The Fate of the Rich and the Poor: Another Story

In trying to unpack the understanding of the afterlife found in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, it is important to realize that Luke presents the story as a parable – a simple, imaginative story meant to illustrate a deeper spiritual lesson.   It is not a literal description of reality.

It is true that Luke does not actually call it a parable, but that’s true of most of the parables Jesus tells in this Gospel.  This section of Luke’s ...

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Heaven, Hell, and the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

In my new book I will be arguing that the Gospel of Luke is distinctive in the New Testament for promoting the idea that a person is given postmortem rewards and punishments (that is, immediately after death), and that this is unlike anything found in the words of the historical Jesus himself.  Luke’s view is most emphatically and intriguingly conveyed in one of his most famous passages, and possibly the best known account of the afterlife in the entire New ...

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The Lake of Fire in Revelation

OK, you’ve waited a while for me finally to get to the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation.  But just think of it as the Final Judgment: you know it’s coming soon, but you don’t know when.

Here is what I think about it (both the final judgment and the lake of fire) (clarification: this is not what *I* think of these things; this is what I think *Revelation* is saying about these things).  As previously indicated, I do ...

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The Afterlife in Revelation

 

The first reference to the afterlife in Revelation occurs in ch. 6, with the breaking of the fifth seal (6:9-11).   Nothing happens on earth, but the prophet sees the souls of those who had been “slaughtered for the word of God” and the “witness they gave” under an altar in heaven, as they cry out to God: “How long before you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth?”   An altar, of course, is the point of ...

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Did Jesus Believe Sinners Would Be Annihilated? The Sheep and the Goats

The most difficult passage that I will need to deal with in my discussion of Jesus’ view of the afterlife is the famous teaching about the last judgment of the “Sheep and the Goats,” found only in the Gospel of Matthew, there are reasons for thinking it is something Jesus actually said.   Doesn’t it teach eternal torment for the wicked, instead of annihilation?  I’ve concluded that the answer is no.  See if you find my reasoning persuasive.

The passage comes at ...

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Gehenna: Where You Do Not Want to Go

This is the second of my two posts on Gehenna.  My ultimate point in this discussion is that when Jesus talked about people ending up there, he did not mean they would roast forever in the first of hell, but that they would end up very badly indeed because (a) they would not receive burial and (b) even worse, their corpses would be thrown into the most hideous literally-god-forsaken place a Jew could imagine.

The earliest evidence from outside the Hebrew ...

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Jesus on Gehenna

I will give three more posts on what I take to be Jesus’ understanding of the afterlife.  The first two have to do with his understanding of Gehenna.    What I have to say about it is too much for a single post.  So here’s the first of the two.

Again, feedback is welcome.

Often Jesus expresses the image of “destruction” in highly repugnant terms, indicating that sinners who are excluded from God’s kingdom will not only killed but will be refused decent ...

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Looking for Feedback on My Views about Jesus and the Afterlife

I am now editing my book on the afterlife, and there are a few controversial theses in it.  One of them involves the views of Jesus.   I’d like to know what you think of my argument, and to see if you find it convincing or not.  If not, I’d like to know why.   Here is a rough idea of what I’m planning to say (until you instruct  me otherwise!)

First, Jesus did not think the coming kingdom of God (soon to ...

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Why Should Faith and the Afterlife Matter? Readers’ Mailbag April 15, 2018

I have a very long list of questions in my Readers’ Mailbag.  Here’s an interesting one that’s been hanging around for a while.

 

QUESTION:

One of the really odd things about Christianity is the emphasis on believing in order to gain admission to heaven. Why is that so critical?

 

RESPONSE

I would say that this one really odd thing is actually two really odd things: from the outset of the Christian movement, followers of Jesus emphasized both the centrality of belief and the realities ...

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Is There a Time and Place for Heaven and Hell?

A recent Pew research poll produced interesting results on Americans’ beliefs about the afterlife.  72% of Americans say they believe in heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded,” and  58% of U.S. adults also believe in hell — a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”  (See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/10/most-americans-believe-in-heaven-and-hell/)

So that’s a lot.   Nearly three quarters of all Americans believe in a literal ...

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