38: Judgments & the New Testament (6)
The Final Judgment (3) Hell?
Definitions and Meanings
Jesus' teaching about Hell
Beyond the Gospels
The Awfulness of Hell?
Why the Church liked Hell
concluded the previous chapter referring to unbelievers
who are cast into the lake of fire, the second death, where they are
destroyed, and I acknowledged the fact that this flies in the face
of tradition and much teaching from the past.
have emphasised again and again in the opening chapters of this book
that we will seek to observe exactly what the Bible says and work
from that. Now when we move into the area we are about to enter, I
find I am about to go where angels fear to tread, i.e. in direct opposition
to some of those teachers or prophets who I have always held in the
highest esteem, and I will try and show logically why I do that. In
doing that, I want to emphasise that my intent is to observe exactly
what the Bible says on this subject and what it doesn't say.
I have to confess that until I came to write this book I have always
accepted the traditional evangelical view – that ‘hell', the destination
of unbelievers, means an ongoing eternal punishment – but since researching
more carefully I am horrified to have to suggest that in reality (which
we will consider in detail shortly) that ‘eternal punishment' teaching
is very difficult to uphold in the light of the full spectrum of scripture.
New Starting Point
I start this chapter with a proposition that I intend to prove as
we go through this chapter:
clear teaching of the New Testament on hell is NOT as specific as
many would like to make it, but instead the Scriptures about ‘hell'
are so open as to appear to permit two possibilities, summarised as
“eternal punishment versus annihilation”, BUT I believe the evidence
is overwhelmingly in favour of the latter.
work on that proposition we will consider
what words are used in connection with hell in the New Testament,
and what they usually mean and
what Jesus and then other writers exactly said about hell in the New
Internet researcher, who I have checked out, said, “Only about 60
verses in total in the Gospels might be construed as either directly
or indirectly referring to hell” (1.58%) whereas “192 verses have
Jesus referring to heaven, eternal life, or his coming kingdom” (5%)
I have checked out those verses, many of them are basic references
to hell (or its Jewish equivalent) with no guiding descriptions. When
I take those basic ones that leave big questions and remove them from
his researches I find that leaves less that 20 verses giving content
about ‘hell' in the four Gospels, which is about 0.5% or to put it
in another way, is less than half of one hundredth of the contents
of the Gospels!
I would like to make a simple starting comment: If such a tiny part
of the four Gospels is given over to the subject of the end outcome
for unbelievers, it cannot be such a big issue on God's agenda.
I add into this equation all the thoughts, outcomes and conclusions
I have been getting throughout the duration of this book, I have to
say that although in God's eyes justice is vitally important (hence
the Cross to bring moral justification), I am left seriously wondering
if God has a bigger alternative concern.
and I obviously need to emphasise this in the face of the wave of
objections that misunderstanding might produce, when it comes to His
acts of judgment and, specifically, this end ‘Final Judgment', I wonder
two things in respect of God,
- if bringing
punishment is just a secondary (but important) issue but
- the main
issue is about removing from His eternal existence (portrayed at
the end by the new heavens and new earth and new Jerusalem), those
who clearly have decided they do not want it.
theology has suggested that ‘justification' is as much about God creating
a new redeemed people on the earth, as it is about producing an ethical
or moral justification. What I have written above, complies with that.
than the picture of a God who brings endless pain and anguish in a
lake of fire, the picture becomes a loving God who says, “Regretfully,
I agree with you that you do not want a part in my world,” and therefore
consigns them to death which is the literal end of their existence.
I will say more about this as we go on (and indeed add a comment or
two about the more traditional view of hell).
I have read a variety of commentators supporting ‘eternal punishment',
I find again and again either
- an almost arrogant definiteness
but without careful analysis of words or verses, or
- an unhappy uncertainty that wants
to skirt round the apparent fact of an uncaring and harsh God who
clearly wants to cause awful pain for ever and ever.
provide a very unsatisfactory answer. May I suggest a valid alternative
that neither challenges intellectual integrity nor damages the name
and honour of God.
Definitions & Meanings
used in connection with the concept of hell
have seen something of this in the Revelation verses already covered,
but let's see what the Gospel verses actually have Jesus saying. However,
before we do that there are two pictures or two words that come up
again and again and which convey something we need to note, darkness
and fire. Now I believe commentators are so often guilty of ignoring
the simple meaning of words used. So, consider:
- an existence where there is a complete
absence of light, i.e. where it is impossible to carry on a proper
life and which therefore is miserable.
- As the origins of these concepts
are unclear and there is no specific teaching from God as to their
original meaning, we might suggest here is a more cultural use that
may even suggest a temporary place of misery.
