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February 11, 2010
Jesus talks a lot about hell, so why don't we?
posted by UrL Scaramanga
| Comments (21)
Related Tags: Heaven, Kingdom of god, Presence of god, Salvation, Teaching, Theology, Video
I'm not sure a 55 second sound bite does any service to the complexity of this issue on either side of the debate.
Posted By: Jeremy | February 11, 2010 1:18 PM
a few things...first, I really appreciated Keller's take on the reality of hell, he's always willing to be both practical and biblical and his heart is always so evident when he is speaking or writing. second, I'm not exactly sure what the debate is? the existence of hell? universal salvation? could you clarify? thanks.
Posted By: Tyler W. | February 11, 2010 4:36 PM
The conversation here over the last 2 weeks caused me to put together my thoughts on the subject of hell here for anyone interested:
Feel free to comment / slice it up as you see fit:) God bless.
Posted By: Paul C | February 11, 2010 10:01 PM
Uh...wow...so, with the amount of time allowed here...um, why bother?
The topic of whether there is a hell or not, whether everyone is saved, or not is very large...sound bites don't make a convicing argument, nor a scholarly discussion.
55 seconds is a sound bite.
There is a rich, and dynamic depth that awaits to be discovered and...yeah, not enough time was allowed for this. It seems like he had more to say...hmm, there has to be more to this interview...or are you just teasing us with driblets of the interview to entice us to come back for more?
Posted By: sheerahkahn | February 12, 2010 10:30 AM
Tyler, you need to look at the sidebar here and view the other two posts on hell. The first one offers this explanation:
"We're starting a new weekly series on Out of Ur about the doctrine of Hell. Each week there will be a post (video or written) from a church leader on their view of Hell and the role of the doctrine today. Given the diversity of views, and the different ways evangelical churches talk (or don't talk) about Hell, we hope this series informs your own thinking and communication."
I think the purpose of the brevity of the videos is to get conversation going - and it has!
sheerah - hi! I agree that Tim was cut rather short, but he is posing the same question that I have been asking, "Why does nobody want to discuss Jesus' own harsh and frequent references to hell?"
Posted By: Melody | February 13, 2010 9:17 AM
Melody: "Why does nobody want to discuss Jesus' own harsh and frequent references to hell?"
Let me know if you agree or not.
Posted By: Paul C | February 13, 2010 3:09 PM
Paul C- I read your web page and found nothing new from what you have previously said here. Let's go back to Matthew chapter 13. You have accused me of taking Jesus parable literally. But if you read the words in the following verses you can plainly see that this particular passage, in fact the entire chapter, is Jesus own explanation of His parable:
Mat 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
Mat 13:37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
Mat 13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
Mat 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
He sets it up for them:
1. Good seed sower = Son of Man (Jesus)
2. Field = world
3. Good seed = children of kingson
4. Tares = children of wicked one
5. Enemy = devil
6. Harvest = end of world
7. Reapers = angels
Mat 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
Mat 13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
Mat 13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
1. Furnace of fire = furnace of fire
2. Wailing = wailing
3. Gnashing of teeth = gnashing of teeth
Mat 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Mat 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Mat 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Mat 13:46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Mat 13:47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
Mat 13:48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
Mat 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
Mat 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
1. Furnace of fire = furnace of fire
2. Wailing = wailing
3. Gnashing of teeth = gnashing of teeth
Mat 13:51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord."
Jesus, "Get it?"
Disciples, "Got it!"
Parable? Absolutely not.
Posted By: Melody | February 14, 2010 9:22 AM
I do believe in a final judgment and that the ungodly/unbelievers will reap the wages of sin. Paul tells that this is eternal death. Interestingly, how would you explain Rev 20 in which it says, "Death and hell gave up their dead"?
You say, "Parable? Absolutely not."
Yet in the VERY SAME chapter you're quoting from it says "he did not say anything to them without using a parable" (:34). This is right before He explains the parable of the Weeds/Tares. So you are incorrect as the scripture - the one you used - plainly says.
If you read my article, you will see that the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is the final realization that they will be utterly destroyed.
I think you might have some confusion around 2 things:
1. what happens to a person when they die? (do they go to heaven or hell OR are they dead, awaiting the judgment?)
2. are you building your doctrine of hell on a few verses in a single chapter (Matt 13) or are you using the consistency of scripture to assist you?
It might be helpful to review all the references to Hell (Hades and Gehenna), as I outlined in the article, to really see if what you believe is true or man-made doctrine.
Posted By: Paul C | February 15, 2010 1:37 PM
Jesus said "you" disciples get to know, but "they" the crowds get parables. Matt 13.10-11
The whole verse you quoted, Matt 13.34: "All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable," obviously addresses not the disciples but the crowds.
Posted By: George | February 15, 2010 2:09 PM
Paul, in addition to what George has pointed out, I wondered how you explain Rev. 20:10-15, especially vs. 10 where it says the devil and the beast and the false prophet are in the lake of fire where "they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Aren't the beast and false prophet human beings, not angelic?
Vs. 14 also says that Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. If Death and Hades themselves are ultimately destroyed, doesn't this lose its meaning if there are still some people who remain "dead" (as you define it) beyond this point?
George is right--you have clearly used Matt. 13:34 out of context.
I am sympathetic with your intentions and even some of your conclusions about some modern misunderstandings of what the Scriptures teach about hell, but at the same time it seems to me that some of your presuppositions about what certain Scriptures must mean are blinding you to the content and significance of others.
Posted By: Karen | February 16, 2010 7:54 AM
George - I fail to see the difference in your statement. The story of the Weeds/Tares is a parable, whether spoken to the disciples or the crowds or both.
v 24: "Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field."
Clearly - a parable, which he then expounds on later (just as he did the 4 Soils).
Karen - like Melody, you are picking a single verse (very symbolic and parabolic, like Matt 13) and then building your argument.
Nevertheless, the answer to your question regarding v 10 and the "the lake of burning sulfur" is found a few verses down:
v 14: "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death."
We all face the first death as we are human. The second death, as this scripture depicts, is an unrecoverable state (like Gehenna, which Jesus referred to often).
In essence, death and Hades actually DIE - which means that all that is left is life. Those who did not serve God are addressed here:
v 15: "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Those who faithfully served and believed in Christ:
v 6: "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them..."
So you see, we face the first death, but because Christ conquered death and sin, the second death (which we were all deserving of) has no power over us.
The promise is not heaven or hell, but life and death.
My question is this: if Hell actually dies which Rev 20 shows us), what does that say to you?
Again... all I am seeing from some (like yourself or Melody) are single, symbolic/parabolic scriptures as opposed to an actual argument. no offense meant, but you should look at the context of scripture, not just single verses here and there.
Posted By: Paul C | February 16, 2010 8:48 AM
Paul, I am not disputing that Death and Hades (hell) die--these words refer to the same thing. Yes, I agree, but what about the lake of fire? What about the torment that continues in vs. 10? This is what Christians are usually talking about when they refer to "hell" in the afterlife. They mean "hell fire" or the "lake of fire." That Jesus used the dumping ground outside Jerusalem as a metaphor for this state, doesn't negate that there is a spiritual reality underlying that metaphorical language. Similarly, behind Jesus' Parables were spiritual realities that Christ then explained to His disciples. Spiritual truths are such that they cannot be taught except by limited analogy with human language, but that doesn't mean that there isn't real substance behind the symbol--rather we know because of Christ's teaching as well as His death and Resurrection that there is an intrinsic connection between the symbolic language He used and the spiritual reality and dynamic He explains more explicitly to His disciples. Jesus talked about fearing the One who could cast you into Gehenna, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. We see in Rev. 20: 15, this takes place immediately AFTER the final post-general resurrection judgment. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 appears to be talking about this same fire when it refers to whether one's works are destroyed or not by it, but each one's existence will be preserved through this Day whether for reward or not, according to vs. 14.
