Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell

I can think of no better topic than the one that is on the tip of everyone's fingers. Is there a hell, a place of eternal, conscious torment? Or can we say with Rob Bell that "Love Wins?" And I am not suggesting that there are not a dozen ways to nuance the question. Probably the best place to follow the standard evangelical response is on Justin Tayor's blog.

I don't imagine entertaining the debate here, but I was curious about the biblical basis for the belief in a traditional hell. Three posts on Mike's blog seem like as good a place as any to look for heaven and hell in the Hebrew Bible. I hope to look at the Septuagint and Christian scriptures later.

Mike introduces the topic here, and discusses first the possibility of an eternal paradise for the righteous, and a fiery afterlife for the wicked. I found Mike's posts very informative overall and I would like to return to them. But for now I wanted to see if there was only a fiery hell or also a watery hell. Here are his thoughts on hellfire in the Hebrew Bible,
What about the element of fiery punishment? Well, if the above holds true, that wouldn’t be viewed as any sort of reward. There is also fire in Sheol according to Prov. 30:16. Job 31:12 *may* suggest there is fire in Sheol (cf. Abaddon in Job 26:6). (See also Psalm 140:8-10). Granted, we do not have descriptions of sinners being burned in torment, but the essential elements are there. I think it is fair to say that the kernel elements of the fiery hell of the NT and Second Temple Judaism are present in the OT.
I started this post before the tsunami, but I was already thinking of the waters of death. Water, just as much as fire, is hell on earth. If some verses suggest a fiery afterlife, then others refer to a wave or flood.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
Psalm 88

Therefore snares are around you,
and sudden terror overwhelms you,
or darkness so that you cannot see;
a flood of water covers you.
Job 22

Those who were my enemies without cause
have hunted me like a bird;
they flung me alive into a pit
and hurled stones on me;
water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
Lamentation 3

Why worry about "hell" when death is with us, death brought by water and flood, as well as by fire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just saw this and thot it relevant.