In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3)
An old Gospel song that goes by the same title talks about “a mansion just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.” The singer dreams of having a “gold one that is silver lined.” Does that not seem somewhat esurient to covet the riches of heaven? I admit that the thought did not occur to me until recently.
When I think of a mansion, I imagine the $5 million (or more) homes of the super-rich or the palaces of royalty. Somehow, I do not think that is exactly to what Jesus referred when He spoke the words of our beginning verse above.
Consider this. “Heaven” as described in Revelation 21-22 enjoys a perfect environment much like that of the Garden of Eden that God originally created. So perfect was that environment, that the first couple could run around naked and not worry about getting sunburned, rained on, or frost bitten. Furthermore, all their nutritional needs were provided. It was a perfect place. Their only shelter were the stars above (and oh, how the stars must have sparkled at night in the pollution-free sky!). There was no need for any kind of building for shelter, much less a mansion.
Heaven will be like that, I think. No mansions of gold with silver trim. Before ending His earthly ministry, Jesus promised that in His Father’s house – only ONE house – are many mansions. That word in the Greek is monē, which means “a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode.” If Jesus meant some kind of building, He could have used the word “castle” – Greek parembolē meaning something like a fortress. Or, He could have used the word “palace” – Greek aulē, meaning “a yard (as open to the wind); by implication a mansion: – court, ([sheep-]) fold, hall, palace.” However, Jesus used the word monē promising that we would have a place to stay and He has many places to stay and dwell for those who follow Him.
Sadly, we too often derive our “theology” from the songs we sing rather than from the Word of God. Next time you hear that old Gospel song, put that golden mansion out of your mind and be happy that Jesus has given you a place in His Father’s house.
Reader, if you are unsure of your eternal abode, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” Jesus has a reservation for you in His Father’s house, but you have to take Him up on His invitation.
 “Mansion Over the Hilltop” by Ira Stanphill, 1949.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Fear paralyzes the fearful, rendering them ineffective in that thing which they fear. Dictionary.com defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined;” (emphasis mine). The fact remains that 10% of most things feared or the things over which we worry never come to pass.
A long list of phobias exists which we could examine: fear of height, fear of flying, fear of germs, fear of needles, etc. However, the most ubiquitous fear held by the majority of people is the fear of dying. One can understand the nature of this fear; it is basically the fear of the unknown. What happens when one dies? Is this life all there is? Is there life after death? Do the dead come back in a different form – reincarnation? Are heaven and hell real? If heaven and hell are real, how does one arrive at one place and not the other? Does dying hurt?
For one who believes the Bible and the God of the Bible, death terminates physical life, but the spiritual essence that energizes the soul (the complete person) transitions on to eternity. The eternal destination depends on the spiritual condition of the soul at the time of death, one is either “saved” or “lost.”
Jesus spoke of two men who met death and ended up in different destinations. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jews believed that those who died went to the “abode of the dead” known as Sheol. Sheol had two compartments, one for the unrighteous known as “torments” and one for the righteous known as “Abraham’s bosom” or “paradise.” So the two men died, one was rich and the other a beggar. The rich man ended up in the place of torments not because he was rich, but because he was unrighteous, i.e., “lost.” The poor beggar ended up in Abraham’s bosom not because he suffered poverty, but because he was righteous, i.e. “saved.” After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the destination for the “saved” changed to “the presence of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul makes this clear, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, emphasis mine). The lost still end up in “torments” (“hell”) to await their final destiny in the “lake of fire” that burns forever and ever.
For those who do not have a personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, death is a legitimate fear indeed. Some may salve their fear by ignoring, or by choosing to believe that death is the end, or by hoping in reincarnation, or by imagining that they will somehow meld into the vast universe, i.e., “become one with the universe.” However, all of these notions only produce doubt, and the fear remains.
The Christian, on the other hand, should not harbor the fear of death. Death, as Paul reminded us, means that we are absent from the body, but we are present with the Lord in the same place where He resides. For the Christian, there should be no fear of death. In another place, Paul reminds us that, for Christians, our “citizenship” (“our conversation”) is not in this world, but in heaven. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, emphasis mine). For the Christian, the “afterlife” promises the possession of a physical body like that of the resurrected Christ in His presence.
