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Piper: “Behold now the…severity of God!”

I listened to an excellent sermon today by John Piper entitled “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell, Part 1.” (Read transcript here) This sermon touched on a topic which has been rolling around in my brain recently, and provides a strong and much needed word of correction especially to the liberal/emergent influence which provides a confusion and distortion of Biblical truth in our day.

SUMMARY OF CONTENT:

The passage which he was preaching on is Romans 11:17-22,

17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith Do not be conceited, but fear; 21for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.22Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

Piper’s argument for solidly facing the subject of God’s wrath, judgment and the doctrine of Hell is two-fold: 1) We are commanded to. The verse does not say, “Behold now the kindness of the Lord…but avert your eyes from His severity.” We are commanded to “behold” – or stare directly into – the severity of our God. To fail to do so is disobedience – that is, sin. 2) It is not kind to neglect the severity of the Lord. Piper gives the illustration of a stove. If we were to tell our child that a stove is good, that it makes nice food, that it is our friend, etc…but never once stopped to get very serious and stare them right in the eye and say, “Oh, and son, be very careful with this stove. When it is red on top it can burn you and cause you lots and lots of pain. We call this ‘hot.’ Do not touch it up here ever, especially now when it is red, okay? Do you understand?” …if we do not deal honestly with the dangers and potential pain of a powerful, dangerous thing, we are simply not kind.

Piper makes the point that many today are moving away from a view of God which includes Hell. One person among these is Clark Pinnock who writes, “I was led to question the traditional belief in everlasting conscious torment because of moral revulsion and broader theological considerations, not first of all on scriptural grounds. It just does not make any sense to say that a God of love will torture people forever for sins done in the context of a finite life…” (Italics added)1

Piper points out that Pinnock is at least honest about the fact that it is his own moral and theological considerations rather than Scriptures which lead him to abandon the traditional view of hell. According to Piper, this is typical of all who abandon Scriptural truth on this topic, because Scriptures themselves are quite plain on the topic. He identifies sixteen separate passages which deal with Hell,2 and writes that,

“…is a profound and dreadful reality. To speak of it lightly, or not to speak of it at all, or to speak of it in a way that changes suffering into feeling nothing, simply proves that we do not grasp its horror. I know of no one who has overstated the terrors of hell. We can scarcely surpass the horrid images Jesus used. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth,”4 “their worm shall not die” (Mark 9:48); “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43); “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41); “the hell of fire” (Matthew 18:9); “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46); “anguish in the flame” (Luke 16:24). The point of all these is that we are meant to shudder. We are meant to tremble and feel dread. We are meant to recoil from the reality. Not by denying it but by fleeing from it into the arms of Jesus, who died to save us from it.

Revelation 14:11 is probably the most graphic New Testament statement of the eternal suffering of the unrepentant. “The smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day or night.” Torment forever and ever. The endless suffering of unrepentant sinners is a reality taught in Scripture and therefore good for us to know about.”

Piper concludes by urging his listeners to reverse the ordering of their thought-processes. Rather than beginning with assumptions about reality from popular culture, then modifying Scriptures to accomodate these assumptions, we should begin with Scriptures and modify our cultural assumptions accordingly. Specifically, we should not begin with the assumptions that 1) man is basically good and 2) love is about always being nice to everybody, then 3) modify Scriptural teaching on hell so that God is not really being “mean” to people who “don’t deserve it,” but in reality is doing something not-so-bad, which we won’t talk about much anyways, in an effort to shelter our poor sensitivities. In contrast to this, we should begin with scriptures, and work backwards into our culture. As Piper says,

“Since the Bible teaches it, it must be just and therefore, O how infinitely dreadful sin must be! How infinitely blameworthy it must be to treat the glory of God with contempt! How infinite must be the insult to God when we do not trust his promises! What infinite beauty and glory and purity and holiness God must have, that endless suffering is a just and fitting punishment for disobeying his Word! Annihilationism reduces sin from high treason to a misdemeanor. Hell is meant to fill us with awe at the glory we have scorned.

