Burning in Hell

Burning in Hell

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We know that we feel physical feelings through electrical impulses that send information to our brains through our nervous system. Once we die, we no longer feel pain due to the lack of a physical nervous system and, oh yeah, a brain. How could we ‘feel’ the excruciating flames of hell for eternity? Does God make you feel this torment for all eternity out of pure malice because you wouldn’t worship him?

This is the 16th question of 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer.

Literary devices are used by writers to help them convey a message. As you read the Bible or any other work, you will come across two types of literary devices. One is unavoidable, the other is optional. Literary elements are considered inescapable. They include setting, characters, mood, and theme. Literary techniques, on the other hand, are optional and help the writer express meaning to the reader. Literary techniques include metaphor, simile, alliteration, and hyperbole, all of which may allow the reader a greater understanding of the message the writer wishes to convey.

The Bible is made up of 66 different books with 40 authors contributing their writing styles over a period of 1500 years. It should come as no surprise when an author is expressing the consequences of hell, life after death, and an immaterial realm, that he would employ the use of metaphors and other literary techniques to convey a meaning that would be difficult to grasp.

Got Questions responded, “The variety and symbolic nature of descriptors do not lessen hell, however—just the opposite, in fact. Their combined effect describes a hell that is worse than death, darker than darkness, and deeper than any abyss. Hell is a place with more wailing and gnashing of teeth than any single descriptor could ever portray. Its symbolic descriptors bring us to a place beyond the limits of our language—to a place far worse than we could ever imagine.”1

Where does the Bible say we will “feel the excruciating flames of hell for eternity”? That was the first question that came to mind when I read #16 in his list of 50 questions Christians Can’t Answer. Well, it doesn’t. There are several passages that imply that and I list a few below.

Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” (NIV)

Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” (NIV)

Revelation 20:10, And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. (NIV)

Matthew 18:9, And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (NIV)

Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (NIV)

How we end up ‘feeling’ hell is debatable. Taking the literary techniques expressed by the authors as literal meaning is silly, and to imply that would be absurd.

You will not find popular media or Hollywood implying we have a soul or any kind of immaterial realm after death, at least not in any kind of Christian religious sense of the word. A Time magazine article, which was advocating stem cell research stated, “These [embryos] are microscopic groupings of a few differentiated cells. There is nothing human about them, except potential, [or] if you choose to believe it, a soul.”2 Another example J.P. Moreland gave in his book The Soul, was from a popular T.V. show The Walking Dead. Moreland wrote, “In the first season’s final episode, a scientist shows a group of ordinary people a video of the inside workings of a live human brain. It looks like a complex web of wires and nodes, with a multitude of flashing lights traveling to and fro. He then declares matter-of-factly that all of the electrical activity that they see is actually the real you. When those ‘lights’ go off, you cease to exist.”3

As for the second part of the question “Does God make you feel this torment for all eternity out of pure malice because you wouldn’t worship him?” There are a couple of things to consider.

First, God does not make anyone enter hell. Everyone is given a choice, and He will not force anyone to live in His presence.

Secondly, scripture makes it clear what will happen to those to sin and do not accept the gift of salvation.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (NIV)

Ezekiel 18:4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die. (NIV)

Ezekiel 18:20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. (NIV)

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 5:24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (NIV)

John 10:27-28 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

As you read these verses and many others you clearly see there are two options. Two fates. Two choices. Life and death. Life for those who accept the gift God has to offer, and death for those who don’t. John 3:16 made it quite clear some will have eternal life, others will perish. These verses say nothing about living in some kind of eternal torture or punishment.

Some may quote Revelation 20:10 as a pushback on eternal punishment. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The Greek word forever is ‘aion’ which does not necessarily mean unending. It can be an unspecified period of time, and our word eon (a geologic period of time) comes from that Greek word aion.

In 1Cor 2:6 “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” Paul uses the same Greek word for age and you can see it does not mean an unending period of time. (NIV)

These questions, and others you may encounter, presuppose a world view that embeds a conclusion before you can even respond. They are often one-sided and uncharitable toward the person being asked the question, but if you sit down and give them some thought, you will find most can be easily responded to.

Sources:
1. Houdmann, Michael S. “Is hell literally a place of fire and brimstone?” Got Questions. Gotquestions.org, n.d. Web. 15 October 2016.
2. Moreland, J.P. The Soul. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014. Print.
3. Ibid.

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Burning in Hell by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Re-Think

Reading Time: 6 minutesMy wife and I took our youngest daughter and two of her friends to the Southern California Re-Think conference this weekend. Re-Think is hosted by Stand To Reason, a Christian ministry that equips Christians to engage the culture with confidence, clear thinking, and grace on many of the difficult issues that surround us today.

The Re-Think conference targets Jr. High, High school, and college age youth so they are prepared when they hear how Christians are intolerant toward LGBT groups, or unloving because they want to force women to have unwanted children. Also foolish to believe in the Bible which is full of errors due to the dozens of language translations, and letters written hundreds of years after the life of Christ, if He actually ever existed.

Here is a list of a few of the lectures and talks from this weekend:
Would Jesus be intolerant?
Can we trust what the Gospels say about Jesus?
Creating beauty for Jesus’ sake.
Do Jesus and science mix?
What will happen if I talk about Jesus?
Who would Jesus protect? The case for life.
Who was Jesus and what did He really do?
The case for the resurrection of Jesus.

When we left,  my wife and I asked the girls if they had any favorite talks. Chloe shared about a girl in high school who is very outspoken about being pro-choice and often talks about abortion, sharing her opinion. One of the talks by Scott Klusendorf, founder and president of the Life Training Institute, gave the girls some tools to use when conversing with others about abortion. Chloe felt she could talk to this girl and offer some thoughts, explain why abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, and Scott’s lecture may have been her favorite talk.

Scott suggested a simple syllogism we can use. What is a syllogism? It is a series of statements that lead to a conclusion.

– It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
– Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
– Therefore, abortion is wrong.

The first statement can be asked by any pro-life advocate to anyone they are discussing the abortion issue with. “Is it wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being?” Someone may counter with the idea we shouldn’t tell women what they can or can’t do with their own body. Or that you can’t take away the right for women to choose. But what are we telling them they can’t do with their own body? What choice would we be taking away? The right to kill an innocent human being? Does anyone have that right? Is there any civilized society, any right minded human being who believes it is a right to take the life of an innocent human being?

What is it that makes humans valuable? Is it our physical ability? At first glance you might think the physical ability of a human would dictate their value. Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers made 25 million for the 2015/16 season and is one of the highest paid basket ball players today. If you were to stand him next to a three year old girl there is no question he has greater physical ability, but we intuitively know that his value, (despite his making 25 million), as a human being is no greater than that of a little girl. We know this because the inherent human value we are talking about has nothing to do with money, but something entirely different. When we talk about human value, it goes beyond the one meaning or sense of the word that has to do with economic gain.

Is it intelligence or education that makes humans valuable? Dr. Benjamin Bolger has earned over 11 degrees including a doctorate from Harvard. He has other degrees from Columbia, Brown, Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge to name a few. If he was standing next to an 8th grade student of mine, holding all of his degrees, would we consider him more valuable? Does his higher education and intelligence give him greater worth? Again we know that despite his ability to contribute more to society and earn a living, his inherent value is no greater than that of any other human.

Klusendorf also teaches pro-lifers to use the SLED test which is an acronym for Size, Level of development, Environment, and finally Degree of dependency.

Equating the value of a person on how large or small they are is silly. Would anyone dispute this? Are football players more valuable due to their size? Are parents more valuable than their children? Height or size has nothing to do with the value of a person. Picture a 600 pound sumo, and tell me the sumo wrestler has greater inherent worth then a child he may be holding.

Does the value of a human being lessen because of their level of development? Is a 16 year old boy more valuable than a 6 year old boy? If the level of development matters, then anyone prior to puberty would have less value than someone past puberty. Same would be true from an infant to a toddler, or a newborn to an infant. Does a fetus in the first trimester have less value than one in the 2nd trimester? Some might argue that point, but if that is true, then we should be able to apply that to everyone. Obviously we can’t, so level of development cannot determine the value of a human being.

Does your value increase or decrease depending on where you are located? Do you have more value because you are at work rather than at home? Does your value change from one room to another? Do those in another county have a different worth? Do astronauts have greater or lesser value when they orbit the earth or walk on the moon? Does your value change when you have traveled from mother’s uterus, though the birth-canal, to the hands of a waiting physician or parent? Value cannot be placed on a person depending on where they are found.

Finally as a child grows and matures, do they have greater value as the months pass and they become less and less dependent? Do those that collect welfare have less value than those contributing to our tax base and have full time work? Do those working full time have more value than those working part time? Does someone in a coma have less value then their family member at their bedside? If a toddler falls into a swimming pool, and they are dependent on us to save them, are they less valuable? How about those who need dialysis or heart medication on a weekly basis; is their value less due to the medication they need? Level of dependency does not alter the value of a human life.

Dennis Prager, a conservative talk show hos,t often engages audiences by asking them a question. If you had a pet you loved, say a dog or cat, and it was drowning, but just a few yards away was a person you did not know who was also drowning, if you could only save one which would you save? Over the years he has received a very consistent answer that shows how confused our culture is on the value of human life. Typically 1/3 say they would save the person, another third say they would save the pet, and the last 1/3 state they are unsure. So only 33% of our culture would, emphatically save the human over the life of some animal. Where do we get that kind of mind set?

One example comes to mind if you have ever seen the 2008 movie, ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ staring Keanu Reeves. An alien race decided that man is destroying his planet and all the life along with it. So they begin to remove samples of all life, (plant, animal, and insect) with the intent of then wiping out all human life and starting over. Small alien space ships all over the world draw all kinds of life forms into them much like Noah’s Ark, except none of the life forms are human.

The message is clear: humans are the evil that need to be removed so mother earth and the rest of her inhabitants will survive. Our culture is inundated with innuendos suggesting that man is no more valuable, or even less so, than other life on earth. It should come as no surprise that 2/3 of our culture may opt out of saving a human life and choose to save a pet instead.

The abortion issue was just one of many topics of contention the Stand To Reason Apologetic Re-Think conference dealt with so young believers would be equipped to answer to our culture. Apologetics is needed in our church today. Too many youth graduate from youth groups completely unprepared to answer and respond to these difficult issues. Who would your kids rescue? How would your Jr. high youth group respond? Your high school youth group? How about your college group? How about your congregation? Do they all understand our inherent worth for being made in the image of God? Genesis 1:27

 

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Re-Think by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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