Heaven to Earth: The Christian Hope in the Resurrection, Part III

It has grown increasingly apparent to me that pop-culture Christianity was birthed, and is being maintained, by a steady diet of sloppy hermeneutics and a distorted view of Jesus. It has opened the church up to demonic deceptions and has made her susceptible to the pagan powers seeking to undermine our hope in the finished work of Christ.

Because of this onslaught upon Christian orthodoxy and years of propagating a view of God that more closely resembles Greco-Roman mythology than the Abba of Jesus, it is necessary that we adopt the Berean spirit and be reconciled to an apostolic view of God that looks like Christ and is consistent with the eternal purpose (Eph. 1-3; Col. 1:15-23).

Let’s stop and reconsider what the Scripture teaches concerning heaven, hell, and the resurrection of the dead. For what we believe about the future has a profound effect on how we live in this present evil age.

Heaven: Our Final Home?

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Isaiah 65:17

The creation of a “new heavens and a new earth” is a transformation of the former things. It is a world transfigured like unto the physical body of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 17:1-9). The resurrected body of Christ was of its own kind. There is continuity with the old body and there is discontinuity as well (Lk. 24: 13-35, 36-49; Jn. 20:1-18, 24-31; 21:1-14).

In Rev. 21-22 we do not see believers flying off to a disembodied spiritual existence on the other side of the cosmos. No, we see heaven coming to earth. We see heaven, God’s realm, breaking through and fully consummating with the physical realm we call earth. We can see this in the resurrected body of Christ: heaven intersecting with earth.

We must rid ourselves of this mantra that speaks of going to heaven when we die, as if we will have come to the end of our journey. Heaven is indeed where the Lord is presently, but it is not our final home (Ps. 14:2; 20:6; 33:13; Ecc. 5:2; Is. 66:1; Dan. 2:44; 7:27; Rev. 11:15). The finished work of Christ is not fully realized until God makes his home on this earth.

If anything, heaven is only a temporal dwelling for those awaiting the resurrection of the dead. Jesus said there are “many dwelling places” in his Father’s house (Jn 14:2). The Greek word for “dwelling places” used here, monai, has regularly been used to refer to a temporary stop on an extended journey.

Even when Christ was on the cross, he told the thief on his left that “today” he would be with him in “paradise” (Lk. 23:43). This too doesn’t speak of a final destination, but of a temporal garden of rest. All of the saints, past and present, still await the return of the King and the establishment of heaven on earth (Heb. 11:13-16; Rev. 6:10-11).

God’s desire has always been to complete his good work in the created world upon which every human being has ever lived. For the Jew, there was a firm belief that God would restore creation and fulfill his covenant with his people. The Lord of heaven and earth would finally merge the two into one unified reality.

This resurrected world is called the “New Jerusalem” and the “Holy City” (Rev. 21:2). This newly remade world is our final destination. It is the Kingdom of God fully realized. In Revelation 21:5, Christ says:

“Behold, I am making all things new!”

And it is Christ that has the authority to say such things, for he was the first to be resurrected and be clothed with the imperishable.

Our hope is in a future resurrected existence in the “new heavens and earth.” It is on this earth that Jesus prayed, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Heaven is indeed coming to earth. Jesus has called for its renewal and resurrection!

“Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life—God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever.” N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 19

NOTE: The original section Hell: Eternal Torture? was removed and expanded into a single article.

Resurrection Future

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable… for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.Paul, 1 Cor. 15:50, 53

Some folks would have you believe that the resurrection has already taken place in the spiritual sense and there is therefore no need for a physical resurrection of our bodies. This view highlights the work of the cross but overlooks the importance and power of a physical resurrection in order to maintain its toxic eschatology.

We can’t afford to ignore the earliest Jewish meaning of the word resurrection. Resurrection always refers to a new bodily existence. Paul’s emphasis on Christ’s bodily resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:12-58 is to assure the saints that we too shall receive the same.

It should be equally accepted as his purpose for addressing those believers in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The believers there were dealing with the deaths of loved ones around them. They had “fallen asleep” before the coming of Christ.

Concerning the Christian hope at death, Stanley Grenz writes:

“As Christians, however, our hope does not focus on any conception of life after death. On the contrary, our hope is directed toward the promise of resurrection. Therefore, anything we say about the status of the dead must arise out of our hope for resurrection.” Created for Community, p.271

It is by Christ’s death on the cross that we died. But it is through Christ’s resurrection that we may live. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Paul continues, “If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (Rom. 6:4-5).

Without the physical resurrection of our bodies, we may not enter into the fullness of the new creation. When heaven comes to earth and “the dwelling of God is with men,” we shall receive a body that is clothed imperishable and raised in immortality; a resurrected body for a resurrected world.

It is in the physical resurrection of the dead and the judgment that the “last enemy” is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). Death shall be no more!

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus, John 11:25-26

Resurrection Now

Does the resurrection of Christ on the third day have any effect on us in the present? Paul believed we could know the power of Christ’s resurrection even now.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul, Philippians 3:10-11

Paul wrote, “outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). How is it that resurrection has already begun in an inward way? It has happened by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As N.T. Wright has written, it is in the resurrection of Christ that the world is already now “being born with Jesus” (SH, 73).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life…” and receiving his indwelling Spirit is receiving resurrection life (Jn. 12:24; 14:15-31; 16:5-16; Acts 1:8). The Kingdom of God has broken through into the old order of things and has already begun the work of resurrection in the here and now. It is doing a work within the hearts of men.

“The Kingdom of God belongs to the future, and yet the blessings of the Kingdom of God have entered into the present Age to deliver men from bondage to Satan and sin. Eternal life belongs to the Kingdom of God, to The Age to Come; but it, too, has entered into the present evil Age that men may experience eternal life in the midst of death and decay. We may enter into this experience of life by the new birth, by being born again.” George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 71

We are able to stand firm and give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because of our hope that soon Christ’s victory over death will become a reality for all of creation (1 Cor. 15:54-58). Resurrection is now working in the spiritual order of things.

The Kingdom of God is already here now and it is yet to come (Matt. 12:28; Mk. 1:15). It is working behind the scenes to destroy the sovereignty of Satan and is restoring the creation in every act of Christian love.

The Kingdom of God is breaking though into this present evil age because of Christ’s resurrection and it is testifying of the age to come when God will bring heaven to earth. The two-stage coming of the Kingdom should not be overlooked any longer (Lk. 19:11). The Lord is advancing his Kingdom even as I write this article. Heaven is invading earth in a covert operation of love.

How is the resurrection impacting our world today? What does the Kingdom look like in action? I believe Gregory Boyd very simply describes its nature and power.

He says, the Kingdom of God “always looks like Jesus—loving, serving, and sacrificing himself for all people, including his enemies. To the extent that an individual, church, or movement looks like that, it manifests the Kingdom of God. To the extent that it doesn’t look like that, it doesn’t.” The Myth of a Christian Religion, p. 14

If we are not willing to bleed like Jesus, we shall not know the power of his resurrection life. There is always a cross before there is a burst of light coming from the empty tomb. We must return to Christ and the foolishness of his cross if we wish to exhibit resurrection. For his Kingdom is not a matter of talk, but of power (1 Cor. 4:20).

This power does not come through utilizing the power-over structures of man to baptize the culture into the Christian religion. It is a spiritual authority that is earned by sharing the suffering of mankind. It happens when we see our neighbors as objects of God’s love instead of souls to conquer for our work-centered faith.

Resurrection happens in the here and now when the church is reflecting life as it will be in the new heavens and earth.

And that life always looks like Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians3:1821

Suggested Reading:

The Bible & the Future by Anthony Hoekema Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation by Bruce Metzger Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living by S. Grenz The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatology: Toward a Christ-Centered Approach by Adrio Koenig An Evening in Ephesus: A Dramatic Commentary on Revelation by Bob Emery Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God by George Eldon Ladd IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL OR RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD? by Oscar Cullmann The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution by Gregory Boyd Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright Dispensationalism: An Inquiry Into Its Leading Figures & Features by Jon Zens

Advertisements

About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

59 responses to “Heaven to Earth: The Christian Hope in the Resurrection, Part III

  • Phillip

    David,

    Remember I am not near as well read as you are so take any question from me as simply a question and no more. In your information and exposition about hell…I notice that you leave out the parts of Revelation (sp. 14:9-12) that give us a similar picture as the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
    In any case, I dislike the use of hell and fear to attempt to draw others closer to Christ. I feel Christians attempt to doctor up the Gospel of Jesus Christ to persuade others…if the Truth of Jesus and the movement of the Spirit is not enough to convince a non-believer, why do we think we will be able to fill in the gap?

    • David D. Flowers

      Philip,
      I could easily write a book about “hell” and the Scriptures. I will just say that folks largely ignore the apocalyptic genre of Revelation and the images of which John was seeking to convey by his language. As I have written, “We can’t interpret descriptions of hell in a stanch literalism anymore than those words of John concerning the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21).” Thanks for commenting!

  • wayne

    David,

    I have seen your heart, or I would not even respond. Honestly, a denial of a Scriptural Hell is not what I would have considered to be a part of your Theology had I not read this.

    In Revelation, we find the focus of eternity upon Jesus, the Lamb that was slain. Ironically, the focus of Scripture is not upon Jesus the babe; the focus is not upon Jesus the man; nor is the focus upon the ‘Risen’ Jesus; rather, the focus in eternity seems to be merely the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus.

    However, in this same Revelation God revealed the destiny of death and anyone not found in the ‘book of life.’ That destiny is the ‘lake of fire’. Orthodox Christianity identified the ‘Lake of Fire’ with ‘Hell’. Since the time of the Disciples, Hell has been a destiny.

    Should we deny damnation, we must deny a facet of God and His Son.

    How can Jesus be central to our Theology when we choose to deny parts of the Biblical image?

    I like the centrality of ‘Christ’. But, whet we see the Disciples doing is, IMHO, different than the modern, IC, image of what Disciples should do. The Disciples preached, prophesied, healed, and warned of the judgment.

    The disciples were concerned more with salvation of the lost and discipleship of believers than they seemed to be focused upon ‘worship’ as we know worship today. Further, what the Disciples warned of in Acts seems to be something to be warned about. Mere Death does not seem like something that the Disciples should warn about. If that had been the case, I would have expected the Disciples to call people to join them, not to warn them as well.

    In Him

    Wayne

  • jaredcburt

    Hey David,

    Thanks for another thoughtful post. I think I agree with everything you said except the doctrine of hell. For me, there are too many verses that clearly speak of the eternality of hell (Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10-15). Terminology such as “their worm shall not die,” “the unquenchable fire,” and “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever,” are all cases of imagery, but are meant to communicate everlasting torture. While there may be acceptable explanations for some of these passages in which torture is only temporary (although I do not know of any), I find it very difficult to explain them all away. Finally, all of these are terrifying verses. But it does not alter my conviction that God is merciful and just. Indeed, I believe I deserve such everlasting torture since I have willingly rebelled against the Creator.
    “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (Romans 9:14-15, NIV).

    Well… if nothing else, maybe this will get some good discussion going. Thanks for your boldness.

    Your friend,

    Jared

  • David D. Flowers

    Wayne,

    Do you interpret the book of Revelation (apocalyptic literature) literally? What about Rev. 21 and John’s description of the New Jerusalem? What about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus?

    Your comments do not fully reflect what I have written. I am not denying God’s judgment on the lost. However, I do whole heartedly reject the idea of eternal (never-ending) torture. I no longer find the idea Scriptural or consistent with the God I know in Jesus Christ. I expected folks to rush their reading here and jump to another extreme without giving this some serious thought.

    So… I am not comfortable with you suggesting I don’t believe in a “scriptural hell.” What is that? I have made an attempt to reexamine those Scriptures and test our traditions with the actual words of our Lord and his apostles. Like many things we are learning… we have too often labeled something “scriptural” that is not supported by the written or living Word.

    Please keep in mind that I grew up a Southern Baptist and I have heard every argument for the traditional view. I have simply proposed another view that, I believe, is more consistent with proper hermeneutics and the character of God in Christ.

  • David D. Flowers

    Jared,

    Thank you for your continued respect and friendship.

    I was expecting my challenge of “hell” to be the point of disagreement and center of controversy on this one. 🙂 All I can ask is for folks to read the Scriptures I have referenced and consider the ideas presented. I certainly did not come up with them on my own.

    I will tell you that a year ago I wasn’t open to the ideas that I am suggesting. My progressive knowledge of the Scripture and my knowledge of God in Christ (intellectually and experientially) no longer allows me to accept the old view with all its medieval influences. As you know, I have seen all the verses a person could quote on the issue… for I taught them.

    Thanks for always being open and honest. You are a friend.

  • Lionel Woods

    You bring up some good points David. Some things I have struggled with for some time. Thanks for your courage to post this brother.

