This is the sixth and final installment of a series of posts collectively titled: “The Literal Tenor of the Metaphorical Hell: A Literary Critique of Scriptural Language concerning Hell, The Human Soul and a Defense of Metaphorical Conditionalism.” The following is a chronological, hyper-linked table of contents, of sorts: 1. The Literal Tenor of the Metaphorical Hell. 2. Mechanics of Metaphor: Hell is a Shabby Hotel of Vicious Circles. 3. Jesus of Nazareth’s Dialogue Regarding Hell. 4. Mixed Up Metaphors: Confusing Tenor and Vehicle. 5. Plato Won’t Surf Metaphorical Conditionalism.
Christianity is a faith which asks individuals to make a decision regarding life in this present. This decision consequently affects the next life. The Scriptures are clear â€“ the alternative to life is death. Death is final; death is permanent. This is a message of cataclysmic importance for the humanity. It is a message that should not be lost to traditional and/or interpretive preferences, or, even worse, an illiterate handling of the Scriptures which are founded upon basic literary mechanics. A messenger is proportionately equal to his or her preparation; poorly prepared students of Scripture only advance poor interpretations of the Scriptures. The only fruit to be plucked from such a sickly tree is miscommunication, misunderstanding, and misleading. In other words, a messenger of this sort, sadly misses the target. Hell is a reality with which contemporary believers and non-believers must wrestle. The consequences â€“ for both sides â€“ are divinely ordained and tremendous, as the following excerpt illustrates:
“[In conclusion] the doctrine of hell is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine. Therefore it is not surprising that in the history of theology, a denial of this doctrine has often accompanied weak views of Biblical inspiration. The reaction against this doctrine has, however, been partly the fault of some of its adherents who have proclaimed it in crudely literalistic terms. Thoroughgoing conservatives such as Calvin, Hodge, Strong, and Schilder have recognized the symbolic nature of the Biblical terms â€œworm,â€ â€œfire,â€ etc. Another cause of reaction against the doctrine has been the exultant glee or other unloving attitudes held by some who have proclaimed it, but this is not part of the Biblical doctrine. The Bible does not give the physical location of hell or anything about its furnishings, but it assures readers that those whose sins are not atoned for by Jesus Christ will receive perfect justice from god, that they will receive exactly what they deserve for all eternity, which will be a most miserable fate. This ought to be one of the impelling motives making evangelism the urgent business of all Christians.”1
There is a real choice to be made in this immediate world of ours: one can either choose eternal life through Jesus Christ, or, one may choose an eternal death via a conscious and consistent separation from Deity. There is a clear, immediate and eternal danger facing those who cannot choose wisely as a result of the faulty choice presented to them. Who will receive the greater punishment? Those who rejected a poor view of Hell and God, or those who placed such a poor, crude view of it in the middle of the path, thus causing a stumble?
Luke 12:47-48 That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
A serious, dedicated believer will work as hard as necessary to equip him or herself with the necessary literary tools demanded by healthy Scriptural interpretation. A serious, dedicated believer will dedicate him or herself to holistic interpretation of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. He or she will also prepare and work hard to properly sift and separate historical fact from cultural fiction. Then will he or she be able to not only discern weather or not a Hell exists, but also authentically articulate the immediate specifics of such a realm/state. It’s a long and difficult road, but eternally worth it.
1. Merrill Chapin ed Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. General Editor: Merrill C. Tenney. Associate Editor: Steven Barabas. Consulting Editors — Old Testament: Gleason L. Archer and R. Laird Harris. Consulting Editors — Theology: Harold B. Kuhn, and Addison H. Leitch. Archeology Editor: E. M. Blaiklock. Manuscript Editor — Edward Viening. Photo and Layout Editor, T. Alton Bryant (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Pub. House 1975: 1975), 116-117.