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“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift that is in you….” (II Timothy 1:6) 

“Of these things put them in remembrance….” (II Timothy 2:14).

Recently I spent the morning hours in a school in North Carolina giving my little presentation we call “Lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.” I sketch a lot of students, then segue into the talk which, among other things, urges the kids to stop comparing themselves with others, accept themselves as the persons God made them to be and to smile. Then it happened again. 

Only five minutes after the talk, we invited the students to crowd around, and I would sketch as many as possible in the remaining time. “Look at me and smile,” I said to the first teenager. “I don’t smile,” he said. I stopped, looked at him sternly and said, “You didn’t hear a thing I said, did you?” 

In truth, he had heard, but the lesson had not penetrated.

I said to the young teacher, “My telling the students these things once is not enough for them to get through. The only way to change their behavior is for you to say it over and over again. Eventually the lesson will ‘take’ with some of them.”

Some lessons have to be repeated ad infinitum.

“Let me remind you …” is a phrase that shows up a lot in the epistles of the Apostle Paul.

The most important spiritual truths need to be emphasized again and again if the hearers are to truly learn them and benefit from them.

Here are seven biblical truths we pastors need to keep telling our people in the hope that eventually most will “get it.” (The list is not meant to be exhaustive. You’ll think of other essential truths that need hammering home again and again.)

1. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World and the Only Savior.

That is the theme of so much Scripture anyway, isn’t it? How could we not keep the focus on the Lord Jesus — His identity, His life and ministry, His teachings, His headship over the church and His place in our lives — if we are being true to the Word?

Pastor, keep telling them — over and over again, the theme never wears out — ”why we make so much of Jesus.” Recently, a man here in North Carolina (where I’m in revival) told of the state legislature voting to make a certain Baptist preacher their chaplain, then firing him when he refused to take “In Jesus’ name” out of his prayers. And they call this perversion “inclusiveness.” Go figure. (Note: Many a New Testament prayer did not use the actual words “in Jesus’ name,” and we should not feel ours must always, either. However, tell me that I must leave Jesus out of the prayer and I’m gone.)

Jesus Christ is Lord, for now and for eternity, and no one else is. Always stay focused on the Lord Jesus with your people.

2. The Church Is an Essential Part of the Lord’s Plan, for Now and Forever.

And we are most definitely not referring just to your local congregation. As important as that is — this will come as a surprise to a lot of lonely myopic pastors—the Kingdom of God is more than your church.

When Jesus saved you, He knew something you were about to find out: “You cannot live this new life in isolation. You need the family of God.” They hold onto you; you hold onto them. They instruct and nurture you; you turn around and do the same. This symbiosis has been God’s plan from early on.

“I will build my church,” the Lord said in Matthew 16:18. It’s His and He builds it. The Christ-follower who claims to be able to live for Christ better without the church is insulting His Lord. The church-leader who would run the Lord’s church “for Him” is asking for big trouble fast.

3. Salvation is All About the Cross.

Salvation is not by works of righteousness but humility, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on Calvary. 

The threat to turn salvation into a matter of works will never go away. It’s grounded in man’s way of thinking, his human (and thus self-centered) reasoning. To my knowledge, most of the religions of the world teach variations of “do this and you’re saved” or “do not do this and you are saved.” Only one, to my knowledge, proclaims that everything necessary has already been done and our task is to repent and receive it (“Him”).

When people tell me they believe their good works will get them to Heaven, I ask, “Then what was the point of the cross? If all God had to do was tell us ‘Y’all be good now, hear?’ then He sure went to a lot of trouble for nothing by sending Jesus into this world to die on a cross for our sins.” (They have no answer since they have never given these things the first thought. If you need further evidence of man’s sinful heart, there it is.)

Celebrate the grace of God, preacher, with your people. Keep them at the cross.

4. We Are Not Saved by Good Works, but Saved “Unto” God Works. (Ephesians 2:10)

Good works have a definite place in the plan of God for His people. But they are the results—the fruits, the evidence—of our salvation, not the means. One wishing to become a member of the military does not do so by wearing a uniform and saluting officers. But once he is officially inducted, he wears the uniform, obeys commands and salutes officers.

What good works does the Lord want to see in our lives? Scripture answers that again and again in places like Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22:16 and of course, Matthew 25:35-36. I enjoy telling Harold Bales’ story of the time his church in uptown Charlotte, NC, was bringing in the homeless from the park across the street and feeding them breakfast before the morning worship service. A woman who had belonged to that church for generations and resented the presence of the unwashed in their services approached Pastor Harold one Sunday and said, “Pastor, why do we have to have those people in our church?” He said, “Because I don’t want to see anyone go to hell.” She said, “Well, I don’t want them to go to hell, either.” He said, “I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you.”

5. If You Have Faith, You Will Pray.

In fact, nothing tells the story about your faith like your prayer life. Nothing.

Consider that you are praying to a Lord you have never seen and cannot prove. You say things to Him you would say to no one else and believe that He hears. Furthermore—and this is the clincher—90 percent of the requests you make, you’ll never know whether He answered them or not since He may choose to do so in subtle ways or at another time. But there you go, praying to Him day after day, as though He were occupying the chair next to you and everything you do today is dependent on His presence and guidance.

It is.

Pastors keep prayer before their people by encouraging them to pray at the altar during the services, by having a prayer room at the church and by encouraging prayer for specific people, needs, events and concerns.

6. A Church Exists by Evangelism and Missions as a Fire Exists by Burning.

Sharing our faith is not an option, not for the gifted only (although admittedly some are more fluent and effective than others in this), and not to be done sporadically. “As you go, make disciples” was the command of our Lord in Matthew 28:18ff.

I stood in the foyer of a church of another denomination one day, reading their poster on evangelism. (You do not need my help in identifying the denomination by what follows.) The poster said something like, “Spread the word. Tell people about John Wesley.” I thought, Wesley? Tell them about Wesley? That’s not evangelism! That’s the sort of in-house instruction one might wish to do with those who have been converted to United Methodism. But it’s no way to reach the unchurched, uncommitted or uninterested.

Churches must be creative in finding ways to mobilize their members in spreading the faith, must be aggressive in supporting those who are getting it right and doing it well, and must be alert to the distractions which would push evangelism down the list of priorities in the church’s ministries.

7. The Bible Is the Inspired Word of God and the Spiritual Nutrition of Believers.

If you thought other church programs would crowd evangelism off the agenda, know that life has a way of pushing God’s Word out of the minds of believers.  The process seems to be the same for everyone, and works like this ... 

You go a few days without reading your Bible, and soon you find yourself resisting the inner urge to get back to it. The more you cave in to that laziness that resents picking up the Word and opening it, the more you will find yourself saying (or thinking, or both): “I’ve read the Bible. I know it already. There’s nothing new there. It’s boring.”

Those are all lies out of hell. You do not know the Bible. You have not read it. (You may have read “at” it, but there is a world of content there which you have not yet mined.) It is not boring. You are boring, not the Word.

Job said, “I have esteemed the words of thy mouth more than my necessary food.” Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” David said the godly man’s “delight is in the Word of God and in that Word (law) doth he meditate day and night.”

Keep telling them, pastor. Keep preaching its insights and delighting in its treasures, and eventually they will get it.

Repetition is a great teacher. In fact, it may be the best teacher on the planet.



Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at JoeMcKeever.com.

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David Buffaloe

commented on May 22, 2013

Excellent points. Thank you!

Jimmie Don Willingham

commented on May 22, 2013

Joe: Your last comments, "Repetition is a great teacher. In fact, it may be the best teacher on the planet." They are worthy of thought. It has been my experience that memorization comes by repetition and that sticks with one the longest. Howevere, modern methodologies really despise this approach and give repetition and memorization the short shrift.

Darrell Tucker

commented on May 22, 2013

Well said, brother. Great reminder for all of us who preach the Word.

Jonathan Hughes

commented on May 22, 2013

Refusing to teach people to be like Jesus is will teach people the oppressive, intrusive, condemning warlike doctrines of devils. Each of us is a temple. People need to repent of using Gods word like a bomb not a balm. That is what is needed to be repented of.The churches having scripture are clueless that it is Christ in us that is heaven in us? How many times must I say that Hell is not a place. The Glory of God is what is Hell to evil wicked people. Religious lies created what is a long time ago when they rejected the corner stone. That is why the cross is revered by them; that symbol of torture. People, prayer is a state of mind. Jesus is to be in us not in a chair beside us. A church void of the truth will make more servants of the devil not servants of Chartists making people a slave to Satan. Satan likes fire. Why else would the word be used? People thinking hell is a place have no truth to teach at all. God?s glory is seen as if it was fire = hell to evil. KJV, 1 John 1;5, God is light. Heb;12:29;God is a consuming fire. James 1:17, Father of lights, Hell is the glorified face of God Moses could not look at or become ashes. That light makes the earth to have no more sea, and melts elements, and consumes the wicked around city of God Revaluation, 20,KJV, Hell is not a place. No lost no lake of fire. Gods light is good to those that love to do good. Gates to the city of God to the wicked are the gates of hell they will never walk through because Gods light is hell to them. Truth is in me.

David Parks

commented on May 22, 2013

thanks.

Ronnie Dale Simpson

commented on May 22, 2013

Thanks Dr. McKeever, I agree, you made some excellent points!

April Rogers

commented on May 22, 2013

Amen and Amen! All excellent points.

Gerbrand Van Schalkwyk

commented on May 22, 2013

Very good points. I want to expand the 1st point. We must accept Jesus as our Saviour but then also as our Master. I must be the servant . He the Master. Too many say He is my Saviour, but they still want to make their own choises. We still want to be in control. We still pray to God for what we want and not for what we must do for Him as well. We ask our will and not His will be done. We ask for blessings instead of saying thank you for blessings. We complain about small things instead of asking how I can serve Him better and how these small problems are supposed to improve my relationship with Him and improve my character. We comain when we are sanctified instead of handing over full control to Him. We must repeat over and over Jesus is my Lord and Master. And then praise Him for bei.g my Saviour as well

Alan Montgomery Hutchens

commented on May 22, 2013

Each of these is a very valid point, without controversy. I suppose that I would add at least two more. In a day when foundational truths are being downplayed or neglected outright, I find it important to preach often on the doctrine of the Trinity. Oneness, Apostolic, Jesus-only groups (as well as others) are making it their business to severely attack this Biblical teaching. The other topic which I would suggest deserves greater emphasis is the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Christ. Nothing else matters, if He didn't get up again. Oh, but, He did!

Joel Rutherford

commented on May 22, 2013

Absolutely nothing new here - Thank you, Joe!

Rg Sayson

commented on May 23, 2013

HI, DR. MCKEEVER! I was just wondering, why did you leave out the topic of tithing and giving?

commented on May 23, 2013

Amen man of God really needed that,continue to be a blessing...Hallelluya 7 times

commented on May 23, 2013

Mbulelo Peter wrote,AMEN man of God i really needed that,continue to be a blessing.HALLELLUJAH 7times

Kevin Kleinhenz

commented on May 23, 2013

Mr. Hughes if hell is not a place then our Savior is a liar. Sorry He is not a liar. Your comments may be well intended but very confusing and totally un-Biblical. Kind of new here so maybe we should just ignore them.

April Rogers

commented on May 23, 2013

Mr. Kleinhenz I was confused as well. I read it three times and it still baffled me. I agree with you, Jesus Christ is not a liar, the devil is a LIAR and the father of lies, and he has confused the minds of many who would dispel the notion of hell, when the bible teaches that hell is a place in which all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ will spend their eternity (Rev 20:11-15). I praise God for it is only by His grace that I am saved, through faith. And when the Lord comes back, my eternity shall be spent with Him. I pray that those who teach otherwise will come into the knowledge of the truth.

Minister Sanders

commented on May 23, 2013

Mr. Hughes, the Bible did say if your name is not in the book of life you will be cast into the lake of fire. My brother, hell is very real.......

Glenn Hawkins

commented on May 23, 2013

Jonathan, if you REALLY believe all that you just wrote, then truth is NOT in you. Jesus Himself said that hell was a real place. He said in Matt 25 for those who were the goats to depart from Him into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. If it was not a place there would be no preparation. In Revelation 20, those whose names were not found in the Book of Life were cast INTO the lake of fire. True, our God is a consuming fire. But that CONTEXT (and you should know this) is very different from the CONTEXT of Matthew 25 and Revelation 20. If you really believe that fire means the same thing in every reference, then you really to do a LOT more studying hermeneutics. It's the context that matters, not trying to make the Scripture say what we WANT it to say. Prayer is NOT a state of mind. What exactly WAS our Lord doing when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane? If what you call a state of mind is pray, then do you really pray, and to whom do you pray? I'm afraid that you need to stop speaking so authoritatively and accusing true believers of their "errors". And really, Jonathan, no one is lost? If you claim to follow Jesus, why do you do that? Jesus said He came to seek and save those who were LOST. By your reasoning, He didn't seek and save you or anybody. Food for thought--or presenting to your state of mind, I mean prayer.

Bill Williams

commented on May 23, 2013

I wasn't too clear on Jonathan's main point either, and I don't want to hijack this thread. However, since it's been brought up a few times already, I would like to say this: it is possible not to believe in the traditional understanding of hell (a place where people burn forever as a punishment for sin) while at the same time believing the biblical teachings concerning the very real consequences of sin. If someone were to say, "I got tied up at work last night," and they were not literally tied up, that does not make the person a liar. It's pretty clear the person was using a figure of speech. That is, it's clear to us who are fluent in English. A person whose native language is not English might be somewhat confused by the expression, and would interpret it to mean something the speaker did not intend to communicate. Something similar happens when we read the Bible. None of us are native speakers of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages that the Bible was originally written in. So when reading the Bible, whether in the original languages or in translations, we need to be aware of the fact that certain expressions, ideas, etc. may not be intended to be taken literally. That does not mean the ideas are not true, or that those who use figurative language are liars. This is simply the inherent nature of language. Jesus constantly used parables, metaphors, figurative language, etc., to communicate the reality of God's Kingdom, as well as the reality of rejecting that Kingdom. But we cannot take everything he said literally, or else we will miss the point. The prime example of this is Nicodemus. When Jesus told him that no one could see the Kingdom of God without being born again, he took it literally. He asked how a person could return to their mother's womb and come back out again. But he missed the point of Jesus' teaching. The new birth experience is real, but it cannot be taken literally as an actual, physical new birth, and Jesus went on to explain that. Likewise, the idea of hell, as eternal death (the natural consequence of eternal separation from God) is very real. But to take the descriptions of hell as a literal place where people are burning forever risks making the same mistake as Nicodemus. And this is especially true in the book of Revelation, where from the very beginning it is made clear that the book is meant to be primarily symbolic. So, the consequence of sin--eternal death as a natural consequence of eternal separation from God, who alone is the source of life and who gives that life only to those who believe in his Son Jesus Christ--this is very real. And my understanding of the descriptions of hell in the Bible are that they are figurative language used to describe this very real consequence. By the way, this interpretation, while obviously not shared by the majority of Christianity, is nevertheless held by many respected, Evangelical scholars, including the late John Stott, for example. One can disagree with the interpretation I've presented, but it is a legitimate and Biblical alternative to the traditional understanding of hell. God's richest blessing to you all today!

Minister Sanders

commented on May 23, 2013

Mr. Hughes, the Bible did say if your name is not in the book of life you will be cast into the lake of fire. My brother, hell is very real.......

Bill Williams

commented on May 23, 2013

@Glenn, your post was published as I was writing mine, so I just now read it. If you would be willing, I would like to ask you some questions, not to argue, but to engage in a legitimate debate where we each have the opportunity to present the Biblical evidence for our case, and see on which side the weight of evidence falls greater. I agree with you completely with what you wrote: "It's the context that matters, not trying to make the Scripture say what we WANT it to say." So beginning with that point of agreement, let's consider the context of Matthew 25. It is clear from the context that Jesus uses figurative language. Jesus is not speaking to literal sheep and goats, and I'm sure you and I both agree on that as well. My earlier post demonstrated, from the example of Nicodemus, that Jesus often used figurative language to describe the Kingdom of God and the consequences of rejecting that Kingdom; and that when we take such language literally, we are in danger of misinterpreting Jesus. So, given the context of Matthew 25, given the fact that Jesus constantly used figurative language and that he is clearly using figurative language in this passage, at least in the instance of the sheep and the goats--is it not possible that Jesus' reference to "eternal fire" might also be intended to be interpreted figuratively, rather than literally? At this point, I'm not asking you if you think so, because obviously you don't. I'm simply asking if it is not possible. I hope to receive a response. Blessings to you!

Andre

commented on May 23, 2013

I will definitely keep these and refer back to them. All great points.

Bill Williams

commented on May 23, 2013

@Jim, I will gladly respond to your questions as best I can. I ask you to bear two things in mind, however. First, I am not a trained Pastor/Theologian. I am, to quote C. S. Lewis, "a very ordinary layman," but one who has spent a lifetime reading, studying, and teaching the Scriptures. Second, I am an English Literature teacher, and my understanding of how language works in general greatly influences how I interpret Scripture, which may differ from your own hermeneutic. I say this because if there are issues in which we disagree, I ask that you consider the possibility that we are simply viewing the same text from different perspectives. So with those caveats, I will address your questions: 1] Is Hell a real place? I suppose that depends on what you mean by the word "hell." The English word "hell" is used to translate various Hebrew and Greek words. If by "hell" you mean "the grave" ("Sheol"), then yes, the grave is a real place. If by "hell" you mean the burning landfill outside Jerusalem during the time of Jesus ("Gehenna"), that place was real at the time, but it no longer exists. If by "hell" you mean "a place where people burn forever as a punishment for sin," no, I don't believe such a place exists. I'd be more than happy to present a Biblical case for such a view if you'd like. 2] Do the lost go there? See answer for question 1. 3] Will the lost suffer there for all eternity? Again, see answer for question 1. In addition, Paul is pretty clear in Romans 6:23 as to the eternal destiny of sinners: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The wages of sin is not eternal life in a burning place called Hell. The wages of sin is death. Death is the absence of life. Those who reject God reject life, and therefore they eventually cease to exist as a natural consequence. 4] Will their suffering be as bad (or perhaps even worse) than what the figures of fire, utter darkness, etc.; point to? See answer to question 3. I will also add that the figures of fire, utter darkness, etc. point to a complete destruction. The key text here is Jude 7, where Sodom and Gomorrah are described as having suffered "the vengeance of eternal fire." Despite the term "eternal fire," it is obvious that the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is no longer burning. The emphasis of that phrase is not on the duration of the fire, but on the completeness of its destruction. I believe that just as there will be a literal, physical resurrection of the saved, there will also be someday a literal, physical resurrection of those who have rejected God. At that time, they will recognize that God is just in condemning them, and they will suffer what Christ suffered on the cross: the anguish of separation from the presence of God ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"), concluding with what Revelation 20 refers to as the "second death." How that death will occur, I do not know. Will it be by literal fire? Perhaps. I don't discount that possibility; but even if it is by fire, the end result will be the same as with Sodom and Gomorrah: complete destruction. At that time, the entire universe will be restored to the state in which God has purposed all along, completely absent of any sin anywhere (Revelation 21-22, "a new heaven and a new earth"). God will be all and in all. I hope these answers have been helpful. Please feel free to request further clarification if needed. Have a wonderful evening, my brother!

Bill Williams

commented on May 26, 2013

@Jim, it appears you deleted your post with the questions you directed to me. I hope my response clarified any questions you had, and I'm sorry you are unable to continue the conversation. But in case you are ever able and interested in returning to this conversation, I will check back in here every now and then. Have a blessed week!

Jim Best

commented on May 28, 2013

Mr. Williams, thank you for your kind response. I am well acquainted with your view of Hell, made popular by Edward Fudge some years back. If you do not believe in the orthodox view of Hell, you should have simply said so from the very start; an after the fact dissertation (and a rather faulty one at that) was not called for. But a faulty view of Hell is not my main concern. It seems that you have a faulty view of our Triune God. You state that the lost 'will suffer what Christ suffered on the cross . . . separation from the presence of God ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")' Some facts are in order: First - In Jewish thought, to quote the beginning of a psalm was to call attention to the entirety of the psalm. Therefore, when our Lord quoted Psalm 22:1, rather than seeing this as emphasizing only the first verse of this psalm, the Jews would have understood (as should we) that He was calling attention to the entire psalm from which He was quoting. Second, it is clear from this very same psalm that the Father did not forsake the Son. Verse 24 tells us, "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted: Nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He Heard." Third, our Lord did not leave any doubt concerning His understanding of Psalm 22. He knew that when His hour would come He would be left alone and forsaken by man, but not by His Father. He tells us, "Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." (John 16:32) Fourth, Jesus is here prophesying two facts. One, His followers would forsake Him; two, His Father would not. Had either one of these two assertions not come to pass, Jesus would have been a false prophet, a false Messiah. Fifth, it seems fitting, then, that the only way The Holy One could possibly begin to express the horror and agony of crucifixion and of taking upon Himself your sins and mine would be to express the feeling (not the fact) of being forsaken of God. Our wonderful Saviour, The Lord of Lords and King of Kings, The Lord of Glory, took all our sins upon himself. God the Son offered Himself to God the Father through God the Holy Spirit (Heb 9:14). God cannot deny Himself (2Tim 2:13). This is the Biblical view. One last thought: You state, "I ask that you consider the possibility that we are simply viewing the same text from different perspectives." May I just say - I do not have a problem with different perspectives, but I most certainly have a problem with contradictory premises. In Christ, Jim

Jim Best

commented on May 28, 2013

Mr. Williams, it has taken me a week to respond because the system would not allow me to post; meanwhile it removed my original post with the questions I had posed. I finally had to call the help line to post my comment.

Bill Williams

commented on May 29, 2013

@Jim, wow, you yourself said my response was kind...you could have been a bit kinder yourself. I'm hoping perhaps I just understood you wrong. I'm going to respond to what you wrote, but I ask you a favor--if you want to have a serious discussion, please do not make unwarranted assumptions about me, and please adopt a kinder tone [hint: writing "an after the fact dissertation (and a rather faulty one at that) was not called for" is not very kind.] Here goes...First: "I am well acquainted with your view of Hell, made popular by Edward Fudge some years back." I've heard of Edward Fudge, but I've never read anything written by him. What I believe about Hell, I believe because that is where the Biblical evidence has lead me. Only after did I discover that other respected Evangelical scholars held similar views. Second: "If you do not believe in the orthodox view of Hell, you should have simply said so from the very start." What I said from the start was that one did not have to believe in the traditional understanding of hell in order to affirm the biblical teachings concerning the very real consequences of sin. Whether or not my view is "Orthodox" doesn't matter to me. My concern is whether or not it is "Biblical." So, to make it crystal clear: I believe in the Biblical view of Hell, according to the Biblical evidence I have examined. If you would like to offer Biblical evidence that refutes my conclusions, you are more than welcome to do so, and I will examine it carefully. I am open to changing my mind if the Biblical evidence warrants it. Finally, everything you wrote beginning with "Some facts are in order..." and ending with, "This is the Biblical view," I agree with completely. One hundred percent, word for word. If you had asked me to clarify, if you had engaged in a conversation with me concerning that issue, instead of falsely inferring that I had a "faulty view of our Triune God," you would have discovered that. Considering that, then, just exactly what "contradictory premise" of mine do you have a problem with? A word of advice, though. You may want to ask for some clarification before you jump to conclusions again. I look forward to your response. Have a wonderful evening.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 30, 2013

@Bill, not sure if you are still following this thread but let me ask you this question. You said in post 20 "So, given the context of Matthew 25, given the fact that Jesus constantly used figurative language and that he is clearly using figurative language in this passage, at least in the instance of the sheep and the goats--is it not possible that Jesus' reference to "eternal fire" might also be intended to be interpreted figuratively, rather than literally?" Following your line of reasoning, then, is it not possible that Jesus was speaking of a figurative kingdom? We need to be careful because while Jesus does use figurative language, we could take that to the extreme of saying that everything He speaks could be taken figuratively. If we do that, the Bible makes no sense. Jesus spoke on hell much more than He did on heaven, in fact if I remember correctly the ratio is 14 to 1. So maybe hell is real and heaven is just a figurative place. Rev. 20:14-15 "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." That the second death is not annihilation is shown by comparing Rev 19:20 with Rev 20:10. Rev 19:20 "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." Rev 20:10 "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." After one thousand years in the lake of fire the Beast and the False Prophet are still there, undestroyed. The words "forever and forever" are used in Heb 1:8 for the duration of the throne of God, eternal in the sense of unending. Heb 1:8 "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." If there is no literal hell and lake of fire, then really, why do we need salvation? The very biblical word means to be saved from something. If God just annihilates the unbelievers after some sort of judgment, then what's the big deal. Why should people really worry about salvation? I mean, atheist believe that when they die they just cease to exist, and they are fine with that. Many people would choose to live a life without God right now and for eternity and party and fornicate and live for their own pleasures and not think twice about it. They already think Christians live a boring life and are no fun and have no fun. Many make statements, even considering the possibility of there being a hell, such as, "I would rather go to hell with my friends than be in heaven with all the goody two-shoes." If people just cease to exist then why be concerned for the lost, after all, when they're gone, they're gone, no real big deal because they won't even know it and they had "fun" in this life. Without a real hell and lake of fire, eternity just doesn't make sense.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 30, 2013

@Bill, Also, figures in the Bible always point to something that is true. The Old Testament figures of, for example, sacrifies, always pointed to the true figure, Christ.

Bill Williams

commented on May 30, 2013

@Dennis, as always, you present a strong, well-thought-out argument. Allow me to respond, beginning with your latest comment: "figures in the Bible always point to something that is true." I agree. I mentioned this before, but let me clarify: I believe that the figure of "hell" points to something that is true: the second death. "Following your line of reasoning, then, is it not possible that Jesus was speaking of a figurative kingdom? We need to be careful because while Jesus does use figurative language, we could take that to the extreme of saying that everything He speaks could be taken figuratively. If we do that, the Bible makes no sense." Yes, obviously this could be taken to an extreme, and it has been taken to an extreme by many, so that they have "spiritualized" the Bible to devoid it of any meaningful content. And yet, the solution to this problem is not to take everything literally. Think about Jesus' statement: "I am the bread of life." The RCC takes this literally and teaches that the communion bread (the "Host") becomes the actual, literal body of Christ. You and I disagree with such an interpretation. We realize that Jesus is speaking figuratively. This does not mean that EVERYTHING Jesus said was figurative, but a lot of what he said WAS. Therefore, we need to recognize that possibility, and allow the context to determine when Jesus was speaking figuratively and when he was speaking literally (and by context, I mean not just the immediate context, but the context of the entire Scriptures). So, on what biblical evidence do I interpret the images of Hell as figurative instead of literal? It is one of the elementary teachings of Biblical interpretation that one interprets difficult texts on the basis of clear texts. The key clear text for me is Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here we have two destinies: death and life. Not life in heaven and life in hell. Death and life. Death is the absence of life, and it is the consequence of those who reject God and choose sin instead. So that got me to thinking, if a literal teaching of hell says that those who reject God live in hell for ever, then how can Romans 6:23 be true? You need to interpret death as figurative, in order to interpret hell as literal. Both cannot be literal. You are either literally dead, or you are literally alive. So which one is it? I examined the evidence, and I found it very hard to interpret death as figurative. I was cautioned by Genesis 3, where the serpent told the woman, "You will not surely die." I began to wonder whether the traditional understanding of hell was not actually a continuation of that same lie. Because in order to believe that people burn eternally in hell, you have to believe that they will not surely die. Then I came across Jude 7, where Sodom and Gomorrah are said to have suffered the "vengeance of eternal fire." Well, the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah is not still burning today obviously. So, the emphasis of the image seems to be on the complete destruction of the fire, not on its duration. From that I began to piece things together, and eventually the weight of evidence, in my mind, fell stronger on the side that it is "hell", and not "death" that should be interpreted figuratively.

Bill Williams

commented on May 30, 2013

@Dennis, "The words 'forever and forever' are used in Heb 1:8 for the duration of the throne of God, eternal in the sense of unending." The difference here is that in this case we are speaking of God, who by nature is eternal, and who alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16). That is why the phrase "forever and forever" can be literally applied to him. Just because a phrase is used figuratively in one setting does not mean it cannot be used literally in another. It is the overall context that determines. Please note again, however, it is God alone who has immortality. Nowhere does the Bible speak of human beings having immortality. Rather, we are given immortality from God at the resurrection of the the righteous at the second coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 15). Because human beings do not inherently have immortality, the only way they can live forever in a lake of fire is if God continues to give them life. But this contradicts the clear teaching of Paul that the wages of sin is death. "If there is no literal hell and lake of fire, then really, why do we need salvation? The very biblical word means to be saved from something." We are saved from the reality to which the figures of hell point: the second death. More importantly, however, the Biblical teaching of salvation emphasizes much more strongly, not what we are saved FROM, but rather what we are saved FOR: life with God in his kingdom for eternity--a kingdom which, despite the current presence of sin in this world, will one day fill ALL creation, including this world. Those who choose God will be a part of that kingdom. Those who reject him will not; thus the natural consequence of separation from God's presence: Death.

Bill Williams

commented on May 30, 2013

@Dennis, "If God just annihilates the unbelievers after some sort of judgment, then what's the big deal." Believe me, it's a big deal. I don't know about you, but I LIKE being alive! I would much prefer to be alive in God's kingdom than dead outside it! In fact, I honestly don't know how someone who has tasted God's kingdom can actually believe that being dead and not having life when it is freely offered as a gift to anyone who will receive it, is not a big deal! "atheist believe that when they die they just cease to exist, and they are fine with that." They are fine with that because they do not believe--and worse, they do not know--that there IS more to this earthly life. At the judgement, after the resurrection of the wicked, they will not only believe, they will KNOW that there is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, that that life was offered to them freely, and that they rejected it. Talk about suffering! "Many people would choose to live a life without God right now and for eternity and party and fornicate and live for their own pleasures and not think twice about it. They already think Christians live a boring life and are no fun and have no fun. Many make statements, even considering the possibility of there being a hell, such as, 'I would rather go to hell with my friends than be in heaven with all the goody two-shoes.'" Again, these people have never known what life is really like in God's kingdom. Anyone who has tasted the glory of God's kingdom knows that there is nothing in this earth that can compare, and that one would be a fool not to enjoy God's kingdom for all eternity when such a privilege is freely offered to everyone! "If people just cease to exist then why be concerned for the lost, after all, when they're gone, they're gone, no real big deal because they won't even know it and they had 'fun' in this life." I am concerned for the lost because I want them to LIVE! I am concerned for the lost because I know that whatever "fun" they have in this life is nothing. I am concerned about the lost because God does not want ANYONE to PERISH, but to live with him in his kingdom forever. We're talking about intimate communion with God in his kingdom for all eternity, verses seventy years of life on this earth doing whatever one wants, and then nothing. Do you really believe there is no difference between the two?! "Without a real hell and lake of fire, eternity just doesn't make sense." If that is the way you feel, that's up to you. The only thing I need in order for eternity to make sense is to know I will spend it with my precious Lord and Savior, and see face to face him who I have learned to love more deeply as each year of my life passes. I can't stand the thought of my life ever ending, of no longer being able to commune with Christ. And I am endlessly grateful that in him, I never have to!

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 30, 2013

@Bill, death is not only physical death as you believe. There is also a spiritual death. What did God tell Adam would happen to him if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Genesis 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the DAY that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely DIE." Did Adam die physically that day? Certainly not! In fact he lived to be 930 (Gen. 5:5) So the death God was speaking about was a spiritual death. Adam was separated from God because of his sin and was spiritually dead until he and Eve accepted the coats of skins. So there is a physical death and a spiritual death. The death spoken of in Romans 6:23 speaks of spiritual death, separation from God for eternity in a lake of fire. Just as the bush that God spoke to Moses in wasn't consumed, so will the person who dies without Christ burn without being consumed. What about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31? This is a real story and not a parable as Jesus uses a real person's name. The reason He didn't use the rich man's name was because maybe this event happened recently and the people would know who Jesus was talking about. Verse 24 "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this FLAME." And he was VERY concerned that his brothers would suffer the same fate if Lazarus didn't warn them of the terrible place he was in. Verse 28 "For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this PLACE of torment." The rich man was suffering extreme pain and suffering in FIRE! In Rev 14 we read what will happen to those who receive the mark of the Beast. Verses 10-11 "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." How can you take the rich man, and those who receive the mark of the Beast figuratively? These are literal people suffering a literal hell!

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 30, 2013

@Bill, And you say, "Anyone who has tasted the glory of God's kingdom knows that there is nothing in this earth that can compare, and that one would be a fool not to enjoy God's kingdom for all eternity when such a privilege is freely offered to everyone!" The problem with that statement is they haven't tasted the glory of God's kingdom. They are lost. Again, I stand by my statement that most people won't be the least bit concerned about the afterlife if they believe they just cease to exist. I mean, how does this sound if I go up to someone and say, "Let me share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with you. Jesus came to die for your sins and if you will accept Him as your Savior, you can live with Him eternally. Now let me explain that we do not work to get to heaven, and we do not have to give anything up to be saved, but once you do and receive eternal life, you will want to give up your way of life. You will want to stop fornicating, drinking, druging, etc. But if you reject the offer of eternal life with Jesus and just continue living in sin, you will just cease to exist after you die." Do you really think that most people will not choose the latter? But explain to them that there is a lake of fire awaiting them if they reject Christ, and the thought process changes. The consequences are much greater for rejecting Christ. And yes, many will still reject Him, but many more will accept Him than not if eternal judgment is involved. Jude 23 says, "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;" If there is no hell, no lake of fire, then I am not as concerned with the lost as I am if there are such places. That is just human nature! They just cease to exist, and as I said, many people believe that anyway.

Bill Williams

commented on May 31, 2013

@Dennis, you make some strong points, and I am aware that death can be both "physical" and "spiritual." By the way, let me clarify something. Let us not equate "physical" with "literal" and "spiritual" with "figurative." The spiritual is just as literal as the physical. God is Spirit, but that does not make him figurative. So, when I talk about "literal death," I am implying BOTH physical and spiritual death, which cannot be separated. Spiritual death leads to physical death. No, Adam did not physically die that day. He died spiritually. But eventually, and as a RESULT of his spiritual death, he did die physically. In fact, look at the results of the spiritual death of mankind in the chapters that follow Genesis 3. What do you see? Well, the first thing you see is Adam and Eve clothed with garments of skin. The only way to make a garment of skin is by the physical death of an animal. Then there is the physical death of Abel in chapter 4. Chapter 5 contains the refrain, "And he died...and he died...and he died..." Each one referring to physical death. Climaxing in the Flood narrative of chapters 6-9, and the physical death of the entire human population, save Noah and his family. The evidence is overwhelming. Spiritual death leads to physical death. Look at it this way. If you pluck a leaf from a tree, it does not wither instantly. It looks exactly the same one second after it has been plucked as it did one second before it was plucked. But the leaf is now spiritually dead, for it has been separated from its source of life. And as a result it will, with time, wither and crumble and return to the dust of the earth (physical death). So, with this understanding, let us return to Romans 6:23. When I say that the death Paul talks about is literal death, I am saying that that death is BOTH spiritual and physical, because you cannot separate the two. Just as you cannot separate physical life from spiritual life. So, even if your emphasis in Romans 6:23 is on the "spiritual" death, you still have a conflict with the traditional understanding of hell. You cannot be separated "from God for eternity in a lake of fire," as you wrote, and remain alive, physically or spiritually. I just don't see anything in the Bible that allows such a possibility. Physical death will be the natural consequence of that separation.

Bill Williams

commented on May 31, 2013

@Dennis, now, let's look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus. You do not interpret the story as a parable, whereas I obviously do, as do most of the scholars I am aware of. The fact that Jesus uses a real person's name does not make the story real. Philip and Joe and Estella are real names of real people. That does not mean Dickens' Great Expectations was a real story. Furthermore, the detail of the story of the rich man and Lazarus give evidence that it is parable. There is a great gulf fixed between the rich man and Lazarus, in which they cannot pass from one to the other, and yet they are able to carry on a conversation? Nevertheless, the point of the story, whether you interpret it as a parable or as a real story, is in the last verse: if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one were to rise from the dead. The person Jesus is referring to is not Lazarus, but himself. The Pharisees, to whom Jesus related this story, did not believe the Scriptures in that they pointed towards him. Therefore, not even Jesus' resurrection from the dead would convince them. If one gets hung up on the details of a literal place called "hell," one will make the mistake of Nicodemus, who missed Jesus' main point because he was trying to figure out the mechanics of being "born again" (figurative language Jesus used to describe a real experience, which is what I believe Jesus also does when he refers to "hell"). Finally, as to Revelation, it is clear from the book as a whole that John uses highly figurative and symbolic language throughout the book. Time forbids me from going more into detail on this point.

Bill Williams

commented on May 31, 2013

@Dennis, on your final point concerning the lost, you and I have very different paradigms concerning how to reach the lost. In response to my comments about having tasted the glories of the kingdom of God, you replied "The problem with that statement is they haven't tasted the glory of God's kingdom. They are lost." Precisely. So what's the solution? I suggest it is that we give them a taste of that kingdom so that they realize what they're missing. Now, we must keep in mind that ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts, not you nor I nor a certain type of Gospel presentation. In your hypothetical Gospel presentation, if I present the Gospel to someone, and offer as the alternative eternal nothingness, and "most people" are choosing eternal nothingness rather than the Gospel, I need to start asking myself if perhaps I'm not actually presenting the Gospel...or worse, if I am not living according to the Gospel! Jesus said, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." He didn't add, "And if that doesn't work, trying scaring them with eternal fire and see if we can't get a few more in that way!" Nonsense! Lift up Jesus, in our words and BY OUR LIFE, and any other alternative will not be worth it. I've seen it happen over and over and over again. And these people accept the Gospel with a passion for the lost, because they know that they were lost too, they know that they almost missed out on the greatest thing in the world, and they don't want the lost people that they know to miss out on it, either. "If there is no hell, no lake of fire, then I am not as concerned with the lost as I am if there are such places. That is just human nature!" You are absolutely right. And as Paul says, we no longer live according to human nature, we now live according the the Spirit that was given to us in the new Birth. We have a new nature, the nature of Christ, the one who came to seek and to save that which is lost. I know that your concern for the lost has been greatly shaped by the paradigm of hell that you have held; but I promise you, it is possible to let go of that paradigm in favor of, what I believe is, a more Biblical understanding of what hell means, and not lose one ounce of passion for the lost. Christ lifted up is more than enough to draw the lost to him. There is no need to add fear to it.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 31, 2013

@Bill, of course sin leads to physical death as well as spiritual death. But your statements seemed to impliy that the Scriptures only meant death was physical. But you still do not believe that spiritual death is eternal. As far as the rich man and Lazarus, even if it is a parable (which I of course do not believe) I still do not understand why Jesus used the images of fire, torment, and pain just to make a point that people would not believe even if Jesus rose from the dead. Part of the point Jesus was making was warning them from the fire they were heading for if they did not repent and believe. I'm sorry but my interpretation of these passages make more sense than yours IMHO. Which leads to why I witness the way I do. Yes, of course I lift up Jesus and speak of His great love. But part of that love is that He suffered hell for us so that we would not have to. That is true love. God is a God of love, but He is also a God of judgment and wrath and to speak of only one aspect of God isn't love at all. And that is what Jude 23 is talking about "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;" There is nothing wrong with "scaring the hell out of them!" Do I live my life in such a way that others will be drawn to Jesus? Of course (that is, as far as humanly possible as I still am not perfect)! People have seen the change in me since my younger partying years and people have been drawn to Christ because of that. But they were certainly warned about the consequences of not believing. But as you have stated, you do not believe in hell or the lake of fire and that is certainly your choice. I just believe you are mistaken (as you do me).

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 31, 2013

@Bill, BTW, you are accusing Jesus of using the same scare tactics I use about hell fire to win someone to Christ. Otherwise why did Jesus use the (parable) in Luke 16 and include torment, pain, and fire if He only wanted to point out that they wouldn't believe even if Jesus rose from the dead?

Bill Williams

commented on May 31, 2013

@Dennis, "your statements seemed to impliy that the Scriptures only meant death was physical." That was an incorrect inference. What I wrote was that Paul's use of the word "death" in Romans 6:23 was LITERAL, and then I clarified in order to explain that literal does not mean physical only; it includes spiritual as well. Paul is speaking of a literal spiritual death, which leads to a literal physical death as the natural consequence. "you still do not believe that spiritual death is eternal." Of course I do. Spiritual death can be eternal (although it need not be: all of us are born spiritually dead, and are "resurrected" at the new birth experience). For those who reject God, spiritual death IS eternal. "I'm sorry but my interpretation of these passages make more sense than yours IMHO." Of course it does, that's why you believe it. But the accuracy of an interpretation doesn't depend on "what makes sense to me," but rather "what Biblical evidence supports such an interpretation." Otherwise, we are making human reasoning, not Scripture, as our standard. Now the Biblical evidence on a given subject is rarely one hundred percent conclusive, which is why there are differences of interpretations. We have to make the best sense we can of the evidence we have, sure; while at the same time be open to the possibility that new evidence, or a new understanding of the evidence, may require that we either adjust or even fully abandon earlier interpretations. "part of that love is that He suffered hell for us so that we would not have to. That is true love." You are exactly right. And the hell that Jesus suffered for us was NOT being burned forever in a literal fire. It was the anguish of feeling the separation of God (not the fact of separation; as Jim pointed out, God never did forsake his son, and Jesus knew his father would never forsake him. But I believe that on the cross, he felt that separation. This will be the experience of those who suffer the "Second Death." I don't know how one cannot believe that the anguish of being eternally separated from God, once you know undisputedly that God DOES exist, and that you rejected the opportunity to enjoy eternal with him, is suffering enough! Sure, there is an element of fear of judgement involved, but it must be fear of the right thing!).

Bill Williams

commented on May 31, 2013

@Dennis, "There is nothing wrong with 'scaring the hell out of them!'" It's not that I think there's anything wrong with that per se, except simply that fear is never a sufficient primary motivator. "they were certainly warned about the consequences of not believing." That is valid, but again, we need to make sure the consequences that we are warning about are the right ones. Paul makes it crystal clear in Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is death: spiritual death in eternal separation from God, and physical death--the absence of life--as the natural consequence. I don't know how someone can consider this as "not a big deal." It is a very big deal, and I do think these consequences must be presented alongside the Gospel. "you are accusing Jesus of using the same scare tactics I use about hell fire to win someone to Christ." No I'm not. You see, the difference in my mind between you and Jesus is that I believe, from my study of Scripture, that when Jesus uses the images of hell, he does so figuratively. On the other hand, you are clear that when you use such language, you use it figuratively. And that makes a big difference. Jesus' point in this story is not to scare people with images of hell. It is to warn them of the consequences of unbelief, of the reversal of fortune for those who choose to prefer the riches of this life over the eternal life in Christ that is offered to us. "why did Jesus use the (parable) in Luke 16 and include torment, pain, and fire if He only wanted to point out that they wouldn't believe even if Jesus rose from the dead?" Why do ANY of us use figurative language? Why not just say everything literally? Because that's just not how language works. We speak figuratively because it helps us to communicate ideas, emotions much more effectively. But if we start to hyper analyze every detail of figurative language ("Why say you were tied up at work if you weren't literally tied up? Why not just say you were busy?"), you're going to miss the bigger picture. Again, that is clearly what happened to Nicodemus. Finally, I want to make clear again that despite my conviction on this issue, I am open to changing my mind if the Biblical evidence warrants it. And I'll give you a chance to change my mind, if you can answer me this question. If spiritual death is separation from God, and if separation from God leads to physical death (for God is the only source of life), then on what BIBLICAL BASIS can one say that those who are in hell, who are eternally separated from God, will remain alive eternally? If they are separated from God, what other source of life is there that allows them to burn alive eternally? Because if you cannot answer that question, the traditional understanding of hell makes no sense, and therefore the concept of hell must be interpreted figuratively. And do not use the concept of hell itself, because that is the matter that is being debated. Outside of what the Bible says about hell, what other evidence is there in the Bible that suggests that a person can be eternally separated from God, and yet receive their life from some other source so that they live forever?

Dale Arnett

commented on Nov 30, 2013

Could Lazuras and his torment, separation from God be useful in clearing this up.

