Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A visit to the Lake of Fire

After years of study on final punishment and so-called hell, my biblical journey brought me to the shores of the lake of fire. So this was it. Final punishment - the end of the line for a variety of people and spiritual beings, not to mention the end of a spiritual 'place' and a 'state of being'. You may recognize the last two references as descriptions of Hades and death which are thrown into the lake of fire:
"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:14)

Maybe you are like me. I had read that verse many times and then one time it really hit me - death? Hades? How can the lake of fire be a literal place if inanimate concepts are 'thrown' there? Obviously, we are not being taught about a physical place.

The book of Revelation in the Bible is allegorical and very symbolic. Many times the various symbols are explained in other places in Scripture. For example, in Revelation chapter 1 we hear about seven stars and seven golden lampstands and then are told later in the chapter: "the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” So, some mysteries and symbols become very clear.

Continuing in Rev. 20 we read: "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” So, this is an undesirable 'place' where God throws not only death and Hades but the unredeemed (those who will not attain eternal life). Later we will see that the beast, the false prophet and the devil (and his angels) are also thrown there. It seems to include all of God's enemies.

But for now, here is my next question concerning Rev. 20:14: What happens to death and Hades when they are thrown into the lake of fire? It seems quite clear that they are destroyed - gone forever from existence. Also, the lake of fire is called the second death, so it is surely pointing in that direction. Since we don't want to assume anything, let's look to Scripture to see if it backs up that conclusion.

We discover the fate of death in 1 Corinthians 15 where it mentions Christ's coming, "… then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death." (1 Cor. 15:24-26) So, we see that, yes, death is rendered idle and is put to an end - it ceases to exist. This corresponds perfectly with Revelation 21:4 which states, "there will no longer be any death". So goodbye forever to death.

Hades will be a very interesting study in itself. Hades is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word Sheol (See Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:27 in the NKJV or NASB to see this connection plainly). A complete understanding of Hades is perhaps less attainable.

We do know some things about Hades. It is temporary. At some point, the dead will be taken out of Hades: "…and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them…” (Rev. 20:13) Whenever we see Hades in Revelation, it is always accompanied by its sidekick, death (Rev. 1:18, 6:8, 20:13, 14). These mysterious and morbid partners are both quite unwanted to the human soul.
"What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?" (Psalm 89:48)

So, if the lake of fire causes powerful enemies such as Hades and death to cease to exist, to be done away with, to be abolished - then what will become of people that are thrown there? And why is it defined as the 'second death'? Is it called the second death because God will actually keep people alive there to torment them for eternity? Or is it the second death because death is the wages of sin? (Rom. 6:21,23)

Malachi 4:1 states it like this: 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.”

There are many verses contrasting life with death – and we are called to make a choice (Deut. 30:19, Prov. 10:16, John 5:24, 11:26, Rom. 6:23).

Consider what 2 Thess. 2:8 describes as the end of the beast (anti-christ/government): "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…” and Daniel 7:11: "…I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire." We know that the beast and false prophet were thrown alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20), so the conclusion is that this slaying and destruction will occur in the lake of fire. The duration is unknown, but they along with the devil will undergo torment (Rev. 20:10). Whether this beast is a system (government) like the Great Harlot, or an actual person or both, it appears their fate is the same - destruction.

The devil (Satan) also seems to have an end. The lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) and they will undergo punishment. We also read that Satan will be crushed - a term of destruction (Gen. 3:15, Rom. 16:20) Remember 1 Cor. 15:24-26 where Jesus will abolish 'all rule and all authority and power" - it is also written in this way: "…He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." Indeed, there is "a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." (Is. 26:11, Heb. 10:27) For God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29).

"So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age… and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 13:40) See Matthew 3:12 where it is explained, "He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." (Luke 15:6, John 15:6)
"Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies." (Is. 26:11)

So, we find ourselves back on the shore of the lake of fire. May this be the closest we ever get to the thing - this instrument of judgment that will burn up and destroy all God's enemies and all evil and sin. The second death is the final end and the results are eternal.

Please leave a comment. I value any feedback - critical, supportive, or interrogative (questions)!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

My dentist tortures me

Every time I visit the dentist, even for just a cleaning, I think about hell. I'm not even joking. It may seem silly to some, but having work done on my teeth is just a bit torturous (and I have good teeth!). So, as I lay there in the dentist's chair... I think about "hell".

What if hell for me is having my teeth worked on and I constantly feel like I'm choking and my jaw aches and my teeth are so sensitive to cold as they spray the water and suction it out with that little shop vac device? I imagine that it never ends, I can't get up and my new existence is suffering in this tiny, torturous state of mouth violation. I know – weird, right?

It is the same when I stare at the hot coals of our wood stove - or any glowing fire - I think of hell as it is taught in tradition and try to imagine. I. am. there.

It boils down to this: Torture. Forever. Torment. Conscious 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 eternal conscious torment, I wonder if they have really pondered the implications of what they are saying?

As sinful mortals we should tremble at the thought of eternal torture. We should rethink this horrid doctrine. Study it thoroughly. Give some thought to it. Maybe the next time you are at the dentist you can think it over – there's not much else to do. Ask yourself: Will this Jesus ("the Savior of the world"), who died a horrible death in our place ("while we were yet sinners"), really choose to torment millions of His creations throughout eternity?

I wonder what my dentist would think if he found out I consider him a tormentor?

I wonder what God thinks when we call Him the same?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Smoke rising - a picture of destruction

"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
Revelation gets much of its imagery and language about the Great Harlot from Jeremiah. There is a thread of commonality through Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Babylon, Edom and Assyria in the OT and the destruction of The Great City (Babylon the Great or the Great Harlot) in Revelation.

The main point I would like to stress is that rising smoke is a symbol for the destruction that occurred. The phrase “her smoke rises forever” simply means the destruction is permanent (you could say eternal).

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... 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!”

“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

Please leave a comment. I value any feedback - critical, supportive, or interrogative (questions)!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"The Character of God" by Edward Fudge

"We must never reduce the study of hell to a mere exercise in academic trivia. Hell is not a subject of possible interest only to persons other than ourselves. It is not a topic unrelated to the character of God. When seriously taken to heart, these truths remind us that not only others but we also must one day give account to God; that we must leave to God all determinations of destinies and resist the temptation to speculate; and that God's character is perfect and pure love which will be nowhere more apparent than in the day when he shall judge the hearts of men."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The silent subject of your church

Is it OK to torment a person forever?

Are you ashamed of what you believe about hell?

Are you unsure of its truth?

Read this excerpt from “Hell Know:Eternal Torture or Everlasting Destruction?” by Dirk Waren (underlines are mine), and then order the book!

Eternal Torture: The Silent Subject of the Church

“I read in a major news magazine that the teaching of hell as eternal torture has all but disappeared from the pulpit ministry in both mainline and evangelical churches. Why is this so? Why are Christians who are committed to this doctrine so reluctant to openly and honestly preach it?

Why do they mask what they really believe by saying that the unredeemed will ultimately “perish” or be “destroyed” or suffer eternal “separation from God”? Yes, you'll hear 'hell' thrown around now and then, but rarely, if ever, hear anyone explain what he or she really means by the term – suffering fiery conscious torment forever and ever with no merciful respite from the agony.

If this is true, why is everyone so timid about spelling it out loud and clear? The answer is obvious: They're ashamed of it. They're ashamed of it because, as Clark Pinnock aptly put it, the doctrine of eternal torture makes God out to be a morally worse than Hitler,
“who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies who He does not even allow to die. How can one love a God like that? I suppose one might be afraid of Him, but could we love and respect Him? Would we want to strive to be like Him in His mercilessness?”...

Although there are many good reasons for questioning this teaching, the most important reason is the simple fact that the Bible does not teach it. Contrary to the loud claims of its staunch supporters, it is not a scriptural doctrine; and this is being realized by a growing number of biblically faithful Christians today...

The Bible gives strong, irrefutable proof to any honest reader that hell, the lake of fire, signifies literal everlasting destruction for ungodly people, not eternal conscious torment.

… a thorough, honest study of the Bible will always reveal the truth.”

Scriptures to meditate on: Romans 6:23, Matthew 7:13-14, John 3:16, 36, Romans 8:13, Galatians 6:8, Psalm 145:20, Proverbs 11:19.

Dirk Waren is the director of Fountain of Life Teaching Ministry and author of several books, including “Hell Know” and “Sheol Know”. Visit the website

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I find it intolerable

“I find the concept of hell as eternal torment intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain..."  
"...the hallmark of authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient to fresh scrutiny and if necessary reform.” 
                                                          - John R. W. Stott

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Do not be afraid

I was greatly encouraged by this "gracEmail" from Edward Fudge:
Edward Fudge

A recent email pleaded, "I have been searching for years to find some assurance of salvation. I know my weaknesses, I pray continually for forgiveness. I don't know why I'm able to tell you all of this, but I do love Christ, have been baptized, and want to go to heaven. I just want some peace in my heart."

                                                         * * *

"Hear what God says to you and you will find comfort; trust what he says and you will have peace. We are accepted by God in the person of his son, Jesus Christ, and we know God’s evaluation of him. God forgives our sins for his own name’s sake. He rescues us to the praise of the glory of his grace. No wonder the angels are constantly telling frightened humans to “stop being afraid." I have written a detailed booklet called "Security, Warnings, and the Gospel" for people who wish to make an in-depth study. To read it, go to

Our salvation is all a matter of grace. It is not a matter of what we cobble together for God, not something we can either earn, merit or deserve. For that reason we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven, and God is guarding us until we reach it. Our hope and trust are in God, not in ourselves. We are secure because God loves us, God is strong, and God is faithful. God who called you will finish the good work that he has started in you.

God will make you perfect in every good thing, keep you from falling, present you faultless to himself, and rejoice over you throughout eternity! May God who loved us while we were sinners and gave his Son to die so we might live, who raised him from the dead and seated him in glory at his own right hand, may he fill you with joy and peace in believing, that you may overflow in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit! Be assured! Be not afraid! Rejoice!"

 To read more gracEmails by Edward Fudge, go to:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Neither root nor branch

For me, this is a sad story. There was once a tree - a very tall and strong spruce tree - that lived in Alaska. This tree was a bit too close to a certain house (my house), and a certain someone (my husband) decided it needed to go.

When that mighty tree fell, I was thankful my husband knew what he was doing (since my house was in immediate danger). It landed with such force it shook the ground. How the mighty have fallen! But even then, as a stump, it still had some potential at life. There was the hearty and extensive root system that gave it hope of life again.

It reminded me of Daniel chapter 4 where the king has a dream whose interpretation likens him to a great tree that gets chopped down. God planned to humble and then restore him. "Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump...while its roots remain in the ground... The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that our kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules." (4:23, 26)

Then they brought the backhoe in and started ripping up the roots all around the stump. After that, the big dozer ripped the stump out with its huge tap roots. It pained me to watch the total destruction. There would be no chance of life for that tree. You can see the result below: an empty space, with hardly a trace of the mighty spruce that once proudly stood. I heard talk of burning up the pile of roots or hauling it to the dump. Gone.

As I watched this destruction, the phrase 'neither root nor branch' kept running through my head. So, I went to and looked it up. This verse describes the 'Day' of judgment:

"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

Its meaning now more clear than ever. The total destruction of the evildoer is indeed an unnecessary, sad story.

Please leave a comment. I value any feedback - critical, supportive, or interrogative (questions)!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Julie - this one's for you

I need to begin by asking for your forgiveness! Writing it down, this sounds kind of ridiculous, but will you forgive me for not mentioning this part of my life to you? I've been writing this blog for one year now, and it is clearly very important to me. So, why have I never mentioned it?

First, let me back up.

To be honest, I haven't given this much thought at all (bringing up my blog). Then, tonight, it just hit me like a bag of rocks on my head! You are one of the most important people in my life and I know I can share anything with you, no matter what 'side' of the subject we are on. But, it suddenly occurred to me that there is no proper reason for not sharing this part of me with you, as it is a BIG part of me. It is very important to me. So my important subject and you, my important friend, should have met a long time ago. Plus, you are part of the reason it has come about (more on that later).

There are reasons, of course. Or excuses, I guess. The first being, compared to real-life challenges, my thoughts on this disturbing doctrine seemed irrelevant and not worthy of taking up any of our phone time. Second, it is 'extreme Bible study' - deep theological thought - and I just assumed (bad, I know, sorry) that it would not be something you would find interesting.

But it just hit me minutes ago - you aren't concerned with those kinds of  'reasons' so much as you care about me and what I do and think. And if I know you, you care about what I write because it is a part of me. The subject isn't why or why not you'd care. You care because it is part of me.

That's wonderful.

So, thank you. I am going out on a limb here, but I think I know you well enough to thank you for that. Sure, I imagine you'll scold me a bit. Maybe call me a term of endearment like 'turkey' or 'blockhead'. I deserve it!

So, why does this blog's origins have to do with you? Wellll, you remember all our religious talks in the past and my concern for you getting 'saved'? Yeah, not something easily forgotten. I was never able to reconcile the idea of hell, but the thought of YOU going there just did not compute. Sure, we are all sinners and we need Jesus' sacrifice to cover us - but to take a precious human (full of life, love and extraordinary talents) and torture them forever because they don't share our theology - that just sent my brain katty-wampus.

For years I suspended that part of my 'religion' to save my sanity, but finally I just dealt with it head-on. Just me and Jesus. God's word and the Holy Spirit as my teachers. And what He showed me sent me down a path that has changed my life and thinking.

Of course, there is much more to the story - but for the sake of privacy and keeping it short, let's just say that this path has busted open a view to Father God that is nothing less than life-changing.

I'm thankful to Him, I'm thankful to you. I'm thankful to Him for you. (I'm not the only one that is a gift from God! *wink*)

Love you, sister!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Co-author of Erasing Hell changed his position on hell

Check out these excerpts from an article about the co-author of a book that traditionalists point to as they try to prove that eternal torment is the most biblical view. Especially take note of the very last sentence!*

"Most are unaware that since co-authoring the book, Erasing Hell with Francis Chan* (chiefly a rebuttal to Love Wins), Dr. Preston Sprinkle has publicly disclosed his struggle with the “eternal conscious torment” doctrine and has confessed his strong leanings toward Conditional Immortality or annihilationism as a more Biblical view. His recent thoughts on the subject can be found at the site “Rethinking Hell”:

Here are a few snippets from an interview with Chris Date of

Dr. Sprinkle: “…honestly I got so annoyed and frustrated at all the books and articles that were supporting the Traditionalist view, it irritated me to no end. It just seemed very, and I’m definitely not going to name any names, very heartless. They were ranting and raving, almost like they were angry about people who disagreed with their view. And I was like, ‘We’re talking about souls here. Do you realize we’re talking about real people here?!’ It angered me because these are Evangelical writers who are talking about what they think as a doctrine. This ain’t no doctrine, either this is real or its not. And if it’s real then we need to study this with tears and agony…whichever view…because either view is miserable.”

...The conversation then uncovers some false assumptions regarding the Jewish mindset regarding “eternity,” the word “aeonios” and several other hot topics in the debate:

Chris Date: “… Traditionalist authors sometime claim that 1st century Jews were sort of monolithic in their belief in eternal torment, but as you mentioned or sort of hinted at a couple of times here that’s not what you found in your research, is it?”
Dr. Preston Sprinkle: “Not at all, no. I could give you specific references in Jewish documents that are very clearly Annihilationists. In fact that logic shows that whoever said that doesn’t know anything about Judaism because a lot of Jews didn’t have a firm belief in an everlasting afterlife at all.”
Chris presses further to clarify that Dr. Sprinkle has indeed changed his view since co-authoring Erasing Hell:
Chris Date: “…before the book and when the book was published, like Chan, you leaned towards the traditional view. I don’t get the impression that’s the case any longer. So where do you find yourself now and what since the publishing of Erasing Hell has gotten you there?”
Dr. Preston Sprinkle: “Yeah I would say…I would lean towards annihilation now…But I’m not one to hide what I believe. Again going back to my college, one of the blessings of working at a school like that is that…there’s no like weird doctrinal statement that threatens my job at all…[It’s]Be biblical, love Jesus, preach the Gospel, and we’ll keep you on here. So there’s no threat from my church, or from family, or from anyone…there’s nothing like that that’s pressuring me to hold on to a traditional view. I’m kind of a slow thinker in a sense that I don’t mind taking a few years to really work through something before I ultimately land. So going back to your question I would say I lean towards annihilation.”
I am not sure if readers of Erasing Hell clued in to a very definitive summary statement by Chan and Sprinkle in their book. It was easy to miss if you were looking to the book to support your already assumed view of an eternal hell. But Chan and Sprinkle stated clearly that the bottom line was that after all their prayer and study they remained unsure as to the duration and nature of hell and advised us to not make any assumptions until we have studied further. I realize that statement was made within a book that for the most part appeared to be making a VERY dogmatic case for eternal conscious torment but Dr. Sprinkle’s recent admission now gives a lot more credence to their advice on page 86:
The debate about hell’s duration is much more complex than I first assumed. While I lean heavily on the side that says it is everlasting, I am not ready to claim that with complete certainty. I encourage you to continue researching…”
For Sprinkle at least, he would have to change that statement to say he is leaning more heavily towards Conditional Immortality these days. We are thankful for his transparency and honesty regarding his new thoughts on this issue. Even more so we deeply appreciate how he reminds us that this is not about a doctrine but about precious human beings who are made in God’s image. Yes, we had better decide if this is real…as Dr. Sprinkle reminded us, “it’s real people we are talking about.”

*Note: In the interview Dr. Sprinkle explains how he himself did the majority of the research for Erasing Hell as Chan shared that he did not have the time to write a book at that particular time."

Find this article at:  (underlines are mine)

See my thoughts on the book "Erasing Hell" here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sprouting eyes to see it

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 previous post? 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.

Again, 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.

Then, because of self-consciousness, or perhaps because of the horrid disease of pride called "it's all about me," I thought that people didn't listen or outright rejected the subject because of me. I was the wrong messenger. I was not respectable, not a man, nor seminary educated. And although all that may be true, it turns out the reluctance to re-examine our hell doctrine is a common phenomenon among Christians.

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 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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hell on earth, and then...?

"If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent."                                                                                                     - spoken by Jesus in Matthew 12:7

My son just finished a research paper on the fascinating life of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), "the greatest social reformer in the history of the world." (Metaxas, p. xvii)  He is best known for his 20-year battle - and ultimate victory - for the abolition of the slave trade in England.

We watched the movie "Amazing Grace" and read the book by the same name and became inspired by Mr. Wilberforce's great faith and perseverance in the face of great resistance. Another aspect that affected me deeply was realizing and contemplating the overwhelming injustice and suffering that occurred over so many years to millions of human beings.

The bulk of the English slave trade was carried out on ships that transported men, women and children (usually kidnapped) from Africa to the West Indies (called the 'Middle Passage' to be sold as slaves.
“One famous account of the Middle Passage comes to us via Alexander Falconbridge, a ship's surgeon in the trade...

'The hardships and inconveniences suffered by the Negroes during the passage are scarcely to be enumerated or conceived. They are far more violently affected by seasickness than Europeans. It frequently terminates in death, especially among the women. But the exclusion of fresh air is among the most intolerable... The fresh air being thus excluded, the Negroes' rooms soon grow intolerable hot. The confined air, rendered noxious by the effluvia exhaled from their bodies and being repeatedly breathed, soon produces fevers and [diarrhea] which generally carries off great numbers of them... But the excessive heat was not the only thing that rendered their situation intolerable. The deck, that is the floor of their rooms, was so covered with the blood and mucus which had proceeded from them...that it resembled a slaughter-house. It is not in the power of the human imagination to picture a situation more dreadful or disgusting.'” 
“Falconbridge told of a worse situation on a Liverpool ship that, though smaller than the one just described, took on six hundred slaves, who 'were so crowded that they were obliged to lie one upon another. This caused such a mortality among them that...nearly one half of them died before the ship arrived in the West Indies.'” (Metaxas, p. 97-99)
I'm certain the horrors of this business are beyond being articulated in words. However, these quotes are first-hand accounts that were used in speeches before Parliament in the fight to abolish the evil trade. The suffering and ill-treatment should be recounted; consider what they had to live and die through...
“The place allotted for the sick Negroes is under the half deck, where they lie on the bare planks. By this means those who are emaciated frequently have their skin and even their flesh entirely rubbed off, by the motion of the ship, from the prominent parts of the shoulders, elbows, and hips so as to render the bones quite bare. The excruciating pain which the poor sufferers feel from being obliged to continue in such a dreadful situation, frequently for several weeks, in case they happen to live so long, is not to be conceived or described.”  (Metaxas, p. 100)
And, of course, there is so much more - much worse abuse and injustice that these men, women and children suffered. I also read the book "The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano". This is Equiano's life story in his own words. As a boy, he was taken by force from his home in Africa, sold over and over, abused, almost dying several times before buying his freedom and residing in London, where he joined the abolitionists in their cause. His book was a best-seller. It is a captivating story. Truthfully, someone like me, a pampered American, can hardly imagine the terrors he experienced.
"Nearly every day some of my companions were brought up on the deck at the point of death. I hoped that I would soon die, too. Often I thought that the inhabitants of the deep were much happier than I. I envied the fish their freedom, and I wished I could have changed my lot for theirs."  (Equiano, p. 29)
The reason I share all of these descriptions, is to invite you into my thinking. When I consider the great suffering and, at times, completely wasted lives of these particular Africans at that time in history - literally millions of them - I also consider our ridiculous theology. I can't help but recall the doctrine of hell and the many, many times I have heard the teaching/preaching that states unequivocally that those who haven't heard of Jesus will suffer in hell forever. The vast majority of these Africans never heard of Jesus.

I wish I had the grace of William Wilberforce right now, as he always petitioned for justice without condemning. I'm sorry, but I just can't fathom that Christians would believe our Lord and Savior would allow human beings to suffer untold atrocities at the hands of men on earth, and then - because they were not brought the good news - are to be thrown into hell for eternity!

Those who believe this did not get their doctrine from the Bible. That theology - this traditional view of hell - came from men and the teaching of men through the centuries. Show me one place in the Bible where it teaches that Gentiles will go into the eternal fire for not hearing the Gospel. Even in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the judgment is based on what one DOES for another. Did you feed, clothe, visit, help the least of these?

By all means, obey Jesus and make disciples, explaining to them the Way of life. We are to be about the Father's work and sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth - but NOT because if we don't all those people will be tormented forever in hell. Friends, it may be time for a new start. Go to the Word. Not man's words, but THE WORD. Go back and read the Scriptures as if a babe, and hear God's words as if you didn't have preconceived theology coloring the eyes of your understanding.

Take to heart the warning, "Do not go beyond what is written." (1 Cor. 4:6) and consider Paul's exhortation: "...judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." (1 Cor. 4:5)

If you could choose what happens eternally to those kidnapped, tortured and murdered Africans - what would you choose? The comforting arms of 'Abraham's bosom' or the fiery torment that longs for a drop of water on the tongue? I know, I know, you are not God. But what would you choose? Is your mercy and compassion beyond our Lord's? Is our sense of justice greater than Jesus'? That is ridiculous!
"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." - Ex. 33:19, Rom. 9:15

"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy." - Mic. 7:18
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." - Matt. 9:13

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." - Matt. 5:7

"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." - Titus 3:5
"...judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment." - James 2:13
"The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." - James 5:11

I doubt Wilberforce fought his whole life to liberate the slaves, thinking they would spend eternity in fiery torment. I, for one, trust in the mercy of the Lord. I would much rather fall into the Hands of God than the hands of man. Who are we to say whom the Lord will show mercy? His ways are higher than our ways.

Thank God.
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."                         - Isaiah 55:7

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007.
The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano, adapted by Ann Cameron. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1995.