Why MUST hell be eternal? (Part 1)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Hebrews 5:11-6:3
  • Daniel 12:1-2
  • Isaiah 66:24
  • Isaiah 38:18
  • Proverbs 27:20
  • Psalms 9:5-7
  • Psalms 81:14-15
  • Psalm 92:5-8
  • Revelation 19:20
  • Revelation 20:10-15
  • Revelation 21:6-8
  • Isaiah 66:22-24
  • Revelation 14:9-11

Is this topic complicated?

When talking about whether or not hell is eternal, many people see this as a topic that has no clear answer. Over the years many different scholars have written different books to try and explain one side of this issue or another. I have often talked to people who have been in ministry for years who after reading several books, are afraid to even come close to touching this topic in any bible study. The question is, does it really take scholarly research and hours of studying commentaries to understand this topic?

The short answer is no, if you just plainly read the bible you will find it’s straight forward. In fact, this topic is actually a foundational topic in Christianity. A while ago I talked about several lists of things that the bible considers foundational. When you get to Hebrews chapter 6 you find it listed as foundational. But, the conversation on this foundational topic does not start in chapter 6. Instead, the tone of the list changes greatly when you go back to chapter 5 and read into chapter 6. 

5:11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:11-6:3 ESV

Once you step back and look at the context of this list, it makes a lot of the arguments and mountains of books on this topic seem rather silly. For many reading outside of the academic world, you might think why would people fuss around with something that is “elementary.” It turns out, it is not because the bible says that has a problem, it is what that means if it is true. 

There are 3 major views on this topic. Of course, like many things, there are many variations of these views and different degrees to which people believe them. 

  • Universality: everyone will eventually go to heaven
  • Annihilationism: After the great judgment, everyone who is in or goes to hell, will stop existing in the new creation
  •  Traditional view: This is can be considered what most people consider the normal idea of what hell is like.

Overall there are two major issues that are addressed by each of these views:

  1. Will hell last forever? 
  2. will everyone go to heaven?

Will you feel hell?

I previously talked about this topic. But in the context of these different views, there is a question of how long will you feel the “punishment” of hell. In the traditional view, hell is seen as a place of torment and torture forever. Once one comes across this idea, naturally the question is to then ask the ethics of this view, and because of that, some challenge the traditional view in different ways. 

The reason I bring this up is that, if you are in hell, will you feel it the whole time you are there? This might seem rather simple, but in the case of Annihilationism, you often have some type of answer to this long the lines of, you will not feel anything because you will cease to exist. From here there is the question of, will you feel anything the whole duration of being in hell? that is as long as hell exists do you feel something? 

24 And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

Isaiah 66:24 ESV

18 For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness.

Isaiah 38:18 ESV

1 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel 12:1-2 ESV

Of course, there are many other bible verses that talk about the torment of hell lasting forever. When you bring even more bible verse in it becomes clear that as long as hell exists, those in hell will feel something. But in these verses, there is something else. Notice that it talk about them feeling a lack of hope, feeling shame, contempt, and so on. People in hell do feel something; it is not just physical. In order to feel something, you have to exist and this does invoke some level of consciousness. The only question left is, how long does this last?

Will hell exist in the new creation?

Often we have a different perception of things simply because we have been trained to think a specific way for many years. Asking a question like this would be an easy way to get someone kick out of a church if you don’t approach it with a correct frame of reference. If hell lasts forever, then where is it if God recreates heaven and the earth? Couldn’t begin to answer that question, but we do find some strange details:

5 You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. 6 The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished.

Psalm 9:5-6 ESV

14 I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. 15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever.

Psalm 81:14-15 ESV

5 How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! 6 The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: 7 that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; 8 but you, O LORD, are on high forever.

Psalm 92:5-8 ESV

When looking at these passges, the word used for forever in each of these passages is עוֹלָם H5769 – `owlam: always, forever, continually. The the question then rises, if hell is tempruary, isn’t that a contradiction? How can something be continuase and last forever and then when the new creation starts it no long exist. Some might try to conjure arguments that time has a relationship with space and use some modern physics to say that, that time ends and there is a new time now. If that sounds complicated don’t worry we have more Bible verses to help us. 

