Hell

Introduction

This is the kind of subject you can’t approach if you’re worried about what people will think; you will be denounced by many if you believe in Hell, and denounced by many if you don’t.  So I hope we will not look at this issue fearing what people will think of us, nor through the lenses of personal opinions, but in the enlightenment of God’s Word as looking for the truth of His revelation.

My primary concern here is twofold: 1) truth, and 2) faith.

This is about a faith that is assured of better hope by the truth of God’s revelation, not a faith that is uniformed by the truth and mislead by false hopes.

So, as we’re starting this study, please let me beg one question that you ask yourself: is this a doctrine that you simply could not accept, even if God did teach it?

I ask the question because I came across a missionary while abroad who vehemently opposed the idea of hell.  The two of us discussed this doctrine intently one evening after a service and he ended by saying “I refuse to believe in a God that would punish people for eternity, and you can’t make me!”.  His mind was made up.

That is a dangerous place to be and I think we should first check ourselves to see if we have gotten to that place before we proceed with studies like we are about to undertake.

HADES

26 ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; 27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.  28 ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’ ”.

Acts 2:26-28

Hades can be understood in terms of a holding place for the souls of the dead; it is a place of death.

Everyone before Christ, even those who had faith, went to Hades.  It is a spiritual realm for the dead with a purpose, spiritual parameters, dimensions, and laws.  Indeed, there are spiritual principles that govern even death, which no man can escape, such as “the sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56.) and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

One of the victories that Jesus won when He rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven was that He now “holds the keys to death and Hades itself” (Rev. 1:18).  It is the Christian’s shout of victory that Jesus conquered death and our hope does not rest in death, but in life!

It’s also worth noting that Hades is not meant to be eternal, but has an end:

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” ~Revelation 20:14

Please read the following passages to gain a very small glimpse into Jesus’ ministry in Hades (Jesus did not go to hell, as many erroneously teach): 1 Peter 3:18-20Ephesians 4:8-10 & Isaiah 42:7.  I’m not going to spend much time on these passages, but I urge caution that we not exceed them by building extrapolated doctrines around these passages.

A Parable

Luke 16:23–24

I love parables because they reveal spiritual realities to us in very humbling ways, namely, that parables can be grasped by faith, but always remain just out of reach for human intellect (though we often think we’ve grasped His parables quite satisfactorily in our own eyes).  And so we are humbled by parables!

This story is about a place where souls with sentience go; one who was in torment, and the other was in comfort.  It shows a place of finality, that is, that you cannot cross from one side to another.  It shows a place that is very real, even while those who are still alive are unwilling to believe.  It tells us a great deal about death (whether it is speaking of the first death or the second, we’ll leave that discussion for a later time).  But, it remains a parable that so many cannot accept because they refuse to grasp it with faith.

THE GREAT LAKE OF FIRE

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from the things that were written in the books, according to their deeds… Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Revelation 20:12-15

Hell (Tartarus) is the second death, and is reserved for the final judgment of God where souls will awaken to be judged out of the Book of Life.

We cannot ignore this passage, and we must treat it with reverence remembering that we are warned that “if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).

Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men that have transgressed against Me.  For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

Isaiah 66:24

Isaiah shows us that men will be able to go out and look on the corpses of transgressors.  They will be the only trace reminder of sin left in existence, and the everlasting wrath of God will abide on them in the form of the “worm that will not die” and the “fire that will not be quenched”.

“Annihilation” is the belief that transgressors will be completely consumed in the lake of fire and burned up.  But Isaiah has shown us that the corpse of transgressors will remain forever.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these (the faithful) will arise to everlasting life, but the others (the unfaithful) to disgrace and everlasting contempt

Daniel 12:2

Daniel adds to Isaiah’s revelation in a picture of the final judgment, in which the souls of the 2nd resurrection will arise, both the faithful and the unfaithful, and be separated, just as Jesus’ parable of the goats and sheep tells us.  But Daniel adds the word “everlasting”, and connects “life” with “contempt”.  Even as much as we hold the hope of everlasting life, so also should there be the expectation of a fearful judgment of everlasting contempt.  Indeed, perhaps this is why the Hebrew writer warned of the “certain and fearful expectation of wrath” for those that trample under foot the sacred sacrifice of Christ  (Hebrews 10:27).

THE GOSPELS

Now it’s time to look at what the gospel teaches about Hell.

Matthew 3:10, 12 (cf Luke 3:9, 17) “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Matthew 5:22, 29-30 (cf Mark 9:43-49); “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 7:19; “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 8:8-12;  “But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.

Matthew 25:41, 46; “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Luke 12:5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Jesus certainly spoke more of Hell than any other author in the scripture, and used the word more than He spoke of Heaven.

I believe we can all agree Jesus described Hell in the following ways:

  • Hell is a place of eternal punishment for the wicked.
  • Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels, but also receives workers of iniquity.

Here are the descriptions used of Hell so far:

  • everlasting fire”,
  • “unquenchable fire”,
  • “shame and everlasting contempt”,
  • “a great fiery lake”,
  • “eternal punishment” where “their worm will not die” and their “fire will not be quenched”.

Most of Hell’s descriptions are termed with words like “everlasting”, “eternal”, or “unquenchable”.

A REVELATION OF CHRIST

9Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11“And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” 12Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

Revelation 14:9-13

Sin cost mankind dearly, but it cost God even dearer.  With sin came the necessity for God to take on flesh and infirmity to become a perfect sacrifice, without sin, yet, to bear all sin upon Himself so that He could save us from the death that began coursing through our flesh the moment sin entered humanity.

Satan, the murderer, deceived man out of spite and hatred for God, Whom He rebelled against because of the pride that entered his heart.  Hell itself was created for Satan and his demons, just as the Word says, “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10), but also all his children, who are the workers of iniquity, will be cast with him into the lake of fire according to God’s righteous judgment.

God did not have to taste death, nor humble Himself to take on flesh, but His love accomplished this to save our souls.  But His wrath will likewise accomplish justice and bring punishment to those who disobey Him.

I do not think Paul admonishes us to consider both the “goodness” and “severity” of God for no reason.  God has shown Himself good without end, even sending His blessings upon “both the just and the unjust”, but His severity is shown in His righteous judgment when those who reject Him to the end will receive their reward.

Revelation 20:10 says both the judgment and punishment of God is eternal.  I believe because “punishment” is eternal, that necessitates a sentient awareness of the one who is being punished (otherwise the punishment isn’t really punishment, is it?)

THE DECEPTION AMONG HIDDEN REEFS

These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

Jude 12-13

I want to speak openly to you from my heart: I sincerely believe that many men have done everything within their power to deceive us into not believing in hell.  There are countless books and sermons written to assure us of just such a thing, but I believe these men are hidden reefs that make shipwreck of the faith by puncturing the hull and filling the vessel with sin and doubts.

Satan’s attacks today center around causing men to doubt God’s judgments and reverse them (approving of sin and disapproving of good).  He has even been successful enough to deceive men into elevating themselves to the point of judging God by saying that “a loving God could not send people to hell”.  What a joke it must be for men to demand that GOD not judge them, while judging Him!

This is the same generation in our generation as was used on Eve:

The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:2-6

Summary

I don’t believe that we should find any reason within our faith to doubt what God has spoken of in both such detail and clarity.  We were not save from “nothing”, but from sin and death, which lead to destruction.

At the end of this discussion I can offer no greater advice to you than to turn to the quiet of your prayer closet, with the Word of God, and seek your Father who is in Heaven with a heart that does not resist His judgments nor elevate itself to judge Him.

VIDEO:

As always, I believe it is important to be thorough when trying to deal with issues, not only for yourself, but also for the sake of those whom you discuss issues with.

I may not agree with everything Bobby Conway says in this video, but, I believe there are a lot of good things said here and it is worth watching:

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “Hell”

  1. Hello! I’ve been reading your web site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!

    Like

  2. If we all interpreted the Bible from a 1st century Jewish perspective, then we too would have rejected and blasphemed Jesus Christ just as all of their scholars and theologians did. It’s clear from this obvious truth that this is not the perspective we are to understand the truth of the gospel through. If you read 1Corinthians 2 you will clearly see just how it is anyone is able to understand God’s truth, whether Jew or Gentile. God’s word always trumps whatever the world’s “best” scholars and theologians say. God is very clear about how His truth is to be understood in the above mentioned passage. And it says nothing of a 1st Century Jewish perspective. Dave, you may not want to post this if you think it will not be beneficial for the post.

    Like

    1. I agree wholeheartedly; no matter what the case may be, we have Jesus’ Word that says in Matthew 25:41, 46, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”. This isn’t a case of “interpretation”.

      Like

  3. Okay, one more quick response. Yes, by talking about “smuggling in” preconceived ideas, I am talking about our assumed, underlying beliefs which we “read into” the Bible — our worldview, in other words. My goal is not (as you supposed) to put our systems of thought above the Bible — I agree with you on this point; what I’m actually suggesting is that the standard view of hell IS guilty of this; if nothing else, it’s at least part of the story of the Bible as told through the late Western worldview. I honestly don’t know how much differently the passages about hell would sound to first-century ears, but we can be fairly sure that it’s not the same as what we hear. Plus, Judaism isn’t in our blood and brains like it was to Jesus’ hearers; we probably misunderstand many of the stories for this reason alone. Anyway, I can see that I’m not going to convince you, so I suggest that you go read N.T. Wright’s stuff for a hardcore look at the Jewish worldview and the subsequent interpretations of Jesus’ stories. Specifically, try his “The New Testament and the People of God.” (http://www.amazon.com/Testament-People-Christian-Origins-Question/dp/0800626818/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308150092&sr=1-1) Or, if you’re too busy for that, try this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vggzqXzEvZ0) quick video from him about hell. Later!

