Dialogue with Michael (re: Heaven and Hell)

This post is a continuation of an exchange that began as a comment on Everyone Is Going to Heaven at my blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.  Therefore, if you want to see how this dialogue began, you can go to this comment and work your way backwards through that thread.  However, assuming you just want to begin here, that is fine.

This dialogue is with Michael who writes the blog All About Gnosis and Sophia (Knowledge and Wisdom).  I’ve broken up his last message into bite-sized pieces to which I can respond.

Well, I did study Greek for a couple years.

That’s good.  You’re ahead of me.  Not knowing Greek I depend heavily on the quite literal New American Standard Bible (NASB) and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 

And from my understanding, the root of the word Gehenna was exactly as you say. And from my studies, Sheol/Hades was where the dead awaited the general resurrection, and that even this had a barrier between the righteous and unrighteous, as in Lazarus and the rich man. This is often confused with heaven and hell/Gehenna, even though it is actually Sheol/Hades.

Yes, this is my understanding as well.

It is a spiritual place, kind of a waiting place for souls before they are raised in “new” bodies. So you are definitely right in making a distinction from Sheol/Hades and Gehenna. And you are also right about the roots of Gehenna, it was a Hebrew phrase that was simply transliterated into the Greek.

Glad we are on the same page regarding at least some of this terminology.

But what it is is not just outside of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, for that is temporary. But every time we see Gehenna mentioned, it is in reference to eternality, eternal fire and damnation, weeping and gnashing of teeth forever. So it cannot be merely just the place on earth outside the kingdom of God, it is the “place” “in” eternity apart from God and His Kingdom.

I think I can understand why you’d say that but it doesn’t seem necessary to read the New Testament that way.  For example, I take the word eternal to mean ongoing, constant, never-ending and I see that taking place on the earth.  I see no reason to postpone its meaning until some future date.  For Jesus it was imminent; for us it is reality. 

You say that in Jesus meant only salvation on earth, but how does this make sense? Given the context, I personally do not see how what He says can be interpreted in that way. Would you mind explaining how the context requires us to take it in the sense that you do?

I’m not saying the kingdom of God only applies to the earth.  It applies to all creation.  However, the reason Jesus spent so much time teaching about the kingdom of God – and it was, of course, the main subject of His teaching ministry – is because of our need to learn how to seek it, find it, and live within it while we are here on earth.  We do not need a Bible to teach us how to live in heaven; we need the Bible to teach us how to live on earth.  Whatever teaching we need in heaven will be given to us when we get there. 

You’ll note that there was no teaching in the Old Testament about how to live in Sheol.  Neither does the New Testament teach us how to live in heaven.

If we say that all of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God is about how we should live in heaven, then we make a great deal of the word of God of no effect.  That’s not a good thing.

Also, I think your notion of judgment is off a little. If there is judgment, there is a punishment involved that is handed out to the judged. What punishment is there on earth is there for those that, according to you, are living in judgment?

As I mentioned, see Deuteronomy 28 for a summary of the curses that come on the disobedient.  It was from this catalog that judgments were applied, for example, to Israel when first the Northern Kingdom and later the Southern Kingdom were destroyed.  The Lamentations of Jeremiah, for example, were in response to the curse that Israel had brought upon itself, the wrath of God that had been poured out, the indignation of God that God’s chosen people had to experience.

It seems that Jesus cleared up the idea that God inflicts harm and such upon evil people as their punishment, the story of Job does the same.

I don’t pretend to understand everything God does and I certainly don’t pronounce what is God’s judgment on a person versus what is not.  However, that wrath comes as a consequence of sin is a thoroughly biblical principle even though I see very few people today espousing it. 

What I mean here is not to say that it never happens like that, but that that is not the norm.

I not only think it’s the norm, I think it’s constant, ongoing, and never-ending.  In other words, it’s eternal.

As for repentance, what about those who never repent? On what grounds do they get into heaven? 

As it says in Romans 6:7, “he who has died is freed from sin.”  When a person dies, the blinders come off.  Of course, it’s then too late for them to improve their life on earth.  For this reason, they will experience regret and there will be judgment in heaven, too – though of a different nature than that experienced on earth.

What if they don’t want to be there?

I literally cannot conceive of a person in heaven not wanting to be there.  The world is full of temptation.  No one sins without help.  That is why people are prone to evil.  In heaven there will be no temptation.

The latter is a hypothetical that has to be answered by a universalist. For some more thoughts here, check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Heaven and Hell.

I’m not sure what you want me to see in this article.

Finally, of course people don’t shout that everybody who is not a Christian is going to Hell, that would be counter-productive to the Gospel, for that is not the Good News. The Good News is that you can be saved from what we deserve, which is Hell, I think you would agree here. Also, it is unfortunate that many Christians have succumbed to the world and blend in so easily as to hardly tell a difference. Along with that, many churches try to be politically correct as well as not just tolerant of other beliefs (which means to disagree yet allow for the existence of opposing beliefs) but to accept other beliefs as just as good. Given this, churches are often not as biblical as they should be, which I am sure is one of your criticisms of them. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any out there. And if it is your argument that because nobody endorses the view of Hell that I do out loud, or that not enough do, that is fallacious reasoning. It has no bearing on the truth value of the proposition, whether it is held, endorsed, or taught.

You are quite right that the fact that few churches, pastors, and theologians today warn about an afterlife of hell does not have any bearing on whether such teaching is biblical or not.  My point is, given their behavior, to question whether they themselves believe in it.  After all, if you really thought that the majority of the human race, including many people you know, were going to have an afterlife of never-ending physical and psychological torture you would set aside all other interests in order to warn them.  You wouldn’t talk about the Super Bowl, you would wouldn’t read the newspaper, you would have movie night.  All other interests but warning people about hell would subside as meaningless in the light of a potential infinity of pain. 

In closing, I have taught on Preterism at church for our youth group, as well as the other parousia positions like Future Preterism, Historical Preterism(you), Partial vs. Full Preterism, along with Millenialism, Amillenialism, Premillenialism, and Post-Millenialism. So the views themselves are not new to me.

Then you probably know more about the details of these various positions than I do.  As I mentioned, I have not spent much time studying these different points of view though I am aware of them.

However, that preterism was the dominant view of the early church was not something I found in my research.

I wasn’t meaning to suggest that.  Rather, I was making the point that Premillennialism and Dispensationalism, which together account for almost all of the “last days” hysteria that humanity has seen, is a fairly recent phenomenon in church history (generally, the 18th Century to today).  To find this sort of expectation in an imminent return of Christ prior to that you have to go back to the New Testament church itself.  There indeed, there was the expectation that Christ’s return would be in their generation.  Subsequent to that generation, the expectation lapsed into relative dormancy until the more recent times that I have mentioned. 

Many did think Jesus would return within their generation, maybe even Paul for a time. But as people began to die and stuff, they realized that they must have been wrong.

I can’t imagine such a thing.  By that, I mean that I cannot conceive of Jesus and His apostles being wrong about something they had been so specific and adamant about.  From one end of the New Testament to the other, the coming of the Lord is deemed to be an imminent event, to occur before the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries had completely expired.  It was not a minor issue for them, nor should it be for us.  If they were wrong, we would have to say they are false prophets. 

Certainly you have seen people in our age – cults, they are usually called – who proclaim that “the end is about to occur.”  Such cults lose all credibility when the prophesied time comes and goes with no bang.  The judgment of humanity can’t be any different for Jesus and the apostles. 

The good news is that there were not wrong.  They were absolutely right about everything that they said.  They were not false prophets – they were true! 

The majority of early church fathers, according the stuff I read up on, believed that the general resurrection would occur at the second coming, the judgment would follow that, and then the “New Heaven/New Earth.”

The new heaven and earth came with the Second Coming.  It was that new creation that did away with Sheol and changed the destination of the dead from Sheol to Heaven.

I listen to early church fathers and care about what they say.  But their words cannot be put on a par with those of Jesus and the apostles.  It is the Bible that must prevail – not the opinions of subsequent generations.

This is not Full Preterism as you endorse.

As I mentioned, I am not fully schooled in Preterism and all its forms.  I was only using the term in its general meaning, and not endorsing any particular school of thought.

They seemed to think that He had not come back yet, though some thought that they were indeed in the “end times” based upon Jesus prediction about the destruction of the Temple, but many of the other things that were supposed to pass didn’t/haven’t.

Again, it’s inconceivable to me that some of what Jesus prophesied did not occur when He was clear that all these things would occur in that generation (Matthew 24:34), and the apostles corroborated this point with many references – most notably some of the epistles which indicated that they had, by the time those epistles were written,  “come down to the wire.”

Along these lines, and you may discuss it elsewhere and if so you could point me to it, Paul addresses the question of what will happen to the dead when Jesus returns. The worry here seems to be that the bodies may be beyond repair for a resurrection due to deterioration. Paul assures them saying that the dead will rise first after the Lord returns accompanied by a loud voice and the trumpet of the archangel, and only after that will those who are still living be called to meet them in the clouds.

Yes, I deal with 1 Corinthians 15 in The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

First, this is evidence for the belief that Paul recognized that Jesus was not coming ASAP since he was addressing what would happened to the dead in Christ.

I don’t see anything in 1 Corinthians 15 that indicates Paul is changing his view of when the resurrection was coming.  We who have lived subsequent to the apostolic generation have divided up the coming of the Lord into many separate events, but we have done so without warrant.  Paul and the other apostles saw the coming of the Lord as imminent as they did the resurrection of the dead…because the two events were one and the same event (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). 

Second, it seems to be in opposition to Preterism in that the Second Coming always seems to be talked of as if there will be great fanfare, and that all will see Him coming on the clouds and it will be glaringly obvious. If His return was glaringly obvious, why is Full Preterism such a minority view? 

There was indeed fanfare of the greatest and highest order – in the spiritual dimension.  Spiritual things are greater than physical things, and therefore the spiritual Second Coming of Jesus Christ was greater than a physical coming would have been.

Not to mention, there is no literature in the late first, early second centuries endorsing the idea that Christ had returned. If they didn’t know/think that He had at that time, why should we?

I have not had the time nor the resources to make a detailed investigation of that period, so I am not prepared to agree that “no literature exists” which supports this point.  If we are to believe the apostles, much of the church leadership was corrupt that the end of the New Testament age and they would certainly not have been as sensitive to a spiritual Second Coming.  Even if, however, no literature could be found, it would not prove that the Lord did not return then as He said, nor would it even prove that no one at the time believed it.  It would only prove we’d have no record of people on earth attesting to it.

I do think church history since, at least up until the time that Dispensationalism gained sway, attached much more prophetic significance to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. that Christianity at large does today – a point which your statement seems to obscure (even if it was not intended to do so). 

The view that He was coming back that early was mostly abandoned even by the time the Gospel of John was written it seems.

It does not seem so to me.  In fact, I see the hope in Christ’s coming again quite vibrant in verse like John 14:3 (“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself”) and John 21:22 (“If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”).

It’s true that John doesn’t repeat the Olivet Discourse which was so prominent in the synoptics, but then John’s purpose was largely to present a different kind of gospel that did not merely repeat the others.  Assuming that He also wrote the epistles of John and the book of Revelation, his narrative is quite consistent – and no one could be more insistent on the imminent return of the Lord that the one who wrote “Children, it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18) and the fivefold exclamation of a right-on-the-verge return in Revelation 22.

Michael, if you want to continue the dialogue, just reply here and we’ll continue exchanging thoughts.

55 Replies to “Dialogue with Michael (re: Heaven and Hell)”

  1. First, I must say that I feel honored in some way since you have devoted an entire post to reply to a comment of mine haha. But wow, lots to respond to, though I guess that’s partially my own doing as well haha. It may take a few days due to school, but I will try to take it a section at a time here.

    My first issue is not so much with your definition of eternal, I agree with that, but with your application. The earth, in the Bible, is not usually considered eternal in the sense that Heaven would be, and I think you would agree with me here. So in that case, we would have to adjust the definition of eternal to mean never-ending until the world ends and heaven begins. I am confused by what type of judgment would be passed onto someone in heaven, so a clarification here would be nice.

    But where I find issue is a place like Matthew 18, where Jesus says it is better to be maimed or crippled than to be thrown into eternal fire. Notice here what is eternal, not the act of judgment, but the fire. The punishment that is associated with the judgment is eternal. On your view, it is merely the judging that would have to be going on forever, while the punishment is not but rather finite, otherwise they could never get to heaven for surely that is not punishment.

