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Featured Hell is Payback

Discussion in 'Controversial Christian Theology' started by Mark Corbett, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    [​IMG]

    We know that we should not seek to harm those who have harmed us. If fact, we should forgive them and do good to them as the Lord gives opportunity. But putting this truth into practice can be a great challenge when people have faced terrible evil.

    I had the incredible privilege of serving the Lord in a Muslim majority nation for fourteen years. I call it a privilege in part because I was able to serve alongside of some incredibly courageous Christians. Here is one short story:

    A young lady was learning how to share her faith with her Muslim neighbors. She wanted to do this but was struggling with it. She came to my wife and me for counsel. She told us her story.

    Her father had been serving the Lord in a mixed area of Christians and Muslims when Islamic extremists moved in and attacked the area. She was a young girl. After hiding, her family was fortunate to be rescued by the military (the extremists had a militia, but were not part of the government). Her family was placed in the back of a military truck to be driven out of the area to a boat which would take them to relative safety. The truck had boards enclosing the back, but the boards were not tightly fitted so that one could look out the cracks. She looked and saw along the side of the road Christians who had been slaughtered. Now she wanted to reach out to her Muslim neighbors (most of which were not extremists), but this memory made it hard for her.

    What do you say to something like that?


    The first step in ministering to someone who shares a story like that is taking time to share in their deep hurt. But even for a case this extreme, or rather, especially for cases this extreme, the Bible gives answers.

    Part of the answer (a huge, important part) is that Jesus set the amazing example for us by forgiving those who crucified Him. He also offered forgiveness to Paul, who had been involved in persecuting Christians. The blood of Christ is ENOUGH payment for any sin. Even the most terrible, horrifying sins can be forgiven because of the cross.

    But not everyone will accept the payment Christ made. In such cases, does the Bible tell us that pay back is wrong? Yes and no. It’s wrong for us to personally seek pay back, but it is not wrong to desire justice, which includes pay back. Paul was writing to a group of Christians who, like the Christians I served among, were facing serious persecution. Notice what he tells them:

    2 Thessalonians 1:5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
    6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
    7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
    8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.


    Notice that Paul does not say “don’t worry about justice”. Paul says God is just and will pay back those who were persecuting the believers. Paul explains that this will happen when Jesus returns. It’s not wrong to want justice, to want pay back. But vengeance is not our job. It’s God job. God promises to avenge, and uses this promise to free us from the burden and danger of seeking vengeance ourselves:

    Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
    18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
    19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
    20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


    Believing in God’s promise to avenge does not make us angry and vengeful. It frees us to forgive and love. Believing that God is just empowers us to take risks and love our enemies and do good to them, hoping that they will be won to Christ, but knowing that some will continue to reject him and do more evil. We aren’t ignoring justice; we are trusting God’s promise to be just and repay in the end.

    I have seen how this truth is part of what God uses to set the hearts of Christians who have seen and suffered terrible evil free to minister to others.

    This is one reason I’m concerned about wrong views of Hell. These wrong views of Hell are not consistent with God’s promise to avenge and to pay back, and thus, they undermine this important truth.

    How Wrong Views of Hell Can Undermine God’s Promise to Avenge

    One popular view of Hell is that it does not really involve any active punishment from God. This popular view says that God simply allows those who prefer not to be in His presence to go on existing without Him. Such an existence is sad and unhappy, but does not involve God actively punishing anyone. This idea may sound attractive to some, but it utterly and totally lacks Biblical support. It is contrary to the repeated and consistent teaching of Scripture. God repeatedly promises to pay back people according to their sins. The Bible portrays God as being active in this. Indeed, God is the one who carries out this vengeance.

    Sometimes the “mild version” of Hell is combined with the idea that perhaps the lonely, unhappy inhabitants of Hell can leave whenever they choose to by finally accepting Christ. This is a view held by some universalists. They view the purpose of Hell as being correction and restoration, and they consistently deny any element of vengeance. In doing so, they undermine an important Biblical truth which helps us to forgive and minister to our enemies.

    There is another error regarding Hell which undermines the truth that Hell involves “payback”. That is the common and widespread belief that Hell involves eternal torment. One of the many problems with the eternal torment view is that the Bible teaches that God will punish the unrighteous “according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6). Some people have committed a lot of terrible sins, but no person has caused any other person torment that lasts longer than billions of years. So why should the payback involve way more than billions of years of torment? A belief in eternal torment is a distortion of God’s justice and promise to repay. There is a further problem with eternal torment with regard to God promising to repay.

    If unrighteous people really did deserve to be tortured for eternity then how does God ever fulfill His promise to repay sinners? If the unrighteous “owe” an eternity of suffering as payment for their sins, then even after a million trillion years of torment they would have repaid far less than 1/1000th of 1% of the debt they apparently owe. In this view justice is NEVER complete or fulfilled.

    The view which best fits with God’s promise to repay is annihilationism. God will repay each person according to their sins. The final outcome is that they perish (John 3:16), are destroyed by God in both body and soul (Matthew 10:28), and they are burned to ashes (2 Peter 2:6). This second death is permanent, it is eternal, and is itself the primary punishment for sins which is most emphasized throughout Scripture. However, just as death in this life may be preceded by various amounts of suffering, the “second death” also will be preceded by some suffering which will be truly just. God will repay.

