“The only designation of something approaching hell in the Bible is Gehenna, or Hinnom, a valley near Jerusalem, where was situated Tophet, a place where fire was perpetually kept for sanitary purposes. The prophet Jeremiah informs us that the Israelites used to sacrifice their children to Moloch-Hercules on that spot; and later we find Christians quietly replacing this divinity by their god of mercy, whose wrath will not be appeased, unless the Church sacrifices to him her unbaptized children and sinning sons, on the altar of “eternal damnation”!
Whence then did the divine learn so well the conditions of hell, as to actually divide its torments into two kinds, the poena damni and paenae sensus, the former being the privation of the beatific vision; the latter the eternal pains in a lake of fire and brimstone? If they answer us that it is in the Apocalypse, we are prepared to demonstrate whence the theologist John himself derived the idea, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are and shall be tormented forever and ever”, he says.
Laying aside the esoteric interpretation that the “devil”, or tempting demon meant our earthly body, which after death will surely dissolve in the fiery or ethereal elements, the word “eternal”, by which our theologians interpret the words “forever and ever”, does not exist in the Hebrew language, either as a word or meaning. There is no Hebrew word which properly expresses eternity; oulam, according to Le Clerc, only imports a time whose beginning or end is not known.
While showing that this word does not mean infinite duration, and that in the Old Testament the word “forever” only signifies a long time, Archbishop Tillotson has completely perverted its sense with respect to the idea of hell-torments. According to his doctrine, when Sodom and Gomorrah are said to be suffering “eternal fire”, we must understand it only in the sense of that fire not being extinguished till both cities were entirely consumed. But, as to hell-fire, the words must be understood in the strictest sense of infinite duration.
Such is the decree of the learned divine. For the duration of the punishment of the wicked must be proportionate to the eternal happiness of the righteous. So he says, “These, (speaking the words of the wicked), shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous, into life eternal.””
H. P. Blavatsky