Where does hell come from?
Before Jesus there was the afterlife which existed in the underworld - Hades and Sheol - a place of shades and spirits, some in torment some in bliss. But this was not hell - the place of unquenchable fire and eternal torment.
I am reliably told that hell derives from the Book of Revelation - the last book of the Bible.
"And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Revelation 20:10 (NRSV)
The first mention of this lake of fire is slightly earlier in the Book of Revelation.
"And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur." Revelation 19:20 (NRSV)
The Book of Revelation is an exaggeration of all the end times writings of the prophets.
The second of the above quotations (which is the first reference to the lake of fire) derives from the Book of Daniel.
"And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire." Daniel 7:11b (NRSV)
It is clear in Daniel that the beast represents a "kingdom" Daniel 7:23 (NRSV) which is defeated in battle. The slaying of the beast was the last act of war. And its body was destroyed by fire.
This refers to the ancient practice of burning the bodies of the dead after battle, nothing more.
The writer of Revelation has misinterpreted this passage as meaning some sort of supernatural fire in the same way as he has exaggerated the other end times passages.
So hell does not exist.
We need not fear something which is clearly a misunderstanding.
And this misunderstanding has been responsible for much suffering - from threats of hell-fire to burning people at the stake.
The Bible was their justification.
But the Bible is in error.
There is no hell, only God's Love.
(Scripture quotations (marked NRSV) are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.)