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jesus and hell (part 3): matthew 13:42 in context

Michelangelo's "Last Judgement," the Sistine Chapel. Influenced in part by Dante's "Inferno."

In the last two posts we have looked at the apparent teaching on Hell in a number of verses in Matthew, in particular 13:42:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Part 1 looked at the language of weeping and gnashing of teeth. I concluded that weeping and gnashing of teeth were not related to afterlife, but rather represented mourning and anger/violence in a very “earthly” sense. Such actions were in fact responses by people to God’s judgement of them.

Part 2 looked at the language of the blazing furnace, and also of the outer darkness. My conclusion was that the burning furnace also has nothing to do with afterlife, but rather with God’s judgement of the rich and mighty on earth for their injustice, namely death. Concordantly darkness refers to the grave, also death.

(…The reasoning for these conclusions can be found in the relevant posts.)

I wanted to spend this final post of this series looking at the context of Matthew 13:42, and how it fits into a wider narrative. By this I hope to show that my conclusions so far are faithful to the text, and also why exactly God is judging these people. Read the rest of this entry

jesus and hell (part 2): fire, furnaces and darkness

(Note: This post looks awfully long, though much of the text is simply quoted references which are typed in full for the benefit of the reader. These can be mostly skipped if desired.)

In my last post I began to look at the issue of Hell as often seen within Matthew 13:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Part 1 looked at the language of weeping and gnashing of teeth. My conclusion was that weeping and gnashing of teeth were not actions inherently related to afterlife in any way, but rather represented mourning and anger/violence in a very “earthly” sense. Such actions were in fact responses by people to God’s judgement of them.*

Why exactly is God judging these people? That will have to wait until the third and final instalment…

In the meantime I want to look at the place of this weeping and gnashing, namely the blazing furnace (13:42 etc.) and the outer darkness (8:12 etc.)

What does this language refer to? Are many conservative Christians correct in asserting that the blazing furnace and the outer darkness refer to Hell, a place of everlasting punishment? Read the rest of this entry

jesus and hell (part 1): weeping and gnashing of teeth

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Throughout much of my discipleship journey I assumed that when Matthew’s Gospel had Jesus talking about a “blazing furnace” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” he was talking about the unimaginably intense punishment of post-mortem Hell.

In these posts I want to explore these phrases and ask the question – what is Jesus (and Matthew) talking about? This post will deal with the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” with the next being about the imagery of fire, furnaces and darkness. Read the rest of this entry

hell raiser: francis chan and “erasing hell”

A few months ago I watched this video and I’ve been meaning to write something on it, though I’ve had it on the backburner for a while.

The video is a preview/advert for Francis Chan’s now-released book, Erasing Hell. I should note I have not read the book, nor do I plan to in the near future (PhD studies… they ruin everything). For this reason I do not know in any definite way what Chan’s view is on the subject of Hell, nor is it directly relevant to this post. I should also note that I am not interested in discussing the content of the book, but only of the video.

The video begins with an air of humility, including the use of biblical metaphors to demonstrate how much lower we are than God, just as clay to the potter. So far so good. Read the rest of this entry

even the bible is a vulnerable text

After watching an online video posted on my Facebook feed of a well-known pastor preaching about Heaven and Hell, I thought it appropriate to post a thought or two.

This particular pastor preached from Luke 16:19-31. During the sermon they made numerous references to the fact that they are “telling the truth” and that they are simply repeating the words of Jesus (which are apparently not in need of any form of interpretation, but rather are self-evidently comprehendible, even over the temporal distance of 2000 years).

The issue here of course is that no text, regardless of where or whom they are from (even God) can simply be considered self-evidently comprehendible.

I look to Paul Ricoeur for wisdom at this point. Read the rest of this entry

religious judgementalism: the rob bell episode

Rob Bell has made waves in the Twittersphere and other social networks in the last 24 hours or so.

This is not really because of anything Bell has done, but because blogger Justin Taylor has accused him of being a Universalist (basically, the view that all people will be reconciled to God), a perspective apparently outlined in Bell’s forthcoming book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

I am not interested at this point in discussing Bell or universalism; instead I simply want to voice my issue with those who have criticised him.

The most obvious problem arising is that Bell’s book is yet-to-be-released. That is to say, his critics have not yet read it! Read the rest of this entry

jesus: all about hell???

(The YouTube clip below will be my illustration. Start watching from 1:44, with the section following 3:11 being the most pertinent to this discussion. By the way, this post is in no way meant to reflect an opinion about a prominent Christian advertising campaign).

I watched this last week, and when I heard the comments about Christianity being a religion of fear my first reaction was to say “No!”

But then I reflected on those statements. While my belief is that Christianity is not meant to be a religion of fear, I empathised with those making such comments. The truth is that if you were to form your opinions about the Christian faith from much of the preaching that occurs today you would assume it is based on fear. Keep Reading…

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