Hell
Theology

Where the hell has Hell gone?

 

In a world of broken promises, imperfection and fallenness, there is an understandable human yearning that all may eventually be saved. It is compassionate, loving and enlightened to believe so. With the limitations of human understanding, and sensitivity to the vast complexities of human experience, social pressures beyond our control, an increasing awareness of genetic predisposition to certain characteristics, and deep inner struggles which are an everyday part of our fallen humanity, there is a powerful and persuasive case to be made for the non-existence of Hell. After all, what kind of God pre-ordains eternal punishment for temporal sin?

The moral disproportion between the finite nature of particular sins and the permanent, conscious, everlasting punishment in Hell is a genuine theological dilemma. There are scriptures which offer a hope: as death is said to have come to all men by Adam, so salvation came to all men through Jesus (Rom 5:18). Indeed, the word ‘all’ is used often when speaking of mankind for whom salvation has come (1Cor 15:51, Eph 1:10, 1Tim 2:4, 4:10), or the notion of reconciling ‘the world’ (2Cor 5:19). God’s mercy and love are vastly beyond our comprehension, and will flow like rivers even on the Day of Judgment. Indeed, the New Testament asserts that God is ‘all in all’ (1Cor 15:28), and it is understandably hard to reconcile a phrase like this with the existence of Hell.

There is a hope in ‘Universalism’, which massively transcends the narrow missiological approach of many Christians, especially in relation to those who are reconciled to God though they have never heard the gospel. Their redemption is still on the basis of Christ’s work, which is in no way diminished, but there is an acknowledgement that Christ’s work reached deeper and broader than any evangelical four-line prayer of salvation.

‘Universalism’ is a sincere attempt to reconcile God’s love and mercy with His justice and holiness, but it fails to take account of the scriptural realities: that one solitary sin is sufficient to drive us from God’s presence; that God’s authority can extend even to Hell (indeed, there is no scriptural warrant that Satan rules there); and that Jesus Himself taught an eternal punishment (Mt 25:31ff; Mk 3:29). The fact that the Son of God – God’s love incarnate – says more about Hell than any other individual in the Bible is certainly worthy of reflection. The notion that everyone ultimately makes it to Heaven is difficult to substantiate from Scripture. In addition, the Bible teaches that punishment will be by degrees (Lk 12:48), and St Paul’s reasoning in Romans 2 is a clear indication that punishment exists and will be meted out appropriately.

The moral arguments for the existence of Hell are powerful. It is reasoned that there has to be an afterlife so that earthly injustices may be compensated and accounts reckoned. In Hell, the necessary punishment for sin is meted out. Since few are punished for their evil and wrong-doing in this life, there is something in the human psyche that cries out for vengeance beyond the grave. Thus a belief in Hell becomes a necessity, but this moral requirement is not ‘proof’. Indeed, the dharmic belief in reincarnation addresses this precise rectifying need. There is also something rather more ‘humane’ in the soteriological theory of punishment consisting of living your next life as a dog or a beetle, rather than spending eternity in a place of indescribable anguish and torment, as Hell is popularly conceived.

The general Old Testament approach to death was that it simply marked the end of life, with both the righteous and the wicked destined for Sheol – the realm of the dead. The belief developed over centuries and millennia, but neither the concepts of bodily resurrection nor the existence of Sheol find much support in the canon of the Hebrew Bible. Sheol was variously referred to as ‘grave’ (Job 17:13), ‘death’ (Isa 28:15), or a place for the dead (Job 26:5f, Isa 14:9f). But it is to be noted that both the righteous and the unrighteous went there (Gen 37:35; Num 16:30ff). The fact that the Authorised Version translates ‘Sheol’ as ‘Hell’ is therefore misleading, for Sheol was a recognisably ‘neutral’ space for departed souls; not a place of anguish and torment.

It becomes easy to see how the neutrality of Sheol morphed into the Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell. Since Sheol abruptly ended man’s fellowship with God (Ps 6:5, 30:9, 115:17), it became ‘necessary’ to discover a more positive hope for the righteous, and a just form of punishment for the wicked. Justice, after all, still cries out. Psalm 73 (and Ecclesiastes 4:1ff, 7:15) ponders the effective injustice of a neutral Sheol for all eternity: regardless of one’s actions in this life, everyone ended up in the same gloom. The wicked prospered, the righteous suffered, and nothing of this injustice seemed to be righted in Sheol. Why try to be good when good and bad alike just end up in the same cavern?

Since death is the great equaliser, the concept of Sheol (Gr. ‘Hades’) had to develop into a temporary state, following which would be a resurrection and division into Heaven or Hell. Resurrection is a belief rooted in the character of God. The clear implications of Jesus’ teaching (Mk 12:24ff) is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living, and that there is life after death. But it must be noted that Scripture indicates that there will also be a resurrection of unbelievers (Dan 12:2; Mt 25:31-46; Acts 24:15; Rev 20:12, 15). Clearly, the righteous and the unrighteous are to be judged. This is clearly not an intermediate state of disembodied spirits, but a clear indication of bodily resurrection.

The notion of an eternal soul quite obviously leads to the existence of an eternal home, be it Heaven or Hell, yet the belief in immortality owes more to Hellenistic influences than to scriptural proof. It is in Plato’s theory of ideas that the physical body is a hindrance and the soul is immortal. The Hellenistic background of Western civilisation syncretised with the Jewish apocalyptic background of Jesus, certainly influencing the writings of St Paul and his approach to Gnosticism, and so now Christians tend to believe the soul to be immortal simply because it is a soul: it will survive death because it is incapable of dying.

Such a hypothesis is simply non-existent in Jewish belief, yet this Greek concept has infiltrated Christian tradition, and the immortality of the soul demands that an eternal ecstasy in Heaven be counterbalanced by punishment without consumption or destruction. Scriptures are adduced to support this view (eg Mt 10:28; Jn 2:19; Acts 7:95; 1Pt 3:19), yet examination of these establishes that none of them does anything more than support existence beyond death. And they certainly do not disprove the concept of ‘soul-death’. There are clear references in Scripture to God being eternal, but there are no comparable statements suggesting that man or the soul of man is intrinsically immortal. Indeed, the references to a ‘tree of life’ (Gen 2:9; 3:22) rather suggest that man was not created with immortality.

There are some who posit the notion of a ‘second chance’ after death; that is to say our destiny is not irrevocably fixed at the point of earthly departure. We then arrive at the doctrine of Purgatory and associated with prayers for the dead (Maccabees 12:39-45), which demands a further period of soul purgation before admission to Heaven. The concept has captivated literary minds over the ages simply because it is somewhat ‘fairer’ than an eternity in Hell. Hamlet’s father was:

Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin’d to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes, done in my days of nature,
Are burnt and purg’d away.

Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 3:15 are sometimes cited to support the doctrine, though this reference is more likely to be the judgment of a believer’s works. Purgatory is more of an anteroom to Heaven rather than a denial of Hell: it entertains and sustains the hope of entry to Heaven of many who, from an earthly perspective, we may think merit exclusion if not eternal damnation. Nero? Mao Zedong? Gengis Khan? Pol Pot? Adolf Hitler? Josef Mengele? Osama bin Laden? Kim Il Sung? Are they really being purged and prepared for eternal salvation?

The ‘second chance’ theory is more readily supported by 1 Peter 3:18f and 4:6. While there are disputes of interpretation these are clearly spirits in prison to whom Jesus preaches or proclaims salvation. The context would support the view that these spirits are those of people who died before the flood, but scholars now tend toward the majority view that they are fallen angels (Gen 6:1-4, Jude 6, 2Pt 2:4). Whoever they are, it is eisegetical to adduce that these spirits were offered salvation in some ‘second chance’ saloon. It must be more theologically coherent to cling to the plain meaning of Hebrews 9:27 than to extract the possibility of another chance of salvation after death from scant verses of Scripture which are less than transparent in meaning. We are, after all, talking about eternal salvation. The Bible consistently treats death as the ultimate crisis, the crisis at which for all time, no, for all eternity, our destiny is fixed.

So, if ‘Universalism’ has no scriptural warrant, and there is no ‘second chance’ of salvation after death; and if righteous souls are divided from the unrighteous ones on the Day of Judgment, then logic demands the belief in a ‘hell’ of some description. Precisely what form Hell takes ranges from eternal fire and brimstone to soul annihilation, for the latter is indeed a kind of hell (being the antithesis of eternal life in the presence of perfect love).

Jesus added to the Sheol/Hades concept the word ‘Gehenna’, a term which represented the Valley of Ben Hinom. It was a notorious place of appalling depravity: child sacrifice (2Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31, 32:34f); terror and fire (Isa 31:9); perpetual decay (Isa 66:24; Jer 7:30ff). Inter-testamental literature suggests that Gehenna was a place of ‘terrible, raging, undying fire’, for all whose ‘heart was evil’, with ‘gnashing teeth’, and people yearning for death as a release (Sybilline Oracles I, 100-103). It is easy to see how such imagery came to represent the popular literary representation of Hell, exemplified by Christopher Marlow in Dr Faustus:

…let thine eye with horror stare
Into that vast perpetual torture-house.
There are the furies tossing damned souls
On burning forks; there bodies boil in lead;
There are live quarters broiling on the coals
That ne’er can die.

It becomes difficult to divorce the fiction and fantasy from the spiritual reality; almost impossible to separate the literal references to Gehenna from the symbolic. But it is clear that it came to represent the future judgment of God. Fire is a common Old Testament symbol of judgment, and it pervades the New Testament picture of Gehenna (Mt 25:41; Rev 20:10,15), along with the wrath of God (Rom 2:5; Rev 6:16, 14:10f). Some scholars adhere to the absolute letter of words like ‘unquenchable’ or ‘worm does not die’ to assert that inner anguish and outer suffering (symbolised by fire) will never end. For biblical literalists, if the figures used in this passage do not mean unending suffering, they mean nothing at all. Yet this is to ignore or misunderstand the meaning and purpose of the apocalyptic – it is a precise function of the language to evoke a sense and feeling of horror, for being cast into eternal blackness, oblivion, lost, eternal death, will indeed be a terrifying punishment.

The fact that Jesus employs apocalyptic language does not in any way negate the reality of the experience He is talking about. Metaphors, after all, can have teeth, and the complex metaphors available to first-century Jews had particularly sharp ones. Jesus evokes feelings of pain, regret, shame and frustration (Mt 8:12, 13:42), all of which constitute part of a permanent impossibility of access to God.

But there is one plausible possibility which answers ‘fairer’ the moral outrage of eternal suffering as the price for ephemeral sin, and that is the notion of conditional immortality. Accepting that the innate immortality of the soul is a purely Hellenistic view, ‘annihilationism’ proposes that ultimately unbelievers simply cease to exist; that immortality is conditional, and therefore a gift from God. Scripture affirms that God gives ‘life’ to whom he pleases (Dan 12:2; Mt 10:28; Jn 5:21); it is part of the gift of salvation (2Tim 1:9), which God therefore withholds to the non-believer, resulting in eternal death. Further, Jesus told us to ‘fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell(Mt 10:28), thereby adding credence to the idea of the death of the soul. The belief that punishment may be regarded as destruction is linked to the imagery of the second death (Rev 2:11, 19:20, 20:6-14, 21:8). This ‘second death’ is distinct from physical death: it apparently comprises a final state of eternal separation from the presence of God which will not be experienced by non-believers (Rev 20:8).

But ‘Annihilationism’ is sometimes criticised for not being a punishment; the presumption being that punishment must involve suffering and pain. We may smack a child for being naughty, but often the withholding of reward can be far more effective. The ultimate punishment of serious crime in some countries is death, and this annihilation is often viewed as a more severe punishment than a mundane and meaningless existence of life imprisonment. The truth is that the unsaved may experience their punishment in their realisation of what they have lost: the sight of some going to the eternal presence and companionship of God may well induce ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. And just as the first death may involve pain and fear, there is no indication that the second death will be in the slightest bit enjoyable. In this instance, the concept of ‘eternal’ punishment (Isa 66:24; Mk 9:42-48; Rev 20:10) ceases to be time-bound. It is seen more as an act of judgment whose results are irreversible. Although the imagery used of Hell sometimes gives the impression of a place, this is less dominant than the idea of a state of condemnation. ‘Annihilationism’, as a state, does not denigrate eternal justice or mitigate the wrath of God because the second death is everlasting (2Thess 1:9).

Ultimately, of course, the existence (or not) of Hell is a matter of faith. There is no proof of its existence, but nor is there proof to the contrary. The foundations ultimately have to rest on a belief in God and His revelation of Himself and His purposes. Judgment is divine and inevitable (Mt 18:23ff, 25:31ff), and everybody will be brought to account (Heb 9:27, 1Pt 4:5). Through this judgment, God will punish what is evil and reward what is good. If God did not hold us responsible for our words, actions, attitudes and decisions, it would mean that ultimately nothing we say, do, think or believe is significant. The outcome of judgment has to be separation: the sheep follow Christ to the kingdom He has prepared for them, and the goats who have rebelled against Christ and will go to Hell.

