and sympathy that they will delight in God and in this plan.
It is wonderful that otherwise sensible looking and acting men and women, who love their fellows, establish hospitals, orphanages, asylums and societies for the prevention of cruelty to even the brute creation, are so unbalanced mentally that they can believe and subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet be so indifferent about investigating the subject of "everlasting torture."
Only one exception can we think of,those who hold the ultra-Calvinistic doctrine; who believe that God has decreed it thus, and that all the efforts they could put forth could not alter the result with a single person, and that all the prayers they could offer would not change that awful plan they believe God has marked out for His and their eternal pleasure. These indeed could sit still, so far as effort for their fellows is concerned, but why sing the praises of such a God and such a plan? These who hold this view of their own unconditional and unalterable election, could surely afford to be honest, since they think that they could not be rejected. Why should not these, instead of singing the praises of such a plan and keeping quiet, hide their faces in shame for their God, and express their true heart-sympathy for the people, and instead of singing, weep and lament. It would be far more creditable to their faith and their hearts;would it not?
Why not rather begin to doubt the self-exalted clergy, and to wonder whether this "doctrine of devils," this blasphemy against the great God, was not hatched in the "dark ages," when a crafty priesthood thought it godly to do evil, that good might result? The doctrine of eternal torment was introduced by Papacy to compel pagans to join her system and support her priesthood. It flourished at the same time that "bull fighting" and gladiatorial contests were the public amusement most enjoyed, when the Crusades were called "holy wars," and when men and women were called "heretics" and slaughtered, for thinking or speaking contrary to the teachings of Papacy; at a time when the sun of gospel truth was obscure, when the Word of God had fallen into disuse and was prohibited to be read by any but the clergy, whose love of their neighbors was often shown in torturing heretics to induce them to recant and deny their faith and their Biblesto save them if possible, they explained, from the more awful future of heretics, eternal torture. They did not borrow this doctrine from the heathens, for no heathen people in the world have a doctrine half so terrible, cruel, fiendish and unjust. Find it, whoever can, and show it up in all its blackness, that if possible it may be shown that the essence of barbarism, malice, hate and ungodliness, has not been exclusively appropriated by those whom God has most highly favored with light from every quarter, to whom God has committed the holy oracleHis Word. Oh! the shame and confusion of face that will cover many even good men (who verily thought that they did God service while propagating this misrepresentation of the devil) when they awake in the resurrection to learn of the love and justice of God, and when they shall come to know that the Bible for which some of them would lay down their lives, does not teach this God-dishonoring, love-extinguishing, truth-beclouding, saint-hindering, sinner-hardening, damnable heresy.
But we repeat that in the light and moral development of this day, sensible people do not believe this doctrine. However, since they think that the Bible teaches it, every step they progress in real intelligence and godlikeness of mind, which hinders such belief, is in most cases a step away from God's Word which they falsely accuse of this teaching. Hence this second crop of evil fruit, which the devil's engraftment of this error is producing. The intelligent, honest thinkers are thus driven from the Bible into vain philosophies and sciences, falsely so-called, and into skepticism. Nor do the "worldly" really believe this doctrine. It does not restrain from crime: theft, murder, suicide, immorality and drunkenness are more common by far in the countries where this doctrine is taught, than in other lands. Mohammedan and Buddhist countries are much more moral than those misnamed "Christendom." True, some instances are known, where murderers nearing death's door under pressure of fear or sickness confess a faith under the teaching that to doubt it is to make sure the getting of it. But their lives of disregard, as well as their profanity, show that if this doctrine ever restrained men, it does not now.
No error, we answer, ever did real good, but always harm. Those whom error brings into a church, and whom the truth would not move, are an injury to the church. The thousands which this doctrine forced into Papacy, terrorized, but not at heart converted, which swelled her numbers and her wealth, diluted what little truth was held before, and mingled it with their unholy and ignorant sentiments, so that to meet the changed condition of things, the "clergy" found it needful to add error to error, and to resort to methods, forms, etc., not taught in the Scriptures and useless to the truly converted whom the truth controls. Among these were pictures, images, beads, vestments, candles, grand cathedrals, altars, etc., to help the unconverted heathen to a form of godliness more nearly corresponding to his former heathen worship.
The heathen were not benefited, for they were still heathen in God's sight, deluded into aping what they did not understand or do from the heart. They were tares to choke the wheat without being profited thereby themselves.
