HELL 4

If you haven’t read HELL 1, HELL 2, or HELL 3, please start here.

When we look at the parables of Jesus we find the themes of disunion, reunion, and celebration all over the place. Here are a few examples.

The parables of the Buried Treasure and the Pearl of Great Value are about our individual search to find something of great value.

The parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are about God seeking to reunite with something of great value.

The parable of the Ten Virgins is about eagerly awaiting and anticipating a reunion.

Those are just a few small parables with the ideas of disunion and reunion at the very heart, but there are a couple of other narratives that blow this idea wide open.

First, there is the account of the Rich Young Ruler, which has been widely misunderstood. Most people think that when he approaches Jesus he is asking, “What must I do to go to Heaven?” But that isn’t what he is asking at all.

By looking at the original Greek, his question is actually closer to saying something like this, “What must I do to presently receive a part/portion (Greek- kleronomeo) of the Age to Come?”

Kleronomeo means to receive a part, a portion. And the young man knows that there is an abundance that he is missing and he wants to know how he can presently receive a part or portion of this abundance.

Do you remember our definition of sin from the previous post?

The word hamartia (a/ “not” and /meros “a part/share of”) indicates that in our relational disunion with God, we are not presently taking part in our share of this abundance.

And that is where we find the Rich Young Ruler.

You could say that he is in “sin.” Despite his diligence in following the Law, he is presently in a position of disunion with the Divine, and he realizes that he does not have a part or share in this abundance that he sees in Jesus.

Mind-blowing.

And then there is the parable of the Prodigal Son. Again, it is a story about relational disunion, but also a story about reunion and celebration.

It is about a son throwing away his part/portion and then coming home to the open arms of the father, who throws a celebration on his behalf.

And while his older brother was angry at the father’s graciousness toward his brother, the father reminded him, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.” Not only did he say that to the embittered older brother, he demonstrated it to the prodigal who had already received his part/portion and thrown it away.

Absolutely beautiful.

Listen to this.

Even in the son’s relational disunion (sin), even when the son had thrown away his present part/portion (sin), the father never changed. The son was always with him and everything the father had was the son’s to receive the entire time, even in his disunion. And the father proved it when he came home.

I hope this is as mind-blowing for you as it is for me.

All of this leads to one fundamental question about sin, the cross, and Hell.

If the cross isn’t Jesus taking away these sins that have infected us, and if the cross isn’t Jesus shielding us from God’s wrath and eventual Hell, then what is it exactly?

What we find from the words of Paul, when he isn’t using literary language and when he is actually engaging in some straight talk, is that the cross is a “peace offering” from God to us. Yes, God is bringing a sacrifice to us in order make peace.

Paul writes in Colossians, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace (SHALOM) through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated (relational disunion) from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

In all the ways we have wrongly believed that God wants to pour out wrath on us because of our “sins,” and in all the ways we continue to obsessively say we are sorry for our “sins” to appease a God we view as temperamental, the cross was actually God making a peace sacrifice to us.

The cross was God metaphorically waving the white flag of surrender to us, shouting as loudly as possible that there has never been hostility toward us, only love and invitation. The truth is that we have only ever been separated (alienated) from God in our minds. Like the prodigal son, who squandered his portion of the father’s abundance, he probably thought his father would be full of hostility and vengeance toward him. But the father’s love never changed the entire time he was gone, nor when he returned. It was only open arms.

Are you hearing me? Open. Arms.

Yes, even when we create this distance from God, even when we walk away from this abundance, even when we wrongly believe that God is hostile toward us because of our “sins,” the Father has always been standing there saying, “You are always with me. Even when you went away and left this abundance, you have always been welcomed back. Nothing has changed with me. You have always been worthy. You have always been loved. The inheritance is all yours. It always has been.”

The Father has always been loving and always generously giving. The Father has always been welcoming us back into a relationship, even when we have mistakenly believed that the Father was full of vengeance and was our enemy.

But the truth is that we have only ever been alienated from God in our minds.

And that is exactly what we find in the words of Paul and Jesus. God is not a hostile, wrath-filled god ready to punish the unrepentant by throwing them into hell-fire for eternity, but a Father who has always been seeking, pursuing, and longing for a relationship with us, even when we are in relational disunion (sin), even when we are not taking part in our share of God’s abundance (sin).

But what we also find is a God who is willing to let us make our own decision in walking away from this relationship and who is willing to let us leave the abundance found in this relationship. And this is the next essential step in understanding God’s judgment, the inherent consequence of relational disunion, and then what Hell actually is.

Read HELL 5 here.

Peace,

Brandon

11 thoughts on “HELL 4

  1. Looking forward to your conclusions! A couple of things: When the father said, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours” he was speaking to the son who stayed home, not the prodigal. Also, I don’t believe Paul said he was using literary language immediately after the passage you cite. He may have said that elsewhere, but not in Romans from where you quoted. I would also point out that Jesus often referred to certain persons or cities as wicked for rejecting his message, and that sounds a little angry to me. He didn’t just go around inviting people with love and giggles, he warned them of judgment and even wrath. Paul and Peter also mentioned God‘s wrath a number of times toward those who are disobedient, or those who reject the message of the gospel. So I’ll be interested to see how you reconcile all that with your ultimate definition of hell. Peace.

