I have a question , it may be a bit unorthodox to some , controversial to others ( I do not wish to change anyone’s deeply held beliefs or shake anyone’s faith ).
But this is nagging at me ,and I would ask the scholars here for clarification .
I grew up in a very literal / fundamental Pentecostal house , and hell was often described along the lines of Dante’s inferno .if not directly , then implied.
As an adult discussing with atheists , it comes up often ( torturous skymonster ,etc.) Anyway …
Jesus states " the wages of sin is death "
Revelations talks of the 2nd death
Hell is often coupled with destruction or even
The destruction of the soul
The gift or promise to the faithful is eternal life
I’m having a hard time justifying " eternal torture in hell " by a merciful loving God .I’m also finding it difficult to support the idea of human souls / spirits spending some sort of eternal sublife in hell .
To my mind , when the scriptures are in harmony , hell seems to be temporary at most . That the 2nd death is some type of spiritual incinerator where even hell and death itself are destroyed .
That souls/ spirits that are too infected / corrupted are destroyed .this seems merciful to my mind , like putting a rabid animal down , or destroying a virus with fire ,thus preventing it’s spread to the healthy .
The idea of human souls spending eternity conciously suffering in hell conflicts a merciful loving father ,and further the gift of eternal life becomes to no effect ( eternal either way ) …
Can anyone clarify ? If my mortal mind is incorrect , then I need correction on this but I can’t seem to find more than a parable eluding to eternal torture in hell .
It seems to my limited understanding that gnashing of teeth could be regret , that fearing him that can destroy body and soul in hell , actually means destroyed ,not slowly roasted eternally .
Please help …I need clarification or correction , I would not risk my salvation being wrong .
Thank you in advance .
To prove the point that there are lots of people questioning this, there’s even a podcast/website for evangelicals about it that I just learned about: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/podcast
George Macdonald believed that the only reason God would punish is, as with how we parents punish–to correct. Therefore, Hell is a correction area–where God is closest to us as He changes us. Even Hitler would eventually come to repentance then, and be reconciled (maybe I’m further from God than Hitler in some ways, myself!).
I, too, have a lot to learn. This could be an interesting line of inquiry.
My thought ,
If Hitler has denied God(love) to such an extent as to be unrepairable / salvageable , why would a good Shepard place him with the rest of the herd .
And why compound hate and evil by visiting further evil upon him .
Merciful destruction seems only logical to me .
Oblivion an end result .both everlasting , and just .
Final ,and forever.
that’s certainly a possibility. However, the older I get, the more I realize that most people (even pedophiles and the abusers, seeming psychopaths) don’t really fully understand the pain they inflict. I’m not sure that an eternity (even annihilation) is a reasonable resolution to anything that we do in this life.
Rich Mullins’ song “We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are” resonates with me in this respect. I really don’t know what eternity is like (does entropy eventually cause all annihilation, or is there a new universe coming from God’s hand? Who knows?).
I thank God that our salvation is in Christ’s hands and not in our own ability to pass intellectual tests or know the correct answers to everything. If the latter were true, then our salvation would be works-based, and that is decidedly non-scriptural.
…which is the same complaint (being non-scriptural) that some will level against those who question the existence of a literal tortured-by-fire hell. Isn’t that one of the well-supported doctrines of the New Testament? Certainly some of what Jesus said can be read that way, though we might be misunderstanding some of their cultural references as we do so (Gehenna, and trash heaps ‘perpetually’ burning outside the city gates, etc.).
You aren’t the first person to wrestle with this, as you know. Some really smart and devout people have had serious questions about the ‘eternal punishment’ formulation of this doctrine. C.S. Lewis was one. For a more recent example, look up the movie “Come Sunday” (can be streamed on Netflix), which is a true story of the Pentecostal megachurch pastor who publicly doubted this doctrine (in the same ways you are), and the movie does a good job bringing out his reasons for doubting that this doctrine is correct in its portrayal of God. This is not to be construed as my endorsement of all that Bishop Carlton may now stand for (he’s now a Unitarian pastor I think). But it does show that his objections on this issue were not bereft of significant scriptural support, and proponents of eternal hell notions may not have as much scriptural support as they would like to believe. In the end (I think) it may come down to a question between: do you want to pay more attention to an overall message arc of scripture about who God is? Or do you want to put more weight on a few particular verses (or what some take those verses to mean, rather) at the expense of the larger received message?
