Presentation on theme: "CCBCi Saturday Seminar 2012 The Unpopular Doctrine of Hell Part 3 The Traditional Doctrine Upheld."— Presentation transcript:
CCBCi Saturday Seminar 2012 The Unpopular Doctrine of Hell Part 3 The Traditional Doctrine Upheld
Part 3: The Traditional Doctrine Upheld Those who hold alternative views such as annihilationism or universalism claim that these views are founded in Scripture. Supporters of these views do in fact give some scriptural backing for their beliefs. But what about the traditional view? Does it lack a biblical basis? Does it have ample scriptural support?
Part 3: The Traditional Doctrine Upheld The historical understanding that hell involves unending conscious torment and that one’s fate is sealed at death has a firm biblical basis. What it lacks in positive emotional appeal it makes up for in scriptural support that simply cannot be ignored. We’ll now take a look at: 1) The historical context of first-century Judaism 2) Some biblical data.
1)First-Century Judaism We mentioned earlier that some people in early Judaism believed in annihilationism. As it happens, however, this was not the majority teaching. The majority Jewish teaching around the time of Christ was of an eternal, conscious Hell – much like the traditional Christian doctrine.
1)First-Century Judaism From the apocryphal Book of Judith 16:17 (RSV): Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; fire and worms he will give to their flesh; they shall weep in pain for ever.
1)First-Century Judaism See your notes at A for 1 Enoch 22:10-13. An example from 2 Baruch 44:15 contrasts the fate of the righteous and the wicked saying, “For to them [the righteous] shall be given the world to come, But the dwelling of the rest who are many shall be in the fire.” Such were some of the texts in circulation around the time of Christ.
1)First-Century Judaism Jesus lived and breathed the Judaism that gave birth to these ideas. He had no problem confronting that form of Judaism when needed. Other than perhaps threatening that they might go there, Jesus does not correct the Jewish teachers of his day regarding Hell. When Jesus speaks of Hell, he sounds like Jew of his day: Hell is unending, conscious torment and one’s fate is sealed at death.
1)Some Biblical Data See Matthew 13:41-42 and 47-50. Consider Christ’s words in Matthew 18:8-9. If Jesus wanted in any way at all to alter or soften the concept of Hell that his listeners already held, these would have been good opportunities. He only emphasizes how important it is not to go there.
1)Some Biblical Data Jesus contrasts the fate of the “sheep” and “goats” in Matt. 25:46. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV) The word for “eternal” (aiōnios) is the same in both cases. How we understand “eternal life” needs to contrast precisely to our understanding of “eternal punishment”. The traditional view is easily the most consistent.
1)Some Biblical Data Jesus’ teaching about “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is controversial on a number of levels. We will not discuss those here. It is uncontroversial in the sense that it denies universalism. There is at least one category of sin that will never be forgiven. See Matthew 12:31-32.
1)Some Biblical Data The rest of the New Testament follows a similar line of thought. There is no radical departure from the teaching of Jesus or the Judaism of the time. Jumping ahead to the Book of Revelation, some strong texts appear in favor of the traditional view.
1)Some Biblical Data Read Revelation 14:9-11. An annihilationist would focus on only the smoke going up “forever and ever,” and try to downplay the “torment” involved. It’s hard to maintain that angle in light of the fact that they “have no rest day and night, who worship the beast …”
1)Some Biblical Data In Rev 20:10, after fire from heaven destroys the armies of Gog and Magog, we are told, “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were (or “are”), and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” That’s fairly clear, but it might be argued that this punishment is only endured by the devil – and perhaps the beast and false prophet.
1)Some Biblical Data Check out Matt 25:41, this passage fills out the meaning of Christ’s sentence on the lost. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The devil receives an eternal, fiery punishment. These lost are headed into the same place. It’s most natural to suggest they will experience the same eternal sleepless torment.
1)Some Biblical Data The judgment that Christ gives is only completed when all the dead receive the verdict that he hands down. See Revelation 20:11-15. This is the same lake of fire we saw earlier. There is no convincing way to argue that the judgment of all these dead is any different from that just described in Matthew or the earlier verses in Revelation. And there is no mention of second chances or postmortem conversions.
1)Some Biblical Data When speaking of Judas, Jesus declared, “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matt 26:24) If universalism was intended by Jesus, this would simply not be true; Judas would ultimately be headed for eternal bliss.
1)Some Biblical Data From an annihilationist perspective, not being born or ultimately being annihilated come out about the same in eternity. In the end, only the traditional view does real justice to Christ’s words regarding Judas. See also the view of annihilationism in the eyes of Sri Lankan scholar Ajith Fernando at point B in your notes.
1)Some Biblical Data One more weakness in the annihilationist view is that if all the condemned eventually get snuffed out of existence, then varying degrees of punishment become practically irrelevant. Yet Jesus teaches a “greater condemnation,” in some cases. For example see Matthew 11:22-24.
1)Some Biblical Data To sum up, the biblical evidence seems so strong that one gets the impression it is being compromised with anything but the traditional doctrine. Any lack of clarity that might have existed from the Old Testament alone seems to be amply compensated for by the New. Further, it fits historically in the religious environment of the New Testament authors.
1)Some Biblical Data Oxford academic and mystery author Dorothy Sayers expressed it perfectly. See C in the notes.
1)Some Biblical Data We’ve seen that the biblical data justify the traditional outlook on Hell. But are we reading the data correctly? Many of the arguments against the traditional view come from an emotional or rational appeal, as in, “This is so awful it can’t be right.” Our final section will look at the traditional doctrine and why it is reasonable.