The term hell will obviously evoke perceptions of great sufferings and tribulations when it is mentioned anywhere. Most of the religions have over the past and present been depicting hell as a place where those who fail to live this life in a certain way will find themselves in and will suffer in their afterlife when they die. Some of the world’s predominant religions that is; Christianity, Islam and Buddhism embrace this concept of hell and they portray it as a place of great suffering and pain. The term hell itself is the equivalent of a “hole” or “a hollow” place. The term is a function of the “Anglo-Saxon helan or behalian, which means to hide” (Fudge and Peterson, 2000). Therefore by derivation the term hell can be seen to depict a hidden and dark place. The term hell is in direct contraction to another place of righteousness which is symbolized as a happy afterlife or some kind of paradise or a heaven.
Although some hard liners have put forth the idea that humans seize to exist after death others have vehemently defended the concept of the existence of life after death. Those who believe in an afterlife then embrace the concept of hell and a completely different place from it. Christianity is one of the religions that embrace the concept and the ideals of hell and their beliefs are supported by biblical truths. Most of the Christians believe that during the “Last Judgment” people will be “assigned to their destinies in either heaven or hell”. The locality of hell as has been depicted in books, movies and sometimes in the media is somewhere underground “as in Dante’s Inferno” in contrast to heaven which above the earth. However this conception was very popular in the Middle Ages but however with the advents of modern astronomy this thinking then makes little sense. A renowned author argues that if the location of hell or heaven is either above or beneath then if “we were in Jupiter or Saturn, that which would be underneath our feet would be called hell and that which was over our heads would be called heaven”. This then only leaves room for the “agreement with biblical data, that there is a place called hell” whose locality is unknown (Hoekema, 1979).
The conceptualization of hell therefore by various mediums although it may seem as somehow absurd is supported by various thinkers. One such is Edward who argues that these depictions are not to be taken literally and they should just be viewed as “metaphors and similitudes”. He however emphasizes the point that this does not make hell any less real. He seems to think that when hell is portrayed in mediums such as books, media or films, the spiritual intensity of suffering is somehow underestimated. He gives an example of lightening which is associated with the metaphor “fire and brimstone” in the bible. He argues that the intensity of lightening is hotter that the “fire and brimstone” which is manmade. Edward therefore seems to believe that “hell’s torments will be horrible indeed” (Brown, 2002).
The question that many would then seem to ask themselves is that if indeed there is hell when it will come to be. Various writings of early apostolic fathers have been preserved and the writers who were either apostles or knew them have authored some pieces of writings which tackle the subject with passion and the intensity that it requires. Most of these apostolic fathers generally always “expressed themselves in biblical terminology” as they wrote about the “final destination of the wicked” which is hell. One such writing is the Epistle of Barnabas who warns about “eternal death and punishment” this writing goes further to warn that “wicked people will perish” along with the “evil one” who is the devil. (Brown, 2002). Another author who wrote 2 Clement quotes a variety of warnings from Jesus and Isaiah about prophesies in which people were warned about “dreadful tortures in unquenchable fire”. The time frame in which the bible then tries to put across the coming of hell is the end of the world after the “Great Judgment” which will be orchestrated by God (Hoekema, 1979). Many Christians will have the belief that hell will come shortly after the end of the world after the second coming of Christ. However, not all believe who believe in hell will generally tend to believe in this.
The eternity of hell is also a borne of contention for those who believe in it. Many have argued with regard to the soul and whether or not it can be destroyed. Augustine one of the famous critics in his book titled The City of God scoffs at his critics who seem to believe that hell cannot be eternal while others believe that that it will purify the souls in readiness for an eternal life. Most of his critics seem to argue that any human body does not have the capability of going through enduring pain eternally without being destroyed. Augustine responds to these critics by arguing that the soul in reality is higher that the body and it is the soul itself that is “susceptible of pain and not susceptible of death” (Brown, 2002). However the bible in itself teaches that hell will be eternal and the torments of the wicked will last forever “and the smoke of torment ascendenth up for ever and ever” (Revelation 14:11 King James Version).
