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The Hell Debate

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Liberty University

The Hell Debate

A RESEARCH PAPER SUBMITTED TO

Dr. Marshall Wicks

IN COMPLETION OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR

Fundamental Theological Issues

BY

Ritchie Moore

SCHOOL’S LOCATION: Lynchburg, Virginia

August 9, 2011

This paper definitely has an interesting topic, the nature of Hell. In the next couple of pages I’m hoping to explain why I believe there is a hell and what that entails, with a little help from some other documentation and beliefs.
Growing up I think everyone has their own perspective of that place. Christians unquestionably think about hell a lot differently than unbelievers. One of the biggest point is that there are some people that use hell as a swear word. I imagine Christians would consider hell to be something more than just a bad word, it could be the worst place that a person could ever go after they die. As everyone knows our beliefs are part of the good news of God. God wants us to love him freely, He loves us and wants to be loved in return. Love cannot be forced, it has to be given freely and hell represents the possibility of saying no to God finally. Hell is not God’s choice as much as it is ours. Hell is more about refusing life than suffering punishment, because God loves us even in his judging of us.[1] It has been said that hell is a spiritual and material furnace of fire where its victims are delicately tortured in their minds and in their bodies, by God, the devils, and damned humans including themselves. Harsh as it may seem, traditionalists see any challenge to this position as diminishing the glory of the divine judgment, taking away from the dignity of our immortality, and making hell less of a punishment than it actually is.
Several critics to the traditional views to hell have come up with questions about the beliefs and were trying to abolish that belief. However, they did not have answers to the rebuttal from the traditionalist when they asked how can you explain what Matthew 25:46 is talking about. Matthew 25:46 says: And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.[2] The conditionalist respond by saying the text does not define eternal, and it could be rendered qualitatively rather than quantitatively. I believe there will always be debates on hell and the word eternal. Some traditionalists say that Luke 16:19-31, which says, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then 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.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”[3] teaches that the lost will endure eternal torment. However, condition lists point out that Jesus’ parable pertains to the intermediate rather than the final state.
I think there are five important phrases when talking about the hell debate. The first would be the eternal conscious physical and spiritual torment. Meaning, the damned in hell will suffer in body and soul forever.[4] Second would be eternal conscious spiritual torment. Meaning, the unsaved will suffer spiritual or psychological torment rather than physical torment.[5] Third is eternal separation from God. Meaning, this loss specific way of talking about hell is relational, stressing the terrible fate of never-ending loss of communion with God.[6] Fourth is the conditional immortality. Meaning, souls are not inherently immortal, but persons are granted immortality by God when they are justified. In contrast, the unsaved do not receive the gift of immortality and ultimately will cease to exist.[7] The final phrase is Annihilationism. Meaning, Evangelicals who propound annihilationism usually do so from a conditionalist foundation. Consequently, the nature of hell uses the term conditionalism to denote belief in both conditional immortality and the ultimate annihilation of the lost.
There is another debate brewing when it comes to hell. It is the, is hell never, forever or just for a while? That question brings up a few questions that need to be answers or pondered prior to this discussion. First are unbelievers destined for an eternity of mindful torment in a real place that the Bible refers to as the lake of fire or Gehenna (commonly called Hell)? Or, are unbelievers put out of both material and spiritual existence, or, do all humans eventually receive the grace of God's salvation, although for many after a time of purgatorial purification?[8] Most theologians believe that unsaved people will be judged by God and be committed to eternal punishment in hell.
The nature of hell is like every other biblical truth, it rest wholly on the authority of God revealing it. God told them most graphically about Hell and repeated His assertion three times. It was a place of punishment; of fire; everlasting. The same truth He strikingly brought out in the parable of Dives and Lazarus.[9] There should be no debate in this subject but it is unfortunately human nature to question things. However, when it comes to things that God has told us and explained several times we should not question. I read in an article somewhere that they made a good point, it said, If hell is not a reality how are we to understand the sentence of those at His left on judgment day? They will be separated from Him and will be cursed of God. We can defend, we can explain and we can point out in the Bible where it speaks about hell at least fifteen times what hell is and how it can be. However, unless others have some sort of belief they will never believe and always question its existence.
There are a couple views on how long a person will be condemned to hell. The traditional view believes that the person who winds up in hell is doomed to a never-ending existence of excruciating pain and suffering. It is a place of no escape and no hope. Many traditionalists believe that hell must be eternal because of the nature of sin itself. All sin is an offense against God, goes this argument, and since God is infinite, all sin is infinitely horrible. Several people have difficulties with this view. The concept of eternal torment seems to convert the true God of justice into a cosmic sadist. Another example is God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire, suddenly and quickly. He destroyed Noah’s evil world with water, suddenly and quickly. In the Law of Moses there was no provision for incarceration or torture. Even sacrificial animals were spared suffering through precise prescriptions for their killing that guaranteed a death that would be as quick and painless as possible. Another reason some have a problem with traditional views is that it seems to ignore an important Biblical teaching about hell, that it is a place of destruction. The traditionalist view of irreparable loss seems to be a stretch, when it is said as destroy or destruction. Many traditionalist believe that the soul is immortal. However, the Bible denies the immortality of the soul completely. As 1 Timothy 6:15-16 says God is the only one that has immortality. Also talking about immortality 1 Corinthians 15:53 says that mortal will not become immortal until the time of their resurrection. Basically I’m saying immortality is a gift from God and He gives it to the redeemed at the time of their resurrection, and with that said there would be no reason to believe in an eternal hell if the soul is not essentially immortal. There are a couple more issues that some people have with the traditional view, it basically just doesn’t follow the Bible when it comes to understanding the nature of hell.
Another point of view, called the conditionalist, says that immortality is conditional, depending upon one’s acceptance of Christ.[10] I believe the Bible teaches the unrighteous will be resurrected, judged, punished in hell for a period of time proportional to their sins and then suffer destruction, which is basically the death of body and soul. The conditionalist viewpoint can be traced back to Bible times. For example, it can be found in the writings of Justin Martyr. In his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Martyr states that the soul is mortal, that the souls of the unrighteous will suffer only as long as God wills, and that finally their souls will pass out of existence.[11] No matter how much people want to ignore this, hell is a reality and it is a dreadful destiny. Hell exists because God cannot be mocked, for as Galatians 6:7 says, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.[12] Also as John 3:36 says, He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.[13] Some argue that everyone will be saved. Most take the position that the unrighteous are annihilated at physical death.
For another perspective on the nature of hell, the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that since there is no afterlife immediately following death, it is impossible for one to experience either blessing or torment in Hades. Eternal nonexistence is the eventuality of those who are cast into Gehenna, or the lake of fire.[14] Of course I do not believe this point of view, however, I thought to have most if not all views of this subject represented I needed to add this in. There are several viewpoints about hell and all might have their good points as to why their beliefs are correct or should be listened to. However, my belief is that hell is a place that needs to be avoided at all costs and that hell is an unimaginably terrifying place. You should do all you can to make sure hell is not your final home.
Ultimately your eternal destiny is in your hands. You can choose eternal life by receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Or, you can choose eternal destruction by refusing to accept God’s gift of love and grace. A good way to put this is from Deuteronomy 30:15-19, which says, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.[15]
Talking about the nature of hell, I know that a lot of people complain about what is going on in the world right now with everything. You could honestly take the thought about hell and what it represents and apply that to today’s world. There are a lot of places where it is impossible to believe that God would let this happen. There are wars happening overseas, there is fighting amongst governments and drug cartels, there are things such as families that are homeless and have no food and there are other unspeakable things that happen in this world. I know that not all of us live in a horrible world. A lot of us can live in our little bubble and think that nothing is going on. Honestly, I don’t even watch the news anymore because all you hear about is the negative things that are happening. You never hear about the positive or uplifting things that people are doing to make this world a better place. I would assume that the people that live in the situations that I mentioned earlier would probably agree that they are living in hell a on earth. We have an all powerful loving God, unfortunately we have some really horrific people out there and I know that they will be judged accordingly. It’s just very sad that there are innocent people that are suffering in this world because of them. I realize the best thing we can do for the people in those positions is to pray for them.
If you either didn’t believe in hell or were kind of on the fence a little, I’m hoping that I might have shed some light on the why you should believe that there is a hell. I have faith that as long as we live a life as put forth for us by God that we will not be going to hell. I believe that it is our job to make sure that our friends and family believe in this also and do not end up having hell as their final destination.