    Like

  4. Thanks for your response. I don’t subscribe to oblivionism myself, so I won’t try to defend myself on that front, but I’m curious to know why you don’t perceive annihilation as real punishment; after all, it’s exactly like our death penalty (and many, many people who believe in the death penalty are not Christians, meaning that they may not believe that death is a portal to somewhere else but rather the end of the road). If someone is a serial killer and is likely to go on causing problems even if caught, then administering the death penalty solves two problems: it’s a punishment to that person (a quite real punishment, if you ask me), and it permanently stops them from causing any more problems. For lesser crimes, we use systems which we hope will reform the criminal, not permanently end him. But one thing we DON’T do is to give a person a life sentence in constant torture. That would be ridiculous since we’d never be planning on letting them out again. Now, when we spank a child, or lock away a criminal, we hope that they FEEL a little bit of suffering so that they are reformed; but we don’t expect or intend for the death row inmate to FEEL anything when his time comes since he’s past reforming — and yet it’s our most severe punishment. So why is it so important to you that wicked people FEEL their punishment in hell? I said that the death penalty solves two problems — punishing the wicked person and preventing him from doing futher harm — and it seems perfectly straightforward to me that hell must be intended for exactly this same purpose if God is to keep wickedness out of his “new heavens and new earth.” In conclusion, the only purpose I can see in making a criminal feel his punishment is the hope of his reform. Otherwise, we resort to direct elimination, in which we couldn’t care less whether or not the person feels anything at all. I fail to see why God would make a place of punishment in which people could feel suffering but never be reformed; what is the purpose of THAT?

    You may feel that I’m resorting to the American justice system as “the gospel truth,” and I’m not; what I AM trying to do is to show that all of our systems of justice, though flawed in various ways, flow from God’s own ideas of justice, and that the two are fundamentally similar rather than fundamentally different.

    As to the question of eternal life, I’ll only say that I would love for it to be literally “for ever and ever,” but would not be crushed if it turned out to be only “a long time” or even just “abundant (full) life.” I hope you’ll trust that I’m a better scholar than to wholeheartedly trust Rob Bell or my own small understanding of Greek; I, too, must wrestle with question of context, literary style, and history.

    I understand your concern that I’m “going beyond what was taught to us,” but I hope you realize that if you smuggle in preconceived notions of heaven, hell, and eternal life when you read the Bible, you’ll come away essentially saying that no one should “go beyond what I teach.” I’m not trying to be accusatory with this remark; I simply want to say that there are plenty of alternate and even drastically different ways of reading the same book (which, of course, is why there are so many denominations in the world, most of whom claim to read the Bible “exactly as it is”). I don’t disagree that there is only one right interpretation, but at the same time I don’t think that any of us can know (until the last day) which of us is really right. As I’m sure you’d agree, we can only do our best by constantly studying, reading, listening, and praying in the hopes of understanding it all better.

    This’ll be my last response to this article, and we may have to simply agree to disagree. It’s been good chatting with you, though! Talk to you later!

    Like

    1. I think perhaps I’m misunderstood in my pursuit of this; my personal interest isn’t in getting someone to “feel” pain, agony, or torture. I’m human, just like everyone else, and I don’t desire the torture of anyone. If I did, I wouldn’t have picked up the path I’ve taken.

      Rather, my interest is in submitting to and accepting what the Word says. There are things that can be very difficult for us to fully accept at first glance…. Or perhaps a few glances after.

      At least in my view, it’s wrong for us to put our systems and concepts of right and wrong onto God or define Him in anything not found in His word only because of what you said, we’re all flawed.

      One of the passages I referenced holds an important concept (for me)- it was the one about God’s wrath and anger burning forever. Again, this isn’t a desirable thing… after all, who is actually able to stand under the wrath of anger of God? Right? Yet it’s in His word.

      I’m confused on what you mean in the last section of your comment about smuggling in a preconceived notion of heaven and hell. Are you referring to our assumed underlying beliefs that we “read into” the Bible?

      If you can’t comment on that again, you’re welcome to e-mail me to clarify for me.

      In the end the whole reason for posting an article with as many Biblical references as I have posted here is not to push my belief via personal logic, but to ask people to look at these passages and reconcile their beliefs to the Bible.

      As always, I’m happy to hear from you again!

      Like

  5. Sorry for the delayed (and long) response. Here are some more thoughts and questions. Sorry in advance that they’ll be all over the place; I’m just responding to particular statements or questions that seem critical to me.

    First, I fear that you misunderstand me if you think that I’m suggesting that there is no “doom” or “punishment” for wicked people. I have no problem whatsoever with the idea that God will punish wickedness. But my suggestion is that that punishment is fundamentally different from the kind punishment which the standard view proposes.

