Letter To My Pastor, Part 4: Satan, Hell, and Everlasting Torments… Really?!

Progress:

Contents

Dear Pastor,

So, I guess by now you realize that Jan and I are not ever going to darken the doorstep of your church again.  Please know of our love and gratitude toward you because we both know that you mean well.  You are sincere and we appreciate the love and dedication that you have given to the cause that you champion.  I would imagine that most men and women who have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit and promotion of a cause of any kind could be seen as sincere, devote and trying to do something good in the world.  Christians are not alone in this, right?  We see deeply dedicated allegiances in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism and all the rest?  And while it is highly improbable that all of them can be right in all things, there is the idea, perhaps the possibility that all of them are right in some. To me, the correctness of each of these expressions, if heart-felt and authentic, is found in the individual adherents, from their heart, seeking the living God as far as it is possible given their nature, nurture, religious training, exposure to information, limitation of exposure to information and probably innumerable other factors.

Standard fare from your side of the pulpit is this idea that unless every individual from each of these disparate approaches to God come to know Jesus (by confessing His name, and/or asking Him into their hearts, and/or for the forgiveness of their sins, and/or to be saved) they are, depending on the denominational fervor,

  1. In the power of Satan;
  2. Are going to hell forevermore at death;
  3. Hated or are utterly unknown to God;
  4. And will, in hell, suffer immeasurably (in what way is again, depending on the denom)

So Pastor, I want to write my last short letter to you in a effort to help bring some biblical reason to these views and see if I can help you some to see what I have seen and if you to, to embrace and share this view with others.

Because I love and study and promote the Bible when it is read contextually, I will always speak from what it tells us and not from my own opinion.  You might say that all I am doing is sharing my opinion of the Bible and while substantively true, I suggest that my views of what it says are contextually supported and that if I was sharing just my views I would write a very different, very humanistic letter to you altogether.  No, my views are pretty much godless, and my views would simply dismiss the notion of God altogether or at least make Him much more to my liking.  But that wouldn’t be trustworthy, would it?  So what do we get from the biblical narrative, Pastor that will help us understand Him, the condition of the world and the victory of His Son?

Where most of Christianity and almost all of its studied theologians proclaim God as unchanging, I would here and now suggest an altogether different picture of Him/Her.   Him/Her?!  Yes.  I think a reasonable exegesis of Genesis 1 and the Creation lets us in on the best possible interpretation of God Almighty’s make-up – its perfect masculinity and perfect femininity.  Not male and female.  Not a man and a woman.  Just the perfect spiritual mixture of masculinity and femininity together in One perfect plural.  Therefore, when elohiym (plural) created Man in His image, (“male and female created He them,) we have the physical expression of spiritual God.  I suggest that the model of two in the scripture is far more meaningful and imposing a model than the model of three and for this reason (along with dozens and dozens of others) I do not accept the man-made doctrine of the Trinity.  But I digress.

In the model of two we see elohiym coming right out the gate and through Moses he tells man to leave father and mother and to cleave to his wife and to be one flesh.  So in marriage (which is of two and no more according to His original design) men and women, becoming husband and wife, replicate the One Plural that the Living God is.  Three in a marriage does not reflect the One Plural God.  Just two.

And the model for two, and the model of marriage, continues forward into the biblical narrative.  Naturally, where marriage and two is a foundational premise, children or offspring will also be part of that narrative.  In the Apostolic record, Yeshua frequently speaks in terms of weddings, grooms, brides and children.  And this motif continues forward after the Gospels and weaves its way in and through the epistles of Paul, John and Peter and then into Revelation.  The bottom line or the completion of the motif occurs when Yeshua returns to that area as the husband/groom to take His holy, pure, virtuous Bride (made up primarily of dedicated Jewish converts and some gentiles) to the New Jerusalem above and they would jointly bring children of faith into His kingdom forevermore.

The imagery of masculine/feminine, male/female, husband/wife, marriage/divorce and children therefrom is central to our understanding of God the Father and His only begotten Son, Yeshua of Nazareth.  We might go so far and to suggest that the God of the Old Testament is more masculine in his approach to the human race, appealing to Law, justice, judgment and punishment as His expressions of love.  Similarly, we might see God with us in the person of His Son as a more feminine expression of God, one where a child does something wrong and the Father comes home to thrash him but the mother steps in and says, “Honey, honey, I think Junior deserves another chance, don’t you?”  I these made-up examples we get closer to understanding the ontology of the living God and how they relate to the world they created.

In the Old Testament (or Tanakh) after the Fall of the whole human race (who were represented by one man and one woman) all who lived lives on earth, no matter who or how righteous, were separated from the presence of the One Plural God due to sin at death.  All souls, therefore, went to an afterlife location the Jews referred to as sheol, which is often translated to the Saxon word helan, which is translated to the English word, hell.

