Should we use fear to motivate salvation?


(SeanO) #1

In a discussion on whether or not “hell” is eternal (https://connect.rzim.org/t/is-hell-eternal/), @Jimmy_Sellers posed the question “Should we use fear to motivate salvation?” and suggested we start a new thread - so here it is :slight_smile:

@Jimmy_Sellers Do you want to add any additional details to your question?

What are your guys’ thoughts? Is it appropriate to use fear as a motivator for salvation?


(Tim Behan) #2

Thanks SeanO and Jimmy for bringing this up. Happy to chuck my two cents in to get the ball rolling. Just as a side note… really just loving having this forum for both encouragement and challenge in my own knowledge of the Lord and his Word. Wonderful insights from so many people. Thank you all.

On to the topic at hand, however…

It’s an interesting question. I’d have to qualify the question and assume that you don’t mean “using fear” in the sense of holding a gun to someone’s head and telling them they have to believe or I’ll shoot you or torture you in some way; but that the idea of “using fear” as meaning something like “you should believe otherwise you’re going to hell”.

Because while at one level these can seem similar (i.e. believe or there will be a consequence), there is a significant difference between them. The first is a consequence that we would be imposing on a person, which is not something which we have the right or authority to carry out (“’It is mine to avenge, I will repay’, says the Lord” Rom 12:19, Deut 32:35). Therefore trying to invoke fear of that would not be right.

But the second statement is different, isn’t it? The consequence of the second is not something we’ve made up, but the judgement of the Lord of the Universe. We are not going out of our way to instil or promote fear; but fear would be a natural reaction to the truth of the consequence.

People often quote “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Prov 9:10) and then amend the meaning of it by saying that by “fear”, we only mean “reverence” because maybe they’re uncomfortable with the idea of being afraid. But I respectfully disagree… the Lord is frightening… the more we comprehend of his nature (and our own) the more we should fear his wrath and his character. It is only through understanding the truth of the reality and the consequence of our sin that we will turn to Jesus in hope for salvation, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for convicting us so.

My last point would be that Jesus himself did not shy away from the truth of judgement as a consequence and therefore neither should we. John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

So I think if I had to answer the question I would say… ‘No, fear is not a motivator we should use for salvation. But truth is a motivator we should use; and the truth is sometimes frightening.’

P.S. I have to add, however, that we are called to say the truth, but to say it in love. The truth should not be shied away from at all, but we should always be gracious in the way we speak that truth.


(Jimmy Sellers) #3

I ask this question because if Fudge’s understanding of the Bible is correct and the unbeliever is annihilated (his soul destroyed forever) and there is no conscience eternal punishment then would fear have any sway over a modern-day atheist? As I understand it most atheists would agree first life and then you die, forever. As I thought on that I couldn’t help but ask the same question as it relates to what I have been taught and presently believe that the consuming fire is an eternal fire made for the unbeliever to spend eternity with a conscience awareness, in short punishment.

In my understanding the fear of Hell does represent the consequence of unbelief and could motivate me to consider salvation but in Fudge’s understanding the consequence is eternal death, this just doesn’t carry the same weight as eternal punishment.

In my limited understanding of the 1st century church I just don’t see people worried about being saved as we understand it today. Those that did respond to the resurrection did so because they had an eye towards the end, the eschaton. I don’t believe it was the fear of eternal punishment but the fear of not being part of the “elect” if you will, left out of those who would be participants in God’s great rescue of his people and his creation.
I have often thought about this and the Fudge on Hell video just added fuel to the fire.:grinning:


(SeanO) #4

@Jimmy_Sellers Just to be clear, in Fudge’s view there is punishment, but after the proper amount of punishment (whatever form that takes) the sinner is consumed.

So it is not that there is 0 punishment, but rather that the punishment is equal to the crime. Someone with Fudge’s view would not agree with the statement that ‘a sin against a holy God requires eternal punishment’ - pointing to God’s mercy on all people in general and on the saints in particular to ask this question in response - “Why would a merciful God be required to exact full vengeance even if the proper punishment were eternal? God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked”

He would probably also point out that even in the OT - there is not a single place where God tortures anyone. However, God does consume with fire Sodom, Achan’s entire family, Aaron’s sons who offered strange fire, etc. There is really no precedent for God torturing anyone in Scripture.

Does this change your view of the position at all?


