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Rob Bell: a Brother to Embrace, or a Wolf to Avoid?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | Comments (175)
If Christopher Hitchens or Deepak Chopra penned a book that scoffed at the biblical teaching on hell, we would not be surprised. So why would anyone be shocked or confused when Rob Bell writes Love Wins? Has Bell shown any more commitment to gospel truth, or any more devotion to the principle of biblical authority than Hitchens or Chopra?

Is Rob Bell truly a Christian, or is he one of those dangerous deceivers Scripture warns us about repeatedly (Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 2:1; etc.)?

It's a fair—and necessary—question. Christ’s famous warning about wolves in sheep’s clothing is given to us as an imperative: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). Our Lord clearly expects His true disciples to be able to spot spiritual imposters and wolves in sheep’s clothing—especially those who are purveyors of deadly false doctrines.

Rob Bell certainly fits that category. He relentlessly casts doubt on the authority and reliability of Scripture. He denies the Bible’s perspicuity, disavows its hard truths, and ridicules some of the most important features of the gospel.

Rob Bell

Granted, Bell (who was raised in the evangelical movement and is an alumnus of Wheaton College) still insists on calling himself “evangelical.” He reiterated that claim recently in a March 14 interview with Lisa Miller, where he stated, “Do I think that I’m evangelical and orthodox to the bone? Yes.”

A careful examination of Bell’s teaching suggests, however, that his profession of faith is not credible. His claim that he is “evangelical and orthodox to the bone” is, to put it bluntly, a lie. Bell’s teaching gives no evidence of any real evangelical conviction. If “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44), we cannot blithely embrace Rob Bell as a “brother” just because he says he wants to be accepted as an evangelical.

If, as Jesus said, His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27), then we ought to look with the utmost suspicion on anyone who doubts and denies as much of Jesus’ teaching as Rob Bell does, and yet claims to be a follower of Christ.

Scripture is crystal-clear about this: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

Historic evangelicalism has always affirmed the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture, while declaring (as Jesus and the apostles did) that the only way of salvation for fallen humanity is through the atoning work of Christ, and the only instrument of justification is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the gospel.

Rob Bell believes none of those things. His skepticism about so many key biblical truths, his penchant for sowing doubt in his hearers, and his obvious contempt for the principles of divine justice as taught in Scripture all give evidence that he is precisely the kind of unbelieving false teacher Scripture warns us about.

Bell is an inveterate syncretist who loves to blend “progressive” and politically correct dogmas with eastern mysticism, humanistic jargon, and Christian terminology. His teaching is full of barren ideas borrowed directly from old liberalism, sometimes rephrased in postmodern jargon but still reeking of stale Socinianism.

What Bell is peddling is nothing like New Testament Christianity. It is a man-centered religion totally devoid of both clarity and biblical authority.

Given those facts, you might think any true evangelical would reject Bell and his teaching outright. But evidently many in the American evangelical movement think they are obliged simply to accept at face value Bell’s claim of orthodoxy. No less than Mart DeHaan, voice of Radio Bible Class, decried Bell’s critics, portraying them as the divisive ones for pointing out the unsoundness of Bell’s teaching. DeHaan wrote,

I’m left wondering… are we allowing love (and truth) to win now… by using threats of group pressure and blackballing of brothers like Rob, and those who openly or secretly stand with him? Is that really the best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy? [emphasis added]

The biblical answer to DeHaan’s question is clear and fairly simple: The best way to maintain a strong and healthy orthodoxy is to “[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching . . . to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers . . . who must be silenced” (Titus 1:9-11).

We have a duty not only to expose, refute, and silence Rob Bell’s errors, but also to urge people under his influence to run as fast and as far as they can from him, lest they be gathered into the eternal hell he denies. It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell (cf. Matthew 23:15).

In a series of posts this week, we will demonstrate from Rob Bell’s own published works that he has long been hostile to virtually every vital gospel truth; we will consider some of the questions he has raised about what the Bible has to say about hell; and we will compare and contrast what Bell is saying about hell with what Jesus said about it.

Buckle in and get ready to be challenged. These are admittedly some of the hardest truths in the New Testament, but there’s no reason anyone holding authentic evangelical convictions should find the subject confusing or controversial.

John MacArthur (Grace to You)





John MacArthur
Pastor-Teacher


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#1  Posted by Mike Pilliod  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 9:39 AM

That pretty much sums it up to me.

#2  Posted by Michael Duncan  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 9:46 AM

A fantastic treatment of the issue. Bell's "theology" seems to fall in line with the most liberal/progressive thinking of our day. He would fit right in with those Spurgeon fought against in the "down-grade" controversy. True theology is only as sound as it is built on the foundation of the Word of God. Extrapolating a theology like Bell does will leave those who follow him standing before the throne of God saying "Lord, Lord" but hearing "Depart from me" (Matthew 7).

#3  Posted by Dana Purdy  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 9:55 AM

Thank you so much for this series. I hope that you will not be "preaching to the choir" in that people who really need to hear this haven't yet connected to this bible teaching ministry. I am gladly sharing and re-posting this series hoping that many well-meaning people may be informed and made wise to false teachers like Bell. Thanks again! "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"

#4  Posted by Matthew Richard  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 10:01 AM

"It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell (cf. Matthew 23:15)."

I am not attempting to put words in your mouth, but this seems to imply that you think those who believe what Bell does will got to hell. Is that what you are saying?

I certainly agree that it is not scriptural to deny the existance of hell. I have NOT read enough of Bell to know if that is his position. If it is, I would also agree that he is misleading many. Hoewever, is denying hell, even though it is unorthodox and unscriptural, enough to send someone there? It seems to me (I could be wrong on this one), that Bell does beleive Christ is necessary for salvation. While there are many other necessary doctrines one needs to beleive to be considered orthodox, is that not the only one that is necessary for salvation?

Just because someone falsely beleives that someone else might make it to Heaven without Jesus, does that mean that their faith in Jesus for their personal salvation is void?

I am not trying to make light of anyone (including Bell, IF he does) that teaches universalsim or any other false doctrine. It is necessary to point out their errors, and encourage others to be cautious of their teaching. But consigning them to hell seems over the top to me. I don't think that is for us to know or decide.

#5  Posted by Mike Pilliod  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 10:08 AM

Matthew: Hence the reason for this series; to show how the god Bell believes in, the christ Bell believes in, is NOT the God of the Bible nor the Christ of the Bible...And that God and Christ cannot save.

#6  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 10:08 AM

Matthew,

Thanks for seeking clarification. What you will read as the series unfolds is Rob Bell doesn't merely deny the doctrine of hell. Prior to this he has denied the biblical gospel itself. John will make that very clear in future posts.

In interviews regarding his book Bell patently denies one must believe in Jesus in this life in order to be saved. Jesus was extremely clear the fruit of false teachers reveals their eternal destiny.

#7  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 10:14 AM

It isn't as though this kind of thing is new, but I certainly am happy that it is being addressed openly. I always wondered why we don't hear much of people being named as teaching things falsely. I don't think it is 'badmouthing' someone to openly expose them if they are not teaching scripture faithfully since it is scriptural to correct those who do not divide the word correctly..and it isn't as though we should be surprised that there are those who will come like wolves in sheep clothing, there are many of them around with well known names attached to them doing this and misleading people.. (misleading means they are not leading in the right direction), its just that we don't seem to see many other well known names openly speaking about it to help steer people back on the right path regarding these things, so I appreciate that PJM is addressing this issue.... there is only ONE True Gospel, and if Jesus didn't save us from the things He himself talks about in scripture.. what did He save us from?

#8  Posted by Michael Riccardi  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 10:51 AM

Matthew's (#4) question is a good one, though. Is the denial of eternal punishment enough to certify heresy / apostasy?

I suppose I've not entirely landed that plane yet, but I suspect that the answer is yes. A rejection of eternal punishment betrays a failure to understand the absolute and infinite holiness of God, and therefore a failure to understand the nature and depth of our sin before God. This leads to a failure to understand the nature of both Christ's person and His atoning work on the cross for that sin of ours that we don't understand. This leads to our trusting Him for a righteousness before God that is at least quantitatively different than the righteousness that we actually need.

So: a wrong view of God (indeed, the essence of God's character), a wrong view of sin, a wrong view of ourselves and our need, a wrong view of Christ's sufficiency as Savior and the depth and breadth of His atoning sacrifice, and a wrong view of faith. That's quite a lot of doctrine at the very center of the Christian faith and the Gospel to get wrong and still be considered merely a misguided brother.

Further, one might reserve judgment on those who are simply misguided because of lack of sound instruction. But Bell is proposing to be a teacher of this stuff. I think that's quite a lot of substantiation for MacArthur's comment on Matt 23:15 above.

#9  Posted by Matthew Richard  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 10:56 AM

....interested to see how the rest of the series unfolds.

#11  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 11:19 AM

@Michael Riccardi [Q]Matthew's (#4) question is a good one, though. Is the denial of eternal punishment enough to certify heresy / apostasy?[Q]

Well if you are teaching that Gehennah does not exist yet scripture teaches that it does, then you are teaching falsely.

People try to understand God by judging Him by their own moral standards.. so they do not see God's wrath and choose only to look at God as only Love, but then even that love is in accordance to their own moral standards.

Whether we like the idea of eternal punishment or not does not give us the right to teach against it when scripture teaches it as something that is very real.

In order to teach that eternal punishment does not exist, we have to deny certain things in scripture.. ie, Rich man and Lazarus Luke 16, Some raised to everlasting life, some to everlasting contempt Dan 12:2.. names that are not written in the book of life Rev 20:15... so it makes sense that in order to teach no eternal separation from God, you have to deny the authority of scripture or that scripture is fully trustworthy...which I hear lots of times nowadays.. ie, relative truth vs absolute truth etc...no one really knows etc.. The Holy Spirit knows, and He will lead and guide into ALL the Truth.. which also means, the Truth can be known.

#12  Posted by Mark Lamprecht  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 11:54 AM

I asked Dr. Bock at the DTS blog about his view of Bell as a Christian since he called him "brother." Dr. Bock said that he does consider Bell a brother since did not deny the gospel. This will be an interesting series of posts. I'm looking forward to them.

#13  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 12:54 PM

Michael, I fall under your definition of heresy. But I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is God, that He is the Messiah, that all authority has been given to him in heaven and on earth, that he died for my sins, that when a person repents and believes in Jesus he becomes a child of God and inherits eternal life, that God will judge men justly and that those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire. That should make me an orthodox believer, but some would like to add that I must believe that the just punishment for sin is eternal torment.

Since the Bible never says that unbelievers deserve eternal torment or that they will be in anguish or pain or weeping or tormented forever but it does say that the fury of a fire will consume the adversaries(Heb 10:27), that the wicked will gnash their teeth and melt away (Ps 112:10), and that they will consume into smoke(Ps. 37:20), I no longer agree with the traditional view of how long unbelievers are conscious. This does make my view of the nature of justice and the nature of God different from most. I believe that God's holiness and justice demand that every sin must be accounted for and that God requires justice for each sin-- in a measured way culminating in the destruction of body and soul in the Lake of Fire (Matt 10:28). The traditional view is that every sin becomes infinite because God is infinite and therefore the atonement must have been infinite. Since that is not taught in scripture, but is developed from the belief in eternal torment, it should not be allowed to define orthodoxy.

Nicky, I consider the scriptures completely authoritative but I do not believe that unbelievers suffer eternal torment. The examples you gave are often considered to support the idea of eternal torment, but they do not. The Bible does not say that the Rich man suffered eternal torment in Hades. In fact, the Bible says that Hades will be emptied and cast into the Lake of Fire. (Gehenna and Hades are not the same place.) Daniel 12:2 refers to everlasting contempt but everlasting contempt only requires that the one who has contempt is conscious forever. We hold Hitler in contempt but he is not conscious of it. God holds men in contempt forever but that does not require that they are in pain or conscious forever. You mentioned that those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire, but the Bible does not say that these people are tormented forever there. Jesus said that God is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna, and Hebrews says that the fury of a fire will consume the adversaries.

While I do not know what Rob Bell thinks enough to answer for him, please consider the possibility that there are true Christians who believe that the Bible says that unbelievers will be destroyed in Gehenna.

#14  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:00 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#15  Posted by Michael Riccardi  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:06 PM

Nicky,

I don't dispute anything that you've said. Do you think I have?

Well if you are teaching that Gehennah [sic] does not exist yet scripture teaches that it does, then you are teaching falsely.

That's true, but teaching something that is out of accord with Scripture doesn't in and of itself mean that such a teacher isn't saved. It depends on what that teaching is. For example, I believe that the rapture of the Church will occur before the tribulation because I believe Scripture teaches that fairly clearly. But that doesn't mean that everyone who teaches a post-trib rapture -- though out of accord with Scripture -- is going to hell. One doesn't have to have perfect theology to get into heaven.

So we have to demonstrate how a belief or lack of belief in a particular doctrine undermines the Gospel, the character of God, and/or the person of and work of Christ before we can make as weighty of a pronouncement that someone is not a Christian. So my above comment sought to do that.

#16  Posted by David Hegg  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:08 PM

The whole concept of discernment recognizes that, at times, confrontation is necessary, despite the fact that some may consider any confrontational language to be unloving. To shout at a child about to be run over by a truck is not unloving, even if the voice is raised and the words are sharp-edged and blunt. And let's not forget that Paul opposed Peter to his face because he was not being straightforward about the Gospel. Opposition is a duty when the clear truth of God is at stake. Where error is communicated widely, as in a book or video, a courageous warning must be given to those about to be run over by it. Rob Bell has been confronted privately by many, starting with his woeful teaching in Velvet Elvis. The time for public warning has come. Thanks John!

#17  Posted by Shauna Bryant  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:12 PM

*Shauna Bryant logged in*

I am glad you are doing this series. False teachers, no matter how 'popular' they are, need to be exposed and gty is known for biblically and firmly handling such matters, which is greatly appreciated. This series is not only good for believers (who know about RB) but also those who don't or who are still on the fence regarding him. I know I've already emailed links here and know people who are grateful to have this source to more concisely explain to others the error's of RB's false teachings. What will not amaze me is the backlash from 'mainstream Christianity'. The dividing line is going to cut deep as it should.

Regarding post #4.

Thankfully, God's Word has much to say to the false teachers and their followers, so we don't have to worry about it being only our opinion. That's what is so wonderful about standing on the Word of God. It's His Word, not our opinion.

Rob Bells followers are not merely misguided (true believers will leave). God's Word says that the false teachers are actually brought in by the desires of the false worshipers. His Word also clearly establishes hell effects sin, condemnation, judgement, salvation....to name but a few, while also directly denying the clear Word of God. I believe that if someone claims to be a Christian yet also claims that another person can get to heaven another way (as was used for an example) then they are not saved, but deceived. That also makes them guilty of promoting a false gospel. That is no small matter. The Bible does teach about those who try to get in 'by another means'. The self professed Christian in this scenario is calling God a liar, for His Word clearly teaches there is only one way.

Two verses to consider:

2Timothy4:2-4

2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

and

2John 1:9

9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

#18  Posted by Carol Gayheart  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:12 PM

I’m currently using John MacArthur’s NT Commentary on 2 Peter & Jude to more deeply study these 2 NT epistles which expose the fate of false teachers & those that follow them. To quote John’s quote from Puritan John Owen:

“It is incumbent on them [pastors] to preserve the truth or doctrine of the gospel received and professed in the church, and to defend it against all opposition. This is one principal end of the ministry….And the sinful neglect of this duty is that which was the cause of most of the pernicious heresies and errors that have infested and ruined the church. Those whose duty it was to preserve the doctrine of the gospel entire in the public profession of it have, many of them ‘spoken perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’. Bishops, presbyters, public teachers, have been the ringleaders in heresies. Wherefore this duty, especially at this time, when the fundamental truths of the gospel are on all sides impugned, from all sorts of adversaries, is in an especial manner to be attended unto.” (pg 96)

I’m reminded from this morning’s group Bible Study that the name “satan” means “adversary”. I’m reminded from this Puritan writer that attacks & heresies against God’s Word are nothing new. In fact, reading Genesis 3:1 shows “the adversary’s” tactics haven’t changed since the beginning of our recorded time.

We are to be discerning, & we do that by KNOWING what God’s Word/Holy Scripture says, thus we are able to recognize the false teachings & false teachers when they approach.

Q: What kind of fruit is this Rob Bell producing?

Comment 1: I’m seriously saddened to hear Mart DeHaan’s response – I’ve been a DTW listener for many years!

Comment 2: Puritan John Owen called it “sinful neglect” of the pastor’s duty, I agree; & if it is not simply neglect, it is then willful, but either way, it is sin. Call it what it is. It does not glorify our God to claim His Word is a lie.

#19  Posted by Michael Riccardi  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:21 PM

Since the Bible never says that unbelievers deserve eternal torment or that they will be in anguish or pain or weeping or tormented forever...

But the Bible indeed does teach this. If you're looking for every passage in Scripture on hell to include the phrase "eternal torment," you're requiring an impossible standard. Eternal torment is taught in Scripture even while the phrase is absent from Scripture.

but it does say that the fury of a fire will consume the adversaries(Heb 10:27),

A quotation from Isa 26:11 that speaks of the first death, not hell.

that the wicked will gnash their teeth and melt away (Ps 112:10), and that they will consume into smoke (Ps. 37:20),

These are poetic ways of describing the destruction of God's (and Israel's) enemies from this life (and perhaps even in the coming Day of the Lord judgments), but not in hell.

I believe that God's holiness and justice demand that every sin must be accounted for and that God requires justice for each sin-- in a measured way culminating in the destruction of body and soul in the Lake of Fire (Matt 10:28).

The destruction of the soul and body is a consummate destruction. Thus, eternal punishment is like dying every moment.

The Lake of Fire is not temporal like Hades and Gehenna. Revelation 14:9-11 teaches that anyone who fails to repent, "will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

If your response is that only the smoke of their torment is eternal, I'd say you're desperately trying to avoid the plain meaning of that passage. They'll be tormented, and the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever. They have no rest day and night. That doesn't sound like something that will end.

The traditional view is that every sin becomes infinite because God is infinite and therefore the atonement must have been infinite. Since that is not taught in scripture, but is developed from the belief in eternal torment, it should not be allowed to define orthodoxy.

No, sin doesn't become infinite. It iis infinite because all sin is against an infinite being. That's not "developed from the belief in eternal torment," either. That's a response to the argument that punishment can't be eternal for finite beings who commit finite sins. There's a difference between making a positive argument -- which this is not -- and defending another positive argument against an objection.

#20  Posted by Rick White  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:29 PM

As I read through the March 14 interview with Rob Bell it struck me that he sounds like the cults. He constantly interjected human philosophy into scripture to make it match his philosophy. He also twisted scripture in order to fit his philosophy. For example at one point he quoted Jesus as saying "He who is not against me is for me". Which is the exact opposite of what Jesus really said in Matthew 12:30. Obviously this guy's false teaching goes beyond just Universalism. Thanks GTY for exposing another wolf in sheep's clothing.

#22  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:35 PM

In addition to Mike's reference to Rev 14:9-11, there is also Revelation 20:7-15 which also make eternal torment clear and undeniable.

#23  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:40 PM

@Joy [q]Nicky, I consider the scriptures completely authoritative but I do not believe that unbelievers suffer eternal torment. The examples you gave are often considered to support the idea of eternal torment, but they do not[q]

Joy, I didn't talk about eternal torment at all. It doesn't really matter what you and I believe, what matters is what scripture teaches.. and regardless of whether we think it is torment/punishment or whatever, it is eternal separation from God since there is no reconciliation to God through Jesus for those who reject the Gospel...and the worse thing of all is those who preach a different gospel.. such as.. there is more than one road to God, or as a Universalist will say, you don't need to repent and believe because your saved regardless and there is no such thing as hell (Gehenna/Second death/Lake of Fire).

I know that Gehennah is different to Hades.. the issue here is as far as I understand it, is there are many Christians who deny the existence of Gehennah because they believe God is love and there is no such thing as eternal punishment or whatever you want to call eternal separation from God.

@Michael - No, I didn't think you was disputing anything, I was just responding... AND, I don't think that everyone who teaches something incorrectly is in trouble.. lol - we are all learning and we are told in scripture to expect to be corrected if we get things wrong.. I know I have had wrong ideas of things before and the Holy Spirit has guided me to learn the truth of something which has turned out to be different to what I initially thought.

There are some however who are blatantly false teachers who will not accept correction..this is evident in both the OT and the NT. we don't always know who they are.. and I do not believe that all those who sit under false teaching are heading for hell etc.. absolutely not.... its just a matter of us being open to study the scriptures for ourselves, test everything, examine ourselves and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and keep our ears open to Him to lead us into the truth and make it known to us when we are hearing something that is not true...and discern the difference between what is of God and what is not.

#24  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:48 PM

Joy,

Just one other response to add to Mike's comments. You mentioned you believe in the Lake of Fire. I would encourage you to understand that you can't simply accept the existence of the Lake of Fire while at the same time rejecting the nature of the Lake of Fire--both of which are clearly described in the same passage.

You'd have to do some clever kung fu to divide those passages up like that.

#25  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 1:55 PM

Yes, I been waiting for this blog. Thanks for sharing that.

We need to know things like that. sheepskin over wolves that

are going in.

#26  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 2:15 PM

Rob Bell and those that follow his attacks on the Bible are represented as something new. But instead they are merely repetitious of allegations made for atleast 1800 years. They are as original as dirt-and about as interesting. The problem is these new champions of enlightened reason don't appear to be aware that their ideas are literally millennia's old.

2Co 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

#27  Posted by Justin Hughes  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 2:22 PM

Thank you so much for this warning and encouragement to be watchful. I bought a DVD of Bell's last year and looking back on it, I realize that at that time I was so impressed by his witty remarks and very intellectual lectures of Everything Is Spiritual. Just as the Spirit expressly says that such men like Mr. Bell will deceive, I praise God that Christ showed me Bell's error through this posting. Make this word be applied to Bell and all other wolves in sheep clothing.

Do not add to His words,

Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. Proverbs 30:6

God bless,

Justin

#28  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 2:25 PM

Thanks for that encouraging testimony, Justin. May God continually rescue and preserve His people from the influence of men like Rob Bell.

#29  Posted by Micah Marchewitz  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 2:27 PM

I am glad that GTY is doing this series. I had a feeling this was in the works with all the attention Bell's new book has gotten on the blogospere's. I have not read the book and honestly don't plan to. I am sure that GTY will provide some links to some of his news interviews and such. You can also track down the video introduction to his book and it is really shocking. He denies being a universalist in his news interviews but states the oppostise in his video intro to the book. He implies that men like Ghandi are not in hell and that we can't know this for sure. Scary stuff..

#31  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 3:02 PM

Michael, I don't expect that every passage on hell should include the phrase "eternal torment," but I do take note of the absence of an explicit statement of any kind of eternal pain in the Bible in regard to unbelievers.

Heb 10:27 is a warning that if we go on sinning willfullly after receiving the knowledge of the truth there is a certain expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Since this is a conditional warning, it cannot refer to the first death. We all experience a first death. This is a warning about the judgment, the second death.

These passages about literal destruction are prophetic of judgment:

...As therefore the tares are gathered and burned up in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this age. Matt. 13:30, 38, 40

..Sodom and Gomorrah...serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1:7 ...By turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. 2 Peter 2:6

Revelation 14:9-11 does not refer to the eternal state of unbelievers and does not refer to eternal torment. It is an angelic announcement of the bowl judgments which the beast worshipers are about to experience on the current earth in chapters 14-16. Both the announcement and the description of these judgments include scorching fire and heat, cataclysmic geological events which would normally be accompanied by abundant brimstone (since brimstone is sulfur which is released by geological activity), the presence of angels, the presence of one like a Son of Man, and enough upheaval, pain, and heat to keep the beast worshipers wide awake and enraged night and day. But this is not their eternal state. These same people will go on to be part of a battle (Rev. 19:19-20), will be slain by the sword of Jesus' mouth (Rev. 19:21), will be judged with the dead (Rev. 20:12), and will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15).

As you noted the only thing eternal in the passage is the smoke. To understand what is meant by eternal fire and smoke, it's important to look at how they are normally used in the Bible. Eternal smoke and fire usually result in the complete literal destruction of the places and people involved. Edom was judged with eternal fire and smoke, but no humans are there anymore. Isa 34:1 Babylon will be destroyed by fire and its smoke will go up forever, but Babylon will not continue to exist. Rev.18:8; 19:3; 18:21 These other uses of eternal smoke refer to complete destruction not to ongoing torment.

The torment described in Revelation 14 occurs "in the presence of the Lord." The final state of unbelievers is "away from the presence of the Lord" (II Thess. 1:9). Since these descriptions are opposites, they cannot be referring to the same event.

#32  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 3:18 PM

Joy,

Revelation 19:20-21 make it clear that the beast and the false prophet (humans) are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire, while the rest of enemies are killed to await the Great White Throne Judgment.

Then Rev 20:10 state the devil (spirit being) is also thrown in joining the beast and false prophet (humans). Those three, explicitly, will be tormented "day and night forever and ever."

Then, all the rest who are dead are subjected to the Great White Throne judgment and those not found in the book of life join the devil, the beast, and the false prophet in the Lake of Fire.

Would you agree with Rev 20:10 that state that the devil, the beast, and the false prophet (one spirit, two humans) will be subject to eternal torment? If so, are you saying everyone else who arrives at that same location will disintegrate?

Also, would you help me understand where "death" in the Bible means "to go out of existence"? The first "death" doesn't mean that (your body dies, but your spirit continues, and your body will be reunited with your spirit in the judgment so neither actually go out of existence). So on what basis does the second death mean "to go out of existence"?

#33  Posted by Eileen Harris  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 3:23 PM

I read this article by John MacArthur, with great sadness, because I see my old self in this Rob Bell, and in my belief, it is a bad place to be. The mental gymnastics one must perform to justify Rob Bells view of scripture is torturous. Whenever someone would try to explain the truth to me, I would rant and rave at them, tell them how wrong they must be because "my god" was a "loving god" not some big meanie in the sky gleefully consigning people to some firey pit. I still shudder when I think of the person I used to be, but for the "Grace of God" I would still be.

Some years back I went through an extremely bad time, this was an experience where some people make their final turn from God. The marvelous people that came into my life at that time could only be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. They held my hand, counseled me, taught me, loved me and most undeservedly God opened my spirtual heart to recieve Him and the Truth.

So you see, people like Rob Bell, frighten me because it was people like him that I allowed to tickle my ears for many years. His view point is dangeous and will have the potential of leading many astray.

#34  Posted by Matina Bishop  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 4:07 PM

Thank you Pastor MacArthur and GTY staff for this blog and the clarity that you have given on Rob Bell and other false teachers. My husband and I both come from the false teaching of the Word-Faith and Prosperity Gospel. Through our studies in Bible College the Lord opened our eyes to the truth of His Word and has given us much grace in opening our eyes to those false teachings. We are now Reformed in our theology and trust that God is pleased with our stance on the Scriptures. Pastor MacArthur and GTY staff, now my question is how do my husband and I share the truth about those false teachings that our family and other Christians we meet currently believe? Where should we start? The Gospel Message sounds like the best place to start to see if they understand it and if they are saved. But what about after that conversation. How do we address their false teachings and false teachers that they follow? How would one start a conversation with someone who follows Rob Bell's teachings in order to show them that those things which they believe are not scriptural? We definitely want to speak the truth IN LOVE, and the latter has been hard for me to do with my own family. Please give some insight on this matter, thanks. May the LORD bless and keep you Pastor MacArthur and GTY staff.

#35  Posted by Kathy Ripka  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 4:56 PM

To not believe in Hell is to mock the very reason that Jesus Christ came to this earth. It is He, and only He that can save us from eternal punishment. We are sinners, and sinners who do not repent of their sins go to hell. God sacrificed His only Son to save humanity. To disbelieve in hell is not understanding the "whole" Gospel. You can't simply say you don't believe in major doctrines of the Bible (the Christ's virgin birth, the Trinity, repentance, etc) without certain consequences. It is the whole gospel, or there is no gospel at all.

#36  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 4:56 PM

What stands out to me that to know this in Isaiah that Rob Bell should

know there is a hell.

Isaiah 66:22-24

As the new heavens and the the earth that I make will endure before me, declares the Lord, so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind

will come and bow down before me, says the Lord. And they will go

out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me;

their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they

will be loathsome to all mankind.

#38  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 5:22 PM

Let me clarify that I believe that it could take a very long time for some people to experience justice-- but not an infinite amount of time.

On eternal fire: Eternal fire is capable of destroying its object (Isa 34:1: Jer 17:27;Jude 1:7;II Pet 2:6) The Lake of Fire is capable of destroying. Death is cast there and death will be no more.

On whether the Beast and FP are human:

It is commonly taught that the Beast in Revelation is the same as "the Man of Sin" described in 2 Thessalonians 2. However, these two cannot be the same person because the descriptions of their fates are incompatible. The Man of Sin will be SLAIN by the breath of the Lord (II Thess. 2:8). The Beast and False Prophet will be seized and thrown ALIVE into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20).

The use of the word "man" in II Thess 2 and the use of the phrase “number of a man” (Rev. 13:8) have been suggested as evidence that the Beast is a human. However the use of the word “man” does not prove that he is human. Biblical references to angels and theophanies sometimes use the word "man" when they clearly do not mean a human (Gen 19:1,10; Gen 32:24; Dan. 10:5). When in doubt, the identity is determined by other information in the context.

Reasons to question the humanity of the Beast and False Prophet:

1.It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27), but the Beast and False Prophet do not die. They are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire and are already there being tormented day and night at the time of the judgment of men (Rev. 20:10-11). Humans die. These guys don't.

2.They go directly to the Lake of Fire and never go to Hades. Unbelieving men go to Hades at death, are judged at the Great White Throne Judgment, and are finally cast into the Lake of Fire. But the False Prophet and the Beast skip both Hades and the final judgment of men and go directly to the Lake of Fire.

3. Birds are promised the flesh of all men both great and small at the Great Supper of God (Rev. 19:17), but the birds get no flesh from the False Prophet or from the Beast because they are seized and thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (v. 20). If the Beast and False Prophet were men, the birds should have been given their flesh as they were promised. The fact that the birds were not given the flesh of these “great men” is easily explained if the Beast and False Prophet are not men and have no flesh.

4. The Beast comes up out of the Abyss (Rev. 17:8). All of the other beings associated with the Abyss are non-human.

5. Satan, the Beast, and FP have three unique experiences in common. Spirits of demons like frogs come out of their mouths, they are the only three cast into the Lake of Fire before the GWT Judgment, and they are the only three who are explicitly said to be tormented forever.

In a book filled with non-humans, the Beast and FP having features different from humans gives us reason to question whether the False Prophet and Beast are human.

#39  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 5:30 PM

Eileen Harris:

What a beautiful, beautiful testimony. I praise the Lord for the work He has done in your heart.

Rob Bell is an easy apostate to spot. The ones that I fear the most are the evangelists who over the years have established themselves in main stream Christendom, and who seemed to be quite orthodox, then we find out later that they have always been Universalists, believing that many roads lead to heaven. And these false teachers are still receiving the same esteem and following that they always have. The most dangerous false teachers are, in fact, the teachers who come closest to the truth. Just enough truth is needed to lead many astray.

#40  Posted by Josué Morissette  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 5:32 PM

It's bad enough to read some of his work, but to actually hear him speak on TV or on the internet it's even more tragic. How can anyone trust the teachings of someone who says "I think" so much when it comes to the Bible? I never cease to be amazed at how so many people keep teaching a book they don't even believe in. What a waste of life to spend all your time trying to explain away everything, when accepting the Truth is so much simpler. These people need to denounced and rebuked as strongly as possible. They appeal to the pride of people by saying that you can believe in another god because the God of the Bible is just not appealing enough. There is so much suttle compromise in what this false teacher says, that even accepting a small part of his heresy cracks open the door to so much more of his deadly lies. This tree needs to be cut at the root now and kept from the public ear. Sadly discernment is next to absent in many churches and I fear that many might join him because of all the attention he's getting. So many churches looking to be "relevant" and popular jump on things like this, ignoring biblical doctrines in the process. Posts like this one need to go out to as many people as possible to warn against not only him but against everyone who manipulates the Bible for their own ends appealing to poeple's need to know God.

Keep up the great work, warnings like this one and the many truths shared in other posts are undoubtedly saving many lives.

#41  Posted by Tom Chantry  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 5:37 PM

A few thoughts on this thread:

1. Dr. MacArthur's article is not about a church-goer who has been taught to believe a certain teaching about hell; it is about an influential teacher who has long troubled the church with questionable and at times horrific teachings. The passages on heretical teaching in the Scripture all speak of rebuking false teachers and prophets. To compare Rob Bell to a person in the pews who has expressed confusion regarding hell is to entirely obscure the biblical issue.

2. This article did not address Bell's teaching on hell directly. Rather, the argument was that Bell has for some time and in various writings presented a view of God contrary to that of scripture. Bell's confusion on hell is the outworking of that long history of false teaching. Be clear at least on what Dr. MacArthur's contention is here before criticizing him.

3. Because of the above, Bell cannot be properly classed in the same group as evangelicals who have merely questioned the eternality of hell. In his recent book Bell has presented a God who is characterized only by a sentimental form of love - a love which excludes or at least veils all other attributes. He has suggested that those who die in open rebellion to the gospel will have an eternal opportunity to change their minds. John Stott and Philip Edgecombe Hughs would be appalled. It is simply disingenuous to act as though the only issue here is the eternality of punishment - albeit that is an important issue in itself.

4. For years now, Dr. MacArthur has demonstrated genuine broadness of spirit within evangelicalism while at the same time taking an uncompromising stand on non-negotiable truths. Of all the men of our age who have a very public ministry - men with whom I often disagree on some particulars - I am especially appreciative of Dr. MacArthur. When dangerous falsehood troubles the church, he is one of the most reliable defenders of truth. He has earned the right to be heard in the series of articles which he has promised.

#42  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 5:38 PM

Let me clarify that I believe that it could take a very long time for some people to experience justice-- but not an infinite amount of time.

The body without the spirit is dead Jas (2:26). A dead body does not have life, is not conscious, is powerless and insensate, and rots away. God resurrects the body apparently by way of a seed from the first body (I Cor 15:35-38) before it dies a second time. If God is able to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna, the same thing can happen to both body and soul.

Eternal fire is capable of destroying its object (Isa 34:1;Jer 17:27; Jude1:7;II Pet 2:6. The Lake of Fire is capable of destroying. Death is cast there and death will be no more.

It is commonly taught that the Beast in Revelation is the same as "the Man of Sin" described in 2 Thessalonians 2. However, these two cannot be the same person because the descriptions of their fates are incompatible. The Man of Sin will be SLAIN by the breath of the Lord (II Thess. 2:8). The Beast and False Prophet will be seized and thrown ALIVE into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20).

The use of the word "man" in II Thess 2 and the use of the phrase “number of a man”(Rev. 13:8)have been suggested as evidence that the Beast is a human. However the use of the word “man” does not prove that he is human. Biblical references to angels and theophanies sometimes use the word "man" when they clearly do not mean a human (Gen 19:1,10; Gen 32:24; Dan. 10:5). When in doubt, the identity is determined by other information in the context.

It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27), but the Beast and False Prophet do not die, and they skip the judgment. They are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire and are already there being tormented day and night at the time of the judgment of men (Rev. 20:10-11).

Birds are promised the flesh of all men both great and small at the Great Supper of God (Rev. 19:17), but the birds get no flesh from the False Prophet or from the Beast because they are seized and thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (v. 20). If the Beast and False Prophet were men, the birds should have been given their flesh as they were promised. This easily explained if the Beast and FP are not men and have no flesh.

The Beast comes up out of the Abyss (Rev. 17:8). All of the other beings associated with the Abyss are non-human.

Satan, the Beast, and the FP have three unique experiences in common. They have spirits of demons like frogs coming out of their mouths, they are the only three cast into the Lake of Fire before the White Throne Judgment and they are the only three who are explicitly said to be tormented forever.

In a book filled with non-humans, the Beast and FP having features different from humans and experiences in common with Satan give us reason to question whether the False Prophet and Beast are human.

Extrapolating the torment of these 3 is weak support for such a serious doctrine.

#44  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 7:12 PM

Joy,

Thanks for your response. While it is true that it is appointed for man once to die, this was not true of Elijah, nor will it be true of those who are either raptured or who are alive at the second coming. So it isn't a valid argument against the best and false prophet being non-human.

Regarding your view of 2 Thess 2:8. It is likely that by "kill" Paul means the same thing as John means by "throw into the lake of fire". The two are not incompatible. Their fate is the same--the lake of fire. The word "slay" in the NASB or "kill" in the ESV is ambiguous in the manner of the slaying. It's also translated "consume", "destroy", and "overthrow" by various translation. The Greek word can also mean "to do away with" as in Heb 10:9. The fate of the Man of Sin and the Beast are the same.

Another problem with seeing them as non-human is the description of their activities are distinctly human. Also, the fact that they are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire indicates they are human. Spirits aren't referred to as "alive" or "dead". Notice that the devil isn't said to be thrown "alive".

You referenced Jude 7 as an example of fire destroying it's object. If you look carefully at the passage, Jude 7 is not referring to the cities in an abstract way, but to the people who make up the cities. Sodom didn't indulge in sexual immorality--the people in Sodom did. And those people, according to Jude, are experiencing eternal fire. Note the verb there is not past tense (they "underwent" eternal fire), but present tense (they are "undergoing" eternal fire). The context and the grammar argue against your position.

Your reference to 2 Peter 2:6 also doesn't help you in that "extinction" isn't in the Greek. Peter simply says they were condemned. The ESV unfortunately adds "to extinction", but it isn't there. See other translations to see how they handle it differently.

You also mentioned the birds being promised the flesh of "all men". Well, obviously "all" is limited in that it doesn't mean "all men of all time". It excludes believers as well. It appears clear to me that it is limited to those who are slain whose bodies lie in waste.

You neglected to comment on the nature of the Lake of Fire. Is there something in the text that would make you conclude the nature of the Lake of Fire is different depending on the person being sent there?

I would also ask you if you realize you're swimming against the tide of near unanimous consensus throughout history of the eternal nature of hell. Those who doubt it have been few and far between, and soundly refuted through the ages.

Tell you what... before we get into a lengthy debate on this issue, let's let this article series unfold and allow John MacArthur to make his case.

#45  Posted by Betty Taylor  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 7:26 PM

Thank you Pastor Macarthur, for standing in God's truth and exposing false teachers.

#46  Posted by Kathy Ripka  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 8:32 PM

Joy, what do you think "unquenchable fire" means? If fire is unquenchable, why is it unquenchable? Why fire at all? What about "wailing and gnashing of teeth?" You are not studying your Bible, and if you are, you exegesis of the Scripture is not following what the whole Bible teaches. You cannot pick and choose what you want to believe. You have to take the whole of Scripture in context.

#47  Posted by Paul Bayne  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 8:48 PM

Greetings Pastor MacArthur, thank you for your work. You have been a tremendous blessing. Thank you for this article, I hope you don't mind that I repost this on my blog.

This man needs to be exposed and I thank you for your stand in doing so, in light of so much resistance.

Bless your submission and obedience to God's work.

Your fellow slave in Christ,

Paul

#48  Posted by Eileen Harris  |  Tuesday, April 12, 2011at 9:24 PM

Mary Elizabeth Tyler:

Thank you for your kind remark :)

I thank God all the time for this website GTY, so many excellant saints with wonderful insights into God's word. I've learned alot from many of you.

Your sister in Christ,

Eileen

#51  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:56 AM

Regarding Sodom, the spirits of the people of Sodom are currently in Hades/Sheol which is not and eternal condition(Rev.20:13),so Jude 7 probably does not mean that they are currently in eternal fire. Other verses about the fire and brimstone that judged Sodom are in past tense.

Re Beast and FP: I know that my arguments are not strong enough to prove that the Beast and FP are spirit beings but the points are strong enough to show that their humanity is inconclusive. Even if you could show that they are conclusively human, you would only be proving that two humans will be tormented eternally. You must still extrapolate to apply their fate to all unbelievers. It is not good hermeneutics to base a major doctrine on an assumption.

Referring to the Beast and FP as "alive" does not necessitate that they are human. God is a spirit and he is referred to as being alive.

It is not distinctly human for someone to come up out of the Abyss and have frogs come out of his mouth.

The birds are promised the flesh of the men at the last battle(Rev 19:17-21)including all the men great and small, kings, captains, and mighty men. At the battle, the Beast and FP are captured and cast alive into the Lake of Fire. The birds gorge themselves on the flesh of everyone else, but not the Beast and FP. According to the promise, if the Beast and FP were men, the birds should have been given their flesh.

Here are some indications that the fire is capable of having varied effects:

-Eternal fires and unquenchable fires in the Bible can and do literally consume. Examples are in previous posts. The Lake of Fire is capable of destroying as evidenced by the fact that "Death" will be cast there and then Death will be no more. Since we have no explicit statement in the Revelation passage about whether the fire will consume the unbelievers or torment them, we have to look at the larger teaching of the Bible.

-Jesus said that God can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. The Lake of Fire is Gehenna. The word for "destroy" is frequently used to mean kill, and it is in parallel with another word that means to kill.

-Is 66:24 refers to this fire and says that there will be carcasses in it, not eternally tormented living humans.

-The phrase "Second Death" does not suggest that the author means a different kind of eternal life.

-God varies judgment according to culpability, something that He could not do if the fire does the same thing to everyone. By that reasoning an unbelieving child would receive the same torment as Satan based on the fact that the location is the same. This would contradict all of the scriptures that indicate variation in judgment.

Kathy, The Lake of Fire is eternal because it was “prepared for the devil and his angels” Mt 25:41. Wailing and gnashing are not eternal. "The wicked shall gnash with his teeth and melt away." Ps 112:10.

#52  Posted by Arthur Caputo  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:36 AM

Thank you Dr. MacArthur for your diligent work in Discernment Ministry (as I have heard it called). It is sad to think that the church is so fragmented that there are so many false teachers out there. I praise God for John MacArthur's teachings that were instrumental in my understanding the nature of God and His saving grace early in my Christian walk. I long for a public forum to look at these issues in the example of the Council of Nicea, or the Synod of Dort, among many others, to root out these false teachers. Defendants that would include Bell, Osteen, Myers, Hinn, to name a few. Thank you John for your devotion to God's word and work.

#53  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:47 AM

Good morning.

When I was 12 or 13. I went to St. Pauls and my whole family was

there. We had a sub preacher and he start the sermon. He told us

that there is no hell. The whole church was shocked and knew the

man was wrong. We waited quietly until the pastor came back then

the pastor had to talk to him. And our pastor was sadden to hear

that and ask us to pray for him. Just a note of what happened

and that no hell thing that Rob is doing been going on since Adam

and Eve choose to disobey the Lord. Sad.

#56  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 6:24 AM

Joy writes in #38

Let me clarify that I believe that it could take a very long time for some people to experience justice-- but not an infinite amount of time.

But God is an infinite being, with infinite holiness.

Continuing,

On eternal fire: Eternal fire is capable of destroying its object (Isa 34:1: Jer 17:27;Jude 1:7;II Pet 2:6) The Lake of Fire is capable of destroying. Death is cast there and death will be no more.

Let's look at those passages:

Isaiah 34:1 (I think you mean vs. 2). This passage has nothing to do with hell. It's God's retributive justice against the enemies of Israel.

Jer. 17:27 The same is here. This speaks of retributive judgment, not eternal judgment.

Jude 1:7 This has more to do with hell. The text is rather clear, God judged Sodom and Gomorrah and specifically the inhabitants, and as Gabe pointed out, the tense of the word clearly states that this suffering is on-going.

2 Peter 2:6 Peter is saying the same thing as Jude.

One thing that is being missed by the Unitarians and their sympathizers is that eternal punishment is often contrasted with eternal life. If eternal punishment simply means extinction or annihilation as is argued by the Unitarians, then our eternal life falls into the same category. It too will come to an end.

#58  Posted by Colleen Eubanks  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 6:42 AM

As warm and fuzzy as the title is, it too is misleading. I cannot find any scriptural reference stating, “Love Wins.” God is love, but love is not god nor does love ever negate truth.

#59  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 6:56 AM

Fred, you are correct that those verses do not refer to the Lake of Fire. I used them to demonstrate that the eternal nature of a fire does not establish the eternal nature of the objects burned.

This verse about Sodom as a type of future judgment makes it clear that the figure refers to their past tense literal destruction: "On the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all-- so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed." Luke 17:29-30

The belief that God's infinite holiness makes man's sin infinite is derived from the doctrine of eternal torment so can't be used to support it. No scripture defines sin as infinite.

Since I have a few extra lines to use, here are some verses about the destruction of the wicked:

The wicked shall be silent in darkness.... The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; ... the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth. 1 Samuel 2:9-10

The wicked are like chaff which the wind drives away. Ps. 1:4 This and other verses contrasting the righteous and the wicked cannot refer to the brevity of this life otherwise it would apply to both the righteous and the wicked.

You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. Ps 21:9

For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Psalm 37:2

The wicked shall not be. Ps 37:10

The wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD...shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away. Ps 37:20

Transgressors will be altogether destroyed. Ps 37:38

Let [the wicked] melt away as waters which run continually...let them be as cut in pieces. Ps 58:7

As a snail which melts, let them pass away. Ps 58:8

He shall take them away as a whirlwind. Ps 58:9

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. Ps. 68:2

When the wicked spring up as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever. Psalm 92:7

The wicked shall... gnash with his teeth and melt away. Ps 112:10

As the whirlwind passes, so is the wicked no more. Prov. 10:25

The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the ground and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner. Is 51:6

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool. Is.51:8

Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud , and as the early dew that passes away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. Hos 13:3

For behold the day comes that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up says the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. Mal 4:1

He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Matt 3:12

#60  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 7:10 AM

Joy writes,

Fred, you are correct that those verses do not refer to the Lake of Fire. I used them to demonstrate that the eternal nature of a fire does not establish the eternal nature of the objects burned.

But you really didn't demonstrate your thesis.

Continuing,

The belief that God's infinite holiness makes man's sin infinite is derived from the doctrine of eternal torment so can't be used to support it. No scripture defines sin as infinite.

But Scripture does define God as infinite, eternal. Our sin is against HIM and HIS eternal laws, which are bound to HIS infinite character. We sin against an infinite being, and thus our punishment comes from an infinite being against creatures who would never stop sinning against God unless God did something to the sinner to stop him.

From my perspective this annihilationist view of hell devalues God's holiness, His justice, and the seriousness of man's sin.

Instead of citing passages that really have no bearing on this discussion, I suggest explaining why "eternal life" doesn't end, if "eternal punishment" does according to your theology. See Matthew 25:46 for example.

#61  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 7:11 AM

Fred, I originally missed the meaning of your last paragraph but now that I see it I need to comment. When a government puts a man to death it is called capital punishment. Death is a punishment. If that death is never followed by resurrection the death is an eternal punishment. The first death is not everlasting because it is followed by resurrection. The second death is everlasting because it is not followed by resurrection. So yes both the punishment of the wicked and the eternal life of the wicked are equal in length.

The confusion with the phrase eternal punishment seems to be related to the fact that most punishments are conscious. But the punishment of eternal literal death is not conscious and is very consistent with the many passages that say that the wicked are destroyed and the wages of sin is death.

I am not a Unitarian. I graduated from an evangelical college with a major in Bible Theology. I believed in eternal conscious punishment until I heard it supported by a flawed argument and went looking for better support. I have spent hundreds of hours sincerely seeking for the intended meaning of scripture. I was surprised to discover that the Bible never says that the wicked suffer eternal pain and that if words like perish, destroy, and consume are read literally, a consistent picture of a measured and varied judgment followed by literal destruction results. The supports for the traditional doctrine are few, require assumptions, and produce the need to ignore or read figuratively dozens of verses that make plain sense when read literally. If men were in danger of eternal suffering, wouldn't it be reasonable expect the Bible to say it outright at least once?

#62  Posted by Tammy Stortz  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 7:25 AM

My husband and myself attended marshill for 4 years and left appx. 6 years ago. Rob was starting down a slippery slope then and with the promting of the Holy Spirit I was realizing what he taught was more ear tickling and cutting edge feel good stuff. Oddly enough we now attend the church he came from named Calvary and a couple of weeks ago our preacher, without mentioning Robs name during the sermon preached a sermon on hell and its biblical truth. I fear for the souls of those who attend marshill and I pray for Rob Bell and Shane Hipps.But mostly I pray for the people who attend marshill to open their eyes to the lies that'll send them to the very hell Rob say's does'nt exsist.

One more thing. I am so very grateful for Grace To You. I love to listen online to Johns teaching. I thank God for his boldness to tell it like it is.

#63  Posted by Mark Veit  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 7:46 AM

I can't even listen to this guy speak. I have to wonder if people like this have ever read the Bible. Thanks John, for simply telling it like it is.

#64  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 8:20 AM

Joy writes in #61,

Death is a punishment. If that death is never followed by resurrection the death is an eternal punishment. The first death is not everlasting because it is followed by resurrection. The second death is everlasting because it is not followed by resurrection. So yes both the punishment of the wicked and the eternal life of the wicked are equal in length.

Herein lies your mistake. You seem to think a bodily resurrection awaits only the righteous. Yet, the wicked will be raised in resurrected bodies just like the righteous. Note Jesus' words in John 5:28, 29,

"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth-- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Note also Paul's words in Acts 24:15, "I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

Both of these passages reflect what Daniel the prophet wrote in Daniel 12:2.

All men will be raised in resurrection, fitted with bodies that can either withstand the presence of God in his majesty and glory as the righteous will receive, or fitted with a body to withstand God's justice and wrath. Both instances are eternal, which means "forever."

Continuing,

I am not a Unitarian. I graduated from an evangelical college with a major in Bible Theology.

That maybe the case, but you cite here classic Unitarian arguments for your position. It may be helpful for you to read up on where your beliefs originated.

Continuing,

I have spent hundreds of hours sincerely seeking for the intended meaning of scripture, etc., ...

And what sources did you use in your study? What sources did you read to counter your alleged findings?

#65  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 8:53 AM

@Rick White, comment #20 I believe Bell is referring to Mark 9:40 "for whoever is not against us is for us."

#66  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 9:02 AM

Joy sounds more of someone who believes in Annihilation rather than Universalism - so the question is more on eternal punishment vs instant (or time limited) total annihilation. Universalist believe that everyone is saved regardless of whether they accept Jesus or not.

Universalism is not taught in scripture - it is clear through scripture that in order to be saved, we must repent and believe...in Rob Bells book - Love wins (This section is in the open domain so not copyright infringement as far as I know) he begins by saying:

-----

First, I believe that Jesus's story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us. It is a stunning, beautiful, expansive love, and it is for everybody, everywhere.

That's the story.

'For God so loved the world...'

That's why Jesus came.

That's his message.

That's where the life is found.

-----

Well, actually... that is not the story, Jesus didn't just come into the world because God loved the world, Jesus came into the world because the world was condemned because of mans disobedience (sin).. and since God is a Just and Righteous God, He will not be in unity with sin, so sin separated ALL MEN from God...Jesus came into the world to make a way back into reconciliation/unity with God because man could not do this himself, he showed us this by giving us the law which revealed how weak man was and how we could not even uphold the law... but since God really does loves us, he is the Word who became flesh to walk among us to overcome sin and take the punishment of our sin upon himself.. so that WHOEVER BELIEVES (believes being the keyword here) in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Many people want to think.. well, we wouldn't condemn people, so surely God won't either.. but to say that just tells us how much we lack when it comes to knowing God and understanding his Righteousness and Just Judgement.. fair enough, we may not understand, but it doesn't give us the right to create out own doctrines which fits into our own moral standards because we cannot understand 'how a loving God could be like that'.

