Thursday, July 31, 2014

The punishment of eternal fire


Traditionalists will tell you emphatically that it is eternal conscious torment in hell.

However, Scripture itself may have something different to say about that. There is an equation below for all you math folks. Follow the Scripture - really look each one up, it's not that many! - and see if this equation does not prove to be true.

Eternal fire (Jude 1:7) = Gehenna (Matt. 18:8, Mark 9:43) = unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43) = lake of fire (Rev. 19:20) = second death (Rev. 20:14) = destruction (Matt. 10:28, 1 Cor. 15:26, Rev. 17:11)

What did you find? Did the equation hold true or did it break down somewhere? If you see a problem, let me know!

Coming soon: A study on the fire of God. I've been working on it for weeks - trying to get it short enough that someone may actually read it! There is so much in God's word that describes His fire and the big picture is more clear than I even imagined.

Spend time in the word and meditate on it - don't just swallow what others tell you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tell me again - what is the consequence for sin?

I looked online and found these traditional responses and they are typical:

"…hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin" - John Piper 1

"The thing that's going to send you to hell is that you're a sinner and you don't want to admit it."  - J. Vernon McGee

"…when an unbeliever dies, he goes to be with Satan… As he passes from this earth, the devil whispers gloatingly, “Today you will be with me in hell.” No other possibilities exist. Our souls wilt be with Christ or with Satan."  - 'What is Hell?' by Edward Donnelly

"Hell is where God condemns sin and all those who reject Him. The Bible makes it clear that we have all sinned, so, as a result, we all deserve to go to hell." -

"Can a God of love send anyone to Hell?sin will damn you no matter how much you say about a loving God."  -

"…sin exists. You sin, we all sin. God hates sin. Sin cannot enter into heaven. So the only alternative is hell. Plain and simple."  - anonymous answering the question "why do people go to hell?"

Okay, yes, that sounds familiar. I have heard statements and teaching like that throughout my life, but especially since the age of 27, when I believed on Jesus and was baptized (it was then that I really started paying attention to spiritual things).

But what I actually mean is: what does the Bible say is the consequence of sin?

Scripture actually answers my question quite specifically, succinctly and plainly. We all know the verse:

"The wages of sin is death…" (Rom. 6.23)

That settles it for me right there. I am willing to believe God's word. That verse states the consequence I face without Jesus and it was the same consequence Adam and Eve faced for disobeying God: "…but the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Gen. 2:17)

However, some believe there is a hidden meaning there. There are folks that have an imaginary asterisk on Romans 6:23 that connects to a footnote saying something like: "which means: be kept alive to suffer forever in hell". The belief is that 'death' illustrates the opposite of its plain meaning - to be kept alive in hell. Because of this confusion, let's continue to explore God's word concerning this grave topic.

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."  (Rom. 5:12)

"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Rom. 6:16)

"When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death."  (Rom. 6:19-20)

"For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." (Rom. 8:6)

"…although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."  (Rom. 1:32)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish…"  (John 3:16)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."  (John 5:25)

"...and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish."  (John 10:28)

"Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction. The one who sows to please God's Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal. 6.7-8)

"The soul that sins shall die" (Ez. 18.4) 

"Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."  (James 1:15)

"For You have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling,So that I may walk before God in the light of the living." (Ps. 56:13)

"In the way of righteousness is life,And in its pathway there is no death." (Proverbs 12:28)

We all agree that the body dies. Maybe all these verses about death being the result of sin is about just the death of the body? If we continue to look, it is clear that there is a death occurring that is beyond just the physical body. Jesus made this clear when he said to Martha:

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:26)

“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…" (John 6:51)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death." (John 8:51)

"I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:9-11, 24-25)

There are also all the verses about destruction* (see below). They are too numerous to list them all, but here are some:

"He has brought back their wickedness upon them And will destroy them in their evil; The LORD our God will destroy them."  (Ps. 94:23)

"The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy."  (Ps. 145:20)

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it."  (Matt. 7:13)

"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… in no way alarmed by your opponents - which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you…" (Phil. 1:27-28)

"These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."  (2 Thess. 1:9)

"But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul."  (Heb. 10:39)

See also 2 Peter 2:1, 3, 6, 12, 16, Rev. 17:8, 11 among others. That's a lot of destruction there, including the consequence for distorting Scripture teachings. God help us that that is not us.