And it is to fill us with wonder that the death of one man—the God-man, Jesus Christ—could bear the infinite penalty as a substitute for everyone who repents and trusts in him. Hell is an echo of the glory of God. It reveals the greatness of the glory that has been rejected and the greatness of Jesus’ suffering because he bore that hell for all who believe.”

REFLECTIONS

In a previous post (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God), I reflected that if we allowed the concept of hell to intrude into our thoughts, it must dominate. This is no peripheral issue: to ignore it would be like ignoring the Holocaust, like ignoring aids, like ignoring abortion. If Hell is anything even remotely similar to the place described in Scriptures, and if Jesus really is the only way to avoid it then there should be no causes which should be allowed to eclipse the dominant, over-arching, all consuming cause of Christian proselytization. This attitude seems compatible with that of the early church – who could not be stopped even at the threat of death by crucifiction, burning or dismemberment to keep this vital message of the gospel to themselves. And how could they? After they were shown so much grace, how could they keep it to themselves?

If we believed in hell, I think it would – quite literally – light a fire benieth us all. It would motivate us to pour out our souls in weeping over the lost, to take risks for the Kingdom, to joyfully endure the loss of all things for the saving of only one soul. It would, in short, set us on a mission to seek and to save what has been lost – rejoicing with exceeding joy when even one soul is saved!

By contrast, the Evangelical church seems to be having an identity crisis, precisely because it has forgotten why it was sent. Why do churches, missionaries, soul-winning campaigns exist again? For happier marriages? For solid and stable homes? For financial security? For happy, content people who are able to get through the week that much better once they have had their “spiritual fix” once a week?

Without hell, church becomes nothing more than a social club, the goal of the club becomes nothing more than having “good” meetings, and a good meeting-hall, and evangelism becomes a gimmicky attempted expansion of the club. It becomes very, very hard to remember why our “club” is the right one and other clubs are less valid or invalid, and why we should make any real sacrifices for the cause of our club.

When we remember the clear teachings of Scripture, everything snaps sharply into focus. We are not a club which exists to serve our own needs, but an army which exists to serve and to save that which was lost. We are not selfishly trying to get more tithers and warm bodies into our churches, we are on a mission to rescue souls from an eternity which is too horrible to think about to an eternity which is too wonderful to describe. We are not in competition with fellow churches – if they are saving souls, more power to them! We are in competition with other religions, however, because we believe that at root their beliefs are doctrines of demons, invented to keep people captive in their sins and seperation from God.

If we had the guts, then, to actually turn and face the severity of our God, I believe it would put the soul back into our preaching, the strength back into our singing, the passion back into our praying, the urgency back into our witnessing, and the focus back into our church-meetings.

You say that “hellfire and brimstone” is for the Southern Baptists, for the simple-minded, for the past. I say hell is for real, and if we are going to take God at His word, “hellfire and brimstone” is for us, now, to face, to deal with, and to act accordingly.

Indeed, it may be that this is the very thing which we have been missing so dearly, and searching so hard to find!

****

1. Clark Pinnock and Delwin Brown, Theological Crossfire: An Evangelical/Liberal Dialogue, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), pp. 226-227.

2 Daniel 12:2; Matthew 3:12 (Luke 3:17); Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 18:8; Matthew 10:28 (Luke 12:4-5); Matthew 25:41, 46; Matthew 26:24; Mark 3:29 and Matthew 12:32; Luke 16:26; Romans 2:6-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 6:1-2; Jude 12-13; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 19:3; Revelation 20:10.

48 Comments »

  1. When, if ever, do you see Jesus or the Bible engaging in hyperbole? The point is that if something is stated in a way where the original listerns/readers would understand it to be hyperbole, then we too should understand it as hyperbole. And what is hyperbole or not is an area where faithful people can see things differently.

