Who's Going to Hell, and for How Long?
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My goal here is not to preach at anyone or discourage or insult anyone's faith, but rather, just to simply ask questions I think most people, if they're honest with themselves, have. I don't claim to know the answers, but I do have my opinions. You are entitled to yours and I respect them. I understand that religious discussions can get heated and I will ask that everyone be respectful and clean. Any rude/insulting, mean or otherwise inappropriate and unhelpful comments will be removed and will possibly be reported to HUBPages in accordance with their Terms of Service.
The sad tales of Abdul, Samuel and Joseph
My name is Abdul. I was born in Tehran. I have fourteen wives and sixty seven children, and I love them all. I have gained great wealth and, while I live comfortably (okay, very comfortably) I have also given large chunks of my wealth to the poor in my country, of which there are many. Like everyone else I know, I believe in the one true god, Allah and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is his final prophet. I pray five times a day and observe all our holidays. I am a son of Abraham. I have memorized the holy scriptures and have absorbed the wisdom of the prophets. I especially admire Jesus, as he is perhaps the greatest prophet next to Muhammad, peace be upon him. I can learn much from the moral teachings of Jesus, but I do not believe the blasphemous teachings of his followers that he is a god. Allah is the one true god.
When I die at age eighty seven, I will go to hell where I will be tortured and separated from God for eternity.
My name is Samuel. I was born in Jerusalem. I have one wife and four children and I honor and love them all. I am poor in material things but rich in love and wisdom. What little I do have, I share with my neighbors and with my synagogue. Like most of the people I know, I believe in Yahweh, the God of Abraham and I am eagerly awaiting the Messiah promised by the prophets in the Torah, which I have memorized. I pray three times a day and honor all of the holy days, especially the Passover, where Merciful Yahweh showed his love by sparing my ancestors. I have absorbed the wisdom of a great Rabbi named Jesus, though I do not believe he was the promised Messiah. My people have been accused of killing him and have been persecuted throughout the world and the centuries since them. I have scoured the Torah and am eagerly anticipating the coming Messiah.
When I die at age seventy four, I will go to hell where I will be tortured and separated from God for eternity.
My name is Joseph. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have one wife and six children, and I am a good provider in both love and material things. One night a week is a dedicated family game and fellowship night. I give ten percent of the first portion of my income to my church, which goes primarily to ministries which help the poor. I am a descendent of Abraham. Like most of the people I know, I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers and that when I die, I will become a God myself. I have daily prayer times and devotions, having many portions of the Book of Mormon and the Bible, which are both equally the Word of God. I am a good neighbor and a good citizen. I am a patriot and I vote in every election. At Christmas time, I offer my services to the local soup kitchen and I spent two years right after high school on a mission in a strange place and shared the love of Jesus, who can forgive every sin except for the shedding of blood. I have never smoked or drank, I don’t use foul language and I have only made love with one woman, my wife. I follow all the commandments of God.
When I die at age eighty nine, I will go to hell where I will be tortured and separated from God for eternity.
The interesting tales of Kyle and Scott
My name is Kyle. I was born in Kansas City, Kansas. I have one wife, but I’ve been married twice before, and I have five kids, by three different women, two of whom were born out of wedlock. I don’t make a lot of money and I’m on the government dime for things like milk and cheese. What little I do have, I spend on guns and alcohol and my two pack a day cigarette habit. Every Sunday, I go to the local Baptist Church where we talk about Jesus. I don’t really pray or read my Bible much, but I believe that Jesus is the son of God and that I am saved by grace and that my works don’t matter because Jesus loves me. I’m pretty selfish and I’m not a big fan of the Christ killing Jews. I spend a lot of time wearing a white robe and burning crosses.
When I die in a bar fight at age fifty six, I will go to Heaven where I will live in peace and prosperity with Jesus for all eternity.
My name is Scott. I was born in Sacramento, California. I am the husband of only one woman and we have two beautiful children. We’re comfortable, never lacking in the things we need, though we occasionally have to go without things we want. I am a descendent of Abraham I am a regular and active attendee of a non-denominational church. I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, and that they are one God with three personalities. I believe that Jesus is the Savior of my soul and, even though I don’t have to do good works to be saved, I choose to do them because I love Him and the please Him. I’m careful to give the church the first ten percent of my income and I pray and have daily devotions with regularity. As a human being, I do bad things sometimes, sometime willfully and sometimes not, but I’m always quick to repent and try not to make a habit of these things.
