Misunderstanding Original Sin

Some of the blogs I read each week have been talking about Calvinism or original sin / total depravity and the explanation of sin from either a Calvinist view point or an Arminian viewpoint.  It is interesting and informative to listen to the discussions and see the justification for their views.  I want to take a few lines to explain my view and where I came from, which unfortunately for some of you, precludes an Arminian view at this time.  I most recently had considered myself a Baptist who believed in reformed theology.  That means that I believed in the TULIP, of which the first tenet is total depravity.  Now, I am not totally decided against total depravity in one sense, but I am against it the way most reformed people believe it today.  Most believe it today to mean that any human born after Adam is totally depraved, meaning they cannot do anything that pleases God and all their thoughts and intents are sinful in one way or another.  That is not a direct quote from any reformed theologian but merely my synopsis of their beliefs.  If I am wrong in that, I am sure someone will tell me!

This seems very untenable to many (especially Arminians!) because they look around and see that not everyone is out murdering or torturing their neighbors and others!  What I believe is that both groups are talking past each other for the most part.  Calvinists say that everyone is not as bad as they can be at all times, but they are capable of being as bad as they can be at any time.  Others believe people are good and fall into sin sometimes, but are in no way TOTALLY DEPRAVED.  I believe that all people born after Adam have the stain and capability of sin and, given enough time in this life, will sin.  This means, for me, that people are capable of being good and doing good because, although stained with sin, they bear the express image of God by virtue of being created by Him.  But, because they also have this sinful bent inherited from Adam, that we can sin, we will sin, and we will need a way to deal with that sin that pleases God, satisfies His requirement for justice, and exerts His loving influence always.  I realize that the reformed will throw into the equation that none can please God, none seek Him, none do good except they be the elect saved ones.  But, I think there is or can be some common ground and that we need to move in that direction.  Can only the elect do good?

Is that really true?  Think about it.  Jesus tells us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  When the lost, the unsaved, love people, are they not also pleasing God by following His commands, even though they don’t realize they are doing so?  Does God ONLY look upon the love the elect have for others as good and not the love the unsaved have as good also?  Come on!  Be real and think about it.  If God really hated the unsaved as much as many Calvinists say He does, why does He / would He send the rain on the unjust as well?  I guess, according to Calvinists, I don’t believe in total depravity, but I haven’t thrown away original sin, nor the fact that sin needs to be dealt with in God’s way, and that God is still more loving than we can ever imagine.  What kind of God do you serve?  What do you believe about original sin?  What else do I need to take into account?  Let me know what you think!

In Christ’s endless love!

Craig

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Does Your Doctrine Help You Obey Christ?

I have been thinking about this question for the last two years or so.  I have written a little about how (or maybe simply that) my doctrine has changed since I became a Christian in 1991.  I started out believing in Arminian theology (though I had no idea what that even meant for many years!) and held that view for about 12 years or so.  Then, as I began to be faced with more and more complex biblical counseling issues and having to give answers from the Bible about how to deal with these issues, I realized that psychology was not the answer since it did not depend on the Word.  I then realized that most Arminian theology (for lack of a better way to put it, mainstream Christianity, at least around me for many years) bought into “Christian” psychology for the most part and whenever I asked my Arminian brothers and other pastors of the same belief system, they all (except one!) said to leave counseling to the professionals, meaning to psychologists or psychiatrists, whether Christian or not.  This was not an option for me!

So, as I asked around, one pastor I served with told me to check into the biblical counseling movement and the Biblical Counseling Center in Arlington Heights, IL (I believe this is correct!).  Well this was an hours’ drive north from where we lived so off I went.  To make a long story short, through much study, research, and reading thousands of pages and 50+ books (biblical counseling books which then led directly to books on reformed theology or Calvinism), I began to believe in reformed theology or Calvinism.  I spent the next 10 or so years studying  that doctrine and feeling assured I had finally unlocked the keys yo the biblical text!  But, through all of this, there was still a few nagging questions that no one could answer to my satisfaction and it bugged me to no end.  One question was:  What really is the Gospel, what is the minimum that one must believe/do to be saved?  Another was:  What do I have to obey in the Bible, or what is obedience and what does it look like?

Then, the question in the title of this post came into play a few years ago as my theology was once again being re-formed (not reformed, get it?).  I have for so many years now believed that the height of Christianity was having and holding to right doctrine and that there was no more important thing for a Christian to be concerned about.  That is why it was hard for me to relate to a “feel-good Gospel,” or a more feelings-based faith system.  It was to subjective in my estimation, and I wanted as much objectivity as possible because that was the way to “real” truth.  So, in my mind, and as near as I can tell, the minds of most of those I hung with, right doctrine was the ONLY way to obey Christ!  Right doctrine was the only path that lead to total obedience to all that Christ commanded.

But today, I ask this question, and really do expect replies from those Arminians or Calvinists who would try to explain to me how holding their doctrine (Arminianism or Calvinism,  synergism or monergism) can help me obey Christ.  Let me help you to understand where I am at and where I am coming from now.  Please explain to me how your doctrine will help me practice loving my neighbor more, my family more, and God more?  How will it help me be more kind to people?  How will doctrine help me not kill someone?  How will it keep me from being selfish or help me to have more self-control?  Let me get to my point, in case you are missing it.  Does right doctrine ACTUALLY do anything for me to make me more like Christ?  Or, as I read the plain words of Christ, can I merely choose to obey and become more like Him?  If I read in Jesus’ teachings to love my neighbor as I love myself, can I merely look at the ways I love myself and then love my neighbor in ways like that?  Or, do I need to study doctrine more to “cause” me to love my neighbor more?