  • Lionel Woods

    Hey let me ask while I am here. How does this effect our presentation of the Gospel, in light of the most popular methods (4 Spiritual Laws, Good persons tests, Evangelism Explosion…)

  • Frank Allabaugh

    Brother thankyou for speaking truth in the the matter of hell.For way to long we were blinded by traditions of man. Your brother and friend Frank

  • Jon Zens

    David — Thank you so much for this three-part series! People’s eyes are often opened in some area when they go through a tough experience, like a church-split. They begin to re-read the New Testament and realize that a lot of what they heard from the pulpit was human tradition, and not really God’s voice.

    Is it any wonder that when we peel back the layers that have accumulated over the centuries we discover that human ideas and agendas have often clouded and covered God’s Word? For example, we need to remember that the “Ecumenical Creeds” that have come to be used as reference points for “orthodoxy” were framed in a context where church & state were joined together. These were not settings where brothers & sisters (of course, sisters were put of out the picture by the ecclesiastical hierarchy) were wrestling through issues in light of God’s Word. Such gatherings of church leaders were summoned by the civil rulers, and there was considerable political intrigue and under-the-table manipulations going on.

    If you were a bishop, how would you feel if the Emperor told you that if you didn’t sign the final product, you would lose your bishoprick? This is what Constantine did. Of course, the Creeds affirm some wonderful truths. But we must, it seems to me, always keep in mind our belief that everything post-apostolic must be scrutinized by that which is apostolic. We cannot forget that the influx of Greek thought into the visible church was pervasive and harmful. That’s where the “sermon” (homily) came from. That’s where the “immortal soul” doctrine came from.

    David has done us a service by peeling back a little bit some layers that deserve further thought on our part.

  • David D. Flowers

    Lionel,

    That is a great question! It was one question among many that I hoped this series would evoke. It certainly does change some things, doesn’t it? As I said at the end, I believe we can finally see the lost as objects of God’s LOVE instead of souls to conquer in our Avon Evangelism methods. Heaven coming to earth changes a great deal of how we relate to people and the earth we are inhabiting today.

    What do you think?

  • Chad

    Hi David, thanks for sharing. I grew up in a denomination that holds this point of view, and I continue to hold it personally. For whatever reason eternal torment seems to be vitally important to many Christians. I can see why it is debated due to various scriptures. However, I really think that if we can take a step back and look at it objectively, we’ll see that the idea of eternal torment simply does not mesh with the character of God (as you said). I am encouraged to see that many people are coming to this understanding, especially among the organic church community.

  • Lionel Woods

    I think it is tough, because now it ties one of my evangelistic hands behind my back, I now have to focus on the resurrection and God’s love, versus a fear tactic of an eternity in a fiery lake. I think in the same vein it makes the resurrection more beautiful and the work of Christ even the more beautiful. I also think many Christians find a great satisfaction in the fact that they are going to heaven and God’s haters will burn in hell. It is much like Dante’s Inferno. I wonder if there is some personal satisfaction as I see many (I once was) quick to tell someone they are going to hell. I don’t know brother. This one is tough for me, as I have wrestled what is formally known as “annihalationsim” this mostly through the work of Boyd. Let me ponder a bit, so let me ask how do you now present the Gospel?

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Lionel,
      I’m glad you are taking this issue seriously. It does call much of our work-centered faith into question.

      Commonly, folks are taught that they need Jesus to be “saved.” Quickly they are then rushed to accept the idea that now the Lord wants you to learn a lot of things about him so you can go do a bunch of stuff for him. Seldom do we ever hear about the Gospel being about knowing Jesus in spirit with other believers and letting everything else naturally follow from this relationship. And all of this is in keeping with institutional religion. Frank Viola has spoken about this in his talk at George Fox Seminary. I like what he has to say. Give it a listen. http://www.frometernitytohere.org/ViolaGeorgeFox.mp3

      Let me first say this to be clear: I believe in a fierce judgment of the Lord. Some are jumping to the other extreme with this idea that I am saying people just cease to exist… like it is that simple. I believe in the Day of the Lord (Judgment). I am simply proposing we take a second look at reading the Scriptures appropriately through apostolic lenses and from the very words of Jesus. I have given evidence as to why I don’t think we can continue supporting an “eternal (never-ending) torment” any longer.

      How do I present the Gospel? I think this can only be discerned upon each individual confrontation. First, the most common expression should be through natural relationships with folks. People need to encounter Jesus through real relationships… not in selling Jesus like tupperware bowls. And I don’t see this from the point of pragmatic strategies. I see it as simply loving people to Christ because he said we would be known by this love (Jn. 13:34-34; 1 Jn. 2:6). We love… look for opportunities to share the Lord… they ask questions… we meet them where they are and become all things to all people… always using discernment by walking in the Spirit. I see open-air preaching to the lost is the gifting of apostles and should look a lot like the preaching we see in Acts, not in the ranting that goes on behind many pulpits. For those who have transplanted themselves as “missionaries” (I dislike that term) to live in another culture permanently… the same applies. This is fulfilling the great commission.

      I believe this is a good starting place. In loving folks like Christ… we manifest the Kingdom that is coming and the power in resurrection. In all of our attitudes toward people and this earth… we reflect a new heavens and earth that is soon approaching. We lovingly call folks out of the kingdoms of the world into the Kingdom of God; out of death and into LIFE. We communicate by word and deed that this world is undergoing a transformation that will consummate with heaven upon the coming of Christ.

      I hope this helps some. More than solid systematic answers… I am finding it all an exciting journey of loving Jesus and that love spilling out into the lives of others who desperately need to pass from death to LIFE. Blessings, bro.

  • Lionel Woods

    Let me ask another question David. You mentioned the Greek idea of immortality of the soul. I guess this begs the question to are souls before our existince. I don’t want to take this post in a direction you don’t want to go, but I don’t think I have ever engaged anyone on that question. But wouldn’t that have to be the case, if we are eternal beings we have always been eternal beings or something like that for us to be eternal beings in Hell, what sustains us there?

    • David D. Flowers

      Lionel,
      The immortality of the soul is a Greek idea and not a Christian (biblical) one. God created us for eternity, but this doesn’t mean we have always been or will always be. As I referenced above, only God is by nature immortal and eternal. I was pointing out in the article that God’s life would have to sustain a person in eternal torture since his LIFE alone is immortal and eternal. This is very troublesome to me and I don’t believe it is supported by Scripture to say that human beings have immortal souls.

  • randy

    David,
    Thank you for the thought provoking essay. I have been wrestling with this issue for some time now and I appreciate your investigation. My concern is not primary with who agrees or disagrees but how they reach their conclusions.

