Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sprouting eyes

I'm writing these thoughts today to encourage others who have discovered that the traditional hell doctrine is largely unbiblical - and they feel alone in that discovery, as if seeing things no one else can see.

Remember William Wilberforce from the post called "Hell on earth..." ? He and his friends also experienced this phenomenon of exposing a truth - only to be rejected or ignored by the majority (and most notably the powers that were).

“But how is it possible that humanity for so long tolerated what to us is so obviously intolerable? And why did just one small group of people...suddenly see this injustice for what it was? Why in a morally blind world did Wilberforce and a few others suddenly sprout eyes to see it? [They] were something like the characters in horror films who have seen “the monster” and are trying to tell everyone else about it – and no one believes them.” 1

I'm not comparing myself to Wilberforce, but on a smaller scale, it feels as if I've 'seen the monster': eternal conscious torment teaching - and am trying to tell others... but many don't care or even want to investigate to see if it be true. To some, the monster is not monstrous enough - or at least they believe it is a monster placed in our doctrine by God, so it must be tolerated.

I can relate to how Wilberforce must have felt when sharing with seemingly decent human beings the facts on the slave trade - and the facts made no headway in their hearts and mind:

“He hadn't yet seen that respectable gentlemen and noblemen, when presented with evils and cruelties more horrible than they had ever dreamed, would nonetheless yawn and shrug and turn away, or that, given what seemed an exceedingly clear choice between good and evil, they would choose evil... he could hardly believe that others wouldn't leap to do what was right when they finally knew the facts. He was mistaken.” 2

I was naive in my expectations as well. When the facts about ECT are laid out, the case against it is so powerful that I was confident any sincere, Bible-believing follower of Jesus would rush to investigate further and respond in an appropriate manner. I, too, was mistaken.

I have to admit, it was comforting to find other believers (respectable, educated men even) who also experienced the very same phenomenon. Greg Stump, in the excellent book "Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism," writes:

"My abiding interest in hell, and the reason why I've poured so much of my thought, resources and conviction into this topic, has to do with the fact that there are so many Christians who claim quite confidently that hell will consist of eternal conscious torment, yet I personally... have found the biblical, theological, and philosophical evidence for this perspective to be weak and insubstantial. In contrast, I discovered that the case for conditional immortality and the final destruction of the unsaved was comprehensive and compelling...

And yet despite my own experience of the inferiority of the traditional view and the seemingly clear evidence and scriptural basis of the conditionalist view, there were so many other thoughtful and intelligent believers who have claimed the exact opposite - in fact, ECT has been the position of the majority of Christians throughout church history. And this is what has made me, and so many others, obsess over the issue.

How can it be that the evidence in favor of conditionalism appears so clear to those of us who have been convinced and yet is received with such skepticism by our fellow Christians? This experience is baffling, having an almost Kafkaesque quality to it, and it is honestly what has driven my own obsessive interest in the topic." 3

I've received messages from believers who felt like they were the only ones in their church to find the doctrine of traditional hell to be unscriptural. They even feel like heretics. Like outsiders. I certainly know how you feel. If it weren't for my husband, I would also be quite alone in this. Yes, we have the Lord, but there is something so very powerful in a united community.

Even so, my friend, be encouraged. After I sprouted eyes to see, it was soon made clear to me that there is a great and growing number of believers who share the same view. So many of them, in fact, that there is a name for this fellowship: conditionalists (simply meaning folks who believe that God's gift of eternal life is conditional). You are certainly not alone.

For those who have eyes to see, those who are sprouting eyes, and for those yet to see - please visit the website Rethinkinghell.com and learn what they have to teach. Don't just give lip service to believing Scripture alone, walk in it! And see.


1  Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007, p. xiv
2  Ibid, p. 121
3 "Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism", edited by Chris Date, Greg Stump and Joshua Anderson with a foreword by John G. Stackhouse. Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon. 2014.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Smoke rising - a picture of destruction, not torment

"But the wicked will perish: Though the LORD's enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke." 
                                                                        - Psalm 37:20

Rising smoke in the Scriptures is a clear symbol of total destruction. The phrase “her smoke rises forever” simply means the destruction is permanent (in other words, 'eternal'). If you can be patient and follow with me through several verses, this conclusion becomes so evident. There is no need to have fuzzy ideas about smoke rising meaning eternal conscious torment!


Revelation gives us our most well-known imagery of smoke rising in the Bible. And it gets much of its imagery and language about the Great Harlot (whose smoke rises forever) from Jeremiah. It is possible to learn what the NT is teaching by understanding the old.

