Saturday, February 25, 2017

What happens when someone studies hell at length?

Question: Preston Sprinkle (co-author with Francis Chan of the book Erasing Hell), Edward Fudge, myself - what do we have in common?

Answer: We studied the subject of hell thoroughly and found one conclusion: eternal torment is not biblical.

"A growing host of respected biblical scholars now publicly question the traditional notion that God will keep the lost alive forever so he can punish them with out end. These include such luminaries as F.F. Bruce, Michael Green, Philip E. Hughes, Dale Moody, Clark H. Pinnock, W. Graham Scroggie, John R.W. Stott and John W. Wenham. These men represent evangelical Christian scholarship at its best. They recognize that Scripture must judge all traditions and creeds, not the other way around."1 

Also, in support of conditionalism: John Stackhouse Jr., Richard Swinburne, Robert Taylor, Justin Brierley, David Instone-Brewer, Preston Sprinkle and many more. Please consider checking out the site called "Rethinking Hell" (link below).2

(Two Views on Hell, Edward William Fudge, InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 21)

Rethinking Hell website

She said what?

My daughter, who is in 5th grade, recently made a comment that has me thinking. We were talking about God's judgment (not an unusual topic at our home!) and how sin and evil will one day be burned up and destroyed forever. Then she said (with some authority, I might add) that everyone is going to pass through the lake of fire.

I just looked at her a moment and then said, "Why do you think that?" She explained that we all have sin connected to us that God needs to burn up before we can enter heaven. "Even the most righteous people will pass through the lake of fire, but they won't feel it." I immediately thought of a verse in Revelation that has often had me scratching my head:

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." Rev. 2:11, see also 20:6 ("The lake of fire is the second death." Rev. 20:14b)

The phrase 'hurt at all' used to throw me a bit, because it implied that a person could get hurt a little by the lake of fire. Our traditional thinking tells us that the lake of fire is an all or nothing place that only receives those who are unredeemed. However, we are aware that some believers will escape 'through the flames':

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved--even though only as one escaping through the flames." 1 Cor. 3:11-15

Other evidence in Scripture that God's people will be exposed to God's consuming fire:

'"Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" Those who walk righteously and speak what is right...' Is. 33:14-15 (see also Heb. 12:28-29)

"Everyone will be salted with fire." Mark 9:49

So, when you hear someone ask, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", think about my daughter and her thoughts on God's ways. Could she be right? It is refreshing to hear from a heart and mind untainted by tradition. Have you considered the lake of fire for yourself - and has it been from Scripture or tradition?

For a more thorough study of Scripture about God's fire, please read "Everyone will be salted with fire".