Over the past month, I have been meditating day and night on the subject of hell. Before I begin to open up the mystery, I must explain something about the word itself. The word hell in the Bible means two different things, depending on the context. It either refers to the abode of the dead (Hebrew: sheol / Greek: hades), or it refers to the lake of fire (Hebrew: gehinnom / Greek: gehenna). Hades is the Greek god of the underworld, so when the word was translated, the word Hel was used because that is the Norse god of the underworld, and this was the correct translation. The problem is, during the days of the translators of the early English bibles, they made no distinction between the words hades and gehenna, because by that time, the Latin word infernus (hades) was used interchangeably with gehennae (gehenna), despite the fact they were two distinct words with different understandings at the time of Christ. One does not need to know the Greek or Latin to see this, because I saw the differences based solely on context. Simply put, different places in the bible start with the word hell and finish with two different products. In other words, hell does not always mean lake of fire.
For example, scripture says the soul of Jesus was not left in hell (sheol/hades), neither will he see corruption (Acts 2:27). Jesus was obviously not in the lake of fire, so that means the verse is referring to Jesus being in the netherworld/abode of the dead. You can also see a distinct difference between the lake of fire and hell because scripture clearly says death and hell were thrown into the lake of fire on the last day (Rev 20:14). We know based on the usage of the concept that the lake of fire and gehenna are the same thing. One may ask, “Why does this matter?”
If one doesn’t understand the differences between the usages of hell in scripture, they will come to the conclusion that the people who die in unrighteousness are now presently in the lake of fire. This is not true, because not only is it contrary to what the scriptures say, but that would make the White Throne Judgment irrelevant. Why would people be judged on the last day if they were already judged immediately upon death? And what about the resurrection of the body? Scripture teaches that when a man dies, his soul is stored in hell (hades/netherworld) to await the final judgment (Jhn 5:28-29, 1 Th 4:16, 1 Cor 15:50-55). This is what Jesus meant when he said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Mat 12:40 [KJV])
I know many people seem to be confused by this subject. They ask, “What happened to Jesus when he died?”
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” -Luke 23:43
Some people have used this to suggest Jesus never went to hell (hades/netherworld), and he ascended to heaven instantly. However, this is incorrect for two reasons.
I have heard may people say, “Hell is separation from God.” This statement is only true as an inward reality. The fact of the matter is, the tormented are in the presence of God and the angels (Rev 14:10), not somewhere else.
”In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” -2 Thessalonians 1:8-9
God is a consuming fire (Deu 4:24, 9:3, Heb 12:29). Hell (gehenna/lake of fire) is not somewhere away from God, it is God. Scripture says the wicked are punishedfrom the presence of the Lord. The presence of God’s glory is, in of itself, the source of the punishment. God destroys with the brightness of his coming (2 Th 2:8). One must not look at the second coming of Christ and the final judgment as two separate things. The presence of Christ is the judgment. You’ve heard it said, “But, God can’t be around sin!” As if God were the elephant on the table, and sin were the mouse. No, I tell you, it is sin that can’t be around God. When the infinitely unholy encounters the infinitely holy, it is like a frozen turkey encountering the boiling oil– explosion. Heaven and Hell (gehenna/lake of fire) are two sides of the same coin. The holy can stand in the fire (Dan 3:25), and the unholy can only burn (Dan 3:22). The kingdom of God is within us (Luk 17:21). It comes not with observation, rather it is a state of holy being. By contrast, the kingdom of darkness is within the enemies of God. Inner darkness leads to outer darkness, and hatred will always gnash his teeth at love.
This leads me to the final question: is the fire literal, or is it a metaphor? Scripture says, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna/lake of fire].” (Mat 10:28) Fire is a physical element– which cannot burn a soul, but body only. Fire is but a shadow to the reality of the glory of God. What fire does to the body, God does to the soul. The usage of fire may be a metaphor, but the shadow is always lesser than the reality. The fires of hell being a metaphor is not a time for relief, but a time for worry. Because if people are actually in a metaphorical lake of fire, they’re going to wish it were literal.
