These are the questions regarding Free Will versus being sent to Hell or killed.
Problem: According to the Bible, God created man 6,000 years ago. God gave man “free will” so that man could choose between good and evil. There was only one catch. . . You see, God mad a big point of not giving man the knowledge to distinguish good from evil. He only gave that to apples. Not being an apple, man, quite predictably, stumbled upon evil. Feigning surprise, God played to his strength . . . Wrath! Then He decided the only fair thing to do was blame everyone and torture them in Hell forever. But first he killed them all in a horrible flood.
Response: You are partially right, according to the Bible God created man about 6,000 yrs. ago. God also gave man “Free Will” so that man had the choice to follow God, His Creator, Who had made everything “Good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). He did not want puppets with no choice about loving Him or obeying Him. He wants us to trust His love and goodness based on what He’s done for us. In this case, God had created everything good and perfect and gave man one and only one stipulation for the continued enjoyment of the Garden and life.
Gen. 2:8-9 “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Gen. 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”
God clearly spelled out the consequences if they choose to eat from that one tree. They could trust God or they could doubt God. Since they lived in a perfect place and had daily contact with God (Gen. 3:8), they did not need to doubt His existence, His goodness, or His love. In fact, it never occurred to them not to obey God until the serpent came on the scene and lied to them by twisting what God really said (Gen. 3:4-5). True, they had no knowledge of evil, but they were not left defenseless, God had provided them with Himself as a resource. Instead of checking with God for clarification or anything else, they chose to believe the serpent whom they had no reason to believe, over God Who had given them everything and had not thus far lied to them (nor has He since then, lied to us.) “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19)
The moment that they ate, their eyes were opened and they experienced shame and guilt (Gen. 3:7). They hid from God; their once close relationship was now altered. From that moment on, everything began to die. The serpent was cursed to crawl along the ground (Gen. 3:14), pains of childbirth were increased (Gen. 3:16), the ground was cursed with thorns and thistles, plus it would now take hard labor to produce food (Gen. 3:16-17), and they were also told they would die and return to the dust from which they were made (Gen. 3:19). The first animal sacrifices were made to provide coverings for their sin and nakedness (Gen. 3:21). They were removed from the Garden so that they could not continue to eat of the Tree of Life and thus live forever in their sin cursed state (Gen. 3:22). However, God did not leave them without hope. The very first promise of the Messiah is included in Gen. 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
Sin always has consequences, but God in His grace and mercy also provides hope and forgiveness. Mankind was provided with a second chance to follow God and live in fellowship with Him. Unfortunately, due to man’s sin corrupted nature, it wasn’t long (approximately 1656 yrs.) until the earth was filled with violence and wickedness:
Gen. 6:5-8 “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.’ 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”
So even though God had decided to judge the earth, He still provided for the continuation of mankind and the animals. Plus, anyone else who wanted to could have taken refuge on the ark since there was plenty of room (Gen. 6:15-16—it had the capacity of over 522 railroad boxcars), and there was plenty of time for the people to be forewarned (2 Pet. 2:5) and make it to the ark as it took Noah 120 yrs. to build (Gen. 6:3). No one had to perish in the Flood; everyone had the chance to enter the ark, up until Noah and his family went into the ark. The fact that only 8 people did go on the ark shows just how wicked and far away from God the people had become. After the Flood, God promised never to destroy all life by floodwater again and gave the rainbow as evidence of His promise (Gen. 9:12-16).
One of the effects of the Flood was the drastic shortening of man’s lifespan, from an average of 912 yrs. to about 110 yrs. by the time of Joseph (Gen. 50:22, 26). This means less time for each man to sink so low into sin. Thus, it has taken longer for the wickedness on the earth to reach the levels of the pre-Flood world—just another evidence of God’s grace and mercy that most people miss. While the Bible does state that God will pour out His wrath on the wicked in a judgment by fire, He is purposely delaying that judgment as long as possible because, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Several Scripture passages confirm that God wants everyone to have the opportunity to be saved from their sins and His wrath, only those who deliberately reject Him will suffer His Day of the LORD Wrath and judgment.