In Scripture there are three words translated to hell, depending on the translators: 

  1. Sheol, occurs in the Old Testament sixty-five times. Sheol is derived from a root-word that means, “to ask,” and/or “demand;” and therefore is associated with terms like insatiability (Proverbs 30:15-16) It is rendered “grave” thirty-one times (Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29,31; 1st Samual 2:6). The Revisers have retained this rendering in the historical books with the original word in the margin, while in the poetical books they have reversed this rule.  In thirty-one cases in the Authorized Version (KJV) this word is rendered “hell,” meaning the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are called “the congregation of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16) It is also an abode of the wicked (Numbers 16:33; Job 24:19; Psalm 9:17; 31:17) and of the good (Psalm 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13). Sheol is described as “deep” (Job 11:8) “dark” (Job 10:21-22) “with bars” (Job 17:16).  Additionally, the dead “go down” to it (Numbers 16:30,33; Ezekiel 31:15,16-17)
  2. The Greek word “hades” of the apostolic record has the same scope of signification as sheol of the Old Testament. It is a prison (1st Peter 3:19) with gates and bars and locks (Matthew 16:18; Revelation 1:18) and is downward (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15) The righteous and the wicked are separated in sheol with the blessed dead (meaning those who had faith) were in that part of hades called paradise (Luke 23:43) or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).  The prison portion is the part Yeshua warned against as an afterlife destination for those people then.
  3. Gehenna, in most of the occurrences in the Greek Apostolic Record, is the designated place of the lost (Matthew 23:33) for some translators who believe that Yeshua used a literal location near Jerusalem that served as a place to burn refuse as a type for this afterlife destination. The fearful nature of those who went to prison is referenced in various places (Matthew 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 16:24)

Why mention all of this?  To prove that hell, afterlife punishment and a place destined to keep all people, faithful and faithless, separated from God Almighty was certainly a biblical reality but to now prove that it has been done away with forevermore.

One of the problems, Pastor, with reading the Bible under the impression that it was written to us today is that it that it does not allow for God’s victory over all things in and through the sacrificial work of His Son to take hold.  Instead, people read it as if Satan is still winning, hell is still taking, Yeshua is still coming back, and this world is still gonna be destroyed.  It makes for a great play on church, but the fact of the matter is, the Bible clearly shows that Yeshua has had the victory over all things in heaven, earth and under the earth, that God has been reconciled to the world, that hell has given up its dead and that Satan and hell has been cast into the Lake of Fire.

This means the Great White Throne judgement has taken place and is over, the New Jerusalem is open and operational above, that sin has been paid for in full and the whole human race has ostensibly returned to the garden of Eden spiritually and all people today are, like the original couple, choosing this day how they will live – by the will and Spirit of God or according to their own desires and ways.  Those who choose faith, who seek Him in spirit and truth will enter into relationship with Him and enter into the New Jerusalem at death and those who don’t will remain outside of it – until they choose otherwise.

That is what was done by God through the efficacious and finished work of His Son.  If this is incorrect, then . . .

  1. We ought to be governed today by living Apostles who were witnesses of His resurrection.
  2. Churches need to practice disciplinary measures, police their flocks and excommunicate.
  3. We ought to wash feet.
  4. Women should have their heads covered in church and they should not speak in the same.
  5. Widows should prove their value for church support through seven different means.
  6. We all ought to be like Paul and be single (if possible).
  7. We need to be watching diligently for the Lord’s return (for almost 2000 years)
  8. We need to unitedly embrace the right way to baptize, receive the Holy Spirit, ordain, govern and gather and it should be standard among all of true faith.
  9. The church needs to have a pure doctrine that stands against all alternatives.
  10. We should be doing communion every time we meet.
  11. We ought to renounce every form of sin, remain aloof from the world, engage with the world as salt and light, and be ready to die for our witness.

I maintain today, dear Pastor, that churches have tried to be, become and implement these things and it has never, ever worked – ever!  Because it was never supposed to work.  God had a different plan and it is what I have tried to summarize in these four letters.

So, let me conclude by making my over the pulpit pitch to you, Pastor.  Stop playing church.  Put away the shows, the anecdotal stories, the mid-week small groups and the 30 minute worship services.  Help us destroy “social Christianity” with all of its “Jesus fish,” “Not of this World” bumperstickers and “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirts.  While you’re at it, cancel all the gay pride parade and abortion clinic protests, put the right wing political slants where they belong, and lets both become men of faith and love – for everybody, all the time, and without exception.  Join me as a Yeshuan, and step back from all that Christianity has become known.

I do not believe for a minute that you are a bad man, or that you are deliberately trying to destroy the work of the cross, but I do think it is time for a change brought about by courageous men and women, but more importantly, a change that is fully supported and endorsed by the Bible.

A former congregate.

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