When I die at seventy one, I will go to Heaven where I will live in peace and prosperity with Jesus for all eternity.
The questions that need to be asked (but maybe not answered)
Do these scenarios bother you like they bother me? A devout muslim, a devout Jew, a devout Mormon; men who love God and their families who, according to the Judeo- Christian church, will die and spend eternity being tortured in hell. An eternity! For a finite period of time on earth for believing in the “wrong” orthodoxy, tortured for eternity? A member of the Ku Klux Klan and a devout Christian, and these men will go to Heaven because they believe in the “right” orthodoxy?
This is how I grew up. In a Christian church where, as Jesus Himself said, the path is narrow that leads to Heaven.
But what does this mean?
I’ve always had questions. I’ve always had doubts and, as I’ve hit my thirties, those doubts have only gotten stronger and the questions more urgent.
Quite frankly, I’m scared.
If what I’ve been taught is true, then the questions I’m asking could border on blasphemy. If what I’ve been taught is true, then my devout Mormon, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, nonreligious and, (gasp!) democrat friends and neighbors are destined to hell for all eternity.
But is this what the Bible teaches? Is this what God teaches? Is this just?
I’ve done a lot of research and prayer on this subject lately and I’m going to spare you most of the theology but I encourage you to do your own research. I have provided source material in this hub, but, here’s a few of my own thoughts.
First, if God is love (1 John 4:8), as he himself claims to be, and if God is omniscient (Psalm 147:5), as He Himself claims He is, and if God and the angels weep when a soul goes to hell, as the Bible claims, then why would God keep creating humans destined for an eternal separation from Him? This doesn’t seem loving or kind. I believe God is loving and kind, but, if I believe that, can I believe that he creates human beings who's destination upon death is an eternity in hell?
This is a complicated question, but, one thing I’ve discovered in my studies is that the word translated as “eternal” in the Bible in reference to hell has been mistranslated. It doesn’t mean unending, but, rather, is much closer to the word for indefinite. God is eternal, but the same word used to describe God as eternal is not the same word used to describe hell as eternal (Rob Bell, Love Wins). There is hope in this.
Second, if God claims that all things are reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:20), as the Bible says and if God is glorified by this restoration, as the Bible claims, are human souls not a part of all things? Is God glorified by souls being tortured and punished, without hope, forever and ever? If these souls are not reconciled to God, how can the Bible make this claim? How do we reconcile the idea of eternal damnation with the idea of God reconciling all things?
These are just two of the most pressing issues on my mind lately. I’m being careful not to simply look for things which tickle my ears, but I do seek the Truth. The old testament speaks very little of an afterlife and many of the references to hell in the New Testament, and many things in the Bible itself, could be metaphoric (after all, Jesus did speak of Hell, and hell was a literal place outside of the city of Jerusalem where trash was burned and the fire never went out). I don’t want to be irreverent of blasphemous and I hope I’m not. It’s certainly not in my heart to be so. I do believe in God as creator and in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I do believe when Jesus said that NO ONE comes to the father except through Him, but I’m not sure about the deadline or the method. Jesus never said “You have to have a personal relationship with me in order to go to Heaven.” Go ahead. That phrase, oft recited in church, is NOWHERE in the Bible. I’m also not sure that the moment before physical death is the last moment one has to “accept Jesus” and avoid damnation. The idea of purgatory intrigues me and seems to be the most just way of handling sin in the afterlife: temporary punishment with a goal of cleansing and repentance and reconciliation to Jesus. Sin has to be punished, but who says it has to be punished eternally?
I’m enjoying this journey and I’m writing this to not only get my thoughts out, but also to open a discussion on this issue, because I believe it’s very important. I obviously hope and pray that there is no hell or eternal punishment, so that's my bias going in. but I'm aware of this bias and the potential pitfalls of it and I'm trying not to allow it to cloud my judgment. I hope, regardless of your beliefs, that you will respect and understand mine. I will seek to do the same with yours and in all things, seek the mind and will of God!
all rights reserved. copyright Justin W Price, 2011