Increase Not Decrease: God Grants the Role

“You Yourselves bear me witness that I said ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him’.” (John 3:28)

Of course John’s comment is in light of his ministry. For he says that he was to announce the Christ because he is not the Christ: his role was to prepare the way. John sees that his own life isn’t purposeless but is actually tied up in the work of God by the presentation of the Lamb of God.

He was sent to preach repentance and when he saw the Lamb of God he pointed him out, openly acknowledging that this is the provision that God had made. (John 1:19-34)

To John’s mind, this probably meant something else. He probably thought as Jesus as the Lamb ruler who would forcefully take away the sins of the World. After all, it was only a short time later that he would be imprisoned, still waiting for the Christ to reboot this entire world, and wondering why it hadn’t happened yet.

In Matthew 11, John, seeing that Herod is still in power (and he’s still in jail) sends a message to Jesus via disciples: “Are you the Christ that we’re waiting for?” He spent his life pointing out this person, he could’ve sworn that this was the very thing he was called to do, but things had turned out so differently and dire: could he have been wrong?

Christ responds neither yes nor no but pointing out the work of God. The Lame walk. The blind see. The Gospel is being preached.

The next historical note we have about John is that he’s beheaded at a party for a cruel mother and her daughter. (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9).

You see, Christ explains, John wasn’t merely some spectacle in soft clothes out in the wild—some oddity to ogle. This John was God’s prophet: the very Elijah who was supposed to come (if they would have had him) before the end of the age: the one who prepared the way of the coming of the Lord Himself. This John, in prison who eventually died of beheading, was the greatest of the prophets (Matt 11:11a).

Without a miracle. Without a sign. With a backwater ministry in the Jewish outback. John functioned where he was supposed to function doing what all the prophets before him did, but better. Point to Christ.

Every single prophet in the Old Testament pointed forward to Christ via the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes fuzzily. Sometimes explicitly. But always predicated upon God’s revelation and looking forward to God’s distant promises. John alone, out of all the prophets, announced Him within days, inaugurated him via baptism, and witnessed the descending Holy Spirit upon Him. None of the prophets were given that position (Heb 11:39).

But John didn’t see everything. He was still an Old Testament prophet. He didn’t see  the crowds cheering around the one who comes in the name of the Lord (Mark 11:9; John 12). To him wasn’t given the horror of seeing the Messiah rejected and pinned to a tree (John 19). He would never witness the wonder of the risen Messiah (John 20). To him wasn’t given the chance of listening to the risen Lord for several days before he was taken up into heaven (Acts 1). To him wasn’t given the chance of participating in the prophesying in tongues which was a witness of the Holy Spirit being poured out in the last days (Acts 2).

None of those things were given to him; God didn’t grant John that role.

And he knew that at this point.

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Quotables: Douglas Moo on the Rapture

quotables

Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored. This comes from Douglas Moo.

The truth of the imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is an important and indispensable element of biblical truth. That this coming is to be premillennial the Scriptures plainly state. That a time of unprecedented Tribulation will immediately precede that coming and that living believers will be raptured into the presence of Christ at His coming are also plainly stated.

But the time of that Rapture with respect to the tribulation is nowhere plainly stated. No Old Testament or New Testament author directly addresses that question or states the nature of that relationship as a point fo doctrine. What I think the Scriptures indicate has been stated on the preceding pages.

But, because this conviction is founded upon logic, inferences, and legitimately debated points of exegesis, I cannot, indeed must not, allow this conviction to represent any kind of barrier to full relationships with others who hold differing convictions on this point. May our discussions on this point enhance, not detract from, our common expectation of “the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)

Three Views on The Rapture (1996), page 211 (I added paragraph breaks but the emphasis was original to Moo).

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Philosophy Fridays: No May21st = No God?

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll deal with some philosophical issues surrounding the rapture (or lack thereof come May 21st) in under 700 words.

Let’s say that the rapture doesn’t happen on May 21st, 2011 (which, according to the last posts, seems extremely likely) does that mean that God doesn’t exist? After all, there is a group of Christians saying that it is an irrefutable fact that the Bible teaches this date for the rapture. And if the Bible teaches it, and it doesn’t happen, then surely God doesn’t exist.

This sounds silly, but I’ve seen folk raising this point as if now we’ll have the proof either way. But there’s several responses to this.

