Tag Archives: the final judgmdent

Message for iNeed service 2/28/2010: In the end, Love.

Scripture: John 3:14 (my translation) and 1st Corinthians 15:54-57 (The Voice)

  • When I first got here, teaching Sunday school, explaining the story of Paul and Silas, telling them this happened a long time ago.  Lower elementary kids, asked me, are Paul and Silas dead? It came naturally for me to say that the Bible was written a long time ago, but the kids didn’t know. And then I was asked: What happens when you die? I had to explain to them, not some formula I learned at seminary, but about how God loves us, sent Jesus, and rose him from the dead.
  • if you were asked the average person walking in the street what they think the final judgment will look like, a probable answer would be that when we die, our souls separate from our bodies as we are transported to another world called heaven with some bearded giant guy sitting on his throne all alone, waiting for you and I, with a huge television screen replaying all of our good and evil deeds in front of strangers, our friends and family.
  • Today. Love. Resurrection in the Gospel of John and 1st Corinthians.
  • I have heard, because of the popularity of John 3:16 as well as the appearance of two of the verbs for love in Greek (both agapw and filw respectively) at least thirty-nine times in the fourth Gospel, that John should be called, “the apostle of love.”  And if you ever been to a wedding, you probably more than likely, just like in the movie Wedding Crashers, can expect to hear 1st Corinthians 13. Paul’s love letter to the church in Corinth.
  • Judgment is a power shared by the Father and the Son.   John 5:22 says, “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”  The ability to pronounce judgment on humanity is a gift from God the Father to Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man.
  • Jesus is the Son of Man, and in the Jewish tradition, like in the book of Daniel 7, the Son of Man is a person who lived in heaven, and at the end of the world, he was to come to the earth to judge people at the final resurrection. The Son of Man appears a lot in the Gospel of John.
  • I have translated: “And just as Moses raised up the serpent in the desert, thus it is necessary for the Son of Man to be raised up.”   Traditionally this is interpreted as a foreshadowing of Jesus’s death on the cross, and I agree with that view, but I also believe that just as Moses lifted the serpent up, so did the Father and the Holy Spirit raise Jesus from the dead.
  • we cannot separate the Crucifixion and Resurrection events as part of God’s revelation, God’s love for us.
  • At the end of the world, John insists that the Son of Man will call out to the graves and all of the dead bodies will rise at the sound of his voice (John 5:28).
  • The apostle Paul also talks about the Resurrection. Two chapters after he explains what love is, Paul starts to discuss how God loved Jesus, the Son of God, that he raised him from the dead (1st Corinthians 15: 3-5)  According to the scripture. The First/Old testament if you will, just as there are hints about Jesus’s death, there are also hints of Jesus’s (and our) bodily resurrection.  Take the instance of Jonah; Jonah was in the belly of a whale for 3 days. Know what that means: When an animal is trying to ingest something, there are acids that are released to dissolve whatever was consumed.  According to some scholars, jonah was good as dead, until God freed him from the giant fish.
  • We also have Ezekiel 37, and some say that the story of Issaac may be a resurrection story.
  • Without the resurrection, continues the apostle Paul in verses 16-19, our faith is not worth more than yesterday’s trash.
  • Some Christians today try to say that the God of the New Testament is nicer than the one of the “Old” testament.  That they are not the same.  This is just no true.  In fact, in the Christian tradition, that is a heresy. As I have shown, there is no separating God’s love from God’s judgment.  The resurrection is both a sign of God’s love and judgment.
  • My favorite verses: 1st Corinthians 15:54-57
  • This is such a beautiful passage, but you see the thing is, Paul is quoting the First Testament.  The Prophet Hosea 13:14.  There is only one God, of the Jews and the Christians; the God of the Resurrection.
  • Jesus is not some “ice dancer in an all-white jumpsuit, and doing an interpretive dance of my life.” Or “a mischievous badger” “or “a ninja fighting off evil samurai” or “someone with angel wings, singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd.”   He is the Risen Lord.
  • In the early 19th century, there were a lot of things being said about the historical Jesus. Particularly in Germany, before World War II.  A lot of folks say that the Nazi Germany was godless and I agree, but you see, they did have uniforms with badges that said, “God with us.”  Karl Barth, however, disagreed with these folks years before they came into power.  He said, in his “Letter to the Romans”: ‘The Gospel of the Resurrection is the action, the supreme miracle, by which God, the unknown God dwelling in light unapproachable, the Holy One, Creator, Redeemer makes himself known (Acts 17:23)  No divinity remaining on this side the line of the resurrection; no divinity which dwells in temples made by human hands or which is served by the hands of man; no divinity which needs anything, any human propaganda (Acts 17:24-25),–can be God.  God is the unknown God, and precisely because He is unknown, He bestows life and breath and all things” (35-36).
  • Outside of the Resurrection, there is no God.  There is no life.  God’s Yes to Life is Our No to Sin.
  • A lot of good people claim to believe in God.  In 1831, there were some good people who believed in God, working for Congress, but they forced some 15,000 Native Americans to move from Tennessee to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.  Did these good congressmen believe in the God of Resurrection? Thank God for the few good Christian missionaries who showed these First Nations peoples the love of God.
  • Is the God in the Pledge of Allegiance the God of the Resurrection?  Is the God in “In God We trust” the God of the Resurrection?  When we say “God bless America,” are we talking about the God of the Resurrection? Someday, I hope so.
  • But, as our praise band sang this morning:  There is none like our God.  There is none like our God.
  • The God of the Resurrection.

Hell, it’s better than annihilation.

To be honest, I normally do not waste my time writing on my ideas about the afterlife (since it almost always leads to abstract thinking away from the concrete problems in the world) but Rob’s and Joel’s recent posts have gotten me thinking about the topic of hell.  Also, recently someone at a Bible study was almost laughing at the possible fact that a person of a different religious background was burning in hell.  This was not the first time I had heard of Christians getting all giddy because there are persons condemned to Gehenna (one of the greek terms translated as hell); I do recall there was a five-point Calvinist one time who sent me a facebook message who told me to also rejoice because there were persons in hell because of Christ’s limited atonement.  Just the other day, I heard of a pastor who preached in a sermon that hell is when a person refuses to be part of a community.  It goes to show the reason why Christians steer away from discussing the topic of hell because it is sounds like sadomasochistic and cruel, with the saints in heaven rejoicing (since there will be no more tears in the new creation according to Revelation) as they observe sinners burn in the lake of fire below them.

Eternal torment is currently the least popular doctrine in traditional Christianity.  In fact, a recent survey suggests that 59 percents of Americans believe in hell as opposed to 74% who believe in heaven.  Pope John Paul II, stating the Roman Catholic teaching on the topic in 1999, said that hell was the state of being separated from God.  Many evangelicals got into an uproar because they opposed the idea that eternal damnation is only a “state of mind.”  What they do not realize is that the official Catholic teaching is just not about a “state of mind,” it is a state of the soul after a person dies (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1035).  While I agree that hell can be a state after the soul dies, I disagree with the Apostles Creed and the traditional teaching that says that Jesus descended into hell; Jesus did not descend into hell according to the New Testament witness—he descended into Sheoul, which is a totally different concept than the idea of hell/eternal punishment (1st Peter 4:6).  According to Peter, the Gospel was preached to the dead, the righteous and the unrighteous, even going back as far as Noah’s generation (1st Peter 3:18-22).  This makes Jesus the Messiah’s victory over sin, death, and the Enemy transcendent; Jesus the Messiah’s sacrifice surpasses any concept of time that humans know because his death was not only made relevant for his generation and subsequent generations, but also for all people who lived in the past.  The biblical text suggests that the Good News can be preached to persons even after they leave this world.

I do not believe that Scripture teaches us that we live in a three-tiered world, where there is this place called heaven up there above us and hell right below us.  Three-tiered universes are reserved for people who adhere to dualism, and I am definitely not a fan of dualism because it makes the Enemy out to be an all-powerful, all-knowing rival of God.

Instead, the doctrine of eternal punishment should be examined through the lens of the New Testament author’s testimony and the doctrine of the Resurrection.  The apostle Paul even preached that he had “hope in God—a hope that they [the prophets of the First Testament] themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”  The righteous, according to Paul will receive new imperishable, immortal bodies at the Second Coming (1st Corinthians 15), but he does not say anything of the bodies of the wicked.  All we know is that the unrighteous rise up in their bodies to be judged by the Son of Man.

The lake of fire is not a place, but a metaphor for what John of Patmos calls “the second death”; those who experience the second death are still on Earth, but they experience the presence of God, who will be “all in all,” as death just as the righteous experience God in their bodies as eternal life.  There are some Christians such as Open Theists Clark Pinnock and John Sanders as well as Anglican theologian John Stott who teach the heresy of annihilationism, which is the idea that rather than eternal torment, the wicked will be completely destroyed: spirit, mind, and body.  This god of the annihilation is not the God of the bodily resurrection.  Annihilationism contradicts God’s ultimate aim for the reconciliation for all of creation as well as God’s own ordinance that the human body is good as we see in the Incarnation of God’s very word.  Annihilationists dismiss the hope of the resurrection as well as the hope that the Triune God’s forgiveness and mercy brings.  The wicked still have their subjectivity and body in Hell as they experience God at the new creation; they even have their hands, feet, teeth, and tearducts from their eyes for weeping as Jesus graphically tells us (Matthew 22:13). Jesus bore all the sins of the universe in his body; he was raised from the dead in his body by the Father and Holy Spirit so that he may judge our ancestors, contemporaries, and our descendants.  The same God who tells us that the body is the Holies of Holies of the Living God would not be the god who destroys the bodies his enemies completely.

Finally, what do my thoughts on eternal judgment mean for the here-and-now?  It means that hell can possibly also be experienced here in this world.  Hell is Darfur.  Hell is Iraq.  Hell is an abortion clinic.  Hell is death row.  Hell is Guantanamo Bay.  This understanding also means that like Christ, the Church is given the authority to invade the gates of Hades and death (Matthew 16:18) to proclaim life to dead bodies.  The politics of the cross permits Christians to resist death-dealing forces nonviolently as they preach the Word of the LORD.  It means that the power of the resurrection is possible in any instance or place because God’s Almightiness revealed in the raising of the Messiah supersedes all human notions of time and space; it is God’s eternal power that goes back in time to save even sinners who once had not hope in the past.  Even in hell, there is hope.

And for the record:  I am neither a Calvinist (obviously) or a Universalist.  I do not think that God has predetermined that anyone should go to hell prior to creation nor do I believe that God forces anyone to love God as universalists believe.  People freely choose with their own libertarian free will to either love God or to reject God’s love.  That choice is limited but it is still the choice of the individual person.

Truth and Peace,

Rod