Hell holds no one forever

If Hell manages to swallow just one human being forever then God’s purpose in Christ has failed. But Scripture says God’s purpose won’t fail. God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” Ephesians 1:11, and God’s will “according to his good pleasure” is “to bring ALL things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ,” verses 9 and 10.

That’s why Christ died. He died because we were all headed for Hell. We were all “alienated from God and enemies in our minds because of our evil behaviour,” Colossians 1:21. “BUT,” verse 22, “now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.” And because of “his blood, shed on the cross,” verse 20, “ALL things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” are now reconciled to God. “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to EVERY creature under heaven,” verse 23.

The gospel holds out hope for everyone. It’s the good news that everybody (and everything) is being held together by Christ (verse 17). No one is left out in the cold or abandoned in Hell forever. Hell exists, yes, Scripture is clear on that, but like death it holds no one forever. Christ’s death put the seal on that, Hebrews 2:14. He “shared our humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil.”

Christ’s death broke whatever power the devil has over us. The idea that the devil reigns supreme in Hell, therefore, with full power over human beings to torture them forever, is a travesty. When Christ rose to power after his death, he “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” Colossians 2:15. Since Christ’s ascension the devil is a spent force, a defeated enemy. He still has enormous influence, yes (1 John 5:19), but “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work,” 1 John 3:8.

So even if it was true that the devil held people in Hell, it is no longer true now, because whatever power the devil had was destroyed by Christ. It is Christ  who now “holds the keys of death and Hades,” Revelation 1:18, not the devil. And Christ uses those keys too, because one day “death and Hades give up the dead that were in them,” Revelations 20:13, and then “death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire,” verse 14,

The picture of Hades as an ever-burning fire tormenting the wicked forever cannot be true, then, because neither death nor Hades hold anyone forever. Christ made sure of that.

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Hell exists because God loves us

Hell exists because God doesn’t want to lose any of us. Hell is a brilliant way of getting people to “humble up” and realize their stupidity, like the Rich Man in Luke 16. All his life he couldn’t care less about God or the poor, so into hell he went, verse 23, where he clearly deserved to be.

But in hell something happened to him. He called out for help. He didn’t demand help aggressively either. He begged for just one tiny drop of water to cool his tongue, verse 24. Gone was his arrogance and snotty attitude. Even when Abraham told him, “Too bad, old chap, you’re in hell because you deserve it and you can’t escape,” the Rich Man didn’t spit and fume and yell obscenities. Instead he begged – yes, “begged,” verse 27 – for Lazarus to be sent to his five brothers so they could be spared.

It’s like sending a child to his room when his attitude stinks and he won’t change it, or he’s got to the point he can’t change it. Pride, stubbornness, self-justification have all cemented his resistance. So he sits in his room fuming. But after a while he gets fed up with fuming. He hears the sounds of home – laughter, the clanking of dishes in the kitchen in preparation for supper, his favourite TV program on – and a little crack in the armour appears. He begins to wish he hadn’t been so stubborn and stupid. So he calls out asking if he can “come out now.” And if his attitude has truly “humbled up,” he’s allowed out. If not, he can stay there until his attitude really has changed.

It’s a very effective method for bringing a child round so he’s not consumed by his rotten attitude forever. And so is hell. It’s a holding tank for all those who proudly and obstinately refuse to listen to God or believe him. Either way, they’re in a rotten attitude that could easily have cemented their resistance to God forever. So, leave them in their miserable attitude in hell until they soften up and beg for help, just like the Rich Man.

God doesn’t force us to believe him, but he has his ways of showing us how stupid we are and what we’re missing out on to break through our resistance. Like hell. So why hell? Because God doesn’t want to lose any of us. He won’t lose us anyway because Christ holds all things together, Colossians 1:17, but hell plays a vital part in that too, in humbling up the proud and arrogant so they don’t lose out on the fun too.

Because God loves us.

Does God heal terminal cancer?

To ask such a question faces fear right in the face. Who isn’t afraid of dying from terminal cancer? Yet Jesus said, “”Do not be afraid of those who kill the body” Matthew 10:28. Anything that kills us physically is nothing to be afraid of, because it “cannot kill the soul” (same verse).

No matter what happens to us physically, our soul remains intact. It’s like having an immortal gene in our DNA, and nothing, except God himself (same verse) can change that. God designed us for everlasting life – which is why he gave us a soul. It’s what having a soul means.

“So don’t be afraid,” Jesus says in verse 31; God the Father gave human beings an indestructible soul, so that nothing in this life of ours now can upset his purpose for us. And to illustrate that, Jesus uses the example of a tiny bird, worth only pennies if sold in the market. But even a tiny bird, like a sparrow, doesn’t die “apart from the will of your Father” (verse 29), meaning we can rest assured that our death – including death from cancer – does not affect his will for us either. And his will is that we live forever.

Whether God heals us from terminal cancer, or not, therefore, has no bearing on our soul, or whether we live forever, or not. We are our Father’s children, and it’s always been his “pleasure and will” that we be his children, Ephesians 1:5. And to make us his children he gave us a soul that lives forever. He then gave us his Son to make us “holy and blameless in his sight” verse 4, and then he gave us “the promised Holy Spirit” verse 13, “guaranteeing our inheritance” as his children (verse 14).

Nothing in this life, therefore, is “terminal.” Instead, every moment “we live and move and have our being” in our Father, Acts 17:28. “We are his offspring” (same verse), and nothing, outside of God himself, can change that. But why would God change it anyway? We are his children, and there isn’t a moment that goes by that we aren’t his children. That’s why he gave us a soul, to make that relationship possible and everlasting.

No wonder terminal cancer is such a repulsive thing to us. It goes against the grain of our soul to have to die. God built it into us to live forever, not be frightened by silly terms used in the medical profession, like “terminal.” Jesus told us to ignore such silliness, because the only “terminal” we should ever fear is the destruction of the soul. And there’s no need to worry about that either, because we’re God’s eternal offspring.

Jesus is into healing in a big way

When Jesus was here on earth as a human, he healed everyone who asked for healing, and even some who didn’t, like the man crippled for 38 years. Jesus simply went up to the crippled man and asked him if he wanted to be healed, and when the man said “Yes,” Jesus healed him.

Clearly, God loves healing people. So why doesn’t he heal everyone who asks for healing now? But he does. “in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, “Acts 2:17, “And EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” verse 21.

We’re living in an era when anyone can call on God and he will be saved. And what does “saved” mean? It means “complete healing,” Acts 3:16. This is healing even better than the physical healings Jesus did. Physical healings were wonderful for those who received them, but Jesus promised we’d do “even greater things” than the miracles he did (John 14:12).

That was illustrated clearly in the first healing after the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. A man crippled from birth was begging for money, and Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Just the name of Jesus had the power to heal. So Jesus was still healing people, right? Yes of course, Peter would reply, because “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this COMPLETE healing to him, as you can all see,” verse 16.

The man was completely healed of his ailment. But Peter hadn’t finished talking yet. He then gave the reason why the man was completely healed, in verse 26 – “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each (and every one) of you from your wicked ways.” In other words, healing went beyond physical healing; it extended to healing EVERYTHING bad and sick in a person.

The complete physical healing of the crippled man was simply an illustration of what Jesus was now up to, which was healing the cause and symptom of everything that ails us. “Turn to God,” Peter said, “so that your sins may be wiped out,” verse 19.  Every bit of junk cluttering up our minds, hearts and motives, that in turn make us physically sick, that’s the healing Jesus now offers anyone who turns to him – a far “greater” work than he did before.

Because what’s the point of a completely healthy body if it still contains a sick mind? It’s sick hearts and minds, then, that need healing first.

“Please, would you pray for me?”

To me there’s no more humble, moving plea than a person asking for prayer on his or her behalf. But on the practical side I have to ask in return, “What would you like me to pray for, or pray about?” Whatever his problem happens to be, what is the person actually hoping for in seeking the prayers of others?

I ask, because when Jesus saw a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years he went up to the man and asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:5-6. It sounds like an odd question, but Jesus picked out this man for healing and asked him that question for a reason.

We see the reason in verse 14. After healing the man, Jesus met him later on and said to him, “Now you are well, don’t sin as you did before, or something even worse may happen to you.” The reason Jesus healed the man was to kickstart him on the way to health, not so the man could revert back to bad habits and risk making things even worse for himself.

It reminded me of my childhood when a good report from my dentist meant a trip to a bakery to celebrate with the sugariest doughnut on offer. If the dentist had got wind of it, he would probably have said something similar to what Jesus said to the invalid, like “Come on son, you got a good report, now build on it, don’t ruin it.” And the same goes for someone asking for prayers for a sickness to be healed or a problem to be resolved. If God does actually heal, or he solves the problem, will the person build on it, or revert back to bad habits, and maybe make things worse?

I had to answer that question myself recently after getting a clean bill of health following a blood test for diabetes. My immediate reaction was relief, followed by the desire to celebrate, which I did with a favourite food I’d been avoiding – dates – which, of course, are loaded with sugar. Not a wise move for someone being checked for diabetes.

In contrast, Jesus’ advice to the invalid, after giving him a clean bill of health, was to encourage the man to build on it, not do things that would cripple his health again. In other words, when we’re feeling well, use it to advantage, not as an excuse to push the limits. Why? Because God raised Christ to bless us (Acts 3:26), by putting us on the road to “purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God,” 2 Corinthians 7:1.

“Give them a hug from me”

Following on from “Carrying each other’s burdens” (July 24/12), Christ is now living IN us what he did FOR us. He relives his love for us in our love for each other, enabling us to incarnate ourselves into other people’s lives and take on board what they’re going through, just as Christ incarnated himself into our lives to take on board everything we go through. He carried our burdens, and now he carries them all over again through us carrying each other’s burdens.

That’s why he promises to answer our prayers for those who are suffering, in whatever form that suffering takes. Our prayers for others are HIS love in us anyway, so he’s really answering himself. Our prayers for each other, therefore, are guaranteed an answer, as James tells us in James 5:15 – “Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.” And in context he’s talking about our prayers for others. Our prayers for others are guaranteed an answer, because “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” (from The Message translation).

“Make this your common practice,” then, James continues in verse 16, to be open about our troubles so that we can pray for each other, because in those prayers of ours will come healing, comfort and hope, guaranteed.

What I’m saying in my prayers for other people is, “Please God, give them a hug from me.” Because I can’t lift them out of their misery or desperation like Jesus can. I can’t be there in person all the time to give them comfort. I haven’t got the time to give them all the help they need, nor do I have the right words to say either. But Jesus our eternal High Priest does have the time, he does have the right words and he can be with them all the time, to give them exactly what they need and exactly when they need it. He can give them the hug I wish I could give.

And he promises to give them that hug when I ask him to. And I’m so glad he does because I’m limited in the help I can offer. So when my son-in-law was under fire in Afghanistan and his family lived in fear and desperation every day he was away, I did what I could to give them comfort, but they had burdens of soul and heart I could not carry. So I asked Jesus to give them a hug from me, because his hug would comfort them, and he’d do it for me simply because I asked him, and because he says he will.