Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just Asking Some Questions

If God's love is of the sort that everyone will eventually be rectified before God and established in right relationship to him, why were Adam, Eve and the serpent cursed in the first place?

What has been the purpose of generations of suffering and death, if in the end it has no real impact or purpose?

In the face of the reality of suffering, death and violence, what enables one to extrapolate to the surreality of an hereafter where everything is copacetic?

27 comments:

  1. Hello SLW

    First, you get the Martin Amis Award for using a word that I've never ever heard before. is the C in copacetic a hard "k", a soft "s" or a "ch"?

    Second, I hope you aren't actually expecting an answer from Mr Bell. That's so last century...

    Third, I have had a lightbulb moment. Lots of Rob Bell fans are saying that Martin Bashir was rough, rude and nasty to their designer-bespectacled friend. I kept looking at the interview, and couldn't see it. Then I noticed that even people who think that Bell's a sap were accusing Martin Bashir of being too hard on him. ("Why did he keep asking questions and insisting on an answer?") It came to me while washing up.

    You are all Americans. Mr Bashir comes from Britain. There's a reason why no one's invaded us for 1000 years, you know. Political journalists here are tough, full stop. Ironically, Martin Bashir was seen as a SOFT interviewer over here after the Diana interview, and even the Michael Jackson programme did not help his reputation, since in exposing him Bashir was shooting at an open goal.

    Most of the news journos on TV and radio model themselves on Jeremy Paxman and Andrew Marr. It is standard practice to ask the awkward questions, and keep on asking. If someone is a big media star, their massive egos do not buy them an easy ride AT ALL. Here's a compilation of his style with comment on asking and probing, called. The second film is a recent example of Paxman at work.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHsWPQP7qj8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGWcSkCu69c9uo

    Celebrities and stars should expect to be ferociosly grilled on a UK political show, or ridiculed and ribbed on a chatshow -- and they had better not moan about it, or they are forever marked as divas/luvvies/big heads!!

    Methinks that Mr Bashir's British journalism was too spicy for the delicate Yankee stomachs of the postmodern crowd.

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  2. Hey SLW,
    I can see no reason for anyone to come to the conclusion that all of us make heaven. I think God's word is very clear on the matter that sin seperates us from God and that the wages of sin is death. Jesus says that no man comes to the Father except by Himself. Clearly any person who does not acknowledge the Lord Jesus will not come to the Father! I think Jesus said this very clearly and meant it in a literal sense. Other scripture supports this as well. However, there are plenty of people out there who can't seem to understand this clear message. See the link to a fox news story below. Another minister who now believes there is no hell and that all people go to heaven. All that is required is for a person to have the faith to take God at His word. His word speaks very clearly on the matter in opinion.

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/24/whos-hell-michigan-pastors-book-sparks-debate-eternal-torment/

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  3. Hello SLW

    First, you get the Martin Amis Award for using a word that I've never ever heard before. is the C in copacetic a hard "k", a soft "s" or a "ch"?

    Second, I hope you aren't actually expecting an answer from Mr Bell. That's so last century...

    Third, I have had a lightbulb moment. Lots of Rob Bell fans are saying that Martin Bashir was rough, rude and nasty to their designer-bespectacled friend. I kept looking at the interview, and couldn't see it. Then I noticed that even people who think that Bell's a sap were accusing Martin Bashir of being too hard on him. ("Why did he keep asking questions and insisting on an answer?") It came to me while washing up.

    You are all Americans. Mr Bashir comes from Britain. There's a reason why no one's invaded us for 1000 years, you know. Political journalists here are tough, full stop. Ironically, Martin Bashir was seen as a SOFT interviewer over here after the Diana interview, and even the Michael Jackson programme did not help his reputation, since in exposing him Bashir was shooting at an open goal.

    from Anthea (part I)

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  4. From Anthea (part II)

    Most of the news journos on TV and radio model themselves on Jeremy Paxman and Andrew Marr. It is standard practice to ask the awkward questions, and keep on asking. If someone is a big media star, their massive egos do not buy them an easy ride AT ALL. Here's a compilation of his style with comment on asking and probing, called. The second film is a recent example of Paxman at work.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHsWPQP7qj8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGWcSkCu69c9uo

    Celebrities and stars should expect to be ferociosly grilled on a UK political show, or ridiculed and ribbed on a chatshow -- and they had better not moan about it, or they are forever marked as divas/luvvies/big heads!!

