Pondering the Pardon to an Interuption: O’ Hell, where is your victory?

If hell is a factual place of punishment as many Christians hold, should God then have warned Adam of eternal torment rather than death alone?

Harrowing of Hell Medium Res

Harrowing of Hell Medium Res (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I tried to say farewell to the Older Testament (for this series) in a recent posting, ccragamuffin would have nothing of it. In comment, she brought to light a reality that appears unarguably sound, ” There was no Jewish theology of an everlasting burning damnation for sinners in the OT.”

She is very wise to add that “this is worth ponder time.” And so, here we are again. I will cast this premature thought offered up by some, “Christianity’s doctrine of hell has been greatly influenced by outside cultures and traditions.” This is a thought for another day, but it at least needs spoken to explain why considering the Jewish thoughts on the afterlife are important.

In the same referenced article, RJ from Real Christianity, challenged these inferred thoughts with a quote from John the Baptist.

His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Luke 3:17]

While he is very right in assigning the Immerser to a status of Old Testament Hebrew prophet, there are those who would refute that John is here speaking of hell-fire.  Instead, they would claim he is announcing the coming of the Messiah’s Kingdom with the use of OT terminology, similar to the prophecies which found their fulfillment through Assyria and Babylon, that the New Covenant was being made a reality in Christ Jesus; the Old was becoming obsolete, burned away by an unstoppable fire.

One side of the aisle would argue favorably with RJ’s conclusion that John’s words are evidence of Israel’s awareness of hell, the other side not so much.

So convinced are those across the room of this that T.A. Herring says, “Contrary to popular opinion, there is no notion of post-mortem punishment, or even life beyond the grave, in the Old Testament (Scandalous Grace).”

In either inclination though, we must admit that the account of the fall in the garden leaves us with no such knowledge of hell; so what of the introductory question of Adam’s penalty for his rebellion? If the punishment for his partaking of the illegal fruit was eternal damnation, what do we make of God’s terminal warning, “When you eat of this fruit, dying you will die?”

Would it be fair here to make a ‘progressive revelation’ argument? This is undeniably a theme that plays out with all of Scripture. As we work our way through the Bible, we meet God as Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Healer, and a whole bunch of other titles ending ors-ers, until finally He is revealed fully in His Son.

What He has given us is the revelation of Himself and what He is doing, but He does this in His own timing and at exactly the time we need to know it. Therefore, if this argument is valid, then it is ultimately in His hands as to whether we need to know of hell, if it is real, if it is told at all, and if so, when.

If this is true, while it definitely gives us much pondering fodder, even if Israel seems silent of an eternal place of punishment in the Old Testament, it may not be sufficient evidence by itself to write the reality of hell off as mythology. For as the New Testament unfolds, it is hard to deny the inference of hell, and that one must eventually consider its veracity.

On a side-note,  I realize this series is forcing me to look at some things that for many will seem borderline taboo. I’m trying to be unbiased, but as can be imagined, it’s very difficult when I’ve spent the majority of a lifetime within the walls of Evangelical Baptist churches.

As I re-read what I’ve written so far, I fear some may wonder if I’m arguing against my own denomination’s beliefs. In reality, I’m just trying to look at this topic objectively while giving all sides an opportunity to present their evidence.

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About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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20 Responses to Pondering the Pardon to an Interuption: O’ Hell, where is your victory?

  1. Rob Barkman says:

    MT,

    One quick thought….
    2) And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)

    Here the word for “everlasting” is a Hebrew word that means to go as far as the eye can see. In this and a few other OT passages, there are those who begin to question the idea of the meaning of “everlasting” and “eternal” in verses trying to get around the idea of an eternity in the Lake of Fire. To the best of my knowledge and honest examination, this word truly carries with it the idea of being “without end”.

    It is translated by “alway(-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, (n-))ever(-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end).” This is copied from the Strongs Concordance for the KJV.

    I am just making this point to say that I am not ready to concede that the OT does not teach the idea of eternal punishment. There are honest men of God, who know much more that I, who would not agree with that concept. It may not be as well explained as in the NT, but for many, the OT does give the basic concept within it’s pages.

    Lord bless you.

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  4. I have to thank “HangingOutWithGod” for his biased approach. Where you, in this article, are trying to look at the point of “hell” from different directions, we, as Christians, are supposed to look only to God’s Word for direction.

    I remember an analogy that would fit here: a bank teller, when training, is expected to know how to point out a counterfeit bill from amongst hundreds and thousands of bills. The only way for a teller to be able to tell a counterfeit is by studying the real thing to a point that they have no doubt in what is real or not real.

    We, as Christians, are expected to be able to point out a counterfeit amongst all of the false doctrines out there. That being the case, I have found that many good Christians have been led astray too easily by a teacher providing multiple points of view instead of giving what the Word of God has to say about a matter. In fact, I believe that it is a tool used by satan today to do much as has been displayed above by the sheep of our flocks being allowed to wander astray and the shepherds are, in many cases, guiding them into areas that they should not be.

    I understand that you say that you have been a Christian for many years and under a very reputable brand of teaching and the fact that you know the truth. I’m not trying to put out your fire or anything, but I believe that we need to take a stand in these last days and teach “Thus Saith The Lord”! We should not be giving our followers a buffet of doctrines for people to choose from, we should be giving them a rounded meal that God has provided from His Word.

    I’m sorry if this comes across as brash and harsh, but I believe that black is black and white is white. if something is not one or the other, then we need to search the scriptures and find out what the truth really is. And, as was mentioned earlier, with the “wonderful” internet at our disposal, we have more resources available to us today than any Bible scholar in history, but they (some of them) seemed to be able to get it right.

    We need to give the Word of God to our people and let our Holy Spirit guide us to all truth. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.”

    As for Old Testament references of the word “hell”…

    Psalm 9: 17
    “The wicked shall be turned into hell,
    and all the nations that forget God.”

    Proverbs 9: 17, 18
    17 “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
    18 “But he knoweth not that the dead are there;
    and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”

    Blessings to you all and keep your heart for God! We need more of them now days.

    –Mark

  5. Brian says:

    As followers of Jesus we have nothing to worry about when it comes to hell. When I put my faith and trust in Christ alone my life started at that moment and will last for eternity with Him. For those who don’t put their faith and trust in Him alone they are eternally separated from God and as one reader posted, that to is hell. As I have studies the scriptures I see hell as a real place. If Jesus himself taught or spoke about hell 11 of the 12 times it’s mentioned in the NT and his listeners, the stubborn religious leaders included, did not argue on this subject then I think his words about the subject need to be considered greatly as He Himself is Truth. Also, I think we need to be careful; we can spend too much time “pondering” things amongst ourselves that we miss out on opportunities to share the gospel with others who are lost. We need to step outside the walls of our churches and into our surroundings bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and living a life of hell now. Maybe if we (believers) spend more time sharing and discussing the Kingdom, grace and forgiveness of Jesus we won’t have to sit around pondering and questioning the subject of hell.

    I think when we peer into the abyss, even for a moment, we are better for it. The blaze reminds us of Who is in charge and how much that Who hates sin. It also makes us grateful that the same God who lit the flames of hell with his hatred of evil also crushed his very own Son because of his love for us and desire to see us rescued from sin and it’s consequences. This sobering realization makes us worship God with a sense of reverance and awe.

  6. I just came across your article discussing the arguments against the idea of Hell as a real place of eternal torment. I understand that the article is simply your way of being willing to consider the possible need to look anew at the scriptures, and I appreciate your openness. However, I believe those scriptures have more than enough to say – even under the Old Testament canopy – to convince us that a place of torment has existed at least since the fall – and has been acknowledged by God’s chosen people (the Jews) in their religious teachings. I’d like to offer some thoughts on the subject that come from my 40 years as a minister and teacher of God’s Word.

    Concerning the teaching of Hell as a real place of torment, we have the words of Jesus Himself to refute the argument that the Jewish people of the Old Covenant did not believe in such a place. We must remember that, even though the modern-day Bibles put the life and teaching of Jesus in the section of the book labeled “New Testament,” Jesus was NOT living under the New Covenant. He was living – and teaching – exclusively in and under the Old Covenant. There was no New Covenant until He died and rose again. In the Gospels, He is preparing people for that great change, but He was teaching Old Covenant people and using the formats and restrictions of their Old Covenant understanding. Moreover, when Jesus taught, He was very careful to use stories and examples of things the people of the day were familiar with. He knew they were dull of hearing, and He made sure to make references to people, places, and situations they would easily understand.

