243. Not Counting Their Trespasses

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott – 

Good News?

As I have chronicled in these posts, God has personally started to walk me through encounters that continually challenge my perception of who He is.  I am on a journey of discovering the true nature of God as love and as a result I find myself questioning and often rejecting the established doctrines and theological positions of the modern-day evangelical church.

God has shown me that I (and the church, and the world) have been badly deceived by ‘do-it-yourself’ religion. Nowhere does this deception show up more clearly than in our approach to evangelism.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19).

This is the message of reconciliation at the heart of the gospel we are called to preach. And the word translated ‘world’ is actually the Greek word ‘kosmos‘, which is even wider than we might have thought. Yet when I looked closely at how we have done evangelism, even here at Freedom, I uncovered a fear-based system which originates from a wrong perception of God as angry, vindictive and cruel.

Religion has hijacked the gospel, made ‘escaping hell’ its focus and used the threat of eternal damnation to scare people into the kingdom. “Good news! (But first, the bad news…)”. My own conversion experience was like that. I heard sermons about hell and judgment week after week and decided I needed ‘fire insurance’.

Hell? Not going there…

For most Christians, hell is a given, an unquestioned doctrine. Hell fits their doctrinal system. God is love but He is also just. He must punish sin. Hell is the punishment for sin. Simple.

Or is it?

I knew it would take a while to address this issue properly, and I resisted broaching the question of ‘hell’ for some time, as if it were some kind of ‘no-go’ area, but God would not let me be. It just kept resurfacing, both in my encounters and as I prepared the ‘new versus old’ teaching module in the Engaging God programme. It is a concept that is generally accepted in most (if not all) religions and in wider society, but I knew deep down that something in what I had been taught was not consistent with the Father’s love.

Think again

This is where we come back to the scripture from 2 Corinthians which says that God is not counting their trespasses against anyone:

Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19).

The whole cosmos has already been reconciled and no-one’s trespasses are counted against them. So from God’s perspective what need is there for a ‘hell’?

And, despite the limitations of the translations we use which I touched on in the last post, there are plenty of other familiar passages which might prompt us to think again too:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
Who is the us that Christ died for, a select few or everyone?
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all… (2 Cor 5:14).

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom 5:10).
God is not angry, even with those who may feel like His enemies.

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:22).
In each part of this statement, all refers to the same people… all, as Peter confirms:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God… (1 Peter 3:18).

Angry forever?

Pitying and merciful is the Lord; lenient and full of mercy. Not unto the end shall He be provoked to anger, nor into the eon (age) will He cherish wrath. Not according to our lawless deeds did He deal with us; nor according to our sins did He recompense to us (Psa 103:8-10, Septuagint).

“I shall not punish you into the eon (age), nor shall I be provoked to anger with you perpetually” (Isaiah 57:16)

“I will heal their apostasy (unbelief), I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).

My own experiences of God are characterised by love, grace and mercy, not anger and fear. God does not stay angry forever, so why would He punish people forever? His love is more powerful than all our sin put together. It is far stronger than the lies and deception designed to keep us separated from Him:

“Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

Rather than meaning torment and punishment, in this passage fire is a depiction of passion and unrelenting love: God’s love is a flame that can never be quenched or extinguished and He is unrelenting in pursuing us for relationship.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18).

How can God punish people if He is love? The two are incompatible. He cannot and He does not. God’s justice is always restorative.

Perpetual Conscious Torment

The idea of ‘hell’ as a place of perpetual torment is so prevalent in the world’s religions and cultures that if you mention ‘hell’, most people have a pretty clear image of what you are talking about: it probably includes fire, demons with pitchforks and people in torment. This image has been propagated by literature through the ages and more recently by films and TV shows but it was not the view of the early church.

The writings of the Old Testament and Jewish literature throw up various different views of the afterlife, including annihilation or sleep until judgment, but eternal torment after death was not a Hebrew concept at all. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible comments, “Nowhere in the Old Testament is the abode of the dead regarded as a place of punishment or torment. The concept of an infernal ‘hell’ developed in Israel only during the Hellenistic [Greek] period” (i.e. beginning in the fourth century B.C.).

There are even some people today who teach that at the resurrection, God will give unbelievers new bodies specifically designed to withstand eternal torture. What kind of a god is that? Is that really the God who was perfectly revealed in Jesus?

But what about…?

By now, you may be thinking of passages of scripture, even of Jesus’ own teaching, which seem to contradict what I am saying. What about the sheep and the goats, or the rich man and Lazarus, or the outer darkness where their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? I promise we will look closely at each of those passages (and others) in coming posts.

Jesus never warned anyone about ‘hell’, nor did Paul or any of the other New Testament writers, nor did God tell Adam that he and his descendants would go to ‘hell’ as a result of the fall. There is no word for ‘hell’ in the Greek or Hebrew language. It is not a biblical concept at all.

Four separate words have been translated into the single English word ‘hell’ and in reality each word has a different meaning:

  • Sheol (Hebrew) grave or place of dead
  • Hades (Greek) unseen world, grave, underworld
  • Tartarus (Greek) prison for angels
  • Gehenna (Greek) name of a valley outside Jerusalem used as a fiery rubbish dump.
  • In English, the word ‘hell’ comes from Proto-Germanic ‘haljo’, whose root ‘halija’ means ‘a concealed or covered place’.
  • The Norse god Hel is Loki’s daughter, and in that mythology she rules over the evil dead.

