Is There a Hell?
From a letter to Unity:
"I HAVE LIKED your teaching in most things, but the way in which you explain metaphysically some parts of the Bible has disturbed me very much. There can be but one true interpretation of any word of God. It is a simple, plain word from God to man for his salvation. I may get healing and help from God and do many wonderful works and yet never truly know God to the salvation of my soul. Of course, there is, if Jesus' own words are true, an "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). It cannot be explained away. The one message of the Bible is not to get healing, temporal help, comfort, or power but to make provision to escape the wrath to come, to seek to save men's souls from death, the death that never dies."
"So I am dropping Unity till I get light as to my attitude towards its teachings, which are very true and fine in one way but untrue in the important real facts concerning the soul. ... I pray that He will lead you to see the great soul need — the necessity for first repenting, the remission of sins through the blood of Jesus. Without this cleansing, no one can inherit the kingdom of heaven."
The seeker for Truth will miss the mark if he reads the Bible literally. The Bible is a book of parables, allegories, comparisons. Spiritual things cannot be described in a language that is limited to material names. Jesus' lessons were given, and should be accepted, allegorically. In Mark 9:43, it is recorded that He said, "And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell" (margin, Gehenna).
This statement is plainly allegory. Jesus certainly did not advise the amputation of one's hands to cure sin. Neither
did He refer to a place called hell. According to the original Scriptures, He used Gehenna to illustrate the state of mind into which the sinner is plunged by his sin. Gehenna, was the burning refuse heap near Jerusalem. The remorse of sinners may be compared to a fire in the soul. It is corrective and, when the sinner is repentant, purifies both soul and body.
This corrective work of the purifying fire in the soul of the sinner is set forth thus in Ferrar Fenton's translation of the New Testament, Matt. 25:46: "And these He will dismiss into a long correction, but the well-doers to an enduring life."
In the Bible, three different words, either Hebrew or Greek, are translated "hell." Gehenna is the only one of these that in any sense means fire. Gehenna is the Greek form of the Hebrew Ge Hinnom (valley of Hinnom). The valley, lying just outside the city of Jerusalem, was a dumping ground for the city's sewage and filth, and a fire was kept burning continually to consume the waste. From this, we see that Gehenna is a fitting illustration of the cleansing fire of Spirit.
In a sermon, Archdeacon Farrar said: "There would be the proper teaching about hell if we calmly and deliberately erased from our English Bibles the three words, 'damnation,' 'hell,' and 'everlasting.' I say — unhesitatingly I say, claiming the fullest right to speak with the authority of knowledge — that not one of those words ought to stand any longer in our English Bible, for in our present acceptation of them they are simply mistranslations."
Jesus taught in parables, that is, in symbols. If this were always remembered and if the guidance of the Spirit of truth were sought in the interpretation of symbols, the great mass of confusing, contradictory interpretations of
His words would be cleared away and all people would see alike in the light of spiritual understanding. No one claims that the parable of the wheat and the tares or the parable of the sheep and the goats is to be taken literally, yet the whole religious world has insisted that hell-fire means a burning lake where men and women shall burn in material fire forever. With such beliefs about God's purpose for His erring children, it is no wonder that people have found it hard to believe that He is love. True understanding of the real character of God, of man, and of the universe in which we live will dispel the darkness of ignorance that has made possible the old concept of hell. God is not an arbitrary man seated on a throne in the skies but He is the everywhere present substance, life, intelligence, and power of the universe. Our recognizing this and obeying the laws of our being place us in harmony with the one life-giving energy, the fire of Spirit, which works in us as our own joyous life and purity. By the nature of its own purity, it begins to consume the abominable works of ignorance and error, but to the extent that its laws are disregarded, the mind and the body are put out of harmony with it.
Preceding Entry: The Household of Faith 290-292: The Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand
Following Entry: The Household of Faith 296-300: The Interpretation of Visions