The Bible could be wrong, is one response. That shouldn’t be as catastrophic as some Christians might think. The existence of God isn’t predicated on a Bible that doesn’t make mistakes; it’s predicated on the fact that God exists. If the Bible contained errors, that wouldn’t negate the truth claim of God existing, it would just put into question what we can know about God’s existence.

Even then, that shouldn’t put us into an agnostic tailspin. We might wind up looking at the Bible like any other collection of ancient documents: containing historical data while simultaneously containing mistakes. So the way we would look at a modern textbook in School and say “this didn’t happen exactly this way” while still trusting what the book says, we can likewise do this with a Bible that contains mistakes of the proportion of predicting Christ’s return on May 21st, 2011.

But we don’t even have to go as far as saying the Bible is wrong. We might offer an easier response: the date-setters are wrong—and that could be at two levels. One level (which I think the date-setters might employ) is that (a) the calculations were wrong or (b) the event was right but the extent of the event was mistaken. Jehovah Witnesses, for example, long predicted that Christ came but made a correction saying that Christ entered into Earth with some sort of presence of judgment awaiting Armageddon. They weren’t saying that before the prediction failed. Anyway, this would only prove the fallibility of men.

The second level (which the date-setters will avoid if the event doesn’t occur) is that the date-setters were wrong on almost everything. They started trying to do something that there is no warrant to do, they based their math on presuppositions, and they preached a message which God never authorized. If anything, this wouldn’t disprove the existence of God either; it’d just prove that men can make intentional mistakes when they try to do what they aren’t authorized to do.

Even if the rapture does happen, it wouldn’t prove these date-setters were right. It could be that the rapture happens, but these people got the right day by luck and not by mathematics or revelation. This would leave these people wrong on everything except for the date which they hit by accident.

Of course, I personally doubt the event will occur tomorrow, but either way it doesn’t disprove the existence of God nor prove that the exegesis of the date-setters was spot-on.

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When Is The Rapture?

Folk have been setting dates on the Rapture for a long time. If you check the inerrant internet repository of all knowledge, you’ll find dates set for March 21, 1844, 1914, 1981, 1988, 1994 (Harold Camping’s first date), 2011 (Harold Camping’s second date), and even 2060 (Isaac Newton).

But this is only recent history. Before the Bible was even finished we had people saying that Christ would return—in fact, the second letter of 2 Thessalonians was because there was a teaching that the Day of the Lord had already occurred (2 Thes 2:1-2); Paul actually kicked some folk out of church for teaching that sort of thing (2 Tim 2:16-18). Some sites online have even tried to record the history of date-setting, though it’s definitely not comprehensive.

The thing is that every single rapture prediction has to come face to face with verses that state that no one can predict the event.  So you have Christ saying that no one knows the day or the time of Christ’s return (Matt 25:1) and that we should always be ready for his return (Mat 24:42) and that (at the point of stating it) not even Jesus knew the time of his return (Mat 24:36). Angels don’t know when it will happen (Mk 13:32) and in fact, Christ says that it’s not for us to know when it happens (Acts 1:7) .

And this is when the theological nuances enter in. Date-setters have a long history of saying that this was true back then (when Christ made the statements) but it isn’t true now: that we have been given plenty of information to try to figure out The When. They’re close, but have taken things a step too far.

We have been given a lot of information about Timing but we haven’t been given information about The Time.

You’re probably wondering what the difference is. Here’s an example: when it is cloudy out you must use your headlights. This is a statement about timing based on certain situations but it is not a statement of what time you are to use the headlights. It’s not like I said “at 5:34 on May 21st you must use your headlights.”

Likewise in Scripture, there is information given about Christ’s return and the rapture but Christians put this information together in different ways to figure out the timing of the Rapture but they shouldn’t do it to put together the Time of the Rapture.

So for example 1 Corinthians 15 ties the Resurrection of the Dead to Christ’s return so the timing of the rapture is “at Christ’s return”.  So the timing of the rapture winds up being linked. That’s easy, true, but it gets more difficult when you add more information: information that Christ adds.