There is a thread of commonality through 1. Sodom and Gomorrah, 2. the destruction of Babylon, Edom and Assyria in the OT and 3. the destruction of The Great City (Babylon the Great or the Great Harlot) in Revelation.

Concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19: “He [Abraham] looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” (v. 28)

Sodom serves as an example of complete destruction: “The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur – nothing planted, nothing sprouting... it will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah...which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger.”(Deut. 29:23)

Sodom as the example of the destruction of Babylon: “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the pride and glory of the Babylonians will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Is. 13:19)

“As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah...” declares the LORD, “so no one will live there; no man will dwell in it [Edom].” (Jer. 49:18)

“As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah...” declares the LORD, “so no one will live there; no man will dwell in it [this time Babylon].” (Jer. 50:40)

“At the sound of Babylon's capture the earth will tremble; its cry will resound among the nations.” (Jer. 50:46) – this is exactly the description of the fall of 'Babylon' in Revelation 18.

“Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins! It is time for the LORD's vengeance; He will pay her what she deserves.” Jer. 51:6 – this is clearly a foreshadow of the great judgment and wrath of God that will be poured out in the end of days. (See Rev. 18:4)

Babylon the great city; the Great Harlot – but not a person! A personified city or system of the world. “In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” (Rev. 18:24)

In Revelation 17, John recounts that one of the angels who had the seven bowls said, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot...and on her forehead was written, a mystery, “Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.”

I think that pretty much sums up all the evil in the world – a system personified by this 'Great Harlot'. She is sitting on this 'beast' which is described in Revelation 17 as well. In the end, however, “the ten horns...and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose...”

“The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.” - Rev. 17:18 (Read about historical Babylon for insight into her judgment in Isaiah 47. “Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame.” v. 14)

Rev. 18 - “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird." (For the historical background for this description, see Is. 34:9-17)

"For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.

'Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any for her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remember her crimes(see Jer. 51:45, Isaiah 48:20, and Rev. 18:4)

Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup.

Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she have herself (remember, this is not an actual person, so in what manner will 'she' receive torture and grief?) ... in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over herTerrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power!” (note the phrase 'smoke of her burning' and 'torment' - these descriptions about a city!")

“The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more – cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls....and bodies and souls of men.”

“All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.... terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: “Woe! Woe, O great city,...In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”

“When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, “Was there ever a city like this great city?”

What is God's purpose concerning 'Babylon'? “God has judged her... Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder...and threw it into the sea, and said, 'With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown downnever to be found again.” (Rev. 18:20-21)

Then, continuing in Rev. 19, we see celebration over this judgment in heaven, “Hallelujah! ...for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute... Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever. (1-3) We just saw how she had been burned up, 'never to be found again', so this smoke symbolizes her complete destruction.

So, if the smoke of her rises up forever, does this mean 'she' is still in existence, being tormented with fire – forever? If we make a parallel to what our doctrine teaches about 'people in hell' where they will be tormented forever and their smoke rises, then we would conclude 'yes'. But, obviously, as we look at the whole of Scripture, we know with certainty that the great harlot is destroyed and will 'never be found again'. The smoke rising is a symbol of her complete and permanent destruction (remember the image of smoke rising after the destruction of Sodom).

Also, her 'torment' is not a physical, personal torment because she is not actually a person, but a city – or a system – that will suffer a complete overthrow by God Himself.

Another nation that is completely destroyed by God is Edom. This earthly judgment also foreshadows final judgment. Notice the smoke rising 'forever' as a symbol of its permanent destruction:

“Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! [Sounds like Sodom's fate, doesn't it?] It will not be quenched night or dayits smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again.” Is. 34:10

Do you think that Edom's smoke rising will literally continue 'forever' on the earth? No, we know with certainty that there will be a new heaven and new earth. (For an insight into the Hebrew language that we translate 'forever' please see “Letter to a friend: Eternity check”). We see the same language used in the verse below:

“And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever 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.” - Rev. 14:11

This verse is automatically turned into eternal conscious torment to fit the traditional hell doctrine. However, if we consider the root of the images that John is using, the meaning comes to light. Notice the repeating phrases, “day or night” and “smoke... will rise forever” - this is borrowed language from the OT so we can understand what is happening in these judgments. Namely, destruction.
We have seen what the wrath of God looks like concerning the great harlot, her torment, and the smoke rising. So, in the light of those realities, we can better understand that those who worship the beast and take the mark “will also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger... and...will be tormented with fire and brimstone... in the presence of the Lamb.

