Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is Hell An Eternal State?

There are four views typically found in Christian circles concerning the state of souls who die without being regenerate. For this section, we are precluding those who do not believe in a literal Hell. Again, we understand and recognize that some well intended people, even those who hold a classical view of Christianity, do not always hold to a literal place of after-life judgment. Some believe that Hell is here, now, and that in this life we make our own Heaven or Hell. Some are annihilists that believe that when we die we cease to exist. Others, of course, simply cannot reconcile God's love and a place of eternal punishment.

The first of these views is the more classical, or Orthodox, view that the wicked souls are in Hell for an everlasting period of time, and that it is punitive, not redemptive. This would be the view that we hold. It makes the most sense in any straight forward exegesis of the Scriptures. Both Old and New Testaments make many references to the eternality of both heavenly bliss and perpetual agony. And it is hard to justify everlasting heaven while simultaneously denying everlasting Hell. As we shall see.

Another view could be called Metaphorical. In other words, while the Bible does represent wicked souls going to a place of everlasting judgment, it is to be taken as a metaphor at best, or not-quite-so-literal at worst. It is most certainly acknowledged; however, that Hell is not redemptive, and so, if there was such a place, no one would return or be saved from it.

The third view in our discussion would be what I would call Purgatorial. This would be the Roman Catholic view and quite possibly the most accepted by nominal "Christians." This view would make Hell redemptive as well as punitive. The idea sees Hell as a holding cell where sins could be purged. After a prescribe time, the wicked soul would be "purged" of their sin and restored to grace. Although, most holding this view should not be classified as universalist. (That everyone will be saved.) Instead they understand that some will be eternally damned for having committed mortal sins and/or unbelief. Think Adolph Hitler, Osama, Stalin, etc.

Lastly, there is the view we call Conditional. In this view the wicked are punished conditional to the level of their sin. Our resident example of Hitler for instance, would be punished longer and more severely than, say, a woman from Timbuktu who never heard the Gospel. Eventually, all conditionalists hold to either a redemptive pardoning work for Hell, or else annihilation of the soul after some period of punishment. Interestingly, there may be some merit to the conditional argument, but only as to severity, not to length. There may indeed be greater punishments for Hitler than our Timbuktuiam woman. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear that Hell is a separation that will never end.

We will argue, Scripturally, of course, that the Orthodox view is correct. By doing this we will refute the other views' claims, but not individually. We will win our argument of the merits of our view, and that will eliminate the possibility of these others.

Now before I close this particular post, an issue must/should be addressed. If, as we suppose, Hell is a punishment that lasts forever, then is that an appropriate response from God, considering His love and grace? In-other-words, if God is Just and Loving, wouldn't He punish for a while, and then forgive. It is seen, by some, like the justice system sending a man to the electric chair for stealing a loaf of bread, or spitting on the sidewalk. The problem with this dilemma is that it is possible to see theology separate from exegesis. When one does this, it becomes quite simple to say, "Theologically, I see God as a God of Love and Mercy. Therefore, I can separate my theology about God, with His revelation of Himself in His word. The Bible speaks of Hell, but my theology does not allow me to believe it." However, when we properly exegete the Scripture, we are left with the understanding that the Scripture can then dictate to us our theology. Any theological system not concretely grounded in the Biblical text will never hold water. God reveled Himself in the Bible for this purpose.

And if we understand this, then we can understand that God is merciful, and gracious, and loving, and dear friends, just. If we can conceive of sin, even the smallest of sins, as rebellion against God's righteousness, then we can see that sin must be infinite. And God's righteousness, therefore, must demand an infinite punishment.

Next post will concentrate (finally) on the Scripture in both Testaments on this intriguing and sad subject.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hell, Know!

What is our concept of Hell? We know about it, speak and preach about it, but how much do we know? What can be gleaned from Scripture about this topic that might help us as we study the Bible, evangelize, and attempt to live Victorious lives?

The basic idea is certain: Hell is a place in the afterlife where bad people are punished. For some, this is simply an analogy. For others, it is an outdated concept that was developed to keep people “in line” and from questioning authority. I have even seen statistics that show that up to 66% of Southern Baptists do not believe in a literal place called Hell, while the overall population tags it around 79% not believing.

Now some of us do believe in that literal Hell. 33.9% I guess. And I make no contention about the fact that I do, and will assume those of you reading do also. I will not make any reference that attempts to prove the existence of this place, aside from the fact that I believe the Bible is a factual representation of God's message to mankind. The Bibe is not man’s searching for God, but God's revealing of Himself to man. And with that I take its contents to be true, literal, and without error.

The Bible makes, in both Old and New Testaments, references to a life after this one. Without any ambiguity, the Bible also commits to the idea that there are two, and only two, destinations after this life. Man will spend eternity with God, or separated from Him. Men will reside in a Paradise or in a Prison, a Heaven or a Hell, in Abraham’s Bosom or in the Lake of Fire. However; the Bible does give several names to this place (or places) for punishment of wicked souls. In the Old Testament we have Sheol, and in the New, Gehenna, Hades, Hell, Tartarus, and the Lake of Fire. So are these one place, or are there four? As we will see in future installments, we will argue that there are actually two places, one called Hades and one called the Lake of Fire, and that both are colloquially given the name Hell by the current culture.

But all of this, dear readers, leads us to the big question, right? Why should we care? I mean, let’s just avoid both of them. Because, less than .5% of people say they think they are going to Hell when they die. In case you missed the period, that is less than one half of one percent. The Bible makes it very, very clear. Without the hope of Christ, your eternal destiny lies in a prison of despair and torment. Called it by whatever name you wish…the fact remains…it is forever. If we know, and I trust that you all do, Jesus as Savior, then we must understand the consequences of sitting life on the sidelines. We must tell the Gospel story, the Good News, that God offers us a way of escape. If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Master of your life, won’t you do it before it is everlasting too late?

Our next installment will be defining Hell as a place of eternal punishment, and how that does not contradict God as a God of Love.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Welcome to Biblical Turbulence. "What is this" you ask? A place for in-depth Biblical study and ponderings, as discussed by my friend Roy and me. Roy is the pastor of Shamrock Baptist Church, a fellow reformed theologian, and great friend. We meet about once a week for what Roy calls "bumpy road" topics. These are the subjects one must treat like driving a car over a bumpy road. You must slow down and take your time. I considered naming the blog Biblical Bumpy Roads, but Biblical Turbulence was more kitschy. And Bumpy Roads was already taken, so here we are.

This welcome post will be the one and only to discuss less weighty things. Check back for the first of these posts as we discuss a twofold subject: Hell, Hades, Tartarus, and The Lake of Fire. Are these all representations of the same place, or up to four separate realities? Then also, is preaching only to be viewed as a delivery system for the Gospel, or does it also act as a means of teaching natural and moral law?

Exciting stuff to delve in deeply. It brings back memories of my Study The Greek Sunday School class at FBC Shelbyville.

Well, for now I say,