Literal or figurative hell?

PinSeeker wrote: Saying something is proved does not make it so. An error oft made is forming beliefs and then “shaping” Scripture to support it. When that is done, “proof” becomes a foregone conclusion.

This is something we need to try to avoid, but it can be very difficult. I’ve tried to be open minded about this topic and approach it by looking at all the evidence and different arguments for all the positions.

Additionally, I’ll certainly acknowledge your “point,” but point out that it’s altogether in error. The Bible absolutely does not teach that death is cessation of existence. Annihilationism is totally abiblical.

I would not say annihilationism is “totally abiblical”. But, like all interpretations of hell, I believe there are various interpretions of hell depending on what is interpreted to be literal or figurative. Annihilationism tends to view references to death literally, but everything that leads to an afterlife as figurative. Whereas people who believe in eternal torment in hell will view the parables of Jesus and the book of Revelation more literally.

So, one question is how should we decide to interpret something literally or figuratively? Well, that’s a whole topic of debate in itself.

I believe it would be overstating one’s case if anyone can claim their view of hell is the absolute truth. Given the scope of the Bible, relatively little is written about it. The majority of text that mentions it in the NT are from Jesus and the book of Revelation (which I assume everybody agrees is a highly symbolic book). Paul, who wrote practically half of the NT, did not even mention anything about hell. Outside of Jesus, we have no credible testimony of anyone experiencing death and able to tell us anything about it. Even after he was resurrected, I don’t recall him saying anything about what heaven or hell is like.

It is pointless to try to convince everyone else that your own position is the “correct one”. People have been debating this for thousands of years and what makes someone think they now have the correct view? Even the Pharisees and Sadducees had differing views and could not agree on it. It is also pointless to stop debating someone because they do not accept your position.

The best that can be said for one’s position is if it’s Biblical. If all of scripture harmonizes with one’s view, then one can say it’s a Biblical position. But, as we have witnessed so far, interpretations depend on how much one takes passages literally or symbolically.

My personal view is that all of our views of hell are not totally correct. How can we totally understand something that requires for someone to be dead to actually experience and understand? We can have a partial understanding and grasp some of its concepts, but we cannot have the full picture of what hell (or heaven) is actually like.

The only thing we can say is a fact is what the Bible states, which is basically just quoting the Bible. Much beyond that is interpretations of scripture. For example, nowhere in the Bible does it say that people are being tortured in hell. It would require interpreting various passages to arrive at that position.

I personally do have a position of what hell is, but I’m trying to be neutral on this and give a fair treatment of all positions. At the conclusion of this debate (if it ever ends), I’ll sum up my position.