Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Chapter Two

Previous chapter: Dividing

Judgement

When discussing the topics of salvation and judgement, it’s important to understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a different reason that we don’t have time to get into here but which is explained in at least one of the supporting links farther on in the book), and why Jesus didn’t (and before getting into it, I should point out that people who claim the reason He didn’t sin is simply because He is God and that only God in the flesh could avoid sinning are also telling us [even if they don’t realize they’re basically claiming] that we humans can never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that wasn’t the reason). The reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” — missing a single word, such as the word “that” in this case, when reading a passage in Scripture can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage). Contrary to what most Christians have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned: “in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit” — it wasn’t that they “died spiritually,” as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression); it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying, meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death. So, instead of dying because we sin (Paul didn’t simply say “for all have sinned” in this passage like he did in a previous one, which would mean “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” here), we actually sin because we’re dying (“for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul meant in this passage in Romans 5; again, the word “that” is extremely important in this verse, making mortality the cause and sin the effect for humanity at large in this passage rather than the other way around) and don’t have abundant life in us (nor do we have the Spirit without measure) the way Jesus did (because of this, while He wasn’t yet immortal [meaning incapable of dying as He is now], Jesus wasn’t in a state of slowly dying like we are and couldn’t actually die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His Spirit from Jesus) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification), and we’re dying because we genetically inherited the wages of the first Adam’s sin: mortality. And, just as a quick but related aside, please don’t confuse “death” with “judgement.” Death (which, yes, can technically be a punishment for certain sins, such as in the instances of capital punishment in the Mosaic law) is really just a natural genetic effect of being born into the line of Adam; in general it isn’t actually a punishment (not outside of specific “legal” cases anyway) or judgement in and of itself (at least not for anyone who isn’t Adam or Eve), or else babies would never die. Judgement, on the other hand, will be experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking) when they appear before the Great White Throne, and by members of the body of Christ at the dais of Christ [sometimes also referred to as the judgement seat of Christ]).

However, “just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (or, perhaps better put, since not everyone will actually die, “even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified“). It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “so also shall all in Christ be made alive.” If it had, one might be able to assume that it only applied to a specific group of people (only those “in Christ”). Thankfully, that’s not how it was worded. Instead, Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, as well as sinfulness because of that mortality) of the first Adam’s action, they also have no say in experiencing the effects (eventual immortality and sinlessness) of the last Adam’s action, and just as condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one (and not because of their own offences or disobedience), justification will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one (and not because of their own obedience). Most of Churchianity mistakenly believes that only those “in Christ” will be made alive (completely missing the significance of the order of the wording in this verse), but the whole point of the parallelism in this passage is to make it clear that Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same “all” that Adam’s action did (a paraphrase of this verse that should make the meaning of the passage more clear would be, “just as because of what Adam did every human is mortal, because of what Christ did every human will also eventually be made immortal”). Likewise, Paul also told us that Christ Jesus gave himself a correspondent ransom for all — although the testimony of each is in its own eras or times — and when a ransom is fully paid, all those who are held captive are saved (unless the one paying the ransom has been lied to). As A. B. Screws once wrote, “Christ’s death is the exact equivalent of the need of the human family. And that need is more than to simply be restored to the Adamic ‘purity.’ We need the grace that superabounds — not grace that puts us back in Adam’s condition. Everything that is needed to affect the salvation of all mankind, (I Tim. 2:4), is supplied in Christ. It is in this sense that He is ‘the One giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all.’ Nor would it be amiss to consider the meaning of ransom. It will secure the release of the person for whom it is paid, unless the one accepting the ransom intends to deceive the one paying it. If Christ gives Himself a correspondent Ransom for all, and any part of the human family is not subsequently released, then God has deceived His Son. In other words, since Christ gives Himself a correspondent ransom for all, all must be saved, or else God stands eternally discredited as dishonest. Perish the thought! No one can read I Tim. 2:3-6, and believe every word of it, without believing in the salvation of all humanity.” To break it down, as Aaron Welch did: “1. Anyone for whom Christ gave himself ‘a correspondent Ransom’ will be ransomed as a result. 2. Anyone ransomed as a result of Christ’s death will be saved. 3. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom in 1 Timothy 2:6 will be saved. 4. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom includes all mankind (1 Tim. 2:4-5). 5. All mankind will be saved. This conclusion is in accord with 1 Tim. 4:10, where we’re told that God ‘is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.’ This verse presupposes that those among ‘all mankind’ who die in unbelief will eventually be saved. If God was unable or unwilling to save those who died in unbelief, then he would not be ‘the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.’ He would instead be the Savior of believers exclusively. But this, of course, would contradict the first part of this verse. Since God is ‘the Savior of all mankind’ (and not of believers only), it follows that all mankind – including all who die in unbelief – will, in fact, be saved from the condemnation to which sin leads, and ‘shall be constituted just’ (Rom. 5:18-19). This means that one does not have to be a believer in this lifetime in order to benefit from what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf.”