Matt. 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Mark 13:10 “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Luke 24:47 “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
1 Peter 4:5-6 “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
Rev. 14:6-7 “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
God will not force anyone against their will to love Him, obey Him or follow Him. He gives every opportunity they need to avoid His wrath. However, those who stubbornly refuse to accept His gift of salvation and remain in their sins will suffer the consequences of their decision. They will be cast into Hell, the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15), prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). It is important to realize that Hell was not created for man, but for the devil and his angels who rebelled against God. In order for God to be a God of justice, He does have the responsibility to dispense judgment on the wicked. In order for the earth to be returned to the perfect goodness of Eden all the wicked elements must be cast out and destroyed. Yet God in His mercy has given us millennia in which to repent and come to Him. We either accept what Jesus did on our behalf in taking our punishment on Himself or we take the punishment for our sins ourselves. Nobody who doesn’t want to go to Hell has to go there, a way has been provided. God Himself became a man, He lived among us, He suffered and died in our place so that we could avoid Hell and instead spend eternity with Him in the New Heavens and New Earth He will re-create after He destroys this present earth by fire (Rev. 21).
Problem: God makes some people evil on purpose so that He can condemn them to be tortured in Hell. They can be nice all they want; they are still going to Hell. (Jude 1:5; Rom.8:29-30)
Response: I see quite the opposite when I read the passages you reference.
Jude 5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.
Rom 8:29-30For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
These passages do not teach that God deliberately creates some people evil and damned. God is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9); He has done everything necessary to save everyone (Jn. 3:16). In spite of that, some will still choose not to believe or follow Him. He has given us Free Will and will not violate it even for our own good. Because He is also omniscient (all-knowing), He knows and has known (foreknowledge) since before He created time who will and who will not chose Him—but it was still their choice to be cut off from God that will damn them, not God’s deliberate decision to damn them. Remember, that in Gen. 1:26 God had originally created Man in His own image. The good news given in Rom. 8:29 is that for those who do respond to His call and choose Him, God has pre-determined He will transform them into the likeness of His perfect and holy Son. The choice is ours. If you or anyone else goes to Hell it is because of a deliberate choice on your/their part to reject God and the destiny He wants to give you and them.
Problem: Since God has made it much easier to get to Hell than to Heaven, it has been God’s plan all along to have most people go straight to Hell. (Matt. 7:13-14)
Response: God’s plan all along according to Gen. 1:26-27 was that man would be like Him—created in His image and likeness. Even after the Fall of Man, Rom. 8:29-30 confirms that it is still God’s plan to conform us to the image of His Son. When Christ returns, “we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).
Matt. 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
There is only one way to that plan (Jn. 14:6), which is why it is described as the narrow way. Most people choose to try to make their own way to God. Most think they just have to be good enough, do enough good works or keep the law perfectly—many see it as too hard and don’t even try and then blame God for making it too hard. True, God would like us to obey Him 100% of the time without fail, but He knows that is impossible for sin corrupted man to do. Therefore, He provided another way—He came Himself and lived the perfectly obedient life we never could, and then He died in our place so that we would not have to go to Hell. All we have to do is accept what He’s done for us and we are saved. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s easy. It’s so easy most people dismiss it as “too good to be true” and refuse to even try it. So we have the narrow way, which is easy not difficult, or the broad way which surprisingly is very hard (school of hard knocks—hard), but which most people take because they don’t trust the easiness of the narrow way. Unfortunately, only a very few will take God at His word and choose the narrow way. It’s up to you which you will choose. Choose right or get left.
Problem: Men who so much as ACT prissy can queen it up in Hell—because that is where all the sissies are going. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
Problem: Those who have premarital sex cannot enter Heaven and must wind up in Hell. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
Response: You stopped reading too soon.