    Also, a teacher should strive to explain the original meaning as best as she/he can and not try to introduce other ideas into the text. As I see it, Romans is an extended treatise of why Jesus is Messiah for everyone, however this raises 2 questions:

    1. For the gentile, if Jesus is Messiah, why do not all Jews follow Jesus?
    2. For the Jew, who has been told that Jews are the people of God, what is this about gentiles somehow being a part of the people of God?

    Paul is using a metaphor of an olive tree for the people of God, this would have been recognized by Jews immediately. In normal grafting, the wild tree is used for the stock (botton trunk and roots) and the cultivated tree is used for the scion (branches that will fruit); this combines the hardiness or other desired property of the stock with the fruit of the cultivated tree. But notice that Paul is saying the cultivated part is the stock and the wild part is the branches, which is the opposite of what is normally done.

  2. ESV Mat 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
    Mat 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

    Have you torn out your eye or cut off your hand? These verses are talking about hell/gehenna/garbage dump. Most believers I know do not take Jesus as giving a literal command to act on, rather, Jesus is saying that something is very important using “preacher’s rhetoric/hyperbole”.

    As I see it, there are 2 choice, walking with God or not, and Jesus is saying to make the former choice. Not walking with God is of itself hell, altho it may not seem that way at times.

    • Yes, walking without God in this life can be a metaphorical hell. It can also be heaven on earth, as with the rich man (Luke 16:19-25). The really difficult question, the question on which so much hangs, is “what happens after death?”

      A literal reading of the text would seem to indicate that what is coming for unrepentant sinners is worse than the most brutal self-mutilation. This seems to fit with the traditional understanding of hell. That’s how I read it anyways.

      Well? What do you think happens to people outside of Christ, after death?

    • If I were to answer that question Scripturally, I would tremble to say that a person who does not receive eternal life is instead judged for the full penalty of all of their sins at the great judgment (Heb. 9:27). Because their righteous deeds count for nothing, and our evil deeds are so crushingly powerful (Isa. 64:6), the people who did not accept and receive God’s free gift of grace in this life (John 3:16, Romans 4-5) will hear the terrifying words, “Depart from me, ones who are under a curse, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels,” (Mat. 25:41, also Mat. 25:41, Luke 13:27). These people will be thrown “into the furnace” (Mat. 13:42, 13:50), into the “outer darkness” (Mat. 25:30), where there will be “gnashing of teeth” and “weeping” and “mourning” (Mat. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, Luke 13:38). In this place, “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44, 46, 48), where “the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day and night” (Rev. 4:11).

      What a terrifying picture! Even surveying these few verses on this topic, I am already thinking I need to try witnessing to my co-workers again! They have rejected God but….oh man! This is such a horrible place to end up, even if they choose it!!

    • You are mixing up some verses.

      Rev 14:11 is for those that receive the mark of the beast. P.S. Most believers accept that Rev. is HIGHLY symbolic and many people have very different understandings about what is going on.

      And explain how a “furnace” can be “darkness”.

      I see BOTH of these as metaphors, describing being without God using hyperbole. The choice is stark, walk with God or not.

    • You are still evading the real issue. What happens to people after they die? Is there one big happy hunting-grounds, or are there two destinations?

      If there are two, do the words of Scriptures – symbolic as they are – tell us something about the two places?

      Heaven is also spoken of confusingly, and in highly symbolic language. However, “most people” (as you like to say) don’t discard Heaven for that reason.

    • I am not really evading, I am trying to get you to see things with more Hebraic eyes, but you decline to engage my questions.

      1. Have you cut off your hand or plucked out your eye?
      2. How do you determine something is hyperbole in the Bible?
      3. How is a furnace the same as darkness?

      I have given you my responses to show you what I think.

    • Tell you what – I’ll answer your questions if you answer mine. How’s that?

      You go first – I’m running out the door to pick up my kid from the baby-sitter.

