Category Archives: Heaven and Hell

So, Will All Be Saved in the End?

A follow-up to the teaching, Will All Be Saved in the End? in our Tough Questions Series

I had the privilege at North Park University of speaking with Kallistos Ware, elderly Orthodox bishop and scholar from England. I had read his essay called, Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All? (I found it on the web here.) I asked him about his views. He said that the freedom of the human will as part of being in God’s image, was for him (as for C. S. Lewis) a decisive point. There must remain, despite God’s love and the victory and future restoration of all things in Christ, the possibility of choosing to refuse God’s gift. His article is worth reading to understand how Christians through the centuries have addressed these issues.

Here are some C.S. Lewis’ quotes on this subject that are insightful and provocative.

To enter hell is to be banished from humanity.  What is cast (or casts itself) into hell is not a man: it is “remains.”To be a complete man, means to have the passions obedient to the will and the will offered to God…hell was not made for men…It is in no sense parallel to heaven. (from The Problem of Pain)

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, chose it.  Without that self- choice there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek, find…” The Great Divorce

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: “What are you asking God to do?” To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them?  They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

ONE MORE resource for deeper study that I’ve appreciated is an important alternative to some western views of heaven and hell that often come more from Dante’s Inferno and Greek mythology than from biblical teaching. It is linked here: Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife According to the Bible, by Peter Chopelas, an Eastern Orthodox writer.  Though the writer sees this understanding as being counter to both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, I would say that many evangelicals, including myself, increasingly accept the basic premise of this line of study. Certainly Lewis was on this train.

What Questions are raised for you by this discussion?

Jesus pulled me up by the wrist

Resurrection Icon
Resurrection Icon

Holy Week and Easter Sunday were glorious times for our church. In the sermon Sunday, (available here) I used, as I have for many years, the icon of the Resurrection, originating in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Christ has smashed the gates of Hades (or death) and fashioned them as a bridge over the pit of hell. Below, the locks and keys lie broken. In one, Satan himself is bound, powerless to prevent the destruction of his kingdom.

The song we sang that comes from an ancient Paschal hymn says, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death…”

Christ stands over the tomb pulling Adam and Eve (as representative humanity) up and out. We don’t see Jesus raising two individuals. We see him raising the entire human race from bondage to sin and death.

This year I discovered a detail I never saw before. (Further study confirmed it is a standard requirement of all versions of this icon.) Jesus is pulling the man and woman up BY THE WRIST. They have no power to stand on their own. They don’t even have much power to reach out their hands to Jesus. The wrist image is a graphic way of proclaiming, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13, ESV)

Glory to God!

N. T. Wright on ‘Hell’

Hell is in the News a lot lately because of recent books and rebuttals.  I recently came across some short videos where N.T. Wright comments on various questions around heaven and hell. These were in conjunction with his excellent book, Surprised By Hope.  Here is one of the videos and three of the transcripts.  You can find all the videos at the website, 100huntley.com. They are not a complete treatment but are thought-provoking in light of recent discussions.

NOTE: Wright’s descriptions about hell and the ‘progressive shrinking of human life’ echo C.S. Lewis and a post here at Ruminations that many have found helpful – It is titled Some New/Old Thoughts on Hell.  Read the linked article in that post by Peter Chopelas as well.  You may also want to listen to the sermon on Jesus’ parable of The Wheat and the Weeds at the Christ Church website.

Here are the transcripts: Continue reading N. T. Wright on ‘Hell’

Jesus’ Resurrection…and Ours!

He is risen….and Jesus’ resurrection is the the first fruits of all to come!  The resurrection of the body is so vital to understand.  On Easter I mentioned a new book by N.T. Wright – Surprised By Hope.  Here is an excerpt from the book printed in the new Christianity Today.

There is no agreement in the church today about what happens to people when they die. Yet the New Testament is crystal clear on the matter: In a classic passage, Paul speaks of “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). There is no room for doubt as to what he means: God’s people are promised a new type of bodily existence, the fulfillment and redemption of our present bodily life. The rest of the early Christian writings, where they address the subject, are completely in tune with this.

The traditional picture of people going to either heaven or hell as a one-stage, postmortem journey represents a serious distortion and diminution of the Christian hope. Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope. It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story of God’s ultimate purposes.  Click Here to read the whole article.

The ‘Intermediate Heaven’

Recent teachings on ‘Act 6’ of the Biblical Drama have looked at the themes around “New Creation.”  We’ve approached tough questions about heaven and hell and living in light of eternity.  For many of us, our understanding of Heaven  has been shrunken and ill-informed.  One of the biggest misconceptions is about the state of the believer immediately after death and the fact that this is not the final state – which is resurrection on a renewed earth.  We don’t know a whole lot about this “intermediate state,” except from scriptures such as 2 Corinthians 5, Philippians 1, and the “paradise today” promised to the thief on the cross.  (Luke 23:43)

Randy Alcorn has a voluminous website and several books on the theology of Heaven.  One article that summarizes the concept of “intermediate Heaven” in very similar terms is linked here. Check out the whole Heaven section of the website (Eternal Perspective Ministries) to go as detailed as you want to go into the nature of heaven.  I believe it is for the most part, great stuff!  The sermon on May 27 will delve more into the nature of the Renewed Earth – the Eternal State.

Some new/old thoughts on ‘Hell’

The Eastern church’s view of hell is very insightful and a necessary counter to the traditional western view that often comes more from Dante’s Inferno,  graphic paintings, and Greek mythology than from biblical teaching.  One article that will stimulate thinking on the nature of God’s presence as it relates to heaven and hell I will link here.  It’s called Heaven and Hell in the Afterlife According to the Bible, by Peter Chopelas.  Read the whole article before evaluating.

C.S. Lewis quotes on hell are also very insightful and provacative.  Put his The Great Divorce on your reading list!  Here are the quotes from the sermon:

To enter hell is to be banished from humanity.  What is cast (or casts itself) into hell is not a man: it is “remains.”To be a complete man, means to have the passions obedient to the will and the will offered to God…hell was not made for men…It is in no sense parallel to heaven. (from The Problem of Pain)

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, chose it.  Without that self- choice there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek, find…” The Great Divorce

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: “What are you asking God to do?” To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them?  They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon

    resurrection-07c.jpg

    On Easter and again in a teaching on hell (April 29, 2007), I referenced a sermon that is read at every Eastern Orthodox Easter service.  The author is John Chrysostom (347-407) who is known as one of the greatest preachers in history. Read the entire sermon and be inspired again by the victory of Christ! Continue reading John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon