What is the origin of the myth?
“Of all classical Greek philosophers, the one who has had the greatest influence on traditional views of Hell is Plato.”—Histoire des enfers (The History of Hell), by Georges Minois, page 50.
“From the middle of the 2nd century AD Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms . . . The philosophy that suited them best was Platonism [the teachings of Plato].”—The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1988), Volume 25, page 890.
“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God.”—Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 edition, page 270.
What does the Bible say?
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, . . . for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, Revised Standard Version.
The Hebrew word Sheol, which referred to the “abode of the dead,” is translated “hell” in some versions of the Bible. What does this passage reveal about the condition of the dead? Do they suffer in Sheol in order to atone for their errors? No, for they “know nothing.” That is why the patriarch Job, when suffering terribly because of a severe illness, begged God: “Protect me in hell [Hebrew, Sheol].” (Job 14:13; Douay-Rheims Version) What meaning would his request have had if Sheol was a place of eternal torment? Hell, in the Biblical sense, is simply the common grave of mankind, where all activity has ceased.
Is not this definition of hell more logical and in harmony with Scripture? What crime, however horrible, could cause a God of love to torture a person endlessly? (1 John 4:8) But if hellfire is a myth, what about heaven?
God does not punish people in hell