The Temple

Heaven and Hell – Beware what you hear!

Maybe you have heard this statement before: “Jesus talks more about hell than he does about heaven.”

Just yesterday I heard a radio message from a local pastor claim that Jesus talked about hell 3 times more than he does heaven. As I sat in my car I thought to myself, “No he doesn’t” and couldn’t wait to get back to my computer and Bible Works to check out the claim. And sure enough, the claim is absolutely false. IN FACT, it is just the opposite.

Results for an English word search (King James Version – KJV which happens to be the version most fond of the word hell, our modern versions are much less fond of the word, NAS using it only 13 times total):

Hell is used 54 times in the KJV Bible , 15 times in the gospels.

Heaven is used 582 in the KJV Bible, 143 times in the gospels.

Really the ratio is 10:1, Jesus speaks of heaven 10 times more than he does of hell. Now that is just simple word usage, not taking any time to do an in depth analysis of context or the Hebrew and Greek words behind the simple English words Hell/Heaven. Anyone familiar with the background knows that it is not a simple process in talking about the word or concept of hell. Our modern concept is much more developed than the Old Testament Jewish concept and even different from the Judaism of NT times.

Sheol is the Hebrew word that the KJV translates “hell.” Most modern translations have abandoned that translation of sheol altogether and either simply translate sheol as “grave” or simply “sheol.”

Abusso, gehenna, hades, tartarus are the New Testament (Greek) possibilities for the word “hell.” None of them literally means “hell” rather they literally mean: abyss; Hinnom valley; the nether world; tartarus is only used once in 2 Peter 2:4 and the lexicons define it as the subterranean place lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out.

Unfortunately, many pastors do not do primary study or research. Rather, they depend upon sermons that they have heard before, secondary sources that make unverified claims, or sermon outlines they purchased online. Some pastors just don’t know their limits and venture into areas beyond their expertise. Sometimes pastors are unprepared and feel the need to overstate to “motivate” or move their audience. So the listener is left with mythology, not good sound theology or doctrine. With the glut on the internet and podcasting, and the need radio stations have to compete there is no guarantee that goes along with the broadcast/sermon.

Caveat emptor.

Listener, beware.

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January 25, 2007 - Posted by | Christianity, Theological


  1. I’ve been trying to come to a better understanding of the issue of hell and eternal torment lately and have found a number of sources pointing to a different interpretation of hell based on careful translation of primary sources. I appreciate your insight and will be checking back to your blog in the future. Thanks!

    Comment by gracemark | March 28, 2007 | Reply

  2. Gracemark,

    Thanks for reading, I would be interested in your thoughts about this topic. This is a good area for some fresh discussion and exegesis.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 29, 2007 | Reply

  3. The number 143 keeps showing up on research on the Holy Bible. Can you tell us how many times Jesus spoke with people while on earth? Was it 143?
    Harry Johns

    Comment by Harry Johns | October 6, 2007 | Reply

  4. Very good analysis. There are many such often-repeated ideas that no one takes the time to check back against the Bible. This one I have heard multiple times, knew wasn’t true, but hadn’t taken the time to run the actual numbers. Thanks for thinking on the Scriptures, checking your facts, and sharing it with us. Keep studying the Word!

    Comment by precepts | August 5, 2008 | Reply

  5. hi i was wondering did you did this study using all names given to hell like some of them:
    sheol,hades,gehenna,place of punishment,dwelling place,tartarus

    Comment by carlos | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  6. I’d just like to point-out that the heaven that is referred to so often in the gospels is not the same heaven that the pastor was speaking of when he made the ratio comparison. It’s a great study to look into with a proper understanding of both sides.
    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Reuben | November 18, 2008 | Reply

  7. Reuben,
    You are so right, a post idea for another time. Preconceived notions of Heaven that match a more eastern philosophy/Religion are unwittingly held by believers. Lots of misunderstanding about resurrection as well.

    Comment by Steve | November 19, 2008 | Reply

  8. Sorry, but you are incorrect. An accurate study cannot be conducted by a word search alone. One must read/study scripture (God’s infallible Word). The bible Old & New Testaments), as well as what Jesus spoke about during His ministry, warns of hell approx. 3 times more than referencing heaven. Please correct this misleading and deceitful web page. Thanks.

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus, John 14:6

    Comment by David | October 8, 2010 | Reply

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