Don’t take this as me denying that hell exists, mind you! I’m just suggesting that some of our seemingly traditional formulations of it are certainly not above question. I think Catholic Bishop, Robert Barron is very historically and scripturally grounded in what he says about it in this youtube video. Or here is another of his videos: “Is Hell crowded or empty?” which surveys a bit more of the surprisingly old history of this question. He is a respected Catholic theologian. I recommend watching both of these.
The topic does depart a bit from the science- religion topics, but since you asked nicely, and the topic does often come up in literalist /nonliteralist discussion I think we can continue.
I too have evolved in my thoughts on the subject. The word translated hell that Jesus used was an actually place: the garbage dump outside the city, not the Dante inspired visual we tend to think of. So, my thinking is more along the annihilation lines.
I’m probably similar to Phil in that my thinking is evolving on this subject.
I also grew up being taught a literal hell and eternal conscious torment (Baptist rather than Pentecostal, though).
As with many subjects, I’m having to ask myself what the Bible teaches, rather than simply what I’ve been taught that it teaches. For example, more than once as a child I can remember a church/Sunday school leader quoting John 3:16 which ends with “shall not perish but have everlasting life,” and then adding “Well actually, we all get everlasting life, it just depends where we’ll be spending it.” The thing is, that’s not what Jesus said in that verse. He said “perish.” And if we have to amend Jesus’s own words to fit our theology, then maybe our theology’s wrong? (There are also times when people ask Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life”? Not “How do I go to the right place when I die?” Of course, there’s a lot more to consider than that, but those references have jumped out at me.)
All that to say, I do lean toward annihilationism at this point, but like you I am also wrestling with some of the different allusions to hell throughout the Bible. One is the parable Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus, which I think contains one of the more vivid descriptions of torturous fire (though it is never called “eternal” in that passage).
I would echo @Mervin_Bitikofer that our salvation is in God’s hands – ultimately I can only hold to his mercy, no matter what I believe about hell/hades, etc.
The parable of Lazarus, yes . .and from my perspective it seems a parable …
It does seem to me Jesus was trying to convey the gap (gulf) between life and death , more than a literal torture chamber hell …but I’m well into speculation on that
You may be right – to be honest, the idea of me sitting in heaven and looking down on tortured individuals sounds horrible, and not in keeping with the character of Jesus either. So I don’t assume this story actually happened. It just makes me wonder considering how many other parables Jesus tells that may not have really happened but still seem to take place among realistic settings, with characters and situations that would really have happened – I have to wonder why he would portray hell in a way it was not. Unless it’s like Revelation and some things are just too much for us to comprehend, thus we need allegory.
The basic question is “Does everyone go to heaven or only a few?” If the answer is a few does it really matter what happens to the many? To me the point has always been the many are separated from God. That is the ultimate “torture” and it really doesn’t matter if it is for a short period of time or eternity. To be honest I think a lot of the preaching on hell is a not subtle form of applying pressure to the unsaved and/or keeping the saved in line.
Just as an aside, I have been reading Wright’s biography of Paul , and one thing he commented on was how little Paul’s writings discussed heaven or hell, but how he focused on the Kingdom of God in the here and now. I know that is a theme of Wright’s, but it is good to think about as we live our lives. By the way, it is an enjoyable book, and easy reading coming from Wright.
I kind of get the impression he was saying " you can’t pass stuff into the afterlife " perhaps in reflection of the Egyptian traditions of placing items in the grave…though the man was rich , it did him no good , it counted for nothing in the end , nothing could pass the barriers , not even a drop of water .that he should have followed proverbs 10:2
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death…
Along those lines …but again , I speculate
I posted this in another thread, but it seems fitting here.
Like you, eternal suffering doesn’t seem to go along with the entire biblical narrative. Jesus conquered death. To say that people live on to sin for eternity, seems to contradict that. Is sin now more powerful than Jesus? Can the love of God transform only some, but not all?
I think when the scriptures say that every knee will bow, I think this is after many years, when all have been purified and have experienced the transforming love of God.