    Second, you said, “Now, some of the parables could be ignored (or parts of them ignored) based on hyperbolae. However, there are passages that cannot be construed as hyperbolae unless you’re also willing to say that the final judgment and eternal life itself are also hyperbolae. They are, in essence, stated inseparably to one another.” I quite agree with your assessment of the situation, and I’ll go out on a limb to say that I have no problem with “eternal” life being hyperbolic — not that I necessarily endorse that view, but that I wouldn’t have a problem if it turned out to be the case. We must certainly admit that there are two other possible ways to understand the Greek word “aionios.” First, since the English “eon” comes from this word’s stem, we can imagine (as, I think, Rob Bell has done) that the definition of “aionios” is merely “a long time / a lifetime / an eon” — not “forever.” And second, there is always the possibility that the whole phrase means DEPTH of life, not LENGTH. As Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Again, I’m not necessarily subscribing to either of these interpretations; I’m just pointing out that I would not be distressed to find that the other statements about “eternal life” were hyperbolic. And, by the way, just because I read a passage as being hyperbolic does not at all mean that I’m ignoring it (as you seemed to suggest); I’m merely concluding that it carries a different meaning.

    Third, I think I disagree flat-out with your statements that there’s a significant difference between God’s wrath, punishment, and judgment, and that the Old Testament stories I mentioned reveal nothing about hell. You can only claim those things if you see hell as a doctrine which is totally unrelated to the doctrines on which those old judgment stories function, and I find that I can make no such leap. The fact that the word “hell” doesn’t appear in, say, the story of Noah does not automatically rule out the possibility that the THEME of judgment (and therefore hell) is there. Anyway, my statement that God’s judgment means the vindication of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked sounds exactly like a literal take on the metaphorical “sheep and goats” in Matthew 25, which suggests to me that wrath, punishment, judgment, and hell are all bound inextricably together in the Bible, and that we must always read each instance of any one of them in light of all the others. In other words, we must read statements about hell in light of exactly those kind of Old Testament (and early New Testament stories) in which God pours out wrath, punishes, judges, or casts people into hell. When we do that, it seems to become the case that hell is not different category of thing from the judgments of the past, but is actually their natural conclusion.

    Fourth, you said, “Using your example and you sinned every day for 100 years, then should God only rightfully punish you for 100 years and then set you free because you paid your debt?” This is a fair question, and (I think) people in Rob Bell’s vein (and hopefully he’ll forgive me if I’ve misunderstood his story; I haven’t read the book) have tried to answer this by saying that (perhaps) the punishment is retributive, after which (perhaps) yes, the person will be “set free.” But I think that it could be different from even that. In our own justice system, we don’t LITERALLY take an eye for an eye (except in rare cases, such as murder), meaning that we don’t usually let the rape victim get back at her attacker by raping him in return. Instead, we pay him back with fines and/or time in jail in amounts which are supposedly equal in value to the crime committed. Therefore, I don’t think that God will necessarily pay back time with time; it’s probably more likely that he will pay back sin with death. Since we both agree that God will pay back sin with death, then we must be arguing for different definitions of death.

    Lastly, I want to clarify what we mean when we talk about “the new heavens and the new earth.” As we’ve seen, opposite things happen to good and evil people when God judges (vindication and destruction). Thus, our understanding of the Bible story requires the concepts of two polarly opposite “destinations” (I’ve put this in quotation marks because I don’t want us to AUTOMATICALLY assume that they must be places; they could be, for instance, states of existence). I suppose it makes sense that the standard view of heaven is complemented by the equal and opposite view of hell; both are eternal, and both are either eternal bliss or eternal suffering. What I’m proposing is a different sets of poles: a new creation (AKA “new heavens and new earth”) to which people are restored by resurrection into physical bodies and in which they still work, play, and generally live — and the new creation’s opposite: NOT being resurrected, or simply being destroyed (or, although this may not be a polar opposite, total reform of the wicked).

    Sorry…it’s late and I’m sleepy, so I’ll stop here and let you work on what I’ve got so far!

