I just got out of my Old Testament Foundations class here at Regent and an interesting topic was raised. Essentially the question came down to hell, eternity, and its nature. Iain Provan answered in a wonderful way, that I had never though of before. I will “warn” you now, this may not be how you have though of hell before. I challenge you, as well as myself, to think about this. I will attempt to do some more research in order to find some Biblical support for this as well (which he did not directly do in class as this was supposed to be a “brief” question at the end of class). I also invite any non-Christians to offer comments and thoughts on this as well.
This, I would say, is the common belief about hell: You have not accepted the Gift that Christ has offered in His saving grace. You are therefore damned by your sin / sinful nature to hell. Hell is full of fire and brimstone that you are stuck in for eternity in pain and suffering. Sound about right?
The first part I agree with. Sin without salvation, unfortunately does lead to hell. At this point I could get in a long discussion on how this truly is Godly and is not what God wants, nor intends for people. I will say this: It would be inconsistent with God to pretend, at the end, that sin did not exist. To say that God loves so therefore we can just “go” (which is another issue I will talk about on another day) to heaven does not follow from the nature of God. Sins have consequences that we all must be held accountable for. As Christians we recognize this fact that hand our sins over to God which he has then paid for by sacrificing His Son / Himself in agonizing pain at Golgotha. If you do not accept this payment for our sins, you are still to be held accountable. Therefore it is consistent with the character of God to allow hell to exist.
What happens in and during hell may be somewhat different that what you have heard or thought of before. Provan essentially suggests that hell is not eternal. Now hold on, because he is not suggesting what you are now thinking. This does not mean that people essentially “pay” for their sins by their tenure in hell and then are allowed into heaven. That possibility left when they made decisions while they were still on earth as we know it. What he is suggesting is this: Hell is essentially designed as a place of reflection and coming to terms with your sin. (it is still painful, fire, brimstone, gnashing of teeth, etc…) Through this reflection you come to realize the sovereignty of God and His true nature and desires. Again, this does not mean that you can get out now In order to remain consistent with God’s love this cannot go on forever. If it did, it would imply a few things. Firstly it would imply that eternally there is a place in which God does not occupy. This is not consistent with the all encompassing eternity of God. Secondly it would imply that God will allow eternal suffering which I think is inconsistent with His love. Provan suggests that in order to remain consistent with God’s love and justice, those in hell would eventually cease to exist.
Doing some brief research, I have not found any instance where reference to hell suggest an eternity there. Nor have I found anything that would suggest that you can get out of hell. That is all got right now. Provan had some more insight that I am forgetting now and was more eloquent, but so be it If you want me to do more research on the matter, please let me know. What do you think? Comments? Questions?
In Revelation, Satan is thrown into a pit for a 1000 years, after that he comes back and is then bound and thrown into hell with the rest. It seems that he is actually thrown into the same place – hell – as everyone else.
I am not sure how widely accepted it is, I will have to ask him for more details. I would say that the reason he has come to this conclusion is because the Bible supports it, God’s nature is found there which leads to this conclusion. The only place I can find that goes against this in in Revelation: 20:10 “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Now that does seem to go directly against this theory. Although let me make a few comments on that. First is that Revelation is apocalyptic literature and therefore cannot always be taken literally. It is poetry. I am not going to go much further than this as I have not studied apocalyptic literature and therefore cannot make any claims to this passage and how literal it is to be taken. Second is that it could simply mean that the theory that Provan suggested today does not apply to the devil and his helpers (the Antichrist and false prophet). They theory could still remain entirely valid as I think it is supported by God’s nature, and just doesn’t apply for the ultimate deceiver. Anyway, that is what I have come up with. Any thoughts there?
Everything the Bible has said does suggest that hell is, indeed, a real and literal place. Both the OT and the NT make claims of its existence in many forms of literature.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.