(Jimmy Sellers) #5

My thoughts on annihilation are just that, annihilation, and no matter the pain and suffering that in endured up until that moment it is still a final irreversible act of God. (That might be an oxymoron) The point that I was making is that is it for all practical purposes the view of a modern day atheist and he might say on this we agree.
If I had to make a decision today I would pick door #1 but I have not read the book yet.


(SeanO) #6

@Jimmy_Sellers I’ll be curious to hear what you think once you read the book. In all honesty, I never heard the arguments for annihilation in in Church (though I did maybe once in seminary), but from an exegetical standpoint I personally feel they are much stronger. From the perspective of “What does the Bible really say or not say?” I think the argument for torment is sorely lacking in evidence or that the evidence is tenuous.

I like to embrace N. T. Wright’s version of ‘critical realism’, in which you believe truth is attainable, but you are also always open to new evidence. So I will be curious to hear your opinion!


(David Roeder) #7

2 Cor 5:11-12
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Salvation has a past, present and future tense. I think we must be “knowing the fear of the Lord” in any evangelistic context, even if we choose not to apply it as leverage. Compassion should be motivating us to share the gospel with the lost, who are bound for hell.
Likewise, we disciple/counsel professing believers who are disobedient or unfruitful “knowing the fear of the Lord.”
Knowing future judgement motivates US, not those we speak with. Eternal hell awaits those who have not called upon the name of the Lord. Loss of rewards await those believers who disobey and don’t bear fruit as they could/should.


(SeanO) #8

@kardiaccny When you say that we should “persuade others” - what does that look like for you? What are some good examples of godly persuasion?


(Anthony Costello ) #9

Interesting discussion on Hell, Annihilationism, and the Human Soul. Just a few quick points regarding each and whether or not “fear” can be a motivator for repentance.

  1. With regards to Annihilationism, I think that the view is defensible, both from Scripture and from church tradition (Athanasius seems to have held something like annihilationism), but ultimately I think the stronger evidence, from both scripture and church tradition, points towards eternal torment. Thus, I tend to hold to eternal torment unless better evidence or arguments are produced. At the same time, I agree with Sean that there seems to be little to no evidence for hell or eternal torment in the OT. However, there is little to no evidence for any kind of post-mortem existence in the OT anyway (except for maybe 1 Sam 28 and David’s lament).

  2. with regards to eternal torment, I think there are two things to consider. One is, if we have a robust metaphysics, it may be that the existence of a human soul is somehow objectively better than its annihilation (i.e. its non-existence), and this even if that soul is corrupt, evil and beyond hope for redemption. Certainly this is a very Leibnizian way of looking at “goodness,” and I admit it seems counter-intuitive that God would allow any evil at all to persist, especially after the 2nd coming and the consummation of the new Creation. Still I think that one could reasonably hold this to be true, if one believes that human souls are simply part of the greater overall good of God’s creation.

Second, is how we tend to think of that corrupted and damnable soul now versus how we might think or perceive of that same soul in the eschaton. Now, this side of eternity, I tend to imagine the most innocent and kind and gentle people when I imagine souls being tormented in hell apart from God. I don’t know why I imagine it this way, but I do. A very reasonable subsequent thought then is that God must be unjust for punishing such nice people! It must be God’s fault.

That said, I’ve often thought back to my art history days and the medieval paintings of all those poor, naked, helpless looking men and women being ushered into the underworld with pikes and pitchforks by horned demons and beastly devils. Those poor, stick-figure people! However, perhaps we cannot really perceive the true quality of the human soul as it actually is, at least not in this life. I think that the parable of the wheat and the tares makes this clear. Therefore, I came to think that perhaps the reality of a human soul on its way to hell might look representationally more like Ivan Albright’s painting of Dorian Gray. When I look at that painting (and I have seen this 10-foot monstrosity in person at the Art Institute in Chicago), which was made for the TV movie ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ it gives me a far more acute sense of what an “unmasked” human soul may indeed look like, or simply be like. This is not an argument for sure, but just a psychological impression of what the actual nature of sin might ultimately do to an actual free human agent. With this image in mind, somehow eternal torment no longer seems so untenable to me. Of course, there is also Lewis’ view of hell as found in “The Great Divorce” which is not nearly as visceral, but certainly as horrible to consider. Also, regarding Lewis’ image of hell, there is nothing to say that the souls in hell won’t continue to progress in a direction away from God. That they won’t progress in unholiness as the saints progress in holiness and Christ-likeness. Finally, I’ve also imagined hell as the sinner simply getting everything they’ve always wanted here on earth (sex, power, all kinds of physical and sensual pleasure), but that for eternity! That to my mind would also be hell.

