Why Do JW's Believe that Hell is Symbolic When the Disciples of the Apostles believed it Was Literal ?

by Sea Breeze 128 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Vanderhoven7


    "What makes you think that eternal hellfire must be present in the Old Testament? Is it somehow not valid because it’s in the New Testament and not in the Old Testament?"

    Firstly, eternal torment of eternal human souls is not found in the New Testament.

    Of course God could spring eternal torment on the wicked as a surprize punishment anytime He wants.

    However, the Pharisees used both torment after death and eternal torment at the judgment to control the common people. So I want eternal torment supporters to tell me how and when these religious leaders acquired this teaching about the immortality of the soul and endless retributive pain as the penalty for sin....if they didn't get it from the Holy Ghost.


    VH ,

    the NT is filled w/ warnings about the unquenchable fire w/worms that don’t die. Everlasting fire. That must mean different things to you than it does to the rest of the world?


    That above and a boatload of OT references from

  • Sea Breeze
    Sea Breeze
    Firstly, eternal torment of eternal human souls is not found in the New Testament.


    Jude 7 KJV

    Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    From the first page of the Bible until the last, Scripture consistently teaches that humans have an immaterial part that will last forever. It is not possible for the soul, or spirit, to be annihilated. So, the only real question is where does the conscious part of us go when we die? That's really all that matters at the end of the day.... or our end of days. The answer is either family-style fellowship with God or the place prepared for the devil and his angels. Those are the only two choices we have. And thanks to God manifest as Jesus of Nazereth, we DO now have a choice.

    Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels - Mt. 25: 41

    It is not wise to minimize, discount or ignore the wanrings of a man who said that he would resurrect himself from the dead, and then did it.

  • Vanderhoven7

    @Sea Breeze

    Where do you find eternal souls in the Bible? The soul can be destroyed in Gehenna (the second death) according to Jesus. This mortal must put on immortality but that happens at the resurrection according to Paul.

    Re: Jude 7

    Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    Wonderful verse. Do you see the word or concept of torment here? The fire that destroyed Sodom was eternal. But does "eternal fire" clearly denote either conscious experience, or a continual burning flame which causes endless suffering? Or could "eternal fire" simply be a metaphor for eternal destruction? Interestingly, because something is eternal or everlasting in scripture does not necessitate endless perpetuity of action. For example, Hebrews 6:2 speaks of "Eternal Judgment", not in the sense that the final judgment scene will be reenacted day after day for eternity, but that a final judgment will be made that will have eternal consequences for the wicked.

    - Similarly, rather than denoting an endless process of ongoing torture, could "eternal fire" be descriptive of a destruction which is unending in the sense that it will never be reversed?

    - In other words, could the consequences of the fire be eternal and not the burning process itself?

  • Sea Breeze
    Sea Breeze


    Personally, I wish it was as you say is possible. But, I could never preach on that wishful thinking because it is simply not supported in scripture.

    If it was just one story, maybe there might be an argument. But when you look at the overwhelming quantity of verses describing conscious punishment to different groups of the wicked in the OT and especially the NT, it is simply not possible to conclude it is anything other than what a plain reading would produce in the mninds of an average reader.

    And, getting back to the topic: When you read what the first and second generation believers who were trained by the apostles wrote, then the likelihood of mine and yours wishful thinking being true drops to ZERO.

  • Vanderhoven7

    @ TTWSYF

    Regardless of loads of scripture...if they don't say people will be tormented forever, then that meaning is added to the text. Loads do not impress me. Give me one scripture; that's all I need.

    You brought out a passage which you feel speaks of eternal torment.

    Mark 9:43-44 And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into GEHENNA, INTO THE FIRE THAT SHALL NEVER BE QUENCHED. (44) Where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched.

    GEHENNA: Does the term Gehenna denote or suggest eternal torment?

    Gehenna was a 600 ft deep gorge, called the valley of (GE)Hinnom, that in Jesus day, was being used as a garbage dump. It was situated just outside Jerusalem. Garbage, carcasses of animals and even the dead bodies of criminals were cast into Gehenna, without burial, to be utterly destroyed by the unquenchable fires that burned night and day and the seemingly endless supply of scavenging worms and other natural elements.

    Nothing was thrown into Gehenna alive or in a conscious state, and nothing was tormented in the literal Gehenna. Jesus employed Gehenna figuratively to depict the unlimited destruction associated with the "second death".

    Gehenna, had a bad history. God judged Israel for her sins (Jeremiah.7:31-33; 19:2-13) and prophesied to fill this valley full of bodies. Josephus informs us that countless bodies were heaped there following the Roman siege in 69/70 AD. By Jesus' day, the term "Gehenna" was commonplace imagery in Jewish literature. Gehenna evoked a sense of total dishonor and disgust; it suggested judgment, death, decay and destruction, not eternal torment.

    FIRE: Does fire in scripture tend to denote torment?

    Fire is commonly used as a symbol for destruction, rather than conscious torment. God's fiery judgments burn till all is consumed (See Mal. 4:1 and Ez. 28:18-19). Fire is said to consume sinners and cities.


    Does eternal fire denote or necessitate ongoing conscious suffering?

    The destruction of Sodom was notably quick and merciful, but its desolation perpetual. (Is. 13:19-22, Jer. 50:40) This sudden destruction, resulted in total desolation that would never be reversed. This is an example of the eternal fire associated with God's final fiery judgment. (Jude 7, 2 Peter 3:10)


    Does unquenchable fire denote conscious perpetual pain?

    God's prediction of Jerusalem's destruction with unquenchable fire was fulfilled when enemy armies burned Jerusalem in 586 BC. (Jeremiah 17:27) Did the unquenchable fire of Jerusalem's judgment ever go out? Unquenchable fire symbolizes destruction which nothing will prevent.


    Do Fire and worms, the twin elements of destruction in literal Gehenna, denote eternal torment? This same imagery is used in Isaiah 66:24 to describe the righteous looking over the "dead corpses" (pegerim). The righteous viewed their destruction, not their misery or torment. They were not looking at eternal worms or fires that never went out through eternity.

    It is equally important to note that Jesus' use of Gehenna as a figure of eternal destruction did not demand or even imply immortal worms or flames that would never go out throughout history, much less human suffering and torment. The unquenchable fire and the undying worm in literal Gehenna, points to the completion of the work of destruction. In literal Gehenna, the worms did not die off or the fires abate until the corpses were destroyed completely. The purpose of Gehenna was destruction, not torment. To sum up, the literal place of Gehenna was not a place of torment; rather than conveying torment, literal Gehenna conveyed death and decay. It evoked feelings of disgust, revulsion and contempt or loathing from onlookers, not torment and pain of indwellers.

  • Vanderhoven7

    Scripture Sea Breeze, scripture!

    1. If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, 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.
    2. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
    3. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

      I guess the word “soul” isn’t there. You’re right VH, there’s no hell to worry about in the scriptures.
      seriously, though, the concept of hell is unpleasant to everyone, not just JW’s.
  • Sea Breeze
    Sea Breeze
    Where do you find eternal souls in the Bible?

    do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul - Jesus

    It does say later that the soul and body can be "destroyed" in Hell, but that greek word also means to lose or perish, but not non existence.

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