Friday, November 4, 2016

Water and Living Water

"Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'" - John 4:10
Living Water, the Woman at the Well"
by Judith Fritchman
Water is universal. Life is not possible without water. We know what it feels like to be thirsty - and to have our thirst quenched by a clean, cool glass of water.  What a powerful way for Jesus to teach us about spiritual truths. He takes something we know so well - life-giving water - and applies it masterfully to give us understanding and insight into the mysteries of eternal life and God's Spirit.

Isn't it so clever and considerate of the Lord to use familiar life realities to illustrate spiritual realities to us? As I've thought about these illustrations, it seems even more likely that these earthly creations were designed specifically to teach us about Him and our eternal life to come. After all, Jesus spoke in parables for a reason.

For example, the Father-Son relationship - definitely tailor-made to help us grasp our Heavenly Father's heart (Heb. 12:7-9). He gave us marriage - the most intimate union - to paint a picture of Jesus' love for the Church (Eph. 5:25-27). There is the shepherd with his sheep (John 10:11-16); food itself (bread, manna) (John 6:51); the birth of a baby (John 3-7):; the death and growth of a seed (John 12:24); the gold, silver and precious stones of the earth (1 Cor. 3:12-13); and one of the most poignant… the Passover lamb (John 1:36, 1 Cor. 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19)… the physical illustrations from life go on and on - all pointing us to God, His Son and the spiritual realities of God's Kingdom.

How wonderful.

There are earthly things that reflect eternal things. There are things now that foreshadow things to come. The tabernacle was patterned after the one in heaven (Heb. 8:4-5). Jerusalem will be replaced by the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2). There will be new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13).

So, let me spin this thing around and relate it to our topic at hand: final punishment. Let's take a look at two illustrations that give us insight into Judgment and the fate of the wicked: 1) earthly judgments by God and 2) physical death

In the same way that the images above demonstrate spiritual truth, please consider these sobering examples and shadows of things to come.

Judgments by God are examples of the wrath to come

The Passover

The Passover Lamb was mentioned above, but what about the Passover event itself? The Lord passed judgment on Egypt: "For I will go through the land of Egypt…and will strike down all the firstborn…and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD." (Exodus 12:12, 1 Cor. 5:7)

For Christians, this event is packed with symbolic meaning as Jesus, the ultimate sacrificial lamb, was killed - His blood our covering and protection from Death.  ‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13) Those who were 'covered' by the blood were saved from the judgment of death.

The flood

Genesis 6 describes the awful scene of wickedness and evil that was on the earth. God's judgment brought destruction: "The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart…Then God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.'"

In the same way, God's final judgment will also be a complete destruction. Just as those who survived the flood were preserved on the arc, those who survive Judgment Day will be found in Jesus (1 Pet. 3:20-21, 2 Pet. 2:5). The New Testament makes it very clear that the flood is a picture of future judgment - and that judgement is destruction (not everlasting torment as Traditionalists teach):

“…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (See 2 Peter 3) 

“And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:27)

Sodom and Gomorrah

The famous destruction of Sodom and the surrounding cities is mentioned throughout Scripture. Images from that historical event are used to illustrate spiritual truths. Lot's wife and smoke rising are two examples. The majority of references to that horrific event point to a future judgment of the ungodly, that being destruction, not lingering torture:

"… in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom 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 17:26-30) 

“...the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe... just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, ... are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire." (See Jude) 

“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


Physical death (the first death) is an earthly illustration of eternal death (the second death).

This is really the point that I wanted to make from this whole study. I have turned it over and over in my mind. God has given us all these earthly representations of spiritual realities. The temporal reality corresponds to the spiritual one. The examples are endless!  Eyesight/spiritual vision; earthly riches/spiritual riches; earthly anchors/Jesus our anchor; heirs and heritage/spiritual heritage; the wind and fire/the Holy Spirit; physical refiner's pot/God's refining fire; etc, etc!

