Anyone, who is curious enough about the doctrine of eternal punishment to study what the translators have done in rendering the word "hell" in the King James Version Bible, will immediately notice a number of strange things. Number one is the fact that three different words are translated as "hell". None of these three words in the original languages, Hebrew or Greek, conveyed the idea of eternal fiery torment.
For those who insist on plenary inspiration for the scriptures, this fact alone should give pause. Why did God choose to convey the knowledge of eternal punishment using three different words, thereby inviting confusion on the most vital subject of the Bible. If the use of three terms was necessary, why didn't the translators and subsequent expositors note the reasons for the three terms. Maybe some have, but I haven't heard the subject ever explored in countless references to hell by the Orthodox.
Number two is the fact that Jesus is the very first one to obviously and pointedly note the reality of hell. It seems strange indeed that such an important topic as eternal punishment for the unrighteous would not be as prominent in the Old Testament as in the New. That is especially so when Jesus is supposed to be the Savior of the world and yet prior to His ministry God has not shared with the world, even the Jewish world, what it is that Jesus will save them from, namely hell. It is also noteworthy that Jesus is said to have visited hell in the book of Acts, so whatever hell represented it apparently existed prior to Jesus. Why was it a secret for so long?
As an aside, if hell existed prior to Jesus, then what was the eternal destiny of deceased mankind in the time of the Old Testament? How did the Jews who had the advantage of the law escape hell? What about the Gentiles who had no divine revelation? Were they all condemned automatically? Again, this is a subject I never hear addressed by the believers in eternal punishment.
In I Corinthians 15:55 the translators of the KJV openly display their bias in rendering the word "hades" as "grave" instead of "hell" as they do everywhere else. For them their can be no victory over hell, so they must come up with a new translation which maintains their personal understanding.
It is equally intriguing to note that this verse is the only time the Apostle Paul ever uses any of the words translated "hell" elsewhere in the New Testament. Again, why such little clarity and emphasis out of the writer who composed much of the NT?.
Then, in Revelation 20:14 the writer states that "death and hell (hades)" are cast into the lake of fire. Of course, in the popular understanding of hell, it is equivalent to the lake of fire. How is it that hell can be cast into itself? Undoubtedly those who relish and insist on hell will find a way to explain this oddity; but for anyone inclined to question what the church so ardently promotes as essential, there are plenty of very powerful reasons to suspect the doctrine of eternal punishment as a contrivance of men, conveniently adopted to promote control over others.
The total lack of interest in actually looking carefully into the background of the doctrine of eternal punishment is a clear indictment of the church. It is just too obvious how important the idea of the church as the administrator of escape from hell is to their control over the masses.
If hell turned out to be a hoax, then what happens? The church probably responds that the world just goes to "hell in a hand basket", meaning that men run amok without the need to fear God any more. That remains to be seen, but what we do know for sure is that if hell is a hoax, the church, as we know it, is out of business. That provides all the reason I need to understand the church's fascination with a doctrine whose scriptural basis is as weak and flawed as we have just seen.