    Like

    1. I think I understand what you meant, but you’re right in saying that our disagreement is fundamental on the basis of what constitutes punishment.
      I don’t see oblivion or total annihilation as punishment because you can’t punish something that has no consciousness. That’s why if I call the Little Mermaid fat, her feelings don’t get hurt. So if I’m consumed in the great lake of fire (which would probably be fairly instantaneous) then I’ve not received any real punishment. I’m simply gone.
      That’s at least how I see it.
      But, I’m a little weird; I don’t see things like “time-out” as punishments either. Lol
      Your second statement concerns me, which is why I want to ask for clarities sake: are you saying that you don’t believe, or are perhaps ambivalent towards the idea of eternal life?
      I think we should be fairly certain of our eternal life, and we should be fairly certain that “eternal” is in the literal sense here, as opposed to Bells idea. After-all, isn’t Jesus “eternal life made manifest to us”? It would be pretty gutsy to say that Jesus’ life is not eternal, as in the “ever lasting” idea.
      If that doesn’t clarify it, there are passages (all of which I’ve already referenced) which use the term “everlasting” instead of “eternal”. The varied language used to picture the concept of “forever and ever” is decently clear to me, I think.
      As for the Greek, I’ve studied enough Greek at Harding to realize that my professors were right; most the people that use Greek to obtain meaning that isn’t obvious from comparisons within the major English translations are not qualified to be making those statements nor are they adhering to sound translation techniques. A M.Div, such as Rob Bell has, does not necessarily or inherently qualify someone as a Greek authority.
      All that to say the Greek argument is not as reliable in my view because context is ultimately the one that will settle that question. However, if Greek is truly a serious concern for you, unfortunately, I can’t be of much help because, as I said, my study took me far enough to realize that we would require a greater deal of education to really be very valuable in that topic.
      I think, though, the crescendo of this point is whether you believe that Jesus’ life is eternal and that Christians lives are eternal; because they are inextricably linked together, if our eternal life is eternal, then so would the punishment spoken of in Matthew 25:46.
      I think your correction is accurate and I miscommunicated my thoughts; wrath, punishment, and Hell are connected in some ways. Simply stated, what I mean is that just because someone received the Lord’s punishment does not mean that they also received “Hell” in that given act of punishment.
      I would reject the idea that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was, in itself, Hell. I also reject that Noah’s flood was Hell.
      Revelation 20 tells us that Hades is the 1st death (a state of being that also encompasses awareness) and “Hell” is the 2nd death. It necessitates that Hell serves a separate function (or perhaps an additional function) from Wrath and even punishment, even though Hell also encompasses those attributes.
      Does that make sense?
      You’re correct in saying that they are entirely linked together. Hell contains elements of both wrath and punishment; however, wrath and punishment can be separated from Hell. Perhaps one could argue that those who receive God’s wrath will go to Hell (since Christians do not receive His wrath), but the Hell is a later attribute to be applied after the judgment.
      You’ll forgive me if I don’t put much stock in Rob Bell. Since I’m talking to you, and not to him, I’m more interested to hear what you think on these subjects.
      We may not literally take an eye for an eye, however, the justice system is very flawed in our time; and the point of bringing up “eye for an eye” was to address what you said about God’s law, not the American justice system (they’re two entirely different systems- even if we took a few ideas from them, we’re vastly different).
      Indeed God’s punishment can be seen as retributive, which also does away with the concern that eternal punishment is “unfair”. Again, in addressing your statement before, you weren’t using a retributive argument.
      I think the element of retribution (which, btw, I do happen to agree with) is very clear in the scriptures. The retribution for sin, which is against Christ and His sacrifice, is eternal.
      Which brings us round again to the Word: what we are dealing with here is not a system of “arguments” or “logic”, but with a pronouncement of judgment and a description given to us by the One who will judge.
      Paul warned us not to go beyond what was taught to us, and the overall language of the scriptures repeats the phrases “eternal”, “unquenchable”, “everlasting”, even declaring “God’s wrath and anger will burn against their wickedness forever and ever”.
      My primary concern is how we handle the Word; do we accept its teachings, or are we trying to change its teachings.
      Now, the evidence is there to examine so that we can be informed; like I’ve mentioned, there’s a vast variety (redundant, I know) of language used to describe and clarify what “eternal” is in case someone has questions about the definition of eternal.

      Like

    1. Hey, Sorry Josh. I have set comments to be moderated; you wouldn’t believe some of the comments and emails I’ve received because of this post. I was pretty busy yesterday so I didn’t get your comment until today. It’s posted now!

      I’m working on responding right now.

      Like

  6. Hey, David! How’s it going? Well, I read your article, and I have a few questions. Sorry in advance for the long reply!

    First, the Israelites, all the way up through the time of the end of the New Testament, repeatedly told stories about what it looked like when God judged. Specifically, three stories stand out as being quintessential: Noah’s ark and the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the exodus from Egypt. In all of these, judgment meant the vindication of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked. So my first question is this: Was the destruction of the large group of people (the rest of the people on Earth in Noah’s day, the people in Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day, and the Egyptian army and firstborns in Moses’ day) the judgment ITSELF, or was the judgment that God took them to hell AFTER he wiped them off the face of the earth? In other words, was the judgment on earth not sufficient to quench God’s anger, such that he was required also to take them down to the lower levels for eternal waterboarding? I understand that the answer needn’t be either-or; it could conceivably be the case that BOTH the earthly judgment and the afterlife judgment are part of God’s plan. I suppose I just want us to be clear about what it is that we’re claiming about God, his purpose in earthly judgments, and the nature of the judgments themselves.

