now that’s not quite as morbid as it sounds. but it’s still reality. oh…we had our potlucks and vacation bible schools and choir practice and church work days and prayer meetings and fellowship nights. we still did lots of church stuff in church ways and much of it was formative and laid the foundation for my faith to grow.
but make no mistake. our focus was on death.
to be fair, the focus was really on what was going to happen after we died. in comparison to all of eternity, these measly 72.3 years we get to live on earth seems pretty short. the real issue was always whether i would make it to heaven when i died or whether i would exist in eternal and unrelenting pain and torture after death.
talk about scaring the hell out of a young kid!
this discussion deserves a lot more than i am going to give today, but here’s the simple version: in spite of its popularity… and apparent biblical justification…i haven’t believed in the concept of a literal “lake of fire” or endless, conscious suffering for those who don’t know the grace of god through faith in jesus, for over thirty years.
i do, however, take the words of john 3:16 (and many, many others like it), quite literally.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
i believe that those who die without believing in jesus perish. perish means to cease from existence. i believe in eternal life, but not eternal death. in spite of the passages that have traditionally been used to teach that hell is not really death, but an eternal life of conscious punishment, i have come to believe that those who die without experiencing the life god intends will simply die forever.
But sinners shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. Psalm 37:38
i realize this position is not without controversy, especially because it is not consistent with the popular view presented in the church and society. but i am not alone in this conversation. if you are interested in further study, here is a good link to a paper written by dr. glenn peoples. also, here is an awesome book written by edward fudge (probably the foremost modern apologist for this position). finally, here is a link to a great website on rethinking the whole concept of hell. these are pretty cool resources.
i hope this whets your appetite for study. don’t be afraid to rethink this. it could change your whole outlook on being a follower of christ.
for the better.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10