Friday, 6 May 2016

What Would You Think?

What would you think if I told you I keep a dog chained up in my basement? I feed him and keep him alive, but every day I go down and burn him with a hot poker. What would be your opinion on what kind of person I am?

Yet, most Christians believe God does that  to human beings in a place they call Hell.

I wonder how many atheists are atheists because of this doctrine?  Why would anyone want to worship or love a being who would do that to an animal, never mind people. But when I tell people I don't believe in a hell like this, most Christians are deeply offended. As if this belief is a cherished one!

I was raised in a church that taught us death is a sleep until either Jesus resurrects us and takes us to heaven, or a sleep until Jesus raises us for the judgement and we will be told why we are lost. This is a teaching from the Bible I can live with and then love and admire God for his wisdom and mercy.

I have read the teaching of eternal torment in hell originated with the Greeks. Christians adopted it around 200 years after Jesus went back to heaven. Augustine taught this and it was incorporated into the Catholic Church. They later added Purgatory as a stop-off place to be purged of your sins. You could pray or buy your relatives out of purgatory.

So, that is the history of an eternal  hell of torment for the wicked. There are a very few verses in the Bible where people could get this teaching, but the vast majority of verses in the Bible about death call it a sleep or unconscious state.

And do those who love God go straight to heaven when they die? No, they also sleep. Jesus himself called death a sleep. Before he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said to his friends, "I go to wake him out of his sleep." The disciples argued that if Lazarus was sleeping he would recover. But Jesus then said plainly, "Lazarus is dead."  John 11.

Now, Jesus didn't say, "Lazarus has died, gone to heaven, and I'm going to call him back from heaven." No, because Lazarus wasn't in heaven. The Bible says when Jesus died, many of the saints were raised. They went around Jerusalem telling the people about Jesus. The Bible doesn't tell us who these people were; it just says they were raised from the dead. It doesn't say they came back from heaven and walked around. "The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Matthew 27:52,53 Perhaps John the Baptist was in that group. People would have recognized him!

When Jairus' daughter died, Jesus called it a sleep. "And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” Mark 5:39

"Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death..." Psalm 13:3

"You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew."  Psalm 90:5

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14

"He died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him." 1 Thess. 5:10

God said, "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom." 2 Samuel 7:12

"Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death..." Psalm 13:3

"But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" Jude 1:9
Moses was raised with his body. His "spirit" didn't fly up to heaven. God raises the dead when he wants to and who he wants to. Moses was probably raised before many other people but most will be raised when Jesus comes back.

As for the word, "eternal" or "forever" in the Bible, it does not mean what we think it means. There are many sites that explain this. I've put one of them below. The "everlasting" fire of hell means, "until it is done." If you google this topic you can read what other scholars say about it.

Well, I could tackle the few verses that seem to say hell is a place of torment without end and what Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man meant, but I'd have to write a book. I'll just add a few more verses and ask you to have an open mind and study this topic for yourself if you are interested.

"You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts." Malachi 4:3

"... he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Rev. 14:10

The wicked will be destroyed at the judgement day in front of God and the angels - not in some pit somewhere underground.

Speaking of his judgement on the nations, God says "It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will go up forever. From generation to generation it will be desolate; None will pass through it forever and ever." Isaiah 34: 10  

But the world will not burn forever - in our idea of what forever means, because God says in Revelation that one day this earth will be the home of the City of God - the Holy City will come down here from heaven. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the angels will live among us, therefore the world cannot be on fire forever.