“But that’s what the Bible says about hell.” Stop that!

hell

(A great friend of Unfundamentalist Christians is a young woman named Nicole Villacres. I was recently poking about Nicole’s blog when I came across the piece below. I liked its honest, unpretentious heart; it has an old-school energy that I find refreshing and touching. So I asked Nicole if I could  share it here, and appreciate her saying yes. — John Shore)

There is terror in the Christian church. It is the terrible fear of eternal damnation and torture. The fear of hell. Not even the fear of the omnipotent God, but the fear of hell.

I began wrestling with the concept of hell as God brought more gay friends into my life. Especially Christian gay friends who walked closely with the Lord. As I began to look at the Bible for myself rather than rely on pastors or teachings from my childhood, I began to see Jesus more clearly.

I saw the cross for what it was: an epic example of perfect love in action. It was the utmost God could possibly do in human form to show his love. For all.

“It is finished.”

When Jesus said those words, he meant them. He didn’t mean, “Thank God this physical torture is over and I can die, come back to life, and then torture the majority of humanity in flames forever—woo-hoo!” When he said “It is finished,” he meant it. He had died once for all. He has the right to every soul that has ever lived, is living or will live. He took all our sins on the cross and killed them. Killed them. The sacrificial, loving death of God is that powerful. Nothing is more powerful than love.

Not even your sin. Not even mine. Not anyone’s.

There is no hell. For me, believing in hell would blasphemy against what Jesus did on the cross. Blasphemy against the nature of Jesus Christ. We humans do not tolerate torturers. When we discover someone has tortured someone else—hurt them, burned them, kept them alive so they could torture them some more—what do we do with people like that? We lock them up and throw away the key! Depending on the depth of the depravity, we may even sentence them to death. And you are willing to believe that Jesus Christ could do that? To the people he loved so much that he died for them? He can’t forget them, you know. Any more than a parent could forget their own child being in agony for eternity.

How can anyone believe that Jesus would allow hell?

You may shrug your shoulders in sad helplessness, and say, “But that’s what it says in the Bible … ” Stop that! Use your brain. Have you really explored for yourself (not just listened to a pastor or your parents or your teachers) the scriptures related to hell? Have you investigated the original language to see what it means? When Jesus tells a story about a rich man and a poor man—one who goes to a place of torment, and one who goes to the bosom of Abraham*—is he talking about reality? Does that mean we’re all going to be hugged by Abraham for eternity? No? You don’t believe that? Then why do you so easily believe that the place of torment was a real place? Why does hell win here?

Jesus was telling a parable. A story to make you think. He wasn’t describing the literal afterlife. And neither man in the story was more or less a sinner than the other.

If you want to truly walk in love as Jesus did, you’ll ask him to eradicate your fear, to help you take a leap of faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of past beliefs that you don’t ever question, and to open your mind to his voice as you read the Bible. Paul believed that no one and nothing could snatch him out of God’s hand. If you believe that, then why are you so afraid of questions? There is nothing you can do that will remove you from God’s hand. Nothing.

So question. Question everything that makes no sense to you. Because that’s the Holy Spirit in you. Trust him.


*About this parable we offer What Jesus really meant by the story of Lazarus.

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  • buricco

    It certainly doesn’t help that William Tyndale and some of his successors conflated “hades” and “gehenna” into a single “Hell” in their translations, when they were two different things.

    • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

      Lately, thanks to my videogame-playing habits, I cannot see the word “Hades” anymore without thinking of the god Hades as portrayed in Kid Icaurs: Uprising. He’s a colorful, hammy character with many hilarious lines who thinks that human souls taste like bacon. Ah, that game has certainly made discussions of Ancient Greek terms and concepts more amusing for me. (Thank you, Nintendo).

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        I recently read the Percy Jackson series, Hades was not the bad guy, but he wasn’t nice either. Doesn’t hurt that I’m a huge fan of mythology.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

          I haven’t read Percy Jackson though I saw one of the movies on TV once. (The latest YA book-set I’ve been into is The Hunger Games, not counting re-edits of my own work before I finally put it up to gather dust on Kindle… I’ll link if you want, don’t want to be rude with advertising myself on here)…

          The game I’m talking about (Kid Icaurs: Uprising) is Greek-mythology inspired, but far, far from faithful to anything resembling actual mythology. It’s a revival of one of Nintendo’s old series that’s very much a playful romp – all the characters (except maybe the few humans in it – you play an angel who serves a light-goddess and fights gods) seem to be aware that they’re in a game, they make fun of the old games and reference modern things… Characters talk about stuff like looking up things on “Divinipedia.” Hades is the major villain in KI:U, but he’s rather fun about it. I mean, it’s just amusing to me now that whenever I see references to Hades I no longer think of “Hell” so much as this big, purple man with flaring hair who makes a total ham of himself and pays the commanders of his army in post-battle resurrections and free soda! (The game’s version of Thanatos is even “worse” on the ham-front though he’s a minor villain).

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Sounds like a fun game. For the record the Percy Jackon movie I saw (the first) SUCKED. Yet the books were good. Clever enough for an adult audience, yet appealing to middle schoolers. Which is why I am also a Eoin Colfer fan (he write adult books too.) and own the HP series.

            I have the Hunger Games trilogy sitting on my nightstand, yet unopened. I am leery of books so raved about and gone quickly to film, and highly recommended by my friends thanks to a certain vampire/warewolf series. I need to suck it up and open the first book. I may be pleasantly surprised, like I was with Game of Thrones.

            Now geek question. Is that game PC playable?

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            It’s only on the 3DS. You could watch a YouTube playthrough if you just want to see the humor – recommended if you’re left-handed or have any hand-cramping problems, because… great game – horrible controls. It’s like, the controls were not thought through all the way. Hurt my hand whenever I replay a few levels.

            I enjoyed the Hunger Games a lot. In fact, so much that I’ve written fan fiction. Everyone has their problems with the books though – I wasn’t a fan of the “love triangle” stuff, but I understood why it was there (appeal to the core demographic). They’re rather bleak books, though. In fact, I personally interpret the progression through the series as a window the protagonist going mad from all she goes through.

            If you’re into fantasy, though, there’s my own stupid little thing you can read the summary of / check out: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HMGYHTK — Oh, hey, look, that promotion-thingie I chose is in effect and it’s on discount now. I went ahead and put it up as a self-publish in part because I thought the themes were too off-kilter for mainstream, but mostly because it’s a wee too short in regards to what I know agents and publishers are looking for.

  • PAULA K. SCHMIDT

    I havent believed in Hell for a long time. I just cant marry the God of Hell and the God of love as the same being in my mind. I dont know what those verses mean for sure, but I also believe we dont know all of the mind and will of God.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      Exactly, Paula.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Same here Paula.