I look forward to passing from this rapidly decaying world to be forever in the presence of the One who died in my place to save me from my sin for eternity. I have no fear of death. I realize that while He has me here in this world, I need to serve Him in every task that He lays before me. Then when that day comes, whether by physical death or by translation from this world into His presence in the Rapture, I will enter His courts with joy.
If you fear death or you are insecure about your eternal destiny, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46)
Last week I wrote on the topic of an eternal hell, which was prompted by an article posted on social media by an author who believes that hell is not eternal. The man who wrote the article spent many years researching the topic and has written several books and produced several DVD’s on the matter. He concluded, after years of study, that the Bible does not teach that hell is eternal based on an extensive word study in the original biblical languages that are often translated “forever” or “eternal.” (See last week’s article noted below.)
Hell is not a pleasant topic to discuss. In fact, we probably find it repulsive. However, the Bible does speak of hell as a real place, so it behooves us not to ignore it. In fact, it is said that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven, so, if we believe the Bible is true then we need to take hell seriously.
The writer, Aloysius or “Al” for short (not his real name), besides pointing out that the Hebrew and Greek words translated as “forever” or “eternal” have different “shades” of meaning so that they can just as easily be translated as “a long time,” based most of his argument on God being so loving that He would not punish sinners for eternity. This concept is known as annihilationism; “the belief that all the wicked will be judged by God and thrown into the lake of fire, where they will cease to exist. Some annihilationists suggest that this will occur instantaneously, while others believe that the unrighteous may experience a brief period of awareness. However, all annihilationists agree that no individual, however wicked, will suffer eternally a conscious existence in hell.”
I was told by one of my readers about a movie on the same topic. The movie is entitled, “Hell and Mr. Fudge,” so I found it on Amazon Prime and watched it. The movie, based on a real character, told about a boy, a preacher’s kid, which grew up to be a preacher himself. As an adolescent, he had a friend who was a “bad boy;” he drank and smoked, rarely went to church, and he was not “saved.” The boy ends up dying in a car accident and the thought of his friend going to hell haunted Fudge for the rest of his life because he could not accept that God would send his friend to hell forever. The story of Fudge’s struggle is very compelling, and I found myself hoping that he would convince me that hell is not eternal. If you have not seen the movie, I would recommend it, but keep up your guard.
Just like Al, Fudge did extensive research in both Old and New Testaments. In one scene, while he was in Bible college, he makes the claim that he was reading Greek since he was six, so he was no slouch as a scholar, but his failure, as I saw it, was that he allowed his emotions to drive his conclusion. In the end, he resolved his dilemma with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (emphasis mine). “Perish” is the Greek word apollumi meaning “to destroy fully.” “Everlasting life” (life perpetual), zōē aiōnios, employs the word aiōnios, which is applied in the NT to both eternal life and to eternal damnation. However, the confusion results from the frequent use of apollumi to describe the destruction of a soul in hell. That raises the question. What is the need for an eternal (aiōnios) hell, if the destruction (apollumi) of the soul is relatively brief?
Mr. Fudge, for all his scholarship, failed to parse the aorist Greek verb appoletai (perish) and settled for the English future tense. The “aorist tense” of the verb expresses a present action that is continuing. The verb is in the “middle voice” that denotes that the subject is both an agent of an action and somehow concerned with the action. So, whatever is happening to this subject, he is bringing it upon himself. The verb is also in the “subjunctive mood” indicating that the action may or may not occur. In this verse, the person is “perishing” of his own volition, but by believing in the Son, he can obtain eternal life. John 3:16 speaks of eternal life, not the duration of hell. Those who have not believed in the Son are in the process of destroying (perishing) themselves, and unless they change, they will endure hell for eternity.
