Is the concept of hell a recent revelation by God in the New Testament given that it is not mentioned in the Old Testament?

Hi there Jose. Difficult question (as mine often are), but here goes: taking into account the Old Testament never once mentions the idea of eternal punishment, rather always speaks of death or destruction, should we reconsider the prevailing view of hell as eternal punishment? Or should we accept that this is a new revelation from God in the new?

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Hi James,
Great question!

The idea of ‘eternal punishment’ might not be as pronounced in the Old Testament as what we see stated in the New Testament. And, yes, Jesus spoke more about hell and eternal damnation than anyone else in the NT. I would not, however, be too quick to conclude that it is an idea alien to the Old.

If we look at the ‘death and destruction’ you mention in its context it is not just that the covenant community of God was ‘cut off’ from Him (exile - geographic), or that they died (physical death - Exodus), but that God’s presence departed (Ezekiel). What we see in a liminal form in the OT is amplified in the New and we see it clearly now because of the atoning work of Christ on the Cross.

The OT tells us that the soul that sins dies (Ezk 18:20). It is no wonder that Paul says that the proper starting point in considering the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are ‘dead’ in sin (Eph 2). It is when we listen to Jesus we not only understand that unless we are born again we cannot see or enter the life God has for us (Jn 3), in Him, we find out how.

Every blessing,
jose

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Thanks for the reply Jose. Yes I think that does sound a very biblical and logical reply to my question. I do have one more related challenging question though: In psalm 82, which the context is God addressing the rebel members of the divine council a.k.a the ‘fallen angels’, in verse 7 he says that these divine spiritual entities will “Die like mere mortals and fall like every other ruler.” How does that square with eternal punishment since the face value interpretation is that these divine rebels will die like humans.

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Hi James,
Thank you for your follow-up question.

Given that not every portrayal of divine judgment in the Scriptures is painted with the ‘eternal punishment’ brush we should be careful not to do so either. There are at least 3 ways to interpret the ‘gods’ in Ps 82: they could be humans in authority (Ex 21:6, 22:8f), or a polytheistic pantheon (2 Cor 10:20), or the demonic realm (Eph 6:12, Isa. 24:21; Dan. 10:13, 20f.; 12:1).

What we can see from this text (and the rest of the Scriptures) is that God is the judge, and his judgment stands irrespective of whether it is the Canaanite high god or humans.

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