The Bible on Hell: You’re Not Going to Hell—There’s a Different Punishment for Sin (Part III)

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This is the final of a 3 part series on the biblical teaching on hell. Read Part I and Part II.

Now that we have examined every reference to Hell in the NT, we will now synthesize the collective witness and draw some conclusions concerning the NT perspective on Hell and its relationship to human sin.

First, the NT writers employ a variety of vocabulary when speaking of Hell; from Gehenna to Tartarus; from “everlasting destruction” to “night and day torment;” and from “unquenchable fire” to “the lake of fire.” Secondly, there seems to be no conflicting elements concerning Hell in the NT. Whereas one could easily (though wrongly) suggest that there is conflict between Paul and James on the subject of faith and works, there is not even the slightest difference of opinion concerning the NT writers on Hell. As such, many of the individual NT witnesses overlap and in the places where they do not, they seem to fill in the gaps for each other.

Concerning the overlap, Paul, 2 Peter, and Revelation all share a major theme of Hell as vindication from persecution. Another overlap is that of temporality, that is, while not every reference to Hell in the NT mentions a time aspect, those that do always deem it to be unending: “forever and ever,” “everlasting,” “eternal,” and “night and day.” Next, there is a recurring theme of “fire” connected to Hell in the NT and an emphasis of torment and agony is closely linked with these flames. Lastly, there seems to be an overlap between Jesus and James about words, that is, a poor choice of words can incur Hell-fire since this evil speech comes from Hell. As such, only the traditional interpretation of Hell holds water because there is not even a hint of universalism, conditional immortality, annihilationism, or purgatory among the NT witnesses.

On the whole, as already stated upfront, the NT by and large does not speak of Hell very often. This is probably due to the fact that these documents were primarily written to Christians, both communities and individuals. Naturally, then, the NT writers focus upon the positive afterlife for Christians, encouraging them to press forward towards the great and glorious future that God has for his people. Moreover, many of these communities were undergoing great trials and persecutions, and in several of these instances, Hell is used by the NT authors to comfort and assure their hearers that God will vindicate them and punish with Hell those who harmed them.

So at this point, you are probably begging the question, “Well who then goes to Hell according to the NT writers?” By now, I hope that it is clear that according to the NT all of sinful humanity does not go to and is not condemned to Hell simply because they are sinful humans. Rather, the NT across the boards makes clear that the consequence for human sinful actions results in the penalty of death. So if not all of humanity, then who? While this may be a poorly directed question, the NT does in fact pinpoint a variety of specific people who do specific sinful actions that have real potential for gaining a negative afterlife. These include (1) those who worship idols, (2) those who join in Satan’s rebellion against God, (3) those who persecute Christians, (4) hypocritical religious elites, (5) those who cause little ones to stumble, (6) those who speak angrily and insultingly about fellow Christian brothers and sisters, and (7) those who lust sexually.

Now the point of this is not to make this list into a sort of “keep the ten commandments” thing. In other words, this is not meant to lead us to legalistically make sure that we never do any of those seven aforementioned sins, thinking that avoiding them earns us a positive afterlife (As a side note, it really wouldn’t be a bad idea if we amended the seven deadly sins to the list above). Rather, all of this goes to show that Hell is not what all humans innately deserve as sinners as so many today and throughout much of Christian history have espoused. Instead, the NT teaches that the divine punishment for human sin is death.

So let me say this again, “You’re not going to Hell!” At least not for sinning and being a sinner. The consequence for you and me being sinners is that we will die and not live in this present body forever. The incredible good news therefore is that God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, has defeated death and will eradicate death, disease, decay, suffering, evil, hunger, and pain when he raises the dead at Christ’s glorious second advent. Paul put it best when he said, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26).

So What?

So what does all of this mean for 21st century Christian preachers, teachers, evangelists, and ministers? On the whole, I think that this means that we need to stop majoring in the minors, and let the main thing be the main thing, that is, stop focusing on the negative afterlife of Hell and start focusing on the positive afterlife of resurrection as the NT writers did.