We should also remember what Jesus said to the Jews in Jn 8:44–47

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

There is certainly a distinction between some who belong to God and some who do not.

#67  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 10:45 AM

Now I understand what the word Universalism is. Thanks.

I read in the scriptures says

Don't fear men who can kill the body for men can't kill the soul. Fear God who can kill both the body and the soul in hell.

The blog is saying that we must stand for the truth.

I agree!

Amen!

#68  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 10:52 AM

Nicky writes (#66):Universalist believe that everyone is saved regardless of whether they accept Jesus or not.

That is an incorrect (though common) assumption about universalism. I'd just like to point out that universalism is merely the belief that all will be saved. There are many variations of universalism, for instance evangelical universalists believe that all will eventually come to faith in Jesus -- that in fact, salvation is synonymous with reconciliation to God.

Nicky continues: Universalism is not taught in scripture - it is clear through scripture that in order to be saved, we must repent and believe

In light of the definition she is working from, I would agree. However, it is arguable that universalism in some form is indeed taught in scripture, one example being Col 1:19-20 "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

#69  Posted by Joshua Berdiel  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 10:57 AM

Joy, on your view about punishment of the lost, what does the words, "worm will never die" mean. Christ says this phrase in several of his parables about punishment of the lost. Why does the worm not die but the person does? Did the worm do something wrong or is this poetic language saying the punishment will last forever?

#70  Posted by Kyle Kues  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 11:02 AM

In response to post #46,

Joy's argument is that the fire is capable of extinguishing something, not that it burns out, one. Two, wailing and gnashing of teeth... history lesson:

When Jesus is talking about Hell is this passage he is referring to:

See Wikipedia or anything on "Gehenna" (Valley of Hinnom)

The weeping probably refers to the babies that were burned alive as sacrifices to idol gods (2 Kings 23:10), and the gnashing of teeth the animals that fought for scraps of food there, as it was a trash dump.

It isn't fair to question if someone is even studying their Bible if you are in disagreement with them. I was reminded to take a look Ephesians 4:29,32, and 5:4 in my responses, I think that is good path for us all to take.

As for this blog post, it offers up nothing. All it does it call him a heretic, with references to nothing that has actually been said or written by Bell. If he wants to makes these conclusions, then I feel like he should do it after the argument is supported. I realize this is just the attention getter, to hook people in and keep them reading (much like the Love Wins trailer and publisher's note, funny similarities here), and I look forward to seeing what the points may be.

If I may, I would like to address some of the claims made in this blog, that I feel are unfair or unjustified now.

Bell is a fan of the hypothetical, he asks probing questions, doesn't answer them a fair portion of the time. He lives it open for discussion. That is part of the beauty of our faith, that it allows room for questions, even of God. Moses questions God as to whether he is the right choice for the job, Abraham argues with God about Sodom and Gomorrah. There is a lot more to this discussion than will appear here, and I hope that everybody takes into account all sources before making up their minds and calling a brother a heretic. That is a big deal.

I have never once seen Bell (and I take in lots of his work) question the authority or supremacy of Scripture, as JM proposes. That just is not factual.

Youtube: "Rob Bell Defends Himself and His Church Mars Hill pt.1"

He very clearly states he believes in the authority of the Scripture, says a form of the word "authority" many times. Then says something about the power of Christ and his resurrection and the salvation it brings. Pretty stark contrast from where this blog series seems to be heading.

I can see this part being confusing from his books and whatnot: "fallen humanity is through the atoning work of Christ, and the only instrument of justification is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the gospel."

Bell would break it down like this, he believes Jesus does this, but wants to believe his grace is bigger than we know. That he would hope it can reach people even who don't pray a sinner's prayer, maybe post-mortem. We should hope that as many people as possible are saved and in Heaven, Jesus does.

I look forward to seeing where this all goes.

#71  Posted by Kyle Kues  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 11:40 AM

#69, the word for hell in the previous verse is geennan, a reference again to the real Valley of Hinnom. This is a metaphorical statement, not a statement of fact about an otherwordly place of spiritual torment. Jesus is not directly commentating on what the traditional view of "hell" is.

#68 is spot on, and what Bell argues in the new book is that he wants to believe that all things (which in the Greek is literally "all things") will have the opportunity. He states that not everyone will/would accept it, that some people have chosen to live in metaphorical hell now, and would choose that later too, but that he hopes they would at least be given the opportunity. He also definitively states that he doesn't know the exact truths of what happens in the afterlife, and neither do the rest of us, for that matter. We are all guessing based the best evidence we all individually find in Scripture.

#64, but those verses don't mention torment for eternity, you added that.

#58, you instinctively have to know this is true, the idea that love wins. You could boil it down as simply as saying "God is Love", and in the end, we know that God will triumph over evil and the world, so God/Love wins. His idea behind it is simple, and true. Jesus came to the world and was perfect, and lived a perfect life. The world threw every kind of evil it could at him, mocked, scorned, beaten, tortured, persecuted, humiliated, executed, and he always responded with love. Even on the cross asked for their forgiveness. Jesus was killed, but he came back to life. The worst was thrown at him, he responded in love, and won. Love wins. It is always better to show love to someone than to attack them or fight back. Love is always the better route. Love wins. It doesn't expressly state that, but it is true regardless.

#52, just as I am, you are operating on the basis of opinion. If you want to talk Council at Nicea, if you go to the video I referenced in my other post, which is hopefully up now, you can click the link to see part 3, where he actually talks in depth about the creed they came up with, he is all about it. You are calling for open discussion, but you have already condemned him without any yet. That's not fair. I will agree in that I am not a fan of Hinn, Myers, or Osteen, that is just an aside, off the point.

I really am curious as to how many of the commenters, thus far, have read Love Wins, and what their commentaries on what he actually said in the book are?

#72  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 11:46 AM

@Sonia #68

[quote]Nicky writes (#66):Universalist believe that everyone is saved regardless of whether they accept Jesus or not.

That is an incorrect (though common) assumption about universalism. I'd just like to point out that universalism is merely the belief that all will be saved[/quote]

I see a bit of contradiction here... you want to say that Universalist believe that all 'will' be saved... yet a Universalist will tell people that they 'are' saved? In any case, either way, neither are true since scripture clearly tells us that we have to repent and believe, and there are just so many examples in scripture where we are warned about rejecting truth and Jesus.

[quote]Nicky continues: Universalism is not taught in scripture - it is clear through scripture that in order to be saved, we must repent and believe

In light of the definition she is working from, I would agree. However, it is arguable that universalism in some form is indeed taught in scripture, one example being Col 1:19-20[/quote]

Well, this depends on whether you have an understanding on what this passage is talking about. If ALL things were going to be reconciled to God, then you would have to include, Satan, the false prophet, the beast, all the demons etc etc... now, since we know this isn't going to happen, then we cannot safely assume that this passage means that ALL things WILL BE reconciled to God nor can we realistically rely on this passage to support Universalism.

#73  Posted by Micah Marchewitz  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 12:11 PM

#70 Kyle says,

I have never once seen Bell (and I take in lots of his work) question the authority or supremacy of Scripture, as JM proposes. That just is not factual.

Kyle- I am sure that GTY will show that Bell has indeed stated that the authoruty of the scripture is not the absolute authority. His book Velvit Elvis is full of false teachings, one of them being that the Bible is not all we need. He blatantly states that scripture alone being our guide sounds nice but is not true. I would provide some actual quotes from the book but I don't want to break any laws but I am sure with some foot work you can track the quotes down on the internet. I have seen Bell in recent interviews contradict other things he says in his writings. Like I said, I am confident that GTY will provide the quotes and links to show what Bell believes and teaches, but from what I have read from Bell he has put some things in writing that are false and heretical.

#74  Posted by Mary Saragosa  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 12:51 PM

I am looking forward to this series, and am so grateful to Dr. MacArthur and the Grace to You staff for their diligent efforts in bringing this information to us! Another watchful shepherd is Dr. Al Mohler, who did a fantastic article on his blog titled "We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology". Praise God for pastors who rightly divide the Word and guard the sheep!

#76  Posted by Kyle Kues  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 12:59 PM

Micah, please do quote. You aren't putting it out there in hopes of making profit out of it. Chatting on a message board, you will be fine.

But the Bible isn't absolute authority, God is. He is the absolute authority, the Spirit that teaches and guides sits far above the Bible itself. We worship God, not the Bible. You are twisting his words in your VE quotation, he actually says,

"The Bible is not pieces of information about God and Jesus and whatever else we take and apply to situations as we would a cookbook or an instruction manual. And while I’m at it, let’s make a group decision to drop once and for all the Bible-as-owner’s-manual metaphor. It’s terrible. It really is. ... We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the living God." page 62

He goes on to talk about this idea as being bad, because you only look at the owner's manual when something goes wrong. To try and fix something, you don't go to it every day to learn and understand and encounter the soul of the appliance or whatever, like you do the Bible for God.

The Bible isn't all we need, we the Holy Spirit too. Science, nature, they teach us a lot about God as well.

What things, exactly, do you see him saying that contradict his writing? I just don't see it.

We both have biases here, you dislike Rob Bell, and, it appears, totally reject his teaching. That is fine, but your confidence that JM will prove him heretical is seen through that lens. Just I am confident he will not be able to fully get there. I don't fully agree with everything he says, but most I certainly do. I own that, and I will see the situation through those glasses.

It is important that we all own up to that where those biases exist, so we can try to accept them for what they are, so that we can move on and try to rationally discuss the individual issues/topics as they come up.

#77  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:00 PM

@Kyle #70

Kyle said:

Bell is a fan of the hypothetical, he asks probing questions, doesn't answer them a fair portion of the time. He lives it open for discussion. That is part of the beauty of our faith, that it allows room for questions, even of God.

People are not calling Bell a heretic because he asks questions, they are calling him a heretic because he says things that go against biblical teachings. He is supposed to be a pastor who is committed to teaching truth... but instead he is making false and wild statements which he cannot back up when he is challenged.

Kyle said:

I have never once seen Bell (and I take in lots of his work) question the authority or supremacy of Scripture, as JM proposes. That just is not factual.

Not factual? Its evidential! lol The evidence is there for anyone to see.. just take a look on some of his interviews on YouTube. I mean.. if Bell believes that the bible is authoritive and supreme above anything written.. ie, a divine book inspired by the Holy Spirit etc, then what is he doing? Playing mind games or testing the power of suggestion just for fun? If he truly believed in the authority of scripture then he would not be suggesting things that are not biblical.. which he clearly is!

No-one needs to waste their money on buying his book to know what he is saying. You only have to read or listen to his dialogue linked to from this blog post.. or even search on YouTube for an interview done with Martin Bashir...or any other interview he has done... people who know scripture are not ignorant to know that what he is saying is unbiblical. Why else do you think he has provoked such a reaction? lol

When was the last time you saw such a reaction from someone who wrote a book on holiness? lol

#78  Posted by Elmarie Swart  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:15 PM

Thank You !! GTY & Dr. John MacArthur.

My prayer is that many from South Africa read this and take heed.

God bless all at Gty and it is wonderful and a blessing to us here in South Africa to have the resources of GTY available to us.

Blessings

#79  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:19 PM

@Nicky #72

Nicky writes: "I see a bit of contradiction here... you want to say that Universalist believe that all 'will' be saved... yet a Universalist will tell people that they 'are' saved?"

No, a universalist should not tell people they are saved unless they have repented of their sin and are in fellowship with God through faith. An evangelical universalist believes that all will get to this place by the grace of God.

Nicky writes: "In any case, either way, neither are true since scripture clearly tells us that we have to repent and believe, and there are just so many examples in scripture where we are warned about rejecting truth and Jesus."

I absolutely believe all must repent and believe in Christ, and that until we do we are slaves to sin and death. And I believe that we had better heed the warnings against rejecting Truth. There is only one Way, Truth, and Life and taking the wrong path leads to destruction....but the end is not yet come, for scripture is clear that in the end, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

Nicky writes (in regards to Col 1:20): "Well, this depends on whether you have an understanding on what this passage is talking about. If ALL things were going to be reconciled to God, then you would have to include, Satan, the false prophet, the beast, all the demons etc etc... now, since we know this isn't going to happen, then we cannot safely assume that this passage means that ALL things WILL BE reconciled to God nor can we realistically rely on this passage to support Universalism."

:) We both have an understanding of the passage, though our understandings do not mesh. One of us is correct or maybe both of us are wrong, but I trust that God will reveal that in His perfect time.

You're sure Paul can't mean what he wrote because you *know* better? Are you sure?

I'm inclined to side with Paul here and believe that he really means what he wrote. Because of the work of Christ, ALL -- yes, including Satan, will repent and willingly submit to God. That outcome would be the ultimate victory and bring the most glory and honor to God.

#80  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:21 PM

Kyle,

But the Bible isn't absolute authority, God is. He is the absolute authority, the Spirit that teaches and guides sits far above the Bible itself.

The problem with putting it that way is you've made authority completely subjective. The reader/interpreter determines whether their thinking is Spirit-led or not.

A true ultimate authority must be objective. The Bible is just that. God expresses His authority through the God-breathed inerrant Scripture. There are objective rules and standards of language, meaning, and interpretation we use to arrive at Scripture.

Subjectivity comes into play when we disagree about which rules apply. And underlying that are presuppositions of the nature and character of the text (whether it is inerrant or not being a primary one).

Of course there is the dimension and requirement that only spiritual people can discern spiritual truth. We must have the Spirit to understand. That is a presupposition (which stems from a proper interpretation of Scripture, of course). But the Spirit does not "lead us into truth" in an objective way because that does not match reality--unless you're prepared to say many of the well known and godly preachers don't have the Spirit because they disagree with other men on key issues. That promise was given to the disciples who were the foundation of the church and wrote Scripture.

Regarding Bell, he is about as hard to nail down as Jello. He very clearly denies the biblical understanding of the gospel in some settings, and then affirms it in others. That to me is a clear indication that he is a false teacher to the core--that is a basic trait of false teachers.

I know a man who was a pastor at Mars Hill years ago and he knows Bell personally. He saw Bell's trajectory early on and eventually had to leave because of Bell's leading the church away from biblical doctrine.

No one writes a book simply to say "I hope there's a second chance after hell." He may put it in those terms, but he's answering his question just by asking it. I've heard the interviews. He affirms Jesus is important, but also affirms you can saved apart from believing in Jesus in this life.

#81  Posted by Kyle Kues  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:29 PM

Nicky, I am sorry, but anyone watching the Bashir interview has to know it is a joke. He asked ridiculous questions, then didn't even let Bell answer. To try and get any kind of traction for an argument from that... I am sorry I will just never buy that.

And you can't, well you can but I don't think it works, just state definitively what he says is heretical without reading the material that this is subject of. I will tell you what he says, he says that nobody KNOWS what happens with every soul. Nobody definitively knows who does go to Hell and who gets into Heaven. Nobody knows what happens to a soul once it does go to Hell. We are all just giving our best guesses based on what we see in Scripture.

Outside of that, he doesn't really make any definitive statements, and he is also not trying to. He says he hopes that God's love will extend beyond say a (and these are my words not his) Calvanistic view of who gets into heaven, or maybe even a more "emergent" view. He hopes that people everywhere, who may not have even heard of God, will get the opportunity. I, personally, think that isn't a bad thing to hope for. Do you?

But plese reference this videos so that I, and everyone else, can check them out. I did, and the ones I reference seem to point to the opposite. As far as asking questions/"playing mind games", Jesus did, all of the time. How many times do you see Jesus answer someone with a straight answer? He almost always responds with a question or a parable that requires one to probe and think about what it means.

"People are not calling Bell a heretic because he asks questions, they are calling him a heretic because he says things that go against biblical teachings. He is supposed to be a pastor who is committed to teaching truth... but instead he is making false and wild statements which he cannot back up when he is challenged."

What biblical teaching is he going against, definitive teaching? His interpretation might be different than yours and different that mine, but he is allowed to operate off of his opinion of what Scripture is, just as you are and just as I am. Again I refer to the last couple of paragraphs of my last post.

"If he truly believed in the authority of scripture then he would not be suggesting things that are not biblical.. which he clearly is!"

Examples? Might help if you read the book so you would know what they are, no? Just saying.

"people who know scripture are not ignorant to know that what he is saying is unbiblical. Why else do you think he has provoked such a reaction? lol"

I haven't mastered Scripture by any means, not even close, but I am a seminary student, and I am not ignorant. I currently take classes from the largest in the country, and trasnferred in from the second largest, and they are pretty far apart on the conservative/liberal ends of the spectrum, if you like to look at them that way. I am seen a lot, and I disagree with that assessment. Again, opinions, and see last post.

#82  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:29 PM

Sonia,

I don't know why you're all worked about the type of universalism. In the end everyone gets saved. It doesn't matter how it happens. That's the point.

So what do you do with all the passages that talk about hell, damnation, the Lake of Fire (Rev 19, 20), etc. etc. etc.?