Christ says that when people are saying “peace and safety” that we need to be watchful (Mk 13:32-37). That just like in the days of Noah, when people thought everything was fine, so the coming of the Son would occur in this sort of environment (Mt 24:36-39). That his coming is when people don’t expect him to come (Lu 12:40), almost like a trap (Luke 21:34-35) and that we must be vigilant (Mk 13:33-37).  Paul says that date-setting is problematic since Christ’s coming is like a thief in the night (1 Th 5:1-2) and he’s just echoing Christ himself (Luke 12:39 ; Rev 3:3; 16:15).

The indication of these verses all seem to be that Christ is coming in judgment of the Earth, that it is the time of His wrath, and therefore believers need to be ready for his coming. Since His coming is already tied to the resurrection of the dead, the timing of the rapture seems to be “when the Lord comes to judge the earth.”  Noting that believers are not appointed to wrath (Rom 5:9; Rev 6:17) some believers think that the Church is being rescued from the wrath while fully expecting the rapture is imminent  (Jam 5:8; 1 Pe 4:7).

But Christ gives more information. So you have Christ saying that his coming is after certain horrendous things in Matthew 24. You’ll have rumors of war, famines, earthquakes, delivering of Christians to tribulation, a great apostasy, false prophets, increased lawlessness, the Gospel reaching out to the whole world—and then the end comes. Christ tells believers when they see the abomination that makes desolate, that they’re to flee to the mountains praying that all this doesn’t happen in winter. That all this is so bad that there will never be a more horrid time after this—then Christ comes like in the days of Noah where all the people are wiped out.  Paul points out that before the Day of the Lord, the man of Lawlessness would be revealed (2 Thes 2) which puts yet another timing marker.

Other believers  then, argue that since there are markers of wrath in conjunction with the coming of the Lord, and the believers are told to expect the Lord’s coming at any moment, that therefore Christ’s coming will be either during or after the outpouring of God’s wrath and that Christians will be saved through (and not from) the wrath. The rapture, in this nuance, occurs after or during all these things (Luke 21:25-28).

Then you have those heterodox (though I’d say heretical) Christians who say all of this has already happened in 70A.D and that no one is waiting for Christ’s return because He already returned and that all we’re waiting for is to die and then spiritually go to the Lord. They follow the error of Hymenaeus and Philetus  and get away with it because we live after those two.

The point here is that we don’t know the hour or the day of the Lord’s coming, indeed we can’t know it, but we have plenty of markers to give us the timing of His coming and these markers might be theologically put together to give us a construct of the timing of the rapture, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Is the rapture before, during or after God’s wrath? We don’t know.

The fact is that we Christians should all be eagerly waiting his coming either way while avoiding the trend of setting dates.

(A nice easy-to-read overview with arguments on each side is Three Views of the Rapture. It’s written by three premillennialists, one being specifically dispensational, but they do a good job of trying to stay on target. What’s should be noted is that views of the millennium don’t necessarily change in regards to the timing of the rapture. An Amillennialist can still be a post-tribulational rapture proponent.)

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What Is The Rapture?

If you’ve driven down certain roads, you’ve might have seen signs that said “The Rapture is on X” where X can be any date: specifically, this Saturday, May 21st 2011. A certain Christian by the name of Harold Camping has put his pen to paper once again to set another date for this event and, once again, Christians have been convinced by the time table.

But I don’t want to talk so much about Camping and his crowd. I want to address a few presuppositions and misconceptions that have been flying about by writing a few posts. This first post will go about defining what the rapture is.

Some folk hear “The Rapture is coming” and they automatically translate “The Rapture” to “End of the World” If one is careful with the recent news, Harold Camping is saying that the Rapture is on May 21st and the End of the World is in October this year. Why would he differentiate if it means the same thing?

Well, The Rapture has a couple of meanings: one is the meaning of the word and the second is the theological meaning of the doctrine, and that last bit gets nuanced. That might sound like a weird and unnecessary distinction but it really is something that we all do in our everyday.

“Here are the car keys” technically mean “Here are the keys which enable operation of a vehicle”. But, when you’re employing these words while handing them over to your eighteen year old son who has just acquired his driver’s license, it has a secondary meaning: it is saying that he has reached the point where he can rightfully and (hopefully) responsibly operate the family vehicle.

Technically “rapture” means being carried away—maybe by an emotion. It has the Latin root of raptus which means to seize or snatch. So the literal term is being applied to a phrase in the English Bible: “caught up” or “snatch away”. This phrase is a translation from the original Greek word harpazo.