It may no longer be possible to believe in Dante’s inferno, or the literal approach to the eternal ‘gnashing teeth’ Hell of Gehenna. But God’s final judgment demands an option for those who have chosen a permanent non-relationship with him, and if Hell may be defined as such – as either a place or a state – then belief in it is both theologically unavoidable and a scriptural necessity.

  • Retired Paul

    We may no longer believe in red-skinned, horned devils with pitchforks driving the unrepentant sinners into the eternal fire. But that does not mean that there is no hell.

    There are many more ways to punish people than physical pain. For example, knowing that ‘this is as good as it is going to get’ for eternity, while also knowing there is something better that is now unobtainable, would be a very appropriate outcome for someone who used every and any possible way to rise to the top of the tree.

    I am sure that other contributors would be able to think of suitable punishments, not involving ‘the fires of hell’, for various classes of sinners that exist in the world today!

  • The Explorer

    My understanding is that Hell and the Lake of Fire are not the same thing. Hell, like Paradise, is the temporary condition prior to the Last Judgement.

    • …. and then what?

      God’s Justice demands that there should be an eternal Hell and an eternal Heaven. Our souls are immortal and will be reunited with our resurrected bodies. We have been created to spend eternity with God – and all given free will to reject Him.

      What a chilling thought that the ‘church of nice’ wants to avoid in its progressive feminisation. Hell causes fear – and so it should. The fear of Hell serves to keep a man on the straight and narrow road.

      • The Explorer

        I wasn’t denying Heaven and Hell, or the great separation. I’m simply trying to make sense of ‘Revelation’: “death and Hell were flung into the Lake of Fire” (20:14) and “A new Heaven and a new Earth” (21:1). That suggests the current Heaven and Hell are provisional and will be replaced by eternal versions.

        It depends on whether judgement occurs immediately after death, or only at the Last Judgment: as maintained by those who believe in soul sleep. (I’m not one of them.)

  • sarky

    Hell is a medieval control mechanism for keeping the masses in line.

    • The Explorer

      Why medieval? Isn’t it earlier than that?

      • sarky

        Thats when playing on the fear of hell and all its demons, was made a fine art.

        • saintmark

          Literally!

    • Busy Mum

      In which case our all-powerful government is just the 21st century hell.

      • sarky

        Not really, cant remember them threatening eternal torment or tortureby demons.

        • Busy Mum

          The similarity is keeping the masses in line…..

    • Anton

      Prove it.

    • The Explorer

      Hobbes thought Hell was a terrible idea for letting the masses get out of line. If the masses feared Hell more than they feared earthly punishment then they would follow their consciences rather than the king’s laws.

      So make earthly punishment so hellish the masses would fear it even more than they feared the hereafter.

      And abolish the idea of Hell in order to keep the masses in line.

  • Hell can be thought of as profound loneliness – for all eternity ever striving and forever barred from anything other than the unfulfilled desires that us into the abyss. Forever crammed, confined, cabined within the prison house of its own thoughts.

    “This loss of God is the essence of hell. This is damnation—”the second death,” in the words of Holy Scripture. For though the lost also rise on the Last Day and their bodies also are immortal, their lot is best described as a living death, for henceforth they can no longer take any part in the sweet activities that make life worthwhile. And their loss is a conscious loss. True, the damned cannot adequately gauge the enormity of their loss, for they never had experimental knowledge of what God is in Himself and what He might have been to them; nevertheless, they are keenly aware that He is the Supreme Good of all rational beings, and that they have lost Him through their own folly and wickedness.

    It is important, in view of modern sentimentality, ever to bear in mind this aspect of hell. God does not cast anyone into it; man goes thither of his own free will. By mortal sin which is, by definition, a free, deliberate act, man cuts himself adrift from the moorings that unite him to God. He plucks out, so to speak, the eyes with which he might have looked into the face of his Creator; he renders himself utterly unfit ever to enter into the world of God. The sinner would not feel at ease in this divine sphere; he would be too painfully aware of being out of place. The reprobate are like lamps whose light has gone out.”

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9379

    • Uncle Brian

      Jack, separation from God is indeed stressed as “the chief punishment of hell” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But the five-paragraph section (Nos. 1033-37, link below) entitled “Hell” also includes these two Gospel references to the fires of Hell:

      Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather … all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire” (Matt 13.41-42) and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!” (Matt 25.41).

      http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2O.HTM?

      • However we look at it, or grasp an understanding of Hell, it is a place to be feared. Jack remembers the vision at Fatima, revealed to children:

        “She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned].

        The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me).

        The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their
        terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black
        and transparent like burning coals.”

        • Powerdaddy

          “My child, they converse of the secret that I gave at Fatima. It is a simple explanation. It could not be fully revealed because of the drastic nature of My message. How I warned and warned that satan would enter into the highest realms of the hierarchy in Rome. The Third Secret, My child, is that satan would enter into My Son’s Church.” – Our Lady of the Roses, May 13, 1978

          She got one thing right at least.

          And now refer to your response to the Saunders/ Pell story.

          Saunders should resign and keep quiet you said.

          Seems the Devil has made easy work of you as well as your church.

    • not a machine

      somewhat late (after posting my own) but I think this sort of area , for now is what I believe, but a very difficult subject as the conceptions filter through our sinful aspect.

  • len

    Not quite sure if this is the same as the’ Hell’ most people assume but it certainly would be’ Hell’ on Earth if it occurs; the’ fallen angels’ were held in’ bonds of darkness’ ” And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but
    abandoned their proper dwelling–these he has kept in darkness, bound
    with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”(Jude 1:6)

    A matter causing concern for some is the re awakening of the’ Large Hadron Collider’ which will possibly open other dimensions and release whatever has been held there?

    • Orwell Ian

      There are currently only 6 proton bunches, each containing around 100 billion protons moving at the speed of light. This rate will be progressively increased to 2808 bunches per beam, allowing the LHC to produce up to 1 billion collisions per second melting matter into its primordial constituents at a temperature more than 100,000 times hotter than the center of our sun. What could possibly go wrong?

      • Uncle Brian

        That would be the Large Hadron Collider located in the bowels of the earth beneath, I think, Geneva and Lausanne, in Switzerland. But there’s also a newer one somewhere in California, isn’t there? Conveniently close to the San Andreas fault.

        • Orwell Ian

          Probably and if that wasn’t worrying enough there is, apparently, a dastardly Russian plot to open the gates of hell by nuking Yellowstone to release all that pressurised magma that’s just iching to burst forth from the caldera. Without the conspiracy theory comics to keep us informed where would we be.

          • Anton

            It’s not obvious to me that even a nuke has the energy needed to open the gates of Yellowstone. In any case the result would take down Russia as well as America.

          • Orwell Ian

            Quite. That’s why most of this kind of stuff one finds on the the internet is only good for a chuckle.

        • Anton

          Nothing there remotely matching the LHC. The USA dropped the Superconducting SuperCollider plan 20 years ago and that was to have been in Texas.

          • Uncle Brian

            OK, Anton, thanks for the correction. Does that mean, then, that there are no CERN-type toruses (tori?) anywhere outside Switzerland?

          • Anton

            There are, but CERN’s new one is by far the most powerful in the world. There was also a linear particle accelerator designed for elementary particle research in Stanford, California. A linear accelerator suffers from the disadvantage that it cannot use the same piece of kit to kick the same particle more than once (whereas circular accelerators can do this with each circuit that the particle makes), but it has the advantage that the particle does not shed energy due to the continual sideways force that must be exerted on it to keep it moving in a circular path.

      • len

        I expect we will find out fairly soon.

    • Anton

      A similar discussion took place in the 1930s about whether human attempts to start nuclear fission reactions would lead to the universe, or at least the world, spontaneously blowing up. It didn’t happen, and the new theories that predict possible danger at very high energies now involve a mix of general relativity and quantum theory. But nobody understands how to reconcile the two – one significant on the very largest scales, one on the smallest – and these theories are so deeply speculative that I often call them science fiction to other physicists.

  • Anton

    Suppose there is a place which is eternal and in which it is painful to be. Suppose some humans are in it. Which would they opt for if they were told that they could either remain there forever or cease to exist? It is not obvious to me that the answer is annihilation. Hence eternal pain might actually be more compassionate than annihilation, Your Grace.

    Would Your Grace say a little more about “those who are reconciled to God though they have never heard the gospel”? I am not setting a trap and I know what you mean but I’d welcome a little more clarification.

    As to whether apocalyptic language is or is not meant to be taken literally/materially, might it simply be the way in which the language of 2000 years ago would be used to describe events inconceivable at that time, such as nuclear warfare? (You could not do any better than “blood, fire and pillars of smoke” as in Joel 2:30.) Even if such language is meant to be understood impressionistically rather than materially, how can annihilation be reconciled with the impression conveyed by the phrase eis tous aionas ton aionon (TRANS AND VERSE****)? Or “where their worm [that eats them] dies not and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48)? If eternal torment is indeed the case, how could it possibly be conveyed any more clearly? In Matthew 25:46 Jesus states that “these shall go away into aionion punishment: but the righteous into life aionion”; so whatever duration the forgiven experience, so do the unforgiven.

    Over my years as a Christian I have come to realise that my own problems with the doctrine of eternal torment were due to my inadequate grasp of the depth of my own sinful nature. Only when you know, really know, that you really deserve hell can you be properly grateful to God/Christ for rescuing you from it. Hellfire sermons don’t help to convict you but I suggest that the church should be pointing to the Law of Moses more as a straight edge against which people can compare themselves. My problems with hell have not wholly left my mind but I now know their origin and can say “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

  • The Explorer

    ‘Luke’ 12:47 says the punishment for a servant who ignored his Master’s wishes will not be the same as for the servant who did not know about them. Whether it’s fair to punish a servant at all who never got the message in the first place is another question, but it does suggest that there are different levels of punishment in Hell, just as there are different levels of reward in Heaven.

    With annihilationism the different levels are not possible. Extinction is a great equaliser.

    • IanCad

      “With annihilationism the different levels are not possible.”

      Have to disagree with that Explorer. Degrees of punishment will eventually end with death.

      • The Explorer

        Fair enough. There’s a lot else we do agree about. And annihilationism has a great deal more to commend it than Universalism.

        • IanCad

          I must make clear that I absolutely agree that Universalism has no merit.

          • The Explorer

            We did. I think the thread was about Purgatory.

  • The Explorer

    I’ve read that Universalism is a perverse form of Calvinism.

    God wishes everyone to be saved.
    God’s wishes cannot be thwarted.
    Therefore, everyone will be saved, however long it takes in the hereafter, until Hell is emptied. Even the Devil would be saved in the end. (Although subscribers to this outlook don’t generally believe in the Devil.)

    My problem is with statement two. I believe that God’s wishes can be successfully thwarted. The damned are successful rebels.

    • It’s all to do with reconciling God’s Sovereignty with man’s free will. God is Love; God is Justice. He is perfect. He loves us all – yet God damns those who reject Him. Yet, He creates us knowing the outcome of our response to Him. Yet, it is Him who calls us and causes us to respond to Him.

      How many of us will these words of Jesus apply to: “It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

      • not a machine

        yes very tidy , any thoughts on collateral damage ?

    • I believe Origen subscribed to some version of statements 1 and 3, which would predate Calvin by at least a millenium 🙂

      • The Explorer

        Very possibly. Origen certainly speculated as to whether or not the Devil might be saved. And Calvin took his ideas on election/predestination from Augustine.

  • Anton

    English Bibles are uniquely bad in routinely translating both hades and gehenna in the New Testament Greek as the same word, hell, although they are not the same thing. Certainly the Vulgate used different Latin words.

  • scottspeig

    Did not the Jews have “Abraham’s bosom” for the righteous? Which indicates at least one Jewish sect separating the damned & righteous?

    Also, consider that the Pharisees did believe in angels & a ressurection but the Sadduccees did not (Nor believed in angels) – So while I am only a layman, I would have thought that there was a concept of heaven & hell in Jewish custom.

    • The Explorer

      Also the last verse of ‘Isaiah’. And the resurrection of the dead in ‘Daniel’.

  • carl jacobs

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

    The hope of the atheist is to die unnoticed. He imagines that the earth will cover him up and seal him far away beyond the reach of justice. He lives in the conviction that things unseen will remain unseen. The crimes of the dead die with them, or so it is said. Death becomes his safety line in life. “My life is my own. I am free, for there is no one to hold me to account.” This is the faith he proclaims, and the assurance in which he hopes. This is the foundation of his proclaimed moral freedom, and his moral freedom is his most prized possession. He guards it with jealous abandon.

    But he pays a terrible price. His transient freedom must be purchased at the cost of moral significance. For if the crimes of the man die with the man, then the guilt of the man dies unpunished. The criminal goes to the grave laughing at his accuser, and content dies that the evil deeds of his hands were well rewarded. “Rage at me, for I had good things in my life. And there is no memory of me where I am going.” If a man lives and dies and is then no more, then his life is reduced to a disconnected meaningless sequence of events in which he struggles to make a more pleasant place for himself for the few moments of his existence, His own happiness is the only true measure of his action.