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    1. Thanks Don! I update HELL 4 and the story of the prodigal. Thanks for your keen eye. Also, in Romans 6: 19, Paul writes that he is “using an example from everyday life, because of their human limitation.” He is using literary language to personify sin. Lastly, we will get to judgment and wrath soon enough. I do have to say that the “love and giggles” comment was a little passive-aggressive. Thanks for following along. Peace… Brandon

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  2. Still trying to wait and see where you end up going with this before drawing conclusions….hoping to get some feedback…

    Yes, while several of Jesus’s teachings teach of salvation as a reconciliation with God, I think there are several other of Jesus’s teachings to be addressed if you want to establish your position. What do you do with Matthew 3, 5, 18, 23 and 25? Mark 9? Would you assert that Gehenna is merely a reference to a garbage dump? And right before a couple of the parables you mention is the parable of the weeds. And not to mention the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. What do we do with those? If we’re gonna talk parables, let’s talk about all of them. And then there’s Isaiah 24, Isaiah 26, Romans 2, Exodus 20, Revelation 15-16, etc. What do we do with those?

    I also don’t think we can forget that Jesus lived in a 1st century Jewish culture that VERY much believed in a fiery Hell of God’s wrath. If Jesus rejected the widespread Jewish belief in Hell, then He would need to deliberately and clearly argue against it. Instead, I find Jesus uses a lot of imagery common to the 1st century Jewish view of Hell (fire, darkness, judgment, punishment). Do you disagree?

    Sorry for the length, but this is no small matter….eternal destinies are at stake.

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    1. Thanks for reading Danny… and for your thoroughness. All I have called into question at this point is Eternal Conscious Torment (eternity in Hell), so I suppose if that is your belief then you are growing restless with my posts. The thing is this: all I ever see are posts fighting the scriptural back and forth, trying to out scripture the other person to prove their point. I am not saying that we won’t get to addressing specific scriptures, but if I am to offer a different perspective it is essential that I at least establish a framework through which to view those scriptures. I don’t discount or minimize the scriptures you offer. I just believe the lens through which they are viewed is distorted. There is a trajectory in my first four posts. Out of curiosity, are you really interested in seeing where this goes? Or, are you just wanting to fight the fight for God sending people to Hell for eternity? Because if you are standing firm and not interested in viewing this topic from a different perspective, you will be disappointed with the rest of this series, because I don’t believe in a God that threatens people to love him and then punishes them forever if they don’t. But, if you are interested in honestly seeing where this goes, while still asking questions but without agenda, then I continue to welcome the dialogue. I have about 4-5 more posts to go in this series and if you still have questions at that point then I will do one more post with Q&A 😊. How does that sound?

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      1. Brandon, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and patience. If I speak boldly, it is only because of my love and concern for you and your readers. If I believed that Hell is a real place, and that some will suffer or be annihilated there, then the most unloving thing I could do would be to remain silent about my conviction. Personally, the scripture I have wrestled with most in my life is Romans 9. I would love for it to not be there. For it to be wiped away, because it is terrifying. But alas, God is the potter and I am naught but clay. Out of respect of your request, I will withhold any further questions until you have finished your series. Thank you for your willingness to dialogue.

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      2. I appreciate your dialogue and do not want to diminish it at all. I just needed to know your motivation, so thanks for sharing that. I have to say that there are so many things you said in your last comment and in this comment that bother me. While I know your heart is definitely for me (and others), there seems to be a patchwork quilt of ideas about what you think Judaism says about Hell, the verses you reference that you would use in support of ECT, and then your terror of Romans 9. There are so many things that seem askew with what you are referencing that I may have to finish my series and then have more direct conversation with you about some of the remaining things, especially Romans 9. I am not quite sure if your context for reading that chapter is correct. I may be wrong and don’t want to read too much into what your are concluding, but it may be worth sorting out. Again, I hope some of my subsequent posts will be able to touch on the majority of your personal issues. Thanks again for your dialogue! Brandon

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  3. Reflecting further, one of the challenges you face is that you are proposing more than just an alternate view of “conscious torture in hell.” It seems to me you are re-interpreting the Cross and resurrection as well. I may be off here, but you seem to be saying that Jesus on the cross was merely an event we can look to for guilt relief, and once we eliminate our guilt / self-condemnation we can be in right relationship with a God who already loved and forgave us even before the Cross. This would contrast with quite a few Scriptures that indicate the Cross to be an event of significant real power to defeat the spiritual forces arrayed against God. Going further, Paul says that without the resurrection of Christ, we are still in our sins and our faith is futile, meaning to me that the Cross / resurrection accomplished some actual, tangible result… more than merely helping me form a new mindset about my relationship with God. You could say that if all I need is a change in my mindset, then the blood of bulls and goats ought to have been sufficient, i.e. I make the required sacrifices and then I’m forgiven and in good standing with God (in my mind). And yet, the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins? Maybe you’ll touch a little more on the Cross and what you believe was accomplished there?

    Still looking forward to your remaining posts!

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    1. Thanks Don for the thoughts and questions. Actually, I am not reinterpreting the Cross. I have simply restated 1:15-23. But you make my point brilliantly. We have only ever been brought up to see the faith through one lens. All I am doing is showing you another lens through which to view it all. Here is another post I wrote a while back discussing the same angle I have offered up-> https://brandonandress.com/2017/05/30/killing-god-to-find-god/ … Thanks again!

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  4. It’s too bad that Adam and Eve didn’t have a father like the prodigal son had. God didn’t give the garden back after they sinned. How could they know they wouldn’t always have it?

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