If Hell Is Real, Why Did God Wait So Darn Long To Warn Us About It?

If Hell Is Real, Why Did God Wait So Darn Long To Warn Us About It? January 30, 2016

Two gates to heaven and hell. Choice concept.

For me growing up, hell was the center of gravity and perhaps my biggest motivation for the 872 times I asked Jesus into my heart.

I was petrified of going to hell, and who wouldn’t be? All those bonfire camp services that invited us to look into the flames and imagine being sent to a place of fire to be tormented forever? Every time I sat in one of those services I wondered if I had really asked Jesus into my heart or if I was just misremembering things. With a bundle of anxiety over my memory, I’d invite Jesus in all over again– until the next hellfire service when I’d go through the stressful process all over again.

I wanted to avoid me some hell.

 I’ve heard some hell preachers like Ray Comfort say that one of our problems is that we don’t preach hell enough. And, if hell is real, Ray and all those like him would be correct. Think about it: if people you loved were destined for eternal torture, wouldn’t we want to make it explicitly clear and not leave the slightest question?

I’d certainly think so.

As a parent, if I see my child engaging in dangerous or life threatening behavior, I make sure that I don’t leave any information out. I explain the reality of the situation over and over again until there’s no doubt they understand. Why? Because I’d be a horrible parent if I didn’t.

This realization that a loving parent would by crystal clear led me to begin asking new questions about hell and God. One of my biggest questions is this:

If hell– a place of eternal conscious torment– is real, why did God wait so darn long to warn us about it?

Because you see, hell is doesn’t exist in the Old Testament. And if hell were real, I’d expect it to play a much more prominent role in Scripture than it does.

When we see the creation narrative of Genesis, God does in fact warn Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But the consequence he warns them of? Death.

Not eternal torture in hell, but plain ole death. If hell were the natural consequence for sin, I am left to wonder why God wasn’t clear right from the beginning.

I mean, that would have been a good time to warn us about it, no? And it’s not like God clears up his apparent ambiguity a few pages later– there’s simply no hell in the Old Testament at all.

If the vast majority of humanity is headed for a place of fiery torment, why are we not able to develop a clear and concise theology of hell from the Old Testament? It seems as if a loving God would clarify the reality of hell very early in the story, instead of leaving it as a latter footnote after billions of people already went there.

Maybe there was an overcrowding problem, and he had to come back to clarify things in the New Testament? Who knows.

In the entire Old Testament, we have just one word that gets translated as hell: sheol. The word itself simply means “grave” or “place of the dead” and it’s where everyone went after they died– good and bad, all went to the same place. Hell, with all of our modern images of what it’s like, simply doesn’t exist in the Old Testament. We think it does because some English translators now translate sheol as “hell,” which causes us to import modern concepts of hell into the text. But let’s be clear: it’s not actually there unless we bring it ourselves.

And then there’s the New Testament which isn’t clear either. By this time, some Jewish thought began to express influences from outside thought, which lead us to a few different words that get translated as the English word hell. We have: Hades (a pagan concept that wasn’t Jewish, and could be a place of reward or a place of punishment), Gehenna (an actual valley outside Jerusalem), and Tartarus, which was considered the deepest place in Hades.

Even with these words that often get translated (or mistranslated) to the English concept of hell, there is still a ridiculous imbalance to their appearance in Scripture. For example, as one researcher pointed out:

“[W]e have Judgement mentioned 344 times, Sin mentioned 441 times, and Death mentioned 456 times, and yet we only see Hell mentioned 14 times in accurate translations.” 

If hell is the natural consequence of sin, one must wonder why sin and death have near-equal appearances, but sin and hell have such a striking imbalance.

All this brings me back to my original question: if hell is what awaits the majority of people after death, why is it mentioned so infrequently? Why did God wait until the New Testament to mention it? Wouldn’t he have wanted to have made that clear a lot earlier? And why, even in the New Testament, is the best argument for hell taken from pagan concepts instead of Jewish ones?

But let’s also say that, to the New Testament church, the teaching on hell was totally clear– even though God sprung it on them kinda late. This invites yet another question:

Why didn’t the New Testament church use hell as a motivating tool? When we read the story of the early church in Acts we find them spreading the good news of Jesus– but they never warn anyone about hell.

Judgement? Yes. But hell? No.

Why didn’t Paul say, “the wages of sin is hell, but the gift of God is eternal life”? He didn’t. He just said death.

If God had finally made the reality of hell clear, why did the New Testament church completely forget to mention it?

I mean, this would be really, really important information. If the New Testament is clear about hell, the early church totally missed the memo.

All this invites questions, and when we answer these questions honestly I think we’ll easily see that if hell were real, it certainly should have been mentioned more often, a lot more clearly, and far earlier in Scripture than the first appearances of the concept.

And it definitely should have been central to the faith and practice of the New Testament church— but it wasn’t.

Yes, the Bible clearly teaches there are consequences for sin– and yes, the Bible clearly teaches there will be a coming judgement. But if the consequences of that judgement were eternal conscious torment in a place modernly conceptualized as hell, then we’re left to wonder why God waited so darn long to warn us about it.

(And before you condemn me as a heretic or accuse me of being a universalist, you might want to read the totality of what I’ve written about hell, which can be found, here.)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • toddh

    Great post! I share many of those same questions. Another thing to point out is that many cultures around the world had a similar concept to Sheol, the shadowy underworld. What it means, I don’t know. But I agree, if hell is what we’ve made it out to be, then God should have been shouting about it from the beginning.

  • Right.

    Anticipating critics, one could say that there’s no real theology of resurrection in the OT, either, which is also true, but resurrection is more like a nice surprise than something to be warned about.

    There is a Jewish theology of eternal punishment by fire. We see it in 4 Maccabees. It’s the punishment reserved for Antiochus Epiphanes – very similar to the concept of Tartarus – a place of specific punishments for particularly evil people.

  • The story of Lazarus and the rich man does suggest an evolving concept of fiery punishment after death, but that came along after Jesus’ time. Most of our hell imagery actually comes from non-biblical sources like Dante and Milton, reflecting much later Western thinking.

  • I think the most amazing thing is that none of this: Heaven, Hell, the existence of God or Christ, the resurrection, could ever be & has never been proved or disproved. the only thing real to me is that it keeps getting talked about. all I, Charles, know for sure is when I’m loved or unloved and that has been vouchsafed to me throughout life IMHO by the spirit living within me and connecting me to whatever it is that created me! (*|:D

  • Occam Razor

    Not only does the Bible not talk about going to hell, it says nothing about souls going to heaven, the Trinity or a plethora of beliefs that people today say one needs to affirm in order to be a Christian. That’s the incredible irony. People who say they believe in the Bible, and only the Bible, who say they take the Bible literally, those people affirm a host of doctrines that would not be recognized by a single Biblical author.

  • PatrickM

    Hmm. Disagree wholeheartedly. Jesus seemed to think it was a real place, and seemed to spend a lot of time warning people not to go there.

  • liberalinlove

    Benjamin, can you comment to the rich man, who stepped over the beggar at his feet and ended up in a place of torment? Just curious. I often enjoy using that passage to remind my fellow bible believers that caring for the poor is important and not to do so has a poor eternal outcome.

  • Ben Arrington

    Hell is an English word that carries a lot of cultural baggage and influence. Our idea of hell today is more influenced by Greek mythology that ancient Judaism. Jesus talked about gehenna (the word that we translate as hell) as a metaphor to warn people about the lifelessness that comes from hoarding wealth, living fearfully, and not loving our neighbors and enemies. The “eternal punishment” that he mentions in Matthew 25 is used in the context of a parable, but is also better translated as having to do with a quality of punishment rather than duration. If we refuse to help the needy, then we will suffer an unfulfilled life.

  • Khru

    Great point.

  • “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”-Matthew 25:41 It sounds like hell was being talked about here to me. Of course it’s true that many other things aren’t in there. Hell is mentioned elsewhere as well.

  • In the Bible, the story of Lazarus and the rich man is told by Jesus. Do you mean it was written down after his time? That’s true of the New Testament as a whole though.

  • Certainly Jesus refers to a final punishment for those who refused to be reconciled back to God, but it’s not eternal torment in hell. It’s a second “death” where Jesus said the soul actually dies. The traditional view of hell rejects the biblical view of a second death and claims that everyone will inherit eternal life, some eternal life in heaven, some eternal life in hell. However, the Bible clearly argues that the ultimate punishment after the judgement is a second death.

  • The passage above seems pretty clear. In any case, the Book of Revelation also talks about torment. Why say those things if they’re simply metaphorical? “Eternal punishment” is how it was described. Does eternal not mean that?

  • First and foremost, the rich man and Lazarus is a parable, and must be interpreted as a Jewish parable. Strangely, it’s the only parable that folks try to interpret other than a parable. The story itself is about social inequality, the rich ignoring the poor, and an ultimate reversal of fate between the two characters in the story.

    However, even if it were not a parable, the story only speaks of the intermediate state (the time between death and the resurrection). Scripture tells us all will be resurrected and face a judgement. The question of hell is a question as to the ultimate disposition of those who refuse to be reconciled to God– essentially, it’s a question about what ultimately happens after the judgement.

    We know that the punishment at the judgement is a second death– to be blotted out of the book of life, and to exist no more. It’s not torture in hell.

    So, even if we remove the parable part, at best this passage would argue for a limited (time limited) punishment for the wicked prior to the ultimate judgement. Some people do affirm a time-limited punishment for those who have not been reconciled, where punishment would be mitigated fairly. There are also some who believe this period of punishment will be the type of punishment that restores, not punitive punishment– in that case, those individuals would still be redeemed at the judgement. I’m open to both those ideas, but I don’t think one can make a solid case one way or the other from scripture.

    Hope that helps– the key to remember with this passage is it’s not talking about the final disposition of people. At best, it is describing a state between death and the judgement.

  • It may “seem pretty clear” if we simply stick with our assumptions. If we study the totality of what Scripture teaches, it becomes far less clear. Nothing in Matthew 25 says that souls will be tortured for all of eternity. You’d have to read that into the passage.

    And, it’s not metaphorical. Jesus said the soul “dies” in hell. I take that literally. To believe in eternal torment, one has to say that Jesus was just speaking metaphorically when he said “die”.

    The most literal interpretation is that the lake of fire is where souls die. It’s an eternal punishment, yes, because you can’t un-die once you’re dead. But eternal punishing? No. There’s a difference.

  • Where does it say the soul dies? If eternal just means “final”, as in dead, why “everlasting” fire? Ordinary fire should work just fine to burn a body whole. I look at the totality here too, which includes “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12, Luke 13:28) and the statement that “the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:11). Neither of these sound like the damned simply die. I’m not claiming the descriptions are consistent, though-there are clearly different opinions, what with everlasting fire and being cast into darkness both mentioned.

  • Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    In that passage Jesus argues that the soul dies, and that’s what I’m referring to.

    Also, weeping doesn’t need to connote eternal punishment. I’m sure people who are facing their execution weep at the thought they’re life is ending.

    Definitely happy to answer your questions, but you might enjoy reading some of the other posts in this series where I go more in-depth into some of the passages you mention, and some other problems I see with the traditional argument on hell.

    Ultimately, one can make a biblical case for traditional hell, annihilation (my position) or Christian universalism, which is why all three are considered orthodox Christian teachings. I just happen to believe the biblical case is overwhelming for annihilation if one is willing to re-look at the passages with a fresh eye and a willingness to set aside what we were taught as kids.

  • I agree with you, actually. One can find support for each of those views. I point this out to note the problems for annihilationism or universalism. I’m not actually arguing for hell, being an atheist. I don’t find evidence for any sort of eternal life. Certain it’s a nicer idea than eternal hell.

  • Don Lowery

    Was reading what you just wrote about being blotted out of the Book of Life and existing no more. Does this mean your loved ones memories of you who are in the Book of Life are removed as well which would make it where you had never been born?

  • I have no idea– that’s a deep question that one could only speculate to an answer. A good question, but I don’t know.

  • Haha– I’ve had atheists who have said, “what you believe is no better than what the fundamentalists believe!”

    And I’m always like, “you do realize that atheists already believe in annihilation, right?”

  • Well, I’m not one of them. Your view is definitely better, and we do have annihilation in common. A few atheists believe in an afterlife, but they’re a minority.

  • Brittany

    This is great, Benjamin! I always wondered how I could be happy in heaven with the knowledge that a loved one would be suffering in hell. Sounds sociopathic to me.

  • Bones

    Great article on hell and judgement by an Orthodox bishop.

    We in the West have been duped.

    Some excerpts.

    The River of Fire

    You see, the devil managed to make men believe that God does not really love us, that He really only loves Himself, and that He accepts us only if we behave as He wants us to behave; that He hates us if we do not behave as He ordered us to behave, and is offended by our insubordination to such a degree that we must pay for it by eternal tortures, created by Him for that purpose..

    Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God’s vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.

    ——The “God” of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.

    What is the Western dogma of salvation? Did not God kill God in order to satisfy His pride, which the Westerners euphemistically call justice? And is it not by this infinite satisfaction that He deigns to accept the salvation of some of us?

    What is salvation for Western theology? Is it not salvation from the wrath of God? 2

    Do you see, then, that Western theology teaches that our real danger and our real enemy is our Creator and God? Salvation, for Westerners, is to be saved from the hands of God!

    How can one love such a God? How can we have faith in someone we detest? Faith in its deeper essence is a product of love, therefore, it would be our desire that one who threatens us not even exist, especially when this threat is eternal.

    Even if there exists a means of escaping the eternal wrath of this omnipotent but wicked Being (the death of His Son in our stead), it would be much better if this Being did not exist. This was the most logical conclusion of the mind and of the heart of the Western peoples, because even eternal Paradise would be abhorrent with such a cruel God. Thus was atheisrn born, and this is why the West was its birthplace. Atheism was unknown in Eastern Christianity until Western theology was introduced there, too. Atheism is the consequence of Western theology. 3 Atheism is the denial, the negation of an evil God. Men became atheists in order to be saved from God, hiding their head and closing their eyes like an ostrich. Atheism, my brothers, is the negation of the Roman Catholic and Protestant God. Atheism is not our real enemy. The real enemy is that falsified and distorted “Christianity”…………………..

    “God is Truth and Light. God’s judgment is nothing else than our coming into contact with truth and light. In the day of the Great Judgment all men will appear naked before this penetrating light of truth. The “books” will be opened. What are these “books”? They are our hearts. Our hearts will be opened by the penetrating light of God, and what is in these hearts will be revealed. If in those hearts there is love for God, those hearts will rejoice seeing God’s light. If, on the contrary, there is hatred for God in those hearts, these men will suffer by receiving on their opened hearts this penetrating light of truth which they detested all their life.

    So that which will differentiate between one man and another will not be a decision of God, a reward or a punishment from Him, but that which was in each one’s heart; what was there during all our life will be revealed in the Day of Judgment. If there is a reward and a punishment in this revelation — and there really is — it does not come from God but from the love or hate which reigns in our heart. Love has bliss in it, hatred has despair, bitterness, grief, affliction, wickedness, agitation, confusion, darkness, and all the other interior conditions which compose hell (I Cor. 4:6).”

    In the new eternal life, God will be everything to His creatures, not only to the good but also to the wicked, not only to those who love Him, but likewise to those who hate Him. But how will those who hate Him endure to have everything from the hands of Him Whom they detest? Oh, what an eternal torment is this, what an eternal fire, what a gnashing of teeth!

    Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the everlasting inner fire of hatred,” 47 saith the Lord, because I was thirsty for your love and you did not give it to Me, I was hungry for your blessedness and you did not offer it to Me, I was imprisoned in My human nature and you did not come to visit Me in My church; you are free to go where your wicked desire wishes, away from Me, in the torturing hatred of your hearts which is foreign to My loving heart which knows no hatred for anyone. Depart freely from love to the everlasting torture of hate, unknown and foreign to Me and to those who are with Me, but prepared by freedom for the devil, from the days I created My free, rational creatures. But wherever you go in the darkness of your hating hearts, My love will follow you like a river of fire, because no matter what your heart has chosen, you are and you will eternally continue to be, My children.

    http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/the-river-of-fire-kalomiros/

  • Artistree

    Actually the Early Church wrote a ton about Sheol/Hades and Abraham’s Bosom as a reality. Isn’t it interesting that Lazarus in this so called “parable” has the same name as the Lazarus who dies, goes to the place of the dead, and then Jesus’ raises him and the pharisees do not believe Lazarus’ message ?? Sound familiar ?
    The Bible also tells us that Jesus descended to the dead to preach the Gospel to souls prisoner in Hades.
    Its very interesting to read the Early Church and their view of Hades, the upper and lower level , and Jesus’ mission there.

  • Herm

    I was loved first before I was aware of love and I am loved more because the more I love the more I see before me God still is ahead in the capacity to love. Why can’t we see how pitifully small, invisible to most, thrown out on the edge of a vast cosmos beyond our imagination … even when we know there always was something infinitely and eternally larger before our cosmos came to be? How can we dare to believe our hate of what was before, is now and will always be hurts anyone with any significance but to our instantaneous here and then gone microscopic selves? Why can’t we choose to savor and appreciate this ever so fleeting moment of opportunity we each have in our graced struggle to be aware and in fellowship with so many who can share our pain and share our joy now? When we do we know for sure He who knew to choose to give us this chance to be aware with our own consequential choice in His/Their image loved us first and most?

    Could one of that magnitude, so much infinitely greater than us, find any joy of justice granting non-adaptable agony in the fires of hell to all who chose wrong? Could any “healthy” parent in God’s image find any reason to torture any of their children without end because they chose wrong?

    Jesus taught that our Father loved us first, loves us now and will love us forever. For those who know this to be true none can choose exclusive hate as even a temporary solution to their discomfort because they know in their hearts and minds that God’s love graced to us is the only sustainable answer to living with one another now or forever more. God loves me so much He will not let me have to be immortally aware if in everything I cannot do to others as I would have others do to me; neither in heaven nor hell.

    To Love the Lord my God with all my Heart, soul, strength and mind leaves no room for hating Him. To love my merciful neighbor as myself has no value if I hate myself. To hate my enemy leaves me and mine most vulnerable because I cannot defend from nor support someone I cannot be empathetic to. There is no hope possible to heal for either of us without the salve of compassion for my enemy’s wounds mixed with forgiveness for the wounds inflicted on me and mine before.

    The three most important words Jesus teaches me, especially by His example, that makes eternal life actually inviting to me is love, love and love some more 7 times 70. My Father in heaven loved me first and loves me most as we reciprocate with all love in each of our hearts, souls, strengths and mindsl.

  • And I’m always like, “you do realize that atheists already believe in annihilation, right?”

    Being an atheist and an annihilationist, I get your perplexity, but if I were to guess, perhaps the reaction is to the intuition that annihilation has different moral consequences if the universe and its contents are intended instead of accidental.

  • Herm

    I don’t know that I understand “intended” as the opposite of “accidental”. Accidents happen to the best of intentions.

  • LOL, yes, I suppose so, but in the context of a deity like what is normally asserted about YHWH they take on a rather apposite connotation since it is assumed the deity knows thoroughly what the results of its acts will be. If infinite care and effort was taken to create every being, and then many of them are afterwards callously discarded, this is a bit different than simple cessation of existence that doesn’t implicate the decision of another.

  • Mark

    The ‘eternal’ ‘fires’ of hell have been used as a tool to terrify people into obeying the beliefs of church. Actually ‘fire’ is a metaphor for total and absolute destruction. ‘Eternal’ because you can’t be reconstructed. Mat 10:28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Hell is the self imposed destruction of the soul through rejection of God the source of life. See on Youtube Father Barron on Hell.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8zhnooySk4

  • Brandon Roberts

    the way i see it hell could exist but it doesn’t matter

  • Jamie Valder

    This is apostasy!! That’s what I think. Jesus spoke very clearly and warned of hell many times, including the parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. His disciples, all Jewish men who knew the Torah and Tanakh (the Old Testament) well, never questioned him or asked what he was talking about. They understood the concept of hell quite well. In the Tanakh sheol as hell is mentioned 31 times, as the grave 31 times (as opposed to queber – the grave) and as the pit 3 times. In Hebrew, sheol is hell (underworld) and was divided into two compartments, one for the righteous dead (this was where Jesus descended to after He died on the cross) and one for the wicked dead (who are still there awaiting the Great White Throne of Judgement). Jesus was in Sheol/Hades between His death and resurrection. After this, the righteous souls entered into paradise, which Paul describes as the third heaven (this is where God’s throne resides) in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. So the compartment where the righteous souls entered before the Resurrection went to is no longer the place where the righteous go after they die. They now go to paradise, or the third heaven, into the presence of God. In Matthew 24, Jesus also tells us that hell (the everlasting fire) was created for the devil and his angels.

    How can anyone deny the existence of hell when Jesus so clearly describes it, tells us why it was made, and warns us that those who do not accept Him as our Lord and Savior and repent and be prepared for His return will go there!? Not only did Jesus warn us, but so did Paul, who was a Pharisee before his conversion (don’t you think a Pharisee KNEW the Tanakh/Old Testament inside and out!!), and John (a man who knew Jesus personally and suffered unbelievable persecution for his belief in Jesus as the Messiah, including being boiled alive in oil) in their letters!!

    Don’t believe this garbage straight from the pit of hell.

  • Great article Benjamin! Thanks for linking to my own article on the topic!

    It’s funny, because in all that time I spent writing our Brazen Church series, I never once considered the significance of Hell’s absence in the Old Testament. That’s a BIG DEAL! Adds a whole extra layer to the argument. Good stuff!

  • Huck

    If homosapians have been around for 100,000 years but God only sent his message 4000 years ago, does it seem fair that all the ignorant humans need to suffer in torment due to God’s procrastinating? I am just a human with average intelligence and I could come up with a better plan.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
    You add the words “only sadly some will be killed all over again” to this to justify a particular theology.
    God is still a tyrant who kills those who fail to meet his standards.
    God loves all. You can’t love someone and decide they are better off dead.
    Annihilationism is just the same denial of the universal love of God the Church insists on peddling, just with a little bit of mercy to sugar the pill.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    So because martyrs died boiling in oil for proclaiming the love if God, you glory in the idea of God doing the same without even the mercy of death at the end of it.
    Cite what you like; anyone whose God is a monster doesn’t know God.
    If whoever calls someone a fool is in danger of being thrown into the Gehenna waste tip themselves, what is the destination of someone who condemns another as an apostate from hell?

  • Jeanne Fox

    I also have a problem with annihilationism. One of the things that makes us different from the rest of the physical world is that we have spirits that are unchanging and abide forever. I am more than just atoms and molecules. If my soul or spirit is annihilated, then I was just atoms and molecules after all. *(

  • Yeah, that’s pretty much my issue with annihilation, too.
    “I’ll just destroy you instead of torture, because I’m so merciful and loving” does not make sense to me. Not that I’m an expert by any means, but still.

  • Thanks for posting this! and for the url.

  • Meredith Indermaur

    Just wondering how you interpret Jesus’ words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Did He mean, “Forgive them, even though they haven’t repented?” Did He mean, “Forgive them, then cast them into hell?” I’m completely serious in asking this – would like to see some kind of discussion ensue. Thx.

  • Herm

    Is a parent considered a tyrant who separates the child, who they love equally as their other children, who cannot love? When love is the standard there is the separation. On a temporal earth those who cannot love have a standard to meet or they will be separated, tares from the wheat, to protect those who can love for an eternity of relationship in love.

    To be really honest I would find an eternity more having to interrelate with those who have no empathy, compassion or forgiveness for others, as they would want for themselves, a living hell and I would choose death now. I would choose the grace offered to eternally know nothing and be completely forgotten by those who would otherwise carry the grief forever because we once reciprocally loved each other.

    The only other choice in love for all for an immortal eternity that God could have to annihilation would be to treat us all as enslaved puppets without any choice at all. That is not the Spirit of God I know! Thanks be to my Creator all my choices have everlasting consequences.

    Even my children’s choices to run out into the highway, when my back was turned from them while fighting off a frontal force of threat to them, had consequences I could not erase and neither could God. They, too, had their moments of believing I was a tyrannical god until they had the responsibility to protect, provide, nurture and love all their children equally with different results according the choice of each child.

  • I agree with you, I’m simply arguing over what the text says, it’s not my personal belief.

  • Well said. It’s very different if things naturally die, versus a creator permitting or directing this.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would agree with pretty much everything he said, bar one thing (although it’s a biggy).
    He seems to assume that God abandons any attempt to reconcile the sinner to his love on death. There seems to be no basis for pronouncing God so callous.
    It can’t be because God no longer loves them, because it is antipathy to that very love which burns them.
    It can’t be because it is necessary for God’s justice or honour or any such thing because by his own argument God is not subject to any such necessity.
    It can’t be because it is impossible because God us God.
    And since God’s love, and patience, and kindness, and wisdom are infinite and God has all eternity to work with with, will he not inevitably eventually succeed in persuading every sinner to return his love, until all creation is reconciled to him?
    And since this was Jesus’ own stated mission, if I am wrong has Jesus not failed?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    If my child ceased to love me I would not kill him: would you?
    If my child ceased to love me I would do everything in my power to bring him back to me, no matter how long it took.
    If God is our father and loves us, he must inevitably do the same.

  • Howard Schreiber

    HI Benjamin Corey – I am a big fan – read all your stuff – never ventured in to the comment section – because you need a thick skin:) . All the studying I never thought of Hell’s absence in the Old Testament what a catch! The discussion of hell always stirs up negative passions. I enjoy your messages and faith. How do you deal with evangelicals who say hell is an ” inconvenience to those who want the biblical message to always be cheerful to non theologians” I don’t want to down play what the bible says about Hell – but how to explain the word of God in Matt.25:46 he will punish evildoers with “ever lasting punishment” by “ever lasting fire” (v.41). The Bible describes Hell repeatedly as a place ” where “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48, quoting Isa. 66:24) I am starting to ramble not to mention Revelation 14:10 – 11 ???? ! Remember I am a big fan!!!

  • Bones

    Yeah, it seems the lesser of two evils.

  • Bones

    And did God forgive them because according to Evangelical soteriology He wouldn’t/couldn’t.

  • Bones

    I don’t think he’s saying that.

    It’s actually God’s love which reveals what’s in our hearts and those who have committed evil will be purified by the fire of God’s love.

    It is the ultimate culmination in God reconciling Himelf to us as you said.

  • Herm

    That would entail a hell (in my heart and mind) of purgatory with no promise that my child would or could ever learn to choose to love, not just me but all my children who live with me without death forever.

    There was something in my power as a parent who loved his child with all his heart that I did not do because I loved them as myself. I did not secure them in a rubber room sterilized from having to ever secure scars of consequence from their bad choices. I, instead chose to counsel them (they called it my all too often lecturing them on the spur of the moment), when I saw their chosen direction would lead to pain and/or destruction. I did not, nor could not, because I loved them unmerited remove their freedom to choose over good and evil, as well as within all the gray areas between. Even though life is a gift of grace, and life in the image of the Creator an even greater gift of responsibility, nothing is free from what we choose to do or not do. Jesus, no matter how He might have wished to, could not pay the price for all of our future choices. Forgiveness as any good counselor will tell you only works when you sincerely seek to be forgivable, your choice.

    I completely disagree with you when you state, “If God is our father and loves us, he must inevitably do the same”. Those are the words of dictate a child tells her/his parent to avoid the consequences of their actions or inaction. You tell me why if God is our Father, and is our adult Brother with full authority, who loves us all, must inevitably grant an eternity for those who destructively to all cannot love to change their ways? Isn’t that the choice of God armed with a much better perspective and judgment than have we as Their little children?

    I will be brutal here to make my point as clear as I can. If I had to intervene between my children because one has chosen to kill another out of rage, insanity, self indulgence, no compassion, no empathy and/or no forgiveness then if what it took to save the life of my loving child was to destroy any chance of the unloving child continuing I will, by however you wish to call it, separate the “evil” child then and there permanently. Would not the most loving and constructive action, wielding my all powerful authority for the best for both, be to end the evil forever than allow it to fester in hell?

    I am loved by my creator God so much, and I have the all enduring faith in God to trust, that I don’t fear a second death or an eternal life at all. I would fear purgatory, hell or an eternal existence constantly having to watch my back from the evil influences of the unloving forever in my midst.

    Neither you nor I can tell an almighty creator God what or what not They must inevitably do. My children could not tell me, even the law of the land could not tell me what I could or could not do in the privacy of my domain of responsibility (just what my consequences would be if I chose to disobey that law). If we intentionally disobey the prophetic sum of the law of our Creator, with no hope of changing our ways to be finally forgiven, that in everything we do to others as we would have others do to us the only loving solution for all time is death, not ever eternal agony.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    If you are right we are in complete agreement (although his condemnation of Origen’s universalism and denial of the apothekosis was why I didn’t think he did).

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You descend into gibberish sophistry to defend the indefensible and slander God.
    If God is not love, God is not God.
    If you are right and some sinners are forever irredeemable, Jesus failed and sin is more powerful than God.
    If God is so weak he cannot protect the righteous from dead sinners except by destroying them, how is he even God?
    And why should God kill his beloved children because you can’t forgive them their sins or you don’t want to share heaven with those you dislike?

  • Herm

    iain, you are spinning off into actually telling God what or what not They can do to fulfill Their love for you, or us, their creations who can see no further than what is allowed from earth. This is not even considering those of us who can see no further than themselves as though they’re still in the womb of no responsibility to others because they’re oblivious.

    I cannot change your perspective but I can point to the God you are acting as if is unknown to you. Ask Jesus and the Father to show you the way, please. Let Jesus do all the judging of others and what is best for them. Do to all others as you would have all others do for you and you fulfill the sum of the law. Love the Lord your God the best you know to do with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself and you will live. The rest is completely up to God to take responsibility for.

    The only people of my species I dislike are those not willing to share life according to all God has graced me the responsibility over as in Luke 10:27 and Matthew 7:12. Beyond that I could care less because after this here and now, that I know on earth today, all is way beyond my ability to comprehend and make judgments about. I do know that I have fulfilled none of those verses in the Bible if I intimidate, manipulate or confuse others in making it seem as if the hows and whys of heaven, purgatory and hell are their responsibility according to my authority from a knowledge they are not capable of, when neither am I. I am certainly not ever going to tell God what or what not They can do. They know what is good and what is evil much better than I. I know Them and Their love and that is sufficient to have faith in the decisions that are Theirs alone.

  • I’ll take nothing less than nothing can separate us from the love of God! does nothing MEAN nothing!? (*|:D

  • alwayspuzzled

    There is the theory that Hell is a highly personalized experience. For instance, a fundamentalist dies and goes to Heaven. Upon arrival, he notices that God has also allowed into Heaven people whose moral and spiritual qualifications are very, very dubious – people who in his view are sinners. He is now faced with two very unpleasant truths. God loves sinners as much as he loves the fundamentalist. And the fundamentalist is going to have to spend eternity rubbing shoulders with people who do not deserve to be there. Surely, this is Hell.

  • Meredith Indermaur

    Hey, Ben: Totally serious question, here: What did Jesus mean in Mt. 10:28 when he said this: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Perhaps it’s a hyperbolic teaching technique? We’ve got big monster God coming out of Jesus’ mouth, and this is one verse that makes me verrrrrry uneasy. Help, please.

  • Hi Meredith– thanks for the question. I think it may get best answered if you go to the beginning of the hell series and read some of my earlier posts. Essentially, this verse proves my view of conditionalism (that souls are not immortal, and can die). Thus, since God is the sustainer of life, those who refuse to be reconciled to his love, will ultimately die, and that this is the “second death.” So, when I say there is no hell it’s not an affirmation of universalism, but an affirmation that the result of rejecting God is a permanent death.

    Thus, there’s still an imperative to be reconciled to God. But instead of the consequences for refusing being torture for eternity, the natural result would be that one would die. Sort of like being offered oxygen, but refusing to put the mask on– it’s not punitive that one would die, but a natural consequence of free will. Hope that helps, but definitely read the whole series for more info.

  • I’ve dealt with this earlier in the series, I believe. Essentially, one who refuses to be reconciled to God would die– and this would be an “everlasting” punishment because death cannot be reversed. The traditional view believes in “everlasting punishing”, which is an ongoing action. The position of conditionalism is that there’s a second death, and after that, nothing.

  • I’d invite you to explore the depths of what we as conditionalist actually believe, because what you’re describing doesn’t accurately describe our position. A good resource on this might be my interview with Dr Jeff Cook on That God Show.

  • God is love, yes. But love does not coerce– it does not take control over another to the point where they cease to have free agency. Thus, in my mind the conditionalist view is stronger, because it recognizes that God is so loving that he refuses to use coercion to force others to be reconciled against their will– that’d be more like kidnapping.

    I agree that God is completely love, but I’d invite you to consider what that may or may not entail. A good book I just read on this is The Uncoercive Love of God by Thomas J Oord.

  • Thanks, Jacob! Certainly the absence of hell in the OT is just an ancillary argument, but I think that when combined with the other arguments we have, it adds a compelling piece to the puzzle.

  • Andy

    Nothing wrong with being a Universalist :)

    Great article as always, Ben!

  • Andy

    …and if he ever decides they are as worthy as he, then it becomes heaven to him?

  • You’re right ;-) I’m just not there. I’d like to be, but I don’t see it in scripture.

  • Andy

    I’m not there because it’s in scripture, but perhaps in spite of it. It’s what makes the most sense to me right now. And you, along with the other great writers on Patheos, are part of the reason—y’all have helped me continually refine my worldview.

    I’m also more comfortable with the idea that I could very easily be wrong, but that I shouldn’t worry about it. So thanks for that. You’re doing great work!

  • To me conditional immortality makes far more sense than any other perspective on the afterlife. I am a hopeful universalist, but I think that would override our freedom of will. I think God offers eternal life to everyone; but if they won’t accept it, then they will not receive it. Thus, they follow the natural process of life–which is death.

  • Agreed!

  • The idea that we are spirits that abide forever is not a Jewish or Christian idea–it’s source is Plato.

  • I think God will give us every opportunity to reconcile–even after death. But it is up to the individual person to choose for themselves. If God forced every person to live in the Kingdom of peace where no one dominates another, it would be cruel to one who does not want such a thing.

  • I think you did an excellent job on this article. You have taken a perspective I don’t think I have ever encountered before–that if eternal punishment in hell were true then God should have emphasized it more–especially in the OT.

    And you presented it very well.

  • alwayspuzzled

    “it’s not punitive that one would die, but a natural consequence of free will”
    But it is God who has created this system of “natural consequence”. What father would deliberately create a set of circumstances in which his son or daughter might die?

  • Jeanne Fox

    If I don’t have a spirit that lasts forever, then I am just atoms and molecules.

  • Mark Rich

    It’s exactly that parable’s reference to the wholly Greek concept of Hades that makes it suspect – along with the theologically weird declaration about the chasm.

  • So do you think it was an interpolation, or what? If that isn’t to be trusted, how do we decide what is? Also, what’s weird about the chasm there?

  • Mark Rich

    I appreciate what you’re arguing here, and it’s always good to get people out of the spiritual trap of Christian fundamentalism. However, as a Lutheran, this still feels like a lot of focus on hell, even if you are arguing against it. Is there not an avoidable danger in focusing so heavily on what we are against? Aren’t we then, in a reverse way, validating the obsession?

  • Dorfl

    Why is that? Just having a spirit that lasts for a while should still make you different from atoms and molecules.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You are telling me what God does. What you are telling me God does is kill his children.
    That is evil, not good, according to God’s own declared standards of goodness.
    If the conclusion of your theology is that God is not good by the very standards God himself sets, it is wrong.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I did listen to the interview a while back and the theology and history of views of the underworld and hell were very interesting, but the detail is irrelevant.
    No matter what the detailed reasons for your conclusions, and the complexities of how it is done, your conclusions result in a father who kills his children if they reject him.
    Since you used the same rhetorical trick with respect to hell, I will do the same with annihilationism. If one of your children hated you, really hated you, couldn’t bear to be in the same room as you, wouldn’t listen to you and even if they were clearly wrecking their life, would you then give up on them and have them humanely put down, or persist as long as it took to get through to them?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I agree, but that is where Jesus comes in. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, to abandon their rejection of God: and unless he failed, eventually everyone will be reconciled.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    God does not coerce, but he does persuade, even as we kill him.
    If God’s love is infinite, his patience is infinite and his kindness and wisdom, and he will never give up (and has eternity to try).
    I would not give up on my child, you would not give up on yours, why do you say God is so much less loving and patient that he gives up on his?

  • Bones

    Andy, good to see you again.

  • Bones

    Yeah we’re on the same page all right.

  • Jeanne Fox

    Does the devil and his demons get annihilated, too, or do they suffer forever?

  • I put myself in the Universalist camp. It just makes sense to me. How it all plays out I leave to God. I can even live with annihilationism in the sense that it means there is no such thing as eternal conscious torment. What I can not understand is how anyone can reconcile eternal damnation with a loving God.

  • Mark Rich

    There are many ways to consider what is more or less original. There’s no single way – it will depend on each passage. As per Benjamin’s discussion above, the use of the word Hades is a big giveaway for that parable. I also find it weird in this parable that God doesn’t appear, which is so unlike Jesus’ parables. Rather, Abraham appears to speak with the rich man, and he declares that there is an unbridgeable chasm. While one could conceive of such a chasm for humans, including Abraham, one cannot conceive of such a thing for God. There can’t be any chasm for God, as God is not a localizable being like us humans.

  • Mark Rich

    Is it helpful to point out that the statements about Gehenna or Hades in the gospels (and perhaps we need to just jettison the word ‘hell’?) are solely intended to warn the wealthy and powerful? They are not generalized threats to all humans, and then we get to fill in the blank about which is the specific sin to which the threat of hell can be applied.

  • You are atoms and molecules, but your arrangement of atoms and molecules makes you intelligent and reflective. So you are not JUST atoms and molecules.

  • I still think God (nor Jesus) forces us against our will.

  • Jeanne Fox

    True, but if my soul is ultimately annihilated at the end, the materialists were right and I was just atoms and molecules. Sorry, I just can’t get into conditional immortality, although I am not crazy about eternal punishment, either.

  • Herm

    iain, very first you must see that I am asking you to go to God and ask Him yourself, please. I am not telling you what you cannot find out for yourself.

    This following is from me, an equal sibling of you, so it carries no more authority than you have to influence others.

    Who introduced death, from where is its source?
    What has to be before there is death?
    Is life good and death evil? … or is there good and evil in life as well as good and evil in death?

    In my own heart and mind I know everlasting agony in hell as a sentence from God cannot exist because a death exists of knowing nothing. Death means that seemingly unbearable anguish and agony does not have to go on without end. With the combination we know here on earth of good and evil in our carnal life we would literally be in hell right here, right now, without death. As it is we can trust that evil people will eventually cease their destructive self centered influence over us as mankind because they will die or we will die. There will be an end to evil only because of death.

    I in my 70’s welcome my carnal death because my strength is waning and the burdens of human responsibility are becoming more and more difficult to perform just to survive for me and mine. I can continue for as long as I can prompted by my animal born instinct to survive, my joy found in moments of savor and the peace that I am assured there will be an end to this madness on earth for me. If in my carnal death I never know anything ever again I am eternally thankful for this one all too short opportunity to be alive with awareness and influence that I have witnessed the good, positive and constructive results from in those who will live on after me, and hopefully will live on through them after they cease to influence.

    Death, to me, is not evil in and of itself. Death is a respite from this never ceasing time forcing me to choose to react to both really good and horribly evil influences all around me every moment of every day.

    My life as been such that I was blessed with those moments of ritual, like an 8 to 5 Monday through Friday well paying employment, with restorative church fellowship on Sunday, Saturday or both, and no body was ailing in my family and everybody was getting along supportively in peace. It eventually became so boring I welcomed the period of change with the chaos of being called at all hours of the day and night to fix problems critical to the survival of my family, customers, friends and enemies. That then became too much, also, and I welcomed the periods of boring ritual as respite from chaos yet once again.

    The only appeal eternal life in the spirit offers me from what I know today is that God offers adventure, alone and shared, without the influence of people around who cannot love the Lord their God with all that they have command over and love their neighbor (who all will be merciful as a prerequisite to inherit eternal life) no less or more than they love themselves; all who live in the Spirit, including the Father and Jesus, will then be our neighbors … we in them and they in us. This is true for me today spiritually but not carnally.

    iain, you wrote,

    “What you are telling me God does is kill his children.

    That is evil, not good, according to God’s own declared standards of goodness.”

    Jesus, the only begotten son of God, was set up to be killed by the Father to fulfill the prophesy of the tabernacle for our good. This is the Good News (Gospel) we share as disciples of Jesus Christ.

    God’s own prophetic standard is summed up so that we may understand as simply as possible that in everything do to others as we would have others do to us.

    While here, if I knew in the womb, as a fetus, the odds were I would live a seemingly incessant unbearable life, short or long, knowing what I know now I would ask to be aborted right then and there before suffering further hell. If in this life I become aware that the odds are that the remainder of my life will be a seemingly incessant and unbearable torture I will hope that there will be someone to support me in assisting me to die from any further hell.

    My spiritual self, heart and mind, has no fear of death, truly. I cannot be intimidated or manipulated by anyone holding the power to kill me to do other than in everything do to others as I would have others do to me. My carnal senses instinctively fear death because my carnal senses are apprehensive and sensitized to resist anything that I have never done before. To be really, really honest I would have some other willingly die on a cross that I might live. For that reason I pick up my cross for that other first.

    You are loved iain so much that God will not suffer you to eternal hell, especially in heaven.

  • Herm

    Jesus is chronicled to have been really great at administering the most appropriate shock treatment to the hearts and minds of the spiritually ill.

  • OK. It is not a problem that we disagree.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I don’t think God or Jesus forces us against our will. God’s call to repentance operates as a seduction, not a command.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I am not saying there are unrepentent evil people in heaven, only that God will eventually persuade all people to repent.

  • Nimblewill

    Wealthy and powerful and I would add……. religious.

  • Nimblewill

    Think about Cain killing Abel. That would have been a great time to hear about it.

  • Nimblewill

    You have read the scriptures that are used to argue it I’m sure. What do you think those scripture are saying exactly?

  • Nimblewill

    If I whip my son one time and he never repeats the thing that got him the whipping to begin, isn’t punishment everlasting? God alone knows how to correct.

  • Nimblewill

    Ask Paul and Jonah about God’s uncoercive love?

  • Herm

    iain, manipulation, intimidation and subjugation are not God’s style. We are graced freedom to choose good and evil in our Creator’s image. I trust that God gives us all plenty of time to make our choice before a final time to judge our entry into heaven or not. Our choice of influential attitude is our only responsibility as children of God and Man, that is the only price we have to pay for entry into heaven.

    Righteousness expressed in love is an attitude not all in the image of God can wrap their freedom of choice around. The law governing righteousness is summed up in Matthew 7:12.

    You are truly introducing the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and ignoring their doctrine of hell for the rigid unrepentant. In Roman Catholic teaching Purgatory is the third option to heaven (total holiness) and hell (total evil).

    Loving parents punish their children in the hope that they will learn in the safety of their home that worse consequences await them if they continue down that path of destruction and destructiveness. Not all children take heed even though they were given all opportunities to have learned to make constructive decisions for themselves without the prompting of their guardians. Their penalty is then meted out naturally all the way to its final consequence too late to repent of. God does not punish for our choices alone dictate the results naturally. Because we have a creator God of grace, empathy, compassion and forgiveness we are given more than enough opportunities to realize the errors of our ways. Lightening doesn’t strike to kill on our first mistake if we err with caution. If we dare the law of God to impetuously hold our kite up to the lightening to strike we will surely die or minimally be heavily scarred for life.

    So it is with God’s law that all choices have consequences that eventually lead to cessation of choices for the destructive with a promise for the productive and constructive an opportunity to continue to apply their attitude of valuing others without end.

    Why do you find a death of knowing nothing so uncomfortable to you?

    What is so appealing, beyond your carnal instinct to survive the unknown ahead, in the offer introduced by Jesus to become one in the family of God eternally?

    Do you have any honest concept of final eternal death knowing nothing or eternal immortal life or eternal unadaptable torture that you can trust to dictate your attitude today? I don’t. My attitude is dictated by what I know from experience that works to generate the results I value the most. Jesus is my teacher daily to improve my attitude and thereby my fruit. I would like that to continue without end but if I would be judged a tare (or terror) in heaven my honest attitude is that I would prefer to die finally to know nothing, to be forgotten so as not to burden those who loved me with grief forever.

    The following verses actually feel inviting to me if my attitude is not productive and constructive for all for all time:

    For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.

    Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 (NIV2011)

    I know and trust my Lord Jesus more than enough to let Him be the judge.

  • The wealthy, powerful, and selfish. While I’ve seen people try to twist Matthew 25:31-46 to refer to belief, the text solely refers to how people treated others.

  • Annihilationism sits uncomfortable with me as a universalist. I can only imagine that those who tire of Paradise (the idea seems impossible to me, but I must imagine it happens) have some means of escaping it by oblivion, perhaps if only through dreamless slumber that lasts as long as needed to refresh the weary soul.

  • To add to that: He must also understand and accept that he is worthy to be there as well. The natural inclination of many, upon realizing that they have been grouped with the Lesser, is to believe they, themselves, have been deemed Lesser.

  • Is God efficacious?

    I refuse to idolize a being incapable or unwise enough to make a convincing argument for love, which is claimed to be his most defining trait.

    When his resurrection was disputed, Jesus allowed the skeptic Thomas to test his wounds. He didn’t turn aside and say “I must allow you to disbelieve me.” If Jesus represents God, then I must posit that God is more patient, more trusting, and more open than described by authoritarian children of clay.

  • A father who takes risks in the pursuit of love. I think Thomas Oord handles this question well in his book, the Uncontrolling Love of God.

  • If I had a child who hated me, yes I’d keep listening and pursuing them out of love even if they were wrecking their life. I’d never “put them down”, but it would be out of my control if their own destructive behavior resulted in destruction or death.

    I think God loves and pursues– but that he won’t take control over a person and deny them free agency. Thus, he can’t actually stop them from doing things that could result in their own destruction.

  • I’m using coercion in a total metaphysical sense. In both of those stories God intervened, God pursued, etc., but both Paul and Jonah still had free agency and the choice as to whether or not partner with God.

  • That story also has an implication few people catch: that those in Heaven are able to perceive the rich man suffering in Hell.

    Honestly, what Heaven would be paradise if you could see so many people you knew and loved burning forever?

  • Scripture certainly has its share of things being edited in retrospect. The Old Testament stories are very inconsistent as to whether it’s safe to look upon the face of God, to the point where Moses in Exodus actually winds up reminding God that the elders are unable to visit him on Mount Sinai, after God invites them to his presence — God having apparently forgotten that so much as coming near himself would kill them.

  • Exodus also has the announcement of a new festival celebrating the completion of the Torah. Y’know, the Torah which no one has even begun writing at the time this part of Exodus takes place.

  • It was my understanding that 4 Maccabees is under heavily disputed authorship and isn’t considered canon by either traditional Christianity or Judaism.

  • Herm

    It is your choice to reject or accept any argument. It is your choice alone that decides whether or not you are convinced. You choose to revere who you will and no one can force you to do otherwise. Any other way would subjugate you to be of no more worth to relate with than a puppet, slave or robot.

    God is very definitely effective in ultimately producing the result of reciprocal love throughout eternity for all who live by establishing the prerequisite that determines whether we live or not by our individual choices to comply with Luke 10:27 or not.

    Every skeptical Jewish authority during Jesus’ ministry had ample opportunity to test Jesus to believe. Many did choose to believe but most did not. There are ample choices for us all right here on earth to determine our capability to love or not, sufficient that none of us who enter have the potential to make heaven a living hell for others as so many choose to do to others of their own mankind.

    What is so evil or frightening about never ever again having awareness or influence over others; to know nothing?

    What reward is there in having an eternity to do to others what they would not have you do to them especially when you would not have them do so to you?

  • Quite so, but the popular choices are respected authors and the dating is within the first century on either side of the 0. It does show up in some strains of Orthodox bibles either as an appendix or for one particular segment (Georgian Orthodox, I think) as canon.

    But even so, it does reflect a theological idea in the air at the time that seems to be very consonant with NT martyrdom theology. Psalm 116 may also be reflecting this idea.

  • Herm

    The father who risks to let his child out of the sterile rubber room to make choices of their own with others “would deliberately create a set of circumstances in which his son or daughter might die”.

    What possible value is a relationship I programmed to react and respond exactly as I wished? Our Father in heaven wants a relationship with all his children forever who will teach Him different perspectives with only one caveat, we must be able to love all outside ourselves as we do ourselves.

    Without that attitude of empathetic, compassionate and forgiving love we will not leave this cosmos, perhaps not even this earth, where we have been isolated for the safety of all so as not to menace the entire realm without end. This is purgatory between death and eternal life. All who demonstrate an inability to value others as themselves will cease to be aware following their carnal communicative tool, their carbon based body, going back to the earth.

  • What is so evil or frightening about never ever again having awareness or influence over others; to know nothing? What reward is there in having an eternity to do to others what they would not have you do to them especially when you would not have them do so to you?

    What is evil and/or frightening about it is the thought that someone would adopt underhanded or coercive measures to determine who enjoys eternity and who is consigned to oblivion. Contrary to your assertion that there is ample opportunity to establish ourselves on Earth, we are not all of us born with the same opportunities or circumstances. After all, if Exodus 4:11 is accurate, then God creates the circumstances by which we are challenged, including those which, in some cases, prove to be our undoing almost immediately.

    I ask, is the syphilitic infant who perishes before their first words given a fair chance to love sufficiently enough to be judged and found wanting? Is the deaf and blind young woman who goes mad with isolation judged the same as the wealthy heiress who disdains the presence of paupers?

    I cannot believe in the worthiness of a being so limited. The divinity I have seen is one which grants every opportunity in this life and the next, which has such patience and ingenuity that any and all will be led willingly into the flock. Those who would do harm to others come to understand that they only harm themselves by wishing so, and are stymied before they can even begin to undertake such an evil — in the land where time is geography, a person’s depth of character is the same as location, and those they would injure are far removed from them.
    All belong in Paradise, but the learning curve there resembles a grassy plain for some and a literal mountain for others!

  • alwayspuzzled

    If a father puts himself at ultimate risk in the pursuit of love for his children, that makes sense. But in this case, a father who is at no ultimate risk himself is putting his children at ultimate risk in the pursuit of love. That is very problematic. If an earthly father did that, there would be questions about his mental balance.

  • Howard Schreiber

    Ben – I am confused – on the second death. : The second death is mentioned on multiple occasions in the book of Revelation and is synonymous with the lake of fire. It is a “death” in that it is a separation from God, the Giver of life. It is called the “second” one because it follows physical death. how is the different from hell

  • I think this would begin by redefining death. If I understood you, you’re redefining death to = separation from God instead of death = death/ to cease to exist. In conditionalism, to reject God is to die, which is the second death– literally. The traditional view of hell is that those who reject God do not die at all, but go to live forever in a horrible place called hell. So, there’s a big difference between the positions.

  • Herm

    You do not believe that God can know the character of each you mentioned above to fulfill all of Luke 10:27?

    You have not met, I have, those who do not and cannot come to understand they harm themselves by the applied attitude of manipulation, intimidation and subjugation all with insufficient empathy, compassion and forgiveness to love their neighbor as themselves. Read the testaments of Jesus looking up every instance He used the word “woe”. Woe as He used the word denotes His deep sorrow and grief, especially that caused by someone’s death.

    You have to ignore Matthew 10:28 to adopt universalism as anything more that what you hope for. You have to ignore all words of consumed

    Your answer, “What is evil and/or frightening about it is the thought that someone would adopt underhanded or coercive measures to determine who enjoys eternity and who is consigned to oblivion.

    Did not answer my question, “What is so evil or frightening about never ever again having awareness or influence over others; to know nothing? What reward is there in having an eternity to do to others what they would not have you do to them especially when you would not have them do so to you?

    You only used my question to pivot into your wishful agenda. I did not ask any more than what was relative to the condition and not at all what might have led to the condition.

    Why would you even believe, from what you know for certain, that eternity would be enjoyable for everyone?

    What you are proposing is that this life on earth as mortals has no ultimate consequences just that it will take longer for some than others to enjoy eternal life. Life on earth has consequences that are final and irretrievable for the carnal. Luke 10:27 and Matthew 7:12 are more flexible than you are giving them thoughtful credit for, covering all the conditions of those you referenced, but there will be a cut off point, beyond the go no go marker, where there is no return even in the spirit.

    What is to be feared of having no more responsibility ever to awareness?

    I understand your emotions and, too, would want to see all come around and realize the eternal carnal and spiritual values derive for all from all of Jesus’ commands. Jesus never mentions a remedial class for the learning impaired. Jesus says there is only one Teacher, one Instructor and one Father for His disciples, His brothers and sisters born of God by the Holy Spirit. He says that we must despise all the learned traditions and rituals of our “place of birth” and pick up our cross to die carnally for those who need more time to find the reason to repent before we can qualify as His students.

    What you are saying regarding life is no different in what the serpent told Eve, “surely we won’t die”.

    I have been subject to too many examples of responsibility to mankind in having to perform or someone is surely and finally going to die to their carnal life and I will deeply grieve. If we learn anything else in this life the most mature lesson is there are always consequences to whatever we choose to do or don’t choose to do, even when we were ignorant there was something we needed to do or someone is going to hurt or die.

    I know the merciful God you do very well and we have wrestled because I didn’t agree with His tactics because I wanted instant gratification and/or didn’t want to see anyone hurt or die. Each time in the end it became clear why the way things happened by His hand was ultimately the most merciful way for all.

    As I’ve mentioned before all of this conjecture is superfluous because none of us knows what comes after this. How can I judge when only They can possibly know? What must honestly be considered essential to life I know is being more productive and constructive for all today than I was yesterday. It is actually from applying the commands of Jesus that I am certain of His divinity because I see how they all have contributed to the results I would choose for me, mine and all others.

    I know from following many of your posts before that this you closely believe, also. Thank you for that!

    I do not use any concepts of heaven, hell, eternal life or eternal death in my service to Jesus Christ, my siblings of God or my siblings of mankind. To do so would be to be an attempt to plant the fear of God predominantly rather than the divine love of God to motivate others to go to God personally and directly.

    Please, do not take any of my supposition or conjecture on this subject as any more than the way I understand it most to be. I don’t give a damn about heaven or hell but I value my relationship in God today equal with my life gifted the opportunity of awareness and choice to promote all life for all people for as long as is possible.

  • Why is that a giveaway? I seem to recall many Jews were influenced by Greek culture at the time, so using a term from Greek is not unthinkable. Also, since it was written in Greek, this may have been felt to be the closest match, I don’t know. How do you know the writer simply had a view of God which does not match yours? The Bible has mentioned God having a location elsewhere, even a corporeal form sometimes.

  • Yes, that is a great source of my skepticism.

  • Thomas Aquinus said the saints up in heaven will delight at seeing the suffering of the damned. How that made sense I don’t know. What is it about being in heaven that would make people suddenly fine with seeing this, especially if their loved ones are damned too as you mention?

  • Andy

    Thanks Bones! You too!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The trouble is it isn’t the child’s own actions that lead to their destruction, it is God’s response to them.
    The same sophist response is used to justify eternal conscious torment which you reject, that the sinner is “doing it to themselves” by sinning.
    I am aware that annihilationism attempts to finesse this by saying what God does is fail to resurrect the sinner, but this is cant: God leaving them to die is no different to killing.
    Edit: It occurred to me after writing the above that the argument that the sinner is “doing it to themselves” or “making God do it” is the argument of the abusive husband beating his wife for annoying him.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Those who love you would grieve for you if you were not there, whatever your sins.
    If you love only those whose company you find congenial you do not love.
    If you give up and abandon those who abandon you, you do not love.
    If you lose patience and reject forever those who have offended you one to many times, or for too long, you do not love.
    If you love only those who love you, what reward have you: so not even the worst of sinners do the same?

  • Bones

    Isn’t tartarus raken straight out of Greek mythology?

  • Herm

    If a knowing father, with full control, allows his psychopathic child access to his healthy children we would remove that father of his responsibility for all his children. We’re like that, we care for our children.

    If the same father, with full control, placed numbers of his psychopathic children together with full access to each other but isolated from his healthy children, for their safety, there wouldn’t be as many of us inspired to remove that father from his responsibility for his children. We’re like that, we are quick to empathize with compassion for the healthy children but not so, if at all, for the children incapable of loving others.

    Just exactly where would our Father isolate His spiritually psychopathic children until such time as they choose to repent from their inability to love?

    Would He place them together allowing each full access to manipulate, intimidate, coerce, subjugate, and even never ending unsuccessful attempts to kill each immortal other in the Father’s eternal hope that eventually one and all will learn to love and repent?

    Would He, maybe, isolate each to be all alone until such time as they might learn to love and repent of their destructive ways?

    These are very real possible scenarios that test the unmerited love for each child the Father has along with the ultimate authority and responsibility to make the best decisions for all for all eternity. The buck stops with Him.

  • Fulgentian

    “And then there’s the New Testament which isn’t clear either.”
    How is Jesus’ teaching on hell ‘unclear’?
    https://carm.org/what-are-the-verses-that-mention-hell

    And the question is an odd one – “if hell is what awaits the majority of people after death, why is it mentioned so infrequently?”
    What would be the point of mentioning it more frequently?
    And you could say the same about many Christian doctrines – e.g. because the Trinity is not mentioned in the OT and its teaching in the NT ‘unclear’ it must be suspect.

    Please understand – any constructive feedback would help me to clarify my own understanding of this.

  • Nimblewill

    So being swallowed by a fish prepared by God and knocking someone dumb and blind while on their way to kill Christians is not coercion. Obviously I don’t understand the definition.

  • alwayspuzzled

    But the father in question is the heavenly father, not a finite earthly father who is subject to the randomness of nature and temporal reality. Assuming God’s creative attributes are infinite, as is usually claimed, He has the option of not creating spiritually psychopathic children in the first place. Why does He not take that option? Why does He create spiritually psychopathic children? If they are spiritually psychopathic, all the free will in the world isn’t going to help them. Why does he create spiritually psychopathic children, and then send them to hell or annihilation because they are the way He created them? That doesn’t make sense.

  • Yep.

    It’s not a bad mirror to 1st century Judaism as we can reconstruct it (possibly wrongly). The most common punishment from God is death, but He reserves a special afterlife punishment for the especially wicked, like Antiochus Epiphanes – murderous tyrants, basically.

    In (some) Greek thought on the afterlife, everyone who dies goes to Hades where you just sort of hang around as a shade. The particularly virtuous go to Elysium, which is a special paradise, and the particularly evil go to Tarterus, which is a special place of torment. These concepts are not tremendously different from at least some strains of 1st century Jewish views of the afterlife.

    And, in fairness, like Benjamin said, the OT doesn’t really provide a lot of data on “the afterlife.” It’s almost as if it doesn’t care. By far and away, death (Sheol) is presented as the end. You live on through your children / inheritance. This is why you’re supposed to have lots of kids.

  • I like the article you linked to, because it illustrates how words that don’t mean “hell” as we understand it get translated “hell.” Your article rightly points out that the overwhelming majority of passages that get translated as “hell” are either “Gehenna” – a place of burning outside of Jerusalem – or “Hades,” which is the grave – the place of the dead. It’s not a place of torment.

  • When I was growing up, I heard many a pastor say something along the lines of, “If we really believed Hell was real, we’d be telling everyone about it! We’d be shouting it from the rooftops! We’d tell every stranger we met!”

    It never occurred to me, or them I guess, that this would be an indictment of God.

  • I’m not Ben (a fact of which he is glad, I’m sure), but I’d like to take a crack at this from a different angle.

    The word “Hell” in that verse is a translation of the word “Gehenna,” which was a literal valley outside Jerusalem where you left unwanted things and burned them.

    I believe here, as elsewhere, Jesus is primarily concerned about the coming judgment on Jerusalem – a judgment where Gehenna will be filled with corpses at the hands of Rome. Jesus, here, is drawing a contrast between martyrdom (those who can kill the body) and falling under the coming wrath. The difference is that resurrection waits for the former group, so just the body is destroyed. But those who fall to the coming judgment will just be, well, dead, and that’s the end of that.

  • Realist1234

    I have alot of sympathy with the concept of ‘annihilationism’ but I am not 100% convinced it is taught in the Old or New Testaments.

    Ben – could you explain your understanding of Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man?

  • JD

    Excellent article. Thank you for this.

  • Herm

    AP, we are on two different wavelengths here.

    Other than we label it capital punishment when we legally as the state annihilate a body …

    or

    … the nervous system emotion pre-wired in our brain at our carnal birth, as is so of all other living animal species on earth, of a super strong instinct to survive…

    … do you feel a final death is a punishment like the final and never ending hell of anguished torture you just associated it with?

    I have very strong reasons to believe not all of mankind is recoverable from working in psych wards and maximum security prisons. I am not privy to God’s infinite, relatively speaking, awareness to know how to determine which was a mis-wired brain and which was the dark heart, soul, strength and mind of Satan.

    I do not believe in the fall of Man because I do not believe Man has ever risen that far to be susceptible to a fall anymore than any of my children when just beginning to crawl.

    I do know that everyone is different, with no one the same ever, with the a pretty certain accumulated knowledge that different environments were not the initial cause for those differences.

    To keep an eons long story short, I do not believe in any way that a final, know nothing, to be eventually forgotten death is a punishment but is a solution to lingering and festering spirits of destruction best for the future victims and the irrecoverable perpetrators. Those of mankind, or were once immortal in the kingdom of God according to the Bible, who cannot love cannot be rehabilitated for they are incapable to have ever been habilitated in the first place. Love is the bond that holds us together by empathy, compassion and forgiveness of others outside our individual spiritual skins (our soul).

    I, also, no longer believe that to inherit eternal life is a reward for achievement. I believe it is a determined continuance from mortality to immortality based only on a clear ability to love and bond to, with and in God. I think our Father uses our carnally born instinct to survive, initially at all cost, to entice us beyond the first bond of dependent love that we have for our carnal guardians who grace us each life under their care until determined we can be sufficiently responsible for ourselves (like legally at age 16 to drive, 18 to vote and 21 to drink). If we prove we cannot we’re restricted by our loving guardians from the freedom to roam free.

    I know we were each created equally loved by God. I know God can and does intervene to give us as many chances as we need, in His grace, to be “all that we can be”. That is why the determining all in how much we love the Lord our God is relative to each one of us individually for that all is different for each of us. If that all has no resemblance to love then that one heart/soul/strength/mind has no bond to be retrieved by in direct relationship with God in the Spirit. The same: if that love one has for themselves has no resemblance to the love of God or cannot be shared outside equally as with self with merciful others that one responsible heart/soul/strength/ mind has no bond to work with in the moment or to the end of eternity.

    If I am determined by my God, who I trust with my all, to be insufficiently bound in love, gauged by the criteria found in Luke 10:27, I truly desire the finality of eternal serenity and peace of no longer being responsibly aware to the results of my influence with others, including with and in God.

  • Herm
  • Arbustin

    This deuterocanonical work from somewhere between 100 BCE to 100 CE is what Ben may be talking about when he mentions Jewish thought being influenced by “outside thought.”

  • alwayspuzzled

    Maybe God is like a good teacher. If the student doesn’t get it right the first time, the student has to keeps trying until the student does get it right.

  • Herm

    I agree the “Trinity” must be suspect! Thanks!

  • Herm

    It is better to remain always puzzled, daring to voice our questions before Man and God, than it is to be all knowing left with no questions to ask. The Teacher is divine!!! We have an eternity to get it right as long as first our attitude is receptive to the bond of love.

  • Howard Schreiber

    thank you ben – I am not sure how to read
    If Hell Is Real, Why Did God Wait So Darn Long To Warn Us About It? from the beginning. Can you help? Press on!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    If God truly is a loving father then, as you say, he would do all he can to redeem his wayward children and not give up and exterminate them as annihilationists suggest.

  • Herm

    God does all He can. Why do you use words like give up and exterminate when sometimes it is most loving to just finally leave a sleeping dog lie in the bed it had made?

    When you die, and carnally that is a guarantee, what is so evil about you never again wake?

  • alwayspuzzled

    In agreement, especially that last sentence.

  • Andrew

    I thought the Old Testament was supposed to be read through “the lenses of Jesus” ( who did speak of hell as a real place of physical torment). I guess following this logic all your talk about total non-violence is null and void. If pacifism under “all” circumstances ( which I don’t see in the teachings of Jesus) is so important why did God wait so long to talk about it?

  • Meredith Indermaur

    Appreciate this, Phil!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Because God loves me. Because we are all of us children of God and valuable to him as individuals.
    Because I know I would never let my children die if I could save them no matter what it took to do so.
    If you do not consider someone worth saving you do not love them.
    If God is a God of love who loves all his creation God does not just love you and those you deem worthy of his (or your) love but everyone. If you would find heaven a hell because there are those you cannot love and share heaven with, then God will deliver from your sin so that you will learn to emulate his universal love.

  • I fear this will be a long post!

    You have not met, I have, those who do not and cannot …

    Oh, I’ve met people quite like who you describe, but that’s just it — that’s us, in this world, with our limitations and theirs, in the circumstances in which we live, with the biological flaws with which we are burdened. We see what we see, but cannot see what never had a chance to be.
    Today’s criminal may once have been a child exposed to vaporized lead in the air. That greedy CEO grew up in extreme poverty, fighting for her share of food. The sociopath was abandoned as a nine year old and passed around foster homes for eight years until aging out of the system. The one who seems unrepentent was taught at the end of a belt never to show weakness. The person who spends so much of every day in a state of outrage and grievance against others was born with a deficiency in their amygdala, promoting a constant low-level state of anxiety and aggression that flares up uncontrollably when exposed to unexpected situations.

    We can never know, but divinity can determine that which never was. There is no sin so grievous that eternity is not time enough to forgive it. Divinity has that perspective, but we mortals cannot, and I think that has shaped how we think about the world After. Those who suffer injustice never want to imagine their persecutors living comfortably afterward, but that’s due to the shortness and fraility of human lives. If we all lived forever, then by a measure of infinity, no finite sin leaves no room for atonement.
    Otherwise, we are left with the suggestion that God judges us based upon the hand he dealt us — that a person whose life was comfortable and simple is judged just the same as a person who lived a short, violent life of suffering and persecution. If God is just, then this cannot be the case.
    You have to ignore Matthew 10:28

    And so I do, in light of 1 John 4:18.

    Did not answer my question

    Apologies, I thought it did. To clarify: I find it evil that some people, speaking metaphorically, would be dealt a short stick and then judged morally wanting for having the ill luck to draw it, and then would suffer eternal consequences as a result. While I believe we are morally culpable, I also believe we are spiritually the equivalent of small children, incapable of truly understanding our actions or how they affect others. Some of us are coddled and others are reared harshly, but is it a child’s fault who their parents are, or if they are born different from others?
    What I’m saying is that our actions on this world cannot be held representative of the quality of our final incarnations. We live too short in lives that are too influential, and we are ignorant of so, so much. We need proper time, guidance, and maturity to grow into what we can become, and not everyone can reach that point all at the same time, much less with the time we are given on Earth (which for some of us is far, far too little).

    Why would you even believe, from what you know for certain, that eternity would be enjoyable for everyone?

    In a world without scarcity, irrevocable loss, loneliness or unattainable goals, with all the time in the world to learn and adapt and change and find new things to pursue? As I said elsewhere, I find it difficult to imagine, but it must be so, and there must be a solution, which I can only imagine to be a great slumber that is beyond dreaming, where the soul can lay dormant for as long as it needs to purge itself of weariness. Or perhaps return to Earth to try again, carrying just a smidgen more experience or perhaps something to teach the children. Stranger ideas have been had.

    What is to be feared of having no more responsibility ever to awareness?

    Atheists believe that death is the cessation of all awareness and the irrevocable loss of self. Would you propose that atheists should not fear murder? Or find murderers morally troublesome? This is what you describe to me — that I should be morally neutral at worst about the concept of an external consciousness which, for reasons of its own, gives rise to some and brings others low, and ultimately snuffs out those it finds wanting, some for sins no more grievous than failing to love a life of unhappiness and squallor.

    And… I find that an evil thought, a tyranny from on high which is utterly unlike that which I have experienced in my communion with the divine. If such a being existed, I wouldn’t feel sufficient to simply not believe in or refuse to worship it, I would feel honor-bound to oppose it, whether opposition would be futile or even foolhardy. If I perish and find myself judged with the abyss beneath me (much less a fiery pit), then this biological caricature I call my incarnation feels the right thing to do would be to invoke Huckleberry Finn: “All right, then, I’ll go to Hell.”
    What you are saying regarding life is no different in what the serpent told Eve, “surely we won’t die”.

    The serpent wasn’t wrong. Adam and Eve didn’t die, at least, no sooner than they would have otherwise, and neither were they otherwise fated to live, else God would have no reason to fear that they would eat from the Tree of Life and live forever.

    Although Christian tradition is that Genesis is a story of how death and sin came into the world, Jewish tradition is more inclined that it was a story of how humanity came to have the capacity for both good and evil, and the Midrash points out a further flaw in the story: though the serpent beguiled, it was the humans who interpreted God wrongly by including the further prohibition against touching the tree, which in midrashic expansion, the serpent exploits by pushing Eve upon the tree to demonstrate that she does not die as promised from the touch, and thus the threat of the fruits is similarly exaggerated. Not knowing good nor evil, she believes this to be the case, having been convinced that the prohibition was in error.

    The midrashic explanation is that Adam invented this restriction in order to further distance himself from the temptation to eat of the tree, and so, likewise, humanity invents restrictive measures to distance themselves from evil temptations, but then forget the true reason for the prohibitions.
    I tend to think that it’s another example of how when humans communicate about the divine, they are limited by their perception of divinity, and so, too, are their attempts to communicate.

    As I’ve mentioned before all of this conjecture is superfluous because none of us knows what comes after this.

    I claim otherwise, although I can never hope to communicate in a manner which will satisfy you, and must therefore resort to this flawed and insufficient method of persuasion. I can’t even say that you would be convinced if you had experienced what I experienced (the ground falling away, only to be replaced by grassy plains, an endless horizon, the lifting of all burdens and the immutable message you belong here…) because I know, when others have communicated contrary experiences to me, I have been unable to accept them as authoritative as well. I don’t hold you at fault for not believing, nor do I believe you will suffer from failing to believe as you seem to have found a comfortable place in your faith without fear of unduly harsh judgment.

    I just hate that others fear going beyond, and for good reason, when they are taught that what lies beyond is as much threat as promise. If there is a permanent destruction of self beyond that veil, then I can only believe that it comes only as a last resort, when literally nothing else is possible — and even then, I cannot be certain of that. It is that fear, and the aggression it often motivates, which leads me to speak out about my experiences.

    It is actually from applying the commands of Jesus that I am certain of His divinity because I see how they all have contributed to the results I would choose for me, mine and all others.

    Not an argument, but this so often makes me think of John 14.

    Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”

    That line, believe me for the sake of the works themselves has influenced me, as a Pantheist and not a Christian, that what I do has value even if I myself never live to see it. I work toward a future I would prefer to see, but even if I cease to be without ever knowing it, I take satisfaction in working every day to bring about that world. If I am wrong, then I would rather be wrong but not apathetic or complacent, and if I am hellbound, then I will be hellbound but with a clear conscience (such as it is, sayeth the sociopath).

  • Sometimes this sociopath fails to understand how others can be so utterly without empathy or decency…

  • I’m sorry you’ve apparently been called a sociapath, as your comments make it clear you aren’t. The people who support this view, however, make me wonder.

  • Herm

    Please, answer my question: When you die, and carnally that is a guarantee, what is so evil about you never again waking?

    In the same line who is responsible for the existence of death and why?

    You are skirting everything I patiently share with you by your own repetitious formula substantiated only by evidence you see while ignoring evidence that says your formula is flawed. There is nothing biblical to support your arguments. You seem to be saying that God must be a certain way, according to your values, or you’re simply not going to let Him get away with it.

    What do you do when one child you love insists on murdering all the rest of the children you love equally? This is real. This happens more often than you seem to be aware of. Ask Ben.

  • For me, empathy is an intellectual idea, something I can only approach by careful consideration, often excessive amounts of it since I’m not skillful at grasping what is and isn’t a reasonable or likely emotional response. It has been proposed that I am somewhere on the autistic spectrum, rather than a true sociopath, but pinning down that diagnosis has proven difficult.
    (Hypothesis: Storming into a building and shouting “Who do I have to kill to get an alternative diagnosis?!” would be met unfavorably. Unfortunately, it may also be what is required to make it happen…)

  • It was my understanding that sociopaths lack empathy, and you exhibit it. Autism seems more probably going by what you’ve said. Of course, I’m no psychiatrist. Your hypothesis is correct, I’m sure. I’m sorry if you have been misdiagnosed. Personally, I feel in hindsight I’ve been misdiagnosed with clinical depression. However, I’m not sure. It seems that I have something anyway.

  • RonnyTX

    Andrew to Benjamin:
    I thought the Old Testament was supposed to be read through “the lenses of Jesus” ( who did speak of hell as a real place of physical torment). I guess following this logic all your talk about total non-violence is null and void. If pacifism under “all” circumstances ( which I don’t see in the teachings of Jesus) is so important why did God wait so long to talk about it?

    Ronny to Andrew:
    Andrew, if you study up on it, you will find that Jesus Christ never spoke of a hell of eternal torment. And that there was no hell in the bible, as it was written in Hebrew and Greek. And an eternal hell of torment, that was added onto the bible by Jerome, in his RCC Latin Vulgate translation of the bible.

    Here’s a good article, on some of this.
    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/jesusteachingonhell.html

  • RonnyTX

    Thank you Benjamin, for your blog post here. :-) And you’re right. If there was a hell of eternal torment, God would of warned Adam and Eve about it. But as you rightly point out, God simply told them that the wages of sin was death.

  • RonnyTX

    Fulgentian:
    “And then there’s the New Testament which isn’t clear either.”
    How is Jesus’ teaching on hell ‘unclear’?
    https://carm.org/what-are-the-

    And the question is an odd one – “if hell is what awaits the majority of people after death, why is it mentioned so infrequently?”
    What would be the point of mentioning it more frequently?
    And you could say the same about many Christian doctrines – e.g. because the Trinity is not mentioned in the OT and its teaching in the NT ‘unclear’ it must be suspect.

    Please understand – any constructive feedback would help me to clarify my own understanding of this.

    Ronny to Fulgentian:
    Below is a link to a good webpage, that explains such things as Jesus Christ never teaching on a hell of eternal torment.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/hell_test.html

  • RonnyTX

    James:
    I put myself in the Universalist camp. It just makes sense to me. How it all plays out I leave to God. I can even live with annihilationism in the sense that it means there is no such thing as eternal conscious torment. What I can not understand is how anyone can reconcile eternal damnation with a loving God.

    Ronny to James:
    I can’t understand that either James. But I believed in a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment, until I was around 55 years old. Why did I believe that? Because I was taught such in the church I grew up in. That’s it, that’s the only reason I ever believed such. God/Jesus Christ, certainly never taught me such. In fact, as soon as I was born of God, at 16 years old, I immediately wanted every person to have the same type of relationship with God, as I then had. :-) But then it was back home for me and back to my home church. And there I had already been taught, that God had chosen to only save some people and the rest were going to hell. Then nearly 6 years ago, I first ran upon someone online, who was Christian universalist in belief. I did as God had taught me to do previously, I listened to what people like that had to say and the scriptures they used, to back that up. And that is how I came to be a Christian universalist in believe. It was also why, as I walked my little dog by a local cemetery, I would break out in song, singing when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoysing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Andy:
    Nothing wrong with being a Universalist :)

    Great article as always, Ben!

    Ronny to Andy:
    :-) Agreeing on both counts! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Benjamin to Andy:
    You’re right ;-) I’m just not there. I’d like to be, but I don’t see it in scripture.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    Benjamin, one scripture that helped me to see such, is in Luke chapter 2. There, where the angel told the shepherds, that the birth of Jesus Christ, was good news for all people. :-) And the scripture passage I put below, which says all died in Adam, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. :-)

    “20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthian 15:20,28

  • Psalm023

    Wow. Now I’m confused. These are things to contemplate and study.

    Being taught by pastors and seemingly accurate bible teachers, I never questioned the concept of hell. I remember the story of the rich man who died and in Gehenna, was in a place where he was tormented and worried about his living relatives and asked Abram, who he could see above, by a supernatural divide, if Abram would ask God to send a message to his relatives. He wanted to spare them going to this place. There he could see a dead man leaning upon Abraham’s bossom, being comforted. He was previously a poor beggar man. Jesus taught this parable, and it was assumed he was speaking of a place that really exists, those undeserving under this great divide, and the deserving ones waiting with the Jewish fathers.

    We read warnings in Revelation about how our rebellion and sin gets us thrown into the lake of fire, reserved for the fallen angels and satan. And in another instance, there had to be a hell, as one of the Epistles explained how Jesus went there to minister and preach to the dead.

    As far as Adam and Eve, they were cursed with death, because they ate of the tree that might give them power to try to be as God. (Is this correct?). Their sin cause all men to have to die once, physically. But New and Old Testments assure us that the soul (spiritual body) will live forever. It’s assumed that life after death is not a good thing, unless our soul/spirit belongs to Jesus.

    Eternal life with God, or eternal life without God, seems to be the NT’s focus. It would be hell, to never return to our Father and be what he meant us to be from the beginning. If our Father in heaven gives us new bodies, like the angels, as Jesus described, it would be a glorious existence but not as glorious as being a son or daughter of God forever, in His presence and glory. It’s so hard to comprehend, but doesn’t anyone feel that heaven is just around the corner? Many people are having dreams of heavenly places that are almost too difficult to describe.

    An important topic to get back to.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I apply

  • Bones

    Carm says its real so that settles it.

    I’m on a phone. Anything on there about how hell was brought over from paganism specifically tartarus and the concept of a place of punishment.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I am apply to God the same values he himself sets; God is not a hypocrite. You invent a theology in which he is a hyoocrite as far as I can tell simply to keep people out of heaven you’ld rather not be there.
    God doesn’t in life intervene to prevent actual murders of actual children by killing the murderers, yet you suggest somehow God is impotent to protect the blessed in heaven from the spirits of dead sinners other than by annhilating them: this is absurd.
    Why on earth would I want to be extinguished? Why should I not want to see my loved ones again? Why would I want all that I am, everything I have learnt, everything I have fekf and experienced to be gone as if it were worth nothing? Why should I not want rather to live in love with God? Why are you simply talking nonsense?
    I dislike bandying around proof texts, as you can construct any kind of hideous idiocy by stringing together out of context biblical quotes, and if you are not aware of the Bible saying God is a god of love then you have obviously never read it. However if you do want proof texts, there are any number of them:

    “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22
    “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me”. (John 12:32)
    “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has himself intended, that as a plan for the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, in him” Ephesians 1:9-10
    “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
    so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-10
    [God] “Who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth” 1 Timothy 2:4
    [Jesus] “Who gave himself a ransom for all” 1 Timothy 2:6
    “by him to reconcile all things unto himself” Colossians 1:19

    I am prepared to be corrected (as the Biblwe speaks in many different voices) but nowhere does it say that Jesus came to save only some sinners, or that Jesus failed in his aim.

    “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked”. Ezek. 33:1

    (And what God wants, he gets.)

  • Realist1234

    Universalism is not the same as annihilationism which Ben supports. Universalism usually means ‘all roads lead to God’ or ‘everyone will be saved’, which simply isnt true.

  • Realist1234

    Per my posting below – Ben you still havent answered my question – one has to ask the question – if the ‘unsaved’ simply cease to exist, which is what atheists believe for all, why did Jesus purposefully create fear when talking about the destination of those who do not follow Him?

  • Andy

    I am aware of the difference. I didn’t imply that Ben was a Universalist, and if you read the comments we made, you can see he didn’t infer that I was calling him one.

    As to the veracity of Universalism, I don’t care if you don’t believe it’s true or not.

  • Jesus did occasionally warn of a coming judgement and referred to what would happen in Gehenna, but these warnings were levied at the religious leaders, not the general public.

    In this regard, it’s hard to understand Jesus without understanding the seriousness of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, which Jesus prophesied about in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. Jesus warned them that if they did not change their ways, there was a coming judgement and that they’d end up thrown into the fires of Gehenna.

    As it turns out, the leaders did not change their ways. At the end, Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, “Oh, if you would only do the things that would bring peace!”

    But they did not desire peace– so they staged a rebellion against Rome a few years later, and Rome responded by crushing them. They crucified upwards of 500 people a day, and destroyed the temple as Jesus predicted. Also, it’s most likely that their bodies were tossed into Gehenna and burned.

    So, when we understand the historical realities that Jesus was speaking into, we begin to see a bigger picture than what we see when we spiritualize everything in scripture and forget to see Jesus as a prophet speaking to an actual group of people.

  • Realist1234

    Sorry I didnt realise you were responding to others, rather than Ben’s main article. As for its truthfulness, its Jesus who says it isnt true. Up to you to believe Him or not.

  • Andy

    Maybe you should read some more of Ben’s work, like this one: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/what-jesus-talked-about-when-he-talked-about-hell/

  • Matthew

    What I don´t understand is how do we deal with people´s supposed personal experiences? My wife is currently readind a book called “Entrapment” (that´s the English title) about a guy who apparently traveled to hell and claims (or confirms) the typical evangelical understanding of hell. I admit I have not read the book myself, but I know there are other books like this one out there.

  • Bones

    I think you’ll find Near Death Experiences have little to do with a person’s belief system.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/04/the-science-of-near-death-experiences/386231/

    My grandmother said my long dead grandfather had come to take her.

    Then she died.

  • Matthew

    I didn´t mean to down vote you, but I also didn´t want to up vote you either. I have to check out the link and then of course think about it.

  • RonnyTX

    Ben, I think I’m remembering right, that a lot of preachers teach, that Matthew chapter 24 is about a yet future judgement? Yet these same preachers seem to know little if anything, about the judgement that came upon Israel, in 70AD. I don’t even remember hearing such spoken of, in the church I grew up in. Nor do I ever remember it being spoken of and preached about, by some TV preachers.

  • RonnyTX

    Here’s a good article, about Lazarus and the rich man.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/Lazarus-byHuie.htm

    And if you click on the link, at the bottom of that page, that leads to another page, which also has article links about this and other things as well.

  • Truth first

    Dear Herm,

    This response has nothing to do with this topic, but I do not seem to be able to finalise my postings on the other thread. They’re just not showing up. Perhaps this one will work. You responded to my remark that one gets a better insight to God’s mind after being reborn, and told me I was talking with a forked tongue, remember. This post seeks to take away the misunderstanding.

    “How can you who brandish the avalon of Truth First dare to claim you know where you will spend the rest of eternity?”

    Isn’t that is the basis of our faith and the absolute unmerited favour and privilege of being a Christian, Herm? After all, “faith is to be sure of what we hope for and the evidence of things not seen”(Hebrew 11:1).

    We are sure to enter God’s Kingdom the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour to the exclusion of all other gods and idols. The moment we acknowledge we are all born sinners and will avail to absolutely nothing if we do not reconcile ourselves with God, something we can only do because Jesus did this for us and shed his blood for us, we KNOW that we will spend the rest of eternity with Him. Hallelujah!

    Isn’t THAT what is the Good News? Does it get any better than that? When we acknowledge His resurrection, virgin birth, and all the other things our creed mentions, including his holy Trinity, we’re justified in God’s eyes, and are clothed in Jesus’ cloak of righteousness, NOT our own. Our sins will be as if they were never there. When we accept the Bible as God’s word, God breathed, infallible and inerrant, God KNOWS you, and your name will be written in the Book of Life.

    All who are God’s children have been given a measure of Jesus Christ, whose helper is present in us. Through the Holy Spirit we are now better able to discern what is godly and what not. God grants us extra wisdom, even if this wisdom may seem folly in the eyes of an unbelieving world. We receive a discernment that is literally “not of this world”.

    Luke 16:15

    “For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. … But Jesus said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes, but God knows your hearts.

    1 Corinthians 3:18

    “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.

    As for what heaven or hell will be like: the Bible gives pointers in the book of Revelation: streets of gold, yet transparent, shining the light of God everywhere. there will be a river if life and a tree of life straddling the two river sides. There will be no sun, moon, stars, sea, mountains and animals. We will be glorifying Jesus/God all the time. Hell is where the absence of God will be, the gnashing of teeth and the lake of fire which was made for the angels but which will be the residence of those not accepting Jesus Christ. So although we don’t know EXACTLY what it is, we do know ENOUGH to guide us in making the right decision.

    I meant it in THAT sense when I said that God reveals more of himself during our sanctification. In a way that could be seen as God giving us a better view of his mind. You’re right of course when you say that it is difficult to compare God’s infinite eternal mind to ours, granted. Yet we still are made in his image. But if you find my phrasing unfortunate, I would understand that, and might as well not use it that way. In any case, I hope that after my explanation your judgement of me speaking with a forked tongue will be somewhat less harsh. After all, I am not lying and in no way claim that God and we are even close to one, as too many panentheists do. It is just as well that God knows our hearts, isn’t it…;) Hope this helped.

    Yours in Christ,

    Truth First

  • Realist1234

    I have but whilst he may ‘hope’ for universalism, he agrees it is not taught in the New Testament. I will make a fuller response to his view that Jesus was only ever referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 when he mentioned hell or punishment, in my response to him above.

  • Realist1234

    I do not think you can go by so-called near death experiences as by definition the person hasn’t actually died, ie they are not brain dead. I am not convinced of annihilationism as I am not convinced it is taught in the New Testament, but I am open to the possibility. The problem for those who defend it is that they argue more on a ‘moral’ level rather than what Jesus and the apostles actually taught.

  • seashell

    The “Entrapment” book sounds like it’s in the same category as the “heaven tourism” literature, some of which have been recalled by the Christian publishers for various reasons, none of them good.

  • Herm
  • Herm

    Ronny, the buck stops with the blind who cannot see that they are being led by the blind. Some good news for those who actually wish to see the light; there is, today, a Spirit of truth who can begin to remove the plank from each of our eyes through our spiritual hearts and minds (that are in each of us, all of one mankind, in the spitting image of our creator God).

  • Ron McPherson

    “The problem for those who defend it is that they argue more on a moral level rather than what Jesus and the apostles actually taught.”

    This is true for some but certainly not all. I actually came to an annihilationism view based from Jesus’ teachings. I was taught the traditional view my entire life but personally found it difficult to reconcile it against so much of Jesus’ teachings regarding eternal life vs death. That is, to accept the traditional view meant I had to disregard so much of Jesus’ other teachings, namely that not all will inherit eternal life. However, I also acknowledge there are reasonable arguments for the traditional view and universalism as well.

  • RonnyTX

    Psalm023:
    As far as Adam and Eve, they were cursed with death, because they ate of the tree that might give them power to try to be as God. (Is this correct?). Their sin cause all men to have to die once, physically. But New and Old Testments assure us that the soul (spiritual body) will live forever. It’s assumed that life after death is not a good thing, unless our soul/spirit belongs to Jesus.

    Ronny to Psalm023
    “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7

    As we can see from this scripture, the living soul of man is composed of the combination of the body God made and the breath of life He put in that body.

    “7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7

    In this scripture we see that our body returns to the dust and the spirit part of us, returns back to God.

    “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4 KJV

    This simply tells us, that the soul that sins, it shall die and we all die.

    “50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:50,58

    We see in the abovw scripture, death being described as sleep. And when we’re asleep, we don’t know anything. When asleep, we are not aware of the passing of time.

    “16 Who (Jesus Christ) only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:14

    We are shown in the above scripture, that only Jesus Christ has immortality. So, I don’t believe the rest of us do. We will though, for when God raises us from the dead, we will also be made immortal. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew:
    What I don´t understand is how do we deal with people´s supposed personal experiences? My wife is currently readind a book called “Entrapment” (that´s the English title) about a guy who apparently traveled to hell and claims (or confirms) the typical evangelical understanding of hell. I admit I have not read the book myself, but I know there are other books like this one out there.

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Matthew, the most I’ve heard about it in my lifetime, is that the typical evangelical understanding of hell, is that a lost person dies, goes to hell and they never get out. So I wonder why this guy says he went to hell and if he did, why/how would he get out of such?

  • RonnyTX

    Psalms023:
    We read warnings in Revelation about how our rebellion and sin gets us thrown into the lake of fire, reserved for the fallen angels and satan. And in another instance, there had to be a hell, as one of the Epistles explained how Jesus went there to minister and preach to the dead.

    Ronny to Psalms023:
    If you read in Revelations 14:10, you will find the people in the lake of fire, will be in the presence of the Lamb. Why will he be there and what will he do? Why Jesus Christ, he will bring them all to repentance. :-)

    And there are other scriptures which tell us, our God is a consuming fire and that everyone will be salted with fire. And indeed that happens. For it is God who burns out of us, that which does not need to be there, that which needs getting rid of. But God doesn’t do such to punish up. No, far from that, for God does such, for our own good! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Psalms023:
    Eternal life with God, or eternal life without God, seems to be the NT’s focus. It would be hell, to never return to our Father and be what he meant us to be from the beginning. If our Father in heaven gives us new bodies, like the angels, as Jesus described, it would be a glorious existence but not as glorious as being a son or daughter of God forever, in His presence and glory. It’s so hard to comprehend, but doesn’t anyone feel that heaven is just around the corner? Many people are having dreams of heavenly places that are almost too difficult to describe.

    Ronny to Psalms023:
    A lot of good reading in the following two articles, about the words eternal, eternity, etc, in some translations of the bible.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/books/PowerOfLifeAndDeathInAGreekFourLetterWord.html

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/EternalPunishmentNotTrueToGreek.html

  • Ron McPherson

    That’s a great point!

  • Ron McPherson

    It’s probably fair to say that the 70 AD event is spoken of less in dispensational churches.

  • Matthew

    Maybe God wanted to reveal to him what hell is really like so that he could report to others what he discovered after he left?

  • Bones

    Yes but why does God give other people who aren’t believers and certainly many revived suicides, positive experiences?

    Check it out.

    The vast number of NDE’s are positive regardless of the person’s belief system.

  • Matthew

    I have no idea Bones. I have never really thought about it too much, but I suppose I need to. Are you saying that only positive NDE´s are the ones we should believe?

  • Bones

    I read a portion of Tuttle’s book here and frankly it sounds exactly like Dante’s hell and his description of demons is frankly unbelievable.

    Just reading some of it sounds like Christian propaganda and full of Christian cliches like God spoke with a voice like ‘roaring thunder’ and heaven had a gate (why) and of course an angel greeted him.

    It really is light in content but heavy in Christian cliches.

    https://www.createspace.com/pub/community/give.review.do?id=1146397

    I’m saying that the vast majority of NDEs do not support Evangelical/Traditional theology.

    As for what they are = who knows. The science is still out.

  • Matthew

    Thanks as always Bones.

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew to Ronny:
    Maybe God wanted to reveal to him what hell is really like so that he could report to others what he discovered after he left?

    Ronny to Matthew:
    No Matthew, God did not do that. For there is no Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment, for God to tell anyone about. But I surely understand, why so many people think there is such a place. For I was brought up in church and taught there was. I was also taught the lie in church, that the ones who taught such, could not be wrong. That was a taught lie and so is the teaching of hell.

    Please read the following webpage article. It has a lot of quotes by various people, who have believed in and taught a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. Then ask yourself, if you had the power to, would you even eternally torment a dog or cat, much less a fellow human being? And since we know we wouldn’t, then why think that an all loving God/Jesus Christ, would do just that?

    http://www.tentmaker.org/Quotes/hell-fire.htm

  • Matthew

    Thanks RonnyTX. I´ll have a look at the article..

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew to Ronny:
    You’re welcome Matthew. :-) And I just hope you can get through that article. I have a couple of times; but then when I wanted to reread it other times, I just couldn’t. I think you’ll see why, when you see some of the quotes there.

    And on that webpage as well, are links to a lot of other good pages and articles. Some of them about the word hell and how that is a mistranslation of words like sheol, hades, Gehenna and Tartarus.

  • RonnyTX

    Ron to RonnyTX:
    It’s probably fair to say that the 70 AD event is spoken of less in dispensational churches.

    RonnyTX to Ron:
    Oh, I don’t doubt that at all Ron! I was in 2 local churches, for the first 27 years of my life, plus listening to a number of preachers on TV at times and don’t think I ever heard any of them, talk about the destruction of Jerusalem and the scripture warning about that, going to come to pass. And so many preachers said that in Matthew 24, was about the end of this age and a 7 year tribulation; but I haven’t seen that, that way, for about 30 years; but I was brought up in church, taught that way. But at about 30 years old, I came to see more how Ralph Woodrow saw such and explained how he believed on this in his book,Great Prophecies of the Bible. I need to read that book again and see if I still see it as laid out there or not?
    But I know I don’t believe in a last 7 year tribulation, at the end of this age. And the best I can see it and understand it at this time, I believe the next age will be the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, right here on earth.

  • RonnyTX

    Herm to Ronny:
    Ronny, the buck stops with the blind who cannot see that they are being led by the blind. Some good news for those who actually wish to see the light; there is, today, a Spirit of truth who can begin to remove the plank from each of our eyes through our spiritual hearts and minds (that are in each of us, all of one mankind, in the spitting image of our creator God).

    Ronny to Herm:
    And I was blind to a lot of things Herm and that even after I was born of God, when I was 16 years old. Nothing unusual about that, as I think it happens to most anyone, brought up in our various denominational churches. No one in those know everything and so much that is taught, is not truth, not of God. But 20 years ago, God got me back to watching a good preacher on TV. :-) Was this guy right about everything? No, no more than I am or anyone else. But two of the best things he said in his preaching, was that it upset him so bad, when some people looked up to him, as if he were God! And for a good while there he stressed, if you lack wisdom, if you don’t understand something and really want to, then study the scriptures for yourself, asking God to guide you and show you the truth. And he gave the scripture in James chapter one, that says just that. Plus, I ran upon that scripture about when Paul and Silas preached to some people at Berea. And it didn’t say they believed what they said and that without question. No, it said the searched the scripture, to see if what Paul and Silas said was true or not? My these scriptures sure shocked me,when I first saw them! For I had been brought up in church taught, that if I questioned what the preacher said, then I was in fact questioning God! And if I didn’t agree with out pastor, I was calling God a liar! So in my teens and later, with just a couple of exceptions, I agree and never thought to disagree, with what my pastor and church leaders taught. But then in time, God completely freed me from that. :-) And I don’t doubt at all, that in time, what God has done for one and for some, before all is said and done, God will do the same and that for every person! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234 to Andy:
    Universalism is not the same as annihilationism which Ben supports. Universalism usually means ‘all roads lead to God’ or ‘everyone will be saved’, which simply isnt true.

    Ronny to Realist1234:
    Realist, the type of universalism you’re referring to, is what I believe is called Unitarian Universalist? And as best I understand it, they teach and believe, that all roads/religions lead to God. But as a universalist in belief, that is not how I believe. I do believe that everyone will be saved/ born of God; but that by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. That is, that God/Jesus Christ will let each person know they’re lost, lead them to repentance and take them on to faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for them there. That is, Jesus Christ there, taking all of their sins upon himself. And when God does that for any person, then they learn from God, just how greatly God/Jesus Christ does love them! :-)

  • Herm

    Thank you very much for sharing that with me.

    I have wrestled with God in disagreement and have never been abandoned. I have questioned pastors and some abandoned me.

    When I was fathering my young children I welcomed their disagreements, not as calling me a liar, but as showing me the respect to be openly honest with me. There were occasions where in their questions I learned from them. In every case, my children and I learned together because of the freedom I graced them, as their responsible adult guardian, to be honest with me and my promise to always be honest with them. When our child and parent relationship blossomed to reciprocally bless us all most was when we first learned to trust the empathy, compassion, and forgiveness, the nature of our familial bond of love, to value each other as we would ourselves.

    I have since given up my entire heart and mind to become a child born of God. I am today more free than ever to speak to, with and in my family of God, sustained in the complete faith of our divine familial bond of reciprocal love, never to be abandoned because we might disagree.

    God does not get my worship because He/They demand it or I will go to hell. God gets my awe and total worship because He/They serve me, love me, protect me, nurture me, and teach me as one of Their own. I don’t know if the contrast can be understood as to what I am saying but … I know how insignificant, stupid, ignorant, and of comparatively no value to the whole of things that I am and yet God invests in me. I have nothing today, as a little child, worthy to serve, love, protect, nurture and teach God.