My belief is that right doctrine may make me feel better about my relationship to God and help me understand the Bible better, but it will NEVER help me obey Christ!  The only thing that will help me obey Christ is actually OBEYING  Christ.  In other words, when Christ says don’t steal, but work for what I need, that is what I do.  I do not need to make sure I understand the kenosis, or the hupostatic union (hypo static if it makes you feel better!) or how the church is to be united.  I must simply obey.  I must go and do what is commanded, not hold a conference on Calvinism/Arminianism and then debate my detractors to prove how wrong they are.  No, I need to love Christ enough to, like a little child, go and obey what He says.

This got longer than I intended, but truly, I welcome your comments and if you have them, answers to the question(s) posed here today.  I especially put out the challenge to the Calvinists or Arminians who may be reading this blog (I know you are out there!) to not be shy.  Jump in here and let me know what you think.  If you truly care about others who have different views than you and are your brothers/sisters int eh Lord, you will be concerned that we know, I know, where I am going astray or where I am correct and need to press on and help others with my knowledge.  Silence speaks volumes, you know what I mean?

Anyway, blessings to you in Christ our Lord!

Craig

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Why Didn’t God Tell Adam and Eve About Hell?

I was discussing some biblical things last night with my youngest daughter and I told her one of the turning points in my beliefs about God and the outcome of man was this one:  If hell is eternal conscious torment forever (I know tat is redundant!), and it is the most horrible outcome that a person could suffer, why didn’t God tell Adam and Eve about it?  All we have recorded on this important topic of what would happen if they sinned was that in the day they sinned they would surely die.  Not one word about hell.  We have a few words about the pain they would suffer in this life and the fact that they would one day die physically, but not one word on hell.  Curious, isn’t it?

If you answer that in the Old Testament everyone who died went to Gehenna, or Abraham’s bosom, a kind of holding place or, if you will, a kind of purgatory, (not the Catholic one where people are waiting to progress into a better state due to prayers and giving of their still alive loved ones) why didn’t God command the New Testament authors to include hell as part of their preaching of the Gospel.  I have heard preachers say that the Good News (of the Gospel) can’t be good unless there is also some bad news for those who refuse the good.  Not one of the sermons by the Apostles nor any of the recorded disciples in the New Testament ever warn us about hell for those who do not accept the Gospel of Christ.

Yes, I know the hell-teachers of today will quote many verses that they support the teaching of eternal conscious torment ( I have addressed many if not all of them in my book review series that is still incomplete, Hell Under Fire on this blog).  However, why don’t they ever offer some explanation of why we teach the “turn or burn” Gospel today?  Why did that come up and where did it begin (hint:  go back to the days of Augustine, because I think we have him to thank for it, though it was not really taught before him, and yes, the soon-to-be Roman Catholic church took his teachings and ran with them for awhile)?  For awhile I thought pretty highly of Augustine, especially when I was so steeped in more traditional reformed theology.  However,  after re-considering who Augustine was, looking over seminary notes on church history and reading many other church history works, Augustine was not, and is not, someone we want to hang our theology on!  I encourage you to read about his life and decide for yourself if it was wise historically to put so much trust in his teaching.

Anyway, just wanted to give you some food for thought on this Monday morning.  Have a blessed day and remember, we are free in Christ to relish the grace given to us and to give it out super-abundantly to others.  For you believers, the summary of our lives in Christ is this; we confess Jesus is Lord, we love God with all our being, and we love our neighbor as ourselves (as we want to be loved).  Much more than that is typically legalism run amok!

Blessings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Craig

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The words of Jesus are spirit and life

Jesus states in John 6:63 that His words that He spoke are spirit and life.  This was said after a rather lengthy explanation that He and the Father are essentially one.  Jesus explains that He is the bread of life and was sent by the Father to come and save mankind.  He explained this “bread” metaphor in several ways; well, you can easily read the text for yourself.

So, here is my point for posting this information.  Can your understanding of God’s Word (aka Jesus) pass what some have called the meditation test?  Here is what I mean.  Jesus’ words, true words from God, will give life and hope to its hearers.  God’s word (Jesus being the Logos and giving the Spirit to all mankind to lead into all truth) will build our trust in Him, and in our Lord Jesus Christ.  They will build our hope, increasing our love for Him and giving us a more full understanding of His plan to love all His creation.

Does your understanding of the Gospel do this?  Does your understanding of God’s judgments give you this?  Can you truly love God more through your understanding or belief in eternal conscious torment for those who “fail to believe in Jesus during this short life?”  As you meditate on your understanding of “hell,” does your love for God grow?  Does your faith in God grow?  Ask yourself this final question:  Why would the Spirit communicate a truth that only undermines or diminishes your trust in God and your love towards Him as you meditate on it (the concept or understanding of eternal conscious torment in hell)?

Please share with me how you deal with this situation/these questions.  May God illuminate in you His eternal truth of the Good News of Jesus which is the salvation of all His creation!

Love in Christ,

Craig

 

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Think Deeply About the Following Quote

I am posting a quote here that really stood me up and caused me to stop and think deeply about the ramifications of the thought, and especially how many non-Christians view God.  I exhort you to really think about what is being said about God in this quote and to also consider the basic tenets of Christian/Evangelical Universalism.  If you do not know what that belief system is, comment and I will respond personally to you.  Also, if you would like the info on the quote, who posted it and where, send me a comment and I will post that info here.  Here is the quote:

 

“I love you so much.  Let me save you from what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me save you.”

 

I look forward to your comments.  I especially challenge those of you who have commented on this blog and support hell as eternal conscious torment to respond and give me your explanation/defense of this attitude.  Blessings to you!

Craig

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Hallelujah in Hell Video by Peter Hiett

I watched this video today and found myself very emotional over it.  What do you think of this proposal?  Please watch with an open mind and with the thought of what God’s love can do to even the hardest of hearts.  Let me know what you think.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let’s talk!

 

 

 

 

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Food For Thought

Over the last 20-plus years as a believer in Christ, I have “followed” many big name Christians and their theology.  I can remember listening to Charles Stanley and Chuck Swindoll, early on.  I remember James Dobson was a favorite.  As time went on, after personal investigation, without any outside influence, I began expanding my reading through questions I had with biblical text.  My movement found me looking into biblical counseling and toward reformed theology, a.k.a. the doctrines of grace.  This put me onto such famous leaders as John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and others that they conference with regularly.  I acquired and read many books on reformed theology and eventually to pursing and achieving my MDiv (Master of Divinity) from the SBTS (Southern Baptist  Theological Seminary).

What is my point to all of this?  If I was around in Jesus’ day, I would most likely have been hanging around or following after the likes of the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees.  If a little after Jesus’ day, the likes of Saul (who became converted and had a name change to Paul) and his followers.  I would have hung on most words they spoke and been vulnerable to their doctrinal beliefs, even at times, without researching for myself.  These were the same leaders who stood in front of Jesus and told Him and His disciples that Jesus did miracles by the power of Satan.  These are the same ones who railed against Him for feeding hungry people on the Sabbath by telling them to grab grain from the field and eat.  These were the same ones who eventually took hold of Jesus and had Him flogged and crucified.

Again, what is the point?  The point is, without seeking God’s truth and following it wherever it leads, I would have been stuck with pedigrees of “great” theologians (like the leaders of Jesus’ days and the leaders of the modern church today).  I would have stood in the greatest of company, just like Saul (Paul) and sung the party tune.  However, would I have been truly following God and seeking His face or would I have been seeking other glory for myself?

My food for thought is this:  Was I (or am I still), are you, walking as blindly as the leaders of the Temple/synagogue of Jesus’ day?  Was I (or am I still), are you, blinded by modern day preachers and theologians view of scripture, just as the followers of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day?  Do I/you need to step back and look afresh at scripture without rose-colored glasses on (through denominational traditions and teachings)?  Will I/you commit to re-reading the Word of God, the Bible, with as few presuppositions and outside influence as possible and follow God’s truth wherever it leads?  My commitment from day one as a new believer in January 1992 was to follow God’s truth wherever it would lead me and to submit to it as best I knew how.  I have faltered in many ways in that endeavor, but my hearts’ motivation is still that:  to seek God where He may be found and serve Him and His truth as best I can, even if it meant to lose my family, my possessions, my standing/job, and my life.

I encourage you to join that journey and truly investigate Jesus through His teachings.  After all, He is the Word of God made flesh.  I believe that the truth of God and His plan for us is wrapped up into the same the belief the ealry Christians held, that of universal salvation for all mankind.  No one will escape God’s judgment, but better still, no one will escape His love either!  Chew on this food for awhile and if I can point you to His truth, I would be honored and privileged to do so.

May you truly seek His love and truth and may you be won over this day by God’s unending love for you!  Repent and believe today that it may go well for you during this life and spare you some harsher judgment in the life to come.  Blessings to you!

Craig

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From Tentmaker.org – Honest Questions and Answers About Hell

I have so much information from various sources on Christian Universalism and wanted to share some with you, some you may not venture off to get yourselves, but may help you understand more of why I believe what I believe today.  This is a post found at Tentmaker.org run by Gary Amirault.

 
Honest Questions and Answers about Hell

By Mercy Aiken and Gary Amirault

(My note:  You may find this article at the following address: http://www.tentmaker.org/ifhellisreal.htm )

The case against Hell: Did you know that there is a solid scriptural case to be made against the idea of Hell? Many non-Christians have rejected the concept of Hell, but it may come as a surprise to learn that there is a growing number of Bible-believing Christians who also reject the notion—not in spite of Scripture but because of it! This short study is meant only to raise some questions and provide brief answers. For further study, please refer to the links at the end of the article.

An open and unbiased study of the Bible, including many key Greek and Hebrew words as well as Church history will reveal some surprising things.

For instance, did you know that……..

“Hell” Is Not an Old Testament doctrine:

Popular myth: Hell is an established Biblical doctrine that is in the Bible from start to finish. This is not true! Two thirds of the Bible (the Old Testament) do not mention Hell at all. (“Sheol,” the Old Testament word that is sometimes translated as Hell, only means “grave” by definition, and it is where everyone in the Old Testament went when they died–good or evil, Jew or Gentile). Thus the Old Testament does not contain the concept of Hell!

Think about it………
If Hell is real, why didn’t God make that warning plain right at the beginning of the Bible? God said the penalty for eating of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was death–not “eternal life” in fire and brimstone.

If Hell is real, why wasn’t Cain warned about it, or Sodom and Gomorrah, or any of those who committed the earliest recorded “sins?”

If Hell is real why didn’t Moses warn about this fate in the Ten Commandments or the Mosaic Covenant consisting of over 600 laws, ordinances, and warnings? The Mosaic Law simply stated blessings and cursings in this lifetime.

If Hell is real, why are its roots in paganism, rather than the Bible? Many nations surrounding Israel in the OldTestament believed in Hell-like punishment in the afterlife, for they served bloodthirsty and evil “gods,” while Israel simply taught the grave (sheol) and a hope of a resurrection. If Hell is real, why was the revelation of it first given to pagan nations, instead of God’s covenant people? Did God expect Israel to learn about the afterlife from the Pagan Gentiles? If so, why did He repeatedly warn Israel to not learn of thier ways?