    • Guest

      Ditto. Either there is no Hell–or there is no God. Take your pick.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        There is no hell, there is a God. No picking or choosing necessary.

        • Guest

          I don’t disagree. My point is merely that I cannot believe in both God AND Hell.

        • Guest

          I don’t disagree. I was just making the point that I can’t believe in both God AND Hell. It’s impossible to reconcile the two.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Yeah, I can’t reconcile the two either.

  • Dave

    So is everyone saved?

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      From what?

      • Alexios

        From the consequences of their actions… I think there is a difference between someone who accidentally kills someone in an accident and regrets the fact all his life, and someone who not only consciously kills children and never regrets it but he brags about it. What do you think?

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Seriously? So you think Christians lie, cheat, steal, abuse ot murder less than non Christians? That they Re less prone to be bigots greedy racists, selfish,arrogant?

          Based on what??

          Causing accidental harm is of course unintentional, yet sometimes preventabile. Someone who intends harm could have always prevented things. Neither is determined by religious preference…or whether they were saved or not.

          So I ask again, based on what?

          • Alexios

            No, I think every person is capable of being good or evil. I also think that being a Christian isn’t about proclaiming a faith about a certain God, but more like living in a certain way. I didn’t make myself clear. For me, it’s an experiential/practical thing, it was never conceptual/intellectual or proclaiming-Jesus-your-savior-saves-you.

            What I’m trying to come across is this: if everyone regardless of our actions (and by our actions I mean actions, way of living, treatment to others etc. NOT simply claiming that we are Christians) will be forgiven and loved, what’s the point of talking about morality? What’s the point of looking for guidance to Jesus (or other spiritual masters for that matter) to our daily struggle with our worse self? If it doesn’t make a difference, why Love? If someone wants to kill and feel no remorse and reject God’s love, should God violate this person’s free will and impose His Love on him?

            Please don’t misunderstand my questions. I struggle with these matters as we all are.
            Kind regards

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            My apologies Alexios, I was addressing that response to Dave, and didn’t clarify well enough.

            Everyone looks to what works for them for guidance in regards to morality, spirituality etc. And people tend to use a variety of labels. I tend to consider God…just God, (and I switch genders frequently there) as the absolute, with jesus as an example of how to carry out what I should do in mindset and action.

            I also don’t think love, of the God kind is remotely capable of imposing on anyone, Its on a scope and scale that is beyond us, its more expansive, better equipped, more powerful, more adept, than the most loving human who ever lived, because it is not limited to the human framework.

          • Dave

            Yes they will be because they are born by the Spirit. They should behave differently since they are new creations.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Ah, should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. Nice theory Dave, if it was true.

            However there is zero evidence that someone “born of the spirit” behaves any differently than anyone else. Instead, people tend to take their fallacies along with them. If they were selfish before salvation, they will be afterwards, merely coming up with new tactics and excuses. If they gossipped before, the topical focus will just change. If they were hot-tempered, they will remain so…and so on.

            Religion can change behavior, but it generally doesn’t.

          • Dave

            Yes religion doesn’t. I went to church for three years and Bible study. Still had a temper, still a drunk, still sexually immoral etc. It changed a bit but not much. When I fell before God and placed my trust in Jesus Christ everything changed. I haven’t been to an adult website since nor have desire to. I am patient and even tempered nor been drunk. Not from anything I have done, all the work of the Lord! I am still a sinner but completely different person.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            If you are an alcoholic, please do not assume that you have licked the problem, Alcoholism is rampant amongst Christians. Getting drunk now and then is not being a drunk, its just unwise behavior, Thinking you need a drink, is a disease and should not be taken lightly, or tackled on your own. Having a beer with friends at the ballgame, or a cocktail before dinner is harmless, and merely different variety of beverage.

            Sexual immorality? Well unless you are an abusive person sexually, or thinking of only your fifth appendage and going spelunking with it in every cave you can find, not caring if you leave a mess behind, then its not that big a problem, Sex is not evil, using it selfishly or as a weapon is immoral. For the record, porn is quite popular amongst Christians. Maybe its because they have some regressive, harmful ideas about it.

            Trust me on this, God does not remove who we are, our weaknesses, our strengths when we decide to get closer, That would be cruel, and would teach us nothing about building a better character, or growing as a more mature, compassionate person.

          • Dave

            Let me discuss point by point:

            I was an alcoholic. I am no longer the person I was before because I was saved by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have an occasional glass of wine or beer but generally refrain from it. Don’t have the desire to be drunk anymore.

            Porn is destructive period. You can be a Christian and struggle with porn, but the Holy Spirit will convict you of that sin. Sex is not bad, but it is a gift from God for a man and his wife together.

            Your last paragraph indicates that it is us responsible for the change in our lives. That we have to somehow just pull ourselves together and become “better people”. God says in His word that He will give us a new heart. It is all God. We can’t earn salvation and we can never be “good enough” for Him. Only through faith in His son, Jesus Christ, can we be declared righteous.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Once an alcoholic, always one, I am glad you are in remission, but I’ve lived around and with enough, to know that it never quite lets go of you, and that the afflicted will always need to be aware. Stay diligent, and if you find yourself relapsing, get yourself to AA.

            With porn, I happen to agree with you, mostly because of the degradation of women, the rampant sexual slavery that still exists and the mindset it portrays as women only being valued for their vaginas.

            Ive seen too many people who assume that God will just make all our faults disappear, but its not true. We can look at the biblical heroes, flawed people, every last one, who never really overcame those faults..Yet we consider them amazing people of God.. If we want to conquer a fallacy of ours, we can of course look for guidance from the divine, but we are likely to be told,…”you have a task to do, now get to it darling one.”

          • Dave

            I will take God over a human organization any day! My wife’s father has been saved for over twenty years and was a bad alcoholic, but since his conversion he hasn’t drank. Twenty years. Yes God doesn’t remove all our faults, but once saved, we are a new creation. Many things are removed. I have been around those truly saved by God to know how the Lord has worked in their life and it is amazing!

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Glad things are going well for you and your family. I hope they continue on such a positive track

          • Dave

            Thank you, all the work of the Lord! He is so good. :) Have a nice evening.

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            The problem is, it doesn’t “work” that way for everyone. Some people still have to work unbelievably hard to overcome their alcoholism. To say that they are less of a Christian than you is a fallacy and hurtful. I know you didn’t directly say that, but others reading this (who are struggling) may get that impression. And it’s simply not how God works for everyone.

