Posted tagged ‘hell’

Did Jesus Talk more about Gehenna than He did about the Kingdom from Heaven?

January 18, 2016

Walvoord—All the references to gehenna, except James 3:6, are from the lips of Jesus Christ himself…” [ “The Literal View” in William Crockett (ed.), Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 19-20.]

Glenn Peoples—“all the instances” of gehenna, in the Gospels actually amounts to very few. As it is a very Jewish word (a Greek term derived from a Hebrew word referring to the Valley of Hinnom),

Matthew 7:19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Glenn Peoples– I’m inclined to think that it’s not even a reference to the afterlife, but to the false teachers in Judaism who are going to be cut out of the kingdom in a judgement culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem. But – in spite of no obvious indicators in the context – let’s say that it’s a reference to punishment in the afterlife. If that’s what it is, then bear in mind that there’s also teaching here about acceptance in God’s kingdom too—“the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 13:30, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” In verses 44 and 45 Jesus gives a couple more parables of the kingdom of heaven where only the positive side is mentioned. Then in the same chapter, in verses 47-50, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a fishing net that caught good and bad fish. The good fish are kept and stored, but the bad fish are thrown away. Jesus says that this is like the way the evil will be thrown into a “fiery furnace.”

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast…. Most of the people in the story get to remain at the wedding banquet. But the king orders his servants to take one guest and “cast him into the outer darkness.”

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), two of the master’s servants, who used what he had given them wisely, are told to enter the joy of their master. The last one is sent “into the outer darkness.”

At the conclusion of the story of the sheep and goats, we read of the two types of people, “and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into the lasting life of the age to come,

That’s five examples, plus the four contexts where the actual word gehenna is used, so we have nine in total. For three years of public teaching, nine times is not very often. Jesus taught on final punishment, but he didn’t say about it what many evangelicals believe about it.

It would hardly be fair to do a search for a subject in the letters of John and a search for a subject in the Gospels to see who cared more about a subject– John or Jesus! Jesus taught more about most of the things that he taught about than he did about hell, things like showing love to our neighbor, for example, or the importance of concern for the poor and outcast, the way we use money, or even the historical judgement of God that was about to come upon Jerusalem.

Glenn Peoples–“It’s a very Stoic sounding approach—not only did Jesus talk more about hell than other people, but also Jesus talked more about hell than about the kingdom of resurrection and lasting life and His gift of the forgiveness of sins, The beatitudes of Matthew 5 alone would tip the scales heavily. Then we have the treasures in heaven that \in Matthew 6, in others Gospels we have the party thrown for the returned prodigal son…””

Mark McCulley: Preachers (often more into rhetoric than truth) beat their chests and say, “I don’t like it either but it’s the truth.” Most of the preachers, including the “Reformed”, justify it all by saying that God also desired the salvation of the non-elect, and that Jesus was “available” to everybody but that “hell was the default” unless you “accepted Jesus”. Saying that Jesus talked about the destruction of the non-elect more than Jesus talked about resurrection life is NOT THE TRUTH!

Jesus talked more about gehenna than the apostle Paul did because the apostle Paul never talked about gehenna. But almost every reference by Jesus to gehenna in Matthew’s Gospel is coupled with a reference to entrance into the kingdom. Repent, the kingdom is at hand! So the count is about even between blessing and curse when we add up the texts that do refer to gehenna. But there are plenty of other texts that refer to God’s gift of salvation to the elect. For example, the non-elect are not even mentioned in texts like Romans 5 or in Romans 3:22-24. When we think of “judgment”, we must not only think of the condemnation of the non-elect but also about the fact that God’s justification of the elect is also “judgment”

John 5:21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to. 22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. 25 “I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself. 27 And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man.


Immortality for the elect alone

December 3, 2014

I Corinthians 15: 51 We will not all fall asleep,
but we will all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised incorruptible,
and we will be changed.
53 For this corruptible must be clothed
with incorruptibility,
and this mortal must be clothed
with immortality.
54 When this corruptible is clothed
with incorruptibility,
and this mortal is clothed
with immortality,
then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.

There was dust here on earth before there was a “living soul”. There was God’s breath (spirit) before there was a “living soul”. But there was no pre-existing “soul” before and without the dust and the breath (life). To be a soul, you need a body. To be a living soul, you need life from God. But life from God is not immortality, and that immortality will only be given to those who God justifies.

Immortality is God’s gift for those God loves.
I Timothy 6: 12 Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of lasting life
that you were called to
and have made a good confession about
in the presence of many witnesses.
13 In the presence of God, who gives life and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the command e until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 God will bring this about in God’s own time. God is the blessed and only Sovereign,the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, 16 the only One who has immortality,

II Timothy 1:9 God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

The punishment of the non-elect sinner is not preservation in torture but death. The punishment is loss of life forever. But those who teach that some sinners will sin forever and be tortured forever seem to have such a low view of life that they deny that death is even a punishment.

For God, “death is the last ENEMY”. I Corinthians 15. But for the “death is not enough justice” folks, no period of punishment is ever long enough. While they allow that there may be “degrees of punishment”, they teach that each non-elect sinner will be punished forever, not by being dead forever after death but by still being alive in misery “somewhere” after death. Don’t call it life, they say call it “merely existing.”

Romans 6: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 20: 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Matthew 10: 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in gehenna

It is one thing to experience death that lasts forever. It is another thing to experience torture forever but never to die. But the “death is never enough” folks point out that those who die a death that lasts forever do not have to experience dying forever—they claim that the non-elect dying in a moment in history (even perhaps after a period of judgment and punishing) is not enough to satisfy the justice of God.

But since we can all perhaps agree that only the death of Jesus is ever enough to satisfy the justice of God, this means that neither the torture of the non-elect forever or the death forever of the non-elect will satisfy God’s justice. But many folks don’t think the death of Jesus is what actually satisfies the justice of God either. Some Roman Catholics think that the continuing sacrament is the continuing dying of Jesus Christ which is still satisfying the justice of God. Some Protestants think that the vicarious law-keeping of Jesus is what helps to satisfy the justice of God. They explain that, even though the period of time in which Jesus kept the law on earth was finite, that Jesus as a person is infinite and therefore that those years of law-keeping help satisfy God’s justice. And many professing Christians put the accent on the three hours of suffering Christ experienced before His death–again they explain the legal satisfaction by the “infinity” of Christ’s person.

God’s Love is not the Whole Story? Rob Bell and the Gospel Coalition

March 14, 2011

Since I was saved about ten years ago from the false good news of universalism, I am glad to see Deyong’s negative review of Bell’s book. But I can’t help notice the inherent Arminianism of the Gospel Coalition’s brand of evangelicalism.

gc: It reminds me of the T-shirt, “Jesus Loves You. Then Again He Loves Everybody.” There’s no good news in announcing that God loves everyone in the same way just because he wants to. The good news is that in love God sent his Son to live for our lives and die for our deaths”

mark: notice what gospel coalition does not say, will not say about election: that God does not love everybody, that God did not die for everybody. They will only deny that the love doesn’t need Christ’s death. They still retain the old formula retained by Dordt (sufficient for everybody).

What’s with the ambiguity of “just because he wants to”?
1. God loves the elect in a holy way, not just any old way, yes.

2. But does this deny that God loves “just because he wants to”? God loves because He wants to, and His nature requires justice for all those He loves. There is no love apart from Christ and His substitution for the elect. Christ has no love for the non-elect.

I take sides with John Owen against John Calvin on God’s justice, and thus the necessary nature of Christ’s death, but that does not deny the sovereignty of God’s love. God does not love the non-elect. That’s a little different from the Packer nuance, which says “God’s love is not the whole story” when it comes to the non-elect.

But this is something you can’t say, when you are on the same side with Arminians against the universalists.

Christians who Sin?, or the Redeemed in Hell?, by David Bishop

July 19, 2010

C.S. Lewis has argued that we cannot truly love God unless we are first free to truly hate Him. And so in books like Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, The Screwtape Letters, Perelandra, Out of the Silent Planet, That Hideous Strength, and A Pilgrim’s Regress, Lewis writes that God can only reveal the true depth and richness of His love to a creature who is free to choose to love Him.

In The Great Divorce, for instance, he presents his readers with six citizens of Hell who are given the opportunity to take a journey to Heaven for a day (how they got this opportunity he doesn’t bother to explain, but oh well). While in Heaven, the six are offered the choice to either remain in Heaven or to return to Hell. Of the six, only one chooses to stay, and that only after an angel first asks for permission to destroy the lust that clings to this one’s shoulder in the shape of a lizard.

(Lewis apparently wants us to believe that Christ’s finished work wasn’t enough to deal with lust. Lewis also apparently wants us to believe lust looks the part of a lizard.)

The Great Divorce is supposed to be a warning against those who would remain in their sin while calling themselves a Christian. Lewis would have done well to heed the warning himself, for in The Great Divorce he presents the idea one can be redeemed, purchased by the blood of Christ, and yet still somehow find himself a citizen of Hell.

What Lewis does here, and what every single Arminianist does along with him, is try to make God less than God; as though somehow God is helpless to do anything that is contrary to almighty man and his almighty free will. “But you’re making man into a robot,” the Arminianist will argue when confronted with God’s sovereignty.

Never mind the fact that the Arminianist is making God into a robot by arguing for man’s sovereignty. “But you’re making man into a robot!” To which I say, and? What is your point? That God should be the robot instead of man? How very blasphemous of you. ”

Is not God free to do as He wishes, and especially with respect to His creation? What sort of God is not free to do so? Even the pagans, with their many gods know better. Has anyone ever presented the story of a Zeus who is not able to do with man whatever he wishes? What of Vishnu, is he so helpless he cannot do as he pleases? What of Ra, has he ever been a man that he should respect man’s will? And yet many the “civilized” man who calls himself a Christian will give more honor to a Zeus, to a Vishnu, to a Ra than he will to the one and only Jehovah.

Here we have the most fantastic news in the universe. The God who has created all that exists, the One who is eternally omniscient, almighty, omnipresent and a terror to behold, this God, this One, has chosen a few mortals to be His children. And yet, many who would name themselves His children will argue, “not until He first checks in with me, He doesn’t.” What sort of nonsense is that?! It’s beyond nonsense, it’s absurd.

Hebrews 2:10 begins:”For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things. . .”

For whom are all things. Not only from whom, although all things are indeed also from Him, but rather for Him. Nothing that exists, nothing that has ever existed, nothing that ever will exist, exists for any other reason than Him. He is the reason for it all. I exist for Him. For Him! The elect exist for Him. The non-elect exist for Him. Satan exists for Him. All the angels, elect and reprobate exist for Him. The stars, the planets, the galaxies, all the viruses and bacteria in the universe, every plant, every animal, every rock, every thought, every concept, every minute and every second exists for Him.

There is nothing that does not exist for Him. It is all His to do with as He pleases, and what He pleases is to do the Father’s will. And what is the Father’s will? That the Son shall be glorified. Therefore, all that exists, exists for Him.

Now how in the world can any mere creature, designed and created for Him, expect to be taken seriously by shaking his tiny fist and saying, “Not by the will of my chinny-chin-chin”? And it’s not like the proud Arminian is the only little porker hiding in the straw house either.

Many “Calvinists” also take sides against God by conditioning hell on the sinner. They write like this: “Sinners who refuse and continue to believe salvation conditioned on themselves, against God’s promise, shut themselves out of the kingdom of heaven.”

No, they do not! There is no difference between this and Lewis’ idea that Hell is locked from the inside. No one can shut himself out of the kingdom of heaven. No one can lock the doors of Hell. God is the one who shuts people out of the kingdom of heaven. God is the one who locks people into Hell.

Sinners who refuse the Gospel do so because God has made them do so. He is the one who blinds, He is the one who deafens, He is the one who shuts, and He is the one who locks.

If I could have a conversation with Lewis, I suspect it would go something like this:

Lewis: You would be making man into a robot.

Me: And? Is it your contention that God is the robot? I am His creature, He is the Creator. If you want to say that makes all men a robot, then so be it, I’m a robot.

Lewis: But if you’re robot, then you’d have to admit you can’t honestly love God.

Me: I admit no such thing. I was a robot that had been pre-programmed to hate God. God reprogrammed me to love Him. How is it now that I don’t honestly love Him?

Lewis: Yes but, you can’t know God’s love to the fullest extent.

Me: How is that? I had been a robot pre-programmed to sin. God rescued me from my programming by dying for my bad output on a cross. He reprogrammed me with the knowledge of where I had been and where I am now. How is that I don’t know God’s love to the fullest extent?

Lewis: But. . . but. . . y-you’d make God responsible for evil.

Me: He created Satan, didn’t He? Let’s say for a moment you’re right, and God, using only His foreknowledge, knew Satan would sin. Very well, He created Satan knowing full well Satan would sin and would cast the universe into chaos, didn’t He? He created Satan knowing full well what sin would do to His creature, man, didn’t He? And yet He created him anyway. How does that not make Him responsible for evil?

Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames

July 1, 2009

Letter to My Local PCA Pastor

Dear ——:

Last night I went to see Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames for myself. What I saw and heard was a false gospel and a false Christ.

  1. The cross was presented as something that the devil did to Jesus. There was no presentation of “sin” as that which demands the justice of God so that God gives the Son to satisfy justice for the sins of His people.
  2. The cross was presented in the fist five minutes as something that MADE NO DIFFERENCE at the end. Since it was clearly said several times that Jesus died for every person, nobody in the audience could conclude that the difference between heaven and hell was what Jesus did on the cross. (big deal! he died for those in hell too) The difference was said to be what the listeners did. So there was no good news at all last night, but only commands to believe in a false Christ and a false gospel.
  3. In the end Satan gets people for whom Jesus died. That ideas brings dishonor and reproach to Jesus and His work. Care you more for the approval of men then do you do for the honor of Christ?
  4. The entire presentation was one long appeal to the flesh, to the natural mind. Sample statements:

    You all got a “knower”.
    You got to humble yourself.
    You got to have the courage to say the prayer.
    It’s up to you in the next 60 seconds.
    He’s the path, but you are the chooser.
    You got to really mean it.
    If you will stand up, you will be a “special person”.
    God will not throw it in your lap.
    It’s God’s gift, but your accepting the gift is the difference.
    If you say this after me, your name will be written in the book.
    And most infamously: “just do it!”
    And then people clapped when they did it.

  5. And I cried. Before, when I was a proud Calvinist, convinced that I was more theologically sophisticated than other folks, I would have simply been outraged. But I cried, helpless, not knowing what to do or to say. “God, do you want me to stand up and interrupt when they say that Jesus died for those who go to hell?” Maybe I should have. I don’t want to be a fatalist; I don’t want to shirk my responsibility. But then again, I want people to be offended at the gospel, not at me.
  6. The trouble is that you don’t preach the gospel because you don’t preach particular redemption. Thus you avoid the offense of saying that the difference between saved and lost is the death of Jesus (and that all those for whom Jesus died will be brought to faith in the true gospel and saved from the sin of idolatry involved in believing the false gospel.) You may occasionally talk in code language that reassures some people that you believe what the WCF says about particular redemption, but you avoid the antithesis. Thus you avoid the truth. You agree that you only have another interpretation but speak peace to those who say that God is neither wise nor holy nor just in saving all for whom Jesus died.
  7. How did I get from 1-5 to 6? I think you tolerate and sponsor what you really believe. If you think of Heaven’s Gates as the gospel, or even as “pre-evangelism”, then you do not really believe the gospel. “Unconditional grace” without preaching the imputed righteousness of the effective death of Christ is not the gospel, but merely lawlessness. Romans 1:17–“in the gospel a righteousness is revealed”…
  8. What was “sin” in the presentation? Doing drugs, social drinking, not going to church, and, ultimately, not accepting Jesus. But Romans 10:3 teaches us that it is sin to try to establish our own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is not out there to be taken at people’s discretion. The righteousness of God demands that those for whom Christ died will not only stop hating God and His righteousness but also that all of the elect be forgiven for their sin of hating God and His righteousness. When you abridge the gospel, you substitute your own wisdom for that of God.
  9. What am I to do when ninetween clergymen say to the town in which I live that this is the gospel. I am not a pessimist: I do not believe that Satan rules the world. But I know that Satan is behind the presentation I saw last night. Satan does not wear a red cape. He substitutes a false gospel for the real one and calls it grace.

Mark McCulley