    I agree that there is an earthly dimension to the Kingdom, but as you say, also a heavenly one. And I agree that Jesus was not teaching us how to live in heaven, I think that this life is meant to prepare us for it. But if what I said previously is translated into this issue, eternal punishment, eternal Gehenna, eternally being out of the Kingdom, would surely transfer into Heaven, and unless Heaven has a Gehenna as well, I am not sure how one would deal with this.

    In regards to sin being the cause of ailments and stuff, that flies in the face of the entire Gospel. It was a curse in Levitical law to be hung upon a tree, yet Jesus was. Illness was a curse according to the Jewish leaders in the first century, which is one reason why they were mad at Jesus for healing people. Jesus was healing them because it did not have anything to do with their sinful lives in most cases, like people that are blind from birth, or people that are mentally handicapped. Job was considered on of the most Godly men of the Bible, yet he suffered possibly second worse only to Jesus. The book of Job even points out that Jobs health issues, family problems, and other torments had nothing to do with any sin issues in his life. And if God’s justice is perfect, the punishment should be fit for the crime. And in many cases, a certain illness or torment does not seem fit for some of the people it comes upon. This is not to say that this it is never the case that sin is justified by God through punishment on earth, for I have seen it in my own life I believe. Along these lines, what about the “unforgivable sin?” How does one get punished for this and yet still find his way into heaven?

    Sorry, but its time for bed, I will try to respond some more tomorrow.

    1. My first issue is not so much with your definition of eternal, I agree with that, but with your application. The earth, in the Bible, is not usually considered eternal in the sense that Heaven would be, and I think you would agree with me here. So in that case, we would have to adjust the definition of eternal to mean never-ending until the world ends and heaven begins. I am confused by what type of judgment would be passed onto someone in heaven, so a clarification here would be nice.

      Remember that Jesus said many who are first here will be last there, and vice versa (Matthew 19:30). I do not expect to see many of today’s world leaders, if any, occupying the seats of power in heaven.

      Remember also that Paul said “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). Though we may all judge angels I do not expect all of us to enjoy the same degree of authority in that regard. Even in the aforementioned Matthew 19 passage, Jesus said that the twelve apostles would “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelves tribes of Israel,” so I don’t think there are unlimited thrones for resurrected humans. Thus there are variations in how humans will be regarded in heaven. Human society will have a different order than it has on earth, but it will still be ordered – for God is not a God of chaos.

      But where I find issue is a place like Matthew 18, where Jesus says it is better to be maimed or crippled than to be thrown into eternal fire.

      The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17) – blessings which are not denied to the crippled or lame. (Moreover, the crippled and lame in the kingdom of God have the hope of being healed, which is more than you can say for those outside.) Salvation in the kingdom of God is a matter of the soul and is independent of our circumstances (see Philippians 4:11-13 and It’s a Salvation of the Soul…Not Circumstances).

      Notice here what is eternal, not the act of judgment, but the fire.

      Isaiah 33:14-15 speaks of a continual burning which is survivable by the righteous. Thus the fire continues to burn until the wicked perish, though the righteous are not affected by it (like the difference between the three Hebrew children and the guards who perished).

      On your view, it is merely the judging that would have to be going on forever, while the punishment is not but rather finite, otherwise they could never get to heaven for surely that is not punishment.

      Are you saying that punishment must last forever for it to be sufficient?

      But if what I said previously is translated into this issue, eternal punishment, eternal Gehenna, eternally being out of the Kingdom, would surely transfer into Heaven, and unless Heaven has a Gehenna as well, I am not sure how one would deal with this.

      I don’t know why Gehenna would need to transfer to heaven or why heaven would need a Gehenna. The Scriptures certainly don’t paint such a picture. Rather they paint a picture of Gehenna being outside Jerusalem (not below it as Sheol was below the earth).

      It was a curse in Levitical law to be hung upon a tree, yet Jesus was.

      Yes, and Paul confirmed that Jesus was made curse for us in Galatians 3:13. The book of Job was an important precursor for this because it revealed that even though the curse comes in response to sin, it can still come on the righteous for reasons that are not immediately apparent to us.

      Illness was a curse according to the Jewish leaders in the first century, which is one reason why they were mad at Jesus for healing people. Jesus was healing them because it did not have anything to do with their sinful lives in most cases, like people that are blind from birth, or people that are mentally handicapped.

      As I said in an earlier post, I do not presume to pronounce which maladies people suffer are the result of their sins or which are completely undeserved like Job’s. However, that does not require us to say they are utterly random.

      And if God’s justice is perfect, the punishment should be fit for the crime.

      I’m going to digress here for a moment, take this sentence out of its context, and say I agree with you completely on this. (Even though I’ve taken it out of context, I don’t think I’ve done violence to its intention or meaning.) How then can you feel comfortable saying God will impose an infinite life sentence (of hell in the afterlife) for a finite sinful life?

      And in many cases, a certain illness or torment does not seem fit for some of the people it comes upon.

      I’m back from the digression, but I still agree completely.

      Along these lines, what about the “unforgivable sin?” How does one get punished for this and yet still find his way into heaven?

      The unforgiveable sin is to speak against the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of forgiveness. Therefore, to resist Him is to resist forgiveness. However, once you stop resisting, the forgiveness flows.

  2. I think you are missing my point here. I am not talking about the maiming or the crippling. I’m talking about the punishment that would come about if we did not cut off our hand, which is called eternal. If Jesus said the punishment was eternal, I take that to mean that the punishment is in fact eternal. I am not saying that the punishment must be eternal, I am not one who can know that. But I take what Jesus said to heart, and that was, that the punishment for sin is eternal if we did not repent. Maybe part of the issue lies here in how I view Jesus sacrifice. He took our sins upon Himself so that we could be pardoned and God could “see” us as righteous because Jesus righteousness would be imparted onto us if we accept him. But that is the caveat, we must accept Him, otherwise we cannot be given forgiveness and righteousness. That is why repenting is so important. Someone that does not repent, namely, a non-Christian, cannot receive the forgiveness of their sins because of that, and therefore will never be righteous in God’s eyes due to Jesus sacrifice and never be allowed into heaven barring a change of heart on their behalf. If this is not the case, free will seems pointless since no matter what happens, God determines the outcome. So I throw the ball to your side of the court here, if I fall away from Christianity, reject God, and never return, living a life of unrepentant sin, do I go to heaven despite the fact that I have not been forgiven due to my own stubbornness?

    My point about Gehenna is actually exactly what you said. There is no reason to think that there would be a Gehenna in heaven. But if Gehenna is eternal, then what happens to it when heaven comes about? If it ceases to exist, viz. nobody is left outside of heaven, then it is not eternal. If it continues to exist, who is there? There are explicit references to Gehenna being the place of the devil, the Accuser, and that people will go there even though it was not made for them but for the devil and his demons/angels. What I was trying to do was show that your idea of Gehenna as merely a place on earth outside the kingdom of God is inconsistent with the idea that Gehenna is eternal. And from what I glean from the Bible is not the Gehenna is a place outside of Jerusalem, that was the Valley of Hinnon, where Gehenna gets its name, but rather this name was used in a metaphorical sense to show the seriousness of sin and the eternal consequences that it has. It is seen as an eternal “place,” in the same way heaven is, so why would we decide that it was merely here on earth if we do not say that heaven is currently here on earth?

    Finally, what if one never ceases resisting the Holy Spirit? What if they always resist God? What is sin other than turning away from God? And if we turn from God, He is turning from us, but I see no reason to think that He will make us turn around to Him, as that would override free will. And if He does not do that, how can He save everyone if that is against their will, even if He wants them to be saved? I have know many people that say they would rather spend eternity in Hell than spend forever in a place like heaven where they are forced to worship a God who “has commanded genocide, allowed so much gratuitous evil, never really tried to reveal Himself in a way to be persuasive…” I think that is the attitude that will continue for these people beyond death. But if that is the case, maybe heaven would be a hell for them? haha I don’t know. But the point I am making is that I find it easy to believe that many would refuse forgiveness, the way many rejected Jesus despite His miracles, His wisdom, His resurrection, and still never turned to Him. If they reject the person of the Son no matter what He did, I see no reason why they would ever turn from that rejection.

    More to come on stuff from your first response lol

    1. But I take what Jesus said to heart, and that was, that the punishment for sin is eternal if we did not repent.

      As I said earlier, and I thought you agreed, eternal means constant, ongoing, never-ending. Punishment that falls into this category would continue until the person died (as in Isaiah 22:14).

      Maybe part of the issue lies here in how I view Jesus sacrifice. He took our sins upon Himself so that we could be pardoned and God could “see” us as righteous because Jesus righteousness would be imparted onto us if we accept him. But that is the caveat, we must accept Him, otherwise we cannot be given forgiveness and righteousness. That is why repenting is so important. Someone that does not repent, namely, a non-Christian, cannot receive the forgiveness of their sins because of that, and therefore will never be righteous in God’s eyes due to Jesus sacrifice and never be allowed into heaven barring a change of heart on their behalf.

      This is the traditional evangelical doctrine. Try to step out of the evangelical mindset, if you will, for a moment and see the picture this draws of God’s character and, specifically, His justice. If someone shows deference to Him, He will not punish that person for his sins. But if someone will not show deference to Him, he will punish that person infinitely for a set of finite sins. It’s grotesque. And it bears no resemblance to the character Jesus displayed while He lived on earth.

      If this is not the case, free will seems pointless since no matter what happens, God determines the outcome.

      I believe that everyone is going to heaven, but I also believe that our free will makes enormous differences. Just because we’re all going to heaven doesn’t mean we’re going to have identical outcomes – not by a long shot.

      So I throw the ball to your side of the court here, if I fall away from Christianity, reject God, and never return, living a life of unrepentant sin, do I go to heaven despite the fact that I have not been forgiven due to my own stubbornness?

      Yes, but you will have enormous shame and regret. In the light of infinity, I hope that that shame and regret would one day recede and even evaporate – but it might be a long, long time.

      But if Gehenna is eternal, then what happens to it when heaven comes about?

      The new heavens already exist. They came with the Second Coming of Christ. They are above us.

      If it ceases to exist, viz. nobody is left outside of heaven, then it is not eternal. If it continues to exist, who is there?

      I do not see anything in the Bible about how long the new heavens and new earth will last. Nor do I see anything about how long the fires of judgment will last on earth, except that they are likely to last as long as sin lasts. The good news about the new creation is that there is no longer any sin in heaven, as there was before the new creation. Satan and his angels have been thrown down.

      It is seen as an eternal “place,” in the same way heaven is, so why would we decide that it was merely here on earth if we do not say that heaven is currently here on earth?

      I do not see Gehenna given equal standing with heaven. Rather, it mentioned as being in contrast with Jerusalem. In the Second Coming, the heavenly Jerusalem came down and Gehenna is being outside it. It’s fires never stop but once they’ve consumed the flesh, the spirit is free to rise to heaven.

      Finally, what if one never ceases resisting the Holy Spirit?

      People stop resisting the Holy Spirit when they die (Romans 6:7). Once they are removed from this world, they can no longer be blinded by the god of this world.

      I have know many people that say they would rather spend eternity in Hell than spend forever in a place like heaven where they are forced to worship a God who “has commanded genocide, allowed so much gratuitous evil, never really tried to reveal Himself in a way to be persuasive…” I think that is the attitude that will continue for these people beyond death.

      Go back to Luke 16, with which you are familiar. The penitent one there was haughty before he died. As I’ve been saying, death creates whole new attitudes.

      But the point I am making is that I find it easy to believe that many would refuse forgiveness, the way many rejected Jesus despite His miracles, His wisdom, His resurrection, and still never turned to Him. If they reject the person of the Son no matter what He did, I see no reason why they would ever turn from that rejection.

      The traditional evangelical doctrine of hell as afterlife says that even if people are begging and crying and screaming for relief, that it will not be granted them. Only an insane person would enter such a place willingly. And only an uncompassionate God would be deaf to cries for help from such a place. God wants people to repent! If a fiery pit made them do it, then He’d still be glad they repented.

      1. Your idea of eternal seems inconsistent. On one hand you say it is never-ending. On the other you are saying it ends at death. Which one is it? If the former, then the punishment Jesus was talking about continues after death. If the latter, heaven becomes inconsistent because we now have an eternal heaven that goes on after death and an eternal punishment that ends at death. You are using one word in two different ways it seems.

        Let me put it this way. I think you are wrong about Gehenna being in opposition to Jerusalem. Rather, I think it is in opposition to heaven. The attribute of eternality is never given to the earthly Jerusalem or the earth. It is given to the New Jerusalem, Heaven, and God. But also Gehenna. To me, that means that Gehenna should be placed on this level, and not on the level of finitude.

        I think you misinterpret Romans 6:6-7. this is a figurative death, for he is talking to living people. This language continues throughout the rest of the chapter, saying “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive in Christ Jesus.” This is clearly a figurative meaning here, since, as I said, he is writing to living people. This was where the idea of Baptism came in, which, in the Greek, means to immerse. It was being immersed by the water, which is to be completely under it, analogous to being buried, and being raised back up, alive in a new way. Check Ephesians 2, 1-8ish. It is a figurative death, and does not mean that we no longer sin, but are no longer held captive sin the way we were before. That is what the rest of the Romans passage says. So you are taking this out of its context to fit your beliefs, rather than forming your beliefs around its original meaning in its original context.

        Notice, though, that in the Luke 16 passage, the rich man never asks for forgiveness, he doesn’t repent despite the flames. He is more concerned with his thirst, and, not surprisingly, wants others not to make the mistake that he made, which was not turning to God. In your eyes, where would this man be now? We he have been able to cross the uncrossable chasm?

        I do not think that the traditional evangelical doctrine of Hell says that people will be crying out for repentance though. Clearly, God is more concerned with spiritual well-being than physical well-being, otherwise He would not have created a world that has disease and sickness and natural disasters in it. So if it is your view that people crying out for help will be helped, I am afraid that this happens so often even in our world today, yet they are not helped, which means that whether hell or earth, people are crying out for help and God doesn’t always do so. And according to your logic, that means that he must be uncompassionate either way.

        Second, along these lines, what if the fact that God sent them to Hell made them hate Him even more and want even less to do with Him? Does that seem crazy? Not to me. I could see this happening.

        Now, I am not saying that it is not possible that for some people, Hell could be finite. I am open to this, though I will never commit fully one way or the other due to the limitations placed on me for being human where this is not possible for me to know. I would not even be surprised. But the problem I have is that sometimes, people reject the idea of Hell because it is unpleasant and seems mean and evil. But my response is that no matter what it seems, the Bible, at least at face value, seems to teach it, so I accept it as true based on that. I am not saying that that is your motivation, but I do find it odd that most universalists don’t say that the Bible necessarily affirms that no one will go to Hell for the reasons you do, it is usually so that they don’t have to believe in a God that would send people to Hell. But in my opinion, God leaves where we go for eternity in our hands. He allows us to make that decision. He wants us to choose Him, of course, but cannot make us freely do so. Having said that, some people will likely not choose God, which is like choosing Hell. Now, as I said, I will not deny that people could have a change of heart, but I do believe that many will not.

        PS The reason I wanted you to check out the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy was to see the logical and philosophical problems that Universalism has.

        1. Your idea of eternal seems inconsistent. On one hand you say it is never-ending. On the other you are saying it ends at death. Which one is it?

          It’s never-ending. However, when a person dies he is removed from it.

          Eternal judgment takes place on earth. As long as a person is on earth, he is subject to it. When the person dies, he ascends to heaven and is thus removed from the scene of eternal judgment.

          You are using one word in two different ways it seems.

          Actually, I think you are the one using the word in two different ways because you agree with me that eternal means never-ending but then you don’t even have it starting until after a person dies…and maybe even not until after some general resurrection and judgment you see to be in the future.

          Let me put it this way. I think you are wrong about Gehenna being in opposition to Jerusalem. Rather, I think it is in opposition to heaven. The attribute of eternality is never given to the earthly Jerusalem or the earth. It is given to the New Jerusalem, Heaven, and God. But also Gehenna. To me, that means that Gehenna should be placed on this level, and not on the level of finitude.

          I can’t buy your notion of disconnecting Gehenna from Jerusalem. First of all, they are linguistically dependent on each other because their figurative use is adapted from their original literal proximity. Secondly, I cannot fully equate Jerusalem with heaven because the book of Revelation says that the heavenly Jerusalem “came down out of heaven” and became “the tabernacle of God among men.”

          I think you misinterpret Romans 6:6-7. this is a figurative death, for he is talking to living people.

          I quite agree that there is much figurative meaning to be derived from the idea of dying with Christ, and Paul plumbs this here and elsewhere. However, the figurative meaning derives from the literal reality. In other words, Paul looks forward and sees that we all die and must be raised to new life by God. Therefore, he exhorts us to “go ahead and die now” as it were. That is, give up self and live for Christ. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5, “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Such exhortations have meaning precisely because of the underlying reality that all who die are freed from sin. Therefore, the glory of knowing Christ in this life is that we can go ahead and partake of that freedom – not having to wait until it physically occurs.

          Notice, though, that in the Luke 16 passage, the rich man never asks for forgiveness, he doesn’t repent despite the flames. He is more concerned with his thirst, and, not surprisingly, wants others not to make the mistake that he made, which was not turning to God.

          You may be technically correct that he did not ask for forgiveness in the story. However, the alteration in his character was quite dramatic. He exhibited a selflessness regarding his brothers that we could not have imagined in his earthly life. Consider also the humility he showed in begging from Lazarus. His behavior indicated that he accepted the justice of God’s verdict.

          In your eyes, where would this man be now? We he have been able to cross the uncrossable chasm?

          Transfer the entirety of Sheol (Hades) below to heaven above in the Second Coming of Christ. There probably remains a great gap in heaven between Lazarus and the man. Once we’ve left this earth we will not be able to undo anything we have done here. What’s done will be done. Infinity can assuage much pain, but I do not see how the rich man ever overtakes Lazarus.

          I do not think that the traditional evangelical doctrine of Hell says that people will be crying out for repentance though. Clearly, God is more concerned with spiritual well-being than physical well-being, otherwise He would not have created a world that has disease and sickness and natural disasters in it. So if it is your view that people crying out for help will be helped, I am afraid that this happens so often even in our world today, yet they are not helped, which means that whether hell or earth, people are crying out for help and God doesn’t always do so. And according to your logic, that means that he must be uncompassionate either way.

          In this life there is no such thing as interminable suffering. Therefore, I don’t buy your notion that I have as much problem with an “uncompassionate God” as the traditional evangelical doctrine of an interminable hell in the afterlife.

          Second, along these lines, what if the fact that God sent them to Hell made them hate Him even more and want even less to do with Him? Does that seem crazy? Not to me. I could see this happening.

          I cannot see this happening at all. The reason such peopel reject God in this life is that they can turn to their pleasures and indulge themselves. The more they reject God the more they can seek passing pleasures. That would not be the case in a hellish afterlife and they would have no motivation to continue turning from Him. Think about it. Hell in the traditional evangelical mind is devoid of any pleasures. There is therefore no attraction for a person. The only pleasure would be release and the only release would be God. Thus every pleasure-seeking God-hating atheist you know would be begging God to get out of there if for no other reason that all pleasure is on the outside (albeit only moral pleasures by this time).

          But the problem I have is that sometimes, people reject the idea of Hell because it is unpleasant and seems mean and evil. But my response is that no matter what it seems, the Bible, at least at face value, seems to teach it, so I accept it as true based on that. I am not saying that that is your motivation, but I do find it odd that most universalists don’t say that the Bible necessarily affirms that no one will go to Hell for the reasons you do, it is usually so that they don’t have to believe in a God that would send people to Hell.

          I am not one of those people who reject the traditional evangelical doctrine of hell because he can’t believe God would ever do anything like that. I used to hold this doctrine. I didn’t enjoy believing it, but I did believe it because I thought the Bible taught it. I thought the Bible taught it because it was believed by people who knew the Bible better than me and who quoted certain verses which seemed to support the idea. However, I eventually read the Bible enough on my own to see what it actually said. I was not studying the doctrine of heaven-or-hell per se. I was just studying trying to hear God’s word so I could be a more obedient child of God day by day. In that context, I began to see what the Bible actually teaches about life after death. The beginning of my eye-opening was realizing that most of the Bible is not about how to live in heaven but rather about how to live on earth. Therefore, I began to see that many verses which had been relegated to the afterlife had much to do with this life. Being willing to be obedient to God opens our eyes to a lot. (John 3:19-21).

          I am committed to biblical universalism. That is to say, if universalism is not biblical then it cannot be true.

          Nevertheless, the main message of my blogs and my life is not universalism, but rather, “Repent!” More specifically, my message to every single one of my fellow human beings – Christian and otherwise – is “Repent, and follow Jesus Christ our Lord!”

          But in my opinion, God leaves where we go for eternity in our hands. He allows us to make that decision. He wants us to choose Him, of course, but cannot make us freely do so. Having said that, some people will likely not choose God, which is like choosing Hell.

          I do not believe that everyone who is not confessing Jesus Christ as Lord is consciously rejecting God and consciously choosing hell. How many of the earth’s almost 7B inhabitants has even heard the Gospel message? Even if 95%, which would be extraordinarily high, that still leaves 140M people who have never heard. And what of the ones who have heard? How many have heard the true gospel from a trustworthy servant? Most people in America who have heard and not accepted have probably only heard from a televangelist who was asking them for money at the same time. I’m not saying moral breakdowns by the clergy and the church are a free pass for people to reject Jesus, but it does make it harder for people to see Him. Romans 2:24 quotes Isaiah and Ezekiel who both talked about how God’s people gave the Gentiles occasion to reject God. There are scales over the eyes of many people and those of us who know Him must pray and make our lives worthy of God so that those scales can drop and more people can see Him as He truly is. I believe that when that happens, more will accept Him.

          PS The reason I wanted you to check out the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy was to see the logical and philosophical problems that Universalism has.

          I looked at this article, Michael. Please be more specific about what you want me to address. The problems identified in this article are indeed problems for historic universalism but not problems for biblical universalism. In fact, the article doesn’t even seem cognizant of a biblical universalism.

          1. First, this earth will be destroyed one day, either by God or by nature. The universe will cease to exist as we know it due to a heat death. This is where we stand currently. Now to clarify why I mention this. Never-ending is different than never-beginning. So you are attacking a straw man here saying that while I claim that Hell is eternal and never ending, I don’t think it comes about until a later time. But there are two issues here. First, this is self-defeating. Your view is just as finite in that sense if that is the route you want to go, because your Hell began a) at the Second Coming(on your view), or b)at some other point in the finite past, at the earliest when the earth was created. So both of our views of Hell have a beginning. However, in light of what I started this response with, your Hell will end when the earth is destroyed, since it is only on this earth. That means that your Hell must be finite in both directions. On my view, Hell is eternal and never-ending in the sense that though it may have a beginning, it will last forever after that.

            Next, yes, the literal Valley of Hinnon was located outside of Jerusalem as a city. but if that is the way you want to go, surely you would not claim that all bad people are sent to that physical valley when they are bad the way a child may get sent to his room. So if that is not the case, then what exactly do you mean that their figurative use is based on the proximity to each other? That may be the origin of the word, but certainly not the meaning. That valley is not eternal by any means, and in fact does not even exist in the way that it did then today. The term was always figurative and that was used essentially only because of the things associated with that valley, viz. that was where criminals were sent to when they were kicked out of the city, the waste that was present there as that was basically the cities garbage dump, and the constant fire and heat caused by a combination of the waste and heat. Having said this, what part of the figurative meaning, which really isn’t so figurative since Gehenna is literally only seen used in reference to Hell and never of the actual valley, doesn’t fit with my view of Hell?

            As for the Pauline stuff, that is not the way that I would interpret it. I feel that is going to far. I think to die to sin means just that, that we are no longer living for sin, but rather for God, which fits perfectly within the rest of his writings. But to take it the next step to saying that it is figurative because actual death leads to freedom from sin I think is to read your view back into the text. If that is what is previously believed, yeah, it makes sense. But if not, I see no reason to take it that far unless there are more explicit areas that say as such, which I have not found.

            Next, so we are in agreement then that the man had accepted the justice of the punishment that he had been dealt. This could be a sign that he knew that he deserved Hell. Maybe that is what Hell would be like, knowing that you messed up and realizing that it was deserving for you to be there.

            To the next point, haha.
            As for the pleasure idea, I would think that this would be the last reason God would want to let them out of it. Its pretty clear that this life is not about consuming the most pleasure according to the Bible, so I don’t think that this is a very strong point in either direction.

            As to your reasoning for believing what you do, there is definitely a positive side of reading the Bible for yourself, but there is also the possible negative side that you could be allowing too much subjectivity into your interpretation. There are often reasons for scholars picking one side more than the other, usually if it is above 85% it is considered pretty much consensus, which, while not meaning it is true, it often means that that is the side that the evidence leans towards. And I feel like that is the case here, though I am sure my bias is coming out here haha

            I certainly agree that many people have the “wrong” Gospel message, or have been so inundated with the horrors and “atrocities” of the Church that this is used as a reason for not partaking. And I agree that some of these people could still get into heaven. Paul, can’t remember which letter, says that we are judged based on what we know. So if they have the wrong idea of the Gospel, or are never introduced to it, they won’t be judged on that which they do not know of, but rather whether they recognize that there seems to be something behind this universe, because it appears designed, they may feel God’s presence in some way, like the Native Americans had their Great Spirit and stuff. That is one of the things that I think is fascinating. Only about 8% of the world’s population are atheist/agnostic, the rest are religious in some way, recognizing something greater than them. So my personal opinion is that as long as they recognize some idea that a God that created this universe or is control of it in some manner and obey the natural moral laws that humans are encoded with, then I think that Christ’s sacrifice could certainly cover them too, though in the end, that is God’s decision and not mine and He knows best.

            Finally, I agree that “Repent!” and getting to know God/Christ in a relationship is the biggest aspect of the Gospel message, as well as how to live here on earth. Though I would say the latter is to show us how to get to heaven, which is an area of disagreement among us.

            1. First, this earth will be destroyed one day, either by God or by nature. The universe will cease to exist as we know it due to a heat death. This is where we stand currently.

              That may be. My only point is the the new heaven and earth promised in the Scripture was fulfilled in the late 1st Century A.D.

              As for our dispute about “eternal,” my main point is that eternality of the fire does not mean that what is in it must stay there forever. On the contrary, fire consumes. And what it consumes is removed.

              As for our dispute about the valley of Hinnom (and therefore Gehenna or hell), my main point is the concepts of Jerusalem and Hinnom exist in parallel. Their original meaning was geographic. Both later came to have figurative meanings. Their meanings – whether geographic or figurative – have always been complementary. Specifically with regard to the kingdom, it’s simply a matter of being in or out: Jerusalem illustrates being in and Gehenna represents being out. The whole idea of being told you’re outside is so that you’ll seek the way in. Thus 2 Peter 1 tells how to make sure the entrance to the kingdom is abundantly supplied to you.

              Therefore, the traditional evangelical idea of hell is a place that once you go to it, you can never get out of it. Whereas, the biblical view of it is not just to avoid it, but to leave it if you ever find yourself there. I find the Bible to always be redemptive in its admonishments, and this is but another example of that.

              As for the Pauline stuff, that is not the way that I would interpret it. I feel that is going to far. I think to die to sin means just that, that we are no longer living for sin, but rather for God, which fits perfectly within the rest of his writings. But to take it the next step to saying that it is figurative because actual death leads to freedom from sin I think is to read your view back into the text. If that is what is previously believed, yeah, it makes sense. But if not, I see no reason to take it that far unless there are more explicit areas that say as such, which I have not found.

              See verses such as Psalm 115:7 and Ecclesiastes 9:10 and note that death was considered a cessation of activity. Furthermore, if there was not an assumption that sinning stopped at death, then Paul’s use of the imagery would not have communicated his point.

              As for the pleasure idea, I would think that this would be the last reason God would want to let them out of it. Its pretty clear that this life is not about consuming the most pleasure according to the Bible, so I don’t think that this is a very strong point in either direction.

              I think I stipulated legitimate pleasure. According to your view, the father of the prodigal son would have rejected him on the basis that all the kid wanted was a warm meal. On the contrary, the father accepted the son while he was still a long way off before the father even knew whether the son would have a good attitude or not. The point for the father was: he who was lost has been found, he who was dead now lives. Redemption!

              As to your reasoning for believing what you do, there is definitely a positive side of reading the Bible for yourself, but there is also the possible negative side that you could be allowing too much subjectivity into your interpretation. There are often reasons for scholars picking one side more than the other, usually if it is above 85% it is considered pretty much consensus, which, while not meaning it is true, it often means that that is the side that the evidence leans towards.

              I wonder if this is how Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Martin Luther, and others came to their conclusions?

              So my personal opinion is that as long as they recognize some idea that a God that created this universe or is control of it in some manner and obey the natural moral laws that humans are encoded with, then I think that Christ’s sacrifice could certainly cover them too…

              Then maybe we’re not so far apart after all.

              However, given your view, it might not be wise to preach Christ to folks like that because that introduces the possibility that they could reject Him and thus reverse their course, eh?

              Finally, I agree that “Repent!” and getting to know God/Christ in a relationship is the biggest aspect of the Gospel message, as well as how to live here on earth.

              It feels good to be in agreement with you about something so important!

              1. My only issue is that the word Gehenna is never used in the NT to describe the actual valley of hinnon. It is always used more abstractly. And given that it is described as eternal in the same way that heaven is, and is used in contrast to heaven, I do not see why seeing it in contrast to Jerusalem or the finite, earthly Kingdom of God, when neither of those is ever considered eternal here on earth given that the Bible says that this earth will end, in some sense at least, and a new, perfect one will be formed. Second, yes, what is consumed by fire is usually removed or destroyed. But in Revelation 20, we see that those that are thrown into the lake of fire(that in the books of Matthew and Mark is described as unquenchable) will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” I do not see how you can reconcile this with your view of Hell. Not to mention, this same passage in Revelation says that Hades/Sheol will be thrown into the fire, along with everybody who’s name is not in the book of life. The picture being described here by John is not one of people being judged at their deaths, the way I think you see it, but rather all at once at a future point in time. For everybody to be judged in this manner all at once would have to mean that everybody at the same time was there, and if we are here now and not yet judged, it seems that we can say that this has not happened yet.

                Next, to me, it seems like the Bible leaves no room for one to get out of it. It seems to say that those are thrown into it will never get out and can never get out. Hence, they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Forever and ever does not seem like something that one would describe something with if they meant that it could be escaped. The thing in 2 Peter 1 in regards to people who are already Christians and how to “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.(8)” This is not saying how abundant the entrance to the Kingdom is, but how to stay in the Kingdom.

                I think you are reading too much into the prodigal’s son here. I think the father knew that by mere fact that his son was coming back was that he had turned from his former ways and recognized that he needed help. I mean, his son had basically wished him dead and did one of the worst things one could possibly due in the Jewish framework. To try to come back after this would only occur if one was in dire straits. So I think the concept here was that the son was repenting and that was thy the father was so glad to have him back. He would not have come back if he didn’t recognize his need for help. Yes, this is a story of redemption and celebration due to that, but the other key is the idea of repentance, and if the son had never turned from his ways and come back, this never could have even possibly happened.

                I don’t see why Paul’s analogy couldn’t have worked if he hadn’t meant that sinning stopped at death. But I feel that that is kind of avoiding the thrust that I was making, and that was that the death he was calling for was the cessation of being consumed and driven by our sinful natures. Also, in Romans 5:21, Paul says that sin reigned in death, the death that we are in before we are alive in Christ. So the idea here is that until one repents, puts the “dead” self “to death,” one will always be in sin. “The wages of sin is death…” Not to mention, the way you made it sound was that the cessation of sin after death meant we got to go to heaven. But I think this is a non sequitur in that even if one stops sinning after that point, it does not make up for their prior sins. That can only be done through repentance and Christ’s sacrifice. Finally along these lines, the language here that Paul is using is so abstract. He says we are to die to sin, to die with Christ, to be baptized in His death, but then sin reigns in death, leads to death… The point is that there are all abstract, not physical, literal. There is no way to say that he means the same type of death in each situation, for that would make this nonsense. The point he seems to make is that living in sin is to be “dead” to God, to be against His will, and until we end this, “put to death” this “death,” we can never truly live. But as Christ died a physical death for our sins, we do not have to die the physical death that He did to be freed, which is why we must be baptized in His death, or to say, we must take part in His death in a figurative and abstract way as to put our old selves behind us and live in a new way, God’s way. Hopefully this makes some sense because it seems kind of convoluted to me, but I think I said it in the way I wanted to.

                However, I think repentance is so important here, in fact, absolutely necessary. This is the concept of turning from our old selves, our sinful lives, that led us away from God, and being “born again” in Christ. Also, I feel it helpful to mention that in the Prodigal’s son thing, the Father(God) knows our hearts and knows why we are returning and what we mean by it, so to say that He does not know what type of mood or attitude he would have is, in my opinion, a little off given that God is omniscient.

                First, to compare yourself to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist is a little crazy to me. They were prophets of God and had God’s direct word from Him and based on the fulfillment of their prophecy as credibility. This is not something that we see much, if at all, today. In Martin Luther’s case, he was simply straying from Catholic Orthodoxy, which was pretty much Pagan and no longer very Biblical. Hell, no pun intended, Pontifex Maximus was a pagan term was stolen from the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in Pagan Rome! Luther was going back to what the apostles, early church fathers, etc. were saying before the Catholic Church had formed, become a corrupt political power, and messed up so many doctrines.

                Finally, it may seem like it may be more useful to not evangelize, but the idea here is that most will not get in another way. In Romans 1:18 into Romans 2, and really through like 9, Paul makes it clear that all people are without excuse, yet many will not come to him. This is also where we see Paul saying that those who have not heard the Law will not be judged by the Law but those who are under the Law… But given this, surely someone that has been introduced to a correct Gospel and the true God would be more likely to be saved that one who is not, for who really lives well in the Christian sense? I mean, hardly even any Christians anymore, yet alone non-Christians. Now I do not know how people used to live, and maybe it was easier then, but I would say that that wouldn’t be the case because sin and temptation have always been around and prevalent.

                I would say the reason I am pessimistic in this regard is because I would rather put my egg in that basket and underestimate people and be pleasantly surprised rather than be overly optimistic and suffer a major disappointment. Kind of a “Michael’s Wager” of sort haha

  3. You say “The new heaven and earth came with the Second Coming. It was that new creation that did away with Sheol and changed the destination of the dead from Sheol to Heaven.

    I listen to early church fathers and care about what they say. But their words cannot be put on a par with those of Jesus and the apostles. It is the Bible that must prevail – not the opinions of subsequent generations.”

    This is bologna to me, though I hate to say that. Are we in heaven now? If this is heaven, it sucks. If not, when do I get my new body and go to heaven? I see absolutely no scriptural reason to think that heaven is here. Has God destroyed the old? Have the imperishable put on the perishable? It doesn’t seem like it. If you could give me some scriptural basis of the fact that Heaven has come before the Bible had even finished being written that would be great. But if that was the case, surely that would have been the central message of the NT, not how to get there…

    As for the early church fathers, many were disciples of the apostles or the apostles disciples, so they would be learning first hand what the apostles thought! This gives them incredible credibility! Much more than we have especially, since all we have are a few letters and the Gospels, that may or may not have been written by the apostles themselves. That is equivalent to saying that you trust your beliefs about Socrates beliefs than you do Plato’s about Socrates. He was the one that made Socrates beliefs known!

    Next, the Matthew 24 thing is not a place one should point to. There has been so much debate over what was meant here. What were “the things” that would happen before this generation would pass. Which generation is it? The one alive now or the one that He was speaking of. Unfortunately, the Greek language is ambiguous here. But notice all the things that were mentioned before the end will come. It seems, to me, that Jesus was inferring a long time before this would happen, because He said that after some things, people would say the end is near, yet these are merely the birth pangs of the end. Not to mention, Jesus tells his apostles that they will be put to death before this happens, so why would the apostles think that the end would come during their lives? Also, notice how the Gospel is supposed to spread throughout the whole world prior to the end. But as of 100 AD, it hadn’t even spread beyond the Roman Empire, and was only scarcely accepted there at best.

    I am thoroughly confused at how you know that there was great fanfare in the spiritual realm. And that simply proves my point, I think. The people of the time, late first century, never made this claim that Jesus had returned! It was not glorious and triumphant and seen by all the way the return is described if no one even knew that it had happened! This would have been the talk of the world had it happened, but yet not a single person made this claim in that time period that I know of.

    Finally, to quote John’s gospel and revelation in a literal way is quite incorrect. Both books are so figurative, and should be interpreted in this way. Revelation was a vision of the future. The gospel is focused more on who Jesus is and why He should be followed than anything else, which is a great explanation why there are less stories of Jesus life and less “end times” talk in it than the other Gospels. That was not the purpose of the book.

    1. Are we in heaven now?

      Of course not.

      If not, when do I get my new body and go to heaven?

      When you die.

      Have the imperishable put on the perishable?

      Those who have died have.

      If you could give me some scriptural basis of the fact that Heaven has come before the Bible had even finished being written that would be great. But if that was the case, surely that would have been the central message of the NT, not how to get there…

      I do not believe that Jesus returned before the last New Testament document was written. I thought I’d made that clear, but perhaps that was in my interactions with another person.

      As for the early church fathers, many were disciples of the apostles or the apostles disciples, so they would be learning first hand what the apostles thought! This gives them incredible credibility! Much more than we have especially, since all we have are a few letters and the Gospels, that may or may not have been written by the apostles themselves.

      Please tell me more. I am only aware of three church fathers who had direct contact with the apostles and who writings we have: Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch who were disciples of John, and Clement of Rome who was a disciple of Peter. If you know of more, please tell me.

      Next, the Matthew 24 thing is not a place one should point to. There has been so much debate over what was meant here.

      Because there’s been a lot of debate it means there can’t be a clear answer? On that basis, people reject Jesus and the Bible.

      What were “the things” that would happen before this generation would pass?

      All these things. (Matthew 24:34)

      Which generation is it?

      The one He was speaking to.

      Unfortunately, the Greek language is ambiguous here.

      It doesn’t seem ambiguous in any of the English translations I’ve read. Morever, verses like Matthew 10:23 reinforce the meaning.

      It seems, to me, that Jesus was inferring a long time before this would happen, because He said that after some things, people would say the end is near, yet these are merely the birth pangs of the end.

      It doesn’t seem to me that He was inferring that at all. Especially when you consider what He said in summation in Matthew 24:34. Everything He described happened in to that generation.

      Not to mention, Jesus tells his apostles that they will be put to death before this happens, so why would the apostles think that the end would come during their lives?

      While they knew their fates were to be like His, they also knew that some of them would live long enough to see the kingdom come (Matthew 16:28 “There are some of you standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”) That’s what the exchange between Peter and Jesus about John was about in John 21 (“If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”).

      Also, notice how the Gospel is supposed to spread throughout the whole world prior to the end. But as of 100 AD, it hadn’t even spread beyond the Roman Empire, and was only scarcely accepted there at best.

      Paul wrote to the Romans that their faith was “being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). See also Acts 24:5. Obviously, they meant “world” in a general sense – specifically, into all the places where Jews had been dispersed in the Diaspora.

      I am thoroughly confused at how you know that there was great fanfare in the spiritual realm.

      Among other things, the book of Revelation.

      The people of the time, late first century, never made this claim that Jesus had returned!

      I think this needs to be researched more thoroughly.

      It was not glorious and triumphant and seen by all the way the return is described if no one even knew that it had happened! This would have been the talk of the world had it happened, but yet not a single person made this claim in that time period that I know of.

      I know atheists and agnostics who use this sort of reasoning to deny that Jesus ever even lived. They point to the paucity of references to Jesus among historians outside the New Testament. Of course, you and I know that there are a few. But even those few are often disputed. It is quite possible for people who do not fear the Lord to be completely oblivious to the things that He does (see Jeremiah 17:5-8).

      Finally, to quote John’s gospel and revelation in a literal way is quite incorrect.

      There is indeed a great deal of figurative language in both books, especially Revelation. However, not every sentence in each is figurative in meaning. Surely, for example, you wouldn’t consider John’s portrayal of Jesus dying on the cross as figurative. I consider literal what was written to be taken literally and I consider figurative what was written to be taken figuratively. The two references in Revelation 1 and the five references in Revelation 22 to the timing of events was unambiguous. The Second Coming was announced by John as very imminent at that time.

      1. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on the Matthew 25 thing. I do not mean to say that there is no fact of the matter, because there is, but simply that we cannot just sit here and say in a matter of fact way that it is one way or the other. This has been one of the most debated topics within Christianity, and it has yet to be solved, so I do not think that this will be something that could be simply resolved in a post on a blog, though it would be wonderful if it could haha

        As to some people using the same claim to say that Jesus never existed, I think this is different. At least in that case some did, in fact, to the atheists and agnostics demise/dismay, more so than wrote about Caesar and Alexander the Great haha. But in this case, I know of nothing that was written or said that was to the effect that the Second Coming had happened at that time. Just as nobody has ever made the claim that Alexander the Great was a woman haha. In either case, if the claim was not made by the people who would have been eye witnesses, first hand accounts, then we would need thoroughly substantial evidence, which, given the minority of this concept, seems hard-pressed to say exists.

        Second, I think it is interesting how you don’t believe in the general resurrection at the end of time. I, personally, think that this is pretty hard to deny based on scripture. Not only is this the most accepted view in spite of where one stands on apocalyptic views, this seems a constant. Paul seems to teach it, it was a major player in the Jewish ideas of end times…

        Finally, these were the Early Church fathers that I was referencing for the most part. I will look some others up. I know we did a lesson on history of Christianity s while back but I didn’t teach that week, so I do not have the notes, but I will have to get back to you on some others that could be thrown in there. My point was simply that they all would have, somehow or another, gotten their views from people that were of Jesus day and teachings and yet your view was not the view that they espoused.

        1. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on the Matthew 25 thing.

          Okay. Though I do wish you’d read Whatever Became of Jesus Christ? which is my biblical case for a completed Second Coming. It is the length of a short non-fiction book (about 25,000 words) so it is not a short post or sketchy treatment.

          As to some people using the same claim to say that Jesus never existed, I think this is different. At least in that case some did, in fact, to the atheists and agnostics demise/dismay, more so than wrote about Caesar and Alexander the Great haha. But in this case, I know of nothing that was written or said that was to the effect that the Second Coming had happened at that time. Just as nobody has ever made the claim that Alexander the Great was a woman haha. In either case, if the claim was not made by the people who would have been eye witnesses, first hand accounts, then we would need thoroughly substantial evidence, which, given the minority of this concept, seems hard-pressed to say exists.

          Again, though I know you dispute it, I believe you are using the same logic as atheists and agnostics who deny the historicity of Christ. That is, you are saying that the number of people who hold a view determine whether something is true or not. We know from the Scriptures that over 500 people saw Jesus after He was raised from the dead. However, this is a minute fraction of the number of people who lived at that time. Do we then reject the resurrection on that basis? Please re-read your paragraph and reconsider your logic.

          I do hasten to concede this point however: I cannot point you to a text or texts from the late 1st Century that testify to Christ’s return. But neither have I had the opportuntity or means to do such research. Therefore, I consider it an open question. Given that the Second Coming was spiritual (that is, invisible and non-physical) I don’t expect it to be attested to the way the days of His flesh were attested to. Until such texts surface, you are right to say that I cannot identifty 1st Century corroboration of my view of what the Scriptures are saying. I simply add that this does not dispute my contention. Rather, you seem to be making an argument from silence.

          Second, I think it is interesting how you don’t believe in the general resurrection at the end of time. I, personally, think that this is pretty hard to deny based on scripture. Not only is this the most accepted view in spite of where one stands on apocalyptic views, this seems a constant. Paul seems to teach it, it was a major player in the Jewish ideas of end times.

          I do believe in it. And I believe in it just as Paul taught it. And I believe it all happened in the late 1st Century A.D. – just when Paul, the other apostles, and Jesus said it would.

          Finally, these were the Early Church fathers that I was referencing for the most part. I will look some others up.

          I look forward to learning about what you find.

          In the meantime, are you saying that you’ve read all that Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, and Clement of Rome have said about this specific subject and are sure they were opposed to the idea that the kingdom had come in the late 1st Century A.D.?

          1. I will try to find some time to read it. It is opened in the tab right next to this one and will stay there til it is finished haha

            As to the source thing, that is merely my point, viz. we(me and you, and I think scholars as well) do not know of people of the time that made such a claim. And one of the distinctions that is made, and you may be making, is that absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence. But in some cases it can be. For example, if I told you I won a Nobel Prize or had written 200 books, one would expect evidence of this, and in the case that none is found, that absence would count as evidence of absence. But if I said that there was an immaterial, personal God who worked in ways that are often unknowable by us, I could not point to him the way I can point to the cup of coffee I am drinking, or the TV that is across the room. Yet in this case, we would not expect a physical manifestation of God to be present to point at if my claim was that He was immaterial, and therefore this absence is not evidence for absence. My point here is that I would think that such a monumental event would have been at least claimed by someone, somewhere, during this timeframe. But maybe this is where I am wrong, since if it was a spiritual return as you claim, it would be more like the latter case. Though I could appeal and say that I think that the Bible would have included another inspired book or two about the Second Coming if that were the case, though I may be wrong here as well. But my point is that as I see it, I would think that someone would have claimed it, and since, as of now, no known claims were made, that may count as evidence of absence. Though possibly on the grand scheme of things other positive evidences outweigh this one.

            As to the final comment, no, I have not. But I can say with a decent amount of confidence that they did not believe it, otherwise I think it would be a more widespread belief today because that would certainly be quite remarkable and different than how we view it today. Also, from my studies, a lot of theology today is compared to theirs, since they were the first-hand accounts or at least second-hand or so and because of that have authority to some degree on issues that would have been detailing Biblical ideas and events. I make this distinction because some of their ideas of the trinity and how that worked or other things that are not really given too much detail in the Scriptures can sometimes be a little less than what we might like, though we can still certainly learn from it.

            1. But maybe this is where I am wrong, since if it was a spiritual return as you claim, it would be more like the latter case.

              Yes, I am appealing to you to consider just this possibility. For as you seem to acknowledge, this case is like the latter case. That is, both involve trying to prove something immaterial and therefore invisible (in the latter case it’s the immateriality of God, in this case it’s the immateriality of the Second Coming).

              Though I could appeal and say that I think that the Bible would have included another inspired book or two about the Second Coming if that were the case, though I may be wrong here as well.

              Again, I hope you will consider this possibility. We have to deal with the canon as it has been given to us.

              But my point is that as I see it, I would think that someone would have claimed it, and since, as of now, no known claims were made, that may count as evidence of absence.

              Again, I don’t know that this question of 1st Century documentation on this point has been thoroughly researched. But even if it has, and there are no documents, it only gives reason for pause. It does not require that we reject the idea of a Second Coming that was spiritual and that met the timetable outlined in the New Testament.

              As to the final comment, no, I have not. But I can say with a decent amount of confidence that they did not believe it, otherwise I think it would be a more widespread belief today because that would certainly be quite remarkable and different than how we view it today. Also, from my studies, a lot of theology today is compared to theirs, since they were the first-hand accounts or at least second-hand or so and because of that have authority to some degree on issues that would have been detailing Biblical ideas and events. I make this distinction because some of their ideas of the trinity and how that worked or other things that are not really given too much detail in the Scriptures can sometimes be a little less than what we might like, though we can still certainly learn from it.

              I think we want to keep clear here that there are only three “Apostolic Fathers” that I know of: Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, and Clement of Rome. That is, they are the only “church fathers” from antiquity who knew and survived the apostles (though they didn’t know Christ). I don’t think any of them wrote about the Trinity. The latest of them (Polycarp) died in the middle of the 2nd Century while the first use of the term “Trinity” is credited to Tertullian who didn’t write until the early 3rd Century and the doctrine of the Trinity was not decreed as orthodox until the Council of Nicea in the 4th Century. Therefore, we need to be cautious about declaring what these church fathers – especially the earliest of them – taught and didn’t teach.

              1. And this pause is all I am asking for. And that is one reason I pause, but also due to others, like those that are more knowledgeable than I, who take the more traditional view of heaven and hell.

                Well, these are the only three that were “apostolic” fathers, but Clement spoke of “God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, who are the faith and the hope of the elect,” which, while not a direct reference, certainly seems to show that he saw them all as divine and in the same category. Ignatius calls Jesus God 14 times and says that the Holy Spirit was the mode by which Mary conceived Jesus. So he places them as well in similar high regard and divinity. Polycarp was the only one that never attributed deity to the Holy Spirit, but did of Jesus, both in his Epistle and in letters to Ignatius. Origen was the first father to try to lay out a true doctrine of the trinity, as trinitarianism seems to have been present very soon after the cannon was completed, but most of the discussion between trinitarians and unitarians took place in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, but each was there in the first Century.

  4. Michael, this reply is to this string from above.

    My only issue is that the word Gehenna is never used in the NT to describe the actual valley of hinnon. It is always used more abstractly.

    We have no issue here. I agree with you on this point.

    And given that it is described as eternal in the same way that heaven is, and is used in contrast to heaven, I do not see why seeing it in contrast to Jerusalem or the finite, earthly Kingdom of God, when neither of those is ever considered eternal here on earth given that the Bible says that this earth will end, in some sense at least, and a new, perfect one will be formed.

    Why do you say Gehenna is contrasted with heaven? I see it contrast with eternal life (which is a synonym for the kingdom of God) but I do not see it contrasted with heaven.

    Second, yes, what is consumed by fire is usually removed or destroyed.

    I’m glad we agree on that.

    But in Revelation 20, we see that those that are thrown into the lake of fire(that in the books of Matthew and Mark is described as unquenchable) will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” I do not see how you can reconcile this with your view of Hell.

    Satan and his cohorts were thrown out of heaven to make room for the resurrected human race. The “day and night forever and ever” is spoken of the devil – not of human beings.

    Not to mention, this same passage in Revelation says that Hades/Sheol will be thrown into the fire, along with everybody who’s name is not in the book of life.

    Hades/Sheol was not thrown into the lake of fire until it had first given up the death who were in it.

    The picture being described here by John is not one of people being judged at their deaths, the way I think you see it, but rather all at once at a future point in time. For everybody to be judged in this manner all at once would have to mean that everybody at the same time was there, and if we are here now and not yet judged, it seems that we can say that this has not happened yet.

    Remember that John wrote just a couple of chapters later, in his closing to the book, that all these things would happen very soon. If it was very soon in the 1st Century, it must be past tense now.

    Next, to me, it seems like the Bible leaves no room for one to get out of it. It seems to say that those are thrown into it will never get out and can never get out. Hence, they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Forever and ever does not seem like something that one would describe something with if they meant that it could be escaped.

    As I said just above, the “tormented forever and ever” was pronounced on Satan – not human beings. (As Paul said to the Romans in 16:20 “God will soon crush Satan under your feet, and Hebrews 2 quoting Psalm 8 says this is true of humans, not just of believers in Rome.)

    The thing in 2 Peter 1 in regards to people who are already Christians and how to “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.(8)” This is not saying how abundant the entrance to the Kingdom is, but how to stay in the Kingdom.

    I don’t know which translation you’re using but I’m using the NASB and 2 Peter 1 clearly does not tell them how to stay in the kingdom but rather how the entrance in the kingdom will be provided to them (see verses 10 and 11).

    I think you are reading too much into the prodigal son here.

    Yes, we are reading this story differently, but I think you are the one reading too much into it. The son only went home because he was eating pig slop and he knew even the hired hands at his father’s place ate better than that. The text doesn’t say anything about how sorry he was that he’d hurt his father. Neither did the father demand an apology from him. The son was self-serving in his return, but the father couldn’t care less about it – he was just thrilled to have his son home!

    This reply continues below.

    1. I think that the “they” in revelation 20 is referring to the devil and the armies that he assembled from the nations of the world, which I think could be humans. But my point was that people would be thrown into the lake of fire as well, and this lake of fire is Gehenna. And yes, Hades/Sheol at that point is empty because that is the place of souls, but this is after the general resurrection, and then we have the judgment and people’s whose names are not in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire, Gehenna, along with Hades, the devil and his angels, the false prophet, etc. To me this is in contrast to your view I think.

      Next, what is the eternal life that Jesus spoke of if not heaven? So even if it is in contrast to eternal life with God, that still seems to support my point that Gehenna is in contrast to this and not the earthly, finite(not eternal) kingdom.

      As for the Hebrews passage, this in in reference to the Son of God. “He was made for a little while lower than the angels…” crowned with glory and honor… The very next passage in Hebrews describes how this was fulfilled in Jesus. So I am not sure what your point is here and how it relates to the devil and whether we will have a punishment that lasts forever like him. My point is still that eternal is to be forever and ever, so if Gehenna is eternal, and people are sent into Gehenna, unless there is something that says specifically that people can get out, it seems that they will be in there forever and ever.

      As for the 2 Peter 1 passage, I see what you mean, but the idea here I think is how to live to get in and stay in. This is the idea of confirming your calling and choosing. I think we are saying a similar thing here but still slightly different. In the Greek, it is a 3rd person future singular indicative passive with a continuous meaning. Which, in short, means that the way will continually(it is future tense and because of this it implies that doing these things is the reason for the way being supplied but if these things cease, so will the supplying) be supplied to you(passive since the way is being supplied to you and not you supplying the way). So having said that, I think we are both right haha

      For the Prodigal Son, in vs. 18 he says that he will tell his father that he has sinned against him and heaven and will recognizes the he is no longer worthy of being his father’s son. This seems to be repentance, as he goes on to think to himself that he will merely ask to be a slave for his father. So while his motivation to come home may be somewhat selfish, I must admit here that I am somewhat selfish as a Christian because one reason I am one is that I value eternal life with God and find that to be a pleasing idea to me, but in the end he is repentant as well and this is the perfect picture of repentance, turning from one’s old life of wickedness and returning to the Father.

      1. I think that the “they” in revelation 20 is referring to the devil and the armies that he assembled from the nations of the world, which I think could be humans. But my point was that people would be thrown into the lake of fire as well, and this lake of fire is Gehenna. And yes, Hades/Sheol at that point is empty because that is the place of souls, but this is after the general resurrection, and then we have the judgment and people’s whose names are not in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire, Gehenna, along with Hades, the devil and his angels, the false prophet, etc. To me this is in contrast to your view I think.

        If the resurrection has not taken place yet, aren’t all the dead still going to Sheol/Hades?

        Next, what is the eternal life that Jesus spoke of if not heaven? So even if it is in contrast to eternal life with God, that still seems to support my point that Gehenna is in contrast to this and not the earthly, finite(not eternal) kingdom.

        John 17:3 and 1 Timothy 6:12 will give you perspective on eternal life that are not wedded locationally to heaven.

        As for the Hebrews passage, this in in reference to the Son of God. “He was made for a little while lower than the angels…” crowned with glory and honor… The very next passage in Hebrews describes how this was fulfilled in Jesus. So I am not sure what your point is here and how it relates to the devil and whether we will have a punishment that lasts forever like him.

        Psalm 8 refers to “man.” It is applied in Hebrews to Jesus because He is the firstborn of the dead. That is, according to Psalm 8 all things are put under the feet of mankind when mankind is raised from the dead, Jesus being the firstborn.

        My point is still that eternal is to be forever and ever, so if Gehenna is eternal, and people are sent into Gehenna, unless there is something that says specifically that people can get out, it seems that they will be in there forever and ever.

        They don’t “get out.” They die. That is, the fire consumes them. That’s biblical language for judgment that never stops.

        As for the 2 Peter 1 passage, I see what you mean, but the idea here I think is how to live to get in and stay in. This is the idea of confirming your calling and choosing. I think we are saying a similar thing here but still slightly different. In the Greek, it is a 3rd person future singular indicative passive with a continuous meaning. Which, in short, means that the way will continually(it is future tense and because of this it implies that doing these things is the reason for the way being supplied but if these things cease, so will the supplying) be supplied to you(passive since the way is being supplied to you and not you supplying the way). So having said that, I think we are both right haha

        The only thing I would add is that Peter suggests in verse 14 that he’s going to die soon, so it’s apparent that he’s reminding his readers (verse 12) of how to get into the kingdom whose coming, you’ll recall, is imminent. Later on, in chapter 3, he tells them not to despair if it seems like the Lord delays but to repent (3:9) so that the coming of the Lord will delay no longer (3:12). However, I think if you had told Peter at that time that the Lord wouldn’t come until over two thousand years later, I think he would have thought you strange.

        As for the Prodigal Son, I think it’s important for us not to be like the older brother with regard to the idea that everyone is going to heaven.

        1. Yes, people still go to Sheol/Hades in my mind. Paul seems to reference this when he says to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord(2 Corinthians 5). This seems to assume some non-physical existence realm, which many refer to as “heaven” but this is not the “new heaven” in the sense of the new earth where we have physical bodies once again, since we are “absent from the body.”

          In those verses, particularly the John one, it says that eternal life is knowing and being with God. So in contrast, eternal “death” would be not knowing God, right? That is, the absence of God, which would be a description of Gehenna. So the opposite of this concept of eternal life is, in my eyes, Hell, absence from god.

          As for the Psalms thing, that seems like a stretch to me. The original meaning of the passage was a prayer of thanks for giving humans the authority and duty of taking care of the earth, as it goes on to mention “reigning” over oxen and stuff. But in Hebrews, as well as in 1 Corinthians 15 and Ephesians 1, the concept is flipped from the idea of human man controlling earth, to Jesus controlling everything, from dominions to powers and such as well, which is not part of the original Psalm. Now, if these writings of the NT are inspired, then we should take them as is, and see that author intended to apply this to Jesus, and not to human man. The intention was not that believers had some extra power, but that Christ was now ruling in entirety the whole realm of all of existence, as the Corinthians and Ephesians passages go on to explain.

          But as I just said, there is no reference ever to people as souls ever actually being destroyed. Our new bodies will certainly be different than our current ones, and maybe they do not burn and decompose like our current ones do, and could be burned forever. But the point is that there is never a reference to people as souls dying and ceasing to exist entirely, otherwise this eternal and everlasting and never-ending language that is applied to God, heaven, and hell, would be meaningless and contradictory.

          Indeed, Peter may have thought me strange, but the believers that survived him that lived into the second century would not. I think he would have thought you strange as well to say that the second coming was not physical, for that was the belief that the apostles and Jesus seem to depict. Remember, Jesus ascension occurred while He was in a physical body, so it is logical to assume that He would return in the same form.

          I do not see myself like the older son. By no means would I be mad if everyone went to heaven, I would be overjoyed! I highly dislike the doctrine of Hell, but as C.S. Lewis said, the same Jesus that taught about heaven taught about hell. So I see hell as a biblical doctrine.

          1. Yes, people still go to Sheol/Hades in my mind. Paul seems to reference this when he says to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord(2 Corinthians 5). This seems to assume some non-physical existence realm, which many refer to as “heaven” but this is not the “new heaven” in the sense of the new earth where we have physical bodies once again, since we are “absent from the body.”

            I’m confused by your answer. You think a person goes to Sheol/Hades and to heaven when they die? How can that be?

            As for the things you say about hell in this comment, as I’ve said before, I think our views are very similar except for the fact that I view them as a reality in this life while you see them as a reality in the next.

            As for Psalm 8, I’m not denying that it applies first and foremost to Jesus. I’m simply acknowledging what Paul taught about Adam (which means “man”) being a type of Christ and thus being “the firstborn,” we shall all bear His image. That is, this life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45) is the progenitor of the new human race (i.e. the resurrected one). This is why Paul said to the Romans that God would soon crush Satan “under their feet” (Romans 16:20; compare this with Psalm 8:6). That is, we are “seated in heavenly places with Christ” (Ephesians 1:20; 2:6).

            As for death, I think you are still adding to the word of God. It says that the wages of sin is death. You are saying that the wages of sin is death AND HELL AFTERWARD FOREVER. That’s a pretty big addition.

            As for your view of Peter, you have a big problem then. If you insist that Jesus’ return must be in a physical body, how do you defend the New Testament which says the return was imminent in that generation?

            As for C.S. Lewis, once again there is no difference between us on this issue except that I see hell in this life while you see it in the next.

            1. Heaven proper is the New Jerusalem, the place of the resurrected body and everything associated with that. “Heaven” as is commonly referred to, incorrectly, is the good part of Sheol/Hades, that is, Abraham’s bosom as the Bible often calls it. It is a waiting place for the dead until the final resurrection. At the end of time, this is why Sheol/Hades will be thrown into the fire, because it will be empty and useless since those who were there in spirit will not be in it because they will have been restored to physical bodies.

              Now I am confused haha I do not see how our “Hell’s” be so similar. My idea of hell is absolute, complete separation from God. That is not possible on earth. He is omnipresent in His creation, He sustains its existence, He is present all throughout it. He can’t be escaped here. So I do not see that my hell is even compatible with the idea of it being a reality here and now on earth.

              Again, it depends by what one means by “death.” In one passage, Paul uses it in at least 4 different contexts. One is the death of Christ, which is physical death but has the implication of salvation and victory of death, the second is the one must partake in as to live a life in Christ now, and this is more figurative, the third is what sin results in, which is at least physical death, and the fourth is the death that sin reigns in, which is not a strictly physical death since a physical death is not something that can be reigned in. I would say that it is likely that the death that sin is the result of is more than a mere physical death however, though that is certainly part of it. I think that it is also applied a little bit figuratively in meaning a separation, in this case, from God. I think this is entirely justified since it is directly contrasted to eternal life in Christ Jesus Our Lord. It makes no sense to say that a merely physical death is in contrast to eternal life with Jesus. It would only make sense in the case that this death here was opposite eternal life in Christ. And in your view, physical death is the gate to eternal life in Christ in heaven, which would be inconsistent. But if we see it as something else, as something in this direct contrast, it would be the opposite of such, and a merely physical death could lead to such. But then we are left with what the contrasted death is, and it seems that this is something else, which I would call hell.

              1. “Heaven” as is commonly referred to, incorrectly, is the good part of Sheol/Hades, that is, Abraham’s bosom as the Bible often calls it.

                If this is true, then heaven is not above us; it is below us. I’ve never heard anyone teach this before.

                Now I am confused haha I do not see how our “Hell’s” be so similar. My idea of hell is absolute, complete separation from God. That is not possible on earth. He is omnipresent in His creation, He sustains its existence, He is present all throughout it. He can’t be escaped here. So I do not see that my hell is even compatible with the idea of it being a reality here and now on earth.

                If God “is omnipresent in His creation” how can He fail to be in your afterlife hell? Are you saying someone else creates it?

                As to your last paragraph here, I don’t know how to respond as you seem to be all over the place. My point was that the Bible teaches that death is the penalty for sin whereas you seem to be saying, “No, death is not enough, not near enough; the penalty for sin is something far, far worse that the Old Testament didn’t even talk about.” I may be putting too many words in your mouth, but you can correct me. I’m just trying to get you to see that God never pronounced a greater judgment for sin than death.

              2. Sheol/Hades is not above nor below us. Neither is heaven. They are immaterial, they have no location. Talk of this is a category mistake. It is reading Greek mythology into biblical ideas. And again, “heaven” in the common sense is simply where Christians go when they die. Heaven proper is the New Jerusalem, etc.

                I mean in this physical creation of the universe. I do think that He created Hell and such for the devil and his angels where there is a complete lack of God’s presence entirely.

                The OT never explicitly mentions hell as the NT does. However, the Talmud does see Sheol as divided between Abraham’s bosom and the “other” which was filled with torment and fire, much as the NT language of hell.

                Sorry about the sloppiness and stuff. My main point there was the “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” passage puts “death” in contrast to eternal life in Christ. Which means that this “death” is eternal as well, and opposite of “good” in the sense that eternal life in Christ is “good.” What does that leave us with? So to me, God did pronounce a much greater penalty for sin than mere physical death. Why else would we have the “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” and such language of fire and eternal torment, coming from Jesus mouth nonetheless. That certainly seems worse than a physical death that in the end gets us to heaven.

                1. Sheol/Hades is not above nor below us. Neither is heaven. They are immaterial, they have no location. Talk of this is a category mistake. It is reading Greek mythology into biblical ideas.

                  I am astounded that you would say this! Can you possibly believe what you have written? If this were true, I’d go to the Bible and find no reference to up or down whenever I read of heaven or Sheol (Hades). I’d have to subsequently go to Greek mythology and see that up and down were concepts found there, and then come back and superimpose them on my reading of the Bible. But this is not the case at all. On the contrary, the Bible often refers to heaven as up, and never as down. Conversely, it often refers to Sheol (Hades) as down, and never as up. On Sheol (Hades) specifically, take a look at Chapter 3 – Where Is This Place Called Sheol? of The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven. Where do you suppose the Bible got the idea of people being raised from the dead if the dead were not presumed to be below? Truly, I have to believe your mind was somewhere else when you typed this.

                  The OT never explicitly mentions hell as the NT does.

                  I thought you were aware that Gehenna (Hell) is etymologically derived from the Valley of Hinnom (or Ben-Hinnom) – the trash dump outside of Jerusalem which is certainly mentioned in the Old Testament.

                  Why else would we have the “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” and such language of fire and eternal torment, coming from Jesus mouth nonetheless. That certainly seems worse than a physical death that in the end gets us to heaven.

                  You don’t see “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in this life?

                2. But they were clearly figurative in meaning. Sheol being at the “center of the earth” was not a serious idea. Neither was “heaven” considered to actually be beyond the stars. That was my point.

                  As for the dead being raised, they are raised bodily from the ground. This is different than rising spiritually from the center of the earth. That is where Greek mythology creeps in. In a post-Grecian world, it is easy to see these as more literal descriptions, while in the Judeo-Christian framework, it was understood that souls are not material things and there is not a physical place where they go, neither in outer space nor under the earth.

                  I do not see weeping and gnashing of teeth in a blazing furnace or the other language that accompanies it.

  5. This is a continuation of my reply above.

    I don’t see why Paul’s analogy couldn’t have worked…

    You go on quite a bit about Paul’s imagery of dying with Christ. For me, however, all of it rests of the reality from which Paul’s imagery comes: after life comes death, and after death comes resurrection. Paul’s point to his readers therefore is that they should go ahead and “partake” of death so that they can go ahead and “partake” of resurrected life with Christ. If the underlying reality is not true, then all the imagery you discuss at length collapses. I guess we just see this differently.

    First, to compare yourself to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist is a little crazy to me.

    I wasn’t comparing myself to them. Rather, anyone who chooses Christ often has to do so in a context of becoming a minority. Therefore, looking for consensus or even majority can be inconsistent with looking for truth. As for Martin Luther, we can look back now and see how clear-cut his decision was but if you looked his life, William Tyndale’s, John Hus’, and many others you’ll often find that they had to stand alone for truth. It is possible for a majority to be right. I’m only saying that if you require a majority in order to accept a truth, then truth may be denied you.

    Finally, it may seem like it may be more useful to not evangelize, but the idea here is that most will not get in another way.

    Just to be clear: I feel that it’s extremely useful and necessary to evangelize. I only mentioned that idea in reference to your view that God might allow many into heaven who had limited light…and so why jeopardize that. But if you’re not sure, I understand why you’d want to go ahead and evangelize. Welcome to the club!

    1. I agree partially with what you say about the imagery Paul uses. But the reason I laid all of that out was because he uses the word “death” in different meanings. Surely the “death” that we are to partake in so that we can experience “resurrected” life with Christ is not the same “death” that is the result of sin and that sin reigns in, for that would be equivalent to saying that sinning is what makes us closer to God/Jesus hahaha which certainly we would both agree is just a terrible theology and not at all what is meant. So in your opinion, what does Paul mean by this other death that is the wages of sin and that sin reigns in? To me, it changes the meaning of the passage quite radically from being one of simply hope, but also of a grave warning about the eternal consequences of sin.

      Another agreement! YES! haha

      1. Death is the judgment pronounced on sin. Thus, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The heaven-or-hell doctrine, however, contradicts this by saying, “The wages of sin is death AND an eternity of torment in Gehenna.” That is adding man’s ideas to the word of God.

        1. It depends on the “death” we are talking about. Of course if it is merely physical death that is being spoken of, it doesn’t really contradict since death came into the world through sin(Adam’s sin), I think this is Romans 5. So that would still make sense of it if that was the way it was being used since death was a result of sin.

          We get no concept of souls ever being put to death and ceasing to exist, though it seems that God does have this power. Now, if we are talking a more abstract idea of death, which is the only way that we could say that death and eternal torment/punishment/judgment in Gehenna for some is contradictory, one could easily say that the abstract use is that of separation from God, or a cessation of a relationship with God. And I think either/both of those make sense as well.

          1. The New Testament says that mankind has been subject to slavery because of its fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). It would therefore make no sense to expect people to regard “Christ overcame the grave” as good news, if, in the process, He had created something infinitely worse for some.

            1. I do not see this as a problem. The good news is that death has been overcome, that we do not have to serve the punishment that is fitting for us, viz. said punishment, but that we will be forgiven and seen as righteous based on Jesus life and that this is open to all. That still seems like good news to me. Again, the Bible says that Christ was sacrificed on our behalf, taking our sin, and our punishment. Why would this be necessary if there was not something that was in fact really bad? Why would God have sacrificed Himself/Son for us if the other option was so much worse?

              1. This “something infinitely worse”was not created to take its place, it was there all along and that was what Jesus was saving us from. That is what we deserve. We are sinful and don’t deserve to have anything to do with God. It is only by His mercy, His grace, His love that we can have a relationship with Him. What we deserve is not that for sure. If we got what was coming to us, we would be separated from Him eternally in every sense of the word.

                So it is not that this possibility of eternal punishment only came about as a result of salvation and Jesus death and resurrection, but rather was rendered unnecessary by it for those who accepted it.

                I feel like you ignored the rest of that comment. The analogy to Israel and the idea of being washed by His blood is like the sacrifice of a sheep and putting a family’s sins on it, but even more like the passing of the angel of death in Egypt when it left alone those who had the blood on their doors.

                So my question is this, what would be the end result if Jesus hadn’t died for us and our sins? What would be our eternal destiny?

                1. So my question is this, what would be the end result if Jesus hadn’t died for us and our sins? What would be our eternal destiny?

                  Everyone would still be going to Sheol (Hades) at death, just as the Bible described it.

  6. This reply continues a thread from above.

    And this pause is all I am asking for. And that is one reason I pause, but also due to others, like those that are more knowledgeable than I, who take the more traditional view of heaven and hell.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, you can hobble your pursuit of truth if you always seek the safety of numbers. Believers in Jesus have seldom been a majority so the same holds true for the truths they find.

    Well, these are the only three that were “apostolic” fathers, but Clement spoke of…

    You missed my point here. I wasn’t making the argument that the apostolic fathers didn’t believe in the Trinity. Rather, I was saying they didn’t teach the “Trinity” by that name. Only later church fathers did that.

  7. I do not mean to say that I am against being in the minority, but in a situation where there are people who spent years in seminary and bible college, are professional theologians and biblical scholars, I tend to lean on them because they know more than I do. I listen to them in a similar way that I “listen” to Paul and his teaching because they know what they are talking about. Of course, Paul was a bit different due to his circumstances, but he is still an “expert” on the Gospel, as these guys are considered “experts” of a similar sort on similar topics. So for me to go against the grain and think that I know better than they do is not something that I would really want to do unless I was absolutely 100% confident in my idea over theirs.

    But it is important to note here that minorities are not always right and often not. The Gnostics were a minority, but certainly not very true to Jesus and Paul’s teachings. Other early church people were warned against and stuff for teaching against certain aspects of the faith as well. My point here is not that you are dangerous haha, but merely that appealing to majority or minority alone either way is wrong. That is why I see myself as appealing to authority and not majority. But of course there are lots of factors that play into why I hold some beliefs and not others.

    Ok, sorry for the misunderstanding, I was just referring to the Trinity because that is the common name by which we call it now, but you are right to say that use of it as a technical term did not arise until later, but many still commented on it and stuff in other terms.

    1. …appealing to majority or minority alone either way is wrong.

      You and I are in complete agreement here. Being in the majority doesn’t guarantee you have the truth; neither does being in the minority guarantee you have the truth.