          • Dave

            True it doesn’t happen the same for everyone, but it is impossible to be saved by God and not be changed. You will be a new creature. So if God doesn’t take your desire for alcohol right away, He will grow you in grace through His Holy Spirit to convict you of that sin and eventually the ability to overcome it. The problem lies in trying to do it yourself. We must surrender to God. Ask for a heart that wants to please Him. It is hard for people to submit.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I have yet to meet a single person who has become a Christian who has undergone a radical transformation, in mindset and practice. And I can’t throw a rock in my area without hitting one.

          • MikeHaas82

            Given the amount of Christians who sit in our jail cells, leave as Christians and go right back in as convicts, I find that opinion questionable to say the least.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Changed how? The assumption that people just stop being who they are with their weaknesses forever altered is simply not true, What often happens, is that one just shifts a weak point to another form, or they internalize or deny that they still exists. I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that the pews, and often the pulpit is filled with people with things they are hiding from others

          • AnnaHart

            This really bothers me. I’m very happy that you don’t struggle anymore, but no one “was an alcoholic”. You will always be, even if you stop drinking at 25 and never drink again the rest of your life. I’m very happy you lost the desire to drink, but that means you are a “recovering alcoholic”. It’s not something you can get over like the flu.

          • MikeHaas82

            The legacy of Martin Luther King was felt around the world and his non-violent approach to change was a gold-standard that men still haven’t learned from. And yet, his detractors still harp on the fact that he was an unfaithful husband. But if MLK isn’t a Christian to be admired, then there is no Christian that is admirable.

          • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

            Poking around here late at night and here’s something to finally kick me out of my shyness.

            My father is a former alcoholic. He’s been clean for… almost 30 years now? I remember that the night he wrapped his truck around a tree driving drunk that was his wake-up call was when i was still a child. He *still* considers himself a “recovering alcoholic” because that is the proper term. He’s a man who prays, but he went to rehab, which is what people seeking help are supposed to do.

            I find it interesting how much Christians expect of other Christians, how “Christians are supposed to be” – other than the dry theological “you believe this/that” stuff. It’s like some people who lack a particular struggle themselves forget that, in the end, we’re all just a bunch of humans. I mean, I once had someone I barely knew scold me for spending time in a psych ward because “Christians aren’t supposed to need those.” I knew an adult class Sunday School teacher who said stuff like “Christians never commit suicide because a relationship with God keeps them from that level of despair.” – Annnd that *shining* approach to mental illness is probably one of the reasons why when I stopped going to church 8-9 years ago I was never inclined to “re-up.” (Well, that and the natural introversion. I wanna be a hermit, dammit). It’s like, some people really do think that any and all of your problems (including ones that science has found to be fairy genetic in recent years but still carry a social stigma) should be *totally erased* as soon as you say the happy magic prayer!

            Too few people stop to think that “maybe God wants some people to be a little bit mad,” or maybe we are loved within our faults rather than demanded to become perfect with a snap of fingers – and maybe the more we try to supress and hide our issues (as social clubs demand) the worse they get, festering when we’re alone in the dark.

            (Aside: I had to take pains to re-log in. For some reason, the Disqus system had me piggybacking on someone named “Margret” when I first tried to post. I am not named Margret, nor have I ever been. The only other name I’ve used on Disqus is “Worthless Beast.” )

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            This is absolutely 100% true for you. But it may not be for others. God works in many ways both simple and mysterious. Be grateful for how he has shown so much love to you and give that love away.

      • Dave

        Matthew 7:21-23 NASB

        “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me , you who practice lawlessness .

        What us Jesus describing here?

        • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

          It sounds like he’s describing Christians who have no real relationship with him. They sure did a lot of stuff, but did they show love?

          • Dave

            He is describing those that thought they had a relationship with Him. But what does He say, depart from me you who practice lawlessness

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            Doing things in someone’s name is not the same as having a relationship with them. He’s talking about folks who do lots of big, bold stuff in the name of Christianity so that everyone will look at them. They have no relationship with Jesus because it’s all about them. Not about doing the will of the Father, as he stated in the line before.

          • Dave

            Correct, which is what I was describing

        • Keith Witty

          There are a couple things happening here. To read Hell into this passage is purely eisegesis (Reading something into the text that isn’t actually there). So the first thing to note is that Jesus was obsessed with the kingdom of Heaven. The most common problem in most people’s reading of the gospels is reading “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Heaven” as the same thing. They are not. Think Metaphysical Dualism. Heaven is another realm that is above while earth is below. The kingdom of heaven, however, is the essential reflection of actual heaven onto the earth. Thus, the kingdom of heaven is a realm situated on earth as a reflection of the realm of heaven where God the Father would abide.

          What’s Jesus is saying here is that he is essentially the gatekeeper to the coming kingdom (one that he thought would be set up within his disciples lifetimes per Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1). In this Kingdom he is the one who decides whether or not one will enter or if they will remain outside the kingdom with the world that is deemed not good enough to get in. Think Judaism, the Messiah is expected to set up a kingdom and reign over it on the earth. This is exactly what Jesus is describing. The language is just so much different from modern day speech that it takes a lot of time and effort to decipher it. It is not as crystal clear as thought to be.

          • Dave

            I understand your viewpoint, but there are plenty of scholars that studied the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew language to provide us today with accurate Scripture. The two prior verses talk about the narrow way to life and wide road to destruction, so it appears very clear what He means.

            As believers we will live on the new earth, so yes I can see your viewpoint on that, but what happens to those who do not believe. They are thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed. I think we complicate matters to make it sound more appealing to the world, when in actuality He says we should model our faith like a child. Just believe in what He is saying. He will decide who enters Heaven and then subsequently the new earth. Consequences of disbelief are an everlasting destruction.

          • Keith Witty

            Sigh, so much eisegesis. You’re reading revelation into Matthew. New Earth does not equal Kingdom of Heaven. They are completely different ideas. I’m done, have a nice day man. Cheers.

  • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

    how can you say that the Bible doesn’t mention Hell?
    Then what is the “unquenchable fire” of Matthew 3:12? “blazing furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth” of Matthew 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30? are these places just used for figurative ploy? I don’t think so.

    how can you say that parable was just a story “to make you think”?
    Luke 13:22-29
    “And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from;depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.”
    I think in this instance Jesus is actually talking about how judgement shall be.

    sure they are parables, stories but stories that have truth wrought into them.
    You forget that though God is love, He is also just. Hell is a place not meant for us but is reserved for the devil. But if we don’t have Jesus we are destined for “eternal punishment” as is mentioned in Matthew 25:46.“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    If what you say is true, then what is the point in salvation? You see from the beginning after his rebellion, Satan was destined for Hell. But when we sinned, we cut ourselves from our intimate relationship with God, we died spiritually, we also, due to our sin, are destined for hell. That is why Christ came to die. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness that we may live eternally in heaven and not in hell. I know hell, a place of eternal torment is had to fathom, how can God allow it? God is love right? But God is also just. As the final judge He must judge in righteousness. When one has done wrong,one must face the consequences.
    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (this was written by Paul by the way)
    Where Heaven there is only light, no more mourning, no pain because God is there, He is our everything, hell is the opposite. There is only darkness, pain, gnashing of teeth, unquenchable fire. A place not fit for man. But yeah we messed up big time in the garden and sin marred our image. The God-likeness we had was lost. So Jesus came and was marred beyond human recognition (Isaiah 52:14) that we may be restored to His likeness.
    “It is finished”.
    You see only the perfect are allowed in heaven. And due to sin we are not perfect. But in Jesus are we made perfect. Are we made righteous. In the presence of the Living God are we made holy. Due to pride Satan was cast from God’s presence so he is as imperfect as imperfect can be. And the only place for imperfect beings is the fiery lake.
    Rev 20:10 “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
    All Satan is trying to do is to pull as many of us so that we can join him in the lake of fire.
    Rev 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

    I pray that the Holy Spirit may reveal the truth.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      The purpose of a parable or fable is to make on think. They are not intended to be actual portrayals of events, but instead to point to the meanings that can be gleaned from it. Using the Lazurus parable, its not about the afterlife, but about selfishness, greed and being mindful of the less fortunate.
      Jesus was one of many teachers throughout human history who used such methods, along with the use of allegories or word pictures.
      And if you glean that Satan is also an allegory, not an actual person, a representation of our baser nature, it changes the entire perspective,

      • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

        If you read the Biblical references (esp. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) I made you would know that the parable’s meaning didn’t just to mean selfishness, greed. Being mindful of the unfortunate, though is important, doesn’t grant you salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus came to save us from the wrath of God. And in almost everything Christ did and said was in reference to why He had come, to declare His Father’s Kingdom and to act as the Way to that Kingdom saving man from the brink of destruction for which we were headed.
        The Bible cannot be truly interpreted with just our understanding but through the Holy Spirit.
        And Satan was no “allegory”. Read the Bible.

    • Keith Witty

      When Jesus mentions the fires, he uses the word “Gehenna.” Contrary to popular opinion, that is a literal place in the Middle East, and it also happens to be a place where in Jesus’ time there was non-stop fire and burning for garbage disposal and disease. Everything was thrown into the Valley of Gehenna that was garbage or didn’t have a place. This includes bodies that where diseased and bodies of people who did not have families. Now, imagine you are in biblical times and your mother dies of an unknown ailment. The authorities, not knowing what caused the sickness and wanting to prevent any further disease, toss her body into Gehenna. What will you do? Will you weep and gnash your teeth? Yes, you probably will.

      Everything should be read in context.

      • Dave

        Correct Gehenna is a place Jesus discussed so we can understand what being thrown into the Lake of Fire would be like. He is discussing the consequences of our sin and unbelief. So he uses Gehenna to help those understand exactly what the fate of those who practice lawlessness will be which is everlasting destruction or perishing in the fire.

        When He tells us who to fear Jesus says don’t fear the one who can kill the body but Him who can kill both the body and soul in hell. Using wrong interpretation would then give us, don’t fear the one who could kill the body but the one who can throw your body into the garbage dump. Don’t people throw the bodies there? But he just told us not to fear man because they can only kill the body. So there lies a problem with that interpretation.

        • Keith Witty

          I see your point, and as I reject the divinity of Jesus we will never agree. I will only say that I do not think it possible that Jesus would have any idea what you mean by “Lake of Fire.” Cheers.

          • Dave

            That doesn’t scare you?

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            When you put your hope in the love of God (perfectly exemplified by Jesus’s giving of himself on the cross), then there is nothing to be scared of.

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            so what happens when you don’t put your hope? why do we need to put our trust in Jesus? why then do we call it “salvation”? what was He saving us from?

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            Sekaia, YOU need to put your trust in Jesus. I need to put my trust in Jesus. Because that is how God speaks to you and me. But that does not give us the right to impose those same thoughts and beliefs on others. Humanity is God’s responsibility which Jesus has handled AMAZINGLY. You do not save anyone. You know that, right? No matter how much you “witness” or beg people to become saved so that they won’t go to hell, you don’t save anyone. You can’t save anyone. So rest. Live and walk humbly before your God and trust him to save everyone else. All he asks of you is love.
            As to your question, I can only answer for me. But Jesus saved me from annihilation. Without his love, I think my youth would’ve been too sad and lonely for me to keep on. But he held me close, he showed me my value (and continues to). He brought me into relationship with God the Father. He has healed my soul. He has saved me from self-hatred which has allowed me to look beyond myself and show love to others. He shines through me and I can be a light and hope to others. He has taken my sins and utterly destroyed them. He has set me free. He has saved me in so many ways, it is hard to list.

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            Aah so you believe in annihilation rather than hell.
            Well thank you for your testimony. Since you have accepted Jesus, as a born-again Christian myself, I doubt there is any need for me to continue with this because though we share separate views on this particular issue we share the same Saviour. And maybe the Holy Spirit will make this issue clear to either of us before the end, or not, who knows. But I know what you mean. I too was headed down that road. Christ alone saved me from destruction.

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            Just to clarify, no, I don’t believe in annihilation any more than I believe in hell. That was a reference to myself and my personal experiences, not my belief in an afterlife. If you read C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce,” you’ll have a better idea of what I lean toward. But, truly, until we die, none of us can say what will happen after this life.

          • Keith Witty

            Not in the least my friend. It used to, but it’s impossible to justify (for me) Hell with a loving God. If God’s idea of justice is to send me there for making a choice such as I have then I will gladly go there because I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with such a being. I could never be happy knowing I was perfectly well while friends and family and other people were being tortured for eternity. I will endure it with them rather than face such a horrifying situation without them knowing their constant torture.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            The idea that Jesus wasn’t divine doesn’t scare me either. He may have, he may not have been thus. Regardless, what we have is a fascinating, revolutionary individual, who managed to show us how to better live a life of love, compassion, self sacrifice and gratitude.
            If he was divine, then he came here for that purpose. If he wasn’t, then it was quite possible, that God gave him that purpose. Either way the purpose is beautiful.

