When I was agnostic, I believed that a loving supreme being called “god” could never send its creation to a terrible place like Hell just because the creation were not Christians. I often discussed how I believed that all good people from all faiths could find peace with God. This memory came back to me this week when I was listening to Doug Pagitt denying that Hell is a physical place of eternal torment. Many times those who deny Hell like to play on words. Some will even point out that the word “Hell” is not in the Bible because it was not in the early text.
The modern English word Hell is derived from Old English hel, helle (about 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead) reaching into the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic *halja, meaning “one who covers up or hides something”. The word has cognates in related Germanic languages such as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hellja, Middle Dutch helle (modern Dutch hel), Old High German helle (Modern German Hölle), Norwegian and Swedish helvete (hel + Old Norse vitti, “punishment”), and Gothic halja. Subsequently, the word was used to transfer a pagan concept to Christian theology and its vocabulary (however, for the Judeo-Christian origin of the concept see Gehenna).
The English word hell has been theorized as being derived from Old Norse hel. Among other sources, the Poetic Edda, compiled from earlier traditional sources in the 13th century, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, provide information regarding the beliefs of the Norse pagans, including a being named Hel, who is described as ruling over an underworld location of the same name.(source)
While the above information is correct concerning the word Hell, it does not mean that those who die without Christ are not doomed to eternal torment.
Matthew 18:8-9 (New International Version)
8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
People can say, “This was just a play on words because Jesus did not literally mean to cut off your body parts or gouge out your eye. Therefore Hell was only used as a methopher by Jesus.” The problem for those who deny Hell is how the Lake of Fire is referenced in the Bible because it is clearly a place for eternal punishment. This Lake of Fire is the second death and the final destiny for Satan and all who rejected Jesus Christ.
Revelation 20:10-15 (New American Standard Bible)
10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The only way to escape eternity in the the Lake of Fire is through Jesus Christ. Jesus died for our sins, and Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Eternal punishment is a part of sin that many want to avoid when discussing salvation. We cannot sugar coat the Hades/Hell and the Lake of Fire. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He died in our place by taking the sins of the whole world upon Himself to save us because we cannot save ourselves. In His mercy and Grace, Jesus made a way for us to be redeemed through His blood so that we can become adopted children of God.
Romans 10:8-13 (New American Standard Bible)
8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;
13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”