IS THERE EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT? (revised) Aug 11, 2008 19:47:00 GMT -5
Post by tomdurst on Aug 11, 2008 19:47:00 GMT -5
IS THERE EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT?
by Thomas E. Durst
Is there everlasting punishing perpetrated by an angry God upon poor sinners? Will unrepentant sinners burn in a place called "hell" throughout eternity? I would emphatically say NO to both questions, although certain Bible passages taken literally reading of mistranslations contained in most English Bibles would indicate an ever-burning hell for the lost--a total lie! The word "hell" never appears even once in the original languages of either the OT or NT. It isn't within the scope of this article to deal with all of that. However, there is another aspect of "everlasting punishment" that we need to consider. Hear me out.
Sin is defined in various ways by spiritual students and whole books have been written on the topic. For my purposes here I would like to focus on two aspects of sin which to me seem very clear:
1. Sin is self-centered, ego based thinking and living. Some results of such thinking might include hate, revenge, power trips, worship of the body, indifference to the needy and marginalized of society, unforgiveness, materialism, dishonesty, lying, jealousy, witchcraft, immorality, etc. The Bible refers to such as "works of the flesh" in several places often giving specific lists (e.g. Galatians 5:19-21).
2. Sin is anything in our lives which displaces God or takes first place and attention above Him. The first commandment is "You shall not have any gods before Me." Things such as food, certain substances, the pains and pleasures of the body, entertainment and even our own opinions can easily become idolatrous and self-centered if we don't continually watch and pray to make sure that we aren't having any gods in our life but the one True God who is above all, through all, and in all (see Ephesians 4:6).
I could give many, many specific examples of the above two principles and how they can play out in our lives but for now wish to leave that to the reader. My main point is simply:
ANY FORM OF SELF-CENTEREDNESS OR PUTTING ANYTHING IN OUR LIVES AHEAD OF GOD, EVEN IN THE SMALLEST DEGREE, BRINGS ITS OWN PUNISHMENT AND THIS PUNISHMENT IS "EVERLASTING" IN THAT IT DOESN'T CEASE UNTIL THE WRONG THINKING AND BEHAVIOR CEASES. THERE IS NO TRUE FORGIVENESS WITHOUT REFORMATION OF THE LIFE.
Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death and death here broadly interpreted could mean suffering in any form. Even so-called minor irritations or feelings of anger are little forms of death. Every kind of wrong thinking and behavior, everything that occupies a larger place in our lives than God does, brings pain and suffering that goes on endlessly until the thinking and behavior is turned in a Godward direction and there is genuine repentance and a turning of the life around. There is NO escaping the self-punishing results of living apart from God for He IS our life. The punishment goes on and on and on until there is a CHANGE and a turning in a totally different direction. The process of repentance or turning our lives around in a life-affirming direction is a lifelong commitment. As we grow spiritually we become more aware all the time of needed changes in our life and we must have the courage to change.
I firmly believe that the biggest wrong choices we make are to live for the ego and to neglect a personal relationship with the Living God in whom we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). If God is the One in whom our life essentially resides and we fail to live in that Divine Center we are choosing punishment that comes to us as a natural result of our wrong decisions.
Note the words of the Psalmist:
I've had my fill of trouble;
I'm camped on the edge of hell. Psalm 88:3 (The Message)
When we get sick enough of the suffering that goes with self-centered thinking and not putting God first in our lives we'll finally say, "I've had my fill of trouble" and decide to change. We are literally "camped on the edge of hell" and tormented continually by our wrong choices. Enough is enough! The self-punishing and suffering must stop. I am of the belief that there is hope beyond this present life and that the work of purification will continue when we pass on to the next plane of our journey. It seems to me that somewhere either in this life or the next we shall indeed have to face our issues and experience whatever is needed to bring us back to our senses and to the point we bow and confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God (Philippians 2:10-11). I think there are revelations of God's love that will be given that will ultimately burn all of this self-centeredness out of us so that we will no longer desire to be in bondage to it. None of the details of this process is clearly in the Bible so we must each seek the face of God as we seek to understand His mysteries.
I think these words summarize what I'm trying to say better than any I could ever find:
"Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life."--Galatians 6:7, 8 (The Message)
I invite you to read DO WE REALLY HAVE FREE WILL? on the link below for related thoughts:
DO WE REALLY HAVE FREE WILL?