“…That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” -Mark 7:20-23
Michael Brown wrote an article today called, “Violent Video Games and Mass Murder.” In the article, Brown tried to make a case that video games cause violence because violent people play video games. This is a classic case of “correlation does not imply causation.” Despite the overwhelming evidence of the 99% of people playing “violent” games like World of Warcraft do not go out and kill people, others continue to blame the video game industry. Not only is that funny from a video game perspective (It was created using the dated Warcraft 3 Engine, so the game looks horrible by modern standards), but it is wrong from a theological perspective. Christ said darkness comes from within. It is what is within a man that defiles him. Evil thoughts proceed from the heart, not a video game. The entertainment industry is not corrupting culture, it is culture that is corrupting the entertainment industry. This is what people like Brown fail to understand.
Elliot Rodger had a childhood very similar to my own. We both struggled with depression, lack of attention from women, and found an introverted refuge in video games. I found World of Warcraft incredibly boring, but I had many friends who played it. I was always more of a fan of shooting games, because I was better at FPS than MMORPG, but I did play my share of MMORPGs as well (Ragnarok Online especially). There is absolutely no reason to assume that just because Rodger played an MMORPG means he suddenly became a violent person, as if he wasn’t already.
For those who are not gamers, I will explain the psychology behind it from the perspective of someone who has played them for twenty years. Games are fun simply because there is a challenge. I am a typical firstborn, so I am very competitive. FPS (Call of Duty, Counterstrike, Battlefield, Halo), RTS (Starcraft, Command and Conquer), MOBA (League of Legends, Dota 2), Racing (Mario Kart), Fighting (Super Smash Bros, Tekken, Street Fighter), and MMORPG (World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2) are all “fun” for the same reason. Every type of competitive game pulls the string of one specific desire– winning. Whether it is killing the main boss of a dungeon with your guild in WoW, or teaming up to take down an enemy squad in Battlefield, or nailing your friend next to you with a satisfying well-timed green shell in Mario Kart, or pulling off an insane 8-hit juggle in Tekken, every one of these things satisfy one single desire. It is no different than playing any other game. Breaking three tackles to score a touchdown in Football, or being a master tactician in Stratego, or swiftly winning a game of Settlers of Catan. If you haven’t realized by now, I’ll tell you–games are fun, they satisfy the desire to win something, and that is all.
Since I know it will be asked, I will address it now. Grand Theft Auto. Should a Christian play a game where you go to a strip club and pay prostitutes to give you a private dance? Should a Christian play a game where you jump into Free Mode and run around killing pedestrians for no reason? Nope. However, I find it very interesting as a psychological study on human nature. If you give any human being a controller and tell them to “do whatever,” every person will do the same thing. Yes, Mr. Brown, even you. Once you’ve exhausted all badness in you for the day, and ran every light, and shot at every cop, you begin to start driving the speed limit.
Video games are a form of art. I recently completed Child Of Light and Transistor, and they were two of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever seen. I was in awe of the magnificent artwork, the compelling stories, and captivating music. One could argue these games are also violent, depending on your standards, because Aurora kills dark creatures with her sword in Child Of Light, and Red kills robots and absorbs the souls of the deceased to gain skills in Transistor. The question we should be asking is not, “Do video games make people do evil?” The real question people should be asking is, “Are games an outlet for disturbed people to satisfy their wickedness?” The answer is, “Obviously.” Wicked people can satisfy their desires in any environment, including your church service. It doesn’t matter where they are, they will always satisfy their lust. Christ told us darkness is notexternal, it is internal. Have you not read? The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, it is within you (Luke 17:20-21). Why do we assume the contrast is not true also? Does any man become morally upright simply by watching a wholesome television show, or playing a crappy bible game for Sega Genesis? I played those “Christian games” as a kid, listened to “Christian music,” watched “Christian movies,” and I was on my way to hell. No, again I say, video games are not the problem.
“…Ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me.” -Jeremiah 16:12