Micah Redding — Christian Transhumanism: faith, technology & the future

In this series:

There Is No Hell (part 3), The Scriptures, Getting Destructed

GEHENNA

Gehenna is the greek word for the Valley of Hinnom, a burning rubbish pit outside of Jerusalem. It was used to burn up trash and refuse. Jesus uses the metaphor of Gehenna to talk about the horrible consequences that were coming upon some of his Jewish countrymen.

Matthew 10:28
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in GEHENNA."

The only thing we're told here about Gehenna is that it is a place of destruction. Not eternal torment, not torture, but destruction. And destruction means that something is gone.


Worms and Fire

Mark 9:47-49
47 "If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into GEHENNA, 48 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. 49 "For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 "Salt is good; but if he salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Here we see Gehenna again. This time, we see a mention of worms and fire. Some people take this to mean torment of some kind. But Jesus wasn't speaking off the cuff. He was quoting Isaiah:

Isaiah 66:24
"Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind."

Here Isaiah refers to a time when God has killed his enemies, and the righteous come up to worship him. And what do the righteous see? The CORPSES of the wicked.

Not people being tortured. Not people still conscious. Instead, they see dead corpses being eaten by worms, and consumed in fire. The point here is that their defeat is so total, these dead corpses are going to rot forever.

Notice what is eternal in this passage: the worms and the flame. God's tools of destruction are eternal, their work is final, and his enemies are gone.

When God gets done with his enemies, there's nothing left.


THE LAKE OF FIRE

Revelation 19:20-21
"20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh."

Here is the bible's main mention of a "Lake of Fire". I don't know about you, but when I think of things being thrown into a lake of fire, I immediately think of things being burnt up. I don't picture those people somehow miraculously surviving to swim around in constant torture. No, they are instantly destroyed.

This reminds me of Gehenna, the burning rubbish pit outside of Jerusalem, used (according to Jesus) to burn up the corpses of God's enemies.

Revelation 20:13-14a
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14a Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.

Here we have the judgment, and then the destruction of Hades (the waiting place) along with those not in the book of life. With the destruction of Hades, there is no more waiting. And just as Hades has been destroyed, so will those people who are not in the book of life.

The fate of the evil and the fate of Hades are exactly the same: irreversible destruction.

Revelation 20:14b-15
14b This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

And here we have the one and only biblical definition of the "Lake of Fire": SECOND DEATH. What the first death couldn't do (destroy people totally), the second death will do fully. Just like Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in GEHENNA."

The Second Death can only be administered by God, and this death is final.

Revelation 21:8
"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Again, we are told that the lake of fire is the second (and final) death.


ETERNAL PUNISHMENT and ETERNAL DEATH

Paul doesn't talk much about the eternal fate of the wicked in the terms we've seen. He doesn't use terms like "Gehenna" or "Lake of Fire". Whereas Jesus and Revelation use a lot of poetic and dramatic language to get their point across, Paul is somewhat more direct. For him, the truth is simple:

Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The line is clearly drawn. God gives eternal life, not eternal torment. The wages of sin isn't eternal torment, it's death.

2Thessalonians 1:8-9
8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power

Again, Paul identifies the penalty of disobedience to God to be death. "Destruction" is the word he uses here, and destruction doesn't mean hanging around forever! He uses the adjective "eternal" to indicate just how complete this destruction is - it's destruction that cannot be recovered from. It's permanent destruction. It's eternal destruction.

A couple of other terms like this are used. Jesus used the term "eternal punishment" once:

Matthew 25:45-46
45 "Then He will answer them, `Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Somehow people look at these terms and read "eternal conscious torment" into them. Eternal punishment is just punishment that lasts forever - that is final and irrevocable. The punishment is death, and the death is eternal.


THE LANGUAGE OF ETERNITY

One common notion (that's very hard to shake) is that "eternal" means "ongoing, or continually repeating". So we read the phrase "eternal punishment" to mean "ongoing, ever-repeating punishment".

But when looking at the Bible, we have to deal with the fact that we're not the original audience. We experience its words in a much different way than they did; we have 2000 years of church history behind us. So it is extremely useful to understand how the Biblical authors used the word "eternal".

Mark 3:29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

Does a blasphemer continually repeat the sin for all eternity? Or do the RESULTS of the sin extend forever?

Eph 3:10-11 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The ETERNAL PURPOSE is something that was accomplished once for all, not something that continues to be done.

Hebrews 5:8-9
8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Salvation means to "get rescued from something". Does the salvation occur once for all, with effects lasting forever, or does Jesus continue to rescue us over and over throughout all eternity?

Hebrews 6:2
2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

The judgment happens once and is done; the results last forever.

Hebrews 9:12
12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

The redemption happened ONCE, but it is eternal redemption because its effects last forever.

The above represents the natural way the bible uses these kind of terms.

-Some people receive eternal redemption
-Others commit eternal sins
-and are brought under eternal judgment,
-after which, they receive eternal punishment

Nothing in that list makes sense if "eternal" is taken to mean "continuously repeated". But they make all the sense in the world if "eternal" means "the effects last forever".


Summary

We've looked at a bunch of words and phrases: Gehenna, Lake of Fire, Eternal Punishment. And you've hopefully noticed that the idea of eternal conscious torment is conspicuously absent. The sole idea of all of these terms that is there is destruction, death, or annihilation for the wicked.

Now, I want to look at something that doesn't really fit with either the waiting we've talked about, or the destruction we've covered.


Next: There Is No Hell (part 4), The Scriptures, Outer Darkness

bpar:

These are my thoughts...and how I process my relationship with God. God is Love. That's all you need to know. Love doesn't know hatred, anger, punishment. When we die, we all become one with our creator. The rest is an unknown adventure. "Hell" is created in our own minds and we suffer in it, here in our life on Earth, as a result of our individual conscious disconnect from God. We can choose to live our lives in hell, or choose to live our lives in heaven. Jesus was trying to explain unexplainable things to us, but always with the basic message, "God is Love, and God Loves all". I have experienced many wonderful revelations from the Bible, but none from the book titled, "Revelations". This book, I believe, consists of rantings from a man who had a psychotic hallucination for whatever reason, and maybe the story wrapped up the events of the New Testament very strangely, but very nicely, according to some early "scholars". Let's not forget that the Bible is a book assembled by men. "God inspired"...yes...but "God inspired" alongside countless texts written throughout history. Love God, love yourself and love others. That's all you have to remember. That's all you have to know. Be blessed every day. Peace.

bpar:

Sorry, I mispelled my email address. I enjoyed your blog and the opportunity to share my thoughts.

micahtredding:

Hey bpar, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My take on Revelation is that it is a summation of the political state of the world in the late 60s AD, expressed in the peculiar ingenuous poetic language of the Jews. The message is a set of warnings about how to deal with the upcoming fall of Jerusalem and near-fall of Rome. -Micah