Your view that Phil 2:11 represents an action leading to salvation is imposed on the text. Paul never says confessing Jesus is Lord is always a saving act (demons know biblical truth and that Jesus is Lord, but they're not saved... are they? James 2:19).

#83  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:41 PM

Kyle,

Outside of that, he doesn't really make any definitive statements.

So he wrote a book to say nothing? No, he said a lot. He subverts the truth and acts innocent.

It is true no human knows definitely, by name, which individual persons will go to heaven or hell, but God have given clear parameters of what type of person goes to heaven and what type of person goes to hell. We can't know with certainty who will go where, but "but their fruit, you will recognize them."

As far as asking questions/"playing mind games", Jesus did, all of the time.

No, He didn't. He did two things. First, he spoke in parables to purposefully hide the truth. Second, he spoke in parables to make the truth extremely clear. There were two general responses to His teaching. People either said, "huh?" or they took up stones to kill Him. He never wanted someone to probe about the truth. He explained the parables clearly to the disciples so they wouldn't wonder, but sometimes his parables needed no explanation because they were clear enough.

Post-modern emergents use questions to express doubt while leaving room of the claim of orthodoxy. It's a deplorable practice that does nothing but cause confusion (and God is not the author of confusion... that author goes by another name).

#84  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:45 PM

Regarding the Bashir interview, those questions weren't ridiculous. Could they be better? Sure, but they were legitimate. The reason he didn't let Bell finish is because Bell wouldn't answer the questions. He refused to make a definitive statement.

If Bell doesn't know the answer, he shouldn't be writing a book and he shouldn't be teaching.

#85  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:53 PM

In the video trailer for Bell’s book, he presents 22 questions—and answers none of them. You gotta love postmodernism.

Questions are powerful tools for introducing doubt. I can think of a great example from Genesis 3...

#86  Posted by David Hegg  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 1:56 PM

Really appreciating this interchange of ideas.

#87  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 2:16 PM

As Gabriel pointed out, it is Satan’s agenda to cause confusion as to what God has clearly spoken. He clearly used this tactic with Eve when he asked, “did God really say?”

In interview that was linked in the blog, Rob Bell was asked about where are the souls of those who have passed away. Bell’s answer implies that it is only speculation as to where they might be. Perhaps he has written or spoken on this topic more extensively elsewhere, but in this interview, he gave the impression to all who read or hear the interview, that the answer is unknown. Why would he not answer the interviewer with what God’s Word tells us? Whatever his intention, the result of his answer is confusion about something God’s Word speaks about clearly.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul told Timothy that he was to preach the Word and use it to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with patience and teaching. He said in 2 Tim. 3:15-16 that God’s Word is able to make us wise for salvation and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work. God’s Word is our authority. It is to be proclaimed.

When teachers try to say that we can’t be certain of God’s Word and imply that it is open to many interpretations, know whose agenda is being promoted.

#88  Posted by Kyle Kues  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 2:30 PM

Gabriel,

"The problem with putting it that way is you've made authority completely subjective. The reader/interpreter determines whether their thinking is Spirit-led or not.

A true ultimate authority must be objective. The Bible is just that. God expresses His authority through the God-breathed inerrant Scripture. There are objective rules and standards of language, meaning, and interpretation we use to arrive at Scripture."

The Bible is much more subjective, that is why this debate happens. We have access to the same text, and yet we arrive at totally different conclusions. Jesus leaves stories opened ended, like the story of the prodigal son. The ultimate meaning isn't clearly spelled out, the story doesn't end the way it is supposed to, we are left to interperate the meaning for ourselves. All of Scripture is like that. Most people are looking straight from English, so they don't even see the original source language, and even we can read the Greek and Hebrew, then we still have to guess at times how to translate some of it, because many of the words don't have good English equivalents.

We all give our best guess as to what the texts say and mean, and we, for the most part, are reading what other people have said they think it means. I do fully believe that most of them are really good, inspired translations, and a great base to work off of. But the Bible and its stories are not always black and white. The Bible, itself, is objective I suppose, but the meanings we get from it are, in many cases, very subjective.

"No one writes a book simply to say "I hope there's a second chance after hell." He may put it in those terms, but he's answering his question just by asking it. I've heard the interviews. He affirms Jesus is important, but also affirms you can saved apart from believing in Jesus in this life."

He doesn't affirm it, he says he hopes for it. What is wrong with that? What is so awful about hoping that Jesus sacrifice could potentially save more people than we know? Again we are all just guessing.

"I know a man who was a pastor at Mars Hill years ago and he knows Bell personally. He saw Bell's trajectory early on and eventually had to leave because of Bell's leading the church away from biblical doctrine."

That was his view, the other 11k+ that attend disagree with him.

#89  Posted by Rick White  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 2:38 PM

@Sonia Johnson #65,

Thanks for pointing out Mark 9:40. I'm sure that is the scripture he was refering to. I still stand by my other comments though. After reading through the interview several times I've come to the conclusion that he didn't directly answer one question posed to him.

He seemed to ramble on about nothing in particular leaving one to only speculate what he really believes. How can he possibly pastor a church when he isn't even able to articulate what he believes? He's all over the place in his answers and even admits as much at the end of the interview. He says:

"So I realize in these questions, I stumble a bunch. I realize I wander all over the place. I realize that. I’m not a theologian. I’m not a scholar. I’m not very smart. But I do know that there is good news. And I’ve seen it in action. And that’s something that’s worth talking about."

#90  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 2:41 PM

Kyle, the meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture. The ink and paper aren't Scripture. The letters that make up words, and words that make up phrases, and phrases that make up sentences are not Scripture. The meaning of Scripture is not up for grabs. It is there and it can be found.

As I said before, the difference of interpretation comes down to the application of rules, imposing systems, and presuppositions about the nature of Scripture. Often times it comes down to simple belief in whether it is true.

The meaning of the prodigal son is not open to guesses. It is quite clear in the context. Jesus didn't tell a random story to teach esoteric theology. He was speaking to specific people in a specific context and the story is directly related to those people and that context.

Nevertheless, I know we won't see eye to eye on this. We've been trained to view Scripture very differently so we're just speaking past each other. I would just leave you with the encouragement to believe what God said in Scripture, not what men say about Scripture.

#91  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 2:54 PM

Kyle,

Sorry, I forgot to respond to something else you said.

He doesn't affirm it, he says he hopes for it. What is wrong with that? What is so awful about hoping that Jesus sacrifice could potentially save more people than we know?

Clearly you don't see it. But no one writes a book to tell the world "I don't know what I'm talking about, but I hope that's true." His marketing, videos, and interviews demonstrate he is avoiding at all costs to be put in a box. And that is precisely the problem. If he affirmed the biblical doctrine, but merely hoped something else was true, why wouldn't he just come out and say it? He simply refuses to make a definitive statement.

I'll go out and admit that, in my humanness, I wish no one would go to hell. I don't think anyone relishes in the thought of hell. But Scripture makes it quite clear that people will in fact go to hell. Bell, on the other hand, is both denying the perspicuity of Scripture and what Christians have believed for millenia about hell.

Think about it: His book is titled Love Wins but then you claim his book actually makes no definitive statement to that affect. Either the publisher chose a really bad title (and Bell went along with it), or Bell decided that title expressed his view well. It's not that complicated.

It's one thing to take a position and ask further questions. It's another to take no position, and only ask questions that imply one position. Bell does the latter.

#92  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 2:58 PM

…the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

Paul’s description of the coming judgment of Christ and the eternal destruction to follow is so clear, compelling, and arresting. Then someone like Rob Bell comes along and assaults that clarity by introducing “friendly questions”—questions designed to remove the threat and urgency of divine judgment. I hear “peace, peace” in his speech. Scripture has a lot to say about that. Bell certainly is not the first false-teacher to call time-out when clear, unmistakable messages of God’s judgment are heralded. (See. Jer. 6:14; 8:11; Ezek. 13:10).

On the back cover of Bell’s book (after the publisher asks 7 more questions that heap suspicion on the truth of Scripture), you read this:

Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance…

More spiritually satisfying?

Translation = more acceptable and palatable to postmodern sensibilities.

If you don’t understand why John MacArthur took the time to write this series of blog articles, stay tuned. When the contents of Bell’s book are investigated, you will...

#93  Posted by Rick White  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 3:04 PM

@Kyle Kues #88,

I think you're wrong about why there is so much debate and people come to different conclusions when it come to interpreting scripture.

Too many people read their traditions and presuppositions into the scripture instead of using sound hermeneutical principles and letting scripture interpret scripture. That's why so many of these debates end up being opinion vs opinion instead of reaching conclusions based on the objective meaning of the original writer as he was guided by the Holy Spirit. God is not the author of confusion as you seem to imply 1 Corinthians 14:33.

#94  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 3:10 PM

Fred, I must not have been clear. We are in complete agreement that there is a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. After the Second Death there is no resurrection. Since there is no resurrection after the second death, it is an eternal capital punishment.

The phrase “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” is a quote from Isaiah 66:15 ff., a prophetic passage describing the final judgment. According to Isaiah, the worms that never die will feed on dead carcasses, not on eternally tormented, living souls. The original Jewish audience, the people Jesus was speaking to, would have recognized the allusion and associated Jesus' words with the description in Isaiah.

Is 66:15,16,24 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire and with his chariots like a whirlwind to render his anger with fury and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many....And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

#95  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 3:29 PM

Rob seems popular in the world's eyes. It reminds me of Jesus saying

first wash inside the cup then clean outside of it.

It seems better to read God's word clearly so one

can write a book on God's own terms not our own, right..

But remember God says there's nothing new under the sun. Rob seems

to think that. That's twisting the Word of God.

#96  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 3:55 PM

Gabriel (#82) writes: "don't know why you're all worked about the type of universalism. In the end everyone gets saved. It doesn't matter how it happens. That's the point."

I have to disagree on that point, because I believe it's vitally important how it is defined! To tell people there are no consequences for sin and everyone gets into heaven in their sinful state, is to deny the truth.

In the end, no one is saved apart from faith in Christ. That matters, and that's the point. Christ is the center of the gospel, and I'm puzzled that you can say that doesn't matter! He is the beginning and the end, through whom and for whom all was made, in whom all things will be summed up, and in whose name we are saved. Am I'm misunderstanding you?

Gabriel writes: "So what do you do with all the passages that talk about hell, damnation, the Lake of Fire (Rev 19, 20), etc. etc. etc.?"

I believe them. :)

I also believe that the gates of the City never close, and that the invitation to wash one's robes in the river of life will never be rescinded.

I also believe the prophecies that say that all will be blessed, all will be reconciled, all will acknowledge their proper Lord, and all things will be made new.

Gabriel wrote: "Your view that Phil 2:11 represents an action leading to salvation is imposed on the text. Paul never says confessing Jesus is Lord is always a saving act (demons know biblical truth and that Jesus is Lord, but they're not saved... are they? James 2:19)."

Very good point--looking at it in English. But getting into a bit of Greek study will show that I'm not imposing on the text.

Jesus tells us it is not those who "say" [Gr. legō, Strongs #3004] "Lord, Lord" who are saved, but the one who does the will of the Father. And He will "confess" [Gr. homologeō, #3670] to them, "I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity!"

Now, turning to Phil 2:11 we find a word of even greater intensity... "and that every tongue will confess [Gr. exomologeō, #1843] that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

If you take a few minutes to look up the usage of those words, you should easily see my point. :) I recommend blueletterbible.org for word studies if you don't already have something easy to use.

As for James 2:19, the demons fear because they know that God is One. Not because they confess Him as Lord. A very interesting thing to ponder, by the way.

#97  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:01 PM

Joy,

In refrence to Isa 66:24

How is it possible that corpses can be eaten by worms at the same time as they are being burned, or how can they be the eternal prey of worms and fire without completely disappearing altogether from the sight of man?

How can a natural corpse be the subject of anything eternal?

#98  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:21 PM

Joy in #94 writes,

Fred, I must not have been clear. We are in complete agreement that there is a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. After the Second Death there is no resurrection. Since there is no resurrection after the second death, it is an eternal capital punishment.

Joy, the "second death" is eternal punishment. First death is physical, the second, spiritual. You seem to think they go out of existence or something, and nothing is Scripture says such thing. Eternal punishment is always equated with the recipients of that punishment experiencing the effects of the punishment. Just like the righteous experience the effects of eternal life.

Two things: Go back and deal with the contrast of eternal punishment with eternal life I noted. You seemed to have skipped it. If eternal life is conscious worship of God for eternity, how can "eternal life" be conscious and forever for the righteous, but in the very contrast, eternal punishment be annihilation for the wicked? IF eternal punishment is just "eternal capital punishment" as you describe it, which means a person is merely annihilated and goes out of existence, the contrast with those who receive eternal life would mean the same would happen to the righteous. Do you understand the inconsistency here?

Second, you said you once believed in the orthodox belief of hell UNTIL you heard that it was supported by flawed argumentation. From whom did you hear such a thing? Was it a preacher? Some book? What was the source? You then said you spent hundreds of hours studying this issue, so what sources did you study? I can't believe you "just" studied the Bible. Some source was directing your understanding of those passages. What and who was it?

#99  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:25 PM

Sonia,

Earlier you said, "An evangelical universalist believes that all will get to this place by the grace of God."

I take that to mean: Everyone will be saved no matter what they do in this life. You may say that at some point they will trust in Jesus. But that's irrelevant because the mocking thief on the cross has nothing to worry about. There is no need for warning because one can live and die wretched in this life, and then in the next life they'll have the opportunity to trust in Christ.

Is that what you're saying? What motivation is there for the person who says, "I'm going to have my fun now, and believe in Jesus later," to make the decision now as opposed to later?

The problem I have with your perspective, is it seems to remove purpose and motivation from evangelism. If people will have the opportunity to trust Christ in eternity, then no one will spend 30 seconds in torment.

But here's another problem. If Jesus atoned for sin, then God cannot punish sin. Jesus paid for all your sin before you committed it. It sounds like you're saying, many will make partial payments for their sin in hell (for however long they choose to stay there), and Christ will pay for all remaining of their sin when they decide to trust in Christ.

That doesn't make sense to me at all, nor does it match what God says about the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ's atonement.

Regarding Phil 2:11 and "confess" (ἐξομολογέω, btw): Confess simply means to agree, admit, or acknowledge. If Paul said all flesh would "repent", that would be a different matter altogether.

Scripture is very clear that salvation must occur prior to the first death. As Joy has clearly stated, the second death is eternal. There is no resurrection from the second death.

#100  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:34 PM

The lake of sulfer is a burning trash heap for the lost. Jesus says

in Mark 9 that Their worm does not die and the fire is not

quenched. He was showing how serious hell is. I don't think the

worms are eating them? Help me to understand. Thanks.

#101  Posted by Caleb Cook  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 4:44 PM

Kyle,

Q: Where at in Holy Scripture can a man using a proper hermenuetic even REMOTELY come up with an idea like the one you shared here pertaining to Bell?

"Bell would break it down like this, he believes Jesus does this, but wants to believe his grace is bigger than we know. That he would hope it can reach people even who don't pray a sinner's prayer, maybe post-mortem. We should hope that as many people as possible are saved and in Heaven, Jesus does."

A: You can't, it's IMPOSSIBLE! Only an unregenerate individual would ever be able to force his OWN false doctrine similar to what Bell has done into verses in order to twist it and convolute it to fit their desired purpose. Bottom line, the view Bell is putting out there is NOT biblical or anywhere near an accurate representation of the holy character and nature of the true and living God of the Bible.

Sure, the god Bell is suggesting exists sounds good to those who love to have their ears tickled, but does he line up with Scripture? Even slightly? Well, of course he doesn't.

Kyle, this blog will quickly become unprofitable for you if you are here to stick up for Bell and expect to do so by only using emotional appeal and not from a Scriptural basis. I suggest if you want to be taken seriously, then use Scripture to support why you think Bell's full position can even remotely be considered biblical. Use clear Scripture Kyle, not some radically twisted interpretation of a single verse here and there. It is fine and dandy to use Scripture to remind us all here to show grace to one another in our blog writing here, but let's also use it to support why you have your view that you do and why you are sticking up for this false teacher Bell.

Also, you said:

I can see this part being confusing from his books and whatnot: "fallen humanity is through the atoning work of Christ, and the only instrument of justification is faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the gospel."

Kyle, it seems confusing because Bell DOES NOT believe John 14:6. It is that simple. I don't care how "close" you think Bell comes to saying that (John 14:6) through the verbal gymnastics that he always does especially in his Part 1 defense of himself and Mars Hill, it just doesn't matter. Look at the big picture of what he is attempting to paint. He is teaching and spreading the wrong Jesus.

Sir, you need to seriously question the root of why you are choosing to support Bell. The Bible is crystal clear on the absolutes and there is no gray area like you are suggesting. You have clearly been listening and reading too much Bell.

I suggest you listen to the sermon by PJM called "The Authoritative Nature of Truth"

Again, don't use emotional or manipulative reasoning to attempt to persuade us to think Bell can be considered a "brother". Also, please refrain from wikipedia in coming up with exegesis of Scripture. Not a good source.

#102  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 5:29 PM

Fred, I have addressed eternal punishment twice. I do not understand the inconsistency you are trying to point out. You seem to be equating the word everlasting with consciousness or something.

When men die once and are resurrected, that is a temporary death.

When men die a second time and are not resurrected, that is an eternal death.

Death is a punishment. Eternal death is an eternal punishment.

The eternal death of the wicked lasts forever.

The eternal life of the righteous lasts forever.

The weak argument that started my study was the argument that if the Beast and False Prophet will be tormented forever in the Lake of Fire, then everyone who goes there will be tormented forever in the Lake of Fire.

Believe it or not, Fred, I spent almost all that study time just me and E-sword and some colored pencils and my Ryrie. I checked Grudem's Sys Theo to see if I was missing an argument in favor of the doctrine. I spoke with two pastors who used the "everybody but you believes this" argument for eternal conscious punishment. I looked at a website that had an alternative interpretation of Lazarus and the Rich Man which I do not subscribe to. I looked at a secular website on Greek mythology to find out what Tartarus meant to a Greek. I read a book on the history of the doctrine, not realizing until I got into it that it was by a Universalist. Parts of it were interesting but it had many faulty arguments and added nothing to what I took entirely on my own out of the Bible. That accounts for a few hours but as I said most of the time I just used E-sword. I continue to study and am currently getting input by way of this thread. I especially appreciate Gabriel's comments and his correction on the ESV translation of Jude 1:7 which I had missed.

I study hard, Fred, and have the background, the tools, and the desire to interpret carefully according to legitimate hermeneutics in context with the whole Bible in mind-- without getting my information from anyone else. I also recite 20 percent of the New Testament every week with a goal of memorizing the whole New Testament in the next 10 years. I love the word of God because I love God and I want to know what He says and what He means and who He is. I want to know Him so I ask and knock and seek.

Thank you for the good conversation. Blessings to you all.

#103  Posted by Peter Yip  |  Wednesday, April 13, 2011at 7:27 PM

Few points:

2Tim3:16 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God... so we all believe that the scriptures is God's word. Is God a man that He should lie that what He said through the scripture can be over-ridden by Himself or His Holy Spirit. The authority of scripture is final

John 3:16-18 (ESV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The Lord is very clear when He spoke to Nicodemus...whoever does not believe is condemned already.

Has the scripture said that there is salvation through any other name?

Lastly, so that we do not get embroiled and get caught up in our own pride/knowledge...let us take heed of what the Lord says in Matt 18:3-7 (ESV)

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. "Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

May the Lord find us faithful when He returns...

#105  Posted by Micah Marchewitz  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 12:22 AM

#76 Kyle says: "But the Bible isn't absolute authority, God is. He is the absolute authority, the Spirit that teaches and guides sits far above the Bible itself. We worship God, not the Bible. You are twisting his words in your VE quotation,"

I wont refer to the first half of this statement as Gabriel already did in post #80 and did a way better job then I could. As far as your statement that I am twisting Bell's words you assume to much. The quote I am refering to is: "...it wasn't until the 300s that what we know as the sixty-six books of the Bible were actually agreed upon as the 'Bible'. This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that "Scripture alone" is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true." pg 68

I'm at work and don't have the book Velvet Elvis in front of me but I tracked the quote down online. This was the quote I was referiing to. I will double check the referece when I get home but it looks exact. I assume that you also have a copy Kyle and can clarify.

#76- "The Bible isn't all we need, we the Holy Spirit too. Science, nature, they teach us a lot about God as well."

I am not entirely clear on what you mean with this statement, what do we learn from science and nature about God? And is it something we would not learn from the Bible? The Bible is the only absolute we have about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Everything in science and nature needs to align with the Bible or it is not teaching us about God at all.

#76- "What things, exactly, do you see him saying that contradict his writing? I just don't see it."

Again, bear with me for a day or so, I am at work and my break is about over so I don't have time to track down specifics. But I have recently seen him in an interview contradict what I just quoted above.

#76- "We both have biases here, you dislike Rob Bell, and, it appears, totally reject his teaching. That is fine, but your confidence that JM will prove him heretical is seen through that lens."

You again assume to much, I don't know Rob Bell so I can't claim to like him or not. I reject his teaching because from what I have read by him, and heard him say in interviews it is not biblical. In all honesty, guys like Bell scare me because their teaching false doctrine and in my opinion don't value the Bible as much as I believe a pastor should. Do you think false teachers are dangerous Kyle? There are a few reasons that I am confident JM will prove him heretical and it has nothing to do with any lense I am looking through. If you refer back to post #29 I already implied I thought he was a heretic. I new about Bell before this blog started. JM will prove Bell is a heretic because the plain and simple truth is that Bell is, indeed heretical. We can continue to debate but lets just see where this blog series go's. God Bless you all.

Micah

#106  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:28 AM

@#96 Sonia

Hi Sonia, the problem with saying that everyone will be saved eventually and the devil will repent and also be saved means that you have to add to the scriptures in order to believe this (or even worse.. teach it).

Jesus makes it known by what he teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven will not remain open forever, but the doors will be closed and there will be those left on the outside. To believe that all will eventually repent, you have to add to what Jesus said.. so it would be, those left on the outside will be let in when they repent after the second death?...scripture just does not say this.

It is certainly Gods desire that all are saved, he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (2 Peter 3:9) but the condition placed on us is that we first need to believe in who Jesus is and we need to repent.

If Jesus said that the devil, the false prophet and the beast are going to be thrown into the lake of fire and tormented day and night forever and ever Rev 20:10, then again we have to add to the scriptures to say eventually they will repent?..or we have to say.. well, forever doesn't really mean forever...but if that was the case, then it would also mean that Peter didn't really mean glory and power to Jesus for ever and ever either. 1 Peter 4:11

Jesus just does not preach that everyone will be saved eventually.. if that was going to be the end result, then what would be the correct meaning of Matthew 25?

#107  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:39 AM

@Gabriel #99

I think this discussion is beginning to get too involved for this venue--I could write a lot on each of your objections. But I'll do the best I can while keeping it as brief as possible.

To your first objection I say: it is not the one who says "Lord, Lord..." who is saved. God is concerned with true repentance and true faith. They who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. The merciful will receive mercy. The one who forgives will be forgiven. They who do the will of the Father enter the kingdom. There are no magic words to say that will trick or force God into letting the unrighteous into His domain.

To your second objection: The work we are given to do is the ministry of reconciliation. Our job is to bring people to Christ...and we're supposed to bring them all, working together with the Spirit as the body of Christ. If anyone is to be saved, that is how it is ordained, and even more so if everyone is to be saved. "How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

God has chosen to save men through the foolishness of preaching, and no one will be saved unless the workers go into the field and begin the harvest.

You say no one will spend 30 seconds in torment, as if that were a bad thing! I wish it were true!-- but look around you at all the people who continue to live in the consequences of their destructive choices today. Look at the torment described in Revelation...and yet "the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons...nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts." And in the OT prophets: Jer 5 "You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent." If people are like this in this life, what makes you think they will be different in the next?

This, btw, is why Rob Bell is not a universalist even though he believes in the possibility of postmortem salvation. I understand this position and respect it, but, personally, I find enough evidence in scripture to be convinced that God will achieve the intent of His heart.

....to be continued in my next comment

#108  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:45 AM

@Gabriel #99 reply continued ...

To your 3rd objection: I think scripture is very clear that God can, does, and will judge sin. Does John MacArthur teach otherwise? I would be surprised to hear that.

Here's a few of the many passages I could cite on this point:

1Pe 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

Rev 2:23 ...And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

Rom 2:6-7 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life....

Gabriel writes: "Regarding Phil 2:11 and "confess" (ἐξομολογέω, btw): Confess simply means to agree, admit, or acknowledge. If Paul said all flesh would "repent", that would be a different matter altogether."

Well I hoped it would be plain from comparing the three words I referenced, and their usage in other passages, that I'm justified in my claim that this speaks of a willing and true confession. I guess we'll have to differ on that.

But one thing I can't let pass--it can't be right to reduce exomologeō to *simply* "agree, admit, acknowledge" --especially with the ek- prefix on it. I'll quote Vine's Dictionary to back me up on that:

ek, "out," intensive, and No. 1, and accordingly stronger than No. 1, "to confess forth," i.e., "freely, openly," is used

(a) "of a public acknowledgment or confession of sins," Mat 3:6; Mar 1:5; Act 19:18; Jam 5:16;

(b) "to profess or acknowledge openly," Mat 11:25 (translated "thank," but indicating the fuller idea); Phl 2:11 (some mss. have it in Rev 3:5: see No. 1);

(c) "to confess by way of celebrating, giving praise," Rom 14:11; 15:9. In Luk 10:21, it is translated "I thank," the true meaning being "I gladly acknowledge." In Luk 22:6 it signifies to consent (RV), for AV, "promised."

Gabriel writes: "Scripture is very clear that salvation must occur prior to the first death. As Joy has clearly stated, the second death is eternal. There is no resurrection from the second death."

People will be judged after this life and be given to according to their deeds. That is quite clear. It is also quite clear that the second death encompasses the destruction of death and hell. It is also quite clear that God's purpose of the ages is to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ.

I find Joy's position more tenable than that of hopeless endless torment in hell, both scripturally and morally. I do disagree -- no offense to you, Joy -- however I'm not willing to engage a discussion on annihilation at this time.

Thank you for the interesting discussion.

#109  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 6:40 AM

Joy states in #102,

Fred, I have addressed eternal punishment twice. I do not understand the inconsistency you are trying to point out. You seem to be equating the word everlasting with consciousness or something.

It's quite simple: You have two groups contrasted with each other: The righteous and the wicked. Those who receive eternal life and those who receive eternal damnation, respectively. Both groups will receive physical, resurrected bodies. If the righteous receive resurrected bodies for eternal life, so as to consciously experience the presence of God's righteousness for eternity, then those wicked who also receive resurrected bodies for eternal punishment will consciously experience the presence of God's justice and wrath for eternity.

Continuing,

When men die once and are resurrected, that is a temporary death.

When men die a second time and are not resurrected, that is an eternal death.

Death is a punishment. Eternal death is an eternal punishment.

The eternal death of the wicked lasts forever.

The eternal life of the righteous lasts forever.

One of your key mistakes here is that you seem to think "death" is non-conscious existence or the extinguishing of the individual. You haven't proven this exegetically. You certainly haven't made yourself clear as to your position regarding death. Death is a separation, one in which the person dies is still fully conscious. Jesus gave us a glimpse of this in Luke 16, which I take it you either deny, or re-read the story. However, I haven't seen any compelling refutation from either you or any other annihilationist why the Bible doesn't teach consciousness for the wicked after both physical and eternal death.

Your desire for the Word is commendable. But honestly, the road you traveled that brought you to a place of denying historic, Christian orthodoxy in regards to eternal punishment and hell is extremely suspect. If you began with some odd-ball belief about the Beast and the False Prophet, and then that led you to question the doctrine of eternal torment in hell; and then, when you brought your arguments to two pastors who clearly told you you're mistaken, and now you have a whole host of other folks telling you you're mistaken, then you may really want to step back and re-examine your position. There is a reason why the denial of eternal, conscious punishment of the wicked is found among cult groups like JWs, 7th Day Adventists, and Unitarians.

#110  Posted by Caleb Cook  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 6:42 AM

More for Kyle:

Below this paragraph will be excerpts from the sermon I asked you to listen to that is by PJM referenced in post #101. I am going to put these here because I do think you already have your mind made up that Rob Bell is good to go and since this is the case I doubt you will spend an hour listening to something that may influence you towards the truth of this matter... thusly convicting you of your false witness.

---

PJM says:

,,,,,

The world is divided into two people, two kinds of people, those who belong to the kingdom of Satan, who are the children of the devil, and those who belong to the Kingdom of God who are the children of God. Those who are in the kingdom of Satan do not know the truth. Satan himself does not stand in the truth. There is no truth in him. “Whenever he speaks, he speaks from his own nature, he is a liar and the father of lies. On the other hand, I speak the truth.”

That draws the line boldly between truth and lies...truth and lies. This is a very important thing to affirm in the society of any time period, any culture because it is critical that if someone is to be saved from sin and escape hell and be brought to the glories of heaven, he or she must believe the truth. Anything that is not the truth is a lie. Everything God has said is true. Everything Satan says is a lie in one form or another.

In light of this, it is a strange, strange thing that popular evangelicalism today seems to live with the biggest fear of all fears and that is that somehow the world that belongs to Satan will not accept their message. And so, we’ve got to soften that message. We have to make it something that is not threatening, that is not hard, that is not absolute, that is not narrow, that is not precise. The idea is to approach the Bible in a completely different way, a kind of a soft way and not be concerned at all about the interpretation of Scripture, for that in itself is offensive. And yet, the Scripture is very clear that you are either a friend of God or a friend of the world. And friendship with the world, James 4:4 says, is enmity with God.

This is one place where you have to pick your sides. You are for God, for Christ, for the gospel and for the truth or you are for the lie, for the devil. That is the line that is drawn biblically. There has always been, there always will be, a fundamental irreconcilable incompatibility between the truth and the lie, between the truth of God and the lie that dominates the world. You cannot have both. You cannot accommodate the Bible in some generic way to floating, changing, shifting, whimsical attitudes of people who live in the domain of Satan under the dominance of lies.

(continued next post)

#113  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 7:38 AM

Fred, if I haven't addressed something it's usually because I haven't been asked or ran out of room. I would love to post my entire 33 page paper, but it's just not practical. If you want to talk more about death we can do that.

I am not insisting that the Beast and False Prophet are spirit beings. I showed why I believe there is some reason to doubt their humanity, but let's say that they are human. The traditional argument is this:

Satan and the Beast and the FP will be tormented forever in the Lake of Fire.

Unbelievers will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Therefore unbelievers will be tormented forever.

Your presuppositions make it hard to see the flaw in the argument so let's use the same argument for something closer to home.

Mike is going to prison to serve a life sentence.

Pete is going to the very same prison.

Therefore Pete is going to prison to serve a life sentence.

If this is all the information we have, we cannot conclude that Pete will serve a life sentence in the prison. He could be serving a two year sentence or he could be going there to sweep the floors. We need more information. So I began to search the Bible -- because we need more information than the fact that three people will be tormented forever to conclude that ALL the wicked will be tormented forever.

If we know that Pete has just been convicted, we could assume that he is probably going to the prison to serve a sentence. If we know that all prisons or this prison in particular is a place where people only serve life sentences then we could probably assume that he was going to serve a life sentence. So in a previous post I showed that some eternal fires literally destroy and then I showed that the Lake of Fire is capable of destroying, establishing that the eternal nature of the fire does not indicate that its objects are eternal.

What I did in my study was test two hypotheses. If God meant that the wicked would be literally destroyed, are there verses that say so and are there verses that contradict that hypothesis? If God meant that the wicked would be tormented forever are there verses that say so, and are there verses that contradict that hypothesis?

Testing the eternal torment hypothesis, many verses contradict it and must be considered poetic. You must read figuratively dozens of verses, change the literal meanings of destroy, consume, perish and others. There are no outright statements of the thesis unless you use use Mt 25:46 and insist that literal death is not an everlasting punishment. Many verses are compatible with the doctrine, but do not exclude the other hypothesis.

Testing the literal destruction hypothesis, the words destroy, consume, perish, and melt can be read literally and the vast majority of the Bible points to ultimate literal destruction. There are many outright statements of the thesis and there are approximately two verses that need special attention to resolve. They're not difficult using normal word meanings.

#114  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 8:17 AM

Greg, Isaiah says that the worms are eternal but it doesn't say that they will feed on the corpses (my mistake) or that they will feed on the corpses forever. There are eternal worms in the fire and there are corpses in the fire. Corpses do not experience pain.

Fred, I cannot agree with you that the resurrection of the bodies of the wicked can be assumed to be for the purpose of eternal consciousness, particularly when their judgment is called the 2nd "death" and Jesus said that God is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. In order for a body to be eternal it would have to be incorruptible (can't rot). Both the righteous and the wicked are resurrected, but only the righteous "put on incorruptibility."

According to James 2:26 "the body without the spirit is dead." A dead body is not conscious and does not sense anything. If a "dead" body is an insensate, unconscious body, then a dead spirit would be an insensate, unconscious spirit.

The traditional view usually uses the definition "separation from God" for death. But the normal meaning of the word “death” is the cessation of life. "Separation from God" has no linguistic support and is not taught in the Bible. The Bible says that death does not mean separation from God.

Ps. 139:8 If I make my bed in Sheol, behold God is there.

2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Death doesn't mean separation from God in the case of Jesus. When Jesus was still alive, He experienced separation from God. The separation occurred before His death and was not equivalent to it. Mt 27:46-50 shows that there was an interval between the separation and the death. Jesus' death occurred after his separation from God and was not equivalent to it.

Death does not mean separation from God even when the word death is intended figuratively.

Rom 8:13 If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

It is not likely that Paul meant that we would live if we separated the deeds of the body from God.

Death doesn't even mean separation from God when used of unbelievers.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. Rev 20:12

Consider the meaning of these verses when death is used the way James defines it:

Ez. 18:4 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Jas 5:20 He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death....

I have not denied or re-interpreted Lazarus and the Rich Man. The rich man's dead body was buried and the spirit was conscious. If the spirit dies it will not be conscious either. In case you are suggesting this story as support for eternal torment, please note that the rich man's torment is in Hades, and Hades is eventually emptied, so what happens there is not eternal Rev. 20:13.

I am amused that you consider "everybody else believes it" to be a sound defense.

#115  Posted by Arthur Graves  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 8:42 AM

WELL PUT AND IN KEEPING WITH WHAT I WOULD EXPECT FROM YOU. WHERE ARE THE OTHERS WHO WILL TAKE A STAND

#116  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 10:42 AM

Joy:

You never answered Fred’s valid objection and question. First, he asked you about Matthew 25:46, where Jesus describes the punishment of the wicked as “eternal,” not the fire. I’m curious how that verse informs your view of final punishment and drives your arguments.

Fred also asked you how you can defend your views since Jesus uses the same word, eternal to describe the fate of the righteous and the wicked. Take a look at Matthew 25. Study the context, consider the contrasts (eternal punishment/eternal life), and ponder Jesus’ meaning. I can’t imagine anyone wearing that verse on their T-shirt while they went around denying the eternality of final punishment. Here’s the verse for everyone to see:

Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the lease of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:46-47

Joy: We’re not calling into question your study habits or disciplines in memorizing Scripture—even though I think that’s a faulty base for arguing your point. (Remember the Scribes and Pharisees?)

You don’t need to defend how long or tediously you study the Bible. Your conclusions are what don’t make sense, which led Fred to ask you what othersources informed your thinking.

If you handed a copy of the New Testament to a person who was an absolute stranger to Scripture (but was a competent reader), and ask him to explain to you after a week of study what the New Testament taught about hell and the fate of the wicked, what words do you think he would use, and how might he understand them?

#117  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 12:44 PM

#113 - Joy. I wanted to comment on your prison analogy. A human prison is for people who will serve several types of sentences: temporary, short, long, with or without parole, and life sentences. In order for your analogy to work, you're assuming that the lake of fire is the same in nature --> that's not biblical.

#118  Posted by David Poe  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:01 PM

Joy,

What is your motive here?

I have read every one of your posts and you appear to be talking down to everyone else. There are men much smarter than I who have figured this out. Councils in the early church addressed this hundreds and even more than a thousand years ago.

Men such as Calvin, Edwards, Knox, Spurgeon and many others who have written on this subject. Maybe you should be reading some of their work and quit teaching yourself which isn't biblical.

I'm sure many 'universalists' spend hundreds of hours in study too, but they still come to the same conclusion...incorrect doctrine.

To have a prove me wrong mentality signifies a self-righteous attitude.

I agree with Fred and some of the other folks on this blog. You appear to be mixing and meshing OT prophesies with NT prophesies in an incorrect manner. Remember, the intended audience of the Scriptures was the initial audience so context is very important. Understanding the history and what those people knew and understood is key (historical, grammatical interpretation).

It almost appears as though you are using a 'devotional' method of interpretation (what this means to me) which is more eisegesis than exegesis.

I’m not trying to judge here, just making some observations.

I’m hopeful you will be teachable by good godly men who have studied this topic much more than you or I.

For Christ Alone,

Dave

#119  Posted by Alan Kouba  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:31 PM

Does not Paul say in Romans 1:18-19 that God begins the Gospel with His righteousness and wrath? Where else in scripture is this revealed than in the doctrine of eternal torment? Everything else seems more a slap on the wrist if people simply suffer than then after some time no longer do. This doesn't coincide with the eternal properties of His righteousness and His wrath revealed on all unrighteousness revealed in the Pure Gospel. Take away an eternal hell and you take away the severity of our need.

Another question to be ask then would be: "If you don't believe hell is eternal then you have to believe that 'love wins' and after a time of punishment men are given a second chance, or you have to be an 'annihilationist' other wise what becomes of all those that never believe.

#120  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:41 PM

Tommy, I do not consider my study habits to have anything to do with the issue. I apologize if they sounded prideful. Those comments were in response to Fred's questions. I left another lady's accusations that I never study my Bible and a few other intimations that I was someone's proselyte unanswered, then answered Fred briefly the first time and then with more detail when he asked again. My study habits are not the issue. The intent of the scriptures and the validity of the arguments is the issue.

On Matt. 25:46, the T-shirt idea is very apt. You've got one verse that appears to support the doctrine and you want to use it as if the rest of the Bible didn't exist. Would you wear a T-shirt that says Fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell? or The fury of a fire will consume the adversaries? These verses appear to contradict your verse. When verses appear to contradict, we must figure out, using legitimate hermeneutics, what the authors meant in such a way that we reconcile the verses, that is, so that all the verses agree. Traditional interpreters say that consume doesn't mean consume, destroy doesn't mean destroy, melting away is poetry, and death means separation from God. Do you see that the traditional interpreters do this all the time in order to reconcile verses? We are so used to hearing these ways of reconciling that most people don't even recognize that the literal meanings are being scrapped. It would be legitimate to use these methods of reconciling if the rest of the Bible taught eternal torment. At least one explicit statement that wicked men are tormented forever would probably be necessary to make it legitimate. There are scores of verses that the traditional view has to do this with to reconcile them to the traditional view. Figurative meanings are applied liberally usually with no contextual evidence that figurative meanings are intended. But that's okay because everybody does it, right?

I am suggesting literal meanings for all of those verses that are traditionally explained away or ignored. To support my view, I have 2 verses that require reconciling. You have dozens. I have two. Mt 25:46 is one of them. And I'm using normal literal word meanings to do it.

Death is a punishment. We call it capital punishment.

Death lasts forever if it is not followed by resurrection.

Death is a punishment that lasts forever.

I am not talking about the fire now. I'm talking about the punishment. It's death and it lasts forever.

Most punishments are conscious, so with traditional presuppositions in place we automatically think "eternal consciousness" when we read "eternal punishment." But one punishment does not require consciousness. Death is a punishment that does not require consciousness and can last forever. Death is a punishment that lasts forever. This view fits very well with literal readings of the whole Bible. I have reconciled the verse to the larger teaching of the Bible using legitimate hermeneutics.

#121  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:42 PM

Tommy, if you handed a copy of the New Testament to someone who was a stranger to the Bible AND a stranger to the cultural and theological presuppositions about hell, he would be free to notice that Jesus says that God can destroy both body and soul in hell, that the parables teach about judgment in terms of burnt up organic waste, that the fire consumes the adversaries, that you have to have the gift of everlasting life or you won't have life at all (I Jn 5:12), and that only Jesus is inherently immortal. If he were reading Greek he might notice that the word for perish frequently means literal death and that Jesus said Unless you repent you will all likewise (like people crushed by a tower) perish. Christians are so used to the constant repetition of altered word meanings that they don't even realize that a stranger might take all these things literally.

Was there a reason you limited the stranger to the NT? The supports for the doctrine seem all to come from the NT. I wonder why Moses, David, and Solomon never mentioned it. All those fierce OT prophets were constantly warning of judgment but they never mentioned eternal torment. Perhaps this is just a case of progressive revelation, but then why call the new information "good news" and why leave all the previous generations in the dark about the horrible destiny that threatened them?

If God HAD wanted to say that men are ultimately literally destroyed, what words or phrases or images could He have used that He didn't use?

Elaine, the analogy was about a lack of information. If you do not have complete information about what will happen in a place, you cannot assume what will happen there based on limited experiences. You are assuming that only one thing can happen in the Lake of Fire. Unless you can show that only one thing happens in the Lake of Fire, you cannot assume that only one thing happens there. Biblical judgments are measured and varied (Matt. 6:1 et. al.) according to culpability which would be impossible if they were all infinite.

#122  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 3:51 PM

Alan, I believe there will be exact, measured retribution (Matt 6:2) which is terrifying (Hw 10:31), causes anguish(Rom. 2:9), and is followed by destruction (James 4:12). This is no slap on the wrist. Love only wins for believers. Justice wins for unbelievers.

#123  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 4:20 PM

If one gives a bible or wear a tee shirt with message of Christ.

Tell them what this means as if they ask the reason why one believes

this. Go back in the beginning of God's word and show the who is God

and why we are here, etc.

Those in the lake of sulfer in Relevations is not worm food.

In scriptures. When one dies not saved, angels come

and puts him in the fire pit until the judgement.

Also in Revelations, death and hades will be thrown

in the lake of fire. bodies for the unsaved would be

suited for hell.

God bless.

#124  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 4:55 PM

I posted this on another forum that I used to post at a long time ago (The Fighting Fundamental Forums). I believe the topic was (not sure though), “could God have created a different world than the one that now exists?” Here is my answer, and then I will add to it below for this topic.

What is interesting to note, is that God, from ALL eternity, had the qualities of mercy and JUSTICE. This seems to imply that the quality of justice had to be satisfied, otherwise WHY did it exist? So, could God have created another world? I don't think He could have. God’s mercy and justice had to be satisfied, and these qualities needed objects to render them effective. What would be the purpose of having the quality of justice, if you do not intend to use it?

Which leads me to another point. All of God’s attributes/qualities are ETERNAL. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So, if this is true, which it is, then justice will have to be ETERNALLY meted out on the unregenerate.

Just as His mercy endureth forever (1 Ch 16:34), so does His wrath.

Just my thoughts.

#125  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Thursday, April 14, 2011at 7:33 PM

Those who argue against the eternality of punishment, can you tell me how do you view the need for the cross? It's interesting to me that most (if not all) false teachings and unbiblical views make the cross irrelevant.

#126  Posted by Karen Crepin  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 6:43 AM

Thank you so much for these past two blogs. I so appreciate your sound biblical repsonse to Rob Bell's books. I have read and researched all of his writings, talks, interviews and fully agree with your analysis of him. Thank you again

#127  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 8:58 AM

@Nicky #106

Hi Nicky, you've presented some excellent points to consider.

Nicky writes: "Hi Sonia, the problem with saying that everyone will be saved eventually and the devil will repent and also be saved means that you have to add to the scriptures in order to believe this (or even worse.. teach it)."

First off, I'd like to point out that I don't have to add anything to arrive at the salvation of all. I only have to believe that the following passages (among others) really do mean what they seem to mean:

Rev 5:13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

Col 1:20 .....and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Eph 1:9-10 .....making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Rom 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

So you see, from my perspective, I could say that you are *taking from* scripture, insisting that God will not achieve His purpose. I have no desire to make that accusation--I'm only attempting to point out that two can honestly seek truth and come to different conclusions based on scripture, and we needn't condemn each other over the difference.

Nicky, you wrote, "Jesus makes it known by what he teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven will not remain open forever, but the doors will be closed and there will be those left on the outside. To believe that all will eventually repent, you have to add to what Jesus said.. so it would be, those left on the outside will be let in when they repent after the second death?...scripture just does not say this."

Here's what I see:

After the Lake of Fire judgment in Rev, we see the City, which is the Bride of Christ--the Church--descending from Heaven. It is said that the gates of this City never close, and those outside are invited to wash their robes--putting off their sinful practices (repentance)--in the river of the water of life which flows from the City and so become able to enter.

Who do you say those outside are? If the City is the Bride, who is left but the ones who were cast into the Lake of Fire?

Not only that, but the kings of the earth-- last seen making war against Christ and slaughtered by Him-- then presumably raised in the resurrection and cast into the Lake-- these kings are seen entering the City and bringing the glory of the nations.

And then, too, there is the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. As this is after the resurrection to life of the followers of Christ, who is left at this time in need of healing?

(...continued in the my next post)

#128  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 8:59 AM

@Nicky #106 reply continued.....

Nicky writes: "It is certainly Gods desire that all are saved, he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (2 Peter 3:9) but the condition placed on us is that we first need to believe in who Jesus is and we need to repent."

I absolutely affirm this! :)

Nicky writes: "If Jesus said that the devil, the false prophet and the beast are going to be thrown into the lake of fire and tormented day and night forever and ever Rev 20:10, then again we have to add to the scriptures to say eventually they will repent?..or we have to say.. well, forever doesn't really mean forever...but if that was the case, then it would also mean that Peter didn't really mean glory and power to Jesus for ever and ever either. 1 Peter 4:11"

Ok, just briefly--I hope you'll take the time to study this more thoroughly--Rev 20:10, "forever and ever" literally is "into the ages of the ages." This is not the same as "into infinity." I have no doubt that Christ will be glorified into infinity, nevertheless, that is not the meaning of the words. The words themselves neither restrict the duration nor extend it into unendingness.

"Torment" is the word "βασανίζω" which in it's literal sense refers to the testing of metals by touchstone (βάσανος) for purity during the refining process. Thus in the same sense it is used of questioning prisoners by torture to extract truth.

Nicky writes: "Jesus just does not preach that everyone will be saved eventually.. if that was going to be the end result, then what would be the correct meaning of Matthew 25?"

The parable of the sheep and goats describes a judgment based on works. Those who do good go into αἰώνιος ζωή. Those who neglected to do good go into αἰώνιος κόλασις.

The word αἰώνιος is the adjective derived from the noun αἰών, which means "age". Ages are undefined in length, and can be very long or relatively short, and can even potentially be without end. The point of an age is not it's duration in time but the quality which defines the period. This passage merely says that the righteous will enter a period of ζωή -- life, while the others will enter a period of κόλασις -- corrective discipline. The word κόλασις is a noun derived from the verb κολάζω, "to prune" trees.

Sorry for the length--I kept it as brief as I could. Thanks for the discussion!

#129  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 9:03 AM

@Elaine #125

If the cross is necessary for your salvation in this age, why would it not be necessary for the salvation of others in the age to come? It is through the life of Christ, given for us, that we are reconciled to God.

No one would be saved without the Savior.

#130  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 10:04 AM

Hi Joy,

In post #42, you said: "Let me clarify that I believe that it could take a very long time for some people to experience justice-- but not an infinite amount of time."

And in post #122, you said: "Justice wins for unbelievers."

I would like to propose the following context and hear your response:

At the end of the Millennium is the final battle of Revelation 20:7-9 where Satan raises an army of millions ("as many as the sand of the sea") of unbelievers born during the Millennium to fight against King Jesus.

This army is consumed by fire from heaven and Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire. Immediately following this, the unbelieving dead are raised with resurrected bodies, standing before the Great White throne for final judgment and then cast into the Lake of Fire.

These unbelievers in Satan's army will have rejected Christ as Lord and clearly will have not repented of their sin. They will have a lifetime of sin to account for and, in fact, if they broke 1 of God's laws during their lifetime, they are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10).

If your view of annihilation in the Lake of Fire is correct, how is God's justice satisfied when this large group of unbelievers -- who literally will be the last to join the ranks of unbelievers of all time in Hades -- will be *almost* instantaneously resurrected for judgment only to then be annihilated?

Were their sins not that serious?

You said in post #13: "I believe that God's holiness and justice demand that every sin must be accounted for and that God requires justice for each sin."

How much time in Hades is required for 1 sin? 30 minutes? 500 years? 1,000 years? For this group of unbelievers who will experience very little time in Hades and then be annihilated in the Lake of Fire, where is the accounting for sin that God requires?

I don't think you would believe your own argument that the death of this group's resurrected body and soul -- being annihilated in the Lake of Fire -- would be the extent and culmination of their punishment for sin.

#131  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 10:04 AM

@Sonia

Hi Sonia - thanks for your response - regarding the scriptures you quoted:

Rev 5:13 - This passage comes before the final judgement, so even if you wanted to say the devil etc repented, they certainly hadn't when the scroll was opened? So if the devil is giving glory and blessing God in Rev 5:13, it isn't because he is in a state of repentance...Judgement is still around the corner ;) Plus everything was created to glorify God anyway, so it still doesn't speak of universal reconciliation to me.

Col 1:20 - I already commented on this verse - I don't believe Paul is saying that God HAS reconciled all things to himself, but it pleased him for Jesus to die on the cross for all things to be reconciled to himself.. It doesn’t mean all things WILL BE reconciled as in saved, because why would we need a lake of fire, or second death etc? We already know that God takes no delight in the death of the wicked.. Why, if all is (or will be) reconciled to him anyway? , Plus, if we read a few verses down - Paul says "

if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. Col 1:23 (NASB) - why would he say that if he believes all is reconciled to God anyway from his previous statement?

Rom 11:32 - You've kind of plucked this one out of its context. This is talking about Israel and how God set Israel aside for the sake of the gentiles. The problem here thinking that this relates to God having mercy on everyone in the sense of everyone will be saved is that this passage relates to people living on the earth, not people who have already died.

After the Lake of Fire judgment in Rev, we see the City, which is the Bride of Christ--the Church--descending from Heaven. It is said that the gates of this City never close, and those outside are invited to wash their robes--putting off their sinful practices (repentance)--in the river of the water of life which flows from the City and so become able to enter.

If you are referring to Rev 22:14-15 this is Jesus talking to people BEFORE his second coming telling us what we should be doing now.. If you read it in context, it should become clearer, since everyone who has remained wicked is outside.. Not inside.

Revelation 22:14-15 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Will reply to the rest in a new post.

#132  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 10:33 AM

Hi Sonia,

Quick question for you... how long is eternal life?

#133  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 10:36 AM

Joy:

Thanks for responding to my comment. I appreciated this comment you made:

When verses appear to contradict, we must figure out, using legitimate hermeneutics, what the authors meant in such a way that we reconcile the verses, that is, so that all the verses agree.

That’s absolutely true. We know that the Bible never contradicts itself. Every jot and tittle perfectly corresponds. All parts agree, even if we fail to see how.

That being said, I don’t see an apparent contradiction between any of the verses you’ve cited, and the traditional, evangelical view of eternal punishment. But maybe that’s because hermeneutics have informed and shaped that interpretation. I don’t say that in a condescending way. Let me explain:

Applying the rules of sound hermeneutics is not claiming, “My view has more verses than yours,” as you seem to indicate in your response. No, biblical hermeneutics says instead, “My view can withstand the full scrutiny of God’s Word.” In fact, good hermeneutics invites that kind of scrutiny, in order to ensure the most accurate interpretation possible.