- Darkness isn't usually used to note
eternal pain but more has a short-term disciplinary feel about it
or simply describes the state of unbelievers (e.g. Jn 1:5, 1 Jn
- an element that utterly destroys
what it engulfs. Wherever fire comes down from heaven it destroys.
- The only exceptions that specifically
go against that are ones we have already seen involving Satan, the
Beast and the False Prophet – all demonic spirit (fallen angel)
there will be some who have come across the relevant verses before
who will immediately say, “Ah, but doesn't it refer to everlasting
fire?” My complementary question is, “Which is everlasting –
the existence of the fire that is always there available throughout
history, or the pain of those cast into it?”
problem is that ‘Hell' is not really the correct word used in the
text of the Bible. The interpreters of our Bible have clearly struggled
with this, for example:
you will not abandon me to the grave , nor will you
let your Holy One see decay.
- In the
NIV there is a footnote after ‘grave' which indicates the Hebrew
- The more
recent ESV has, “ For
you will not abandon my soul to Sheol”
also find ‘Sheol' in Job 21:13, 7:9, 14:13, 17:13 etc. etc.
the old King James Version used ‘hell', the NKJV now uses ‘Sheol'
Three words used:
word used in the Old Testament, is normally simply defined as ‘the
state or resting place of the dead.'
- When the
Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, ‘Hades'
was substituted for ‘Sheol'
is similarly ‘ the state or
resting place of the dead'
a Greek word used in the New Testament, is ‘the destination of the
wicked', and derives its name from a deep ravine south of Jerusalem,
the "Valley of (the Sons of) Hinnom" (Hebrew ge hinnom
- Some point
out that this was an ongoing rubbish dump where rubbish was burned
but, please consider, it could only continue burning as long as
material was thrown in. As such it was not eternal. It is more a
picture of destruction.
- In the
case of all three, origins and usage are NOT clear.
New Bible Dictionary states, “In the later Jewish literature we meet
with the idea of divisions within Sheol for the
wicked and the righteous, in which each experiences a foretaste of
his final destiny (Enoch 22:1-14). This idea appears to underlie the
image of the parable of Dives and Lazarus in the New Testament.”
The book of Enoch is described as an ancient religious work that predates
Jesus and would be known by the Jews of Jesus' day. Jesus' use of
the parable mentioned above (Lk 16:19-31) may therefore simply be
using Jewish understanding of the day to convey certain truths:
end up in a place determined by our present lives
‘place' is really somewhere to be avoided.
we die there is no swapping over
us note more carefully the references to this ‘lake of fire:
two of them (the beast &
false prophet) were thrown alive into
the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were
killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the
rider on the horse.
we have noted before, is the consequences of the coming of the King
of Kings, Jesus.
beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake
followers, rebellious people, are killed by the word of God.
marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of
God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down
from heaven and devoured them. And the devil , who
deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the
beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented
day and night for ever and ever.
This again, we have noted previously, is the
dealing of God with Satan and those who have followed him in rebellion
after the thousand year period of peace.
The human armies are killed by fire
Satan is cast into the fire where he joins
the beast and the false prophet – for ever. i.e. this is truly the
end of Satan and his agents on the earth.
person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades
were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second
death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire
This is strange and needs some discernment
Every person is judged before the Final Judgment
Throne of God as we've seen previously.
death and Hades were thrown
into the lake of fire which is referred to as ‘the second death'.
(i.e. the concepts or experiences were no longer needed
Anyone who is not in the book of life,
i.e. a follower of the Son of God, trusting in the Cross of Christ,
as we noted above, is cast into this lake.
Now here we come to a major assumption of evangelical
Christianity, that these unbelievers go into an eternal punishment
– but is that what the Bible actually teaches?
An alternative that has often been disparaged
is called Annihilation i.e. they are destroyed and arguments go
on as to whether it is after a time or immediate.
- Note from the above two sets of
verses, the words They
will be tormented day and night for ever and ever, are
NOT used of human beings in the lake of fire, only of Satan and
his two primary agents.
Jesus' Teaching about hell
referred earlier about one Internet researcher's list of words of
Jesus about hell. Here is his list and I have changed the colour of
those that I believe are just the very basic ones mentioning hell:
5:22, 29-30, 7:13,
19, 21-23, 27, 8:12, 10: 15,
28, 11:22-24, 12:32, 36 , 40-42,
13: 30, 40, 42, 48-50,
18:8-9, 34 , 21:44,
22: 7, 13, 23:13,15,33
9:43, 45-48, 12:40
12: 5, 46, 13:3,27-28, 16:23-24
let's consider some of those verses, one by one.
anyone who says, `You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell
(Gehenna). ….. It is better for you to lose one part of your body
than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
– see above. Place of destruction.
