What Actually Is Hell?
Does Hell exist? My answer is yes and it's here on Earth.
Does Hell exist?
I've come to the terrible conclusion that yes, it does.
I used to not think so. I used to think, like most people my age, that it had to be a myth, a joke, a fictional place made up to scare people and make them obey. When I grew older and more spiritually mature, I began to believe it was a metaphor, something that exists within your own mind.
But what if Hell weren't a metaphor? What if it was a real, literal, place full of fire and brimstone? What if, instead of being in some kind of other dimension or 'underworld' as most people tend to assume, Hell was something that existed here on Earth? What if the "Hell" spoken of in The Bible was simply a vision of a future Earth?
It's important to keep in mind that The Bible is not so much a book, as commonly understood, but a collection of books, written by a number of different authors over a period of hundreds of years, hence all the seeming contradictions. In fact, many books were actually left out of the Bible when the Council of Nicea decided which books to leave and which to keep. The books that were kept only got there after much disagreeing and deliberation. This includes the controversial Book of Revelations, which I will address in this article. It's important that we view the Bible as a historical document rather than a "book of lies made up to control people," as so many people these days dismiss it to be. From my perspective, the book contains much revelation and prophecy, that whether we accept it as true or not, it's writers sincerely believed. It's writers were obviously trying to get some kind of message across. What was the message?
The answer may be more compatible with modern science than you may think.
To quote the Book of Revelations, God “will destroy those who destroy the Earth.” (Revelation 11:18)
Well, guess what? The majority of scientists agree that the Earth is in the process of being destroyed right this very second and humans are to blame. This process has a name. It’s called “global warming.” The Earth’s atmosphere is gradually heating up at an ever increasing speed. This is primarily due to the increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, collected in the atmosphere, absorbing the sunlight and radiation that has bounced off the Earth’s surface. These air pollutants trap the heat and cause the Earth’s temperature to increase at a rapid speed. A report issued earlier this month by UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2030, our planet will pass the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, leading to even more hurricanes, floods, food shortages and wildfires. If we continue down this road, the Earth may no longer be livable.
To better understand Earth’s future, it might help to look at the fate of a similar planet: Venus. Venus has long been known as Earth’s “sister planet” due to their similar size and proximity to the Sun. Recent discoveries have shown that Venus is (or was) even more similar to Earth than we realized. According to scientists at NASA, Venus was once a very beautiful planet, as would be expected for a planet named after the goddess of love. Similar to our planet, it had shallow liquid water oceans and habitable surface temperatures. Venus may (and in my opinion did) have once even hosted life, scientists suggest.
Take a look at Venus, now, however and you will see something very different. Instead of a beautiful Earth-like planet, you will see a horrifying hellish landscape covered by dense clouds of Sulphuric acid and dry deserts interspersed with rocks and volcanoes. The planet consists of more than 96% carbon dioxide and it’s atmosphere is 90 times as thick as Earth’s while it's temperatures reach as high as 864 degrees Fahrenheit. It is quite literally as hot as hell.
According to NASA, since Venus is closer to the Sun, it still received about 40 percent more sunlight than Earth and since it spins much slower (a day on Venus is equivalent to 117 days on Earth), it’s dayside is exposed to the sun for about two months at a time. However, the earth of the surface produced a rain, creating clouds that were able to shield the planet from much of that solar heating. A trip to Venus will kill you in less than seconds, and yet, the planet was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. How did it change? Is there a message there? Could myth help us shed light on this question?
The Story of Lucifer
The answer is yes, it can.
To shed further light on the transformation of the planet Venus, let’s take a look at the myth of Lucifer. The name, “Lucifer,” is actually Latin for the “light bearer” or morning star, another name for the planet Venus, a planet which the ancients revered arguably more than any other. Just as Venus was at one time a beautiful Earth-like planet that may have held life, Lucifer was once a beautiful angel. In fact, he was known as God’s favorite. But Lucifer had a problem: he thought he could be better than God. He thought he could be a god himself. So he gathered up the angels and organized a rebellion against the Most High, to which he was promptly cast down into Hell like a bolt of lightening with the rest of the rebellious, fallen angels.
Well, what if Lucifer was just a metaphor for humanity and what if those fallen angels were us? What if, due to our desire to “become God,” and lord over the Earth at the expense of the rest of God’s creation, we are turning Earth—this beautiful planet—into a Hell?
There are many myths but let's take a look at what the Bible (Isaiah 14:12-14) actually has to say about Lucifer (hint, the word "Lucifer" was only used in reference to a fallen angel once):
"How you are fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning star! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble? Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed it’s cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?"
When we take the word ‘Heaven’ to represent ‘the Heavens’ or outer space, and when we clearly see that Lucifer refers to the morning star, a phase of the planet Venus, we begin to understand that Lucifer is really a planet, a planet that tried to exalt itself and fell in the process, just as humanity is doing to the Earth currently. Makes, sense, right? To reinforce my point, it’s also worth noting that in the original Greek translation, Isaiah uses the word “Anthropos,” in reference to Lucifer (which translates to humanity) rather than “Android,” which translates to man, as wrongly translated in most English versions of the Bible. This means that instead of representing a single person, the word "Lucifer," is used in reference to the species as a whole.
Could environmentalism have been a core part of Jesus's message? Should Christians be paying more attention to the threat of climate change? I think so. Many scholars also believe vegetarianism to be a part of Jesus's message as well and there is evidence that this is part of what lead to his crucifixion.
A New Earth
Don't lose hope. In addition to Hell, Revelations also talks about a "New Earth," a paradise available for the survivors of this cataclysm.
To quote the Book of Revelations:
"Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
I mention this because the early Christian idea of 'Heaven,' may have been very different from what modern Christians are expecting. As the article from Wikipedia states,
"In the same way, the biblical concept of the New Earth is one of renovation and restoration. Either on this current earth or on rebuilt new planet. This conclusion is supported by Peter's words in his public speech in the temple at Jerusalem.
Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
This earth, however, will be either cleansed or destroyed by fire for the purpose of restoration as expressed in the following passage:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? (2 Peter 3:10-12)"
To be clear, I personally believe in some kind of Heaven or heavenly realm, but many scholars argue that "the Kingdom of God," mentioned by Jesus wasn't meant to be understood as an afterlife so much as it was an ideal state here on Earth. This was at a time when many Jews were awaiting the Messiah - an earthly king, that was meant to restore Israel, as prophesied by the scriptures.
Jesus taught that "the Kingdom of God is within you," which makes sense. In order to be accepted into this new earth, we need to prepare ourselves. If we want to change the world, we must start with changing ourselves. If we want to live in a harmonious society free from war, oppression, corruption and deception, free from sin, essentially, we ourselves have to be free of those things. Otherwise, we risk letting the same thing happen to our planet all over again. If we want to live in a perfect society, we ourselves need to be made perfect.