    What do you think? Do you agree that final punishment involves "payback"? Which view of Hell (eternal conscious torment, universalism, or annihilationism) seems most harmonious with the Biblical teaching of "payback"?


    This is a slightly modified (hopefully improved) version of a post on my blog.
     
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  2. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  3. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  4. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree that those who commit the sin Jesus described in your quote above will not be forgiven. I'm not sure how that relates to the OP. Can you explain a little more?
     
  5. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes, I agree with that verse you quoted, which is Isaiah 66:24. Some people misunderstand that verse (which Jesus quotes in Mark 9:48). They think the worms and fire are being used to torture living people. But the verse specifically says the worms and fires apply to dead bodies:

    NIV Isaiah 66:24 "And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

    It makes sense that worms and fire are being used to dispose of dead bodies. All throughout the world and all throughout history most dead bodies are disposed of either be being buried and decomposed to dust by worms or by being burned to ashes by fire. Very fitting words for annihilationism.
     
  6. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  7. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  8. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes, I agree! Some will rise to shame and everlasting contempt.

    Some misinterpret the "everlasting contempt" to refer to an emotion which the resurrected unrighteous will feel. But that is not the case. "Contempt" in Daniel 12:2 is the same Hebrew word which is translated "loathsome" in Isaiah 66:24:

    NIV Isaiah 66:24 "And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

    You are right to point out that it is the righteous who will look on the unrighteous "with everlasting contempt" and see them as "loathsome". This does not require the unrighteous to continue to exist as conscious people. In Isaiah 66:24 it is dead bodies which are viewed as loathsome. Our own experience confirms this. We hold Hitler in contempt, even though he is now dead.
     
  9. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    That's seems like a strange interpretation since the worms and the fire are applied to DEAD BODIES:

    NIV Isaiah 66:24 "And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

    Also, saying that the worms do not die is not identical to saying that they NEVER die. It could simply mean that they will not die until their job of turning the bodies to dust is complete. Same with the fire. It cannot be quenched means no one can put it out while it is burning. The language does not rule out the possibility of the fire going out after the bodies are completely turned to ashes. But even IF the fire and the worms last forever, they are consuming dead bodies, not torturing live people.
     
  10. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  11. Goatee

    Goatee Jesus, please forgive me, a sinner.

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    For many, hell is indeed on earth!
     
  12. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'm not surprised that the first 10 comments have focused on the most controversial (among Christians) part of my OP, namely that it supports annihilationism. However, I'm a little disappointed that no one has directly addressed the main point and argument, which has to do with Hell being pay back.
     
  13. Goatee

    Goatee Jesus, please forgive me, a sinner.

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    It's not God that chooses hell for people. It's the people themselves!
     
  14. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There is a sense in which this is true because it is people who refuse to love the truth who will ultimately perish:

    NIV 2 Thessalonians 2:10b They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

    Yet, in another sense it is not true that people choose Hell for themselves. No one will want to be cast into the lake of fire on judgment day. The Bible portrays the lost as longing for entrance into the Kingdom but being refused:

    Matthew 25:10 "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
    11 "Later the others also came. 'Lord, Lord,' they said, 'open the door for us!'
    12 "But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I don't know you.'

    Perhaps we could think of it like a person who committed armed robbery and was sent to prison. If you said, "He chose to go to prison himself" that would be true if what you meant was that his choice to commit armed robbery directly led to his imprisonment. But if you meant that he wanted to go to prison, of course that would not be true.
     
  15. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  16. Goatee

    Goatee Jesus, please forgive me, a sinner.

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    Choose sin.....choose hell. Simples
     
  17. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A difficulty with your view that in Hell the soul lives on while the body dies is that Jesus indicates the same fate awaits both the body and soul of the unrighteous:

    NIV Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
     
  18. vinsight4u

    vinsight4u Contributor

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  19. vinsight4u

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    /nvm
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  20. JackRT

    JackRT Flat earther waking up ... Supporter

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    As human beings we are bounded in both time and place. That is to say, we are finite. On the other hand we think of God as completely unbounded. God exists outside of both time and space. God is present everywhere and at all times. That is to say, God is infinite. This is the orthodox theistic understanding of God. To compare the finite to the infinite is beyond our human comprehension. Even to compare a grain of sand to Mount Everest falls far, far, far short. All of this brings up a number of questions in my mind.

    The first question being “How is it even possible for a finite creature to offend an infinite God?” Could a grain of sand offend Mount Everest?

    The second question being “Even if it were possible for the finite to offend the infinite, would the infinite punishment of a finite creature be just?” I will attempt to craft an analogy. You are in a park enjoying a picnic lunch when you glance down and notice an ant crawling across your sandwich. You are offended. How do you react? You have a number of options. You could ignore the ant. You could brush the ant away. You could move to a different location. You could kill the ant. You could kill the entire ant colony. You could capture the ant and confine it and proceed to torture it for several weeks until it finally dies. That last option is quite inadequate as a comparison to hell because hell is infinite in duration whereas the ant can only be tortured for a finite length of time.

    To me the concept of hell flies in the face of any concept of a just and compassionate God. Hell would seem to be an entirely human invention based on a vindictive concept of retributory justice. Perhaps we have the wrong idea of hell. Perhaps we have the wrong idea of justice. Perhaps we have the wrong idea of God. I completely reject the concept of hell as it is traditionally understood in most Christian churches.
     
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