Heaven, hell, and salvation—in Bible terms

Judging from how terrified some people, even in our day and age, can become about going to hell and how eager others are to be carried to heaven in the rapture, the subject of heaven and hell can still be intense. A close look at the origins of those words in the Bible can lead us to more comforting, practical—and even healing—conclusions. 

Let’s start with the meaning of “hell.” The King James Version of the Bible takes two separate words from the original Greek and translates them both into the word hell. They are distinguished from each other in the New Revised Standard Version as Hades and hell. 

The Greek word Hades is used in Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus, a poor beggar (see Luke 16:19–31). In this story, the rich man enjoyed his riches and paid no attention to the man begging him for help, who was suffering from illness and poverty. When both of them died, the rich man was buried and became tormented in Hades. When he saw Lazarus in the comforting arms of Abraham, he begged for some measure of relief. The description of his agony in Hades indicates his suffering was from the effects of sin. It was the pain of remorse and self-imposed suffering, because he had had the means for offering help to the suffering Lazarus. 

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Understanding Bell’s hell
August 22, 2011

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