The same is true of those brought under the name Christian to-day, who are not really at heart converted by the truth, but merely frightened by the error, or allured by promised earthly advantages of a social or business kind. Such add nothing to the true church; by their ideas and manners they become stumbling blocks to the truly consecrated, and by their numbers and their inability to digest the truth, the real food of the saints, they lead even the few true pastors to defraud the true sheep in order to satisfy the demands of these goats for something pleasing to their unconverted tastes. No, in no way has this error accomplished good, but in every way harm. Let us now inquire:
In the first place, let none forget that the Bible was not inspired in the English language, that the inspired Scriptures which "holy men wrote and spoke as they were moved by the holy Spirit" were writtenthe Old Testament in the Hebrew and the New Testament in the Greek language. We know further, that the translators were not inspired of God so as to prevent mistakes creeping in; for all scholars recognize some mistakes in the English translations.
Now, admitting that the translators were honest men who reverently desired to serve God and the church by giving English readers a faithful translation from the original, yet all who have a knowledge of more than one language, and who have ever tried translating from one to another, well know they had a difficult task, the range of both languages making it often possible to translate a word by any one of several words, all having slightly different shades of meaning; besides which the idiomatic differences, the peculiarities in the construction of sentences in both languages, must be taken into account. This makes it necessary for a translator to frequently use his judgment both in deciding which of several words he had best use, and also as to their arrangement to faithfully reproduce the original thought. And, if the translators have certain false ideas fixed in their minds, they are almost sure at times to color their renderings, without wrong intention.
Now, no matter how little hell is talked, or thought, or sung about to-day, there is no other point of doctrine more firmly held by Christian people, who feel sure that to deny hell would be to deny the Bible, and yet who know little about what the Bible says about hell. So, in coming to the English Bible to examine the subject, do not forget to exercise charity toward the translators when we show that their translation has helped forward the wrong ideas generally held. You will be far more justifiable in feeling unthankful toward the "pastors" and "shepherds," whom you have for years helped to support and educate, who [the educated] know of the errors of the translators, and who yet deliberately cover and hide those errors from the people who are paying them for the information. They have kept back the truth about hell for several reasons: First, there is a sort of understanding, or etiquette among them, as among physicians, that if they wish to maintain their standing in the "profession" they "must not tell tales out of school"must not divulge professional secrets to the "common people"the "laity." Secondly, they all fear that to let it be known that they had been teaching an unscriptural doctrine for years, would bring disgrace and disreverence upon the "clergy," and unsettle the confidence of the laity in their wisdomand O how much depends upon confidence and reverence for men, when God's Word is so generally ignored. Thirdly, they know that many of the members of their sects are not constrained by "the love of Christ," (2 Cor. 5:14), but merely by the fear of hell, and they see clearly therefore that to let the truth be known, would soon cut loose the names and the dollars of many in their flocks; and this, to those who desire to make a fair show in the flesh (Gal. 6:12), would be terrible in the extreme.
Nevertheless, it has for some years been seen that knowledge is increasing among the people (Dan. 12:4), and the "Revised English Version" of the Bible was gotten outin great part to patch up this hell doctrine. But they had not the courage to come out and give a correct translation: that, as we have shown, would be too serious a matter to be thought of; so they merely refused to translate the word at all, and put the Greek word hades into the English text. They well knew that the English reader would know little difference between hell and hades and would soon come to use them as synonymous. And this is the case. They feel, however, that they have justified themselves before men, by their course, though they never explain the meaning of the Greek word hades; but by their use of the word, without saying so directly, they give their confiding flocks to understand that it means a place of torture, a lake of fire. But what will be the judgment of the Great Jehovah whose character and plan are traduced by the blasphemous doctrine which this mistranslated word helps to support? Will he commend them? Will he justify their course? Will the Chief Shepherd call these his beloved "friends"? Will he make known unto them his further plans (John 15:14), that they may misrepresent them also, to preserve their own dignity and reverence? Will he continue to send forth "things new and old," "meat in due season" to the household of faith, by the hand of these unfaithful servants? Nay, such shall not continue to be his mouthpieces: he will spew them out of his mouth. (Rev. 3:16.) He will choose instead, as at the first advent, from among the laity"the common people"mouthpieces, and will give them words which none of the chief priests shall be able to gainsay or resist. (Luke 21:15.) And as foretold, "the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid."Isa. 29:9-19.
