Hell, The unbiblical doctrine of

Sun, 17/04/2011 - 17:34

I set out a while back to write a general piece on the unbiblical doctrine of “hell” as part of a glossary or lexicon of key concepts but got side-tracked. Since then the brouhaha over Rob Bell’s book has prompted extensive reflection on the matter, and it now seems worth providing a rough summary of the position that I have argued for in a number of recent posts. Unfortunately, it has turned out rather longer than intended, but hopefully it will be the last word on the subject of “hell” for a while.

The approach I will take is to differentiate between a baseline position and the three eschatological horizons which, to my mind, provide the forward-looking frame of reference for New Testament thought. This approach reflects an important hermeneutical assumption. The New Testament primarily addresses the condition of peoples and cultures within history rather than the destiny of individuals beyond history. If we approach the New Testament with concerns about the moral or theological rightness of a doctrine of “hell” as “eternal conscious torment” at the forefront of our minds, we are likely to misunderstand what is said about judgment, wrath, punishment, and affliction. Ask the wrong questions and you will get the wrong answers.

The baseline

The starting point is to affirm that there is a baseline of divine—or even existential—judgment on unrighteous and rebellious humanity. It takes the simple but decisive form of destruction, which is a serious enough business. For individuals this is the destruction of death—as Paul puts it, the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). For the first generations of humanity, which had “corrupted their way on earth” by violence, it was the destruction of the flood: ‘And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” ’ (Gen. 6:13). The regeneration of humanity that followed the flood could only be described in terms of a new creation: ‘And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” ’ (Gen. 9:1).

For societies that defied the creator—at least as far as the Biblical narrative extends—judgment was likely to come, sooner or later, in the form of corporate destruction: famine, disease, war, slaughter, and the devastation of land and cities. The climactic moment in the Old Testament narrative is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Babylonians and the subsequent exile, from which the nation never really recovered. This event is understood not as an accident of history but as an expression of God’s anger against his people because of their incorrigible idolatry and unrighteousness. But it is only a matter of time before the godless and ferocious empire of the Babylonians will be brought to nothing in its turn (cf. Hab. 2:6-20).

The vivid prophetic language in which these events are described already foreshadows the visions of impending judgment that we find in the New Testament. But in Daniel’s symbolic account of the judgment of the fourth beast that makes war against the saints of the Most High and of the transfer of kingdom and authority to “one like a son of man” (Dan. 7), we have an anticipation of the heightened apocalypticism that will give New Testament eschatology its distinctive contours. The point to stress is that in the Old Testament this language always has reference to historical events, seen from the perspective of Israel’s unique existence. It has to be unequivocally demonstrated, therefore, and not merely assumed, that the authors of the New Testament used this language in a fundamentally different sense to speak of post-historical or metaphysical realities. In my view this cannot be demonstrated. The New Testament is as much focused on the historical existence of the people of God as the Old Testament.

The first horizon of the Jewish War

The language and imagery used to describe the intense suffering that will attend divine judgment in the synoptic Gospels has reference to the foreseen disaster of the Jewish War. Jesus’ essential warning to the Jews is that unless they repent they will perish, either struck down by Roman soldiers or crushed under the ruins of Jerusalem (cf. Lk. 13:1-5). But the theological significance of this impending catastrophe is brought out largely through the reworking of Old Testament motifs.

The judgment of gehenna is meant to evoke Jeremiah’s horrifying vision of the dead thrown from the walls of the city into the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem (Jer. 7:30-33; 19:6-8). Other images have the same frame of reference: the burning of the weeds by fire at the close of the age (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43); the discarding of the bad fish (Matt. 13:47-50). The bodies of the unrighteous that are perpetually consumed by worms and fire (Mk. 9:48) are not the dead being consciously tormented in “hell”. They are the unconscious corpses of those who rebelled against YHWH, which remain unburied outside the city as a sign to all of the stark reality of God’s judgment against his people (cf. Is. 66:24). The thought goes back to Deuteronomy 28:25-26: disobedient Israel will be defeated in battle, will become a horror to the kingdoms of the earth; “your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air and for all beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away” (cf. Ezek. 23:46; Ps. 79:1-2; Jer. 7:33; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20).

The “outer darkness”, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, is an image of the exclusion of rebellious Israel from the kingdom of God, from the celebration of the restoration of Israel, from the life of the age to come (cf. Matt. 8:11-12; Matt. 13:47). “Wailing” typically connotes the pained response to judgment (cf. Mic. 7:4 LXX; Is. 30:19; 65:19; Bar. 4:11); the “gnashing of teeth” suggests anger and resentment directed towards the righteous Jew (Ps. 36:12; 34:15-16; 111:9-10 LXX; Sir. 51:3; Acts 7:54).

The story of the rich man who is tormented in Hades while the beggar Lazarus is carried to the bosom of Abraham (Lk. 16:19-31) is best understood as a parable of the reversal of fortune that would accompany the coming crisis of judgment and restoration, when “the hungry will be filled with good things and the rich sent empty away” (Lk. 1:53). Other than in this passage, hadēs is simply the grave or the place of the dead; in effect, it is a figure for death. When Jesus says that “the gates of Hades” will not prevail against his church, he means that it will not be overcome by death—there is no reference to a “hell” teeming with demons, as in the mythology of much spiritual warfare teaching (Matt. 16:18). The judgment on Capernaum, that it will be brought down to Hades, is simply that its population will be destroyed—as, for example, at the time of the Roman invasion (Matt. 11:23).

The second horizon of judgment on the hostile pagan world

While the first horizon of the Jewish War is rather sharply imagined (cf. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near”: Lk. 21:20), the more distant second horizon is less well defined. Nevertheless, judgment on the “Greek” is not less concretely and historically conceived than judgment on the “Jew”.

In general terms, the Greek-Roman world will be judged—and will experience “tribulation and distress”—on account of its idolatry, immorality, and unjust behaviour (cf. Rom. 2:6-10). This takes an especially intense form in Revelation 14:9-11, where an angel announces that those who worship the beast of an aggressive pagan imperialism will be “tormented with fire and sulphur”. The symbolic language brings to mind Old Testament accounts of the destruction of corrupt cities and nations. Whatever personal torment is experienced must be understood in the context of a decisive judgment on pagan Rome.