1 Cor. 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
The point Paul is making is that Christians should live moral lives because sinners and evil doers of all kinds will not inherit the kingdom of God [i.e. go to Heaven]. But that is not the end of the story, there is hope for sinners. Paul wrote this letter to the believers at Corinth, many of whom had been sexually immoral, practicing homosexuals, etc., and in that state they would not inherit eternal life, but the good news is that they were no longer that way because they accepted what Jesus had done for them and God, true to His purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son, washed, sanctified and justified them. Now these same people were fit for God’s kingdom and were saved. Sin is sin and no sin is so heinous that God cannot forgive and save the person who comes to Him. That is the true message of hope presented in the Gospel.
Problem: All who offend me shall be thrown into a burning furnace to wail and gnash their teeth. (Matt. 13:41-42)
Response: Matt. 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Are you taking offense that Jesus “will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil?” When you read the text what He promises is quite wonderful, no more sin or death or evil against innocents—no more bad things happening to good people. These are not good people or good things. These are what have caused the pain and suffering in the world since the Fall of Man. Surely you’re not suggesting that when Jesus comes back to set up His millennial kingdom that restores the earth to its perfect Edenic state, that He should leave the sin, death, and evil-doers in it? Where’s the justice in that? Where is the hope and joy?
Nowhere does this passage say that these are people who merely offend Jesus, although I’m sure their sin and evil ways do offend Him. Remember He’s already done everything necessary to save those who want to be saved, the rest have deliberately rejected Him and, therefore, have rejected His rule. Thus, they would not want to live in His kingdom under His authority and rule. Are you under the impression that those thrown into the fiery furnace are weeping and gnashing their teeth only because they missed the opportunity to live in His kingdom? Perhaps the weeping can be attributed to that, but gnashing teeth speaks more to me of those who would plot their revenge and do more evil if they could—not my idea of Heaven on Earth.
1 Cor. 15:54-55 “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 55 ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”
Rev. 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
“Those who live in rebellion against God, rejecting Christ’s sacrifice for their sin, must atone for their own sin in God’s judgment. Someone must be sacrificed for their sins—either Christ as their substitute or they themselves. . . Though we shrink back from this revelation of God, we understand that the entire universe is ruled by a completely good, authoritative and just judge.
“Consider the alternative. If God were not this way, there could be no assurance of His provision for our salvation. For without the certainty of judgment, there can be no certainty of salvation. If God does not follow through on the one, why would He follow through on the other?” (Bible Study Fellowship notes Lesson 15: Isaiah 34-35, pg. 2)
Problem: For people with a different religion, God mandates death of the non-believer (man and woman, great and small) and everyone in the community. (Ex. 22:20; Deut. 13:12-15; 2 Chron. 15:13)
Ex. 22:20 Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.
Deut. 13:12-15 If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in 13 that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods" (gods you have not known), 14 then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, 15 you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock.
2 Chron. 15:12-13 They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. 13 All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.
Keep in mind, this is addressed to Israel. They were to be a holy people, a people joined voluntarily to God through a covenant that was reiterated every 7 yrs. (Dt. 31:10). God compared their covenant to the faithfulness of marriage. This is the same God who had rescued them from Egypt and defeated all the "gods" of Egypt through the 10 plagues. He promised great blessings for obedience and faithfulness. He also warned them of the consequences of disobedience and turning to the false "gods" of the nations around them. They had the option of cutting themselves off from the community if they did not want to continue in the covenant relationship (Gen. 17:14). But if they stayed, their covenant with God was that they would, on penalty of death, worship the LORD their God only.
We live in a time when tolerance for all religions is preached and it seems awfully narrow to say that all but one is wrong. However, if you look at it from God the Creator’s perspective it doesn’t seem so narrow. He created everything and has the right to make the rules. He is the One and Only God in the universe; Satan and his demons are only pretenders to His throne. When you worship any other “god,” you are actually worshipping a demon, “the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Cor. 10:20). So you are either worshipping God or you are worshipping His enemy and choosing the side of evil. Evil should be dealt with quickly and severely or it will contaminate the whole. False religions teach what is contrary to God and lead people away from Him. Don't forget these idolatrous religions also practiced ritual prostitution and child sacrifice among other terrible things which God did not want His people to do (Lev. 20:1-5). Especially among His chosen people, false religions could not be tolerated or there might not be a record of the One True God throughout history and then all would be lost—literally, because the line from which the Messiah would come was Israel.