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            “gladly”? woah. That’s a strong statement.
            For me, rather than endure hell with the people I love I am fighting that we all spend eternity in heaven. By “all” I not only refer to my friends and family. I mean everyone. Especially you.
            Would not heaven (whether you believe it or not) be a better place to “gladly” spend eternity than hell (whether you believe it or not)? I mean if it DID exist would you “gladly” go there? I know you already stated it but pray don’t.
            I know you may not think this is genuine coming from a total stranger, but Christ died for me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8). A stranger who knew Him not. Who loved Him not. heck before I was even born, before I had any capability of doing anything. And I know if He loved me enough to die for someone as wretched as me (or as I would become), He loves and died for you too. He died so we would not spend eternity separated from Him but in His presence. I know in many “salvation” sermons preachers try to instill people with the “fear of hell” which is wrong. What I’m driving at isn’t to choose Him out of fear but out of love. His love is all we need to accept. Acceptance is all it takes.

          • Keith Witty

            I use “gladly” because I do feel so strongly about this. I would want to know a lot more about heaven before I got so excited. Even if I took the bible at it’s own word, passages about heaven are meager at best. What is heaven like? We don’t know and can’t know. Imagine having 600 BILLION years to do something. Now double it. Now triple it. Now quadruple it. It never ends. That is pure hell to me. Since that sounds awful to me, what will God do? Is heaven subjective? Can I do what I want? If I can does that mean I can remember life on earth? If I can’t remember it doesn’t that mean I won’t be me? If I can, won’t I have extreme survivors guilt due to the people in Hell?

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            Heaven is living in the presence of God forever. (sorry for the personal info but) as a musician in the worship team I’ve truly experienced the presence of God. Being lost in His presence, it is so beautiful, so amazing, no words can describe it. When He enters He brings me to my knees and I can’t stop crying. You’re just awe-stricken. Just overwhelmed by His love. Love in its truest form, Agape Love. You just can’t contain it.
            The Psalmist in the Bible says in Psalm 84:10 “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”
            I mean in one moment, in a second where God touches you, your life changes forever. Now to live in that presence forever, I mean where else would you want to be for the rest of eternity? You are being renewed every day in His presence. I mean this is God we’re talking about, who created the heavens and the earth. He placed the giant ball of gases-the stars in the sky and (though innumerable to us) named them all. He put the colours in the rainbow, the colours of the nebulas. Gave shape to the trees and to the galaxies. He’s got loads of where that came from. He is eternal, He is unlimited.
            Now think of the most beautiful moment or scene of your life. Imagine that every new day is more beautiful than the last. It keeps getting sweeter. I know its hard to imagine it on earth because on earth there are limits. But imagine if a sunset you find beautiful, keeps getting more spectacular than the last time you saw it. The colours become more alive, the warmth becomes much deeper, the view more breath-taking, the wind more sweet, more real.
            The beauty of earth is just an inkling of what heaven is like, the tip of the iceberg. You see earth was made by God in the beginning and it was all good. But sin corrupted it all. In heaven there is no sin.
            I mean living in His presence, and if am able to share it with everyone, that’s the eternity I want to live in.
            Am so glad that my future is secure in Christ. Just doing my best that I may see you all there too.
            In a place where there is no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. Revelation 21:4.

          • Keith Witty

            And here is the twist, Sekaia: I was a “born-again Christian for the majority of my life. I went to seminary and have led worship at four different churches and many, many youth rallies and church camps. Your experiencing “the presence of God” is something I have experienced as well. I agree, it’s a beautiful experience and can bring you to your knees. However, I can attain that same experience now with just great music. It’s chemistry and the emotions we attach to certain situations and music. It’s not God until you choose to say that it is God. And that is *fine*. It’s distinctly Feuerbachian in nature and something that makes us all the more human. I’m very glad you can be so passionate about it, but I will never be so again. It’s ridiculous to me now.

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            woah, I seriously did not see that one coming.
            It seems like a lot has happened in your life to make you think so. I won’t overstep my boundaries.
            One thing this discussion has pointed out to me (well at least more obviously than before) is that I do not have all the answers. But I do believe in the One who does and that is Jesus Christ. I only pray that you may discover that God is more than chemistry, emotions or some stimulation in your cerebral cortex (if it has any relevance, forgot to mention am a medical student, lol).
            I have stated all that I set out to and that is enough.
            I keep my eyes on Jesus and keep my faith like that of a child. In our world such beliefs would be called “ridiculous” I know. But with all my heart I believe what I have shared and what I have experienced to be true. And being called ridiculous is just a small price to pay because firstly Christ suffered way more for me on that cross; secondly as Paul stated in Romans 5 that persecution just builds my perseverance which then shapes my character and which then gives hope; thirdly I know my reward will be at the end, after I have run the good race and fought the good fight.
            “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

          • Matt

            Sekaia: Just a thought–wouldn’t it make your faith and love more honest if you didn’t do it for a reward in heaven? Suppose there were no guarantees. Suppose there was no heaven. Suppose all those who you didn’t save entered the Kingdom of Heaven, but you were barred. Would you still want to love others with your whole heart and serve them all your days?

            Which is more noble: Sacrificing for gain and glory, or quietly giving your all for no reward?

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            I see you choose to ignore the first two reasons I stated. By taking all three collectively you see my true motives.
            First off I will admit I wouldn’t be able to love as genuinely if it weren’t for Jesus in my life. That is why I live for Him.
            That is the reason why I do so. I do it because of Christ. It is Christ’s love in me that I am able to love others. It is His unconditional love for others in me that enables me to unconditionally love others. It is He who died (not only for me but) for everyone.
            If I were asked to die on the cross for the World, without Christ in my life, I very much doubt I could.
            The “reward” I talk about isn’t riches or glory, but eternal life. The reward is actually to reach the goal. That goal is to not see everyone go to hell (a point we’ve debated in full so will not touch further on it) but that everyone would find eternal life. Life found only in Jesus Christ.
            That is the goal I strive towards. The salvation of the World. Because that is why Christ died. To give ALL of us life in eternity.
            Christ gave me life, that I may live for Him, therefore by living for Him others may find life through Him, so that we may all live with Him for eternity.
            “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” Philippians 1:21

          • Keith Witty

            Don’t misunderstand. I didn’t say your faith is ridiculous. I said that it is ridiculous to me. Big difference. That is the inherent subjectiveness of religion and what makes it so fascinating. I think everyone should believe what they want to as long as they are not causing damage to anyone or anything. Cheers.

          • MikeHaas82

            I’m reasonably certain that Christianity and Islam are the only two religions in the World in which many (but not all) of its followers declare, “believe or you will be punished for eternity.” That alone should be enough for people to stay away in droves. There are appx 34,000 Christian denominations world-wide. Which one do you choose? My experience tells me that people who aren’t raised in a particular faith and don’t leave it, choose a religion that most closely fits their world view. I’m convinced that people who believe strongly in Hell and describe it in graphic terms, are people who are very punitive by nature and desperately desire people they don’t like – sinners – to burn there.

      • Herro

        >and it also happens to be a place where in Jesus’ time there was non-stop fire and burning for garbage disposal and disease.

        There actually isn’t any ancient support for that claim. It seems to be a “scribal legend”, just like the idea that “the eye of the needle” was a gate to the city, and so on.

        • Keith Witty

          Interesting, though I question how much legend is behind it when it seems to be accepted by multiple scholars. Though, to be fair, in history everything is disputed.

          Either way, Jesus would have seen Gehenna as a place of fire and sacrifice. If he was taught the Tanakh at all as a child then he would associate Gehenna with the place of sacrificing Children by fire, as written in Chronicles.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      There is no place devoid of God. He is omniscient, omnipresent. If hell is real, then He will (and does) share in that suffering for eternity as well. You can’t roast your children alive and not be in horrific agony yourself. Unless you are a psychopath.

      • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

        I understand why you would think that way and it is hard for me to understand it too. But the difference between what you posted and mine is that I did not post what I feel or think God should be like but what is written in the Word, hence the scriptural references.
        I believe you chose to ignore my Biblical references as I stated 2 Thessalonians 1:9 states, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”
        In my post I stated, Yes God is love. But He is also just. Throughout the Bible it says how God has repaid wickedness with righteous judgement. In your outlook, “God is love”, He should have relented from destroying the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Jebusites, Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their wickedness. Note that they were all created by Him. But He had set His laws. “Though shall not kill”. “Though shall not commit adultery”. If you break a law there needs to be consequences or that law has no meaning.
        He even punished His own people Israel for adulterously chasing after other gods (“though shall have no other god besides Me”). It is through His act of justice is His love shown. Just like a parent disciplines their children (or should) because they love them so does God. Going back on His word is not in His nature. So if one sins, punishment is required. If a “psychopath” were to kill someone do you not think justice is required? I know hell is like way over the top compared to jail-time but as I posted hell is not meant for us but for the devil. I mean imagine God sharing His Kingdom with the wickedness that Satan is. No he needed to be cast out of heaven and his disobedience was judged and his fate sealed before time. But any disobedience has no place in God’s Kingdom. It was the consequence of our choice made in the garden. “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
        Yes God is love. He’s horrified that His children were destined for hell. But He couldn’t go back on His word because He is God. That’s why He did the most outrageous act of love anyone has ever done which is He sacrificed His Son, I mean His own Son so that we could be saved from destruction. Saying that there is no such thing as hell, and that it doesn’t matter whether you’re saved or not is saying that Christ died for nothing. That I think is sad. Please do not let His sacrifice count for nothing.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Those are your beliefs. They aren’t shared by all.

        • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

          Sekaia, I appreciate your passion and respect your beliefs. However, I believe that when Jesus died for all, he died for all. He alone has the right to declare any soul he chooses free and saved. His sacrifice counts for EVERYTHING. How he chooses to enact love and justice is solely in his hands and is solely his right. How we interpret the Bible has no effect on Christ’s actions.

          • Sekaia Niumataiwalu

            I respect your outlook. What I do believe is that Jesus is the Word of God in flesh, the second in the Trinity. So I try to base everything on what God’s Word, the Bible says. But I am no Bible scholar, just passionate about His Word and trying to be lead by the Holy Spirit. If there was anything wrong with what I shared, I pray He will correct me.
            Apologies though I cannot reach the same conclusion with you about hell.

          • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

            Absolutely no apologies needed, my friend. God leads us all in His perfect way for each of us. Blessings to you on this beautiful Sunday!

          • R Vogel

            http://www.christianuniversalist.org/resources/articles/
            At the bottom of the page is a paper entitled “Damned Nonsense: An article for Universalism” Although the conclusions of universalism were intriguing, I too questioned the biblical validity. This paper makes a strong biblical case, that you might find at least interesting, if not compelling.

  • R Vogel

    So happy to see this, and all of the related posts about universal salvation recently. I had rejected Christianity as nothing more than another human power structure for more than 2 decades before stumbling on the concept of universal salvation (Thank You, Kevin Miller!). It is hard for me to believe that people would put eternal punishment at the center of their faith rather than the universal, unconditional love of G*d. Without universal salvation, it seems to me, you have to give up ‘universal’ (Calvinism) or ‘unconditional’ (Arminianism), neither of which seems consistent with the character of Jesus. Being threatened with punishment if I don’t tow the line I can get anywhere.

    • PN8891

      The way I see it, Calvinism is wrong, because it assumes God would unilaterally send people to hell (thus going against His will that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance), and Arminianism is wrong, because the Bible says that we were DEAD (not sick, not a little out-of-sorts, but DEAD) in our transgressions, and dead people don’t make the first “decision” for Christ!

      Think of how Moses struck the rock to make water come out. Did Moses do the miracle, or did God?

      …Trick question. We can’t say that Moses did it, because he didn’t have the power to do miracles; only God had that. But we can’t fully say “God” either, because Moses did not, it seems, lift his staff robotically, without having control over whether he hit the rock or not. It’s the same way with any number of other miracles, such as Peter and John healing a lame man. God gave people His power to do miracles, so that people could do miracles even though they were unable, in their own power, to do them. Could it be the same way with coming to faith in Jesus Christ?

      • R Vogel

        I am not sure there is a strong biblical case that only G*d can do miracles. Think of Moses in the Pharoah’s court. Pharoah’s magicians did miracles, they turned their staffs into snakes and the river red. G*d miracles were just better. You could say G*d did those miracles to, I suppose, but that gets into some strange arguments. (I don’t actually believe in miracles, viewing these stories as mythos, not academic histories)

        So, if I understand your question correctly, two questions occur to me:

        1. If G*d grants you the ability to choose Christ, and that is the mechanism of salvation, it still puts human will as sovereign over G*d ultimate desire. I assume, by your rejection of Calvinism, that you believe G*d desires everyone to be saved. But any framework that makes it on condition of a human choice means that a human will is now set up to thwart the ultimate desires of G*d. Thus the war begins for souls – so ‘It is finished’ seems like Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ A bit premature.

        2. I assume the this framework means that everyone is granted this ability to choose Christ, otherwise we are back to the caprice of Calvinism (Sidebar: I am using Calvinism as a generalized and likely highly reductive way. I do not presume to speak for the beliefs of all Calvinists everywhere.) So I have a hard time believing that anyone, who truly understood the ramifications of their decision, would make the informed decision to reject G*d’s eternal, unconditional love, thereby choosing eternal torment. Lewis’ famous dictum that the doors of hell are locked from the inside seems like an easy out, but it contradicts both Lewis’ own conversion story, where he said he resisted but G*d eventually won, and Paul’s for that matter. And probably most Christians out there who have a conversion experience. There always seems to be an irresistible aspect to it. So, it seems to me, you either have to accept that people willingly choose eternal torment over unconditional love, which seems a dubious position, or that they are faced with making a decision with incomplete information, which seems capricious. In the Genesis story, Dirt and Life Giver did not actively choose eternal separation, they bought a lie.

        • PN8891

          It may seem clear that, as you said, no one “would make the informed decision to reject G*d’s [sic] eternal, unconditional love, thereby choosing eternal torment.” However, you have created a questionable (in my mind) dichotomy when you say, “…you either have to accept that people willingly choose eternal torment over unconditional love…or that they are faced with making a decision with incomplete information.” There is a third option: That they had complete information available to them, but that they refused to listen to it because they did not want to hear it. What if they simply turn away from key available information, convincing themselves that it is not trustworthy?

          There are an awful lot of people nowadays who do not *want* there to be a God. They attempt to disprove God’s existence by reasoning that shows how the real thing they find revolting is the concept of a God who has authority. The authority is the thing they can’t stand (I do not speak for all atheists/skeptics, but for many–if not most–of them).

          It’s easy for people to say that they have incomplete information, when in reality they have made an effort–whether conscious, subconscious, or somewhere in between– to avoid taking in certain information, or to give greater heed to arguments against it than for it.

          • R Vogel

            I’m not sure how having complete information and refusing to listen is different than willingly choosing eternal torment over unconditional love. Complete information presupposed that they know refusing to listen is de facto choosing eternal punishment.
            I really hesitate to consider reason’s why someone rejects the idea of G*d. You say some reject the authority of G*d. Perhaps. But I think I would ask why? Is it really G*d they are rejecting or his representatives on earth? If they really knew G*d, not filtered through religion, or grown men with faux hawks, but the true transcendent reality of unconditional love would they reject it? I don’t know. But I do know my conception of G*d’s love is even more powerful than their rejection. We beat him, spit on him, stripped him naked, nailed him to a tree, and hoisted him into the air to die a slow miserable death on public display, and his response was “Forgive them.”

  • Elexa Dawson

    While I’m not ready to say definitively “there is no hell” I do have a strong conviction that I should NOT be “rooting for hell” as a lot of folks do.
    The Accuser wants us all there… And it makes me so sad to think that folks who think they have “Salvation” are still living in the Accuser’s desired reality.
    God’s will is that none should perish… So that’s my will too.

  • AnnaHart

    With my apologies of resorting to the cliche, I have to ask–So Hitler didn’t go to hell? Where is he then? I don’t know if I believe in hell; I don’t know what I believe. I know I was taught that no “good” is good enough, so the only way you DON’T go to hell is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I’m not saying this is my belief, but I don’t understand what happens instead without hell, and this article doesn’t seem to explain much and neither do the comments. Person sins>>Person doesn’t repent or remorse>>Person dies>>Then what?? Also, is there no heaven either?

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      There is a theory, held by some, that instead of hell, the truly evil just cease to exist. But as all such concepts about the afterlife, its merely theory

    • Dave

      I would read Sekaia’s post below. He summarizes it well. Paul Washer also describes what authentic Christianity is quite well. There are many youtube videos of him speaking on this matter.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Ask yourself this AnnaHart. If only by doing the evangelical salvation route is the only route to heaven, then 3/2 of the people currently living today are going to hell, if not more. If salvation is such a message of hope, then where is it for the majority of the world’s population?

      • R Vogel

        3/2 of the people living today are more! ;p

    • Matt

      The Bible says that nothing (and it elaborates quite a lot on that word “nothing”) can separate us from the love of God, and so I believe being “saved” or not is irrelevant. I believe that no person is beyond redemption, whether in this life or the next (yes, even Hitler). How that actually works out God-wise, I don’t know. Faith and trust in God come into play there.

      It’s worthwhile to think on this, examine where each line of thought takes you, and consider how that lines up with Jesus’ commandment to love others as you love yourself.

      • AnnaHart

        I like this answer. I’m taking it as “People don’t have an answer, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to love everyone, and leave judgment up to God.” It at least takes the burden of everyone else off of yourself!

        • Matt

          Such a logical mind you have! Yes, that’s how I think too. When I am still learning about myself and I have all the information possible, how can I ever hope to judge others appropriately for something as important as eternal life?

        • Dave

          It sounds nice, but it is not Biblical and the opposite of what Jesus commands. I know this is not popular, but when someone professes to be Christian and there is habitual sin in there life it needs to be pointed out, so they can repent of it and believe if they are not believers. Let me give you an example:

          Four years ago I was in a church living with my girlfriend. They were very welcoming and accepted us as we were. That is fine, but no one ever confronted us over our sin for years. Finally we broke up and I moved away, while listening to Chip Ingram on the radio over the weeks, I learned I was not a Christian. I hadn’t submitted my life to Christ. When God opened my eyes, I saw how wrong I was living (in many other ways as well) and no one in that church that said they loved me confronted me on it. I was unsaved, set aside for destruction if I had died. Here is what Jesus says on the matter in Matthew 18.

          15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

          • AnnaHart

            I don’t want to double-post so I’ll just address all of my questions here. In an further up post you said
            “He will decide who enters Heaven and then subsequently the new earth.”
            So I guess I don’t understand how that goes with the scripture you quoted. I understand guidance, but you seem to be in favor of very direct and possibly judgmental reprimanding. How can you support both letting God decide, and still informing others of your own judgment?

        • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

          AnnaHart, you hit the nail on the head.

  • Alexios

    I don’t believe Hell is a place or a time to be, but a manner, a way of being. I get mad at people using the concept of Hell to cause harm and torture and make others feeling guilty so that they gain control over them. I feel tired of questions (and answers) asking for assurance about the one-way-trip to either Heaven or Hell. Yet, I find something deeply disturbing in the concept that “God loves and saves us all, regardless of what we are or do”, namely that it reduces all discourse about good and evil to a superficial and unnecessary/meaningless babble, as well as rendering free will problematic. I think this is the reason that the early church rejected Origen’s belief that in the end, God will forgive everyone and all will rejoice. The same church still continued to pray to God to forgive every soul, even if they don’t deserve it. For me that’s one of the wonderful Christian paradoxes of refusing to put God into a certain framework.

    I approach this more from a philosophical/existential point of view, rather a pastoral/scriptural. I suspect that’s my grave mistake. But every time the concept of theodicy comes up, I remember the words of a great Greek thinker, Cornelius Castoriades (himself an atheist), commenting on Dostoyevsky’s famous phrase that “if there isn’t a God then everything is allowed” (actually this argument doesn’t belong to Dostoyevsky, it can be traced back to at least Plato). He said that there is something nasty and vulgar about the notion of God as a policeman, but that it expresses a deep and very real concern:the fact that people need to be held accountable for their actions due to their immaturity to accept the fact that they are responsible for their behaviour. In the end, I have to ask: can I believe in a God of unconditional love, but not one that forces his love to anyone not willing to accept it?