The more specific argument in relation to this second horizon is that those who persecuted the churches, prior to the victory of Christ over the pagan gods, will be punished. When God brings the afflictions of these “saints” to an end, he will “repay with affliction those who afflict you”; they will suffer the “punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9). This is not envisaged as a final judgment but as a day within history when Jesus will be revealed as the one who judges the pagan world and his followers vindicated and rewarded for having patiently endured suffering.

When Jesus as Son of Man—as representative of suffering Israel—is publicly vindicated, the nations which failed to attend to the needs of his persecuted disciples will be judged and consigned to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41, 46). Like the “stream of fire” that issued from the throne of the ancient of days (Dan. 7:10-11), this is a fire that destroys empires and cultures which defy the creator God. Individuals will, of course, suffer the consequences of what happens to their society, but this is not the level at which the apocalyptic story is told.

The third horizon and a final destruction

It is simply a recognition of the force of historical perspective to say that the authors of the New Testament were far more preoccupied with the first two horizons than with the third. Nevertheless, the storyline of the creator who persistently re-creates, which begins with the blessing of Noah, culminates in John’s exceptional vision of a new heaven and new earth. At this moment we also come across a final iteration of the baseline argument—that the inescapable consequence of sin is death. Death and Hades are thrown into the “lake of fire”, which is the “second death”; those whose names are not written in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire; and “as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death” (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). This is not a place of torment, merely of incineration. It is a final destruction of everything that is contrary to the goodness of creation.

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Image of Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective

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Andrew Perriman
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Comments

Andrew- A very well-written summary article. I especially appreciated this summary statement at the beginning: The New Testament primarily addresses the condition of peoples and cultures within history rather than the destiny of individuals beyond history. If we approach the New Testament with concerns about the moral or theological rightness of a doctrine of “hell” as “eternal conscious torment” at the forefront of our minds, we are likely to misunderstand what is said about judgment, wrath, punishment, and affliction. Ask the wrong questions and you will get the wrong answers.

Andrew,

Excellent post! Clear and concise. I will be passing this on to as many people as I possibly can.

Brian

Andrew

I sincerely appreciate the “horizon” concept you presented in your article, although (and especially) the “third and final destruction” is something I would place within the historical context of the consummation of the Jewish age. The last phrase of the article provokes a great deal of thought: “Ask the wrong questions and you will get the wrong answers.” Amen to that!

Larry Siegle

The New Testament primarily addresses the condition of peoples and cultures within history rather than the destiny of individuals beyond history.

Much more than the Old Testament, the New Testament looks not only at the condition of peoples and cultures within history, but also at their condition outside of history - or what happens to people when they are faced with the consequences of their actions before a timeless God.

So for instance, it is quite a leap from noting the reference to dead bodies being thrown into the valley of Hinnom in Jeremiah, and bracketing Jesus’s references to Gehenna exclusively with the Roman siege of Jerusalem. It is also no more than assertion to say that the bodies of the unrighteous in Mark 9:48 are unconscious. If the passage simply describes what happens to corpses, why are they being perpetually consumed by worms and fire?

The context of Mark 9:48 is also important. There is no direct association here with judgement on Jerusalem, but there is universally applicable teaching on sin and its consequences. The perpetual suffering of verse 48 echoes the “unquenchable fire” of verse 43. Radical measures to deal with sin are urged in this life in the light of much greater consequences to come beyond or outside this life.

Matthew 8:11-12 describes “a place (where) there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”, when gentiles come into the kingdom of God (figuratively described) and “the sons of the kingdom” are cast into the place of “outer darkness”. Either this is just poetry with little realistic meaning, or it refers to “a place” of realisation, outside this life, where the unrighteous “sons of the kingdom” see the full force of their exclusion from the benefits now awarded to those they themselves had strenuously attempted to exclude. There was little possibility of the unrighteous seeing these things within this life during the chaos of the war with Rome and the destruction of the temple.

In Matthew 13:47 we could argue over what precisely Matthew means by “the end of the age”, but the language takes us out of exclusively temporal events within history, with the activity of angels gathering together the unrighteous and casting them into “the fiery furnace” which is also “a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth”. Again, either this is simply poetic hyperbole, or it means that the unrighteous will become aware of their separation and exclusion from the benefits given to the righteous, and react in the ways described. This must be in some sense outside this life, as it would be impossible for the unrighteous to see the rewards of the righteous in a way which might cause this reaction in the chaotic years of the war with Rome.

Luke 6:19-31 may well be a parable of reversal of fortune of a kind which was well known to Jesus’s hearers. The striking fact is that Jesus does not try to correct any mistaken view of life beyond this life that it may contain, in describing the torment of the rich man in Hades. It is notale that Hades is used here, rather than Gehenna, which might have been a more appropriate location for suggesting punishment.

Whichever way you interpret Revelation 14:9-11, either as a past historical event, or as throughout history, or as yet to come, or all three, the fact is that verse 11 says “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” This could hardly be said to encourage a belief in simple destruction within history, with no future consequences.

It is also difficult to assert that whereas the beast and the false prophet will suffer perpetually in the lake of fire, Revelation 20:10, others who find their way there will not, Revelation 20:14-15, Revelation 21:8. Why suffering for some but not for others - in exactly the same place? Or to put it another way, why do we have the right to assert that the same location has one effect for some, but not for others, when the text gives no grounds for making this differentiation?

It doesn’t really matter whether you say that every reference to Gehenna, Hades and the Lake of fire in the New Testament relates only to past historical circumstances, or whether you say they refer to circumstances continuing, or yet to come. The content of the references indicates something rather different from simple annihilation through destruction.

I would think the greater emphasis of consequences to actions outside this life which we see in the NT in contrast with the OT is to do with the climactic entry of Jesus into the narrative. Jesus not only precipitated the “end of the age” for Israel and her temple. He also heralded the end of all ages. Every encounter with Jesus then and now confronts the individual with choices which will have consequences on their destiny beyond this immediate life, into the future new creation which Jesus came to prepare us for, whether you think this is a remote horizon (Andrew) or rather more pressingly presented in the NT (myself).

Jesus was not merely facilitating continuation through survival for the people of God, albeit in a different mode of life and expression from before. He was doing then what he does now: which is to invite everyone to step out of an old mode of life which is dying, into a new mode of life which lasts forever, for which a new environment beyond our present environment is being prepared.

Peter, this was merely intended as a summary of material posted elsewhere. Most of the points you raise we have discussed already, directly or indirectly, and I’m not going to go over it all again here.

With respect to Mark 9:47-48, though, I will say that if Jesus is deliberately invoking past narratives of judgment on Jerusalem, the picture that he presents is exactly of corpses being thrown over the walls of the city (cf. Jer. 7:30-33; 19:6-8), where they will be a sign to the world of God’s punishment of his people (cf. Is. 66:24). If you want to take the worms and fire literally, that’s up to you. But I think that for Isaiah the “unending” part of the description was symbolic, and nothing suggests that Jesus thought differently.

It’s rather disingenuous to claim that there is no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in this context. The allusions to Jeremiah and Isaiah are strong evidence that this is what Jesus had in mind. But in any case, the whole Gospel, from John’s call to the Jews to repent of their sins to Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Mark 13 and his warning to the high priest that he would “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (14:62), is about a coming, catastrophic judgment on sinful Israel.

Jesus’ is speaking to Jews around AD 30 about a decisive, impending act of divine sovereignty that will happen within a generation. That does not have to be made explicit in every paragraph. It is poor exegesis to pretend that the overall narrative context has no relevance to any particular pericope just because we need to hear Jesus directly address our own circumstances. The text simply does not bear the weight of our demands for universal significance.

Fine, but you are making, in my opinion arbitrarily, a call as to what is symbolic and what is realistic in the references to Gehenna. What right do you have to do this?

Also, I think you are unable to see the many shortcomings of taking the gospel narrative to be framed entirely by ‘a decisive, impending act of divine sovereignty that will happen within a generation.’

Good exegesis consists of fairly weighing the weaknesses of interpretative procedures, as well as the strengths. I don’t think you have done this - or perhaps are able to do it.

The “outer darkness”, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, is an image of the exclusion of rebellious Israel from the kingdom of God, from the celebration of the restoration of Israel, from the life of the age to come (cf. Matt. 8:11-12; Matt. 13:47).

Can you clarify what you mean by kingdom, restoration, and age to come. All of these seem to have a “not yet” aspect in NT eschatology that would preclude them from being purely one-horizon-only, right?

Also, if we go ahead and reject the dualism inherent in the “metaphysical” and “post-historical” ideas you are combatting, are we on safer ground to talk about these horizons being less hermetically sealed from one another?

Thanks.

All renewal that we experience as the people of God is an already of the not yet of a final making new of creation, a new heavens and new earth. The renewal or transformation that is described in the New Testament, however, is an already of the not yet of the historical transformation of the status of the people of God in the midst of the nations. At least, that’s how I see it.

The New Testament speaks of a coming kingdom of God. That is not to be equated with the final renewal of all things. Jesus and Paul have rather different perspectives on what it will entail because they had different eschatological horizons. From our synoptic perspective I think we can say that the coming kingdom of God entailed a series of events beginning with the resurrection of Jesus and culminating in the overthrow of Roman paganism and the empire-wide confession of Jesus as Lord.

Through these events the status of both Israel’s God and the people of God in the ancient world was dramatically and decisively transformed. But at the time of the New Testament the churches had only experienced a foretaste of this in the outpouring of the Spirit, in the inclusion of Gentiles, and in their own confession that Jesus was Lord.

I’m not entirely sure what your second question is getting at, but I would say that the first two horizons, at least, are not completely distinct. They are part of a complex historical process. The third horizon, though, seems to me to be absolutely different—because it entails the final destruction of sin and death—not merely a further development within history.

Good post.

I am almost through the late Alan Segal’s monumental “Life After Death,” a study of how ideas about the afterlife developed. It’s got way too much information for a layperson, but it is interesting nonetheless.

What I think is interesting in regard to this discussion is that the biblical ideas of the afterlife are in large part a reaction to ideas that were in circulation by surrounding cultures. In that regard, it makes no sense to me to speak of the biblical view of life after death, because we really mean the biblical views.

I enjoyed this post.

I do, however, have trouble swallowing your following statement,

The point to stress is that in the Old Testament this language always has reference to historical events, seen from the perspective of Israel’s unique existence. It has to be unequivocally demonstrated, therefore, and not merely assumed, that the authors of the New Testament used this language in a fundamentally different sense to speak of post-historical or metaphysical realities.

It may not be that the NT authors are using the OT language in a fundamentally different sense, but simply drawing out the full force of the apocalyptic character of that language.

It seems as though you concede this point when you say that the writings of Daniel (for example) “anticipate the heightened apocalypticism that will give New Testament eschatology its distinctive contours.”

It seems plausible to think that the OT language was, in dulcet tones, referring to more ultimate ends (or as you may say, ends that lie “beyond history”). The character of OT language forshadows and speaks of a deeper, more ultimate, and final reality of justice and judgment.

If this is so, there is no difficulty in suggesting that the NT writers were, in many cases, thinking of something “post-historical.”

The character of OT language foreshadows… a deeper, more ultimate, and final reality of justice and judgment.

This I would agree with—you make the point well. I would also argue that by speaking of impending historical events (AD 70, the defeat of paganism) in essentially the same terms the New Testament “foreshadows… a deeper, more ultimate, and final reality of justice and judgment”. But this does not mean that when Jesus warns the Jews that they face a judgment of gehenna or risk being cast into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, he is referring to a post-historical situation, which we might label “hell”. That’s why I removed “and speaks of” from your statement.

Similarly, I think that the language and imagery that form the parousia motif, given the Old Testament background, make narrative sense when applied to the vindication of Jesus’ disciples by the events of AD 70 or the vindication of the early churches in the Greek-Roman world by the eventual collapse of paganism and the conversion of the empire. They do not make sense when applied to the renewal of creation, which is why the motif does not appear in Revelation 20:11-22:5.