You’ll find the word harpazo used in Biblical passages that deal with forcibly taking something from someone else (Matt 12:29; Matt 11:12; John 6:15) or quickly take (John 10:12).

But the word is also used in situations which were exceedingly strange. For example, Philip is in one location and then he is harpazo’d and sent elsewhere (Acts 8:39) or when Paul (or someone he knows but let’s assume Paul) is sitting around he is spiritually taken away somewhere else where he sees things that he is not allowed to speak about (2 Cor 12:2-4).

These other uses start trending to our theological usage of the term. You have individuals who are taken elsewhere, in one case physically and in another case spiritually.  In one case (Paul) is brought back to where he physically is; in the other case, Phillip is not brought back to the Ethiopian but rather continues on to where he was transported.

Elsewhere, Christians are told to save others by snatching them out of the fire (Jude 23) with no intention of putting them back into the fire (which is likely referring to God’s judgment of these people who are sinning). Or, in the book of The Revelation, the Son of the Woman (Christ) is snatched up to the throne of God (Rev 12:5). He is relocated, and in this case he is put in a position of power.

So when you read in 1 Thess 4:17 that Christians are caught up, you get arrive at the secondary theological meaning. Christians, living and dead, are caught up to remain with the Lord. See, it winds up being tied to the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:20-24) in a certain sequence: Christ resurrected first, then others, then the end.

Now, there are some theological nuances to this definition throughout the Christian tradition. You see, some Christians (Full Preterists) believe that this catching up with the resurrection of the dead and the coming of Christ occurred in 70 A.D. Christ came to Jerusalem in judgment and many saints  were seen rising up from the graves both at the crucifixion and at this event. Other Christians believe that this snatching away is as a procession that welcomes a King entering a city—so Christians are snatched up, given new bodies, then come back. And yet other Christians think that this snatching away is because God’s wrath is about to be poured out and his people are not to be subjected to His wrath.

The point here is this: Christians believe in The Rapture in both senses (technical and theological) but differ on the theological nuances.

The reason for this disagreement is easy: speaking about what happens in the future is exceedingly difficult for finite humans who don’t have access to the future. It’s even harder when the time tables in Scripture aren’t as clear cut as the expectations.

Christians are told that Christ will return and to live under that expectation. It has been an expectation of the Church since the very beginning. Christians are told that there will be a resurrection which has also been an expectation from the very beginning. The Rapture is distinctly Christian.

So that’s the rapture: it literally means the snatching away or the catching up but it has a secondary theological definition tied to the resurrection of the dead and with enough nuances that you’ll see variation across Christianity.

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Prayer Mondays: Come

Barring my faulty memory (and if I’m not lazy) I want to post prayers on Monday from all over Church History and then throughout the modern day, and then my own. This one comes from the apostle John, and from all Christians, in response to Jesus’ own words “Yes, I am coming quickly.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

(Rev 22)

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Ah, Gehenna: Rey Didn’t Start The Fire

In my post on Gehenna (part of my Hellish Week) I made a statement that I had read in several places and which needs to be retracted because it is historical dubious. Here is what I said:

What they forget to mention is that the site wasn’t merely for garbage; it was a place for burning. The place wasn’t only a dump, it was a crematorium. The bodies of dead criminals were thrown and consumed there.

And you’ll find this elsewhere. For example, Hagner (WBC) states (117):

The name Gehenna is from the Aramaic words גֵּי חִנָּם, gê ḥinnām, for the “valley of Hinnom” (cf. Josh 15:8; 18:16), a despised place to the southwest of Jerusalem where at one time human sacrifices were offered to the god Molech (cf. 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31) and where in later times the city’s refuse was burned. The constant burning there made the valley a particularly suitable metaphor for eternal punishment

Or in the NET it reads:

This was the valley along the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (cf. Jer 7:31; 19:5–6; 32:35), and it came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned.