    What are your thoughts?

    Sincerely,
    Alexi

    • Matt

      Hi Alexi. You may not be speaking to me, but I’ll put in a thought or two.

      I don’t think a God of unconditional love necessarily means that good and evil mean nothing. I think it’s hugely important in this life that we care for each other, love one another, and support each other. And we must also be passionate pursuers of justice, as much as we can achieve in an imperfect world with our biased judgment (because we are all biased). We must stand up for those who are being tortured, persecuted, or otherwise treated unfairly.

      I think God’s unconditional love makes these things even more imperative, because it impresses upon us that there is no person that “deserves” our love, time, energy, resources, and justice more than anyone else. Even those that do things that violate our social norms, disgust us, or do things that we agree are awful, evil, and reprehensible. In other words, unconditional love sounds all sugar and rainbows on the surface, but in practice has much more depth.

      • Alexios

        Your comment is deeply touching. I think I can feel what you are saying, and I totally agree about the importance of love in our life.But it’s really hard for me to come to terms with the notion of “Love as injustice”.Maybe because I think about justice in the Ancient Greek sense of the term, maybe because I think that sometimes to love someone might mean to make them cry, maybe because I believe that the only thing that can separate us from God and throw us in Hell is our own refusal to love. Or, quite possibly, maybe because I belong to these immature people who need the God-policeman in their life to be responsible. Thank you for your time and your thoughts.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    The word that has been translated into hell, often erroneously appears up to 65 times,

    The word peace, about 429 times, the word love, up to 499. again based on translation, The word humble, 71, orphan 30, wisdom 181 ,joy 155., praise 299..depending, of course on translation.

    So, it is quite possible that the concept of hell is not as important a one as some assume.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      Lovely. :)

    • MikeHaas82

      Seems to me our concept of Hell comes from Milton, not the Bible.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        Milton’s work did have an impact, plus i suspect non-Christian ideas of the afterlife that were adopted along the way.

      • CJ99

        Indeed, the extreme fundamentalists made up their own version of hell to terrify others into doing what they (not the creator) wanted. Theres a grave risk in that, using religion as ones own personal big stick.

  • Linnea912

    Only thing I quibble with here is the theology of Jesus dying “for our sins.” There are all kinds of nasty problems that stem from that. I’ve had to leave that part of Christian theology behind. Instead, I prefer to believe that Jesus died because of the sins of the world, not for them, and that God brought something wonderful out of something horrible. As my pastor put it in an Easter sermon a few years ago, “That wasn’t the end of the story!” It’s more a promise that God isn’t done, even when we humans think there’s no hope left.

    • Guest

      Yes, “quibble” is the right word–trying to split a hair. I’m not sure it make a difference.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      We all have wordings that do not work for us! :) “For” and “because” do put a slightly different shade on the concept. Thanks for sharing!

    • adam

      How can god die?

  • CroneEver

    My best understanding of hell is that the doors are locked from the inside.

    • R Vogel

      This is C.S. Lewis’ conception of hell, but it contradicts his own conversion experience where he said G*d pursued him until he relented. He speak as if he had no choice to resist. Yet somehow everyone going to hell has that choice and chooses it. That seems rather capricious. You also again left in the position of believing that fully informed people make the conscious choice to go to hell. [I keep thinking of the end of Flannery O’Conner’s ‘A Good Man is Hard to FInd’: “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”]
      The secondary problem, as I see it, is that if you believe that it is the desire of G*d to save everyone, then you are putting human will in a position to thwart the desire of G*d.

      • CroneEver

        I never said the doors stay locked forever.
        I do believe it is the desire and will of God that all should and all shall be saved. How that will happen I have no idea, but then I’m not God.

        • R Vogel

          Cool. Thanks for the clarification and I apologize for jumping to a conclusion. I know there are some who believe Hell is more like purgatory where souls are purified in preparation for reconciliation with G*d. It is not my personal view, but it is at least consistent with an unconditionally loving G*d.

  • PN8891

    I believe in hell–the Bible says there is one–but I also believe that God did not make it for the purpose of sending PEOPLE there. It’s there for God to use as a place of punishment for Satan and the demons. Now, Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins–this much I believe–but I don’t believe that Jesus forces this forgiveness (which He has the right to give anyone and everyone) on those who tell him, “Take your forgiveness and shove it!! In fact, I’ll even be nice enough to show you WHERE you can shove it!!”

    That’s how the existence of hell is compatible with God’s love–God cries out to all of us, just as in the parable of the wedding feast where the master sends his servants out into the highways and byways, looking for every last person to invite. He would really rather that everyone attend the party, but there are those who will make silly excuses, and refuse the invitation. Come to think of it, heaven would actually be pure torture for someone with such a proud attitude, since it would seem, from that perspective, like being damned to an eternity of being “underneath” the God who is the master and creator of heaven, even though such an existence would be quite enjoyable for someone whose mind is not so firmly fixed on where (s)he stands in a hierarchy.

  • xscd ✱

    In my view, people who do harm to others must live with the harm they have caused until they work to heal or rectify it, creating a type of hell that persists after death. In fact, they may not realize the consequences of their actions, which they then must face, until after they die.

    Just my belief–

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Interesting theory, and one that makes sense, I think that the concept of purgatory, or something like that, offers an optional scenario that some people can wrap their heads around.

  • Karen Brown

    I’ve re-read the parts of my Bible speaking about hell, and read others’ opinions, and the text really does seem to say that at the end of time, all unrepentant unbelievers will be thrown into a fire, and die the second death, completely (immediately) consumed. I don’t agree with the Christians that say “hell is eternal torment”, that idea is appalling! But neither can I agree that the Bible says nothing about hell, either. My parents (who passed in 2008) would be among those lost, never mind all the billions of others around the world (like infants). If I would forgive and welcome such people, wouldn’t God even more?? Origen and St. Gregory apparently argued that since God “doesn’t chasten except to amend”, the trial by fire is only to purify people before we all come into God’s presence (which still sounds awful)…If early Church fathers disagreed about doctrine like this, how can we know? I would love some more advice, thank you!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/ Dan Wilkinson

      Annihilationism is certainly one way of understanding the Bible.
      Have you read “The Evangelical Universalist“? It provides some perspectives you may appreciate. There’s also a great companion forum at http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/

      • Karen Brown

        Thanks very much for your reply! The link for “The Evangelical Universalist” leads to a ‘page not found’ error, but I am avidly reading the forum…

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/ Dan Wilkinson

          Oops…fixed!