[This article is an update of an article from the old blog location.]
Well, I just had to do it. I wandered over to a “Christian” blog, and there it was. Once again, someone was spewing out about heaven and hell. Somehow, we finite human beings are so capable of offending an omnipotent eternal God that he has to punish sinners in an ever burning, ever tormenting hell.
Do we really have that power? No, of course not, and the unbiblical doctrine of heaven and hell is one of the greatest atheist creating tools that Satan has ever dreamed up. If you don’t believe this, then you should read the Why I Am an Agnostic article at positiveatheism.org written by Robert G Ingersoll.
In a sermon about Lazarus and the Rich Man, the preachers says, “Oh, my hearers, [the rich man] has been making that request [for a dip of water from Lazarus’ finger] for more than eighteen hundred years. And millions of ages hence that wail will cross the gulf that lies between the saved and lost and still will be heard the cry [to Father Abraham]”. Ingersoll’s reaction to it was, “For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal pain — appreciated ‘the glad tidings of great joy.’ For the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth of the Christian horror. Then I said: ‘It is a lie, and I hate your religion. If it is true, I hate your God.'”
Let’s try a little logic here. There are plenty of books, tapes, sermons, etc., that point out the Bible verses, but let us use a little bit of reason. According to the doctrine of hell:
1. God created everything. He created the rules. He is God, and that is His perogative.
2. God is omniscient. God knew mankind would break those rules. In fact, He knew that most of mankind would never learn of Him or the Savior.
3. The punishment for breaking those rules is eternal torture in hell, which He also created.
4. God knows that most of mankind would go to hell forever.
5. God creates human beings anyway.
6. Therefore, He creates human beings for the sole purpose of sending them to hell forever.
Doesn’t sound like a loving God, does it?
It gets even stranger, though. Suppose Hitler repented before he died. You weren’t there, and I wasn’t there, so it could have happened, right? Right before he died, he got on his knees, confessed his sins and accepted Jesus as his Savior. According to mainstream Christianity, this is all that is needed right? Question: Will Hitler be accepted into heaven and the six million Jews he killed be sent into an ever burning hell forever? What crime did they commit to be so severely punished?
In fact, what crime can mortal man do in his limited abilities to sanction eternal punishment?
And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;
Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.
~ Lev 24:19-21
As I read this, I get the definite impression that God really believes the punishment should fit the crime. If you put out an eye, your punishment should be worth an eye. If you take a life, your punishment should be worth a life. What crime can be worth eternal torment?
And, what of predestination? According to the Calvanistic view, God decides who is saved and who is not. The flip side, of course, is that God decides who goes to hell and who does not. If God only saves a few, then why send the majority of mankind to hell when it wasn’t even their choice? The Calvanists downplay freewill, and in fact I would state they believe that there is no such thing. Obviously, they cannot believe in it because in their view God explicitly picks out a significant portion of His creation for eternal torment. Is this the picture of a loving God?
These classical views make God out to be a monster. This is not the God of the Bible. You know, the One Who sent His Son to die for us. Why? “For God so loved the world…” Is this the God Who creates beings for eternal torment? I think not.
This is not the only day of salvation. God has a plan, and each person will be saved in their own order, an order determined by God.
Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee:
~ Isa 49:8
And working together also we call upon [you] that ye receive not in vain the grace of God —
for He saith, `In an acceptable time I did hear thee, and in a day of salvation I did help thee, lo, now [is] a well-accepted time; lo, now, a day of salvation,’
~ 2Co 6:1-2 (YLT)
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
~ 1Co 15:22-24
Those who are resurrected at Christ’s return will be the first to join Him in eternal life! Each will have a chance at salvation, in his own order, when they will have their eyes opened (Cf Rev 20:11-12).
Is it any wonder that Peter was able to write that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe 3:9)?
It is not the will of God to send men to an eternal hellfire. No, predestination is about when an individual gets called, not if. Those called now have their chance now. If they reject the gift now, they will pay the ultimate price. Those who are deceived (the majority of mankind) will get their chance to accept or reject Christ’s offer of salvation during the second, general, resurrection.
Yes, there is a hell. It is a hole in the ground. “Hole” and “hell” come from the same root word. We often call it “the grave”. We will all go to it, unless we are alive to see Christ’s return.
There is a Lake of Fire. Jesus often used the expression “Gehenna fire” as an analogy for the Lake of Fire. It was in the Valley of Hinnom, and it had a pretty bloody past. During Jesus’ day, it was used as a trash dump. Garbage was dumped into it. The dead bodies of criminals were dumped into it. Garbage and dead bodies attract flies. They lay eggs, and maggots hatch. Maggots are what Job was talking about when he said the worm would feed sweetly upon a sinner (Job 24:19-20). It was also what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Their worm dieth not” (Mk 9:44-48). Instead of dying, maggots become flies. And yes, the flame is “unquenchable”. Several fire engines would not be able to put it out. However, it can run out of fuel and die out!
Why such vivid and permanent sounding descriptions of the Lake of Fire? Because the effects are permanent! After the Lake of Fire, there is no more opportunity for life. After the Lake of Fire, there is no resurrection. The Lake of Fire is eternal punishment, not eternal punishing!
God is full of grace and mercy. Are those just nice sounding platitudes, or is it the truth?