What Does the Jewish Bible Teach About Hell?
Jews don't believe in hell. That's what we're told. We are also usually told that the Tanach does not teach that there is a hell. But it does.
Call it what you want, but the Tanach teaches about everlasting punishment, where sinners will be separated from God in burning and terror.
"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against Me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind" Isaiah 66:24, NIV
"The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" Isaiah 33:14. NIV
"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:2, NIV
"From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression...Surely you place them on slippery ground: you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies." Psalm 73:78. 18-20. NIV
"...the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever." 1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV
So just who, according to the Jewish Bible, will go to this place of torment?
According to traditional Judaism, God will reward the "good" and punish the "wicked". This idea is followed up with opinions from the rabbis as to what exactly is a "good" life and what is a "bad" life. Although we can gain rich understanding and encouragement from the teachings in the Talmud, remember it is only in the Bible itself that we find absolute truth. Regardless of the teachings of even the most honorable men, God Himself has given us the true definition of good and bad in the Tanach. He is not moved by the opinions of men. He expects us to follow His standard.
"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" Deuteronomy 10:12-13, NIV
The words of the covenant - the Ten Commandments (from Exodus, chapter 20):
1. I am the LORD your God
Have you always put God first in your life, have you loved Him with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength? (Deut. 6:4) If so, that is a good thing. If not, you have sinned.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
Do you believe in the God of the Bible, or is your god someone who is tolerant of sin? Do you think "My god would never send anyone to hell..... My god understands that everyone sins sometimes.... as long as I'm a nice person and don't hurt anyone, my god accepts me..... my god doesn't really expect anyone to follow all of the laws all the time...." If this is what you think, you are guilty of the sin of idolatry. You have created a god in your own mind, and it is not the God of the Bible,
"Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? He and his kind will be put to shame... they will be brought down to terror and infamy." Isaiah 44:10-11, NIV
3. You shall not misuse the Name of the LORD your God
Are you always been respectful of the Name of God? Have you ever carelessly said, "Oh my God", without even giving God a thought? Have you ever used the Name of God as a cuss word? Have you said, "God only knows" or even "God bless you" without really considering HaShem? If not, that is a good thing. If so, you are guilty of the sin of misusing the Name of God, and He will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His Name (not even nice people).
"You shall not misuse the Name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His Name." Exodus 20:7
4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Do you keep the Sabbath holy? Do you sanctify that day above other days, committing it not to sports and family activities, but to resting and drawing closer to God? If so, that is good. If not, that is sin.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
Do you always and have you always treated your father and your mother with respect and love? God does not say, if they earn your honor, He says honor them. If you always have and always do, that is good. If not, that is sin.
"If a man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness." Proverbs 20:20, NIV
6. You shall not murder.
You might figure that you're OK here... most of you... but have you ever hated someone to the point of wishing that they were dead?
"Everything a man does might seem right to him. But the LORD knows what that man is thinking." Proverbs 16:2, NIrV God sees every murderous thought, and it is sin.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
Have you ever had a relationship that took precedence in your heart over that of your spouse? Have you looked at someone with lust in your heart? God sees your thoughts. That is sin.
"You weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant."
Malachi 2:13-14, NIV
8. You shall not steal.
Have you ever stolen anything - a pencil, an answer to a test, etc. Do you diligently work every minute while you are on your employer's time, or are you stealing that time and pay? If you have never stolen, that is good. If you have, you are guilty of sin.
9. You shall not lie.
Have you ever told a lie? What about a "creative truth", saying true words, but saying them in such a way as to deliberately deceive the hearer? What about the lie told "to spare someone's feelings"? If you have never lied, that is a good thing. If you have, it is sin. I've never yet met anyone who has never told a lie.
10. You shall not covet.
Oh, man! The advertising industry loves the sin of coveting! Have you ever seen something that someone else has and thought, "I wish I had that..." That's coveting. If you've never done it, that's good. If you have, that's sin.