Since we know that ultimately those who do not inherit eternal life will “pay the penalty of eternal destructionaway from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:9) this cannot be a picture of hell where the condemned spend eternity.

These opposing verses simply cannot both be true. If you understand the whole teaching of Scripture, where God will destroy His enemies, then the confusing and apparent contradictions disappear.

To clarify further, let's return to Isaiah 34 and read more about the future judgment of all nations (“For the LORD has a day of vengeance” v. 8):

“Come near, you nations, and listen;
pay attention, you peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that is in it,
the world, and all that comes out of it!
The LORD is angry with all nations;
His wrath is upon all their armies.
He will totally destroy* them,
He will give them over to slaughter.” (1-2)

* The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them; also in verse 5: “My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed.”

Edom (or Esau), estranged brother of Israel, represents the godless (Heb.12:16). Throughout Isaiah, there are descriptions of judgment on God's foes, and blessings to His people. For the purpose of this study, I am highlighting verses that demonstrate specifically how God executes Judgment – in the past as well as what He will do in the future. However, there are too many to list so it is always a wise choice to go and read the context for yourself.

As you continue reading in Isaiah 34, there is death, destruction and desolation (“its smoke will rise forever” v. 10). Verse 3 is graphic: “Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will send up a stench; the mountains will be soaked with their blood.” This verse mirrors the very last verse in Isaiah, often quoted – most notably quoted by Jesus – but often misused by traditionalists to support eternal torment.

And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against Me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Is. 66:24) Notice that these are dead bodies. They are the enemies that God has slain and 'thrown out'. The worm is known for devouring dead flesh and the fires burn up refuse. The worm will not die as it consumes the dead bodies; likewise no one can put out the fire that burns up and destroys. It is a loathsome sight – disgusting to see, but a testament to what happens to those who rebelled.

Let's back up and examine some verses that will shed light on that final verse, Isaiah 66:24.

Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever...” (Is. 51:7-8)

My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit... the Sovereign LORD will put you to death.” (Is, 65:14-15)

...the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to His foes. See, the LORD is coming with fire... For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD.”  (Is. 65:14-16)

With this Scriptural foundation, we can read Jesus' words in the gospel of Mark and not be confused by His teaching: “If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into Gehenna, where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. For everyone will be salted with fire.” (9:47-49)

God will execute His final judgment on his enemies by casting them into the lake of fire (Jesus called it Gehenna) where they will suffer eternal destruction. As Jesus states in Matt. 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

And, to come full circle, this complete and permanent destruction is represented in Revelation by smoke rising.

To recap:

First, we see Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed: “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.” (Gen. 19:24) and the smoke rising afterwards (Gen. 19:28). This judgment is used as an example of 'eternal fire' in Jude 1:7 - “...Sodom and Gomorrah...serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

Again: “He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter.” 2 Peter 2:6 (See also 2 Peter 3:7).

And again: “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot... it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them allIt will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30)

Isaiah's account of judgment on Edom (the people 'devoted to destruction') says, “It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will go up forever.... it will be desolate; None will pass through it forever and ever.” (34:10) Keep in mind this is an earthly judgment. If you study the word that we translate 'forever', it becomes apparent that our English words fall short of the original meaning. Basically, the Hebrew word means “the end time is hidden” or you could say “it will last as long as it will”. (For a more thorough study on this, see “Letter to a friend: Eternity check”.) In any case, the earthly situation we understand does not last literally for ever, but a very long time.

Concerning God's enemies during tribulation: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image...” Rev. 14:11

Concerning the 'Great Harlot', which is not a person but a system: “And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER.” Rev. 19:3 (The caps tell us this verse is taken from the OT, specifically Isaiah 34:10) Also remember, she was described as being tormented, 18:6-7,15. She was 'burned up with fire' (18:8) and the kings of the earth weep and lament to see the 'smoke of her burning' (18:9,18). “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.” (18:21) and yet the saints celebrate her smoke rises up forever. It is clearly an image of complete and utter destruction.

So, if this is all confusing and long-winded, just remember that Babylon, in the book of Revelation, represents all that stands against God (read also Zechariah 5:5-11)...

And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonian's pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Isaiah 13:19


Thursday, May 25, 2017

You mean they get away with it?!

It's a baffling situation. It just doesn't make sense. So I turn it over and over in my mind, trying to see it from different angles. It just never makes sense.

Here is the conundrum: Sometimes when I share my study about final punishment (and hell) with other believers, they are resistant to the thought that there may not be eternal conscious torment.