- No duration given.
say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will
take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the
kingdom of heaven . But the subjects of the kingdom will be
thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and
gnashing of teeth."
Many commentators have suggested that this
darkness is everlasting and that the experience of it will therefore
be ongoing weeping and gnashing of teeth but that's not the emphasis
of the two verses. No duration is implied.
There is a comparison between two kingdoms:
the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom that is Israel on earth who
should have been the expression of God's will.
As we noted above ‘darkness' indicates the
limitation of life as we know it (with light).
The point of Jesus' language must surely be
to warn complacent Jews of that time against assuming they were
all right, for some will clearly be rejected by God because of their
lack of faith (faith is the big issue with the centurion, who has
provoked these present comments from Jesus.)
It might be argued that the wailing and gnashing
of teeth is actually more about losing the wonder of a place in
the kingdom of heaven (which is being contrasted) and the fear of
darkness, than anything else. Duration is NOT specified.
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.
This appears, I would suggest, a clear description
of ‘hell' – a place of complete destruction (no ongoing [punishment).
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will
be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels,
and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and
all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
in a fire are not left unburnt – they are destroyed.
Is the weeping in the furnace or just
prior to it? If you are committed to an eternal pain, it will be
in it, otherwise it is more sensible to suggest that the very thought
of having your life terminated is sufficient to cause anguish (watch
hostages being threatened with being shot).
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will
come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into
the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Ditto the latter comment above
your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have
two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your
eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better
for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be
thrown into the fire of hell.
As we commented previously, the contentious
word is ‘eternal' but it is the fire that is so described, not the
anguish which so many are so quick to suggest.
Note that the text says wrong doers will simply
be “thrown into” the fire but unlike the Revelation references (Rev
20:9,10) to Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet it does NOT say
it is where they will be tormented
day and night for ever and ever
The thrust of Jesus' teaching is surely more
about avoiding or stopping sin.
The consequence of death (the thing all fear
as a punishment) is the ultimate punishment, the cessation of your
present life, which is at the heart of this example.
NOWHERE ELSE, except in Revelation applied
to Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet, is the punishment expressly
spoken of as ONGOING.
In NONE of the verses of the New Testament,
outside those Revelation verses we've just referred to, is there
specific reference to ONGOING PUNISHMENT as against ongoing fire,
except with one possible exception we'll come to in a moment.
the king told the attendants, `Tie him hand and foot, and throw him
outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing
Ditto similar above verses in this parable
of the great banquet.
The weeping is more, in this context, about
being ejected from the great banquet than about the darkness of
throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there
will be weeping and gnashing of teeth .'
Part of the parable of the talents, a similar
outcome as above.
weeping can be attributed to a sense of failure, and rejection as
part of accountability.
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 .
….. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous
to eternal life.
Part of the parable of sheep and goats, this
is the only one where eternal punishment is contrasted with
eternal life, although as soon as we put it like that we may suggest
that the ‘eternal death' (contrasted with eternal life) may be more
about emphasizing the impossibility of there being any further hope
after this, i.e. death is the end – for ever! After destruction
there is nothing. After death, in common parlance generally understood,
there is nothing. It is only scripture that portrays another possibility
– another form of ‘life' that overrides the death experience, we
We have underlined a key element of these verses
which is the description of the eternal fire as being there to deal
with Satan and his fellow fallen angels (or evil spirits)
your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter
life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never
goes out (Alt. where / " `their worm does not
die, / and the fire is not quenched.
An intriguing alternative that suggests the
fire is always there waiting for you!!!
the emphasis is on the eternal fire, not the punishment.
if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you
to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and
be thrown into hell, where " `their worm does not die, and the
fire is not quenched.'
Ditto, apparently a quote from Isa 66:24
66 in Message Version: “And
then they'll go out and look at what happened to those who
rebelled against me. Corpses! Maggots endlessly eating away on them,
an endless supply of fuel for fires. Everyone who sees what's happened
and smells the stench, retches.”
master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect
him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and
assign him a place with the unbelievers.
he will kill him – cut him to pieces
he will end up in the grave – the place of unbelievers.
you repent, you too will all perish.
Perish surely simply means will be destroyed.
he will reply, `I don't know you or where you come from. Away from
me, all you evildoers!' "There will be weeping there, and gnashing
of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets
in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.