    Second, it seems to me that one of the major hopes of the Christian is the “new heavens and new earth.” The sense I get from the New Testament is that God’s final judgment means a resurrection of the righteous — which is their vindication — and the expulsion of the wicked into hell — which is their destruction. Then, as we see in Revelation 21, the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven to earth, and God will live among his people in a world (as Peter says) where righteousness is at home. So my second question is this: if the goal for all of this is a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness will dwell, why would God make a separate space in which to torture wicked people for eternity? Doesn’t it just seem like he’d rather destroy them and be done with it than keep them around? You mentioned Gehenna, or the Valley of the son of Hinnom; whether we take this to be literal, metaphorical, symbolic, or whatever, we must surely see that this was, in the past, a place in which people were DESTROYED or KILLED or ANNIHILATED, not permanently TORTURED, right? When you clean the house, your garbage goes out to be destroyed because you want to be rid of it; you have no interest in creating a place where it’s held eternally.

    Third, you mentioned that “death is unbearable,” and I don’t disagree; but I don’t think we mean it in the same way. If we suppose that one of the wicked man’s greatest goals is to live forever (God kicked Adam and Eve from the garden so that they wouldn’t eat from the Tree of Life and live forever; also, Voldemort had this aim in the Harry Potter series, which suggests to me that this theme has long been an undercurrent in our understanding of evil), wouldn’t death / destruction / annihilation / obliviation be one of the greatest fears of the wicked man? And anyway, how is existence in hell really very different from life as we know it? Please understand my question: I’m not suggesting that hell wouldn’t be all that bad; I’m asking whether the KIND of existence we have on earth and the KIND of existence that we’d have in hell would be significantly different. If I understand you rightly, then the two will be much the same kind of existence: on earth, we can feel pain; in hell, we can feel pain; on earth, we are conscious; in hell, we are conscious; on earth, we live (until death, which is really only the portal to the afterlife); in hell, we live (forever). Do you see what I mean? The only really significant difference between earth and hell, then, is the amount of suffering, right? And since an amount of suffering is a sliding scale, the signifance of the difference fades into meaninglessness. Let us not forget that the “soul,” which in modern thought has so long been separated from the mind and body, is possibly only a convention for talking about how we perceive ourselves, and that souls may not in fact exist. On the one hand, if there IS such a thing as a soul, and if (as Christians like to say) it’s an eternal kind of thing, then surely we must realize that God MADE souls, which means that they weren’t previously in existence. And if God made souls, surely he can just as easily UNmake them, right? And on the other hand, if there ISN’T such a thing as a soul, then God’s judgment on us would end with our earthly deaths — though he will vindicate the righteous ones among us by raising us from the dead, right? Thus, there NEEDN’T BE any such thing as a soul if God is going to raise our physical bodies from the dead and leave the wicked in their graves to rot, right? Either way, it seems fairly obvious to me that destruction or annihilation is the solution to wicked people in either option.

    Fourth, and in my opinion this is the most important part of all, consider God’s idea of justice through the lens of the Jewish law. Probably one of the most famous phrases to come out of that law was “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” I’ve heard lots of preachers (rightly, I think) talk about how this was not a justification for revenge, but rather a limitation on how much retribution could be taken. But, of course, we hear from Jesus that God would actually prefer that we held ourselves to a higher standard by turning the other cheek when someone harms us. Now, here are the three “amounts” or “levels” of payback through which God could judge wicked people on the last day: (1) he could send them to hell for eternal suffering — the most severe level, (2) he could pay them back with harm for the harm they’ve done (we get a taste of this in 2 Peter 2 in his discussion about false teachers) — the medium, fair level, or (3) he could turn the other cheek yet again and allow anyone in — the kindest level. Now, I quite understand that #3 is essentially “universalism,” but don’t let that term deter you from the fact that God’s turning of the other cheek on the last day is a very real possibility — after all, he’s done it before, many, many times. Also, he’d be 100% fair to take option #2; in fact, this is how we run our own justice systems, right? I’m not saying that our own sense of justice might be marred in some ways, but it certainly seems to be the case that we try to repay harm with an equal amount of harm — an eye for an eye, in other words. But option #1 (which is your conclusion and which is the standard conception of hell) causes logical problems for me. For instance, no matter how much wickedness I pursue while on earth, an INFINITE amount of suffering would always outweigh the damage I did. If I sinned every moment of every day for 100 years, it would make plenty of sense for God to punish me for 100 years in hell (if, indeed, hell is a place of suffering and not annihilation); but surely it wouldn’t make sense for God to punish me for INFINITE years as payment for my 100 years of sin, would it? If he DOES pay me back with infinite harm for the harm I’ve done, isn’t he breaking his own two rules, the rule of “an eye for an eye” and the higher rule of “turn the other cheek”? And, though you’ve suggested that it’s preposterous for man to question God, wouldn’t it be fair of us to call God’s methods to account if that was how he judged?

    You’ve given plenty of references to hell and Hades from the Bible, so I’m not denying that it’s mentioned there. But isn’t it obvious that it’s much more in God’s character to repay harm for harm done or to turn the other cheek than to cause eternal suffering? Annihilation just seems such a succinct, fitting answer to all of these questions. I agree entirely that we shouldn’t subscribe to a God who is weak or soft in judgment, or who is too lovey-dovey. Clearly, from the stories I mentioned, God HAS judged decisively and fairly in the past, and will judge decisively and fairly in the future. But the fact that he’s going to do that DOES NOT automatically entail the standard view of hell. Therefore, mightn’t it be the case (as your friend suggested) that the Bible’s language about hell is mostly hyperbolic? It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I subscribe to annihilism, but I hope that I’ve shown good reasons for distrusting the standard view of hell. Let me know what you think!

    Like

    1. Hey Josh, it’s been a while! Glad to hear from you- even if you did write your own article in the comments! 😀 😀

      I’m going to answer these in order as best I can; if I forget to address something, please remind me. And sorry this will be pretty long as well.

      The Israelites:
      Two things come to my mind at this point:
      1. There’s a significant difference between God’s wrath, punishment and His judgment.
      2. The people in these stories were not destroyed in your sense of the word.

      Although these stories are examples of God’s vindication for the righteous and examples of the power of His wrath, they’re not revelations about Hell. Even the valley of Hinnom is only an early glimpse of a revelation to be fully poured out at a later date. Though it reveals “the worm that never dies” and “the fire that never quenches” (Isaiah 66:23), it doesn’t set in stone every parameter of Hell.

      Much like we say “Hell on earth” today, they were saying “Gehenna” then.

      You mentioned later God’s Law, and rightly so, because it reveals God’s fairness to us and how just God truly is in all of His judgments.

      So the first thing we find about His judgment is that He is just.

      The second thing is that His judgment goes out against the wicked and unrighteous who suppress the truth with lies.

      We know that God has exercised His judgments on earth throughout time (Jeremiah 1) in which He poured out wrath in small measures and with restraint; however, we also should understand that there is a day of reckoning in which every person will give an account for every deed they have done and His wrath will be fully poured out.

      What we see in the OT is God’s restraint. What we find foretold to us in the NT is God’s unrestrained wrath and fully righteous judgment.

      Secondly: those people were wiped from the earth, they were not destroyed.
      1st Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus descended into Hades to preach to these souls.

      I think you and I might agree that Hades is taught as a cognitive awareness in death; in this sense, when Jesus died, He TRULY died. Which also makes His resurrection TRULY a victory over both Sin and Death.

      I’ll suffice to say for now that God’s restrained wrath is poured out even today on the wicked, but that does not imply or necessitate that He will not exercise an unrestrained demonstration of these attributes at a later date. I think this is something we can both agree on.

      As a side note, it’s important to pay attention to the fact that God’s wrath and judgment were fully satisfied and quenched upon Jesus Christ; for everyone faithful to Him and sealed by the Holy Spirit, the final reckoning will be made without reference to sin because of Christ – Hebrews 9:28.

      The Hope of Christians:
      This addresses what you said about eternal life and Heaven being the hope of Christians. You’re right, the vindication to eternal life and the Heaven (or the New Heaven and New Earth) are the hopes of the Christian. They are not the hope of the unbeliever because the unbeliever did not hope in faith, obviously.

      However, is there hope if there is no doom? Why would we hope if there were not the reality of doom also?

      I don’t think it is logical to state that because God has offered so much so that we may hope in eternal life that this necessitates that there is likewise no doom (or, because you’re not actually denying that Hell exists, but rather, only that there is no eternal punishment).

      My point is not to paint a picture of God as a young child pulling the legs off of grasshoppers.

      Surly God’s Hell serves a greater purpose than for His amusement? Justice is surely the point of Hell. Just as the point of prison and executions are to serve justice and protect society from the dangerous, so Hell is to execute justice and protect the righteous from the unrighteous (for eternity).

      Which brings us to what I also consider the cynosure of this issue- is Hell just and fair by God’s own standards.

      I will mention that I believe we are insignificant and fully incapable of judging God (in any way). To think we can call God into account is entirely arrogant- to see God’s response to this approach please read Job 9:1-4; 35:1-4; and 38:1-11.

      However, likewise, we also must test every “spirit” that comes to us and make sure that what is taught is from God and not from man- just as Galatians 1:8-9 says- if a teaching comes from man and not God, let that man be accursed.
      So, without passing judgments upon God, let’s move forward to examine the validity of whether this is from God or from man.

      Concerning an eye-for-an-eye:
      Proceeding from your own logic, if someone takes a mortal life, they pay with their mortal life, and this upholds an eye for an eye, correct?

      In so paying this way they have had “fair” justice executed upon them. If they pay with anything less than a mortal life, would this be fair? According to God’s law, no. Correct? If I understand your statements correctly, that is the thrust of God’s law.

      And I agree.

      Now, according to John, Jesus’ eternal life was made manifest to us and He offered eternal life to us, correct?