That's it. That's the thing that truly baffles me.

Christian people - actual Bible-believing human beings - who know about God, know they are but dust, are somehow defensive about their belief in an eternal fire that punishes forever. They seem to get almost angry over the suggestion that there might not be such a place.

If I begin to give biblical evidence to show the hope in Scripture against forever torment, they put up a hand to stop it. I've even seen them cover their ears with their hands. "I don't want to hear it. You'll never convince me otherwise."

And what is the reason? If we get past the traditional verses used (but not studied in context) - i.e. Lazarus and the rich man, worm that doesn't die, smoke that rises 'forever' - then a certain attitude of the heart emerges.

They usually say something like, "You mean to say they get away with it?" And I would respond, still incredulous, "Do you think being destroyed and never being able to attain eternal life is getting away with anything?"

"That is not punishment! What about paying for their sins? They deserve hell if they reject Jesus. If they are destroyed in the lake of fire, then they are basically getting off easy! What about people like Hitler who deserve to suffer for all eternity?"

Hitler you say. Okay, let's torture Hitler forever. Now then, what about my brother - does he deserve to suffer for all eternity? What about me, for that matter? And you? We are all sinners, aren't we? All fall short. There is none righteous. Not. even. one.

Dirk Waren, a minister who explains conditional immortality with great clarity, wrote in exasperation about those who think destruction isn't a just punishment:

"Can anyone look me in the eyes with a straight face and tell me that such a terrible and utter obliteration as this is not severe enough? I must ask once again, how much harsher does God’s just judgment on humanity need to be? I’m flabbergasted that anyone would suggest that this is not a severe enough punishment. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this (with no apologies): Anyone who feels the unrighteous should suffer a severer punishment is sick, sadistic and wicked."1

Even our faith to believe is a gift from God. And those who belong to Satan have been blinded by him. Where does your sense of justice come from? And we, being sinful creatures, don't even publicly condone torture as a just punishment for even the worst crimes. What is the harshest penalty we give out? Death. It is death.

Do you find torture abhorrent in this life? Why would you find it acceptable in the next?

So, what is this all about? How can there be such a willingness to have hell. Even a desire for hell to exist. I don't know. Maybe they have someone in mind that did terrible things and they are comforted believing that that person will suffer forever because of it. I could be wrong, but it sounds like unforgiveness to me.

What could you possibly gain by the torment of another - and for ETERNITY for that matter! What kind of justice is that? What kind of glory does God receive from that? What kind of satisfaction does a person receive knowing about this kind of 'reality'?

Do we believe that the same Jesus who tenderly asked, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" will soon be throwing (they say millions) into a fiery torturous existence that has no escape? Will He then be pummeling His creation with rocks (that would be a fine torment) for all time, not allowing anyone to die and be able to escape the pain and remorse?

You'd think folks would at least want to hear the biblical evidence/argument against eternal conscious torment. At least once, give it a chance. If it is not biblical then by all means, reject it! However, imagine if this tradition of torment is just a doctrine of man! Wouldn't we want to be aware of it and teach accordingly?

And If I am so wrong, friend and fellow believer, then am I not a false teacher? And shouldn't I be told of my sin and shown the ways I have gone wrong? Shouldn't it be pointed out how I have used Scripture out of context and twisted the meanings of our most beloved verses? It would be the loving thing to point it out to me.

Believe me, no one 'gets away with it'. God is not mocked. God is just. He has also told me over and over (maybe He has told you also) that He is merciful and compassionate. May we attain to being like our Father. He also told us He is making all things new. (Goodbye evil!)

As I see it, the only ones getting away with anything are those who are rescued and get to participate in the Great Exchange, where Jesus dies in our place.

Now, that is really getting away with something!


1 http://www.hellhadesafterlife.com/hell/hell-everlasting-destruction

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Driver Who Cuts Off Annihilationist Told to Go to Hell for a Finite Period of Time


LOS ANGELES, CA—A representative for the California Highway Patrol has advised that the I-10 eastbound freeway was congested for over an hour Wednesday morning due to a two-car accident caused by an alleged illegal lane change, which devolved into a roadside altercation. During the post-crash fight, witnesses confirmed that one of the parties, a staunch annihilationist, colorfully told the other to go to hell for a finite period of time.

Patrick Smith, 29, who firmly believes that hell is not an eternal place of torment but rather a temporary holding place until the damned will be extinguished, claims another driver cut him off and slammed on his brakes, causing Smith’s blue Mazda to rear-end the man’s black SUV. According to witnesses, Smith then got out of his car and began yelling insults, slurs, and profanities entirely in line with his beliefs surrounding the final judgment.

“You can go straight to hades until the Last Judgment, at which time you will cease to exist consciously!” Smith bellowed at the mystified other driver, who then allegedly panicked and sped away from the scene.

“I hope I’m wrong about hell and that guy burns forever!” Smith reportedly screamed at slow-moving rubberneckers passing by his incapacitated vehicle.

LAPD arrived at the scene and took Smith in for questioning. He is currently being held in custody for a short period of time, after which he will be released.



Just a joke, folks. Original 'story' found at The Babylon Bee

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fantastic Fudge interview

Interview (podcast) with Edward Fudge concerning hell by Eric Metaxas

"Keep an open mind..."  - Eric Metaxas

The Old and New Testaments, when talking about final punishment, use the words "perish", "death" and "destruction" most frequently and in a literal context.

"For God so loved the world that He have His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  - John 3:16 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  - Romans 6:23 

"They will be punished with eternal destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power..."  -  2 Thess. 1:9

Listen to the podcast HERE. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

I could wish that I were accursed!

"For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren…"    - Rom. 9:3

Why do you think Paul said these words?

I comprehend that Paul is passionately expressing his willingness to give anything to see his fellow Jews believe the Gospel and be saved. Many traditionalists view the phrase 'separated from Christ' as being equal in meaning to 'going to hell'. (See also 1 Cor. 16:22, Gal. 1:8-9)
"Many have thought that his meaning is, that he had so great a value for them, that he could even wish himself, and be content to be eternally separated from Christ, everlastingly banished from his presence, never to enjoy communion more with him, or in other words, to be eternally damned, that they might be saved."  - John Gill (biblestudytools.com)
Is it possible to believe that Paul would be willing to be tormented in fire forever for a bunch of stiff-necked and short-sighted Hebrew sinners who persecuted him? If not, he could wish to be separated from Christ in what capacity? It is said that Paul was acting in similar fashion to Moses who dramatically petitioned the LORD in Exodus 32:31-33: "Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin; but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written. The LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book."  

Could Paul have really meant that he would choose to 'suffer in hell' in the place of his fellow Israelites? We know Paul wrote inspired words by the Holy Spirit. I believe there is an answer to this mystery.

Let's start by looking at the word 'accursed'. In Greek, it is actually a word we are familiar with: Anathema. A description of its meaning from Thayer's Greek Lexicon is: 1) a thing set up or laid by in order to be kept  2) a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed…therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction.

This corresponds to the Hebrew word charam (Heb. H2763) to ban, devote, destroy utterly, completely destroy, dedicate for destruction, exterminate.

Example: Exodus 22:20 - "He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed (lit. put under the ban [charam])"

From Encyclopaedia Britannica: "In the Old Testament the word [charam] was applied to anything set aside for sacrifice and thus banned from profane use and dedicated to destruction, as in the case of the enemy and their cities and possessions in the case of religious wars."

Here is an example, although there are many in the OT: "So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed [charam] the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor." (Deut. 2:34)

The second definition of anathema is spelled out in detail in Leviticus where it describes what happens when a man is 'put under the ban':

"…anything which a man sets apart [charam] to the LORD out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted to destruction [charam] is most holy to the LORD. No one who may have been set apart [charam] among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death."  (Lev. 27:28,29. See also Jer. 51:3, Deut. 3:6, plus Joshua 6:21, 7:14, 8:26, 10:28 etc.)

In chapter 34 of Isaiah we see a prophetic description of God's future judgment on all the nations. We see the use of 'charam' concerning people the LORD has devoted to destruction:
"For the LORD's indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed [charam] them,
He has given them over to slaughter…
For My sword is satiated in heaven,
Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom
And upon the people who I have devoted to destruction [charam]."  (34:2,5)

So, you get the idea of anathema and charamAnd of course Paul was very familiar with what we call the Old Testament. In wishing to be anathema, he was saying that he was willing to be 'put under the ban' or utterly destroyed for the sake of his brethren. This becomes much more understandable, compared to this idea of being 'damned' and spending eternity in torment.

It also makes sense in another capacity, as Paul never teaches about a place of forever torment. He clearly states that God's wrath against sin will result in death/destruction (Click here to read the post "We all trust Paul").

Thankfully, Paul was not required to make that particular sacrifice, as Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Each individual needs to make their own choices: "…we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20) "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live…" (Deut. 30:19)

The choice God presents to us through Jesus has been and still is - life or death.


 "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."   - John 5:24

Friday, March 31, 2017

God's adversaries


"But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me."  - Luke 19:27 
"Your enemies… Your foes… You will burn them up as in a blazing furnace. The LORD will swallow them up in His wrath, and His fire will consume them."  - Ps. 21:8-9

What is the final end of God's enemies?


There are basically two options we can explore from Scripture: a) God's enemies will be kept in existence (alive) and tormented for ever and ever in hell, or b) God will punish His enemies which includes a final destruction in the lake of fire.

So, let's pull out all the Scripture support for option 'a':  Rev. 20:10.

Okay, so I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek here. There are a handful of verses that traditionalists would choose to support their doctrine. However, many of those could also be used to support option 'b' above, which is called conditional immortality. (Example: The Bible speaks of 'eternal punishment'. Traditionalists would say this means the punishment goes on forever. Conditionalists believe that the punishment is eternal - of the age to come and permanent (never-ending). So, since death (destruction in the lake of fire) is the punishment, that sentence will be final and there will never be a reversal.)

The thing to ask as we study is: where does the weight of Scripture fall on this subject? The nebulous, allegorical or symbolic verses are then viewed through the light of the clear and plainly-stated verses - and their meaning comes into focus.

Let's start with some general verses concerning God's enemies.


"The LORD your God... repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face."  Deut. 7:10

"If I sharpen My flashing sword, 
And My hand takes hold on justice, 
I will render vengeance on My adversaries, 
And I will repay those who hate Me."  Deut. 32:41

"Your enemies… Your foes… You will burn them up as in a blazing furnace. The LORD will swallow them up in His wrath, and His fire will consume them."  - Ps. 21:8-9

"As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; 
As wax melts before the fire, 
So let the wicked perish before God."  Ps. 68:2

"Speaking of the wicked: "I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! " - Read all of Psalm 73

"For, behold, those who are far from you will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You." Psalm 73:27

"For, behold, Your enemies, O LORD,
For, behold, Your enemies will perish;
All who do iniquity will be scattered."  - Ps. 92:9

"Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes on every side…" Ps. 97:3

"O LORD… fire will devour Your enemies." Is. 26:11

"Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries,
And all your enemies will be cut off." - Micah 5:9

"A jealous and avenging God is the LORD;
The LORD is avenging and wrathful.
The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies." Nahum 1:2

"Therefore they will be like the morning cloud 
And like dew which soon disappears, 
Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor 
And like smoke from a chimney." Hosea 13:3

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch."  - Malachi 4:1

“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”   - Matt. 3:12   [No one can put out the fire; it cannot be resisted.]

"Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power." 1 Cor. 15:24

"…they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction."  - Phil. 3:19

"[…there is] a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies." - Heb. 10:27

"Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power…"   - 1 Cor. 15:24 (NIV) 



The Wicked - some specific verses concerning wicked people:


"But the wicked will perish; 
And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures, 
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away."  Ps. 37:20

"Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies,
The hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds." - Ps. 68:21

"But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death."  - Prov. 8:36

"Moses said, 'THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN: TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. 'And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'"  - Acts 3:22-23

"For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things."  - Phil. 3:19

"They will be punished with everlasting destruction…"  - 2 Thess. 1:9  The complete end lasts forever; once destroyed there is no hope of recovery or life ever again.

"But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men."    - 2 Pet 3:7

"The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."   - 1 John 2:17

"And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."  - Rev. 20:15

"…the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one… So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age."   -  Matt. 13:40

"O LORD… fire will devour Your enemies."  Is. 26:11

Death, the last enemy


Death is an enemy that can cause agony (Luke 16:24-25). Death caused Jesus agony, but death couldn't hold him. Death will be abolished. It will be abolished by Jesus in the lake of fire. There will then be no more death. See verses below.

"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death."   - Rev. 20:14

"God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."  - Acts 2:24  

"The last enemy that will be abolished is death."  - 1 Cor. 15:26

"…our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death…"  - 2 Tim 1:10

"…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death…"  - Rev. 21:4


From this study, it became clear that God was going to wipe out all enemies: wicked creatures, death, hades, sin and the like... "for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). His mercy and compassion run deep. But even now as "mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13) there is coming a Day of wrath, "a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries" (Heb. 10:27).


For more studies on this subject:

The Wicked He Will Destroy

The Lake of Fire

What Really Happens to Satan?

The Adversaries (the original study on God's enemies)