Now as to Satan and the angels being forever in hell, I think that might be true. An analogy that comes to mind is my children. No matter if your child is Hitler, you still want them to repent. But if your arm decides to turn on you, you will cut it off, and don’t want to ever re-attach it. I see angels as an extension of God’s body, which He uses to get things done, but when they turn on Him, He cut them off, never to be re-attached. But no matter how bad your child screws up, you love them and want them to repent. You don’t need them to suffer nor any intermediary to suffer for them, you want repentant, living right. God doesn’t require us to suffer, nor did He require Jesus to suffer. Jesus did suffer in living here and conquering the powers of darkness, but it wasn’t the suffering that was required, but was endured to bring about a purpose. But maybe I am more of an annihilationist when it comes to the fallen angels?
But we don’t know much about angels/demons, so I could be wrong of them too.
But the important part which I think you said in a different post is that this is just brain candy. It is neat to discuss and chew on, but it doesn’t really benefit us. The goal is the live the repentant life, love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, strength, and put the well being of our neighbors above our own. That is the love of God that will flow through us, through the Spirit Jesus gave us, that will save anyone who needs to be saved, but more importantly, glorify Him who wants us all to live that way.
I am a Christian, I believe in the saving power of Jesus while I am living, but I don’t think, nor am I motivated to act to ensure others know Jesus in this life or face eternal damnation. I still do want people to know Jesus in the life though, but because He is life, He makes this current life and the life to come more abundant. I wish all to know the love of God and wish they could see it in me. Where they end up eternally is not of my concern, nor should it be, that is for God to decide.
Maybe I do end up in hell for eternity for interpreting the Bible wrong. So be it, I live to honor my Creator (or want to) and if He wants me in hell, that is were I belong. My main sorrow would not glorifying Him with my fullest extent. I think we all deserve hell and eternal punishment for being so greatly unworthy of God. Thankfully God is loving, just and merciful, and sent His Son so we don’t have to live a live separated form Him. So I don’t think I will be in hell, but again, it isn’t about final destination, but on earth now, my eyes have been opened, I am living in heaven, I am living with my Creator, attempting to honor Him in all I do, dragged down my this flesh which will one ay be gone and I will be able to truly honor Him in all I do.
I agree , Satan , and his agents are not the same as humans , and the same gifts don’t apply .
I also agree , I am not a reaper to separate the wheat from the tares , not my duty
Also agree , I love God for what he has already given me , if this life is all I’m given , I’m already thankful , anything else God grants me " is gravy" …if I’m judged unworthy of anything more , he has already saved me in this life ,again and again .
I find this subject relevant when it comes to ministering ,Bible studies , consolation to the greived , etc etc … When someone asks me , I like to be able to answer as accurately as I can , so my ignorance in answering doesn’t hinder someone else .
The overall picture is that God wants us to be righteous, He wants us to be image bearers. But at our current state, we can’t, we need to repent.
In John 8 when the woman is brought before Him, He showed mercy and ‘commanded’ (not sure if the right word) repentance. He wants us all to “go and sin no more”. Do you think there will be sin in hell? Why would God want a place full of sin forever? Didn’t He conquer sin? Is sin now stronger than He? That is the questions I ask to anyone who brings up eternal hell/suffering.
And then I usually throw in Job, of how His ways our higher than ours, and we just need to trust Him in the now, and not worry about the end. And I mention how we are to be disciples, preach the gospel, good news, how Jesus conquered death and can change our lives now AND in the life to come. We are not to preach how to avoid eternal punishment if that is even a thing. Jesus is not fire insurance when we die, He is a rescue life saver being thrown to us now.
What is hell, my opinions/interpretations don’t save me, just as your (generic term) opinions/interpretations don’t save you. It is knowledge of, that leads to actions that saves, saves us from life apart from Him now. Sorry, I tire of the narrative that Christians believe what we do to get a reward in the afterlife.
There is a recent Netflix movie on the subject: Come Sunday. It is the story of one of Oral Roberts’ proteges in the Pentecostal church who suddenly changed his mind about hell after hearing what he believed was the voice of God. Not endorsing the theology, but one of the few movies you’ll ever see that actually wrestles with Christian doctrine.
If I lead someone astray because of my ignorance , then I myself carry the folly …as well as risk those they pass it on to .
For examples :
When a widow asks you if her husband is suffering in hell for eternity , or worse ,someone has told her that her husband is damned , it would be prudent to comfort her with truth rather than lie to her …even in ignorance .
Or when a child asks why God wants people to burn for stealing .
I would rather be able to stand on scripture and the study of , rather than loose or faulty interpretation .