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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


The place of divine punishment after death. As all religions have supposed a future state of existence after this life, so all have their hell, or place or torment, in which the wicked are to be punished. Even the heathens had their tartara; and the Mahometans, we find, believe the eternity of rewards and punishments; it is not, therefore, a sentiment peculiar to Christianity. There have been many curious and useless conjectures respecting the place of the damned: the ancients generally supposed it was a region of fire near the centre of the earth. Mr. Swinden endeavoured to prove that it is seated in the sun. Mr. Whiston advanced a new and strange hypothesis; according to him, the comets are so many hells, appointed in their orbits alternately to carry the damned to the confines of the sun, there to be scorched by its violent heat; and then to return with them beyond the orb of Saturn, there to starve them in those cold and dismal regions. But, as Dr. Doddridge observes, we must here confess our ignorance; and shall be much better employed in studying how we may avoid this place of horror, than in labouring to discover where it is.

Of the nature of this punishment we may form some idea from the expressions made use of in Scripture. It is called a place of torment, Luke 16:21 . the bottomless pit, Revelation 20:3-6 . a prison, 1 Peter 3:19 . darkness, Matthew 8:12 . Judges 1:13 . fire, Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50 . a worm that never dies, Mark 9:44; Mark 9:48 , the second death, Revelation 21:8 . the wrath of God, Romans 2:5 . It has been debated whether there will be a material fire in hell. On the affirmative side it is observed, that fire and brimstone are represented as the ingredients of the torment of the wicked, Revelation 14:10-11 . Revelation 20:10 . That as the body is to be raised, and the whole man to be condemned, it is reasonable to believe there will be some corporeal punishment provided, and therefore probably material fire. On the negative side it is alleged, that the terms above- mentioned are metaphorical, and signify no more than raging desire or acute pain; and that the Divine Being can sufficiently punish the wicked, by immediately acting on their minds, or rather leaving them to the guilt and stings of their own conscience.

According to several passages, it seems there will be different degrees of punishment in hell, Luke 12:47 . Romans 2:12 . Matthew 10:20-21 . Matthew 12:25; Matthew 12:32 . Hebrews 10:28-29 . As to its duration, it has been observed that it cannot be eternal, because there is no proportion between temporary crimes and eternal punishments; that the word everlasting is not to be taken in its utmost extent; and that it signifies no more than a long time, or a time whose precise boundary is unknown. But in answer to this it is alleged, that the same word is used, and that sometimes in the very same place, to express the eternity of the happiness of the righteous, and the eternity of the misery of the wicked; and that there is no reason to believe that the words express two such different idea, as standing in the same connection. Besides, it is not true, it is observed, that temporary crimes do not deserve eternal punishments, because the infinite majesty of an offended God adds a kind of infinite evil to sin, and therefore exposes the sinner to infinite punishment; and that hereby God vindicates his injured majesty, and glorifies his justice.

See articles DESTRUCTIONISTS and UNIVERSALISTS. Berry St. Lect. vol. 2: p. 559, 562; Dawes on Hell, ser. 10:; Whiston on ditto; Swinden, Drexelius, and Edwards on ditto. A late popular writer has observed, that in the 35th sermon of Tillotson, every thing is said upon the eternity of hell torments that can be known with any certainty.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Hell'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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