Friday, December 26, 2014

It never entered My mind

As I am reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah, there is a reoccurring mention of Israel's and Judah's rebellion and unfaithfulness. Specifically, I noted the abhorrent practice of infant sacrifice that 'God's chosen people' adopted from surrounding nations. I also noticed how vehemently God speaks against this practice:

“They have built the high places of Topheth (means 'fire place') in the Valley of Ben Hinnom (Gehenna) to burn their sons and daughters in the fire – something I did not command, nor did it enter My mind.”                                                                                                           - Jer. 7:31

In the NASB, they translate Jer. 19:5 (which basically repeats the above verse) as, “...a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind...”

Jeremiah 32:35 again reiterates this sin and states, “...nor did it enter my mind... that they should do such a detestable thing...”

As I read about this detestable practice of placing children in the burning arms of the idol Molech (or Baal) to suffer in the fire, it reminds me of this idea of eternal conscious torment. Except in this scenario, those that God 'fathered' (created) will be thrown in the fire and instead of dying, they will be kept alive to suffer this burning forever.

Tell me, could a fate such as this ever come from the Father's mind?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christians - is this what you believe?

You are about to read some disturbing descriptions about hell. As they say, if it is true then it ought to be taught to the world. However, we don't hear many pastors preaching the old fire and brimstone sermons much these days. So terribly unpopular they are.

Personally, I am relieved that traditionalists are mostly ashamed and embarrassed by their doctrine of hell and therefore have retreated to silence on the subject. Whatever the reason, I am thankful for silence when it comes to false teaching. Of course, if it were a solid Bible teaching, then no matter the cost it would need to be spoken.

"Traditionalists believe that Jesus taught about hell to scare people from it, and that everyone who follows Him ought to do the same. In this day, therefore, when many traditionalists work so hard to minimize the gross horror of their own doctrine, preaching samples of traditionalists from an earlier age are in order."1

"When thou diest thy soul will be tormented alone - that will be a hell for it - but at the day of judgment thy body will join they soul, and then thou wilt have twin hells, body and soul shall be together, each brimful of pain, thy soul sweating in its inmost pore drops of blood and thy body from head to foot suffused with agony; conscience, judgment, memory, all tortured... Thine heart beating high with fever they pulse rattling at an enormous rate in agony, thy limbs cracking like the martyrs in the fire and yet unburnt, thyself put in a vessel of hot oil, pained yet coming out undestroyed, all thy veins becoming a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his diabolical tune...If God be true, and this Bible be true, what I have said is the truth, and you will find it one day to be so."   - Spurgeon

If that quote from Spurgeon is not graphic enough for you, how about this colorful description by A.W. Pink:

"So it will be with the soul in Hell... imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven, all of a glowing heat, or into the midst of a blowing brick-kiln, or of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire, as the heat is greater. Imagine also that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full within and without as a bright coal of fire, all the while full of quick sense; what horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you!...And how much greater would be the effect, if you knew you must endure it for a whole year, and low vastly greater still, if you knew, that you must bear it forever and ever!... That after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than ever it was; and that you never, never should be delivered!But your torment in Hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents. How then will the heart of a poor creature sink under it! How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable must the sinking of the soul be in such a case."

So, Christian, is this what you believe? When a believer mocks the idea that the Bible teaches destruction as a final end, and holds out eternal conscious torment as the 'truth', then why do they not profess the forever torments as our bold friend Mr. Pink does?

"In popular traditionalist preaching and writing, hell 'is almost invariably understood as a real, material, inextinguishable fire, ceaselessly tormenting the damned.' And, if that is what Scripture reaches, no one who believes the Bible has any right to object... If God's Word teaches that hell will be the scene of unending conscious torment, it should be preached as a terrible place of unimaginable pain and horror. If the traditionalist view of hell is correct, most of its modern advocates owe their fire-and-brimstone ancestors a profound apology. The fundamental issue is not whether the pain is physical or spiritual, literal or metaphorical. The issue is whether Scripture intends to denote conscious suffering that never ends, of whatever sort or description."2

"Rather than make apologies for such vivid and earthy descriptions of unending torment, traditionalists ought to emulate them all the more. If the wicked are to be made immortal for the purpose of enduring everlasting torture in agony, writers like Pink and preachers like Spurgeon do sinners an inestimable favor by making that very, very plain.

We ought not to retreat from the language of... Spurgeon and Edwards on grounds that is is unduly harsh, out of step with postmodern sentiment, or that it is intolerant or politically incorrect. We should instead reject all such statements because they are unscriptural, lack any biblical basis, and represent a theological dogma whose history we can trace back through the centuries to its first explicit pronouncement among Christians more than a hundred years after Jesus. Traditionalism did not originate in an exegesis of Scripture, and its advocates admit that it contradicts what the Bible repeatedly appears to say. Traditionalism's problem is not that it is unsympathetic but that it is unscriptural. Scripture - not sympathy - provides its only cure."3

If you have doubts about hell and the fact that it seems unbiblical, do not be overcome with guilt, as if you are going against God. Instead, study out the subject in full, depending on the Holy Spirit as your guide to truth, and then make your judgment. You may find that the shame and embarrassment you feel about this hell doctrine are founded afterall.

1,2,3 - Edward Fudge, "The Fire That Consumes", pgs. 362-365

Monday, December 22, 2014

What really happens to Satan?

Taken from the July post called "The Adversaries"

"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 enemy Satan, the devil?

Let's look at some verses about what God intends to do with His enemies in general:

"Speaking of the wicked: "I perceived their end... You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away...! " - Read 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..."  - 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

"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


Some facts to keep straight: Satan is thrown into the lake of fire. Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. We are told specifically that death is the last enemy to be abolished (see below). We know that death was abolished by being 'thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14), thereby fulfilling the Scripture "death is no more" (Rev. 21:4). What can we deduce about Hades, Satan or anyone/thing that also gets thrown in the lake of fire (which is the second death)?

You may ask, what about the rest of Rev. 20:10… "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."?
Taken from "The Greek word translated as forever is aion (G165), which does not always mean forever as we understand it. From this Greek word aion we derive the word eon. An eon is an unspecified, indefinite period of time, but it does have an end. Geologists use the word to describe very long periods of geologic time or ages, but one eon does end and another begin."
From Strong's (emphasis is mine): 165. aion, ahee-ohn'; from the same as G104; prop. an age; by extens. perpetuity (also past); by impl. the world; spec. (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):-- age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end). Comp. G5550.
Here is another case for aion meaning an age, but not in perpetuity: The term Aeon appears in the New Testament where Paul refers to "the rulers of this age (aion)" [1 Cor 2:6]. "
Let's look at some other verses that shed light on the final end of Satan, the devil:
“You were the anointed cherub who covers, 
And I placed you there. 
You were on the holy mountain of God; 
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
You were blameless in your ways 
From the day you were created 
Until unrighteousness was found in you.
By the abundance of your trade 
You were internally filled with violence, 
And you sinned; 
Therefore I have cast you as profane 
From the mountain of God. 
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, 
From the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; 
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. 
I cast you to the ground; 
I put you before kings, 
That they may see you.
By the multitude of your iniquities, 
In the unrighteousness of your trade 
You profaned your sanctuaries. 
Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; 
It has consumed you
And I have turned you to ashes on the earth 
In the eyes of all who see you. have come to a horrible end
and will be no more."  - Eze. 28:14-19

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush his head, and you will strike his heel."   - Gen. 3:15  (NIV)  When a head is crushed that means death. See also Rom. 16:20: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."  Heb. 2:14 (KJV)

"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) 

"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

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

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

From this study, it became clear that God is going to wipe out all enemies: wicked creatures (including Satan), death, hades, sin and the like... "for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). He will accomplish this destruction with the lake of fire.

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 a more in-depth study on this subject, please read 'The Adversaries' post from July.]

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Did Jesus take our punishment?

Torture. Forever. Torment. Forever. Consciously suffering. Forever and ever and ever. Can any human really fathom that? Believe me, I've tried. It will actually make you insane if you try for too long. When men and women teach and preach eternal conscious torment, I wonder if they have really pondered the reality of what they are saying?

When I really weigh Scripture and the character of Jesus, this whole idea of God tormenting humans without letting them die - for all eternity - sounds so very wrong. Just wrong. And, yes, I realize that our understanding and our reasoning falls short in many ways. But, as my husband says, our sense of justice comes from a Source. God promised to write His laws on our heart. He promises us His Holy Spirit who can 'lead us into all truth'. Should we discount the sense of wrong and the mountain of evidence (from God's word) that says He doesn't torture His created ones forever? Take, for example, the teaching that Jesus took the punishment we deserve.

I hear it over and over. “Jesus took your place – he took the punishment that YOU deserve so when you believe in Him, you won't have to pay that price. He paid it on the cross.”

I wonder if those who teach this really believe it. Why? Because I also know that there is another popular teaching that says if you reject Jesus (some say even if you never heard of Him) you will be thrown into hell, which is eternal conscious torment. If you die without Jesus then the consequence is... you go to hell to suffer forever. End of story.

I don't agree with the popular idea about hell, of course, but I do try to understand the teaching and why folks hold to that belief. So, my brain is having a hard time reconciling these two teachings. If Jesus took our punishment, then what was the punishment? Let's take a look at some Scripture.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.” - 1 Thess. 5:10

Thank you, Lord and Savior! I just breathed a huge sigh of thankfulness and relief as I once again realize how my Savior died for me while I was still a sinner. I didn't have to go get cleaned up first. The Bible says, “while we were God's enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son...” (Rom. 5:10).

What other punishment did Jesus suffer for us? We can discover this through the famous passage in Isaiah 53:
Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all... He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished.... Yet it was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer... He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

“He made intercession for the transgressors.” That's us – the sinners. I picture the Man stepping in front of me to intercept an arrow that was screaming towards my own heart. Instead of death [the death I deserved] - this righteous, innocent Man took the pain, the suffering and the death that was mine. The Scriptures describe this as God's love. “For God so loved the world...” Perfectly executed to perfectly save us. That thought is so captivating that I am losing sight of my point. No matter, God's love is always the point!

Ok, having let that sink in for a bit, I am coming back to my original questions. So, Jesus took my place. He took my punishment. He died for me. Got it. So, where does the fiery, forever tormenting hell come in? If Jesus took my punishment for sin and I have been “saved”, what have I been saved from?

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

...offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life...” Rom. 6:13

We know that we have passed from death to life...” 1 John 3:14

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction... I have set before you life and death... Now choose life...” Deut. 30:15,19

Where does it ever say that Jesus saves us from hell [eternal conscious torment]? He saves us from death, yes. He rescues us from God's wrath, yes. From destruction and perishing, yes. Where do the traditional hell ideas come from - Scripture or tradition?

Does the Bible teach “choose Life or be tormented forever”? That is an honest question. As sinful mortals we should tremble at the thought of eternal torture. Give some thought to it.

Ask yourself: Will this Jesus, who died a horrible death in our place, really choose to torment millions of His creations throughout eternity?