For preaching, I think that this means that we need to reclaim the proclamation of the resurrection and get a handle on NT eschatology. This could start by a sermon series on resurrection and the end times, and hopefully this would spurn interest among the congregation and help you to integrate eschatology long-term into your preaching. Honestly, I think that many preachers today are simply ill-equipped and ill-informed on eschatology and this often leads to preachers ignoring or shying away for the topic(s) altogether. So, to the preachers, I would say research and get a grip on the end, especially the resurrection. Focus upon the glory that is coming when Christ returns with your congregants, not upon the negative afterlife. This is what Paul did with his congregations and who could say that his preaching and pastoral ministry was ineffective? Some great resources for a starting point are N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and The Resurrection of the Son of God, and also Ben Witherington III’s Revelation and the End Times and his Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World.

For teaching, I think this means that there is a great deal of correction that needs to be done in our thinking about the afterlife, especially about people’s final destinations. It seems that the faith of many Christians today is founded upon this belief that Hell is the punishment for sin and Jesus saves them from Hell because they have asked for forgiveness for their sin. So in order to avoid being iconoclastic, teachers need to approach correcting these wrong views with a spirit of gentleness and must tread lightly. This should be done in small doses taking baby steps, especially for those that hold to this worldview. Moreover, there needs to be more research, writing, and lectures upon the resurrection and simply eschatology in general at Christian universities and seminaries. More courses need to be offered on eschatology at our Christian institutions that train pastors and evangelists.

For evangelism, I think that this means that Hell should stop being the motivation for evangelists to preach the gospel and it should stop being the motivation for people to receive Jesus Christ as Savior. First off, the NT evangelists never proclaim the gospel from such motivations and actually never even mention Hell in their gospel kerygma. What is more, people who receive the gospel in the NT never become Christians because they are afraid of going to Hell. Honestly, this “scare-the-Hell-out-of-you” tactic is based upon fear and fear does not cultivate and foster the kind of commitment and devotion that we want Christians to have for Christ. In actuality, it creates bad disciples and often results in evangelists leaving their converts hanging who don’t know what to do after they have “gotten saved.” Not only that, but this fear rhetoric of scaring people into doing something is unethical and manipulative.

Furthermore, far too often, evangelism today that uses Hell sounds more like bad news than good news: “You have sinned against God, therefore you deserve Hell. Jesus died for your sins to save you from Hell. Therefore, ask him to forgive your sins and he will save you from Hell.” This approach really makes humans out to be monsters who are too lost, too depraved, and too sinful to resemble anything good, godly, or ethical. It misses the first two chapters of Genesis which says that humans were created in and bear the image of God. These chapters indicate that humans, even in their sinfulness, have worth, value, and a capacity for good because they are God’s image. So I think today evangelists should stop spending so much time and effort trying to convince people of the bad news – that they are sinners and are going to Hell (which is not even true according to the NT) – and should rather focus upon a much more compelling narrative, namely, the glory that comes at the eschaton; resurrection glory and the new creation. This is what the NT evangelists focused upon and should be what evangelists today seek to emulate.

For ministry, I think that this means that pastors need to stop treating and thinking about people like they are worthless, hopeless souls destined for Hell and eternal damnation. This is degrading and does not appreciate the image of God in each person. Also, this means that pastors should stop with their agendas of trying to get people saved from Hell. Instead, they should invest in a real relationship with that person and really get to know them. As Paul said to the Thessalonians, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8).

Overall, this NT theology of Hell should lead us to stop focusing so much on Hell in our preaching, teaching, evangelism, and ministry not the least of which because it was not a focus of the NT writers. Not only that, but it is extremely rude and offensive for unbelievers to have someone who doesn’t know them tell them that they are sinners who are going to Hell. Honestly, it does more harm than good. While many who do this may do so out of a desire to be committed to the truth, it is actually not true and turns so many people off to Christianity today in the 21st century. Perhaps this “worked” somewhat in the past three centuries, but it will not work today. So let us make the main thing the main thing again. That is not to say that we ignore Hell and never talk about it. But it means that we should talk about it in the same way and same frequency that the NT writers did. The main thing for the NT writers is that death will be defeated by God when he raises the dead at the resurrection when Christ returns. Let us therefore resurrect anastasiology in the 21st century!