But what about the lake of fire? Although Revelation is symbolic in many aspects, we read that Satan, the beast, the false prophet, and all those not found in the book of life are thrown there. Most agree that the lake of fire corresponds to Gehenna, which Jesus mentions several times. Thankfully, John explains what it symbolizes:

"This is the second death, the lake of fire."  (Rev. 20:14)

"…their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."  (Rev. 21:8) The horror of the second death is that there is no return, no recovery - it is final death, a complete destruction. Eternal destruction.

So, we've come full circle from Genesis to Revelation and the outcome of sin is always death. And life is always in Christ Jesus our Lord. As in so much of God's truth, He uses earthly realities (life and death) to illustrate and teach us about eternal realities (eternal life, second death).

So, tell me again - what is the consequence for sin?



To translate black as white is nothing to this

* When traditionalists say that 'death', 'destruction' and 'perish' in the NT actually mean to suffer in hell for eternity...
"...the traditionalists claim that all these words have figurative meanings when used in the New Testament about the lost, moved Greek scholar and New Testament translator R.F. Weymouth to exclaim, "My mind fails to conceive a grosser misinterpretation of language than when the five or six strongest words which the Greek tongue possesses, signifying 'destroy' or 'destruction,' are explained to mean maintaining an everlasting but wretched existence. To translate black as white is nothing to this." 2

2 Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, page 214.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Anathema - "I wish I were accursed!"

Can someone tell me why in the world Paul said, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren…" (Rom. 9:3)?

Okay, I get that Paul is passionately expressing his willingness to give anything to see his fellow Jews believe the Gospel and be saved. However, do traditionalists view 'accursed' as condemned and therefore 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 (
Could a person really 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."  Were they referring to the Book of Life?

Hmmmm. I can't tell you how I've turned this over and thought of its implications. After all, we know Paul wrote inspired words by the Holy Spirit.

So 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 [cherem]."  (34:2,5)

So, you get the idea of anathema and charam. And 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 (see previous 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 has been and still is - life or death.

What do you think about Paul's statement?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stained glass

"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well."  (Psalm 139:14)

Have you seen "The Princess Bride", the movie inspired by William Goldman's 1973 novel?

After his defeat in their dramatic fencing duel Inigo Montoya, the great swordsman, says to the Man in Black, "Kill me quickly." The mysterious masked man replies, "I would sooner destroy a stained glass window than an artist such as yourself." And so he spares Inigo's life.

Imagine if you will that God sees each of us as unique works of art, made by His own hand. Would he easily destroy a beautiful stained glass window that He designed, piece by delicate and colored piece? More than that, would he torture his beloved creation - for eternity?

I think about this frequently. (If you know me, no rolling your eyes here!)

Do you ever people-watch? Maybe at the airport or an event like the fair where all kinds of people are passing by, each unique and each a soul that God created. Do you wonder what will happen to them in eternity? I look at each one, and ask, "What about that one, God? What will happen to her? Where will he spend eternity? There are so many - where are they going?"

I just read another teaching about hell on the internet (my husband showed it to me on Facebook). Here is a quote from Marc at "At this time, there’re over 7,000,000,000 (billion) souls on planet Earth, all created by the Lord Jesus Christ for His and His Father’s good pleasure. Most, His holy Word proclaims, are destined for eternal destruction…the place called hell. What kind of a God would knowingly do that? The real living and just holy God, our Master." (my emphasis)

Marc goes on to excitedly and proudly reprint a teaching about hell from Edward Donnelly. Among other things, Donnelly states, "The last book of the Bible shows us the sinless inhabitants of heaven praising and thanking God for hell… Like all else in creation, hell exists for God’s glory." and also, "God rules in hell as He rules in heaven."