    Methinks that Mr Bashir's British journalism was too spicy for the delicate Yankee stomachs of the postmodern crowd.

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  5. Anthea,
    Thanks for the comment. It came through via e-mail, but for some reason not through Blogger. I broke it in two and re-posted it. Hope that is fine with you.

    Copacetic is American slang. You've never come upon it, because it actually is not a word--not yet anyhow. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets into the latest edition of some dictionary, however. Generally, it is used to reference a state of agreeableness.

    No, am not looking for any response from Rob Bell, but then I didn't direct the questions to him. He's got enough on his plate with a flood of that from all quarters right about now anyhow! He has stirred up a hornets nest, and the questions are directed, tongue in cheek, at the issues raised.

    As for Martin Bashir, very insightful observation Anthea, you may have something there. I don't like that kind of interview, but then I am American. Charlie Rose is about what I can stomach in an interviewer.

    As for Jeremy Paxman, he seems more of an entertainer than a newsman. Now I know where the inanity of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert come from. ;-)

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  6. Heanous,
    Positively, the argument for universalism would have to be made from silence. If such a thing were true, why would God even bother to tell us about it--there's nothing we need or could do about it. Negatively, there isn't silence on the subject. As you said, the gospel has spoken and it is clear on the matter!

    Belief in universalism requires a different gospel than what we have, and so inarguably is a false gospel.

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  7. SLW,
    I have to think too, what is the point of life then? What are we to gain from this existence if we all end up in heaven anyway? Would our works here be used to categorize our position in heaven? What happens to a person who has no good works? The thought of universalism brings up so many questions it boggles the mind. God is wise and He doesn't do things without a purpose. I can't see any real purpose behind creating a world and then cursing it which condemns mankind to live in sin all his years of life only to reward it with eternity in heaven. Our purpose on Earth then seems to have no point because life lived in any way gets the same reward. There has to be a point in this life and it is whether or not each person will choose to live life in the light of Jesus Christ. That kind of life has a purpose and is worthy of being rewarded.

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  8. Heanous,
    I hear you bro. Why wouldn't have God just gotten on with it. If universalism was true, life is senseless.

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  9. Hello SLW

    What a relief -- when I didn't see my comment last night,I thought that I might have offended you. I don't think our style of journalism is better than the US style, it's just very different. So Rob Bell wasn't ready for a grilling, and in cultural context Martin Bashir was not harsh.

    You asked: "What has been the purpose of generations of suffering and death, if in the end it has no real impact or purpose?"

    From what I understand (and that ain't much, 'cos his prose is opaque and pseudy),Rob Bell's view of the world is that we are meant to make earth better, in order to co operate with Jesus in reformation/bringing in the Kingdom. Of course that puts Jesus on the same level as us, and it makes a nonsense of the Cross. Jesus changed everything -- he doesn't need us in a human sense.

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  10. I believe we are here mainly to win souls for the Kingdom, praise and worship God, and fellowship with Him. His ways are not our ways and our ways are not His. Doesn't the Bible say we are to work out our salvation? And strive to reach the goal at the end of the race? We will receive crowns and treasures in heaven?

    You mean to tell me that you don't feel the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life? It should testify to the glory of God. Being in His presence is awesome, wonderful, amazing, full of love, joy, peace..not warm-fuzzies like some would call it..it something more than that. When you are in His presence all fear subsides, all the worries of this world don't seem to exist anymore. I, for one, look forward to being in His presence continuously!!!

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  11. Calliope,
    I'm not quite sure what your comment is addressing, so if I misconstrue it, let me know.

    The post and the comments so far are not suggesting that there isn't purpose to life such as you've sketched out in your first paragraph, the question is how could there be such purpose if universalism were true. The contention is that if universalism were true, there would be no point to life such as we find it.

    Your second paragraph seems to assume that either the post or the comment stream is suggesting we live in a bleak, existential nightmare without the presence of God. That is not what is being stated or suggested. Again, the issue that is being addressed is merely why is life what it is for humanity (disease, death, suffering, etc.) if in the end God saves everyone anyhow?

    These questions do not have coherent answers if one assumes universalism; whereas, they are straightforwardly answered by orthodox Christianity.

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  12. Hi SLW, I'll give a crack at these.

    "If God's love is of the sort that everyone will eventually be rectified before God and established in right relationship to him, why were Adam, Eve and the serpent cursed in the first place?"

    All of God's blessings are conditional, regardless if every free will agent will eventually be rectified before God or not. Nobody will ever stand rectified before God without genuinely trusting and obeying God.

    "What has been the purpose of generations of suffering and death, if in the end it has no real impact or purpose?"

    I don't get this question. This apparently looks like your suggesting that billions of people who died lost must suffer forever or there's no purpose for suffering and death. Anyway, God uses suffering trials to help agents grow more like God.

    "In the face of the reality of suffering, death and violence, what enables one to extrapolate to the surreality of an hereafter where everything is copacetic?"

    The word "surreality" makes this a loaded question.:) Hmm, don't you believe that your hereafter will be copacetic or do you have another view of your hereafter? Anyway, careful biblical study of (1) the conditions of judgment, (2) the purpose of divine judgment, (3) figurative speech, (4) symbolism, (5) the repentance of Nebuchadnezzar, (6) the proclamation of the Gospel to spirits in prison, (7) Christ reconciling everything in heaven and earth, (8) kings of the earth in heaven after dying in the Battle of Armageddon, (9) God's love, and (10) other things not on the top of my mind this moment lead me to believe that God will literally never give up on anybody.

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  13. JG,
    Glad you stopped by. I was hoping someone who believes as you do would respond.

    Nobody will ever stand rectified before God without genuinely trusting and obeying God.

    We agree on that point, most definitely! But why posit a flame induced changed of heart for some, when the Bible explicitly says their worms die not, and the smoke of their flame goes up for ever (Mark 9:48)? Or that they 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)? At least you recognize the inviability of sin before God as expressed by the curse.

    I don't get this question. This apparently looks like your suggesting that billions of people who died lost must suffer forever or there's no purpose for suffering and death.

    From your answer to the first question, I can see where you might find the second confusing. If your approach had been that God's compassion would get the best of him someday, and he would by fiat empty hell then the question would be more pointed. Instead, you seem to be positing that hell is God's ultimate waterboarding chamber, meant to induce repentance at some time in the future.

    The word "surreality" makes this a loaded question.:)

    Guilty as charged! ;-)

    As to your points: 1-4 are not specific enough to respond to, do you have a blog where they are dealt with more fully?
    (5) Nebuchadnezzar was alive in the flesh for the whole process, not burning in hell;
    (6) 1 Peter 3:18ff is very shaky ground to argue from at all, but it is eisegesis to say what was proclaimed was the Gospel, at least in any salvivic way, especially since they were still in prison at the time of Peter's writing;
    (7) Given the sequence of events in Revelation 20:14-21:2, I would say that the eternal Lake of Fire represents the extent of God's reconciliation to the faithless (i.e. unbelievers in the Lake is a state he is not at odds with);
    (8) Not the same kings.
    My view of the hereafter is that everything will be in line with God (righteous). The faithful will willingly walk in harmony with God and experience his fellowship and blessing; the unfaithful are put in a place where they can't so much as think one thought in opposition to God. The effect, God's peace.

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  14. SLW, Thanks for chatting with me.

    We agree on that point, most definitely! But why posit a flame induced changed of heart for some, when the Bible explicitly says their worms die not, and the smoke of their flame goes up for ever (Mark 9:48)? Or that they 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)? At least you recognize the inviability of sin before God as expressed by the curse.

    The fires of Gehenna was a widely used metaphor during the time of the apostolic church. The Talmud says that the School of Shammai refers to people getting reformed through twelve months in the fires of Gehenna. John the Baptist proclaimed that some people will get cut at the root and thrown into the fire, which is imagery of annihilation. He also said that others would get their chaff burned in the fire. The worms in Mark's imagery of Gehenna referred to the legend of the never ending generation of maggots in the corpse not yet burned in Gehenna. Also, as discussed with you on Paul's former blog, 2 Thess 1:9 could easily translate to "eternal destruction caused by the presence of the Lord," which is imagery of annihilation instead of never ending torment. Given careful study to these verses and others, I see no reason for a literal interpretation of these verses while God never gives up on anybody.

    From your answer to the first question, I can see where you might find the second confusing. If your approach had been that God's compassion would get the best of him someday, and he would by fiat empty hell then the question would be more pointed. Instead, you seem to be positing that hell is God's ultimate waterboarding chamber, meant to induce repentance at some time in the future.

