Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Literal or Figurative Death

I'm working through a bunch of Scripture, wondering if there is reason to doubt the belief that hell will be an eternal conscious place of punishment.

Take a look at these verses. Which parts should be read literally, and which parts figuratively?

Matt 7:13-14 (NIV)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
John 3:16 (NIV)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
John 3:36 (NIV)
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
John 10:28 (NIV)
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
John 12:25 (NIV)
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Rom 6:23 (NIV)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:13 (NIV)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
Galatians 6:8 (NIV)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Figurative Language for Death, Destruction, die, perish, lose life?

  • Until recently my mind has automatically translated those verse to mean: the final result will be eternal punishment in hell.
  • Not a literal death, just a figure of speech meaning something bad will happen.

Literal for Life, eternal life, see life, will live?
  • I've always read these literally.
  • The gift of God is to live forever with God in His presence.

Is that the best way to interpret these verses?

When death is contrasted with eternal life, shouldn't we read them both literally or both figuratively?

5 comments:

Rick Lannoye said...

I think it will help to first get past the assumption that every passage in the modern Bible is consistent with the original message of Jesus, especially as it relates to the idea that God intends to torture billions of people for all eternity.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website: www.ricklannoye.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to show why it's impossible that Jesus believed in Hell.

For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Rick for finding my blog and leaving a comment. I've started reading your book, looks like an interesting read.

Julie Wilton said...

I've been struggling with the "eternal torment" issue for the past year and a half. For thirty years I believed it only because thats what we were taught. I think I have come to the conclusion that our choice is life or death. Not eternal burning. The second death must be the final death to ones soul. Is this your opinion?

Julie Wilton said...

I've been struggling with the "eternal torment" issue for the past year and a half. For thirty years I believed it only because thats what we were taught. I think I have come to the conclusion that our choice is life or death. Not eternal burning. The second death must be the final death to ones soul. Is this your opinion?

Jonathan said...

Thanks Julie for the comment. My official opinion is "I'm not 100% certain." But there are enough verses that contrast eternal life with death, destruction, or perishing that make me lean along the same lines of thought as you.