If Hell is real, why did God tell the Jews that burning their children alive in the fire to the false god Molech, (in thevalley of Gehenna) was so detestable to Him? God said that such a thing “never even entered His mind” (Jer. 32:35). How could God say such a thing to Israel, if He has plans to burn alive a good majority of His own creation in a spiritual and eternal Gehenna of His own making?

**FACT: The King James Bible erroneously translates the word “Sheol” as Hell a total of 31 times in the Old Testament, thus setting a foundation for that doctrine in the New Testament as well as the majority of Bible translations to follow the KJV. Even so, most new translations have completely eliminated Hell from the Old Testament, as honest and better scholarship has demanded. The Jewish version of the Old Testament (the Tanakh) has no concept of Hell in it. The importance of this fact cannot be over-emphasized. If a doctrine does not appear as seed form in the books of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, it cannot fairly be taught as a major biblical doctrine, if indeed it can be taught as biblical at all!

Hell Is Not a New Testament Doctrine:

Popular myth: Jesus spoke of Hell more than He did of Heaven. This is not true! Jesus warned the Jews many times of impending destruction, both nationally and individually. He used several different terms to refer to punishment/destruction, some of which were erroneously translated as the same word, “Hell” by Bible translators. We do not deny that God will indeed judge the whole world, and nor do we wish to make light of His judgments. Rather, we are challenging the belief that His judgment on sin and unbelief is eternal torment/Hell and never-ending separation from God. Certainly, Jesus spent a lot of his ministry warning people to repent or reap the consequences, (particularly “Gehenna.”) But could we be reading more into His warnings than He originally intended?

Think about it…….
If Hell is real, why were most of the warnings pertaining to punishment/Gehenna directed to Israel, particularly the Lord’s own disciples as well as the Pharisees? The first great cluster of references to Gehenna, are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:22, 29, 30), Jesus’ great sermon to His disciples in which He warned that one was in danger of Gehenna for the likes of calling someone a fool. This is a far cry from our modern Evangelical interpretation that says not accepting Jesus as your Savior is what sends someone to Hell. Are we perhaps missing the symbolism that Jesus originally intended?

If Hell is real, aren’t we taking verses out of context when we warn sinners/outsiders of Hell, when in the original context they were directed to covenant people?

Since the concept of Hell doesn’t exist in the Old Testament, how could Jesus and his disciples teach that salvation was deliverance from a place that is not even found in their Scriptures? And if He was introducing the subject for the first time, why did He do it so casually, as though His listeners already understood what He was talking about?

If Hell is real, since some English translations use the word Hell for the Greek word “Gehenna,” in the New Testament, why didn’t this same place (Gehenna) get translated Hell in the many places where it appears in the Hebrew form “ga ben Hinnom” in the Old Testament?

If the Jews did not understand “Gehenna” as a symbol of everlasting torture, but rather as a place of shame, filth, and defilement (where Israel participated in the grossest form of idol worship), why does modern theology ascribe more to the word than the original meaning did? The teaching of Gehenna has evolved in Jewish teachings to include punishment in the afterlife; but even today, Gehenna still does not mean “endless” punishment to the Jews.

If Hell is real how could the Apostle Paul (who was especially commissioned by God to preach the gospel to the nations) say that he had declared the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27), when indeed he never warned of “Hell” in any of his letters? If Hell is real, wouldn’t Paul, of all people, warn of it repeatedly?If Hell is real, the sin/death of Adam has had a far more powerful effect on the world than the resurrection life of Christ! And yet Paul declares in Romans 5 that Christ’s victory is far greater than Adam’s transgression! Listen to Paul’s confidence in the work of Christ! If Paul believed in eternal hell for the majority of men, how could he write the following verses?

“…Just as the result of one trespass (Adam’s) was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness (Christ’s) was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18,19).

“Since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

“For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4;10).

(The above verses are just a few of the many verses where Paul writes of a pre-eminent Christ that far transcends the traditional Christian view. This article is full of many more New Testament references by Paul that display his views of the Christ triumphant, unlimited, all-powerful, all-conquering, and victorious).

If Hell is real, why is it that the only time Paul even mentioned “Hell” in any of his epistles, was declare the triumph of Christ over it? (1 Corinthians 15:55). The word “Grave” in the passage is the Greek word “Hades.”

If Hell is real, why is it not mentioned once in the book of Acts in any the evangelistic sermons that were recorded by the early Apostles?

If Hell is real why do some of the best Bible scholars and Bible teachers say it is not in the Greek or Hebrew text? (William Barclay, John A.T. Robinson, Lightfoot, Westcott, F.W. Farrar, Marvin Vincent, etc.)

If Hell is real, why does the word itself come from the Teutonic “Hele” (goddess of the underworld “Hell” of northern Europe). The description of this ancient mythological place has very little resemblance anymore to the modern Christian image of Hell. See any encyclopedia or dictionary for the origin of the word.

FACT: The apocryphal books of the intertestimental period had a tremendous impact on the Jews in the time of Christ. It is from these books, especially the book of Enoch, that many of the Jewish myths and fables concerning Hell, heaven, demons and angels and many other fables first became a part of Judaism and from there became a part of Christianity. The myths and fables of these books came from Pagan influences (namely Zoroastrianism), during and after the Babylonian captivity of Israel. In fact, Zoroastrianism looks more like modern Christianity in many ways than ancient Judiasm does!

If Hell is real, why did Paul warn Timothy repeatedly to stay away from Jewish myths and fables, the likes of which were influencing many in the early church? Rather than affirming such doctrines, Paul declares them to profane fables.

