"Christian Universalism" and a "Literal Hell."

Questions from an Inquirer

> .........
> Many are against Christianity because they cannot accept a literal hell.
> It appears Christian Universalism does not believe in a literal hell. Is
> that your belief? I have been praying for clarification on this and I
> stumbled over your site. Haven't got the foggyist idea how I found you.
> I am sure God does.
> Love and God bless

Comments from Ken Allen, D.D., Senior Minister of True Grace Ministries

It depends on what you mean by literal hell. If you mean the notion that hell is a place of never ending torture or torment for the lost, then you are correct. Christian Universalism does not teach that aspect of hell.

The word "hell", used in the KJV in various places, is a translation of one of four different words used in the original language of the Bible, i.e. Hebrew in the Old Testament, and Greek in the New Testament. The word translated "hell" in the KJV Old Testament is from the Hebrew word "sheol" which signifies the unseen state or state of the dead. The KJV sometimes translates this word "grave" or "pit."

In the KJV New Testament "hell" is used to translate one of three different Greek words, Hades, Geheena, or Tartarus.

Hades corresponds to sheol in the Old Testament and signifies the unseen state or to the state of the dead.

Gehenna (vale of Hinnom) is was a garbage dump where refuse was burned in a valley outside of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus and where the Jews once worshipped the idol Moloch. Children were roasted there as sacrifices (Josh. 15:8; 18:16; 2 Kings 23:10) It is not a place of unending torment.

(the following is from "A Pocket Cyclopedia" compiled by J. W. Hanson)

"Tartarus occurs only once in the Bible (2 Pet. 2:4) and the writer employs a fable to illustrate his theme. In the apocryphal book Enoch, there is a long account of fallen angels and Peter alludes to the story just as writers often do now. Not to endores the statements of the book, but to illustrate the subject of his epistle. So writers now refer to Aesop or classic stories to illulstrate a point.

"The three words in the New Testament translated hell ought to stand as the names of real or imaginary localities -- Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus. Had they done so, no reader would think of giving to them the meaning so long ascribed to the word hell, but would understand them as meaning the grave, or state of the dead, the vale of Hinnom, or the heathen's imaginary prison-house in the future world, or the consequences of sin, or sorrow, or calamity in this life. The Universalist regards hell as signifying the consequences of sin, severe but salutary, to endure as long as sin endures, but to end with the reformation fo the sinner."

More information can be found on the articles on our web site: