Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

What I think when you say I haven’t really met Jesus

buddy-christby Chris Attaway.

So I get it. You disagree with me about whether I’m a “true” Christian. All my philosophical views and liberal theology rub you the wrong way. I haven’t checked off all the right boxes on your list (infallibility of Scripture, Creationism, so-called “traditional” marriage, etc.). Thus, because I don’t fit inside your concept of what it is to be a Christian, I must never have had a “real” encounter with Jesus. It is then your God-given duty to come down from off your lofty perch to preach the good news of Jesus to me, an apparent godless heathen in disguise.

I’m going to have to stop you right there.

First off, it’s not as though I haven’t heard the gospel a million times. I’m sure atheists in Christian communities feel much the same as I do. Do you suppose that by preaching it to me over and over, one day I’ll break down and agree with you? Why, that sounds like Nazi-esque propaganda. Conservatives must be like Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister.

Not really. I just wanted you to see how it felt.

Secondly, I actually believe in the gospel! But you keep using that word “gospel”… I don’t think it means what you think it means. The gospel means “good news.” Let me try this: good news! God loves you! He only requires that you subscribe to a questionable series of beliefs contrary to all reason and evidence, or else you’ll burn in the most painful fire imaginable for all eternity. Just have faith. Did I mention that if you don’t believe this stuff, you’ll go to Hell?

That isn’t good news.

The good news, as I understand what Jesus seems to have been teaching and what is apparent from observing the world around me, is that salvation is for all. All people can enter the Kingdom. It’s not about being the chosen people or having all the right beliefs. It’s about pursuing goodness with all your heart. It’s about loving others. There’s a lot more to it, but you can read more in other posts.

Thirdly, do you have any idea how condescending you are? Who are you to tell me which of my experiences are “real” and which aren’t? I was in every sense a bona fide evangelical Christian, even perhaps the poster boy for evangelicalism. That I no longer believe that way is not at all a detractor from whether or not my experience was genuine, so how dare you tell me I haven’t really met Jesus the way you think I should. I went through that phase, but, unlike you, I realized that it was corrupt and empty. Your arrogance is so profound that oftentimes you can’t even realize your arrogance when someone points it out to you. “I’m just preaching God’s Word,” you say confidently. Hogwash; you’re using the Bible as an excuse to mistreat me while keeping your own moral conscience clean.

What’s more, you look willfully ignorant. You take pride in not having learned more, and you bizarrely condescend to my increased knowledge which led me away from your beliefs, as though learning were somehow a bad thing. Maybe — JUST MAYBE — if learning new things is inherently destructive to your beliefs, it’s because YOUR BELIEFS ARE WRONG.

Sigh.

I’ll grant that everyone needs critics, but there are good and bad forms of criticism. Criticism which uses evidence and solid argumentation to demonstrate the problems with a particular viewpoint is great. Even if you’re a staunch literal 6-day Creationist, I will at least engage in a bit of discussion, though you and I may disagree about what we actually need to discuss in such a case. By contrast, if you come on here and just start preaching doom to me if I don’t repent, let me introduce you to CTRL-W (protip: it closes the browser tab). I don’t want to hear it, I won’t engage with it, and I will probably make fun of you like I’m doing in this post right now.

It might seem mean-spirited to be so dismissive. Well you know what, when you’ve put up with a whole lot of spiritual bullshit, and when you’ve been hurt in profound ways by people who don’t so much hold as wield their beliefs, then a bit of dismissive humor really takes the edge off the pain you feel when others say hurtful things. It’s a good coping strategy that helps me avoid internalizing all the guilt people try to throw on me. And when you’re out here discussing controversial issues as often as I am, people try to throw on a LOT of guilt. So excuse me while I cease caring about your opinion and fawning over your approval.

I know I’m writing in the second person a lot in this post, blaming “you” for this and that. Trust me, even though “you,” the reader, likely aren’t the person I’m talking about (you very well might be, though), it feels so much better to blame “you” than try to concoct strange sentences using gender neutral language which might describe in theory what’s going on. That’s because when I blame “you,” it’s personal. And if you are in that group of people I’m criticizing, I want you to feel my finger pointing out of the monitor at your face. When you insult me by trying to cast doubt on whether I’m really a Christian or whether I ever had the sort of experiences you’re describing, it’s personal, and I want you to feel that — not because I’m spiteful but because you need to feel it. You need to see that what you do hurts.

So that’s more or less how I feel when you say I need Jesus. I think you’re an arrogant jerk with no idea what you’re saying. If you want to have a discussion, please be my guest, but if you just want to condescend and tell me who I really am and what I’ve really experienced, then the door is right over there.

This is how I’ll feel if you tell me that I didn’t cite the Bible in this post and therefore have no valid point:

brainisfullof

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About Chris

Chris is the author of “The Discerning Christian” blog.

blogbanner14Ten years ago, the last thing I would have dreamed I would be is a writer. I had my sights set on studying computer programming, but as it turns out, you don’t go to college just to receive praise for being smart; you actually have to work. Several mistakes and unforeseen hardships later, I find myself at the end of my philosophy undergrad degree, with an eye toward graduate school or perhaps a career in writing.

Along the way, I have witnessed first-hand the immensely destructive effects of Christianity done poorly. Raised in the Bible Belt South, I grew up around conservative Christian culture, and while I accepted it wholesale until about high school, I saw it tear people apart as my friends and I grew up. If we were to know the followers of Christ by their love, then I knew this was not Christianity. Something was wrong.

After my changing beliefs tore apart my engagement to a young woman (and destroyed pretty much the rest of my life, too), I sought answers by studying philosophy and theology. Suddenly, long-held intuitions became clear, and I realized that the world was far more complex and wonderful than anything I had known previously. Illusions shattered, even as I learned how much still remained mysterious.

Christianity has reopened to me in almost a completely different form. While it is sometimes frightening to carry these new beliefs in a culture which often despises you for doing so, I muster what courage I can and press toward what I believe with all my heart to be the truth.

Now, I work by day and write by night as I save to finish off my schooling. I write because the life of the Christian compels us to bring restoration to the world. That might sound like a lofty goal for a guy who hasn’t yet finished his degree, but I’ll let the quality of my content speak for itself.

Oh, and there is a happy ending: while studying philosophy, I met a beautiful redheaded girl whom I successfully and happily married!

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The Wisdom of Bishop John Shelby Spong

spong1For those seeking to experience Christianity in a new and vibrant way, Bishop John Shelby Spong offers fresh spiritual ideas. Over the past four decades, he has become one of the definitive voices for progressive Christianity.

He is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church, formerly the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. Bishop Spong is a liberal Christian theologian, a commentator  on religion, and an author.

Spong often speaks about the need for a fundamental rethinking of Christianity, including a move away from traditional doctrines and theism, in general.

Here are two videos from the “Future of the Progressive Church” conference, held at the Community Christian Church in Springfield, MO

First Lecture:

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Second Lecture:

Did God Create Hell?

BelieveExcerpted from “What I Believe,” by Jacques Ellul

I am taking up here a basic theme that I have dealt with elsewhere but which is so essential that I have no hesitation in repeating myself. It is the recognition that all people from the beginning of time are saved by God in Jesus Christ, that they have all been recipients of his grace no matter what they have done.

This is a scandalous proposition. It shocks our spontaneous sense of justice. The guilty ought to be punished. How can Hitler and Stalin be among the saved? The just ought to be recognized as such and the wicked condemned.

But in my view this is purely human logic which simply shows that there is no understanding of salvation by grace or of the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ. The proposition also runs counter to the almost unanimous view of theology. Some early theologians proclaimed universal salvation but almost all the rest finally rejected it. Great debates have taken place about foreknowledge and predestination, but in all of them it has been taken for granted that reprobation is normal.

A third and the most serious objection to the thesis is posed by the biblical texts themselves. Many of these talk about condemnation, hell, banishment into outer darkness, and the punishment of robbers, fornicators, idolaters, etc. As we proceed we must overcome these obstacles and examine the theological reasons which lead me to believe in universal salvation, the texts that seem to be against it, and a possible solution.

But I want to stress that I am speaking about belief in universal salvation. This is for me a matter of faith. I am not making a dogma or a principle of it. I can say only what I believe, not pretending to teach it doctrinally as the truth.

1. God Is love

My first simple thesis is that if God is God, the Almighty, the Creator of all things, the Omnipresent, then we can think of no place or being whatever outside him. If there were a place out side him, God would not be all in all, the Creator of all things. How can we think of him creating a place or being where he is not present? What, then, about hell? Either it is in God, in which case he is not universally good, or it is outside him, hell having often been defined as the place where God is not. But the latter is completely unthinkable. One might simply say that hell is merely nothingness. The damned are those who are annihilated. But there is a difficulty here too. Nothingness does not exist in the Bible. It is a philosophical and mathematical concept. We can represent it only by a mathematical sign. God did not create ex nihilo, out of nothing. Genesis 1:2 speaks of tohu wabohu (“desert and wasteland” RSV “formless and void’) or of tehom (“the deep’). This is not nothing.

Furthermore, the closest thing to nothingness seems to be death. But the Bible speaks about enemies, that is, the great serpent, death, and the abyss, which are aggressors against God’s creation and are seeking to destroy it. These are enemies against which God protects his creation. He cannot allow that which he has created and called good to be destroyed, disorganized, swallowed up, and slain. This creation of God cannot revert to nothing. Death cannot issue in nothingness. This would be a negation of God himself, and this is why the first aspect seems to me to be decisive. Creation is under constant threat and is constantly upheld.

How could God himself surrender to nothingness and to the enemy that which he upholds in face and in spite of everything? How could he allow a power of destruction and annihilation in his creation? If he cannot withstand the force of nothingness, then we have to resort to dualism (a good God and a bad God in conflict and equal), to Zoroastrianism. Many are tempted to dualism today. But if God is unique, if he alone has life in himself, he cannot permit this threat to the object of his love.

But it is necessary that “the times be accomplished,” the times when we are driven into a corner and have to serve either the impotence of the God of love or the power of the forces of destruction and annihilation. We have to wait until humanity has completed its history and creation, and every possibility has been explored. This does not merely imply, however, that at the end of time the powers of destruction, death, the great serpent, Satan, the devil, will be annihilated, but much more. How can we talk about nothingness when we receive the revelation of this God who will be all in all? When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself also will be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

If God is, he is all in all. There is no more place for nothingness. The word is an empty one. For Christians it is just as empty as what it is supposed to denote. Philosophers speak in vain about something that they can only imagine or use as a building block, but which has no reality of any kind. ( 1 )

The second and equally essential factor is that after Jesus Christ we know that God is love. This is the central revelation. How can we conceive of him who is love ceasing to love one of his creatures? How can we think that God can cease to love the creation that he has made in his own image? This would be a contradiction in terms. God cannot cease to be love.

If we combine the two theses we see at once that nothing can exist outside God’s love, for God is all in all. It is unthinkable that there should exist a place of suffering, of torment, of the domination of evil, of beings that merely hate since their only function is to torture. It is astounding that Christian theology should not have seen at a glance how impossible this idea is. Being love, God cannot send to hell the creation which he so loved that he gave his only Son for it. He cannot reject it because it is his creation. This would be to cut off himself.

A whole theological trend advances the convenient solution that God is love but also justice. He saves the elect to manifest his love and condemns the reprobate to manifest his justice. My immediate fear is that this solution does not even correspond to our idea of justice and that we are merely satisfying our desire that people we regard as terrible should be punished in the next world. This view is part of the mistaken theology which declares that the good are unhappy on earth but will be happy in heaven, whereas the wicked are successful on earth but will be punished in the next world. Unbelievers have every reason to denounce this explanation as a subterfuge designed to make people accept what happens on earth. The kingdom of God is not compensation for this world.

Another difficulty is that we are asked to see God with two faces as though he were a kind of Janus facing two ways. Such a God could not be the God of Jesus Christ, who has only one face. Crucial texts strongly condemn two-faced people who go two different ways. These are the ones that Jesus Christ calls hypocrites. If God is double-minded, there is duplicity in him. He is a hypocrite. We have to choose: He is either love or he is justice. He is not both. If he is the just judge, the pitiless Justiciar, he is not the God that Jesus Christ has taught us to love. Furthermore, this conception is a pure and simple denial of Jesus Christ. For the doctrine is firm that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and was willing to die for human sin to redeem us all: I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself (John 12:32), satisfying divine justice. All the evil done on earth from Adam’s break with God undoubtedly has to be judged and punished. But all our teaching about Jesus is there to remind us that the wrath of God fell entirely on him, on God in the person of the Son. God directs his justice upon himself; he has taken upon himself the condemnation of our wickedness. What would be the point, then, of a second condemnation of individuals?

Was the judgment passed on Jesus insufficient? Was the price that was paid-the punishment of the Son of God-too low to meet the demands of God’s justice? This justice is satisfied in God and by God for us. From this point on, then, we know only the face of the love of God.

This love is not sentimental acquiescence. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31). God’s love is demanding, “jealous,” total, and indivisible. Love has a stern face, not a soft one. Nevertheless, it is love. And in any case this love excludes double predestination, some to salvation and others to perdition. It is inconceivable that the God of Jesus Christ, who gives himself in his Son to save us, should have created some people ordained to evil and damnation.

There is indeed a predestination, but it can be only the one predestination to salvation. In and through Jesus Christ all people are predestined to be saved. Our free choice is ruled out in this regard. We have often said that God wants free people. He undoubtedly does, except in relation to this last and definitive decision. We are not free to decide and choose to be damned. To say that God presents us with the good news of the gospel and then leaves the final issue to our free choice either to accept it and be saved or to reject it and be lost is foolish. To take this point of view is to make us arbiters of the situation. In this case it is we who finally decide our own salvation.

This view reverses a well-known thesis and would have it that God proposes and man disposes. Without question we all know of innumerable cases in which people reject revelation. Swarms are doing so today. But have they any real knowledge of revelation? If I look at countless presentations of the Word of God by the churches, I can say that the churches have presented many ideas and commandments that have nothing whatever to do with God’s revelation. Rejecting these things, human commandments, is not the same as rejecting the truth. And even if the declaration or proclamation of the gospel is faithful, it does not itself force a choice upon us.

If people are to recognize the truth, they must also have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. These two things are indispensable, the faithful declaration of the gospel, the good news, by a human being and the inner witness in the hearer of the Holy Spirit, who conveys the assurance that it is the truth of God. The one does not suffice without the other. Thus when those who hear refuse our message, we can never say that they have chosen to disobey God.

The human and divine acts are one and the same only in the Word of Jesus. When he told his hearers not to be unbelieving but to believe, if they refused then they were rejected. In our case, however, we cannot say that there is an act of the Holy Spirit simultaneously with our proclamation. This may well be the point of the well-known text about the one sin that cannot be pardoned, the sin against the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 12:31-32). But we can never know whether anyone has committed it. However that may be, it is certain that being saved or lost does not depend on our own free decision.

I believe that all people are included in the grace of God. I believe that all the theologies that have made a large place for damnation and hell are unfaithful to a theology of grace. For if there is predestination to perdition, there is no salvation by grace. Salvation by grace is granted precisely to those who without grace would have been lost. Jesus did not come to seek the righteous and the saints, but sinners. He came to seek those who in strict justice ought to have been condemned.

A theology of grace implies universal salvation. What could grace mean if it were granted only to some sinners and not to others according to an arbitrary decree that is totally contrary to the nature of our God? If grace is granted according to the greater or lesser number of sins, it is no longer grace-it is just the opposite because of this accountancy. Paul is the very one who reminds us that the enormity of the sin is no obstacle to grace:Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom. 5:20). This is the key statement. The greater the sin, the more God’s love reveals itself to be far beyond any judgment or evaluation of ours. This grace covers all things. It is thus effectively universal.

I do not think that in regard to this grace we can make the Scholastic distinctions between prevenient grace, expectant grace, conditional grace, etc. Such adjectives weaken the thrust of the free grace of the absolute sovereign, and they result only from our great difficulty in believing that God has done everything. But this means that nothing in his creation is excluded or lost.

( 1 ) This is why books like Satre’s Being und Nothingness and H. Carre’s Point d’appui pris sur le neant are so feeble.

 

Jesus Christ Did Not Teach Hell

love-godMisunderstood and Mistranslated Words of Jesus – by “God’s Plan For All

Hell believing Christians argue that Jesus Christ Himself preached more about hell than any other person in the Bible. In this chapter, we shall see how, where and why hell believers misunderstand and mistranslate Jesus’s words. However, before we do this, let us first highlight three scriptures spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, which categorically prove without any doubt that He did not believe in hell.

Luke 23:34
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

This is an amazing prayer request from Jesus Christ to God the Father. Think about it. There is no greater sin one could commit than to murder the very Son of God, and yet, there was not even the slightest hint of any revenge or unforgiveness in Jesus’s heart towards His unbelieving murderers. We know for certain that Father God will grant His Son’s request. Surely, this wonderful and gracious single request from Jesus to His Father God, for the forgiveness of His enemies, is ample proof in and of itself that Jesus Christ did not believe in hell.

Jesus Christ strongly condemned the religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the Jewish chief priests, Pharisees and elders who plotted against Him and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate to be crucified. However, Jesus never believed that these self-righteous chief priests, Pharisees and elders, who became His murderers, would end up in hell; in fact quite the opposite, Jesus clearly told them that they were all destined to enter the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 21:31
Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”

In this verse, Jesus directly addresses the Jewish chief priests, Pharisees and elders who confronted Him in the temple and questioned His authority. Let the truth of this scripture sink deep down into your heart. What is Jesus saying here? Jesus is saying that these Jewish chief priests, Pharisees and elders, who crucified Him, will enter the Kingdom of God, but not before tax collectors and harlots. Do we believe Jesus’s words? Surely, this would have been an ideal opportunity for Jesus to warn these chief priests, Pharisees and elders about hell, but instead Jesus said that even they were destined to enter the Kingdom of God. Did Jesus believe in hell? Absolutely not!

John 12:32-33 (NIV)
32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus was lifted up on the cross to die for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). The cross of Jesus Christ has unlimited power to draw all to Jesus. Ultimately, in God’s time and His order, which extends beyond this age, Jesus says that He will draw all to Himself. Please note, the original Greek Manuscripts simply say in verse 32, ‘But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself’. This means that all fallen men and all fallen angels, without a single exception, will be reconciled to God through the glorious work of the cross, as clearly stated in Colossians 1:15-20.

The three scriptures that we have just looked at, spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, categorically and absolutely prove that Jesus Christ did not believe in hell.

Let us now examine in detail what Jesus Christ is supposed to have said about ‘hell’ and understand how His words, about the future judgement of all unbelievers and fallen angels, have been misunderstood and mistranslated by hell believers.

Let us first remind ourselves of a few salient points that we have covered in previous chapters: Chapters 15, 16 and 17.

Belief in eternal punishment in hell was a pagan belief embraced and christianised by the church in Rome in the early years of the history of Christianity. The doctrine of everlasting punishment in hell is founded upon a combination of mistranslations and misinterpretations of certain original Hebrew and Greek words (sheol, hades, tartarus, gehenna, owlam, aion and aionios) which first occurred when Jerome translated Scripture into the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate in the fifth century.

Jesus Christ never spoke about ‘everlasting fire’ or ‘everlasting punishment’ as erroneously translated in scriptures such as Matthew 18:8, Matthew 25:41 and Matthew 25:46 in most popular versions of the Bible that support the doctrine of hell. The correct translation of these terms are ‘age-lasting fire’ and ‘age-lasting punishment’ as we explain in detail in the previous chapter, Chapter 17.

When Jesus Christ uses the term ‘gehenna fire’ as in Matthew 18:9, He does not mean everlasting tormenting hell fire. By the term ‘gehenna fire’, Jesus means God’s age-lasting refining fire on the Day of Judgement. Chapter 16 explains this in detail.

For the rest of this chapter, we shall examine what Jesus Christ means when He uses terms like ‘perish’, ‘where their worm does not die’, ‘and the fire is not quenched’, ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’, and other such terms which have all been misunderstood and misinterpreted by hell believers. We have allocated one whole chapter, the next chapter, to understanding the true biblical meaning of Jesus’s parable of ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus’, which has been the most widely used proof source for hell believers.

‘Perish’

Luke 13:3
I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish(apollymi).

Jesus Christ says that all people who die unrepentant will perish. The original Greek word translated as perish in this verse isapollymi. It is necessary to fully understand the meaning of this important Greek word apollymi, which Jesus Christ uses several times to describe the age-to-come judgement of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire.

In the Bible, apollymi is translated into English to give several meanings: to perish, to destroy, to put to ruin, to render useless, to kill and to lose (Strong’s G622). In the verse above, Christ is saying that all people who die as unbelievers will ‘perish’, which will be in the Lake of Fire. However, because they will ‘perish’ (apollymi), this does not mean that they will be annihilated or lost forever. In the beautiful story of the lost son, the prodigal son, given in the same Gospel in Luke 15, Jesus Christ uses this very same Greek wordapollymi.

Luke 15:24
‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost(apollymi), and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

So, when Jesus Christ says in Luke 13:3, that ‘unless you repent you will all likewise perish’, Jesus does not mean that all those who do not repent will be annihilated or punished eternally. The parable of the lost son proves this categorically because the lost (apollymi) son (perished son) was not lost forever because he was found once he repented. From this parable, we know that the lost or ‘perished’ son was able to repent of his sin and he was gladly accepted back by his father with great celebration.

Luke 19:10
The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost(apollymi).

Once again, we see that the same Greek word apollymi is used in this verse. How many are lost? All people are born lost with a sinful fallen Adamic nature referred to in the Bible as ‘the old man’. The Bible says that there is not one righteous, no, not even one. Jesus Christ will save all people without exception, as man’s fallen will and Satan’s rebellious will cannot frustrate God’s sovereign will to save all of the lost (apollymi).

Christ is indeed committed to saving all those who are lost, all those who are perished, like the prodigal son. Jesus Christ is indeed the Great Saviour of the lost, and He is absolutely not a great annihilator or a great torturer of people in hell.

Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy (apollymi) both soul and body in hell (gehenna).

In this NKJV scripture, the Greek word gehenna has once again been mistranslated as hell.

Christ says that we must not fear men who at worst can only kill us physically, but they cannot ‘kill the soul’ meaning they cannot take away the resurrected immortal life, which God will grant to all people. However, we need to fear God in this life, because if we don’t then there is judgement awaiting us in gehenna, meaning in the Lake of Fire, on the Great White Throne Judgement Day.

Notice in Matthew 10:28 above, how Christ once again uses the same word apollymi. The destruction (apollymi) of ‘both soul and body’ in gehenna refers to the Second Death, which is the spiritual death of ‘the old man’ in the Lake of Fire. Our sinful Adamic ‘old man’ must first be destroyed before the righteous ‘new man’ in Christ can be born in us. All unbelievers, who will rise at the Second Resurrection in their immortal yet still unsaved bodies, will die the Second Death in the Lake of Fire. We cover this subject in detail in Chapter 12, The Lake of Fire Judgement Age – Part 1.

Matthew 10:39
He who finds his life will lose (apollymi) it, and he who loses(apollymi) his life for My sake will find it.

In this verse, Christ once again emphasises the same truth by using the Greek word apollymi. We must first lose our old self-righteous Adamic ‘old man’ (crucified with Christ) through repentance and belief in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, before we can be born again into New Life in Christ. This is true for believers during this life and for unbelievers in the Lake of Fire Judgement Age.

It should now be abundantly clear that when Jesus Christ uses the Greek word apollymi when referring to the future judgement of unbelievers in gehenna (mistranslated as hell), He does not mean that unbelievers will perish, be lost, killed, destroyed, ruined or tortured for eternity. Jesus is clearly referring to the future age-lasting corrective, refining and merciful judgement of all unbelievers during the Lake of Fire Judgement Age.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish (apollymi) but have everlasting life.

