Saturday, April 30, 2011


Steve Heller [what an appropriate surname for the topic at hand] makes a good point in the comment section of Bell's Hell - indeed I did not include the final verse [46] "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." However, I also did not include the opening verse [32] "All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."

This was intentional. The interpretation of the text that I quoted is fairly straightforward - if we see people in need, we should help. Now the interpretation of verses 32 and 46 are not quite as simple. What does it mean that 'all of the nations will be gathered?" I had at least one conservative fundamentalist tell me that these verses don't talk about how individuals should act [thus excusing himself] but rather are speaking of the judgment of nations. [Interestingly, I have yet to meet at conservative, fundamentalist Xian who was not certain about how each passage of the bible should be understood - indeed, folks like Ken Ham preach a my-way-or-the-highway version of Christianity, somehow claiming correct interpretation of each and every passage.] But, what do some scholars say about verse 32? Here is a commentary from Vincent's Word Studies

All the nations (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη)
The whole human race; though the word is generally employed in the New Testament to denote Gentiles as distinguished from Jews.

Separate them (αὐτοὺς)
Masculine, while the word nations is neuter. Nations are regarded as gathered collectively; but in contemplating the act of separation the Lord regards the individuals.

The sheep from the goats (or kids)

"The bald division of men into sheep and goats is, in one sense, so easy as not to be worth performing; and in another sense it is so hard as only to be possible for something with supernatural insight" (John Morley, "Voltaire"). Goats are an appropriate figure, because the goat was regarded as a comparatively worthless animal.

But what to make of verse 46, and also the previous mention of eternal damnation? Here are some excerpts from a very long commentary on Matthew 25:46 byy Gary Amirault entitled: Does Eternal Punishment Have To Be As Long As Eternal Life Because The Adjective “aionios” Is Used To Describe Both Punishment And Life?
The “everlasting punishment” in Matthew 25:46 is a mistranslation in many of the current leading selling English Bible translations including the King James Version, New International Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, the Amplified Bible, The Net Bible, New Century Version, New Living Translation, International Standard Version, English Standard Version as well as many others. There are several translations which do not make this mistake. This correction is crucial in regards to having a proper understanding of the nature and character of God and His role as judge. Just because “aionios” is used to describe life and punishment, does not mean they have to be of the same length and quality any more than a “small” house has to be the same size as a “small” ring because the same adjective is used to describe both. Often adjectives take on some of the value of the word they describe. Therefore, “kolasin aionion” (mistranslated “everlasting punishment”) does not have to be the same length as “zoen aionion” (mistranslated “eternal life”). Aionion should not have been translated “everlasting” because aion and its adjective are clearly time words that have beginnings and endings. And “punishment” for the Greek “kolasin” is too strong a word. Kolasin means “to prune a tree to make it more fruitful.” There is nothing fruitful about eternal damnation in burning flames. If Jesus wanted to imply vindictive punishment, the author of Matthew could have chosen the Greek word “timoria,” but he didn’t – he used a much softer word.

Too frequently Bible teachers and students take a small portion of Scripture out of context and build an entire doctrine on it. This is the case with Matthew 25:46. In the entire Greek New Testament we find the Greek words “kolasin aionion” occurring only a single time. This phrase has been translated “everlasting punishment” by most of the leading selling English Bible translations. The very foundation of most of modern Christianity is built upon salvation FROM eternal punishment in a place called Hell through faith in Jesus Christ. Yet the truth of the matter is that the concept of salvation being deliverance from “eternal punishment” is utterly false. The concept of “everlasting punishment” does NOT exist in either the Hebrew nor the Greek languages of the Christian Scriptures. Yes, it does exist in “some” leading selling English Bible translations, but not in the original languages of the Bible.

I find it quite interesting/amazing that entire belief systems, doctrines and dogmas can be built upon incorrect/incomplete understandings of the written word.  Humility, not hubris, should guide one's understanding of ancient texts.


Steve Heller said...

First off, I owe a debt of gratitude to the good Dr. S. for never failing to get my brain juices flowing. His take on things often clashes with mine, thus we good naturedly go back and forth on a variety of issues. He mentioned Gary Amirault in his last post (who I never heard of until Doc mentioned him in an email). So I did some checking on Mr. Amirault.

Gary Amirault believes if there is a hell, I’m going there. I will be in fine company as he believes the Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Charismatics and Pentecostals will be there also because he says they are heretics and all heretics go to “hell.” So if that belief tickles your fancy, then read and enjoy and believe wholeheartedly in Gary Amirault. From his writings:

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals By Definition Are Heretics
By Gary Amirault
Most Fundamentalists and Evangelicals believe in the Doctrine of Free Will. One must choose to believe and follow Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in this lifetime or be damned to everlasting punishment in a lake of fire and brimstone – a place they call Hell. They have simplified their teaching into what is commonly called “Four Spiritual Laws.” Sometimes it is called “The Roman Road.” The central theme is man’s free will to choose their eternal destiny. Anyone who has been around the Christian world, especially the Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Charismatic or Pentecostal varieties know that word “heretic” is used rather freely and widely to condemn most of mankind to eternal torments.
The New Testament Greek word for a heretic is Strong’s number 141 hairetos from Strong’s 140 hairetizo which means according to Zondervan’s The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible “to choose” (for the purpose of showing special favor, chosen).” Now that’s interesting, isn’t it? So then one free to choose their fate by exercising their own free will is by biblical Greek definition a heretic!
If heretics are doomed to everlasting punishment in a place called Hell, then Hell will be full of heretics of the Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal varieties!
A heretic by use of their “free will” is a factious or a divisive person. At last count, there are over 40,000 denominations or sects in Christianity. Wow, talk about divisive! Paul, the apostle to the nations warned in his letters about following men: “I am of Paul. I am of Apollos. I am of Cephas, I am of Christ. What! Is Christ divided?” 1 Cor. 12:12, 13
Yes, Christianity is VERY divided because of “free will.” If there is a Hell for heretics, it is filled with Christians!
For a sane understanding of the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, visit:

Bizzy Brain said...

We need Nostradumbass to weigh in on this.

Phil G. said...

Hey, Pastor Bell, what would your last words to Osama have been? "See you in heaven?"

Nostradumbass said...

Let’s see, if everyone eventually goes to heaven, then nothing matters. Doesn’t matter who we are, what we do, or what we believe in, we all end up in the paradise promised by the God of the Bible. There is a word for that – Nihilism. Nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietsche, who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history. I predict that such a crisis is nearly upon us. This would be the final stage of Nihilism, the Nihilism of Destruction, “a rage against creation and against civilization that will not be appeased until it has reduced them to absolute nothingness.”