To swelling crowds the shiek rails against “the traitor Souleiman Ghali” and called for jihad....holy war....against Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He works the crowds to fever pitch. "Our killed ones are in paradise, and their killed ones are in hell!"
How come the really mean groups always believe in hell?
Is it that hell appeals to mean people? Isaac Asimov called hell "the drooling dream of a sadist" If unlimited retribution for limited wrongs [80-90 years at most, and that assumes you were an unmitiaged louse through and through] strikes a warm and fuzzy chord…..well, hell is your doctrine.
Or is it that the hell teaching makes people mean? After all, if God’s going to fry your enemy forever, why….what objection could there possibly be to getting a few licks in yourself?
Either way, there could be no finer a service to humanity than to put out the fire. Which is exactly what Charles Taze Russell did, Jehovah's Witnesses founder. In his lifetime he was known as the man who “turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Not that big of a deal now when only zealots take hell seriously, but a huge deal in the late 19th - early 20th century, when general society thought it axiomatic. Jehovah's Witnesses have never bought into the hell doctrine.
Putting out the fire is not so hard as one might imagine, at least from the Bible’s perspective. With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Easier still, two of those words mean the same thing: the Hebrew “sheol” [Old Testament] is rendered into the Greek as “hades.” [New Testament]
For example, this scripture in the Old Testament [Hebrew]: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol; you will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” (Ps 16:10) is quoted this way in the New Testament [Greek]: “…because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.” Acts 2:27
Both words simply mean the grave. Not the individual grave where this or that individual is buried, but the common grave that is waiting for all of us. There’s no distinction between good and bad…..all end up in sheol, or hades:
All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going Eccl 9:10
This leaves only the third word: gehenna. All instances of hellfire stem from gehenna.
“And if ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life lame than with two feet to be pitched into gehenna. And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into gehenna, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.” Mark 9:43-48
That doesn’t sound pleasant at all, does it? Still, it’s not because gehenna was a place of eternal torment. In fact, it was a garbage dump - in the valley surrounding Jerusalem. Fires were kept burning always. Worms crawled through the crud. Its history was more sordid still. It had once, centuries ago, been the location of child sacrifice:
And he [Ahaz] himself made sacrificial smoke in the valley of the son of Hinnom [Hebrew term, translated into Greek as gehenna] and proceeded to burn up his sons in the fire, according to the detestable things of the nations that Jehovah had driven out from before the sons of Israel. 2 Chron 28:3
In time, Jesus used gehenna...everyone knew what it was on account of garbage day.... as a symbol for persons so despicable that they might not merit a resurrection. Just heave their dead carcass into gehenna!
Three words…..sheol, hades, gehenna....and not one of them means eternal torture! Yet these are the three words which Bible translators render as “hell.” Some transations do so at every single instance. More frequently, they pick and choose, sometimes rendering the word hell, sometimes grave, sometimes death, pit, or what-have-you. The New World Translation makes matters simple. Each time "sheol" occurs, NWT renders it sheol. Each time "hades" occurs, NWT renders it hades. "Gehenna" likewise transliterates to gehenna. This methodis so intrinsically honest one wonders why it is not more widespread. It makes hell easy to track, and when you do so, the fire promptly goes out!
To be sure, there are a few backeddies, fakes, fades, asterisks, and addendums, but nothing that changes the big picture, especially if you know not to take obvious metaphors literally.