One thing we can do is track different places we see hell when it comes close to the new creation. Once you do that this whole question instantly goes away. Of course, there is the question of what is hell really which I talk about before. We can make the assumption that the lake of fire is the final judgment and the “final hell.”

20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.

Revelation 19:20 ESV

10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.

Revelation 20:10-11 ESV

From here we find this judgment of hell last until the great white throne judgment. Now a lot of people would just assume that is the end. But if you stop to think about it for a moment, there is a problem. If this is the end, how can then be tormented night and day forever if there is no more time? This is literally the last moment of this earth. After this is a “new time” and a new creation. If you keep reading you find something even more disturbing:

6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 21:6-8 ESV

Here we find the new heavens and the new earth are created and Jesus (who is the alpha and omega) even says it is over. Yet right after that, after the new creation, we find that the second death is still around. Of course, this is not the only place we find this. In the old testament we also find a graphic image as to why it is still around:

22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. 23 From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. 24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

Isaiah 66:22-24 ESV

Here we find that in the new heaven and new earth, again there is still this image of hell persisting and it serves as a reminder. 

Side note

Just to clarify something, the second death is supposed to be away from the presence of God. I talked about before how some bible verse talks about God’s presence being in “hell.” But when we get to the second death, there is a final removal of hell, all together. Context can be important as we find some verse that talks about those in hell being punished in the presence of God. the important thing to remember is when this happens. For instance, in revelation, this is happening before the final judgment and the new creation.

9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Revelation 14:9-11 ESV

5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 ESV

The Bible has Multiple Meaning (Part 1)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • Isaiah 55:12
  • 1Co 15:12-17 
  • Act 2:36
  • 2Ti 2:8
  •  1Co 3:16-17
  • 1Co 6:17-20
  • John 3:4-6
  •  Psa 17:8
  • Psalm 91:3-4
  • Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25
  • Matthew 27:57
  • Genesis 41:37-44, Daniel 2:48, 2 Chronicles 1:9-12
  • 1 Timothy 6:10
  • Matthew 6:24

Having a literal interpretation

Is the Bible literal or figurative? On the one hand, the Bible has literal places and real people. It talks about historic battles and describes buildings that did exist. Then you get to some verse with a literal interpretation and you get into a problem.

12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12 ESV

Do the mountains really sing? Obviously trees don’t have hands. So what do you do about this? First, let’s explore the literal interpretation and see what we get out of it. It is clear that some things are expressly literal. For instance, it is clear that Jesus literally died, if not we have a serious problem. In 1 Corinthians Paul is addressing this idea about whether or not Jesus went through a literal death. 

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:12-17 ESV

When looking at this, if Jesus literally didn’t raise from the dead, then we have a large problem. Our whole idea of Christianity has major problems with it. When you look at other verses, the writers of the new testament make arguments with the assumption that their audience was actually live and see some of the events. If not physically there, it was something they were supposed to already know as a fact. 

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:36 ESV

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, – 2 Timothy 2:8 ESV

2 Timothy 2:8 ESV

There are other issues that come up too. Like for instance, the holy spirit living in us. What does that mean? If we take it as a symbolic idea that Jesus reigns in our hearts and it is a metaphor for God is always with us, we get problems. When you read some of the language about the spirit living in us it raises some questions about how serious the writers meant some of these things. (2 Timothy 1:14, Acts 6:5, Romans 8:1, John 16:13, Romans 8:9-15, Ezekiel 36:27)

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV

17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:17-20 ESV

4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 3:4-6 ESV

This idea of having the spirit in us is a major issue. It is a reason we need to take care of our bodies. So one might say that could still just be a symbolic idea, but in John 3, if you don’t have the spirit you don’t go to heaven? There are a lot of questions about what that means, but if we are just saying this is symbolic there are literal and real implications of that. Just reading the text, the writers don’t seem to take it so lightly.