      So what should be the punishment for those who reject eternal life?

      “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him how said ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ and again ‘The Lord will judge His people’. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”. Hebrews 10:29-31

      Jesus’ life is eternal, and His offer is eternal; how much more severe will the punishment be upon those who rejected something eternal than those who took something mortal?

      Although I reject annihilation, let’s assume annihilation for the moment.

      Using your example and you sinned every day for 100 years, then should God only rightfully punish you for 100 years and then set you free because you paid your debt?

      Again, I do not believe that annihilation counts as punishment, (recalling that there are many that actually anticipate the relief of oblivion), however, annihilation is an eternal consequence. Following suit, is annihilation any fairer than eternal punishment?

      Now, so often we’re concerned about fairness shown towards us, however, do we ask about fairness shown towards Jesus Christ?

      If Jesus became a sacrifice clearly laid out for mankind and was trampled under foot, and the faithful brethren that He dwells in through the Holy Spirit are put to death according to His name, what justice will the Lord receive? What justice will the righteous receive?

      Even according to our flawed justice systems today, remuneration is an integral part; going beyond our flawed system, in God’s own Law, what was taken must be repaid several-fold over.

      My Concerns:
      Now, considering all of this, the differences between wrath, punishment, and judgment, that God does not break His own laws, and that His own laws even uphold the idea of just repayment for the kind of offense made (mortal for mortal, eternal for eternal), we need to go into the realm of faith.

      In all of this I’ve dealt from our limited perspective on Earth; however, 1st Corinthians chapter 2 declares the worthlessness of mortal logic. The absolute loftiness of God’s mind above our own: the total and untouchable character of God.

      Now, some of the parables could be ignored (or parts of them ignored) based on hyperbolae. However, there are passages that cannot be construed as hyperbolae unless you’re also willing to say that the final judgment and eternal life itself are also hyperbolae. They are, in essence, stated inseparably to one another.

      “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from the things that were written in the books, according to their deeds… Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
      Revelation 20:12-15

      The second death is a lake of fire. All who were not faithful, the great and small, will be thrown into this pit along with death and Hades.

      “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these (the faithful) will arise to everlasting life, but the others (the unfaithful) to disgrace and everlasting contempt”
      Daniel 12:2

      The resurrection of the dead from Hades will usher the faithful to everlasting life, and the unfaithful to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Now the presence of the “everlasting” quality of Hell is beginning to be revealed.

      “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
      Matthew 25:41, 46

      Holding the most authority in my view is this passage; a passage that reveals the day of Judgment to us and tells us that the unfaithful “accursed ones” will depart into the eternal fire along with the devil and his angels into eternal punishment, and the righteous will arise into eternal life.

      “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”
      Luke 12:5

      This passage reveals to us that we should God because He has the power to cast us into Hell. This separates Hell, and necessitates, that Hell be a place distinct and different in its nature from Earth, and enhanced in its torture and fear-worthiness.

      In everything said, how can we change or ignore what Jesus said in Matthew 25:46?

      One of my primary purposes in this is to make a point that I think accepting the doctrine of Hell as determined by the Word of God calls into account our faith.

      I think God will question us regarding these kinds of issues.

      That is why, out of concern and love, I write this to ask people to consider their own faith and take into account the Word of God; whether we believe it when it is spoken or not.

      I understand questioning whether Matthew 25 has to be taken literally; to me it appears obvious now, but at one time it was not.

      Please consult references like “Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.” or any number concordances like Strong’s Greek Concordance.

      This is certainly a massive topic, however, I do not feel that it is actually as complicated as it appears.

      What do you think?

      Like

  7. Finally, I have read the entire article to which you pointed on Xanga! It is as excellent and wonderful as any I have ever read on this subject and I wish it had simply been posted whole on your Xanga site. The only problem with it is the final presumption — and it is only presumption — that God has a good (loving?!) reason (sufficient punishment?!) for keeping rebellious souls and spirits of human beings alive and under torture forever, a construct which is unnecessary for eternal punishment. We’re dealing with hyperbolic language here. I grant you this is subject to interpretation among literate Bible scholars. But treating such a presumption as an absolute, indisputable truth is a stumbling block to the ignorant and a disaster for many!

    Like

    1. I think you must be careful in calling Jesus’ language hyperbole.

      His words in Matthew 25 (and the prophetic words in Daniel and Isaiah) do not follow Hyperbolic language (Eerdmans Bible Dictionary).

      Your words appear to contradict themselves. In your responses to me on Xanga, you’ve said that you believe God will keep them alive and aware, yet on here you’re saying that isn’t necessary.

      Whatever you believe, if Jesus didn’t lie to us (which He didn’t), then it is necessary for someone to be eternally aware for them to receive eternal punishment.

      SIDE NOTE: I didn’t post it on Xanga because I merely wanted people to be aware that I had posted it here. I am in the process of phasing Xanga out and I will probably close it down within the next month or so.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s