    It is Hell that stands as testimony against this vision. We know that men are morally significant because we know the men will be held to account. We know the extent of man’s moral significance because we know the severity of the punishment. And we comprehend the greatness of our salvation because we understand that severity. The truth of “God shows His love for us in that while were yet sinners, Christ died for us” is predicated upon the severity of the punishment of Hell. It is the full measure of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice that He endured such punishment for the sake of men. Of this Jesus said “Let this cup pass from me.” But it could not be so. Our value in the eyes of God is established precisely by the torment from which we were redeemed.

    Men massively underestimate their guilt. They measure themselves by their own standards, and not by the divine standard of perfection. We have no trouble calling down the (metaphorical) fires of hell on those criminals who offend us. But we do not see that guilt in ourselves before God. Once we comprehend the true moral distance between God and man, we will have no trouble proclaiming the justice of God’s punishment. We will see Him and say with Job “Behold, I abhor myself.” But we don’t see that guilt with our eyes yet. And so we say “Is there really justice in eternal punishment?” Oh, yes there is.

    On the Last Day, men will say “Mountain, fall on me! Earth, cover me up!” They will say it in hopelessness as the realize their hope has failed them. They will say it in terror as they see Holiness face to face. Their guilt will be made manifest, and they will confess it at the last. The moral significance of their lives will be established, and they will curse God for all eternity because of it.

    • sarky

      Or we will just die and become wormfood.

      • The Explorer

        Not if you’re cremated.

      • carl jacobs

        sarky

        Well, you remember that if one of your kids should go out one day and just never come back. You remind yourself that whatever he suffered or is suffering is not relevant because, after all, he is just wormfood. It won’t help. But it will be something.

        The blind follow the blind and both fall in the ditch.

        • sarky

          Suffering whilst alive is relevant. But when your dead your dead.

          • magnolia

            Please edit. There is a difference between you’re and your. You’re is you are with an ‘ for the ‘a’. To some it is painful to see this.

            I rejoice that you are wrong. Hence the accounts of those who have died and encountered ongoing awareness, even looking down on their own dead body, and able to tell people things that happened in the room where they died,after they died and after they came back to life.

          • sarky

            Always thought it was funny that the majority of these accounts come from non christians. They seem to have experiences of heaven that shouldn’t happen if hell is real.
            P.s I think your wrong about my Spelling 🙂

          • DanJ0

            Your apostrophe sins will never be forgiven here.

          • carl jacobs

            You set the rules, sarky. If you are nothing but worm food after you are dead, then you were never anything but worm food to begin with.

            Twenty years ago this month, a woman by the name of Jodi Huisentrudt was abducted from a parking lot at 6:00 in the morning. She hasn’t been seen since. She was 27 at the time. The last evidence of her life was the contents of her purse scattered about the parking lot. She has been missing for 20 years. She was declared legally dead in 2001. Is she dead? Realistically, the answer is beyond doubt, but in fact no one knows for sure. The body was never found.

            What did she suffer before she died? No one knows, but the imagination cannot be constrained. What of the criminal? Will he ever be caught? The answer after 20 years is certainly ‘No.’ What of justice? It will never be served. The man who killed her derived such benefit and pleasure as he desired from her death, and then disappeared into the shadows. He might not even be alive anymore. And this is where the story will end. Her family lives with the constant presence of uncertainty and imagined suffering – constantly asking questions that will never be answered. Eventually, the memory of her will pass from the Earth and it will be as if she never existed, let alone suffered.

            Tell me. What is the moral significance in all this?

          • sarky

            But you are driven by the very human feelings of justice and revenge. If you believe in heaven, then the parents pain and suffering will be gone when they die. Any justice given out in hell will be unknown and irrelevant.
            Justice is for the living not the dead.

          • carl jacobs

            Yes, sarky. I can find meaning. My point is that you can’t. You said that suffering for the living was relevant. What is the relevance of the suffering of Jodi Huisentrudt? What is the relevance of the suffering of her family who must live with questions that will never be answered?

            Be consistent, sarky. If you claim that we are nothing but worm food after we die, then live like it.

          • sarky

            Just because I believe there is no life after death it doesn’t mean I don’t have compression for the living.

          • carl jacobs

            Compassion does not establish meaning. And it really doesn’t matter how you respond to their suffering. The subject is how they respond to their suffering. You can create distance despite empathizing. They can’t.

          • Linus

            We do live like worm food. From the noblest hero to the basest coward, we all die, and we all become food for worms (unless we’re cremated of course, but then we’re burnt worm food).

            What does worm food act like? Look at humans and you’ll find out.

            There is as much meaning in this as there is in any belief in a god or other deity. Worm food is born, it lives, it dies and then it is eaten. The fact that one day we’ll be a worm’s breakfast does not alter either the quality or the quantity of the life that we live. It just means that once that life is over, some other being gets a free meal.

            You can’t find the meaning of a life in what happens to the body that was alive once it is dead. The meaning of the life is to be found within that life. Some of that meaning may extend beyond the individual’s life because of the effect he has on other lives: but only insofar as they continue to live. Once the last person who remembers you dies, your life ceases to have any kind of distinct and separate meaning. Your individual identity merges into that of our common human ancestry.

            Memory is what gives our lives lasting meaning. People like Charlemagne and Jeanne d’Arc and Napoléon I will “live forever” because the memory of them lives on in our common consciousness. Anonymous peasants are forgotten after a couple of generations.

            Of course the lives of the anonymous peasants had meaning while they lived them, and while those with whom they interacted remembered them. But now they’re dead and not a trace of them is left, they’re truly gone forever.

            The same is surely true for most of those who post on this blog. Some of our remarks may be read by others and affect them in some lasting way, so if any one of us were to fall under a bus tomorrow, our memory would live on until the person who remembered us keeled over in his turn. If our remarks remained accessible to future generations and somebody read them and was affected by them, our memory would continue to live on. But if this blog ends up like so many Christian blogs: abandoned and archived and forgotten within a couple of years, then our memory dies with the last person who remembers it. And then we’re gone. Forever.

            God is just an attempt to take the sting out of dying and being forgotten. It’s a panicked human reaction to the cold hard finality of death. We like life, so we want more of it, so when we run into the brick wall of death, we try to soften the blow by imagining that we’ll continue on in some kind of afterlife. But there’s no proof of this. It’s just wishful thinking.

            That’s basically what God is: the human race in utter denial over the prospect of the all-consuming grave. Add in an overweening male ego and you get rants of the sort posted by the American contingent here. Not only must they continue to live after they’re dead, they must also describe the terrible vengeance their ego-projection of a god will wreak on everyone who won’t bend the knee to them in this life. They want more life, but they also want more power, and condemning their fellow man to eternal damnation is the only way these impotent and irrelevant beta male drones can dream that real power belongs to them.

          • Powerdaddy

            And what is the relevance of the suffering of Jodi Huisentrudt and her family if they aren’t Christians? Their suffering in Hell will be far worse.

            And what she was murdered in the most foul means but the perpetrator repents and died a good Christian?

            What is the relevance of the suffering of Jodi Huisentrudt and her family now?

            I’d rather become nothing but worm food than the above be true.

          • dannybhoy

            “But when your dead your dead. ”
            Is your hope.
            Cling to it if you wish.

      • William Lewis

        Surely your best bet is to become a fossil. I suggest a request to be buried in the Thames estuary and hope that the sediments are kind. Perhaps in a million years time your descendants will be digging you up and marvelling at your foresight.

        • sarky

          Cool. I could be put in a museum as the finest specimen of my time.

      • dannybhoy

        You illustrate Carl’s point beautifully!
        Thank you.

    • Powerdaddy

      You forget to mention in the set up you believe (God/Jesus/ heaven/ Devil. ….etc blah blah. …..) it is possible Hitler ,in his last minutes, sincerely reverted back to his childhood Catholicism, repented for all his soul is worth and is now looking down at you. While a Buddhist who wouldn’t hurt a fly (literally) goes straight to hell.

      You probably know this but I shall type it anyhow. The crimes and deeds of man during his lifetime have no bearing on wether he goes up or down when he dies according to your beliefs. This is the flip side of your rant.

      • carl jacobs

        it is possible Hitler ,in his last minutes, sincerely reverted back to his childhood Catholicism, repented for all his soul is worth and is now looking down at you. While a Buddhist who wouldn’t hurt a fly (literally) goes straight to hell.

        Did I not say it? I told you what you would say and here you have said it.

        Men massively underestimate their guilt. They measure themselves by their own standards, and not by the divine standard of perfection. We have no trouble calling down the (metaphorical) fires of hell on those criminals who offend us. But we do not see that guilt in ourselves before God.

        The sins of the redeemed were not overlooked. They were punished on the Cross. That was the point. The punishment of Hell was inflicted on Christ because He could withstand it. The difference is therefore not found in the relative goodness or badness of men. It is found in the identity of who carries the weight of punishment. That may offend you, but that is the Gospel. “Christ died for sinners.” It means men have no standing to boast about themselves. At all. About anything.

        Congratulate yourself that you are better than the man next to you. It won’t matter because you are still condemned and rightly so. The moral distance between your harmless Buddhist and Hitler is not measurable compared to the moral distance between that harmless Buddhist and God. You judge by the wrong standard. Your view of “harmless” and “good” have no standing in God’s hall of judgment.

        • Powerdaddy

          If you can’t see the difference in the life of the harmless Buddhist and Hitler then you need your standards re-calibrated.

          If you can spot the difference in the two examples are you judging by the wrong standards too?

          Holding certain arbitrary thought processess at death is worth more morally than a peaceful life lived.
          That is “God’s hall of judgment” in a nutshell.
          And you decry the lack of justice in the atheists world view?

          • carl jacobs

            I can see the difference between Hitler and your harmless Buddhist. I can also see the difference between your harmless Buddhist and a Holy Righteous God. You think your standard of righteousness is somehow impressive. It isn’t. And it won’t be the standard by which you are judged. God doesn’t care spit what you think of yourself – no matter how much you think He should.

          • Powerdaddy

            In this scenario, who would you choose if God Himself let you decide?

          • carl jacobs

            To what choice are you referring? It makes a big difference.

          • Powerdaddy

            Repentant Hitler and harmless Buddhist salvation scenario……

          • carl jacobs

            This is a long answer, but your question is not simple.

            You are talking about God’s choice in election. I would decline to make any answer at all. It is not for me to presume on such matters. I could not make the choice because I would not know how. God chose us in Christ before He laid the foundations of the world. He chose us in order to display the glory of His name. That does NOT mean He chose those who were “better” than others. God’s choice in election is not a reward for virtue. The basis of His choice is not revealed, and in fact God specifically refuses to answer that very question (Confer with Romans 9 if you wish to substantiate.)

            There is a parable in the Bible called the Parable of the Wedding Feast. The parable tells of a king who prepares a great feast for his son’s wedding. He invites all the best people as one would expect. And one by one they reject the king’s invitation. One is too busy. Another has a prior commitment. A third despises the king’s messenger and kills him. So the king in his fury sends out his servants to bring in anyone they can find to fill up his banquet hall. “Bring in the blind and the halt and the lame. Bring in the cripple and the poor and the beggar.” The banquet hall was filled with those who would shame the rich and the wise. That is my personal illustration of election. Do you know who Christians are? We are the blind and the lame and the crippled. The choice is not made in the way you think it is made.

            When you talk about “repentant Hitler” I don’t think you really comprehend what you are saying. Repentance is not just a matter of saying “I’m sorry.” It is an acknowledgment that God’s judgment is true and correct. It implies a recognition of man’s helpless slavery to sin and consequent need for a savior. It is a volitional act of man that is dependent upon a prior work of God in the penitent’s life. You are making a significant eternal statement when you say “repentant Hitler.” You are saying that God has given Him spiritual life, and granted him both the ability to repent and to exercise faith. To say “repentant Hitler” is to say “Hitler was dead, but now his is alive.”

            In this world, Hitler would have to answer for his crimes whether he repented or not. Temporal justice must still be satisfied, and that means he burns. But the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to pay the eternal price for the crimes of any man. There is no bill of indictment that He cannot discharge. There is no man so guilty that he cannot be saved. That is a lie of the devil and a notoriously common lie it is. “I am too guilty. God would never accept me.” That is a lie. There is no stain He cannot erase; no sin so great that it cannot be covered by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice.

            What people struggle with is this concept. “You are more guilty before God than Hitler was guilty before men.” That is the singular truth that causes men to gnash their teeth. When God looks at man, he sees a criminal more guilty – more covered in blood and death and destruction – then any Nazi in Germany. And that is true of all of us. That is the problem of man. Certainly it is true of me. We are all guilty and we can’t do anything about it. We are naked, powerless, helpless, doomed to destruction. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. That is the whole of the Gospel, and it is upon that simple assertion that I stand.

      • carl jacobs

        And that wasn’t a rant. If you want to see me rant, get me started on the Vietnam War.

      • The Explorer

        That Hitler repented is possible. But not all Christians would accept that the Buddhist is necessarily destined for Hell. I wouldn’t, for one. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” What you are describing is Exclusivism: held certainly by some (who would consign me as well to Hell as a false Christian for questioning it) but not by all.

        We don’t actually know the fate of the unevangelised, or how God will deal with them.

        • Powerdaddy

          I thought having faith in Jesus Christ was the very cornerstone of Christianity and salvation. Never had I thought this was optional.
          There’s hope for us all then?

          • The Explorer

            “We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” C S Lewis.
            What about those born before Christ? What about those whose only encounter with Christianity has been some wacky version of the Church of England, and who have rejected it as the only decent thing to do?

          • Powerdaddy

            You’re asking the wrong guy.
            The more questions I ask the less sense it all makes

          • carl jacobs

            I thought having faith in Jesus Christ was the very cornerstone of Christianity and salvation.

            It is. What Explorer just said is catastrophically wrong.

            Never had I thought this was optional.

            It isn’t optional.

            There’s hope for us all then?

            There is no hope for any man outside of faith in Christ, and there is not such thing as faith unawares. It’s black letter law.

          • Powerdaddy

            That’s the way I read it too.
            Depends who which Christian you talk to, I suppose?
            For me this just adds to the nonsense of Christianity/ religions.

          • carl jacobs

            No one ever said it wasn’t foolishness to those who are perishing. But the point is this. You measure Christianity by what the Word says and not by what people would prefer it to say.

          • Powerdaddy

            I find it complete jibberish ( Christianty ). No disrespect meant, I’m just being honest.
            Maybe im just too far from the Lord or however the appropriate saying goes?
            More fool me, eh?

          • carl jacobs

            I find it complete jibberish ( Christianty ). No disrespect meant, I’m just being honest.

            None taken. I have no trouble with honest rejection. I would much rather deal with someone who says “You are an idiot!” than those who say “You have your truth and I have mine.”

  • Anton

    Your Grace,

    The verb for “destroy” in Matt 10:28, “fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”, is defined in Strong’s Concordance as follows:


    3639 ólethros (from ollymi/”destroy”) – properly, ruination with its full, destructive results (LS). 3639 /ólethros (“ruination”) however does not imply “extinction” (annihilation). Rather it emphasizes the consequent loss that goes with the complete “undoing.”

    So this verse does not count as an argument for annihilation rather than eternal suffering.

    • Pubcrawler

      The same verb is used at John 3.16, where it could be interpreted so.

  • The Explorer

    “It may be no longer possible to believe in Dante’s Inferno”.
    The details of the Inferno derive far more from the Koran and ‘The Aeneid’ than they do from the Bible (which is very sparing in its detail).

  • IanCad

    So good to see the dreadful, unbiblical doctrine of an everlasting Hell getting a good airing.

  • The Explorer

    The abolition of Hell has probably been given an impetus by equality and human rights. And by the education system: nobody fails.

    • David

      Only too true. Hell is just not PC is it !

  • The Explorer

    I’d say HG’s third paragraph is a description of Inclusivism rather than Universalism. Some may be reconciled to God although they have never heard the Gospel, but that does not mean everybody is. And some who HAVE heard the Gospel have rejected it.

  • DanJ0

    Article: “In a world of broken promises, imperfection and fallenness, there is an understandable human yearning that all may eventually be saved.”

    Some people may yearn for that but, really, there’s a time to live and a time to die. Though, I suppose, most people would yearn that people spend their afterlife in heaven rather than hell if those are the only two alternatives.

    • The Explorer

      There are unbelievers (ostensibly) and some from other faiths whom I would hope to see in Heaven. But I can’t apply that wish to everybody. I can think of people who would simply turn Heaven into Hell. They’ve done it on Earth, for those who have to exist in their company.

  • Uncle Brian

    The fact that the Authorised Version translates ‘Sheol’ as
    ‘Hell’ is therefore misleading, for Sheol was a recognisably ‘neutral’ space
    for departed souls; not a place of anguish and torment.

    It becomes easy to see how the neutrality of Sheol morphed into the
    Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell.

    In the sense of the abode of the souls of the departed, the name Gehenna appears only in the NT, not the OT, where (in the form Gei-Hinnom) it is used only as the name of the valley outside Jerusalem where the Canaanites who lived there before the Israelite conquest had an altar used for child sacrifices.

    On the other hand, the name Sheol occurs only in the OT, never in the NT. This clearly points, as Cranmer says, to a move away from the idea of a single gloomy abode where the souls of all the departed were gathered, good and wicked alike, replacing it with the novel idea of a segregated afterlife in which the good were rewarded and the evil punished.

    My question is this: Was Jesus the first to proclaim the new doctrine of a segregated Heaven and Hell, or had the idea already appeared in Judaism at an earlier date?

    Sheol:
    http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7585.htm

    Hinnom:
    http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2011.htm

    • The Explorer

      Very interesting question. In Greek myth, for instance, all go to Hades, but Hades has its heavenly section, Elysium, and its hellish section, Tartarus: where the bad boys like Sisyphus are.

      Daniel 12 is significant: those who sleep in the dust of the earth will wake: some to eternal life and some to eternal shame. So the idea of separation after judgement was certainly around before Christ. But that rather suggests soul sleep before judgement; if not simply body sleep. So it doesn’t really tackle your question.

      Are people judged when they die, or only at the Last Judgment? What’s your view?

    • My question is this: Was Jesus the first to proclaim the new doctrine of a segregated Heaven and Hell, or had the idea already appeared in Judaism at an earlier date?

      Daniel 12:3. ‘And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.’

      • Uncle Brian

        Thank you, Martin. I have the page in Daniel open in front of me as I write, and I see that this verse is part of Daniel’s prophecy of the end times: “At that time the great prince (or archangel) Michael, who guards your people, will appear …” So please allow me to ask you a follow-up question. Pending the awaited appearance of the archangel Michael, where are all those souls now – those who will eventually
        awake to everlasting life and those who will eventually awake to shame and everlasting contempt? Are we to understand that it was Daniel’s belief that, for the time being, those souls are all together in Sheol, the righteous and the wicked alike?

        Thanks
        Brian

        • The souls of the righteous are with God, variously described as Paradise (Luke 23:43), Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22) and ‘under the altar’ (Rev. 6:9) pending their resurrection at the Last Day.
          The souls of the wicked and unrepentant are kept in ‘chains of darkness’ ( 2 Peter 2:4), in torment (Luke 16:23), pending their final judgement at the resurrection.
          I hope that helps.

          • Uncle Brian

            Thanks again, Martin. Just one further point, if I may. The phrase in the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into Hell,” must surely refer to Hell in the Sheol sense, not the Gehenna sense, right?

          • The Apostles’ Creed, august document though it is, is not Scripture and therefore I follow it only as far as it follows Scripture.
            Having said that, I’m sure that it simply refers to our Lord as having died. Christ’s body went to the grave; He Himself was in Paradise (Luke 23:43).

          • Uncle Brian

            Martin, who, then, were the “spirits in prison” in 1 Peter 3.19?

            Also this:
            Acts 2.24: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death,* because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

            *of Hades, in some manuscripts.

          • Uncle Brian,
            We’re not playing Twenty Questions. I have no problems or difficulty answering your question on 1 Peter. Indeed, you can find the answer in any good Reformed commentary. But before I reply, I’d like to ask you a question: if you believe that our Lord preached to thee people of Noah’s day after His death on the cross, why only to them? Why not to the sinners who died in Sodom and Gomorrah? Why not to the sinners of every age? As soon as I get your reply, I will give you mine.
            .
            With regard to Acts 2:24, what exactly is your problem? It seems straightforward to me.

          • Uncle Brian

            Martin, I’m sorry I failed to make my meaning clear. I’m asking these questions in a spirit of inquiry. I’m not trying to nitpick with you. There is an apparent contradiction, as far as I can see, between the phrase in the Creed, “He descended in to Hell,” and Luke 23.43. I don’t have the answer to the question, but it looks to me as though those verses in 1 Peter and Acts point in one direction and Luke in the other. That’s all.

          • My apologies to you, Uncle Brian. Forgive my suspicious mind. I thought there was a trap in there somewhere.
            I will come back and try to answer your question this evening after church.

          • Uncle Brian

            Thank you, Martin. I look forward to that. In the meantime, let me add this. I now realise I was guilty of an oversimplification when I assumed that the OT Sheol is invariably thought of as an undifferentiated, gloomy abode where the souls of the righteous and the wicked jostle one another side by side, and that there must have occurred, at some point, a sudden switch to the Christian belief in a segregated Heaven and Hell.

            In fact, in Second Temple Judaism there would have been different views held by different schools and at different times. Enoch and Elijah, after all, were exceptions to the rule – if it was a rule – that all souls ended up in Sheol, and in Jesus’s time the Sadducees denied the afterlife altogether. Perhaps also in the early Church there may have been a range of conflicting views on the subject, rather than a single, clearly defined doctrine.

            In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus uses the name “Hades”, specifying that on the Hades side of the gulf or chasm there is fire but no water, and vice versa on Abraham’s side. Nevertheless, the rich man is close enough to be able to recognize Lazarus and to carry on a conversation with Abraham. In a sense, therefore, they are both in the same place, though the chasm divides it into clearly differentiated environments.

            That would closely parallel the Greek Hades, which The Explorer describes in his comment (below): In Greek myth, for instance, all go to Hades, but Hades has its heavenly section, Elysium, and its hellish section, Tartarus: where the bad boys like Sisyphus are.

          • Right. Let me see what I can do.
            I think the Apostles’ Creed errs at the point where is says the Lord Jesus descended into hell (or sheol, or ‘The place of the dead’). I believe that this error stems from a mis-interpretation of Ephesians 4:9. All Paul is saying here is that if He ascended to heaven, He must first have descended to earth. So whenever I am in an Anglican church I always keep quiet on that particular part of the creed.
            .
            With reference to 1 Peter 3:19, I do not believe that our Lord went down personally to preach to these men of Noah’s day when He had some free time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He Himself tells us
            1. That all the men of that time perished or were destroyed (Luke 17:26-27).
            2. That the repentant thief would be with Him in Paradise that very day.
            .
            The verse is a difficult one, but I am rather sure that it means this: in 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is described as a preacher of righteousness. What 1 Peter 3:19 is saying is that Christ was in Noah as he preached to the men of his day who are now in prison, along with the rich man in the parable, awaiting their final condemnation.
            .
            So I agree with you that Sheol is a general O.T. name for the abode of the dead as they await the Day of Judgement, but there is a ‘great gulf fixed’ between those who die in Christ and those who die in their sins.
            .
            I hope you find this helpful.

          • Uncle Brian

            Very helpful, Martin. Thank you. I haven’t digested it all yet, by any means, but I’ll work on it.
            Regards
            Brian

  • preacher

    All our beliefs about what Hell will be like, if it exists & for how long is speculative to say the least.
    As Dr Cranmer states, Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone else & one of His parables speaks of the rich man suffering torment whilst the beggar resides in the Bosom of Abraham & that a vast barrier exists between them that no one can cross.

    The gospels make it very clear that Jesus came to fulfil an important mission & one that was vital for our salvation.
    No one would endure the suffering that He did unless it was the only way for us to be saved from judgement.

    The Cross of Christ is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for fallen humanity & His desire that All will be saved. But it depends on our response to His rescue mission whether or not we will enjoy Heaven or suffer in Hell, whatever that punishment may be.

    We must remember that we all have freewill & God will not interfere with that, but He chooses to draw us with love instead of forcing us with fear.

    Those that choose Him have the security & peace of mind that only He can give & they can experience it here & now as many who post here will verify.

    But we can only offer what God provides, the rest is up to the individual, it’s only when we don’t present the gospel that we are at fault.

    One thing should be clear though, that whatever Hell is like, it exists & it must be a terrible state of existence for Christ to pay such an awful ransom to save us from it.

    • not a machine

      Do we have to also explain what free will is though , which is perhaps more difficult than hell, in that it would seem the outcome is known (and ergo every move choreographed in between) Satan being defeated ?

  • Inspector General

    I say Cranmer, superb image today, what! Wherever did you find it? One can picture it in the Inspector’s lounge, hanging above the fireplace, keeping the little ones away from the grate. It would even make marvellous designer wallpaper for an errant sulky sly teenager’s bedroom, don’t you think?

    Interesting topic you picked today. If there is one complaint the Inspector has above all others in the way the Christian churches conduct themselves, it’s the way they have installed dogma upon articles we just don’t know about. In this case, what happens to the soul weighed down by earthly wickedness at death. The answer is, we just don’t know. It was never made privy to us. It is evident that God treats us on a ‘need to know’ basis.

    So, all we need to know about hell, whatever it is, is that we don’t want to find ourselves there for more than a short time, if at all. That in itself should be enough to lead a righteous life, but there is more. Is it not the fact that those of us alive, who ignore or defy God’s intentions for us, put themselves through a hell of their own making? And here, on Earth, at that!

    Lastly Cranmer, for all you’ve written on the subject, consider this. God’s love apparently only extends to those of us who are his. We know this because we have been given the mechanism, courtesy the Christ, to literally ‘be saved’. Saved from what, we might ask. Well, there is to this man here only one answer, the termination of the souls that have failed to be saved, whom are underserving of saving. Maybe they are ‘absorbed back into the core’ even. It might be kinder that way. From this we can deduce but one conclusion – There is no classical hell because there is no one to put in it.

