Thesis #78 of 95 - Hell is as much a reality as Heaven and may involve sensual pain for its inhabitants. Thesis #79 of 95 - As in life, post-mortem punishment can be for the purpose of healing as well as destruction. Thesis #80 of 95 - God has intimated that every soul that can be healed and restored shall ultimately be so, for He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
Luk16:24 Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame
Mk9:45-50 If your foot should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should be your downfall, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, in which their worm will never dies nor their fire be put out. For everyone will be salted with fire – salt being a good thing but if salt has become insipid, how can you make it salty again. Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.
1Cor3:14-15If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.
This is undoubtedly a perplexing area of biblical study and not surprisingly has been a catalyst for distortions in both the practice of the Christian faith and the presentation of the Gospel. These three related theses affirm that such a place as hell exists, but also that judgemental fire can be for the purpose of purification as much as for punishment.
The featured photo is the township of Hell in Michigan, USA. Likewise, Gehenna (the hell of the bible) was named after a place on earth – the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem. That had been used as a waste dump for the city, constantly smouldering and smoking. Heinous deeds were also associated with this valley during the time when Jerusalem was ruled by pagans, including the sacrifice of children.
As Jesus makes clear in his parable, the hell of the bible is a place of punishment and is best avoided. But for most attendees it is likely to be a place of learning (the hard way), self-enlightenment, purging and preparation. For there is no distinction between the fires of hell and “purgatory” either in the bible or the writings of those who had received the Faith directly from the apostle.
And whilst we have a merciful and pardoning God, pardon per se is not sufficient for souls that have been poisoned and corrupted. Pardon is one thing; fittedness to play a part in the Apostle Peter’s longed-for “new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells” is another. Purging and salting will be necessary for some; neither can such be guaranteed to be devoid of suffering – sensual and mental.
In terms of longevity, if punishment is to be proportional – the principle applied to God’s peoples’ offences against Old Testament Law – it arithmetically cannot be eternal. The New Testament speaks of post-mortem punishment enduring for an age (Greek: αἰώνιος which tends to be translated as “eternal”). The notion that punishment in hell can be temporary should be evident from Jesus’ teaching regarding name calling. Note the gradations: “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, whilst whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to experience hell fire” (Mt5:22). Think about it.
Think also about what was scripturally established in the previous few theses – that God is equitable and reasonable, even from a human perspective. What is more, He is rich in mercy. The Creator’s predisposition is as follows: “As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek33:11). He desires that all who can be redeemed are redeemed and knows that that process will not be completed for many in this life (Jn6:44; Mt7:14).
An earlier post citing Paul’s reference to those who are saved “as through fire” covers the subject of post-mortem judgement in a bit more detail, including what Jesus meant by the need for souls to be salted. That is the key to unravelling this more fearsome dimension to the God-who-is-love’s providential plans for humanity (Rev10:7).
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