The cause of the wailing and gnashing of teach
is here clearly identified as the anguish of being rejected from
the divine inheritance, the kingdom of God , that was promised to
Abraham etc. (see later comment)
In hell, (Hades - the place of the dead)
where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with
Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity
on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool
my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
Earlier we referred to this parable which takes
current Jewish understanding (which may not be the full truth) and
uses it to emphasise the horror of being rejected by God.
is surely a figure portraying the promised place of inheritance
of the goodness of God, and the alternative is more about having
failed to receive that, than about duration of the rejection and
its accompanying punishment.
sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give
them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch
them out of my hand.
Perish can simply mean being destroyed.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away
and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and
‘and burned' – in any other context we would
take this to mean, ‘and be destroyed'.
Beyond the Gospels
do we find in other parts of the New Testament?
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power
known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared
‘destruction' seems to be a key word! i.e.
total end of existence
Thess 1:8-10 He
will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of
our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of
his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and
to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
Paul is clearly referring to the Second Coming
of Christ and we have previously seen that in Revelation when he
does come, sinners are destroyed by his word and the Beast and the
False Prophet are cast into the ongoing fire for ongoing punishment-
but only them! (see Rev 19:20,21)
- Again, everlasting destruction
appears to create a finality, a cessation of existence.
serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal
Undefined, it sounds it is being used in the
same way we might say of someone, “they had to suffer the punishment
of the firing squad”, i.e. they will die.
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved
for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly
we saw earlier shows fire coming down on the followers of Satan,
prior to the Final Judgment, ending
that particular phase.
With the ending of that phase, we also see
Rev 20:11 simply saying, “Earth
and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them,”
suggesting that God winds up all of present existence
on the Day of Final Judgment, possibly echoing some of the Old Testament
prophecies hinting about God's use of fire on the last day
to do that.
- Note yet again the use of
destruction - cessation of existence.
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If
anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the
forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's
fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.
He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy
angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for
ever and ever . There is no rest day or night for those who
worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark
of his name." This calls for patient endurance on the part of
the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”
this an outworking or immediate consequence of worshipping this
demonic spirit – the fruit of such worship. There is a present tense
sense within these verses.
Seen elsewhere such pain and torment are present time disciplinary
on ‘for ever and ever'
again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for
ever and ever."
this will not be true – Babylon's smoke will not still be seen once
the new heaven and new earth are created
the verses above, is ‘the smoke of their torment' allegorical?
might do well to also note that in the New Testament there are also
a number of other references to destruction, not ongoing punishment,
live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction
Thess 5:3 While
people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come
on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will
Thess 18-10 He
will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of
our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty
of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people
and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
‘everlasting destruction' means there are no second chances.
Pet 3:7 the
present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the
day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
each case the word appears quite clear, i.e. destruction = ceases
The Awfulness of Hell as 'The End!'?
hell, or whatever other word is used for it, has been conveyed by
preachers as an absolutely terrible place, a place of eternal torment
– although no sound reason is usually given why a God who is described
as love would create such a possibility.
used to rationalize that the only reason I could see that this might
be so, is that once ‘spirit' is created it cannot be destroyed and
therefore for those who rejected God, hell is the abode of the spirits
of those unbelievers. However, as I have sought to apply more rigorous
logic to the meanings of words, I see that in the Bible, spirit or
Spirit is often synonymous with ‘breath' or ‘wind' or ‘water' or ‘fire',
none of which suggest an element that is eternal – except when it
is used in respect of God Himself or of the fallen angels, Satan,
the Beast and The False Prophet, the only ones specified in the Scriptures
as suffering ongoing eternal punishment, presumably for my reasoning
what has been conveyed as the awfulness of ‘hell'? Ongoing, eternal
pain. Fire that burns but doesn't destroy but causes pain; that is
the traditional picture, but I have sought to convey that is questionable
in the pure light of scripture NOT added to by human speculation.
I have briefly mentioned earlier, I would suggest that a much more
valid reason for there to be anguish and ‘gnashing of teeth' is the
thought of death. In the presence of Almighty, Wonderful and Beautiful
God at the Final Judgment, the realization of just who it is who was
rejected and the wonder of what had been rejected, may also add to
must assume that facing God face to face is such a monumental experience
that the Lord does not let that response count as ‘repentance' for,
as previously noted, the grounds for repentance only operate within
this lifetime experience, not after it.