Theological Addendum: What about them?

Perhaps you may be wondering at this point, “what about those people who have never heard of Jesus?” or “what about those who have, but rejected him?” While these are very good and complex questions to answer, the honest truth is that the NT does not directly address these questions. We therefore have the difficult task of wrestling with these issues by using the implicit inklings of the Bible on said subjects. Let us first consider the unevangelized who have never heard of Jesus. Giving consideration to all of the references to Hell in the NT, nowhere does it mention the unevangelized going to Hell. Revelation 20:11-15 does however speak of how all will be judged by Christ according to what they’ve done in this life, whether good or bad with some going to the lake of fire and others being spared by God’s mercy having their names written in the book of life. Some call this the “Final Judgment” or more specifically in Revelation “the Great White Throne Judgment.”

Now keep in mind the context here: this is after Christ’s return (19:11-16), the overthrow of the Beast and False Prophet (19:17-21), the Millennial Reign of Christ and the Church (20:1-6), and the final overthrow of Satan (20:7-10). These people who are being judged then seem to be folks who were not Christ followers in this life, given the fact that Jesus’ followers are said to have shared in the “first resurrection” in 20:1-6. So it seems then that the unevangelized may be one possible group of people being mentioned here in Revelation. If so, then the fate of the unevangelized seems to be left up to chance, that is, however one lived in this life determines where he or she goes in the next. In other words, it depends on how a person responded to the light that was given to them and how they sought after and lived out that truth and goodness. In a nutshell, all are responsible and held accountable for what they know and how they lived in accordance to that knowledge. So while the NT may not explicitly flesh out all of the details of what happens to the unevangelized in the afterlife, it seems best to understand from this passage in Revelation that some will be condemned to Hell (the second death) and some given mercy to life (the second resurrection), all of this hinging on what they had done in their lives (20:12).

Now what about those who reject the gospel? Do they go to Hell? Again, in assessing all the references to Hell in the NT, not one of them condemns people to Hell for specifically rejecting the gospel. However, we should not make an argument from silence here regarding this (i.e. just because the NT doesn’t explicitly say this, doesn’t mean it’s not true – there are many important issues that the Bible does not address that we know are true). In addressing this complex question, I think that we must consider two important factors. First, we must consider what gospel we are talking about: Is this the gospel of the forgiveness of sins? Of being saved from Hell? Of the kingdom of God? What gospel? The term gospel today means different things to different people. What I am most concerned with is what the NT authors meant by the gospel – euangelion.  While I cannot delve deeply into this here, the gospel in the NT includes the forgiveness of sins, the in-breaking kingdom of God, the righteousness of God, the resurrection of the dead, and the new creation. Note that the NT does not espouse that “being saved from Hell” is an element of the gospel which many today believe to be the end all, be all of the good news. My guess is that many people reject “the gospel” today because of this latter “brand” of the gospel which is far removed from the euangelion of the NT. If people reject this, then I don’t believe that they are rejecting the Trinity, because this is not the gospel according to the NT. However, if they in fact reject the NT gospel, this may very well send them to the lake of fire, though we must consider the other factor before jumping to conclusions.