Extreme literal interpretation

There are some issues that come from taking a completely literal interpretation. For instance, if everything is literal, what about every detail that we see talked about God? 

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,

Psalm 17:8 ESV

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Psalm 91:3-4 ESV

If you take a literal interpretation you might be tempted to look for at least one more verse to confirm this and then start the church of the holy chicken. But then you ask yourself, what about when in Genesis 1 it says we are made in the image of God? How can God literally have wings and we literally be made in his image if we don’t have wings?

Another problem comes about when looking at some of Jesus’ teaching. Some are rather extreme and if he is talking about this in a literal way, this is pretty extreme.

26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:26-30 ESV

Is Jesus telling us to cut off our body parts? It would be extremely easy to lose all body parts if you have to cut them off whenever you sin. As a side note, there is an observation that can be made. Notice how at first he talks about the lust of the heart, the lust of the eye, and offense of the hand. Let’s say that cutting off your hand is the solution, it is a physical gate to sin that you can “shut.” Now the question is, what about the heart? On the one hand, if it is a literal heart you would die. If it is figuratively talking about the inward self then it would be like destroying yourself. There is no way to shut “the inner ward gate” other than completely destroying it. Instead, the changing need to be a complete transformation of the inward self.

Reading into literal interpretations

There is another danger that comes with a literal interpretation. What happens if you don’t cross reference your ideas? For instance, let’s start with a simple passage of what Jesus is saying: 

20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:20-24 ESV [Mark 10:17-25, Luke 18:218-25]

Often from this, we get the interpretation that we shouldn’t have a lot of money and we should live simple lives. Of course, what does it mean to live “simply?” ignore this, Are we all supposed to be poor? Does God want us to take all the money we have, use enough of it to meet our needs, and give the rest away? On one level, yes, but on the full extreme, no. If you try to find other instances of this being put into practice in the Bible it falls apart. For instance, Jesus had a disciple who was rich. 

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.

Matthew 27:57 ESV

Not to mention this becomes a problem. God turned several people in the Bible into wealthy, rich people. 

37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 41:37-43 ESV

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

Daniel 2:46-49 ESV

You might say, well God didn’t give them this wealth directly. This is true, but God gave them the gift and because of their abilities, the people of the world gave them wealth. Now let’s look at an even worse example. God gave wealth to Solomon:

9 O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” 11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.”

2 Chronicles 1:9-12 ESV

How can God give Solomon wealth if having excess wealth is against what Jesus preached? If you follow the story Solomon, although wise, makes bad decisions, and because God gave him wealth, he has the ability to do it lavishly. If wealth is bad then God gave Solomon something that will ultimately cause him to destroy himself. This can’t be the case, looking at Daniel and Joseph, they had wealth and they were not destroyed. There is another issue that is at play, not just having wealth:

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV

The issue is that the love of money, or desiring money is the problem. It goes back to the 10 commandments. The issue is whether or not money becomes your idol. In the case of Daniel and Joseph, they did not make money as their idol. They were in a foreign land, with an opposite culture, opposing religion and an easy environment to slip into temptation. But while in this, they still followed God personally regardless of their culture and family being a factor. Yet we ask ourselves, why doesn’t God give us money? On the one hand, if he did, would you still serve him? If you say, “how if I had money I would be better off to serve you,” what happens if you get the money? Would you still follow God or would it be easy to forget why you wanted him? Do you just want God simply because he fixes your problems? If you had all the money you needed would you be the God of your world? 

Of course, that is just looking at a literal interpretation and fixing it with a literal interpretation. But now the question lingers, does the Bible have any figurative meaning?

How serious is sin?

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Romans 6:23
  • James 2:10-11
  • Proverbs 18:21
  • Matthew 12:36-37
  • Proverbs 15:1-2,14
  • Exodus 20:7, 2 Corinthians 5:20
  • 2 Peter 3:10-13, Revelation 20:11-21:1
  • Romans 5:6-8
  • Romans 8:31-39

Is all sin equal?

