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Hell in the Old Testament

"Bible" for many,  I wonder why, is only the Old Testament. In reality, from the first book of the Old Testament - Genesis - to the last of the  New Testament - The Apocalypse of St. John - God has offered to us, in his divine mercy,  a divine "library" whose ultimate author is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God has supported the hand of about forty saints and prophets, who wrote over a period of 1500 years. As St. Paul writes  to his disciple Timothy (2nd letter 3:16) "All Scripture is in fact God-inspired and useful to teach, to persuade, to correct, and to train in righteousness, so that  everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, and well-prepared for every good work".

This explanation is required because  many see in the "Heavenly Father" of whom Jesus speaks in the Gospel, someone different from the God of the Old Testament, whom they consider a severe and punitive God, of dubious reliability. But God is the same: "from everlasting to everlasting you are God" one reads in the Psalm of Moses  (90: 2). And just to Moses God, sending him to redeem the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, revealed himself  by the burning tree in these amazing terms: "I am who I am! ... You will tell the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob has sent me to you. This is my name forever, this is the title by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation "(Exodus 3:14-15). 

God is the same, even though one must keep in mind the graduality with which He reveals himself in the human history and implements his plan of salvation to recover the humanity - at least that part of humanity that does not persist in its ways and surrenders to his love, obeying to his Word. This divine pedagogy of God is highlighted above all in the writings of Saint Paul, which show how God, in order to save us, has put us all , as you say ... in college, under that strict guardian which are his demanding commandments, to make us understand that we cannot observe them without the help of that grace that Jesus has finally come to bring to us.

The point is that God, who is indeed an unfathomable and immeasurable love,  is also as it is written regarding the reverence and fear that are due to him,        "a devouring fire" (Hebrews 12:29). Not for nothing He manifested himself to Abraham as "a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch" (Genesis 15:17), and to Moses in the bush that "was blazing, yet was not consumed" (Exodus 3:2): personally this makes me think much more about the fire of hell than of the " the virginal breast of Mary "as some have interpreted it. And to quote just another passage of the Old Testament, the book of the prophet Isaiah -7th century b.C. - ends with this words: "All flesh shall come to worship before me,  says the Lord. And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh" (66:23-24). Extremely harsh words; but    these expression Jesus resumed in the Sermon of the Mount, to describe the torments of Hell, "where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched" (Mark 9:48).Jesus, on the other hand,said that he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets - in short, the Old Testament -but to fulfill it.

Hell remains, as the desperate fate of all those who, Jesus said, enter the wide door and cover the spacious path leading to perdition (Matthew 7:12) The good and comforting news of the Gospel is that we can escape from eternal perdition following the way that the Lord has opened before us sacrificing himself for us and then resurrecting to be beside us, in us, with his Holy Spirit. The way that the Lord encourages us to follow is a secondary road, not a comfortable and busy highway. It has some quite steep climb, and some descent a bit dangerous, but after all is marked by good traffic signs - the Saints -; carefully patrolled - by the Angels -; and with good filling stations: the sacraments of the Church ! And then ... there is no toll to pay: He has already paid for us by sacrificing himself on the cross. Come on!


following ...

Hell in the New Testament



PART ONE: Hell in the Word of God

CHAPTER ONE : Hell in the Gospels

CHAPTER TWO : Hell in the other books of the Bible
                                       -  Hell in the Old Testament
                                       -  Hell in the New Testament