Hell Contradicts The Work of the Messiah:

Popular myth: Jesus came to save the sinner from his destination of everlasting Hell. Not exactly true! Hell was never a place that the Jews were hoping to be saved from, since they didn’t even believe in it! But they did need to be saved from their sins and consequences of them; namely death. Jesus came as the Anointed One to fulfill all of God’s plan for the earth—that through Him might come the salvation, deliverance of sin, peace, kingdom of God and all that God had promised through the Old Testament scriptures. There is much we can say here, but for the sake of brevity we will limit our points to a few key passages. Please take the time to look up the verses that are referenced.

Think about it…..
If Hell is real, why does Psalm 22 (one of the most prophetic passages in scripture concerning the Messiah) promise that because of the cross, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S and He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, all those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, even he who cannot keep his soul alive” (Psalm 22:27-29 NASB).

If Hell is real, did Jesus fail in His mission? He said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).

If Hell is real and most find their way to it, was Jesus lying when He said He said if He was lifted up (crucified) that He would “draw” (“drag” in the original Greek word, “helkyo”) all mankind unto Himself? (John 12:32)

If Hell is real, how can the Scriptures speak of the gathering of all things into Christ? (Eph. 1:10)

If Hell is real, how can all things be subdued unto Christ? (1 Corinthians 15:28, Philippians 3:21, Hebrews 2:8).

If Hell is real, how can it be that the scriptures promise that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord? (Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10).

If Hell is real, how will Jesus ever see the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11)? If the traditional understanding is correct, most of those He came to save will never experience His salvation. Do we believe that this would be satisfying to Jesus?

If Hell is real, and God sent Jesus came to save people from it, can we really say that the will and pleasure of God has prospered in His hand, since, according to traditional theology, only a few will ever be saved? (Isaiah 53:10, and 55:11).

If Hell is real, and the devil is the one who deceives people into going there, isn’t he ultimately the winner in the war for souls? After all, traditional interpretation of the Bible says that more people will end up in Hell than in Heaven. If so, how can we really call Satan the defeated enemy and Christ the victor?

If Hell is real and most of mankind will remain in an eternal deathlike state of torment with no chance to repent or escape, how exactly are we to understand and rejoice in the fact that Jesus destroyed death and him that had the power of death (Satan)? (Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 John 3:8, Hosea 13:14, 1 Corinthians 15:55, 1 Corinthians 15:26 etc.)

If Hell is eternal, how can the increase of Christ’s government and of peace have no end? (Isaiah 9:7).

FACT: The term “saved” has evolved in Christianity to mean something different than it did to the original readers and hearers of Scripture. The Greek words, “sozo” and “soteria” embrace the broad meaning of being rescued, delivered, healed and saved from danger. These words were applied in a variety of ways throughout the New Testament. There is much more to the salvation of Christ than most Christians know. Sadly, much of the church is robbed of fullness of their salvation by embracing a limited and futuristic view of what it actually means– (i.e. “going to Heaven when they die”).

Popular Myth: “Eternity” is a theme that is throughout the entire Bible, including eternal punishment. Not exactly true! We are not denying that the New Testament is full of warnings of judgment, and that the words, “everlasting” and “eternal” appear often in most translations. However, a careful study of the words that are translated to mean forever or everlasting, will prove that they have been mistranslated. The question is not whether or not God will punish sin and rebellion, but rather how He does it, and for what purpose.

Think about it……
If Hell is forever, why does the Hebrew word Olam which has been translated to mean “eternal/forever” used in so many verses where it clearly does not mean “everlasting? A few examples: “Everlasting” is applied to the priesthood of Aaron; to the statutes of Moses; to the mountains and hills; and to the doors of the Jewish temple, to the length of time that reproach and shame should be upon the Jews. The word “forever” is applied to the duration of man’s earthly existence; to the time a child was to abide in the temple; to the continuance of Gehazi’s leprosy; to the to the duration of a king’s life; to the time a servant was to abide with his master; to the duration of the Jewish temple; to the time David was to be king over Israel; to the throne of Solomon; to the stones that were set up at Jordan; and to the time Jonah was in the fish’s belly. It should be obvious from the context that olam merely refered to an indefinate period of time–not forever!

Aion and related words (aionian and aionios) are the Greek equivalents of olam. Aion, literally means “age,” from which we get our English word, “eon.” Aion/age/eon, is merely a period of time. “Aionian and Aionios” are words that refer to the ages (plural) or pertaining to the ages. As long as time is being measured, it cannot be referring to eternity, which is a realm beyond the measurement of time. If “Hell” is forever, why is it described by words that pertain to the ages?

If the Greek word Aion and its derivatives meant eternal as some Bible scholars insist, why did contemporary Greek usage of it, at the time the New Testament was written not carry with it the idea of endless eternity? (Works by Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Hippocrates and many others use the words in a limited, not an eternal sense).
If Hell is forever, how do we explain the fact that aion/olam did not mean eternal/unending to the original writers and hearers of Scripture?

FACT: Some would argue that if aionian and related words do not mean eternal, then God cannot be eternal, for these words also describe Him. To this we say, that just because God is described as the God of the eons, does not mean that He is not the God who also transcends the eons. In the same way, just because He is called the God of Israel, does not also mean that He is not the God of all the other nations. Also, there are other Greek words used to refer to the unending power and life of God. They are, aptharsia/apthartos, which means imperishableness and immortality; amarantinos/amarantos which mean unfading, without loss of pristine character; and akatalytos, which means indestructable and unstoppable. They are usually translated as immortal, or incorruptible. Please refer to the following verses for reference: Hebrews 7:15-16, 1 Peter 1:3-4, 1 Peter 5:4, 1 Timothy 1:17, Romans 1:23, 1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, Romans 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:42, 2 Timothy 1:10, and 1 Timothy 6:16.
Popular Myth: One’s fate is sealed after death. If this is true, how do we deal with the following scriptures that indicate the opposite?

Think about it…….

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him” (2 Samuel 14:14).
“The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave (sheol), and bringeth up.” 1 Samuel 2: 6
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave (Sheol/Hell); I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave (Sheol/Hell), I will be your destruction!” (Hosea 13:11-14).

“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:31-33)

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26).

If Hell is a place of no escape, why did the early church teach Jesus went to Hell (Hades), preached to them and led captivity captive? (Eph. 4:8,9; Psalm 68:18; 1 Peter 3:18-20)

If Hell lasts forever, why the Psalmist confidently speak again and again about being rescued from it (sheol)? (Psalms 16:10, 30:2-3, Psalm 49:15, 86:13, 116:3-8, 139:8).

If Hell is real, how can Solomon teach that the spirit of man will return to the God who gave it? (Ecc 12:7).

If the grave settled the matter forever, why did the early Christians offer up prayers for the dead? Why were they baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29).
“Hell” Was Not a Doctrine of the Early Church:

Popular myth: Universalism was recently introduced to Christianity in the 1800’s as the church became more liberal and modern and began to abandon their true biblical foundation. This is not true! A belief in the restitution of all things was a standard view in the early church, held by the majority of early Christians. It has also been held by a minority throughout all of church history.

Think about it……

If Hell was real, why did the first comparatively complete systematic statement of Christian doctrine ever given to the world by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 180, contain the tenet of universal salvation?

If Hell was real, why did the first complete presentation of Christianity (Origen, 220 A.D.) contain the doctrine of universal salvation?

If Hell was real, why do neither the Apostles Creed, nor the Nicean Creed, two foundational “doctrinal statements” for the early church, contain the concept of Hell?

If Hell was real, why did Church leaders as late as the fourth century AD acknowledge that the majority of Christians believed in the salvation of all mankind?

If Hell was real why did the early church appoint an avowed universalist as the President of the second council of the church of Constantinope in the fourth century? (Gregory Nazianzen, 325-381).

If Hell was real why did not a single Church council for the first five hundred years condemn Universalism as heresy considering the fact that they made many declarations of heresy on other teachings?

If Hell was real why didn’t Epiphanius (c. 315-403) the “hammer of heretics” who listed 80 heresies of his time not list universalism among those heresies?

If Hell was real, since most historians would acknowledge today that Origen was perhaps the most outstanding example of universalism in the church, when Methodius, Eusibius, Pamphilus, Marcellus, Eustathius, and Jerome made their lists of Origen’s heresies, why wasn’t universalism among them?

If Hell was real and found in the original Greek manuscripts of the Bible, why is it that it was primarily those church leaders who either couldn’t read Greek (Minucius Felix, Tertullian), or hated Greek as in the case of Augustine, that the doctrine of Hell was advocated? Those early church leaders familiar with the Greek and Hebrew (the original languages of the Bible) saw universal salvation in those texts. Those who advocated Hell got it from the Latin, not from the original Greek and Hebrew. Who would more likely be correct–those who could read the original languages of the Bible or those who read a Latin translation made by one man (Jerome)?

If Hell was real then why did four out of six theological schools from 170 AD to 430 AD teach universal salvation while the only one that taught Hell was in Carthage, Africa, again were Latin was the teaching language, not Greek?

If Hell was real and a serious heresy, why was it not until the sixth century when Justinian, a half-pagan emperor, tried to make universalism a heresy? Interestingly, most historians will acknowledge that Justinian’s reign was among the most cruel and ruthless.

*The historical facts documented in the above section can all be verified through the book, “Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Early Church for the First 500 Years” by J.W. Hanson.

Hell does not reflect the heart of God:

Popular myth: The justice of God demands a place like Hell in which the wicked shall be eternally punished for their sins. Not true! The justice of God demanded a perfect sacrifice for sin, and that man was Christ Jesus. The justice of God will certainly come to every person, and God may deal severely with our sins as He subdues and gathers all things to Christ, but to punish people endlessly for crimes committed in a short human lifespan defies all logic and justice.

Think about it……..

If Hell is real and all things were made for God’s pleasure (Rev. 4:11), is it conceivable that God would derive pleasure from seeing those He created endlessly tortured? God says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11).

If Hell is a real place of endless torment, and God didn’t want anyone to end up there, why didn’t God just kill Adam and Eve and end the long terrible chain of misery that passed to their offspring before it began? After all, the Scriptures say that all died because of Adam. (Rom. 5:18)

If Hell is real, if God loves His enemies now, will he not always love them? Is God a changeable being? (James 1:17)

If Hell is real, if you had sufficient power would you not deliver all men from sin? If God would save all men, but cannot, is He infinite in power?

If Hell is real, and God can save all men, but will not, is He infinite in goodness and mercy?

If Hell is real, since God will have all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3 KJV), does that mean God’s power is not strong enough to have His will fulfilled?

If Hell is real and Jesus teaches us to forgive seventy times seven and yet He Himself will never offer forgiveness to anyone after they die, does that not make Him a hypocrite?

If Hell is real and God’s wrath abides upon billions of human beings forever, doesn’t that violate the Scripture which says His anger will come to an end? (Isaiah 57:16-18)

If Hell is real and God only loves those who love Him, what better is He than the sinner? (Luke 6:32-33)

If Hell is real, since some people receive many chances to “get saved,” some receive only a few chances and billions have never even received one chance, does that make God a respecter of persons? (Acts 10:34, James 3:17). After all, billions of people have been born and died on this earth without a chance to ever hear the name of Jesus, the “only name under heaven by which men may be saved.”

If there is a Hell and all who have sinned are destined to go there (which is everyone) unless they figure out how to avoid it, does that not consign all aborted babies and non-Christian children to Hell? (While some denominations teach a so-called “age of accountability,” it is not found anywhere in the Bible. It is just some people’s way of trying to make God more humane than the Hell teaching makes Him out to be).

If Hell is real, does that mean that motherly love is more powerful and enduring than God’s love? Do you know of normal parents who would endlessly torment most of their kids? Why do we believe our heavenly Father, who is millions of times more loving than all of us combined, could do such an evil, wicked thing?

If Hell is real, why does the human spirit writhe under the horror of wars and prison camps, torture chambers and dictators? How can we judge these things as wrong, if Hell is real? After all, Hell far eclipses these earthly torments which came from the most sinful and beastly part of humanity. We say God is grieved by man’s violence and disregard for life, and yet believe that He Himself enforces the same principles for all eternity!

If Hell is real, would endless misery benefit the Almighty, as the inflictor? Would endless misery benefit the saints, as spectators? Would endless misery benefit the sinner, as the sufferer?

If Hell is real, how does the threat of endlessly torturing us convince us that God loves us and that we should love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?

FACT: While the church has gotten used to thinking of God as Someone who was forced to design a grandiose punishment called Hell, and against His own will sends the majority of His creation there, this concept of a God “who did the best He could” is totally against the Scriptural view of a God who is absolutely soveriegn, powerful, all-wise and all-victorious. He never had to come up with a plan B or C, for Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It is time to give Him the glory He deserves for our God is truly awsome and wonderful far beyond the limited, and man-centered views of Him!

Come Up Higher!

Beloved, what is the “lens” through which you are interpreting the Bible? Traditional doctrines teach us to interpret the “victorious” scriptures in the light of the “judgment” scriptures. But what if God wants us to see it the other way around? What if we are to interpret the “judgment” scriptures in the light of the “victorious” scriptures? Is not Christ’s victory the greatest revelation in the Bible? Standing on this highest peak—that is, the finished work of the cross, causes us to see a much larger and far more beautiful panoramic view of God’s plan throughout the ages. We do not throw out one set of Scriptures in favor of another. Rather, we seek to harmonize them…For man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

In the time of Christ most of Israel completely missed the Word of God when He was in their midst. They were too busy with their nose in the book, to perceive the Word Himself as He came and dwelt among them! Certainly the masses must have thought…..”But none of the teachers, Pharisees, or priests believe that Jesus is the Messiah! And they know the scripture better than me! ” That fact alone kept many Jews from daring to believe in Jesus. To do so was heresy and to admit faith in Him was basically asking for scorn and rejection. We have always been so quick to point the finger at the Pharisees, and not realize that we as the church are in the same boat today. Are we going to play it safe and side with the majority, who are clinging to their traditions and what their teachers have taught them, or will we risk it all and step out and follow Him?

The facts presented in this article should at least cause every reader who is truly hungry to know God, to search the scripture to see if these things be so. If what we are presenting here is false, it needs to be disproved. And if it is true, it cannot be ignored.

It is time to stop ignoring the parts of the Bible that do not fit in with our theology. And if, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, our theology is not big enough to hold the entire counsel of Scripture, perhaps it is time to expand–lest we once again miss God!

And so we ask you again, beloved Christian, to ask yourself…

If the traditional teaching of Hell is real….

How can mercy triumph over judgment? (James 2:13)

How can it be true that, “where sin abounded grace did much more abound?” (Rom. 5:20)

When will all flesh come to God? (Psalm 65:2-4)

When will the poor of the earth be avenged and comforted by God? (Psalm 113:7, Psalm 140:12, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 31:9, Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 61:1, Jeremiah 22:16 etc.) (Bear in mind that most of the poor of the earth throughout history have not had a chance to accept Jesus as their savior).

When shall it come to pass that: “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 26:6-8).

When and how will “all nations” praise Him, come to Him, serve Him, be blessed in Him and bow to Him? (Psalm 45:17, Ps. 86:9, Isaiah 62:11, Daniel 7:14 Ps 66:1, Ps 72:11, Ps 102:15, Jer. 3:17, Ps 72:17, Isa. 2:2, Isa. 11:10, Isa. 52:10, Rev. 5:13 etc.)

How can the world be reconciled to God? (2 Corinthians 5:19, Romans 11;15, Romans 5:10).

Why would Paul the apostle say the goal of God’s creative plan was to ultimately be “all in all?” (1 Cor. 15:28)

How can it be true that God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, shall gather together all things in Christ, in the fullness of the times? (Ephesians 1:9-11)

How can Paul insist that “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

How can the most often-repeated Biblical description of God be true? “His mercy endures forever” (literally, “His mercy/lovingkindness endures for the ages”). Certainly, as long as there are ages, and people in need of mercy, God’s mercy will endure.

How and when can there ever be a “restitution of all things?” (Acts 3:21)

A Final Test

We have tested the doctrine of Hell against many different Biblical topics and concepts and found it wanting. When scrutinized in the light of the entire counsel of Scripture, the doctrine of Hell is found to be full of holes. Now, test this doctrine against your own heart and see whether it can stand. Please take some time and prayerfully ask yourself these questions:

If there is a Hell and according to most denominations of Christianity the majority of mankind will go there, could you really enjoy heaven knowing your mother or father or children or best friend are suffering everlasting tortures the likes of which would make the Holocaust seem like a picnic?

If Hell is real, will you judge your mother, son, or other non-believers to Hell? “Do ye not know that the saints “shall judge the world”? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

If Hell is real and a place of terrible, unending pain, could you even send a dog to such a place?

If Hell is real and universalism is a heresy, why is it that those who believe God loves all and will save all find it easier to love all people than those who believe most people are going to Hell? (Think this through very carefully.)

If Hell is real, can you honestly rejoice in the victory, love, and wisdom of God, knowing that somewhere in His beautiful creation there will always be a black and stinking hell-hole crammed full of tortured souls who have no chance for relief or forgiveness–or even death? Even if there was only one person left in such a state, how could all of Heaven—or you—rejoice for all eternity knowing that there was still one soul who had not been touched by the victory of Christ and was suffering alone?

Is it good to desire all men to be saved? “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim.2:3,4).

• Do you ardently desire the salvation of all men?
• Is it true that God “openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing?” — (Ps. 145:16)
• Do you fervently pray for the salvation of all men? (1 Tim. 2:1)
• Do you pray in faith, nothing doubting? (James 1:6)
• Are you aware, “that whatsoever is not of faith is sin?” — (Rom 14:23)
• Would God require us to pray for all men, and to pray in faith, unless He intends all men should be saved?
• If you believe endless misery to be the truth of God, why should you desire and pray that it may prove false?

We hope that this information has raised enough questions for you to pursue further study on this subject. For more information on the history of the doctrine of Hell, the Lake of Fire, Studies on Biblical words that are often translated as eternal, everlasting, etc. and many other teachings pertaining to this subject, please visit www.tentmaker.org/ScholarsCorner.html

Some of these questions were taken from a much larger list compiled in an article entitled Is Salvation a Deliverance From Hell or Eternal Death?” by Gary Amirault.

The painting at the top of this page is a scene from “The Damned” by Michelangelo. His paintings of Hell and the damned, like much Christian art of the time, was influenced more by Greek mythology of the underworld, than by the Bible.

Who are we? Tentmaker Ministries and Publications is a Christian ministry committed to sharing as best to our ability our understanding of God’s plan for the ages to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus Christ. (This view is also known as Ultimate reconciliation or Christian universalism, which is a very different thing than Unitarian Universalism). We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, the only way to the Father, the only begotton Son of God, and that there is no other way to everlasting, “aionian” life but through Him. We believe He is king of the universe, and owner of all Creation, and that His purpose is to bring all things under His government and reconciled with Himself. “…And for this we labor and strive, that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (2 Timothy 4:10 ).

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A Video Concerning Rob Bell and Paul Young

Here is a video by Gary Amirault of Tentmaker Ministries

It concerns Rob Bell’s Love Wins and Paul Young’s The Shack.

Check out the full length video (31:47) at Love Wins Videos -

Love Falls Short in Rob Bell’s Love Wins and The Shack by Paul Young

 

 

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A few points and questions concerning a recent comment on a recent post concerning church attendance

A recent commenter on my next to the last post on Why Are So Many In Church Today? posed some issues relating to me and I thought some of my readers would like to hear a response to some of the points.  So, here are a few things that jumped out at me and, without getting into any personal issues, the ones that probably deserved more thought on my part. So here they are:

First, a point was made about “church attendance” being modeled in the NT, commanded by God in Scripture, and the proscribed means by which believers are shepherded (trained, fed, sent out, etc).   My question is this:  Do we also model meeting together in groups everyday, share all things together, eat with believers together practicing the Lord’s Supper, or are those things discounted because it is impractical today (after all, it was merely a cultural issue at the time, as many theologians say)?  Who draws the line when it comes to what we follow concerning the early church’s practices as recorded in Scripture?

Second, was Peter’s denial of Christ a direct result of his reliance on himself absent the power of God, not pleading for strength to combat the denial, but merely giving Jesus powerless promises?  Or was it merely someone who was afraid of losing his friend, trying to stand tall against impending danger, and then running away when the heat in the kitchen got to hot, because he truly did not understand who Jesus really was?  I know we all can relate to Peter in some incident in our own lives, can’t we?  What do you think?

Third, how do universalist claims (Jesus is Lord, repent and believe in Him now, knowing there will be a judgment awaiting all people in the age to come (one of at least several more ages to come, more on that in later posts), and a harsh judgment for those who refuse Jesus in this life, not to mention desiring to be obedient to Jesus’ teachings and witness of Him to others) destroy the impetus for an obedient witness to the lost?

Fourth and finally, How do universalist claims trample upon the sovereign work of Jesus for the elect when universalists not only believe that the elect will be saved, but at the end of all time, all people will be saved and God will become all in all (1 Cor 15:22-28)?  Paul taught that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Romans 5:20).  How can saving a few bring more glory to God than the saving of ALL people?  So does sin (the devil, evil) win more people than God?  Is sin and evil stronger than God since more will be given over to it than will be saved in the modern understanding of salvation?

From some past experience witnessing to people (door-to-door, at events, at work, i.e. the normal ways of the IC (institutional church) to do evangelism) some people have told me that it is the idea of an eternal conscious torment in hell that has kept them from coming to God (if God consigns most of mankind to hell, this must be a pretty awful God! in their words).  Lots to think about, wouldn’t you say?  Exegesis of God’s Word is rarely as cut and dried as many would have you believe today.  Certitude, regarding many passages of Scripture, should give way to true humility by saying that often our presuppositions cloud true exegesis of the text.

Well, hopefully more articles to come on the book, Hell Under Fire.  By the way, I received a birthday gift from Logos Bible Software, a $20.00 gift toward any book(s).  Guess what I spent it on?  You guessed it, Hell Under Fire!  I didn’t have to spend a dime on the book (it was 17.99 on Logos), woohoo!  Now I have an easier way to search the book and easy way to put quotes into my book review posts (cut and paste).  I sure hope this will help me to complete this long, drawn out work.  Maybe, after some major refinements, I will turn the book review into a book itself!  I guess we shall see!

Blessings to you all!

Craig

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