    • Okay, I guess I’ll go first.
      1. No.
      2. I determine hyperbole/metaphors by the context. If it sounds like hyperbole or a metaphor, it probably is. (by the way, I have never removed a 2/4 from my eye either!)
      3. This question is irrelevant because I agree with you that the language about hell is indeed metaphorical. Metaphors can contradict in literal meanings without contradicting in metaphorical meaning (e.g. I could call my wife both a graceful doe, AND a lovely flower, and you would still get the drift of my meaning, without complaining that I am being nonsensical).

      We agree that these words are metaphorical. What we don’t agree on is what the metaphor means.

      My perspective is summed up in a statement I made in my last post (quoted from a sermon by Bruxy Cavey), “The good news is that the language abot hell is probably metaphorical. The bad news is that the reality that they represent is probably far worse.”

      I honestly don’t see how you can argue for anything else, from scriptures. If you want to enlighten me, by all means – feel free. Please do this, if you don’t mind, under my next post.

      I really, really want you to answer here, in this post-thread, MY two question:

      1. After death, do all people go to the same place?

      and if so,

      2. Do Scriptures tell us ANYTHING about these two places?

    • Whew! At least we agree they are metaphors.

      I think the question about places is misplaced.

      Walking with God is good, not walking with God is bad and 2 people might be in the same “place” while doing this. And Scriptures say you want to choose the former one, but it is one’s choice.

    • Whether you think my question is misplaced or not, it is still the question I am asking you. I would really like an answer, if that is okay.

      I am reading into your question and wondering if you may be answering it (do we all go to the same place after we die, but some are following God and some not…or something….?) but I think it would just be better if you did the interpreting.

      Maybe answering me point by point would be helpful for clarity’s sake.

    • “I don’t know,” “I’ll need to research this and get back to you,” “I just don’t want to think about this topic. Ever.”

      …all these would be perfectly acceptable answers, Don.

      Just whenever you’re ready.

    • As I see it, it is a part of the Greek mindset that wants to have things carved up and neatly packaged. There is a lot I do not know and do not really need to know. When I get there, I will find out; before then hints are given that mean to me to trust in God.

    • Not sure what being Greek has to do with it (by the way I’m Dutch/Irish!), and I know that you don’t like this question, but I still would like it answered.

      …so is your answer “1. I don’t know, and 2. If they do, it’s too hyperbolic and confusing to know anything about it.”

      Is that about the jist of it?

    • 1. I think “place” is the wrong way to think about it. The point is not the place/places, but that it is important to make the right choices.

      2. Not walking with God is to be rejected, and walking with God is to be accepted.

    • No, less Greek rather than more Greek.

      FWIIW, I see the 2nd century gentilization of the church resulting in some misunderstandings, as the Scriptures written by Hebrew thinkers were seen thru Greek thinkers eyes, including the influence of Greek philosophies. This in turn got imbedded into church teachings so that what the Bible actually teaches got transmogrified into syncretism.

      But posting in a forum is not a good way to explain, it takes listening to teachings and prayerful meditations. I did get Cavey’s 4 teachings and plan to hear what he says sometime.

    • Okay. Less Greek. Why don’t we try for more Biblical?

      Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart.” The afterlife is not a Greek, or a Hebrew, or a modern, or an ancient question. It is a basic human question. Only a fool (sorry – just using Biblical language of wisdom vs. folly) would distract himself from the basic reality of his impending death, and not live accordingly.

      Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed to men once to die – and after this comes the judgment.” And what is the content of that judgment?

      Revelations 20:11-15 says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

      The more we talk, Don, the more I realize that when you talk about going to the Greek/Hebrew, when you talk about further study, when you bring out your experts and recommend extended studies and resources, you are not trying to listen more closely to the text, but trying to insulate yourelf from it. Your teaching seems to lead towards “endless speculation” rather than “furthering the administration of God, which is by faith,” (1 Tim. 3:5.) You could bring out your experts and I could bring out mine…but at the end of the day, if it is really THAT hard to understand Scriptures, all that we will really be able to say is, “The evidence seems to lean towards…” and “I think…” and “most people believe that…” We will be able to speculate, yes. But we will not be able to hear God’s voice.

      There are topics which Scriptures do not cover, or are intentionally vague on: the afterlife is not one of them. In fact, the afterlife is kind of the one topic which the Bible claims to have a corner market on. And any child could see that Scriptures are pushing us to make a choice, and to make that choice SOON, while we still have time, so that we can take advantage of God’s free gift in Christ and go to heaven rather than suffer our deserved fate in hell.

      I will ask you just one more time, and then I think I am done.

      Don, do you think that there is a hell? Please FIRST answer this question yes or no, then continue with whatever confusing explanation and qualifications you may want to say.

    • Yes, but what does that MEAN?

      Are you saying that hell is only a this-life experience? Are you subscribing to the traditional view of hell, but saying (like C.S. lewis) that hell is not the place where God condemns people to go in His wrath, but the place where people choose to go, and God says a final “have your own way” to them.

      I could fill in your words with almost anything I want – but I still haven’t heard a clear answer from you.

      Do you hear where my frustration is coming from, Don? I keep asking the same questions, and you keep answering them the same ways – the problem is that you are not answering the questions, but giving vague non-answers. I still have no idea of what you think happens to a person after death, except that you seem to think that I should not be asking you this question.

      Don, it is clear that neither of us are enjoying this. You clearly don’t want to have to answer a question which, for you, is a loose-loose question. If you say “I don’t believe in hell,” then you will have to deal with a whole lot of very difficult passages to the contrary. If you say that you DO believe in the traditional view of hell…well, my suspicion is that like myself and like many people of our day, the version of God which we have received simply is not big enough to handle the doctrine of hell. My decision has been to take the plunge and stare at the severity of God, and let it take me where it will. I can see why you would not want to do this.

      Either way, you clearly don’t want to answer, so if you want to call it quits, I’m game with that.

      No loss of respect or friendship.

    • A lot of what has been taught about heaven and hell does not come from the Bible but rather from pagan sources that then get mixed in with some Bible verses but the result is a syncretistic mishmash. But it is taught by so many and taught even to kids by people who mean well. And posts in a forum are not a good way to disentangle it.

      I AM giving you a clear answer, it is just not the kind of response you expect; that is, you think I am giving an invalid answer, but from my perspective you are asking an invalid question. I will grant you that it is one that is commonly asked.

    • Don, I have no problem admitting that pagan traditions from all over have distorted our view of the Bible. One example of this is the Song of Solomon, which cowardly interpretations through the years have turned into an analogy of God and his church, when it is actually a love-poem of erotic love in marriage. The answer, however, is NOT to go to scholars, to refer to big books, to look at the traditions and extra-Biblical sources of our day, BUT TO LOOK TO THE BIBLE. When you just read it, the Bible will speak for itself.

      If you need experts to tell you what the Bible means, why don’t we just skip the middle-man and only talk to the experts?

      So like I said, I don’t have a problem with you saying that some of our imagery and traditions about hell may be distorted. However, when you just READ the Bible, it is very, VERY clear – undeniably clear – that all humanity is headed for a horrid afterlife. Apart from Christ, each one of us would be getting just exactly what we deserve for our sin.

      It is not a wrong question, to ask if hell is real. I can’t even fathom how you would come to this conclusion. It is like asking whether or not we should tell our children not to talk to strangers. Do you REALIZE that if hell really is real, and that if you do not warn somebody that you were supposed to warn, you will have to live with that responsibility? Do you own that? Do you live with that? That thought is beginning to terrify and motivate me big-time!

      We can type all day about this. A better answer would be to DO something. Like share the faith, save a soul. Work out the Great Commission. If hell is real, it changes everything.

      …of course, if we endlessly defer judgment on the issue by recourse to discussions that have no end, we will forever be able to protect ourselves from this harsh and uncomfortable reality, wouldn’t we?