So, death. Why should death, which is as universal and revered as any earthly reality, be any different? There is physical life, there is eternal life. There is physical birth, there is a spiritual birth. There is physical death, and then there is eternal conscious torment… …. hmmm. Doesn't really correspond, does it? 

Have you wondered why the lake of fire is called the second death"…This is the second death, the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14)  "….the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8)

You may ask, "what about Revelation 20:10?" That is a valid and relevant question and I will dedicate a post to that verse alone. But for now ask yourself - should an entire doctrine have for its cornerstone one verse from an allegory? The beast, the brimstone, the smoke, the lake… these symbols all represent a truth. The book of Revelation is given to us for a purpose, not to completely dumbfound us, but to illustrate realities that exist and are to come. 

I will also focus a post on Revelation 20:14, which was the beginning of my study on final punishment. I read that verse over and over and wondered, "what does it mean?". Well, the Bible answers that question very clearly. Basically, we see that physical death is temporary (1 Cor. 15:26, Rev. 20:14) the second death is permanent (eternal, forever, never to be reversed).

For this study, as we consider the ways God reveals truth, we are able to see clearly that there is a day of Judgment coming. That judgment will result in salvation or condemnation. The condemnation results in destruction in the lake of fire, the second death.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Rom. 6:23)

Oh, the shame of the punishment of death! May we instead all come and drink freely from the Living Water! As I drink my clean glass of water this morning, I will ponder all the ways God teaches us from His word and His creation.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Casting your bread upon the waters

This is an excerpt (emphases mine) from a devotional blog by Pastor Jim Reimer (originally from Fairbanks, Alaska and now a citizen of Portugal and pastor in Lisbon). I was deeply impressed by his insight into 'waiting':

Wait by Jim Reimer

"Waiting is one of the most difficult of personal disciplines that I have had to learn.I don’t know if I have yet fully developed this grace in my life, but I can say that I am better at it than I used to be. Waiting is really trusting. It requires seeing with eyes of hope and faith the end result. King Solomon wrote to cast your bread on the waters and after many days you will find it again. (Ec. 11.1) This refers to an ancient way of sowing wheat. The farmer waited for the rains to flood the fields, then he would go and cast the seed on the water. When the water subsided, the little sprouts of grain could be seen growing up to produce a bountiful harvest. Throwing grain, that could be made into bread, on the water may have seemed like a crazy thing to do, but what was more difficult is the waiting of many days for the harvest.

Waiting is the time between the promise and the fulfillment. There is a season to sow and a season to reap. Paul told the Galatians to “not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6.9) The key is to not grow weary in sowing seeds and to not become impatient during the waiting time. Abraham received the promise of having children when he was quite advanced in years. Time passed and Abraham became impatient. At the age of 86, he thought he needed to help God along, so he took Sara’s Egyptian servant, Hagar, and conceived a child through her. From the time of Ishmael’s birth, problems began to happen. This was not the child of the promise, but of his own impatience. The promise did come to pass, but only after the completion of the waiting time determined by God.

A lot happens during the waiting time. Other fields are plowed, other seeds are sow and the tools for the harvest are sharpened and prepared. Jesus gave us the promise of His return about two thousand ago. It has been a long “in-between” time. Why the wait? Why is it taking Jesus so long to return? The answer is found in II Peter 3.9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The wait is not for inactivity, but rather being busy in reaching the lost with the Gospel.It is a time for doing good and not losing heart.

It is a sobering to think that we are all planting seeds all the time. What we eat, what we say, the TV program we watch, the books we read, time spent with family and friends, will all produce a harvest, for good or for bad, in a future season. So be careful what you plant, for it will be the bread you eat in the future."

Scriptures to meditate on:
Ps. 37.3; Ec. 11.1; Gal. 6.9; Heb. 6.15; II Peter 3.9; I Tim. 2.4

Taken from:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

It never entered My mind

Illustration by

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Originally posted December 26, 2014) 

Monday, August 1, 2016

God's Word brings joy!

"The whole Bible seems to glow 
with new meaning. The good news of eternal 
life seems more beautiful than ever."

GracEmail by Edward Fudge:

I first met Neal two years ago while shopping for a hat at Shudde Bros. Hatters, his century-old family business situated in the Brookwood Community, about 40 miles west of Houston. We quickly connected as fellow-believers and soon were discussing the hope of immortality that we share in Jesus Christ.

From childhood, Neal was taught that God will also keep the lost alive forever, to suffer everlasting conscious torment. Neal said that teaching had always struck him as out of line with the gospel and inconsistent with God's character as revealed in the person of Jesus.

The theme throughout the word of God is God's faithful love for his people, whom he already has reconciled to himself in Jesus Christ and one day will make immortal to live in a redeemed creation creation called the new heavens and earth. It is therefore no wonder that God's word often gives joy to his people. "I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil, exclaimed David" (Psalm 119:162).

As we talked that day, Neal was overjoyed to learn that he can read texts like Romans 6:23 ("the wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life") and John 3:16 ("whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but will have everlasting life") and take them at face value. The final destinies awaiting human beings really are LIFE or DEATH.

Some of my family visited the Brookwood Community last week, and again Neal and I crossed paths. Since our previous visit, he told me, he had watched my lecture on "The Fire That Consumes," presented to a live audience of 800 at the Lanier Theological Library in 2011, and he could not contain his excitement. The whole Bible seems to glow with new meaning, he said, and the good news of eternal life seems to him more beautiful than ever. But as we began to reflect on the word of God again, Neal knew that his joy was only beginning.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Preeminent Word of God

"He mined religious truth, not from books of human fabrication, but from God's Word."

I've observed a pattern in our modern day culture among Christians. I've observed it in myself, along with believers who I hold in the highest regard: We tend to look to human resources at our disposal when searching out a spiritual matter, instead of going first to God alone.

We have our teachers and preachers that we respect and resonate with. We read their books, listen to their sermons and adopt their view of Scripture when it sounds 'right'.

And although it is true we are to edify and encourage and disciple each other, training up the children, the wise sharing their wisdom - there is still a better way for those seeking maturity in God. The Way, the Truth and the Life is Jesus, and He will always be the number one source for His people. If we let human thought be our guide, we are already off the narrow path.

Ironically, this understanding was clarified to me as I read a book - a biography about George Muller.1 Often called the "man of faith", Mr. Muller, who was born in Prussia in 1805, became famous by caring for two thousand orphans by faith alone (never asking anyone but His heavenly Father to provide for them).

However, early on in his Christian walk, as a young man, he fell into the same habit that many Christians today do: reading books about the Bible, instead of the Bible itself. This keeps a believer immature in Christ.

"A common error George succumbed to as a divinity student was reading books about the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself. George admitted, 'I practically preferred for the first four years of my Christian life the works of uninspired men. The consequence was that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.'" (p.21)

Early in his life, he found himself sick and isolated with the Bible alone as company.

[George Muller] realized... that he had learned an invaluable lesson about the Bible. For the Bible became, ... the true source of his inspiration, and the one book to which he was solely devoted. "God began to show me that His Word alone is our standard of judgment; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, He is the teacher of the people."

George Muller 1805-1898
He began an experiment. He would test the Bible's truth by experience: "The Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the Word of God and studying it. The result of this was the first evening I shut myself into my room to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously..."

Near the end of his life he said he had read the Bible through approximately two hundred times, one hundred of them on his knees. He found God's promises in the Bible and experienced the truth of them in daily life. He learned to believe what he read and to act accordingly. He mined religious truth, not from books of human fabrication, but from God's Word - and what George read, he lived. (pgs. 24-25)

1 George Muller, Man of Faith by Bonnie Harvey, 1998, by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Uhrichsville, Ohio.
Also: The Autobiography of George Muller, edited by Diana L. Matisko, by Whitaker House, 1984, Springdale, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tradition, truth, and treason

 "Let us never exalt tradition over Truth. 
Tradition itself is always subject
to testing by Truth."

Excerpts taken from a GracEmail by Edward Fudge:

"Once the first generation of Christian believers had passed, each successive church generation shares much in common. For starters, each new generation must make its peace with Tradition. Tradition is not a nasty word, as some suppose, nor is it a fourth member of the Trinity, as others seem almost to suggest. Tradition is simply the thinking and the doing of the church that lived before us and passed on to those coming after them.

On the one hand, Tradition means that every generation does not have to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, Tradition itself is always subject to testing by Truth. When Tradition matches Truth, opposition to such Tradition is Treason. When Tradition does not match Truth, it is Treason not to reject it.

These principles find classic illustration in the story of Stephen.

God confirmed Stephen's preaching with "great signs and wonders" (Acts 6:8), drawing attention and opposition from unbelieving, apparently foreign-born Jews, who compensated for their own lack of roots with fanatical zeal for the physical Temple, the Holy City, and the Holy Land (6:9-14). These opponents brought false charges against Stephen before the Sanhedrin High Court, and hired additional false witnesses to do the same. "He blasphemes God and Moses," they said, "and speaks evil against this place [Jerusalem and its Temple], the Law, and the customs." When all accusations had been presented, Stephen responds, and the summary of his remarks fills Acts 7:2-56.

Stephen [indicted] his ... audience, no doubt fully aware that it will cost him his life. "YOU," he says, "have proved that you are your fathers' sons, for they murdered the prophets and you have killed the Righteous One, Jesus, now at God's right hand in heaven" (7:51-53). At this the mob grabs Stephen, carries him outside the city, and stones him to death (7:54-60).

Stephen, the man of God, comes preaching Truth. The Temple Establishment in Jerusalem, in the name of Tradition, denounces him for preaching Treason. In truth, they are guilty of Treason by their overzealous commitment to Tradition. Let us never exalt Tradition over Truth, or under the cover of denouncing Tradition, reject Truth."

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

If I could be more like George

Many have heard about George Muller. He lived a long time ago in a country far away... well, not that long and not that far, but his story is worth reading. If you are a believer, then you will want to live like he did. I know I want to be like him.

George Muller, known as "the man of faith" ought to be listed in Hebrews chapter 11. It seems he was able to discern what was good and right, decide to do it, and then follow through without compromise. The result was a life that reflected the power of God in a man. I want to highlight a part of his life that I believe was one key to his ability to live by faith, and walk in godliness.

George figured out early in his walk that God's word above all other 'words' should be his daily bread. In a "Heroes of the Faith" book about Muller, it said, "A common error George succumbed to as a divinity student was reading books about the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself. George admitted, 'I practically preferred for the first four years of my Christian life the works of uninspired men. The consequence was that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.'" (Harvey, p. 21)

"'God began to show me,' George said, 'that His Word alone is our standard of judgment; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, He is the teacher of the people.'" (p. 24)

"The Bible became...the true source of inspiration, and the one book to which he was solely devoted. He began an experiment. He would test the Bible's truth by experience: 'The Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the Word of God and studying it. The result of this was that the first evening I shut myself into my room to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously...But the particular difference was that I received real strength for my soul in doing so.'"

"Near the end of his life he said he had read the Bible through approximately two hundred times, one hundred of them on his knees. He found God's promises in the Bible and experienced the truth of them in his daily life. He learned to believe what he read and to act accordingly. He mined religious truth, not from books of human fabrication, but from God's Word - and what George read, he lived." (p. 25)

These facts about Muller have convicted me recently. And, because of this blog, I feel a bit hypocritical. The fact is, folks should study the Bible directly (for themselves) to learn about what God wants us to know concerning final judgment and all other facets of our life with Him.

When I have had heavy spiritual questions in the past (like, "Is Jesus Christ really God?" and "Is eternal torment God's plan?") then I went straight to Scripture - just the Holy Spirit and me and God's Word. It was then that I received answers that were to me clear as living water. (My answers from above were "yes" and "no" respectively).

As I understand more about history and see all the ways 'the church' has gone astray from God's Word, it becomes more apparent that it is a universal problem - a temptation - to wander away from the Word of life and go our own way. My exhortation is: Start first with the Bible and God Himself as your teacher when you are searching out a truth. Use prayer and invest the time. It may be more difficult and time-consuming, but of course time in the Bible and with the Lord is never wasted.

Keep in mind that books about faithful people are worthwhile reading. Biographies are wonderful sources of inspiration as we share in the lives of fellow believers. I highly recommend reading all about George Muller - his story will inspire you to pursue holiness, prayer and a life of faith. Just remember to go to God's Word for your 'theology' and doctrine. Unfortunately, man's interpretations, creeds and rules are not to be trusted in place of Scripture itself.

If believers could be faithful in pursuing knowledge of God from the Bible first and [almost] solely, our famine concerning God's word would fade from the land.

Now, go! Read your Bible and pray for the Holy Spirit to bring it to life for you - it will bring you to the source of Life, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!!

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of "The Autobiography of George Muller" edited by Diana Matisko. Published in 1984 by Whitaker House, Springdale, Pennsylvania.

"[Muller's] library consisted of a Hebrew Bible, three Greek Testaments, a Greek concordance and lexicon, with a half dozen different versions of the Bible and copies of the best translations in several languages. These constituted his entire library!

When he preached, he would read a whole chapter or part of one and then proceed to draw rich treasures that made it worth crossing the ocean to hear. His method of preaching caused members of his congregation to become mighty in the Scriptures. They were better qualified to guide inquiring souls to Christ than many young ministers who had spent three years in a theological seminary.

With absolute confidence and childlike simplicity, he believed every Word that God had spoken. He eagerly returned to God's Word several times each day as though he was in constant communication with heaven, receiving fresh letters of instruction and precious promises from his heavenly Father.

Muller never studied the Bible for others. He studied only for himself to find out what His Father required of him. He became so impregnated with God's truth that, when he spoke of God, his listeners would be reminded of the words of our Savior in John 7:38, for from him seemed to flow 'rivers of living water.'

It was George Muller's greatest hope that his record of God's faithfulness to him would encourage believers to develop faith like his own - the faith without which it is impossible to please God; the faith that works by love and purifies the heart; the faith that takes hold of God's strength and is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen."

May this faith fill our lives as we seek God first in prayer and His Holy Word. Amen!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This verse explains it all (or the alternate title: It's a no-brainer)

The writer of Hebrews (along with most New Testament authors) makes it clear what will happen to God's enemies (and specifically those who reject the truth). We've got one sentence that should end the controversy:

"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."  (Heb. 10:26-27)

And, in case we missed the meaning of "raging fire that will consume the enemies", the end of the chapter sums up the two options for people when Jesus comes back to judge the earth:

"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." (10:39)

For those who consider destruction 'getting off easy', ponder what the Word says about coming into such a judgment: "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (10:31)

Yes, God has a fire that refines and that involves some pain. He also has punishment prepared according to what we deserve: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay." (10:30) But ultimately, at the end of the age, God will make all things new. The enemies of God (including Satan), sin, death and all evil will all be burned up in the raging fire of His holiness...

"...for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29)

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My 13-year-old's "persuasive" paper for writing class

Hell May Not Be What You Think by L. Gomes

In the beliefs of Christianity, there are three main views on the subject of final punishment (or as some call it, hell). The most popular of the three is Traditionalism, which teaches that humans have immortal souls and the ones who are not in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire and be tortured for eternity. The second view is Universalism in which the lake will burn off all evil, purify the lost, and send them to Heaven. The third (and what I believe is the most biblical view) is Conditionalism, in which the lost are cast into the fire and completely and utterly erased from existence forever. Although Traditionalism is overwhelmingly accepted as truth by the Church, I have come to believe that there is more biblical evidence supporting Conditionalism and complete and total destruction than eternal conscious torment.

Some might say, “But hell is in the Bible!” The following words from the original Greek and Hebrew are translated as 'hell' in various modern translations: Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus. Sheol and Hades are sometimes translated as ‘hell’ and sometimes as ‘grave’ (which can be misleading.) They are actually a temporary intermediate state between earthly death and final judgment (according to Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man). According to the Greek New Testament, Gehenna is the lake of fire, and Tartarus is a prison for fallen angels where they are held until judgment. None are places of unending torture. These translations of different words into the word ‘hell’ (a Germanic word, meaning to conceal) can be confusing to anyone studying final punishment.

One reason Traditionalism is so popular is the belief in the immortal soul. If everyone is immortal, it would make sense that they must go to either Heaven or hell forever. However, the immortal soul is not actually in the Bible! God is the Creator of the universe, and if he pulled himself away, it would cease to exist. It is not possible to be immortal unless God wills it. The idea of everyone’s immortal soul actually came from Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, very few people could read the Bible for themselves, and Greek philosophy leaked its way into the church. Since the common yokel had no way of checking for himself, he had to go along with what he was told. Unfortunately, even though we can read the Bible for ourselves, most still cling to the biblically unfounded tradition of the immortal soul.

Since the only immortal souls are the ones God grants and sustains, how can people stay alive and be tortured forever? God would have to keep them alive, and torture billions of his beloved creatures he individually and meticulously handcrafted. The Bible clearly states that God loves all of us and sent his only Son to die for our sins! (John 3:16) So why would he turn around and continually sustain and torment those who reject it? A good, sinless, pure God would never do such a terrible, even purely evil thing! The doctrine of hell paints God as a Torturer of humanity, and drives away atheists and new Christians.

If you look through Scripture, you will find countless verses in the Old and New Testaments that say the wicked will be killed (Isaiah 65:16,) destroyed (Deut. 29:23,) burned up (Psalm 37:20,) crushed underfoot (I Cor. 15:25,) and erased from existence. And the phrase ‘eternal destruction’ means to be destroyed and never put back together, not to be destroyed over and over again for eternity.

There are a few verses in the book of Revelation that supposedly prove Traditionalism is correct, but Revelation is a heavily allegorical book with much symbolism. Most of the verses that are about eternal torment aren’t even describing people, but government systems (Rev. 18:10). The Bible also says that Hades and death will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14,) which makes no sense if the lake of fire is eternal conscious torment.

Every Christian knows that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), but I have heard, “which means separation from God in hell,” tacked on after the verse. Edward Fudge, writer of The Fire That Consumes, says, “It would not be proper to interpret dozens of clear statements throughout the Bible to fit one or two symbolic passages in the Book of Revelation. It is a well-established rule of interpretation that one should read symbolic or unclear texts in light of texts that are non-symbolic and clear, not the other way around.” The Traditionalist view depends on a few “proof texts” that are highly symbolic, and ignores tens, maybe hundreds of literal verses that support destruction.

Fudge also says, “Nor is it appropriate to choose an opinion supported by a handful of texts at best and to discard an alternate view that has the support of many multiples more of scripture passages from Genesis to Revelation.” The Bible is constantly pointing out that God is all powerful and his enemies will be destroyed, not kept alive and tortured for eternity.

But God is also a loving, just God, and what kind of loving God would torture people for eternity? There is no crime that could ever come close to deserving eternal torment. That is why I believe that eternal conscious torment is a biblically unfounded theology and that those who reject God will come to a permanent end in the lake of fire.

(Mom's note: Give that young man an "A"!)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

An atheist postulates

"Seems to me that if God is going to compel anyone after death to force them to be tormented in hell, why doesn't God use the compulsion of sanctification, and say 'Ok pal, you didn't let me do this before, but now I'm going to clean you up'…if God is going to compel anything after death, why not compel sanctification?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Don't work at cross-purposes to God (Kicking against the goads*)

I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying... 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'” (Rom. 26:13-14)

Do you ever feel a bit of empathy for Saul on the road to Damascus? He was zealous and really on a mission for God (so he thought). Remember when Jesus said, “...the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16:2) Yep, that was Saul. It appears he was really doing the best he could with what he believed to be true.

Have you ever looked back at some action you took in the name of the Lord, and realized your zeal was not based on God's truth? I know I have. Applying the 'truth' without love can get really ugly. “...They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2)

As I have studied Scripture and specifically looked carefully into judgment and final punishment, I wonder if orthodox thinking causes modern-day Christians to repeat the mistakes (dare I say sins) of the past. Paul said, “I was ...extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:14) Taking a rigid stand for tradition may or may not be a good choice. Standing on God's word alone in the humble awareness that we do not know all of God's ways may be the better direction. “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good...” (Gal. 4:18).

Remember when Peter thought he was justified to rebuke Jesus? The Lord was explaining how He was going to suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders and Peter said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns. (Matt. 16:21-23)

How easy it is for us to have merely human concerns and outlooks. Somehow, many of us have become convinced that God's justice requires some souls to experience an eternity of suffering. We have been taught about the concept of the 'immortal soul' – and we accept it. Brothers and sisters, these are not biblical ideas!

I sense we should be careful not to fall into the same spirit of the workers in the parable of Matthew 20 who agreed to a denarius for a day's work. Other workers were hired later in the day, some only working one hour. When the time came to pay the workers, the owner paid those who had worked only part of the day a whole denarius.

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them, 'I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'”

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

It may be that those we look at in judgment, those we are certain will 'go to hell', will receive as much and seemingly more grace and mercy than the so-called righteous.

Yes, each one will receive what is due him, according to God's great justice, according to what he has done. “...Great are Your purposes and mighty are Your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind; You reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve.” (Jer. 32:19)

However, careful study of Scripture reveals that eternal torment is not part of God's wonderful plan of renewal. Neither is it taught that those who haven't had the chance to hear the name of Jesus on this earth will be mercilessly thrown into fiery torment forever. The irredeemably wicked and God's enemies do have an awful fate, excluded forever from God's kingdom and the gift of eternal life.

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

And from the New Testament, those that reject Jesus are left with

...only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:27)

If final punishment does not include this merciless idea of a hell that boasts eternal torment, then we are working at cross-purposes to God when we teach it. The biblical evidence is such that it is worth a second look. After all, it is hard to kick against the goads.

* 'Apparently, "to kick against the goads" was a common expression found in both Greek and Latin literature—a rural image, which rose from the practice of farmers goading their oxen in the fields. Though unfamiliar to us, everyone in that day understood its meaning.

Goads were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other. Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion. Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad. The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of its leg, causing greater pain.' - Chuck Swindoll

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Simply crushes any alternative," states John Stackhouse

"The Fire That Consumes is one of the most convincing cases ever offered in the history of controversial theology, a juggernaut of biblical exegesis that simply crushes any alternative. Written by a man who eventually became a successful lawyer, the book presents an actual argument reasoned carefully and plainly from evidence. Such a phenomenon is not to be taken for granted in theology." 
                           -- John G. Stackhouse Jr.

John Stackhouse was trained in history and religious studies at Queen’s University, Ontario (BA, First Class Honors), Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois (MA, with Highest Honors), and The University of Chicago (PhD). He replaced J. I. Packer as Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., and now serves as Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development at Crandall University in New Brunswick. Stackhouse has authored or edited a dozen books and written over 600 articles, book chapters, and reviews in academic publications, major newspapers, and magazines.

"The Legacy of Edward Fudge - John Stackhouse" - watch this Youtube video starting at minute 16:25.