I'm sorry but that those kinds of statements just turn my stomach. I just feel sick to hear Bible teachers glorifying hell and practically bragging about how terrible and tortuous it will be to "most" of God's created souls. I wonder if God is as gleeful about His "justice" and righteous judgments?

Wouldn't it be helpful to know how God feels about His creation - what His desires are for us?

Oh, what do you know - He does let us know in His word:

"God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."  (Gen. 1:27)

"Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;Yes, our God is compassionate."  (Psalm 116:5, 103:8, 111:4, 112:4 plus lots more)

"My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."  (Psalm 139:15-16)

"For the LORD takes pleasure in His peopleHe will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation."  (Psalm 149:4)

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”  (Ezek. 18:32)

“Say to them, ‘As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?' " (Ezek. 33:11, 18:23)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…"  (Jer. 1:5)

"Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”  (Isaiah 43:6-7)

“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other… The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance."  (Isaiah 45:22-23)

"By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
as He will bear their iniquities.
He poured out Himself to death…
He Himself bore the sin of many, 
and interceded for the transgressors. 
All of us like sheep have gone astray, 
Each of us has turned to his own way; 
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all 
To fall on Him."  (Isaiah 53:6,12)

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"  (Matt. 7:11)

“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven."  (Matt. 23:9)

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."  (Luke 15:20)

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  (Luke 19:10)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17)

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."  (John 10:11)

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:13)

"He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist…"  (Acts 17:26-28)

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  (Rom. 5:8)

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."  (Rom. 5:10)

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…"  (Eph. 2:10)

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him."  (Col. 1:16)

"God our Savior… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4)

"He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."  (1 John 2:2)

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…"  (1 John 3:16)

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins….We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world."  (1 John 4:10,14)

"We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love…"  (1 John 4:16)

"The Lord is not slow about His promise… but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  (2 Peter 3:9)

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”  (Rev. 4:11)

Now don't think I am promoting universalism here because of the verses I have highlighted. It is clear from Scripture that there are wicked ones that are headed for destruction. "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." (Psalm 37:20) God desires that every soul be saved, but He also allows us the ability to reject Jesus and eternal life.

The question is, will God really let billions of souls plummet helplessly and ignorantly into the lake of fire? Will He then keep them 'alive' to torment them for ever and ever and ever? And that is God's justice?

I received a comment from a reader about all the Scripture evidence that I use in my studies: "…but it is good to remember that love is the best and ultimately the only real argument [against eternal torment]." His point is not about abandoning God's word for philosophic reasoning, but to really grasp God's love and His purpose for our creation. What has He done and what will He do to save His people? Is God's arm too short, as it says (Is. 59:1)?

Does this idea of suffering in a place of horror that lasts through eternity really line up with the character of our compassionate Father who has knit each one in a unique way? For myself, there is no ring of truth in it.

Of course, there is a Day of Judgment, a day of wrath. But does this wrath go on forever? No, not forever. There is a time when God's wrath is finished (Rev. 15:1). Is our God one who goes on punishing, goes on hurting, goes on inflicting pain? "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime." (Psalm 30:5)

Eternal punishment truly has no end - whatever is thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death, will never be recovered. Satan, the wicked, Hades and even Death itself will be thrown in and destroyed - forever (Rev. 20:14-15).  In God's mercy and justice, He will rid His creation of evil forevermore (Rev. 21:8,27) "Behold, I am making all things new." (Rev. 21:5)

I think God's mercy will extend beyond what we imagine. His love is so powerful. Just think about the Jewish Christians who struggled with the idea that the Gentiles were fellow heirs of eternal life! Let's not be like them and instead desire, along with our Father in Heaven, for the salvation of as many as will come.

"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; 
And you who have no money come, buy and eat. 
Come, buy wine and milk 
Without money and without cost."  (Is. 55:1)

I know that the second letter to the Corinthians says that we are temples of the living God (6:16) and Ephesians says we are "being built together into a dwelling of God" (2:22, also 1 Pet. 2:5) but I also like to imagine us as stained glass windows - fragile and beautiful and designed by God Himself. With such love He cares and preserves us - thank you, Lord Jesus!