    • Josiah wrote: “One example of this is the Song of Solomon, which cowardly interpretations through the years have turned into an analogy of God and his church, when it is actually a love-poem of erotic love in marriage.”

      Don: I agree with you, the primary meaning of SOS is an erotic love poem.

      You should check out “And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning” by Joel M. Hoffman. He uses all of chap 6 to show how SOS 4:9 should be translated as “my equal, my lover” where equal is in terms of power. He is one of the experts that you seem to want to decline to read.

      Josiah wrote: “The answer, however, is NOT to go to scholars, to refer to big books, to look at the traditions and extra-Biblical sources of our day, BUT TO LOOK TO THE BIBLE. When you just read it, the Bible will speak for itself.”

      Don: The non-prophecy texts of the Bible were mostly clear to the original readers, but it is simply arrogant to think we just automatically fit in their shoes. The Bible was written FOR us but was not written TO us and thinking it was just ends up with a mishmash. Writing is just marks on a page unless it is interpreted inside a culture. The point is one WILL use some culture but if one is not faithful to understand the culture of the original readers one will inevitably make mistakes, as the cultures today are simply so different, let alone the language.

      • I’m not denying there’s confusing texts where we need to go to the experts. When we go to the experts on texts which are otherwise clear – texts such as the ones we have been discussing – it becomes evident that we are just avoiding the issue.

      • …but why are we even talking about this? This post is on the afterlife, not the perspicuity of scriptures. As tempting as it is, I really shouldn’t get into that topic, because I haven’t studied it as much as I would like to yet.

        I am calling this thread “done.” Is that okay?

        Post again to give me your final thoughts on the afterlife and have the last word if you want, but I have other things I need to discipline myself into writing on, and we are just going around in circles and rabbit-trails here.

      • “Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein

        The idea of the perspicuity of Scripture was a reaction to the RCC claim during the Reformation that it took the Church Magisterium (meaning them) to correctly interpret Scripture, the Reformers said this was not true. When the Reformers would try to claim that the RCC was not following Scripture, the RCC response was that the RCC WAS following Scripture and that the Reformers were not understanding Scripture properly.

        So the prots ended up forming around 20,000 denominations, which denies that everything in the Bible is clear.

        Even the Reformers realized that not all Scripture is equally clear.

        And there is a concern about something that might SEEM clear actually not being as clear as it seems, as in one misses an idiom or a technical term from the time and kablooey, one ends up in a strange place. This is absolutely what happened for Mat 19:3 for over 1800 years, see David Instone-Brewer or I can explain if you wish.

        As I previously wrote, the Scriptures were written FOR us but they were NOT written TO us and if one treats them as if they were, it is essentially certain to make mistakes. So one needs to approach them humbly, always seeking to learn more and being willing to revise how one interprets something as one learns more. This does not mean there is no hope in understanding, far from it, but it does mean it takes work and a lack of arrogance to go deeper into Scripture in trying to understand it as the original readers would have.

        And not walking with God is to be rejected.

      • interesting thoughts, Don. Looks like we will have much to talk about once I get to working on hermeneutics. I am hoping to look at that later this summer, Lord willing.

        One thing before I go: I have a post written in my mind which makes a parody of a pastor who does not believe in hell. Just from what we have written here, it may seem like I am parodying you, but I am not. It was an analogy I basically came up with when I wrote the above post, before we had this discussion. It’s not written about a specific person so much as “the every-man” pastor of the day who doesn’t believe in hell, or doesn’t like to talk about it.

        Anyways, not sure exactly how it’s going to play out between my mind and the keyboard, but I just wanted to head off a situation where you would read a post and feel personally mocked for your beliefs. This is not what I am intending! : )

        God bless!

      • I would not think that as I do believe in hell, but I understand the verses differently than you.

        P.S. I think all of us start out interpreting the Bible by reading the words and asking what it would mean if WE said those words. This can give a plausible but wrong meaning in WAY too many cases. And we do not even consider that it may be wrong, after all, God WANTS to communicate with us and certainly is not tricky.

        It is only later that it may occur us to ask ourselves, for example, that when a Pharisee is talking, we need to find out what Pharisees believed and what they meant by the words they used, including the special terms they used.

      • Okay, WHAT?!? You believe in hell? Why didn’t you just SAY so?

        How do you think of it differently than I do? The only thing I have said about it is that it is a REALLY bad place, figuratively described by all sorts of horrible metaphors like fire and outer darkness, where people who don’t accept Christ go.

        Do you believe something different than this?

        PS – No, I’m not biting on the hermeneutics stuff. Later. We’ll talk about this stuff later.

      • Fair enough.

        Not sure if this is worth chasing…but you said that you believed in hell. What does your version of hell look like, and how do you see it as different from my version?

        I am just curious.

      • There are a few words that get translated as hell, Hebrew sheol and Greek hades, gehenna and tartarus.

        Now it seems obvious to me that when the NT uses hades, it is NOT referring to the hades of Greek mythology, rather it is using the closest Greek work to a Hebrew idea.

        And this Hebrew idea is based in OT cosmology, which is simply too much to get into in a post on a forum. Plus there are other terms for aspects of hell, which again is too much to get into.

        But the basic idea is to try one’s best to understand how Hebrew thinkers understood it, as opposed to Greek thinkers, which is what most of us by far are. That is, take off the Greek lens thru which we view everything, which is hard if one thinks that is just the way things are and that one is not viewing thru any sort of lenses, and put on Hebrew lenses.

      • …so the bottom line is that your view of hell is too complicated to be stated in 300 words or less?

      • No, I keep saying one is to avoid it.

        To get more into it than that I do not think is appropriate for a forum reply. It is multiple teachings, part of which is to remove the pervasive Greek ideas that are associated with it as commonly taught.

      • All I have been saying is “it is a really, REALLY bad place.” I don’t know what there is here that is uniquely Greek, or overly complicated, or up for debate in this assertion.

        We can argue for hours about whether the electric chair is a three-legged or four legged chair, whether the electricity will be AC or DC, etc., etc…but even in our disagreement we would be agreeing that it exists, and that it is to be avoided. I think we both agree, Don, that Hell is a) real, b) horrible beyond description: thus, it should be avoided at all costs.

        Am I right that we agree at least in this?

      • I guess I get hung up that you keep using the word “place”. I see it as a condition of not walking with God by one’s own choice and this possibility is of course real and should be avoided.

      • Urgh! Computer ate my earlier reply!

        In summary: the reason I keep coming back to the word “place” is because I think Hell IS a place. Obviously you disagree.

        When it comes to the afterlife, there are really a surprisingly few number of real options. Either we just die and that is it, or we die and all go to the same place, or we die and go to different places. There is also the possibility of reincarnation and some other goofy things, but you get the picture: for Christians, there are basically these three options: extinction, universalism, or heaven/hell.

        Which “place” do you think you will end up in after death, Don? Maybe we could start there.

    • :p

      Okay, never mind. We’re done. If you aren’t interested in answering simple questions directly, in pursuing truth, what, exactly, is the point?

      This thread is over.

  3. Hey Josiah,

    One book I’d recommend reading is, “The Evangelical Universalist”, by Gregory McDonald.

    It takes a scriptural approach to universalism, and does not shy away from problem passages. It also does not “speak of (Hell) lightly, or not to speak of it at all, or to speak of it in a way that changes suffering into feeling nothing.” The book does not question Hell’s horridness, only it’s eternality.

    Anyway, you don’t need to agree with it – I’m just saying that there are universalist views rooted in Scripture, and that you can also be a universalist and take Piper’s points in the sermon totally seriously too.

    • Thank you! I am hoping to do some work on Univeralism, and may check into McDonald in the process. Always appreciate a good book recommendation!

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