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 ESV

From here one starts asking the question, how serious is sin? Are you telling me if I tell a lie, that is punishable by death (or whatever this verse is talking about)? Some might justify that for the case of murder, but how is lying worthy of the same punishment? This gets even worse once you got to James:

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

James 2:10-11 ESV

He is talking about the ten commandments, but when you look at this, the law is not just murder and adultery. There are eight other commandments a well. Not to mention the law isn’t just the ten commandments. This includes all of the book of Leviticus and everything else Moses said. As Christians, it would be easy to dismiss this and say it is not really that big of a deal if you don’t follow Leviticus. Few Christians even know the actual laws and those who attempted often don’t understand how they apply. There is a reason why we don’t follow them (which is for another day). But there is an issue, Jesus followed them:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-20 ESV

According to Jesus, the basics of Moses is just the beginning of righteousness, not the standard. Again a topic for another time. But how can lying really be as bad a murder?

The least commandment

You might be thinking, clearly, some sins seem like they have more weight than others. But surprisingly enough, not all sins have a direct connection that we see right away. Some have connections that are greater in a passive way than what we think they really do. For instance, let’s take arguably the simplest of commandments:

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Exodus 20:7 ESV

Often we say, don’t swear, and use God’s name in the same sentence. But it turns out there is more to it than just that. We find (as I talked about before) that the name of God is extremely important to God. Even Moses knows this as he is “negotiating” with God in Numbers 14:13-19. We find here that Moses is talking about God’s reputation and about how he is a loving father, protector, and guide to humanity. But then we get to the new testament:

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

Now we have a problem if we are God’s (Christ) ambassador, then that means we carry his name and reputation. If we don’t represent God right, we are taking his name in vain. Again we can find Moses do this in the old testament in Numbers 20:2-13. Here Moses does not do exactly what God wanted. Moses misrepresented God and there are consequences because of it. There is a bigger issue about this. It is sad to say many people don’t really read the Bible regularly (let long many Christians). Often you are the only Bible some people will ever read. People often look at Christians and point fingers quickly to point out when you do something wrong. But often what people really want before they convert is to see that the Bible is real. They want to see that a human can really be changed by God. They want to see themselves in someone who can do it to know they also have a chance. When we say we are a Christian we are affecting generations of people who will have their understanding and image of God shaped by the way we act.

Is lying equal to murder?

  Oftentimes we tend to forget how much our words have an impact on those around us. When someone asks the question, is lying really as bad as other sins, all you have to do is look at the first time a lie was told in the Bible. Simply because of one lie in the Bible, all of humanity has become trapped in the evils of sin. Because of one lie, generations of people have lived through pain and suffering that God did not intend for man. 

Of course, most of that is semi-physical effects that we directly see. But often words can have a much more deeper effect. We often don’t know the full mental impact our words can have. Often saying something as simple as “I love you” to someone can have depths of meaning at different times in their lives. A simple phrase can bring up all kinds of emotions from romance to rival or broken friendships to a father and son finally connecting. In many ways, negative words have similar effects. Oftentimes what we think of as a joke might not land well with others. On the surface, we make a joke about someone being playful and teasing but deep down, after they are alone, it brings up painful memories. Even when we don’t intend to hurt someone, others before them have hurt them and they erase us and bring up all the memories of the past in our place as we speak. 

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Proverbs 18:21 KJV

What was stated previously is really just an abstract sense of it. We really can’t fully understand what impact our words have even if we tried. The reality of our words affects us much more and spreads much deeper than we could even think. One way I heard it put that really paints a picture, is in the context of gossip. Imagine an old feather pillow that someone tears up and shakes around the room. When you try to clean up the mess, you have an idea where the wind carried each and every feather. They can end up in places you never thought possible even months after the event. The big issue is, you can’t predict where all of them will be and you have no idea how many there were, to begin with. So even if you think you have collected all of them, there is no way to tell. In many ways, when we talk about peoples, events, and situations, it is very much the same thing. The only problem is our feathers spontaneously combust into multiple new feathers each time they hit the floor. 

