Saturday, January 12, 2013
"But I say unto you that whosever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment;and whosever is angry without a cause shall be in danger of judgment and whosever shall say to his brother , Raca, shall be in the danger of the council, but whosever shall say, 'thou fool, shall be in the danger of hell fire. (Matt 5:22) KJV
And I say unto my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea I say unto you , Fear him. LK 12:4-5 KJV.
From the Schofield Reference Bible: Greek Geena equals Gehenna, the place in the Valley of Hinnom where, anciently human sacrifices were offered (2 Chr.33:6; Jer. 7:31) and where the continuous burning of rubbish illustrated to the Jewish people unending judgment upon the wicked. The word occurs in Mt 5:22,29,30; 10:28, 18:9; 23:15,33; Mk.9: 43,45,47; Lk 12:5; Jas.3:6
There is a certain bond between Roman Catholics and Protestants and has to deal with the eternal and very physical punishment who end up being hell. The influential John Stott was the last casualty of a reformed theologian who was "cut off" for wanting to debate this issue. I believe I can make a case against eternal punishment but I need a fair hearing.
I know it is against the academic rules to use Wikipedia but nonetheless let's look at their take on the the beginnings of the word hell.."The modern English word hell is derived from old English Ref hel, helle (about 785 AD)( to refer to a netherworld of the dead)........Subsequently the word was used to transfer a pagan concept its Christian theology and it's vocabulary (however for the Judea- Christian origin of the concept Gehenna)
When Jesus spoke about hell he wasn't speaking about hell. According to WIKI that was a later pagination of the word gehenna. So when Jesus spoke of Gehenna he used the word Gehenna which it should remain in our Bibles today. He was speaking of a well known physical place where rubbish burned and sacrifices had been offered..."Fear him who, after he had killed, hath power to cast into Gehenna; yea I say unto, Fear him".
So we have allowed and continually allow "hell" with all of its baggage such as art and horrific layers of suffering to continue. There is one passage in Matthew and one in Revelation that seems a slam dunk to those who hold to hell- in this case "The lake of fire":
[Jesus said:] “When the son of man comes in his glory, and all his angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right.'Come you are blessed by my Father: take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord , when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
The king will then reply, 'I tell you the truth , whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Then he will or to those on his left, Depart from me, you are cursed, into an eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in. I needed clothes and you did not clothe me. I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer , 'Lord,when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did no help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the the righteous to eternal life" Mt. 46, 31-36
This then is the single most powerful verse for eternal conscious suffering of the unrighteous.
The only way I can argue against this verse's plain interpretation (and I know it is a stretch) is that the unrighteous that perish, suffer eternal punishment in the perspective in what they have lost- because they have lost eternal life in that sense they are punished eternally even though they lose consciousness.
Why do I say lose consciousness? Because Paul uses Perish when he discusses what happens to the unbeliever at death. It implies a burning up and a cessation of suffering. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness ; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18 c.56 AD)
There are others (Rom. 2:12, I Cor 8:11, 2 Cor 2:15, 2 Cor 4:16, 2Col 2:22, 2 Thess 2:10. Also in Hebrews 1:11, 2 Peter 2:12, 2 Peter 3:9
Then there is the verses in Revelation 20:13....15 The sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he hat done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
This talks about unbelievers entering a lake of fire which is "the second death" . I don't believe anyone knows what the second death means accept to take it literally that those who enter die.
John the Gospel writer quotes Jesus as using the word perishing: "..that whosoever believeth in him should not perish (Jn 3:16)
So my first case against hell is that it is a pagan word and not biblical. Not that Gehenna is such a pleasant place but it is different then medieval paintings of hell. No doubt the Roman Catholic Church clung to it because he that holds the keys to hell is more to be feared than the keys to Gehenna. As to the infamous Matthew passage we have an apparent contradiction because Jesus himself uses perishing. We have a quandary here. Does the Matthew verses "trump" all of the hell fire verses? That there is no mention of hell or judgment in the Acts? There will be a judgment "after certain days, when Festus came with his wife, Drusilla, he sent for Paul, and heard concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, self control, and judgement to come, Felix trembled. Acts 24:25
This is the message of the NT. Faith in Christ have life and those without face judgment
Than we have all of Paul's and Peter's Epistles. Not once doe they mention hell- rather they talk of non believers as perishing. Perishing implies termination of any suffering. See Rom.2:12,1 Cor 1:18, 1 Cor 8:11, 2 Cor 2:15, 2 Cor4:16 , Col 2:22, 2Th2:10, Heb 1:11, 2 Pet 2:12, 2 Peter 3:9
So we have the earliest most influential letters where no eternal suffering is mentioned for the unbeliever, only perishing.
The idea of judgment is clear, along with the warning of gehenna. At the judgment how long a person suffers is not clear, although, again, perishing implies an end to suffering. Hell is a pagan perversion and it is time for Reformed and Roman Catholics to translate it back to Gehenna.
If a literal hell is to be expected than why did not the Acts, Peter and Paul not mention it in the early
Church? Why do we continually allow a pagan term, namely hell to replace gehenna?
I am not saying that a strong case cannot be made for "Lake of fire" as opposed to "hell" as in the Mathew and Revelation verses. There should be a mature discussion as to why the early church has no mention of eternal damnation, given the dire warnings that Christ and John of Revelation give.
And 2 Jude : "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness. One can see this is a view entirely different than our other quotes
In conclusion we have Jesus talking about perishing of the lost but also portraying an awful fire that seems to exist forever. What to do? What to say? The strength of the hell position are the words of Jesus while Jesus himself introduces perishing in John's Gospel.
So we have quandary. Does Matthew's passage trump all the others because Jesus said it? Does the perishing "theory" trump the Matthew passage? I believe in a court of law the perishing theory would prevail although I would be left with reasonable doubt.