It is common sense that most Christians will generally tend to follow the teachings of the holy book that is; the Bible. The bible itself is a book that is not easy to understand and the fact that it mainly uses similes and metaphors to describe its ideals and this will often leave room for interpretations and counter interpretations. This will obviously leave room for contradictions in various Christian churches with some churches obviously altering interpretations so as to suit their individual course as a church. A common issue that may arise in various Christian groups is the intensity of punishment in hell. Some will tend to put across the notion that the same type of punishment will be administered to all which is known as the “traditional view of hell”. Those who defend this argue that “punishment deserved is not a function of harm caused or harm intended” (Brown, 2002). Many seem to be dazed by this concept since it claims that when one does a wrong they wrong God. Critics will often argue that when one does wrong the intent is not to wrong God in any way for example when one wrongs a parent then one does not have the intent of hurting God. However this concept does not apply to all Christian groups who seem to form their bases of arguments in another model.
It is in trying to find alternatives to the traditional view of hell that many Christian groups try to come up with various ideologies and this may at times sacrifice the real conception of hell as they try to quench the thirst of their followers. Most of the Christian groups may assert their position that the Traditional Doctrine is unjust and thus has to be ignored. These sentiments even if they are wrong will be echoed by various followers who would rather believe the contrary to the Traditional Doctrine without putting much into thought that it may be the true version of hell. Other Christian groups such as Universalists even tend to believe that God will not allow people to burn eternally in hell because he is a loving God.
The fundamental issues that generally tend to arise from the beliefs of the different groups of Christians will tend to lean on what they conceive as the truer model of hell. Many Christians will perceive hell as a choice that one makes and thus with this assumption as a renowned author seems to argue is that hell may be a place where people get punished but with the fundamental aspect in focus then “hell is not a place to punish people, but to honor their choices” (Crockett and Hayes, 1997). It is thus with this context then that most of the issues in the Traditional Model arise. The same issues will still arise if the Choice Model whereby one of the contentious issues that is raised is of whether this type of perception leans on the possibility of something similar to a second chance and subsequently many more chances. The Choice Model gives room for a second chance for those who go deserve to go to hell with the thinking that the severity of hell is too harsh and that an individual should be given a second chance to escape it. The justice that will be administered in hell has been the main borne of contention and various believers will tend to lean on a particular model and this will lead have the ultimate consequence of them following the Christian dominion that they deem fit.
When the word hell is mentioned a perception of fire comes into mind. Jesus speaks of “eternal fire” and this may be metaphorical for unending torments. The bible goes further to give the meaning of “eternal fire” as the “fire that destroys permanently” (Jude 7). A renowned author and scholar tend to argue that those who go to hell are generally not separated from God but rather his grace towards them seizes to exist. This as the authors tries to argue is that humans are not fully independent by themselves and that God is an integral part of the human. Thus Peterson exclaims that if a human being is completely eliminated from God’s presence then their existence seizes. Peterson also goers further to give an example of how hell may be by giving the example of Sodom and Gomorrah and the fate that befell it when it was completely burnt down but still that is not the fire that will should be perceived of hell. Petersen points out that Jude in the bible tells Christians that the fire that will be in hell will torment eternally (Crockett and Hayes, 1997).
Some may argue that the depiction of an eternal fire in hell only stands to highlight the seriousness of the punishment that will be administered in hell. The truth is however that no one actually knows or has supportive evidence of what will really be meted out in hell and that all that we can do is to actually not go beyond what the scripture says of hell. As two renowned authors seem to argue about this contentious topic that, “there is nothing to feed the dark fantasies of twisted minds. What God has decided to do he will do” (Brown, 2002). The definition of heaven as a place that is beyond our wildest dreams and fondest imagination provides a contextual depiction of hell which may be described as a place of great misery that is also beyond our wildest thinking where the wicked will obviously have to go in their afterlife.