    • not a machine

      I think the picture is possibly a practice court sketch from the forthcoming FIFA corruption probe.

      • Inspector General

        Was thinking members of the Ashers bakery family…

        • not a machine

          You have been doing to much on pink news inspector .

          • Inspector General

            Oh yes. There are earth bound demons, and no mistake…

      • Uncle Brian

        That would explain why the devil on the right has had his hair cut in the approved mullet style.

        • not a machine

          Lol

        • dannybhoy

          One of those poor wretches has awful long legs…

    • inspector, for a man claiming to be a Catholic there are times your theological ramblings leave Jack speechless. This is one such occasion. You have somehow managed to come up with a strange cocktail of Calvinism and Annihilationalism and completely bypassed Catholic teaching.

      • Inspector General

        As one has said before Jack, the Inspector is gifted with a higher level of understanding. Higher than yours, at any rate…

        • carl jacobs

          Jack is a consistent Catholic. He understands the faith and accurately represents it. Your higher level of understanding is rooted in nothing more than your own speculations.

          • Inspector General

            Be off with you, you knave…

          • carl jacobs

            What? Do I lie? What I said is objectively true, and has been demonstrated as such on this very thread. By your own words.

        • Hmmm …. matched only by your level of humility.

      • carl jacobs

        Don’t shove him off on me. Last I saw he claims to be Roman Catholic. He’s your burden. Not mine.

        • Jack will leave the Inspector to the Holy Spirit. Every now and then he will point out the distance of his opinions from Catholic Church teaching. Wouldn’t want anyone thinking his … what was it, now? … ah, yes, … … “higher level of understanding” was in anyway representative of orthodoxy.

          God works in mysterious ways and His purpose is fulfilled in all things.

    • Politically__Incorrect

      I think the typical teenagers idea of hell is anywhere without a mobile signal

      • Inspector General

        Household chores?

  • Albert

    The moral disproportion between the finite nature of particular sins and the permanent, conscious, everlasting punishment in Hell is a genuine theological dilemma.

    The person who is in hell stays there eternally because they do not repent, hence there does not seem to me to be a dilemma here.

    There are some who posit the notion of a ‘second chance’ after death; that is to say our destiny is not irrevocably fixed at the point of earthly departure. We then arrive at the doctrine of Purgatory

    If the suggestion here is (as it appears) that purgatory is connected with our destiny not being irrevocably fixed at the point of death, then this is just wrong. That’s not what purgatory is about.

    • The Explorer

      Agreed. Those in Purgatory are already saved. The second chance relates to Universalism. Those who got it wrong first time have a second, third fourth chance until they get it right. Like an EU referendum for those who don’t come up with the right answer first time round.

    • not a machine

      It is a puzzle , if a person turns to Christ on the death bed , he/she is saved , but again to quote my anglo catholic line “earnestly repent” , what if it is too difficult to repent ?? , but then perhaps god can weigh ernest completeness

      • Albert

        True. In the Catholic world-view, being saved from hell, does not automatically entail one is ready for heaven. My understanding is that if repentance is incomplete (e.g. it is sincere, but with an attachment to sin, still existing) this would be a reason to end up in purgatory.

        • not a machine

          Then we have to assume a further trial and judgement is possible in heaven ,which I cannot find much for in the bible .and it also may mean free will persists into heaven , which is difficult .

          • Albert

            I cannot see how you get to that point from the premise. Do take me through the steps.

          • not a machine

            can you be saved in/from the state of peugatory which is in the spiritual realm ? ie beyond death

          • Albert

            I see the point. Let me just tweak this a bit: those in purgatory are already saved, in the sense that they are going to heaven. That much was achieved in them prior to death. However, the perfection of which scripture speaks being the state of the elect in heaven is not yet theirs. Thus what one thinks about purgatory is directly related to the question of imputed or infused righteousness.

            Having said all this, of course, there does seem in scripture to be some kind of judgement after souls have been in heaven. The Last or General Judgement comes after that – at least, that’s how it has seemed to a vast number of readers (including me).

          • not a machine

            yes in Rev all those saints under the altar , saved and in purgatory for the time of satans defeat ,perhaps purgatory has some meaning .

        • What is there in the atonement of Christ which is lacking in order to require some further suffering by those who trust in Him? Did Christ not suffer enough in order to save us completely? Is His intercession not persuasive enough to move the Father sufficiently? Read Hebrews 7:25 before replying.
          .
          Or is Purgatory not a wicked invention by the Church of Rome in the 7th Century to fleece the people by persuading them to enrich the priests by paying them to recite ‘masses’ for their dead relatives?

          • Albert

            Or maybe again, your static notion of imputed righteousness misses the entire shape of what it means to be redeemed by Christ.

          • Well either ‘the blood of Jesus Christ…… cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7) or it doesn’t, in which case we need to be further cleansed. Which is it?

            As for a ‘static notion of imputed righteousness,’ Jesus Christ is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8) so my view is founded on the Rock which is Christ, ‘Who became for us wisdom from God- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption’ (1 Corinthians 1:30). Again I ask, is His righteousness not sufficient to cover us?

          • Albert

            Yes, but what is meant by “cleansing”? We are not just forgiven, we are made righteous. Jesus doesn’t change, but we do. The Bible makes this clear. Concede that point and my own will follow.

          • I think my post above answers your question. We are cleansed by the blood of Christ who becomes our righteousness, not by an unspecified number of years in a place of which the Bible makes no mention whatsoever.

          • Albert

            I fear that on your account Christ’s righteousness remains somehow outside of external to us. That is not the teaching of the scriptures, and it is not the salvation of Christ. But the moment you allow an intrinsic transformation, you will have logically conceded the point.

          • You have effectively conceded my point because you refuse to bring Scripture to bear. You need to deal with 1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:21 and how about Romans 7:18? ‘For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.’

            Of course every Christian has been born anew by the Holy Spirit and is no longer what he was, but at the point of salvation we are saved by nothing else but the blood of Christ shed on the cross for sinners. The Church of Rome conflates justification with sanctification.

          • Albert

            This is curious. I was saying that Christ’s righteousness is not external to us, and you have replied:

            ‘For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.’

            Surely you realise that the word “flesh” is man as he is by himself, cut off from grace?That’s why St Paul clarifies “I know that in me” by saying “that is, in my flesh”. For he knows that taken in the sense you have taken it, the Gospel would be overthrown. For those who are in Christ, there is more than just flesh. For Paul also says:

            I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

            Now if, “Nothing good dwells in me” is taken in an absolute sense (i.e. without the caveat of only the flesh) then since Christ dwells in us, Christ is not good which is utterly blasphemous and would result in there being no salvation. But if, on the other hand, you allow Paul to do what he says, to restrict “Nothing good dwells in me” to the flesh, your point is irrelevant – for nothing I said, nor anything in Catholic teaching, requires us to say that.

            I cannot for the life of me see why you think either of the other passages challenges Catholic teaching. On the contrary, the first in particular expresses Catholic teaching:

            God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

            You see that. We become the righteousness of God. Now the righteousness of God is not external to God, but is intrinsic to him, and becoming implies change. Thus when we become the righteousness of God, that righteousness is not external to us but involves us being changed into that righteousness. That is the very point I was making.

            Of course every Christian has been born anew by the Holy Spirit and is no longer what he was, but at the point of salvation we are saved by nothing else but the blood of Christ shed on the cross for sinners.

            And when is the point at which we are saved?

          • ‘You see that? We become the righteousness of God.’
            I see that you have missed the point. We do not become the righteousness of God in ourselves, we become the righteousness of God in Him (ie. Christ). ‘Not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.’

            The point at which we are saved is the point at which God declares us righteous (ie. justifies us). That is the point at which, despairing of our own righteousness and seeing ourselves as poor, lost, hell-deserving sinners, we trust in the blood of Christ shed for sinners on the cross and on His precious promises (eg. John 6:37-40). And God, seeing us clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, and washed clean of every stain by His blood, declares us righteous. It’s a wonderful truth when you understand it.

            ‘When Satan tempts me to despair,
            And tells me of the guilt within;
            Upwards I look and see His face
            Who made an end of all my sin.
            Because the sinless Saviour died,
            My guilty soul is counted free;
            For God the Just is satisfied
            To look on Him and pardon me.’
            Charitie Lees de Chenez

          • Albert

            I see that you have missed the point. We do not become the righteousness of God in ourselves, we become the righteousness of God in Him (ie. Christ).

            I have not missed the point, we become the righteousness of God when we are in Christ. This is not a forensic legal fiction, he really makes us righteous. This is not our work, for there is nothing good in our flesh, but his work in us. Not me, but Christ in me…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. and Jesus himself says: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

            You limit the infinite power of God, while accusing us of believing things we do not believe and are not entailed by what we believe.

          • God, being the highest truth, who cannot lie, declares us righteous when we are righteous.

            If you really think you are righteous, then you are in big trouble.
            Read Luke v18:9-14. Who went home justified? The ‘righteous’ man or the sinner.

          • Albert

            Do you think your are righteous, Martin?

          • Absolutely not! I am a sinner who has fled to Christ for salvation.
            The very best I can claim for my self is that I am a better man than I was before I was saved (which is not saying much!) and that I desire to be holy, not in order to be saved (for I am already saved by grace), but because I love my Saviour and desire to please Him and to be more like Him. I take these two things to be the work of the Holy Spirit in my life in sanctification and look forward to His progressive work in my life.
            .
            I do however possess a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) which is nothing else but the perfect righteousness of Christ which covers me. My own righteousness is nothing but disgusting, filthy rags (64:6), utterly unacceptable to a Holy God.

          • Albert

            Where did I say anything different from this? If there is a difference between us, it is in what happens next. You speak of having been saved. Does that mean you think being saved is a one off, or a process? Ditto justification?

          • To take the last first, I have been saved (Colossians 1:13), I am being saved (John 10:27-28; Philippians 2:12-13) and I will be saved (John 6:39-40). Justification, on the other hand, is a one-off pronouncement of God. Nowhere are people described as continually being justified.
            .
            For the rest, you are the one who spoke about being righteous and having an ‘intrinsic’ righteousness. You are also the one who decried the possibility of being simul iustus et peccator, whereas every Christian (apparently including yourself) knows that experientially as being his situation. ‘For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish’ (Galatians 5:17). Praise God for the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ imputed to me!

          • Albert

            Nowhere are people described as continually being justified.

            No, but we do see examples of continual justification. For example, Hebrews 11 implies Abraham has saving faith in Genesis 12, but then Romans 4 sees Abraham receiving justification in Genesis 15, but then James sees Abraham being justified in Genesis 22.

            For the rest, you are the one who spoke about being righteous and having an ‘intrinsic’ righteousness.

            Yes, but I never claimed that I had intrinsic righteousness.

            You are also the one who decried the possibility of being simul iustus et peccator, whereas every Christian (apparently including yourself) knows that experientially as being his situation.

            No, I don’t know that. I have faith and believe I am being justified, but I do not claim to be inherently righteous, for scripture says: let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall and again, For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness δικαιοσύνης

            Thus justification is a process. As with being saved (also a process as you admit) sometimes scriptural language speaks of the beginning of the process as justification, but that does not mean the last word on it – as is evident.

            Now, I note you have not replied to my question about whether anything good lives in me as opposed to simply in my flesh. For surely, if nothing good lives in my flesh, but Christ lives in me, then since, the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other it follows that I am not yet inherently righteous, rather there is an inner conflict. It is the danger of this inner conflict going the wrong way that is much of the warning of the NT. But I wonder if any of those warnings have any sense if justification, in its fullest sense, occurs when we have faith.

  • simonjneale

    I haven’t chosen a relationship or a non-relationship with God, simply because I have not experienced anything that would convince me that it is God, or a manifestation of him. I retain an open mind, and should such an experience present itself to me, I hope to respond appropriately at the time.

    Does this keep me safe from hell?

    • Inspector General

      You have to ask yourself if you want to be saved. Are you, in your own mind, worthy of it. If so, embrace Christ and do as he would have us do. He tells us that is the way to do it. It’s not difficult.

      • simonjneale

        Thanks for your answer, IG. Genuinely appreciated. Sometimes I want to be saved; the self-preservation instinct, I suspect. I definitely think I am worthy of it. But I don’t know how to embrace Christ, nor how to do some of the things he requires of us. Other parts of his teachings seem excellent.

        • Inspector General

          Good man. Now, next step is to talk to a priest. RCs are the best. He’ll be glad to talk to you. It’s what he’s trained to do, explain it all.

          • simonjneale

            (You’re probably not going to like this bit…) My wife is training to be a priest. Shall I wait until she is ordained, or go the the RC priest now?

          • Inspector General

            Ah. Going to an RC priest in your circumstances will probably lead to a lifelong denial of sex by your missus. Play it by ear, my son…

          • simonjneale

            Your pragmatism does you credit, IG.

        • None of us are “worthy” of being saved and none of us do it through our own effort. It is all the work of God. He will call you and already knows your response. Just listen and leave the rest to HIm.

          Jack agrees with the Inspector’s suggestion you speak with a priest when the time is right. You could start with just visiting a Catholic Church where you’ll find the Real Presence, and sitting quietly.

          • len

            Or not .Cut out’ the middle man’ and go straight to Jesus Christ (you will not find Him in a Catholic Church)….

          • Inspector General

            You’re a bloody nuisance Len. Not everybody CAN go straight to Jesus Christ. Hence the priesthood…

          • dannybhoy

            Inspector dear chap,
            What is so special about the priesthood? Are they not men like me and you? Do they not commit sins and yield to temptations?
            That there are godly men and women in the Church I do not disagree, but there is nothing that you or I have ever thought said or done that God does not know about and will still forgive us providing we want to be forgiven..

          • IanCad

            “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11;28
            How the priest enters into this IG, is beyond me.

          • not a machine

            I like that idea of giving purpose to the priesthood , but god (as it would seem in the old testament ) did not need a structure , but perhaps needed teaching ?

          • dannybhoy

            “Thus says the Lord:
            “Heaven is my throne,
            and the earth is my footstool;
            what is the house that you would build for me,
            and what is the place of my rest?
            2 All these things my hand has made,
            and so all these things came to be,
            declares the Lord.
            But this is the one to whom I will look:
            he who is humble and contrite in spirit
            and trembles at my word.”

            Isaiah 66 ESV
            A priest isn’t essential Jack, you can never be worthy Inspector..
            But apart from those two caveats I completely agree with you both… :0)

          • Inspector General

            Hmmm. If we, or at least some of us are not worthy, then perhaps God will send Jesus back to tell us salvation is off…

            See the problem with your guilt ridden brand of Christianity, Danny.

          • dannybhoy

            Guilt ridden?

          • Inspector General

            My dear fellow, you are talking to man who as a child was religiously educated by Catholic nuns…

          • dannybhoy

            You are a fine fellow Inspector.
            Well liked on the blog and loved in Heaven.
            Are you saying these nuns damaged your thinking and development, or simply gave you the blessed gift of guilt?

          • Inspector General

            Not at all. One puts it to you that the present guilt some Christians suffer from being alive is all down to those nasty puritans of the Reformation. It wasn’t like that before…

          • Oh what rubbish! Go to Christ! Cut out the middle man. Go directly to Him!
            He tells you, ‘The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out’ (John 6:37).

          • simonjneale

            Thank you HJ. I appreciate your thoughts; something for me to ponder.

        • David

          Those who are saved, are saved by the grace of God, as none of as are worthy of being accepted by God.

          It is through admitting ones unworthiness, ones sins, and seeking forgiveness, through trust in Christ, that one is saved.

          We do nothing and bring nothing to the relationship with God. It is that surrender, and admission of our unworthiness, that many find so difficult, keeping then distant from God’s forgiveness and inclusion in the family of God’s children.

          God bless you on your journey to Him.

      • David

        Well put, Inspector !
        One cannot shilly shally in some “neutral” middle.

      • not a machine

        yes I like that inspector but perhaps to ask a slightly more subtle question , can sin be unbearable to seek Christ , I mean why look for forgiveness , if more that feelings of social unacceptable ,as social theorists may suggest ?

        • Inspector General

          We are as God made us machine. If he doesn’t like us as we are, the Almighty has only himself to blame. Which he won’t.

          • not a machine

            mmm , try as might I set off from your point as mystery and return to it (after much exercise) as a mystery

          • Inspector General

            You probably haven’t heard that before. It’s been kept from us. They would have it it’s all OUR fault,,,

      • CliveM

        I’m going to get all Martinish, who is worthy? None. Why would anyone consider themselves worthy? That would be arrogance.

        • Inspector General

          Wrong. Christ offers us salvation. Then in the same breath he says that none of us are worthy. One thinks not.

          • CliveM

            He offers us salvation because if his love and Grace, not because we deserve it. I’m led to believe that’s pretty much RC doctrine.

            Anyway apart from that I agree with your general sentiments. I’m not a great believer in theological purity.

          • Inspector General

            Well, if you want to live your life as Uriah Heap, off you go. This man has no guilt for being alive.

          • CliveM

            Strangely neither do I!!

    • not a machine

      I don’t think well crafted insurance policies are available 🙂 or hedging for that matter.

    • dannybhoy

      Does a person become a Christian or even a devout Jew because they are afraid of going to hell or being wiped out?
      I don’t think so. I think we respond because the Holy Spirit confronts us with what we truly are, strips away our pretensions and excuses and hypocrisies and then points us to the Cross. God really does love people, and as the best possible Father he does all He possibly can to draw us to Himself.

    • sarky

      Fear of hell is not a great starting point.

      I suggest you read up on both sides of the argument or maybe do a course (most churches do them)

      Just be careful and keep an open mind. If you have doubts dont ignore them.

  • not a machine

    I perhaps detect a little of your grace consider the new beta edition of the theology upgrade that is slowly hacking out phrases from dear Cranmers words in the service book .
    That aside I perhaps consider how wrong our thinking can be as a child , for I remember very distinctly thinking hell was something subterranean in the physical planet earth as I hadn’t really had much chance to think about heaven , but I am not about to consider my parents lowly for giving me a moral dynamic that there was a bad place ,if you decided on following a bad path , children’s minds are children’s minds and there upbringing is a responsibility .
    Now in more mature years I perhaps am grateful to be able to consider this (as I have tried to do over the years of my Christian journey). If you are lucky enough to gain something of an education , the disassembling of theology is all too an unfortunate consequence , if you can put away science and consider there is something else then your faith will have some comfort , if you cannot you will be tortured by how frequencies of vibration of sub atomic particles (given the knowledge that they can vary) are the way they are , for even if slightly different nothing could be stably formed let alone something as jaw dropping amazing as the universe.
    So I perhaps your would be reader has at least got as far as science seems to explain some laws of physics and atomic physics , but has no idea what the universe appears to be expanding into (appropriately termed the great unknown) .
    After toiling many years in a hope that science and faith would agree ,I am at the moment no better off , for the things that powerfully happen in faith seem to happen in some sort of future or image or message ,in my mind , and even if under a scanner showing bits of my brains frontal lobes firing , it doesn’t convey what I am really experiencing in such moments and is perhaps designed to be between me and God for a mystery that I cannot escape.
    As for the moments when you are in prayer and something happens ,then I would think the atheists can start to run out of probabilities , when it is rather improbable than change of perception of the individual by say positive thinking , for positive thinking does not induce someone to turn up to doorstep , and in one memorable moment have a Jehovas witness quote scripture to something so specific I was privily thinking about .
    These moments of spirit manifesting into physical reality or personal experience are profound things , if just a thought of no more influence upon the swells, fades and cascades of an electro chemical memory , how could it change lives ?.
    your grace perhaps misses one of my thoughts in quoting scripture in that gen chap 1 , where we have God separating the light from the dark (which anyone who gets some idea about higgs bosun field may be excited about) but then goes on to say the heaven and the earth , there appears to be no hell or to poke a bit of fun at the last government “the third way” .
    We are then left with that wonderful life long thought of the fall , and its consequences , for it would seem that whether in a more spiritual meaning or the actual earth itself , we become separate (or divided from God) from a relationship of perfection .
    The wish to distance oneself from the literal bible where men were prepared to die to claim the earth was 6600 yrs old and not this new fad of millions of years of natural history , or even the earth not being the center of the universe has littered these debates with the injured , of not quite getting the unknown right beyond question.
    Your grace speculates , hell indeed may not exist and we all may, at death be converted into whatever comes or is the afterlife and no judgement and yet the spirit does seem to judge on the earthly plane , allowing gods will to happen and to travel further on into the mystery.
    So I think there is judgement as this also has some symmetry with redemption (which is curious in itself if one considers science construct of the brain) , and yet as Adam so found , even though having no advocate to rebut the devils proposition , mans judgements is not complete , or certainly not as complete as Gods.
    Hell I currently think is the incompleteness or separation from god and for a further aspect seems to be contagious and have greater (but not ultimate) power over what isn’t heaven , unless we make a positive move in repentance.
    repentance also seems to have effect , although I perhaps am cautious to consider it may not extend life , but certainly seems to alter trajectory .
    I perhaps will close , as my mind is a little full on this thought , but it says “every tear shall be wiped away” which perhaps upsets some as it defines tears as something of sadness , it does not seem to say selective memory .It also says the power of sin will be broken , which one again may interpret as something of a closer, if not becoming, a component/constituent part of God .
    but that line “you have not known me” perhaps defines what hell may be like , certainly while on earth , but in having that thing that is gods light in your life even though gods justice perplexes the most intelligent , if accepted by faith (a sound faith , which I have found in Christ/God) , we can do little more than to hold fast to it and I hope that when my time comes (and it perhaps is/must be gods timing if you consider the term trepass) when I have to face death , I am as settled on matters as Seamus Heaney was quoted as last words “don’t be afraid”

  • “Ultimately, of course, the existence (or not) of Hell is a matter of faith. There is no proof of its existence, but nor is there proof to the contrary.”

    This sentence seems to come straight out of a textbook of Enlightenment epistemology, and raises the question of what Cranmer considers proof.

    Consistent Christian thought rejects the idea that “proof” boils down to “what you can demonstrate via the scientific method”. There is absolute proof of the existence of hell, the highest possible level of proof: it is taught in the Word of God.

    • IanCad

      “–there is absolute proof of the existence of hell”
      If David, you understand Hell as a place where souls will be conscious and undergo constant punishment, then you are giving credibility to Satan’s lie:
      “Ye shall not surely die.” Gen. 3:4

      • not a machine

        Perhaps with no advocate , as in genesis to have made a moment of repentance ,says something about consequence in free choice , the law giving one frame work but being incomplete only grace makes salvation from the fall possible ?

        • IanCad

          God walked with Adam. Can’t have a better advocates than the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; and that, before the foundation of the world.

          • not a machine

            So the powerful direct disobedience of god (before discussion existed), has no return

          • IanCad

            No. Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden and would thus see death, but his salvation was based upon his repentance, obedience, and belief in God, as is ours.

          • not a machine

            yes , he and eve were banished , which helps a bit with understanding free will

      • The original sin was failing to be an annihilationist? Pull the other one! Eve’s sin was failing to believe what God had said, not matter how unreasonable it could be made to sound by devilish arguments.

  • An essay that I wrote examining the popular arguments for annihiliationism (and why we should reject them): http://david.dw-perspective.org.uk/da/index.php/writings/conditional-immortality-the-hell-which-ends/

  • David

    The C.S. Lewis idea of hell is an interesting idea. It involves hell being a place of voluntary exile and separation from God, with heaven being its counterweight, where the saved, the believers, exist in a state of a constant exerting of spiritual efforts to journey from the outer edges, ever nearer to God and his state of holiness. Although written some decades ago now it still has a cultural attraction to it.
    But of course the real question is, is it true ?
    Ultimately after the learned theologians have had all their inconclusive arguments we convinced Christians, of whatever stripe, must have faith, trust, strive against our natures’ to obey, and above all else trust in Christ and keep following the faith that we have received.
    Of course that is not to stop us adopting our own favourite, Scripture and doctrine friendly version of what we believe, as long as we realise that there are other ideas about.
    In the next life we will discover the truth, and then we will rejoice, rejoice !

    • Phil R

      Hell is the complete absence of God

      We get hints of what it might be like in this world.

      • dannybhoy

        Even blogs can give you a rough idea….

        • Phil R

          I was going to be specific

          Then thought better.

          i must be growing up

          • not a machine

            it is one of the joys of becoming wiser 🙂

        • CliveM

          She’s left. Did you not see her post?

          • The Explorer

            Missed it. Which thread?

          • CliveM

            Sorry Explorer can’t remember, it was quite a few weeks ago.

          • dannybhoy

            Oh no!
            S(he) has great style and wit. A real character. I do remember her writing once that things, or perhaps she meant people, were getting rather too serious, but I didn’t realise she had actually left.

      • That’s a popular evangelical slogan, and I’m an evangelical. But in Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching, God is present and active in the punishment of the wicked to make known his direct and personal opposition to sin and sinners. e.g. Rev 14:10, 2 Thess 1:8-9, John 3:36.

      • David

        That fits with my thoughts, but whether I am right or not, well only time will tell.

      • sarky

        I must be in hell then. Must admit its pretty awesome.

        • Phil R

          God is still working through you and of course me

  • David

    Interestingly, at least to me, is that today the valley of Gahena, a southwards running , narrow, waterless, ravine, used in Jesus’ time as a town dump, where fires would spontaneously break out in the hot Jerusalem summers, is a rather pleasant, well kept, sort of municipal, landscaped place. Not a demon or devil in sight, at least not from the air conditioned pilgrim’s coach that I was on that day.

    • Linus

      An air-conditioned pilgrim’s coach?

      No sackcloth and ashes for the modern Christian, I see. Does the guided tour of all the “sights” include an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Jerusalem Best Western, or do you have to slum it at the local felafel stand?

      Hmmm … an idea occurs to me. A benighted ancestor who crawled on all fours to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle as penance for raping a peasant woman and running her husband through with a sword when he objected had the poor taste upon his return to have a pair of large scallop shells carved on the gate piers of my place in Lorraine. I frequently come home to find semi-delirious Germans wandering about the grounds trying to find reception in the mistaken belief (yet another!) that I run an inn for footsore and weary pilgrims.

      A large sign by the gate in German telling them that this is NOT a Jakobspilgerspension, and please apply to the tight-lipped Catholic butcher’s wife in the village if you want lodging for the night, has no effect at all. Ecstatic Germans are, it seems, so moved by the prospect of expiating all their sins by trudging across half of Europe to pray to mouldering bits of a cadaver in a dull provincial Spanish town, they temporarily lose the power of understanding the written word.

      I’d chip the wretched designs off the stone if the Bâtiments de France would let me, but they seem to think there’s some historical interest attached to the story, so they’ve slapped a protection order on the whole property and now I have to apply for permission in triplicate three years in advance if I want to so much as oil the locks (which “entrave à libre jouissance de mon bien” rather justifies the odd split infinitive, don’t you think?)

      Anyway, perhaps I should erect a small kiosk at the gates and offer it free of charge to the tour operator who arranges these air-conditioned pilgrimages. The Jakobspilgers tend to be regretting their odd choice of summer vacation activity by the time they get as far as my place. Blisters and cramp are setting in, so the notion of being whisked away to absolution in air-conditioned comfort would probably be quite appealing to them.

      Now there’s an interesting business opportunity for a Christian entrepreneur (if such a thing exists). There probably isn’t much scope for profit in it because your average Jakobspilger isn’t exactly wafting his way southwards on a cloud of money. But as a way of providing employment in a village where a number of pious Catholics prefer the dole to working for the servant of Satan who lives in the big house (which appears to be their pet name for me – rather endearing, don’t you think?), I couldn’t think of anything better.

      I must give the scheme some serious thought. I’m ready to do anything to head off this constant stream of crazed Germans at the pass. I actually found a couple of them picnicking on my terrace a month or so ago, and had the hardest time persuading them to vacate the premises. After half an hour of negotiations they finally left, red-faced and huffing and puffing with Teutonic indignation, but more will come. If there was a way of diverting their attention before they get to the gates, I might be spared further intrusion and the loose moraine of Haribo wrappers and half-eaten boxes of Bahlsen biscuits they leave behind them.

      Thank you for the idea. It never occured to me to fight fire with fire. I suppose it’s the same principle as innoculation: a little evil can prevent a great wave of it from crashing over you…

      • David

        One can but commiserate with your sufferings Linus.

        Finally it appears that the French, who lagged behind the UK in protecting heritage, have decided to pursue the principle with true Gallic over-enthusiasm perhaps ?

        You could, I suppose, I venture tentatively, “go with the flow”, cash in, and pretend to be that “Christian entrepreneur” ? Just a thought to offer you amusement and a diversion from your blogging activities. Fancy a few more euros and some amusement along the way ? You may even help to cement Franco-German relationships, if that represents a incentive to you ? But given your description of their explorations of your chateau, perhaps that’s not one of my better suggestions. Ah well I tried – sighs.

        • Linus

          I did a few sums on the back of an envelope and there’s no money in it. If you add up coach hire costs, accommodation fees, medical expenses for wounds inflicted during auto-flagellation and/or violent hysterical episodes before the altar, and then set them against what you could charge tight-fisted German Catholics, it would be impossible to turn a profit.

          Of course getting rid of my pilgrim problem would be an advantage that might induce me to do it anyway and just treat the cost as an additional overhead. But weightier moral issues prevent this, I’m afraid. I can’t subsidize Christian pilgrimages without contravening a basic rule of Atheism: “first, do no harm”. Sending people off to befuddle their minds before a pile of old bones would be doing them a great disservice. So despite my selfish desire to be rid of my pilgrim problem, my hands are tied.

          Somebody else might like to do it for spiritual rather than monetary reasons however. I shall pray to your imaginary god for just such an eventuality. Or maybe not. If he really does exist, perhaps German pilgrims are part of the cross he’s appointed for me to carry, although you’d think that living in miserable lifelong celibacy would be enough, wouldn’t you? Oh well, as I’ve refused that part of the burden, I may as well go the whole hog and refuse the Germans too. As well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, no?

          • David

            You have a “nice” moral dilemma there for your atheist mind to grapple with, which no doubt will do you a power of good in maintaining mental agility.
            Would a quick back of the stamp cost benefit analysis help perhaps, or a goals matrix maybe ? You’d have to create your own values of course.
            Alternatively you could decide to embrace your hidden German ? No. OK.
            Well anyway enjoy puzzling the problem.

          • dannybhoy

            People are endlessly fascinating Linus.
            We have some weird people in the Church, of course we do.
            Some swivel eyed, some incredibly BRIGHT and POSITIVE!!
            But Hey, we’re all a bit odd anyway, and God loves us all..

            Did you ever see that film ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez?
            I think both are sincere Catholics. It’s a great film with some beautiful scenery. A fine performance by James Nesbitt.
            A great scene where the father completing the pilgrimage for his son blows his top at his little band of fellow pilgrims..
            Lovely!

      • dannybhoy

        Interestingly (at least to me) the wife and I nearly bought a cheap piece of land near the pilgrim route of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle..
        (We love France)
        We had romantic thoughts of offering temporary sanctuary to pilgrims who had been set about by aggressive homosexual landowners posing as “se présentant comme un châtelain.”

        Just think Linus, we could have been neighbours!!

        I would love to have done at least a part of what I know as the Camino d’Santiago d’Compostella..

        Not for any religious/Catholic/ pilgrimage reason, but simply because I love meeting people, especially young people who are full of life and conviction.I would love the physical challenge too.
        Were it not for the deleterious affects of the COPD, I still would.

        • Linus

          Neighbours? I doubt it. The mayor and I are of one mind in this matter (if none other). We don’t want the English invading our village and ruining it!

          It happened a few years back when some large people who claimed to be from Surrey (although their accent spoke more of the Mersey than the Thames) arrived in the village with much fanfare, purchased a sweet old tumble-down chaumière and submitted plans to the mairie to turn it into an ultra-modern concrete and stainless steel designer spittoon.

          Needless to say, their application was denied, and there was much to-ing and fro-ing and threats and tears and lawyers’ letters, and even a bust-up in the marketplace between the mayor’s wife and the large and very irate English home owner’s lady.

          Poor thing, she couldn’t speak a word of French, but she was fluent in red wine, and on the day of the confrontation had clearly imbibed a vat of the stuff before spotting Madame le maire on the other side of a cartload of topinambours. Harsh words were spoken, although as the only other Anglophone witness present, only she, her husband and I could understand them. But the tone was easy enough for anyone to comprehend and things very quickly degenerated. Abuse was hurled. As were topinambours. And soon afterwards, the English packed their bags and left the village forever.

          About a year later they found a buyer for their property and a very nice Walloon couple arrived in the village with a pantechnicon full of odd-looking Walloon furniture. Despite their strange accent, they turned out to be very nice people, and once they had announced their intention of leaving the chaumière to moulder away in its original state, they were accepted by the village with open arms. They’re very “bio” and organic and green, and apparently think that by letting ivy grow up their walls and pull them down, they’re contributing towards saving the planet, and world peace, and every other good cause you can think of. The husband in particular is as mad as a brush, but harmless enough. So good on them, I say. Their old ruin is very picturesque and getting more so with every year that passes.

          So no, we’ll never be neighbours. Even had you found a property to purchase in the village, the first hint of an English accent would have sunk the deal. The memory is still too raw and the notaire has strict instructions to make sure it never happens again. We’re perfectly happy with Belgians of any kind. Germans are fine. As are the Luxembourgeois. We’ll even take the Dutch if there’s no alternative. But the English are definitely off the menu.

          If you’re looking for a property in France, go somewhere where there are so many of you that one more won’t make any difference. Normandy or the Périgord, for example. If you were sensible of your own good, you wouldn’t want to quit the sphere in which you were raised, which in those parts of France you wouldn’t be doing. There are more English around Périgueux than there are in most English counties. I know an estate agent whose details I can let you have if you’re interested…

          • dannybhoy

            Nah,

            The whole point of living in France would have been to be
            “le pittoresque anglais qui parlent français et qui ne veulent rien changer”
            (Google)
            There would be no point in living in another country with its own culture if you wanted to make it like an extension of home..
            The Perigord is beautiful, but to go meet other English people who want to “claim this land for England” would be pointless and arrogant. I want(ed) to get to know how French people think and feel. In the same way as when I lived in Israel I wanted to understand how the Israelis and Jews I met thought and felt about their homeland.

          • Linus

            A word of advice: if you want to live in France, learn some French. It really does help…

          • dannybhoy

            Merci.

          • If you will let me know where you live, I guarantee to go nowhere near the place

          • dannybhoy

            Very good Martin. You made Oi larff!

          • The Explorer

            He lives lots of places. We’re trying to find out how many. He’s told us about three so far.

          • Linus

            I’m almost tempted to tell you just so I can be sure you’ll never darken my door. Only I know how devious Christians can be. You’d probably turn up at the gate with a buncg of other deluded Christians thumping your bibles and carrying Phelps-style “God hates fags” placards.

            I’d rather not take the risk…

          • sarky

            And you’ll have your letter box stuffed full of tracts!!!!
            A pack of trained hounds may me the answer. Mine very nicely chases off any religious type who dares to darken my door!

          • Linus

            Yes, bloodthirsty German shepherds were my father’s solution to the pilgrim problem.

            Only they weren’t bloodthirsty at all, at least not with the family. They were the sweetest dogs you could imagine, and especially with me. If anyone they didn’t know came within 10 metres of me, they were up and snarling like demented wolves. But once they’d seen the intruder off, they turned into fluffy baa-lambs again.

            They were wonderful guard dogs. Too wonderful, it turned out. One day they caught and cornered a child from the village who had climbed over the wall to go fishing in the south lake. He panicked and ran, they gave chase and he was bitten.

            His injuries weren’t weren’t catastrophic, but they were bad enough to cause my father to change his mind about our security arrangements and banish the dogs to “a nice farm in the Auvergne.”

            I was heartbroken as I’d grown very fond of those dogs. I was also extremely angry with the boy who was the cause of their demise. Even at 10 years old I knew what “a nice farm in the Auvergne” really meant. Poor old Loup, Garou, Méchant, Assassin and their friends had been murdered because of that wretched boy’s fixation with carp. I never forgave him.

            He still lives in the village and I still find it difficult to be polite to him on the rare occasions our paths cross. He works as a plumber now and last time I saw him, he was disappearing into a smelly hole in the ground behind the service wing in order to deal with a septic tank issue. I thought, if I were superstitious, I’d see divine retribution in that. I’m not, so I didn’t, but seeing the murderer of your childhood pets covered in **** is a nonetheless a very satisfying experience.

            Revenge is mine, saith the Lord. Not that day, it wasn’t…

        • carl jacobs

          dannybhoy

          Last weekend, I was mucking around on Streetview in and around Mortain, France. I was looking for the ‘sunken road’ my Dad always talked about. Much to my surprise and amazement, I discovered that there is a street named after my Dad’s division in Mortain. And a memorial to his Division as well.

          Who would have thought French neighborliness would extend so far.

      • Ivan M

        Finally you have written something worth reading.

        • dannybhoy

          He can be very entertaining when he forgets what he’s supposed to be doing here.
          I bet if Linus invited us down for a weekend at his pad, we’d all have a wonderful time, and Linus would realise that we Christians aren’t out to get him.
          Unless the food and wine aren’t up to scratch of course.
          I think he mentioned he had a lake in the grounds….

          • The Explorer

            The lake’s in the grounds of the main Paris property. (He has at least three properties overall, now he’s mentioned this one in Lorraine). I’m trying to ascertain if there are any more

          • dannybhoy

            ‘Ow you do zis ting mon ami?
            You ‘ave ‘ad ze tranning speciale avec ze famous Inspector Clouseau??

          • The Explorer

            Elementary. He mentioned a wealthy grandfather, from whom he inherited. At Easter, he talked about the chapel near his second Paris property being empty. Then he talked about his nephews and nieces in the grounds of his main Paris property. (The Lake). Now he has talked about his Lorraine property. That’s pretty fair going, but there could be more.

          • dannybhoy

            Very sharp.

            Of course there is also the possibility that he’s having us all on.
            That he’s really a concierge in one of the banlieu apartment blocks north of Paris….

          • The Explorer

            Absolutely right. That’s the thing about internet personas. We as Christians are committed to telling the truth, but he isn’t.
            With Tolkien’s Balrogs, certain details are given. There are ‘facts’ about Balrogs that are true within the narrative, even if they are not true in real life.
            Linus the internet persona has at least three properties. That may, or may not, be true of the reality behind Linus. I’m inclined, though, to believe him.

          • dannybhoy

            Yeah,
            I believe him too. He’s got that kind of haughty, irritable attitude.
            Typical of yer nouveaux riches… ;0)
            He probably has a Balrog gardener.

      • The Explorer

        Do you have properties in the South as well?

  • Phil R

    We have a good idea of Hell

    imagine eternity with anyone who has truly rejected God

    • not a machine

      Yes but is it a spiritual destination after death ?, or the more unimaginable nothing , of no form which the soul disintegrates into ? I don’t know but I suppose we cant help but think about it

      • dannybhoy

        Here’s a good exposition on Sheol (the place of the dead) and Paradise..
        Worth reading..
        “Hell in
        the Old Testament”
        http://www.biblestudying.net/cosmo-5.html
        Or you may still prefer purgatory, but I can’t find anything on that.

        • not a machine

          Thank you without Christ the understanding is a bit different in being in sheol

  • Inspector General

    Men – Why a priesthood…

    One is delighted the Inspector’s detractors have found Christ. Well done all of you. But consider this, Would you have done so if Christianity was not embedded in Western culture? It could only have reached this far BECAUSE of an established priesthood.

    Now, off you go, and one wishes to hear no more of your whines…

    • not a machine

      mmm a world without ideas , why evaluate ? interesting

      • Inspector General

        Was that a whine, sir?

        • not a machine

          not really more of considering weak points in the atheists argument

  • Lizzie Cornish

    Well, we’re managing to turn Heaven (Mother Earth) into Hell, so perhaps we will learn from that and turn Hell into Heaven, when we all get there, having been sent there, of course, for destroying Heaven (Mother Earth) in the first place….

    • The Explorer

      On what are you basing your equation of Earth with Heaven? What is your source for saying so?

    • Dominic Stockford

      Earth is sheer heaven for those who are destined for hell…

  • Matthew 25:46. “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [The words ‘everlasting’ and ‘eternal’ are the same word in the original Greek]
    .
    If the punishment is not everlasting, what makes anyone think that the life is?

    • not a machine

      Its just that bit in revelation about the abyss , doesn’t seem to be a place more of end into nothing , but that moment has not yet occured

  • not a machine

    I don’t know if his grace has seen the article , big search engine CEO claims that by 2030 ,they will know your thoughts …… just as news is breaking that a big hack of USA govt employees data is breaking .
    I beg to differ with the CEO especially if your own thoughts are deemed by market perception to be of more value in health , than what he proposes.
    You can almost taste the nutters dreary future , danjo and Linus must be salivating .

    • dannybhoy

      “I don’t know if his grace has seen the article , big search engine CEO claims that by 2030 ,they will know your thoughts ……”

      Know your thoughts eh?
      Could be worrying.
      Best we continue as we are…. :0)

    • Ivan M

      Google already claimed something similar; the people at CNET were so incensed that they published the location data of the bum CEO who made it. All the agencies can already figure out, what I am up to by following my cash transactions, cell phone locations, and license plate (if I have one) and security cameras . And this is excluding, income and health data. They claim it is only metadata that they are monitoring, not the actual content. But if on Fridays I withdraw money and an hour later I am in the local red-light area, what need is there to read my thoughts, when the import of my actions is clear. We are already living in a Panopticon, SKYNET world.

      In eternity all eyes are open – so we may already be there.

  • carl jacobs

    BTW, the picture attached to this article is theologically illiterate. It presents an all-to-common image that greatly annoys me. The demons do not rule in hell. They do not punish the damned. Hell was created for the devil and his angels.

    • The Explorer

      Agreed. ‘Jude’ speaks of some fallen angels “bound in adamantine chains”, but most seem still free to roam. “Do you come to torment us before our time?” (‘Mark’). The demons who rush into the Gadarene swine seem to have nowhere else to go. Expelled from Heaven, they are homeless.
      After Judgement, they will go to the fire “prepared for the Devil and his angels” (‘Matthew’) along with those unregenerate humans held in the temporary Hell that precedes the Lake of Fire. (‘Revelation’)

      Dante’s ‘Inferno’ and the medieval depictions of Hell resemble the Koran far more than they resemble what is said (or not said) in the Bible.

    • Albert

      I do not see how hell being created for the devil and his angels contradicts the notion that they rule in hell and punish the damned (whether or not the idea is correct).

      • carl jacobs

        It means that Hell was created as a place of punishment for the devil and his angels. They do not themselves punish. They are punished. They are not instruments of divine wrath. They are objects of divine wrath. You would place them in a position of authority like the officer of the law. But the inmates are not officers of the law.

        • Albert

          Scripture certainly says they are punished, but that does not stop them being instruments of divine wrath.

          inmates are not officers of the law

          Indeed not, but inmates do often abuse other inmates. Sure, the demons do not have some kind of office, but that is not entailed by suggesting they may punish sinners. Of course, given their malice, this seems inevitable, and is a way in which they harm themselves, as well as others, thus fulfilling God’s wrathful punishment.

          • carl jacobs

            The abuse of inmates by other inmates is an example of injustice and not justice. Punishment should only be administered by lawful authority. Since Hell exists to display God’s perfect justice, you are suggesting that God’s perfect justice includes the unjust infliction of punishment by unlawful authority. That is an inherent contradiction.

          • The Explorer

            Does Hell also suggest successful rebellion? (If God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but some choose rejection?)

          • Albert

            I think you have too narrow a view of God’s providence. In the OT does not God raise up nations to punish Israel? And does he not then punish those nations? Why? Because it is just that Israel be punished, but the nations who do the punishment are not a legitimate authority. Thus, God’s justice does include the possibility of just punishment being inflicted by an unjust authority. That simply leaves the question of how God raises up such nations. But this is no puzzle, God, as the creator of all knows what is in the hearts of all, and simply permits them to act according to their own nature. Sin of course is its own punishment, and yields further punishment in itself, and so God’s justice is not outflanked by the injustice of his creatures, rather he uses it to promote his own justice.

            So I would correct your penultimate line to read:

            God’s perfect justice permits the infliction of just punishment by unlawful authority, but those who do the unlawful punishing are themselves punished for it.

      • The Explorer

        Two thoughts.
        1. My NEB translates ‘Matthew’ 25:41 as “the eternal fire that is ready for the devil and his angels”. The Authorised Version has it as “prepared for”. That implies a future state: they aren’t there yet? On the other hand, I agree with your analogy of a prison. Once Devil,demons and unregenerate humanity are consigned to the Lake of Fire they could fight it out for supremacy.

        2. What precedes the Lake of Fire? That comes into effect after the Last Judgement. But if pre-resurrection body judgement happens at death, and the saved are with Christ (or in Purgatory), then where are the unsaved? In a temporary Hell? ‘Jude’ refers to chained devils. but the impression of exorcised demons is of having nowhere to go. Otherwise, surely those cast out of the Gadarene demoniac could simply have returned to Hell? There’s also Christ’s reference of a cast-out spirit wandering, collecting seven others worse than itself, and returning.

        • Albert

          Thank you Explorer.

          1. I think that anything eschatological, is a bit like Narnia – having it’s own “time zone”, so I’m not sure how easily we can map these sayings about hell onto our own time.

          2. I think the souls of the damned go straight to hell, and then receive their bodies later. The following is quite interesting on all this:

          http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5069.htm

          • The Explorer

            Thank you for the link. Interesting, if quite demanding in its format.
            I reject Universalism unequivocally. Beyond that, I can see how different views are possible.

        • Sirbastion

          Explorer,
          When you say “The saved are with Christ”, that is both a blessed statement and a wholly scriptural one. When you say “Or in Purgatory”, the brief feeling of elation was extinguished: neither can I find any scriptural support for such a place. What do you say?

          • The Explorer

            I do not accept the Catholic view of saints fast tracked into Heaven, while the rest of the saved are in Purgatory. The Biblical view seems to be that ‘saints’ and ‘the saved’ can be used interchangeably: and they are with Christ.
            I mentioned Purgatory because I was in discussion with a Catholic, and elsewhere in the thread we had agreed that in Catholic thinking Purgatory is linked with Heaven rather than Hell.
            I believe in a purgatory of a sort, because the saved are at different stages of their spiritual development when they die, and I cannot believe our natures are fixed at where they were at the point of death. We will continue to become like Christ after death; although how the process works I do not profess to know. I believe, however, that it is between the individual saved soul and Christ: I do not accept that the process can be affected by the intervention of those on Earth.

  • Plasterer

    Randy Olds did a fascinating 22-part series on hell, which is unfortunately now defunct.

    Can be recovered via WayBackWhen: https://web.archive.org/web/20120120144404/http://fromdamascustoemmaus.com/questioning-hell/

  • William Lewis

    Great article, Your Grace.

  • David

    Well good luck with reasserting your control over your garden. Try secured gates perhaps ?

  • chiaramonti

    Hell was effectively abolished by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the nineteenth century when it allowed the appeal of an Anglican clergyman dismissed by his bishop because he had “lost his belief in the personality of the devil.” It was said that their Lordships had “abolished hell with costs”. It was, however, later reported that the erring cleric had become reconciled with the orthodox doctrine – when he received his solicitor’s bill!

  • Gergiev

    If we are saved by the grace of God and not by our own actions then what need is there of a final judgement? Those in Christ will be saved and those not In Christ will perish, irrespective of their own actions.

    • The Explorer

      Salvation is by faith alone, but believers will also be required to give account of themselves: “the gold, silver and precious stones” of good works. (‘I Corinthians’ 3 11-15). Believers will be rewarded accordingly.

      • Gergiev

        Interesting. In Matthew 25 when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, judging each man and woman on his or her actions in life, He is separating the saved from the damned, not the conscientious saved from their lesser, but still redeemed brothers and sisters.

        • The Explorer

          Good point, and ‘Matthew’ has to be aligned with ‘Revelation’ 20: 11-15.
          There’s the issue of whether judgment occurs at death or at the Last Judgment. I’d say at death, but there’s an intermediate state until the Last Judgment when those alive at the time are judged, and the dead have their verdict confirmed and receive their resurrection bodies. ‘Revelation’ suggests that those in the Book of Life are exempt from judgement, but the rest are judged by the record of their deeds.
          All very difficult, and misleading if one focuses on any one passage. One has to look at all the relevant passages to form a composite picture.

          • Gergiev

            Especially difficult since as Christians we believe that no one can be saved by virtue of his or her deeds…

    • Pubcrawler

      The last judgment is the point at which we discover, finally and in high-definition, which category we find ourselves to be in.

      • Powerdaddy

        God not bothering with 4k then?

    • Dominic Stockford

      The Last Judgement is when all, together, witness the division of goats and sheep. The moment when those who have denied God will realise that they will now spend eternity separated from His wonderful glorious presence. A moment of vindication for those who are in Christ.

  • A very thoughtful piece of writing which I will need to ponder.

    A title for a poem occurred to me recently ‘On losing Pascal’s Wager.’

    Not at all sure I want to write it, but I might have to.

  • Cressida de Nova

    ‘L’enfer c’est les autres.’..J P Sartre

    • The Explorer

      If that’s not all Hell is, it’s certainly a crucial part of it.

      • Uncle Brian

        Explorer

        There are, however, a fair number of “autres”, both human and canine, that have never been hellish at all. Quite the opposite.

        Thank you, by the way, for your contribution to my question about Heaven and Hell, lower down on this thread. I apologise for not acknowledging your answer earlier. In the meantime, that has developed into a debate with Martin Marprelate, and I have quoted you in my latest comment addressed to him:

        In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus uses the name “Hades”, specifying that on the Hades side of the gulf or chasm there is fire but no water, and vice versa on Abraham’s side. Nevertheless, the rich man is close enough to be able to recognize Lazarus and to carry on a conversation with Abraham. In a sense, therefore, they are both in the same place, though the chasm divides it into clearly differentiated environments.

        That would closely parallel the Greek Hades, which The Explorer describes in his comment (below): In Greek myth, for instance, all go to Hades, but Hades has its heavenly section, Elysium, and its hellish section, Tartarus: where the bad boys like Sisyphus are.

        • The Explorer

          Thinking about this further, I’d say Sheol was the equivalent of Hades: one place/condition with one section for the blessed and another for the wicked. The end of ‘Isaiah’ refers to the new Heaven and Earth, and to a clear separation of the wicked at the end of time, but not before then.

          So probably Christ was the first to proclaim two separate locations. The implication seems to be judgement immediately after death. The penitent thief will be with Christ in Paradise, which means the impenitent one will be elsewhere. But if the good part of Sheol is Heaven, then what about the bad part? Is the bad part a sort of disreputable suburb: a no go heavenly area like a Parisian zone sensible? That seems unlikely; so an area outside Heaven altogether seems probable.

          Heaven and Hell as they currently exist seem provisional: to be replaced by the new Heaven/Earth and the Lake of Fire.

          Not sure I’m right, but that’s the tentative best I can do.
          Regards, and thanks for raising such a thought-provoking topic.

          • Uncle Brian

            Explorer

            Thinking about this further, I’d say Sheol was the equivalent of Hades:

            The Trinitarian Bible Society agrees with you. In their translation of the NT into Hebrew, whenever the word Hades
            appears in the Greek, they translate it as Sheol, as for instance in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16.23). And whenever the word Paradise appears, as for instance in Luke 23.43, “Today shalt thou be with me…”), they translate it as Gan-Eden, the Garden of Eden.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Hell – knowing there is God, and knowing that for all eternity one will be separate from Him.