A life in Christ confidently proclaims the truth of God's Word.

Witness Well

How could a loving God torture people in an eternal hell?

The concept of hell is difficult for our human minds to comprehend or understand. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches the existence of a hell as well as the existence of heaven.   

Scriptures contain many metaphors that attempt to describe hell as a place to avoid at all costs. Fire, darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth are just a few examples. In fact, a term the Bible uses for hell (gehenna) was actually a valley outside of Jerusalem that was used as the city’s major garbage dump. The reality of hell vividly expresses the repulsiveness of sin by depicting it as a place for the refuse of humanity. Hell is the ultimate destiny of people who chose to reject God. They become “garbage” and are “cast out” forever from God’s household. 

We have to remember that it is people who put themselves in hell, not God. The Bible says that God does not want any to perish, but all to repent and come to faith. It becomes apparent that if anyone goes to hell, they go to a place originally not prepared for them. It is against God’s will. God tells us, “I take no delight in the destruction of the wicked.” People willfully rebel by determining that God must be a liar. God’s judgment is simply giving sinners their own way. As a result, the unrepentant sinner misses out on what life was really all about and suffers the eternal torment of their own choosing. 

The most important thing about hell is not to understand or explain it, but to avoid it! The only way for us to avoid the nightmarish reality of hell is to grasp on to the Savior. God’s great love for is revealed by giving us our only hope to avoid hell and that is through His Son, Jesus. We can think of it in this way; if Jesus willingly died for us to avoid hell, then it must be a terrifying experience!

Is it true that all people who do not believe in Jesus are destined for hell?

The issue surrounding hell is a very sensitive and emotional topic. Though the Bible is quite clear in the message of salvation, there are some teachings, like the doctrine of hell, that are difficult for our human minds to resolve.   

Heaven and hell are biblical truths. Even though the comprehension of a hell terrorizes us, it is a fact and a certain reality whether we like it or not. A person may think that the unmistakable proof of the law of gravity is unfair.  Since they don’t agree or understand this truth, the person will determine that they can fly and jump off a skyscraper with disastrous consequences. We may consider this foolishness, but God also considers foolish those who deny the fact of hell and live according to their own understanding. 

Hell is the place of God’s wrath and judgment for those who reject his love in Jesus. God is not only loving, but he is also fair and just. There are only two sides of a coin. There is no middle ground. On the Day of Judgment, a person will either spend eternity in heaven or hell. Jesus says, “the person who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who doesn’t believe will be condemned.” If someone deliberately rejects God’s love in Jesus, then they choose the eternal consequences of hell knowingly or unknowingly. If people go to hell even though we don’t think they should be there, it may be because our perspective is much more limited than God’s. 

We have to be mindful of one vitally important truth of the Gospel. God is most decisively revealed in Christ Jesus. There is no salvation outside of Jesus. Nobody can go to God the Father except through the Son. We can be judged righteous and innocent before God by living a perfect life or through the sacrificial death of Christ. The fact is that nobody can come to God on their own. We are all sinners. God will judge people according to their relationship with Jesus and how they have responded to the truth of the Gospel. It is a certainty that all who reject Christ are damned and those with a sincere faith are assured of salvation.   

Since God is fair and just, people will not go to hell “by accident.” In difficult cases, only God knows the true heart of a person. The question you should really be asking is what will happen to you and your family. Your only concern should be that you and your loved ones are not among those who reject Christ. Receive him as your Lord and Savior! Let hell be God’s problem, not your problem. 

 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

Why do Christians claim the Bible is the only true holy book?

We currently live in a culture where all truth is relative. Absolute truth is dismissed as being “out of touch.” As a result, there becomes a growing interest in the various assortments of religious thought.   

Many people throughout the world believe that all religions are basically the same. It is true that other religions have written teachings that may contain kernels of truth. Their definitions of a god and the way to find a god attempts to soothe human reasoning. 

The Christian faith is entirely based on the truth found only in Jesus Christ. The truth is founded on the authority of the Bible and its transforming power to bring people to faith and be declared righteous before God. Based on these fundamental points of the Christian faith there becomes an obvious contradiction with other religions. Both cannot be right. Therefore, we must make the conclusion that both writings or holy books cannot be considered the Word of God.

How do we know which holy book is true? The inherent interest of religious thought points to the fact that people are hungry for the truth. Other religions point to what we can do to achieve inner peace, better our future life or how to please God. It is only the Christian faith that boldly proclaims in the Bible what has already been done for us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promised Son of God, we are declared right or perfect in the eyes of God. Our eternal future of peace and paradise is secured.   

When you test and compare all claims of revelation, along with the historical fact that Christ was resurrected from the dead, the Bible stands alone as the definitive “Word of God.” All other works may have wonderful literary and philosophical insights, but do not communicate the true way to salvation which is found only in Christ Jesus.  

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.   

Why are there so many interpretations of the Bible?

Jesus prayed that all believers may be united in the faith. The fact that the body of believers on earth are not united damages the witness to Christ as Savior. The reasons why churches have different interpretations is not the fault of the Bible, but a commentary on the sinfulness of the church.

Christians are sinners. In some cases, pride or desire for control over others has motivated some to manipulate the Holy Scriptures to serve their own purposes. However, in most cases, it’s because we are very weak in understanding spiritual truth that we sincerely differ with each other. The church has a long history of trying to “help” God which typically has led to hindering the work of God. In fact, the Bible contains many stories of how God accomplished his purpose through people (e.g. Abraham, David) who had a way of messing things up. 

The point is that the church today is no different than the churches of the past. The Apostle Paul even reminds us that God has demonstrated to us that we are all under sin so that he may display his mercy. The basic truth is that we are all sinners in need of grace, including church members. Most of the divisions in Christianity concerning what the Scriptures teach are due to human sinfulness.

The Scriptures do clearly teach that it is by grace alone, not works, that we are saved. Sometimes, there are differences of opinion outside this truth of salvation on how certain Scripture texts are interpreted. Such differences lead to separate practices regarding communion, baptism, fellowship and the role of women. These differences are important. However, a person is not saved based on their views concerning secondary teachings of Scripture. They are saved because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible is perfectly clear on this one essential point. The truth and life found in this relationship stands apart from all other issues. These other issues are important, but are not “saving.” Don’t let the issues and differences of the church keep you from the all-important truth that Jesus died for you.  

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

If the Bible is inspired by God, why did He allow the church to put it together?

The Bible is God’s Word to us. It is God speaking to us today. It is the same God who spoke to Moses and the same God who directed the gospel writers to record the words of the Bible. The entire Bible centers on God’s promise of salvation and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Since the message of man’s salvation is so important, it makes sense that God would be in control by inspiring the biblical writers so that the words are without error.   

In the early years of Christianity, several written documents were being circulated and widely recognized as inspired. In the second century, a heretic named Marcion started his own brand of Christianity by cutting and pasting fragments of Scripture. To confront this heretical practice, church leaders very carefully recognized and accepted a list of authentic books which we call the New Testament. 

There is good reason to believe that the Bible is God’s Word.  Please consider the following:

1) If God sent his Son to save us and uses only his Word to proclaim that message, then it is not difficult to believe that he would oversee the process of putting his Word together;

2)  From the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that the canon of the Old Testament had been established at least 200 years before the birth of Christ. Jesus accepted the Old Testament canon as it was and referred to it as the Word of God;

3) Very stringent criteria were placed on these books which came to be the Old and New Testament. People were dying for their faith at this time. Great care was given to make sure that everything they believed came from the mouth of God;

4) The books of the Bible contain a message that people throughout history have clung to as the transforming power of God’s Word and its message of inspiration. 

The gospel is the instrument by which God works saving faith in our hearts and empowers us to live out his will and preserve our faith until he calls believers home to heaven. Since the Bible is the most precious gift given to God’s crown of creation, then it is safe to say that God will direct and preserve His Word. Hear what God’s Word is saying to you. The thrust of the entire Bible is to bring you into a loving relationship with Jesus. The Bible comes alive to the extent that a person meets Jesus through it.  

Isn’t the Bible really full of legends and myths?

What is the main point or the thesis statement of the Bible?  

Jesus says, “The Scriptures testify concerning me.” The central message of the Bible is that Jesus Christ is that person in whom God is fully revealed. Jesus says, “If you see me, you see the Father.” For this reason, we must take the whole Bible seriously, because Jesus Christ took the entire Bible so seriously. He always referred to the Scriptures as facts, not myths or legends. Faith becomes the new pair of glasses for which we can accept and clearly see the whole Bible to be true. Without these glasses, the message and the stories of the Bible become out of focus and unclear, therefore difficult to grasp. 

I would agree that the Bible contains many miracles that simply cannot be explained to satisfy our human minds. In the Old Testament, we read about snakes talking in the garden, a giant fish swallowing a man and the dividing of a great sea. By struggling with the truthfulness of these miraculous stories, we allow the elements behind the story to interfere with the central message. With Adam and Eve, the point of the story is not that a snake talks. The point is that Eve fell for a lie about who God was in her life. She thought she could improve herself by doing something. As a result, she no longer became what God intended her to be. God’s grace was not enough. This story is very important because it reveals the existence and the essence of sin. 

The Bible is not about believing in miraculous stories. The dominant theme of the Bible is our problem of sin. Sin works as a blind spot in our lives. The Bible has a way of pointing to an area in our lives to which we are not looking. The Bible reveals our weaknesses and innermost needs that we kept effectively hidden. As a result, we get embarrassed or defensive, because we don’t like to admit we are wrong or lost. When we begin to understand sin, we start to grasp the radical message of faith found in the gospel.   

Jesus Christ came to erase sin. God desires to re-establish a relationship with his creation through the life, death and resurrection of his Son. Through Christ’s death, believers have new life. All the miracles in the Bible point to this one central truth. So, our problems with the Bible can cloud our understanding about what the Bible is supposed to be. Be patient with the perplexing parts of this God-inspired book and open yourself up to its transforming power. It is the words of the Bible that will lead you into a relationship with the Savior. 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.   

How can anyone believe that the whole Bible is literally the “Word of God”?

The Bible contains some strange stories that make it difficult to believe. To tackle this difficult question, it might be best to start with what is clear and then work toward trying to understand what is not clear. As I have stated in previous posts, the four gospels gives us a reliable historical portrait of Jesus. With certainty, we can say that there was a Jesus who lived, died and rose from the grave. We must conclude with what the Roman centurion said in the Bible that this man was certainly the Son of God. 

It is clear that the Lordship of Christ is the most compelling reason to accept the Bible as God’s Word. Jesus pointed to and clearly taught that the Old Testament was God’s Word. He commissioned his disciples to teach God’s Word with the same authority as He. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to help them do, say, and write in such a way that others would believe in him. It is the Bible that clearly reveals that Jesus is Lord. 

Since God’s Word teaches the central truths about faith and salvation, we can take comfort that all of God’s Word is inspired because God doesn’t make mistakes. However, I will freely admit that even though the Bible is God’s Word, I do not understand all of it. There are aspects of my faith that my feeble mind simply cannot grasp. There are parts of the Bible that are unclear and are left unexplained. Yet, reason doesn’t have to take a back seat in this issue. Briefly consider the following points; 1) There is a great deal of prophecy in the Old Testament that was fulfilled perfectly; 2) Archaeological evidence continues to support the Bible; and 3) There is a unity in the entire Bible that points to God’s loving pursuit of humanity and man’s redemption through Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.

Even though I can’t explain the whole Bible, my faith remains strong in God’s promises. Why? Salvation is not about believing in a talking serpent who deceived a woman, how a sea parted or how water changed into wine. Salvation is recognizing our need for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and believing in him. The evidences of a transformation of a new life in Christ are too strong to be overturned by occasional bewilderment. 

If you don’t believe me, start to read the Bible anyway.  What have you got to lose?

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

If God loves us, why is believing in Him so difficult?

We live in a world of conflicting viewpoints. There are people who look into the starry heavens and proclaim, “There is a God!’  Thousands of children die of starvation and we ask, “Where is God?” In a fallen world, the truth of the Gospel and the views of the world often collide. Usually, the erosion of a skeptic’s worldviews by the truths of the Gospel is a process that takes time. 

Faith in God is not an easy path. Doubt, disappointment, and discouragement are all part of the Christian faith. Our trust is intertwined with a body corrupted with sin. Furthermore, there are aspects of the faith and various ways of God that will always remain a mystery. Christianity is not a giant “answer machine.” Yet, our rational mind demands answers.   

Faith honestly accepts the questions but patiently endures knowing that the questions will someday be answered in heaven. A believer’s trust and all they need to know now is the means toward being right with God. 

But what if God did write a message in the clouds to believe in Jesus. Would it work? I doubt it. Jesus performed miracles, even raised people from the dead and people still doubted. God sent plagues to Egypt, manna from heaven, and parted the Red Sea, yet the Israelites still doubted, rebelled and questioned him. Jesus even rose from the dead and still the Roman guards conspired with the Pharisees to cover it up. 

To be perfectly honest, God is pretty obvious. He is as obvious today as he was when parting the Red Sea. The problem is with us. God is present enough so that those who are led to receive him can receive him, but absent enough so that those who don’t want to receive him are not forced to. God desires faith because he seeks love from willing people, not forced behavior from robots.  

What God foremost desires from us is a loving and trusting relationship with him. Miracles can produce awe but they cannot produce obedience, and they certainly do not produce love. If God were to answer all our prayers, if he were like a genie in a bottle granting our every wish, this would only mean that we would use him, but not love him. Love acts freely and it must be free. Love must be genuine, from the heart. The truth of the Scriptures begins to make sense only after our heart has been touched by the Lord and our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit. 

 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.