And the Analytical Lexicon of the New Testament’s article on Gehenna states that it is

…literally valley of Hinnom, a ravine south of Jerusalem where fires were kept burning to consume the dead bodies of animals, criminals, and refuse; figuratively in the Gospels and James for hell, a fiery place of eternal punishment for the ungodly dead

The problem is that this seems to lack historical evidence. From a footnote (Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (Jan.-Mar. 1998) 324-37) conveniently found here:

The traditional explanation that a burning rubbish heap in the Valley of Hinnom
south of Jerusalem gave rise to the idea of a fiery Gehenna of judgment is attributed to
Rabbi David Kimhi’s commentary on Psalm 27:13 (ca. A.D. 1200). He maintained that
in this loathsome valley fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and
cadavers thrown into it. However, Strack and Billerbeck state that there is neither
archeological nor literary evidence in support of this claim, in either the earlier intertestamental or the later rabbinic sources (Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Midrasch, 5 vols. [Munich: Beck,1922-56], 4:2:1030).

I quickly consulted more of my sources for example Davies & Allison (ICC, p515):

The standard view, namely, that the valley was where the city’s garbage was incinerated and that the constantly rising smoke and smell of corruption conjured up the fiery torments of the damned, is without ancient support, although it could be correct.

…but I could find only a few that committed to saying the same thing. They almost all say that it is a place of continually burning garbage, some (like the dictionary article above) add the cadavers.

Keith Keyser brought this all to my attention (via email) by linking to an article over at the Bible Places blog which went back to a post by McBride.

Now, this wasn’t a fundamental point to my post (that the place had burning garbage and corpses) since I based most of my conclusions based on what Christ was saying about Gehenna. So all my previous points, I think, still stand: Gehenna is a bad place that is to be shunned. If this corpse and garbage burning is non-historical then I actually think it makes Jesus’ usage all the harder to refute—but we don’t know, so I retract it for honesty’s sake. It sounds pretty good, it might very well be true, but as of right now, based on my scanning, we only have evidence from some twelve hundred years later.

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A Hellish Week

This will serve as the series home for my posts on Hell.

  1. Philosophical Responses to the Denial of Hell (Hell? Oh!)
  2. An examination of Sheol in the Old Testament (What the Sheol?)
  3. An examination of Gehenna, Hades (etc.) in the New Testament (Get the Gehenna Out of Here?)
  4. A theological response to Christian deniers of the doctrine of Hell (Hell?  No?)
  5. Several broad theological reasons we should hold to the doctrine of Hell (Hell? Yeah.)
  6. Unanswered questions that I don’t think should force us to lose this doctrine. (What About Hell I Don’t Know)

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What About Hell I Don’t Know

Textually, as I covered in a couple of posts before this, I must affirm a literal hell which consists of judgment, separation from God, punishment, eternality and should be rightfully shunned. I think it is dangerous to say the place doesn’t exist when the volume of Scripture teeters with the weight of the matter. I also gave some responses to the nay-hellsayers and some broad theological reasons why we should affirm a hell. This was all consistent with the broad philosophical reasons I gave earlier which allow the doctrine of hell.

But in this last post, I wanted to touch on the fact that although we know certain things from the text, there are certain things we don’t know and can’t even really be sure. We might be able to posit careful answers but even then, those answers might need a lot of nuancing or niggling when we’re not forced to appeal to mystery. So if you wish, these are questions that may or may not have answers but I may not be as confident on them as the textual basis already listed.

Is Hell the same as Sheol? I know that Sheol has a semantic range that goes all the way from the place of righteous rest down to the place of the wicked. I know that Christ uses the metaphor of Gehenna and the New Testament uses Hades or Tartarus or even the Lake of Fire. So surely, Hell lies on the semantic range of Sheol but that doesn’t help me understand the mechanics of the Grave. Indeed, Hades seems to have more of the semantic range of Sheol than Hell. This gets into questions of geography and so forth but even then we still wind up with Hades being thrown into the Lake of Fire. So maybe Hell is specifically the Lake of Fire but Hades is something else? It seems to contain some similar elements but can we be sure?

Is the intermediate state all the same place? I doubt Dante was right but we have Jesus’ parable where the Rich Man looks across a chasm. I understand the point (there’s no crossing over from one side to another) but is this merely hyperbolic language or is it a detail? Is it possible that the Wicked Part gets thrown into the Lake of Fire but the Other Part isn’t?

Do I think that every presentation of the Gospel needs an explanation of hell? No. But I do think that every Christian should be concerned with the people that are heading there. If there is some random child on a train track while the 6:35 Shuttle barrels down in his direction, all of us would be horrified and quick to act—but what about this Thing that is currently reaching up and out?

Why don’t we have more details? Sheol occurs some 65 times in the Old Testament. Gehenna is found in 12 verses. Hades is found eleven times in the New Testament. Tartarus is used once. Lake of Fire occurs 4 times. Just counting that, we have to admit that it’s not that much. But then again, we have more verses here than we do about a literal Adam, about Adam’s Sin causing death, and several other things we believe. But the fact is that we do have quite a bit here but even so, it’s never as much as we would like. But maybe God is using these details as a means to motivate us to warn others?

Should we be happy about hell? I think that it may be okay to hope that there is no hell. I think it is okay to hope that God saves everyone pulling them from the very edge of the fire. I think it is even okay to hope that one day, all sinners will repent and that God has allowed a way for them to be saved. But I think we need to be careful about not trying to be more moral than God. We don’t know everything that’s going on. On the other hand, I think it’s proper to not be gleeful with this doctrine. I remember getting into a conversation with a Christian who planned to be standing by the lake of fire cheering as the unregenerate, the Devil, his cohorts, and me were being tossed in screaming—horrifying thought. I think that sometimes we Christians can get a bit too hell-happy. Christ took the place seriously and painted some graphic images of people sawing off their arms to ensure that they don’t head there but then we get the book of Revelation showing that same Christ squishing bodies and the blood reaching up to the side of a horse and filling the valley. As my last post noted, hell is predicated on several attributes and actions of God and yet we see there is an equal amount of saying the place should be shunned.

Can we go to Hell? I know people die and go Somewhere but, it looks like people don’t necessarily have to die to go to that Somewhere (ala Enoch). We get location information from Scripture (it is down) but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s below our feet. What if that means sub-dimension? What if that means something else altogether like a black hole? A blackhole would end in a singularity whereby the closer you approach the singularity the closer you approach that single point into infinite. Or not. But if hell is like that, we’d have an eternal testimony while the people in it are eternally going but not reaching. But that’s complete speculation. In fact, some theologians have argued that hell is a state…a position absent God…and I think that sounds partly right while it ignores that there is a spatial element but, what do I know.

Is hell barred from the inside? A Catholic theologian (cited here) has a hope for universalism while allowing for hell because people are basically free to reject God. CS Lewis, knowing that God judges, looks at free individuals who reject God as rebels. We also know that people stand condemned because they haven’t believed Christ. I find it hard to imagine a place where the rebels can push out God (especially when Scripture has God even in Sheol, in some sense) but I also find it hard to imagine that these people are there against their choice. And here I don’t mean the Calvinistic pseudo-choice. I mean that these people have really made a mad decision by rebelling against God. So yes and no?

Does the grave finally win by sheer numbers? If the scenario was based on quality vs. quantity (if one finds a piece of gold that is better than all the fools gold others have) I guess it could change things. But I personally think that more people will be in a state of eternal life. I think God saves children (babies, miscarriages, kids who don’t know wrong or right) and the mentally handicapped but I don’t have much to base that on. A few scant passages and lots of hope. But in this way, I think that it will wind up that the quantity (and the quality) is all the greater. I don’t think that means we should go out killing children. To me it means God made provision.

Is all hell equally horrid? There are passages in Scripture speaking about more culpability to those who know more. So you’ll have Christ wailing for Jerusalem and saying it would go better at the judgment for some other cities than for Jerusalem during the time of her visitation. To my mind that sounds like hell is in general bad but not equally torturous for everyone. I don’t think that means that people should be fine going there. It might be that it’s bearable for reasons we don’t even know.

Is the torture of hell eternal? Scripture says that the place seems to be eternal, the punishment seems to be eternal, the flames seem to be eternal—but I don’t know if that means that the people being in the situation of torture is eternal. What if the eternality of the tears is the fact that they are there, want to be there, and knowingly hate it? I don’t know.

Like I said, a lot of these I don’t know. I believe some of the things without knowing but I think I’ve explained why. Some of it is predicated on God’s dealings with people throughout history. Some of it is sheer imagination. I don’t think believing these things makes a person an heretic though it may make them an uncareful teacher. What’s important here is that we don’t take our questions and make them overrule the information we do have.  Be honest having the questions but be equally honest with what God has said.

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