But while Paul tells us that everyone who experiences mortality because of what Adam did will also eventually experience immortality because of what Christ did, he also tells us that there’s an order to when each person will be made fully alive. Basically, there are three different orders, groups, or classes of humans to be made fully alive, and these three orders combined consist of all humanity (even though each order will be made alive in its own eras or times). The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which I believe refers to the body of Christ (meaning Jesus Himself, of course, but also His entire body) vivified (zōopoieō [ζῳοποιέω] in the Greek, meaning brought beyond the reach of death/made fully alive [basically, made immortal] — not to be confused with resurrection, which only the dead experience; both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience vivification [the dead first, then the remaining living], and will no longer sin because they’re no longer in the process of dying) at the snatching away (which is the actual version of the event often called the rapture that many religious Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), when God withdraws His ambassadors (as one does before declaring war), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials. The second is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring, I believe, to those vivified at the time of the former resurrection (also known as the resurrection of the just) near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to Earth and the Tribulation period has concluded (people such as “Old Testament” saints, for example, and those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision [the resurrected dead saved under this Gospel, as well as those saved under this Gospel who are still living at the end of the tribulation]. While some group the body of Christ in with this order as well and say it applies to everyone saved under both Gospels — even if some are vivified three-and-a-half or more [likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven] years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself, I tend to think placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, but since by the end of this second order everyone saved [relatively speaking] under both Gospels will have been vivified anyway it doesn’t really make a huge difference to the rest of my point so I won’t argue it any further here). And finally, “then cometh the end” or “thereafter the consummation” (eita to telos [εἶτα τὸ τέλος] in Greek), referring to the “telos” or consummation of humanity (since he’s still speaking of this order of vivification here, although this does have a double meaning, referring also to the consummation of the eons (or the end of the ages) when this final vivification occurs, something that the body of Christ has already attained in spirit and will have also attained physically at their own vivification long before the actual final eon or age ends), meaning the final group or the rest of humanity (including those who are dead, as well as those who are still living [thanks to having partaken of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life to keep from dying] but not yet vivified, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life at the Great White Throne Judgement after their resurrection for said judgement who hadn’t already been vivified previously, as well as those, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan in his final rebellion at the end of the fourth eon), fully vivified after the fifth and final eon (known as the eon of the eons) is consummated or completed and Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom comes to an end because He’s defeated all enemies and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father (which means that those who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in “hell” [or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation] also lasts forever because those passages use the same Greek words are actually basing their argument on an obvious mistranslation since Paul is clear that He won’t reign forever but rather for the eons (or the ages) or for the eons of the eons [or the “ages of the ages,” meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, eons — we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most wicked or evil, eon — but stops reigning after they’re over]. It also demonstrates just how few are aware that A) all of the passages that are translated as “everlasting” or “forever” in the popular versions of the Bible must be mistranslations based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear everyone will eventually be vivified, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book of Revelation [John only saw into the beginning of the fifth eon, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the eons]. And since they often make a similar mistake when they try to insist that “if ‘eternal damnation’ [whether that damnation involves consciousness or not] isn’t actually forever then ‘eternal life’ wouldn’t be forever either,” I’m forced to point out that they really aren’t thinking things through when they make this assertion. Properly translated Scripture speaks of believers having eonian life rather than “eternal life” or “everlasting life,” but it also tells us we’ll be made immortal. So we know that when the eons come to an end we’ll still be alive forever, not because of any passage that speaks of “eternal life” but rather because of passages that speak about our impending immortality. Similarly, their claim that when Paul called God “the eonian God” in his epistle to the Romans he was actually calling God “the everlasting God” because otherwise God would die is just as confused. As Martin Zender explained, “This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everyone already knows God lives forever. Psalm 102:27 testified long ago that ‘His years shall have no end.’ It’s old news. The vital question is: Does God sit on high, removed from our struggles in time, or does He care what happens during the eons? He cares. Thus, He is the eonian God. This does not limit Him to the eons any more than ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ limits Him to those patriarchs.”). But in case anybody is still skeptical, as already mentioned, Paul later confirmed the salvation of all humanity beyond any shadow of a doubt when he outright wrote that God is the Saviour of all people (it doesn’t get any clearer than this), even if those who believe this Good News have a special, earlier (eonian) salvation than everybody else does. If a teacher were to say at the end of the school year, “I’ve given everyone a passing grade this year, especially Lisa who got an A+,” we’d know that while nobody else got an A+, they still all passed, since “especially” doesn’t mean “only” or “exclusively” (or “specifically,” as some claim; those who think so should look up each time the Greek word translated “especially” here — malista [μάλιστα] — is used in Scripture in a concordance to see for themselves). In fact, if the word did mean “exclusively” or “specifically,” then the part of the verse that tells us God is the Saviour of all people would be a lie (since it didn’t say “God is the potential Saviour of all people, but really only of those who believe,” but instead plainly tells us that He actually is the Saviour of all people), which means this passage once again verifies that the teaching of Paul throughout his epistles is indeed that everyone will eventually be saved, even if they won’t all come into an experience of salvation at the same time.

So, while every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time. Only those predestined for eonian life, meaning those in the first two orders, will live through the eons to come while also experiencing vivification during those eons. That said, they aren’t the only people who will live through said eons (they’re just the only ones who will have vivified bodies during these eons). Those born during the next eon will also live through them as well (if they don’t die during the next eon, of course), as will the “sheep” of Matthew 25 (the resurrected dead at the Great White Throne Judgement whose names happen to be written in the book of life will also live for the final eon); everyone else will go through eonian judgement first (which doesn’t necessarily always involve death or “hell” for everyone; sometimes it just refers to a negative judgement while remaining alive on Earth, the “goats” of Matthew 25 being a good example of this, as will be touched on shortly, so, again, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that “death” and “judgement” refer to the same thing). But even among those who do die, by the end of it all, God justifies, vivifies, saves, and reconciles all, even if they have to go through judgement first (and when Scripture says “all” on this topic, it means “all,” and not just all humans but all spiritual beings as well; just as he used a parallelism in his epistle to the Romans and in his first epistle to the Corinthians to demonstrate that all humans will be reconciled, Paul also used a similar sort of parallelism in his epistle to the Colossians to tell his readers that all of the rest of creation will be reconciled as well, not just humans).