We can constantly find all throughout scripture the importance of our words. We generally downplay it, but the scripture is extremely clear on this point:

1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. … 14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 15:1-2, 14 ESV

13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

Psalm 34:13 ESV

3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

Psalm 141:3 ESV

18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. 19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. … 31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off.

Proverbs 10:18-21, 31 ESV

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

James 1:26 ESV

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV

10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

1 Peter 3:10 ESV

Why is sin so serious?

36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:36-37 ESV

  Let’s come back to  James 2:10-11, which says that breaking one part of the law is the same as breaking all of the law. How can something be this serious? If the above didn’t paint the picture let’s step it up a bit more. 

Imagine you have a glass window and you throw a rock at it. Could you ever repair it? You might think yes, but it turns out you can’t. If you put all of the pieces together it won’t stay together when it is lifted up. If you put some tape on it, that doesn’t change the fact that the window glass is still separated into pieces. Let’s imagine you put some glue into it, well the glass won’t let in the light the same way. Let’s say you made the glue transparent, is it still the same? It holds together and now it looks like it never broke. Well, it turns out the window is still fundamentally different. You just introduced some material to the window that wasn’t there before. If you look at the window before and after, on a macro-scale, it looks the same, but on the micro-scale, there are many differences. 

The issue is you could never guarantee that the window will be exactly like the way it was before. Even if you find a process to fuse things together, can you guarantee the exact same atoms are bonded to the ones they were previously? Could you guarantee they were in the same location and rotation they were before? It turns out this is impossible. 

There is some interesting sub conversion I tend to have with some people. In physics, there is this concept called entropy. It can get a little technical but the simple way to understand it is in terms of an ice cube melting in the sun. When it starts off it is in an order cube with all of the bonds together. As the ice cube melts, the bonds break and the atoms start turning into water and the water is in a less organized form. The concept being that things start in an “organized” state and over time tend to a “disordered” state. Entropy is like a measurement of the disorder of a system in some sense. The more entropy the more randomness (more water than ice). Then looking at something before and after, the total change in entropy (randomness) can never be less than zero, it is always either exactly the same or greater (more random or exactly the same randomness). It is interesting that in Genesis 1 you find that God created everything and each day goes from “evening” to “morning.” God in “organizing” the universe and each day it goes from less order (evening) and more order (morning). After day six, there is no evening or morning on the seventh day when God starts creating. I bring this up to come to the next bigger point.

Back to the window, how can you possibly fix the window to make sure it is exactly the way it was before? It turns out you can’t, it would be nearly impossible to do in any practical sense. But there is something you can do. You can just start over. You can melt down the window and make a new one. Strangely enough, it seems that is exactly what God will do with our universe that has been corrupted with sin.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Revelation 21:1 ESV

Big problem

There is one problem. God can’t just recreate the universe, it would be easier, and we find a few times when God could have (Genesis 6:5-8, Exodus 32:9-14, Deuteronomy 9:4-16). But God doesn’t just start over. Why not? Because of you. 

36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:36-39 ESV

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 ESV

God could have just restarted, but God loves us so much he would rather find a complicated way to bring us into a relationship with him then destroy us. But that brings in a whole problem. We have sinned before God, and God is a holy and justice God. Our sins have separated us from God. So How can a holy God spend eternity with us and yet overlook our sin? 

What is Truth? (Part 3)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • Matthew 5:17-18 ESV 
  • Ephesians 5:6 ESV 
  • Acts 17:10-14 ESV 
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV 

Relative truth

So talking about absolute truth, having absolute truth claims about the world helps keep us sane. We literally couldn’t function if we didn’t make the assumption that the rules of the universe are the same.  But on the other hand, humans are limited and we don’t know everything. 

On the one hand, we can feel the air in the room and know it is there. But we can’t fully describe with just our senses. Just feeling the wind pass by doesn’t tell you everything about the air in the room. If you stop breathing it quickly becomes apparent that the air has more to it than just the breeze. The hard thing is to describe the air you can’t directly observe, instead, you need to do some indirect things to figure more about it. This comes back to the box example I gave last time. If you have that box, you can only get so close to figuring out what is inside. So the question is if we can’t know for sure about something, can we really make any claims? 

