Archive for July, 2014

Gehenna and Hades – Good News!: 26 July

July 26, 2014

‘Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot will be utterly destroyed, with no trace of them left. Good!’ So said one of the Americans I talked with during my visit to Colorado and Texas earlier this month. The speaker was the sharpest person I had met, judging by her comments on other matters. She was genuinely pleased that utterly wicked people will come to an unwelcome end – annihilation, not eternal torment. Her face and tone of voice showed that she deemed this good news. The place of annihilation, after the Final Judgement, according to Jesus, is Gehenna. Gehenna is good news!

‘So Hades is like Guantanamo?’ So said a young American man, from a strongly Christian family background, now choosing to walk away from all the conservatism of his culture. He grasped quickly that, before Final Judgement, there is a holding place for the wicked. The remand prison, according to Jesus, is Hades. Hades is a place to be avoided. Who would choose a month in Guantanamo if they didn’t have to?

‘I’ve never thought of it like that. It’s a real comfort.’ So said the first person who phoned Radio Nottingham after an interview with me about Jesus having the keys of Hades. (Recorded before I left for America and broadcast while I was there.) Jesus told us that he has the keys and that this message is to help us not to fear. (Rev. 1:17,18) What does having the keys mean? The right and power of entry and exit, part of the ‘all authority in heaven and earth’ which has now been given to Jesus. (Mth. 28:18) Jesus can go in and out of Hades and can take others in and out of Hades. Does Jesus use his keys? Why would he tell us, and tell us not to fear, if he doesn’t use them? Jesus continues to seek and save the lost, even after death, even in Hades. More good news!

Explaining about Jesus having the keys of Hades was the main reason I was in America. At the Rethinking Hell Conference I presented a paper outlining this good news. I had some grandiose hopes that people, even leading academics, at the conference would respond as the person who phoned into Radio Nottingham. My hopes were not realised. A good few people listened, questioned a little, and bought the book all about Hades and Gehenna: The Lie of Hell ( I continue to hope that the truth will be recognised and embraced widely. The conference was a step forward.

I have realised afresh how many academics have been taught and have taught that the nature of Hades is unclear, questionable. Jesus’ strongest teaching on Hades is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31) This teaching is discounted for two main reasons. This parable has parallels in other cultures of Jesus’ time and these parallels are deemed to undermine its status as an authentic teaching of Jesus. This parable has two interrelated points: ‘care for beggars now, so you will not be begging after death.’ It is said that Jesus’ parables have only one point. So the message of the parable, according to many leading academics, is only ‘care for beggars now,’ and any implications for life after death are mere poetic licence.

Despite the academics, there are good reasons to draw from the parable conclusions about the nature of Hades:

Jesus was speaking to uneducated people, who would not have known parallels in other cultures, nor the theory that his parables have only one point. They had heard him mention Hades at other times, as a real place beyond death. If giving details about Hades in a parable were mere poetic licence, these details would mislead uneducated people. Jesus did not mislead people. If Jesus gave a purely rhetorical warning, to people who would not have any way of knowing if he was being rhetorical or not, he was issuing an empty threat. Jesus did not issue empty threats. If Luke included this parable with no evidence that it came from Jesus, he too would have been misleading people and issuing empty threats.

On at least one other occasion Jesus taught, not in a parable, something of the same truth about Hades which comes across from the parable:
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Luke 13:28

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:11, 12

Academics and Christian teachers need to look more carefully at all that Jesus said about Hades, including where the name is not used but the place can be easily identified. Hades is a place where those who ignore beggars in this life, are in the position of begging themselves. People in Hades can somehow see Abraham, and others, and know that they are separated from them. People in Hades are afflicted, in outer darkness, weeping and gnashing teeth. JESUS HAS THE KEYS OF HADES! Since his death and resurrection Jesus tells us not to fear. The wicked in Hades who recognise and apologise for their actions can be forgiven. Nothing is final until the Final, Good, Judgement.

Roger Harper