Isn't this the most horrible question a child can ask? Mother, Johnny told me that granddad was a sinner and he did not accept Jesus as his Saviour. And Johnny also told me that granddad is now in hell, where he will burn and have pain for ever and ever? Mother, is this true??
Indeed a heartbreaking question by a little child that loved his granddaddy so much. A granddad with whom he went fishing and who repaired his bike. Who he had seen loving his mom and dad and who work hard.
The mother in this example, if raised in a Christian family, will have to look for an answer to the things she learned in the church. And most of the churches, if not all, teach that a person must have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. Otherwise, when having died without this, he or she will go to hell. No later chances are offered to this sinner.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16)
This is perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible that is used all over the world to urge people to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is also often used to "prove" that it is absolutely necessary to accept Jesus Christ to have eternal life. If you don't, you're lost for ever and you will go to hell after you die.
Is God righteous?
Does God treat all people equally?
Does He, in cases of equal behaviour or misbehavior, judge people the same way or does He have 'favorites' that He will judge lighter??
And what about this "Gehenna", where people are thrown into?
And even the Lord Jesus told us about a life after death in the story of the poor Lazarus and the rich man who in Luke 16:23 "lifts up his eyes in hell". Isn't this proof enough?
In the days that Jesus Christ was on Earth, there was a valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was called the valley of Hinnom (South of Jerusalem), or in the Greek language: Gehenna. This place was used as a waste dump. Garbage and other waste was dumped here. And there were always fires burning there, like on most waste dumps in the world. It was, and here is the connection, also the place where corpses of executed criminals were burned.
"....:it is better for thee to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye, then having two eyes to be cast into the hellfire."(Marc.9:47)
The word here, hellfire, is composed of two words in Greek: Gehenna(the waste dump) and pur (fire).
But what happens when flesh is burned? It goes to ashes! Did these criminals continue to burn? No of course not! Fire in the Bible is almost always a form of purification. Fire cleans, purifies!
But, you might say, the Bible tells us that people will be thrown in the Gehenna!
Yes, you are right! But look at the time when this happens: during the 1000 years of the Kingdom of Heaven! At this moment, two millennia after Christ, the valley of Hinnom is a park; but when the Kingdom of Heaven will be, the valley will again be used for its original purpose: waste dump! And then again will those who oppose the rule of Jesus Christ be executed and burned on the waste dump: the Gehenna!
The story of the rich man and Lazarus in hell (Greek: Hades) is part of a long argumentation by Jesus on the subject of the coming Kingdom of Heaven.
In it He uses this story to warn the Jewish scribes(the rich man in the story) to listen to Him and be prepared for the coming Kingdom. Lazarus is a picture of the common man and the heathen nations, who will understand and be part of the Kingdom. The time to listen to the gospel for the Jews ended soon after Jesus went back to Heaven and the gospel was taken to the "nations" (that's us!) by Paul.
By the way, the word hell is an old English word for a hole in the ground. A grave therefore is a hell, a hole in the ground!
This evangelist is riding his motorbike in the jungle in Brazil, South-America. It is late in the afternoon and suddenly one of the tyres has a puncture. Darkness will fall soon so the evangelist decides to repair the tyre the next morning and starts setting up camp. The next morning he repairs his tyre and goes on his way to that Indian tribe's village that he has heard of and that has never been visited by someone who knows the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As soon as he arrives in the village he starts looking for the chief and explains the reason of his visit. The chief allows him to tell the story he wants to tell. After his first session it becomes very, very quiet in the village and some even start to cry. The evangelist asks the chief if he told them something wrong. The chief himself starts crying as well and tells him, through his tears:" You said that you had 'Good News' for us, but this is very bad news. Yesterday evening one of the elders of the village died. Now we know about this God of yours and that He is so mighty. But we are also very sad. Our friend died before you could tell him about Jesus and he was not able to accept him. Now we know he has gone to hell and he will burn there forever! Had you come just a little earlier, he would have been saved!"
The strange thing about all this is that the Bible does not teach this! It is the Churches that have developed this theory of a revenging God who will allow people to eternally burn for their sins. But is this true?
Let' s look at what the Bible tells us about death and a possible life after the present. In the Old Testament there is no mention about an afterlife. When there is a mention of something that would suggest life after death, it is the word "sheool", which in the New Testament is called "Hades". Jews, asked for a meaning of this, will pull up their shoulders and say:" Sorry, we don't know. Sheool means 'the unseen'."
What happens when a person dies? The Bible describes it this way: the flesh, the visible will go to the grave. The "pneuma" (=spirit/breath) -that what makes us live- goes back to God. (Eccl. 12:7) The "psyche", soul - the sensation resulting from the combination of an organic body with breath or spirit, what makes us the individual we are - is stored in the "sheool/Hades", the realm of death (Acts 2:27). The Bible nowhere suggests a conscious existence during death. Life is absent until the resurrection!!!!!!!
So what happens then? What happens to granddad?
Let's look at what happened at Calvary when Jesus Christ died on the cross and a few days later rose from the dead.
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
ALL have sinned, there is no exception!! But this isn't the end of the story, it goes on!!!
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus".(Romans 3:24)
All have sinned and a few believers will go to heaven! Is that what it says? No, certainly not!
ALL have sinned and ALL are justified freely by His grace!!! That is what the gospel says!!
Need more proof?
"Therefore as by the offence of one (Adam) judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (Jesus Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."(Romans 5:18)
"...., because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe. These things command and teach.(1Tim. 4:10+11)
So ALL people are saved by what Jesus Christ did on the cross in Jerusalem. And there is something special with those who believe. But again: ALL are saved, also granddad and also the elder in the Indian village. Jesus saved everybody who died from Adam until the last one who will die in the future!!
ALL are saved (past tense!!), by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
We ARE saved, there is nothing WE can or have to do to get salvation!
It is done!!! The Lord Jesus Christ did it for us!
Now that we have seen that ALL people are saved from death, we have to look for the time that they will be brought back to life again by God. This is done in 5 events:
Event 1:The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This already happened. "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept."(1 Cor. 15:20)
So Jesus Christ was the first to rise from the dead. Is there a order in the resurrection then?
"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead".(1 Cor.15:21)
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive".(1Cor.15:22)
"But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming. "(1Cor. 15:23)
First the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That has happened in 30 AD, a few days after He died on the cross. When is this "afterwards", when those "who are Christ's at His coming" will be resurrected?
Event 2:The resurrection and rapture of "the body of Christ".
Jesus Christ promised that He would return at a moment that Israel would be back in their land and that it would be a very difficult time for the Jews. That will be the time that He will come back to take those who believe in Him up with Him to heaven (1 Cor.15:51+52).
Event 3: The resurrection of those who died during the tribulation:
After the period of Israel's tribulation, Jesus will return to Earth and fight against the devil and conquer him. Then those who died "in Christ" during this "tribulation" will rise also.
"Then cometh the end when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power".
(1 Cor. 15:24)
When the tribulation of the Jews, mentioned briefly above, will be over and the devil will be bound a thousand years, the Kingdom of Heaven will start on Earth.
After this period the devil will be let loose again for a short while and then Jesus Christ will put an end to all the devil's schemes.
Event 4: All those who are dead at that moment will be resurrected and brought before the Great White Throne.
The Great White Throne will be set and judgment will be made. The devil and his followers will be thrown into the "Lake of Fire" (this is called "The Second Death") and will stay there for the next eon.
After the coming thousand years and the judgment at the White Throne, a new Jerusalem will descend from Heaven and a the last eon, a period of unknown lenght of time, will begin.
Event 5: Those who were in "The Second Death" will be revived because this "Second Death" has no more power over them.
At the end of that last eon, Jesus will defeat the last enemy, the "Second Death", and those who were in that "Second Death" will rise. At that point Christ will have subdued ALL His enemies and will the time have come that He will subdue Himself unto His Father. Then will He hand over His Throne and authority over All to the Father. The Father then will become "ALL IN ALL".
No, this little boy's granddad is not in hell, granddad is dead and will stay that way till he is resurrected at the moment God will say is the right one. Praise be to Him for such a wonderful promise!!
There is so much more to say about this subject. Take for instance the words forever and eternal.
Are they Biblical?
Is someone sent to death forever? Will he or she stay there eternal?