As indicated by the title, this book presents a very critical look at the doctrine of Hell, which is rarely criticized within Christendom today. The English word "hell" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "helan", which means "to cover, conceal, or hide". In the scriptures, there is no mention of "eternal torment" in the Old Testament, and in the Greek scriptures (the NT), there are three words translated to "hell": Gehenna, Hades, and Tartarus, none of which have anything to do with eternal torment. My objective is to guide you into the knowledge that the doctrine of hell is unbiblical and extremely harmful to those who hold to it.
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In July of 1984, I warned my mother about eternity in hell. I wasn’t speaking generally, either. Well? My mother was still stuck in a religion of fear, not faith. She gave up chocolate during Lent, but a life devoid of candy does not salvation make. She had no living relationship with Christ that I could tell. In fact, like most Catholics, she equated the mere mention of His name—apart from chants and rotish prayers—with a form of freakery. (I bore the label “Jesus Freak” like an apostle of Christ. I suffered for His name’s sake.) But here was the pressing point: Unless someone intercepted my mother’s trajectory, she was headed for an eternity of conscious torment. I would do anything to prevent that. Who wouldn’t? I remember the day I phoned her. I remember where I was, how the phone felt in my hand, how the cord shook, the depth of my conviction. I tried to be nice, but how do you dangle hell before your mother in a civil and courteous fashion?
The Christian version of the mind of Christ is a mind that miraculously justifies the eternal torment of beings created in the image of God, for whom Christ died. It is a mind that justifies the never-ending agony of those once loved by the Deity. But wait. A special feature of the Christmind is the ability to consider the tormented as still loved. How can this be? In heaven, God’s direst wrath is but a newer, higher manifestation of His love. As I said, all of this is miraculous. What new thoughts can the mind of Christ accomplish? Many. For this is an elaborate, divinely-altered mind to which the endless pain of a mother or father becomes “the glory of God.” It is an amazing new mind to which the ceaseless cries of a son or daughter become comforting evidence of “the righteousness of God.” Everything is more refined in heaven, you see. On this old, decrepit earth, the pains of our family cause us pain. Not so in Gloryland. There, love is perfected. Everything is new and improved. In heaven, we will look upon the agony of those we once nurtured with a kind of holy satisfaction. I wish I could describe it better for you. It will be quite lovely. Isn’t it wonderful that we have this to look forward to?
Jesus Christ began revealing His glories to me in June, 1985. I quit worrying in July. Only when I learned how to read the Bible critically did God unveil His depths. This may seem paradoxical, that glory should accompany diligent search and many broken pencils. I always thought it came when one’s head was in the clouds, when one felt cozy and protected in church, when one floated through the day in a Big Warm Jesus Hug. No. These things, for me, led to self-righteousness, a rut of immaturity, and confronting my poor mother with the gospel of hell. Then how does glory come? Absolutely, it comes from God. From our perspective, it comes from opening the eyes, from critically re-analyzing belief, from squarely facing previously ignored scripture. It comes from the determination to finally heed that still small voice that has whispered for years, Something is missing.
Read the New Testament and notice that the doctrine of eternal torment appears, in some places, to be taught. But then so does the doctrine of Jesus saving the world, of the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, of God reconciling all creation to Himself, of Satan’s works being undone, and of good bettering evil. How can these opposing things appear to appear side-by-side in the same book? It’s a mark, I believe, of divine genius.
Before the coming of Jesus, no one could go to hell. Why? Because no one can refuse a cross when there is no cross to refuse. After the cross, however, most the world is doomed because of the near-universality of rejecting it. The doomed will say, “Um, no thanks,” and be damned. These three words, then, “Um, no thanks,” and God’s hands are tied, and down go the majority of mankind. But if no one refuses Jesus, then no one goes to hell. Agreed? But we all know how many people are going to hell. Millions. Millions, because Jesus came, the multitude saw, and the multitude turned away. Looking at this squarely, my conclusion is that the worst thing that ever happened to humanity, the very worst thing that could have happened to it, was the coming of Christ. Before Him, everyone was safe. After Him, the race is on probation, dangling by a thread over a cauldron of ceaseless torture. Is this what you believe?