The word hell occurs thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it is sheol in the Hebrew. It does not mean a lake of fire and brimstone, nor anything at all resembling that thought: not in the slightest degree! Quite the reverse: instead of a place of blazing fire it is described in the context as a state of "darkness;" instead of being a place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of "silence;" instead of representing in any sense pain and suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as one of forgetfulness, where there is no "knowledge" or "work" or "remembrance."
The meaning of sheol is, THE HIDDEN STATE, as applied to man's condition in death; in and beyond which all is hidden, except to the eye of faith: hence by proper and close association the word was often used in the sense of the gravethe tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who have the enlightened eye of the understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And be it particularly noted, that this very same word sheol, is translated pit and grave thirty-four times in our common version by the same translators*more times than it is translated hell; and twice where it is translated hell it seemed so absurd, according to the at present accepted meaning of the word hell, that in modern Bibles the publishers explain in the margin that it means grave. See Isa. 14:9 and Jonah 2:2. In the latter case, the HIDDEN STATE, or grave, was the belly of the fish in which Jonah was buried alive, and from which he cried to God.
*To the credit of the translators of the Common Version (the King James Version) it should be stated that the English word hell has gradually come to have a very different meaning from what it once had, and that when used by them in the sixteenth century, the word hell still retained much of its original meaning which made it a fair equivalent for the Greek and Hebrew words they used it to translate. There is no such excuse, however, for modern translators and teachers, for the original meaning has entirely passed from the word, except as found occasionally in old books, giving place to the "hell fire" idea.
The word hell is Anglo Saxon, and in old English usage meant the place of concealmentthe hidden, or secret, or covered place. Its transitive verb was hele or hill meaning to hide, to conceal, to cover, to roof. In old English books you will find numerous instances of the use of this word, in connection with roofing of houses, planting, hilling, hiding, etc. To hele a house did not mean to burn it, or torture it, but to cover or thatch it; to hele their potatoes did not mean to burn them, but to conceal them in a pit; and so likewise when men were heled there was no thought of fire, torture and pain, but of covering, concealing, etc. Both good and bad were thus heled or buried.
Conceal is the corresponding word from the Latin. See Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, under hell, hele, hill and conceal. From this it will be seen that the use of the word hell by the translators of the King James' Version, was at a time when the word hell had not so utterly changed its meaning as at present. Yet modern translators and ministers, who well know that the word hell, as now used, does not cover the thought of hades of the Greek, or sheol of the Hebrew, refuse to enlighten their credulous flocks.
(1) Amos 9:2."Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them." [A figurative expression; but certainly pits of the earth are the only hells men can dig into.]
(4) Psa. 55:15."Let them go down quick into hell"margin, "the grave."
(5) Psa. 9:17."The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." [This text is treated at length in the TOWER for Oct. '86. We there show that it should read, "The wicked shall be re turned into hell"into the state of death; and that it refers to the "second death." See that paper.]
(6) Psa. 86:13."Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell"margin, "grave."
(7) Psa. 116:3."The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me." [Sickness and trouble are the figurative hands of the grave to grasp us.]
(8) Psa. 139:8."If I make my bed in hell behold thou art there." [God's power is unlimited, even those in the tomb he can and will control and bring forth.]
(9) Deut. 32:22."For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell." [A figurative representation of the destruction, the utter ruin of Israel as a nation"wrath to the uttermost," as the Apostle called it; God's anger burning that nation to the "lowest deep," as Leeser translates the word sheol here.]
(10) Job 11:8."It [God's wisdom] is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; [than any pit] what canst thou know?"
(11) Job 26:6."Hell [the tomb] is naked before him; and destruction hath no covering."
(12) Prov. 5:5."Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell"[i.e., lead to the grave].
(13) Prov. 7:27."Her house is the way to hell [the grave] going down to chambers of death."
(14) Prov. 9:18."He knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell." Here the harlot's guests are represented as dead, diseased or dying, and many of the victims of sensuality in premature graves from diseases which hurry off their posterity also to the tomb.
(15) Prov. 15:11."Hell and destruction are before the Lord." [Here the grave is associated with destruction and not with a life of torment.]
(16) Prov. 15:24."The path of life (leadeth) upward for the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." [The hope of resurrection from the tomb.]