Bibliography

Blanchard, John, and Donald Carson. "The Nature of Hell." Christianity Today, 2000.
Brow, Robert, and Earle Ellis. "The Nature of Hell." Christianity Today, 2000.
Harmon, Kendall, Peter Head, and Alec Motyer. "The Nature of Hell." Christianity Today, 2000.
Harris, Murray, and Anthony Hoekema. "The Nature of Hell." Christianity Today, 2000.
Lonergan, William I. "Hell -- Fact or Fiction." America, 1996: 36-37.
Lucado, Max. The Inspirational Study Bible. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Word Publishing, 1995.
Mayhue, R.L. "Hell: Never, Forever, or Just for Awhile." Master's Seminary Journal, 1998: 129-145.
Pinnock, Clark H. "The Nature of Hell." Ex auditu, 2004: 47-59.
Quick, Kevin. Reasoning with Jehovah's Witness. www.kevinquick.com/kkministries/books/reasoing/hell.html.
Reagan, David. "The Nature of Hell: An eternal punishment or eternal torment?" Lamb and Lion, 1996.

-----------------------
[1] (Pinnock 2004)
[2] (Lucado 1995)
[3] (Lucado 1995)
[4] (Blanchard and Carson 2000)
[5] (Harris and Hoekema 2000)
[6] (Harmon, Head and Motyer 2000)
[7] (Brow and Ellis 2000)
[8] (Mayhue 1998)
[9] (Lonergan 1996)
[10] (Reagan 1996)
[11] (Reagan 1996)
[12] (Lucado 1995)
[13] (Lucado 1995)
[14] (Quick n.d.)
[15] (Lucado 1995)…...

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Debate

...Speaking alternates between the two sides and the order of the debate is therefore: 1. Prime Minister 2. Leader of the Opposition 3. Deputy Prime Minister 4. Deputy Leader of the Opposition 5. Member for the Government 6. Member for the Opposition 7. Government Whip 8. Opposition Whip ------------------------------------------------- [edit]Roles As British Parliamentary debates take place between four teams their roles are split into two categories, those for the Opening factions, and those for the Closing factions. [edit]Opening factions The first faction on each Government and Opposition team, known as the Opening Factions, has four basic roles in a British Parliamentary debate. They must: * Define the motion of the debate. * Present their case. * Respond to arguments of the opposing first faction. * Maintain their relevance during the debate. The Opening Government team has the semi-divine right of definition, preventing the opposition from challenging their definition of the motion unless it is either a truism or clearly unreasonable. [edit]Closing factions The role of the second two factions are to: * Introduce a case extension. * Establish and maintain their relevance early in the debate. * Respond to the arguments of the first factions. * Respond to the case extension of the opposing second faction. In addition, the final two speakers of the debate (known as the Whips) take a similar role to the......

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