This is the verse most frequently quoted by Christians. However, the true meaning of this scripture is distorted by hell believers.

Father God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Only true believers have everlasting life by faith now, and they will come into the actuality of it when they rise in their saved and glorified immortal bodies in the First Resurrection when Christ returns.

However, all unbelievers will rise in the Second Resurrection, in their unsaved immortal bodies, and they will need to perish in God’s corrective Lake of Fire judgement. This is because their sinful Adamic ‘old man’ will need to be destroyed (crucified with Christ) so that their righteous ‘new man’ in Christ is born in them. They will become born again believers through dying the Second Death in the Lake of Fire, as we explain in detail in Chapter 12.

Let us now look at a scripture from the Old Testament, which agrees with and confirms what Jesus Christ says that unbelievers first need to be ‘perished’ before they come to seek God and be saved.

Psalm 83:16-18
16 Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O LORD. 17 Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish, 18 that they may know that You, whose name alone is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

Please note that through God’s judgement of putting to shame unbelievers and perishing them, they will learn to seek God and will come to know the one true God of the Bible who is the Most High over all the earth. We can see that these unbelievers who have perished are still alive after they have been perished. However, they are not the same as before being perished because they are alive with the knowledge of the one true God, the Most High over all the earth. This verse proves that the perishing which resurrected unbelievers undergo in God’s Lake of Fire Judgement Age is neither annihilation nor eternal spiritual separation from God, but it is the Second Death, the death of the old Adamic nature ‘the old man’, so that all unbelievers may become born again believers reconciled to Father God Almighty through the work of the cross.

‘Where their worm does not die’

Mark 9:44
Where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’

What did Christ mean by ‘where their worm does not die’? Let us understand the spiritual significance of the term, ‘their worm’.

Mark 9:42-44
42 ‘But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Meto stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell (gehenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’

Here, Jesus gives a warning not to offend ‘these little ones who believe in Me’. So, who are ‘these little ones’? These little ones are God’s Elect, all those who become truly born again Christians in this lifetime, those who have fully accepted by repentance and faith the true Gospel of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ says that those who offend ‘the little ones’ will face severe judgement in God’s consuming fire, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’. It is better for an offender of ‘the little ones’ to take a drastic action (compared to cutting off the offending part of the body) and repent of his offence before he dies, than to have to face the fiery, refining judgement of God in the Lake of Fire (gehenna).

Whose worm does not die? Is it the worm of ‘the little ones’ or the worm of the offenders? Please notice that the word ‘worm’ is singular, so we are not talking about many worms, but only one worm, their worm. Here is the wonderful scripture, which reveals exactly who ‘their worm’ is.

Psalm 22:6
But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. It is a prophecy of the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus humbled Himself on the cross for the sins of the whole world so that we might all have God’s Righteousness through the free gift of Salvation.

In Psalm 22:6 above, Jesus categorically says that He is a Worm. On the cross, Jesus Christ humbled Himself like a worm for all of mankind and we must learn from His example of great humility. All hard-hearted unbelievers will be humbled in the Lake of Fire and come to understand the sacrifice of their Saviour. So, who is ‘their worm’ who ‘does not die’ in Mark 9:44 above?

‘Their Worm’ is none other than the Saviour of all people who died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. ‘Their Worm’ will reconcile to Father God all things on earth and all things in heaven having made peace through the blood of His cross. ‘Their Worm’ is the resurrected immortal Saviour of the whole world, our Lord Jesus Christ, who does not die and who cannot die.

‘And the fire is not quenched’
Mark 9:48-49
48 Where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be seasoned with fire, every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.

Let us remind ourselves that the Lake of Fire is both God’s physical and spiritual cleansing on the Great White Throne Judgement Day. God’s physical Lake of Fire is an age-lasting fire and it will not be quenched until every unbeliever and every fallen angel has been refined, purified and reconciled to God by God’s Spiritual Fire, which is of course, eternal and unquenchable.

We fully deal with the subject of God’s refining fire in Chapter 12

‘Weeping and gnashing of teeth’
Jesus Christ had some very strong words to say to the Pharisees, because He absolutely hated their self-righteousness. The Pharisees believed that they would be amongst the first to enter the Kingdom of God, but Jesus Christ said quite the opposite.

Matthew 21:31b
Jesus said to them (the Pharisees), “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.

Self-righteous Pharisees and self-righteous Christians, who think that they are the sons of the kingdom, will be absolutely shocked on the Day of Judgement to find themselves outside of the Kingdom of God in spiritual darkness, and many sinners, like tax collectors and harlots whom they condemned, enter the Kingdom of God before them.
These religious self-righteous people will weep because of great disappointment and gnash their teeth in despair and anger because all of their religious works were a complete waste of time, and to no avail for their salvation.

Matthew 8:12
But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness.There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Religious people think that they will go to heaven because of what they do for God, instead of accepting by faith what God has already done for the whole world, through the finished work of the cross.