If false religions were not stamped out immediately and thoroughly, they would lead more and more of the people astray until the majority was following the false religions which would bring down even more severe judgments on even greater numbers of people. This was an attempt to stop it before the false religions could take root in Israel. Rebellion against God is sin, and sin has the consequence of death. God always warns before He sends judgment; but if repentance is not forthcoming, death is the result. God is not capricious however, He does require that proof of wrong-doing exists before judgment is carried out (Dt. 13:14).
This is not about advocating a holy war then or now. There was a reason and a purpose for attempting to maintain that level of purity among the Jews. The Jews were chosen by God to be His witnesses on the earth. They were to carry His Name and proclaim the truth about Him among the nations as well as being chosen to be the physical line from which the Messiah would come. They were expected to live up to a much higher standard of holiness than all the other peoples around them because they were God’s representatives on earth. Now that the Messiah has come and His Word is readily available around the world and in just about every language, there is a record of the One True God for any and all to see. God will take care of purging all false religions from the world Himself when He comes back in the End Times. In the meantime the job of Christians is to proclaim the gospel so that all will know the truth and have a chance at salvation before He comes again.
Problem: When it came to people of different religions, Jesus struck them dumb, smote them and had worms eat them, and he had apostles kill them for Him. (Luke 1:20; Acts 12:23; Luke 19:27)
Response: You have 3 totally different situations occurring in these passages, none of which has anything to do with people of different religions. The first passage is about Zechariah, a priest of God, being told his prayers were answered. The second, about King Herod's pride, blasphemy and death. And, the third is a parable about rebellious and treasonous subjects of a king. We shall examine them one at a time in context.
Luke 1:8-20 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
18 Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
19 The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."
In the first passage the context is the angel telling Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, even though they are old, will give birth to John the Baptist, who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. As a sign that what the angel said was true, and because Zechariah doubted the angel, he was struck dumb until John was born. Zechariah was a priest of Israel, this happened when he went into the Temple to burn incense before the Lord God (Lk. 1:8-10). There’s no way you can claim he was of a different religion. Plus the sign was temporary (9 mo.), and he knew it.
Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man." 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
The second passage is dealing with King Herod—the king over the Jews at the time, so he also was a party to the Jewish religion. He knew better than to claim godhood for himself. He knew it was breaking the 1st commandment, yet he did not deny being a 'god.' This was in addition to Herod’s role in crucifying Christ and persecuting Christians— in particular the deaths of John the Baptist and James, as well as, the imprisonment of Peter (Mark 6:16-29; Luke 23:7-12; Acts 4:27; 12:1-18). The sin of pride, it has been argued, is what has led to all other sins. It was the pride of Lucifer that incited his rebellion and fall and led him to his work in corrupting mankind. It was for Herod’s prideful acceptance of the blasphemy, a mere man claiming to be God—ironically the very reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus—that God struck him dead and had him eaten by worms. Some would call that poetic justice since the one who was truly God in the flesh—Jesus, was raised from the dead before his body could rot and be eaten by worms.
“Herod died a horrible death accompanied by intense pain; he was literally eaten alive, from the inside out, by worms. Pride is a serious sin, and in this case, God chose to punish it immediately. God does not immediately punish all sin, but he will judge everyone (Heb. 9:27). Accept Christ's offer of forgiveness today. No one can afford to wait.” (from Life Application Bible Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Luke 19:11-27 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. '
Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'
14 "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.'
15 "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'
17 "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'
18 "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.'
19 "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'
20 "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'
22 "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'
24 "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.'
25 "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!'
26 "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"
The third passage is in the context of the parable of a nobleman being made king and his subjects committing high treason by sending a delegation to prevent it. Even now committing high treason against your lawful government is an act worthy of the death penalty. Once again it does not have anything to do with people of different religions.
Problem: God tells people outrageous lies so that He can trick them into believing things that will get them damned. He then tortures these gullible fools in Hell. Praise the Lord! (2 Thess. 2:11-12)
Response: Again the context is what explains the phrase you are having trouble with.
2 Thess. 2:9-12The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
First, God does not lie. Never has, never will. “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). “I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.” (Isa. 45:19) He is the God of truth (Ps. 31:5; Isa. 65:16) and desires truthfulness in His people (Ps. 51:6; Zec. 8:16).
Second, God is not the one telling the lies, the lawless one is. This is the same one Jesus described, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn. 8:44) The context here is the End Times and the coming of the lawless one (a.k.a. the Antichrist), who will do all sorts of things that will deceive those who have already chosen to reject the truth.
Third, it is because they first rejected the truth (vs. 10) and they delighted in wickedness (vs. 13) that God finishes the job by making them incapable of discerning the truth. Up until the time the Antichrist comes men have the opportunity to be saved and choose the truth about God, but once he comes, God will give them over to their own wicked desires and delusions. They had a choice; they had heard the truth; they had rejected it; they chose wrong and will be condemned for it. Immediately following His description of Satan and his followers, Jesus said, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (Jn. 8:45-47) They are willfully ignorant, like Pontius Pilate during his questioning of Jesus:
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth ?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (Jn. 18:37-38)
Yet even when convinced of Jesus’ innocence, Pilate still refused to choose the truth; he still rejected Jesus and condemned Him to flogging and death via crucifixion.
There comes a point when God stops talking to those who refuse to listen and just lets them stay in their delusion. If you reject the truth, all you are left with is the lie. Can you honestly say that it is unfair of God to allow them to live with their choice?
On the flip side God promises that the false Christs will not be able to deceive those who have chosen the truth:
Mt. 24:23-27 At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
26 "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Mk. 13:22-23 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect — if that were possible. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
What will your choice be? Will you choose truth now or lies later?
Problem: I speak in parables to confuse people so they will not be saved. That way, I can send even more people to Hell. Tricky, huh? (Matt. 13:10-14)
Response: Matt 13:10-15 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'”
A parable is a story that illustrates or delivers a message. Jesus spoke in parables to differentiate those who were serious about following Him from those who were merely hangers on. Those who wanted to know what the parables meant could ask Him and He would explain it to them (ex. Matt. 13:18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means”). Note that verse 15 states He would heal them if they turned to Him. But those who were just there because following Him was the latest fad &/or who weren’t serious about learning what He had to say because they were already hardened to the things of God never bothered to go the extra step to find out what Jesus meant. These are people who refuse to listen because they don’t want their closely held opinions to be confused by the truth—they say, “don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.” It is the same choice you need to make right now. Are you honestly looking for answers to these questions, or will you hide behind the questions and not listen to the answers?
Problem: I have not come to do away with Old Testament dietary and sacrificial laws followed by the Jews. Start sacrificing some animals to me now! (Matt. 5:17-19)
Response: Ah, you missed the point. Jesus came to fulfill all the Laws because we couldn’t.
Matt. 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life, perfectly keeping all of the dietary and ceremonial, as well as, the moral laws He perfectly fulfilled all of the Law—including the sacrificial law, when He died in our place and shed His blood for us. We no longer need to offer animal sacrifices because His death, once for all time and all people, was sufficient (see Heb. 10:1-25). All of the Laws and ceremonies pointed to Him. They showed us our sinfulness by showing us God’s perfect standard in the moral law. They showed us that sin results in death, but that our sins could be atoned for by an innocent, substitutionary sacrifice. They emphasized God’s holiness and wrath at sin, while also demonstrating His mercy in providing atonement for the sin. God demonstrated His love for us in sending His own Son to be that atoning sacrifice. Jesus fulfilled it all—the meaning behind every sacrifice, every ceremony, and every Messianic prophecy. (see Messianic Prophecy page, especially Lesson 11—The Suffering Servant—part 1) It is finished; nothing more needs to be done.
As for the dietary laws, you would be healthier if you followed them. You’d be eating a diet low in animal fat but with good fat such as olive oil and avoiding foods often associated with food poisoning (especially when refrigeration is not possible) or allergic reactions, such as pork and shellfish. Did you know that if you eat meat and dairy products together you don’t get the nutritional benefits of the dairy products? God knew what He was doing when He gave the Jewish people those laws. God promised the people that if they obeyed those laws He’d keep the people from experiencing the diseases of the Egyptians (Ex. 15:26). However, God has declared all food clean (see Acts 10:14-15; 11:8-9) as a symbol for His acceptance of all peoples, not just Jews in His plan of salvation. What was once unclean and unacceptable, God has made clean and acceptable—whether you are considering food or sinners, God has the power to make it clean. "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." (Ac 10:15)
Problem: Jesus said that anyone who calls someone a fool will be sent to Hell (Mt. 5:22).
Response: Matt 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Verse 22 is in the context of Jesus’ teaching on the 6th commandment, “Do not murder.” The point here is that harboring anger toward someone, just like lusting after a woman, is as bad as committing actual murder, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Our actions follow from what we think. If we thought we could get away with physically committing the sin in question, we would, but since we can’t we just entertain the evil thoughts. In contrast to this, Jesus tells us to be reconciled to our brother (v. 24). Other Scriptures tell us, “‘In your anger do not sin:’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26-27). Things will happen that will make even the best of Christians angry, but instead of lashing out, or harboring anger in our hearts, or trying to seek vengeance, we should seek to resolve the situation, forgive the offender, lest we become bitter, and then act in a loving manner towards them.
Rom 12:17-21: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head’ 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” If you do not do as instructed here, you are in danger of the fires of hell, because you are allowing the devil a foothold in your life and may actually act on your murderous feelings and turn your back on God. Just being angry is not an automatic sentence to hell, but what you do after that determines how God will deal with you.
A good example of what can happen when bitter feelings of anger are not dealt with, is the story of Cain & Abel. Instead of dealing with his anger appropriately, he went off & killed his brother out of jealous anger. Not because his brother had done him any harm. And he did this after he was warned that sin was crouching at his door & that all he had to do was offer a blood sacrifice like Abel had done.
Gen 4:3-8 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Gen 4:10-12 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."
Other passages indicate that God knows the motives of your heart and will judge your actions based on His knowledge of your motives.
1 Chron 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”
Prov 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
1 Cor 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
Problem: Jesus tells you to maim yourself or die so you won’t go to hell. Mt. 5:29-30; 18:7-9; Mk. 9:42-47; Lk. 20:46-47)
Response: Matt 5:27-30 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Matt 18:7-9 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
Mark 9:42-47 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”
Luke 20:46-47 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely." (I’m not sure why you included this passage with the others.)
Rom 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires
Col 3:5-11 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
This is another case of hyperbole. Followers of Jesus are to be so conscientious about removing things from their lives that lead them into sin that it is like amputating a body part or crucifying the sin nature. As we’ve discussed before those called by God’s name are to be holy because He is holy. He saved us by grace through faith, but He also has a plan to conform us into the image of His Son (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10). By the power of His Holy Spirit living in us we are to say no to sin & live holy lives. Paul discussed this in several of his letters as you can see from the verses above, but his most thorough treatment of the subject is found in Rom 6:
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV
As you can see, we end up at the same point we’ve ended before--sin leads to death. But the gift of God is eternal life and freedom from slavery to our sin nature. Where once Christians were as powerless as everyone else to say no to their sin nature, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they can say no to sin and live holy lives to God. We can eliminate from our lives those things that would lead us into sin. Sometimes it takes radical choices. For example, for me it has meant giving up trashy romance novels, secular music and even living without TV for several years, because the philosophies those things were teaching were eroding my values and undermining what God wanted to teach me, plus I was a TV addict--watching more than 8 hours every day. For a while there, it was as if I had plucked out my eyes and cut off my ears. Then I learned that there are romance novels that don’t offend my biblically based morals; there is a plethora of Contemporary Christian music which praises God, builds my faith, reinforces my values & has a sound I like to listen to. And finally after 7 yrs. without the tyranny of TV in my life, we reintroduced it, but with a VCR so that we control it, not it us. I still have to make daily choices about the music I listen to, the books I read and the TV shows and movies I choose to watch--I can easily slip back into my old patterns, or I can choose to submit my choices to the Holy Spirit Who gives me the ability to say no to the things that would lead me into sin and away from God. It is better to live without those things than to allow them to control my life and entice me into sinful behaviors which lead to death and judgment.
Problem: God damns people for taking communion unworthily. (1 Cor. 11:29)
Response: Let’s look at the full context of the passage.
1 Cor 11:19-22When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
1 Cor 11:26-34For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
When you look more closely at this passage, you will see that damnation is not the judgment that is passed on those who eat the bread and drink the wine unworthily. God judged them by sending sickness and death (v. 30). It specifically says that when Christians are judged by the Lord they are “being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world” (v. 32). This passage only applies to Christians, because only believers were to partake of communion. Therefore, since they are already believers saved by grace, they are no longer subject to damnation. If a non-believer takes communion it doesn’t change things for him, he was damned before he took it because he didn’t believe and he’s still that way afterwards. Therefore, taking communion worthily or unworthily has nothing to do with one’s salvation or damnation. It is about having respect for God and what Jesus did when He died on the cross for us. It was also about common courtesy for fellow believers, being patient and polite and waiting for each other, rather than being gluttons and drunkards and just plain rude to their fellow believers, when they were supposed to be having a communal meal, or Love Feast.
Problem: If you are jealous or drunk you will go to hell. (Gal. 5:19-21)
Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Gal 5:19-25 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Jealousy & drunkenness are only 2 of the acts of the sinful nature listed here. They are listed in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. The point being made here is that those who claim to belong to Christ will live dramatically different lives than those who don’t because Christians don’t live according to the sin nature anymore (v. 24). If you are still living according to the sin nature that is evidence that you have not truly accepted Christ into your life and thus are not going to heaven. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6).
This isn’t to say that Christians won’t have occasional lapses into sinful behavior, but it does mean that our lifestyles are not marked by consistent sin. Just as the previous verses from 1 John proclaim: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-10). And, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). So Christians know we are not perfect. Our righteousness is no better than anyone else’s. What is different is that we admit it. We confess our sins, we accept God’s forgiveness, we trust in Jesus’ atoning death and we are given His righteousness in place of our sins. Our faith in God and what He has promised is what saves us. His Holy Spirit in us is what transforms us and causes us to grow in righteousness. It is not our goodness, but His.
Problem: If you don’t do good works you will be thrown into hell. (Mt. 7:19)
Response: Matt 7:15-23 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
The context of verse 21 is watching out for false prophets. These are those who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. They say they are believers, but their lives demonstrate anything but. Since I just covered this same info. in the discussion of Gal. 5:16-25, I’m not going to go into detail again here. However, God warns His people that Satan will send his people in among the believers to corrupt them and lead them away from the truth and God. He tells us to look at what their lives produce. If the fruit of their lives is good, then they are true sheep. But if what their actions show is not good, then they are wolves. God wants us to be saved and to avoid being deceived. This is why He warns us what to look for and preserved the record of His words in the Bible.
Problem: God condemns anyone who doesn’t believe in Him. (Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:18)
Response: Mark 16:15-16 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
John 3:16-19 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
That’s right, everyone who does not believe is condemned to hell for eternity. But before that happens you should notice that God has done everything necessary to save everyone in the world. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place, so that none of us has to die and go to hell for our sins. And he sent preachers out into all the world to proclaim the gospel to all creation (Mk. 16:15), so that no one will be ignorant of the way to be saved. Before He pours out His judgment and wrath in the End Times, He will also send His Two Witnesses (Rev. 11:1-6) and 3 angels to proclaim the gospel, warn of the fate of those who worship the Beast or take his mark, and proclaim the downfall of Babylon (Rev. 14:6-13). Nobody has to go to hell. It is each person’s choice what to do with Jesus. That’s what free will is all about, making a choice. God pleads with us to choose Life:
Deut. 30:19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. NIV