When I share the Gospel, I do not want to talk about eternal death in hell. I want to invite those who hear to join me in eternal life with Christ. However, just for the sake of argument, let us agree that hell is brief. Let us say that a really bad sinner will be tortured there for just one year and then incinerate and cease to exist. Then let us say that a “good” person, whose only sin was to reject God’s plan of salvation, goes to hell, and his sentence is just one week. Then he is incinerated and ceases to exist. Can anyone seriously say, they would be willing to spend even just one minute in hell just for rejecting Christ? I would not want to, not from how Jesus describes it. Don’t go there!
I really liked Mr. Fudge. He seemed like a really nice and sincere guy. I also have no doubt in my mind that He is a true Christian. His false notion about the temporal duration of hell is not a salvation issue. However, you know people that would rather continue in a sinful lifestyle than to place their life in Jesus’ hands. The notion of a brief stent in hell followed by total annihilation might seem like a good option to someone who enjoys a sinful lifestyle too much. (And who says sinning isn’t fun!) The idea of an eternal existence in that torturous place might be that thing that will change his mind. Mr. Fudge and Al might be really nice guys, excellent scholars, and wonderful Christians, but they are wrong on hell.
Reader, if you are not sure about where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3:29)
Hell seldom comes up as a topic of interest. The notion of hell congers up unpleasant images of souls tortured by unquenchable flames and taunted by merciless devils with pitchforks. Heaven makes a more pleasant topic of conversation. I cannot wait to get there!
So, when a social media contact posted his take on a less-than-eternal nature of hell, I could not help (against my better judgment) to try and briefly correct his erroneous conclusions. I tried to keep it brief, but after his second response, I thought it best to conclude the discussion, and take Paul’s advice to “strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). These kinds of discussions usually remain unresolved and provide a poor witness to bystanders. (On social media, one can never tell who is “listening.”)
Anyway, this gentleman (I’ll call him Aloysius (“famous warrior”) or Al for short) has apparently labored intensely on the subject of hell and arrived at the conclusion that hell is not eternal. He based his conclusion on the Hebrew word ‛ôlâm and the Greek word aiōnios, both of which are often translated as “forever” or “everlasting.” Al correctly pointed out that both of these words have several shades of meaning. Depending on the context, ‛ôlâm can mean “concealed, vanishing point, eternity, always, or perpetual,” according to Strong’s. Brown-Driver-Briggs’ defines it as “long duration, antiquity, forever, ever, everlasting, evermore, or perpetual.” As for aiōnios, Strong’s defines it as “perpetual, eternal, everlasting, or forever.” Thayer’s Greek Definitions renders it, “without beginning, without end, never to cease, everlasting.”
Al failed to see the inconsistency in his argument. He defined ‛ôlâm and aiōnios as “eternal” when applied to God or heaven, but temporal when applied to hell. He did not reject the concept of hell, just the idea of an eternal hell. I did not pursue the question as to how he arrived at that conclusion, but perhaps his revulsion to the notion of an eternal damnation conflicted with his idea of a loving God. I understand why someone would feel that way, but we are not in a place to make that decision for God.
The Bible clearly teaches that heaven and hell are real places and they are eternal. All humans will end up in one place or the other for eternity. One verse from Jesus’ own lips easily exposes the contradiction in Al’s argument. In His discourse concerning the separation of the sheep and the goats, Jesus sums up the destiny of both. “And these [goats] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous [sheep] into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46, emphasis mine). In this verse, aiōnios defines the duration of “punishment” (i.e., hell) and “life.” Seeing that the same word is applied to both, they must mean the same thing. If hell is not eternal then neither is life (i.e., heaven). If heaven is eternal, then so must be hell. Keep in mind that this verse is in the same context, so the word cannot have different meanings.
Related to aiōnios is the Greek word aiōn, which means “an age, perpetuity, continuing, or everlasting.” This word is often translated as “for ever” in the King James Version (KJV). When rendered as such, aiōn is usually preceded by the preposition eis, which means “to or into.” Together, eis aiōn could be translated “into the ages,” “into perpetuity,” or “to eternity.”