Of course, God loves self-righteous people, but not in their self-righteous state. Yes, even the self-righteous Pharisees will ultimately enter the Kingdom of God, as confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 21:31 above.

‘More tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, and for Sodom and Gomorrah’

Matthew 11:20-22
20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

When Jesus walked on earth, He did many mighty works in the towns and cities of Israel, but most of the Jews did not accept Him as the Son of God and did not repent of their unbelief. Jesus says that these Jews are accountable for their unbelief, and on the Day of Judgement they will face a greater level of judgement than Tyre and Sidon, who would have repented if they had witnessed Jesus doing similar mighty works.

Matthew 10:14-15
14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city!

On the Day of Judgement, Jesus says that all unbelievers will not face the same level of judgement. Those who hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and then reject it will undergo a greater level of judgement; yes, even greater than Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed by fire because of their sexual abominations.

The Bible is clear that there will be different levels of judgement, punishment and humbling experiences for unbelievers in the future Lake of Fire Judgement Age. However, all of God’s judgements flow out of His love and are designed to lead people to repentance and belief in their Saviour, and not to eternal torture in hell.
What about everlasting punishment?

Matthew 25:46
And these will go away into everlasting (aionios) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (aionios) life.

We fully looked into this mistranslated verse in the previous chapter, Chapter 17. This verse is the most frequently quoted verse used in defence of the doctrine of hell. The correct translation of this verse, as given below, reveals God’s merciful age-to-come, age-lasting corrective judgement of all unbelievers in the Lake of Fire.

Matthew 25:46
And these will go away into an age-to-come punishment, but the righteous into an age-to-come life.

This is indeed the true meaning of this verse, as originally inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it does not introduce any contradictions whatsoever into the Word of God.
What about Judas – was it better for him if he had not been born?

Matthew 26:24
The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.

If the doctrine of hell were true, then it would be better for most people not to have been born, because traditional Christianity believes that the overwhelming majority of people end up in hell. If this were the case, then all women should immediately stop having children, because the chances are that most if not all of their children would end up in hell.

The meaning the verse above is that it would have been better for Judas not to have been born to betray Jesus, because Judas will have to go through God’s Lake of Fire judgement before he can be reconciled to God. Let us further understand why Jesus says that it would have been better for Judas not to have been born to betray Him.

John 17:12
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

John 13:18
I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me’.

These verses refer to Judas. It was written in the Old Testament that Judas would betray Jesus (Psalm 41:9). It may be hard for us to understand that Judas was chosen right from the foundation of the world to betray Jesus. Think about it, if Judas had not betrayed Jesus, then we would not have a Saviour. Judas understood the way of Righteousness, but then he rejected it. He was called, but not chosen.

2 Peter 2:21
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

The Bible says that it would have been better for Judas and many other people not to have known the way of Righteousness, than having known it to then turn away from it. Judas and all sons of perdition (ungodly men) will face the Lake of Fire judgement before they can be reconciled to God.
What about the ‘unpardonable sin’?

Matthew 12:31-32
31 Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

The Pharisees blasphemed against the Holy Spirit by falsely attributing the miraculous works performed by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to the works of demons. Jesus says that the sins of these unbelieving Pharisees will not be forgiven during ‘this age’, which was the age when Jesus was alive, nor will their sins be forgiven during ‘the age to come’, meaning the next age (the present age) after Jesus was resurrected. In other words, these unbelieving Pharisees all died unforgiven. However, please note that the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit remains unforgiven for ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’ only, but not forever.

All unbelievers will be humbled and repent during the Lake of Fire Judgement Age, and all of them will be forgiven, as explained in Chapter 12. Remember, Jesus Christ died to forgive the sins of thewhole world. Also, Jesus’ last and most important prayer to Father God, before He died on the cross, was to ask for the forgiveness of all those who were in agreement to crucify Him. No doubt, the Pharisees who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit are also included in that group, and they will repent, be forgiven, and be reconciled to God in the Lake of Fire Judgement Age, and enter the Kingdom of God.
What about the resurrection of condemnation?

John 5:28-29
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (krisis).

Please note that the Greek word krisis has been translated ascondemnation and should have been more accurately translated as judgement (Strong’s G2920).

The Bible speaks about two resurrections, the First Resurrection and the Second Resurrection, which are separated by the thousand-year Millennial Age of Christ’s rule on this earth. The First Resurrection is the resurrection of life when the Saints, God’s Elect Bride of Christ, will be raised in their saved immortal bodies at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The Second Resurrection is both the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgement. The Second Resurrection occurs when the rest of humanity are resurrected at the end of Christ’s Millennial Age, when the Lake of Fire Judgement Age begins. This is when all believers who lived during Christ’s Millennial Age will be resurrected in their saved immortal bodies to join God’s Elect Bride of Christ from the First Resurrection. However, all unbelievers from throughout the Ages will be resurrected in their unsaved immortal bodies for judgement (krisis) in God’s refining, yet merciful Lake of Fire.
What about the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus, as given in Luke 16:19-31, is about the mystery of the Kingdom of God. This parable is the most misunderstood of all of Jesus’ parables. We have allocated the next chapter, Chapter 19, to explain this parable in detail.