    I would be concerned that someone would read this essay and simply change their mind because you said so. I think that this group would be in the minority. The more worrisome group to me is those who refuse to examine the issue because someone previously told them what to believe.

    It seems to me that the eternal damnation of the lost is one of the most dearly held and least examined beliefs. It is a sacred cow on par with the virgin birth and the deity of Christ in many circles. The passion that I have heard expressed over the years leads me to the conclusion that many evangelicals who have worked so hard for the Father lo these many years are going to be very, very mad if they find out that all of those miserable SOBs don’t burn in hell for eternity. If they loved the world as the Father does wouldn’t their hearts be breaking? Yet what I see more often is a gleeful anticipation of the final judgment.

    We are to take every thought captive to Christ and this has become more important to me as I have realized just how many facets of our practice of faith are inherited. A simple examination of church history will reveal just how often cultural influences have perverted the practice of faith and once perverted they are passed down from generation to generation. Although it must be said that just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it wrong BUT it also doesn’t make it right either. Unexamined beliefs are all too often found to be without scriptural merit or basis.

    There comes the time, and quite often it seems, when , like Nicodemus we must begin again. Whatever traditions we have based our lives upon should be examined and those found wanting must be discarded. The eternal damnation of the lost is certainly suspect. It is not easily defendable as you have demonstrated. It is apparent from your essay that you have examined and discarded the eternal damnation of the lost and the universal reconciliation through Christ alone. That’s OK, I am not here to argue either position, I am still wrestling with God on this issue.

    My fear is for the people who do not examine any of it and just stick with whatever they were told by some authority figure. A tad too much like drinking the Kool Aid for me. I cannot imagine anyone being able to wrestle this issue out with God in less than weeks or even months.

    As I think of all of the misinformation and just plain lies that are told every day by professional preachers of the gospel I have to wonder why don’t they tell what they know? For example, how many times have you heard a professional preacher refer to a building where believers gather as the church? Now if you confront them on this they will readily admit that the church is the people, not the building. Yet they continue to perpetuaute the myths and lies that a building is the church and that it constitutes holy gtound. Why? Because that is what they have been told and because that is what the people want to hear. I think the same goes for the myths and lies perpetuated about death and judgment. It’s what they people want to hear, especially at a funeral so they tickle the ears of the ones who sign their checks.

    I am enough of a realist to know that many people will simply go to a professional preacher and ask him, “What do we believe?” thereby circumventing the relationship with God that Jesus paid such a high price to purchase for us. I am also enough of an optimist to hope that this essay of yours will be the catalyst to cause many people to examine the scripture and engage with the Holy Spirit that He may reveal truth to them.

  • janthonywalker

    David,
    It was good talking with you last night, bro. As usual I found it both educating and encouraging and I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. I found all of the posts in this series to be quite informative and I did learn a lot. Thank you for taking the time to write them.

    As we talked about last night, ultimately what matters is God in Christ. Everything else is secondary! While it may be important to consider issues like the reality of a “literal Heaven” and “literal Hell”, we must view them only through Christ Jesus. Everything we do, everything we say, indeed everything we ARE must be filtered through the person of Jesus Christ! As we know, apart from Him, there is NOTHING!

    When viewing eternity through Jesus, we are required to make an enormous leap to come to a point where there is eternal torment for the “unsaved” soul in Hell. That leap is in regards to the nature and character of God. If we believe that this torment exists then what we MUST believe is that God’s character is different in life than it is in death. In other words, as long as we are living, God is merciful, gracious and loving; but, the moment we die His character completely changes and He becomes a vengeful tormentor. I, for one, am not prepared to make that leap.

    Do I believe in Divine Judgement? ABSOLUTELY! Do I believe there is punishment for the unrepentent sinner? Of course! The question then becomes, can God’s judgement be simultaneously JUST and MERCIFUL? I believe it can and it is! Judgement for the unrepentent sinner is death. I think you and I both agreed last night that death — eternal death — is the ultimate punishment! That is the real hell.

    Having said all of that, I must reiterate my original point — no matter what we do, we must continue to view the world through Christ Jesus! Not to do so is to deny the reality that he is, as you said, All in All! Viewing the world apart from Christ is like looking through the wrong end of binoculars. When we examine the issues of life, death, Heaven and Hell, we must examine them through Him.

    God bless you, brother! Thanks for your work an thanks for your friendship. I look forward to talking with you and seeing you again soon!

    Jason

  • Brandon Cooper

    On the topic of a hell, I’m reminded that Origen, whose reputation is much skewed by the institutional church but whose contribution likely saved her from gnosticism, held views similar to David.

    Additionally, inquiries like this compel me to reiterate that I respect so much what David and those who interact on this forum are doing for the Christian faith. This is the perfect example of loving with all one’s “mind” and is why many reformers began wearing the scholar’s robe rather than the minister’s alb or surplice.

  • Michael William Smith

    Thank you brother for posting these thought provoking words. Thank you for allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to do all of the hard work through you that this took! Blessings to you brother!

  • Joe Miller

    Hi brother. I got your facebook invite to read and comment. Wow! A very long and thoughtful article. A lot of focus on hell in the comments… maybe that is the most controversial part of your writing.

    I could probably do a bit more study on it myself, but I will offer one quick observation about your hermeneutical approach. Most of your concern with the teaching of eternal hell seems to be rooted in a rationalist mindset (viz a vie, “I cannot reconcile two things, therefore one of those things must be false!”) One example is this quote,

    “How can a person live forever in the fiery torments of hell if God’s life is not sustaining them for eternity? But we have often heard that hell is a place where God is not. And if God is torturing people forever and ever, for what purpose? Is this consistent with God being “all in all” and his promise to rid the world of evil (1 Cor. 15:28)?”

    and this one…

    “How can a person live forever in the fiery torments of hell if God’s life is not sustaining them for eternity?”

    I think this kind of theological reflection is misleading since often the depths of God cannot be fathomed and understood. This Greek rationalism (which you reject in some parts but rely on here) is the core of most systematic theologies that seek to reconcile the mysteries of God’s revelation using reason and logic and emotions as a basis for reconciling the seeming paradox of Revelation.

    Maybe your overall post is deeper, but that is just my initial observation. I will have to give more study and consideration though to the whole topic.

    However, I think the more important part of your post is not about Hell, it is about the power of resurrection. Our church just finished going through 1 Cor and chapter 15 was a huge part of our study together. Resurrection is the culmination of all that Paul taught and the belief and reality of resurrection was the foundation for all that he envisioned for the Church I have been teaching through the Scripture chapter by chapter for the past 3 years, and I have to say, I have yet to teach a single week on hell, but I have taught many weeks on heaven, the new earth, and mostly the resurrection. It is the consistent and driving theme of SO MUCH, yet we talk of it so little.

    You have motivated me though David. I think I will work on posting my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15 and the resurrection. Maybe when I do, it could help extend the conversation on its real place and meaning in our faith!

    Okay, it is 2 am now and I need to sleep. I did not proofread.. so I apologize ahead of time for mistakes. 🙂

    • David D. Flowers

      Joe,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      I do believe your “quick observation” of my presentation has allowed a premature judgment of my hermeneutical approach. If you read carefully, I believe you will find that my conclusions are indeed based off a reading of the Scriptures within their context and genre. My comments of reason are to simply confirm what is wrong with the picture. It would be one thing if I based my entire argument off this sort of thing, but that is clearly not the case here. I spent an entire week seeing to it that my case was built upon the Scripture and that others would see that. There are plenty of references for a person to study for themselves. And I do hope folks will take the time to do the study. I didn’t come to my present beliefs on a whim or disturbance in the force. I don’t expect folks to find one reading against hundreds of years of tradition enough to bring an acceptance of what I am proposing. It will take much more than that.

      I am glad that this series has encouraged you to spend more time on resurrection. This was the purpose of the series. May our hope in the resurrection bring about a great renewal of thought and insight into how we live in this present evil age. Thanks!

  • Joe Miller

    David,

    I will print your post out and take more time on it. You put a lot of effort into it, so it certainly deserves more brother. 🙂

    Keep an eye on my blog, and when I post some tuff on the resurrection, I hope to hear from you.

  • Edward Fudge

    Thanks, brother, for this well-stated piece on “eternal punishment” in light of the Scriptures. We are so accustomed to interpreting that scriptural phrase as “everlasting conscious torment” (not a scriptural phrase) that we often fail to see how the Scriptures themselves actually explain it. Throughout the Bible, the ultiamte choices are life or death. The phrases thought to say otherwise (undying worm, ascending smoke, unquenchable fire, gnashing of teeth, etc.) all signify important things but Scripture writers use none of them to mean unending torment. For more biblical surprises, please see http://www.EdwardFudge.com/hellquiz.html .

  • Wayne M

    David,

    Please accept this as from someone who is searching. I have enjoyed your posts and want to place just one idea before you. In your post you mention this, “If God is “all in all” in the newly remade world, how is it that there will exist a place of everlasting damnation?” I know that the following verse is not talking about unbelievers although later in that chapter unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire. But in Rev 20:20 it says that the devil was cast into the lake of fire and was tormented day and night for ever and ever. How do you reconcile this seemingly eternal place of torment of the devil with the idea of God being “all in all” in the previous quote?

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Wayne M.

      I appreciate the question.

      I have previously mentioned Rev. 20 in the comments above. If we are reading the book of Revelation in a staunch literalism, then we are headed for some major problems. John’s revelation is a genre called “apocalyptic” literature. The nature of this literature is bizarre and it is not meant to be interpreted literally. Should we then interpret Rev. 21 on the New Jerusalem literally?

      We can’t skim through this wonderful book and simply pick and choose what we will interpret literally and what we will see as metaphor and code. We must read the book of Revelation as it was intended to be read. The message it seeks to convey is that good wins out over evil (Overcomers vs. Beast Worshipers). It communicates this in what I like to call the “special effects” genre of the Bible. Those believers in the first century never would have interpreted this book literally. They knew the real message was hidden behind numbers, symbols, images, and fire!

      As I have stated already, God can’t be “all in all” (i.e. everything) when there exists a place of eternal (never-ending) torture. There is plenty of evidence here to call the old idea into question. The passage in Revelation is quickly understood when we consider its literary genre and the context which it was written.

  • Mario A. Ramos

    David,
    Wow! I’ve just discovered your blog. I don’t read many of them but this one is worth my time. I hate reading electronic documents, but I’ll make the sacrafice to read yours. Thank you for your scholarly work on the issue of hell. It challenges my assumptions and my traditional beliefs. I have to reconsider.
    Keep up the good work!

  • David Ulrich

    My Dear Brother in Christ Jesus,
    As we all need to seek to grow in the knowledge of God and in our spiritual understanding of Him, let us remain open to the reality that many things that we have been taught over the years end up being misunderstandings of scriptures. In the past, I have had misunderstandings and have held erroneous views on tithing, dispensationalism, submission of wives, and many other things. The Lord is patient with us and will give to us wisdom and understanding if we ask for it and seek it.

    I must admit that my initial reaction to your new-found understanding of the second death was shock and concern for you. Praise be to God that He has shown me a different way.

    May I suggest that phases such as “the God I know” should not be used, because it conveys the idea that if I have a different understanding than you, then I know a different God.

    While I do not agree with you on annihilationism, let us walk in the unity of faith, giving thanks to God the Father in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • David D. Flowers

      David,

      I do understand many people’s “initial reaction” to what I have written on hell. As I have said several times already… I too revolted the first time I heard it. I am glad that your knowledge of Christ calls into question your “concern” for me on an issue, that is important, but not a matter of division.

      When I write of “the God I know” I am in no way suggesting that we believers are serving different Lords. In the context, my meaning should be clear that I am concerned to align my belief with Scripture, reason, and experience. What a shame it would be for someone to make a hermeneutical decision that was not based off all three. Our experience of God (i.e. “the God I know”) does matter. It must be considered along with a consistent and verifiable method of biblical interpretation.

      Also, I never used the word “annihilationism” as you have done. I have done this on purpose.

      I do hope that my readers will not focus entirely on the issue of hell, but will grasp the purpose for which this series was written. Thank you for your honesty and your friendship. May the Lord Jesus continue to be at the center of our decision-making.

  • David Ulrich

    Dear David,
    A personal note,
    Please forgive my writing style. Many times when I write, I come across as arrogant, know-it-all, and condemning. This is not my intent, and I am working on developing a better way to communicate. I don’t notice it until I’ve reread at least 10 times something I written.

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey David,
      No worries. I didn’t read you that way. You were straight to the point and that is helpful. Likewise, I like to do the same.
      Thanks again for your friendship.

      Your Bro,
      David D. Flowers

  • David Ulrich

    “Also, I never used the word “annihilationism” as you have done. I have done this on purpose.”

    I did notice the use of the word “annihilation” in your tags, but you are right, you did not use it in your post.

    • David D. Flowers

      I did use it in a tag. I also tag other words that I don’t agree with or I think are not all that relevant, but I know it will increase the chance of someone coming across the blog post… so I use it. 🙂

  • Brian

    My dear brother,

    Your academic ‘gifts, are without question… Masterful in their execution. As is also evident in your ‘passion to sift between the drying bones of history. But tell me, beloved, ‘When did you first imagine Scripture was insufficient for declaring truth to the dying? Or prefer framing a thesis for an essay on the mind of Randy Klassen… Affirming Jesus’ own references to Hell were merely a metaphorical allusion?

    I understand your compassion, to set aside sterile cliche… And free our witness… Pursuing a living witness, instead of playing church. But I fear the logic beneath your soliloquy has more to do with Gnostic humanism… Than the simplicity of Christ. For to reason backwards, arguing the ‘Absence of any visible reference to Hell in book of Acts.. Is somehow then equated to defined evidence of the premise you first began with… Is a basic failure in the very tools of logic you take such delicate care in. A circular construction, that seems to echo the whisper of an Asp… “Has God.. did God say that..?”

    In all sincerity, I would ask you to again consider Paul’s own example in I Cor. 2: “And when I came to you, brethren, I DID NOT come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know NOTHING among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

    • David D. Flowers

      Brian,

      Your question, “When did you first imagine Scripture was insufficient for declaring truth to the dying?”

      Really? You think I believe this? This is quite a charge… especially since I took the time to do a bit of exegesis. I noticed you didn’t say anything about the way I addressed the Scripture and believe it should be properly interpreted within its context and genre. I would love for you to comment on that.

      “framing a thesis for an essay on the mind of Randy Klassen…”
      I quote the brother once and suddenly I have just hijacked his thinking. Do you suppose that I am being untruthful in my open confession of the journey I have traveled? Did you stop to consider that I too was as adamantly against this new thought as you seem to be? I don’t believe your statement is fair… especially after you commended me on skill in presenting my case.

      I do wish you would take a step back and think about the process sensible people go through in making decisions. As I said to a previous reader, “I didn’t come to my present beliefs on a whim or disturbance in the force. I don’t expect folks to find one reading against hundreds of years of tradition enough to bring an acceptance of what I am proposing. It will take much more than that.”

      Can you prove to me my “gnostic humanism”? I don’t see your point here. I have gone out of my way in the beginning of this series to condemn Gnosticism.

      Brian, if you will notice carefully, I do not base my argument upon tools of logic. My statement at the beginning of the section about me coming to know Christ and that I am finding it hard to accept the traditional view of hell… was a truthful statement that was purposely placed there to capture the attention of the audience. I didn’t suspect anyone would have expected it. It is clear they didn’t.

      Furthermore, a consistent and verifiable method of biblical interpretation is one based upon 1. Scripture 2. Reason 3. Experience. Basing your decision on any one of these alone defies the very process that the Scriptures were written for our understanding. The Spirit should lead us in our interpretation in all three of these areas. We are indeed to love the Lord with our “heart, soul, and mind.”

      It would appear that you have thrown out reason (which is an appropriate tool when reading to understand) and have ignored the context and literary genres of Scripture to get at a very staunch literalistic interpretation. This interpretation is what you have dubbed “Scripture” and have accused me of saying is “insufficient.”

      Brian, I do appreciate your honesty. But once again I feel that you are yet another reader that has attributed your traditional interpretation of Scripture as law. The task here is not to see who can out wit the other in a surface argument of accusations, but who can rightfully address the Scriptures and let their believing or not believing be based off a direct engagement with the biblical text.

      This would require us to discuss these Scriptures that I am proposing are clearly metaphor, symbols, and the special effects language of literature. This does not deny a REAL JUDGMENT that ought to be frightful for those who are perishing. I do not deny that there is a “second death” that has been compared to Gehenna. But no scholar can deny that the word “hell” is a word that was inserted much later and has accumulated all sorts of ideas foreign to Scripture because we have done sloppy hermeneutics and have trusted in the traditions of men.

      Let’s allow the Scripture speak for itself. This requires us to come to a biblical interpretation that is consistent with the rest of the Scripture while keeping in mind that the Bible is human as well as divine. It is for this reason that we best make sure we hearing the words of Christ and the apostles the way in which it was received by its original listeners.

      If a case can be built that the traditional view of hell was born after Christ and the apostles, and that a consistent (i.e. entire) reading of Scripture in its context does not support such a teaching, then we have no choice but to let the Word speak for itself.

  • Brian

    My dear friend,

    I wrote to share my heart; even as you invited feedback… Not to incite anger. Yet in all fairness dear brother; if Scripture is sufficient in and of itself… Why direct so much energy toward suggested Extra-Biblical reading lists to augment your essay? Paul took deliberate pains to avoid any external reference to his own academic training… Although considerable.. Even when standing among Kings, and Academic Princes. Yet you build elliptical, albeit circular loops — From Klassne to Jan Bonda, suggesting Jesus’ own testimony toward lasting judgment was merely symbolic… Even as you affirm the absence or lack of visible evidence somehow morphs into as prima facie closure for your thesis.

    I agree, dead letter and sterile programs have done precious little in developing a living witness for dying humanity. My fear for you.. Is that your own accumulation of ‘Enlighted Scholars (So called).. may be drawing you away from the simplicity of the Gospel. For our foundations are supposed to be simple enough, for a child to embrace… The bread of life…. Not the esoteric rumblings of a Bohemian gathering.
    Lord’s blessing on you, and your family

    • David D. Flowers

      Brian,

      I was not angry, nor am I angry now. 🙂 If you would like to continue the discussion, I would prefer we talk about the Scriptures instead of other concerns you may have. Thanks for your patience.

  • janthonywalker

    I love redundancy….it’s so…repetetive!

    My brother, keep doing what you’re doing and saying what you’re saying. It is a fresh wind of faith in the midst of a stale and stagnent regligion! The Bohemians were good people!

  • Brian

    Thank you, David! I would like that very much… Would also welcome sharing by phone, sometime, as the Lord allows; and you find time. So we can establish or move this or any other dialog into a living framework. Grateful for your courtesy!

    (Ps….) Bohemians may have been good people, in reference to their own humanity; Janthony. But the majority of them were headonistic, and involved with Zen: A school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, translated from the Chinese word Chán; derived from the Sanskrit Dhyāna, which means “meditation”… Not exactly on target with our discussions here, beloved.

  • janthonywalker

    Brian…you need to lighten up, buddy. And, lay off of Wikipedia. I really couldn’t care less what the Bohemians were in to. No Bohemian has ever tried to sway me from my Faith! Smile sometimes, brother…it increases your face value!

  • Brian

    Hard to ‘Smile Janthony… When the World is sliding into Hell daily. Mainline Church is sleeping, imagining mental assent or a 5 step Sinners Prayer is the same thing as devopling a new realtionship with the World. If Paul wrote about being ‘Watchful over foolish jesting; I’ll err on the of sober and try to follow that example.. Or does that concern fall in ‘Redunancy ? 🙂

  • janthonywalker

    My brother, the world has been “sliding into Hell daily” since Eden! Forgive my smile if you will, though, because I know that I have been redeemed by Christ and…well, I just can’t help myself! I have spent an awful lot of time in my life weeping and moaning, worrying and fretting about things over which I have no control and all it has achieved is my own dismay. So, when I encourage you to smile, it’s because I know first hand that there is plenty to smile about…even in a world “sliding into Hell daily”. I’m going to follow Paul’s example, as well and “rejoice in the Lord always!” Blessings to you.

  • jaredcburt

    Brian,

    Your response to David’s blog is surprising. You claim he thinks Scripture is insufficient, that he bases his thoughts on the mind of Randy Klassen, and that he is angry. Indeed, you wrote: “Yet in all fairness dear brother; if Scripture is sufficient in and of itself… Why direct so much energy toward suggested Extra-Biblical reading lists to augment your essay?” Perhaps this is your best question, but if you are going to make such a point you must not forget to include Scripture in your own rebuttal. Except for “1 Cor. 2,” which is not relevant to the discussion on hell, you did not do this. If you believe David’s teaching on hell is unbiblical, you should provide your own biblical evidence to the contrary. I disagree with David’s teaching on hell as well (see comments above), but such disagreement in only beneficial if there is biblical discussion. David reads the same Bible you do; he merely has a different interpretation.

    Jared

  • Brian

    Thank you for sharing your heart, my friend. But if you can take the time to revisit the “If” sentence you refer to… You will notice I did not accuse David of ANYthing. The “IF” construction is in fact a rhetorical device which is intended to illicit a closer discussion of a writer’s premise. For as ‘Enlightened as any extra-biblical commentator may be… The Lord has only given us assurance HIS WORD will NOT return Void – Isaiah 55:10-11. And my concern, simply stated; is that the axiom and overall progression of the thesis appeared to be drawn externally; from other men. Rather than internal progression. Silly me, but I get nervous anytime someone says, ‘Jesus was merely speaking in a symbolic manner.

    As to the 2nd issue of my saying David was “Angry”.. You will notice that is from the 2nd Email (Which was not a continued thread, occurring from accusing anyone of anything). This was an attempt by one writer, making an effort to be sensitive to another’s point of view. Lest our sharing or disagrement digress into argument. For as your own ‘Misreading of my comments amply illustrates – This medium is limited in nature. And any of us, can leap to an opinion of another.
    Shalom

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Brian,

      How do you feel about Matthew 5:30? Surely you don’t think Jesus meant you should literally cut of your hand or gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin? 🙂

      Just to clarify… I am proposing that Jesus is using a metaphor(s) to describe God’s judgment upon the wicked. This does not deny a horrible judgment to say Jesus was clearly using metaphor to describe “hell” (Gehenna/Hades)… anymore than it denies the seriousness of sin to say Jesus was using over-exaggeration in Matt. 5:30.

      I could of course throw out other verses to further prove Jesus’ use of human language that, in the context, demands we not interpret him in a staunch literalism.

  • Joe Miller

    David,

    I don’t want to get in the middle of you and Brian, but your answer made me think of a question. It comes in two parts.

    In Matt 5:28, the context for the verse you mentioned above, Jesus says that a man who looks at a women with lust has already committed adultery. Was Jesus also using exaggeration to make a point, or was he being literal?

    When Jesus says there is no greater love than to lay day ones life for another… was that to be taken literally or metaphorically? Did Jesus literally mean it was the highest demonstration of love to die for another person, or was he just talking in human terms?

    So those are two off the cuff examples. If you believe Jesus meant these literally, I have one follow-up. And that is, what biblical hermeneutic are using to determine when Jesus was being literal and when he was exaggerating to make a point? What rule or guide do you consistently use to make that distinction?

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Joe,

      The point of Jesus’ mentioning the lust in the heart… as well as the exaggeration with the hand and eyes… is to draw attention to the need for the removal of the inward cause of offense. Within the literary context, yes, it is clear that the real concern is not whether Jesus is trying to point out a literal truth, but to go the root of man’s problem.

      Your example of Jesus telling his disciples to love one another doesn’t even belong in the same category. There is nothing in the surrounding passage to indicate any kind of figure of speech. We shouldn’t jump to the extreme and think I am calling every single word into question.

      The greatest problem we face today among believers, when it comes to the Bible, is that most have been taught to read the Scriptures after having left our brains at the door. Here is where I see the importance of a hermeneutical practice within community. Many preconceived ideas, as well as man’s traditions, have been passed down to us and can easily blind us to the obvious. Indeed, we do need each other.

      Overstatement: common within Semitic speech; forceful, even harsh, exaggeration of truth intended to capture the attention of the audience. (e.g. Lk. 14:26; Matt. 5:28-30; Matt. 5:38-42) Notice in Matt. 5:38-42, the point of the exaggeration is made clear: “Do not resist an evildoer.” This is conveyed forcefully through overstatement in turning the cheek, giving the cloak, etc. If a Jew gave up their cloak, they would be naked! Jesus is focusing our attention on the radical nature of loving one’s enemies.

      Hyperbole: an exaggeration of speech that makes a literal fulfillment impossible (Matt. 23:23-24; Matt. 6:2-4; Matt. 7:3-5; Mk. 10:24-25) It should be noted that camels can’t enter through needles or be swallowed by Pharisees. Common expressions: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”… “I studied forever!”

      Likewise, how does one consistently interpret contemporary expressions? Because we are familiar with language and its usage. We recognize a person’s meaning based off a basic knowledge of literary devices and the context in which they are used (e.g. time, occasion, audience, etc.).

      We use these expressions almost everyday: simile, metaphor, puns, riddles, irony, etc. When we take into consideration that Rabbinical teaching would have relied heavily upon the crafty usage of language to capture the audience and drive forth the truth in an unforgettable way… we should readily expect to see it around every corner.

      I believe the more familiar we are with the way language is constructed and are careful to pay attention to the biblical context… much that is shrouded in obscurity and years of traditional abuse will come into the light and be understood in plain terms.

      Therefore, it is not some biblical hermeneutic I have chosen, as if I have devised a method of picking and choosing or cutting and pasting, but a simple enforcement of special literary forms that were common among orators in Jesus’ day, and is common in every language even today.

      Hope that helps. I do understand the frustration folks feel when they discover that everything is up for reconsideration when an interpretation is challenged. However, I strongly believe that our skill in recognizing these common literary forms will let the Bible speak… and put down poor interpretations when they don’t hold water.

      I recommend reading:
      “The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings” by Robert Stein
      “Grasping God’s Word” by Duvall and Hays
      “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” by Fee & Stuart

      I know there are other great books out there that address the recognition of literary forms within the biblical text.

  • Joe Miller

    Okay, I can accept that answer. Thanks for taking the time to respond so thoroughly.

    You wrote, “We shouldn’t jump to the extreme and think I am calling every single word into question.”
    We should also not jump to the extreme and assume my question was an indictment of everything you are writing… it was a question designed to probe your thinking. You gave a thoughtful answer. Thanks.

    The book by Fee and Stuart is good.

    • David D. Flowers

      Thanks, Joe. I didn’t think your question was an indictment on my writings. I always try to get straight to the point and answer questions based off all that a person is asking and the way they ask it.

      Yes, I enjoyed Fee & Stuart’s book. There are some really good books out there on biblical interpretation.

  • jaredcburt

    Brian,

    First, I still believe you accused David of viewing Scripture as insufficient. You wrote, “But tell me, beloved, ‘When did you first imagine Scripture was insufficient for declaring truth to the dying?” Explain another way for me to read this statement than, “David, you view Scripture as insufficient for declaring truth, when did you first start thinking in this way.”

    Second, you think David based his essay on the thoughts of Klassen. Indeed, you wrote, “Or prefer framing a thesis for an essay on the mind of Randy Klassen?”

    However, the point of my response was not to prove that you are accusing David. I think sometimes people should be accused or exposed. In fact, the point of my response was to expose a flaw in your argument. If you think David views Scripture as insufficient, even though his blog is absolutely flooded with Scripture and biblical interpretation (some of which I disagree with), then your rebuttal should shine with Scripture and biblical interpretation, which it does not.

    But hey, if you did not mean to accuse David of this… great! In that case, disregard my response to you and have a Happy Sponge Bob Square Pants Birthday!

    Jared

  • Brian

    Dear Jared,

    Judging from your recent post.. I can only infer you are in possession of the ‘Magic pencil. Racing about, as you try to call Franken Doodle Bob to life. 🙂

  • Michael Cooper

    Haha! I think I had more fun reading the comments about the blog! Just kidding! I agree and disagree on some points. Just one other comment…it sounds a lot like N.T. Wright. Pretty much the same points you’ve made come from the books and sermons Ive read and listen to by Dr. Wright. Other than that, good word! Praying for you brother!

  • aeischeid

    Hey David

    Thanks for writing. Also, like the new site layout.

    One thought I had. Song lyrics like “I’ll fly away”, or others that refer to earth or this life as not our home, might be technically incorrect, but are they necessarily off in the emotion they mean to convey. If the new earth and our bodies will be transformed, then in some sense it is a lot like being in a new place even if it is the same place. Similar to the feeling one might have visiting a home that has been remodeled, “this doesn’t even seem like the same house!”

    At points in your writing it comes off as though you find it appalling that the majority of believers are so far off in their thinking, when it seems to me they are more off in a subtle but significant way that has to do with semantics and technicalities. That is not to say semantics and technicalities are unimportant, just that, in my own experience, conveying that people are way off when they just need to think through the details more precisely is a good recipe for being perceived as arrogant or sensationalist.

    • David D. Flowers

      Thanks for reading, Aaron.

      I think some Christians may have more “subtle” differences as you said, but the majority of believers that I come in contact with do reflect the extra-biblical ideas that I have articulated in this article. I believe the lyrics to songs like “I’ll fly away” are misleading, and the feelings go along with them.

      It’s unfortunate that perceptions are often distorted and inaccurate. I do take to heart what you’ve written, however, I do believe my article is an accurate representation of the facts. Also, misperceptions seem to come with the territory in writing online, or in any other venue for that matter. It can be frustrating, so you live and learn.

      Glad you like the new look to the blog! Blessings, bro.

  • Jon Zens

    While I fully agree that the lyrics to “I’ll Fly Away” do not capture the NT vision of our “hope,” nevertheless I think we need to be sensitive to the circumstances under which that particular song was written. It emerged from the Afro-American plantation slave culture, I believe, and thus one can fully sympathize with why they would long for a future immediately after death that was better than the pain going on in their daily lives.

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Jon, while I do understand how and why this sort of song came about, it still reflects bad theology (eschatology). It’s not the sort of thing we read about in the NT where believers were undergoing intense trials and tribulation. The Roman world was relentlessly brutal–even in its slavery.

      We could also say that it is understandable, and worthy of our sympathy, how the slow organizing of the institutional church, and the development of sacraments and “holy relics,” were a result of explosive growth (pagan converts), false teaching, extreme persecution, and an attempt to cope with the evil that surrounded them—which is how I understand much of it came about. Constantine merely put the finishing touches on the new imperial Church.

      So I can sympathize, but I don’t know what else can be said or done other than that. In our sympathizing, we also remember not to do the same under similar circumstances. In our suffering, whatever kind that may be, we hold fast to Christ with our hope placed firmly in the resurrection of the dead and the transforming of this world into the new heaven and earth. It doesn’t make much sense then to sing “I’ll Fly Away” simply out of sympathy.

  • Jon Zens

    I agree totally! The slaves sang their songs from a position of imposed weakness, not from the ivory tower of Constantinian power.

  • aeischeid

    after I read this I went back and listened to a song I like called “In Exile” by Thrice. which can be listened to here with lyrics here. The song feels more correct than incorrect to me in lyrics and in the emotion it conveys. But it seems like you might disagree. I wouldn’t call this song or “I’ll Fly Away” misleading – easily misinterpreted maybe. The term ‘misleading’ has a connotation of intentional deception to me I guess.

    I went and looked up a couple verses that might correlate with the emotions these songs evoke, and I wondered how you might deal with those in light of what you have written. (maybe you already did in previous comments or articles, there were quite a few comments so I didn’t read them all…)

    1 Peter 1:11,1:17,2:11
    Heb 11:13,16
    Psalm 39:12

Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: