If you have a group of people and you ask them “how many glasses of water are you supposed to drink every day?” they will probably unanimously answer “eight.” Why? Because they heard it from someone, who heard it from someone, who in turn heard it from someone else. Did they check it out to find the source? No. Did they research any medical journals to see if there was documentation substantiating that number of glasses? No. It sounded reasonable and someone they respected (their doctor) had told them, so they never examined it and never considered challenging it.
Likewise we have been taught by people we respect (pastors and teachers) statements that sound plausible so we don’t check them against Scripture (like the Bereans1 did). By the way, we are responsible individually before God for what we believe.
Let’s look at one example of such assumed (but not proven) doctrine. Most people (like those who answered “eight glasses of water”) have been told that the human spirit is eternal from birth and they will either get to live eternally in Heaven or they will rot eternally in Hell. They think this is fact. Let’s examine this assumption to see if it is true.
In a related paper (Eternal Spirit) we examined thirty-four verses (OT and NT) that say clearly that a person only has eternal life by believing in Jesus. Furthermore, several of the verses say categorically that a person who does not believe in Jesus does not have eternal life. So far, I have never found even one verse that says or implies that the human spirit is eternal from the moment of physical birth. It only happens from the moment of spiritual birth.
Although there are several verses that talk about Hell, these are without exception mistranslated from the word Hades (the resting place of the dead until the final judgment) or Gehenna (the city dump for Jerusalem). Hell (a place of perpetual torment) is a Catholic concept and allowed the Catholic Church to dominate the uneducated populace by fear. King James strongly believed in Hell so it behooved the translators to use that word (or lose their heads). Unfortunately, we are currently stuck with tradition that is uncorrected.
A much stronger argument for the existence of Hell is the parable Jesus taught about the rich man and the beggar Lazarus.2 The rich man clearly was in torment. However, if Hades (Sheol in Hebrew—a place where the dead wait until the final judgment) has two parts—Abraham’s Bosom 3 for the righteous people, and Outer Darkness4 5 6 for the unrighteous people—this would explain the parable. Furthermore, Hades is not going to exist eternally so no one could suffer there eternally.7 Revelation 20 says Hades will be emptied and then consumed in the Lake of Fire at the final Great White Throne judgment.
So, what are the implications of this discussion? We believe in a God of infinite love.8 Furthermore, we believe He is omniscient (knows everything: past, present, future). How could a God of love create a person that He knows ahead of time is going to reject Jesus and therefore be tormented forever? Inconceivable. Therefore, He must have a solution to this problem. That is what we are trying to discover.
As mentioned above from Revelation 20, not only is death and Hades consumed in the Lake of Fire at the last judgment, so is the unbeliever!9 Therefore, a person has two options: (1) he can either follow Christ and thus acquire eternal life or (2) he can reject Jesus thus never attain to eternal life and therefore experience the “second death” and without having to suffer forever.
Although there is a verse that talks about “eternal punishment,”10 it is a punishment that has eternal consequences (the person forfeited eternal life). It doesn’t necessarily mean he endures punishment forever. Notice that this same verse contrasts eternal life with eternal punishment (lack of eternal life). These are opposite things. You either have eternal life or you don’t.
In summary, a loving God has offered us the opportunity to be promoted to eternal life with Him or else we fail to get promoted. We can win—but we cannot lose (all we do is fail to win). We don’t go to “Hell.”
This is totally consistent with God’s revealed character.
No more drinking eight glasses of water!
Photo Attribution: Michael-Weidner – Unsplash.com
- Acts 17:11, Now these [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
- Luke 16:19-31, “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house — 28 for I have five brothers — in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'”
- Luke 16:22-23, “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
- Matt 8:11-12, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Notice the definite article “the.” This is a specific place.]
- Matt 22:13-14, “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Notice the definite article “the.” This is a specific place.]
- Matt 25:30, “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [Notice the definite article “the.” This is a specific place.]
- Rev 20:13-14, And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
- 1 John 4:16-17, We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- Rev 20:14-15, This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
- Matt 25:46, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”