Do you think God's character allows for eternal conscious torment? I take all feedback seriously.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

We all trust Paul

Illustration from

So, I've been thinking again. 

I know, it gets me in trouble.  As I read the New Testament, I am thinking about Paul. The beloved Apostle Paul! We all want to be like him.  May I speak for Christians across-the-board when I say we believe Paul wrote inspired words by the Holy Spirit for our edification, understanding and education? We all trust him! 

Paul wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (which does not include Hebrews - although that author is consistent with what Paul taught in his other letters concerning final punishment.)

So, I've been wondering - what did Paul believe about 'hell'? As we study Paul's writings, you'll notice that in his teachings about final punishment, he uses the words 'death' and 'destruction' most frequently. Can you find any evidence of eternal torment?

What do we learn from Paul about final punishment?

Paul was not timid, he didn't hold back on what he really thought. He could be bold and quite straight forward in his letters. "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God." (Acts 20:27) If Paul believed that final punishment involved people being tormented forever, don't you think he would mention that. At least once?

Maybe he didn't like talking about negative consequences? Maybe he just wanted to focus on grace and holy living and let someone else expound on the 'bad news'? ... No, that is not the case - Paul really had a good amount to say about God's wrath and warned people sternly about the reality of the Day of Judgment.

"But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek…"  Rom. 2:5-9

Well, that could be a description of the classic hell, right? Yes, you could understand his warning about the wrath of God in that way. But then he explains himself as you read further in Romans: 

"For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law."  (2:12)

The word 'perish' comes up quite a bit concerning the lost (i.e. John 3:16). Does that word actually mean to be kept alive to be tormented? Well, let's consider more of Paul's teaching about the consequences of sin. There is one word that comes up a lot: death.

"…just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned… For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ… as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus…" Rom. 5:12,17,21
"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?"   - Romans 6:16
"Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death."  (6:21) 
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (6:23) 
"… for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."  (8:13)

But don't we all die? Yes, we all die at some point, so what is he talking about? Ask yourself that question as you consider all these verses by Paul's hand:

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?"  (9:22)
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (G622 apollymi – to destroy, abolish), but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."  (1 Cor. 1:18)
"Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away."  (1 Cor 2:6)  
“If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”  (1 Cor. 3:17)  
 “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” (1 Cor 15:17-18)  
“…then comes the end, when He [Messiah] hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power."   (1 Cor. 15:24)  
"The last enemy that will be abolished is death."  - 1 Cor. 15:26  (abolished how? In the lake of fire. Rev. 20:14)  
"For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."  (2 Cor. 2:15)  
"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing…" (2 Cor. 4:3)  
“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”  (2 Thess. 1:9)

Consider this: When you read about eternal salvation, eternal judgment or eternal redemption it is clear that 'eternal' is an adjective that modifies the noun.

So, we are not being continually saved throughout eternity, but our salvation is eternal - of the age to come and permanent. Jesus does not continue judging through eternity but His judgment, once handed down, is eternal. And so on. God is not redeeming His people forever, it is a complete redemption that lasts forever. God will not be 'destroying' people for eternity (that doesn't even make sense). The penalty of destruction is eternal - of the age to come and permanent. Read Matthew 10:28 where Jesus says, …fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]. 

"Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming… with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness."  (2 Thess. 2:8,10-12)    
"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’…" (Phil. 3:19)  
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”  Eph. 5:6   
"For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…"  1 Thess. 5:9  
"…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come." – 1 Thess. 1:10 
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… and although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (1:18,32)  
"…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (5:9)

So, Paul speaks often about God's wrath. As a man of the Scriptures, what would Paul have known about 'the day of wrath'?

"You will make them as a fiery oven in the time of your anger; The LORD will swallow them up in His wrathAnd fire will devour them."  (Psalm 21:9) 

"Destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more."  (Psalm 59:13) 

"Riches do not profit in the day of wrathBut righteousness delivers from death."  (Prov. 11:4) 

"Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the LORD'S wrathAnd all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete endIndeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth."  (Zeph. 1:18)

Peter agrees and echoes this description of the day of the Lord:

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up."  (2 Peter 3:10)

Does the wrath of God have anything to do with hell? From the above verses I see death and destruction. Rev. 15:1 seems to indicate that there is a point when God’s wrath is finished, which doesn’t line up with a hell that never ends. "Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished."