So to my mind, what it comes down to is this. The Old Testament uses prophetic-apocalyptic language to speak realistically about foreseen “political” events. That seems to me unquestionable. If the New Testament uses the same language, under similar conditions, at a time when massive historical transformations were on the prophetic horizon (or horizons), with no indication that the frame of reference has been radically changed, then I think we have to assume that referentially the “post-historical or metaphysical” horizon is excluded. There are a couple of places in the New Testament where a final transformation, a “final reality of justice and judgment”, is in view. But for the sake of the historical integrity of the New Testament witness, I think we need to resist the temptation to read that peripheral vision back into every future-oriented statement.

I just can’t agree with the idea that the Hebrew bible (except Daniel) foreshadows anything having to do with an afterlife. The writings either ignore the subject altogether or explicitly state that the dead are unconscious. That’s why the position of conservative scholars in the first century was to deny an afterlife — because it was the long-term tradition of their religion.

What exactly are you disagreeing with here, Paul?

Actually, it was the prior post by Aaron that I meant to refer to.

Of which 1st Century “scholars” are you referring. It seems to me that it’s exactly the opposite.

It seemed to be agreed upon by “conservatives” that there was indeed an afterlife. In fact, by the 4th century that belief was canonized in the Nicene Creed (the 381 Constantinople version): “we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

I meant first-century conservative Jewish scholars, the Saducees.

Aaron, no doubt 300 years after Jesus walked the earth, the focus of the doctrine of the afterlife had changed. But that’s my point — that it changed over time. Not because God at some point revealed more to people (why would he hide it from his chosen people for 1000 years?), but because of changes in culture and in response to ideas cultivated by others.

What christians believe about the afterlife is based far more on the teachings of Plato than any Jewish/Christian figure, IMO.

paulf:

You're right in one sense but wrong in another. Throughout the Tanakh, there is a string of hope in the idea of the resurrection of the dead. The prophets told Israel to keep their eyes on it, that there will be more than just living and dying. It features pretty prominantly in Ezekiel (Valley of the Dry Bones) and its shadow is in Jonah (Hence Jesus says He will give no sign to the Pharisees but the Sign of Jonah).

The Saducees gave out hope for any such thing and allegorized it. The Pharisee however began to adopt hellinized ideas of the afterlife (eg. existence as a 'soul' separatable from the body, imperishable 'soul' etc.)[I'd argue our spirits find comfort in the hands of Jesus in death of the body until the Resurrection, but it's not existence in the sense of being a disembodied soul]. They expected the Resurrection but one can see the beginnings of their mutation of the idea towards something more greek and esoteric than a literal rising of the body (glorified or not).

The reason Christians preached the Resurrection was because Jesus was Resurrected. That was the firm foundation (“If Christ was not Resurrected, then our Faith is in vain”). He was the First Fruits, and then His own would rise, and then the Judgment. I hold onto the promise that all knees will bow and all tongues confess, that eventually all will repent and turn to God, but that is neither here nor there.

You're right God did not (and would not) just swing the idea out of the blue, but He fulfilled the shadow/type echoed through the pages of Scripture by the raising of His own Son. God Himself would lead the way, and take the keys of Death. Only He could initiate the Kingdom, and the beginnings of the Resurrection of the Dead (both Spiritually and Physically).

I also agree much of what is taught by Christians today is more Platonic than true to the Resurrection. However, Christ Jesus stands plainly on His rising from the dead, and there is no way around it!

If the wicked are (were) merely incinerated body & soul, why does Jesus many times (esp. in Matthew's gospel) refer to pain and suffering, and yet make no mention of there being an end to these, thereby at least implying their perpetuity?

Why does John say the smoke of the torment of the wicked ascends forever, and yet they are not being eternally burned?

Lastly, even granting the rich man & poor Lazarus example to be a parable, why is no end of the rich man's torment alluded to?

These graphic depictions from Christ and John appear to indicate the opposite of what you are advocating.

If God annihilates the bodies and souls of the unrighteous, why is no mention made of this in the New Testament?

'Destruction' *can* mean annihilation, but it can also mean an ongoing state of such, i.e. 'destroying.' The same with 'death,' which can mean an ongoing 'dying.'

In the Gospels incineration, I think, is a metaphor not for the universal judgment of the individual but for the judgment of AD 70 on Israel as a nation. That event caused immense “pain and suffering”. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus apart, is there there is any suggestion that this pain and suffering would be endless?

The passage from Revelation about the “smoke of their torment” I have discussed here. The apocalyptic language has to be carefully evaluated, but more importantly, everything points to the fact that this is specifically a judgment on Rome as the oppressor of the people of God. It is historically contextualized.

Why is there no end to the rich man’s torment? Well, if it’s a parable, is it necessarily a parable about the after life? is it actually intended as a statement about the conditions of the after life? The unending torment may make the point that the consequences of Israel’s unrighteousness are irremediable. It may just as well refer to the unending judgment on Jerusalem and the Jewish hierarchy and the unending blessing of the outcast community of those who trust in Jesus.

Why is there no mention of annihilation? Well, there is—the destruction of body and soul in gehenna, referring to the annihilation of a generation of Jews who rebel against YHWH; the lake of fire which is the second death. And as Paul says, the wages of sin is death.

Can you show that “destruction” and “death” clearly refer to ongoing states anywhere in scripture? Where does the Bible talk about an “ongoing dying” that happens after death?

But in the end, hugh, my view is that the central issue with this “hell” language is not the nature of the experience of judgment but the frame of reference. Almost all of the passages that are usually invoked seem to me to refer to moments of historical judgment (on Jerusalem and on Rome, against the Jew and against the Greek), not an absolute final judgment. That frame of reference must then determine how we interpret the apocalyptic or symbolic or parabolic details.

Just to supplement the other Andrew's previous answer:

Question: If the wicked are (were) merely incinerated body & soul, why does Jesus many times (esp. in Matthew's gospel) refer to pain and suffering, and yet make no mention of there being an end to these, thereby at least implying their perpetuity?

Answer: Where does Jesus say that the state of death is a state of pain and suffering, in Matthew or elsewhere? “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is a reaction to judgment, not the state of death. Read the verse carefully in a King James and note the grammar. Then look at the Psalm that Jesus was quoting:

Psa 112:10 KJV
(10) The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Words like “melt away' and “desire of the wicked shall perish” are the terms of annihilation, not preserveration.

* * *

Question: Why does John say the smoke of the torment of the wicked ascends forever, and yet they are not being eternally burned?

Answer: For the same reason that Isaiah describes the smoke of Idumea as burning with fire and brimstone and the smoke ascending for ever and ever… yet the fire burns out, because how else are the animals and the plants going to possess it?

Isa 34:8-11 KJV
(8) For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.
(9) And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.
(10) It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.
(11) But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.

In short, when smoke ascends for ever and ever, it is speaking of the height and volume of the smoke, not of a duration of infinite time. Watch a fire some time: weak smoke fades out in the sky, strong heavy smoke goes up “for ever” to the end of heaven. Otherwise there must be a fire out there still burning with asbestos ravens nesting in the middle of it.

* * *

Question: Lastly, even granting the rich man & poor Lazarus example to be a parable, why is no end of the rich man's torment alluded to?

Answer: Why would an end need to be alluded to? To begin with, the illustration used here is a Greek Hades, not the gehenna fire of judgment. This would be as as obvious to his audience that this was fictional as if I were to tell a joke about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

The story is not meant to overturn the rest of the plain scriptural teaching of the nature of death as “silence” and “darkness” and “being no more” and “knowing nothing.” The Greek Hades is used because you wouldn't have much of a story if the figures couldn't speak.

Parables are allowed to use figures without teaching them as doctrine. For example, in the parable of the trees in Judges 13 the trees speak and the briar can consume the other trees with fire. Even though some Pagans really do believe that trees are sentient, this parable is not meant to contradict scripture.

If you have seen this parable as a “doctrinal description of the state of death” then you may have missed a few important details. Here's a question for thought… what is the name of the rich man? Can you think of any famous Jews who had five brothers and who might be described as wearing purple and fine linen? What color is the blood of the grape? Might the Pharisees sympathize with this figure?

-Andrew

A correction to the above: the parable of the trees is in Judges 9, not Judges 13. But considering this, does this story prove that trees speak and elect kings?

Jdg 9:7-15 KJV
(7) And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
(8) The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
(9) But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
(10) And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
(11) But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
(12) Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
(13) And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
(14) Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
(15) And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Jotham does not begin by saying “This is a parable” and the narrative does not say “He began to speak in parable.” The lesson here is that the interpretation of a parable is never intended to contradict clear scripture. Thus, “Lazarus and the rich man” cannot contradict “the dead know not any thing” (Ecclessiastes 9:5), “there the wicked cease from troubling” (Job 3:17), or many like passages besides.

Ken

I attempted to follow your link but it came up with the message that the site is undergoing maintenance. I am interested in your acrticle. Is there any way you can send me a copy in the meantime? My email is wayministry[at]yahoo.co[dot]uk

Brian

I thought your position was well articulated. However I remain unconvinced due to a number of issues. For one you place much emphasis on the assumption that the Old and New Testament writers did not use words and concepts differently. This is a major flaw in your argument. The Old Testament was physically oriented, while the New Testament was spiritually oriented. The OT physical emphasis on the temple, priesthood, sacrifices, feasts, etc. Foreshadowed the NT spiritual realities of those things. Same words, different application. The physical temple verses the spiritual living temple - the Body of Christ.) Jesus illustrated this faulty paradigm superbly when He said, “tear down this temple and in three days I will raise it up…

The physical nation of Israel verse the NT Nation (He is not a Jew who is one outwardly…”) The 7 feasts are spiritually fulfilled in Christ (Christ our Passover, Christ the firstfruits, Pentecost, etc.) The New Testament priesthood of all believers. Most assuredly the Old and New Testament writers used the concepts and words differently. One was a physical type the other a spiritual anti-type reality.

You seem to be saying that God does judge people here on earth via violent and destructive events like wars, famines, and perhaps natural disasters. While I do not totally disagree, I am confused about the practical application of this in terms of “hell on earth” verses Hell after life.” I would raise three particular issues:

First, in wars, famines and natural disasters everyone is affected, not just in your words,”unrighteous and rebellious humanity,” So God’s judgement “spills over on the righteous.” If this was God’s only form of punishment for the wicked, it seems a bit lopsided.

Second, not every evil person is so naturally judged. I would assume that Hitler, many communist leaders and other dictators around the world through the ages often lived good and often spoiled lives (food, wine and women) until perhaps the end. To “incinerate” these people without real consequence of physical judgement after the untold suffering they caused would not seem to be justice in any way shape or form.

Third, you ade the statement, “For societies that defied the creator—at least as far as the Biblical narrative extends—judgment was likely to come, sooner or later, in the form of corporate destruction: famine, disease, war, slaughter, and the devastation of land and cities.” I am assuming that you are counting this as “hell on earth,” viable even in our day. If this is the case then you certainly go against the flow of most people who want to do away with a literal hell. For the most part the focus on the “God is a loving God,” issue. While I DO think God uses some natural things to invoke repentance in people and societies, it appears you are saying that when major disasters and wars happen that we are to assume that it is God’s judgement. When a fundamental Christian (I am not by the way) says this they are immediately ridiculed.

In the long run your position has several serious gaps that need clarification or better yet - adjusted.

Thanks for the comment, Steve. See the response here.

I fully agree with your historical horizons hermeneutics. Just as I find no grounds whatsoever for a Biblical atemporal God. But the waters of history are a little muddied in the Biblical worldview by the involvement of supernatural agents - the devil, angels that have had sex with women, angels, and - yes! - God. I don’t see any way to reconcile this supernaturalistic point of view with current understandings of natural laws and events. No hell in the Bible? Cool. But is there anything in the Bible that is not ancient literature? I don’t think so. Even if the Bible did teach a medieval doctrine of hell, it would make no difference to me today. So, maybe we should go a bit deeper than just trying to ascertain meanings in an ancient text.

Yes, that’s a whole other area. To some extent I am comfortable with fitting the supernatural elements in the Bible into a narrative-historical framework—the demons in the Gospels as a manifestation of Israel’s eschatological subjection to “satanic” forces, and then satan as a figure closely associated in apocalyptic thought with the hostility of Rome towards the people of God.

Equally today, whether we regard demonic phenomena as real or not, they may still be seen as “signs” of the oppression of humanity by evil. By the same token miraculous healings and “exorcisms”, whether we regard them as real or not, are “signs” of the ultimate victory of the good creator God over the evil that has corrupted the world. It seems to me important that we tell—through words and actions and prophetic drama—the story of a God who is always, in principle, more powerful than the evil that we see around us.

Indeed, thank God for Holywood :) I struggle with this every day - having to explain, even to my friends, why an agnostic like me spends so much time and energy on such topics as the meaning of the Levitical ritual.

Thank you for a very persuasive an helpful discussion of this subject.

I’d be interested to know whether any of the major early church fathers were aware of these three eschatological horizons.

If the authors of the NT were more preoccupied with the first two horizons than with the third, is there evidence that this was true of those who had sat at their feet.

I am no expert on historical theology but I have been led to believe the historical doctrine of ‘hell’ which the church has taught (and you think wrongly) was first taught by the church fathers.

Alan, that is a very good question, and not one I can really answer off the top of my head. My assumption is that in some way the move into the Hellenistic-European context slowly undermined the early church’s sense of being part of the Jewish, biblical narrative. The early church fathers may have sat at the feet of the New Testament authors, but I’m not sure they really understood where they were coming from. The Fathers were not greatly interested in the Jewish War, I guess because it was history. The clash with Rome was obviously much more important, though not necessarily conceived in the way I have suggested. And perhaps the third horizon only really becomes clear once we move beyond the Christendom period.

One quick observation…

The word geenna occurs only once in the Apostolic Fathers, in what is really a paraphrase of Jesus’ argument in Matthew 10:16-31 in 2 Clement. The small difference between the two texts may be significant:

For the Lord says, “You will be like lambs among wolves.” But Peter answered and said to him, “What if the wolves tear the lambs to pieces?” Jesus said to Peter, “After the lambs are dead, let them fear the wolves no longer, and as for you, do not fear those who, though they kill you, are not able to do anything else to you, but fear the one who, after you are dead, has the power to cast soul and body into the flames of hell (geennan puros).” (2 Clem. 5:2-4)

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (geennēi). (Matt. 10:28)

Clement emphasizes the fact that soul and body are thrown into the “Gehenna of fire” after death; he also does not speak of the destruction of soul and body, leaving open the possibility that of conscious torment.

The next statement also suggests a rather different Hellenized perspective:

Moreover you know, brothers and sisters, that our stay in this world of the flesh is insignificant and transitory, but the promise of Christ is great and marvelous: rest in the coming kingdom and eternal life! (2 Clem. 5:5)

This is a fantasic article. Do you mind if I use it on my blog?

Thanks,

Jackson

Be my guest, as long as you link back to the source.

I think I’m essentially in agreement with you. Very well-written post. I’m going to print it out and study through it as time permits. Thanks.

Hi

Loved this article. How can I purchase a hard copy of your book?

I live in the UK and I do not possess a Kindle. Cannot afford one —am a poor pensioner!

Brian

Sorry, Brian, there is currently no hard copy of the book available. Not sure what to suggest. I could publish it myself as a book, but I’m not sure how many people would be interested.

Thanks Andrew, I do understand.

Then because I do not have access to your full article please would you help me with a question I have.

I am trying to ge to grips with what the Bible really does teach about hell and it is hell trying to get the right answer. I certainly do not believe in everlasting conscious torment but I am perplexed on the question of Sheol.

Why is its that some Christians do not believe Sheol (or Hades LXX) in the Old Testament times was not the abode of the soul or spirit? I am not saying I am right but I get the distinct impression for the scripture that Sheol is the place of the soul or spirit and the grave is the place of the body.

This distinction is manifest in the language of the OT. Even in the NT there is the same distinction. For example, in the final judgment, both the GRAVE and HADES will deliver up the dead.

Revelation 20:13, “Death, (the grave, the abode of the body) and hell (Hades, (the abode of the spirit(?) delivered up the dead which were in them.”

This distinguishes between the two, seems to show that Sheol or Hades is not the grave.

Christ has the keys of both.

Revelation 1:18: “Behold I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell (Hades, the abode of the spirits) and of death (grave, the abode of bodies.)” This again shows that Hades is not the grave.

Christ’s SOUL was not left in Hades neither was His BODY left in the TOMB (Acts 2:27).

Here again the grave is clearly distinguished from Hades the abode of departed spirits, which seems to show that Hades is not the grave.

But back to the OT.

When Jacob’s twelve sons sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery, they deceived their father Jacob by bringing to him Joseph’s blood-stained coat, making him think that a “wild beast” had devoured Joseph (Genesis 37:35). Jacob’s sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he would not be comforted, and said, “I will go down into the ‘GRAVE’ unto my son mourning.” The original word in the Hebrew where this word is rendered “grave” is SHEOL. It is argued that this word is SHEOL and not grave – the place of bodies, but the place of departed spirits. There seems to be good evidence for this from what Jacob thought and said. We can see that he did not intend to go into the “grave” or tomb to meet his son Joseph, but into the abode of the departed spirits since we know that Jacob did not believe that Joseph was in the grave, for he believed that a “wild beast” had devoured him (Verse 33) – it would have been impossible for Jacob to go to the grave to meet Joseph if a wild beast had devoured him. But then where did he really intend to meet him if not but in some place or abode where the spirits of the departed dead are gathered? Again, the following account of Jacob’s death sets forth the same argument: Jacob is said to have been gathered unto his people at the moment of death (Genesis 49:33), though his body was not buried with the bodies of his ancestors till months afterward.

“And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.”

Jacob died in Goshen in Egypt, but was buried in the land of Canaan. They were forty days embalming the body, and the mourning in Egypt continued thirty days longer. Joseph then obtained permission of Pharaoh to go and bury his father (Genesis 50:10), so that at least eighty days elapsed between the gathering unto his people, and the burial of the body in the cave of Machpelah in Canaan. Jacob was “gathered unto his people” at the time of his death, by the departure of his SOUL to the souls of Isaac, his father, and his grandfather Abraham. It is certain that his BODY was not then gathered to his people, at the time he expired, nor till seven weeks later, therefore his gathering to his people could not have been to their bodies in the graves, but to the place where they were in their disembodied state.

Consequently, it is argued (in most articles I read) that the body goes to ghe frave but the spirits, go to Hades (Gk) / Sheol (Heb). Sheol for OT saints then was the place where departed souls went and waited until the Cross when they were released from Sheol and went to Heaven.

Is this view unbiblical? If so how do you answer the argument I have presented here?

Bryan,

You stated, “Revelation 20:13, “Death, (the grave, the abode of the body) and hell (Hades, (the abode of the spirit(?) delivered up the dead which were in them.”

Your assumption that “Death” is the physical grave (the abode of the body), is part of your error. Death here is not a reference to the grave. It is a refernce to Israel, those dead in the Body of Adam, which are still physically alive. Of cousre that is the short answer. It takes much exegetical study (which obviously I can’t due here and now) of the Scriptures to understand “the dead” (as in all the references in 1 Cor. 15 too) as being a reference to Israel (corporately).

How about the “sea”? How do you account for that? That is a source from which dead ones come out of too?

-Rich

Hi

First of all my name is Brian not Bryan

Second, as someone completely new to Preterism I simply asked a question and you failed to answer it other than to imperiously tell me I am in “error” Well, the onus is on you to demonstrate why scripturally the “dead” is Israel. Until you do so my definition is just as valid as yours!

Brian

Brian,


Sorry about misspelling your name. Not sure why you are reacting as you are, but, oh well.

First, I didn’t just imperiously tell you that you were in error, as if I didn’t also provide the “why”. What I didn’t do was provide the exegesis for the “why” true, but there are reason for that. I meant to giving you something to consider. You don’t expect a person to demonstrate something as complex and the NT’s reference to Israel as “the dead” or “dead ones” in a simple blog post, do you? I mean, heck, I guess Andrew shouldn’t have written an entire book to explain/demonstrate the simple truth that Hell is unbiblical. He should have merely posted one simple blog entry. :)

Secondly, you did not ask a “simple” question. So, I merely attempted to point out one simple error (of many) you had made in your exegesis, which is part of the problem driving your confusion prompting your to ask Andrew your question in the first place. In order to answer your question fully, the many errors would have to be dealt with first, which are complex as well. I don’t think this medium is up to handling such a task. So, I figured I would simply give you something to consider. A way to fix one error that would maybe set you on a path of investigation, which in turn, might lead you to a better understanding. Plus, I assumed Andrew would respond too and provide a bit more information concerning your question.


You still need to account for dead ones coming out from among the “sea”, which you completely ignored in your presentation of your position. That alone should point out to you that your “definition” is in trouble. So, whether I demonstrate why scripturally the “dead” is Israel or not, yours is already invalid, unless you can account for those in the “sea”. On top of that you define those in “Death” as merely their physical bodies. Curious why God would rise up physical bodies, which I assume are then rejoined to their spirit/soul coming out from Hades, and then turn right around and toss the combined unit into the “lake of fire”. Would it not make more sense to simply rise up the soul and then throw it into the lake? Not to mention the “lake of fire” is a spiritual reality/“place” to which a “physical” body can’t even enter into.


I could recommend some good books to you, but, based on your reaction, I have the feeling it would be a waste of time. If you wish to remain where you are so be it.

Again, sorry for misspelling your name.

Hi Rich

Thanks for your apology

When I read your first reply I said to myself Sorry I asked! I just wanted to know something, not get my rear kicked for saying the worng thing.

As it happens I have no opinion on hell at present other than as I said I do not accept eternal concious torment.

“You don’t expect a person to demonstrate something as complex and the NT’s reference to Israel as “the dead” or “dead ones” in a simple blog post, do you?” How should I know? And, if it is as complext as you say, why is it so hard for you not to give me a short explanatory paragraph the details of which I can then unpack? But never mind…

As for the book titles I would welcome them. I am especially interested in understanding the lake of fire since that is what I am being threatened with everywhere I turn.

Brian

Brian,

After reading my post, I think I could have done a better job of wording. It did sound a bit strong. I didn’t intend it as such.

Concerning books. While the books I had in mind aren’t on the topic of Hell, they are on Preterism (was thinking more of understanding Israel in her proper context, and being referred to as “the dead” in the NT). As you probably are starting to see from Andrews various post, when you put these “Hell” passages into their historical context, which Preterism kind of opens your eyes to see, then their true message starts popping out at you. So, the understanding of “Hell”, or the lack thereof, comes from having a correct understanding of Scriptures in it 1st century historical context. In other words, “Hell” (the truth about it) is a by-product of sorts.

“why is it so hard for you not to give me a short explanatory paragraph the details of which I can then unpack”

Because its not so easy. There are too many passages and contexts to deal with. Take Hell. Sure, I could sum it up and say the NT’s references to hell are really just the physical place where the dead bodies in Jerusalem were thrown during the war, but to actually show you that would take a book. If you would like a book that details Preterism to the nth degree, and also presents, as a side topic, Israel as referred to as “the dead” in the NT, I would recommend Max King’s book The Cross and the Parousia of Christ. I warn you though. It’s like 750 pages (with 184 of them on the Resurrection as a commentary on 1 Cor. 15) , but is covers just about every question you could possible ask about Preterism. There are points I disagree with here and there but that is because I am a Covenant Creationist. As such I understand Genesis as the creation of Israel’s Covenant World (the same one that ends in Revelation to be replaced by her New Heaven and Earth which we dwell in now via Christ) not the creation of the physical universe. I also understand that Adam was not the first human being to exist, but the first to be brought out from among mankind and put in a Covenant relationship with God (the starting of His plan to bring life to all mankind). It was through Adam that the Covenant line was established to which the second Adam would eventually come. This is why Paul could state concerning the Gentile in Ephesians 2:12 “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”. God’s Covenant was established with Adam and his descendents, yet Paul is clear the Gentiles were strangers to the Covenants of promise and had no hope. If Adam were their corporate head too, then the Gentile would have had the same hope as Israel. After all, God’s first promise of hope is in Genesis 3:15. Of course a book could be written to present this thoroughly (See Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin for a good start). Max, on the other hand, works from the traditional understanding of Adam as the first human to ever exist so some of his points stem from that position. With that difference, it’s still my favorite book of all time. He does have a good starter book for a good introduction to Preterism you might like to start with. It was actually his first book prior to writing The Parousia of Christ. It’s called The Spirit of Prophecy.

Anyway, getting way off track. Concerning help on Hell, I would recommend Andrew’s book to tell you the truth. While I disagree with portions of it, his handling of the Hell passages are right on. Another great resource on Hell is The Fire that Consumes by Edward Fudge. That’s a classic.

if you would like to listen to a great presentation on Adam as the first Covenant man you can download both the powerpoint presentation and the audio from last years Covenant Creation conference by Jerel Kratt here.

And other great info on Covenant Creation below.

http://deathisdefeated.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-covenant-creation-archive

-Rich

Hi Rich

I am indebted to you brother for the comprehensive guidelines and information you have sent me. I will certainly be pursuing it with interest. Ironically, I have ended up with more guidance than if I had not misunderstood you. :) So God brought something good out of this exchange.

What you have said about covenant creation is a completely new idea to me and surely has important ramifications for how I am to read scripture as compared to the way I have for the last 40 years. Like you, I have come to believe that Adam was not the first man to be created and that the story of Eden is set within an already populated world (hence the land of Nod!)

Indeed, I have evaluated a theory that there might be two creation accounts in Genesis but the evidence was inconclusive.

I have of course through my recent introduction to Preterism come to an understanding of NT scriptures in it 1st century historical context and especially the use of imagery and metaphors that Jesus borrowed from the OT prophets. At this time of writing I am deep into The Parousia A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of our Lord’s Second
Coming, by James Stuart Russell. It is mind blowing.

Naturally my understanding of “hell” is going to radically changeas a consequence and knowing that it does not mean hell as held by traditionalists has been more than liberating. My initial question was in the context of considering whether OT saints waited in Sheol until the Cross. But, presumably, that is not so if Sheol is just another word for grave and there is no separation of soul or spirit from the body at death. As a fromer SDA (33 years) I believed in “soul sleep”.

Thanks again for your help, it was kind of you to take so much time.

Brian

Hi Richt

The link you gave me was not accessible but I have just read an article The Language of Creation from Genesis to Revelation and it is clear that what appears to be physical imagery in all scripture from Genesis to Revelation is actually a metaphor for spiritual realities. It’s an amazing truth and will necessitate a huge paradigm shift in my thinking since I now “see” how “blind” I was to this truth! I think the tree of life example is an excellent deminstration of this concept. But, inevitably, I have a question. It seems to me that the same covenantal metaphors in Genesis nonetheless did have a literal fulfillment in the physical world in which Adam and Eve lived. The woman literally had pain in child birth. Man literally had to eke an existence from the ground in the sweat of his brow, etc. In other words the earth IS LITERALLY cursed. So, my question is this. If all the covenantal promises have now been fulfilled in Christ how do I account for the irrefutable fact that the earth is still under a literal curse? Is the preterist view that the earth will literally remain cursed forever? If so, why is the curse not lifted? I was taught that there would be a literal lifting of the curse upon the world in which he lives. Wasn’t that what the crown of thorns Jesus bore on his brow symbolised?

Now I am aware that this is probably not the place to deal with this question. So, if you wish please contact me at wayministry[at]yahoo.co[dot]uk

Peace

Brian

Oops! Rich not Richt :)

Brian,

Ah, yes Tami’s presentation. Excellent stuff. She, along with Tim Martin, Jeff Vaughan, Jerel Kratt, Norm Voss and others, are doing some great study and work on the Creation language used from Genesis to Revelation, and it’s relationship to Covenant, not the material.

Thanks for your email address. I will contact you shortly. Funny, I just completed a large reply to you that I was going to post here explaining Rev’s “Death”, “Hades”, and “sea” and their relation to the two corporate men (Adam, and the Gentile man) in the Scriptures and their relationship to Genesis, but will not now. I’ll email it to you.

Concering your questions about the curse etc. The questions you have are normal. Because our modern worldview causes us to read things in a material sense, we naturally see and think in physical terms. Thus, we have today’s complete breakdown of what the Scriptures teach; both in Genesis and Revelation. This propensity for the material is what keeps people like N.T. Wright hopelessly confused in their eschatology, protology and the nature of the Kingdom of God. Because they read material creation in at one end they have to read material into decreation at the other. They are only being consistent. Too bad he’s wrong at both ends. The beginning is covenantal and the end was covenantal. Wish Andrew didn’t waste his time reading his writtings and would read things like Tim Martin’s book Beyond Creation Science. With Andrew’s great mind he would certainly make some great contributions and break throught to the Genesis debate.

Anyway, looking forward to interacting with you via email.

-Rich

Thanks Andrew I will follow the link through.

Brian

Hey Andrew,

So I’ve mostly bought into your paradigm for reading the New Testament, and its mostly this article that got me started (that and three years Hebrew Bible college classes).

I’m curious, though, about the history of this contention: “Gehenna is a shorthand for the coming judgment of the nation of Israel at the hand of Roman armies, rather than the state of conscious souls after death.”

I’m not asking this to challenge you, but simply because I don’t know where else I’d go to find this out: who is the earliest recorded reader of the New Testament you know of to advocate such a view? I’m not saying a need to see a good pedigree to buy the idea, but it would help.

A very good question, Mitchell. Answered to the best of my knowledge here.

Well Tim Challies has finished his series with the following comment:

“We began this series by asking, “Does hell exist? Is it a place of eternal, conscious torment?” To ask whether hell exists is to ask if God is truly holy, if he will truly be holy in the face of sin. We find that God will be holy, which means he will be just, which means he will punish sin, which means there is a hell and it is a place of his wrath. It must be.”

and

If there is no hell, there is no need for a cross.

I would have thought that God dealt with sin at the tree. Those in Christ are the new creation sons and daughters of the second Adam as it were.

The question of no hell-no cross is a furphy. The cross was needed to buy back a people for himself. I wonder about the lack of words by Jesus Himself wrt the prupose of the cross in saving people from ‘hell’.

Did not Adam die as a result of sin? Where in the old testament do we see the need for Adam to suffer a second death?

10. Hell isn’t all that Biblical………………

Anything to add peter?????

I’m hedging my bets, just in case.

You’ve now lost me!!?? Sounds like nonsense. You are very definite on so many subjects theolocial and yet you equivocate on this doctrine??

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