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Does Jesus Say Punishment Is Eternal?

15 Aug

Hell - 1Jesus tells us in Luke 12:5 the God has to power to cast folks into hell, and implies that he will do exactly that when some folks are judged. The question is, however, does Jesus mean what so many modern Christians understand him to mean? The Greek word Jesus used for hell is gehenna (G1067). The word is derived from Hinnom, the name of a valley just off the southwest wall of Jerusalem. It was a place where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children to the Phoenician god, Molech. King Josiah destroyed its altars and filled it with dead bodies in order to make it unclean for any kind of worship. Later the Jews turned it into a garbage dump where they burned the city’s refuse.

The idea Jesus expresses in Luke 12:5 is not that wicked people are garbage, but that their sins are garbage, and fire is a purifying element, in that it separates what is good (Genesis 1:31) from the dross (Proverbs 25:4; 26:23; Isaiah 1:25). Even if all the works of the wicked are nothing but wood, hay and stubble—fuel for the fire—still it doesn’t mean the wicked will suffer for eternity (1Corinthians 3:11-15). Such thinking goes beyond the intent of God’s word (2John 1:9). Rather, it is only until the dross is burnt away, if the analogy in the Scripture can be trusted. The writer of Hebrews offers an analogy of seeds planted in the earth; one seed brings forth herbs, while other bring forth briars and is near to being cursed, “whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8). Notice that the earth is not destroyed when it is burned; only the fruits of the earth are destroyed. That is, one’s works / sins are destroyed. Elsewhere Jesus tells us that the earth is like a man’s heart into which the seed or word of God is sown (cf. Luke 8:11-12).

So, how then have we come to believe that the wicked are punished eternally? Eternal punishment is a concept developed in the Church by people with questionable motives.[1] Most notable is Augustine’s teaching on this subject. Augustine had come out of Manichaeism, a Gnostic religion wherein fire was a great part of his understanding of punishment. Without making a judgment about Augustine’s authenticity as a believer, I do believe his understanding of God’s love for the sinner is deplorable, yet he is largely responsible for our modern Christian understanding of an eternal hell. I believe Augustine had a tortured conscience over the sins he had committed, and once he left Manichaeism and became a Christian, he brought with him much of the Gnostic error it preached on this subject and sought to blend it, whether ignorantly or purposefully (God knows), with Biblical ideas. Gnosticism is difficult to understand, and the quote below uses terms not familiar to our modern Christian understanding, so some portions of the excerpt have been deleted. If, however, one wishes to read the whole thing, simply click on the link provided at the end of the excerpt. Notice that according to:

“Manichean eschatology …A universal conflagration ensues and burns on till nothing but lightless cinders remain. This fire continues during 1486 years, during which the torments of the wicked are the delights of the just. When the separation of light from darkness is finally completed, all angels of light who had functions in the creation return on high; the dark world-soul sinks away in the depth, which is then closed forever and eternal tranquility reigns in the realm of light, no more to be invaded by darkness. …Sinners, however, must, after death wander about in torment and anguish, surrounded by demons, and condemned by the angels, till the end of the world, when they are, body and soul, thrown into hell.” [Catholic Encyclopedia: Manichaeism] (emphasis mine)

There isn’t a great deal of difference between this Gnostic belief and what modern Christianity understands as eternal punishment. Nevertheless there is no such thing as eternal punishment.[2] The Bible doesn’t teach it. In order for a Christian to support the doctrine of eternal punishment, he must go outside of the Bible in order to do so. What the Bible does teach is an age-lasting corrective discipline that will bring unrepentant sinners to embrace the will of God. The Scriptures tell us that God wants to save all men (2Timothy 2:4), and he works all things out according to his own will (Ephesians 1:11). If this is so, how would it be possible for anyone to miss the salvation of God, who has already saved all men (1Timothy 4:10), so, if all men haven’t come to repentance, it must follow there will come a season in the judgment when all men will repent. Repentance is a gift given to us by God (2Timothy 2:25). It is not something we are able to do by ourselves.

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[1] Remember, Jesus warned his disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), but earlier leaven was used to denote their doctrine (Matthew 16:6, 12). Spiritual warfare was not a danger exclusive to the first century. The Pharisees and Sadducees were examples of those who would come later and would seek to control the affect of Gospel of Christ by adding their thought to it or taking power from it, thereby diminishing Jesus’ rule in our lives as our Christ and the Savior of the world.

[2] I have nine studies on the subject of eternal punishment (to which I have added this present study), which I list on my page: Is There a Hell? They are there for anyone who cares to study this matter for himself. I list plenty of Scriptures that should help anyone who undertakes such a study to understand whether or not I am forcing the Scriptures to support my doctrine. Anyone, who comes to the study without a prior bias against what I have to say, should be able to see for himself or herself what the truth really is.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Gospel of Luke

 

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2 responses to “Does Jesus Say Punishment Is Eternal?

  1. Eddie

    August 15, 2017 at 20:28

    God’s love is all you are trying to fit into your understanding of it. It must fit your understanding or else it cannot be love. Hmm…

    Greetings Boluwade, it has been awhile since we “spoke” with one another. I often think of you. Thank you for reading what I have to say and also for your comment, even though we find it difficult to agree with one another’s perspective of love.

    I presume by **it** you are referring to the Gospel. God’s love is all I am trying to fit into my understanding of **it**. AND **It ** must fit my understanding or else it cannot be love.

    I find it difficult to respond, because you are correct. **IT** is all about God’s love. I cannot understand the Gospel, if I cannot understand the love of God. I wouldn’t know how to love properly, if God hadn’t loved me first. So, I’ve witnessed the “love of God” in history, and because he has shown me what he is like in Jesus, and I fit all things concerning God, according to that witness.

    Pls help me understand the following passage in the light of your position: Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43; 47-50

    First, let’s look at your interpretation: “Sower is Himself (Jesus); Good seed are children of the kingdom; Tares are children of the wicked one; Enemy is the devil; Harvest is end of this age; Reapers are angels.” (parenthesis mine)

    I have no big problem with what you say here. I believe the “angels” are the Apostles (also messengers), which is what the Greek word for angel means. But, I have no big problem with your understanding of angelic beings, because supernatural power was no doubt used in gathering the elect and discarding the wicked.

    I see, however, an additional problem. It isn’t stated, but I suspect we have a difference of opinion on the phrase “end of this age”. I take this to mean the age in which Jesus ministered, and which would have been his expected lifetime had he not been crucified. The end of that age coincided with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. Knowing this puts the furnace of fire in perspective, and this is how you understand it:

    Burning tares is casting wicked into “Furnace of Fire” Every interpretation he gave is final, authoritative and definite. No interpretation is symbolic of anything. You take it home as settled truth. Furnace of fire must be final as much as angel is. It is a furnace of fire. It is not some ordeal to purge the tares and convert it to wheat. It is to destroy the tares.

    Boluwade, you seem very adamant here. It is what it is and cannot be interpreted otherwise—or so you seem to be saying. Yet, you contradict yourself later in your post, and I’ll bring that contradiction up here:

    When you burn tares they burn up but the Lord says when the wicked are cast into the fire they weep and gnash their teeth. In other words, they don’t get to expire like tares do in fire. So he draws a limit on the parallel.

    So, these “tares” don’t really burn up! If this is true, and I don’t doubt it is, then the “furnace of fire” cannot be a real furnace of fire. If things are the way you explain above, how can we see the love of God in it? Let’s remove it from the word of God for a moment and say: the leader of a nation far, far away was known to cast his enemies into a hot **substance** in which these poor souls wept and gnashed their teeth for the rest of their lives, but the **substance** wasn’t hot enough to kill them. It was just hot enough to cause a lot of screaming and weeping etc. Could you ever view this national leader as a benevolent leader, no matter what else he was known to do? Presuming you couldn’t, how can you judge a man as cruel, but God as good for doing the same works? Are we not called to be **like** God or be his **image** (Genesis 1:26-27)? If God treats his enemies as you claim he does above, why should we understand a man who does the same thing as a cruel, horrendous creature?

    Concerning the parable of the good fish and the bad in Matthew 13:47-50, the same would be true. It was to occur at the end of the age when God separated the spiritual Jews from those of the synagogue of Satan (cf. Romans 2:28-29; Revelation 2:9). First, the Jews of the synagogue of Satan were cast into a fiery furnace, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth (cf. Matthew 8:12), due to the loss of their nation and their Temple. After the war, the Jewish authorities had to meet and determine how they could be relevant in a world without a Temple. The Judaism of today is a result of that meeting. In other words they had no clear directive from God, concerning how to conduct themselves as a “nation” dispersed in the world.

    On the other hand, upon the spiritual Jews, those who believed God and obeyed him, upon them was bestowed the glory of carrying his word to the nations. We—believers in Jesus—are the only people on earth who represent God to the world. We—no one else—are sent by him to do his work to bring the nations in submission to his word. The Jewish nation was cast off—not forever, for Paul says they will return to him—but we, Jesus’ disciples, were chosen—the good fish were kept and the bad were cast away.

    Since I have offered my explanation of the Scriptures you presented to me, perhaps you would do the same for me. 1John 4:14 says that our heavenly Father sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world. Did Jesus do what he was sent to do? He claimed that he did (John 17:4). Moreover, the Scripture claims Jesus is the propitiation of not only our sins (believers’ sins) but the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2). Does the Father accept Jesus’ payment for the sins of the world or does he refuse it for the world (cf. John 3:16-17)? The Scripture concludes that Jesus is the Savior of all men, and, in doing so, it places a distinction between believers and unbelievers (1Timothy 4:10). How is Jesus the Savior of the world (unbelievers)?

    Thank you, Boluwade for your comment, and I would appreciate your thoughts on the Scriptures I mentioned in the paragraph above.

    Lord bless you in all you do for him.

     
  2. Boluwade Kujero

    August 15, 2017 at 16:23

    Greetings Eddie.

    With this article I can now see clearly that what I predicted about you came rather too late. Your offense with the epileptic boy demon possession and your subsequent revision of demon characterization to fit it into you narrow interpretation of God’s love has cascaded into more areas of your view of so many other things. God’s love is all you are trying to fit into your understanding of it. It must fit your understanding or else it cannot be love. Hmm…

    Pls help me understand the following passage in the light of your position:

    Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43; 47-50

    In the passages are two parables and their interpretations – the Lord’s final interpretations.

    In the first, he describes burning tares in fire at harvest time in the parable. When giving his disciples the interpretation, he gives a one for for interpretation that leaves room to no further need for interpreting the interpretation.

    Sower is Himself
    Good seed are children of the kingdom
    Tares are children of the wicked one
    Enemy is the devil
    Harvest is end of this age
    Reapers are angels.

    Burning tares is casting wicked into “Furnace of Fire”

    Every interpretation he gave is final, authoritative and definite. No interpretation is symbolic of anything. You take it home as settled truth. Furnace of fire must be final as much as angel is. It is a furnace of fire. It is not some ordeal to purge the tares and convert it to wheat. It is to destroy the tares.

    To reinforce this interpretation as final, the Lord gives another parable which has no symbolism of fire yet the interpretation he gives comes back again to furnace of fire. He expects his own to take it as final and not to further give it some symbolism again. They confirmed that they understood. You however do not.

    Furthermore, your slavish attention to match virtually every feature in the symbols in a parable to the interpretation is wrong. Symbols have a limit in representing things. The Lord has a right to determine how much of parallel he draws from a symbol. Neither you nor me should try to over draw from it and thereby mess it all up.

    When you burn tares they burn up but the Lord says when the wicked are cast into the fire they weep and gnash their teeth. In other words, they don’t get to expire like tares do in fire. So he draws a limit on the parallel.

    Similarly, the symbol of the dragnet with bad catch, he says they throw the bad away, but the interpretation again maintains a deliberate casting into a furnace of fire and not some banning of people to some unprepared place. He could have said something like a desolate place or wilderness to closely match the symbol. Since the symbol now has no fire, he could have used another phrase for the interpretation which has no reference to fire if all he was out to communicate was some limited corrective judgement. No, he says furnace of fire again. And despite the fact that casting away bad catch from a dragnet is to a large extent a silent exercise, Jesus interprets his own still with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Parables are meant to be simple and loose ways to communicate higher facts and not some detailed, elaborate, every feature of symbol element must mean something in the interpretation.

    Stop trying to fit God’s character into the mold of your understanding, expand your understanding by his multidimensional character rather. Embrace his love and wrath. Don’t squeeze one down to grow the other. He is love but he is also consuming fire. He is not less of a consuming fire than he is love. Understand him in whole not in part. Your understanding of love is warped. You are tumbling down and down into a sad place with it.

    Gehenna fire is the Lord’s terminology for the place called Lake of Fire in Revelation. Gehenna is truly an earthly place but the Lord used its name, not only symbolically but also in a designatory way. Just as Mount Zion or Jerusalem which is earthly is also designatory of God’s heavenly city and not merely symbolic of it.

    May God help us all.

     
 
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