Daniel in the lions’ den or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace – great stories of trust, existential faith and conviction. And then these precious prophecies later in the book God entrusted Daniel through an angel, without Daniel being able to fathom much of it (Dan 12:8) and the angel just telling him to rest and not to worry (Dan 12:9-13)? I used to think – well, I’ll study those when I get around to it. The admonitions to the seven churches, not being lukewarm, holding on to your first love, essential reading! And then these fantastical prophecies in Revelation, hmm, yeah I’ll study those when I get a bit of time. They sure say that strange kinds of tribulations will come our way and that we ought to hold on and stay strong. But all the stuff about the different stages and monsters and so on? Well, not sure what John saw there really. It’s probably got little to do with me being a good Christian, after all Jesus says to worry about today only! Yes, but Jesus also commands us to be ready, to watch out for the signs, to know and to take heed – e.g. see Luke 21:34 in the context of the entire chapter. He commands us to take care not to be deceived (Matthew 24:4) Or study the depth of meaning of Romans 12:1-2 – to me it includes using our mind and intelligence to find out what God’s plan is, so we may find the proper way to be part of His plan. Or take 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which makes it clear that a correct understanding and doctrine will make God’s people adequate and thoroughly equipped for every good work!
Being God, His plan will be bigger than we can ever comprehend entirely. His designs and ways are higher than our as much as the heavens are loftier than the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nevertheless, aided by His Spirit in us, He commands us to rightly divide the word of truth, i.e. separating sound doctrine from heresy, ans thus showing ourselves approved to Him – 2 Timothy 2:15. God made us in his image and gave us a sense of justice and fairness. The idea of conscious death in a spirit-fire place until eternity is not only impossible for us to fathom (and therefore easily pushed aside in our heads), it is also drastically at odds with our natural God-given understanding of justice. We don’t convict anybody to torture, in fact in our sound mind we consider torture completely unacceptable for obtaining evidence or as punishment. Yet we are asked to accept by our modern Bible translations infiltrated by pagan ideas to swallow that God has eternal torment in conscious hell in store for the vast majority of humanity. But to help bring about a gigantic sigh of relief and return to the truth, this concept of conscious and eternal hell is not in the accurately translated Bible, it is based on misrepresentation of the meanings/concepts of Gehenna, Sheol/Hades and tartarus; a blatant mistranslation of the Greek word aion as “eternal” instead of the more accurate English word “age”; and the pagan idea of a conscious afterlife making its way into Christian doctrine.
I warmly recommend Hell is not in the Bible, a book setting out where this whole doctrinal soup we’re regularly ingesting today came from and how we can accurately discern what the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible mean when talking about the word commonly translated as “hell” in modern translations.
Here are some of the main points:
- The word “eternal” does not feature in the New Testament. Whenever you read “eternal life” in your modern translated Bible, this really means “eonian life” i.e. life during a certain age. In fact an age has a beginning and an end, and therefore is the opposite to eternity!
- The very concept of conscious death is pagan and not Biblical – see e.g. Ecclesiastes 9 verses 5 or 10, or Psalm 6:5, 115:17, 146:2-4. The only instance where Jesus talks about conscious afterlife is in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-17:3a), where Jesus deliberately and mockingly uses a figurative setting from the Pharisees’ Talmudian tradition (an oral tradition at His time that would later be written down in the Talmud). The very paganism that made its way into the Jewish traditions (Talmud) also found its way into the modern translated Bible, initially through Tertullian and Augustine, who started formulating Christian doctrine in Latin, and both of which in their own admission had a very limited grasp of Greek, the language that the New Testament has been originally written in.
- Immortality is being given to humans by resurrecting them into an immortal (yet physical) body. Jesus is the first example of this, and he demonstrates beautifully that with this resurrected body He can appear suddenly in the midst of a large group of people who’ve locked themselves in a room (John 20:19); and that he still eats (Luke 24:41-43 – whether He only did this to prove a point or whether He felt peckish for honeycomb is unrecorded). Without a physical body however, a human soul is unconscious and “knows nothing”. The spirit is God’s breath that makes a person alive, and when a person dies, the Spirit goes back to God, without the means to experience physical reality through the soul (consciousness) and senses of a body.
- Jesus Gospel to Israel is very different from Paul’s Gospel to the Gentiles, which came to him through direct revelation from Christ and not through the apostles (Gal 1:11-12). Jesus teaches that He is the Messiah and if all of Israel believed in Him and abided the Law of Moses, His reign would begin during the lifetimes of his contemporary Jews (the kingdom has drawn near, hence “Verily, I am saying to you that by no means may this generation be passing by till all these things should be occurring.” – He is speaking conditionally!) Paul, after Jesus has died, been resurrected and the Jews still have not accepted Him as the Messiah, the gospel is given to all nations. This is no longer the gospel that Jesus preached, but that we are saved by faith and proclaiming Jesus as Lord – Rom 10:9-10. The rejection by God’s people opened the opportunity for the Gentiles to partake in the kingdom of heaven – Mt 22:2-10; “in their [the Jews’] offense is salvation to the nations, to provoke them to jealousy” – Rom 11:11
- “There is no activity or planning or knowledge in the grave”
– Ecc. 9:10,
“the dead know nothing” – Ecc. 9:5,
“in death there is no remembrance of You” – Psalm 6:5,
there is “silence” and “the dead do not praise the Lord”
– Psalm 115:17
- The wages of sin are death (not hell!) – Romans 6:23. The church fathers were very clear that the punishment for sin and unrepentance is eternal death – not eternal conscious torture! A soul cannot be tortured anymore once it has died – see e.g. www.godrules.net/articles/eternaldeath.htm.
- The heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 all died (Heb 11:13) and fought their lives to “obtain a better resurrection” (not a better afterlife! – Heb 11:35 – if they were already consciously dead in paradise with God, why would they need to be resurrected?)
These and many of the nagging questions in my head around death/hell/eternity started unravelling and falling into beautifully places, because God is love and His whole creation has been lovingly designed to glorify Him! Only a few ones escaping Satan’s reign in this age (2 Cor 4:4) and the majority burning forever in torment in hell is neither beautiful nor lovingly designed, and it’s not what God had in mind for humanity, ever. It only came in as a pressure tool when Christianity became state religion, giving the leaders more power to subordinate their subjects with threats of eternal punishment, also enabling them to extort money from believers in exchange for purported absolution (indulgences) or purported relief for relatives in purgatory.
It also removes the moral dilemma for Christians “what about all the good people who do lots of charitable work but aren’t Christians, why does God want them to burn in hell forever?!” – He does not. He will not. It is 100% clear from accurately translated scripture.
With the plethora of resources we have at our fingertips these days, it is time to go back to the pure and unadulterated Gospel and free ourselves from pagan influence. Indeed this is what I believe 2 Tim 2:15 asks of us. Anybody willing to go back to the original meaning and context of the words used in the Bible will be able to break free from a pagan-influenced view of God and the world, and things will finally start making beautiful sense.