For example:

When I read, “Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell,” I ask the question, “What kind of destruction was Jesus talking about there?” I find an answer—several answers actually—in other portions of God’s Word. The destruction is eternal (See Mt. 25:46-47; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Heb. 6:2).

When I read, “The fury of a fire will consume the adversaries,” I ask the question, “What kind of fire was the apostle talking about there?” In find an answer—several answers actually—in other portions of God’s Word. The fire is eternal (See Mt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7).

You are inconsistent in your arguments. You said:

At least one explicit statement that wicked men are tormented forever would probably be necessary to make [the traditional view of eternal torment] legitimate.

Here are 3 explicit statements. I even left out the story of Lazarus from Luke 16 and the repeated phrase you find in both OT and NT “their worm does not die.”

These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. 2 Thess. 1:9

These will go away, into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Mt. 25:47

And here’s one more from Hebrews 6. Taken in context, the apostle is rebuking his readers for not getting past even the most fundamental, elementary, basic beliefs of Christianity.

Listen to his list: ...repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. Heb. 6:2

You gave no convincing explanation of how Mt. 25 can fit into your understanding of hell and final judgment. If you want to do literal word meanings, try starting with the Gk. words "eternal punishment." Let me know what your study yields.

#134  Posted by Nicky Bullimore  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 10:49 AM

In response to Sonias 2nd post #128

Sonia said:

The word αἰώνιος is the adjective derived from the noun αἰών, which means "age".

Regarding your interpretation of forever and ever, if this only referred to an 'age', then this would not mean forever and ever since eternity is not temporal.

If something was age-long (how we understand that word), then it would not be eternal, it would be temporal. If eternal meant temporal, then there would be no contrast between the two. 2 Cor 4:18

This also presents us with other difficulties if we are to accept that αἰώνιος refers only to an age or age-long in the sense of a period of time that has a beginning and an end... For example:

Matt 25:46: These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The same greek word is used αἰώνιος - so what applies to one must apply to the other...so we would have to say they will go away into an age of punishment and the righteous to an age of life.

Romans 16:26 also uses the same Greek word αἰώνιος when describing God as eternal - so to say αἰώνιος means just an age, again, we have to refer to God as God of an age rather than God being eternal. The same with Romans 1:20 - Gods power and divine nature is eternal - again αἰώνιος is used.

We know that God has no beginning.. He IS the beginning of all things.. Yet if we are to apply the same understanding of 'age-long' to God, surely we must be saying God has a beginning rather than is the beginning?

#135  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 11:27 AM

John #132 wrote:

Quick question for you... how long is eternal life?

Nice one, John!

Here's one back at you: If there was no death in the world, did Adam and Eve have eternal life before the Fall? :)

But, I stand by what I wrote earlier... that "eternal" does not in itself define any specific duration--endless or otherwise. As I understand it, "eternal life" defines a quality of life. Before we are saved, we are dead--even though we appear to have life, when we become saved we begin to enter eternal life, though we do not experience the fullness of it until we are fully rid of the death that still clings about us.

#136  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 12:04 PM

Hi Sonia,

From #135 -- Yes, A & E had eternal life before the Fall.

No sin = no death

#137  Posted by Sharon Kuhn  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 1:30 PM

Sonia,

e·ter·nal   

–adjective

1. without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing ( opposed to temporal): eternal life.

2. perpetual; ceaseless; endless: eternal quarreling; eternal chatter.

3. enduring; immutable: eternal principles.

4. Metaphysics . existing outside all relations of time; not subject to change.

–noun

5. something that is eternal.

6. the Eternal, God.

'nuff said.

#138  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 1:52 PM

@John #136

Their eternal life didn't last very long did it?

So now, back at you: How long is eternal life?

And: How long is eternal punishment?

Are there possible circumstances that would cause eternal punishment to come to an end, just as there were possible circumstances which caused Adam and Eve's eternal life to come to an end?

#139  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 1:59 PM

@Sharon #137

Thanks for the comment Sharon. Language is a tricky thing... always changing and shifting. I like to look at the etymology of words to help understand what they mean and where they come from.

Make of it what you will, but I find the following helpful:

(from etymonline.com)

eternal (adj.) late 14c., from O.Fr. eternel or directly from L.L. aeternalis, from L. aeternus "of an age, lasting, enduring, permanent, endless," contraction of aeviternus "of great age," from aevum "age" (see eon). Related: Eternally.

eon 1640s, from L. aeon, from Gk. aion "age, vital force, lifetime," from PIE base *aiw- "vital force, life, long life, eternity" (cf. Skt. ayu "life," Avestan ayu "age," L. aevum "space of time, eternity," Goth. aiws "age, eternity," O.N. ævi "lifetime," Ger. ewig "everlasting," O.E. a "ever, always").

#140  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:12 PM

Sonia, Sharon, and others arguing based on word meanings:

Language is as much an art as as it is a science. We must be very careful when using "dictionary definitions" because, as we all know, words change over time. The question, "Are you gay?" Means something slightly different today than it did fifty years ago. All languages do this.

Dictionary definitions generally give us a starting point for understanding a term. They also help with a semantic range of meaning. The key to understanding the meaning of any word is to see how the author is using it in context.

Biblical example: cosmos in Greek means "world". But different NT writers use it to refer to different things. It can refer to all the people in the world, the people in general, the world system (e.g. worldliness), the physical globe, or other things.

Therefore when you talk about eternal, forever, ages, fire, reconcile, confess, etc. you can't just use a concordance and assume those words mean the same thing in every instance. The author's purpose, argument, and choice of that term is more determinative for the precise meaning of each word than some bland definition in a book or website.

Something to think about...

#141  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:40 PM

Some observations regarding Sonia and Joy's arguments:

It appears to me that what you've done is taken some verses out of context and make those the grid through which the rest of Scripture is interpreted.

For example: Sonia referenced Romans 11:32. On it's own it sounds like God is going to have mercy on all people of all time. But that's not what Paul is saying. In context, he's saying God will have mercy on those outside of Israel ("all" is being used to describe Jews and Gentiles, as opposed to Jews only. It's used categorically).

She also made reference to Eph 1:9-10 which the ESV uses "unite" which sounds like a salvific term. It is not. The term is tricky to define but it definitely does not refer to saving all people.

She also referenced Rev. 5:13 which includes those "under the earth" as worshippers of God. First of all, worship does not necessarily mean they're saved. Second of all, if (and it is an "if") that is a reference to Hades or something (it may just be an idiom), they are "under the earth" not saved.

The issue of "all" is not a simple one. Again, context determines what "all" means. If I tell my boss, "I've talked to everyone." He doesn't assume I've talked to everyone on the planet. Based on our relationship and his knowledge of my tasks, he knows "everyone" is limited to a very small group of people. So when Paul says things like "reconcile to Himself all..." You can't just assume Paul means all people of all time.

But that appears to be precisely what Joy and Sonia do.

So all this throwing verses back and forth won't get us anywhere until each verse is understood in it's context--the flow of what the author was saying. And quite frankly, that simply isn't possible in the context of blog comments.

#142  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:41 PM

Eternal life is as long as eternal punishment = forever (Matt 25:46)

Hebrews 9:27 is clear your eternal destination does not change after physical death. Now is the time of God's favor and salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Now, regarding the special case of Adam & Eve... Remember, no sin = no death; sin = death.

Adam & Eve would have lived eternally in their physical state, however, everything changed after the Fall. The entrance of sin change everything including Adam's access to God. Genesis 3:22-24, "...He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever..."

A & E died spiritually that day (Genesis 2:16) and would eventually die physically. Due to their sin, they needed righteousness credited to their account; they needed to be declared righteous by grace thru faith. God's plan of redemption from before the foundation of the world moved into place in Genesis 3:15.

A & E needed to be redeemed by a Savior just like all of their progeny since...like you and me...of course, outside of Christ Himself.

Adam & Eve cannot be used for an argument against the eternal security of the saints. Or, a case for "limited" eternal life. They were w/o sin until the Fall; we are born fallen with the sin nature handed down to us.

Sin changed everything. We cannot fully grasp the offense of our sin to a holy God. 1 sin condemns us. How amazing is God's grace? How sweet is the forgiveness of God? How precious is the blood of the Lamb of God? (1 Peter 1:18-21)

#143  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:49 PM

Dave,

I have a few different motivations. The first one is that if a person believes that God judges precisely and gets the job done, then it is very difficult to listen to people say that he torments people forever. If I'm right, eternal torment is a horrible thing to say about God. Of course, If I'm wrong then what I'm saying is also a horrible thing to say about God, but I hope you can see why I feel very jealous for His reputation. God is just whatever he does, but I had great joy in realizing that He never said He would torment every unbeliever forever. It's a delightful thing to me.

Secondly, I am here to learn and discuss. I consulted a couple of pastors but they weren't interested in a lot of depth on this. I have been able to find people here who are interested in the topic and some who are very well informed about it. It's not something you can have a healthy discussion about with just anybody so I'm thankful for your time. I appreciated a couple of things Gabriel pointed out to me that I had missed. Your list of authors who have addressed it will be helpful.

I'm sorry that I'm coming across arrogantly. I would never have brought up my hours of study except that I was being pointedly asked where I was getting my stuff and told that no one studies the Bible that much. I regret responding to it. I'll work on my tone.

I'm deathly allergic to eisegesis and bad hermeneutics. If you could be more specific about what passages I'm reading out of context and what prophecies I'm incorrectly meshing I would be grateful.

Elaine,

A finite measured judgment doesn't make the cross irrelevant by any means. The writer of Hebrews thinks that salvation is great because we escape not from the enormity of eternal torment but from the just recompense of each sin. Heb 2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?

John, I do not know the answer to when the justice occurs. I have a couple of thoughts. One possibility is that the length of torment in the Lake of Fire is based on works. Either that or something happens in Rev. 20:12 before being cast into the Lake of Fire. I've noticed that verse 12 talks about judgment based on works and verse 15 talks about judgment based on whether one's name is in the Book of Life. Are these two different things? I don't know. And I don't know what amount of time. It could be a very long time for some. I'm sure it will be exactly what justice requires. Here are the verses for reference:

Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

#144  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:54 PM

Fred,

You're right that the number of verses is not very important compared to having the entire Bible consistent. When I say how many verses I'm pointing out that the Bible is filled with words and images and phrases that talk about literal destruction of the wicked, so when I have to work with a verse in a way that is not convincing to you, it's got to be on the backdrop of the whole Bible.

When I suggest that there's no explicit statement of the doctrine, I'm looking for an explicit statement that men are tormented eternally or suffer something. I looked up every use of the words for forever in both languages looking for some indication that men suffer forever. The negative things that last forever are usually worms, fire, smoke, and words like judgment that mean "a decision." I was looking for torment, pain, anguish, weeping, regret. If the doctrine is eternal conscious suffering, I would expect at some point to find some kind of suffering associated with "eternal." That would be important if we're going to overturn the literal meanings of verses that talk about destruction.

The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man does not say that the rich man will be tormented eternally. Since Hades is eventually emptied, what happens there is not eternal. So no explicit statement there.

The worm is eternal, but the passage in Isaiah that Jesus was alluding to (his audience would have recognized the allusion) indicates that the eternal worm was in the eternal fire with carcasses. Eternal worms don't indicate eternal torment for humans.

I looked up all the references to eternal fires to see if they indicate eternal torment, but all the other references to eternal fires are about complete destruction. The Lake of Fire was prepared for the devil and his angels so its eternal nature doesn't indicate that the men who go there suffer eternally.

The eternal judgment in Heb 6:2 is the Greek word krima which means "decision." The verdict is unappealable and unpardonable. It will not be changed. It is eternal. An eternal decision does not indicate eternal suffering.

Matt 25:46 only states the doctrine if you insist that the death penalty or capital punishment is not a punishment which lasts forever. I have studied the Greek for Matt 25:46 in detail. Eternal means age and often means forever. Punishment is a penalty. Death is a punishment that lasts forever. I haven't got any more to say about that one. If you don't believe that death lasts forever, we are at an impasse on that verse.

Eternal destruction is destruction that lasts forever. II Thess 1:9

I looked up all of the words for destruction and studied how those words are usually used and how they're used in regard to the judgment.

I'll put them in the next post.

#145  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:56 PM

@John

So are you saying A&E had eternal life, and it was taken from them?

Or that they had potential eternal life, but it wasn't really eternal yet? Or it was only theirs conditionally until they proved themselves?

Am I missing your point?

#146  Posted by Joy Marks  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:56 PM

Fred, continuing,

Here are two of the words for "destruction" that the Bible uses in reference to the judgment with examples of their normal uses.

Apollumi means to destroy fully. This word is often translated “perish” and frequently refers to literal death or killing.

For example, Mat 2:13 ... Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him. Also Mt12:14;22:7 et al

Consider the following verses about the destiny of the wicked using the literal meaning of the word apollumi.

Mat 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Jas 4:12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.

Several verses refer to the judgment of the wicked using the word apoleia defined by Strong's as ruin or loss. Below are two examples of the literal use of the word. Notice that in the first verse, apoleia refers to the death penalty and in the second it refers to complete destruction.

Act 25:16 ...It is not a custom with Romans to give up any man to destruction before the one being accused may have the accusers face to face....

Mar 14:4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the perfume wasted like that?”

Consider the meaning of these verses about the destiny of the wicked when the word destruction is read literally:

Rom 9:22 ...God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.

2Pe 2:3 ...For whom judgment of old does not linger, and their destruction does not slumber.

Mat 7:13 Go in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction ….

Phil 3:19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

#147  Posted by Sonia Johnson  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 2:59 PM

@everyone who's addressing comments to me:

Thanks for all the thoughtful remarks. I appreciate your time and efforts and will try to get back to you all at some point this weekend.

#148  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 3:19 PM

Joy,

If I can commend you, I appreciate that you are attempting to reason from Scripture. A lot of people with your position hold it because of emotional reasons and they couldn't care less what Scripture says. So I'm personally thankful you are wanting to be faithful to Scripture. Obviously I disagree significantly with how you interpret Scripture, but at least you're interpreting it, not ignoring it.

You said a couple things that stuck out to me:

1) I feel very jealous for His reputation. God is just whatever he does

What if it is just for God to torment eternally? From what you've said so far, your understanding of sin is that it doesn't deserve eternal punishment. Romans 6:23 says "the wages of sin is death." Now we know that doesn't mean physical death because believers still die even though Jesus atoned for their sin. But we also know it doesn't mean spiritual annihilation otherwise Jesus would have had to been annihilated in order to pay for sin. Right? So what "death" did Jesus experience? The wrath of God (John 3:36; Rom 1:19; 5:9; 12:19; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; Rev 14:19; 19:15).

Death doesn't mean to die physically. If it did then everyone would be saved upon their death. Death doesn't mean to go out of existence. If it did, then Jesus would have had to go out of existence. Since He didn't He couldn't have paid for our sin. Death is something far worse than annihilation. The Bible describes it in bone-chilling detail. Anguish. Torment. Fire. Black. Gnashing of teeth.

What could possibly deserve an eternal death? Here's an analogy (imperfect as it is): If you punch your wife she'll leave you. If you punch your neighbor he'll report you. If you punch an officer he'll arrest you. If you punch the President, they'll kill you. Why do we understand that concept, but think that somehow breaking the law of the Creator and God of the universe is such a light matter?

You see, unbelievers don't just break God's law now and again and deserve to be punished for it. Unbelievers are hostile against God. They hate God. They sin against God with every breath they take. They mock God by worshipping creatures and material objects. They spit in God's face by praying to dead people. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decade they mount infinite sin upon infinite sin upon a pile of infinite sin.

When we understand the depth and breadth of the depravity of sinful men (something we can't fully comprehend), I don't see how you can be "jealous for His reputation" and think temporary punishment is more just. I just don't see it.

When we delight in temporary punishment, it seems to me we delight more in a fallen sense of etiquette than we do in God's holiness.

2) I'm deathly allergic to eisegesis and bad hermeneutics.

No you're not. None of us are. That's why we must constantly be checking ourselves to make sure we haven't missed something.

#149  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 3:31 PM

Joy has not proven through scripture and plain reasoning that wicked cease to sin in Hell.

If those in Hell continue to sin, then why shouldn’t their punishment continue to be eternal.

Consider Rev. 22:10-11. As it is, so shall it be.

#150  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 3:37 PM

Joy,

Fred will be gone for a few more days, so I'll respond in his stead.

Really, I just have one comment to all you said to him.

As I've said before, you are assuming destruction, death, etc. mean annihilation--to go out of existence. Here's a question for you: if that's true, then why add the "eternal" modifier on there. Isn't that redundant? If God is going to destroy a sinner (meaning if He is going to send them out of existence), why say "eternal"? Would he otherwise bring them back out of existence?

I think the modifier should be a flag to you that destruction and death meaning something other than ceasing to exist.

Especially if you (was it your or Sonia?) take "eternal" to be a qualitative adjective as opposed to quantitative. What does quality of annihilation is it? Is there more than one?

#151  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, April 15, 2011at 3:40 PM

Greg has a great point.

Does sin cease after the first death? Do those in hell sin? Does that sin merit further penalty? At