Posts Tagged ‘Hell’

This post is part of a dialogue with good friend Jon Taylor.   See comments on tues 26th feb.  He has provided some great Newbiggin quotes and some good links.  I am a newbiggin fan. But I want to offer an emphasis on eschtaological wrath, that is standing on the negative side of judgement,  into the conversation. 

All will be judged and the covenant community will be vindicated. ( Romans 2:6-10, 3:21-26.) Here are some questions I have been chewing over,

What happens to those outside the vindicated community?

How can we tell who is in the covenant?

Can we tell who is out of covennat fellowship with God?

Is post-mortem evangelisation a possibility?

2 Thess 1:5-10

What is the following passage about? I guess there are a number of possibilities such as destruction of Jerusalem but I am not convinced.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 (ESV)
5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

 And here is F.F Bruce’s comments from Word bib Commentary series. It is part of his concluding remarks. I simply note that it appears that those cast away from the presence of the Lord are those who do not obey the gospel. The gospel is not simply a proclamation of Jesus as Lord, but also a summons to follow/repent/obey/have faith. As Bruce points out this passgae is not simply about being on the wrong side of the judgement day, but is also about the saving grace of God. He does restore us in the present but he will also deliver us from eschatological wrath.

The Advent of Christ is here (as in 1 Pet 1:7, quoted above) called his “revelation.” The idea conveyed is of his coming out into public view from a place of concealment. Jesus similarly speaks of “the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:30), and makes it plain that his being revealed will be an occasion of sudden judgment. The judgment which in the OT is the prerogative of God is exercised in the NT by Jesus, the Son of Man. The “flaming fire” in which he is revealed is a symbol of judgment: the Day of the Lord is described by an OT prophet as “the day … burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble” (Mal 4:1). Even believers are given the salutary reminder in Heb 12:29 that “our God is a consuming fire.”
But for his persecuted followers “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven” will be an occasion of vindication and honor. When he appears in glory he will be glorified in them; they will share and reflect his glory, so that his revelation will be at the same time, as Paul puts it in Rom 8:19, “the revelation of the sons of God.” Nothing can so much redound to his honor as the presentation of sinful men and women redeemed and glorified through his sacrifice on the cross. They will be glorified with him; he will be glorified in them.
A hope so great, and so divine,
May trials well endure.

Bruce, F. F.: Word Biblical Commentary : 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 45), S. 154

Does anyone have any other readings of this text..?

We need to be agnostic in some aspects of soteriology, but we also need, at least those who accept canonical authority, to humbly affirm what the Bible teaches. The question is where do we draw the line, do we say to much?, or to little?

 After writign this part of the blog I looked through some books on Paulien theology. The Theology of Paul the Apostle by Jimmy Dunn offers the following comments on ‘genre’ in 2 Thess 1:5-10,

 ‘in 2 Thessalonians Paul speaks witht he voice of an apocalyptic visionary. The language is exagerrated…To assert this is by no means to suggets that such passages can be disregarded or disgarded. It is simply to say that their character needs to be recognised, along with the degree to which the literary medium has shaped the message they give. But it is also to observe that the intergration of such passages into Paul’s overall theology will be as difficult as the integration of the Revelation of John into the overall theology of the NT.’ page 305, paperback

Ahh! so if we take account of the genre of 2 Thess 1:5-10 and read it alongside the rest of Paul we may be able to soften its literalistic blow. I need to do some thinking about this.


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In this post I will attempt to offer a quick summary of N.T. Wright’s view on hell as portrayed in ‘Surprised by Hope’. Ch 11 Purgatory, Paradise, Hell and the subsection entitled 4. Beyond hope, beyond pity.(pages 187-196 in the paperback)

Hell is a difficult topic as

a) Images are ‘gained more from medieval imagry’ than from the bible.

b) Some can’t believe in hell as they are universalists.

Neither of these, according to Wright are good positions.

a)Wright discusses the word Gehenna which is the word most frequently translated hell. Gehenna ‘was a place, not just an idea: it was the rubbish heap outside the south-west corner of the old city of Jersusalem’.  The point which Jesus makes is that is not about burning in the next life but his message was one which urged the people of Israel to repent of their zealous violent opposition to Rome. If they did not repent then Rome would ‘turn Jerusalem into a hideous, stinking extension of its own smouldering rubbish heap'(pg 189).

b) The bible does talk of a future judgement. Liberal optimism is in decline given  conflicts in Balkans, Middle East, Darfur, etc.  Opinion in theology now seems to be shifting and justice is something which people are now turning to. God will see that good ‘is upheld and vindicated’ ‘and that evil is to be condemned'(191).

‘God is utterly committed to set the world right in the end’ There will be no ‘barbed wire in the kingdom of God'(192). All rebellion will be be eradicated.  The following patterns of behaviour will be excluded. Those who will end up on the wrong side of judgement should notice the warning signs. i)idolatry ii)subhuman behaviour iii)’It is perfectly possible, and it really does seem to happen in practise, that this idolatry and dehumanisation become so endemic in the life and chosen behaviour of an individual, and indeed of groups, that, unless their is a specific turning away from such a way of life, those who persist are conniving at their own ultimate dehumanisation’.(192)

N.T wright finds it impossible ‘to suppose that there will be no ultimate condemnation’.

Wright disagrees with the traditional view of eternal conscious torment. A middle way is offered by ‘conditionalists’ who state that those who are rejected ‘will simply cease to exist’. Wright also rejects universalism.

Wright adopts a different position.

‘Humans in turning away from God can ‘progressively cease to reflect the image of God’194  Wright’s ‘suggestion is that it is possible for human beings so to continue down this road, so to refuse all whisperings of good news, all glimmers of true light, all promptings to turn and go the other way, all signposts to the love of God, that after death they become at last, by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not,creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all'(195)  These people pass beyond hope and beyond pity. ‘There is no concentration camp in the palace of delight’.

Wright does not enjoy speculating about this but the New testament drives him to these ‘sober realities’.  He ‘should be glad to be proved wrong, but not at the cost of the foundational claims that this world is the good creation of the one true God, and that he will at the end bring about that judgement at which the whole creation will rejoice’ (196)

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