The Hell Myth
The idea of a Hell is a fabrication of the early Christian church intended to give a reason people must convert to believing Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus) was God. Yeshua, preached to his Jewish audience as a faithful Jew. He did not intend to start a religion named after him. He did want the Jews to grow away from the corruption of the Temple and realize the Kingdom of God was within them. He taught lessons about life, caring for others, and the need to have a relationship to God. Yeshua had no doubt that only the Jews would be in the Kingdom of God that would be established on Earth by a thoroughly human person (the Messiah) ordained by God to rule in this kingdom. Non-Jews would be excluded, but would live their normal lives outside of the Kingdom.
When the efforts by Yeshua’s followers to convince the Jews that Yeshua was the prophesied Messiah failed utterly, they began proselytizing the Gentiles, the non-Jews. All people in that age had gods they believed affected the lives of humans. Most adopted the gods of the city or area in which they lived. When they moved to another area, they adopted the new gods of the new area. A notable exception was the cult of Mithraism, popular among Roman soldiers. Mithras was a savior human undoubtedly a myth whom people followed as they would later follow Yeshua. Evangelists such as Paul had to convince these people that Yeshua was a representative of God to whom they should swear their allegiance to become part of the Jewish Kingdom of God when the kingdom was established. Paul had little interest in Yeshua’s teachings and included none of them in his letters. He was intent on convincing many people to follow Yeshua. For the carrot, he used resurrection and life after death. He said nothing about the Hell myth. It had not yet gained a foothold in the middle of the first century.
There was a problem with preaching to the Gentiles. Their gods and Mithras were perfectly suitable to them. There was no incentive to follow Yeshua. So during the first two centuries after the crucifixion of Yeshua, the church developed the hell myth, borrowed from Mesopotamian religions. Most Jews had no belief in a resurrection. They had a belief in a Sheol, a shadowy condition a person was in after death, but it was not a continuation of life.
So the proselytizing follows of Jesus had to add a stick to accompany the carrot of life after death. The stick was the Hell myth. It was embellished over the first two centuries until it was a prominent belief in Christianity. Believe Yeshua is a god so you can be “saved,” have eternal life, and avoid Hell. The hold was so strong that today, polls show that as many as 64 percent of Christians still believe in the myth, although they don’t suggest they or anyone they know will be there, just Hitler and serial killers.
The following links explain the development of the Hell myth
Teachings about Hell
Samual G. Dawson on Jesus’s teachings about Hell
Hell as a mistranslated word in the Judeo-Christian Bibles
The Church’s Changing Views on the Hell Myth