The second factor to take into account is how the gospel was presented to them: Was it presented in a loving and compelling way, or was it done in fear and a manipulative way? In the NT, fear and manipulation are never how Christians evangelize; rather, they always proclaim the good news with love and they attempted to do so in a compelling and rhetorically convincing way. So all things considered, I would suggest that whether rejecters end up in Hell or not depends on what gospel they heard and how it was presented to them. Below I have summarized four possible scenarios concerning this:

If rejected… Love/Compelling Fear/Manipulation
NT Gospel (1) Hell
(2) Determined at Final Judgment
Not NT Gospel (3) Determined at Final Judgment (4) Not Hell

 

Considering scenario 1) if they rejected the NT Gospel proclaimed in a loving, compelling way, then these people will likely experience a negative afterlife in Hell. Considering scenario 2, if they rejected the NT gospel proclaimed with fear tactics and manipulation, then I think that God will determine this at the Final Judgment. This second scenario is somewhat of a 50/50 middle-ground seeing that one part of the preaching was right but the other was not. Considering scenario 3) if they rejected a non-NT gospel proclaimed in a loving, compelling way, then I think that their fate will be determined by the Final Judgment. Like scenario 2, number 3) is also a 50/50 middle-ground seeing that one part of the preaching was right but another was wrong. Considering scenario 4) if they reject a non-NT gospel proclaimed with fear tactics and manipulation, then I think that these people will likely not experience the negative afterlife of Hell.

I believe that these people have a special place in the heart of God, people who have been misinformed about Jesus and the gospel and to a degree have been “abused” by perhaps well-meaning Christians with the name of Jesus and God. How can people who have been abused by the name of Jesus and wrongly informed about the Gospel be expected to receive Jesus and the NT gospel lest they be told the truth by someone who truly understands what the NT Gospel is and are skilled in presenting it in love and tact? I think given these circumstances that God will have great mercy on these people when they go through the Final Judgment, and most likely not send any of these people to Hell.

Overall, I believe that only God knows who will and will not end up in Hell, though this does not mean that he has failed to give us answers through Scripture of who will and who will not. Certainly, the NT speaks strongly about who will incur Hell-fire as I have detailed in the above study. However, God has not made it our job as Christians to go around telling people “You’re going to Hell.” Rather, he has made it our job to testify to the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and all of what that means for the world and those who follow him. Together may we preach the Gospel in a loving and compelling manner to a desperate and dying world that needs to hear the good news that Jesus has defeated the punishment for our sin, namely, death.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for being so on track biblically, theologically sensible, and willing to finally put it out there and state clearly how important it is that we get this right.

  2. Thank you Nathan! I really appreciate you taking time to read my article and give your encouraging feedback.
    Timothy

  3. Wanted to get some clarification. Are the only two destinations after death the Kingdom of God or the Pit? My concern is that I’m seeing a… neutral zone, I guess, where people have perhaps not committed such sin as to condemn them to eternal torment, however who also have lived their lives in refusal to submit to the authority of God. Can you clarify?