      The only other thing I would say is that while I regard what Bible scholars have to say, especially since they are more learned than me in many things, yet I do not regard them as highly as the word of God, which I regard the Bible to be.

      1. For sure, more agreement haha

        I would simply say that sometimes I do not trust my own interpretation of the Bible, however, as I may not know the social/historical context and the purpose of a certain part that, if known, would cause me to see it differently. So we need to be cautious when we read the Bible for ourselves, though it is absolutely necessary that we do, as to not read too much or too little or misinterpret or confuse, etc. what is being said. There is always an intentional meaning of the text that the author had, and sometimes, I, as a layperson in this area, may not know what this is and would prefer to lean at least in part on what others who have such knowledge say.

        1. I would simply say that sometimes I do not trust my own interpretation of the Bible, however, as I may not know the social/historical context and the purpose of a certain part that, if known, would cause me to see it differently. So we need to be cautious when we read the Bible for ourselves, though it is absolutely necessary that we do, as to not read too much or too little or misinterpret or confuse, etc. what is being said.

          Agreed.

          There is always an intentional meaning of the text that the author had, and sometimes, I, as a layperson in this area, may not know what this is and would prefer to lean at least in part on what others who have such knowledge say.

          The meaning all of us should be after – layman and expert alike – is the meaning that the Holy Spirit gives (2 Peter 1:20-21). And the Holy Spirit is not given according to who is the smartest, but rather whose heart is genuinely open to the Lord (Proverbs 1:23; 2 Corinthians 3:15-16; Acts 5:32).

          1. But sometimes we can be incorrect about what/when/how the Holy Spirit is doing something in this manner. The Bible is not just a holy book, it is a historical book too. And we can find some of the meaning that was intended by treating it as such. I just feel that sometimes, people claim that through the Holy Spirit they came to know something “revelatory” about a passage and give it a different meaning. I think that sometimes this can be right, but other times it can be way off and can simply be us thinking too much into it and we need to be very cautious about how it is interpreted. Chances are, if someone has such an experience that is contrary to what has commonly been taught and believed, then it is not really the Holy Spirit, because surely God would not have waited 2000 years to finally reveal the true meaning of something and lead so many people in the wrong direction.

            This is not to say that the Holy Spirit may not reveal a passage in a new light to one as to how it can be practically applied to one’s life, but the actual intended meaning most likely will not be revealed in this way I do not think. At least not contrary to what has been taught and believed for 2000 years.

            1. Chances are, if someone has such an experience that is contrary to what has commonly been taught and believed, then it is not really the Holy Spirit…

              I thought you and I had agreed just a comment or two back that truth is not determined by whether it is held by the majority or the minority?

            2. I did. But I do not think that God would just now be revealing the true meaning of scripture 2000 years later. That means that for 2000 years, everybody else had it wrong. I just think sometimes people put way to much emphasis on personal reading of scripture and Holy Spirit “guidance” of interpretation that false doctrine creeps in.

              Think about it. I don’t mean to appeal to majority vs. minority, but new doctrines that claim to be biblical should not be “discovered” at this point in time in my opinion. If it is a plausible doctrine, it will have been thought of before by someone. If we are just finding it now, chances are that we are doing something wrong. I just find it really hard to believe that something biblical would have slipped through the cracks for such a long period of time.

              This is not just against any particular thing that you say, but a general rule across the board. It is one reason why apocalyptic dating and stuff is misleading and wrong. It is a reason why liberal readings of Mary being simply a young girl and not a virgin are wrong. It is a reason why people claiming Paul didn’t believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead but merely spiritually are wrong. These weren’t what were taught early on in the Church. They are new views of people reading the Bible in light of what they want it to say, whether consciously or unconsciously.

              In short, I don’t think one should trust doctrine to merely what we feel is “revealed” to us when we read, because that is the same thing that heretics do. We have to be cautious and do historical studies about the intentions of the text, about the culture, why certain words were used and others weren’t, how it would have been understood in 1st century Judaism, since that was the culture they were in. The Holy Spirit guided the writers in some manner as to write what God wanted them to write, and it was right hahaha. That means it should be clear for the most part, minus maybe parables, but doctrinally, it should be pretty darn clear, otherwise there would be a huge variety of issues on major doctrines, like we see somewhat today when people don’t think about context and go on what they feel and what they personally think.

  8. Michael, here are some other voices on the subject that I hope you’ll consider:

    First, I’ve already introduced you to Professor Thomas Talbott (his Wikipedia profile, his faculty profile Willamette University, and his web site) who wrote the book The Inescapable Love of God. I have not read the book but since he supports the idea of everyone going to heaven, and has an academic background, I thought his writing might interest you.

    Second, let me introduce you to Robin Parry who wrote the book The Evangelical Universalist under the pseudonym of Gregory MacDonald. Robin also writes a blog called Theological Scribbles. He, too, proclaims that everyone is going to heaven, though I have not read his book either. Since I think one of your issues has been the meaning of the word “eternal,” I especially wanted to be sure you saw Robin’s post: “Eternal Punishment” – the punishment of the age to come.

    I only know about these two individuals what I have found on the web. If you are interested in their work, there are other links associated with them that you will be able to find. They are proponents of universalism, though their theological views may vary from mine in many other ways. I just don’t know. Since the focus of this dialogue was humanity’s disposition in the afterlife, and you are interested in the opinions of others, I thought these two could be helpful. They themselves can probably recommend still others to you.

    A third voice to which I would introduce you is not a universalist. Randal Rauser is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmunton. He’s an evangelical Christian who holds to the traditional heaven-or-hell scenario. However, I think his views are quite interesting, and you might feel similarly. His blog is called The Tentative Apologist. Here are some recent posts of his that are relevant:

    Universalism isn’t a four letter word

    Does universalism have a chance in hell of being true?

    Hopeful Universalism and the Lottery Illustration

    How exclusive should Christianity be?

  9. Another passage in regards to the Second Coming: Luke 17

    Second Coming Foretold
    22And He said to the disciples, “(W)The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.

    23″(X)They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them.

    24″(Y)For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.

    25″(Z)But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

    26″(AA)And just as it happened (AB)in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:

    27they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

    28″It was the same as happened in (AC)the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;

    29but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

    30″It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man (AD)is revealed.

    First, we see that Jesus says that like lightning that is seen from one side of the sky to the other, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. That is to say, that it will be apparent to everyone, it will not be missed. This seems in contrast to an unseeable spiritual return.

    Second, He says that the days will come when they will want Him to return, but they won’t see it. Then He goes on to talk about how the days of Noah were, and the days of Lot. The description of these days is that people go on as if nothing was happening, but also that there was time before the “event” happened. I think that one could possibly interpret this to mean that Jesus was trying to hint that it may be a little while before He came back. Actually, we are told that only the Father knows when the day will be, and that not even the Son knows, so how could Jesus teach that it was imminent and going to happen so soon?

    Third, we are told quite a few times that there will be false messiahs, false “second comings,” etc. before the real one. Certainly these things have continued today, right? It seems that messianic movements abound, and “dating” the apocalypse abounds, though these are always humorous(ready for 2012? haha) and that this is a partial fulfillment of these prophecies. It just seems to be that there are some things that were prophesied about that have not come about yet, though some have. In that sense, I am a preterist, in that in some sense the Kingdom of God is now, since Christ is reigning, but I think that there is more to come, and that the Kingdom didn’t come about at a second coming, but at the first coming and the resurrection. I simply cannot look around and say yes, this is the full reign of God on earth. Also, it is still here, even though Revelation says that the old heavens and old earth will be rolled up and thrown away to make room for new creation.

    What is your response to this? Why have things along these lines not been fully fulfilled?

    1. You forgot to read your Luke 17 passage in context. Read the two verses which came before it, which launched the whole discussion. In them Jesus makes clear that the coming of the kingdom would not be visible. Even your verse about the lightning confirms this because how could a physical human body be present at both ends of the sky at the same time? The lightning metaphor means it will be instantaneous (“in the twinkling of an eye” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:52) and universal (i.e. in all places at once – which only a spiritual coming could be).

      As to your second point, Jesus did say that His return would not be immediate. When He said, “some of you standing here will not taste death until you see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28) that, in and of itself, implied it would not be immediately after His crucifixion and resurrection. Further as to the timing, He said it was “the day and the hour” that only the Father knew, but that His disciples could “know the season.” The statements about the timing are consistent and unmistakeable throughout the New Testament. It was to be in that generation, but no one could pinpoint the day. Therefore, they should be ready.

      As to your third point, the destruction of Jerusaelm in 70 AD represented a fulfillment of a central portion of the prophecy (for it was a question about it from His disciples that launched the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25). All the things you are looking for happened in the 1st Century, and there is ample historical attestation that they did – except for Christ’s coming itself which no man could see. After all, Jesus said He would be “coming in the glory of His Father.” Well, who has ever seen the Father?

      I cover all this in logical order in Whatever Became of Jesus Christ?

      1. Yes, the coming of His reign would not be observable. This was said because many thought the Messiah would be an earthly king and overthrow the Romans. But what Jesus was saying there was that His reign would be a spiritual reign that was not physical, but rather over all of creation. But this is not the same as the return of the Son of Man. In fact, He says the Kingdom is already in their midst, but goes on to describe what the return of the Son of Man will be like, so clearly they are two different events and happenings. And if they are two different events, they do not have to be directly associated with each other.

        Having said that, we turn back to the return of the Son of Man. Is lightning not physical? Isn’t it seen from one end of the sky to the other? I thought that was the analogy here to begin with? Yes, I think it will be a quick thing, just appearing. Yes, I think it will be universal. But I do not doubt that God will have a way of doing so in a physical manner. The language is not that of a secretive return. Other passages talk of the blowing of trumpets, mourning of all nations. It seems it should be a very apparent event. Revelation 1:7 says that every eye will see Him.

        I do not think Jesus ever said that His second coming would be during their lifetimes though. As pointed out in the first paragraph here, the Kingdom coming and His return are separate events. Often, this verse you quote is seen as a reference to the crucifixion. If He entered His Kingdom at that point, and who was on His left and right? Two thieves, that He did not choose, but rather that the Father chose, which relates back to the apostles asking Him who will be on his sides when He enters into His Kingdom. So the Kingdom did come in the first century, I do not deny that. I deny that the Second Coming came in the first century.

        As for all of the prophecies about the Second Coming being fulfilled, I say that that is impossible for we are still here. In 2 Peter 3 it says that the earth will be destroyed. 2 Peter says that ” 8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, an a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” This hasn’t happened yet. Not to mention, it seems here like people will think the Lord slow to fulfill His promises, and that time is not the same for Him as it is for us. So what may be “soon” to Him may not be “soon” to us. This part is conjecture, but still should be given some thought. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul says that at the Second Coming the dead will rise first, and then the living will be called into the clouds also. This has not happened yet. My point is that there are unfulfilled prophecies that relate to the Second Coming. The Millennium, the Great Tribulation, the abomination of desolation, etc.

        1. I see no biblical basis for your belief that the coming of the kingdom and the coming of the Son of Man are two different events. See Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27. These are three parallel verses which make clear that the coming of the Son of Man and the coming of the kingdom of God are one and the same event, and that it is future. When Jesus says to the Pharisees in Luke 17:21 that the kingdom of God was in their midst He was referring to the fact that He Himself was submitted to – but that He was the only one at that time.

          As for when this event would occur, I deal with this is Part Two of Whatever Became of Jesus Christ? In fact, here’s the outline of the short book:

          Part One – The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

          Part Two – The Timing of the Second Coming

          Part Three – The Nature of the Second Coming

          Part Three deals with the spiritual nature of the Second Coming, that it was invisible. All your trumpets and such are addressed there. Please don’t skip over Part One. Try to read the book in order, as it is short. And, again, I’m not just asking you to read something – it addresses your questions in a logical manner.

          I hope you will read this short book as it directly answers your two primary questions: “How could the Second Coming have already happened?” (Part Two) and “How could it have been spiritual and not physical?” (Part Three). It really would not be practical for me to cut and paste all that here.

  10. I enjoyed reading your debate with sorentmd. It was great to see a person with traditional beliefs discuss the topic without insulting you because of your differences. You also shed light on some questions I had about the second coming when reading the bible. Sometimes it is difficult to discuss them with people conditioned to believe a certain thing, even when there is evidence revealing otherwise. Keep up the good work. -T

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