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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Degrees of Punishment and Purgatory

Christians have always had a wide variety of beliefs about the afterlife, and just about everyone (who chooses) is able to find biblical support for their views.  The Bible itself has an enormous range of views.

Among other things, there have always been Christians who have thought that there must be varying levels of punishment for sinners in the afterlife.   The guy on the street who does his best but is not always a very good father surely doesn’t get punished ...

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The Unforgivable Sin and Purgatory

In my previous post I discussed one of the passages of the New Testament that has traditionally been used to support the idea of Purgatory, the place that most of the “saved” go after death to be purged of their sins (Matt 5:26  “you won’t get out of there until you have paid the last penny”).  In my judgment this passage is not talking about what happens in the afterlife, even though it has been read that way.   With another ...

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Did Jesus Teach About Purgatory?

The topic I’m dealing with on this destined-to-be-a-very-long thread seems to me to be particularly important.  Most of my scholarship is of interest mainly to people concerned about the life and teachings of Jesus, the New Testament, the history of Christianity, and so on; but this is of interest to *all* of us.  What happens when we die?  Or more specifically, what happens to *me* when I die?

My current discussion of purgatory may be of little interest to people, until ...

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The First Intimation of Purgatory?

As I said in my last post, the definitive doctrine of Purgatory did not exist before the 12th century, even though the basic *idea* had been around for a long time – the idea that even though Christ’s death brought salvation to the world, most people, except for the most holy saints, such as those who had been martyred for their faith, had still to pay for their sins.   By the 13th century Purgatory had become an actual place of ...

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