566. WHAT HELL FIRE IS AND WHAT THE GNASHING OF TEETH IS.
What eternal fire is, and what the gnashing of teeth is, which are mentioned in the Word in reference to those who are in hell, scarcely any one as yet has known, because the contents of the Word have been thought about only in a material way, and nothing has been known about its spiritual sense. So fire has been understood by some to mean material fire, by others to mean torment in general, by others remorse of conscience, and others have held that it is mentioned merely to excite terror in the wicked. Likewise some have supposed the gnashing of teeth to mean actual gnashing, and some only a horror, such as is excited when such a collision of teeth is heard. But any one who is acquainted with the spiritual meaning of the Word may know what eternal fire is, and what the gnashing of teeth is; for every expression and every meaning of the expressions in the Word contains a spiritual meaning, since the Word in its bosom is spiritual; and what is spiritual can be set before man only in natural forms of expression, because man is in the natural world and thinks from the things of that world. Therefore it shall now be told what is meant by "eternal fire" and "the gnashing of teeth" into which the spirits of evil men enter after death, or which their spirits, then in the spiritual world, endure.