Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hell

Perhaps because I was a teacher, I enjoy presentations that can get past the "watchful dragons" of skepticism. I think Tim Keller does this. His recent book, The Reason for God, is a wonderful example and I eagerly anticipate reading anything else he writes.

Tim Keller on The Importance of Hell:
In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell. Not only are there plenty of people today who don't believe in the Bible's teaching on everlasting punishment, even those who do find it an unreal and a remote concept. ....
In this short essay Keller elaborates on four reasons the doctrine matters:
  1. It is important because Jesus taught about it more than all other Biblical authors put together.
  2. It is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
  3. It is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
  4. The doctrine of hell is important because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us.
In point 2 Keller asks "What is hell, then?" and answers:
It is God actively giving us up to what we have freely chosen - to go our own way, be our own "the master of our fate, the captain of our soul," to get away from him and his control. It is God banishing us to regions we have desperately tried to get into all our lives. J.I.Packer writes: "Scripture sees hell as self-chosen . . . [H]ell appears as God's gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves." (J.I.Packer, Concise Theology p.262-263.) If the thing you most want is to worship God in the beauty of his holiness, then that is what you will get (Ps 96:9-13.) If the thing you most want is to be your own master, then the holiness of God will become an agony, and the presence of God a terror you will flee forever (Rev 6:16; cf. Is 6:1-6.)
And later:
I believe one of the reasons the Bible tells us about hell is so it can act like 'smelling salts' about the true danger and seriousness of even minor sins. However, I've found that only stressing the symbols of hell (fire and darkness) in preaching rather than going into what the symbols refer to (eternal, spiritual decomposition) actually prevents modern people from finding hell a deterrent. Some years ago I remember a man who said that talk about the fires of hell simply didn't scare him, it seemed too far-fetched, even silly. So I read him lines from C.S. Lewis:
Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others . . . but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God 'sending us' to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.
To my surprise he got very quiet and said, "Now that scares me to death." He almost immediately began to see that hell was a) perfectly fair and just, and b) something that he realized he might be headed for if he didn't change. If we really want skeptics and non-believers to be properly frightened by hell, we cannot simply repeat over and over that 'hell is a place of fire.' We must go deeper into the realities that the Biblical images represent. When we do so, we will find that even secular people can be affected.
He concludes:
The doctrine of hell is crucial - without it we can't understand our complete dependence on God, the character and danger of even the smallest sins, and the true scope of the costly love of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God's active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer.

We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, "I am less barbaric than you, Jesus - I am more compassionate and wiser than you." Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus' proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.
Thanks to Alex Chediak for the reference.

The Importance of Hell - redeemer.com

1 comment:

  1. I believe in offering some balance to this doctrine of hell. Please consider the following.

    GRAND ASSERTION

    ALL OF MANKIND WAS DECLARED RIGHTEOUS BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST AND ALL OF MANKIND WILL COME TO BELIEVE IN JESUS AS LORD AND GOD AS SAVIOR FOLLOWING THE NECESSARY DISCIPLINE OF THE CONSUMING PURIFYING FIRE OF GOD.

    Mal 3:2b "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap;”

    SUB-ASSERTION #1

    MANKIND WAS DECLARED RIGHTEOUS BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST HAVING BEEN RECONCILED TO GOD BY HIS DEATH


    Rom 5:6-10 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?

    Note that a summary of these verses could be the following:
    While we were helpless ungodly sinners who were His enemies, Christ died for us, declared us righteous by his blood, will save us from God’s wrath, and reconciled us to God through His death.

    Helpless ungodly sinners who were enemies of God and Christ may be words written to those of Rome who were currently believers, but here Paul is obviously referencing their status with God prior to their becoming believers. Therefore the being reconciled to God and declared righteous occurred prior to belief since these descriptions are hardly of believers.

    At the foot of the cross were many helpless ungodly sinners who were the enemies of Jesus, yet He said, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. I believe the Father was in agreement with this prayer of Jesus and so their sins were or will be forgiven on the merits of Jesus alone. Mankind was declared righteous, or justified on that day. Paul reinforces the fact of being declared righteous was for all mankind a few verses later in Rom 5:18, “Consequently, just as one offense resulted in condemnation for everyone, so one act of righteousness results in justification and life for everyone.”

    SUB-ASSERTION #2

    NO “PUNISHMENT”, “DESTRUCTION”, “PERISHING”, “LOSTNESS” IS ETERNAL; RATHER GOD’S “PUNISHMENTS” OR “DESTRUCTION” ARE CORRECTIVE IN NATURE

    Now, we do need His discipline to make us fit for His kingdom. This discipline will not be “eternal”, but it will be “aeonian or eonian”, the English equivalents of the Greek “aionios”. “Aeonian” punishment as referred to in Mt. 25:46, one of the proof texts for those who hold to the heresy of the eternal torment of non-believers, is the type of correction that God will administer to the unbeliever. The noun being modified by aeonian is the word punishment, which is the Greek “kolasis” which has been used in reference to “pruning” a plant for the purpose of better production. “Kolasis” punishment is the corrective type, whereas, “timoria” punishment is the retributive type. The “aeonian” life in Mt. 25:46 is the life given to the believer by God beginning at the point of belief. This is that life we enjoy as believers which blesses us now as we deal with this physical life and also blesses us with the promise of immortality and therefore everlasting communion with our Father.

    Aeonian destruction as referenced in 2 Thess. 1:7-9, “…who will be punished with aeonian destruction from the presence of the Lord,…”, is the kind of destruction necessary for God to administer for the fulfillment of His purposes. Destruction is equivalent to death in that it is “from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power”. Jesus was “destroyed” at the cross, but as in His case, so with all cases of destruction or death, there is no sense of “eternal” associated with them as Jesus rose to life and “the last enemy to be eliminated will be death”.

