Posted by: minnow | July 12, 2009

GETTING WHAT ONE DESERVES

I love listening in on the conversation my son has with some of his friends and acquaintances on Facebook.  The only time I get to do this is when he reads various posts out loud to me or when his friends comment on his status updates and it turns into a debate.  Recently I caught a discussion on the idea of what would make it so a person “deserved” hell. 

Now, we are often quick to say we do not deserve heaven  (but thanks be to God He sent Jesus so we can get there).  I completely understand and embrace that particular train of thought.  Nothing I have done, including birthing five of the best children on the planet, earns me a place in heaven.  But, why then do we seem to think what we do (or do not do) deserves hell?

When I actually stop to think about it I have to admit, I have a bit of a “works” mentality.  “I just did three loads of laundry–I deserve  a doughnut, or flavored creamer in my coffee, or…”  I was raised on works.  Growing up I heard phrases like:  “You get what you pay for” or “You made your bed, now you have to lay in it”  or “If you work hard enough you’ll get a good grade on that project” all the time.  If a teacher was not spouting this wisdom then my parents were.  And, even though I knew better (by grace not works you are saved and God loved us even while we were sinners and His love is unconditional), I still transfered a works relationship over to God.  What makes my heavenly Father different from my earthly father, anyway?

Now there’s a question to ponder.  And if you think about it long enough it’s not so different from the “what makes us think we deserve hell” question.  The truth is, we have fashioned our God after our fathers (both spiritual and physical).  If our earthly dads are legalistic so is God.  If they are works and rewards oriented so is God.  If they’d just as soon slap you down as look at you well…  It can start to look pretty ugly up there in heaven.  Our tit for tat, earning and deserving, “I’m just waiting for you to mess up” kind of thinking messes with the doctrine of unconditional love.  And, we start thinking in terms of “some one has got to pay”.

So many people who believe in the doctrine of hell tell me they do so because God is just.  Well, I say if God is just and therefore we have hell then no way in hell would any of us end up in heaven.  Seriously, how crazy is it to think that a just  God would say, “Okay, if you believe I sent my Son to die in your place then you get into heaven but if you don’t well burn in hell forever.”  Have you ever been burned?  It hurts.  A lot. Can you imagine leaving your child’s finger in the flame for one minute let alone eternity?  How is that justice?  When I ask my friends who believe in hell this question they usually say something a long the lines of, “Uhh, I don’t know.  But, He’s just and…the Bible says and well,…His ways are higher than our ways.”  I do not mind telling you, that kind of thinking makes my brain hurt. 

Rather than trying to scare the hell out of people with talk of eternal damnation why do we not try naming the good within them?  In the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus told his listeners that whatever they did for the least of these they did for Him.  To me this parable tells us that even if we do not know we are working for God when we do good we serve God.  In Acts 17 Paul told the men of Athens that what they worshipped as unknown he knew and he went on to tell them about Jesus.  Why make witnessing about the love and presence of God so complicated?  He is good.  He is grace.  He is love.  His fruit in our lives is peace and patience and joy and self-control, kindness and gentleness and love, even if we do not yet know His name.

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Responses

  1. I love your enthusiasm!

    Perhaps your energy would best be used in this world and let God worry about the next?

  2. aww Minnow sister. I will have to write to give you a perspective unlike the one you have. This is an issue we split ways on. I am one of those who “believes in the doctrine of hell”. I do absolutely believe that we *all* deserve hell – eternal separation from God and the pain and emptiness and never satisfying gnashing of teeth that is associated with hell.

    And I do believe that God is a just judge and that the consequence of our un-holiness and sin would be separation from Him. but praise God – Jesus came! God’s eternal mission to find a bride for His Son, a place for Himself to dwell and a body to take His form was also the same thing that keeps us from hell – what a perfect plan! thank God we can be with Him now because we are wrapped up perfectly in Jesus’ purity and are seen by God now as God sees Jesus – since we are one Body. Jesus paid it all – all to Him I owe. My sin had left a crimson stain He washed it white as snow. I believe this hymn as much as when I used to sing it growing up in a hymn singing church body.

    That being said – I don’t believe I “try to scare the hell out of people”. I will love people to Him but part of loving them is explaining salvation and what Jesus did for us (eventually – once a relationship is built).

    Love ya Minnow and thanks for your perspective. I’m sorry your son and you have been experiencing people who use scripture as a way to condemn people and not love them…. but I don’t think it’s un-loving to talk about God’s plan of salvation. The Word has so many stories in it that can be stories of fear when looked at one way —- but raelly the same story of fear could be looked at a story of a Savior and hope. All depends on way you look at it and if you look at the “bigger picture”. Love you! 🙂 Thanks for letting me share. I don’t know it all – but I haven’t ever been able to be convinced by those who don’t believe in hell – everything in my spirit and scripture reading convinces me there is a hell and it’s real and we are saved from it because of Jesus —- though that’s not the end goal of God’s plan (just to save us) —- it is part of the story. Praise God that what is best for Him is best for us. thank God that He included us when planning His purposes.

  3. So Randi–Is hell continuous torture or separation from God? And please don’t say separation from God would be continuous torture. (I agree with that perspective and think it applies to hell on earth as well, but that is not the hell doctrine we are talking about here). We are talking about conscious physical pain for eternity for everyone who does not pray the sinner’s prayer and really mean it. In other words, babies, little kids, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, the developmentally disabled, etc., everybody who isn’t saved by the WORK of their confession. And, if I add what you just said they also needed to have built a relationship with Him in order to be saved. (Not sure you really meant that but it is what you said).
    There’s a lot more that goes with the “we deserve hell” thinking then the people who think that way want to admit. Telling people who do not believe the way we (Christians) believe that even their best actions are no better than used tampons in the sight of God is hardly an effective introduction to a loving Father. And, the message that since we are covered (by the blood of Jesus) God doesn’t see us as sinners implies that we are somehow better than those who are not covered. Our confession made us more worthy. It got us in the door. It allows God to see us. It wasn’t what Jesus did it was our response to what He did that made the difference.
    We ought to be saying that He loves us. Period. And, His love for us has nothing to do with our righteousness because even when we are righteous enough to call upon Him, to recognize He is God, confess our sin, and beg for mercy (like the Israelites did for hundreds of years, and the speaker in Isaiah 64 was doing) we still do so from a self oriented position. We simply cannot get away from ourselves. The speaker in Isaiah 64 is speaking for the righteous, not making a distinction between those who call upon God and those who don’t. He is saying even those who call upon God (just like you are saying we must do in order to be saved) in truth have nothing they can add to the equation.
    I am not saying that we should not tell people about salvation. But I am saying we should tell people the truth about it. And the truth is, Jesus did it all by Himself. He lead a sinless life, relied completely on God, trusted Him even unto His death. And, the Father raised Him from the dead, proving His trust in His Father was warranted.
    To close I would like to quote something my son said to one of his friends during his Facebook discussion: “A parent warns his kids so they can eventually learn from their mistakes. He doesn’t stop trying after a matter of time. You are saying that our God stops trying after a curtain amount of time. He gives up and lets us burn in Hell. I don’t think that is a loving Father and it isn’t the God I read about in the Bible.”

  4. there is nothing worthy or righteous in us that makes us “better” than anybody else. It is simply us accepting Jesus in us that brings us into relationship with God. if we don’t accept Jesus in us, He won’t be in us. He won’t force Himself in… therefore He won’t force us to be part of the Bride, the Body, the Family, the House of God. What is better about us is Jesus/God/Spirit.

    regarding your last paragraph —- I can’t respond on that because anything I say won’t be biblically based facts. I am not sure if God will just “stop trying” and pursuing us at a certain time. The Bible only goes to Revelation as the end of this earth…. only God knows the rest of the story of eternity – I can’t speculate on forever other than what He’s give us. To be saved – inherently implies that there must have been something we were saved from.

    headed to vacation! 🙂 talk more soon! Love,

  5. And I repeat in your type of thinking it isn’t what Jesus did it is what we do in response to what He did that saves us.

  6. please forgive me Minnow…. I am not sure that my last answer was good or biblical at all…… I disagree with myself. Looking back through your questions… I think my answer is that yes it’s eternal. Jesus himself says that it will be. Matthew 25:46 eternal punishment.

    maybe the confusion comes in depending on when we all think we enter into a loving relationship with the Father. I believe we are ‘enemies in our minds’ with Him until we accept Jesus into our lives. I don’t believe that we enter into a loving , Father relationship with Abba until we become part of the Son.

    and I do believe all that the bible says about hell is true. torment. everlasting destruction. fire. tormented day and night forever and ever.

    So if adults reject Jesus will they go there? I believe the Bible says yes. it doesn’t matter their color or how you label them – if they are not part of the Son, they don’t have God as the Father.

    Do I have a specific answers for if babies go there? No the Bible isn’t clear on that…. personally, I do think that God takes different thigns into account…. ability to decide/reject/accept…. information given to us… I would have to believe that since God is a just, good judge…. He would take into account many things ……. but that is not biblical of me to say that because the Bible doesn’t say one way or another.

    hell as everlasting torment is hard to think about….. but I can’t find anything in scripture to help support it differently.

  7. so because of your previous comment…. that is why people say that God Himself can only open our hearts to Him? It’s not of our own basis? What is that called? calvinism or something? I don’t know if I agree with that….

    I’m sorry I don’t know the answers. I don’t know why I accepted Christ and many others aruond me didn’t.

    but yes I believe we do have the choice. many accept and many reject. I believe that His love and Saving Grace can only be fulfilled when we accept it…. and then it can be returned.

    So yes I DO Believe it takes something on our part. not that it is WORKS…. but that it is accpentace of His love. there is nothign to DO but let Him in.

    Love that is unreturned is not ever fully fulfilled. God would be in frustrating agony if some did not accept His love so then it could come back to Him. He is looking for people to accept His love.

  8. I totally agree that God desires us to return His love. I can not wrap my head around the idea that a God who wants to be equated with the concepts of love and forgivenenss could ever for eternity allow a person to burn in conscious torment, however. I could not allow that to happen to a stranger let alone one of my children if it was in my power to have it not happen and God is surely a better parent than I am. As for the Bible telling us that such a place as hell exists I simply disagree. The verse you quoted can just as rightfully be translated “pruning for a time” as it is translated “punishment for eternity”. Further more it is part of a parable which means it is not meant to be taken literally but is used as an illustration to support a different point. If we were to take that parable literally we would also need to say that entire nations are going to be judged as a group and they will be judged on the basis of their behavior not a confession of faith. (reread verses 34-45) And to say the Bible isn’t clear about what happens to babies is pure balderdash and a sweet little answer so you don’t have to follow through with what you are claiming the Bible does say for non-believers–that they must choose to follow, choose to have relationship or burn. We don’t like to think about babies burning in hell because we can’t wrap our heads around a loving Father allowing such a thing. But the bottom line is that if what you are telling me adult non-Christians must do to be saved is true and the scripture doesn’t add an exception to the rule claus (which obviously it doesn’t or you would know it) then babies and developmentally disabled people and the millions of Jews that were gassed by God-believing German Christians are burning in eternal damnation right now. Maybe I’m ignorant but I prefer to believe God doesn’t need my help, even in the form of my confession, to “save” me.

  9. you know I don’t know enough biblical translation to argue with you one way or another… I can only read what I read and go from there.

    I also can’t wrap my mind around it either…. but i’m okay with that. there are many parts of GOd I don’t understand and I’m okay with that. The same way I didn’t agree with or understand a lot of the things my parents did when I was a child —- the same is true now since I am a baby compared to God….. I couldn’t see the bigger picture. Our minds are way too small to be able to figure it all out and what is loving what is right how God should do things…. there is no part of me that thinks that I can judge God as unloving because He is a GOd that is just and will always punish sin. Just as I want murderers to be punished and could not stand to see injustice (crimes to go unpunished)… so I am not okay with anybody getting away with sin if they don’t accept the covering of Jesus. does a person have to have some ‘ability’ (maturity, mental health) to be able to choice or reject… yes which is why I don’t know about babies/mentally disabled.

    The Bible is *not* clear what God will do with disabled, babies and others who don’t have the same ability to choose as others…. there is no direct answer/solution to that…. but I believe the BIble *is* clear on what will happen to those who reject God and don’t become part of Jesus. I am not worried so much about a person’s “confession” either… but their heart and acceptance or rejection as Jesus as Savior or not.

    I will check out the verses 34 and 35

  10. vs 34 and 35 to me just speaks much like James does that a person who has the Spirit in them will always show outwardly. not that the works save…. but that a byproduct of being saved is the Spirit working in us…. the world around us in some way will know we are part of Jesus’ body when we are…..

  11. I found 2 interesting commentaries on vs 46. Here is the first:

    Eternal punishment (kolasin aiwnion). The word kolasin comes from kolazw, to mutilate or prune. Hence those who cling to the larger hope use this phrase to mean age-long pruning that ultimately leads to salvation of the goats, as disciplinary rather than penal. There is such a distinction as Aristotle pointed out between mwria (vengeance) and kolasiß. But the same adjective aiwnioß is used with kolasin and zwhn. If by etymology we limit the scope of kolasin, we may likewise have only age-long zwhn. There is not the slightest indication in the words of Jesus here that the punishment is not coeval with the life. We can leave all this to the King himself who is the Judge. The difficulty to one’s mind about conditional chastisement is to think how a life of sin in hell can be changed into a life of love and obedience. The word aiwnioß (from aiwn, age, aevum, aei) means either without beginning or without end or both. It comes as near to the idea of eternal as the Greek can put it in one word. It is a difficult idea to put into language. Sometimes we have “ages of ages” (aiwneß twn aiwnwn).

  12. and the 2nd:

    And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. We shall not enter into the discussions that have arisen over this controverted passage. These things are certain: (1) A separation between the righteous and the wicked takes place at judgment. (2) The righteous inherit the kingdom; the wicked “depart into everlasting fire.” (3) The state of the righteous is “life eternal;” the state of the wicked is “everlasting punishment.” (4) The duration of these two states is the same, exactly the same Greek word being used in each case (aionios). Then if the state of punishment has an end, so has the life.

  13. the same Greek word being both times is a very interesting point to me.

    If the state of punishment has an end, so has the life.

  14. So if parables are to be taken literally I guess we will be saved by our works. And we will be saved because we are poor but if we are rich, no mater how we use our wealth (that part was never discussed) we have already experienced our reward so we will go to hell. And we will beable to hear the cries from hell when we are in heaven. I guess that will make a feel much more grateful that we made it into heaven. And of course none of those parables that describe hell say we get there by a confession of faith only by works or the state of being poor. And I suppose we should just overlook all the words from the New Testament that are translated in English as Hell but really refer to the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. The English version says hell and well not reading it that way might make us question the doctrine of hell without which murderers might not be properly punished for their sins. Excuse me?!
    “He is a God that is just and will always punish sin.” No, at least not unless the only sin that exists is not believing in Jesus before you die.
    I need to sleep but I will write more tonight.