  4. Dear Brother,

    In our teaching and preaching we must always beware that we never allow
    our own personal preferences to lead us to question or deny of the Truth of God’s
    Word. We must beware that we never mimic the voice of the serpent in Genesis
    3:1 who asks, “Has God indeed said?” In your articles you continually use the
    phrase “I would rather prefer to say,” “I do not do so,” etc. And in your
    conclusion you continually write over and over, “I think.” It is very dangerous
    to write what we think. What matters is what Scripture says and what those who
    have gone before us in the faith that have been faithful to God’s calling have
    said. The scriptures clearly teach that there are two destinations for humans,
    the only alternative to this teaching is the Roman Catholic Teaching on
    purgatory, which I am pretty sure you are not advocating in these articles,
    although I am not sure. There are many teachings of Christ, namely parables
    that you leave out in your analysis. Matthew 22:11-13 says, “But
    when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on
    a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come
    in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king
    said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him
    into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ John
    Wesley writes of this passage that “the wedding garment” spoken of here is “the
    righteousness of Christ, first imputed, then implanted.” Wesley’s analysis,
    along with other Methodist theologians and commentators, write that those who
    do not have the righteousness of Christ imputed and implanted will be cast into
    outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This
    righteousness is seen in the lives of those who have been regenerated by their fruits.
    Those who do not show the fruits of this righteousness that is only available
    through Jesus Christ in repentance and faith “will go away into everlasting
    punishment” as validated by another parable by Jesus in Matthew 25:41-46.
    Also Hebrews 12:14 says, that “Pursue peace with all people,
    and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” The only way one
    can receive righteousness and holiness is through experiencing the new birth,
    which can only come when one is born of the Holy Spirit. These scriptures make
    it clear that those who are not will experience everlasting punishment and will
    not see the Lord. And the Lord is in Heaven. So unless there is a part of
    Heaven where God is not it is clear that those who are not righteous or holy
    will have their place in Hell. There were also passages by the Apostle Paul
    that were not spoken of. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh
    are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry,
    sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish
    ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness,
    revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you
    in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom
    of God.” All of these are sins that those who practice them will not
    inherit the kingdom of God. If they do not inherit the kingdom of God where do
    they go? The only orthodox answer from the Scriptures is hell. Unless you are
    advocating for a theology that the soul is not eternal (ex. Annihilationism)
    or if you believe in the doctrine of purgatory. Also Paul says in 1 Corinthians
    6:9-11, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of
    God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
    nor homosexuals,
    nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous,
    nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were
    sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the
    Spirit of our God.” All those that are unrighteous (Greek adikos) “meaning
    unjust; by extension wicked; by implication treacherous; specifically heathen:
    – unjust, unrighteous” will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. Now the New
    Testament makes it clear that there are none who are righteous (Romans 3:10)
    and the only way one can become righteous is through first repentance and faith
    in Jesus Christ. This is made clear in Romans 3:21-26. Therefore if Paul
    clearly says the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God, and the only
    way one can be righteous is through faith in Jesus Christ then therefore all
    who are not made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ will not inherit the Kingdom
    of God and therefore are bound for hell. Unless you argue there is a third extra
    biblical destination or if you argue for a theology that advocates for the
    non-eternality of the human soul. Another verse that was not mentioned is Revelation
    21:8. Why did you ignore Revelation 21:8? This passage says, “But the cowardly,
    unbelieving,
    abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all
    liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone,
    which is the “second death.” Also to this verse the Majority Text adds, “sinners.”
    And all are sinners. The Greek word for “unbelieving” in this passage is apistos which is a negative particle and
    means one who is actively disbelieving, that is, without Christian faith
    (specifically a heathen) an infidel or an unbeliever. This verse clearly shows
    that those who do not have Christian faith (infidels or unbelievers) have their
    place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. Whether we may in our
    own personal preference want to say it or not does not matter. What the Word of
    God says is the authority! We cannot ignore passages that teach something that
    makes us feel uncomfortable! This verse clearly opposes what you wrote in your
    articles and it appears you left it out on purpose, unless you just overlooked
    it. Therefore in conclusion by the witness of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul,
    and the Apostle John the destination of all of the unrighteous, unbelieving is
    hell. We cannot ignore the passages that teach this. Also the only way one may
    enter the Kingdom of Heaven is to be made righteous. And Paul clearly states
    the only way one can become righteous is through faith in Jesus Christ. As John
    Wesley writes, “the righteousness of Christ, first
    imputed, then implanted.” Are you arguing that there is another way into Heaven
    other than through faith in Jesus Christ? Are you arguing that people are born righteous
    and therefore enter Heaven without a Savior, therefore making the work of
    Christ have no purpose? Are you arguing for purgatory or Annihilationism? Why did
    you ignore these passages from Matthew, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews, and
    Revelation in these articles? If you are claiming the unrighteous do inherit
    the Kingdom of Heaven than you are denying the scriptures (1 Corinthians 6:9). If
    you are claiming that the only punishment for sin is physical death than you
    are denying the scriptures (Revelation 21:8). If you are claiming that we can
    be made righteous without faith in Jesus Christ than you are denying the
    scriptures (Romans 3:22). I do not understand why Seedbed would even publish
    these posts! Is this ministry supposed to be “Sowing for a Great Awakening?”
    Why then would they post articles that deny the necessity of the Gospel either
    outright or implicitly? If one believes these articles then it would be better
    to not share the Gospel with anyone because the only punishment for sin is
    physical death, not eternal death and the unrighteous have a chance to inherit
    the Kingdom of Heaven without Christ and those that are unholy will see the
    Lord. If one takes these articles seriously the only reason one should share
    the Gospel is if they know the person they are sharing it with is guilty of the
    sins that this article points out (although there are other passages and sins
    listed that are ignored in all three articles) because those that are guilty of
    these sins are the only ones going to hell. For me I will take the words of
    Paul. “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). I regret to
    say this in love but Timothy Christian you are a liar and your voice sounds
    like the voice of the serpent in Genesis 3:1, “Has God indeed said?” I declare that
    God has said! The unrighteous and unbelieving will not inherit the Kingdom of
    God! We need a Savior Jesus Christ and will not go to Heaven unless we repent
    of our sins and trust in Him as our Savior! I pray the author of this article
    and he ministry of Seedbed repents of this article and returns to “Sowing for a
    Great Awakening” rather than casting into doubt what the Bible says and what
    historical Methodism taught. May Jesus Christ alone receive all the glory for
    the salvation of lost sinners on their way to…hell and may we see the necessity
    and urgency to preach the Gospel to all who are unrighteous and unbelieving.

    Sincerely,

    The Vindicator

  5. John,
    While I agree with likely everything you said, I think it’s quite inappropriate to rail against a fellow brother without first giving him the benefit of the doubt regarding these matters. We ought not condemn one another openly…what kind of witness is this to the unbelieving, unregenerated soul? Is this not the same type of behavior exhibited by the world…from which we are set apart? Is there a better way to communicate differences…yes, the answer is yes.

    Tim, I was also left with similar questions. I’d love to seek clarification when you have time. I’m sure you have reasonable explanations to some of the questions raised in the comments made by all. Thanks for your courage in publishing articles on difficult topics where interpretations abound.

  6. Timothy, does your interpretation of the afterlife/death lead to you having a non-mainstream view of Satan? If so, in what way? Thanks, Dennis

  7. Timothy, I agree with the basics assertions of your “So What” section. I do think we have been too hell focused for far too long. However, I’m having a hard time getting past the notion that only only certain people who have committed certain sins will end up in heaven and that physical death is THE judgment for sin. If this is true, then how can we in any real way say that Jesus has redeemed us sin and taken the punishment upon himself. Barring his return, we will all die, Christian or not. So how has His death saved us from the consequences of sin? Of course, you could say that our death will not be eternal and those who die without Christ will suffer eternal physical death with only some going to hell for specific sins. But, that would seem to be difficult to prove in light of several texts such as the Sheep and the Goats parable and others. Are you advocating that apart from Jesus the majority of people will just die and cease to exist at all? And finally, isn’t it possible for all of humanities sins to fall under the categories of rebellion against God and idolatry which are in your list of the 7 deserving of hell? I applaud the thoroughness of your work and the call to struggle with these concepts anew. Blessings!

    • Obviously in line three I meant “”have committed certain sins will end up in HELL (Not Heaven)… I was in a rush so please forgive the typos.

  8. Hi, Timothy aside from the books mentioned in your article, can you recommend additional books or authors that specifically deal with the issues you addressed. Thanks!

  9. Eric,

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I have been
    swamped with school work and taking care of my wife and newborn son.

    Great questions! Yes the Bible presents two final destinations:
    Hell (the Pit, the lake of fire, etc) and Resurrection glory in the new
    creation. Notice it is not “heaven” or hell. Heaven is not the final destination
    of God’s people. I take up this issue in another Seedbed article called “You’re
    Not Going to Heaven: There’s a Better Final Destination.”

    Regarding your question about “the neutral zone,” what I
    am suggesting is that currently there is somewhat of a neutral zone, that is,
    final destinations have not been decided yet or even predetermined (I’m no
    Calvinist). As a good Wesleyan, I believe that there is the possibility of
    Christians falling away while also holding that it is possible for
    non-Christians to become followers of Jesus (we pray the latter happens more
    than the former). As my professor Ben Witherington puts it, “You’re not
    eternally secure until you’re securely in eternity.” So for now, until the
    final judgment happens at the eschaton, there is neutral ground, decisions
    being made, life being lived either for or against God, and all of that
    determines whether or not we’ll have a good afterlife.

    Now regarding the issue of those who have not perhaps
    committed such Hell-worthy sins yet live apart from God’s authority, I would
    first like to point out (and maybe I should have pulled this out a little more
    in my concluding section) that many of these specific sins that the NT deems
    Hell-worthy are all around us every day. Take lust for example. Do you know anyone
    in the world who has never lusted, let alone in our American culture which is
    overly sexualized? I don’t. I know I certainly have. And because of that, I
    admit that the NT condemns me as bound for Hell for that specific sin. Now (maybe
    I should have pulled this out more too but) there is grace and forgiveness and
    repentance from these sins, and God graciously forgives and pardons and
    sanctifies us. So it is still only by the grace of God in Christ and the
    forgiveness that he offers for those sins that I can enter into the glory of
    resurrection in the new creation.

    I would also like to point out that I note “(2)
    those who join in Satan’s rebellion against God” as the second of the list of seven sins that the NT condemns as a Hell-worthy act. The way you have phrased it is as those who refuse “to
    submit to the authority of God.” I would see these two groups as synonymous. It’s
    the same thing just worded a little differently. So in that sense, these people
    according to the NT are committing a Hell-worthy act.

    I hope that this helps. Let me know if you have any other
    questions.

    Grace and Peace,

    Timothy

  10. Eric,

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I have been swamped with school work and
    taking care of my wife and newborn son.

    Great questions! Yes the Bible presents two final destinations: Hell (the Pit, the lake of fire,
    etc) and Resurrection glory in the new creation. Notice it is not “heaven” or
    hell. Heaven is not the final destination of God’s people. I take up this issue
    in another Seedbed article called “You’re Not Going to Heaven: There’s a Better
    Final Destination.” http://seedbed.com/feed/youre-not-going-to-heaven-theres-a-better-final-destination/

    Regarding your question about “the neutral zone,” what I am suggesting is that currently
    there is somewhat of a neutral zone, that is, final destinations have not been
    decided yet or even predetermined (I’m no Calvinist). As a good Wesleyan, I
    believe that there is the possibility of Christians falling away while also
    holding that it is possible for non-Christians to become followers of Jesus (we
    pray the latter happens more than the former). As my professor Ben Witherington
    puts it, “You’re not eternally secure until you’re securely in eternity.” So
    for now, until the final judgment happens at the eschaton, there is neutral
    ground, decisions being made, life being lived either for or against God, and
    all of that determines whether or not we’ll have a good afterlife.

    Now regarding the issue of those who have not perhaps committed such Hell-worthy sins yet live apart from God’s authority, I would first like to point out (and maybe I should have pulled this out a little more in my concluding section) that many of these specific sins that the NT deems Hell-worthy are all around us every day. Take lust for example. Do you know anyone in the world who has never lusted, let alone in our American culture which is overly sexualized? I don’t. I know I certainly have. And because of that, I admit that the NT condemns me as bound for Hell for that specific sin. Now (maybe I should have pulled this out more too but) there is grace and forgiveness and repentance from these sins, and God graciously forgives and pardons and sanctifies us. So it is still only by the grace of God in Christ and the forgiveness that he offers for those sins that I can enter into the glory of resurrection in the new creation.

    I would also like to point out that I note “(2) those who join in Satan’s rebellion against
    God” as the second of the list of seven sins that the NT condemns as a Hell-worthy act. The way you have phrased it is as those who refuse “to submit to the authority of God.” I would see these two groups as synonymous. It’s the same thing just worded a little differently. So in that sense, these people according to the NT are committing a Hell-worthy act.

    I hope that this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Grace and Peace,

    Timothy

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