October 9, 2015
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
What one thing do most people, regardless of their religious beliefs, fear the most? Whether they believe in one God or many gods, whether devout in their faith or atheist, most humans have an innate fear of death, of dying. As a matter of fact, atheists often use this subject as a supporting argument in their debate against formal religions. They propose that one of the primary reasons society developed religion, over the centuries, was to help people deal with their fear of dying – to give an explanation they could hold onto that was comforting and ease their fears. The soothing teachings resulted in positive behaviors because it presented the after-life – whether called heaven, moksha, nirvana, or something else – as a reward for a life well-lived. The atheist logic is that, in addition to the comfort side, religion offers a negative consequences for bad behavior which is also called by many different names: hell, . According to atheist thought, this reward and punishment aspect of religion developed as a means to maintain control of the masses. But these same people wonder about death, if there’s anything beyond the grave or if this life is all we have. To add to the confusion are the variety of thoughts on the subjects of heaven and hell within the Christian community and, sometimes, even within a particular denomination. So what does the Bible say on these subjects? We have discussed, many times, how beautiful heaven is, how there will be no sorrow or sadness there, and how those who believe on Jesus will live with Him eternally, but what about those that choose to not follow Him? What happens to the wicked after death?
To answer this question, as usual, we need to use God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures. Numerous books are written on these topics; however, despite the best intentions of the authors, they usually carry a bias based on that author’s personal paradigms. To understand what happens after death, its first important to discuss just what death is. One of the most misunderstood parts of death rests on immortality versus mortality. For centuries, traditional Christian denominations have taught that humans are made of two entities: the body made of flesh and bones which dies and decays, and the immortal, surviving spirit or soul that is released at death to another dimension which, once again, varies according to the denominational teaching. But what does Scripture say? What actually took place at creation? Did God place this ethereal entity into the human body that He had formed? “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7 ASV). It says that man became a living soul, not that he was given one! When God, the Trinity, made man in their likeness and image (Genesis 1:26), something was required to give it life. Job restated this when he said, “The Spirit of God made me what I am, the breath of God Almighty gave me life!” (Job 33:4 MSG). Scientists have yet to make anything live if it comes from a non living substance; they cannot start the life process because they do not understand the what and why of life! In many things, they have determined the hows and whys, but regarding initiating life, that has not been discovered, and won’t be, either, since God is the only Giver of life. And nowhere in scriptures are we told of this separate soul floating away from the body at death. The idea of immortality a lie that has been perpetuated by the devil ever since he first tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:” (Genesis 3:4 KJV). If any part of us survives after death, then he was telling the truth, but we know that he is the king of liars. “Your father is the devil. You belong to him. You want to do what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He was always against the truth. There is no truth in him. He is like the lies he tells. Yes, the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies.” (John 8:44 ERV). Just as we speak “of souls on board” a plane or ship as the number of individuals, so throughout scripture, soul refers to the individual! Jesus even spoke of His soul, referring to His whole being: “…My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”" (Matthew 26:38 ESV). His heart, His soul, His whole being was so grieved that He anticipated that separation from the Father which He dreaded.
So if no part of us remains alive beyond death, if immortality is a lie, then what about hell? How are the wicked punished for their evil deeds, the greatest of which is rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior? We know that those who accept Jesus and walk with Him will have eternal life, but is the opposite true? Will the wicked will suffer eternal punishment? Most churches teach that hell is a place ‘down there’ where a fire is burning and will burn forever, but does the Bible teach this? We read of the results of sinful life in the story of the two wicked cities of Lot’s day: “Also remember the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other towns around them. In the same way they were full of sexual sin and people who desired sexual relations that God does not allow. They suffer the punishment of eternal fire, as an example for all to see.” (Jude 7 ISV). But are they still burning? No, they were destroyed by fire and brimstone. The Bible says in the last book of the Old Testament, “The Lord Almighty says, “The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them.” (Malachi 4:1 GNT). Other versions say that they will be ash underfoot. If there is nothing left, if they are ash underfoot, then they are utterly and completely destroyed as were Sodom and Gomorrah! I don’t have time or space to go into the word that is translated as ‘hell’ from the original languages, or share verses where these words are used. Sufficient to say, there are three words for which the translators gave the word hell, yet each one actually means “the grave”. Hell, that is eternal death, which is the opposite of eternal life, is an eternal consequence not eternal punishment. If it were to go on forever, it would be ‘eternal punishing’, an ongoing process. But, as in everything, the punishment must meet the crime, and a loving God would not punish someone eternally for sin done over a human life span of under 100 years or even, as in Methuselah’s case, 969 years. Yes, there will be a consuming fire for the wicked, and it will come after the judgment. But it will be the realization of eternal separation from the Almighty that will truly punish them. It will be the eternal consequences of their choice rather than an ongoing, everlasting punishment. One other verse says, “And do not fear those who kill the body [the first death] but cannot kill the soul [the second and permanent death - final and total separation from God]; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [the grave].” (Matthew 10:28 RSV).
Jesus chose to go to hell, that is the grave, for us, rather than to live in heaven without us. He allowed Himself to become a human, “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5) so that He could pay the price for our sin. “But we do see Jesus already given a crown of glory and honor. He was made lower than the angels for a little while. He suffered death. By the grace of God, he tasted death for everyone. That is why he was given his crown.” (Hebrews 2:9 NIRV). My <3 song today is based on the well-known verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV).
“For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whomsoever believth on Him
should not perish, should not perish,
but they shall have, they shall have
God could have chosen
to never love again,
fallen man could go his way
and die in his sin;
but God in His compassion said,
I’ll pay redemption’s price,
so He took on the form of man
and became the perfect sacrifice.
Riches couldn’t have paid the debt
that God could have sold,
all the walls of jasper,
all the streets of purest gold.
But He knew the price of one lost soul
was more than wealth could buy;
and if redemption were ever bought,
only love would satisfy.”
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 TLB). Have a blessed day!
ABOUT MY BOOKS:
My first two books, available in hard cover, paperback, or ebook formats, are the first two books in my group of four called “Journeys of Faith”. Take a look on my books page for “Through the Waters” and “Across the Wilderness”. Now that I’ve retired, I am hoping to get “Out of the Valley” to the publisher within the next month or 6 weeks.
Also, I will be publishing several ebooks, separate from the Journeys of Faith group, including a compilation of my daughter’s poems call “Heart of a Dove”, the name which she chose, and two other books related to the grieving process: 1) a personal tribute to my daughter called, “Only in My Dreams”, and 2) an overview of the various ways we grieve other losses in our lives, named “White Crosses Line the Highways of Our Lives”. As they are released through Kindle Direct Publishing, links will be placed on this website.
I am also launching a non-profit organization to try to reach the many in need around the world. Watch for more on JBWWO.org once it is launched; I will appreciate any donations, not just of money, but supplies and time, to help in this project!
Take time to search for somebody in need in your own community, as well. Donate time feeding the homeless. Find new, innovative ways to reach out in your community. Most of all, don’t forget the commission in James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Feel free to use the emails on this website to contact me regarding scheduling a book-signing and/or talk to a reading group, church group or just a gathering of friends. I am always open to new experiences and meeting new people.
<>< Jeanne F. Brooks ><>