Cross Points 6.19.22

Is Hell Hyperbole?

In the Bible, like all well written documents that tell a story, language techniques are used to communicate effectively.  Metaphors are used regularly, for example (a figure of speech where a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable).  “Put on the full armor of God” in Ephesians 6, speaking of how to guard our faith, is a metaphor.  Another language technique used is hyperbole, where exaggerated statements are made not meant to be taken literally.  When Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away, it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matt. 18:9), we see hyperbole.  We may not literally tear out our eye; but removing the source of sin is serious!
The last phrase in the Matthew 18 quote above speaks of “the hell of fire.”  So, we might ask the question: when the Bible talks about hell, is it a literal place, or are they using hyperbole?  First, let’s look at some of the Bible’s statements about the place called hell:
“Then he will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41). 
“God did not spare angels when they sinned but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, held for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).
“The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42).
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
“It is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47, 48).
The above is certainly not exhaustive, but it gives a flavor of this place called hell.  We need to start by asking where the word hell comes from?  We get this word from the Greek word Gehenna, which was transliterated from the Hebrew Ge Hinnom, meaning Valley of Hinnom.  This was a valley west and south of Jerusalem where trash was taken to be burned.  This is the word Jesus used to create the picture of hell.  We see in the verses above that it was created for Satan and his demons (fallen angels), but it appears that if we align ourselves against God, we face the same destination. 
Our question becomes: is it really a place of eternal fire, a pit of darkness, a place of torment, of fire and brimstone, where the worm does not die, and people are weeping and gnashing their teeth?  Or are these descriptions hyperbole, exaggerations, meant to push us the other way, toward God?  I guess I’d ask this question: Does it matter?  The bottom line is, we are separated from God, and yet still in a conscious state.  That cannot be good.  All good things come from God (James 1:17), so in his absence, whatever we find in hell, in a post death state without God, it is not good.  Why would you want to be in such a place? 
Hell appears to last for eternity, but does our soul continue in this existence for eternity?  There are different schools of thought on that, my view does not agree with the majority, but that is a topic for another time.
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