  15. I’m not sure if this is a parable or not. I find it interseting that this section of my Bible isn’t labeled parallel (but whoever labels them) but the other sections of the chapter are. I don’t this section says anything about works saving… in fact I discussed that above.

    I have heard that discussion of the word “hell” and how Jesus paralleled it to a place that many he was talking to would understand – but not sure how that has any barring on this discussion.

    I am pretty sure you misunderstood why I brought up the example/parallel to a murderer not being punished. It was an example to show how inherently we all know justice is good and punishment for wrong is good. We all deserve punishment… because we are all sinners…. but Jesus paid that ransom for us. He came into court and collects all who accept the offer.. to become part of Him… no longer condemned. no longer punished.

    I don’t take back that last statement at all… I do believe that He *is* a just God and for those that are not pardoned by accepting Jesus invitation for Him to pay the debt…. they will be punished. Whatever form you want to say that is. however you want to argue what it is. eternal. literal physical pain. conscious pain as you say. however the Bible describes hell. eternal punishment.

    but honestly Minnow….I think I’ll end the discussion here from my point of view. I can truly say that I am interpretting a tone from you that is not out of love at all. It may be me reading into things… but I’m not feeling this to be a healthy discussion for either of us. I believe I have tried to share my point of view and not tried to condemn or belittle you and the path you are on and viewpoints you are believing it.

    won’t be able to reply for a week if I decide to reply again. but I thank you for sharing the viewpoint.

    The more and more discussions I get from “emerging”… or I honestly don’t even know how to label the group really…. I don’t agree with the tone so many take. They have all the grace in the world for muslims and whatever other group they feel is being condemned…. but yet no grace for those that they lump together as “too christian”… or “traditional christian”…. I wonder why so many that are against “christianithy” in their passion forget to have grace for those that they say are too condemning. I fear that many condemn those they debate with who they judge to be condemning… and in doing so become exactly what they dislike about the one they are debating against.

    that being said.. thanks for sharing. and hope to get more time to chat when we get back!

  16. I would like to ask you some questions though Minnow. Just to see where you’re coming from more….

    who is Jesus to you? do you believe He fulfilled the mission He was sent for? what was that mission? Do you believe He was a real man? Do you believe that God is holy? Do you believe that He is so holy that He can not be in the presence of sin? How do you believe GOd sees our sin? Do you think God is sovereign? Do you think that God is still loving if He allows people to be murdered, rape, sick?

    I know it’s a lot of questions….. but just thought so many of them needed to be answered to truly try to get a grasp of what you’re trying to say here…

  17. not that in saying I don’t know if it’s a parable or not… am I saying that it doesn’t definietly has some metaphor (is that the right word?) cuz it’s not like I think it’s speaking of actual goats….

    I don’t know hahaI’m not good at discussions that go this length/ in depth because there’s so many different points going every which way and I’m all jumbled now hehe. have a blessed week!

  18. I appologize Randi, my tone did turn more hostile and less gracious in my last response. Honestly, I am confused by the idea that saying Jesus (God’s son, a guiltless man) paid for my sin is justice. It is mercy. It is grace. But, it is most certainly not justice. I am confounded by the thought that you give such weight to a translator’s labling the sections of your Bible. Either we can count on seeing sheep and goats in heaven/hell or it is an illustration (parable). I am frustrated with people who claim to “just believe what the Bible says” with regard to topics like hell but then when confronted by what that means, for example babies buring for eternity, refuse to own that conclusion . You are so certain that the BIBLE SAYS hell is eternal punishment but then when I spell out what that means you want to dance around it and say well the Bible isn’t clear on the particulars, maybe even though we are “born sinners” babies get off the hook somehow. As rediculous as it sounds: if babies get off the hook maybe abortion isn’t such a bad thing afterall; just think of all the souls that are saved. Harsh? Yes. But I am not trying to be mean spirited, truly I am not. I just want us to look at what we claim the Bible says and what we attribute to God’s character.
    You asked me a whole bunch of questions. I will answer them to the best of my ability but I would first like to you tell me why you are asking me these things. This post is not the first time we have interacted. You’ve read several of my other posts, we’ve even sent e-mails back and forth. Most of these questions have already been answered by me so I’m not sure why you now seem unsure of their answers.
    [ADDED LATER] I have a post (actually two) ready to go. I am looking forward to your answer to my request. If you want to see my response to you before I post them just ask. Hope your vacation is going well.

  19. I recently found these on a blog perhaps they are helpful?
    Contemplation #251
    Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Luke 13:23

    Jesus seldom seems to feel compelled to answer the question that is asked. He responds truthfully despite the assumptions of the questioner. Here, if you read verses 24-30, you see that Jesus never answers the question of how many will be saved. He does say that many will try to enter incorrectly, leading us to think perhaps the answer is “few will be saved”. But then he counters that people will come from all points of the compass, which leads us to think that many will be saved. In fact, instead of giving a number, Jesus’ response to the question is that those who will be saved are not those whom the questioner expects. Instead of thinking about numbers, Jesus calls us to the inverted “last will be first” thinking about the Kingdom of God.

    Contemplation #252
    Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Luke 13:23

    By ignoring the question of “How many will be saved” Jesus would have us turn from such unprofitable speculation. He draws us instead to see the surprising way that God works. Grace is astonishingly improbable, by it’s very nature. Grace is unpredictable because it is extended to where goodness and blessing ought not to go. Despite well-meaning people who have tried to delineate exactly where God’s grace will be given and to whom it will not, such restriction would rob grace of being grace. Paul said that though he was the worst of sinners, yet he was shown grace. Grace will always make the last first, and salvation will appear where we least expect it. Let us see ourselves as recipients of unexpected grace.

  20. I simply wanted to know what you have changed your view on if anything. If there were any shifts on foundational truths.

    I don’t see how there is nothing we need to do to have eternal salvation. I believe john 3:16 that we have to believe…. Rev that *we* have to open the door….. that we have to be open to Him….. that it does take something on our part…. the gate is narrow because not all will choose Jesus. I don’t believe that all will be saved because Jesus came to save all. He did come for that but can’t force Himself upon us. That’s where free will comes in. God won’t make us choose Him.

    In asking about all the evil in the world – my point is that just as God allows a lot of terrible things to happen to us – He still is love and still is all good. He isn’t a God that never punishes and always will protect from all harm. He will allow punishment for sin that is not covered by Christ and i don’t think that makes Him any less good or less loving. I can’t convince myself of that in my mind…… but I believe it in my heart. That is what is meant by a just God. He will not let sin go unpunished. It has to be covered by the punishment Jesus endured or our own punishment if we don’t accept what Jesus did.

    I still don’t agree with your argument against not knowing the particulars about scripture. Just because I don’t know the particulars does not refudiate the entire argument. I don’t have the answers to what God does to babies or people not able to make a choice. That makes sense to me……. it’s our choice to accept………..and if we can’t make a choice (not developed enough/mature enough, physical impairment) – then He will take that into account.

    I believe that He takes into account because He judges the heart and knows what is going on…. but the scripture is *not* clear on that so that is an opinion. There is not an answer to that. I am not sure what other particulars He takes into account…. but I don’t beleive that He will take into account a person’s nationality/race (as you say muslims)…..when they have flat out rejected Him and the gift of salvation. That’s not one of the things I believe He takes into account. They have the abilty to choose and they chose.

    I guess the reason we don’t have more people fervently proclaiming Jesus and the need to accept Him and repent of our rebellion to not believe He is way to eternal life is because many no longer believe anything on our part is necessary for eternal salvation. acts 20:21 I just don’t know how it gets clearer than that.

  21. Randi–If you say, “the Bible says we must believe, we must confess, in order to be saved” then you do have the answer as to what happens to those who do not believe or do not confess, including babies. There are no escape clauses. If indeed the requirement is belief and confession then those who don’t are punished. And, if you think Hell is literal then the punishment is burning continuously, consciously, forever. I’m not making the rules. You are telling me what you believe the Bible says and I’m following that to its complete conclusion. Neither one of us can find the escape clause if what you say the Bible says is accurate.
    Next problem I have: You say God is Sovereign. I agree. I read in 2 Timothy 2:4 that God wants all men to be saved and in Romans 5:18 that “just as the result of one tresspass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life to all men” or in other words all will be saved. But you tell me that we can cause God’s will NOT to be accomplished. You tell me that what Jesus did on the cross is not enough to accomplish God’s will; we must add our agreement, our will to His. Most Christians I’ve had exposure to who preach hell say the individual must make a decision to believe in Christ before he or she dies or that individual will burn in hell. Most of these Christians also seem to think it is up to them to “get people saved”. In other words they need to make sure those sinners out there confess their sinfulness and let Jesus into their hearts before they die. As long as that happens nothing else matters. Such an attitude makes me sad because we tend to ignor the “hells” people are living in right here on earth, the “hells” I think Jesus was actually referring to when He talked about the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem where leppers and other outcasts scrounged to find bits of food to eat.
    I think this may be enough for now. Like I mentioned before I have written a couple posts that do answer the questions you asked me earlier. I would be happy to send them to you in an e-mail before I post them if you want. Just let me know. Otherwise I may post one on Tuesday and the other later in the week.