  1. With regards to using fear to motivate the unrepentant, I would modify the question a bit. I think belief in hell has to precede fear of it. If one thinks hell is but a fairly tale, then I doubt there can be any real sense of fear. Now, this might depend on your audience, since it will be primarily atheists who don’t believe that hell actually exists. Muslims, or other theists might believe in hell and may be (or likely already are) motivated by fear. What I do think is necessary, however, is some conviction of one’s own actual sins. How do we lead people into a place where they realize they are not as “good” as they thought they were? This is not inducing fear per se, but it is getting people to look deeply into their own soul and see the damage they have caused. I cannot say that I know how to do this very well, but I think that conviction of one’s own, personal sins, has to be a necessary condition for true faith. Ultimately that conviction occurs through the Holy Spirit, but is there something that could be communicated to the non-believer to induce serious reflection on their own failures and their own evils?

(David Roeder) #10

Great question that we need to answer, and I do mean we, because I want help from here. I would say removing the clutter that surrounds the cross of Christ, tossed there by people’s blinded hearts, past hurts, and trusted educators. Paul talks about us being living epistles, read by all men. He also talks about catching men for Christ with “guile.” So I think genuine compassion for the people we meet, ability to listen well to their worldview, and a certain winsomeness that lowers their defenses or defensiveness towards the gospel. The Core Module was fantastic at helping see this as a necessity in my evangelism.
OK forum, kick in here :slight_smile:


(SeanO) #11

@anthony.costello Very thorough reply - I doubt I have time to do it justice as I type away here late at night, but I’ll give it a go.

Regarding (1), I actually believe that even in the New Testament the evidence for annihilation is better than for eternal torment. Some of Jesus’ statements about worms and fire are quotes from Isaiah or other OT passages that reference death and not torment. And if we look at Jude 1:7, Sodom is said to have burned with ‘eternal fire’ - but obviously the fire is not still burning - so eternal can be used to mean ‘final’. Revelation is the only book that mentions anyone being tormented ‘day and night forever and ever’, but Revelation is an Apocalypse and therefore employs much imagery that is not literal. For example, Revelation says that ‘death itself’ is thrown into the lake of fire - but death is not a thing - it cannot be thrown anywhere - it is a concept.

Regarding (2), I have a challenge for you - provide a Bible verse that suggest that our soul is inherently immortal. My personal opinion is that the soul is immaterial, but not inherently immortal. I think that the immortality of the soul and, in some ways, the necessity of it being immaterial were products of Neo-Platinism and Augustine’s influence on the Church (before coming to Christ and after, he relied on Greco-Roman philosophy and reasoning in certain areas).

Regarding (3), I think this is a common mistake - that because God’s judgment does not last forever it is not terrifying. The Israelites were terrified when God judged them through the Assyrians and Babylonians - or think of the Flood - all leading to death - not torment. But I would say that God’s judgment is terrifying. Annihilationist do not deny that those who reject God will be judged and perhaps punished in some way for their actions - they simply deny that the punishment goes on forever and ever.

I grew up with ‘The Great Divorce’ and Lewis’ view of the afterlife. Tim Keller seems to adopt a similar view.

Here is another question related to Lewis’ view and your comments regarding the corruptness of the soul - Lewis describes Hell as a place that grows smaller and smaller - in fact it is a tiny hole - whereas Heaven the whole of reality - mountains and trees and grass and sun and sky and God Himself.

If you accept Lewis’ view and that Hell is eternal, do you think it is possible sinners might choose to come to Heaven? In ‘The Great Divorce’, they all make excuses of one kind or another. But if we are going to assume immortality - which is a very, very, very long time - do you think the sinner may eventually truly repent?

I recommend perusing the following resources to understand the cogent arguments regarding views of Hell (I said this on the other thread, but will say it again - I really like Steve Gregg’s treatment of the subject):


(Anthony Costello ) #12

@SeanO

Sean, first let me just say how appreciative I am to have this discussion with you. It looks like you and I are getting into several good conversations and it is a real joy to dig into these issues with you. God bless you for your service to the Church! Let me take each of your counter-points in order for the sake of sharpening our positions. At the same time I respond to your contentions, let me reiterate that I do think annihilationism, while more likely false than true, is at least a defensible position for a Christian to hold.

  1. It just so happens that I am going through Robert Gundry’s Commentary on Mark, and while I am still only in Chapter 1, I went ahead a looked at his exegesis of Mk 9:38-42. Before I give you a quick summary of Gundry’s exegesis (which supports the view that Jesus is speaking of eternal torment) let me say up front that when it comes to making decisions epistemically there is always the sense that if we ourselves are not experts in a given field (e.g. NT exegesis) then we have to, at some point, appeal to someone who is an expert. I think there is a time and place where an appeal to authority is not necessarily the fallacy that everyone makes it out to be. Since I’ve only had three semesters of Greek, and the final semester was just getting into exegesis proper, I have to go to an expert like Gundry for the deeper analysis.That said, with all due respect to Steve Gregg, who is a faithful bible teacher for sure, I do not see Gregg at the same level of expert authority as someone like Gundry, who is considered one of the foremost NT scholars in the evangelical world, and whose commentary on Mark is considered magisterial (see D.A. Carson’s list in “Survey of NT Commentaries”)

Hence, Gundry states (cf. 512-514 vol. 2) that “By implication Jesus is warning of eternal judgment…the certainty of eternal judgment for causing a stumbling [to the aforementioned child] balances the certainty of eternal life for offering hospitality (i.e. giving a cup of water in token of believing the gospel) so as to provide a twofold reason to stop forbidding the independent exorcist [cf. vv. 38-39]” Further, regarding the Isaiah reference, which he points out is from LXX[A) Isaiah 66:24, “The maggots that constantly feed on garbage in the Valley of Hinnom (=Gehenna) and the fires that constantly burn there stand for _the eternal torment of sinners” (Gundry 514).

So, it is hard to quote the commentary directly since it has so many notes interspersed in the text, but my point is 1) that if I read the text plainly, without any scholarly helps, the perspicuous reading that I think most lay readers would come away with is that Jesus is condemning the wicked to an eternal torment, not a temporary torment and then annihilation. 2) Further, if I have additional evidence that most (not all, see my previous comment about Athanasius) theologians and exegetes in the history of the church have held to an eternal torment, then I think the burden of proof is on the annihilationist, not the proponent of the eternal torment view, to overturn the traditional view. 3) Finally, if I have contemporary, expert authorities like Gundry, who also say that this is the best reading of Mark, then I think I have good epistemic grounds for retaining the traditional view (even if it might, de facto, be false). Does this make sense? Of course, please look at Gundry’s exegesis yourself, since it is far more thorough than I can recreate here.

With regards to Revelation, yes, I agree that Revelation is laden with symbolic language. But we also have to remember that every metaphor refers to an actual object or state of affairs. The metaphors in Revelation, in my opinion, seem to refer to an eternal state affairs, both for the damned and for the righteous. Thus, I don’t see this as a very strong objection.

  1. Briefly. I don’t feel that I must produce a verse that demonstrates the immortality of the soul in order to believe that the soul is immortal (or, better said, that God preserves souls in existence for eternity future). It could be that the Bible is just silent on the issue. The Bible is silent on a whole host of issues, so I find it acceptable for someone through both the use of reason and the study of nature to come to conclusions about human nature that, so long as they are compatible with what is presented in Scripture, may not be explicitly endorsed or demonstrated in Scripture. Thus, I might argue that the soul is immortal on other grounds (perhaps Plato was right on this issue), and I don’t think that contradicts anything in Scripture. Please note, I am not saying that the immortality of the soul is independent of God’s will. I think the argument here then is a modified Platonism in that God wills the soul to be immortal, not that the soul is somehow immortal apart from God’s willing it. To hold a view like this is, I think, not contradictory to anything in scripture. Thus I can say that I hold to “sola Scriptura” but not “solo Scriptura.” I think, for example, that one can be a faithful Protestant, yet also hold to much of what Aquinas taught, even thought Aquinas clearly drew from Aristotle (in fact, his whole theological project was the synthesis of Scripture with Aristotle). Certainly Evangelicals like Norm Geisler have held this view (even if Francis Schaeffer did not).

  2. I wonder what use it is for God to punish a soul for a long, finite period of time ONLY for the sake of then destroying it. That seems almost crueler than just destroying the soul immediately.

I don’t see why thinking an eternal Hell would imply that the damned would repent. If we assume a robust, libertarian free agency, then I would say it would be hard to see a damned soul repenting out of love for Christ, as opposed to just wanting to be out of hell. This seems to be the prima facie lesson of Luke 16:19-31. Also, it is hard to say what qualitatively what eternity will be like or how we will experience it. Barth seemed to think that eternity will be a limited number of experiences (actually the reliving of all of our actual, earthly experiences), but with an ever deepening richness and awareness of “the moment.” I’m not saying I believe that, but I think speculation about temporal succession in the eschaton is highly speculative.