In conclusion, eternal conscious torment is not found in Paul's teaching. It just isn't there. If that was a reality awaiting the lost, do you think Paul might have made some mention of it? He does mention the wrath of God, death, destruction and perishing as penalties that await the lost.

I will be creating a separate post to look intently at the verse where Paul says, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren…" (Rom. 9:3) We will ask: what in the world did he mean by that?

As for our admirable Apostle...
"…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters… in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction."  (2 Peter 3:16)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

There is good news

I've noticed that although this site is new, I've been getting hits from places like Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. I'm not sure why folks from those countries would find my blog. I understand it takes quite some time before a new blog will show up on search engines. Nonetheless, this internet thing is far-reaching - it is amazing how we can connect with folks across the globe that we may never see in person on this earth.

It is also true that a registered 'view' on a page does not mean somebody has actually read it, but one can hope!

So I was thinking, I am focusing on this horrid subject of 'hell' and writing in detail about final punishment - shouldn't I also include the flip side of this subject: the good news?

The good news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (we may call Him Yeshua, Messiah, Lord, Adonai, Emmanuel and the list goes on). Paul recounts the good news to new believers: "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…" (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

So you may wonder why did Jesus need to die for our sins? And why is that such good news? Well, for one, without Jesus we are totally separate from God and without hope:

"Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, …remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, …and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:11-13)

The Bible explains the truth about God and the world. We learn that sin is in the world ("…through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." - Rom. 5:12); we learn that sin is in us ("There is none who does good, there is not even one." - Rom. 3:12).

The Creator God, Yahweh (who also is called by many names in the Bible) is holy and our sin separates us from Him. In the end, sin brings death ("The wages of sin is death" - Rom. 6:23). We are slaves to sin and as we serve our 'master' we make ourselves enemies of the one true God (Rom. 5:10). If He is the Good Shepherd, we are the sheep that wander away from Him ("All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way." - Isa. 53:6).

We are so saturated with sin that even our 'good works' are like filthy, contaminated rags to Him (Isa. 64:6). We are apart from our holy Creator and without hope in the world (Eph. 2:12). Oh, wretched souls that we are, who can save us?

Thanks be to God for His Son Jesus! (Rom. 7:25, 1 Cor. 15:57, 2 Cor. 9:15)

If I were to describe Jesus in just one word it would be: LIFE! 

The life is in Jesus ("…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."  - 1 John 5:11). Without Jesus there is no life. He gives life to whom He chooses (John 5:21). Only in Him is life. There is no other way (Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life…"  - John 14:6). Because He lives, we may live also (John 14:19). 

We sing a song at church sometimes and right in the middle of the song, it suddenly says, "I"m alive, I'm alive, I'm alive!" over and over. I never imagine for a moment that I am singing about being physically alive. It is about life in Jesus - TRUE life, eternal life ("This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." - John 17:3). Because without Him is death (Rom. 6:23).

When you are born again by God's Spirit, your sins are washed away (Acts 22:16). The living water washes you cleaner than a newborn. Your crimson stains are made white as snow (Isa. 1:18). Don't you know we could never do that, with every talent and every effort of every soul on earth - we could never wash away the stain of sin. But Jesus does it! He pays a huge price, but He willingly pays it (He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities…" - Isa. 53:5).

The wages of sin is death. Our debt was piled high. We had no hope of paying it except by our final death. Jesus, who alone has this power, stepped in and took the debtor's note and cancelled it completely! He nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14). My God, that is wonderful news. Who ever heard of any gift so staggeringly valuable and undeserved?

"…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."   
                                                                          - Rom. 6:23

A person cannot do it justice. My suggestion is to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - and then keep going through the New Testament. You will get the idea of the Good News. (Then of course, you should read the Old Testament too. Maybe just start with looking up all the verses in this post - it will be fun, too!)

If you feel yourself drawn to Him, do not resist. Listen to what His Spirit tells you from the Word and do it. You will have such joy that it will not be contained! ("Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." - 1 Peter 1:8)

Do you ever wonder why Christians are always getting in trouble for 'proselytizing'? It is because they cannot keep this good news to themselves! From the overflow of your heart your mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Who can contain the Holy Spirit of the Lord living inside these clay vessels? Living water starts to flow out! Jesus said, "he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." - John 7:38

Once you taste the goodness of God, you will find no finer fare. You will realize there is no other place to go, for Jesus has words of life! (John 6:68) And He has the name that is above every other name (Eph. 1:21, Phil. 2:9).

Christians, if I have in any way not represented the Gospel correctly, please share a gentle correction. If you are not yet a Christian and have questions, please ask any that are on your heart.

God is pleased if you seek for immortality, but remember that He is the ONLY source of true life (Rom. 2:6-7, John 6:40).

"Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  - Acts 2:37-39

Now, do you think that is good news? I do too.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The wicked He will destroy

What does the Old Testament say will happen to the wicked?

Traditionalists teach that the OT is mostly silent concerning hell. It is true that you will not find eternal conscious torment taught there, but there is plenty mentioned about the fate of the wicked and God’s enemies. Their end is routinely described as perish, be destroyed, come to a complete end and be no more. The following are typical statements:

“...behold, these are the wicked...Then I perceived their end... You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away...For behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.” (See Psalm 37)

One of the main points to consider as you read the historic, poetic and prophetic verses concerning the fate of the wicked is: When the Apostles and the newly forming Church would 'read the Scriptures' - it was what we call the Old Testament. Their theology was shaped by and guided by Jesus' words through the solid foundation of the early Books! We know this by the multiple times Jesus and other writers quoted from the OT (about 263 times with Psalms and Isaiah being quoted the most).

We also know that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." (2 Tim. 3:16) Paul was referring to the Scripture that was available to them - the Torah, the poetic books, and the prophetic books. We do receive additional 'light' from the NT in many areas, including final punishment. For example, we learn that the wicked will be finally and permanently destroyed in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Jesus called it Gehenna).

Peter also teaches us "that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21) From that exhortation, I gather that we should let the plain language of Scripture speak to us, instead of superimposing a pre-formed doctrine onto the words. For example, in the above verses from Psalm 37 to say that 'destruction, swept away, destroy, and perish' actually mean to stay alive to be tormented forever is a twisted way to interpret those words. (You can also see the same error being repeated by Traditionalists in the NT by reading John 3:16 and Romans 6:23, among many others.)

For your consideration:

"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

"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   (NT quote clarified from Deut. 18:15, 18-19)

"…You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever… The enemy has come to an end… the very memory of them has perished."  - see Psalm 9:3-6

"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

"Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there."   -Psalm 37:10

"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."  – Psalm 37:20

"For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off."  - Psalm 37:28

"I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. -  Psalm 37:35-38

"Man in his pomp will not endure;
He is like the beasts that perish."  Read Psalm 49:12-20

“Do not slay them… destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more…”  - see Ps. 59:11-13

"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

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

Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And they are cut off from Your hand.  – Psalm 88:5

"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

Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!   - Psalm 104:35

The wicked will see it and be vexed, He will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish. – Psalm 112:10

“The LORD keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.” (Ps. 145:20)

"When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation."  – Prov. 10:25

"Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death."   Prov. 11:4

"The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
But the house of the righteous will stand."  - Proverbs 12:7 

"O LORD… fire will devour Your enemies… The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise; Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and You have wiped out all remembrance of them." Is. 26:11, 14

"For the LORD's indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter."  - Is. 34:2

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

"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

Make no mistake, there will be punishment. "Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die." (Prov. 15:10). And "The wages of the righteous is life; The income of the wicked, punishment." (Prov.10:16). We also know very well from Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death." So, the punishment awaiting the wicked may involve agony, torment and pain, but in the end their final punishment is death.