This is where relative truth comes in handy. Let’s say you were trying to use a ruler to measure something. How do you use a ruler? You look and see several tick marks indicating different lengths. But that line is not infinitely small, it has some thickness to it. So do you line up the object to the edge of the mark, to the middle of the line or at the end? Because there is some thickness to the line there is some subjectiveness as to what the real length of the object is. So can we never know for sure? Well, you might think, just make the markers thinner. If you do that then eventually your eyes won’t be able to see the lines.

On the other hand, what if the lines were perfect, well what happens if something falls between the lines? In this case, you can’t say absolutely what it is. You do know some absolute measurement “it is more than 3, less than 4.” But you can’t absolutely know how long it is for sure. This becomes an issue, we are human’s don’t know everything about everything in the universe. So how can we make any claim if we don’t know everything? 

It turns out you don’t need to know everything to make a claim. You only need enough information to make a conclusion. This is where relative truth comes in. It is not that relative truth is correct, instead, it helps give you an understanding of what is absolutely true. With the ruler, you absolutely know it is more than 3 and less than 4. These are facts so you can exclude all other possibilities of how long this object is. The question now comes, “is this good enough to determine truth?”

Obviously we don’t know the real length of this object, but does that matter? Depends on the situation. If you are measuring a plank of wood, being an inch off might not be good if you are trying to build a house. If you are lucky it wouldn’t ruin anything and instead only make things look back. If you were measuring the size of the earth, you probably wouldn’t notice that 1 inch. If you measured the orbit of an electric to be 1 inch, you are almost certainly wrong. 

What you need to ask, if what I know enough to the question I am trying to ask. When turning on a light switch, you don’t need to know everything about physics to know if the light switch will turn on. All you need to know is where the light switch is on or off. If that doesn’t work, is the light bulb working, is the bill paid. Any other problems and you would quickly need a professional to check on things. But in our everyday lives we only need enough knowledge to make a conclusion not to know every possibility.  

When asking the question does God exist, it can seem impossible because God appears outside of our reality. We don’t directly see him every waking moment of our lives. But you can start to ask other questions to narrow it down. Can you believe that God doesn’t exist? Can you find things that would point to his existence? You don’t need to know everything but only enough to guide you to one conclusion or the other. Like if you ask if there is a radio tower nearby, turn on the radio, if you get a signal that it is close enough in range. You can conclude that it exists but you can’t conclude where it is. From there you might say where this radio station. Once you do that all you need to do is find ways of limiting where it is not until you are led to an area where it must exist within. The amount of understanding you need to make a conclusion depends on how much you need to exclude all other possibilities until you are left with what must be true. 

Biblical examination

When it comes to Christianity, this discovery of the truth is a large part of its core. We often say, do you take the Bible literally or figuratively (which will come later). But that is not the issue, the issue is do we take it seriously. Jesus talks about how important this examination is. In the famous sermon on the mount, he makes a remark that is very important:

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Mat 5:17-18 KJV

When looking at this, how important is it that we take the word of God? Jesus is claiming that every single letter of the text is important. How serious should we take it? We often look at this as something a scholar is supposed to do. Someone who is extremely educated is supposed to understand these complicated concepts of the Bible and interpret it for us. But that is not a Biblical view. The Bible is personal and each of us is supposed to use it to encounter God on an individual level.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there.

Acts 17:10-14 ESV

When you look at this passage in Acts, it should make you think. Here is Paul, this extremely educated man in the faith. Someone who writes so much about what Christianity is one of the biggest authorities after Jesus. Yet the people of Berea are questioning his claims. Not an attacking why but in a healthy skeptical way. They understand what Paul says but they still search the Bible for themselves and try to see if we can be convinced of the same conclusion that Paul comes to. Similarly, we are supposed to do the same. You can find this in other passages as well. 