    So it is when he talks to them in Luke 16 about the fate of the “rich man” and the “beggar Lazarus.” In verses 19-31, He speaks to them of events and places that He obviously expects them to recognize. He tells them the rich man and the beggar both died. They both went into the “waiting” place that the Old Covenant Jews referred to as Hades – but which had two separate compartments (Hell, the place of torment, and Abraham’s Bosom – or Paradise – which was the place of rest for those who died in obedience to the covenant and awaited the full work of salvation when Messiah came.)

    Jesus says, “And in Hell, he [the rich man] lifted up his eyes, being in torments and seeth, Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he [the rich man] cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.’” Then the rich man asks for someone to be sent to his brothers to warn them so that they would not have to end up in that place of torment. So it is obvious that the Old Covenant clearly taught the people that there was a place of fiery torment facing those who died outside of that covenant.

    Then in Mark 9:43, Jesus begins a treatise on how we should be aware of the things of our carnal nature that would pull us away from God and obedience to his covenant. He gets very exact with his examples and tells us that if something in our natural man pulls us from God we need to get rid of it completely because it’s better to live without it on earth than to “go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” In this one speech alone, Jesus describes Hell with these specific words no less than three separate times. The people knew exactly what He was referring to. Not one person ever questioned His reference to hell as a place of fire and torment. They obviously had experienced the teaching within their own religious training.

    So, yes, The Old Covenant clearly taught the people who lived by it that there was a place of fire and torment to which they would be relegated if they lived and died in rebellion to God and His covenant.

    Now, I’ll refer briefly to the question concerning whether God failed Adam and Eve by not explaining the possibility of eternal damnation to them. In Genesis, when God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate of the fruit of the one forbidden tree, He was not referring simply to physical death. His words were that if they ate, they would definitely die “in the day that thou eat ….” (Gen. 2:17). Now, Adam and Eve did not die physically the day they ate the fruit. Indeed, it was hundreds and hundreds of years later that they succumbed to physical death. But when they rebelled against God and effectually turned their backs on Him, preferring to put their faith and confidence in Satan, they broke the connection with the Spirit of Life that flowed continually from God into them. Separation from the Spirit of Life was death in a much larger sense than the physical experience.

    The curse came into effect with sin, because sin and everything it touches must be cursed and destroyed. It cannot be allowed to enter into eternity with God and His faithful children. But that curse took hundreds of years to bring the human physical body to the condition that caused physical death. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that now, thousands of years later, that curse has had its way in the earth to such an extent that human beings commonly die long before they ever reach their first 100 years.

    But my point here is that Adam and Eve realized within 24 hours that the death God was referring to was not simply physical death, but something that had a much more powerful and more lasting effect. And God made it clear, through the sacrificial process that He established with them, that the human race was now banished from the presence of God – unless they made proper sacrifices – requiring blood – in order to be allowed to interact with Him again. So they were not ignorant of the fact that their rebellious state harbored serious threats to their eternal future.

    Since you’re inviting people to “ponder” these questions, I thought I’d just add a few facts to the material for pondering.

    • mtsweat says:

      Thank you very much for stepping in and speaking from your heart on these matters. You are not only invited, but I greatly desire your input as the series goes on.

      As you’ve noted, this series will attempt to present an unbiased approach toward the topic, giving equal playing time to the arguments from each aisle, so I hope you and others, even some from the other side, will step in and give input, knowledge, and wisdom. I’ve spent my entire born-again life in full agreement with your take on these matters, but we live in an age when everyone has the capability to be a self-professed theologian, as resources continue to mass up on this amazing tool called the Internet.

      This younger generation refuses to believe something just because it has been proclaimed from a pulpit… who can blame them, as so many contradictory messages are coming at them from all angles?

      Interesting that you immediately go to “the rich man and Lazarus.” It is also my first stop in the next few posts as I hope to present just what Jesus said about hell.

      Thanks again and many blessings to you as you serve our Lord!