Yet our most popular English translations are full of the word – including some you might be surprised at:

The Message=56
King James Version (Authorised Version)=54
New King James=32
New Living Translation=19
New Century Version=15
English Standard Version=14
New International Version=14
Amplified Bible=13
New American Standard=13

On each occasion that the translators have used the word ‘hell’ in these versions, they have only done so because they already believed the passage was about ‘hell’. Instead of translating what was there, they have read back into the text their preconceived notions of what it meant. Other versions do not include the word at all:

LXX (Septuagint)=0
Young’s Literal=0
Concordant Literal=0
Complete Jewish Bible=0
World English Bible=0

Orthodoxy

The religious institution and its supporters will insist that if you question the doctrine of ‘hell’, you are rejecting what has always been agreed upon by the Church. It is not so. Orthodoxy is a myth, and it is high time to rethink this subject.

Because if God is love, if God is good, if God is not angry, if God does not require appeasement or sacrifice, if God does not punish us then what is the purpose of ‘hell’?

Does ‘hell’ as we know it even exist?

We will look at this again.

Note: In these posts I can help you clear away some of your false preconceptions and assumptions (if you are willing) but I am not going to attempt to convince you to see things the way I do; if you really want to know where people go after they die, you will need to ask God to show you.

Free resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts

Engaging The Father conference

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  • Then join us from March 8th to 10th, either in person (£65 GBP) or via the livestream (£30 GBP), for Engaging The Father, the first of our Sons Arise! conferences for 2018.
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Author: Freedom ARC

Freedom Apostolic Resource Centre, Barnstaple, UK.

10 thoughts on “243. Not Counting Their Trespasses”

  1. Brilliant again. Thank you, Mike and Jeremy. Your redemptive gifts are serving us well. Thank you. Just want to leave a testimony amen. I have encountered Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, many times within a mandate strategy. Negative and crippling family behaviors have been altered by the redeeming of those held and led out, in His eternal fire of love. Taking and leading out Captivity captive…. Keep going church!

  2. I myself have not 1 but 2 cephers (bibles, loosely) translated from Hebrew and Aramaic so I plan to go see what they read per your verses quoted. I thought I would comment though on just one, 2 Cor. 5:19. In the context (keep that in mind) of the rest of the chapter the Spirit had Paul write about BELIEVERS who are “trapped” in their earthly bodies but have the witness of the Spirit by being a new creation in Messiah Yeshua, (v.17) thus when they’ve departed this earthly tabernacle they will no longer be limited by their bodies here. They will eventually have new immortal bodies as Messiah does, (“we shall all be changed in the blink of an eye, putting off mortality and being clothed with immortality”. So, in this chapter he’s reaffirming that. He’s pointing out that Messiah was reconciling the kosmos to Himself – and that will manifest by the way, when He destroys the present one, and creates a new heaven and a new earth per Revelation. When one is born again and becomes the new creation mentioned in v17, then their sin(s) are blotted out (Paul’s terminology in other epistles) to be remembered no more. AT THAT POINT THE RECONCILIATION IS MADE MANIFEST IN THEIR LIVES. Now of course that doesn’t mean that salvation doesn’t have to worked out (i.e refined by trials, etc, to bring forth FRUIT because Yeshua said any tree that doesn’t bear fruit will be cast into the fire). So for believers, while at the moment of being made that new creation in Messiah they’re are clothed with His righteousness, and their sins are no more remembered, that is just the beginning. While He may have made the POSSIBILITY of reconciliation available it isn’t manifested in people’s lives while they’re dead in trespasses and sins. So while I agree that scaring people into the kingdom seems to exclude a message of His love for us, Yeshua Himself did say “fear not they who can kill the body, but fear Him who is able to cast both body and soul into hell”. It’s said He taught, preached on the subject of hell more than any other in His earthly ministry. I haven’t done an in depth study tallying up for each subject how many times, I’m taking those who have done so, word for it. The key is balance, we’re to emphasise that YHWH so loved the world that He gave his uniquely begotten most treasured Son, that the possibility of salvation / redemption could be offered to any and all who accept it.

    1. Guitar dood (I’m one too), the key is thinking we have to DO something.If we could do anything we’d be c0ntributing to the work of Christ (obviously nonsense). But a good quote from C.S.Lewis is “|God allows us to go through tribulation, not without pain , but without stain.” Im not sure that even he had the revelation of the immensity of that, but it remains that we are indeed reconciled.As our saviour said on the cross “It is finished”

      1. of course we cannot DO anything to save ourselves, that is strictly the grace of our Father in heaven, who knowing that we couldn’t save ourselves in His mercy and grace put His plan promised in Genesis 3:15 into motion re the sacrifice of His Yachid Yeshua. John 3:16,17 tell us that, yet explaining that while the offer is now available it’s still each one’s individual decision as to whether or not to accept. It’s with interest I was reading in 4 Ezra the other day, that Ezra was given a revelation of the redeemed in heaven with the angels, praising YHWH and Yeshua. When he asked the angel sent to him who a certain one was, He was told that it was the Son of YHWH who would be the sacrifice for us. Thus he along with Enoch, were given glimpses of revelation re Yeshua, long before His incarnation.I was pointing out in my previous comment that we aren’t redeemed by His grace to sit on our hands, but as He said we have to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance – James phrased it as “faith without works is dead”. We aren’t to stay spiritually reborn babies forever.

  3. EXCELLENT CLARIFICATION ON A SUBJECT THAT HAS BEEN MOST DIFFICULT FOR MAN TO ACCEPT – THAT ELOHIM IS ABSOLUTE LOVE AND HAS NEVER CHANGED. IT IS GLORIOUS THAT MANY ARE ARISING FROM A DEEP SLEEP TO EMBRACE IN THERE HEARTS JUST HOW AWESOME IS OUR INNOCENCE BEFORE OUR FATHER AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SO AS HIS OFFSPRINGS – NEVER SEPARATED FROM HIM, ONLY IN OUR MINDS.

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