13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:13 ESV

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

In this, we always need to remember that not everyone understands everything. The first-century church had a lot of issues with people trying to claim things about Christy that are not true. We should always be looking to make sure that what we learn is truly what God claims is true.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:6 ESV

4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Matthew 24:4-5 ESV

What is Truth? (Part 2)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • Isaiah 28:9-10 ESV 
  • Proverbs 25:2 ESV 

Let’s examine truth

Often we have this issue when talking about Truth. Is Truth absolute or relative? We should explore both to get a good sense of the topic. On the one hand, you can’t really make anything that makes sense without having absolute standards. For instance, if you are reading this, you need to assume that I am using the same English rules that you are; otherwise, this wouldn’t make sense. You could look at other examples like the display that makes up your screen. There are hundreds of lights that represent pixels of what this image should be. Each pixel has an absolute color and intensity associated with it. Similarly, in science, we are trying to figure out how the universe works. Even if we don’t know the exact position and velocity of an electron, we know there are absolute rules (or our best approximation) that govern how they interact. 

The Absolute side

When looking at the relative truth idea, all one has to do is look at the classic example. By declaring that truth is relative, this is an absolute. But that absolute says there is no absolute standard. So the idea contradicts itself. Often to look at relative truths we need to put off the most basic and logical way for us to think. It is like the famous quote attributed to Einstein about insanity: 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Einstein?

If you take a breath of air, you expect that there is something there even if you can’t fully explain what it is. You don’t have to think about moving your legs and often we don’t think about all the physics and circuitry that goes into the wiring of normal house lights. We expect these to follow basic rules we don’t need to prove over and over again. These rules don’t change and you rely on them to do literally everything in life. We make a fundamental assumption naturally that the universe is consistent and that its rules don’t change. You don’t walk out tomorrow and wonder the earth will be there when you step outside your house. Outside of movies and TV shows we expect that the world doesn’t change much and if it does then we would be in a nightmare.

The bridge

When looking at absolute truth, all you have to do is drop a ball. You expect that it will fall. You do this over and over again and it doesn’t take long to conclude that the ball will always drop. Unless the laws of the universe change (or some crazy setup), this will always be true. Generally, we expect that things happen outside of human experience, and the same rules that apply to me apply to you. If Isay I was talking, I don’t explain to you about the floor being there and how my feet felt a “counter-pressure” as I stepped and how I moved forward. All of this is assumed and you don’t bring it up. 

On some level, these rules govern our experiences even if we can’t explain them. Like dropping that ball. You might not be able to explain why the ball drops; even today what is gravity is debatable even past just the debate of Newton vs Einstein. 

What we are left with is a box that we can’t open. It’s a box that we can hold an pick up.  We can move it all around and as we do, we hear a rattling sound. As you listen, you can infer that something is inside the box. But you can’t tell exactly what it is. The big question of life is trying to figure out what is inside the box since we can’t open it. That would be absolute truth. We can all agree about the sounds made and agree on what the outside of the box looks like, how it is rotated, and so on. But inside is a mystery. We can only move the box to figure out what is going inside. But until we decide to exam the box we can never have an idea. This is similar to how God created everything:

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

Proverbs 25:2 ESV

God doesn’t just reveal all the mysteries of the universe as from the moment we are born. Let alone all the mysteries of who he is. There is a relationship aspect to this. Because we don’t know everything about him, we get to pursue a quest to discover his character and his love. But until we start the search, who can we begin to understand an infinite, all know, all-powerful God? 

Getting back to the point of the box. Through a series of tests we can figure out if what’s inside is a ball, a paper clip, and so on. But we can’t know for sure unless we experiment enough to rule out all other possibilities and be convinced of what we have left. Often when learning, we need to start from a small absolute principle and slow build-up what we know to be true. This is no different than learning about the character of God.

9 To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? 10 For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.

Isaiah 28:9-10 ESV

But now we have a problem. We are human and we are limited, we don’t know everything. Our understanding always seems to be lacking and there is always something new to learn. IT turns out there are even things we can logically show exist but we can’t absolutely experience it. For instance, if you add 1 to a number, you will get a bigger number. Then you can add 1 to that number and keep going on and on; all the way until you get to infinity. But you can’t get to this idea of infinity. You just know you can always keep going but you can’t get to the end to prove this is true. Now the question is what are the limits of human understanding?