pondered these questions more fully than I have ever done before,
I want to try to cover all eventualities and therefore there are two
things I would like to add for us to consider that are to do with
the anguish that is referred to in the verses we've considered:
Indestructible Beings and Ongoing 'Punishment
I am not happy with it, let's assume that the traditional approach
to hell as an everlasting punishment is valid. Is it possible that
'hardness of heart', say as witnessed in Pharaoh against Moses, is
a 'normal' experience or state of the unbeliever? i.e. is the unbeliever
who never comes to salvation throughout their lifetime here on earth,
so set in their rejection of God, that when they finally meet Him
they find Him utterly objectionable and so remain fixed in their horror
and hatred of Him so that, if they are eternal beings, they clearly
have no place (and want no place) in the new heaven and new earth,
and they are (for their own sake as much as anything else) consigned
to some other existence 'away from God' - but even there they will
hold on to their revulsion of Him and this will eat at them like a
cancer but never dissipating. Having seen Him in His reality, their
'hard-heartedness' or inner ongoing revulsion against the perfection
that is God, will continue as an anguish that fits the descriptions
of the New Testament. Think on it.
The Awfulness of not staying with God and heaven
reason for the anguish that is described in some of the verses we
have considered may, as I've already hinted at previously, be not
so much about the matter of facing total death, as having lost the
shear wonder of living in the very presence of the God who is so wonderful
that He defies description this side of eternity. i.e. it is anguish
at the realisation of the loss of what could be, tied together with
the recognition that they have missed all this throughout their life
on earth and now in eternity. I recognise that it will only be in
eternity that we will be able to fully see and appreciate the wonder
of God and of heaven and eternity. The loss of this wonder, once it
has been seen, will be terrible, and yet inevitable for those whose
hearts are set now and set then against God.
So why has the Church persisted with ‘Eternal Punishment'?
of course the answer is, that not all the Church has accepted that
traditional, if poorly founded belief; there have been those who have
opted for alternatives. As I have pondered on this at great length
while writing these last three chapters, I have concluded that ultimately
there may be a number of reasons as follows:
have accepted tradition which built up from ancient or medieval
sources and not being willing to face the contradictions involved,
stuck with that belief. Answer: we need to honestly
face how we use words and what they mean and the limitations of
the verses in the New Testament that apply.
may be that we have also felt that to accept anything less than
this awful eternal punishment would somehow demean the holiness
of God, i.e. God is so holy that surely He cannot tolerate ongoing
unrepentant sinners and needs to make an example of them to the
rest of us. Answer: we need to look again at how
the Son of God himself lived among and tolerated sinners.
have clearly used it as a weapon of fear, going on from the above,
to scare people into the kingdom of God by fearful repentance. Answer:
although it is valid to consider the fear of God and recognize
our accountability to Him on the last day, Jesus emphasis was on
opening doors of faith in people by teaching and blessing people.
His ministry was clearly one of power life transformation and that
is at the heart of the Gospels. We need to learn to minister similarly
so that more see a valid expression of the Christian Faith
and turn and receive it.
struggle with the concept of “God
IS love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) and therefore find a harsh and
heavy discipline Gospel easier to align with their own life experiences.
Answer: we need to pray for our eyes to be opened
to see just how much God loves us and loves others so that we will
do all we can to present this Gospel of Love.
many misunderstand the trials that living in a Fallen World produce
and therefore attribute such things carelessly to God (without specific
revelation) rather than to Satan, to Sin, and to the ways of this
world, and so easily transition to a God who is careless of human
eternal suffering. Answer: hopefully the concepts
and lessons that have come through this book may shed light. We
will consider this more fully in the penultimate chapter that follows.
this chapter we have postulated an alternative to the traditional
view of ‘eternal punishment' by considering the use and meanings of
such words as
and fire, as linked with punishment
Sheol, Hades & Gehenna as cultural icons for the afterlife
also considered the use of these words
other New Testament writers.
particular we noted that references to the everlasting lake of fire
refer to the ongoing nature of the availability of the fire
than ongoing pain and punishment
likely suggest destruction (which IS used in a number of verses)
rather than ongoing punishment.
also briefly considered
actually is awful about the idea of hell, and,
the Church has so often opted for the ‘eternal punishment' option.
I may not have convinced you, perhaps your traditions are too strong
(or maybe I am wrong), but if you have doubts, may I ask you to go
back through all the verses we have quoted at length and honestly
face the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, we have for so long
unjustly besmirched the name of the One who the Bible says IS love.
should not finish this chapter without reminding ourselves, and therefore
our neighbours, that we live in a world with a God who WILL hold us
accountable at the Final Judgment, and that belief in Jesus is the
ONLY escape card that
death that eradicates our existence and makes all these years of
our existence here on earth a waste of time,
keeps us from missing out on the shear wonder of all that God has
for us in eternity.
are about the most important issues we can ever consider in life,
so I hope you have been given much food for thought here.
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