(17) Prov. 23:14."Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell." [i.e. wise corrections will save a child from vicious ways which lead to premature death, and may possibly prepare him to escape the "second death" also.]
(18) Prov. 27:10."Hell [the grave] and destruction are never full: so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
(19) Isa. 5:14."Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure." [Here a symbol of destruction.]
(20) Isa. 14:9."Hell [margin grave] from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming."Ver. 15. "Thou shalt be brought down to hell" [the grave; so rendered in verse 11.]
(21) Isa. 57:9."And didst debase thyself even unto hell." [Here figurative of deep degradation.]
(22) Ezek. 31:15-17."In the day when he went down to the grave...I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit."Ver. 17"They also went down into hell with him, unto them that be slain with the sword." [Figurative and prophetic description of the fall of Babylon into destruction, silence, the grave.]
(23) Ezek. 32:21."The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him." [A continuation of the same figure representing Egypt's overthrow as a nation to join Babylon in destruction.]
(24) Ver. 27."And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: And they have laid their swords under their heads; but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living." [The grave is the only hell where fallen ones are buried and lie with their weapons of war under their heads.]
(25) Hab. 2:5."Who enlargeth his desire as hell [the grave] and as death, and cannot be satisfied."
(26) Jonah 2:1,2."Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God, out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine afflictions unto the Lord, and he heard me: Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." [The belly of the fish was for a time his grave.]
(27) Isa. 28:15-18."Because ye have [R1000 : page 5] said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell [grave] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore, saith the Lord...Your covenant with death shall be dis-annulled, and your agreement with hell [grave] shall not stand." [God thus declares that the present prevalent idea, by which death and the grave are represented as friends rather than enemies, shall cease; and men shall learn that death is the wages of sin and that it is in Satan's power now, (Rom. 6:23 and Heb. 2:14) and not an angel sent of God.]
Gen. 37:35."I will go down into the grave unto my son."
Gen. 42:38."Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."See also the same expression in 44:29,31.
1 Sam. 2:6."The Lord killeth and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up."
1 Kings 2:6,9."Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace." "His hoar head bring down to the grave with blood."
Job 7:9."He that goeth down to the grave."
Job 14:13."O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret until thy wrath is past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time and remember me"resurrect me.
Job 17:13."If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness." Job waits for resurrection"in the morning."
Job 21:13."They spend their days in mirth, and in a moment go down to the grave."
Job 24:19,20."Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so doth the grave those which have sinned."All have sinned, hence "Death has passed upon all" and all go down to the grave. But all have been redeemed, hence all shall be awakened and come forth again in God's due time"In the morning."
Psa. 6:5."In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
Psa. 30:3."O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit"recovery from danger of death.
Psa. 31:17."Let the wicked be ashamed; let them be silent in the grave."
Psa. 49:14,15margin."Like sheep they are laid in the grave, death shall feed on them; and the upright [the saintsDan. 7:27] shall have dominion over them in the morning [the Millennial morning]; and their beauty shall consume, the grave being an habitation to every one of them. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave."
Psa. 88:3."My life draweth nigh unto the grave."
Psa. 89:48."Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?"
Psa. 141:7."Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth."
Prov. 30:15,16."Four things say not, It is enough: the grave," etc.
Eccl. 9:10."Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
Job 17:16."They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust."
Song of Sol. 8:6."Jealousy is cruel as the grave."
Isa. 14:11."Thy pomp is brought down to the grave."
Isa. 38:10."I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years."
Isa. 38:18."The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth."
Num. 16:31-33."The ground clave asunder that was under them, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They and all that appertained to them went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation."
Ezek. 31:15."In the day when he went down to the grave."
Hosea 13:14."I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." [The Lord did not ransom any from a place of fire and torment, for there is no such place; but he did ransom all mankind from the grave, from death, the penalty brought upon all by Adam's sin, as this verse declares.] And shortly now we trust he will destroy death and the grave, and every vestige of Adam's penalty, as is also declared in this verse. This sheol, hell or grave shall be destroyed, that all may come to a full knowledge of the truth, and if they then will, [by obedience] they may live forever.
The above list includes every instance of the use of the English word hell and the Hebrew word sheol. From this examination it must be evident to all readers, that the Old Testament, covering God's revelation for four thousand years, contains not a single hint of hell, as the word is now understood. In our next issue we will consider all the places in the New Testament where this word hell occurs.