  22. I’ve been thinking about the part of our discussion that concerned Matthew 25:31-46. I believe this passage is a parable and therefore not meant to be taken literally. But, since it is not labled as such in your Bible you say you are not sure if it is a parable or not. Say we take verse 46 literally–some will be punished forever and others will enjoy life forever which based on what has been taught means continuous torment in hell or a painless, existance in heaven. Using the rest of the passage how is it decided which will be our plight? Well verses 34-36 indicate that those blessed by the Father are to take their inheritance (the Kingdom) FOR when the King was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, in need of clothes, sick, and in prison those on the right (those blessed by the Father) fed Him, gave Him drink, invited Him in, clothed Him, took care of Him, and visited Him–in other words they performed acts of kindness (works). When the righteous replied that they didn’t understand when they did these things the King tells them in verse 40 that whenever they did these things for the least they did them for Him. He tells those on the left in verses 41-45 to depart from Him, explaining that because they did not feed Him, give Him drink, invite Him in, clothe Him, take care of Him, or visit Him in prison (because they did not do so for the least) they are cursed. Again, this judgment is based on their behavior–what they did not do for the least (in other words their lack of works). So, it did not matter that both groups called, or confessed Him as, Lord (see verses 37 and 44) one group got in and the other didn’t. That is why I am saying if we take this passage literally it is teaching that “salvation” is based on works (what we do and don’t do for the least). It also teaches, if taken literally, that entire nations will be judged as a whole group not as individuals. Verse 32 says all the NATIONS will gather together and He will separate the people GROUPS one from another. (The NIV has an unfortuate translation to the antecedant of nations leaving off the word groups but the original Greek is clear). Now, given the problems with taking most of this passage literally, how can we pluck verse 46 out and say it CLEARLY tells us some individuals are going to heaven and others are going to hell? That, in my opinion would be irresponsible. The other major passage used to teach about hell, Luke 16:19-31 The Rich Man and Lazarus, has just as many problems when taken literally as this one.
    Randi–I am not trying to be hard on you but I think it is dangerous to treat scripture carelessly. And I believe when we don’t dig into scripture and ask the hard questions like: What am I really saying when I say I believe in hell? Or, how do I know, by reading the scripture itself, whether or not an illustration is being used? Or, what does such and such a doctrine say about the character of God and is that supported by the rest of scripture? Or, do I rely on phrases like “His ways are not our ways” in order to avoid seeking the truth or wrestling with tough questions? I truly admire your passion, your sincere love of God, and your concern for the Body. I hope that just because I believe strongly in my point of view you do not feel I have discounted your point of view. I certainly believe in your right to see things differently than I see them. I’ve probably said more than enough now already though so…

  23. 1. you said, “Honestly, I am confused by the idea that saying Jesus (God’s son, a guiltless man) paid for my sin is justice. It is mercy. It is grace. But, it is most certainly not justice.”

    I disagree. Jesus paid the punishment for sin. Merciful, graceful, almost unbelievable – absolutely – but He did it because sin can not go unpunished and we wouldn’t have a relationship with God without Jesus. Therefore sin did not go unpunished so justice against sin was complete. I believe that was why God sent Jesus – to take the punishment for sins so we could be freed from it. God is a loving God ..absolutely ..He IS love – but I am careful to not forget that God is also a very Holy righteous God who hates sin. I can’t just look at one piece of God’s character – love – and base or judge all my thoughts of Him and His decisions on that one description of Him.

    2. you think it refutes the argument to look at what the Bible says but then ‘add in’ – but it doesn’t apply to children/mentally handicap/etc..

    I disagree and don’t see it being a contradicting or argument-disproving point. There are many things the Bible doesn’t spell out and I don’t understand but just because I can’t logically figure it out – I don’t throw it out. I believe that God didn’t put in any caveats about babies, etc. because He didn’t want us to worry about that argument – I don’t have an answer – but perhaps He takes into account a person’s age or ability to choose Him and would apply Jesus death to their position when judging. I have heard it read that david understood that GOd had a different plan for babies/those unable to choose…. 2 samuel 12:21-23 He stopped crying when the baby died – and said that he couldn’t bring the baby back but he would go to him. David trusted babies would be with God. I don’t have an answer – but from all I read in the Bible, even though I don’t understand it – sin doesn’t go unpunished and we need a ‘covering’ and it’s through believing, accepting and in our faith of Jesus and what He did for us that we are saved. Perhaps hell is not specific as gnashing, fire, torment – perhaps that is a parablic (made that word up i think) description — but I do believe it is eternal and a place of torment for a person’s conscience and understanding of what happened is tormenting.

    3. regarding romans 5:18 (2 timothy you have the wrong verse) ….
    I agree wtih romans 5 — it does bring life to all men — but not all accept it. The gift was brought. The gift – a gift that must be opened, accepted. If the whole world received an envelope full of some special beauty treatment that would make them young forever – and some didn’t accept it, didn’t believe in it — as good as the gift is – they wouldn’t be young forever if they didn’t accept it. They wouldn’t benefit without accepting it. horrible illustration but the only I could think of. I believe that God DOES give life to all. Jesus gave all eternal life – He overcame adam’s sin – which is who this verse is paralleling to — and Jesus overcame the physical & spiritual death both – so yes everybody will have eternal existence because of Him. Just depends where, with whom now.

    4. I would never say Jesus act was not enough to complete GOd’s will – I believe Jesus did all He came to do. gave eternal existence to all and gave the gift of eternal life, ability to be with God forever. I don’t believe that God’s will would take away our free choice/free will. He won’t make people accept Him. I honestly can’t give enough input on this – I am the one who asks you about calvinism, armanesim (spelling?) I have noo clue how that all works and don’t understand the theology. I am coming from a viewpoint of a NON theoligan. so I’m sorry because I know that you’re looking for somebody who really could challenge and give you some new points/arguments which I just don’t have. but just like I asked you those questions (because in my mind – I try to take on the position I am reading — those are the contradictions I could not get to align to support what you were saying so I wanted to see how you fit it all together – it just helped me understand where you are coming from)

    5. I agree that many ignore the hell right here. But I can’t throw out everything else I believe because that is true. I do believe that God desires us to start and live our eternal life starting *now* and many don’t and are just happy in the security they feel and then don’t ever understand the bigger mission we are called here for. I don’t think GOd’s purpose for me is to be saved. I am thankful for it, I rejoice and praise Him daily for the gift He has given me —- but I don’t think it’s the end all be all and I don’t think it’s my focus. Focusing on eternity isn’t enough for me – my Spirit knows there is much more.

    6. I really don’t know if it’s a parable or not – I wasn’t saying that to make a point either way – just commenting I thought it was interesting it wasn’t labeled – really has no bearing on my thoughts on it one way or another. Regarding matthew 25: Don’t see anything wrong with the word groups. the nations will stand before Jesus on the throne as shown in revelation and they will be separated into groups. it’s the first (and final) separation of these 2 groups which have always been mingled before – righteous & wicked. Jesus then gives an invitation… to all that accepted His earthly invitation – He offers a heavenly invitation. and yes I do believe that the righteous are those that are righteous because of Jesus and are full of love for for others because of the indwelling of the Holy spirit. the love of Christ fills us with love of others. ‘required’ for salvation? yes and no. It is but it’s nothing something we check off a list – it comes naturally from the Holy Spirit in us. If a person isn’t full of love and using their gifts for others – perhaps they are not fully allowing the Holy Spirit to work in them – have a long way to go in maturity. I am sure there are differing degrees of maturity. I believe this is a great verse that describes that the work of the Holy Spirit becomes evident in a person’s life. You can’t do these things on your own effort and it saves you. It comes from the love of Christ. So all there is, is to depend on Him. those who sought the Lord on earth should be with him forever (1 thes 4:17). those who turn- will be turned away 4ever. 2 thess 1:9
    perhaps fire is used not literal but a description of the wicked/wicked places. vs. 46 seems clear to me. and the argument i showed you last time when I found that commentary in my Bible I believe is a wonderfully supportive commentary. see above where it takes about the word used being the same for ‘eternal’ life and punishment both.

    I do agree with your last paragraph. I don’t mind tackling hard questions and I believe it is a good thing. I know that I know nothing compared to many – but this is how it all fits together in my heart/head – hard to grasp absolutely but it’s where I am. I believe that there are many aspects of God and His character which I don’t understand – but I can’t just take the pieces of Him I “like” and look at every part of scripture thorugh that one aspect of His character that maeks me feel good. I don’t know. there is very little I know. but I know that God loves me and that He loved me enough to send Jesus to rescue me from eternal separation from Him. I know that He commands me to allow Him to love me so I can be full of love for Him and others. Everything else just seems so small compared to those 2 things. Thanks 🙂

  24. Point 1: I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. I do not see that a guiltless man paying for a guilty man’s sin is justice. Mercy, grace? Yes! But not justice. Yes sin is technically “paid for” but by the wrong person. It is a double negative. The guilty goes free and the innocent is punished. Two wrongs don’t make a right. It makes a sacrifice. It makes an incredible, undeserved gift. But it does not equal justice.

    Point 2: Again we will probably just have to agree to disagree. I say when the Bible says a person must do A and offers not exception to the rule clause then there are not exceptions. You say that when the Bible say a person must do A and offers no exception to the rules clause there may or may not still be an exception; we just don’t know but we do know that the exception cannot possible be that we don’t actually have to do A, most people do have to do A.
    As for the Samuel passage I think you are reading into it a point of view that is not there. David is not putting confidence in the baby going to be with God or in his going to be with the baby in any place other than the grave.

    Point 3: I apologize I meant to be refering to First not second Timothy when I said it is God’s will that all men be saved.

    Point 4: You would never say that what Jesus did is not enough to accomplish God’s will, except that when you say we must respond to what Jesus did before it can actually take place, for me, that is exactly what you are saying.

    Point 5. I believe God’s purpose for my life is for me to be saved, saved FOR relationship with Him, not saved FROM hell.

    Point 6: How does judging an entire nation as though it was an individual reconcile with free will and individual culpability? Also what do you do with the idea that Jesus will say to some who prophesy and cast out demons in His name (Matthew 7: 22-23) with the conclusion you come to about the sheep and the goats passage that our faith is evidenced by what we do?

    I can understand if one sees man as totally evil that a place of everlasting torment (hell) can be justified. But how is expecting a being that is totally evil to choose against its very nature to embrace God justified? Most often the response to that question is that God causes such a person to believe. But then my question becomes what has happened to free will if God causes the response? Is it even Man responding? And, if there is some good in man which allows him to respond to God then how is a place of ever lasting torture (hell) justified? I guess that is why I believe the word normally translated “punishment” actually means “pruning”.
    This is my second time writing this I lost the first version so I hope I haven’t glossed over anything. As I’ve said in some of my other responses, I think you have the right to believe whatever you choose to believe. I am just trying to understand WHY. In the big picture it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. I do not believe I am trying to take the parts of Him I like and see everything through those parts. At the same time I am also not interest in painting a picture of God that is confusing and contradictory.

  25. haha I just don’t know Minnow. you’re just way over my head in theological /debating capabilities. I will try to look up verses as to WHY to explain the why behind it all – but it won’t be soon and I’m sure it will just be different interepretations of the same scripture. I rely on the words in my BIble plus the commentaries in my Bible plus the Holy Spirit and that’s where i make a decision either way. I don’t look at the original greek/hebrew – and am not in that point of my journey yet where I feel the desire to. I believe these debates/understanding different doctrine is important – it’s just not that important to me as I thought it was. I’ll try my best though! eventually!:) thanks

  26. after i finished writing that I thought of a few things. there are new a) and b)’s not correlating to above. this is getting too confusing for me geesh

    a) Romans 8 basically describes perhaps to me the most important parts of the Word. I believe that Jesus saves us from the law and if we don’t accept His gift of salvation – then we are under the wrath of God and ‘the law’ still. Romans 8 my fave chapter probably… talks about how there is no condemntation for those who are in Christ Jesus. meaning there is condemnation for those not.

    “because through Jesus Christ the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
    so if you don’t have the law of the spirit of life… u have the law of the sin and death and you have a law to live up to (which we know is impossible for man) so the place those would end up is not with God = hell.

    I don’t think that the law of the spirit of life applies to everybody. only those in Christ Jesus.

    “if anybody does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” implying there is some you don’t have it and some who don’t belong to christ which brings me back to vs 2 with that understanding.

    b) just because many will not accept God’s gift of Jesus does not take away from how beautiful and perfect the gift was… nor it’s value. the fact that man may reject it has no bearing on its value in God’s eyes or it’s “success”. We know that man does not see what God sees or know what God knows. Jesus did fully save – He died for ALL and ANYBODY can accept the gift.

    c) john 3:18 — the unbeliever condemns himself. he is lost and refuses to be saved. how does all that work with the calvinism, etc. debate — is it possible for all to choose God? therefore there must be good in us? I don’t know. no clue actually so I can’t get into that debate with u. the Bible from what I see implies that we can choose – yet we see God open people’s hearts/harden people’s hearts right? I don’t know. again, can’t really go there.

    d) we’ve already talked about matthew 25:46 – the use of the words for eternal for both life and death are the same. that’s probably the most convincing commentary I’ve seen on eternal hell/sepration from God. and I’ll put it again here. the commentary I read on it said that this chapter clarifies a) there will be a separation between righteous & wicket at judgement b) righteous inherenit the kingdom, wicked depart into everlasting fire c) state of the righteous is eternal life state of wicked everlasting punishment d) duration of those 2 states is the same. if state of life has no end neither does state of punishment.

    e) you believe that after life we will have another ‘chance’ / preparation for judgement? I don’t see that anywhere but I don’t deny it. it’s possible.

    f)I think that I agree that all will recognize Jesus as Messiah, lord, the lamb and all will praise Him. revelations 5:13 I believe all means all there. but does that do anything one way or another for this argument? not for me.

    g) again to clarify my thoughts – justice was done. Justice against sin. It may not be justice for Jesus — but God/Jesus went into that deal knowing the goal was not justice for Jesus. Jesus rose again and won against death so He did receive justice against death. He was pleased to accept the punishment that saved all who believe. It’s not an us vs. Him thing who got justice… He is not seeking justice for Himself. He is seeking justice against our sins that demand punishment/retribution.

    h) revelation 14 is a very interesting chapter as well and though symbolic I believe it does symbolize eternal pain, anguish, torment

    i agree that scripture doesn’t always bring us to logical conclusions. but I’m okay with that. I’m not that intelligent of a person and I won’t even try to make it all fit into my little brain logically with complete sense and explanation of all.

    I think so much of the argument *is* about different attributes of God. I believe He is loving but I don’t know if He is loving *more* than He is just, true, holy, omnipotent. you can’t put a degree on if there’s one attribute that supersedes all others. I also don’t believe that God loves all people as we might interpret. I believe He does love all people I think – God so loved the world (His creation) and that is shown that He gave all the choice to be saved. but I think He also limits the expression of His love to His children, those who are no longer under the law of life and death but are now under the new law, becuase they belong to Jesus Christ. but anyway, I don’t think we can look at God solely from our viwepoints on love and if the system He has set up can be interpretted as “loving” to us. we cant’ judge Him like that.

    john 3:36 is another verse I found to explain my views.

    basically I just don’t believe I can tell God what punishment I think is appropriate or not. I think He takes sin a lot more seriously than we might and whatever punishment He set up to be appropriate, I believe is appropriate even if it doesn’t look like it to us. Sin is that huge of a deal to Him and an offense to His holiness. He is willing to live without us if we continue to live in sin without understanding our need for a savior. Just as He cast out adam & even from His presence, He is willing to cast others out of His presence. that last paragraph might not be accurate that was just a last thought I thought about — but might be ah orrible example.


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