We can mount our arguments (as can Jehovah's witnesses) that this refers to annihilation of the damned, but then we have to ask why have no Fathers of the Church interpreted these verses that way? Bear in mind that these are the same Church Fathers whom we, who accept the authority of the Bible, have trusted implicitly to identify, and pass down to us the very canon of Scripture we rely on as our written authority for faith and doctrine. These are the same Fathers whose explication of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Nature of Jesus Christ, as fully God and fully Man, are still the grid that even those most averse to accepting anything outside of the Bible itself as spiritually authoritative use to determine whether someone's Christianity and interpretation of Scripture is orthodox or not. Perhaps there is a reason that Christians down through the centuries have not understood the "second death" warned about in the Scriptures as an unconscious state of non existence. Perhaps this is not, in fact, what Scripture is teaching.
Posted By: Karen | February 16, 2010 12:30 PM
You said, "Paul, I am not disputing that Death and Hades (hell) die"
Yes, you are right - they are the same thing. So when death actually dies, you are left with life.
I Cor 15: 'When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"'
Death has a sting, but this sting is removed when death actually dies (the lake of fire).
You ask "but what about the lake of fire?"
The Lake of Fire is symbolic of the unrecoverable death state of the ungodly - just as Gehenna is. Jesus was consistent with the Prophets before Him and the Apostles after Him (none of which mention a state similar to what you're arguing).
If you follow the theme of Rev 20, you are seeing a first resurrection and a second death. We all die the first death (absence of life; we ALL go to this state and await the first resurrection if we've lived for God). After the 1000 years, there is a final resurrection where death/hell (same thing - the grave), give up the dead. They are judged and those who are not worthy of life die - "this is the second death". They are annihilated. Not only them, but the grave actually dies (death is swallowed up of life).
Remember, Revelation is full of symbols. In Rev 19, we see an image of Christ with a "sword in his mouth". This is not a literal sword, but the word of God. The entire book is very symbolic. I agree with your thinking on symbolism representing spiritual meaning.
You said "but then we have to ask why have no Fathers of the Church interpreted these verses that way?"
My question is this. Look at the argument I make here: http://www.thepath.cc/2010/hell-in-the-new-testament
It is very clear that NONE of the apostles - not one - preached the doctrine of hell at any time, either in their epistles or Acts (where there were dozens of instances it would have applied).
Not only this, but there is NO concept of Hell whatsoever in the OT.
So, all we are left with is the 3 Gospels (John has NO reference to Hell).
The message is not Heaven vs. Hell, but Life vs Death.
How do you explain, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life"? Do you see the contrasting ends of all mankind here?
How do you explain NONE of the apostles mentioning hell - even once - in all their preaching and writing? Wouldn't this be disingenuous at best, downright irresponsible at worst? No - they preach life from the grave or an unrecoverable state of death.
So, you refer to church fathers (there are so many and people can pick and choose, ie Catholics) - I refer to the Bible. Paul speaks of life or death; John (in his gospel and letters) speaks of life or death. It is present in Acts. It is the theme of the OT. The present-day thinking on hell is developed more from the Dark Ages and the imagery of Dante's Inferno than the Bible.
You referenced "1 Corinthians 3:12-15"
You are incorrect here. This is not speaking of works. Read chapter 1 & 2. It is a warning to the influence of worldly-thinking pastors who were using "the wisdom of men" rather than relying on the "power and demonstration of the Spirit." Nothing to do with heaven or hell at all. The Catholics often use this as a verse to fortify their belief on Purgatory.
Posted By: Paul C | February 16, 2010 2:50 PM
Mat 13:10 Then the disciples came and said to Jesus, "Why do you speak to people in parables?"
Mat 13:11 He answered them, "You have been given knowledge about the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but it hasn't been given to them.
Mat 13:12 For to anyone who has something, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who doesn't have anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.
Mat 13:13 That's why I speak to them in parables, because 'they look but don't see, and they listen but don't hear or understand.'
Mat 13:34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables. He did not tell them anything without using a parable.
Mat 13:35 This was to fulfill what was declared by the prophet when he said, "I will open my mouth to speak in parables. I will declare what has been hidden from the foundation of the world."
Mat 13:36 Then Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable about the weeds in the field."
Paul, do you understand the difference between a parable and the explanation of a parable?
Posted By: Melody | February 16, 2010 2:59 PM
Melody, I think the issue here is that you are defending a doctrine that:
a. has zero basis in the OT - not a one
b. has no basis in the Gospel of John or Acts
c. has no basis in any of the epistles
So what are you doing? You are literally basing your argument on a single reference to the "fiery furnace" which depicts what I am arguing: utter destruction (ie: once you go in, you ain't coming out). The weeping and gnashing of teeth is explained in Luke 13:
"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth..."
"...when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out."
This is what causes weeping and wailing, not eternal burning in a mythological pit.
We are built on the foundation of the "apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone." There is a consistency the whole way through.
They ALL preach life vs death, never heaven vs hell. Check it out.
Don't build an entire doctrine - the FINAL STATE OF MAN, no less - on one or two scriptures. Look at the big picture.
Posted By: Paul C | February 16, 2010 3:27 PM
Mat 13:41 "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes others to sin and those who practice lawlessness
Mat 13:42 and they will throw them into a blazing furnace. In that place there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
You can call this place anything you like; school, hades, prison, gehenna, nerdville, hell, you could even call it a blazing furnace - I don't want to go there.
Posted By: Melody | February 16, 2010 4:19 PM
Paul, you and I agree that in Revelation 20 physical death (the first death) is done away with. What we disagree on is what constitutes the "second death." I notice also that in the gospel and epistles, "eternal life" is not uniformly contrasted with "death" as possible outcomes of final judgment, but rather in this context is often contrasted with "wrath," "tribulation" and "anguish," a "fearful expectation of judgment," and "fiery indignation" (e.g., Romans 2:8-9, Hebrews 10:27). If you include these as parallel symbols with Gehenna, you will find that the Apostles clearly taught that the judgment of God will result in such an experience for the unrepentant sinner. My contention is that this "second death" as Rev. 20:10 states is not mere annihilation otherwise it would make no sense to claim that the torment of the beast and false prophet continued "forever and ever." The "lake of fire" is clearly symbolic of something analogous spiritually and not traditionally understood within the Church as a literal lake of physical fire (rather, it is understood to be the Presence of God Himself, e.g., Hebrews 12:29 and many other such Scriptures in both OT and NT), but "forever and ever" doesn't appear to be mere symbol if language is to make any sense whatsoever. This is also the understanding of orthodox Christians throughout Church history. One can be "dead" in more senses according to Scripture than the one described by the Psalmist as physically unresponsive, etc., which you seem to be forcing into the context of the biblical teaching regarding the nature of the "second death." For example, in 1 Timothy 3:6 the widow who lives for pleasure is said to be "dead even while she lives." St. Paul talks about us being "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:4-5). Jesus also said that those who live and believe in him will "never die." In other words, physical death in this case doesn't mean even temporary cessation of the faithful person's "life."
It seems to me here and in other places, that Jesus didn't conclude that because someone's body was in the grave that they were "dead" in the sense that the life of the person didn't in someway persist in anticipation of the final resurrection of their bodies. See also Matthew 22:32 (and note that it is present tense).
You can make your case. Obviously, I just don't find it convincing.
Posted By: Karen | February 17, 2010 3:03 PM
can you explain Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life"?
ALSO, can you explain what you think happens when a believer dies. Are they then not dead as you seem to be saying? Where are they?
The "last enemy" to be conquered is death - swallowed up of life. Indeed, these are not only the 2 contrasting themes in the Epistles. They are the contrasting themes in the gospels, especially John, and the OT.
Hundreds of scriptures back this up. You seem to be stuck on the parabolic language of Rev 20. If you believe the reference to torment is literal, then shouldn't the lake of fire be a literal lake? But no, John tells us what it is: "the second death".
Here's a Psalm for you to see how the theme of life vs death (not heaven vs hell) is consistent:
Like sheep they are destined for the grave,
and death will feed on them.
The upright will rule over them in the morning;
their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
But God will redeem my life from the grave;
he will surely take me to himself.
Posted By: Paul C | February 18, 2010 9:11 AM
Romans 6:23 means the wages of sin is death, physical and spiritual. For everyone except Adam and Eve, a state of physical mortality precedes personal sin. Spiritual death is the result of personal sin and doesn't mean non-existence, since the widow who lives for sinful pleasure in 1 Tim. clearly exists and has physical life (though not spiritual) though she is said to be "dead, while she lives." According to the Fathers, the Apostles' teaching (and the meaning of the Scriptures) is that in Christ's Person, human nature is forever united with God's nature (Who is Life), so Jesus' death and resurrection from the state of physical mortality undoes for all time the results of Adam's (and Eve's) sin on our human nature for all human beings (see Romans 5:12-19). For this reason, all human beings will be resurrected bodily, some to life and others to condemnation (John 5:28-29). (BTW, what do you believe happened to Jesus' spiritually when His body was in the grave? Did His soul cease to exist?)
Biblically, a Christian already partakes of the "first resurrection" mentioned in Rev.20 by being buried in baptism with Christ and raised with him spiritually through this same baptism (see Romans 6). For those who do not partake of this first resurrection by willingly being united with Christ in His Church, spiritual death (as alienation from the life of God, which is His love) continues after the resurrection of the body. Because of the statements of Jesus in my previous comment above, as well as those of St. Paul where the Apostle anticipates that being absent from the body means being "present with the Lord," Christians have traditionally defined physical death as the separation of the soul from the body (an unnatural and temporary state). According to traditional interpretation, the soul of the Christian lives on in Christ spiritually by His grace in a provisional existence until the Day of Resurrection and final judgment unites it with its resurrection body. Similarly, the soul of the unrighteous (as in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man) continues to exist in what appears to be a sort of foretaste of the "lake of fire." Here again, we have a difference in understanding of what constitutes the "second death." I think I have adequately shown from Scripture that spiritual death (to which I also believe the "second death" refers) is not equal to non-existence, but rather equals willful spiritual alienation from the life of God (in which one nevertheless exists). We differ in what language of Scripture to take metaphorically and what to take more literally. What I have written above follows classic Christian interpretation, which you are attempting to refute using your own set of presuppositions and logic about what Scripture means.
I will have to leave the conversation here. Thanks for being willing to share your thoughts with us. Since I am Orthodox and not Protestant, I don't trust my own unaided common sense and modern scientific, historical- critical methods to lead me to a correct understanding of what is first and foremost supernatural revelation in the Scriptures. I have rather opted to trust the guidance of the consensus of those whose holy lives and reputation among the other believers of their time and throughout history show that they have truly been guided by the Holy Spirit to understand the Scriptures' meaning. That doesn't mean to me that there isn't still plenty about such things we cannot fully understand this side of the grave.
Posted By: Karen | February 18, 2010 3:19 PM
Karen, your explanation of Rom 6 is incorrect. Here Paul is contrasting 2 things:
1. eternal life (gift of God)
2. death (wages of sin)
The reference to "wages of sin" means what you will reap at the end of your life is death. This is versus eternal life.
Additionally, your outline on the state of the dead is more drawn from tradition than from the Bible. Death is death. Absence of life. Death feeds on the human family, one and all. But death will eventually die, but for the believer, at the return of Christ THEN the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
A "sort of foretaste of the "lake of fire."" is very original but unbiblical.
I should close by saying that my thoughts are not my own musings. But to trust in and filter the Bible solely through the traditions of men is to miss the mark.
Posted By: Paul C | February 18, 2010 8:57 PM
"A 'sort of foretaste of the "lake of fire."" is very original but unbiblical."
Well, Jesus is the one who told the story where he describes the Rich Man in the flames athirst, and which is recorded in the Gospel, but if you say so . . .
"Sola Scriptura" is also human tradition originating with the Reformers. We all have a filter through which we read Scripture, originating with what we have learned through other human beings. The question is how do we discern which traditions of understanding Scripture are truly Spirit-led and Apostolic in origin. But that's a question for a whole other thread, and there are others far more qualified than me to discuss it!
Posted By: Karen | February 19, 2010 11:12 AM
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