Dennis Cocks

commented on May 31, 2013

@Bill, I am leaving on vacation early in the morning and I won't get back until sometime next weekend. So I will have to answer your last statment when I get back. Have a good week!

Bill Williams

commented on Jun 1, 2013

@Dennis, enjoy your vacation! :) I myself have just finished our spring semester, so I'm ready for a little break from work myself. I look forward to your response. I used to assume the traditional understanding of hell, myself; and I'm not opposed to going back to it. But once I began to study it for myself, I just couldn't get passed the fact that if hell involves eternal separation from God (the one point you and I do agree on, by the way), there is just no possible way for a person to continue to live eternally in any way (whatever way one chooses to describe "life" in hell, it still is SOME sort of life) apart from God. When I moved further back from the specific passages, and looked at the overall context of the Bible as a whole, the traditional understanding of hell just didn't fit. By the way, I want to clarify one thing. I said this to Jim earlier, but it may have been lost in the flow of the conversation. I certainly don't discount the possibility that literal fire may be involved in the final destruction of those who reject God (the Second Death). He may very well burn them up, as he did at Sodom and Gomorrah. But whatever role fire may play, the end result will be the complete destruction of sin, and of all those who chose to cling to sin rather than to God. Anyway, I hope this helps you understand better where I'm coming from, for when you get back. Have a good time, and may God's traveling mercies be with you!

Jim Best

commented on Jun 6, 2013

This is precisely why I do not respond to such posts ? people will often say one thing only to later claim they had meant the exact opposite, were misquoted, were sadly misunderstood, are being ?attacked?, etc. Therefore, I will respond to only two issues and leave you to your conscience. I will quote you word for word; if this offends you, it's on you. First: The orthodox view of hell is that the lost have eternal conscious existence; in your view the lost will ultimately cease to exist. Whether the orthodox view of Hell is correct or not is not the issue. The issue here is that these two views are not different perspectives, but rather mutually exclusive and contradictory statements - the law of non-contradiction and the law of the excluded middle bear this out. And yet you state, ?I ask that you consider the possibility that we are simply viewing the same text from different perspectives.? Different perspectives? . . . Only if the laws of logic do not apply. If you have difficulty grasping this, imagine one person arguing that Jesus is God in the flesh and the other arguing that Jesus is not God in the flesh but merely a good moral teacher. It would be a travesty to say that these two are merely holding two different perspectives, would it not? Can you even imagine the Church accepting both views? Second: You stated that ?the lost will suffer what Christ suffered on the cross . . . separation from the presence of God.? I then wrote as clearly as I possibly could refuting this from the Scriptures, only to have you respond, ?I agree with [you] completely. One hundred percent, word for word. If you had asked me to clarify, if you had engaged in a conversation with me concerning that issue, instead of falsely inferring that I had a "faulty view of our Triune God, you would have discovered that.? You state, "if you had asked me to clarify, if you had engaged in a conversation . . . instead of falsely inferring . . . you would have discovered. . .? Am I to get upset at you and accuse you of being unkind and using an unkind tone because you are faulting me, etc.? Not at all. This is the way human beings argue and often express themselves, and malice should not be attributed to this type of give and take in common discourse. Furthermore, what was there to discover? Why should I ask you to clarify? You wrote what you wrote, and you clearly stated that ?Christ suffered . . . separation from the presence of God.? How else should I or anyone else have understood this? You should say what you mean and mean what you say. If you did not mean to say this, you should not have said it. But somehow it is now my fault that I took you at your word (or lack thereof). But be that as it may, if you have placed your faith in Christ and trust our Triune God you are my brother in Christ, and for this I am thankful. I will not come back to this site, but I trust I will see you in Heaven.

Bill Williams

commented on Jun 7, 2013

@Jim, I hesitated to respond, since you said you would not return to this site. But I write these words more for my sake, than for yours, to bring closure to this conversation from my end. And in case your curiosity gets the best of you and you do check back in one more time just to see if I wrote anything, I hope this will give you one more chance to understand where I'm coming from. First issue: the two different perspectives I'm referring to are not regarding the two different views on "hell." I'm referring two different perspective towards the text of Scripture itself. You and I are looking at the text from two different perspectives (I from a figurative perspective, you from a literal one), which lead us to two different, mutually exclusive interpretations of the same Biblical texts. Now, I did not mean to imply that both perspectives (figurative v. literal) are equally valid, and I apologize if that caused confusion. I simply asked you to consider for a moment that there IS a different perspective from which one can interpret the same Biblical evidence. In other words, I asked you to consider the fact that the language of "hell" in the Bible could have been intended figuratively. Whether that perspective is warranted by the Biblical evidence is up to you to decide, and I respect your choice either way. Second issue: You did not in fact quote me word for word. You claimed twice that what I wrote was that "the lost will suffer what Christ suffered on the cross . . . separation from the presence of God." Look at my post again and you will see that the ellipsis ("...") is not there. Rather, the words that I wrote, that you omitted by the use of ellipsis, were, "the anguish of." And those three omitted words make a HUGE difference in interpreting what I wrote. What I believe Jesus experienced on the cross was the EXPERIENCE of eternal separation, NOT an actual separation, as you inferred. Everything you wrote about how God did not abandon Jesus on the cross, and about how Jesus knew that God would not abandon him, I agree with. But it is possible to know intellectually that God has not abandoned us, and yet to feel as though he has. If you have not had such an experience yet in your life, no doubt most of your parishioners have. "If you did not mean to say this, you should not have said it." I did not say what you thought I said. I said more, and my post demonstrates clearly that I said more, and the more that I said that you omitted makes a difference. So, I sincerely apologize for any misunderstandings on my part. And I have bent over backwards to try to clarify as much as possible. But if you want to continue to misread, to jump to conclusions, to pick out only certain parts of what I wrote and ignore the rest, there's nothing else I can do about that. One final word. I really hope this is not a regular pattern of yours, beginning a conversation (remember that you are the one who first addressed me), and then abandoning it when someone disagrees with you, without taking the time to truly understand the other person. You will miss out on so many opportunities to learn and to grow, and even perhaps to listen to God's voice expressed through his Body, the church. I tell you this as a lifelong educator: The only way we grow is by stretching our mind, and stretching our mind never comes from listening only to those who agree with us. It happens best when we take the time to listen and understand someone who disagrees. Even if we continue to disagree, the act of listening and understanding itself will cause us to grow. Blessings to you!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jun 10, 2013

@Bill, I'm back and I will respond as soon as I am able.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jun 12, 2013

Again, where did all the comments go?

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