Archive for August, 2011

[[[ Concluding the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

For the past 27 posts, this blog has explored what Jesus says about hell. These are the instances that I found to be valid considerations for the average person who must rely on English translations. It is hard to get an exact count because some scripture is “probably” about hell but circuitously alludes to it or just mentions destruction in general. I did cover the 11 times Jesus referred to Gehenna, and others where the term Hades is used.

Nearly all of the imagery used by Jesus has a counterpart in the Old Testament:   everlasting fire, unquenchable fire, weeping, gnashing of teeth, worm dying not, casting/thrown down, burning, torment/sorrows, lack of water, and judgment.

One difference, as a generalization, is that in the Old Testament, prophets were usually using these terms to deliver national judgments on groups of people. Jesus often spoke in the context of individual souls. The sheep and goats story from Matthew 25 (July 17 post) begins with judging by nations but seems to separate individuals in the end.

At this point, I am not ready to go into firm distinctions between where the dead were held prior to Jesus’ resurrection, where they are held now, and where they will spend eternity after Judgment Day. I did not find anything in my search of the Gospels that I would want to build a micro-doctrine on where I get all nit-picky about the terminology. Much of that information requires using the rest of the Bible, especially the Book of Revelation, and this study was always about seeing just what Jesus said.

He said this:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

So if you have stumbled upon this blog with questions about what Jesus said, it is important to include that He said NO ONE comes to the Father apart from Him. He said only one narrow road leads to God.

Last year I did a study on Liars, and this summer I studied What Jesus said about Hell. Next up for this blog….
Good question. I was thinking about doing a study on hypocrisy but that is going to have to wait. For the time being, I think I will just do some random items as they come up on the general theme of Stuff They Never Taught Me in Sunday School. Look for that to start some time after Labor Day.

Read Full Post »

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
John 15:6

Quite a few verbs in this verse apply to the one who does not abide in Jesus, the Vine:
(a) thrown away
(b) dries up
(c) gathered
(d) cast
(e) burned

Earlier in the chapter, a choice had existed. One could abide in the vine, or not. The relationship between the branch and the main vine is a vital one. It is the relationship between life and death.

The allegory is simple enough. This is one of Jesus’ last teachings before his crucifixion. He says who he is: “I am the vine.” The Father is the vinedresser. True followers abide in the vine and bear fruit. The Father cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear fruit. Every branch that is fruit-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. Both the apostate non-producers and the fruitless parts of the abiding producers are cut off.

This verse is talking chiefly about fruitful works. How much of the “fruit” metaphor, if any, can be applied to souls is a matter that theologians debate. Some of the teachings of Paul make this passage look as if it refers to the soul’s loss of heavenly rewards, not to a soul’s loss of reaching heaven. The second chapter of the book of James also expounds on a man’s faith and a man’s works. That debate is beyond the scope of this study. Here we are focusing on what Jesus said. That is why it is significant to note that He was saying this to his most dedicated disciples at the close of his earthly ministry. This audience would be more in danger of getting off-track in their works than of losing their faith.

The Amplified Bible puts John 15:6 this way: If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.

Read Full Post »

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

25 Truly, truly, I say to you that an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and the ones hearing will live. 26 For even as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave also to the Son to have life in Himself. 27 And He also gave authority to Him to execute judgment, for He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in the tombs will hear His voice. 29 And they will come out, the ones having done good into a resurrection of life; and the ones having practiced evil into a resurrection of judgment.
John 5:25-29

The three literal translations that I checked all used the term “judgment” for verse 29: a resurrection of judgment. The King James, however, says, “unto the resurrection of damnation.

This concept of resurrection to judgment is taught several other places in the New Testament, however for this study we are limiting the focus to what Jesus said.

Vincent’s Word Studies says the verbs for resurrection are different:
Resurrection of life (ἐὰν ἐγὼ)
The phrase occurs only here in the New Testament: so resurrection of judgment (ἀνάστασιν κρίσεως).

I have no idea what that means.

What is clear is that Jesus has established His deity and right to judge, and says that He will do so.

Read Full Post »

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

“Beware of the scribes, those desiring to walk about in long robes, and liking greetings in the markets, and chief seats in the synagogues, and chief couches in the suppers, who devour the houses of the widows, and under pretense pray long. These will receive a more severe judgment.
Luke 20:46, 47

Again, Jesus refers to varying degrees of judgment and punishment. In this text, the Gospel of Luke is paralleling the scripture from Mark 12:40, which was covered earlier. The Geneva Study Bible explains that in the term ‘widow’s houses’ the word house is a figure of speech that is understood to include the goods and substance of the house and property.

Although the two gospels say essentially the same thing, there is a subtle difference in the way they emphasize what causes the harsher denunciation. Compare:

Mark 12:40 and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”

Luke 20:47 and under pretense pray long. These will receive a more severe judgment.

Mark tells what motivates them: “for appearance’s sake.” They wanted to look good before others.
Luke discloses the how: “under pretense.” They used deceit to do it.

In Mark we find out that the scribes were abusing their position of power to benefit themselves and to make themselves look good. If there had been any doubt as to how they went about making themselves look good, Luke makes it plain that pretense and deception were involved. They were not merely committing crimes; they were using religion and prayer to hide their crimes. Matthew Henry put it this way: Dissembled piety is double sin. In today’s vocabulary, that would be hiding under a false appearance of what is morally right is twice as bad as the sin alone.

Read Full Post »

Part One introduced the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It was noted that the tone and structure of this story differs from a standard parable because it speaks of “certain” people and has a setting in a spiritual dimension where time is not counted quite the same way as we usually perceive it.

As promised, I will revisit the fact that Jesus did not name the “certain rich man.” There are several reasons for this. One is that it further shows, by means of contrast, how the value systems of the temporal and the eternal differ. While alive, the man had been known for his worldly riches. In death they did not count; he was a nameless nobody in Hades, just as the beggar’s lack of riches had made him a nobody during his life on earth. Lazarus has a name in the afterlife, and it is recorded in the Book of Life. Part One speculated about the possibility that the rich man was Caiaphas, based on matching five clues. If this is true, then Jesus was telling a prophetic story about a person who was still living. Given that Jesus had a very important mission to accomplish where He would be coming face-to-face with Caiaphas, it would make sense to not be naming him in the story as already being tortured in Hades.

What we know:

When the rich man who desired things of luxury died, his body was buried and his soul/spirit was in a place of torment.
Abraham does not offer any hope of petitioning for the dead. The (formerly) rich man does not challenge his consignment to Hades.

A question for contemplation:

Is this Lazarus the same one that Jesus raised from the dead in John, Chapter 11? This Lazarus was covered in sores; that Lazarus was also sick. Bible scholars are divided in their answers to this. If they are the same, then it was Jesus, not Abraham who had the authority to raise him from the dead. Whether or not they were two different Lazarus’s, or if it was the same person, Abraham’s statement would still be proven true: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

Lazarus, having been denied even crumbs, died. Lazarus is getting his reward; he is getting to meet Abraham and his great desire for comfort is being fulfilled at last. The rich man sees this, and in his presumption, has the audacity to interrupt the conversation and ask Abraham to show some pity. That does not show that Abraham was presiding over the underworld. It shows that the rich man was still too stuck on himself to deal with the lower classes of people. He wants to do business only with Abraham. The rich man never apologized at all: not to God for, not to Abraham, and certainly not to Lazarus for leaving him out at the gate all that time. The formerly-rich man still did not acknowledge Lazarus as a person, but treated him like one of Abraham’s servants. He is still acting like his fingertip of water is more important than anything Lazarus and Abraham might be talking about. He still wants to be waited on. The rich man never asks Lazarus if he would be willing to go talk to the brothers. Nothing in the account indicates that Lazarus has to answer to Abraham, but the formerly-rich man presumes that the status and rules he lived by will still work for him.

This aspect of the anecdote underscores the fact that hell/Hades is not a rehabilitation center. There is absolutely no indication that the rich guy has learned a thing or had an attitude adjustment. In death, we see what the rich man was really like.

Nothing in the account indicates that Lazarus has to answer to Abraham. If anything, Abraham’s refusal to even consider the request points to him not giving Lazarus orders. Rather, the answer that Abraham does give, “They have Moses and the prophets,” shows that Abraham is aware of what happened to people living on earth since his own time, so he hasn’t been indulging in soul sleep.

Read Full Post »

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24″Then 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.’ 25But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
27″Then he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”‘

Luke 16:19-31

Earlier in Luke 16, Jesus had clearly been teaching parables. But here, the tone changes. Real people are identified. Every part of the story that happens before the rich man and the beggar die make perfect sense when interpreted literally, and there are no obvious cues that this point of view that Jesus has taken changes, although, as the story progresses, there does seem to be a warping of the space-time continuum.