Blessings brother,
Tony


(SeanO) #13

@anthony.costello Very good thoughts! I enjoy these types of conversations very much, so thank you for partaking. The Scriptures are truly beautiful!

(1) I do not think appealing to authority solves this issue because very intelligent people are on both sides of the fence. John Stott, a brilliant man and leader, was annihilationist. J. I. Packer, whose book on finding God’s will helped me a lot, holds eternal torment.

In addition, I never listen to experts who cannot explain to me ‘why’ or ‘how come’ their view is correct in words that I can understand. That means that either (a) they do not understand it themselves or (b) they do not have a good reason. Experts can be biased just as easily as the rest of us.

That said, the argument you listed from Gundry is quite common - that the juxtaposition of eternal torment / eternal life must mean that if the eternal life is eternal, so is the torment. I respect this argument as being one of the better arguments for the position of eternal torment. However, notable scholars have recognized that aionios can mean ‘of the age’ and the NT often refers to ‘the age to come’ - so that these phrases could mean ‘life of the age to come’ or ‘punishment of the age to come’.

Again - see Jude 1:7 for a case where ‘eternal fire’, if taken in context, would most naturally not be eternal. Of course there is an alternate interpretation, so I am not suggesting this is a nail in the coffin type argument for eternal torment - simply that it is worth marinating over.

(2) Regarding Revelation, what I feel is important is that historically, in the Church, there are 4 main interpretations. The futurist, preterist, historicist and allegorical. Out of those 4, only a subset strongly support that these verses point to eternal torment. So my point is simply that other views are possible - again, not a nail in the coffin for any position in my opinion.

(3) Very well put! I think your point about ‘sola’ vs ‘solo’ Scriptura is very helpful. My only comment would be that if it is not rooted in Scripture, it is not something that should be used as strong support for eternal torment in my opinion.

(4) I think the use of the word ‘cruel’ in reference to God’s judgment is begging the question. If God’s justice is truly just - then whatever punishment He met out before destroying them would not be cruel. The annihilationist is not arguing their position simply because they think all punishment is cruel - rather because they think annihilation is Biblical. In addition, eternal torment is easily the most cruel of all of the views if any of them are to be considered cruel (though I understand, as I said before, if God is just then His punishment is not cruelty).

(5) I actually don’t think people will repent posthumously either - but I was curious on your position. ‘It is appointed once for men to die and then the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27). However, I think there is much about the afterlife the Bible simply does not address. As you said, speculation about the eschaton is ‘highly speculative’.

The main thrust of my position is not that annihilation is necessarily correct, but that it has at least as much Biblical weight as eternal torment and it is worth doing a deep dive into the Bible to understand both positions before selecting one.

Your Brother in Christ,
Sean


(Anthony Costello ) #14

@SeanO

Sean, great responses. Thank you. This will probably be my last entry on this topic, since I think we both agree that each view is at least defensible from an orthodox and biblically-centered Christian worldview. I am aware that Stott, and I believe also Swinburne, hold to annihilationism. In fact, since the late 19th century I think the view has increased in popularity. My only point in pointing to Gundry, was that his commentary adds to the my evidentiary basis for retaining my view. I agree that if this issue motivated me more, I would have to look at Stott, Swinburne and others’ arguments. I would, however, disagree with your assessment when you say that “you never listen to experts who cannot explain to me ‘why’ or ‘how come’ their view is correct in words I cannot [sic] understand.” That seems to me a bit (excuse my language here) naive in that it would commit a sort of genetic fallacy. Just because someone uses technical language that, at first, a layperson may not readily grasp, that does not mean that the argument is false. Perhaps the scholar is a bad communicator, but that has no bearing on the validity of the argument. Moreover, I think that while Gundry’s commentary is technical, I don’t think that he doesn’t understand his own argument or that the argument is unclear. Finally, I would reiterate my point that the most likely, pre-scholarly reading of the Markan passage would be the eternal torment view. In other words, the lay reader, I believe, more likely than not will interpret Jesus’ words here as meaning eternal torment and not annihilation. Thus, Gundry’s position actually supports what I think is the pre-theoretical reading of the average Christian.

All else equal, I think we can agree that we are at a sort of stalemate here. Also, I concede on point (4); my feeling that annihilation after finite torment is cruel is irrelevant. Good point.

Thanks brother,
Tony


(Elizabeth C) #15

Hi! I’m new here, but I noticed the passage in Luke mentioned early on didn’t get talked about a lot. How does the position of annihilationism address it? (I attached it below for reference.)

Luke 16:19-31
[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. [25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. [27] Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: [28] For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [29] Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. [31] And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Thanks!
Elizabeth


(SeanO) #16

@anthony.costello Thank you for partaking in honest dialogue!

I agree, as a computer engineer who is pursuing a PhD, that there are certainly concepts that the layperson cannot understand due to valid technical jargon and years of training. So we should not dismiss arguments simply because they are complex - rather, we should take the time to understand them more fully.

Since you do not desire to partake further, you may have the last word on the passage in Mark. Perhaps we will get a chance to discuss this over coffee one day :slight_smile:

In Christ,
Sean


(Anthony Costello ) #17

@SeanO

I look forward to the day when we have that coffee! I don’t know if you have already or will be attending the EAP training. I will be there this June, so if you are also going, let me know.

I think I will sign off with regard to this topic. I have some other, for me more pressing, topics that I would like to address. That is not to say I haven’t enjoyed this particular discussion tremendously. I look forward to our next round on a different issue.

Bless you,
Tony


(SeanO) #18

@LizMath Hey Elizabeth, great question!

This word ‘hell’ in Luke 16 is actually the Greek word ‘Hades’. For the Jews and pagans who lived in Jesus’ time, Hades was a place where people went right after they died - both good and bad people. In the Old Testament the word ‘Sheol’, which in some English Bibles is also translated ‘hell’, conveys the same idea - the abode of the dead - the grave.

Here is where Hades fits into the timeline of events in history according to Douglas Jacoby:

Death -> Hades -> 2nd Coming -> Resurrection -> Final Judgment ->

So, Hades is an in between place before Jesus’ second coming - a precursor to the day when Christ judges the world - a temporary holding cell or abode (notice Abraham’s Bosom).

As a result of this fact, even if we believe Jesus is telling a true story, this parable does not necessarily address the question of whether or not the lost suffer eternally.

Here is an article making the case for this parable being about our intermediate state before final judgment:

Now we reach the second point - was Jesus telling a true story or was He adapting a commonly used story of a reversal in fortune?

Arguments for the story being true include that Lazarus has a name and that Jesus does not clearly indicate that it is a parable. But the NIV Bible Background Commentary points out that there are two similar stories from the ancient world at least - the story of Bar Ma’jan from the Jerusalem Talmud and an Egyptian story called Setme.

In Setme, a rich man and poor man are buried. The rich man’s reincarnated son says it would be better if his afterlife were like that of the poor man. The son then shows Setme the afterlife, where he suffers terrible torment and the poor man is blessed.

But I think Bar Ma’jan is much more telling. It is the story of a rich tax collector and a poor teacher of the law. You see where this is going - the poor teacher of the law’s death is not celebrated in this life yet his afterlife is blessed. The tax collector suffers in the afterlife.

Now - imagine you are a Pharisee and you know the story of Bar Ma’jan. Who are you in that parable? You are the good guy. The tax collector is the bad guy.

But Jesus tells you a story similar to Bar Ma’jan - but you are not the good guy. You are the rich guy. A teacher of the law clothed like one of the wealthy men they have condemned in other stories / parables (Bar Ma’jan) (tax collector) who has neglected the poor at his gate.

Do you see how even though the story may not be true - Jesus could have used it to ram home a massive point to his audience - the Pharisees?

Hope that was helpful. What are your thoughts? Any follow up questions?


(SeanO) #19

@anthony.costello Too bad I can’t be there - I would have enjoyed getting to hear your message! Yes - may the Lord provide many more fruitful discussions.


(Elizabeth C) #20

While this argument makes sense, it still feels like the evidence is not contradicting either view. If Jesus was making an alliteration to this story (which makes perfect sense, the Bible is always relevant to the real world and to things we know well), that doesn’t address the multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments where hell is referred to as eternal punishment (while annihilation, from my understanding of this thread, indicates an ending of the life of the soul) and an unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43, 45). If annihilationism is a correct stance, then why so often in the Bible is punishment always eternal and equated with fire that never ends?

Note: As to the second article, when they say it’s not about final punishment, I’m not entire sure what “it” is (Hades maybe?). Regardless, the Bible seems to make it clear that once you die that’s it. If Christians were in paradise, then after Jesus’ second coming we go to heaven, some place infinitely more amazing. If unbelievers are in the depths of hell (Hades, in this sense I guess), then the lake of fire could only be of equivalent or worse eternal punishment, right?