    Various teaching by Jesus and the rest of the Bible imply just divine punishments with different amounts of punishment in proportion for the amount of sin. The punishments include a goal of correction while the punishments in themselves don't cleanse the heart to make anybody righteous before God. I don't understand all of the details while I see God never giving up on anybody.

    As to your points: 1-4 are not specific enough to respond to, do you have a blog where they are dealt with more fully?

    Thank you for asking. I deal with points 1 and 2 on my blog. And I'll be dealing with points 1-4 in my up and coming book with Wipf and Stock with the working title Conditional Futurism: New Perspective of End-Time Prophecy. In fact, my book will deal with all of my points.:)

    Here are some blog posts related to points 1 and 2:

    http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2010/07/conditional-futurism-new.html.

    http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2010/07/conditional-futurism-new.html.

    http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2010/07/conditional-futurism-new.html.

    http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2010/07/conditional-futurism-new.html.

    Hmm, do you suppose that hell is God's ultimate waterboarding chamber that makes the damned pass out so they can no longer think.:)

    SLW, my lunch break is almost over and I want to get this posted as incomplete as it is. I also need to get my book completed before I go point for point on this, which I hope to do in the future.:)

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  15. JG,
    You make a better case for annihilation than you do for universal salvation. ;-)

    As far as the metaphorical uses of Gehenna, you are not suggesting that Jesus was a disciple of Shammai, or that he felt beholden to rabbinical views of spiritual issues are you? Jesus was known to take the rabbinical suppositions and imagery of his day and turn them on their head. The question is not how rabbis were using the image, but how Jesus was. He seemed to quite clearly be able communicate to the concept of eternality of life (which I doubt you would take exception to), did he lose that ability when speaking of the eternality of fire?

    As for giving up on people, what does King Saul's life say to such a conception? Or Judas for that matter?

    The punishments include a goal of correction while the punishments in themselves don't cleanse the heart to make anybody righteous before God. I don't understand all of the details while I see God never giving up on anybody.

    What do the prophetic announcements (eg. from Jeremiah) of inescapable wrath following unheeded punishments say to such a concept?

    do you suppose that hell is God's ultimate waterboarding chamber that makes the damned pass out so they can no longer think

    Though the comment was tongue and cheek, actually I do believe something along the line. The omniscient God would have no rest from the rebellious thoughts of the damned, if there was not something that kept them from being able to form such. Hence, eternal fire (but conscious rather than unconscious).

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  16. SLW,

    I'm not suggesting that Jesus followed Shammai. But I'm pointing out that many Jews in the days of Jesus didn't expect that everybody who died and went to hell would consciously suffer forever with no chance of liberation, which was also a widespread view in the early church. By the way, Shammai taught that people in the middle of being wholly righteous and wholly evil would after the resurrection go to hell for 12 months and then go to paradise. He also taught that the wholly evil would go to hell forever. Additionally, some other Rabbis taught various classes of sinners would go to hell for 12 months and then annihilate. I'm unsure which view if any had a majority consensus, but the audience of Jesus knew all of these possibilities.

    The question is not how rabbis were using the image, but how Jesus was. He seemed to quite clearly be able communicate to the concept of eternality of life (which I doubt you would take exception to), did he lose that ability when speaking of the eternality of fire?

    No. Anyway, here's summary of the Gospels on judgment:

    Luke describes judgment as annihilating fire, purging fire, destruction, banishment to the Abyss, proportional to how one judges, proportional to the amount of disobedience, falling from heaven, accumulative judgment, thrown into hell, disowned by God, cut to pieces, paying the last penny of debt, perishing, banishment, weeping, gnashing of teeth, surprising twists, military attacks, and desolation. The imagery looks diverse and fearful.

    The imagery of judgment in Mark includes destruction, shame, torture, unforgiveness, a person thrown into the sea with a large stone tied to his neck, a person thrown into fire that never quenches and eaten by worms that never die, killing murderers, the most severe punishment, the greatest distress in history, and a person better off if never born.

    Matthew includes most of the imagery of judgment found in Luke and Mark: annihilating fire, purging fire, destruction, proportional to how one judges, proportional to the amount of disobedience, accumulation of judgment, thrown into hell, disowned by God, cut to pieces, paying the last penny of debt, perishing, banishment, weeping, gnashing of teeth, surprising twists, military attacks, and desolation. Matthew also adds the imagery of punishment in darkness.

    John 3:16 portrays all humans as destined to perish while belief in the Son of God (Jesus) would lead instead to eternal life. John 5:28–29 teaches about conditions for the end-time resurrection: those who did good will rise to life while those who did bad will rise to condemnation.

    As for giving up on people, what does King Saul's life say to such a conception? Or Judas for that matter?

    They didn't repent and faced their judgment.

    What do the prophetic announcements (eg. from Jeremiah) of inescapable wrath following unheeded punishments say to such a concept?

    When Jeremiah first pronounced judgment against Jerusalem, repentance could've kept Jerusalem as a sovereign state and averted destruction from Babylon. After a certain timetable, repentance would've included surrender to Babylon, which would've averted the worst destruction from Babylon. The worst-case scenario occurred with Jerusalem facing terrible destruction followed by restoration.

    Hmm, thoughtless consciousness?

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  17. JG,
    ...the audience of Jesus knew all of these possibilities.

    Again, and I don't think this can be overstressed, Jesus wasn't beholden to their notions of a thing, he came to give his notion. I think he was rather clear about eternity.

    King Saul was clearly "given up" on by God, as were the unrepentant Jews of Jeremiah's day. Positing that some amount of time in fire is God's next play in the saga of his love reconciling them is wishful thinking. Is God mutable? Does he not know his own mind and that of those he rejects? The choice people have is life or death and there is a "day" in which it must be made. Once the ship has sailed, there is no way to maintain the illusion of an opportunity to board. If one has the faith to walk on water and catch that ship, he would have been on board in the first place.

    What appears to me is that universalism is an illusion that rationalizes away all the dire warnings of eternal judgment. Honestly, what is the point if in the end one gets eternity anyway? So one spends a bit of time in the charcoal pit, what is that compared to forever? No worries! What's a million or even a billion years in light of eternity? Why all the hulabaloo when all things are made right in the end?

    Hmm, thoughtless consciousness?
    No, the thought will be "Aaaaagghhhhh!" rather than "it's my life you rotten so-and-so!"

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  18. SLW,

    I don't see Jesus clearly teaching about everlasting punishment with no chance of liberation, and I don't see you accurately challenging my view. I also want to make sure that I clearly understand how you synthesize all the teachings of Jesus about judgment, which could help me to see if your biblical interpretation is better then mine. I wonder how you handle Jesus teaching about justice and different levels of reward for both good and evil:

    1. According to your interpretation, do all who die lost suffer an equally tormenting everlasting "Aaaaagghhhhh!" or are there different levels of everlasting torment in proportion to the amount of disobedience?

    2. Also, do all who go to heaven enjoy an equally blissful everlasting life or are there different levels of reward in heaven?

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  19. JG & SLW,
    I am curious as to how each of you would respond to this following passage.

    Rev. 21:5-8

    John is transcribing the direct words of Him who sits on the throne. In speaking on the finality of all things the proclomation goes out that "It is done". Not "I'm still working on it" or "gimme a few more years". The proclomation that is made is one of total finality. This is it and this is how it's going to be. Then there are two groups of people clearly identified. One group of people is victorious and the other cowardly. The cowardly group of people is consigned to the lake of fire (clearly identified as eternal Rev. 20:10.) and it is referred to as the second death. Mirriam Webster defines the word "consigned" as "To commit especially to a final destination or fate".

    To me this speaks fairly straight forward on the matter. God (not John or a rabbi or any other teaching)is pronouncing an end to one group of people (the cowardly people) and He is pronouncing a new beginning to those victorious whose names were found in the Lambs book of life.

    How would each of you respond to that passage?

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  20. JG,

    Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:41, are Hebrews 6:2 are sufficient to prove the case scripturally; to wit, that punishment is for eternity and will be spent in flames. Since Jesus embraced the scripture in place at the time of his sojourn with us and spoke that which Matthew recorded, I think your proposition (i.e. that Jesus didn't teach this) goes down in flames. As for my accuracy in challenging your views, I'm not sure what your views are with accuracy. It suffices for me to know that you do not believe in the eternality of judgment, which I see as a direct contradiction of the Word.

    To your questions:
    1) I do believe that there is variation in the severity of the "Aaaaagghhh." I would suppose that it will be commensurate with the degree of rebellion to God, but that is a bit speculative on my part (Luke 12:47);

    2) There is differences in rewards in heaven. It would be speculative for me to suggest the basis on which they will be distributed (e.g. 1 Corinth 3:8ff) .

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  21. Heanous,
    I agree with your assessment. There is a clear finality to that passage. The temporary holding place for souls until final disposition (judgment) was chucked into the ever burning Lake, why would that be so if God intended more probation?

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  22. SLW,

    First of all, compared to last year, I've a clearer understanding of your interpretation of the afterlife, but now to the heart of the matter.

    You cite three verses (Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:41, are Hebrews 6:2) that by themselves might or might not teach everlasting punishment in flames with no chance of liberation. I'm going to break thins down into two parts. First, are afterlife punishments definitely literal flames? Second, do the lost have no chance of liberation from punishments in the afterlife?

    1: Flames?
    I suppose Isaiah has the earliest biblical references to afterlife punishments in flames. For example, Isaiah 66:24 (NIV), "And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." As many of us know, this imagery refers to the city of Gehenna where various Judahite kings sacrificed and burned some of their children to the false god Molech, and later the place of those sacrifices was turned into a garbage dump that according to legend burned with a perpetual fire fueled by a continuous supply of new garbage while maggots also perpetually generated in dumped corpses before the fire consumed them. Also, during the second temple period, the apocryphal writers of the apocalyptic 1 Enoch described a class of fallen angels who are temporarily bound in darkness until judgment day when they'll be cast into the everlasting fire referred to in Isaiah but without mention of worms, while the everlasting fire would be the destiny of all the wicked humans and angels. Additionally, the fires in Matthew 25:41 refers to this description from 1 Enoch.

    However, Matthew 22:13 and 25:30 refers to the wicked being cast into darkness. Also, 2 Peter 2:17 pronounces the destiny of false teacher by saying "Blackest darkness is reserved for them." (NIV) Additionally, Jude 13 does the when saying, "whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever." (NIV) Likewise, the Bible describes competing imagery of eternal punishment. Firelight dispels darkness, so the coexistence of literal eternal fire and literal eternal darkness cannot be literally true, at least in the same place. Therefore, I conclude that you've not provided scriptures that clearly teach about postmortem punishments in literal flames.

    Another thought to ponder when considering the literalness of this competing biblical imagery is how a resurrected damned body could suffer from flames while not being completely incinerated.

    2. No chance of liberation?
    I've no doubt about a terrible fate for the unrepentant wicked. Also, biblical imagery of judgment sometimes includes finality. However,
    1. A primary theme in the Bible is divine punishment with a goal of restoration, for example, Jeremiah's prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem.
    2. End-time prophecy such as the destruction of the Antichrist is conditional.
    3. Psalm 103:9 (NIV), "He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever."
    4. You imply that a possible billion years in hell and forfeiture of everlasting rewards in heaven is nothing.
    5. Your rejection of 1 Peter teaching about the gospel proclamation to the wicked dead needs too look at the entire context of 1 Peter.
    6. John the Revelator taught about postmortem conversions, The Kings of the Earth in Heaven.
    7. I wonder how saints who lost unsaved loved ones would get over the unconditional everlasting torment of their loved ones and billions of others.

    To be continued on next post because "Must be at most 4,096 characters."

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  23. Continued

    I suppose that only thing that I haven't addressed is 1 Peter. I'll start with 4:6 (NIV), "For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit." The primary two interpretations of this in the early church was a proclamation to (1) all of the dead or (2) only Old Testament righteous. However, "imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah" were clearly not the Old Testament righteous. Also, "judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit" agrees with the idea of being judged after dying. This looks like a different dispensation of the gospel, not that I'm a traditional dispensationalist. (I'll cover these verses more completely in the near future.)

    You criticize, "but it is eisegesis to say what was proclaimed was the Gospel, at least in any salvivic way, especially since they were still in prison at the time of Peter's writing." But I don't see you looking at the context of 4:6.

    The primary purpose of God's judgment is love and restoration while everybody must genuinely repent. The verses you cite aren't enough to address the biblical issues that I outlined.

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  24. JG,
    You don't think a phrase such as "everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2) sufficiently describes God's attitude toward those under judgment after the resurrection? Especially since it is contrasted with everlasting life in the same verse! Where is the room in such a description and such a distinction to posit that God retains some hopeful longing for those put to torment? No, I say the passage is clear and unmistakable and incongruent with universalism. Judgment is eternal (Hebrews 6:2)

    As for the figurative quality of darkness and flame in regard to judgment, there you do have some room. I think it is possible to see these descriptions more figuratively than literally, to a point. Regardless, the sense of anguish conveyed would lead one to the conclusion that judgment is a condition of utter misery and pain whether it is actually made up of fire and darkness or not. The terms, however, are not competing as you suggest, but speak to differing aspects of the same overall experience. One can have a bonfire in the day or night, and if perception of the light of the world is impeded (see Rev 22:5), the condition is one of utter darkness regardless.

    I believe I have read the Petrine passages in context. 4:6 is a recognition that we still die in these bodies (judgment against our flesh), even if we have heard the gospel and have begun to live by Spirit (ceased from sin). That properly reaches back to 3:18 not 19-20. The point of 19-20 is clarified in 21 where salvation is connected to baptism, hence it was Noah (who is dead by the by) is the model for the saved not the spirits in prison. To make this passage do service to second chance universalism is to tatter its context.

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  25. Hi SLW,

    First paragraph:
    The Daniel 12:2 phrase "everlasting contempt" is a great apocalyptic description of God's attitude toward the unrepentant. But the verse needs to consider Psalm 103:9 saying that God will not always accuse and harbor his anger forever. It also needs to consider the prominent biblical theme of restoration after unheeded judgment. Additionally, many in the ancient church including Greek speakers disagreed with your interpretation of eternal judgment in Hebrews 6:2 and elsewhere. Your interpretation was unnecessary for understanding "the judgment of the living and the dead" in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene-Constantinople Creed.

    Second paragraph:
    "One can have a bonfire in the day or night, and if perception of the light of the world is impeded (see Rev 22:5), the condition is one of utter darkness regardless." I agree that this is a possible figurative interpretation.

    Third paragraph:
    I agree this passage focuses on baptism, but this doesn't refute that 1 Peter 3:18-22 and 4:6 talks about the worst of the wicked dead hearing the gospel. Also, how is your view consistent with Acts 17:30 (NIV), "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." Paul told the crowd that God overlooked past Athenian idolatry. Does this mean that past Athenian idolaters suffer a terrible everlasting torment with no chance of liberation, but their terrible everlasting torment is not nearly as bad as the terrible everlasting punishment for those Athenians who heard the gospel but rejected the Lord? Is that how you interpret Acts 17:30?

    I appreciate that you're bringing up these points, and I also mentioned many other valid points that you're not addressing.

    I'll also add that many people rejected the gospel numerous times in this life before accepting the gospel, yet if they died before accepting the gospel, they would've died lost. Those are people who rejected the gospel but accepted it after more time.

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  26. JG,
    We cannot justifiably use Psalm 103 to blunt the force of Daniel 12:2 because the two are dealing with different issues. Psalm 103 is concerned with this life, Daniel 12 with the post-resurrection. The focus of the Psalm is the benefits the faithful receive from a faithful God, with his faithfulness illustrated as orders of magnitude above the faithfulness of man. His anger not enduring forever has to do with the time frame of this life, while we are dust, aging, diseased, failing and mortal, and desperately in need of the mercy of God. Our lives pass too quickly for incessant anger to provide any hope to us. Verse 9 tells us that is not the case with God's anger.

    In fact, that quality is lost on your viewpoint and the Psalm loses all practical import. If God's anger can stretch into the millions of years (while we burn in an inferno waiting for the fear of the Lord to set in), what message of hope of healing, forgiving, rescue, or blessings for our children could we possibly receive from the Psalm? The purpose of the Psalm is to encourage frail believers to fear God who will forgive and bless them in life, and who will even bless their children after they are gone. There is nothing here that remotely offers hope to those already dead at odds with God, especially with the view that it might take eons for them to begin to fear the Lord.

    As for the Creeds, they're of limited value and not any real authority with me--I'm still A/G. The Bible is my all-sufficient rule for faith and conduct.

    As to the overlooking of the Greeks idolatry: this is referencing that God had not intervened before with world ending judgment against such abomination. The command to repent is an announcement that such patience is coming to an end. This fits well with the rest of the NT, particularly 2 Peter 3:9.

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Any comment in ill taste or not germane to the post may be deleted without warning. I am under no obligation to give anyone an opportunity to call me names or impugn my motives or integrity. If you can't play nice, go somewhere else and play.