Abraham is presented as the Patriarch Abraham. Lazarus is a “certain” beggar whose body is covered with sores which dogs would lick. That leaves the “rich man” without a name. Jesus does not give a name, but it is unlikely that he does not know it. There are several reasons to not name names. They will be addressed later.

Several solid clues to the rich man’s identity are given, and it is quite possible the Pharisees could work it out. This much we know: he was rich, accustomed to wearing a purple robe and fine linen, and enjoyed that style of living. The purple robe is a hint that he might be a Jewish priest. The mention of Moses and the prophets pretty much confirms the “Jewish” part. He says that he has five brothers.

Going beyond what we are explicitly told in scripture, the historian Josephus records (Antiquities, Book XX, chapter 9, spelled ‘Ananus’ at this link) that Annas had five sons, who had all served for a year in the office of a high priest at various times between 16 and 62 AD. Match that with the recording of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal in the Gospel of John, verse 13, and we read, “First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.” So Caiaphas would have had five brothers-in-law. Knowing this, the following verse, 14, takes on a whole new angle, “It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” If we allow that brothers could be brothers-in-law, then every fact given about the “rich man” could fit Caiaphas, except that he is still alive at the time Jesus tells the story.

Other interesting factoids: It was during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas that John the Baptist began his ministry (Luke 3:2,3). Later, when Peter is preaching about Jesus; resurrection, the mention of, “with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family” in Acts 4:6 gives credence to the idea that the five brothers remained close in their adult lives. The rich man in Jesus’ story asks that Lazarus be sent to the father’s house; he did not have to ask for Lazarus to be sent to six separate houses.

IF the rich man was Caiaphas, then both the gate where the certain beggar was laid and the table with the falling crumbs suddenly qualify for a wider interpretation. Instead of his residential domicile, it could be his place of business, the Temple. The beggar would not be allowed in because he was unclean. The “crumbs from the table” would now match the story from Matthew 15 where the Canaanite woman was seeking a healing deliverance for her demon-oppressed daughter. Lazarus had been denied healing!

I have strayed a bit off my topic for this study of What Jesus said about Hell, but it is my blog, so I call the shots here. To the best of my admittedly limited research, the Jews of Jesus’ audience that day considered the “Bosom of Abraham” or the Bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” to be a waiting zone for the righteous until the resurrection of the dead and the Day of Assize or judgment. So far, I have not found what His audience would have thought about the wicked. Here it is a place of thirst and tormenting flame. It is geographically “below” and “afar off” from Abraham’s Bosom. Lazarus was able to reach Abraham’s Bosom via angel transport. We are not told how the rich man got to Hades, but there is no mention of a ferryman on the River Styx (that is me, being droll). Scripture says only that a great chasm had been fixed between Lazarus and himself, so that those desiring to pass from either side to the other were not able.

So far, this study of What Jesus said about Hell has not made a huge distinction between the terms Hades, Gehenna, Sheol, Tartarus, or any other terms that fall under the umbrella of “hell.” It is sufficient to note the term here is Hades.

In my next post, I will start listing some of the things that we can know, some of the considerations we can speculate about, and some of the ideas we can discount completely.

Read Full Post »

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Luke 13:1-5

This is, perhaps, the closest thing one can find to a Nightly News Report in the gospels. Jesus has been brought a news report that Pilate had killed some Galileans while they were offering sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. The men who relayed the news wondered if the way in which the Galileans died was significant of judgment. Jesus says no and compares it to the deaths of eighteen men killed by a collapsing tower in Siloam. The manner in which a person dies, does not necessarily indicate the state of their soul. He goes on to repeat the importance of repentance and being prepared for unexpected death.


photo of collapsed ruins near Siloam

Read Full Post »

[[[ Continuing the series on What Jesus Says About Hell ]]]

But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Luke 12:5

The hell in this verse is from the Greek Gehenna, the place of punishment for those who were too foolish to fear God. Jesus is giving a most explicit warning about how severe the consequences of not taking God seriously really are.

A loving God will not let Satan roam loose forever. He provided a place to confine the devil. The devil has no option on this. A human soul, before he/she has been killed, still does. The point of giving a warning implies that the people who heard Jesus were capable of heeding a warning.

At this point, Jesus is talking to friends and disciples. That is a significant point in the context because the intent can be seen as a sobering warning, not an offensively threatening one.

Read Full Post »