If God is a loving God (Part 2)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • John 3:16 ESV 
  • 1 John 4:7-8 ESV
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 ESV
  • Romans 5:8 ESV
  • Exo 14:10-14;16:1-4, Numbers 11:31-32
  • Genesis 1:27 ESV
  • John 1:1-3 ESV 
  • Colossians 1:15-17 ESV
  • Ezekiel 28:12-17 ESV 
  • Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV 
  • 1 Peter 1:19-20 ESV 

How does love work?

So we know that there are different types of love. Now back to the question, if God is a loving God, why is there evil in the world? We know that the bible says God is love 

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

John 3:16 ESV

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

1 John 4:7-8 ESV

It is clear that we don’t fully understand what it means to love someone fully. So we need to understand a bit more about what love is. Of course, the bible says a lot about love. For instance the famous love chapter in Corinthians:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends… 

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 ESV

From here we find that there are 16 qualities of love. The question is what do all these need? 

  • 1) Patient
  • 2) Kind
  • 3) not envy
  • 4) boast
  • 5) not arrogant
  • 6) rude
  • 7) does not insist on its own way
  • 8) not irritable
  • 9) Not resentful
  • 10) not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • 11) rejoices with the truth
  • 12) bears all things
  • 13) believes all things
  • 14) Hopes all things
  • 15) endures all things.
  • 16) Love never ends

In order to be patient, there needs to be a situation in which you are not patient. In order to not wrong others, there need to be things that are right and wrong. When you look at all of these, there needs to be a choice. In order to endure all things, you need to stand up and choose to suffer from someone. You need to decide that is what is going to happen. If it was perfect love, it would never stop. There wouldn’t be anything that a person could do that would stop you from loving them. 

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 ESV

See in the beginning, God chooses to love you above anything else, despite what you do. When you are reading in the old testament, here is God loving this nation Israel so much he is willing to work with them even after they turned to idol worship. Even after they sent them prophets to correct them. Even after he took them into the wilderness and saved them from slavery and yet they still complained (Exo 14:10-14;16:1-4, Numbers 11:31-32). Even after God provided for them through great miracles, they still complained about their situation. But even still God decided to work with them because of his love.

If God is a loving God….

Now we are striking at the heart of this question. In order to have love, we need a choice. When you want to marry someone you stand at the altar before God and say that you will love this person above everyone else that you could possibly love. You choose to pick them and say no to everyone else. Just as God is the love we are a reflection of this.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

Genesis 1:27 ESV

Now, this is important because we are made in His image, we also can love. But in order to love, we need the option to not love. We need to choose him to love. This is a fundamental issue. If God takes away our will, then he takes away our capacity to love. Fundamentally, if we are made in his image, and he is love, we also need to be able to express love. If he takes this away from us, he takes away a portion of our humanity and his image from us. 

When you get down to it, if God is a love God why is there evil in the world? Well Because God is a loving God, there is evil in the world. If we did not have the option to choose evil rather than good, then we can not love him. This is a paradox, not a contradiction.

Did God create evil?

See this goes back even before the Garden of Eden. When we look at Satan or the devil, did God create him?  

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

John 1:1-3 ESV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

So yes God created Satan. But why would he create something Evil? Why would he create something that is destined to cause harm? Well, it turns out he did create Satan to be evil.

12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;… On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;… 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you… 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…

Ezekiel 28:12-17 ESV

12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 

Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV

See at the core, God created Satan, but he wasn’t meant to be evil. God is a God of love and Satan chooses to reject God’s love and go his own way. Similarly, we have this same problem with Adam and Eve. Why would God put the tree of knowledge of Good and evil in the garden? If he knew they would mess up, why put it there? Because God is a loving God. If God did not give Adam and Eve a chance to walk away from him, he is not allowing them to exercise love. But see God understands this and no matter what man does, he will always have a plan to restore the relationship between him and man:

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 KJV

19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 

1 Peter 1:19-20 ESV