TOP TEN REASONS TO RECONSIDER YOUR BELIEF IN AN ETERNAL HELL

April 4th, 2010

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
– Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Philosopher, Educator

10. No mention of this doctrine can be found anywhere in the first five books of the Old Testament, or the Torah, the Law of Moses. In Deuteronomy 28, for example, the nation of Israel is given a list of warnings and curses in the event of their disobedience, yet not one of them involves this notion of eternal punishment in hell. If it were true, don’t you think God should have warned them? (see Amos 3:7)

9. Likewise, God commissioned the apostle Paul to deliver the gospel (good news) to the Gentile nations, but Paul never once mentioned this concept of hell anywhere in his epistles. Question: If it was Paul’s responsibility to warn the Gentile nations of this dread prospect, then why didn’t he? [see Appendix One]

8. Several noted historians and scholars have testified that the whole thing was contrived as an attempt to discourage criminal activity among the masses. Take a good honest look around you. Does it appear to be working? [see Appendix Two]

7. Smithís Bible Dictionary tells us (page 119) that the word hell was unfortunately used by the (KJV) translators to represent the Hebrew word Sheol, which is found in the Old Testament a total of 65 times, and would have been better represented exclusively by ‘the grave’ or ‘the pit.’ For whatever reason, this word is rendered by the English word ‘grave’ a total of 31 times, by the word ‘hell’ a total of 31 times, and by the word ‘pit’ a total of 3 times. Why do you suppose all of the inconsistencies? [see Appendix Three]

6. Words like hell and damn have completely different meanings today than they once had. Anyone with a good dictionary can find that this is true. Look up the word ‘hell’ in your dictionary and you will soon learn that this word was derived from the Old English/Old High German word helan, which means to conceal. Likewise, the word ‘damn’ came from the Latin word damnare, or damnum, and was strictly a legal term meaning a loss, damage, or fine. Nothing even remotely resembling eternal punishment in fire is associated with these words in their original sense.

NOTE: An excellent example of how a word can quickly take on new meaning can be seen with the word ‘gay,’ which formerly meant (exclusively) to ‘be happy, or merry.’ It has only been within the past 30 years or so that this word has become associated with homosexuals and homosexual activity. Do you see how someone today could easily be mislead while reading a pre-1970′s book containing a statement about a man being gay?

5. The Greek word apoleia, which has been rendered several times by the English word ‘destruction’ (Example: “broad is the way that leads to destruction” – Matthew 7:13), in its original sense meant ‘to suffer loss, or ruin’ and never implied eternal damnation. Quite to the contrary, for example, I Corinthians 3:15: “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved!” [Please note that this idea of 'loss' is consistent with the (original) Latin word damnare/damnum]

4. The Hebrew word olam, as well as the Greek word aion, once spoke exclusively of an indeterminate period of time, or an eon (age). Just as in the case of our previous example with the word ‘gay,’ as time went by, these words also began to take on new meanings; in this case, the concept of endlessness, or eternity. Hence, the concept of ‘age-abiding’ punishment (for the purpose of correction) was changed to mean ‘everlasting’ punishment (without remedy). And this was done (admittedly!) as an attempt to keep the masses in fearful subjection to authority [see Appendix Two].

NOTE: By exerting a little study time in the Scriptures, it can easily be proven that the Hebrew word olam, as well as the Greek word aion, cannot represent the concept of endlessness, or God’s written word contradicts itself. [Be sure to read Five Questions Your Pastor Will Not Be Able To Answer]

3. According to orthodox Christianity, the ‘lake of fire’ is supposed to be the final abode of the wicked where there will be an eternity (without remedy) of weeping and gnashing of teeth. In Revelation 21:4, however, we are clearly told that ‘God shall wipe away ALL tears from their eyes!’ Likewise, in Revelation 20:14 this lake of fire is also referred to as the ‘second death.’ But once again, God’s precious word refutes the finality of this death: “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) The apostle Paul also testifies of this truth: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Corinthians 15:26) Who will you choose to believe: Godís precious Word, or the misleading doctrines that are prevalent within orthodox Christianity? [Choose this day whom you will serve - Joshua 24:15]

2. God’s stated will for humanity is clear: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, WHO WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3,4) God also tells us that He is working all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) And the prophet Isaiah makes it perfectly clear that [God's] counsel shall stand, and [He] will do (or perform) ALL [His] pleasure! (Isaiah 46:10) Once again, whom are you going to believe?

And the number one reason to reconsider your belief in an eternal hell:

1.a) GOD IS LOVE! (I John 4:8) Like any good parent who loves their children, discipline is always for the purpose of correction. If your children got out of line, would you lock them up in your basement and torture them unmercifully for sadistic reasons? Of course not! Those who teach that our loving heavenly Father will do so do not know the heart of God. [see Appendix Four] Likewise, it would be the height of hypocrisy for God to command us to love and to forgive our enemies, while at the same time unmercifully torturing His enemies for all eternity.

1.b) LOVE NEVER FAILS! (I Corinthians 13:8) If just one precious soul were to perish apart from the love of God, then that would mean that either a) God doesnít love that individual, or b) that somehow God’s love has failed in that particular instance. And I can assure you that it is a tragic error to believe that the Love of God will fail! For God IS Love, and Love NEVER fails!

Appendix One | Two | Three | Four

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WILL ANY OLD TESTAMENT MEN OF GOD BE IN THE FIRST RESURRECTION?

January 6th, 2013

Shortly after I became convinced of universal reconciliation, I was introduced to the curious teaching that no Old Testament men of faith would qualify for the first resurrection. I always had a problem with this teaching; it just didn’t make good common sense. Then one day the following verse jumped out at me:

Luke 13:28 “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.”

So when I questioned this individual about this passage here was his reply:

 

Hi Gary,

Thank you for your question.

Your question in effect, is asking how I would explain how I can say that “he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than… John [who is as great as any ] man born of woman”?

If I have wrongly characterized your question, please let me know.

I would explain it by seeking, as always, “the sum of God’s Word”.

Psa 119:160  The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth for ever. (ASV)

When we fail to apply this principle, we will inevitably pit one part of God’s Word against another part. That statement by our Lord telling us that ‘he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John’ is meaningless if John himself or any other man “born of woman” before Christ’s coming to this earth is going to be in the kingdom of God in the first resurrection.

On the other hand, if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not in the kingdom of God until after “the thousand years are expired” and are resurrected in the “great white throne” judgment and are brought up out of the lake of fire long before the scribes and Pharisees, then we can still say:

Mat 8:11  And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven:

Mat 8:12  but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth

Without explaining all of those verses which say that “many righteous men” wanted to see the things you see, and could not, then we are missing what is being said.

Mat 13:16  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Mat 13:17  For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

“Many prophets and righteous men” are the prophets and righteous men of the Old Testament. Christ had not yet died for their sins. The holy spirit had not yet come, and without the holy spirit we are “none of His”.

Joh 16:12  I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

Joh 16:13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come.

Joh 16:14  He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you.

Joh 16:15  All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you.

If “the spirit of Truth” were already here before Christ, then these words are meaningless, and Christ’s death and resurrection were not expedient at all.

Joh 16:7  Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you.

The “many things” which Christ’s disciples could “not bear… now” included the fact that “he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than” John and any other man born of a woman to the time of Christ.

When we are told that the Old Testament saints ‘were not ministering to themselves but to us’,

1Pe 1:10  Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

1Pe 1:11  Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

1Pe 1:12  Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

…and that ‘the person who is least in the kingdom of God will be greater than the greatest person of the Old Testament’…

Mat 11:11  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

…and then we also insist that certain Old Testament saints are going to be in the first resurrection, we are denying the truth of all those plain statements by Christ, Peter and Paul.

That one statement by Christ, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will enter the kingdom before the scribes and Pharisees, only seems to contradict Christ’s other statement that “he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than [John], if we fail to understand that the lake of fire is also a part of “the kingdom” which remains under Christ and His Christ until “the last enemy”, death, is destroyed in the fiery words of “the lake of fire”.

Notice where we see this phrase “the kingdom”.

1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1Co 15:23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

1Co 15:24  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdomto God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

1Co 15:25  For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

1Co 15:26  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Since death is destroyed in the lake of fire, it is clear that “the kingdom” extends through that period know as “the lake of fire”.

When will “all Israel be saved”? When will “many prophets and righteous men [who] have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them”, when will they ‘see the things we see’? When will “many… come from the east and the west, and… sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven”? Here is when all these things will be done:

Eze 16:55  When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.

When we realize that the “lake of fire is really the fiery words of God in the mouths of all of His “firstfruits” who are being used by God to bring in all the prophets and saints of the Old Testament and then after bringing in the “prophets and righteous men” who “ministered not unto themselves but unto us”, then it is no problem at all to see how Christ’s statements are all in accord and that the firstfruits will be used as God’s channel to bring to Himself all men of all time who were not in the “blessed and holy” first resurrection.

I hope this makes it clear how it is that Christ can say…:

Mat 8:11  And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 8:12  But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

…and at the same time say:

Mat 11:11  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

So to answer your question directly, I explain the above statement of our Lord by pointing out that the ‘kingdom’ which the Old Testament prophets and saints will not inherit is the first part of the time of that kingdom when its rulers will bear rule over all the kingdoms of this world, while those Old Testament saints are still in their graves awaiting their resurrection at the “great white throne” judgment. Those who are given God’s spirit in this age, which spirit was not available until Christ “went away”, are called the “manifestation of the sons of God”. These are God’s firstfruits who partake of that “blessed and holy first resurrection”.

Rev 20:6  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

These are those who are promised to rule and reign with Christ over the kingdoms of this world during the symbolic thousand years which will at that time become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.

Rev 2:26  And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Rev 2:27  And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

Rom 8:18  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.

Rom 8:19  For the earnest expectation of the creation [including the Old Testament prophets and saints] waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God.

Rev 11:15  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever . (Greek aions of the aions).

Ruling for the “aions of the aions” is all inclusive. Those who rule with Christ during that time will rule with Him in His kingdom which shall reign over “the kingdoms of this world”,  will also certainly then continue to rule with Him and “judge angels” in the lake of fire.

1Co 6:2  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? [Rev 11:15] and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

1Co 6:3  Know ye not that we shall judge angels? ["the devil and his angels" at the great white throne judgment] how much more things that pertain to this life?

Mat 25:41  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting [aionian, age lasting] fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

That is where King David will be raised and introduced to Christ and His doctrine. That is when he will repent of the vengeful spirit which he took with him to his grave.

1Ki 2:5  Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.

1Ki 2:6  Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.

1Ki 2:8  And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword.

1Ki 2:9  Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.

These are the dying words of an Old Testament saint and righteous man who we are told was “after [God's] own heart”. Now compare those words to these words of our Lord:

Mat 5:43  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Mat 5:44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Mat 5:45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

What Old Testament saint qualifies as a ‘child of our Father’ under those stipulations?

But the lake of fire is also “the kingdom of God”, and it is in that part of the kingdom where “Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets” (Luke 13:28) will be taught by those who came up in that “blessed and holy first resurrection… a thousand years” earlier to repent of the teaching of their dispensation, and convert to the “but I say unto you” teachings of Christ.

Those doctrines of our Lord will be delivered to all those Old Testament saints by those who have been shown mercy “through the unbelief” of the Old Testament saints, who though said to be “many prophets and righteous men” who simply were not given to see the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Mat 13:10-11).

Mat 13:16  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Mat 13:17  For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Abraham will finally come to see that the true ‘father of the faithful’ was actually a Son of his named Jesus.

Gal 3:29  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

It is then that Abraham will rejoice to learn that all the promises given to Abraham were really nothing more than a shadow of the promises given those who are in Christ, be they physical Gentiles or Jews.

Joh 8:56  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Abraham is not going to feel cheated because he will be at one with the mind of his Creator, as will all men in time.

I hope this makes clear that ‘he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John or any man born of women’ before the death and resurrection of our Lord, and I hope you can now see that no Old Testament saints can possibly be in the kingdom of God that rules over the kingdoms of this world during the ‘thousand year’ reign of Christ and His firstfruits, who He will use as His channel for bringing all men of all time to Him and His Father.

Rom 11:30  For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

Rom 11:31  Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

Rom 11:32  For God hath concluded them all [this includes all men but it is speaking specifically of all of the "many prophets and righteous men" of the Old Testament] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Rom 11:33  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

Rom 11:34  For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Rom 11:35  Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

Rom 11:36  For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Your brother in His service,

Mike

 

MY REPLY:

 

Hello Mike,

Thank you once again for taking the time to thoroughly explain your viewpoint. But I still have several valid reasons to doubt your teaching that no OT saints will be in the first resurrection. As the proverb states, there are two sides to every story:

Proverbs 18:17 “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.”

Now it wouldn’t be practical for me to respond to every single point you made in your last email, for this reply would be way too long. But I did cover several key points I think need to be examined more closely.

 

Least in the kingdom of heaven

The foundation for your belief regarding the OT saints seems to hinge on your interpretation of Matt 11:11, of which you wrote:

{{The only way it is possible for John and all of the Old Testament men of God to be less than the least in the kingdom of God, is for them not to be in that kingdom…}}

With all due respect, I believe this interpretation is weak, and that you are missing the point entirely.

Matt 11:11 “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Now does this verse say anything pro or con regarding John the Baptist’s election into Christ’s kingdom? No, it only appears to. What it does say is that he was greatest among all those born of women. Carefully reread that verse and I think you may see what I mean. The key phrase is “born of women” and Jesus is simply comparing those who are “born of women” (John the Baptist being the greatest) to those in the kingdom who are “born of the Spirit.” All men of course are “born of women” but they must be “born of God” before they can enter the kingdom. So what this verse is telling me is that any one who is born of the Spirit is most certainly greater that any one while still in the flesh. But the most interesting thing about Jesus’ comment is that at the time He made it, nobody had yet been reborn into the kingdom of God:

John 3:13 “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

So who exactly was “least in the kingdom of heaven” who would have been greater than John the Baptist at that very moment in history? Since no man had yet been reborn into God’s kingdom, the only alternative explanation is that Jesus may have been referring to Himself as least in the kingdom of heaven. For compared to His Father, while yet in the flesh, wasn’t He just that?

Heb 2:7 “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands.”

Php 2:6 “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”

Php 2:7 “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”

Spirit always trumps flesh. And Jesus said the Father was greater than He (John 14:28), so I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to believe that He was referring to Himself when He uttered those words recorded for us in Matt 11:11. But He also said…

Matt 18:4 “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And Christ most certainly did humble Himself when He left His heavenly state to become the man Jesus, and as a result was given a Name above all other names. But He did not regain His glory until after His resurrection (Luke 13:32). But even in His humbled condition He still most certainly was greater than John the Baptist and all of the other notable OT men of faith who preceded him. More importantly, this explanation does not automatically exclude any of them from His kingdom the way yours does.

 

The better resurrection

Ex 32:31 “And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.”

Ex 32:32 “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”

Ex 32:33 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”

Now, to what “book” could Moses have been referring? Well, if we follow the rule of comparing spiritual with spiritual, the only book ever mentioned from which names can be erased is the book of life (Psa 69:28; Rev 3:5). And scripture makes it clear what happens to those whose names are not written therein:

Rev 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

My point is this: For Moses to have even been capable of offering to have his name removed means that his name would have had to have been IN the Lamb’s book of life to begin with. One cannot offer to relinquish something one doesn’t already possess. Of course, he wasn’t talking about cancelling his salvation altogether, and it would be absurd to think so, only his part in the book of the living. And he was willing to include himself as a sacrifice on behalf of the sinning Israelites, as you know. And Moses certainly was not ignorant of the better resurrection, for Hebrews 11:35 makes it pretty clear that many of the OT men and women of God knew about it:

“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”

Now I find it rather odd that Ray Smith made no reference to Hebrews 11:35 in Twelve God – Given Truths while covering this subject http://bible-truths.com/twelve.htm (see Truth #9). The “better resurrection” as you know, is the “earlier resurrection” for which many of the noted OT men of faith suffered, were tortured, and were persecuted as explained in Hebrews 11. And it would be biblically inconsistent for God to reserve all of them to be included in the second resurrection with the vast majority of this wicked evil world. Do all of the OT men of God who endured all kinds of trials and hardship need to be chastised and corrected even MORE in the lake of fire with the rest of the wicked of this world? It wouldn’t make much sense for David, while praying for deliverance from the hands of his enemies, to ask God that their names not be written alongside the righteous, if he too were destined to suffer the same fate as they. And I have a hard time believing he was that ill informed.

Psa 69:27 “Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.”

Psa 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.”

Psa 69:29 “But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.”

My thinking is that if anyone is more qualified, tested, and trained to rule with Christ it would, along with the apostles, be David and the OT saints.

 

The Holy Spirit

{{”Many prophets and righteous men” are the prophets and righteous men of the Old Testament. Christ had not yet died for their sins. The Holy Spirit had not yet come, and without the Holy Spirit we are “none of His.”}}

I agree that a certain aspect of the Holy Spirit was not given until after Christ was glorified, but only then could it be given as “Comforter” (a title with a capital letter), which means intercessor and advocate (John 14:26). Only after Christ was glorified could He truly become our intercessor and advocate before God the Father, thus forever replacing the Aaronic priesthood. But are we supposed to believe that Christ cannot be the true intercessor for any of the OT saints simply because they did not live during the correct age of grace? While it is true that grace did not come by Moses (the law), it came by Jesus Christ … yet Noah found grace (Gen 6:8), as did many other OT men of faith. God is not constrained by time, and His glory goes back from and even before the very foundation of this world. Christ was the wave sheaf, but He was also the wave sheaf of the OT saints. The fulfillment of OT feasts looks backward as well as forward in time. The concept of Christ was, and is, and is to come is a spiritual reality that bypasses time, as you know. Christ already was the wave sheaf before the foundation of the world. That is the same spiritual reality as Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world to cover the sins of all mankind even BEFORE the feasts were given to Moses. I find it quite ironic that you, of all people, failed to apply the “was, is, and is to comenature of Christ to the OT saints.

Psa 51:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Just as in Moses’ case regarding the book of life, how can David pray for the Holy Spirit not to be taken away if it was never within him in to begin with? Which is why I must disagree with your belief that David was not a converted man. My thoughts are that if he could display such a profound living faith, and have such a love for the commandments and righteous laws of God, and how he loved and worshipped God, then I would have to say that he most definitely was a converted man. He even wrote about the conversion of the soul:

Psa 19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting [H7725] the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”

Psa 23:3 “He restoreth [H7725] my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Which tells me that conversion did not begin in the New Testament. After all, he was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). And the Holy Spirit spoke via the mouth of David (Acts 1:16). And it is…

Matt 12:34 “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

I once heard you define the Holy Spirit as “the words of Christ in us.” If this definition is valid, then how can we deny the indwelling of the Holy Spirit if indeed the Spirit was able to speak though him and the prophets?

2 Pet 1:21 “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

I Pet 1:9-11 “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”

Rom 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Were the OT saints led by the Spirit of God? If so, then by definition they are true SONS of God. Which is why “the dead in Christ [who] will rise first” will include the OT saints, because they were IN Christ. The Spirit of Christ was IN them (1 Pet 9:11); the same Spirit which also LED them (Rom 8:14).

Gal 3:29 “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

And sure, David had blood on his hands, but save Uriah the Hittite, from which he bitterly repented, it was not innocent blood. After all, it was God Himself who commanded Israel to kill all of the enemy nations and utterly wipe them out, even women and children (Deut 2:34; 20:17). There are several scriptures commanding Israel to kill God’s enemies, so isn’t it likely that David was merely carrying out another one of God’s direct orders from his deathbed? Do we have any scriptural evidence to the contrary? When Christ said: “love your enemies” he was referring to not carrying hatred or a grudge against “thy brother” (Lev 19:17-18). The Jews of Christ’s day were justifying and making excuses for hating a brother, and Christ just explained the spiritual intent of the law. Consider David, a man after God’s own heart, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he hated God’s enemies with a “perfect hatred” (Psa 139:22). He considered the enemies of God his enemies, generally a people who both Jesus and John the Baptist labeled a “brood of vipers” as you know. But David most certainly loved the brethren.

 

Receiving the promises

{{So we are specifically told that the Old Testament men of faith “received not the promises”. Why didn’t they receive the promises? Simply because God had “something better for us”, and not at this time, for the Old Testament saints and men of faith.

Heb 11:39 “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

Heb 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”}}

My thinking is that OT saints cannot be made perfect (complete) without us does not mean they will be excluded from the first resurrection. It proves the opposite of what you and Ray imply, for neither will we be made perfect (or complete) without them. Just because the OT saints will not be made complete without us only proves that all believing saints must be raised in resurrection together to make the first resurrection complete. The point being, one cannot be made perfect without being resurrected. And all believing saints cannot be made perfect until their “man of sin” is destroyed with the brightness of Christ’s coming; including all OT saints. Yes, they had their man of sin to contend with just like we do, and that man of sin was not destroyed when they died, but neither will our man of sin be destroyed when we die. It will only be destroyed with the brightness of Christ’s coming. We cannot and will not experience true immortal life until our man of sin is completely destroyed to prepare us for the kingdom. And sure, all of the OT saints died in faith not receiving the promises, but what you failed to mention is that neither do any NT saints receive their promises when they die. The point is, we all have to be resurrected to receive the promises, and those promises are the inheritance of aionion life, which can only be realized at the first resurrection to experience the life of the ages, aka the 1000 years rule of Christ.

Matt 13:16 “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”

Matt 13:17 “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”

Of course the “many prophets and righteous men” wanted to be living during the time when their Messiah would appear. After all, they spent a great deal of their time writing about Him. The apostles also wrote as if the second coming of Christ would occur at any moment, and I’m sure that they also desired to be living during that time as well. But God had other plans…

1 Pet 1:12 “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying: “The new is in the old contained, the old is in the new explained. The new is in the old concealed, the old is in the new revealed.” This might sound like just another cutesy little saying, but it’s very true. Without the NT God’s revelation is incomplete, so there is no way “it” could possibly have been revealed “unto themselves.” This is why the many prophets and righteous men were unable to see and hear the things we see and hear. But Daniel prophesied that this knowledge would be increased in the latter days. And it has, beginning with the apostles to this very day.

 

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets

{{So to answer your question directly, I explain the above statement of our Lord by pointing out that the ‘kingdom’ which the Old Testament prophets and saints will not inherit is the first part of the time of that kingdom when its rulers will bear rule over all the kingdoms of this world, while those Old Testament saints are still in their graves awaiting their resurrection at the “great white throne” judgment.}}

I cannot agree with this explanation, simply because Rev 20:4-6 tells me something entirely different. This passage is describing two groups of dead people: saints and non-saints. And those verses make it very clear that saints are raised to life before the 1000 years kingdom, while non-saints are not raised until afterward.

Rev 20:5a “But the REST of the dead lived not again UNTIL the thousand years were FINISHED.”

The phrase “1000 years” is symbolic of the coming kingdom age, the period of time when Christ’s kingdom will rule over this earth with a rod of iron. So if the OT saints are not in the first resurrection, then according to v.5a, they cannot possibly be raised to life while the kingdom is still ruling in power. The key word in that verse is “rest.” Saints inherit the kingdom, but the REST of the dead DO NOT. So how can you come to the conclusion that the only part {the OT prophets and saints will not inherit is the first part of the time of that kingdom}? I believe you are trying to read something into the text that simply isn’t there. And this creates more problems, for then we must explain away all of the prophecies which state that the throne and tabernacle of David will be restored when the kingdom IS ruling in power. Are we to believe that David himself will not be around and will have to go through the lake of fire and the second death before he sits on his own throne? This too is a contradiction, because the kingdom age will have already come to an END (Rev 20:5a). And the prophets all agree that David will be resurrected and will be called their king and prince (Jer 30:9, Eze 34:23-24; 37:24-25). Once again, saints INHERIT the kingdom; non-saints DO NOT inherit the kingdom. And in order for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets to be in Christ’s kingdom they MUST be saints.

Mike, with all due respect, I have to believe that you are “reaching” to try and get those verses concerning Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets to “fit” within your teaching. I fully understand your reasons for believing and teaching as you do, but I think I have made a valid argument against those reasons. I’m only surprised that nobody else (to my knowledge) has made a serious attempt to challenge this teaching until now.

Your brother in Christ,

Gary

THE CALVINIST UNIVERSALIST

September 21st, 2012

By Stephen Campana

I have read with great interest many of Gary’s articles on this site.  I have been particularly impressed by his emphasis of the total sovereignty of God and the fact that everything happens according to His plan.  He has done an excellent job of demonstrating that God’s will is always done and that man’s free will can never, ever thwart that will.  On occasion, however, I have felt that something was missing from his body of work.   While his articles argue persuasively against the Arminian understanding of salvation, they do not necessarily argue against the Calvinist understanding.  I even nagged him on a few occasions to do some articles on Calvinism.  As a Calvinist turned Calvinist-Universalist, this is a topic of great interest to me.  I had always thought of Calvinism as a terrifying, but intellectually unassailable system of theology, as I suspect many Calvinists do.  The more I studied the matter, however, the more I came to realize that Calvinism was not so invulnerable after all..

https://wipfandstock.com/store/The_Calvinist_Universalist_Is_Evil_a_Distortion_of_Truth_Or_Truth_Itself

 

 

HELL: BIBLICAL TRUTH OR PAGAN MYTH?

November 5th, 2011

“I am aware that when even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition.” – Mark Twain

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Peter 2:1,2)

*****

Mankind has witnessed horrendous atrocities all throughout history, such as:

The tragedy of the French Revolution

The Nazi death camps

The Russian gulags

The Cambodian killing fields

Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers

The September 11th attacks

Even most Americans, not to mention the rest of the world, were appalled by the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. And yet, from among this same group of people there is a large percentage (fundamentally taught Christians) who believe that a loving God will end up torturing most of humanity in hell for all eternity. But wait a minute! Isn’t this what the Bible teaches? The Book of Revelation does mention a place called the lake of fire, doesn’t it? And even Jesus Himself mentioned over and over again a place of outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The story about the rich man and Lazarus is surely describing a place of eternal torment, isn’t it? Are these things not to be taken literally? 

When I looked up the word literal in my Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition, I was surprised at what I had learned. Definition 1a reads like this:

“according with the letter of the scriptures” !! (Emphasis added)

God’s Word teaches us that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). So based upon this information, is it possible that those who insist upon a literal interpretation of the Scriptures are walking the wide road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13)? Indeed,

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but
its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Now this is where with an open mind we need to start thinking outside the box in our quest for the Truth. For many, however, our human pride will not allow us to admit to ourselves or to anyone else that we could have been so deceived, despite the fact that God’s Word clearly tells us that Satan deceives the WHOLE WORLD (Revelation 12:9), save the very elect (Matthew 24:24). Are you among Christ’s very elect? Am I? And if we say yes, then how can we know for sure? 

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous (So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles rise). Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage.” –  Carl Sagan

If we above everything else have a desire to know God’s Truth, then we would do well to humble ourselves in His sight, for

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)

And this includes our willingness to admit to ourselves and to others that maybe, just maybe, we have for the most part been misled. I think we could all learn something from one of my favorite quotes of all time, and just because this came from a non-Christian, don’t think for one moment that it wasn’t God-inspired!

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” — Confucius

Something that had always puzzled me before were these comments by our Savior:

“But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.” (Luke 10:12-14)

What on earth is Jesus saying? If the ultimate destiny of all of the above mentioned, according to fundamentalist church doctrine, will eventually be eternal punishment in a literal burning lake of fire, then exactly how can it possibly be “more tolerable” for one group than for the other? Perhaps one group will be sent to the base of the flame, where the fire isn’t as hot as it is at the tip of the flame. Or maybe God will allow Lazarus to “cross over” every once in a great while to cool the tongues of the former inhabitants of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon with a drop of water. Do these explanations make any sense at all? I speak as a fool! No more so than God (Who is by His very Nature the definition of Love) telling us to love our enemies, while at the same time torturingHis enemies for all eternity in a literal burning lake of fire. I hope you can see the hypocrisy in this teaching. Is it any wonder why much of mankind sees the God of Christianity as this unforgiving hypocrite who sits upon his throne in heaven; one who is just patiently awaiting his opportunity to sadistically torture his creation for all eternity? 

“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles
because of you, as it is written.” (Romans 2:24)

But the Good News is that the truth about God which is taught by the majority of fundamental Christianity pales in comparison to the Truth of the Eternal God Who is concealed within the pages of His Holy Word.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

*****

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

“Truth: the most deadly weapon ever discovered by humanity. Capable of destroying entire perceptual sets, cultures, and realities. Outlawed by all governments everywhere. Possession is normally punishable by death.” — John Gilmore, author

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” — Henry David Thoreau

“Ah yes, truth. Funny how everyone is always asking for it but when they get it they don’t believe it because it’s not the truth they want to hear.” –Helena Cassadine

“Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” — Winston Churchill

“But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction; truth is perished and is cut off from their mouth.” (Jeremiah 7:28)

“And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity (integrity) cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. And the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no judgment.” (Isaiah 59:14,15)

Since childhood, I have been taught that the word gospel means good news. The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally means the Good News of Jesus Christ. So tell me, please, how can the eternal torment of the vast majority of humanity in a literal burning lake of fire be called good news? Anyone who is led by God’s Spirit cannot, and indeed WILL NOT be able to accept this.

“Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind
of a child cannot be a true system.” — Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

There must be another explanation! AND THERE IS, GLORY TO GOD! In fact, I will now emphatically state that a loving God will NEVER torture anyone in a mythical place called “hell” for all eternity. This is NOT what the Bible teaches! It has largely been due to a series of a few very critical mistranslations of key words in the original text (a little leaven…) that has led people to believe this heresy. *(See the footnote at the end of this article. And BE SURE to watch the video interview with Greek scholar Louis Abbott).

THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL TORMENT

“A hundred difficulties meet the mind, when we think on this great subject; and they meet us when we endeavour to urge our fellow sinners to be reconciled to God, and to put confidence in Him. I confess for one that I feel these, and feel them more sensibly and powerfully the more I look at them, and the longer I live. I do not know that I have a ray of light on this subject, which I had not when the subject first flashed across my soul. I have read to some extent what wise and good men have written. I have looked at their theories and explanations. I have endeavoured to weigh their arguments, for my whole soul pants for light and relief on these questions. But I get neither; and in the distress and anguish of my own spirit, I confess that I see no light whatever. I see not one ray to disclose to me the reason why sin came into the world, why the earth is strewed with the dying and the dead, and why man must suffer all eternity.” — Albert Barnes Practical Sermons, p. 123

For all who truly desire to know the Truth, even at the cost of having to abandon your  cherished traditions and pre-conceived notions, I highly recommend the following:

The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment

by Thomas B. Thayer

You can access this article for yourself by the link provided on the homepage, but I have included some excerpts from this very well researched document in order to leave no doubt as to the pagan roots of this belief system that we have all been sold. This should once and for all verify to the reader the motive and agenda behind introducing this doctrine to the masses.

Polybius, the historian, says: “Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions.” B. vi 56.

He later goes on to say that “…the quality in which the Roman commonwealth is most distinctly superior is in my opinion the nature of their religious convictions. I believe that it is the very thing which among other peoples is an object of reproach, I mean superstition, which maintains the cohesion of the Roman State. These matters are clothed in such pomp and introduced to such an extent into their public and private life that nothing could exceed it, a fact which will surprise many. My own opinion at least is that they have adopted this course for the sake of the common people.” F. vii 56.

Livy, the celebrated historian, speaks of it in the same spirit; and he praises the wisdom of Numa, because he invented the fear of the gods, as “a most efficacious means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace.” Hist. I 19.

Dionysius Halicarnassus treats the whole matter as useful, but not true. Antiq. Rom., B. ii

Strabothe geographer, says: “The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds…For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue – but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (of the Furies), the dragons, &c., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology. These things the legislators used as scarecrows to terrify the childish multitude.” Geog., B. I

Seneca says: “Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment seat, etc., are all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us with vain terrors.”

Sextus Empiricus calls them “poetic fables of hell.” 

Cicero speaks of them as “silly absurdities and fables” (ineptiis ac fabulis).

Aristotle says: “It has been handed down in mythical form from earliest times to posterity, that there are gods, and that the divine (Deity) compasses all nature. All beside this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interests of the laws, and the advantage of the state.” Neander’s Church Hist., I, p. 7.

Timaeus Locrus, the Pythagorean, after stating that the doctrine of rewards and punishments after death is necessary to society, proceeds as follows: “For as we sometimes cure the body with unwholesome remedies, when such as are most wholesome produce no effect, so we restrain those minds with false relations, which will not be persuaded by the truth. There is a necessity, therefore, of instilling the dread of those foreign torments: as that the soul changes its habitation; that the coward is ignominiously thrust into the body of a woman; the murderer imprisoned within the form of a savage beast; the vain and inconstant changed into birds, and the slothful and ignorant into fishes.”

Before Christ walked upon this earth, pagan philosophies, such as the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, gradually crept into the Jewish schools, and the Jews incorporated into their ancient faith the dogmas of both the philosophy and theology of Egypt, the very fountain-head from which came the doctrine of future endless torments. But not only did they borrow from the Egyptian, but also from the Oriental and Pythagorean philosophy, in both of which, as well as in the Egyptian, one of the distinguishing features was as a method of retribution after death. Hence, in the account of the blind man restored to sight by Jesus, we have the question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) This shows plainly that the people thought the man might have been sent into a blind body as a punishment for some sin in a preexistent state; which is an exact copy of the Egyptian and Oriental doctrine. In Matthew 16, we have another trace of the doctrine among the people. In answer to the question of Jesus,“Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am?” the disciples reply, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some say Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” They seemed to think the soul of some one of these ancient men of God had returned again to the earth in the body of Jesus, which to them was a satisfactory explanation of the miracles He wrought. Many of the Jewish doctors have believed that the souls of Adam, Abraham, and others, have at different times animated the bodies of the great men of their nation. Indeed, Pythagoras made so much of this dogma, that it was often called specially by his name; and it was almost universally believed by the Oriental nations, and is to this day, especially by the Hindus, the Burmans, the followers of the Grand Lama, and by the Buddhists generally.

Plato, in his commentary on Timaeus, fully endorses what he says respecting the fabulous invention of these foreign torments. And Strabo says that “Plato and the Brahmins of India invented fables concerning the future judgments of hell” (Hades). And Chrysippus blames Plato for attempting to deter men from wrong by frightful stories of future punishments.

Plato himself is exceedingly inconsistent, sometimes adopting, even in his serious discourses, the fables of the poets, and at other times rejecting them as utterly false, and giving too frightful views of the invisible world. Sometimes, he argues, on social grounds, that they are necessary to restrain bad men from wickedness and crime, and then again he protests against them on political grounds, as intimidating the citizens, and making cowards of the soldiers, who, believing these things, are afraid of death, and do not therefore fight well. But all this shows in what light he regarded them; not as truths, certainly, but as fictions, convenient in some cases, but difficult to manage in others.

Plutarch treats the subject in the same way; sometimes arguing for them with great solemnity and earnestness, and on other occasions calling them“fabulous stories, the tales of mothers and nurses.”

Saint Augustine also makes mention of these things in his celebrated book The City of God. Concerning the opinions of Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), who was a Roman scholar and writer, and was considered by some to be the greatest of all the Roman scholars, Augustine writes:

“I should be thought to conjecture these things, unless he himself, in another passage, had openly said, in speaking of religious rites, that many things are true which it is not only not useful for the common people to know, but that it is expedient that the people should think otherwise, even though falsely, and therefore the Greeks have shut up the religious ceremonies and mysteries in silence, and within walls. In this he no doubt expresses the policy of the so-called wise men by whom states and peoples are ruled. Yet by this crafty device the malign demons are wonderfully delighted, who possess alike the deceivers and the deceived, and from whose tyranny nothing sets free save the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” B. iv 31

“Varro says also, concerning the generations of the gods, that the people have inclined to the poets rather than to the natural philosophers; and that therefore their forefathers,–that is, the ancient Romans,–believed both in the sex and the generations of the gods, and settled their marriages; which certainly seems to have been done for no other cause except that it was the business of such men as were prudent and wise to deceive the people in matters of religion, and in that very thing not only to worship, but also to imitate the demons, whose greatest lust is to deceive. For just as the demons cannot possess any but those whom they have deceived with guile, so also men in princely office, not indeed being just, but like demons, have persuaded the people in the name of religion to receive as true those things which they themselves knew to be false; in this way, as it were, binding them up more firmly in civil society, so that they might in like manner possess them as subjects.”   B. iv 32

Montesquieu states that “Romulus, Tatius and Numa enslaved the gods to politics, and made religion for the state.”

And Plumptre adds that “It has been, and is, the creed of the great poets whom we accept as the spokesmen of a nation’s thoughts.”

The question with which this section began, “Whence came the doctrine of future endless punishments?” is now, I trust, answered by a sufficient number of witnesses to settle the matter beyond dispute. The heathens themselves confess to the invention of the dogma, and of all the fabulous stories of the infernal regions; the legislators and sages very frankly state that the whole thing was devised for its supposed utility in governing the gross and ignorant multitude of men and women, who cannot be restrained by the precepts of philosophy.

“How far it may be proper to use falsehood as a medicine, and for the benefit of those who require to be deceived.” — Eusebius, Ecclesiastical historian

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”  — H.L. Mencken, American journalist 1880-1956

“Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.” — Reuven Brenner, Economist

They have not the slightest faith in these things themselves; they do not think them at all necessary to regulate their own lives, or keep them in order; but it is for the common people, the coarse rabble, who can only in this way be terrified into good behavior. One cannot help noting the resemblance between these wise men and some of our own day, who seem so anxious to maintain the doctrine in the ground that it is necessary to restrain men from sin. But, unfortunately for this theory, the revelations of history, both Pagan and Christian, are in opposition to it. 

“Without doubt, the greatest injury of all was done by basing morals on myth. For, sooner or later, myth is recognized for what it is, and disappears. Then morality loses the foundation on which it has been built.” – Lord Herbert Louis Samuel

Has history shown the doctrine of eternal torment to be a successful deterrent to lawlessness? Well, for a nation in which a majority of its citizens claim to believe in both a heaven and a hell, why is it that the United States has the highest crime rate? And not just here in the US, but lawlessness is ever increasing worldwide, where this doctrine is believed by many in one form or another.  

In vain does Cicero, speaking of the poets, exclaim against this state of things:

“When the plaudits and acclamation of the people, who sit as infallible judges, are won by the poets, what darkness benights the mind, what fears invade, what passions inflame it!” – The City of God B. ii 14

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

I think the facts establish, beyond refutation, these results:

    • The belief of future endless torments does not restrain nor prevent men from the indulgence of their criminal passions. Those believing are no better in character or conduct because they believe it. The hell of the Burmans, for example, is as horrible as imagination or invention can make it; and yet they are notoriously corrupt, licentious, bloody-minded – the greatest thieves, liars and cheats in the world!
    • The disbelief of endless torments does not make man immoral or wicked; as the character of the Sadducees, whom their enemies even acknowledge to be strictly just and moral, abundantly demonstrates.

I can imagine but one reply to this simple statement of facts: It may be said the comparison is not just, since the Burmans, as well as the Greeks and Romans, are heathen, and the Sadducees had the benefit of revelation, and of the divine law of Moses. But this is yielding the point in debate; for the ground taken is, that a religion without the doctrine in question cannot exert a salutary moral influence; that the belief of this is indispensable as a check on the wicked heart. To say, therefore, that other elements of the law, or of revelation, might have made the Sadducees moral and virtuous, is surrendering the argument, and admitting that this doctrine is not necessary to virtue.

Still, there is no difficulty in meeting the objection on its own ground. The Greeks, Romans, and Burmans are heathen, but the Pharisees are not. They are believers in divine revelation, having all the benefits of the Law of Moses, living side by side with the Sadducees, subject to the same social influences; the only difference between them being precisely the point in debate – the Pharisees believing the doctrine of future endless punishment, and the Sadducees denying it.

Of course the Pharisees ought to be great saints, without spot or blemish; and the Sadducees ought to be great sinners, vile and wicked to the last degree. To the contrary, the Sadducees were not great sinners, but honest, just and moral, by confession of their worst enemies. One half the argument, therefore, falls to the ground at the outset. Now for the other half – were the Pharisees great saints? The Savior will answer to this: “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites; robbing the widow and fatherless, neglecting justice, mercy and truth; generation of vipers; whited sepulchers, full of corruption and all manner of uncleanness!”This does not look much like being very saintly. So the second half of the argument fares no better than the first half; and both are perfect failures.

Thus, exactly the reverse of what is claimed for the doctrine proves to be the historical fact: those believing it are the great sinners, moral vipers, whited sepulchers; while those disbelieving are – not saints perhaps, but vastly better than the sanctimonious hypocrites who charged their doctrine with immoral and dangerous tendencies.

One other thing is worthy of note in this connection, and with this I close the argument. In all his rebukes and denunciations of the wickedness of the men of His age and generation, the Savior never includes the Sadducees. It is always, “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites;” never Scribes, Sadducees, hypocrites. This is strong presumptive proof of the unimpeachable morality of the Sadducees, and equally positive proof of the preeminent wickedness of the Pharisees.

We return, therefore, to the conclusion already stated, viz.: The belief of endless punishment does not tighten the bonds of morality, nor lead to a life of virtue; while, on the other hand, the disbelief of it does not loosen the bonds of morality, nor lead to a life of wickedness.

“Do you not know that God’s kindness (or goodness) is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 – RSV)

It is God’s GOODNESS that leads us to repentance, not the fear of eternal torment!

THE PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

Dr. Good has a curious passage on the subject in hand, in his Book of Nature, which I must be permitted to introduce here. “It was believed in most countries,” he says, “that this hell, hades, or invisible world, is divided into two very distinct and opposite regions, by a broad and impassable gulf; that the one is a seat of happiness, a paradise, or elysium, and the other a seat of misery, a gehenna, or tartarus; and that there is a supreme magistrate and an impartial tribunal belonging to the infernal shades, before which the ghosts must appear, and by which they are sentenced to the one or the other, according to the deeds done in the body. Egypt is said to have been the inventress of this important and valuable part of the tradition; and undoubtedly it is to be found in the earliest records of Egyptian history. But, from the wonderful conformity of its outlines to the parallel doctrines of the Scriptures, it is probable that it has a still higher origin, and that it constituted a part of the patriarchal creed, retained in a few channels, though forgotten or obliterated in others, and consequently that it was a divine communication in a very early age.”

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus furnishes another example. “And in hell (hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torment” (Luke 16:23). It will be remembered that the Jews had borrowed their ideas of torment in a future state from the heathen, and of course they were obliged to borrow their terms to express this. Accordingly, after the manner of the Greeks, Hades, or the place of departed spirits, is represented as receiving all, as Sheol did, good and bad; but we have also the additional idea of separate apartments or districts, divided by a great gulf or river; on one side of which the blessed are located, and on the other side the damned, near enough to see each other, and converse together, as in the case of Abraham and the rich man.

It must also be remembered that this is only a parable, and not a real history; for, as Dr. Whitby affirms, “we find this very parable in the Gemara Babylonicum.” The story was not new then, and not original with Christ, but known among the Jews before He repeated it. He borrowed the parable from them, and employed it to show the judgment which awaited them. He represented the spiritual favors and privileges of the Jews by the wealth and luxury of the rich man, and the spiritual poverty of the Gentiles by the beggary and infirmity of Lazarus; and while the former would be deprived of their privileges and punished for their wickedness, the latter would enjoy the blessings of truth and faith. And Smith’s Bible Dictionary concludes that “it is impossible to ground the proof of an important theological doctrine on a passage which confessedly abounds in Jewish metaphors” (page 120).

THE FINAL JUDGMENT

Most Christian based denominations teach us that if we are “saved” when we die we will immediately be translated to heaven, but if we are “unsaved” we will promptly be sent to an eternity in hell.  But is it true? Well, Jesus said that

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13)

The truth is that when God takes back the breath of life from the individual, the body dies (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and goes to the grave, which is represented by the Hebrew word Sheol. The soul then departs, or enters into a state of being (described by the Greek word Hades) that properly means to be unseen. This unconscious state (death) has been likened unto “sleep” by numerous passages of Scripture. [See, for example: Deuteronomy 31:16; II Samuel 7:12; I Kings 1:21; Daniel 12:2; Luke 8:52-55; John 11:11-14; Acts 13:36,37; I Corinthians 15:6,18; I Thessalonians 4:13-15; II Peter 3:4; etc.] Here all are awaiting the resurrection to life, some to glory, but most to shame. [For a more detailed analysis be sure to read the article Does Man Have an Immortal Soul? by Ken Eckerty]

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28,29)

You will notice that, contrary to fundamentalist church doctrine, at the time of the resurrection, those who had previously done good were still in their graves, and not in heaven. The word for grave is the Greek word mnemeion (Strong’s G#3419), and denotes a remembrance, i.e. cenotaph (place of internment); grave, sepulchre, tomb.

The former professor of divinity at the College of Glasgow, Dr. Fairbairn, whose volumes on “Prophecy” and “Typology” have given him high rank among biblical students and interpreters, says without reserve, “Beyond doubt, SHEOL, like HADES, was regarded as the abode after death, alike of the good and the bad.” Of course, therefore, to translate it by the English word “hell” is to misrepresent the sacred writers, and mislead the common reader.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13,14)

Now please examine this passage of Scripture carefully. We are encouraged to “enter” by the narrow gate, for most will “go in” by the broad gate. The English word “enter” as well as the short phrase “go in” both come from the same Greek word eiserchomai, which means precisely what it says. So is it possible that the implication is that both groups will eventually “enter” into the same place, albeit via different paths? Jesus Himself told us that there were two paths; one leading to life, and the other one leading to destruction. It is important to note here that the English word “destruction” was translated from the Greek word apoleia, which means to suffer loss or ruin, and in no way implies eternal damnation. Please keep these facts in mind as you proceed.

THE FIRST RESURRECTION

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)

The two paths that Jesus speaks of are the two resurrections. Obviously, the narrow road is the preferred path. This is the first resurrection that leads to the “life of the ages” (Greek: aionian), which is symbolized in the book of Revelation by the phrase “a thousand years.” So who is it that will have his place in the first resurrection?

“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)

“He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

“And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” (Revelation 2:26)

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4)

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

So is overcoming the world starting to sound a bit more complicated than walking forward during “altar call” and accepting Jesus as your personal savior, getting baptized, and speaking in tongues? Always keep in mind that

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

The apostle Paul also testified of these truths when he penned the following:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul’s most heartfelt desire is clearly expressed here when he wrote:

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection FROM the dead.” (Philippians 3:10,11)

Please note the emphasis that was added to that little four-letter word from. Unlike the King James Version, most of our modern translations, including theAmerican Standard, New American Standard, Revised Standard, New International, and the New King James Versions accurately show that there is a distinction here between the two resurrections. Paul’s desire was to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, the first resurrection, or the resurrection (apart) FROM the dead (Revelation 20:6), which is the narrow path. On the other hand, the wide path that leads to destruction will be the resurrection OFthe dead (Revelation 20:12).

You can rest assured that if your desire is to attain to the first resurrection which is apart from the (spiritually) dead, then you are not in for an easy life.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18-20)

Always remember that DIFFICULT is the way of (Greek: aionian) life (Matthew 7:14).

“Yes, and ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:12)

Paul knew that he had to endure many hardships and persecutions “to the end” before he could finally make this boast:

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:6-8)

And Jesus Himself states that it is the one who endures (hardships, persecutions, etc.) to the end (that) shall be saved (or attain to aionian life – Matthew 24:13).   

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

THE SECOND RESURRECTION

In the introduction to this article it was stated that membership in Christian based religion numbers over two billion people worldwide, or roughly one-third the earth’s population. However, Jesus makes it clear that there will be FEW, not many, who will find that narrow path leading to life. So what happens to the rest? 

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12,15)

“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet … These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (Revelation 19:20)

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:10)

So what is the purpose for the second resurrection? Is this where a loving God brings his rebellious creatures back to life for the purpose of endlessly tormenting them in a literal lake of fire? Absolutely not! Yet I hear the preachers ranting and raving about poor souls being cast into hell fire where ”their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched” and this, we are told, means eternal, unending torment. How foolish, illogical, and deceptive! Such a view contradicts the plain meaning of the term “unquenchable” and its use in the Word of God.

J. Preston Eby in his article The Lake of Fire provides some valuable insight:

More than 2500 years ago the Holy Spirit warned the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem that God would kindle a fire at Jerusalem’s gates that would devour her palaces.

“But if you will not hearken unto Me … then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not he quenched.” (Jeremiah 17:27)

Didn’t God just say that this fire “shall not be quenched?” This prophecy was fulfilled a few years later and it did destroy all the houses of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 52:13). But since God said no person or thing would “quench” this fire, did that mean it would burn forever? Or since it accomplished the work it was sent to do, and since it is NOT BURNING TODAY, it obviously went out by itself after accomplishing its purpose!

So we can clearly see that the “fire” serves the very useful purpose of “burning up” all of the things that do not deserve to continue. When God turns on the HEAT, the BLAZING LIGHT OF HIS SPIRIT AND WORD, some things begin to change! The fire is never sent to destroy the PERSON, but is for the purpose of purging out all that hinders and separates him from his God. It will consume the pride, arrogance, hostility, defiance, and rebellion of the flesh, and the carnal mind so that he might then be wooed and drawn by the Holy Spirit unto the Father of Spirits and live. 

ADDITIONAL WITNESSES

In His Word, God gives us three keys to use whereby we can unlock the meaning of the Scriptures. By applying these principles of Scriptural interpretation we should be able to see the lake of fire in its true context:

  1. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (II Peter 1:20)
  2. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (II Corinthians 1:13)
  3. “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (I Corinthians 2:13)

Have you ever wondered why God’s Word is so redundant? Well, in any court of law it is nearly impossible to prove a case where there is no physical evidence, and when there is only one witness testifying against someone else. It is for this very simple reason that God will always confirm His Word in the mouths of two or three witnesses. And we will soon learn that there IS a second witness in one (and ONLY one) other passage of which I am aware in the entirety of the Word of God which speaks of every man’s work being tried and judged in God’s consuming fire.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” (I Corinthians 3:13-15)

You may recall how it was earlier noted that the one who goes by the wide road will indeed suffer loss or ruin, BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED! 

Origen Adamantius (185-254 AD), one of the early church fathers and the greatest of all Christian apologists and exegetes of his era, was obliged to defend his faith when Celsus, in his True Discourse, objected to Christianity on the ground that it taught punishment by fire. Origen replied that such thoughts had been entertained by certain foolish Christians who were unable to see distinctly the sense of each particular passage, or unwilling to devote the necessary labor to the investigation of Scripture.  And perhaps, as it is appropriate to children that some things should be addressed to them in a manner befitting their infantile condition, to convert them, so such ideas as Celsus refers to are taught. But he adds that ”those who require the administration of punishment by fire” experience it “with a view to an end which is suitable for God to bring upon those who have been created in His image.” In reply to the charge of Celsus that Christians teach that God will act the part of a cook in burning men, Origen says, “not like a cook but like a God who is a benefactor of those who stand in need of discipline of fire.” Contra Celsus V. 15, 16.

“For our God IS a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

Thus Origen interprets “fire” in the Bible not only as a symbol of the sinner’s suffering but of his purification. The “consuming fire” is a “refiner’s fire.” It consumes the sins, and refines and purifies the sinner. It burns the sinner’s works, “hay, wood and stubble,” that result from wickedness. The torture is real, the purification sure; fire is a symbol of God’s service, certain, but salutary discipline. God’s “wrath” is apparent, not real. There is no passion on His part. What we call wrath is another name for His disciplinary process. God would not tell us to put away anger, wrath (Origen says) and then be guilty Himself of what He prohibits of us. He declares that the punishment which is said to be by fire is understood to be applied with the object of healing. The “eternal fire” is curative.

Charles Pridgeon, in his scholarly work on the subject of BRIMSTONE, says:

“The Lake of Fire and Brimstone signifies a fire burning with brimstone; the word ‘brimstone’ or sulphur defines the character of the fire. The Greek word THEION translated ‘brimstone’ is exactly the same word THEION which means ‘divine.’ Sulphur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse and consecrate to the deity; for this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer’s Iliad (16:228), one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from THEION is THEIOO, which means to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god (See Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, 1897 Edition). To any Greek, or any trained in the Greek language, a ‘lake of fire and brimstone’ would mean a ‘lake of divine purification.’ The idea of judgment need not be excluded. Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. In the ordinary explanation, this fundamental meaning of the word is entirely left out, and nothing but eternal torment is associated with it.”

DO YOU HAVE EYES TO SEE AND EARS TO HEAR?

When Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them,

“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing. And their eyes they have closed. Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear…” (Matthew 13:10,11,13,15,16)

But just as it was in the past, so it also is today (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11). Most simply have not been given the eyes to see and the ears to hear the Truth. And many that do come to see the Truth will deny it because it would mean breaking with their tradition. Well did Isaiah prophesy of them when he wrote the following:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.” (Isaiah 29:13)

Jesus said that “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). If the doctrine of eternal torment really is true, then the church is under an extremely heavy burden to evangelize the world, for without Christ billions of people will perish in eternal hellfire. And the church today, like no other time in history, has indeed “traveled land and sea to win MANY proselytes, and when they win them over they make them twice the children of judgment, or hell (Greek: Gehenna) as they are themselves (Matthew 23:15).

“For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, says the LORD. They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My Name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.” (Jeremiah 7:30,31)

Concerning the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, or Gehenna, which is used figuratively to represent the place of judgment, Smith’s Bible Dictionary tells us that

“An idol of bronze of great size was set up in the valley, facing Olivet, where children were sacrificed in the fire, which seems to have been kindled inside the idol. Josiah abolished the worship, and strewed human bones over the place, making it unclean, and thus prevented the renewal of worship there (see II Kings 23:10). These inhuman practices gave the place a horrible character, and caused its name to be detested and used as a figure for a place of torment.”

So the literal burning of the children of Israel was an abomination to the LORD, one “which He did not command, nor did it enter into His heart!” So if God condemned the actual practice of the burning of their children in a literal fire, then what do you think will happen to those who teach that He will do likewise? Are you beginning to see what Jesus really meant when He said that the judgment of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon (used to represent worldly, self-seeking people) will be “more tolerable” than that of Chorazin and Bethsaida (representing those who have witnessed the mighty works of God, yet fail to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth)? Many good, church-going people are one day in for a rude awakening, for they will come face to face with the Lamb of God, see Him as He really is, and come to the realization that the Love of God does not seek to fry unrepentant sinners for all eternity. After a lifetime spent of either knowingly or unknowingly misrepresenting the Love of God, “their glory will be turned to shame” (Philippians 3:19), and they will be“tormented in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10). I am convinced that this torment, in the presence of a gentle Lamb, will be the anguish they will suffer within their own hearts. Judgment by (a refining) fire will surely come upon the harlot church, and is described in vivid detail in Revelation 18. Hence the strong admonition to

“Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)

*****

And finally, according to Strong’s Concordance (G#386), the word that was translated into the English word “resurrection” is the Greek word anastasis, which can also mean in a figurative sense to be a moral recovery of spiritual truth. Since the entire book of Revelation is written in figurative, symbolic language, then a metaphoric  rendering would agree perfectly with the words of the prophet:

“For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

There is coming a time when the inhabitants of the world will not just hear of righteousness, they will actually learn righteousness. And every knee shall bow, and every tongue will openly avow that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:9-11)!

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the house of Aaron now say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’ Let those who fear the Lord now say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’” (Psalm 118:1-4)

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires ALL men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for ALL, to be testified in due time.” (I Timothy 2:3-6)

“For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22)

“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile ALL THINGS to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:19,20)

“And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His peoples, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And He shall wipe away EVERY tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more, for the first things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:3,4)

ALL the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and ALL the families of the nations shall worship before Him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations. Yea, to Him shall ALL the proud of the earth bow down; before Him shall bow ALL who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve Him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn, that He has wrought it.” (PSALM 22:27-31)

ALL Thy works shall give thanks unto Thee, O Lord; and Thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of His kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. The Lord upholdeth ALL that fall, and raiseth up ALL those that are bowed down.” (PSALM 145:10-14)

ALL the nations that Thou hast made shall come and bow down before Thee, O Lord, and shall glorify Thy Name.” (PSALM 86:9)

“Now, isn’t this the best news you’ve heard all day? This is the REAL good news gospel that precious few have heard.”

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of ALL men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach.” (I Timothy 4:9-11)

*****

In the introduction to this article, the question: “Could it be possible that the majority of Bible-believing people worldwide have been indoctrinated into a different gospel than the one which was taught by the apostles?” has been met with enough Biblical and historical evidence to at least make one thinkAnd that has been my direct intent.

“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)” (Hebrews 3:7-11)

“This testimony is true. For which cause reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure all things are pure: but to them that are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled, They profess to know God; but by their works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:13-16)

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:4,5)

“An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:30,31)

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea; who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:10,11)

God’s Word exhorts us to prove (or try, test) ALL things (I Thessalonians 5:21). The Berean Jews were “more noble” in this respect. But what will YOUdo in the end?

*****

*Footnote: Please note that in the original King James Version the word forever (which means eternal) is divided into two words - for and ever. This part the translators got right, but their rendering of the word “ever” is very misleading. Most modern translations give us a single word forever. Look for the word forever in your concordance and you will find that it is nowhere to be found! The word here that means ever is the Greek word (Strong’s #165) aion, which denotes an indefinite period of time, or age; spec. (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future) that has both a beginning and an end. A thorough study of this word in a good concordance such as Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible will reveal that the King James Bible butchered that word. Why? If they didn’t twist the word the way they did, the doctrine of eternal punishment could not be supported by the Bible. So they took a word which simply means an indeterminate period of time or an age and twisted it into a word which can be as short as a day to the concept of timelessness, that is, eternity. *[Interestingly enough, Augustine himself, who flourished about A.D. 400 to 430, was the first to argue that aionios signified strictly endless. He attempted a criticism on the original word, maintaining at first that it always meant endless; but this being so bold and palpable a blunder, he was compelled to abandon it, admitting that it did not always mean endless, but did sometimes; and he brings Matthew 25:46 as proof, arguing that if the "everlasting punishment" was not endless, the "eternal life" was not. And this criticism has been handed down from his time to the present, and is still employed with great confidence, notwithstanding it forces into the spiritual world a judgment which the Savior expressly declared should take place in that generation, before some then living should die. (Matthew 16:28; 24:30-34; Luke 9:26,27)] For example, Genesis 13:15 in the KJV states: “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” Genesis 17:8 reads: “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession: and I will be their God.” After reading and studying these two scriptures we know that something is not in accord because the physical seed of Abraham has not always retained possession of the land of Canaan. From A.D. 70 up to the middle of this century, the people of Israel have been scattered throughout this entire earth and thus did not possess their Promised Land endlessly, as the words forever and everlastingsignify. Again by examining the Hebrew manuscripts we do not find the two words forever and everlasting in this scripture but instead we find the word OLAM or AGE. Likewise, the King James Bible says that the Aaronic Priesthood is an everlasting priesthood, but the book of Hebrews clearly states an end to it. This should make one think (see Exodus 40:15 and Hebrews 7:14-18). Leviticus 24:8 tells of the Mt. Sinai or Mosaic covenant as being an everlasting covenant, yet Jeremiah 31:31 prophesies its end with a second and better covenant. Hebrews 8:7-13  reiterates this prophecy as being fulfilled. The KJV has Jonah in the belly of the whale forever which actually ended three days later (Jonah 2:6). Dozens of examples like the ones above should make one see that the King James translators did not handle the translation of this word aion and its Hebrew counterpart olam correctly. If the translators render the word aion and its adjective aionios consistently as a period of time with beginnings and endings, then the teaching of eternal punishment will no longer find a place in the Bible. 