We have now fully covered all of the scriptures spoken by Jesus and used by hell believing Christians to provide their ‘proof texts’ in support of the doctrine of eternal torture in hell. As we have seen from Scripture, Jesus Christ did not believe in or teach the false doctrine of hell.
Additional Misunderstood Texts

There are some additional texts in the Bible, not directly spoken by Jesus, but used by hell believing ‘Christians’ in support of the doctrine of hell. Let us now examine three of these texts, Isaiah 66:23-24, Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews10:26-27.

Text 1

Isaiah 66:23-24
23 “And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD. 24 “And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me.For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be abhorrence to all flesh.”

With any given scripture, it is important to understand the age-setting in which it is placed. As we have shown in this book, God is working out His wonderful Plan for the salvation and reconciliation of all in seven biblical ages.

The age-setting of Isaiah 66:23-24 above is at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom of God, after Christ has destroyed the vast armies of invading Gentiles, Gog and Magog, at the battle of Armageddon.

Verse 23 above says, ‘And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the LORD. Only Jews are required to keep the Sabbath, therefore, ‘all flesh’ here refers to all of the Jews who will survive the Great Tribulation. In Chapter 11,The Millennial Kingdom of God, we showed from Scripture that approximately one third of the Jews will survive the Great Tribulation to enter Christ’s Millennial Age in their fleshly bodies.

We are now in a position to understand verse 24 in its proper context.

‘And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me’

These corpses are the huge armies of dead Gentile unbelievers, Gog and Magog, who will fight in the final great battle of Armageddon, which will take place at the end of this present age. Jesus Christ Himself will put an end to this war at His Second Coming, as explained in Chapter 10. At the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Age, all around Jerusalem in God’s Promised Land, there will be millions of dead bodies of soldiers who came to attack Jerusalem in this last great battle of Armageddon. All of the surviving Jews who enter Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will abhor the sight of millions of rotting, stinking corpses in their land as this scripture says, ‘They shall be abhorrence to all flesh’. The Bible says that it will take seven months for the Jews to bury these dead corpses. (Ezekiel 39:11-16).

The expression ‘for their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched’, in Isaiah 66:24 above, is repeated by Jesus Christ Himself in Mark 9:48, which we have explained previously in this chapter. This expression in no way supports the doctrine of hell, but it does support the glorious truth of the Bible that the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ (their worm), is the Saviour of all men, which includes all of these dead unbelieving armies of Gog and Magog. Also, please remember that God is a consuming fire and His refining, yet merciful, Lake of Fire Judgement will ensure that all, without a single exception, will come to believe in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Text 2

Hebrews 6:4-6
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Please note that these people who hear the good word of God and reject it, only taste but do not eat and digest it. They merely taste the Bread of Life without actually eating it. They have a degree of mind understanding of the Gospel, but not the full heart understanding of it. They are tares, but not wheat. The seed (the good word of God) is sown on their poor soil, which bears no fruit.

However, please note that the scripture above does not say that people who reject the truth of the Gospel are lost forever. Yes, it is impossible for people who end up rejecting and falling away from the truth of the Gospel to renew them again to repentance in this life before they die, but they are not lost forever. Nobody can be lost forever because the Bible clearly states in numerous scriptures, many of which are quoted in this book, that God who is the Saviour of the world will save all people, without a single exception.

Text 3

Hebrews 10:26-27
26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.

God views a man as ‘sinning deliberately’ when he rejects the truth of the Gospel that the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, is indeed the Saviour of the whole world, after having had this truth clearly preached to him. Such people who ‘sin deliberately’ are accountable for their sin of unbelief, and they will have to face God’s fiery judgement in His consuming, refining Lake of Fire before they are reconciled to God.

God’s Lake of Fire judgement for all unbelievers will be a fearful judgement, but it will not be eternal torment in hell. It will be an age-lasting, humbling and refining judgement from a loving Father God who chastises His rebellious children to bring them to repentance. Ultimately, in God’s time and His order, all will be reconciled to God and all will enter the Eternal Kingdom of God of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Conclusion

The whole purpose of Jesus Christ coming down from heaven to this earth and dying on the cross for the sins of the whole world was to do the will of His Father, which is the salvation of all people. Jesus Christ will save all and lose nothing.

Luke 19:10
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

All of humanity became lost because of the sin of the First Adam, but all of humanity will be saved because of the loving sacrifice of the Last Adam, the only begotten Son of God who died on the cross to forgive the sins of the whole world, ‘to save that which was lost’.

Most certainly, our Lord Jesus Christ did not believe in or preach hell anywhere in the Bible. He preached the glorious Gospel of the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness for the reconciliation and salvation of all.