Archive for May, 2011

Is Rob Bell right about Hell?

I have read the book, “Love Wins”, and found it quite a mess of conflicting views about what scripture says and doesn’t say. Bell is understandably rejecting the idea of unmitigated punishment for lost souls. Bell has apparently embraced Universalism as the answer to this problem and this is where he has erred. Jesus certainly did not say, “

    Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”

…unless it was true.

When I was very young, I was raised under preaching that talked about God’s wrath, eternal torment, forever free-falling in the Bottomless Pit (no indication that anyone will be thrown into this in scripture!), and being tortured by demons (no scriptural reference to that either!). I spent much of my childhood in abject fear of Judgment Day because the emphasis was on perfection…or else!

I believe that the traditional view of Hell as a place of unending torment is the root cause of Bell’s dismissal of such an end for a person who never hears the gospel. God is a fair, just, and blameless Sovereign. So, what is “just” about throwing Satan, the False Prophet, and all who did not obey the gospel into the same Lake of Fire? To eliminate them from the New Earth and New Heaven, where only righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1-5) with an emphasis on God saying “Behold I am making ALL things new.”.

It is absolutely incomprehensible that Satan and Joe Nobody, who never heard the gospel or rejected it because of a bad experience with a false professor of religion, should share the exact same punishment.

This is what causes many to stumble: the idea that God will torment Grandma forever, just like John Wayne Gacy, because she couldn’t wrap her head around a particular theology, even though she was a good neighbor and was a very moral person. Yes, she will be damned to eternal destruction

    because of her unbelief

, but I believe, in God’s fairness, she will suffer much, much less and for a shorter time than Mr. Gacy, or Hitler, for that matter. That’s my opinion, of course, but it’s based on the overall picture God paints us of Himself.

I reject the idea of eternal torment, not because it doesn’t suit me, but because the emphasis on punishment in the Bible is destruction, not never-ending pain and torture. This is the only reasonable interpretation of Jesus’ statement in Luke 12:48 and the emphasis of the “dead bodies” in Isaiah 66:24, which is what Jesus references when He speaks of “their worm” not dying and the fire not being quenched. Jesus states it plainly, when He says, “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 hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Can anyone argue that God does not know how to destroy both?

Part of the issue is the false notion, propagated by tie-ins to Socrates’ and Plato’s teaching of an eternal soul.

Scripture informs us that only “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” to (Romans 2:6-8). Some erroneously refer to Paul’s writing, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Paul is explicitly speaking to believers here. How can an unbeliever be able to lay hold of this declaration, “”O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

The emphasis is on eternal (no recourse) destruction, or punishment for unbelievers. The only thing Jesus says never dies is “their worm”, which simply emphasizes that there will be no halfway consumption or elimination. Eternal death, or the Second Death mean the same thing: absolute annihilation. When something dies, without any hope of resurrection, it ceases to be. I realize that some will say, “Then I don’t care if I go to Hell. I’ll just cease to exist.” While that may be true, there is not a word in scripture about how long it will take for the Lake of Fire to consume YOU! It may be a very, very long time, depending on your level of rejection and sin. Rejecting God’s free offer of forgiveness is not something God takes lightly. “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

It’s not a pretty picture for those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It will not be a place where you will be partying with all your friends (Matthew 13:49-50).

Notice, too, that only at the end of the age (not at the Rapture) will the evil ones be separated from the righteous. This conforms with the order of things in Jesus’ parables concerning the Last Day, when Christ appears and is seen by ALL (Read Matthew 13, again).

The Resurrection of the dead to eternal life in a perfect new world is the Great Hope of the Christian. Period!


The Sensuous Pulpit

How many recent fads can you think of that have passed through the churches, in general, over the past few decades? How about “Positive Thinking”, “so-called revivals of the circus variety (Brownsville, Lakewood), the Emergent church, the Purpose Driven drivel, and recently: “God’s Love is Unconditional” and “Christian Sex” seminars?

I apologize, but I couldn’t think of any appropriate pictures for this topic, other than sarcastic ones. And I don’t want to overdo that! I made the mistake of doing a Google Image search (thinking my filters were still intact) for “Christian sex”. There are lots of images, many of which I wish hadn’t popped up, but I should have expected a dart or two from Old Satan.

The “fad” that has aroused my indignation is this preoccupation in many churches these days with “Marital Workshops” that are almost always tied into “Sex Workshops” for Christians. I think the need for these things pretty much evidences the selfishness and carnality of the church, as a whole. Please note that I am not inclined to equate “church” with Christianity! The “church” I’m referring to is the highly secular and humanized version which is so predominant in America.

When Paul addresses sexual issues in the Bible, it is done, not with sensual embellishment, but with grace and enough clarity to state what needs to be addressed. For what reason? “…So that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)

When the gifts of the Spirit are listed in scripture, which one of these, pray tell, covers the gift of “sex expert”? One man, in particular, teaches men to purposely eat sweet foods (I guess it’s unimportant whether that is good for the man’s health) in order to make their sexual discharge taste good! This is something I would have expected in the old Penthouse Forum magazine; not in a “Christian” seminar or on a “Christian” web site. There was a time when oral sex was labeled Sodomy, but now it is both taught as acceptable and desirable. Can I absolutely say oral sex is sinful? Not specifically, but when these men (and women occasionally) preach or teach it as acceptable behavior they are doing precisely what Paul warns against doing (in principle) in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. In essence, these people may very well be harming people’s consciences by convincing them to do things they feel intrinsically are wrong! Scripture makes no bones about doing things we “think” are wrong: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

I personally believe that there are occasions when masturbation is an “escape”, but I am not convinced it is a rule that everyone should or could follow. If it is done to anyone’s detriment or deprives one’s mate as Paul warns against, then it is selfish and not self-preserving or right.

Yes, the Bible says “the marriage bed is undefiled”, but scripture also warns us against these “sensual” men who, “entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:18-19) and, while Paul applies this to unregenerate persons, it still hits the mark, because they prove “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (Ephesians 4:19)

You cannot tell me, honestly, that anal sex is anything but unnatural, filthy, unhealthy, harmful, and absolutely, from a moral standpoint, degrading. Can you? Dare you? And yet, we have “Christian” sex experts and marriage counselors going around telling couples to go home and engage in this, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone”! Ask any honest physician, especially one who has dealt with the ramifications of homosexual intercourse, and they will tell you that anal sex is ultimately very harmful to the body.

I am no “sex expert”, but I speak from the viewpoint of a person who was once a very lascivious and perverted person. I KNOW that engaging in these forms of experimental sex only leads to more depravity and a desire for more experimentation. How long would it be until one partner wants to “choke” the other in order to experience what some consider the ultimate orgasm? Would our sex experts say this is also okay as long as no one actually is “hurt” by it? It’s ridiculous! God saved me from this kind of stuff and now we have preachers leading their flocks down the path of sexual liberation, so-called. This is of the devil, folks!

What many seem to fail to see is that this is a rampant obsession in the churches today and people are considering it a liberating thing. It is evident that this is only taking hold because church going people are not reading their Bibles with a mind that seeks truth, if they truly read it at all. Many, I’m afraid, are reading with eyes and minds that cannot understand, because they are not Spirit led (1 Corinthians 2:14).

What Paul describes in Romans 1:24-25, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” is precisely what is happening to these people who think they are saved, but are not, or were and have sunk into slavery to the flesh. May God have mercy on those who have fallen from grace!

Again, I quote Paul, “I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (Romans 6:19) and “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

Please read Ephesians 5 in its entirety, with an open an honest heart. And consider how verse 1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” can be in any way compatible with this obsession of pleasing the fleshly desires with sex games, toys, and unnatural experimentation.

I welcome all comments in good taste, including those that disagree.