Using God's Word - not man's opinion - as your standard, how do you measure up? Are you, like everyone else, a sinner? The teaching of an everlasting fiery punishment for sinners may go against what you have heard and believe about God. You may say, "My God is a god of compassion and I don't believe in a god who would send someone to hell." Maybe you can acknowlege punishment for Pharoah, or for Hitler, but certainly not for you or someone you love. If this is what you think, you must make a decision: Will you trust the God of the Bible, or will you choose to believe in a god made in the image that you would prefer, a god who would do things more to your liking . . . one who is no god, but is in reality an idol of your own mind?
Maybe you think, "Nobody can follow all the commandments, so if I just do my best and don't hurt anyone, surely God will accept me." This is a popular opinion, but what does the Bible say?
"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart " Psalm 15:1-2, NIV
Only those whose walk is blameless. Not better than the other guy. Blameless. Are you blameless? I'm not.
If you are honest, you will see that you, like I, and like every other human being on this planet, deserve to be separated from God for eternity, because you, like the rest of us, are a sinner. This is not a flaw with God, but with us.
"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear."
Isaiah 59:1-2, NIV
So what can we do? God demands complete and total righteousness, but none of us are righteous. Some are better than others, yes, but we all fall short of God's standard. But because God is a God of love and mercy and grace, He looked for someone to make intercession on our behalf, but found no one who is righteous. So He Himself made intercession on our behalf. His strong arm brought salvation to mankind.
"The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm worked salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him." Isaiah 59:15-16, NIV
The LORD made intercession on our behalf. He took on the form of a man, just as He did when He walked with Abraham, when He wrestled with Jacob, when He spoke with Moses face to face, and when He walked with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The LORD Himself, the Mighty God in the form of a man (Isaiah 9:6) bore the punishment that you and I deserve. He Himself intervened and worked salvation for His righteousness' sake.
When God wrestled with Jacob, and changed his name to Israel, "Jacob said, 'Please tell me Your Name.' But He replied, 'Why do you ask My Name?' Then He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face..." Genesis 32:29,30, NIV God did not at that time choose to tell us the Name that He took for Himself when in the form of a man. It was a mystery.
God again took on flesh, as prophecied (Isaiah 9:6), born of a virgin as prophecied (Isaiah 7:14), in the town of Bethlehem as prophecied (MIcah 5:2), lived among men as prophecied (Isaiah 9:6), gave Himself an offering for our sins as prophecied (Isaiah 53:6), and came back from the dead as prophecied (Isaiah 53:11), fulfilling the promises of the Jewish Bible. He called Himself in the Aramaic (an old form of Hebrew) Yeshua. In English, we say Jesus.
"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?...He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all...After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities." Isaiah 53:1-6, 11, NIV
He will come again and claim His rightful kingdom on earth, restoring Israel to her place of beloved esteem. "Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:12, NIV
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV
Notice in this reference to Messiah, that the child born is both the son given and the Everlasting Father. He will reign on David's throne, and also be called Mighty God. He is God in flesh. Who but God Himself can be called Mighty God and not be guilty of blasphemy?
So how does the sacrifice of Jesus justify the individual? By faith. Just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness - that is, Abraham was also a sinner, but because of his faith God did not count his sins against him, but counted him as a righteous man.
"Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6, NIV
In this same way, those who put their faith in Messiah Jesus are also counted righteous before God, not because of their good deeds, but through faith in Jesus alone.
(speaking of Abraham:) "Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Messiah Jesus, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 4:21-5:2, NIV
What you have believed and heard may not be what the Bible says. You will have to choose whether to believe in the God of the Bible or the god of your own mind. Will you trust in Jesus, God in flesh, who bore your iniquities, so that you can say with David, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6) or will you follow the opinions and teachings of men, cutting yourself off from God forever.
Are you confused? Pray to God. Ask Him to show you truth. Seek Him with all your heart, and be willing to accept whatever truth He reveals to you. Your eternity depends on it.
"...if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV
"...the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.
If you seek Him, He will be found by you;
but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever." 1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV