Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Only Solution to the Problem of Sin

Updated: Hammertime, while "helping" Mrshammer post this, accidentally broke up the post into two, causing readers to miss the first half of the post. It is now fixed.


Will You Go to Heaven or Hell?


While it is true that God is love, He is also a God of wrath and justice and He is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). God does not grade on a curve by comparing our sin to others, and he can no more allow sin to go unpunished than a fair judge in the court system can allow a convicted criminal to go free without paying the penalty for his crime. He is not going to simply overlook our sins and let us into heaven just because He is “loving.”

The Bible says that the penalty for sin is spending an eternity separated from God in a place called hell. Hell is not for “bad people” and heaven for “good people”. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12) The Bible describes hell as a real physical place where unrepentant sinners will go when they die if they do not accept Jesus as their savior. 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous… shall inherit the kingdom of God.” And in Revelation 21: “…all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death… [They shall] be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Today is the day of salvation, when you die it will be too late, there will not be another chance!

The Only Solution

This sounds harsh, but remember: “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God made a way for us to be saved from this horrible place of torment. Imagine it like this: you broke the law. You owe a fine that you cannot afford to pay. Someone you don’t even know stepped in and paid the fine for you. Now you are free from punishment if you will only accept this gift of payment on your behalf. We broke God’s law (the Ten Commandments), we deserve an eternity of separation from God, yet Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin and death by paying our fine for us that we could not pay on our own.

The only person who has ever lived a perfect life without disobeying a single commandment is the man, God in human form, Jesus Christ. He took the punishment for my sin and for all those who will accept this gift when He died on the cross 2,000 years ago. He defeated death and made us right with God so that we may have eternal life in heaven when we die. God will forgive the sins of those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We must realize that we have offended God by breaking His Law, confess to Him and turn from our sin (stop our sinful lifestyles), because without genuine repentance, there is no salvation: “unless you repent, you will perish.”(Luke 13:3)

I hope you can see that no amount of good works can earn your salvation. Salvation comes through Christ alone! Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” If there were a way for us to earn salvation on our own, then Jesus died in vain. Jesus said, “For if you believe not that I am [God], you shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24) Jesus is not an ‘option’ for a more spiritual life on Earth, He is a necessity for salvation.

To be continued...

23 Comments:

  • Actually, you'd be very hard pressed to justify Hell as a place of eternal torment from the Bible - there are remarkably few places that even allude to such a thing. There are descriptions of torment - but not eternal torment. There are descriptions of eternal separation from God - but not eternal suffering. Exactly how this all fits together is very hard to know.

    Which doesn't mean that Hell isn't real, of course!

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 5/01/2006 02:31:00 PM  

  • I think the Bible is pretty clear on hell being a place of eternal torment.

    "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched'' (Mark 9:43-48).

    That sounds pretty clear to me. The term "and the fire is not quenched" was used THREE times to accentuate the perpetual suffering in hell.

    "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. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire"(Revelation 20:10-15).

    The lake of fire is described several times in the Bible, as a place of ETERNAL damnation and torture.

    I don't think something as black and white as heaven and hell, and the eternal blessing or curse of said places is very "hard to know", as you stated. It is quite clear to me. You are incorrect with your statement that the Bible only speaks of eternal separation from God. I hope that you don't mischaracterize this truth very often, as I wouldn't want non-believers to think that a mere separation from God, something they already have, is their only fate for denying Christ.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/01/2006 05:34:00 PM  

  • Actually, the term "and the fire is not quenched" was used four times, not three. My apologies.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/01/2006 05:52:00 PM  

  • rightthinker,
    You're right, the fire is not quenched. The question is whether the suffering is eternal.

    Fire consumes - that's its nature. So, if there is a lake of eternal fire into which the souls of the damned are thrown, the obvious inference is that the souls are consumed (in a rather unpleasant way) and destroyed. This understanding actually makes more sense in many of these "eternal fire" passages - for example, in Revelation, when the devil, the false prophet and the beast are thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, it is described as "the second death" (Rev 20:4).

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 5/02/2006 03:01:00 AM  

  • "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" Revelation 20:10

    The Bible speaks of "the worm that dieth not", and actually states that the unsaved shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. One would surmise, that upon judgment, all that shall ever live will be judged. Therefore, to torment in an ongoing manner, day and night for ever and ever, speaks to one singular act on a singular group of people.

    Other subtle allusions, such as "the gnashing of teeth" indicate that there will be long-time suffering, since a fire would consume nearly immediately.

    "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" (Revelation 14:9-11).

    The only way that their smoke can ascend up forever is if they are on fire and are not consumed by the flame. One may be reminded of Moses and the burning bush: "And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt" (Exodus 3:2-3)

    If you will read Luke 16:19-30, (I didn't post it because it is too long for a comment) you will notice that the rich man is conscious, in great agony, and well aware of the fact that he cannot leave.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/02/2006 11:54:00 AM  

  • I have read several places that the english word 'hell' in the Bible is actually a bad translation of several Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) words for the underworld or places of either eternal or temporary damnation or pain.

    In the Old Testament, the Hebrews frequently used the word Sheol, which is basically a reference to the underworld, a place with an absence of wisdom, knowledge or love; not necessarily a fiery place of damnation.

    In the New Testament Jesus uses the word 'Gehenna', which is actually a physical location with that Hebrew name outside of Jerusalem that is a combination of a burning garbage dump and burial ground for criminals. Whether this is a 'fiery eternal place of damnation' is often up for debate among biblical scholars.

    I am not denying the existence of hell or a place of eternal damnation (I believe in both as being an eternal reality as punishment for sin), rather I am just indicating that through several translations from original Greek and Hebrew texts the word 'hell' has been inserted, used or abused when no other suitable word in english is available, or when the translator inserted his own feeling or interpretation into the translation.

    This is the danger with a 'sola scriptura' (scripture ONLY) interpretation of religious thought or the Bible...man has translated and inserted his own thought into the Bible in subtle ways over the centuries, a person or religion needs to do a bit of personal educated interpretation when reading scripture.

    By Blogger John B., at 5/04/2006 03:28:00 PM  

  • John,
    I think that a study of the Epistle to the Hebrews will illuminate the differences in the OT idea of hell and the NT idea. However, perhaps one of the most helpful Scriptural images is one that Rightthinker mentioned - the parable of Lazarus and the richman, in which hell is clearly a place of torment.
    I prefer Sola Scriptura, not because I think men are able to divine the depth of the richness of God on their own, but because relying on the magesterium leads to such abibilical ideas as the perpetual virginity of Mary, invented over 1000 years after Christ's resurrection, which St. Aquinas refused to go along with.
    I agree with you that any man's faith will be increased by doing greater research into the truth. Christianity is a historical and fact-based faith, and finding out those facts, even when damaging to our personal ideas, is beneficial.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 5/04/2006 05:13:00 PM  

  • Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) are the temporary place of torment for the souls of the wicked dead. Prior to Christ's resurrection, saints were kept and comforted in the now vacant half of Hades, known as Abraham's Bosom. Gehenna (Greek, but from a Hebrew name) is the Lake of Fire for the permanent place of torment of the souls of the wicked dead in their resurrected bodies. Hell is a rather general and inadequate term that is often used to refer to either Gehenna or the torment side of Hades, both by those who know the basic difference between these two specific places and by those who do not.

    Your clarification of word meaning doesn't exhonerate the actual passages describing continual and eternal punishment of the unsaved.

    It is my personal view, that too much "educated interpretation" has been done in regards to scripture. Man has no real ability to understand the divinity and power of God, beyond the black and white scripture, therefore, interjection and "human knowledge" often jeopardizes the sanctity of scripture, due to a desire to understand what we can't fully understand. While I believe there is a strong place for theological and Biblical study, (obviously, without it we would be ignorant) I believe there is often too much deciding that what was written couldn't possibly be exactly and simply what it says.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/04/2006 05:20:00 PM  

  • Ah, hammertime and Rightthinker were posting similar thoughts at the same time...gotta love the internet!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/04/2006 05:21:00 PM  

  • Devil's advocate question:

    How is man able to accurately discern serveral hundred and even several thousand years later which books and scripture are 'official' and included in the Bible (and various editions of the Bible)?

    Some scriptural interpretation and church law formed by thought needs to come from humans...and granted, it might be erroneous (we are only humans!), but there needs to be human component out of all of this.

    Even those in Christ's time argued over what his message was...just read Acts and understand how the disciples and original church leaders argued over topics as varied as preaching to the gentiles and communal property and how they related to Christ's teachings. Many of these disciples actually walked with Christ, others (like Paul) didn't. They formed original church teaching law and tradition, based on oral scriptural interpretation and their own personal interpretation and thought.

    By Blogger John B., at 5/05/2006 03:59:00 PM  

  • We don't have to discern which books are official and included in the Bible. That was done for us, thousands of years ago, by men who were given the undertaking of forming the Bible to bring forth God's laws and teachings, as well as the history needed to prove the validity of the faith.

    The problem is with adding and taking away from the Bible. People and denominations have desired to modify and alter the Word of God, to fit their desires. Either to make the Word "easier to digest", (so it is less black and white and good vs bad) or to make dealing with a church easier, more religious or more profitable.

    The earliest and most fundamental guides for running a church had to be hammered out by the founding church heads. This was a natural time to discuss how to pass on Jesus' teachings.

    Unfortunately, continuing to alter the church since the original church was formed has lead to man-made religion, and denominational division. That is unnecessary for salvation and worship, and has detracted from the actual Word of God.

    I disagree, that the original church head disagreed as to what Jesus' message was. There may have been discussion and debate over how to best bring that message forward, but no one leading the first church disagreed as to who Jesus was, what His purpose was/is, and what His teachings were all about.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/05/2006 04:48:00 PM  

  • Man must make decisions on many matters concerning faith...the Bible as you know it wasn't 'officially' put together until 315 AD, when Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, identified the 27 Books which we recognize today as the canon of New Testament scripture.

    In 382 AD, St. Jerome translated the New Testament from its original Greek into the church vernacular of the day, Latin. This translation became known as the “Latin Vulgate”. St. Jerome put a note next to the OT Biblical Apocrypha Books, stating that he did not know whether or not they were inspired scripture, or just Jewish historical writings which accompanied the Old Testament.

    Both are proof that man had to 'decide' which books of the Bible were and weren't divinely inspired.


    Acts 15 should demonstrate that even the early church consisting of the disciples and also of Paul and others couldn't decide on seemingly simple enough questions like who was 'good enough' to hear the word of Christ, until a leader, Peter, made the final decision that the word would be preached to Jews and Gentiles alike. In hindsight we realize that the word of Christ is for everyone, but that wasn't always the line of thought, even the early church had disagrements.

    the biggest problem I see today is with all-literal interpretations of the Bible or with people picking and choosing lines from the bible to support their needs and agendas. The Bible isn't meant to be read in soundbites...often phrases are taken from the Bible and twisted to suit a preacher's needs.

    A lot of things aren't 'in the Bible' that are christian religious truths taught through the centuries. Translations further muddy the waters.

    By Blogger John B., at 5/08/2006 03:10:00 PM  

  • Do any of you accept the Gospel of James, Q or other writings as true scripture? These were widely accepted by many people as scripture prior to te 4th century.

    By Blogger John B., at 5/08/2006 03:13:00 PM  

  • I agree with you that the Bible shouldn't be read in soundbites. However, I completely disagree that it shouldn't be taken literally. That is how we get women in leadership positions within the chuch, denominational divide, and other problems, such as the interpretation being based on emotion, rather than the idea that God's thoughts are not ours, therefore we are unable to understand and interpret.

    People don't wish to believe that sex outside of marriage, just as an example, is wrong, because it doesn't suit their will. So, they intepret so loosely that the Word conforms to what they believe. That is the same with homosexuality and other issues that are very, very black and white.

    I already stated that the original founders of the church had to argue in which way to bring the Word forth, but you didn't address my statement refutiating your position that they didn't agree on what/who Jesus was/is.

    I'm not sure what you are talking about, John B., when you say, "A lot of things aren't 'in the Bible' that are christian religious truths taught through the centuries. Translations further muddy the waters." I don't know what those Christian religious truths are, that aren't in the Bible. If you are talking about things that belong under the umbrella of denominations and religion, then you may be correct. That is why I don't subscribe to religion. I am not a Catholic or a Methodist or a Baptist, but a child of God. Religion itself can undermine the Word of God by interpreting and altering the Word.

    The men in charge of deciding which books were included and which were heresy, were done so out of divine charge. They had nothing to gain by their ensuring that the truths of the Bible were presented and the lies were discarded.

    Your account of the "Gospel of James" being believed prior, proves nothing. Gnosticism, and other heretical beliefs have always existed, as has their believers.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/08/2006 05:15:00 PM  

  • I just wanted to add that the Nag Hammadi is a heretical group of gnostic works that are not accepted by any "real" Christians. I say "real" Christians because if we follow the Bible in the literal form, then we subscribe to all the truths, and nothing more. At that point, the "real" Christians have no desire to disprove the literal truth of the Bible through heretical works. That is the desire of non-Christians.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/08/2006 05:20:00 PM  

  • Rightthinker,
    John B. is an honest broker, a Christian and Catholic who doesn't make unwarranted attacks or say thoughtless things. His questions may not be what he believes, but they are meant to find out what you or I may believe. He is one of my favorite people to have a discussion with, and I hope you will find the same.

    John B.,
    First, a correction. Athanasius' canon was written in 367. A link is here Of the apocrypha, only Baruch is listed.

    Now to your question, which while it may be a "devil's advocate" question, is an honest one.

    How is man able to accurately discern serveral hundred and even several thousand years later which books and scripture are 'official' and included in the Bible (and various editions of the Bible)?

    Some scriptural interpretation and church law formed by thought needs to come from humans...and granted, it might be erroneous (we are only humans!), but there needs to be human component out of all of this.


    I agree that humans, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were left to deign these answers. The canon of the Scriptures followed a basic development of :public readings, the Gospels & the Pauline epistles as a core, the non-Pauline epistles and Revelation added. They were not, as some may think, declared to be canon by Athanasius on his own or with some magisterium. Consider:

    Clement of Rome (AD 95) quotes Matthew and Luke
    Justin Martyr (AD 100) describes the gospels as scripture
    Irenaeus (AD 160) points out that there are four gospels, no more, no less
    Muratorian Canon (AD 160) lacks 1 & 2 Peter, James, Hebrews. No extras.
    Tertullian (early 3rd century) lists all of the NT as Scripture except 2 Peter, James, 2 and 3 John. No extras.
    Origen (3rd century) Lists the 27 of the NT, lists 23 others as acceptable non-Scriptural writings, mentions Gospels of Peter and Gospel to the Hebrews as Scriptural.
    Eusebius (early 4th century) lists all of NT except James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, which he lists as possible Scripture. No extras.
    Finally, Athanasius puts the stamp on it in 367.

    Clearly the canon was developed by general agreement throughout the churches, as evidenced by their inherent truth.

    Sadly, many people think that Constantine had something to do with the canon.

    Are men used in clarifying the truth? Yes. However, any clarification has to be balanced not against what someone may say or experience, but against the Scriptures given to the church and agreed on by the fathers. Surely we can agree on that.

    By the way, the Apocrypha was only added to the Bible after the Reformation. I'd say that's a bit too long to make the call...

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 5/11/2006 11:27:00 AM  

  • Hammer,
    First of all, I lost this thread for some reason - sorry! Coming back to the comments, there've been some interesting things said. Hope the relevant people are still here :)

    Hammer wrote:
    "perhaps one of the most helpful Scriptural images is one that Rightthinker mentioned - the parable of Lazarus and the richman, in which hell is clearly a place of torment."

    Interesting. I'd have said (regardless of our view of Hell as a place of eternal torment) that this was possibly the least useful passage! Unless we are really wanting to suggest that there will be conversations between the damned and the saved, in which the damned are tempting the saved to feel pity for them. This story is a parable and to take it literally would be as serious a mistake as taking literally the idea that the Kingdom of God is actually a small, round object that will grow into a mustard bush.

    Rightthinker wrote:
    "Prior to Christ's resurrection, saints were kept and comforted in the now vacant half of Hades, known as Abraham's Bosom. Gehenna (Greek, but from a Hebrew name) is the Lake of Fire for the permanent place of torment of the souls of the wicked dead in their resurrected bodies."

    Excuse me?! Where, exactly, does the Bible teach that? "Hades" has nothing to do with the Bible. Hades is the Greek god of death and the dead. By extension, his name was also used to refer to his dwelling in the underworld, where he kept the souls of the dead. Hades, as the world of the dead, was home to all of the departed - good and evil alike. As such, it had lots of different areas.

    This bears almost no relationship to the Christian conception of the state of the dead. At the very least, "heaven" is not a part of the same world as the place of suffering, but is rather living with God in God's glory. Notwithstanding the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, the Bible usually speaks of the unsaved being cast "into the outer darkness" or "out of God's presence". The idea that they are continually in the sight of the saved, and that their torments are for God's pleasure, is hardly to be found.

    I'm also somewhat baffled by this idea that part of "Hades" was where the souls of the "saints" were before the Resurrection, and that this area is now empty. Surely, either our souls are with God "straight away" after death, or we all await the Last Judgement. This strange halfway house doesn't seem to make sense to me. And, certainly, we can't get anything like that from the Bible!

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 5/15/2006 09:14:00 AM  

  • John, Please reread the passage. I have linked it for you here:

    I have no intention of taking evey part of a parable literally, nor will I take any part as literal that has a better explanation. For examp,e the conversation between the rich man and Abraham is necessary for the parable to explain the hopelessness of the lost and their unbelief. What I ask is this - why would the place the rich man goes be described as a place of torment, anguish, and flame unless it is?

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 5/15/2006 10:12:00 AM  

  • John, I was merely giving a description of Greek vs English words for Hades and Hell to demonstrate that there are differences in the two, and that the Hades descriptions have a different meaning within different translation.

    The English word "Hell" refers to a place of eternal punishment for the wicked. Its meaning does not distinguish between the two separate places for the wicked to be punished, one temporary for the soul, and the other, the Lake of Fire, permanent for the soul and body. Nor does its meaning include the place of comfort for saints prior to Christ's resurrection.

    In normal English conversation, "Hell" is used only in the negative sense, with no saved people ever going there. I thought it was also beneficial to illustrate how ancient people, including Greeks and Gentiles viewed Hell,(interchangebly as Hades) and what I have learned that theologists believe to be the understanding of the OT "underworld", as well as a secular and mythological understanding-because that has spilled over to misunderstanding of said places, by Christians.

    Another clear way to see that torment is meant to be everlasting, is that the word aionios is used several times in the Bible, and every time it is used, it is describing something that is eternal.

    The word aionios is also used to describe the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), salvation (Hebrews 5:9), redemption (Hebrews 9:12), the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:11), the honor and power of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:16), God's glory (1 Peter 5:10), and our immortal bodies that we will one day receive (2 Corinthians 5:1).

    If you argue that the punishment in the lake of fire for the wicked will one day end, must also argue that all of these will one day expire-thus meaning God expires.

    Finally Romans 16:26 says, "But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting (aionios) God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith ...." From my new study and limited understanding, it appears aionios is used here as an adjective directly describing God Himself. Obviously, God is everlasting, and so is the torment of the lost.

    John, do you think it is just not fair to be sentenced to eternal damnation and suffering? Perhaps your explanation of "eternal separation from God" may in of itself be a new manifestation (and additional form) of torment, as was the first fall from grace? Adam and Eve had no knowledge or concept of suffering, until they fell into sin, and were separated from God. Their torment was a "new" form of torment in that they felt the first pain, they had to toil to survive, and the pain of childbirth was cast upon women forever...

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/15/2006 11:10:00 AM  

  • As an aside, John-I think I sort of left out how I arrived at my conclusion regarding the OT description of Hades. I don't want to sound like I just made it up, so I will try my best to explain what I have recently studied and how I arrived at that conclusion. This is another long one, but I really wanted to illustrate my point.

    With understanding the actual definitions of hell and hades, we see that there are incorrect translations of sheol and hades. Often these words are translated hell, which, as I explained earlier, is rather ambiguous and non-descriptive. In many other places sheol and hades are translated as grave, but the grave is only the place for the body after death, not the place for the soul. This confusion often occurs when the verse refers to a righteous man going to sheol, such as men like Jacob, Joseph, (Genesis 37:35) and Job (Job 14:13). Of course, these men did not go to a place of torment, but to the comfort side of sheol (Hades), called Abraham's Bosom. That is my understanding of that particular place of sheol, in OT times.

    Hades, Greek,is identical to Sheol, Hebrew. It is the non-permanent place or temporary address of the disembodied souls of dead. It is not the grave or sepulcher, and it is not the eternal location of the souls of the dead. Hades is translated hell 10 times and grave once by KJV. It is the place for the soul, not the body.


    Gehenna (Greek, but originally from a Hebrew name) - translated hell all 12 times in KJV It is the permanent place for destruction of the "... soul and body ..." (Matthew 10:28). It is a place of "... fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:45). In most of the references, it is clear from the context that those who enter Gehenna, do so in their bodies, not merely as bodiless souls. For this to happen, it must occur after the resurrection of the damned at the great white throne of judgment. Therefore, Gehenna is the Lake of Fire described in Revelation 19 and 20. It is presently uninhabited, but the Beast and the False Prophet will be cast into it at the end of the tribulation (Revelation 19:20). One thousand years later, Satan will be cast into it (Rev 20:10) and will be followed shortly by the lost people of all previous time periods (Revelation 20:15). They will all enter Gehenna together, in there resurrected bodies, where they will remain in torment for all eternity.

    The future destruction of the wicked is symbolized by the Valley of Hinnom to which Gehenna refers. It is a place south of Jerusalem where the bodies of dead animals and rubbish were taken to be burned. The Valley of Hinnom was also the site of much human sacrifice to the pagan god Molech (2 Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6, Jeremiah 32:35). The fire burned constantly in the valley since additional fuel was frequently being cast into it.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 5/15/2006 11:21:00 AM  

  • Hammer,
    I have reread the story, and I still see nothing to say that the torment of the individual is eternal. The fire is eternal - but I've already said that. I still submit that the primary function of fire is to consume, not to torture.

    I've never disputed that there is a real Hell to which the damned may go, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. However, I continue to say that there is no singular picture of this place in the Bible - the pictures are many and varied, from barren waste ground (Gehenna) through volcanic calderas (lake of burning sulfur) to simple dark, hopeless emptiness (the outer darkness).

    I'm not suggesting that the parable doesn't support some notion that Hell is not a nice place. What I suggest is that we cannot (and should not) extract from it any kind of detailed picture of what Hell is like.


    Rightthinker,
    "The English word "Hell" refers to a place of eternal punishment for the wicked. Its meaning does not distinguish between the two separate places for the wicked to be punished, one temporary for the soul, and the other, the Lake of Fire, permanent for the soul and body."

    The problem is that the word "hell" has no coherent meaning separate from theology. So, to understand hell we must first try to understand theology. We can't arrive at a useful meaning of the word simply by considering its etymology and the root of equivalent concepts in other cultures. This means, again, that we have to look carefully to see whether the Bible really teaches two distinct "hells" (one for the soul and another for "the soul and the body"). The fundamental problem with this view is that the Bible doesn't separate "the soul" from "the body". Rather, the biblical concept of "soul" is far closer to "whole person" than to "spiritual part" (as distinct from "fleshly part"). This is part of why Christianity insists on a bodily resurrection - we are not whole people without a body; we were not created to be spirit only.

    So, again, if we're looking at the "eternality" of the fire, I would re-state my position that it is the fire that is eternal, not the torment of any individual. I do not believe it possible for a finite creature to undergo infinite torture (or infinite anything else). Only by being remade can the saints enter heaven; are we really suggesting that God gives the unsaved new and glorious resurrection bodies (without sin and perfect in every way) simply in order to torture them for eternity?

    So, it's not that I don't believe it to be "unfair" for the punishment of the damned to be eternal (although I do). It's that I don't believe it to be possible. I accept your point that eternal separation from God would be torment. However, total separation from God is equivalent to extinction - no part of Creation, no creature, can exist apart from God's continual sustaining. This will apply just as much in the world to come as it does now. So, if the damned are cast out from God's presence, they will cease to be as their fires burn out.

    For the damned to suffer torment for eternity, they would have to be regenerated first, and then continually sustained by God through the torment. That, it seems to me, makes no sense - logically, never mind whether it's consistent with the Incarnate God.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 5/15/2006 02:36:00 PM  

  • However, total separation from God is equivalent to extinction - no part of Creation, no creature, can exist apart from God's continual sustaining. This will apply just as much in the world to come as it does now. So, if the damned are cast out from God's presence, they will cease to be as their fires burn out.

    That's an intriguing position, John. Put another way, I heard it said that if the damned were given the opportunity to be destroyed forever or endure eternal torment, they would actually choose to continue to exist. Why? The same reason you state - existence itself is a good thing, and therefore must be from God.

    The Bible actually never says hell is a place "totally separated from God". I think that phrase probably stemmed from a desire to make hell less a place of fire, pain, anguish and torment - but as you have identified, if it is eternal, it cannot be completely separated from God.

    We know this - hell is worse than we can imagine. We have a part in keeping some from it, and we must be diligent to do so.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 5/15/2006 02:53:00 PM  

  • John, In response to your comment that you don't believe it is "possible" for hell to be a place of ETERNAL torment, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 19:26: "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." I don't like the idea of the punishment for sin being eternal either (in most cases), but the Bible is very clear on the subject and I can't understand how you are interpreting it otherwise. When we realize the seriousness of our sin and the way a holy and just God views it, it starts to make sense, yet no person can fully understand the wrath and grace of God. We ALL deserve eternal punishment, yet God chose to save those who will put their trust in Jesus. I think hell is described so vividly TO frighten us into warning others and sharing the fact that God made a way for sinners to be saved from this terrible torment. The thought of any of my friends or loved ones suffering eternally when they have an option to choose Jesus brings me to my knees everyday and is what motivated me to start contributing to the blog with this series. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments!

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 5/15/2006 10:03:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home