What this judgement actually is, however, is a point that few people today ever come to understand. Some (the Annihilationists) believe it refers to being completely burned up and destroyed in the lake of fire so that their consciousness completely ceases to exist forever. These people are closer to the truth about what the lake of fire is than most of those in Churchianity are, but they’re still so far from understanding its purpose or what comes afterwards that they’ve basically called God a failure, and they themselves also fail to understand what salvation is, as will be made clear throughout this chapter and the next. Others think it just means eternal separation from God in a place called “hell” (although this spiritualization of “hell” is clearly impossible since in him we live and move and are; we can’t even exist apart from God, and if anyone were separated from Him for even a moment [if that were even actually possible, which it isn’t] they’d cease to exist. And even in mistranslations of Scripture where the word “hell” is mistakenly used, God is said to be there, so this obviously isn’t what the judgement is), but most think it refers to “everlasting punishment” or “everlasting torment” in a conscious state in a place of fire. However, this is a doctrine that didn’t exist among the first believers in Christ (and you won’t find it in the Scriptures Israel accepted either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible). Everlasting torment in “hell” is a great example of a pre-existing belief that caused many translators to mistranslate Scripture from its original languages, in this case causing them to translate the Hebrew word `owlam (or olam [עוֹלָם]) and Greek words such as aión (αἰών), “aiónas” (αἰῶνας),  and aiónios (αἰώνιος), all of which refer to a set period of time with a definite end, even if that end date is unknown (so aión should literally be transliterated as “eon,” which just means “a long period of time,” the word “aiónas” [or “aiónan” {αἰῶναν}] should be tranliterated as “eons,” which just means “more than one eon” since it’s the plural form of the noun “eon,” and the adjective aiónios [or aiónion {αἰώνιον}] should simply be transliterated as “eonian,” which just means “pertaining to an eon”), into words that mean “never ending” (or into redundant phrases like “forever and ever” which, aside from the fact that this is a meaningless phrase, makes no sense whatsoever if one looks at the actual grammar of the Greek sentences this “translation” is based on — as usual, religious Christians misunderstand the meaning of the word “of” and mistranslate it as “and” instead, even though the Greek word for “and” [kai {καί}] isn’t found inbetween the words mistranslated as “forever” at all, which is why the actual translations should be “eon of the eon,” “eon of the eons,” and “eons of the eons” [the fact that some of these words are singular and some are plural in different verses also seemed to go unnoticed by these so-called “translators,” but these different forms of the word aión are very important, and rendering all of them the same way — as the singular “forever” — causes one to entirely miss the different points that each instance is making]). They also mistranslated the word aión as “world” in places as well — even though there was already a Greek word (kosmos [κόσμος]) for “world” — realizing that translating it as “everlasting” in those cases would literally make no sense at all and that they wouldn’t be able to get away with their usual mistranslation, they had to give it another meaning; so, because of their preconceived doctrinal biases against translating aión into the word it actually means, they were forced to come up with another word for it instead (at one point they even “translated” both aión and kosmos as “world” in the same verse, showing just how ridiculous this translation is). That said, even if we were to translate these words as “everlasting” or “forever” in some places, we’d still have to interpret the words based on the context of the rest of Scripture, and aside from the fact that Scripture tells us everyone eventually will be saved, there are also plenty of things in the Bible that seem to be said to be everlasting (if one translates it that way) that it also says will eventually end, and Scripture even talks about a past fire that was said to never be quenched (just like the fires of “hell” are supposed to be, depending on your translation) but that is no longer burning today, so good exegesis is imperative here if you’re going to translate it that way for some reason (which means that if one did “translate” these Hebrew and Greek words into words that mean “everlasting” in English, the reader would then be required to interpret them figuratively so as to not end up making Scripture completely contradict itself, which also means a KJV-Onlyist could still technically [and, to be consistent with the rest of Scripture, would realistically have to] believe in Universal Reconciliation). That said, for those of us who haven’t been indoctrinated into KJV-Onlyism, translating these words concordantly does make a lot more sense, and means we can actually interpret the passages literally rather than being forced to interpret them figuratively just so we can remain consistent (not that theological consistency is something most religious Christians concern themselves with, but it is important). In addition to all this, while I don’t agree with all of his theology, J. W. Hanson also did a good job of demonstrating from extra-biblical writings that these words generally didn’t mean “everlasting” outside of Scripture back then, so there’s no reason to believe they do in Scripture either (outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course).

Because of these presuppositions and bad translations or interpretations (as well as a lack of basic logical analysis of Scripture), most religious Christians are under the impression that, while God tried to save everyone through Christ’s sacrifice, He will ultimately fail when it comes to 99% of humanity since He just isn’t powerful enough to convince them to choose the right religion, probably because He didn’t make most people smart enough or wise enough to come to the right decision in the first place. Those who believe this aren’t aware that God’s purpose for the eons was never about hoping people will choose the right religion so they can be among the lucky few who escape never-ending torture (or avoid ceasing to exist forever), but rather that He saves those who are helpless to save (or even participate in saving) themselves (although, again, each in their own order, or in their own times).

Aside from being completely unscriptural, the horrible doctrine of everlasting torment in hell is also probably the biggest cause of religious evil. How so? First, it’s caused millennia of psychological torture for children (and even adults). Somehow, religious parents (hoping that it will keep them from sinning, as if the threat of “hell” has ever kept anyone from sinning) have rationalized the idea that instilling the fear of this mythological torture chamber into their children is a good thing, but all it does is cause sleepless nights for millions of kids who are terrified they or their loved ones will suffer horrific agony for eternity with no chance of escape if the wrong decision or action is made (“end times” doctrines should also probably never be taught to young people for similar reasons; based on the testimony of so many, my own included, I would recommend that parents not let their offspring be exposed to the topic of eschatology until their very late teens if they value the mental wellbeing of their children), and ultimately also causes many of these children to reject God when they get older since many of them still have a conscience and know just how wrong unending torture would be if it actually happened. Perhaps worse, though, is the fact that once this doctrine has been completely absorbed into the psyche it makes emotional empathy an extremely difficult thing to possess, causing religious people to think it’s okay to reject and even eject family members (sometimes from their own homes) who believe differently from them, and discriminate against or even be violent towards people who don’t follow their religion or who might not think certain actions are actually wrong (“if God is going to torture people forever in the afterlife for even the smallest infraction, what’s a little temporary violence in this life?” is what it seems many religious people believe).

Aside from the fact that anybody who sat down to actually think about it would realize no sin or crime could ever warrant torture that lasted forever, however, the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (okay, “wages” is not necessarily the best translation of opsōnion [ὀψώνιον] here, but I’m using the common rendering of the passage here to demonstrate that even the traditional translation doesn’t work with the traditional doctrine), not never-ending torment (and that said wages come from the sin of Adam, not from our own sins, as has already been discussed). If the payment for sin was nonstop pain that never ends (which is taught nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures — the absolute worst penalty for breaking the Mosaic law was execution; no Israelite was ever threatened with perpetual torture after they died as a result of sinning in the law of Moses — and there’s nothing in the Greek text to suggest that this changed when Jesus or Paul talked about sin either), then Jesus would have to still be suffering for our sins and would need to continue doing so forever (okay, maybe only under the penal substitution model of salvation, which I don’t actually believe is Scriptural, but since most do, the point stands for those who believe it is).

Fortunately, there isn’t anything in the original Hebrew or Greek that implies that “hell” (which itself is a bad translation of multiple words that actually refer to different places and concepts from each other, which means those Christians who like to say that “Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible” or “Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven” are wrong since He actually never spoke about it even once in the original Greek) lasts forever anyway, nor that the lake of fire (which is different from the words mistranslated as “hell”) does either when properly interpreted.

What few religious Christians seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future and about judgement, He wasn’t talking about non-corporeal, spiritual, afterlife “states” in other dimensions called heaven and hell (the reason I mention only Jesus here, even though Paul is our apostle, is because Paul never once threatened anyone with any of the words that some versions translate as “hell” anywhere in his recorded words in the book of Acts or in any of his written epistles [and even in the one instance that he used the word hades — one of the words mistranslated as “hell” in some Bible versions, and which will be discussed in more depth shortly — even the KJV translated it as grave rather than “hell”], which brings up all sorts of questions if those of us in the body of Christ are supposed to model ourselves specifically after his example and after his teachings yet he was never once recorded as having taught that anybody will suffer everlasting torment the way most of Churchianity teaches). Rather, everything Jesus said in person when speaking about the future takes place on a planet called Earth in the physical universe (albeit on two different Earths; some taking place on our current planet, and some on the new Earth, or third Earth, after this one has been destroyed).

First of all, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, which begins as an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on Earth (not in a supposed afterlife dimension) that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which comes into being after the tribulation period at the end of the third eon ends and the fourth eon begins. He also spoke of paradise (paradeisos [παράδεισος] in Greek), which would be a reference to Earth as well since the tree of life is there and there would be no need to eat from the tree of life (which we know will be on Earth in the future anyway) in an ethereal afterlife dimension.

As far as the negative future He talked about goes, it was in this universe as well. His primary threat was Gehenna (Geenna [γέεννα] in Greek), also known as the Valley of Hinnom, which was an actual, physical garbage dump in a valley in Israel (again, not in another dimension one enters after death) — although it’s actually quite pleasant at the moment — that Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the corpses of lawbreakers during the Millennial Kingdom would be burned up and devoured by worms in (the reference to the worm that “dieth not” isn’t talking about human souls not dying, or to some sort of magical worms that never die either. The Greek word for worm there is skōlēx [σκώληξ], which refers to regular maggots, not to human souls or even to mystical, immortal worms that chomp on the souls of sinners for eternity. To put it simply, it’s talking about actual living creatures who consume actual dead [unconscious] bodies. Jesus and Isaiah were just saying that any dead body that will be thrown into the valley will be totally consumed, either by maggots or by fire. Still, it is technically true that the “worms” won’t die, but that’s because maggots are simply larval flies which go through a process known as pupation and grow into adult flies, so they won’t die while still in their larval, “worm” form but will instead grow up and lay eggs so that there are then more “worms” to consume more of the bodies in the valley. Likewise, the fire isn’t quenched either [meaning it’s not deliberately put out], but will instead burn for as long as there is fuel [dead bodies] to keep it burning. But, just like the fire on the altar in Leviticus that was said to never be quenched but is no longer burning, it will also eventually go out once it’s done its job and there are no more carcasses to consume). Thanks to horrible Bible mistranslations, Gehenna has been thought by most Christians to be referring to a place all non-Christians will go to suffer forever in after they die, when it really only applies to a very specific (and relatively small) set of people living in a very specific period of time that hasn’t even occurred yet (at least not as of the time this was written), and nobody will even be conscious in it, much less actually suffering. It should probably also be pointed out that Gehenna isn’t a reference to the lake of fire. Bodies are burned in Gehenna during the Millennial Kingdom, whereas nobody is burned in the lake of fire until after the Millennium is over, after all the bodies burned in Gehenna have been resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement.

In addition, He sometimes also referred to hades ([ᾅδης], which is simply “the unseen,” and is the Greek equivalent of the word sheol [שְׁאוֹל] used in the Hebrew Scriptures for “the grave” [although sheol doesn’t literally mean “grave” but rather likely means “ask,” being used in reference to something that is unseen]), which is just speaking of the state of no longer being conscious because one is dead (when it’s not being used figuratively in parable form). Unfortunately, most members of the Christian religion are unaware of the fact that the immortality of the soul is not only an unscriptural concept, but that it’s an entirely pagan idea that was likely adopted by the Pharisees due to confusion about the state of the dead learned during the Babylonian captivity, and was later carried into much of Christendom as well due to misunderstandings of Scripture, such as Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross about being with Him in paradise (when Jesus promised the thief on the cross [actually, more likely a pole or a stake, but for the sake of familiarity I do call it a cross throughout this book] that he’d be with Him in paradise, He was referring to a future resurrection on Earth rather than to an afterlife state immediately after they both died; as we’ve already covered, paradise is a reference to a future [and physical] state of the Earth where the tree of life will be and not to an ethereal afterlife realm, so this passage would have to be translated more along the lines of: “Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise”), or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus which can be interpreted in a couple possible different ways, but which almost nobody seems to understand is not describing an actual event or the geography of an afterlife dimension (unless one believes that Lazarus was literally sitting inside Abraham’s chest, that there’s actual physical water in the spirit realm, or that someone who is on fire could actually participate in a coherent conversation [or even make any sounds at all other than screaming in pain], not to mention that if we took it literally we’d have to believe that the rich all go to “hell” while the poor all get saved. It’s funny how things pertaining to “hell” are literal in their mistranslations until they’re not when it comes to Churchianity; see also the lack of bodily mutilation and the general avoidance of helping the needy among religious Christians who don’t understand right dividing [and don’t know the true identity of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25, or what their actual “outcomes” refer to; nobody “goes to heaven” or “goes to hell” during this judgement — the rewards and punishments in this prophecy take place entirely on Earth among the still living] as similar examples).

“Ye shall not surely die” might be the first recorded lie the devil told, but today it’s being taught by many in the Christian religion who are trying to convince us that death isn’t actually death at all, but is rather just a change in our state of consciousness (and, in fact, that death is really life), seemingly unaware that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us the dead know nothing (meaning they aren’t conscious at all). Even in the Greek Scriptures, death is compared to sleep; it isn’t compared to being awake in an afterlife existence at all (Scripture says that David and others fell asleep — referring to their actual persons being asleep or unconscious — not that just their bodies, which are referred to separately as having decayed, fell asleep while they remained conscious) outside of that one parable which seems to confuse so many (although that is the purpose of parables — they weren’t told to make things obvious to the religious — so I suppose it’s doing its job there). As E. W. Bullinger explained, “when the Holy Spirit uses one thing to describe or explain another, He does not choose the opposite word or expression. If He speaks of night, He does not use the word light. If He speaks of daylight, He does not use the word night. He does not put ‘sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet’ (Isaiah 5:20). He uses adultery to illustrate idolatry; He does not use virtue. Thus, if He uses the word ‘sleep‘ of death, it is because sleep illustrates to us what the condition of death is like. If Tradition be the truth, He ought to have used the word ‘awake,’ or ‘wakefulness’ – but the Lord first uses a Figure, and says ‘Lazarus sleepeth,’ and afterwards, when He speaks ‘plainly‘ He says ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Why? Because, sleep expresses and describes the condition of the ‘unclothed‘ state. In normal sleep, there is no consciousness. For the Lord, therefore, to have used this word ‘sleep’ to represent the very opposite condition of conscious wakefulness would have been indeed to mislead us. Yet all of His words are perfect, and are used for the purpose of teaching us, not for leading us astray.” Likewise, resurrection is likened unto waking up from sleep in Scripture. The first time those in the body of Christ will meet the Lord is in the air in our newly vivified bodies at the snatching away (or at the resurrection of the just, 75 days after the Second Coming, for those in the Israel of God), which is the point from when we’re said to finally “always be together with the Lord” (and not from a previous point such as our physical death, which would be when we actually began to “always be together with the Lord” if the immortality of the soul were true). Of course, Paul also makes it quite clear that the immortality of the soul can’t be true when he said, “and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” This wouldn’t be true if those who are saved go to another dimension called Heaven when they die. The fact that we don’t is why he could make that claim, because without the resurrection we would have no hope at all and would cease to exist forever (we wouldn’t even have the hope of existing in another dimension called Heaven with God since we would have “perished”), which was basically the entire reason Paul wrote that chapter in his first epistle to the Corinthians to begin with. This is also backed up a little further on in the chapter when he said that “this mortal must put on immortality,” which tells us that we don’t inherently have immortality, but only gain it when our bodies are vivified. In addition, we know that not only has David himself not gone to Heaven, at least not as of the time Peter made that speech recorded in the book of Acts (which was after Christ’s resurrection), but that nobody other than Christ Himself has either (at least as of the time this was written), according to John’s commentary in the book called the Gospel according to John (Jesus’ “red letters” quote should really end at verse 12 based on the fact that verse 13 says the Son of Mankind was in Heaven at that point, which we know Jesus wasn’t at the time He had that discussion with Nicodemus, so everything from verse 13 to 21 had to have been John’s personal commentary on the topic, written after Jesus had left the Earth — it’s important to remember that the book of John was a theology book rather than a history book and, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, only used historical quotes of Jesus to prove theological points instead of being a historical record in and of itself as the three other “Gospels” were), so it seems pretty obvious that Heaven is only for those who have been vivified and isn’t for those who are currently dead. In fact, if people were to remain conscious after death, God would cease to be their God while they waited for their physical resurrection, since He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (even though, to Him, all are considered alive from a proleptic perspective, which was the point of this statement), which would make things strange for Christians in the supposed afterlife if they no longer had a God (although, if the immortality of the soul were true, that would be a good explanation as to why the dead do not praise God, since He’d no longer be their God while they were still dead — the real reason the dead don’t praise Him, though, of course, is simply that they’re unconscious and can’t do anything while dead), so it seems safe to say that nobody remains conscious while dead (believe it or not, some people actually try to use this passage to support their view that the dead remain conscious, misapprehending the statement to mean that the dead aren’t actually dead, but if they took the time to examine the context of the preceding verses they’d discover that it was really about the Sadducees [who didn’t believe in a physical resurrection in the future] trying to trip Jesus up with a question about whether the resurrected dead during the impending Millennial Kingdom in the next eon or age here on Earth would still be married or not [and not about ghosts in an afterlife dimension and whether they’d still be married in that imaginary realm; it wasn’t the concept of an ethereal afterlife state that the Sadducees were trying to trip Jesus up on] in order to make the idea of a physical resurrection seem ridiculous, but Jesus turned it around on them by using the fact that the Lord could not legitimately claim the title of “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” as Moses revealed Him to be if the dead weren’t going to be physically resurrected someday because He’s not the God of the dead but of the living [which is where the figure of speech known as prolepsis comes in; prolepsis in Scripture is where God calls what is not yet as though it already were — when God makes a statement that tells us something is going to be, it’s already as good as done — so Jesus was using prolepsis there to tell us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will definitely be resurrected someday since otherwise that statement about them would have been a lie]).

So, rather than going to afterlife realms called heaven or “hell” after we die, Scripture instead tells us that death is a return. The body returns to the soil or earth, the soul returns to hades/the unseen (meaning back to non-existence/unconsciousness), and the spirit returns to God who created it (although not as a conscious entity, since our spirits aren’t conscious on their own without a body: soul [or feeling and consciousness] is an emergent property of combining a spirit with a body, just like combining the colours yellow and blue creates the colour green — the spirit is our “breath of life” as well as our “essense,” so to speak, which would include the memories that make us who we are, but it doesn’t experience consciousness until it’s reunited with a resurrected body). This presents quite a dilemma for the traditional view, of course. If the soul of a dead person is existing consciously in an actual place called hades and the spirit is with God, does the soul of an unsaved person suffer in a fiery “hell” while the spirit enjoys being with God? Remember, Scripture doesn’t discriminate between “saved” and “unsaved” spirits when it says they return to God upon death. And what does that say about us if our spirit and soul can go to separate “places” but are both conscious (are we made up of two conscious beings that can be split up when we die, yet only one will be punished for sin in “hell” while the other is in heaven with God)? This is just one more reason why the traditional view makes no sense. Instead, it’s better to believe what Scripture actually says: that souls can actually die. On top of that, if those who are saved (relatively speaking) “go to heaven” as soon as they die, then death isn’t really an enemy to be defeated, as Paul told us it is (although this doesn’t find its ultimate fulfilment until the end of the fifth eon), but is instead a friend finally bringing us to God, with our eventual resurrection just being icing on the cake rather than being the actual cake itself that it’s supposed to be (the resurrection and vivification of our human bodies has become nothing more than a small sidenote in most of Christendom, when it’s what we’re actually supposed to be looking forward to). Of course, nobody mentioned in the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures was ever recorded as looking forward to an ethereal afterlife state anyway, nor had any Scripture prior to the figurative figments of the rich man and Lazarus story ever suggested people would go to one while dead either. What they were looking forward to was a physical, bodily resurrection in the distant future, so parabolic passages such as that one, and symbolic statements such as those in the book of Revelation have to be interpreted in light of that (although it should probably also be noted that, as symbolic as parts of the book of Revelation [or the Unveiling of Jesus Christ, as it should actually be called] can be, it still has to be interpreted as literally as possible if we want to actually understand it). Luke 16 wasn’t a new revelation to replace the Scriptural doctrine of unconscious death until resurrection, so one has to figure out what it means without creating an entirely new theology that hadn’t ever even been hinted at prior to it (of course, even if we did ignore what the rest of Scripture says about the state of the dead and pretended that Luke 16 wasn’t a parable, John and Paul both tell us that the rich man wouldn’t have stayed in hades forever anyway — John in Revelation when he tells us hades is “emptied” so the dead can be judged at the Great White Throne Judgement before the fifth eon begins, and Paul in 1st Corinthians when he tells us how everyone will be vivified at the end of the fifth and final eon as previously discussed — so taking this parable literally doesn’t actually help the traditionalist view of everlasting torment in “hell” anyway, since the rich man wouldn’t stay in hell/hades forever regardless).

So no, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called heaven for the righteous when He spoke (nor did He ever offer anybody everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins and subsequent resurrection, which is actually what the Good News that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is proclaiming), nor was He warning about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners (or even just nonexistence for sinners). Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on Earth during the next eon or two in the messages He gave while on Earth, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation, including eonian life in the heavens among the celestials during the next two eons (the heavens, or “Heaven,” just refers to everything “above” the Earth, including our sky and atmosphere, where the birds and clouds are, but more importantly, to outer space where the stars and the moon are— “in beginning [the word “the” is not there in the Hebrew text], God created the heavens and the Earth” — and is actually a place you wouldn’t want to go without either a space suit or a vivified body that could survive and thrive out there. It isn’t the wonderful, perfect place most people think it is, at least not now [nor is it a place that anybody who is dead goes to; only the living can go to Heaven, at least in a conscious state], although it will be pretty great for the body of Christ when we have our new bodies that can enjoy it out there with our Lord as we fulfill our impending ministry to the celestials there [this also means that the term “the Kingdom of “Heaven,” or “the Kingdom of the heavens,” would actually be best translated as “the Kingdom of outer space”]), in the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the Earth (while everyone eventually gets everlasting life, only a relatively small number of people will experience eonian life), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having your dead body displayed and destroyed in public in Gehenna (also on Earth), not to mention missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom (and quite possibly the next eon after that as well) because they’d be dead for the remaining eons (which would be what eonian extermination (or “destruction age-during“) refers to — and the fact that their extermination is only eonian tells us that, when the eons are concluded, so will their extermination be also, which reveals that the Annihilationists who believe that the extermination of the “unsaved” will last forever are just as wrong about judgement as the rest of Churchianity is). And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes (there is one passage in the book of Daniel that certain Bibles mistranslate as saying some will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt” but, aside from the fact that contempt and torture are two very different things, A) the Hebrew word mistakenly rendered as “everlasting” here is “olam” which, as we’ve already discovered, is a word that refers to a period of time with a temporary duration, B) as we’ve also already covered, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before this passage so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here centuries after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before [for that matter, nobody prior to Israel was warned about it either; not even Adam and Eve were warned about it, much less anyone who lived from their time to the time Daniel was supposedly warned about it] and it isn’t even explaining who would be experiencing such a thing or why [or how to avoid it], and C) the passage is talking about physical resurrection on Earth anyway, not to spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead; the negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne judgement before they’re killed again [which is why it’s called the second death] when their bodies are tossed into the lake of fire to be burned up) — but did speak of the earthly Gehenna as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned during the Millennial Kingdom, and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and Gehenna when read properly in the original Greek (when read without a preconceived bias, it’s completely clear that He was teaching the exact same thing the Hebrew Scriptures said about the topic), there’s literally zero reason to interpret (or translate) these things the way most Christians (and Bible versions) have. To put it simply, Churchianity is assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and for those who bless them or don’t bless them during the tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so (even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on Earth [at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension] prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the new Earth at its beginning being physically [not spiritually] cast into the lake of fire [likely an actual body of water on Earth, quite possibly referring to the Dead Sea] just like the dead bodies of previous sinners were physically cast into Gehenna on Earth). These facts, combined with the fact that Scripture (although it should be stated that really only Paul) is quite clear that everyone eventually will experience reconciliation and immortality (yes, even those who commit the supposedly “unforgivable” or “unpardonable sin“), makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of religion to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like everlasting torment (or even everlasting annihilation) after learning these truths is because they want to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened their hearts and cauterized their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the eons and dispensations). Sadly, the religious only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good (really, their basic doctrine is Bad News — which is why I like to call them malangelists rather than evangelists — since one could hardly call the teachings that “sin wasn’t actually completely taken care of by Christ some 2,000 years ago” and that “the majority of people throughout history [probably most of your family members and friends included] are almost certainly going to be tormented, or at least destroyed, for eternity” to be anything even remotely resembling good news [and before somebody claims that the good news is that your friends and family members can be saved, it’s important to remember that they can only be saved if they happen to be moral enough or wise enough or lucky enough to believe and/or do the right things, if Churchianity is correct, which isn’t really good news at all, either for those who haven’t made the right choices or for those of us who are going to miss them if they don’t]).

So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality (giving them everlasting life), those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment or with death), and some will even experience the second death. However, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon is over), “the grave” or “the unseen” (which is all that “hell” really refers to as far as anyone in the dispensation of Grace is concerned) will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed (and anyone still dead will have to be made alive for death to be truly destroyed), and God will be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few). This truth is lost on those who are lost thanks to their slavery to the demonic teachings of the Christian religion, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire forever), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all other than to stand as an everlasting reminder that Satan, death, and “the grave” won the ultimate victory after all (a Pyrrhic victory though it might be for Satan, a defeat of God in the battle over souls it would remain nonetheless — and the same goes for if Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality is true as well, by the way; it would mean God still lost to Satan, death, and “the grave” in the struggle for souls), and that God was a failure in ridding creation of evil, ultimately making Him and Jesus A) monsters (only the most horrific of monsters could force, or even allow, someone to be tortured forever; the worst person to ever live could never do anything like that, but many religious Christians want to accuse God of doing something that would make Hitler look like a saint in comparison, or at least make God out to be no better than Hitler if one is an Annihilationist because they believe He’ll permanently kill the majority of humanity a second time in the largest holocaust ever known, which would be even more horrific than it already is [and not only for them but for those of us who care about them as well and would be missing them for all of eternity] if He didn’t eventually resurrect them again and make things right for all of them), and B) the biggest sinners of all for “missing the mark” (which is the definition of “sin”) by failing to accomplish their goals. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The religious think the best plan God could possibly come up with is everlasting incarceration and torture (or everlasting destruction in the case of the Annihilationists), locking the majority of His creation up to suffer forever (God actually does lock His creation up, just not the way most Christians think He does; the Divine Lockup is something few Christians ever truly understand [at least not in this lifetime]), but this just shows us that the religious don’t think very highly of God and His abilities to make things right (or accomplish His ultimate intentions), which is what judgement really means (again, judgement shouldn’t be confused with punishment — the ultimate end result of judgement is righteousness). Rather than failing, as Churchianity insists He will, in the end God will succeed in destroying evil, sin, “hell,” and death (again, all death, which would have to mean even the second death) completely because He actually is God and is fully capable of doing so.

While understanding the above should be more than enough to convince anyone with an open mind that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation, understanding the character of God is also important. In fact, teaching everlasting torment in “hell” seriously slanders God and Christ, and not only because it accuses them of being the world’s biggest sinners since it would mean they’ve failed to achieve their goals, not to mention their purpose for the eons (a missing of the mark on God’s part that Annihilationism also teaches). God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that while the Bible tells us that God has wrath, it also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Religious Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is (among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails), and will insist that the God who is love Himself will fail to save the majority of His earthly creation. Paul also tells us that love is kind in the same passage, but while few people (perhaps with the exception of religious conservatives) could actually do something as unkind as to torture someone (or simply let someone be tortured) for even a few minutes, much less forever, many within Churchianity insist that God is far less kind (which would mean He’s not loving) than us mere humans who would never do such a horrible thing to anyone. Yes, those whom God loves He chastens, but the purpose of this is to help, not hurt; it isn’t simply an end in itself. And since He loves the whole world, He’ll chasten the whole world, even if in different ways at different times for different people (the case of how God treats the inhabitants of Sodom, both in the past and in the future, is a great example of this). The important thing to remember here is that God’s attributes, such as justice, can never conflict with His essence, which is love. If love is His very essence, everything He does must ultimately be beneficial for (and work out in the best interests of) His creation in the long run, which means His love can’t ever take a back seat to an attribute like His justice, but rather His justice will always have to be influenced by His love (which always perseveres and never fails) for all of His creation. And since allowing any of His creation to suffer forever in a lake of fire with no hope of escape could not be said to be an expression of His love for said creation (except in the most horrifically twisted of religious minds), we know that His justice could not allow this to happen since it would conflict with His love towards all of His creation (and, just as a quick aside, some will try to claim that God might define words such as love differently than we do since “His ways are higher than ours,” but A) Scripture already defines love for us in the aforementioned passage, and B) if we aren’t using words in a way that we can actually all understand them, there’s no point in using these words at all in the first place and we might as well just stop studying Scripture altogether).

Of course, what the religious always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if one wants to truly understand the character of God, all one has to do is look at what we’re told about His Son. For instance, Jesus often kept His teachings a secret from those who weren’t meant to understand them at that time (those who were not the elect), speaking in parables so that “seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand,” which tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet (not even most of the religious Christians who are reading this, many of whom have already rejected everything I’ve written here because God has made sure they aren’t able to see the truth). But even with His truth hidden from most, we also see that Jesus insisted on extreme forgiveness (seventy times seven, and even forgave those who killed Him), and ultimately sacrificed Himself to save the world. When you want to interpret Scripture, you have to do so using a hermeneutic that begins with Christology. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to misunderstand the passages about judgement, and just as easy to forget that everything in Scripture needs to be read with Christ’s character and His purpose in mind. If you really want to understand God’s character, you don’t go looking to the Hebrew Scriptures. You’ll find bits and pieces of information about His character there (and you’ll certainly learn about His power and sovereignty there), but to truly understand who God is and what He’s actually like, you have to look at His Son and who He is.

For those who still have trouble with the idea that God truly is the Saviour of everyone as Paul told us He is, I have one last thought for you to consider. I once asked a scholar of Koine Greek (one who knows far more about the language than I can claim to) who did not believe in Universal Reconciliation, but rather believed that most of humanity would be tormented forever in the lake of fire, to tell me what he thought the writers of Scripture would (or, really, what God would have inspired said writers to) have written differently than they actually did if my conclusions about Universal Reconciliation (from eonian salvation and judgement, to avoiding having one’s dead body burned in Gehenna and/or the lake of fire, to everything else about the topic) were correct, and his response was that it wouldn’t have been recorded any differently at all, which tells me that belief in everlasting torment for non-Christians really is just a matter of wanting it to be true.

Next chapter: Predestination