  7. I have found that the more intimate I become in my relationship with the Father, the more confused I become in doctrine. What He is teaching me and revealing to me in His Word, has thrown my belief systems off kilter. I am now questioning things I was taught and asking for His heart on the matter. I have to say, the more I get to know Him and His Nature, the less it lines up with things I have been taught. Oh, the main things are unshakable but the there are others that are being shaken. It sure is an interesting journey and I for one trust my Shepherds voice!
    My heart is to be able to dialogue about such things without resorting to judgment. When someone shares something I find hard to swallow, I ask God, “what should my response be to this?” Sometimes He changes my heart, sometimes he tells me to pray, and one time He clearly told me that was Not a table He had me eating from.
    One thing I hope we can all agree on is to press in for more of Him. We cannot do life without Him and I for one want to be on the cutting edge of what He is doing. That means I must hear His voice above all the others, and I must step out in obedience to what He is telling me.
    Thanks for letting me join the dialogue, friend.
    Gayle

    • mtsweat says:

      I’m greatly encouraged by your words Gayle! cc had best be careful… you’re giving her a run for her money as “Encourager of the century.” The “belief system off kilter” comment is so dead on. I see this as a very positive thing. If we are to have the “mind of Christ,” then I believe it is of utmost importance to ensure we are reading the Word through as clear of lenses as our Heavenly Father permits. Like you say, I don’t want to believe something just because someone told me it was right… I want to hear God tell me it is the absolute truth from His Word. Thank you, and many, many blessings good friend!

    • ccragamuffin says:

      LivingInObscurity…”press in for more of Him”…truly, truly…WORD!!! And when we press into The Word, and have it pressed into us, we will become so familiar with His Voice that we will be able to pick out The Shepherds call amongst all the others that beckon and distract. A timely reminder. To know His voice. To listen for His voice. To answer His call. Blessings of thanks for this reminder. Baaaa. Baaaaa. Baaaaa.

      • Thanks for your comments cc and thanks for the chuckle as well. I hope to hear baaaaack from you again as we continue to press in for more of the Master! May you be blessed as you continue to encourage others! 🙂

  8. ccragamuffin says:

    You give us more to ponder, this is a good thing. You are writing this series in a way that causes a reader to think…not just about what we believe, but why we believe it. If we are going to be disciples, then we must be students. Thank you for this great assignment. It encourages examination of The Teacher’s textbook. And kudos to your readers…it is great to see a friendly tone in the responses.

    • mtsweat says:

      “Have you had your ‘ponder’ today…” 🙂 Thanks cc. …and yes, many thanks for the friendly tone throughout the series so far.

  9. Planting Potatoes says:

    I have to agree with Emma…..

  10. Emma Tanner says:

    Very interesting article, thank you. I don’t think anything should be taboo; we have been created as intelligent, sentient beings and we should never be afraid of exploring and trying to better understand any topic, let alone one as vitally important (if sometimes uncomfortable) as this.

    • mtsweat says:

      Thanks, Emma! Your words are encouraging. I,’ve spent most of my born again life under one brand of understanding this doctrine. As more and more stuff like blogging is introduced into our lives, we can’t help but see there are different thoughts on this and a host of other doctrines. Where as we used to find comfort in a secluded room of like minded people, we’re now bumping elbows online with every different take on doctrine. Hopefully this endeavor will be profitable for me and others. Blessings.

  11. I would agree there are seemingly vast differences on this *topic* ( for lack of better words in this early morning moment ) from the NT to the OT. But there are many other noted differences too. It is worth studying as all things God are worth studying. But initially I am apt to go with the Truth here. Being: God’s Truth is from Genesis to Revelation. From page first to page last. From beginning to end. So He must have decided on this afterlife place for a reason … One which we may never fully comprehend. And He mentions it eventually as other things are mentioned later in text. Also I know His Truth : He wants no one to perish.

    So keeping in mind that too much study can be as much of a stick in the eye as not enough study … I carefully consider His Truths first. He told us what we need to know. And first and foremost that is to Love Him and Love people.

    If the sticking points ( from denomination to denomination ) get in the way of that, then we fail at the task He has given us.

    Hell or no hell… Eternal separation from God would indeed be “hell”.

    Very interesting topic indeed. Thanks for your unbiased presentation. 🙂

    • mtsweat says:

      Thanks Heather. You offer some very valuable points of truth. I’m especially fond of “If the sticking points ( from denomination to denomination ) get in the way of that, then we fail at the task He has given us.” How true. Thanks for swinging by and reading… and leaving us with a bit of good wisdom. Blessings.

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