    The “lost” sheep, coin, and son of Luke 15 referred to a condition that did not last forever. The word “lost” is the translation of the Greek “apollumi”, from which we have the translations lose, lost, perish, destroy, etc. As we can see in Luke 15, the sheep, coin, and son were only “lost” until they were found. This harmonizes with the fact that Jesus said He came to “seek and save the lost”.

    Note that the following verse tells us that there is a special benefit for becoming a believer now, but that God will save all of the “lost” unbelievers also. 1Tim 4:10 “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” The Greek word that got translated “especially” here is “malista”. Checking its usage in other verses makes it clear that especially is a good choice for English since it does refer to extra special attention to something, but not to the exclusion of other items mentioned in the context.

    The Hebrew word “olam” has as its Greek equivalents “aion” and “aionios” in the Septuagint. An analysis of the approximately 440 occurrences of olam in the Old Testament suggests that it means a period of time without the end in sight but not necessarily “eternal”, or “everlasting” or “forever”, if it should ever be. Olam was only 3 days in the case of Jonah’s duration in the fish, even though the “traditional” translation has been “forever”. Also, the length of time a person would be the slave has been referred to as “forever”, which we know is literally only for their physical lifetime. Some versions never use eternal, everlasting, or forever for olam. Have you noticed some versions use the phrase “forever and ever”. Have you ever given thought to the absurdity of adding the words “and ever” after you have already said forever? What’s more than forever? That’s like saying something lasts for an eternity and then for another eternity. The absurdity of this should add to our awareness of the bias of those translators who consistently translate olam, aion, and aionios as eternal, everlasting, forever, or the absurd “forever and ever” phrase.

    An analysis of the word “hell” is quite revealing. Jesus used the word “geena” or “hades” and tradition (KJV, Catholic church, etc.) has had the ignorant audacity to use this Anglo-Saxon word “hell”, which means “unseen” (a-des), corresponding to the Hebrew “sheol” and attach to it a meaning out of pagan mythology of a place of eternal torment. Dr. Thomas Thayer in his book “The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment” traces this myth of eternal torment that became associated with the word hell to ancient Egypt. Geena (sometimes Gehenna) was the Valley of Hinnom which became a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem where carcasses of criminals were burned which Jesus metaphorically referenced as a future potential punishment with no sense of “eternal” punishment inherent in its meaning. This refers to aeonian punishment which again is God’s corrective punishment. Gehenna should have been left untranslated because it is a geographical location that the Jews of Jesus’ audience knew exactly what he was referring to. Hades should have also been left untranslated or translated as “unseen” or “the grave” as some versions do, as Hades definitely has no inherent punishment connotation. There are a number of versions that don’t use the word “hell” even once, realizing the bad rap the word has gotten with the erroneous connotation.

    SUB-ASSERTION #3

    ALL HUMANITY WILL COME TO BELIEVE IN GOD AND WILL WORSHIP HIM SOONER OR LATER

    The following are 5 witnesses (scriptures) from 4 of God’s servants: DAVID, ISAIAH, PAUL, and JOHN.

    NOTE: Nowhere in the Word do we have any evidence that one must come to belief in this lifetime, which is another myth of man; contrariwise, we have much evidence in the following verses and many others that some will only come to belief after their physical death. At this point some might think of the Rich Man and Lazarus parable. Parables must be discerned spiritually as they are not to be taken literally since they are fictional stories to convey a spiritual message. Consider this, Rich Man = Jews and Lazarus = Gentiles and the spiritual message is that the Jews will be disciplined for their attitude toward and treatment of the Gentiles.

    Keep in mind that belief is granted by God in His time not in man’s. God grants belief to some in this lifetime and others after their physical death. The myth that one must come to belief in this lifetime is something man dreamed up or more than likely got from the pagans and added to his traditions, but God’s word does not speak of it.

    John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    Phi 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,”

    THE MASTER PLAN OF THE MASTER COULD BE SUMMED UP IN A COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF HIS WORD AS FOLLOWS AS ATTESTED BY MANY WITNESSES.

    “ALL IS OUT OF ME AND ALL WILL COME BACK TO ME.” --- GOD

    Rom 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
    1Co 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

    GOD WILL BE ALL IN ALL = GOD WILL BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE

    OUR SPIRIT CAME OUT OF GOD AND WILL RETURN TO GOD

    DAVID was inspired to write:

    Psalms 22:27-28 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations

    ISAIAH was inspired to write:

    Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'
    Isa 45:24 "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him.

    PAUL was inspired to write:

    Phi 2:10-11 “…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow
    — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

    Rom 14:11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God."

    JOHN was inspired to record:

    Rev 5:13 “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

    SINCE AFTER A CERTAIN TIME DEATH WILL CEASE TO BE, LEAVING ONLY LIFE AND HENCE NO MORE SEPARATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, ALL OF THESE WITNESSES CAN TESTIFY TO THE SAME THING:

    NOTE: The feeble attempt to downplay this worshipping, bowing, and confessing as somehow “forced”, is born out of bias for eternal torment. Note particularly in Phil. 2:11 the phrase “to the glory of God the Father”. It is obviously not giving God glory to say Jesus is Lord without meaning it and you might also recall what Paul said about saying that Jesus is Lord, that “…no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3b)


    EVERY CREATED BEING WILL SOME DAY PRAISE AND GLORIFY GOD!!!

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