*****

Now you might protest by saying something like, “Well if all of this really is true, then why didn’t God make these things unmistakably clear enough so thateveryone could understand them?”

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory
of kings is to search things out.” (Proverbs 25:2)

Will Hitler Be Saved?

November 27th, 2010

Shalom Gary.

I have recently found your site, as I too have looked into the “hell” doctrine (for all who do not have emunah / faith), and have found such a doctrine wanting. Sure does get scared people into churches, though. And after all, how else will the man-made religious systems get $ out of the pockets of the masses? First you have to get them in the building.

But I digress.

The reason for my email simple. I was wondering what you thought happens to the Hitlers and Stalins of the world? Do they get off scot free? Do they also share in the Malkut Elhim (Kingdom of Elohim)?

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Shalom b’shem Yahshua h’Mashiyach



The simple answer to your question is that nobody gets off “scot free”. Ezekiel 18:4 states: ”the soul that sins shall die“. And Romans 6:23 agrees that ”the wages of sin is death“. Did Hitler and Stalin sin? Of course. And where are they now? They’re dead. So they have paid the penalty for their sin with their lives, just as scripture plainly states.

The main problem is that we’ve all been conditioned to believe that there’s punishment beyond the grave when scripture teaches no such thing. The penalty for sin is death itself, nothing more, nothing less. Please refer to my other email “The Wages Of Sin Is Death (Not Hell)

But as humans we tend to think evil men like Hitler and Stalin deserve a worse fate than others. But that’s not what the scripture teaches. In fact, the apostle Paul came to the realization that he himself was the “chief” of sinners (I Tim 1:15). So what was Paul saying? Was he more evil than a Hitler or a Stalin? Of course not. He merely came to understand that if it had not been for God’s grace, he could have been.

But who is really responsible for evil? Let’s see what the scriptures (not men) say:

“Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6 – KJV)

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isa 45:7 – KJV)

“By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.” (Job 26:13 – KJV)

“And I have appointed on the world evil, And on the wicked their iniquity, And have caused to cease the excellency of the proud, And the excellency of the terrible I make low.” (Isa 13:11 – Young’s Literal Translation)

Evil was not the result of some fabled Luciferic rebellion (see my article The Lucifer Myth), nor was it the result of Adam and Eve eating some “forbidden fruit” (see Genesis Reloaded, Part Three and Part Four.The scriptures say that GOD HIMSELF is responsible for evil. Why? And for what purpose?

“It is an experience of evil Elohim [God] has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it.” (Ecc 1:13 – Concordant Literal Version)

So God is using evil to humble us. And death itself, according to scripture, is an evil:

“This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.” (Ecc 9:3)

But there is another very important purpose for evil:

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” (Gen 3:22 – KJV)

So apparently, knowing the difference between good and evil is a necessity before God can finish the process of creating us all in His image, which is why we are all here:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26 – KJV)

I like the way this gentleman puts it:

“God knew that men would sin in all ways, but permitted this result to come to pass, knowing that it would ultimately be for their advantage. For since God created man when he did not exist, and made him ruler of so extended a system, and offered so great blessings for his enjoyment, it was impossible that He should have not prevented the entrance of sin if He had not known that it would be ultimately for his advantage. Therefore God divided the creation into two states, the present and the future. In the latter He will bring all to immortality and immutability. In the former He gives us over to death and mutability. For if He had made us at first immortal and immutable, we should not have differed from irrational animals, who do not understand the peculiar characteristics by which they are distinguished. For if we had been ignorant of mutability we could not have understood the good of immutability. Ignorant of death, we could not have known the true worth of immortality. Ignorant of corruption, we could not have properly valued incorruption. Ignorant of the burden of sinful passions, we could not have duly exulted in freedom from such passions. In a word, ignorant of an experiment of evils, we should not have been able properly to understand the opposite forms of good.” – Theodorus of Mopsuestia (350-428 AD)

But the answer your question: “Will Hitler and Stalin be in the kingdom” is no. But the men who once were Hitler and Stalin will be, after the second resurrection. The corruptible seed (the carnal, sinful nature) will first die before it is raised incorruptible (see I Co 15:35-57).

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” ( John 12:24)

“But who may abide the day [Judgment Day] of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth [will sinful man be able to stand in His presence]? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” (Mal 3:2-4)

And you are right that the churches must use fear to get us in the doors. But this too is part of God’s plan, for:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)

If it were not for the fear of hell I once had, I doubt that I would have had much interest in spiritual things. But the mature believer must see these things for what they are and move beyond them:

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (I Co 13:11)

Hope this has been helpful,

Gary

Putting on Incorruption

November 27th, 2010
Gary,

Do you believe we are suppose to see physical death? I believe we are to walk out the finished work of Christ. I believe this corruptible must put on incoruption….in the now!

ANSWER:

How can corruptible flesh put on incorruption “in the now”? Is this what Paul teaches?

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Cor 15:50)

Are there other scriptures which state the flesh is corrupt? As the matter of fact there are:

“And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” (Gen 6:12)

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa 51:5)

“And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” (Jer 18:4)

The Hebrew word ‘marred’ is Strong’s H7843, schachath, and it is most commonly translated as ‘destroyed’ or ‘corrupted.’ What this tells us is that “The Potter” created a “vessel of clay” which had “sin in its members.” Does Paul agree?

Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that [which] I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Rom 7:17-21)

If “it is no more I that do it” then who is it?  If “in my flesh dwells no good thing,” then what is my flesh? What dwells in my flesh which is not me doing it? That’s right, it’s just like King David and Jeremiah put it. All flesh is “shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin… marred in the hand of the Potter” Himself with the “law of sin and death… in my members.”

And there is plenty of scripture to confirm that we all must face physical death, with one notable exception (see I Cor 15:51-52). Here are two:

“This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecc 9:3)

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29)

Please note that even “those who have done good” are now resting their graves. But death is nothing to be feared. It is a natural process. The seed must first fall into the ground and die (see John 12:24) before it can be reborn:

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh [first birth]; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit [rebirth]. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

There is only One who has yet been “born again”, that being our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, the FIRST-fruits (I Cor 15:23) the FIRST-born from among the dead (Col 1:18).


I encourage you to reread Paul’s description of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15.

Peace

From What Are We Being Saved?

November 23rd, 2010

A reader writes:

Your theory on hell is one of the best I’ve ever heard, not that I believe that there is no hell, but it is well thought out, however, if you deny hell then what is there to be “saved” from? By denying hell, you are denying Christ’s purpose. If there were no punishment for sin, then God himself would be an illegitimate deity, useless, and not worthy to worship. He would be like the parent who lets his children do whatever they want with no consequence, he wouldn’t be respected, he wouldn’t have any control, he would be ineffectual. Yes, God is love, but He is also much more than love. Does any parent that truly loves his children allow them to disobey repeatedly without consequence? Doesn’t a parent discipline his children out of love? I’ve read your statement of faith, and your mission statement, I do not wish to judge you, that is not my job, but as a Christian it is my duty to remind you that you WILL be judged! Read Revelations 22:18,19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” So in short, it’s one thing to believe the way you do, but you should examine your beliefs, and be careful not to spread false doctrine!

Your friend in Christ,

[name withheld]

Wed, 28 June 2006
Hello [name withheld]:

Sorry it took me so long to respond, but I have been extremely busy these past few days. Anyway, I have divided your email into sections, and have responded to your questions and comments one by one. Hopefully, what I have written will make sense to you. [Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references have been taken from the New King James Version]

YOUR COMMENT: If you deny hell, then what is there to be “saved” from? By denying hell, you are denying Christ’s purpose.

MY RESPONSE: If you can show me one place in the Scriptures where it is taught that Christ came into this world to save us from “hell,” then I will gladly repent of teaching this doctrine. I think John the Baptist accurately described Christ’s purpose in one sentence: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) The phrase “takes away” comes from the Greek word airo, meaning “to expiate” [atone for, appease, put an end to]. Christ Himself succinctly defined His purpose: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

Romans 6:23 declares that “the wages of sin is death.” I do not know of any Christian who will deny that statement of fact; yet very few believe it! Instead, most believe that the wages of (unrepentant) sin is eternal torment in hell. If that’s the case, then we all might as well live it up, for the debt, according to the Scriptures, is still unpaid. If Christ’s purpose was to take upon Himself the punishment that we deserve, then He would have to be away right now suffering in the eternal flames of hell for us! Of course, this is nonsense.

The apostle Paul saw further ahead to Christ’s glorious purpose: to deliver God’s creation from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8:21), and to reconcile ALL THINGS (not just “saved” things) to Himself (Colossians 1:20). For all things were created through Him, and FOR Him (Colossians 1:16). Now when all things are made subject to Him [the Son], then the Son will also be subject to Him [the Father] who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (I Corinthians 15:28). The fundamentalist’s teaching of “hell,” which means “eternal separation from God,” clearly contradicts the victorious declaration “that God may be all in all.”

YOUR COMMENT: If there were no punishment for sin, then God himself would be an illegitimate deity, useless, and not worthy to worship. He would be like the parent who lets his children do whatever they want with no consequence, he wouldn’t be respected, he wouldn’t have any control, he would be ineffectual. Yes, God is love, but He is also much more than love. Does any parent that truly loves his children allow them to disobey repeatedly without consequence? Doesn’t a parent discipline his children out of love?

MY RESPONSE: I do not deny that there are consequences for sin. In fact, I already covered it: “The wages of sin is death.” [Not eternal death, not eternal torment, not annihilation, not transmigration into a lower life form, but DEATH!] Psalm 51:5 declares: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Even innocent babies are under the same law of sin and death that we are under. [For babies die just like we do, don’t they?] It is our sin-nature that separates us from God. “For as in Adam all die…” (I Corinthians 15:22)

One of the most difficult truths for people to accept is the reality that we will all die [Unless we happen to be among that privileged group of individuals who are still alive at the last trump - see I Corinthians 15:51,52]. Orthodox Christianity even denies this truth ["Ye shall not surely die"]. Most want to believe that we will “cross over” into another realm, or that our souls will immediately ascend into heaven (if we are “saved”) at the point of death. But Jesus clearly said that: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13)

It is misconceptions such as these that have given birth to other heresies, such as the “age of accountability” doctrine, which was invented to assure the parents of children who die at a young age that they will immediately go to heaven, not hell. The Book of Mormon sets the age of accountability at eight years of age. The Catholic Church puts it at seven years of age. Now where did they come up with that? Nowhere in the Scriptures, I will assure you. But once it is understood that the wages of sin is death, not hell, and once it is understood that all will be made alive in Christ (at the resurrection), then there is no longer any need to believe in a doctrine that cannot be supported by the Scriptures.

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation [judgment].” (John 5:28,29) According to Jesus, you will notice that, contrary to orthodox Christian church doctrine, at the time of the resurrection, those who had previously done good were still in their graves, and not in heaven. These will remain dead [asleep] until the time of the resurrection, when “…even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22) [For a more in-depth look at this subject be sure to read Does Man Have an Immortal Soul? by Ken Eckerty]

The Scriptures declare that we will all be judged by our works, or deeds (I Corinthians 3:13-15; Revelation 20:12,13). The purpose for God’s fiery judgment (for God is a consuming fire – Hebrews 12:29) is to consume the “dead works,” the wood, hay, stubble, etc. Most will suffer tremendous loss, “but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Corinthians 3:15) Like I already pointed out in my “top ten list,” our Loving heavenly Father is no different from any other parent, who only wants the best for His children. Discipline is ALWAYS for the purpose of CORRECTION:

“Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old [mature] he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

“For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

“These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who complained will learn doctrine.”(Isaiah 29:24)

“When your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state.” (Ezekiel 16:55)

YOUR COMMENT: I’ve read your statement of faith, and your mission statement, I do not wish to judge you, that is not my job, but as a Christian it is my duty to remind you that you WILL be judged! Read Revelations 22:18,19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” So in short, it’s one thing to believe the way you do, but you should examine your beliefs, and be careful not to spread false doctrine!

MY RESPONSE: I appreciate your concern for me and for the warning “not to spread false doctrine.” According to my dictionary, the word “false” (as in doctrine) means: not genuine, intentionally untrue, based on mistaken ideas, adjusted or made so as to deceive, etc. I will challenge you to go over what I have just written and see if you can demonstrate whether or not I have “added to” or “taken away” anything from “the words of the book of this prophecy.” I am fully aware of the fact that what I am teaching is contrary to what the majority believes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it untrue. Before we invaded Iraq, the majority of Americans were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat and had massive stockpiles of WMD. Now we know that the truth turned out to be quite different from what we were told.

Perhaps this doctrine that I teach is “based on mistaken ideas.” If so, then I know that God will judge me severely for every idle word spoken. This is why I have been extremely careful to base everything I say according to the Scriptures. In Titus 1:9, the apostle Paul encourages believers to “expose those who contradict.” (Concordant Literal New Testament) Since orthodox Christianity (in my opinion) is full of contradictory thoughts and ideas, it is my contention that they are the ones who teach doctrine that is “based on mistaken ideas.” Perhaps they are really the ones who have adjusted their doctrine to deliberately deceive. Biblical references to “false prophets” and “false teachers” in the last days are too numerous to ignore. Of course, nobody in the established church believes that these warnings are for them. Instead, they point the finger at groups such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other so-called “cults.” They attempt to remove the speck from their brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam in their own.

A brief glance at early church history will clearly show that what I am teaching is nothing new. In fact, the majority of the church throughout the first five centuries believed in universal reconciliation. (See The Prevailing Doctrine of the Early Church, by J.W. Hanson, D.D.). Even “Saint” Augustine himself, who was one of the major early proponents of the “eternal torment in hell” doctrine, had to make this candid confession:

“There are very many who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments.”

Unfortunately, the doctrine of universal restitution was officially declared heresy in 553 AD by, get this, the Roman Emperor Justinian. Now, can you imagine the outrage today if George W. Bush were to stand up and make an official declaration of what is and what is not to be believed by the church? And yet, this is exactly what happened 1500 years ago. Don’t take my word for it – look it up yourself. It’s little wonder to me, then, that this imperial decree would give birth to the Dark Ages. And the majority of Christianity still resides in darkness.

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

A noted scholar once said that: “Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open.” I was highly encouraged by your opening statement concerning my “theory” on hell being one of the best you had ever heard, which indicated to me that you were at least able to see a degree of reasoning and logic (and perhaps a glimmer of truth?) behind my arguments. It is my sincere prayer that you will consider these things with an open mind. And I would like to encourage you to be like the Bereans, and search these things out, to see whether or not they are true (Acts 17:11).

“Test all things, and hold fast what is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved unto God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed [on the Day of Judgment], rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (II Timothy 2:15)

May God be with you,

Gary

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

“The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.” – Aristotle; Greek philosopher (384 BC – 322 BC)

“We find few historians who have been diligent enough in their search for truth; it is their common method to take on trust what they help distribute to the public; by which means a falsehood once received from a famed writer becomes traditional to posterity.” — John Dryden (1631-1700) English Poet

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” — Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Philosopher, educator

“The key to wisdom is this — constant and frequent questioning … for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.” — Peter Abelard (1099-1142) Source: Sic et non, c. 1120

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.” — Giordano Bruno (1548-1599) Source: On Shadows of Ideas

“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.” – Mark Twain

“The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns … from the herd and thinks for himself.” – Archibald MacLeish

“What luck for the rulers that men do not think.” – Adolph Hitler

THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH (NOT HELL)

November 15th, 2010

A reader writes the following:

Gary, I have a problem with your hell fact or fable page. I think that
people need to understand that there is punishment for not following God
and his Word. He will mourn our loss from His kingdom but that is the
choice that we make. By reading your page i felt like you were trying to
tell people that because God is our Father why would he send us to hell
if he loves us? maybe its the way i read it i dont know. but people need
to understand that we do not get away with whatever because God loves us.

My Response: Following God: The Dilemma

How does one follow God and His Word? I guess it would depend upon which church denomination one is a part of. There are literally hundreds of different denominations, and each one has a different formula for following God and His Word. Some teach that you have to become a member of their church. Some teach that you have to confess Christ by saying a “sinner’s prayer,” and that’s it. Some teach that you have to believe that God is a “Trinity,” and therefore you must be baptized in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Others hold the “Jesus Only” viewpoint, and teach that you have to be baptized in Jesus’ name (only). And some say that you must show the “evidence” of the Holy Ghost by speaking in tongues. Which one is right?

Here’s what God’s Word has to say about it (all passages are from the NKJV):

“The LORD looks down from heaven, upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is nonewho does goodnonot one.”(Psalm 14:2,3)

“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight…” (Romans 3:20)

Not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:9)

God’s Word makes it clear that we cannot attain our own righteousness by good works (religious or otherwise). But one did come, one who could please our heavenly Father:

Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

Where we prove to be a miserable failure, Christ overcomes on behalf of us all:

“For as by one man’s [Adam's] disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s [Christ's] obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

Christ was able to please His Father. We are not able. Are you with me so far?

Punishment for Sin

In your email you stated: “that there is punishment for not following God and his Word.” But didn’t we just learn that none of us are even capable of following God? There was only One who ever did: Christ Jesus the Lord. Are you still with me?

I hope so, because now I am really going to throw you for a loop. Please bear with me. This may be a hard concept to grasp at first, especially when none of the churches (at least none that I am aware of) are teaching what I am about to show you.

Now, would you believe that God has already punished mankind for sin?

That’s right! God has already punished mankind for sin!

Now before you pick up stones to throw at me J, please observe:

Romans 6:23 declares that “the wages of sin is death.” Nearly every Christian on the face of this earth can quote this passage of Scripture from memory, yet very few believe it. Why? Because Christians have been taught (and therefore, most have been led to believe) that the wages of sin is “eternal torment in hell.” But is this what the Scripture is saying?   Does it say eternal torment? Does is say eternal death? Or does it say death?

Now, when did God pronounce His punishment of death upon sin? To find the answer, we have to turn all the way back to the Book of Genesis:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16,17)

And we all know the rest of the story…

Now, it doesn’t say “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely suffer everlasting torment in hell” does it? No, the punishment for their crime was death, and nothing more. Are you still with me?

COMMENT: You said that: “…people need to understand that we do not get away with whatever because God loves us.” And I agree. And so do the Scriptures. Did Adam and Eve get away with their sin? No. And why not? Because God excommunicated them from the Garden of Eden before they could eat of the Tree of Life and live forever (see Genesis 3:22). If they had been able to eat from the Tree of Life, then they would have gotten away with their sin, and God would have been proven to be wrong when He told them that they would surely die. But of course, God is NEVER wrong.

God has also ordained various systems of law and government to deal with criminals and lawbreakers in society (read Romans 13). But any system of government that is run by fallen, sinful men will never be perfect, try as they may. But where men will always fail, God will never fail.

EXAMPLE: Many people believe that O.J. Simpson got away with murder. Now it is not my intention to judge this man one way or another, but IF he did indeed commit this horrible crime, then he will alsodie and appear before the Judge, where his sin will be exposed for all to see. This will most assuredly cause him to bitterly repent with much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, which will bring about God’s desired result:

“The Lord is… not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)

His ways of dealing with the sinful nature of mankind are much higher than our ways. Those who would consign this man to an eternity in hell will also one day have to repent of their vengeful, unforgiving attitude. But God will judge the world in righteousness:

“For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world WILL LEARN righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

Most Christian churches teach that Christ died for our sins, and that He took upon Himself the punishment that we deserve (which, according to them, is hell). Oh really? Then please explain this to me. If Christreally took upon Himself the punishment that we deserve, then (according to fundamental Christian doctrine) He would have to be in hell, eternally separated from the presence of His Father, forever and ever, on our behalf. Is this really what the Bible teaches? Please be honest.

No, the wages of sin is NOT eternal torment in hell. The wages of sin is DEATH! And just as we all have been handed a death sentence (because of one man’s disobedience), Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us, and DIED on our behalf. He was the perfect atonement for our sin. And His Father raised Him from the dead, so that we also may have life. This is the GOOD NEWS!

“For since by man [Adam] came death, by Man [Christ Jesus] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ ALL SHALL BE MADE ALIVE.” (I Corinthians 15:21,22)

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32)

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

ALL the nations that Thou hast made [Are there any nations He has not made?] shall come and bow down before Thee, O LORD, and shall glorify Thy Name.” (Psalm 86:9) [Will they glorify His Name while burning in hell? Would you?]

“And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for ALL PEOPLE a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain the surface covering cast over ALL PEOPLE, and the veil that is spread over ALL NATIONS. He will swallow up death forever, and the LORD God will wipe away tears from ALL FACES. [This statement – along with Revelation 21:4 – totally obliterates the orthodox teaching of an eternal place of weeping and gnashing of teeth!] The rebuke of His people He will take away from ALL THE EARTH, for the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

According to these passages that we have just read, the fundamentalist’s teaching about an eternal hell cannot be true. You do believe these Scriptures, don’t you?

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I pray that God will, by His mercy, open your heart, your eyes, and your ears to these marvelous truths.

God is with you!

Gary

“The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning … for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.” – Peter Abelard (1099-1142) French philosopher and theologian

APPENDIX FOUR: THE HEART OF GOD

April 16th, 2010

APPENDIX FOUR: THE HEART OF GOD

(EXCERPTS FROM HELL: BIBLICAL TRUTH OR PAGAN MYTH?)

Jesus made some puzzling remarks while pronouncing judgment upon the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida:

“But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.” (Luke 10:12-14)

Now I don’t know about you, but I have always been under the assumption that the city of Sodom, like its sister city of Gomorrah, were two of the most vile and morally depraved communities that have ever existed. If there were ever a group of people that deserved to be damned for all eternity, then surely these people filled the bill. But Jesus says that their judgment will be “more tolerable” than that of Chorazin and Bethsaida. How can this be? Only one way – that the time of judgment, contrary to the teaching of orthodox Christianity, does not last forever!

“For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, says the LORD. They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My Name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.” (Jeremiah 7:30,31)

The Valley of the Son of Hinnom, or Gehenna, is famous chiefly for the abominable religious practices of the Israelites who there “built the high place of Tophet” to burn their sons and daughters in honor of the pagan god Molech (II Chronicles 28:3, 33:6). Changed into a public refuse dump and permanent place for burning, this accursed place, “the hell of fire where their worm does not die nor their fire go out,” is used figuratively to represent the place of judgment. Smith’s Bible Dictionary tells us that

“An idol of bronze of great size was set up in the valley, facing Olivet, where children were sacrificed in the fire, which seems to have been kindled inside the idol. Josiah abolished the worship, and strewed human bones over the place, making it unclean, and thus prevented the renewal of worship there (see II Kings 23:10). These inhuman practices gave the place a horrible character, and caused its name to be detested and used as a figure for a place of torment.”

So the literal burning of the children of Israel was an abomination to the LORD, one “which He did not command, nor did it enter into His heart!” So if God condemned the actual practice of the burning of their children in a literal fire, then what do you think will happen to those who teach that He will do likewise? Are you now beginning to see what Jesus really meant when He said that the judgment of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon (used to represent worldly, self-seeking people) will be “more tolerable” than that of Chorazin and Bethsaida (representing those who have witnessed the mighty works of God, yet fail to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth)? Many good, church-going people are one day in for a rude awakening, for they will come face to face with the Lamb of God, see Him as He really is, and come to the realization that the Love of God does not seek to fry unrepentant sinners for all eternity. After a lifetime spent of either knowingly or unknowingly misrepresenting the Love of God, “their glory will be turned to shame” (Philippians 3:19), and they will be “tormented in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10). I am convinced that this torment, in the presence of a gentle Lamb, will be the anguish they will suffer within their own hearts. Judgment by (a refining) fire will surely come upon the harlot church, and is described in vivid detail in Revelation 18.

“Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)

Appendix Three – Sheol

April 16th, 2010

THE HEBREW WORD SHEOL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

[The following was compiled by a fellow brethren who wishes to remain anonymous]

PART I: SHEOL TRANSLATED “PIT”

The word “pit” is found 77 times in the King James Version of the Old Testament, but only 3 times is it translated from the Hebrew word sheol:

    1. “If these men DIED the common DEATH of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the PIT [Heb: sheol]; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” (Numbers 16:29-30)
    2. “And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the GROUND clave asunder that was under them: and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the PIT [Heb: sheol], and the EARTH closed upon them: and they PERISHED from among the congregation.” (Numbers 16:31-33)

Now then, what can we learn from this word “sheol” in these verses? We learn that sheol is in “the GROUND… under them.” Korah and his men all “died” an uncommon “death” in this sheol–pit. And it says that “they PERISHED.”

While the ground was “opened up,” it was a PIT. After the ground closed up the pit, it became a GRAVE. This whole episode was a supernatural “mass burial in a mass grave,” and nothing more. All these men are “dead and perished.”

What does the word “perished” signify? Are they lost for all eternity, because God caused them to “perish?” No, not at all. Even righteous people “perish.”

    “The righteous perish and no man lays it to heart…” (Isaiah 57:1)

Also consider, if sheol is a hell of torture in fire, did you notice that God consigned the “houses” of Korah and his men to this same fate. Do we reckon that the “houses” of Korah and his men will also be “tortured in the fire of hell for ever?” Good, so we are making progress – two down and 61 to go.

    3. “If I wait, the GRAVE [Heb: sheol] is mine HOUSE: I have made my BED in the DARKNESS. I have said to CORRUPTION, You are my father; to the worm, You are my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the PIT [Heb: sheol], when our REST together is in the DUST.” (Job 17:13-16)

Wow. See anything wrong with this picture of “sheol” being an “eternal hell of torture in fire?” What I see here is: “grave, house, bed, darkness, corruption, worm, pit, rest, and dust.” There are all kinds of problems with these verses if we desire to pervert them into an “eternal hell of fire.”

A “grave” is in the ground. A “house” is an abode, not a place designed for torture in fire. A “bed” is where one sleeps, and God likens death in the grave [sheol] to “sleep” “…lest I sleep the sleep of death.” (Psalm 13:3)

“Darkness” is something that is found in a grave beneath the earth, not something you would find where there is a huge fire present. “Corruption” is what happens when a corpse decays in a relatively short period of time, not something that is accomplished in an eternity of burning in the fabled Christian hell.

“Worms” live in the ground in dead bodies, and in garbage where they continue to live and multiply as long as there is food present, but they don’t do very well in literal fire. A “pit” is “a hole in the ground” according to Webster’s Dictionary. We would hardly be at “rest” if we were being eternally tortured by literal fire. And “dust” is what bodies return to when they are dead. God formed man from the “dust of the ground,” not from “eternal hell fire.”

Besides all this proof, does anyone think that God would eternally torture Job (apparently the most righteous man on the face of the earth in his day) in literal fire when he died? Neither do I.

PART II: SHEOL – TRANSLATED “GRAVE”

    1. “And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave [Heb: sheol] unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:35)

Here “grave” (sheol) is used figuratively. Jacob did not literally go into the grave of his son Joseph, seeing that Joseph was not even “literally” dead at this time.

    2. “And he [Jacob] said, My son [Benjamin] shall not go down with you; for his brother [Joseph] is dead [Jacob thought Joseph was dead], and he is left alone: If mischief befall him by the way in the which you go, then shall you bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Genesis 42:38)

Gray hairs can only figuratively “sorrow.” And “hair” does not do well in fire.

    3. “And if you take this also from me, and mischief befall him, you shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” (Genesis 44:29)

Once again, Jacob uses the word “grave” (sheol) figuratively, and there is no mention of fire.

    4. “…and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Genesis 44:31)
    5. “The Lord kills, and makes alive: He brings down to the grave [Heb: sheol], and brings up.” (I Samuel 2:6)

And so, just as surely as God “brings down to the grave,” He likewise, “brings up [from the grave].” Therefore, the “grave” [sheol] is not an eternal place. Plus, no mention of “fire” in this place called sheol.

    6. “Do therefore according to your wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave [Heb: sheol] in PEACE.” (I Kings 2:6)

Obviously, this verse tells us that the “grave (sheol)” is a place of “peace,” and that is why David didn’t want his enemy’s death to be a peaceful one.

    7. “Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for you are a wise man, and know what you ought to do to him; but his hoar head bring you down to the grave [Heb: sheol] with BLOOD.” (I Kings 2:9)

Kind David is called a “bloody man” in the Scriptures. David liked blood and violence. His dying words are for His son Solomon to be a “hit man” for him, and to violently destroy David’s long-time enemies (for which David will have to bitterly repent in the Great White Throne Judgment). David wanted Solomon to make their deaths painful and “bloody,” as even David himself knew that his enemies would merely “sleep the sleep of death” once they were killed. But again, no “fire” in this “grave” – only “peace,” even for David’s worst enemies.

    8. “As a cloud is consumed and vanishes away; so he that goes down to the grave [Heb: sheol] shall come up no more.” (Job 7:9)

Job was inspired to write that a person “vanishes away” in sheol. No fire there.

    9. “O that You would hide me in the grave [Heb: sheol] …If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” (Job 14:13-14)

Job knew that he would not stay in sheol forever. No fire there.

    10. “If I wait, the grave [Heb: sheol] is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.” (Job 17:13)

Same words Job used previously.

    11. “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Job 21:13)

Job goes on to say in verses 23-26 that both those blessed and those cursed, “They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.”

    12. “Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so does the grave [Heb: sheol] those which have sinned.” (Job 24:19)

“ALL have sinned,” and so all “consume” away in the grave until they return to the dust from where they came.

    13. “For in death there is NO REMEMBRANCE of Thee: in the grave [Heb: sheol] who shall give You thanks?” (Psalm 6:5)

King David knew and was inspired to write that if he were to die, he knew that there would be no remembrance of God in the grave. No fire here either.

    14. “O Lord, You have brought up my soul from the grave [Heb: sheol]: You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit [this time pit is not translated from sheol].” (Psalm 30:3)

Here King David is likewise speaking figuratively, as he was not literally killed or put into a grave.

    15. “Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon you: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Psalm 31:17)

Well, so much for all the supposed cries of anguish by the wicked in sheol. David knew that sheol was a place of complete “silence.”

    16 & 17. “Like sheep they are laid in the grave [Heb: sheol]; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave [Heb: sheol] from their dwelling.” (Psalm 49:14)

There is “death” in the grave (sheol). There is not living torture in fire.

    18. “But God will REDEEM MY SOUL from the power of the grave [Heb: sheol]: for he shall receive me. Selah.” (Psalm 49:15)

Well there you have it! Souls can be “redeemed from the power of sheol!” No eternal torture in fire where souls can and will be “REDEEMED!” It should be self-explanatory as to why the translators didn’t translate this particular “sheol” into the English word “hell.” They sure didn’t want anyone to know that souls will be “redeemed from hell.”

    19. “For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draws nigh unto the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Psalm 88:3)

King David knew that when he died he was going to be placed in sheol.

    20. “What man is he that lives, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave [Heb: sheol]. Selah.” (Psalm 89:48)

And so according to this verse of Scripture, there is not a man who ever lives (that’s all humanity) that shall not go to sheol when he dies. Everyone goes to the grave; everyone goes to sheol. But it is silent there. No remembrance. No pain, suffering, or fire.

    21. “Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit.” (Proverbs 1:12)

This too is speaking of the grave in figurative language.

    22. “…There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say, not, it is enough. The grave [Heb: sheol]; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that says not, it is enough.” (Proverbs 30:15-16)

The earth is our “grave,” and it can hold billions of bodies.

    23. “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [Heb: sheol], where you go.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

The word “device” means “contrivance, intelligence and reason.” And there are none of these in sheol. Neither is there any work, knowledge, or wisdom there. Since there are not any of these faculties of consciousness there, how can “sheol” be translated “hell” which is supposed to be a conscious place of eternal torture in fire?

    24. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave [Heb: sheol]: the coats thereof are coats of fire, which have a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench LOVE, neither can the floods drown it…” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

I included verse 7 here so that no one would be confused and think that the “flames of fire” are in “sheol,” but are rather the “coats of fire and flame” of jealousy.

    25. “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave [Heb: sheol], and the noise of your viols [harps]: the worm is spread under you, and the worms cover you.” (Isaiah 14:11)

This is figurative language once more. “Pomp” is a character flaw, and “harps,” or musical instruments, do not literally go anywhere, but they do cease to exist from the perspective of the person possessing them.

    26. “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave [Heb: sheol]: I am deprived of the residue of my years.” (Isaiah 38:10)

If one were to continue living in a place called hell, he could hardly declare that his days and years would end. If hell is eternal, then he would continue to live forever.

    27. “For the grave [Heb: sheol] cannot praise Thee, death can not celebrate Thee: they that go down in to the pit cannot hope for Thy truth.” (Isaiah 38:18)

Of course “sheol cannot praise Thee,” seeing that there is no intelligence or reason in sheol, as we just learned a few Scriptures above.

    28. “Thus said the Lord God; In the day when he [Pharaoh] went down to the grave [Heb: sheol] I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him.” (Ezekiel 31:15)

Ezekiel 31:16-17 again contains the word “sheol,” but there it is translated “hell” which we will cover when we cover all the verses with “hell” in them. But there is no eternal torture by fire in this verse.

    29 & 30. “I will RANSOM them from the power of the grave [Heb: sheol]; I will REDEEM them from death: O DEATH, I will be your plagues; O grave [Heb: sheol], I will be your destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” (Hosea 13:14)

This verse all by itself destroys the whole eternal torture in fire theory. If sheol is “hell,” then this verse plainly tells us that [1] God will “ransom” those who are in sheol. [2] God will be the plague of DEATH. [3] God tells us that sheol itself is to be “DESTROYED.” And isn’t this exactly what we are told in Revelation 20:14 – “And DEATH and hell [Gk: hades/Heb: sheol] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second DEATH.”

    31. “Our BONES are scattered at the grave‘s [Heb: sheol] mouth, as when one cuts and cleaves wood upon the earth. ” (Psalm 141:7)

Once more King David is speaking figuratively in a poetic style. The grave does not literally have a “mouth.”

That concludes the 31 places sheol is translated “grave.” Not one of these 34 verses cited (for both grave and pit) uses sheol to mean a place or condition of conscious torture in literal fire for all eternity. Why then would we suppose that the next 31 verses that use this exact same word, sheol, suddenly change the meaning into a place of conscious torture of wicked people in literal fire for all eternity? How can those who still possess a functioning mind accept such a travesty of scholarship?

CAN CONTRADICTING OPPOSITES DEFINE ONE WORD?

The Hebrew word laban means “white” – like milk, like teeth – WHITE. First, imagine we would translate this word laban in 31 verses of Scripture into the English word “white.” So far; so good. But next, imagine we translate this word laban in 31 different verses of Scripture into the English word “BLACK.” Does anyone see a problem with such scholarship?

It’s crazy, and yet this IS what has happened in the KJV with regards to the Hebrew word sheol – 31 times “grave,” and 31 times “hell.” And what does UNCONSCIOUS DEATH IN THE GRAVE have in common with A CONSCIOUS LIFE OF ETERNAL TORTURE IN FIRE? Nothing – absolutely NOTHING! It’s as different as “black” and “white.”

I do not even contend that this is bad scholarship. This is NO scholarship at all. This is nothing less than FRAUD – a Christian HOAX! Show me where else in historic academia we find such reckless abandonment of the facts? I am not contending for my personal preference in translating the Scriptures, but to merely translate accurately and consistently what we find in ALL THE HEBREW AND GREEK MANUSCRIPTS.

ONCE MORE: In the Hebrew manuscripts, we find the word sheol 65 times, therefore, in our English translations we should find ONE WORD for all 65 times sheol appears. But, no, we find ONE Hebrew word translated into THREE DIFFERENT ENGLISH WORDS – “pit, grave, and hell.”

And in the New Testament we have the opposite of this Hebrew fraud: We have the ONE English word “hell” translated from THREE DIFFERENT GREEK WORDS – “gehenna, hades, and Tartarus.”

Then we come to the greatest New Testament fraud of all regarding “hell.” One time and one time only we find the Greek word hades, translated not “hell,” but “grave.” Why? Why just one time, “grave?” Why? Because the translators did not want us “dumb sheep” to ever know what hades really means. [Be sure to read the article O Hell, Where is Thy Victory?]

If “grave” and “hell” had very similar meanings, then their use would not be so damning, but as they are opposites in every way, there is no justifiable reason for their use. And if the Greek words “hades” and “gehenna” were very similar in meaning it might be justifiable to translate them into the same one English word, but they are not; they are totally different.

At least half of the translations in the Old Testament are correct, in that sheol can be translated correctly as “grave.” But in the New Testament, not even once is the English word “hell” a justifiable translation for any Greek word found in the manuscripts.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SO FAR ABOUT SHEOL / HADES?

We have now seen 34 verses of Scripture in which we find the ancient Hebrew word sheol, and how it is used in context. We have seen “sheol” used in poetic, figurative language as a place, condition, or realm of “sorrow and mourning,” as for a dead or presumed dead child. Only figuratively does someone still living go down to “sheol.” It is decidedly the realm of the dead, and therefore is figuratively used sometimes to represent something very ghastly or frightening (as we will later see was the case with Jonah).

When God kills someone, it is said that God brings them down to “sheol.”

When someone goes down to “sheol,” he is not able to come back up.

In Job we learned that when we die we are hid in “sheol” until an appointed time when we will be changed from whatever our condition in “sheol” is.

Also, Job likens “sheol” to a bed in a dark place (not unlike sleeping in our bedroom with the lights off). And Job also informs us that the blessed and cursed both go to “sheol.”

We consume away in this place called “sheol.”

In “sheol” there is no remembrance or communication with the world of the living.

The hand of “sheol” is called death, and every one who lives will be drawn to it.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 is probably the most telling Scripture of all with regards to what we do NOT find in “sheol.” No work, device [intelligence/reason], knowledge or wisdom.

Not even the righteous can celebrate or praise God in “sheol.”

Hosea informed us that God will be death’s PLAGUE. In other words, God will be a plague to “sheol” itself, not the dead people who reside in sheol. In fact God says He will RANSOM AND REDEEM those in “sheol.” Oh yes, God will ransom and redeem them ALL who go down to sheol, but not all at the same time. Remember there are TWO resurrections – One to life with Christ in His Kingdom, and another to the Great White Throne/Lake of Fire/Second Death, Judgment (where the individual will suffer loss, but be saved! – I Corinthians 3:15).

PART III: SHEOL TRANSLATED AS “HELL”

We will now go through all 31 references to “hell” in the Old Testament of the King James Bible. All 31 “hells” are translated from the one Hebrew word sheol. We will then see if there is a lick of difference between those verses where sheol is translated grave and where it is translated hell. I hope that you will be as shocked and outraged as I was when I discovered these truths. To save time, I will not comment on every single reference to “hell” translated from “sheol,” but I will quote them all and point out the fallacies on those that make mention to fire or anything vaguely related to the Christian hell.

In all the “Torah” – the Law, that is all the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the word “hell” appears but once in the King James Bible. Here it is:

    1. “For a fire is kindled in mine anger and shall burn unto the lowest hell [Heb: sheol], and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” (Deuteronomy 32:22)

Well, at last. There it is, “fire” is found with the word sheol, so surely now we have found Scriptural proof that sheol sometimes does mean the Christian “hell of eternal torture in fire,” right? WRONG! This verse says nothing of burning people in sheol with fire. The whole chapter is a “Song of Moses” (See verse 1). God prophesies through Moses’ Song, His anger over Israel’s lack of faith and the fact that they will turn to other gods, and for this God will punish them. He will not, however, torture them in an eternal fire of a Christian hell. Here is what God will do to them:

    “For the Lord shall judge His people… I KILL, and I make ALIVE: I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:36a & 39)

Notice that according to God Himself, the only way that someone He “kills” can ever live again is if God also “makes alive” again. Do Christians believe that dead people must be made alive again? No, of course not. They don’t believe that dead people are even dead, so why would God ever have to “make [them] alive” again? It is not Scientifically, Physiologically, or Scripturally possible to physically DIE and yet be alive.

Let’s notice one most profound point in this Song of Moses which should remove any and all doubt as to whether Israel is being “tortured in literal fire” in this “lowest sheol. Verse 25:

    “The sword without, and the terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, THE SUCKLING [an infant; a BABY] also with the man of gray hairs.”

To be sure, God affirms that sucklings will be in this sheol. Are we to believe that God will TORTURE sucklings in sheol? Is sheol really a hell of torture in fire as orthodoxy demands? No, this is nothing more than the “grave” that we saw in the previous 34 Scriptures, translated from the same Hebrew word sheol.

    2. The sorrows of hell [Heb: sheol] compassed [surrounded] me about: the snares of death prevented [confronted] me.” (II Samuel 22:6)

Does anyone believe that David just narrowly escaped the tortures of an eternal hell of pain in literal fire? No? I don’t either. But I can clearly see how he felt death and the grave closing in on him when his enemies were out to kill him.

    3. It [the wisdom and secrets of God] is as high as heaven; what can you do? Deeper than hell [Heb: sheol]; what can you know?” (Job 11:8)

This is poetic language and has nothing to do with a place of torture in fire.

    4. Hell [Heb: sheol] is naked before him, and destruction has no covering.” (Job 26:6)
    5. The wicked shall be turned [Heb: shub] into hell [Heb: sheol], and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17)

I heard this verse quoted on TV just this past Sunday. Boy oh boy this one seems pretty hard to side step, isn’t it? “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” Well, maybe not. The translators have tried to do their tricky little deceitfulness once more. You see, the word translated “turned” is the Hebrew word shub and it means “to RETURN,” (not, “turn” or “turned”), but REturn or REturned. In fact this word is translated “return” or “returned” almost 100% of the approximately 450 times it is used. Notice how other versions correct this same verse:

    “The lawless shall RETURN [Heb: shub] to hades, All nations forgetful of God.” (Psalm 9:17, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible)
    “The nations shall be TURNED BACK unto sheol, All nations that are forgetful of God.” (Psalm 9:17, The New American Bible)
    “The wicked do TURN BACK to sheol, All nations forgetting God.” (Psalm 9:17, Young’s Literal Translation)
    “The wicked shall RETURN [Heb: shub] to the unseen, all nations forgetful of God.” (Psalm 9:17 Concordant Literal Old Testament)

Actually “return” is a better translation than “turn back,” but at least we can see that other translators see and use the proper meaning of shub, which of course, The King James did not.

The Bible likens death to a “Return.” The soul RETURNS to sheol/hades – the UNSEEN. The spirit RETURNS to God who gave it. And the body RETURNS to the dust of the ground from whence it came. And so likewise, the wicked nations will be RETURNED to sheol – the grave, sheol, the unseen, DEATH.

If “sheol” is a Christian hell of torture in fire, then they would also have to conclude that these nations also CAME FROM an eternity of suffering in fire, and they are not RETURNING to that same place. Anyone see a problem with such unscriptural nonsense?

    6. “For you will not leave my soul in hell [Heb: sheol]; neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10)

Although this is a prophecy concerning the Lord, it is nonetheless, the words of David concerning himself and his own salvation from sheol. Notice that David concedes that he (his soul, the conscious, sentient self) will die and go to sheol. But David’s prayer is that God, “will not LEAVE my soul in sheol.” Everyone’s soul goes to sheol at death – both the sinners and the saints.

    7. “The sorrows of hell [Heb: sheol] compassed me about: the snares of death prevented [confronted] me.” (Psalm 18:5)

David is not in sheol, but rather is sorrowful in just contemplating death.

    8. “Let DEATH seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell [Heb: sheol]: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.” (Psalm 55:15)

Notice that that one must be “dead” in order to go to sheol.

    9. “For great is Thy mercy toward me: and you have delivered my soul from the lowest [depth of] hell [Heb: sheol].” (Psalm 86:13)
    10. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell [Heb: sheol] got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” (Psalm 116:3)
    11. “If I ascend up into heaven, You are there: if I make my bed in hell [Heb: sheol], behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8)
    12. “Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [Heb: sheol].” (Proverbs 5:5)

Seems pretty clear that feet and steps are one, and they go to one place – death and hell [sheol] are all one.

    13. “Her house is the way to hell [Heb: sheol], going down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:27)

Once more, her house with its chambers goes down to hell/sheol and death.

    14. “But he knows not that the DEAD are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell [Heb: sheol].” (Proverbs 9:18)

Hell/sheol contains DEAD PEOPLE, not living souls!

    15. “Hell [Heb: sheol] and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?” (Proverbs 15:11)
    16. “The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart [keep away] from hell [Heb: sheol] beneath.” (Proverbs 15:24)
    17. “You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell [Heb: sheol].” (Proverbs 23:14)
    18. Hell [Heb: sheol] and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)
    19. “Therefore hell [Heb: sheol] has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth with out measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices, shall descend into it.” (Isaiah 5:14)
    20. Hell [Heb: sheol] from beneath is moved for you to meet you at the coming; it stirs up the dead for you, even all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.” (Isaiah 14:9)
    21. “Yet you shall be brought down to hell [Heb: sheol] to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15)
    22. “Because you have said, We have made a covenant with DEATH, and with hell [Heb: sheol] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” (Isaiah 28:15)
    23. “And your covenant with DEATH shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [Heb: sheol] shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then you shall be trodden down by it.” (Isaiah 28:18)

Notice in both verses 15 and 18 of Isaiah 28 that “death and hell” keep company together. Another major proof that those in sheol are DEAD, not tortured in fire. Sheol is associated with DEATH, not life.

    24. “And you went to the king with ointment, and did increase your perfumes, and did send your messengers far off, and did debase yourself even unto hell [Heb: sheol].” (Isaiah 57:9)
    25. “I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall; when I cast him down to hell [Heb: sheol] with them that descend into the pit and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.” (Ezekiel 31:16)
    26. “They also went down into hell [Heb: sheol] with him unto them that be slain with the sword: and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.” (Ezekiel 31:17)
    27. “The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell [Heb: sheol] with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.” (Ezekiel 32:21)
    28. “And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell [Heb: sheol] with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, through they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.” (Ezekiel 32:27)
    29. “Though they dig into hell [Heb: sheol], thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.” (Amos 9:2)
    30. “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the BELLY of hell [Heb: sheol] cried I, and You heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:2)

Imagine that! The belly of a FISH is also the “belly of hell.” But for sure there was no literal fire inside that fish torturing Jonah.

    31. “Yea also, because he transgresses by wine, he is a proud man, neither keeps at home, who enlarges his desire as hell [Heb: sheol] , and is as DEATH, and cannot be satisfied, but gathers unto him all nations, and heaps unto him all people.” (Habakkuk 2:5)

Again we see death and hell keeping company. There is NO CONSCIOUSNESS in sheol / hades / grave / death. Jonah only figuratively (symbolically) cried out from “the belly of hell/sheol.” Jonah was figuratively in sheol, as he had not died, although he was very close to it. David in the same way, cried out in his agony as though he had already been consumed with death, although he had not.

We have now quoted every Scripture from the Hebrew Old Testament which contains the word sheol. 3 times as “pit,” 31 times “grave,” and 31 times “hell.” Not once did we read of “PUNISHMENT,” “TORTURE IN FIRE,” or a place of “EVERLASTING” anything. We have clearly seen that both the righteous and the unrighteous go to this same condition and place called sheol. It is spoken of literally, figuratively, symbolically, and poetically.

A CLOSING THOUGHT

Although everyone has a perception OF death, and many actually experience the process OF dying, absolutely no one will ever experience anything IN the death state itself. There is no experience or perception in death.

And although no one desires to go to sheol [the grave]; that is no one desires to DIE, but nonetheless, it is a safe place to be while we await resurrection. Nothing can harm us there. There is no fear of darkness there, because there is NO PERCEPTION THERE. Sheol is truly like a deep, sound SLEEP, from which our Father will awaken us in the morning. Let us be comforted by that thought.

APPENDIX TWO: TESTIMONIES

April 16th, 2010


APPENDIX TWO:
TESTIMONIES

Polybius, the historian, says: “Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions.” B. vi 56.

He later goes on to say that “…the quality in which the Roman commonwealth is most distinctly superior is in my opinion the nature of their religious convictions. I believe that it is the very thing which among other peoples is an object of reproach, I mean superstition, which maintains the cohesion of the Roman State. These matters are clothed in such pomp and introduced to such an extent into their public and private life that nothing could exceed it, a fact which will surprise many. My own opinion at least is that they have adopted this course for the sake of the common people.” F. vii 56.

Livy, the celebrated historian, speaks of it in the same spirit; and he praises the wisdom of Numa, because he invented the fear of the gods, as “a most efficacious means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace.” Hist. I 19.

Dionysius Halicarnassus treats the whole matter as useful, but not true. Antiq. Rom., B. ii

Strabo, the geographer, says: “The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds…For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue – but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (of the Furies), the dragons, &c., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology. These things the legislators used as scarecrows to terrify the childish multitude.” Geog., B. I

Seneca says: “Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment seat, etc., are all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us with vain terrors.”

Sextus Empiricus calls them “poetic fables of hell.”

Cicero speaks of them as “silly absurdities and fables” (ineptiis ac fabulis)

Aristotle says: “It has been handed down in mythical form from earliest times to posterity, that there are gods, and that the divine (Deity) compasses all nature. All beside this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interests of the laws, and the advantage of the state.” Neander’s Church Hist., I, p. 7.

Timaeus Locrus, the Pythagorean, after stating that the doctrine of rewards and punishments after death is necessary to society, proceeds as follows: “For as we sometimes cure the body with unwholesome remedies, when such as are most wholesome produce no effect, so we restrain those minds with false relations, which will not be persuaded by the truth. There is a necessity, therefore, of instilling the dread of those foreign torments: as that the soul changes its habitation; that the coward is ignominiously thrust into the body of a woman; the murderer imprisoned within the form of a savage beast; the vain and inconstant changed into birds, and the slothful and ignorant into fishes.”

Before Christ walked upon this earth, pagan philosophies, such as the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, gradually crept into the Jewish schools. And the Jews incorporated into their ancient faith the dogmas of both the philosophy and theology of Egypt, the very fountain-head from which the doctrine of future endless torments came. But not only did they borrow from the Egyptian, but also from the Oriental and Pythagorean philosophy, in both of which, as well as in the Egyptian, one of the distinguishing features was as a method of retribution after death. Hence, in the account of the blind man restored to sight by Jesus, we have the question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) This shows plainly that the people thought the man might have been sent into a blind body as a punishment for some sin in a preexistent state; which is an exact copy of the Egyptian and Oriental doctrine. In Matthew 16, we have another trace of the doctrine among the people. In answer to the question of Jesus, “Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am?” the disciples reply, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some say Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” They seemed to think the soul of some one of these ancient men of God had returned again to the earth in the body of Jesus, which to them was a satisfactory explanation of the miracles He wrought. Many of the Jewish doctors have believed that the souls of Adam, Abraham, and others, have at different times animated the bodies of the great men of their nation. Indeed, Pythagoras made so much of this dogma, that it was often called specially by his name; and it was almost universally believed by the Oriental nations, and is to this day, especially by the Hindus, the Burmans, the followers of the Grand Lama, and by the Buddhists generally.

Plato, in his commentary on Timaeus, fully endorses what he says respecting the fabulous invention of these foreign torments. And Strabo says that “Plato and the Brahmins of India invented fables concerning the future judgments of hell” (Hades). And Chrysippus blames Plato for attempting to deter men from wrong by frightful stories of future punishments.

Plato himself is exceedingly inconsistent, sometimes adopting, even in his serious discourses, the fables of the poets, and at other times rejecting them as utterly false, and giving too frightful views of the invisible world. Sometimes, he argues, on social grounds, that they are necessary to restrain bad men from wickedness and crime. But then again he protests against them on political grounds, as intimidating the citizens, and making cowards of the soldiers, who, believing these things, are afraid of death, and do not therefore fight well. But all this shows in what light he regarded them; not as truths, certainly, but as fictions, convenient in some cases, but difficult to manage in others.

Plutarch treats the subject in the same way; sometimes arguing for them with great solemnity and earnestness, and on other occasions calling them “fabulous stories, the tales of mothers and nurses.”

Saint Augustine also makes mention of these things in his celebrated book The City of God. Concerning the opinions of Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), who was a Roman scholar and writer, and was considered by some to be the greatest of all the Roman scholars, Augustine writes:

“I should be thought to conjecture these things, unless he himself, in another passage, had openly said, in speaking of religious rites, that many things are true which it is not only not useful for the common people to know, but that it is expedient that the people should think otherwise, even though falsely, and therefore the Greeks have shut up the religious ceremonies and mysteries in silence, and within walls. In this he no doubt expresses the policy of the so-called wise men by whom states and peoples are ruled. Yet by this crafty device the malign demons are wonderfully delighted, who possess alike the deceivers and the deceived, and from whose tyranny nothing sets free save the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” B. iv 31

“Varro says also, concerning the generations of the gods, that the people have inclined to the poets rather than to the natural philosophers; and that therefore their forefathers,–that is, the ancient Romans,–believed both in the sex and the generations of the gods, and settled their marriages; which certainly seems to have been done for no other cause except that it was the business of such men as were prudent and wise to deceive the people in matters of religion, and in that very thing not only to worship, but also to imitate the demons, whose greatest lust is to deceive. For just as the demons cannot possess any but those whom they have deceived with guile, so also men in princely office, not indeed being just, but like demons, have persuaded the people in the name of religion to receive as true those things which they themselves knew to be false; in this way, as it were, binding them up more firmly in civil society, so that they might in like manner possess them as subjects.”   B. iv 32

Montesquieu states that Romulus, Tatius and Numa enslaved the gods to politics, and made religion for the state.”

And Plumptre adds that “It has been, and is, the creed of the great poets whom we accept as the spokesmen of a nation’s thoughts.”

The question with which this section began, “Whence came the doctrine of future endless punishments?” is now, I trust, answered by a sufficient number of witnesses to settle the matter beyond dispute. The heathens themselves confess to the invention of the dogma, and of all the fabulous stories of the infernal regions. And the legislators and sages very frankly state that the whole thing was devised for its supposed utility in governing the gross and ignorant multitude of men and women, who cannot be restrained by the precepts of philosophy.

“How far it may be proper to use falsehood as a medicine, and for the benefit of those who require to be deceived.” — Eusebius, Ecclesiastical historian

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”  — H.L. Mencken, American journalist 1880-1956

“Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.” — Reuven Brenner, Economist

They have not the slightest faith in these things themselves; they do not think them at all necessary to regulate their own lives, or keep them in order; but it is for the common people, the coarse rabble, who can only in this way be terrified into good behavior. One cannot help noting the resemblance between these wise men and some of our own day, who seem so anxious to maintain the doctrine in the ground that it is necessary to restrain men from sin. But, unfortunately for this theory, the revelations of history, both Pagan and Christian, are in opposition to it.

“Without doubt, the greatest injury of all was done by basing morals on myth. For, sooner or later, myth is recognized for what it is, and disappears. Then morality loses the foundation on which it has been built.” – Lord Herbert Louis Samuel

Has history shown the doctrine of eternal torment to be a successful deterrent to lawlessness? Well, for a nation in which a majority of its citizens claim to believe in both a heaven and a hell, why is it that the United States has the highest crime rate? And not just here in the US, but lawlessness is ever increasing worldwide, where this doctrine is believed by many in one form or another.

In vain does Cicero, speaking of the poets, exclaim against this state of things:

“When the plaudits and acclamation of the people, who sit as infallible judges, are won by the poets, what darkness benights the mind, what fears invade, what passions inflame it!” – The City of God B. ii 14

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

I think the facts establish, beyond refutation, these results:

  • The belief of future endless torments does not restrain nor prevent men from the indulgence of their criminal passions. Those believing are no better in character or conduct because they believe it. The hell of the Burmans, for example, is as horrible as imagination or invention can make it; and yet they are notoriously corrupt, licentious, bloody-minded – the greatest thieves, liars and cheats in the world!
  • The disbelief of endless torments does not make man immoral or wicked; as the character of the Sadducees, whom their enemies even acknowledge to be strictly just and moral, abundantly demonstrates.

I can imagine but one reply to this simple statement of facts: It may be said the comparison is not just, since the Burmans, as well as the Greeks and Romans, are heathen, and the Sadducees had the benefit of revelation, and of the divine law of Moses. But this is yielding the point in debate; for the ground taken is, that a religion without the doctrine in question cannot exert a salutary moral influence; that the belief of this is indispensable as a check on the wicked heart. To say, therefore, that other elements of the law, or of revelation, might have made the Sadducees moral and virtuous, is surrendering the argument, and admitting that this doctrine is not necessary to virtue.

Still, there is no difficulty in meeting the objection on its own ground. The Greeks, Romans, and Burmans are heathen, but the Pharisees are not. They are believers in divine revelation, having all the benefits of the Law of Moses, living side by side with the Sadducees, and subject to the same social influences. The only difference between them is precisely the point in debate – the Pharisees believe the doctrine of future endless punishment, and the Sadducees deny it. Of course the Pharisees ought to be great saints, without spot or blemish; and the Sadducees ought to be great sinners, vile and wicked to the last degree. To the contrary, the Sadducees were not great sinners, but honest, just and moral, by confession of their worst enemies. One half the argument, therefore, falls to the ground at the outset. Now for the other half – were the Pharisees great saints? The Savior will answer to this: “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites; robbing the widow and fatherless, neglecting justice, mercy and truth; generation of vipers; whited sepulchers, full of corruption and all manner of uncleanness!” This does not look much like being very saintly. So the second half of the argument fares no better than the first half; and both are perfect failures.

Thus, exactly the reverse of what is claimed for the doctrine proves to be the historical fact: those believing it are the great sinners, moral vipers, whited sepulchers; while those disbelieving are not saints perhaps, but vastly better than the sanctimonious hypocrites who charged their doctrine with immoral and dangerous tendencies.

One other thing is worthy of note in this connection, and with this I close the argument. In all his rebukes and denunciations of the wickedness of the men of His age and generation, the Savior never includes the Sadducees. It is always, “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites;” never Scribes, Sadducees, hypocrites. This is strong presumptive proof of the unimpeachable morality of the Sadducees, and equally positive proof of the preeminent wickedness of the Pharisees.

We now return to the conclusion already stated: The belief of endless punishment does not tighten the bonds of morality, nor lead to a life of virtue; while, on the other hand, the disbelief of it does not loosen the bonds of morality, nor lead to a life of wickedness.

“Do you not know that God’s kindness (or goodness) is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 – RSV)

It is God’s GOODNESS that leads us to repentance, not the fear of eternal torment!