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.