What the Bible and Theologians Say About Hell

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What happens after death has been a debated and documented topic dating back to shortly after the death of Jesus Christ. It is basically impossible to get certain evidence to back up beliefs. We are forced to rely on religious material and theologians to paint a picture for us. Even then it is hard to truly grasp what happens after death. It is proposed that you either go to heaven, or you go to hell. What do we actually know of the latter? The general consensus of society is that hell is a place full of demons and is controlled by Satan. The belief and understanding of hell has changed drastically since its first understanding. What do the Bible and theologians say about hell? One of the first theologians to document his understanding of hell was Ignatius of Antioch back around 90 AD. Ignatius believed in the existence of hell as an unquenchable fire. There was very little mentioned of eschatology from theologians of early times because it was not their main focus. They were still studying the main subjects and religion in general and did not go into too much depth in regards to hell. However, he still believed strongly in the final judgment of God and the rewards and punishments that are meted out, “Physical death seems to be the decisive moment for all men—they pass either to life with Christ or to the unquenchable fire.” The final judgment is nothing more than a separation of the divine and wretched. He recognizes that Satan has powers of temptation which cause us to sin that must be cast down. Ignatius viewed hell more as a spiritual torment rather than a physical torment as it is described in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength.” The people in hell understand the opportunity they missed by not obeying the gospel and by not knowing God. They experience a sort of spiritual torment because they want to repent now but will never be able to as the rich man experienced in Luke 16: “And in hell, as he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this fire.’” People in hell beg for mercy and can witness those outside of it. They regret their decisions but are unable to repent because they missed their chance. About 300 years later, St. Augustine went deeper into Ignatius’ study of hell. Augustine was the father of the doctrine of predestination. He focused on the immortality of the soul and related hell into the topic. While exploring the Bible he learned that God is eternal but the human soul is changeable which is why it can suffer eternity in hell. He recognized that sin is unavoidable as a result of the Fall: Faithful to the apostle’s doctrine, he held that “in Adam’s fall we sinned all”: Through pride our first progenitor lost the happy communion with God and forfeited His grace which he originally enjoyed, lapsing into a hopeless moral state the end of which would properly be the everlasting death of the soul; and all of Adam’s descendants share in that sin. Before the Fall there was no way that Adam or Eve would be sent to hell. At that point in time hell existed only as a home for Satan and his angels. Augustine believed that because of the Fall we are born with original sin and we have no way of saving ourselves, “…only the grace of God can save man; and this grace is a free gift bestowed, like all other things, not as something earned, but solely as God chooses to give it: He predestinates whom He will for punishment and for salvation.” This predestination is similar to what is written in Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.” In order to be saved and live eternally in heaven with God your name must be found written in God’s book of...
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