8/31/2004

HEAVEN OR HELL? 2

As requested by a friend in a comment the other day, I am revisiting the question of heaven or hell in smaller sections.

First, we need to clarify the gospel. There is but one gospel, not many. There is but one savior, not many. There is but one way to be saved, not many. I give you this instruction which I have received from the Lord through scripture and prayer, not to go off chasing after fairy tales and rumors of “new” ways to be saved. Peter was certain and clear, there is only one name by which we must be saved, Jesus Christ. Just as in the days of Babel, and in the days of Egypt, and Babylon, there have ALWAYS been false religions, counterfeits of the real thing.

Satan masquerades as an angel of light, so do not be deceived by these strange tales any longer. The gospel is simply that one must believe in Jesus Christ, and call upon His name to be saved. I read a blog today that asked, “What if I am mute, and cannot speak?” To which I answer, the calling is heard whether you speak it out loud, or silently, for God is not deaf to the human mind, and He searches the heart. If you have believed in Jesus Christ to be your savior, God will know.

There are some who will have you believe that all are saved. This is not true. Jesus called the Pharisees sons of the devil. By His own tongue, he told us those who have not believed in Him stand already condemned. The most vivid scripture describing who is saved is not John 3:16. Rather, it is John 3:15, which states, “so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” You might say that I have taken that verse out of its context. However, the context is there for anyone to read, I just don’t want to copy two and a half pages of Scripture. Please forgive me, I do not mean to mislead any.

So, whoever believes will have eternal life. Belief is the criteria, there can be no doubt. Unless we take Jesus at His word, and stop trying to add things to scripture that just aren’t there, we will never truly accept Him as our King. But I do not own a corner on the market. Scripture today is there for most to read. Don’t take my word for it, read it, and see.

Hell exists. Jesus spoke of it often, and Jesus is not someone who involved Himself with idle chatter as we normal human beings do. To Jesus, I am sure Hell was not just an idea, it was a real place prepared for the devil and his legions, and for those who do not believe.

Listen, man is a rebel against God. We stand in direct disobedience to God, and we need a savior. There aren’t many ways into salvation. There is only one. Those who believe there are many ways are still standing in direct disobedience to God. What is God to do with such a man? Reward him?

God gave us His son, whom we slaughtered. But God didn’t let His Holy One see decay. He raised Him from the dead, for the world to see, so that man could see that he, and death, have absolutely no power over God. What man wrought, God has overcome. Now, it is by faith that we are saved, and this faith isn’t even our own, it is a gift from God, so that no one may boast. Yet there are boasters in this world today that say one does not need to believe in Christ to be saved. This is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for without the gift of the Holy Spirit, strong men are trying to force their way into the Kingdom. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ “

The gospel is not open to man’s interpretation of it. Salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Why? Because without faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit is not given. One can say he is saved, and attempt to force his way into the kingdom, and this is what is meant by blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is the same as it has always been since Adam. Man thinks he does not need to heed God. So, he goes about salvation by his own effort and understanding, thumbing his nose at the Holy Spirit. What is God to do with such a man as this? Save him? No, the healthy do not need a doctor. Any man who thinks he does not need to believe in Christ to be saved is already judged, by his own blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Can Christ be any plainer than this in John chapter three?

So why the question of heaven or hell? There is heaven, and there is hell. Hell is a real place, and people who do not believe in Jesus will go there. That wasn’t my idea. I am just the messenger. Jesus was the messenger also, but He stood up for His message, and we killed Him for it. Those who would have you believe that all are saved would kill Him again if He came a second time to say exactly the same things He said the first time. The Jews killed Him not because He claimed to be the Son of God. That was their excuse. They killed Him because He told them the gospel, that all of their effort, all of their studying, all of their laws could not move one grain of sand against their eternal condemnation if they did not believe in Him, regardless of whether they were Jewish or not.

You see, to understand the Jewish mind of the time, you have to think like a Jew. That means you are in heaven, not because of faith, but because you are a Jew. Jesus destroyed that carnal way of thinking, and so destroyed all other of man’s attempts at self-salvation. The Jews killed Jesus because they believed salvation belonged only to the Jews, and Jesus told them it belonged to Him, that it was His to give as He saw fit, and He gave it according to how it pleased Him.

Read John 4:18 – 47. It is clear from this discourse that the Jews now had reason to kill Jesus, for He had just told them that it is not by their choice, or nation, but by his choice alone. In the face of so many who had spent their lives “serving” God, such as Nicodemus, what else could be the reaction of sons of the devil other than what they did to Jesus? Nicodemus reaction was different, because he asked Jesus to teach him. But the Jews did not. They judged Jesus and His gospel as being evil, from the devil. So Jesus, in those verses I listed, gave them four witnesses, John, works, the Father, and scripture.

Belief is the requirement, and the gift is Jesus’ to give. This is the gospel. It has not changed, but men with carnal minds have tried to force their own interpretations upon it. I say, it’s time to stop that nonsense. The gospel is still pure, and men of the world would have you believe that it is confusing, and at best, needs reinterpretation. Scripture does not come by man’s interpretation or effort. Therefore, what is written is written by the finger of God. You may not like the idea of hell. May I suggest that you focus on Christ, and not on something that none of us can understand? It is His to give, it belongs to Him. Who are we to question that, and how worthless is it to question the possession of God? Thank you.

8 comments:

eddie{F} said...

Tom

If you are going to say:
"You see, to understand the Jewish mind of the time, you have to think like a Jew." then you also need to use this premise to complete your thoughts on what they thought of hell. How did the Jewish people view hell, what was it to them, and the fact that the word hell is not a Hebrew or a Greek word for that matter.

Thus, you are on the one hand asserting that we need to get into the Jewish mindset, but then you complete the rest of your argument with a very much western mindset. Thus you have a mixed analogy to make your case for heaven/hell.

I am merely saying this to provoke you to think about it from that point of view. But more importantly, if we frame the Gospel as being about heaven or hell, then we really miss the whole point of the Gospel.

Care - ybiC

Tom Reindl said...

Eddie,

I will touch base on the Jewish mindset of hell shortly. Quickly though, refer to Daniel chapter 12, verse 2 for a brief overview of what they knew about hell. Sorry. I should have been more complete. It's a difficult balance, writing about these things and trying to keep them as brief as possible. I am getting to the point where I don't even want to try to keep them brief.

Anyway, you are right, the gospel is about life, as in a way of life, and the life in Christ that is everlasting. Take care, brother.

Tom Reindl said...
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Tom Reindl said...
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eddie{F} said...

I guess I'll give you a word of warning out of concern. Don't jump to conclusions about how they viewed hell to quickly. This is a much more indepth study than you think. The word means has a very different meaning for them than what we have been taugh hell is.

I think you might be setting yourself up for the wrong conclusion, because the word hell has been universally translated in English Bibles to something which it doesn't speak of.

I guess I am saying, be cautious about what you assume hell is.

Peace bro!

Tom Reindl said...

Eddie,

Thanks, but I don't think I am in danger, yet, anyway. The original translation of our word "hell" comes from "Geenna", or "Gehenna", which is specifically the valley of Hinnom. This valley would have been well known to Jesus' hearers, and it was nothing more than a landfill, which they burned periodically, the fire of which would burn for weeks. There is no cross translated word in Hebrew which matches the meaning of our word "hell", which makes Jesus' use of it all the more significant.

Jesus, I am sure, knew the Jewish thought of the day about the destination of the soul like the back of His hand, yet it is not recorded that He ever spoke of it. But, the Jews believed that all went down to Sheol, which in their estimation, was a shadowy existence at best, not really life, not really death. It was the place where souls went to be purged of sins (those souls that could be purged). I am somewhat confused as to when the Jews started using the word Gehenna for this, because my understanding is that Gehenna was a physical place as you know, and that Jesus used it as a reference and word description of what Hell was going to be like.

However, along came Daniel, and His writing confused much of what was Jewish thought on eternity, and the Day of the Lord. Everlasting contempt and disgrace was now something within Jewish understanding, if they had studied Daniel at all. Jesus knew Daniel, and referenced him in Mathhew 24:15. So Jesus knew that the hell which He talked about was not something that should have been a surprise to His Jewish audience. They would have recognized the ideal of His words as being spoken of in Scripture, even if they didn't recognize Jesus' use of the name. But, Jesus used the name Gehenna for a reason. Several times, He referenced people being thrown out, cast out, and here, whenever He uses the word Gehenna, it ties a strong reference into what one does with trash, which is thrown out, and burned. His hearers would have formed this picture in their minds, Eddie, because they knew what the Valley of Hinnom was.

Here is a question I wonder about: Do you think Jesus really meant to infer that those who would not believe were nothing more than garbage to be burned eternally? That is an intersting, and very disturbing thought, isn't it? What's your take on it? Jesus certainly didn't mince words, Eddie, and His use of the word Gehenna bears great significance, I believe.

Jesus confounded the popular notion of a place where sins could be purged. Catholic doctrine matches closely with ancient Jewish doctrine, only they call it purgatory. But they also believe that only the worst sinners remain in eternal condemnation, just as the Jews did. But it isn't enough to just look at hell from a Jewish standpoint. You need to consider their view of heaven as well. First, only the very, very worst Jews would never go to heaven. Few Gentiles would see it, although a convert might. But they also believed in levels of heaven, where the higher the level, the greater one's earthly works must have been. Contrast this with the notion that the longer one remained in Sheol, the lesser his earthly works must have been, and the more evil he was considered (most Jews even today believe that the term in Sheol never lasts longer than twelve months). Again, Jesus dispelled this, He never encouraged it, and never encouraged the idea that condemnation was only temporary. He also , as far as is recorded, never encouraged the idea of levels in heaven.

So, the question is, how disturbing of an idea is hell, when faced with a loving God? How contrary to what we teach about Jesus is hell? Yet Jesus didn't shy away from it. What lesson can we learn from that? Can we learn submission to a King? Can we learn that we just don't understand everything, and that trying to explain the connection between God and hell is like an infant trying to explain Einstein's theory of relativity? Eddie, Jesus meant something strong by His use of the word Gehenna. I don't think it was an idle threat, because I just can't make the stretch that Jesus bothered with idle threats. This is the one who told us to make certain our yes was yes, and our no, no.

What do you think? I admit this whole hell thing confounds me, but it isn't something I believe we can escape, or should even try.

Diane said...

What a second everybody!!!!!1.......
First off, the Jews did not and do not believe in hell. The Jews did not and do not believe in the average guy going to heaven either. They believe that the only ones going to heaven will be a few top guys who will be ruling with Christ OVER the average guys who will still be living on the earth.
Hell is regarded by the bible writers as total destruction. Gehenna was the city dump, yes where garbage was always burning, but garbage on its way to this total destruction. Hell doesn't become a place until early church doctrine sets it up to be that way.
The parable Jesus tells of Lazarus the poor man, and the rich guy wanting to warn his family about the eternal torment, is NOT to be read as church doctrine, but as a parable only - a story with a lesson.
Hades is not hell. It is the grave. A place where one waits for the physical resurrection. This physical resurrection and judgement is not going to pull people out of "hell" or pull them out of a perfect "heaven". Afterall, if we had already been assigned to either of those places, why bother being judged again??

Tom Reindl said...

Diane,

Are you talking about the Jews of today, or of Jesus day? The Jews of Jesus day most certainly believed in a place where sins were purged. They also believed that because they were the chosen people, they would be in heaven (paradise) one day, albeit the "extreme" righteous would be higher than the run of the mill Jew. The Pharisees regarded themselves as such. With regards to the resurrection, not all Jews believed in a physical ressurection, so the idea that they would be pulled out of heaven may or may not have bearing, I don't know what the "popular" belief was.

You have to remember, the Pharisees were very good at writing and enforcing laws upon the people, but they were not very good at instructing them as to true "doctrine", they misled the people, and withheld truth from them. Teachers of the Law then were very much like our politicians are today. You didn't have normal access to them, and they were held in high esteem, way higher than our "pastors" are. Some were so arrogant that they wouldn't even lower themselves in stature to speak to "normal" people, and would often have a much "lower" assistant speak for them. So, when they taught in the synagogues, they would whisper their sermon to their assistant, who would then turn, face the congregation, and repeat word for word what had been whispered.

This is the type of teaching that set Jesus off to begin with, and incited the woes upon the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. It also incited the statement, "You are the sons of the devil."

Now, I am not certain, but maybe we are talking about whether the Jews believed these things took place after the ressurection? Again, that is somewhat confusing to me, because not all Jews believed in the ressurection at the time of Jesus, but they all believed in Hades, and most believed that there was eternal reward, which all but the most decadent of Jews would receive based upon their being descendants of "the promise".

I say all this tongue in cheek, because I wasn't there, and I can only repeat what I know from reading about it. I hope that helps. Take care, Diane.