    Why do so many set themselves up in high places demanding us to serve them as Christ’s ambassador, when Christ served us first because we had and have nothing to serve Christ worthy of our creator God? A better question might be, why do people agree to serve those self appointed ambassadors when Christ lives to be served and serve personally, one on One?

    You and I are free to speak directly to, with and in God in all honesty. I have called God names and told Him right to His face He couldn’t possibly exist. I wasn’t abandoned and I learned where God was right and I was wrong. I was not wrong in being point blank honest with God. That was before I was filled with the Holy Spirit.

    Thank you, again, for taking the time to comment to me in honesty!

    Love you!

  • Realist1234

    Jesus is contrasting the power of man to simply ‘kill’ the body, with that of God who alone has the power to pass judgement and ‘kill’ the whole human being, ie body and spirit. If anything, he is using the horror of Gehenna as an image of ‘hell’. You cannot get away from it – His words are fear-inducing for those who are not His followers.

  • Realist1234

    See my response to Phil’s response to you – I think he is wrong.

  • Realist1234

    And yet that isn’t what Jesus or his apostles said. It is just what you want to believe.

  • Ron McPherson

    RonnyTX is basing his belief (Christian Universalism) on his understanding of scripture. I base mine (annihilationism) on my understanding of scripture. You base your belief (traditional view) on your understanding of scripture. We each can back up our views from an assortment of texts. In other words, I believe we do much disservice to dismiss RonnyTX view as if he arrived at it because he merely ‘wants’ to believe it. He arrived at it thru his study of it. He’s shared an abundant amount of scripture in support of it.

    Peace

  • Why does he say God will kill the body and soul “in Gehenna?” Gehenna is a physical location. You’d never think it was Hell unless you already believed in Hell and read it back into the passage.

    Also, God doesn’t “kill the soul” in traditional Hell. The soul is very much alive in Hell.

    Your way doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • Phil is correct on his Gehenna reference, however, if we just single out the word “kill”, I’d invite you to consider that your position is one that completely redefines what that means and makes it some kind of weird metaphor for “torture for all eternity.” Same goes for the countless references of the wicked being destroyed- your position simply does not take that literally, but instead redefines it to fit the ECT position.

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234 to Ronny:
    And yet that isn’t what Jesus or his apostles said. It is just what you want to believe.

    Ronny to Realist1234:
    Realist, I know how God/Jesus Christ saved me, so why should I not believe, that what God did for me, God will not also so for all people? For God let me know I was lost, not in a right relationship with God. And with me in the presence of God who is holy, God showed me my sin and led me to repentance. When I repented/agreed with God, the love of God began to pour out on me. :-) And God put a picture in my mind of 3 crosses and God led me see and understand, that on that center cross was Jesus Christ and he was there for me, in my place, taking all of my sins upon himself. That is how I was born of God/Jesus Christ. And when God/Jesus Christ did that for me, I also got the desire that every last person, have the same type of relationship with God, as I then had. God gave me that desire. :-) But the church I was in, they had taught me that such was not possible. Now I simply don’t believe, as they taught me Calvinism. That God was simply going to save some people and the rest God was sending to hell. No, now I simply believe, that what God has done for me and for some other people, before all is said and done, God/ Jesus Christ will do the same and that for every last person, from Adam on down. :-) And yes, I see that both from scripture and from what God/Jesus Christ did for me personally, in my being born of God.

    P.S.
    I don’t suppose I will get to post any in the morning. Going with my oldest Sis over to the Dallas area, visiting with her oldest son, his wife and their 3 little ones. :-) And figure we will stay over there, most of the day. Hope to post more with you, later on.

  • RonnyTX

    Thank you Ron. :-) Wish I could say more tonight; but I better get to sleep soon! (ha) Gotta be up early tomorrow, to go with Sis to visit her oldest son, his wife and their 3 little ones! :-) Long car trip, over to where they live!

  • Don’t you understand, Benjamin? Christ died at the right time for the ungodly – as in it was just simply right to fill all the rooms in God’s torture chamber so all the glory would go to him when he stopped.

    In all reality though – I appreciate this post. Yet another reason to think hard about our beliefs concerning God and ask with our “father” Abraham, “will not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

  • Jesus said that he is the way and that no one can come to the Father except through Him. When the Word became flesh and appeared on earth about three thousand years after Adam sinned many, many people had lived and died without even hearing the name Jesus – so they could not be and are not yet saved. So where are they? Are they in Hell suffering? Are they awaiting judgment at the Resurrection? Or are they awaiting Resurrection to another physical life when they will have their “first” chance to decide whether to accept Jesus and come to God? The reason Christianity does not understand Hell is because they do not understand God’s plan for man. I’ll provide one little conundrum: If you go to almost any funeral the service you will hear about the Resurrection. If, as most believe, the righteous die and go to Heaven to be with the “Lord” then why do they need resurrected? Is there some better state than being in Heaven with God?

  • Ron McPherson

    Yep. And yet the irony is that diehard ECT proponents accuse us of ignoring Jesus’ clear words. Go figure ha.

  • Bones

    Funeral services are for the grieving and mourning and to comfort them.

    They do nothing for those who have died.

  • He probably “saw” Hell because that’s what he conceived Hell to be like. I generally consider NDEs to be our brains freaking out due to lack of oxygen.

  • I am an annihilationist because of exegetical reasons. It just so happens that it also makes somewhat more moral sense than eternal torture

  • Matthew

    I think I thought about this possibility just yesterday Phil Ledgerwood, but I wasn´t able to put it into words. Thanks :-)

  • I grew up in a dispensational, fundamentalist church, and the understanding was all that about the distant future as well.

    But it raises the question, doesn’t it – why would Jesus warn his actual audience about things that would happen thousands of years (and counting) later? Why would he say things like, “This generation shall not pass away until….” But if you assume Jesus is talking about an imminent judgment against Jerusalem, everything sort of makes a lot more sense.

    I think we have made Jesus primarily about eternal destinies because that has significance to -us-.

  • One4Life

    This article is very interesting to me. I need to study up on this more and read a well thought out and researched book on hell focused on Biblical studies of the word and origin of this doctrine. I’ve never really thought about it much. I realized recently when I turned on the radio and my children freaked out about a sermon on hell the radio station was playing that my kids do not hear much of anything in our Church about hell. It felt good they responded this way. The preaching approach on this sermon was so foreign to them. My two older kids have been taught to have complete confidence in their baptism. They don’t doubt or feel any need to get Gods approval – they know they are his in Christ. They have complete confidence in Gods grace through Christ’s death on the cross given to us in baptism and His continuing grace and presence in the Sacraments so that this style of fearful hell and damnation preaching was completely foreign and laughable. They mocked it – “that preacher is trying to scare people into being Christians. That won’t work! That’s horrible.”

    I want to study up on this idea of hell because it is so little a part of my faith and yet it lurks there in the background as an unresolved question. If Ben is right that the concept is not really present in the Old Testament this raises questions and possibilities for me. I have Catholic friends who are essentially completely orthodox in their teachings on Christ, salvation, and the Sacraments but are universalists or near-universalists. This is very appealing to me but I don’t want to believe something just because it feels good. Church tradition and historical Christian teaching is of importance and it does seem to embrace a strong traditional view of hell. As a Lutheran I must look first and foremost to Scripture, however Church tradition is also of great importance. I need to also look at this as well and see what the Church Fathers taught and what Luther said about these teachings.

    But thank you for the article. I found it very interesting and has given me a lot to think about.

  • Walt

    Andrew said:

    “I thought the Old Testament was supposed to be read through the lenses of Jesus” ( who did speak of hell as a real place of physical torment).”

    Walt to Andrew:
    There is only one instance, in the entirety of the 4 gospels,.. In Matt 24, translated from the Greek, that Jesus spoke of everlasting (Gk: aionios) fire. Interestingly, this same Greek word–aionios–is used in Jude 1:7, where it speaks of Sodom & Gomorrah being consumed with everlasting (aionios) fire. Is Sodom and Gomorrah still burning?

    Neither is this place of eternal torment–a devilish doctrine. If the wages of sin were languishing in eternal torment in eternal flames, would not Jesus still be burning?

    In Mark, Jesus makes several statements in a row about being sent to to a place where the flames never go out. The word He used was Gehenna, the name of the Jerusalem City Dump, where there were no earth movers or bulldozers to bury trash. People kept piling it on, and the flames never went out.

    So, what was Jesus saying? Simply: Don’t let your life wind up on the scrap heap

  • otrotierra

    Ah, rejecting Jesus and his teachings because he wasn’t born earlier in world history. Nice try.

    No thanks, I’ll stick with Jesus.

  • Realist1234

    So on your own analysis, this parable may show that unsaved humans could have been suffering for thousands of years during ‘the intermediate state’ – fire and begging for water implies extreme suffering. There is no indication that this is restorative punishment. I’m no sure if that view is much different from a traditional view of hell – thousands of years is a ‘hell’ of a long time from a human perspective, even if not eternal!

  • Realist1234

    Ok so it seems the main reason you believe as you do is based on your own personal experience – if God did that for me why wouldn’t He do it for everyone? That’s a fair question, but it seems that He does not do it for everyone, as revealed in Scripture. Using your logic, why doesn’t God speak directly to all Muslims about Jesus, as He has done to some to convert them, but He clearly hasn’t. I do not know why some are saved and some are not. Though speaking to people who are not Christians, the main feeling I get is that of those unwilling to bend the knee to another, who want themselves to be their own ‘god’ of their lives. Sadly many take that view.

  • The big issue here is that resurrection doesn’t require heaven or hell. Jesus died and was resurrected to earth. If hell is confusing so is heaven. The paradise that Jesus told the thief he was going to was a garden. The kingdom of heaven isn’t a place but a relationship with God. In Revelation the golden city comes down (probably to a new earth).

    Everything points to their being a new era where God reigns without opposition. That is pretty clear. But, as Ben has pointed out, the concepts of heaven and hell are nearly always borrowed from other cultures or apocryphal Jewish thought. Hell might well be a conundrum in the Old Testament then heaven is even more vague.

  • I think the safest way to read the Old Testament is to assume nothing of Jesus. It should be read from the perspective of those who lived at the time of its writing (which is mostly around the Babylonian exile and shortly after). By reading about Jesus you get a different angle on it. Mostly its a matter of there being alternative meanings but that doesn’t mean the contemporary understanding was wrong.

    To understand Jesus’ language you need to know what the rabbis had been discussing because Jesus tends to borrow from their narrative. That’s because Jesus taught in pictures and relayed messages to people in concepts they understood. That’s why Jesus largely uses the word Gehenna because it was Jerusalem’s rubbish dump.

    Its not so much a place of eternal torment as a place where you throw stuff that’s useless. You get the sense that Jesus is saying, “If your life is useless it will be thrown on a burning heap and all that will be left is ashes”. That in itself is judgement. Pacifism doesn’t come into it because any violence is simply a natural consequence.

  • Cindy Bird

    I’ll give you even more to think about. I am a paramedic. I once had a patient whose pacemaker stopped. He went into full arrest, but was conscious while we did compressions. I would have to stop compressions to adjust the IV or EKG or Oxygen. During the stop, he would go into full arrest again. Twice he begged me not to stop, the place he went was hell. While doing compressions he prayed for God to come save him. The next time I stopped compressions and started again, he begged me to stop and let him go, he went to heaven. His brain was still firing while I was stopped, and I believe he “conceptualized” both hell and heaven because he believed that was what happened when a person dies. I don’t believe he went to either, it was just ingrained ideas that his brain had in the sub-conscious and provided in the emergency situation. We got him to the ER and they put in a new pacemaker and he walked out of the hospital 3 days later convinced he had been to both hell and heaven.

  • Trilemma

    After thousands of years of sitting on His throne, God said to himself, “Where is everyone? There should be billions of people here by now.” So God searched and searched and finally discovered that the fiery furnace in the basement was full of people. “Oh crap!” said God. “I’d better send someone down there to warn them.”

  • LambofIsrael

    I think if everyone literally read and knew that sin causes DEATH, Rather than the agenda of HELL and YOLO and that we only have one chance, it would be harder for Satan to control this world because people would have longer lives and there will be billions here easily, but at a better rate then now. I think earth is fit for Billions. However, Satan’s time is up and he wants to get his small time frame of control so he has to depopulate to do so, but God is creating a new Heaven and New Earth New Jerusalem. Not New Hell. God has promised to give the land to Abraham’s descendants the Israelites. God does not break his promises. We are one. Stop Sinning to Live Longer!!! I think the biggest lie on earth is that we were born in sin to justify in committing sin. Children are innocent and knows no good or evil so how are they born in sin??? They are taught sin from Parents, Media, and other children who sin from their exposure to sin. I think we need to wake up and get the drift. The evil one, The Father of Lies is snuffing our lives away by pure lies and psychology. If sin pays you with death, its obvious that not sinning pays you with life, a longer life. The Eternal Life that we already have! Satan threw in “Hell” to make you sin and work for something you already have. Why do you think Ancient Old Testament followers lived longer than the Majority on Earth who strictly follow the New Testament only , while the “false jews” live long earthly lives following the LAW and turn us to sin. Just something to think about.

  • LambofIsrael

    Im sorry to hear about your brother. May God bless his soul. However, I’m sure he was God fearing but he still sinned. We all sin by free will and It’s up to us to control it.. Sin wages the death.
    Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    Which is why I personally believe God sent Jesus his son to show an example of how we are supposed to live perfectly without sin. At the same time sacrificing his son that whoever shall believe in him and follow his commands shall never perish and have eternal life. here and there after. Call me crazy, but I’m just being logical and everything we’ve been taught in a way I feel is justification of sin. That its okay to sin if we just fear God and not follow his commands/laws and just believe in his Son?? I feel like why would God make laws for them not to be followed? If we follow the law, we won’t sin therefore have longer lives .. By sinning is how we cause death. We’ve been conditioned to thinking that sinning is okay and just believe.. No.. I’m afraid it doesnt work that way..

    Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

  • LambofIsrael

    And also about the young… We groups of people with age differences are called “Generations”. So if we continue to sin and perpetuate our offspring to sin (knowingly/unknowingly) of course the cycle will continue. I believe we already have eternal life. We will keep bringing sin into our lives if we dont control the nature of our sin with our free will God has given us. You choose to live long or die. No one put a gun to Adam and Eves head. It was their personal choice to sin and eventually die, the thing is God didn’t say when he would die.. They lived in the hundreds of ages back then.

  • Andrea

    Edward Fudge’s “Fire that Consumes” and he has You tube videos… excellent sources to begin rethinking hell.

  • Leon Scott

    As a follower of Christ, I don’t ever think about whether or not hell exists…. these are things for non-followers of Christ to think about. The NT clearly speaks of burning for eternity…..

  • Bones

    It clearly doesn’t….

    Maybe your knowledge of the Bible is worse than your knowledge of science.

  • rationalobservations?

    Who has killed more, “Satan” or “God”?
    And the LORD said unto Satan, “Whence comest thou?” Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Job 1:7
    In a previous post,Steve Wells counted the number of people that were killed by God in the Bible. Steve Wells came up with 2,476,633, which, of course, greatly underestimates God’s total death toll, since it only includes those killings for which specific numbers are given. No attempt was made to include the victims of Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc., with which the good book is filled. Still, 2 million is a respectable number even for world class killers.
    But how does this compare with “Satan”? How many did he kill in the Bible?
    Well I can only find ten, and even these he shares with God, since God allowed him to do it as a part of a bet. Those who died were, of course – the seven sons and three daughters of Job.
    There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job … And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.

    And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD … put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

    And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house…And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. — Job 1:1-19
    So it seems that both Satan and God share the blame (or the credit) for these killings. If so, then the tally would be:
    killings
    God 2,476,633
    Satan 10
    No contest.
    Update
    Steve Wells tried to assign numbers to the un-numbered killings in the Bible. You can see the detailed list here.
    The results were even more lopsided: 25 million (plus or minus a few million) for God; 60 for Satan.
    Here is a more complete table.
    numbered killings estimated total killings
    God 2,476,633 25 million
    Satan 10 60
    Much more information about God’s killings, with a chapter on each of the 135 killing events, can be found in the book:
    “Drunk With Blood: God’s killings in the Bible”..

    With the endless blood soaked carnage of “Yahweh” to contemplate., it appears that the remaining rump of christian religionists are believing in, and worshipping, the wrong “god”?

  • “For me growing up, hell was the center of gravity and perhaps my biggest
    motivation for the 872 times I asked Jesus into my heart.

    Isn’t it tragic that such an awful concept should be the motivating factor – nay, the *central* factor – in a Christian? Surely this, right here, shows the complete fallacy of this terrible doctrine.

  • There’s a neat little book, that’s very honest, that looks at this subject and concludes there is no hell, or at least not Hell as we have been told that it is like. It’s here: http://www.raisinghellbook.com/ – you can buy the Kindle version, or you can download a PDF version for free there.

    Also another great site is “We have been Wrong About Hell” – http://wrongabouthell.com/ where the author (who has since gone to be with the Lord, I’m told) conducts an excellent, scholarly Scriptural study on Hell that is well worth reading.

  • And nobody mentions Hell at funerals… ;)

  • One4Life

    Thanks!

  • Wow that’s poignant. Thanks Sam :)

  • Apparently there’s as many Scriptures that support Universalism, as support annihilation, as support Eternal Torment. This screenshot from the ‘Hellbound’ documentary:
    http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/hellbound-screenshot/

  • “What a day that will be
    When my Jesus I shall see
    And I look upon His face
    The One Who saved me by His Grace”

    Praise God!

  • Ron Russo

    Check out “Posse of Online Spiritual Misfits” on Facebook. It’s a private group but just ask and say you’re interested and your in. The have ongoing discussions about UR (universal restoration) and ECT (eternal conscious torment) open to all seekers looking for a safe place to ask such questions. Worth a look.

  • Scott Boggs
  • Evan

    All the power to you if you want to believe that the Bible’s few references to hell means that it doesn’t exist at all, but there’s a much better explanation available. The reason that Sheol, Hades, and Hell are all in there is because the bible is just a mythological mash-up written by a variety of people.

  • Ambaa

    There is no way I could ever believe in a God who gives you, if you’re lucky, 80 or so years to get the right answer out of the thousands of years of human history. Pick wrong and get tortured for all eternity. That just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Scott

    Here’s an excellent site that has a lot of information regarding the development of the idea of hell in various civilizations – this is a more scholarly site. http://www.philipharland.com/Blog/

  • Scott

    If you want something more scholarly – this website is from a scholar that has a lot of podcasts that walk you through the history of the development of the idea of hell in various civilizations. http://www.philipharland.com/Blog/

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul ins hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence.

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence.

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence….

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Interesting how you’re so concerned to make Satan the good guy here…
    Why make such an effort if God doesn’t exist?
    And if he does exist… do you really think Satan would rise up and win, and that you will help him? I surely hope you don’t think that…

    You’re viewing death from a human perspective instead of God’s… so of course you’re going to take issue with it… But that is your choice to not view things from the right perspective and still make a judgement about it…

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence…

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence

  • AlwaysPursueTruth

    Hell is not eternal torment.
    You perish, the end, it won’t be undone.
    Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.
    Scripture throughout the bible makes it clear that it is not a torment that is eternal, but the decision that is eternal.
    Everything to describe that is symbolic.
    Please study this and realize this truth.
    God said he wanted none to perish for a reason…
    He said not to fear man who can only destroy the body, but fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell…
    He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity…
    No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.
    For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from.
    God is life, everything without God is death….
    God is a fire himself, and only those who are holy can stand in his presence.
    All others will burn in his presence.
    If you look to the story of Moses, the people could not even look upon him after he had communed with God…
    Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand God’s presence………….

  • rationalobservations?

    Interesting how many followers of Judaeo-christian mythology cherry-pick quotes that they feel validate their delusions yet criticize it when non-believers debunk biblical and religious bunkum through alternative and accurate bible quotations.

    Both “Yahweh” and “Satan” are fictional characters designed to dupe and enslave the ignorant and the gullible.

    Christians are often baffled how atheists could deny the existence of their (originally Canaanite) god, “Jehovah/Yahweh” and their (Roman) god-man/”messiah” “Yeshu/Jesus”, but they shouldn’t be. Christians deny many tens of thousands of the same gods that atheists deny. Atheists just deny one more ridiculously unconvincing god and one more stereotypical and entirely mythical god-man (among many hundreds of thousands of extremely similar undetectable and imaginary gods, goddesses and god-men) than Christians.
    Many among the declining cohort of the religionists join those christians who fail to justify their enthrallment to their specific brand of religion by pointing out that the non-existence of any of the gods cannot be proved.

    If inability to prove the non-existence of deities is enough for christians to believe in them.,they must be very busy worshiping Amun-Ra, Apollo/Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Pratibhanapratisamvit, (Buddhist goddess of context analysis) and Acat, (Mayan god of tattoo artists) and Tsa’qamae, (North American god of salmon migration) – and many thousands of other undetectable hypothetical entities among which the ridiculous “Yahweh” and “Jesus” remain merely mythical and of which no one ever provides proof or reason of (or for) existence and therefore non-existence may be sensibly and rationally assumed by default – as the third largest and fastest growing cohort of humanity (the godless / non-religious) conclude.

    All the evidence appears to indicate that the “christian” religion was cobbled together in the 4th century from mainly “pagan” components and exclusively “pagan” feast days and festivals.

    The burden of proof and the onus of convincing the rest of us of the validity of the “proof” is always upon the religionists and the rest of the rapidly declining membership of fraudulent religions. All religionists, fail too rise to meet that challenge and therefore your myths, legends and human businesses of religion remain debunked in the minds of most young folk and a large and growing number of us older folk who saw through and rejected the bunkum at some time in our life.

    Why can’t anyone tell me (and the growing legion of the happy, peaceful and humanitarian godless) about (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (Roman god-man) “Jesus” through logic and actual authenticated historical and scientific evidence and without any reference to the confused and internally contradictory mythology within any of the many diverse and different versions of human authored bibles, papyri, manuscripts and texts that were written centuries after the time in which their tales are backdated and merely set?

    Meanwhile: Why are you failing to live up to your Disqus pseudonym?

  • rationalobservations?

    Upon what evidence do you make these outlandish and unconvincing claims?

  • rationalobservations?

    Again:Upon what evidence do you make these outlandish and unbelievable claims?

  • rationalobservations?

    Your empty and unbelievable claims require validation through logic and evidence.

  • rationalobservations?

    This is just a heap of unsupported and unbelievable claims and recycled bunkum.

    Christians are often baffled how atheists could deny the existence of their (originally Canaanite) god, “Jehovah/Yahweh” and their (Roman) god-man/”messiah” “Yeshu/Jesus”, but they shouldn’t be. Christians deny many tens of thousands of the same gods that atheists deny. Atheists just deny one more ridiculously unconvincing god and one more stereotypical and entirely mythical god-man (among many hundreds of thousands of extremely similar undetectable and imaginary gods, goddesses and god-men) than Christians.

    Many among the declining cohort of the religionists join those christians who fail to justify their enthrallment to their specific brand of religion by pointing out that the non-existence of any of the gods cannot be proved.
    If inability to prove the non-existence of deities is enough for christians to believe in them.,they must be very busy worshiping Amun-Ra, Apollo/Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Pratibhanapratisamvit, (Buddhist goddess of context analysis) and Acat, (Mayan god of tattoo artists) and Tsa’qamae, (North American god of salmon migration) – and many thousands of other undetectable hypothetical entities among which the ridiculous “Yahweh” and “Jesus” remain merely mythical and of which no one ever provides proof or reason of (or for) existence and therefore non-existence may be sensibly and rationally assumed by default – as the third largest and fastest growing cohort of humanity (the godless / non-religious) conclude.

    All the actual historical evidence appears to indicate that the “christian” religion was cobbled together in the 4th century from mainly “pagan” components and exclusively “pagan” feast days and festivals.

    The burden of proof and the onus of convincing the rest of us of the validity of the “proof” is always upon the religionists and the rest of the rapidly declining membership of fraudulent religions. All religionists, fail too rise to meet that challenge and therefore your myths, legends and human businesses of religion remain debunked in the minds of most young folk and a large and growing number of us older folk who saw through and rejected the bunkum at some time in our life.

    Why can’t anyone tell me (and the growing legion of the happy, peaceful and humanitarian godless) about (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (Roman god-man) “Jesus” through logic and actual authenticated historical and scientific evidence and without any reference to the confused and internally contradictory mythology within any of the many diverse and different versions of human authored bibles, papyri, manuscripts and texts that were written centuries after the time in which their tales are backdated and merely set?

  • rationalobservations?

    Repeating bunkum fails to validate or excuse that bunkum.

    Why can’t anyone tell me (and the growing legion of the happy, peaceful and humanitarian godless) about (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (Roman god-man) “Jesus” through logic and actual authenticated historical and scientific evidence and without any reference to the confused and internally contradictory mythology within any of the many diverse and different versions of human authored bibles, papyri, manuscripts and texts that were written centuries after the time in which their tales are backdated and merely set?

  • rationalobservations?

    Repetition of lies fails to make those lies believable.

    Why can’t anyone tell me (and the growing legion of the happy, peaceful and humanitarian godless) about (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (Roman god-man) “Jesus” through logic and actual authenticated historical and scientific evidence and without any reference to the confused and internally contradictory mythology within any of the many diverse and different versions of human authored bibles, papyri, manuscripts and texts that were written centuries after the time in which their tales are backdated and merely set?

  • rationalobservations?

    Tediously repeating bull$#1T fails to render it into wisdom or truth.

    Your debunked bunkum fails to convince anyone but those brainwashed to ignore the anti-humanitarian idiocy of that bunkum.

    Why can’t anyone tell me (and the growing legion of the happy, peaceful and humanitarian godless) about (the originally Canaanite god) “Yahweh” and (Roman god-man) “Jesus” through logic and actual authenticated historical and scientific evidence and without any reference to the confused and internally contradictory mythology within any of the many diverse and different versions of human authored bibles, papyri, manuscripts and texts that were written centuries after the time in which their tales are backdated and merely set?

  • rationalobservations?

    Repetition of Bull$#1T fails to validate or excuse that garbage.

  • Thanks for that, AlwaysPursueTruth.

    I would like to ask, in the light of your last sentence,

    “Unholy people who have not repented and accepted Jesus sacrifice and
    have their heart and mind changed… they will not be able to withstand
    God’s presence….”

    – what do you think happens to a) those who have not heard about Jesus, b) those who have kind-of heard but not properly, say from a preacher whose unholy lifestyle tells the lie of his beliefs and therefore negates the gospel message, c) those who believe a slightly different Gospel (for example, they might believe in Jesus as Lord as the bible says they must, but maybe not accepted the sacrifice)? In other words, for that last question, what if they miss out the mention of ‘sacrifice’ from the ‘sinner’s prayer’?

    Apologies for the three questions in one. Feel free to break it down into bitesized chunks :)

  • Joel

    I suppose this is the gospel (good news) “truth” in which you share… No wonder people are leaving organized religion in droves!

  • Joel

    It is ironic that the writer of the OP’s pastor, Rev Comfort, felt that preaching on hell and torment wasn’t occurring enough… Real comfort there, buddy… Roll out the ole “good news”…

  • Merlin Khoo

    We have been given the free will to choose : either worship God or be tortured by Him, the God of Love, for eternity and burn in Hell.

  • Ray Smith

    No need to keep repeating this. We got it the first time.

  • Ray Smith

    Broken record.

  • Ray Smith

    “AlwaysPursueTruth” apparently cannot think beyond his pat answer.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    That was a real long time between God giving the command to ‘not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and bad for in that day you will die’ Then God telling Adam after he did eat of thetree that he would return to dust @Gen 3:19. then the whole matter of death in in theOT and the NT. Jesus’ coming had everything to do with life again and God removing sin from the earth. The point isn’t to obey God simply to stay out of the grave. Though the only Wat to true life is through God. Those who wish to live according to the holiness of God in His Spirit which is true love and selflessness are the ones that come to God and are ‘taught’ by Him n what is ‘good’.

  • William Tanksley Jr

    Did you notice that some of them were Bible verses, rather than “outlandish claims”? Did you notice that a perishing that won’t be undone is part of Mirriam-Webster’s definition of “death” — “a permanent cessation of all vital (see vital 2a) functions : the end of life”, so rather than being “outlandish” it’s just the normal use of the word?

    You may not be convinced, but all this is flatly and directly what the Bible teaches. In the entire text, eternal torment is mentioned only once, and there only for three beings — and in the most symbolic and complex book in the canon. Everywhere else, as the article we’re commenting on said, “the wages of sin is death.”

  • William Tanksley Jr

    No, it speaks of burning up like tares, discarded vines, chaff, and fish thrown in a furnace. Nowhere does it speak of “burning for an eternity.”

  • rationalobservations?

    Which version of bible to you consider does not contain outlandish claims? Is it one of the oldest Bibles written by men toward the end of the 4th century? Or one of the diverse and very different human written books that have been fabricated since those oldest Bibles were cobbled together?

    Once that is clear – you can present the evidence that renders your particular version of bible less outlandish?

  • William Tanksley Jr

    Your pardon, I assumed your objection was the same as the others here, since you seemed to object to a post containing claims like “you perish … it will not be undone.” You probably agree with that, even if you don’t think there’s any way out of it, right?

    It looks to me like you’re not looking for claims you disagree with; you’re just looking to pick a fight with a Christian.

  • Timothy Weston

    Gunpoint theology. It is ironic that a God of Love would show his love by tormenting those who have never even heard of him. Sin? God could have removed the curse of it without sending His Son, yet He did not do so: Why is that? Why is a God holding a divine gun to the heads of humans worthy of our loyalty?

  • William Tanksley Jr

    The “outlandish claims” you’re responding to are things like “Fiery torment is from a misinterpretation of scripture, promoted by people who want to manipulate and control people with fear.” They’re also “He would not say that if he were going to keep the soul alive to burn for all eternity… No, you will just lose your soul, your very existence, never to live again.”

    I fail to see any outlandishness here. I think the only person who could see outlandishness is a committed believer in eternal torment.

    However, I do extend to you an apology — because you responded like an eternal-torment believer, I assumed you were. I see now you’re (some variety of) an unbeliever, so I mistook your beliefs and didn’t give a response that fitted them. I hope you can see no offense was intended — I couldn’t tell from your post.

    I’m guessing, therefore, that you find the “outlandishness” in sentences like “For a God of love and life, this truth is horrible enough to want to save people from. God is life, everything without God is death….” But even so, you have to admit that this is true even under your beliefs — although you’d think it’s _vacuously_ true, since you think there’s no hope to live forever.

  • rationalobservations?

    What wacky suppositions.

    I present evidence regarding the fraudulent origin and content of religion and invite evidence supported contradiction. There never is any.

    Denial and/or pointless obfuscation, is not contradiction.

  • BrotherRog

    And the word hell (and even the concept) isn’t even in the Bible – at all. “To Hell with Hell” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/03/to-hell-with-hell/

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish”

  • William Tanksley Jr

    All you did was ask loaded questions. Loaded questions are not evidence. I see you have an incorrect belief, for example, that “the oldest Bibles written by men toward the end of the 4th century.” That’s interesting, but obviously false; the fact that we HAVE actual original Bibles from widely geographically distributed areas from the end of the 4th century makes it unlikely that they were (as you imply) composed then. And of course we have huge fragments from long before that. Following that date, contrary to your claim the idea of “substantial” changes is laughable — we have those whole texts, and the triviality and banality of the changes are only offensive to King-James-onlyists, Islamic apologists, and of course, you.

    But I’m still intrigued at your denial that people will die and not live again. Are you a New Ager? You believe in immortal souls? You also seem keen on denying that God won’t torment people forever — maybe you’re Islamic, then? (Of course, I know the answer — you’re actually an anti-theist who’s just contradicting everything he sees because he wants to argue, and hasn’t realized what he’s contradicting.)

  • Scott

    “I’m also more comfortable with the idea that I could very easily be wrong” If everyone had a similar attitude, the world would be so much better off.

  • Scott

    “Though speaking to people who are not Christians, the main feeling I get is that of those unwilling to bend the knee to another, who want themselves to be their own ‘god’ of their lives. Sadly many take that view.” Or the fact that they weren’t exposed to it, don’t see evidence or reason that it’s true, etc. Having studied the development of the idea of hell – it’s clear it was developed long after Jesus had lived.