The Book of the Revelation explains the eternal nature of hell. In the Fourteenth Chapter, those that take the Mark of the Beast are condemned to eternal hell. “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11, emphasis mine). The repletion is emphatic, εις αιωνας αιωνων – “into the ages of the ages.” Satan, the Beast (Antichrist), and the False Prophet earn the same reward. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis mine). Again, the eternal nature of hell is described: εις αιωνας αιωνων – “into the ages of the ages.” Then those who reject Christ will be judged at the Great White Throne. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, emphasis mine).
I understand Al’s desire that hell be temporary. That those who go there stay just long enough to pay their debt and get vaporized. I do not cherish the thought of anyone going to that place even for one minute. The Bible tells us that “God is love,” and that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). However, God is eternal – without beginning and without end. Therefore, when we offend the eternal God, we offend Him eternally, and the punishment, therefore, must be of eternal consequences.
The Bible says that we have all offended God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). However, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). The eternal God took on human flesh and shed His precious, perfect blood to cover our sins. His sacrifice provides for us the eternal atonement, covering, to satisfy our eternal offense against Eternal God. But we have the choice to believe or disbelieve, to accept or reject. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)
This Sunday, March 28, celebrates Palm Sunday when we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the final week of His earthly ministry. We term this event as the “Triumphal Entry,” but in many respects, the term is a misnomer.
Daniel predicted the event to the very day of its occurrence. “Seventy weeks [70 x 7 years, or 490 years] are determined upon thy people [Israel or the Jews] and upon thy holy city [Jerusalem], to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness [beginning with the Millennial reign of Messiah], and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy [Messiah]. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem [decreed by Artaxerxes Longimanus, 444 BC] unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks [7 x 7 or 49 years], and [plus] threescore and two weeks [62 x 7 or 434 years; 49 + 434 = 483 years]: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined” (Daniel 9:24-26, emphasis mine). Daniel divides the 490 years (70 weeks) into three segments of 49, 434, and 7 years. The first segment began when Artaxerxes Longimanus issued the fourth decree to rebuild Jerusalem with its walls in 444 BC, and ended in 395 BC when the project was completed – 49 years. The next segment encompassed the 400+ “silent years” until Jesus, Messiah, entered into Jerusalem. Four hundred eighty three (483) years were fulfilled at that time and the final segment of seven years remains to be fulfilled. At the end of the 483 years, to the very day, Jesus, Messiah, was “cut off” at the cross.
The prophet, Zechariah, predicted that the Messiah would present Himself riding on a donkey. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9, emphasis mine). All four Gospel writers record this event from their unique perspectives. Most Bibles that use sub-title divisions of chapters title this event as the “Triumphal Entry.” However, Jesus did not enter Jerusalem as conquering king. He presented Himself as the Melek Shâlêm, the King of Peace. A conquering king would have presented himself with great pomp and ceremony, riding on a white charger followed by his conquering armies, parading the spoils of his conquests.
Jesus entered humbly as the King of Peace. His week would end with a tortuous, humiliating death on a Roman cross. From a human perspective, that hardly qualifies as a triumph. However, the following Sunday, the earth shook as Jesus ripped apart the chains of death and conquered man’s final enemy. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Yet, we still die physically, but our spirit lives on. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). One day, even physical death will be lost even to the memory. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14). Our present bodies (whether alive or dead) will be transformed into eternal bodies like the body of the resurrected Christ. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [who are living at the time] shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:50-53, emphasis mine).
Jesus conquered death at His resurrection, but He has yet to enter Jerusalem in triumph. Our starting verse above, Revelation 19:11-16, describes His real Triumphal Entry. He will enter Jerusalem from His departure point on the Mount of Olives riding on a white horse – not a donkey this time. He will be followed by His heavenly hosts (angelic armies) and by the spoils of His victory, His saints, all riding white horses and dressed in white robes – no weapons in hand. When His foot touches Earth, the Mount of Olives will split in two, half to the north and half to the south. From there He will travel north to the Jezreel Valley, for the Battle of Armageddon. That too is a misnomer, because it will be no battle at all. “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15, emphasis mine). That “sword” out of His mouth is His Word. He will speak and the “battle” will be over. “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
Now, that is a Triumphal Entry!
The current events of our world signal that the time of Jesus’ Victorious Entrance is soon approaching. He will come for His Bride, the Church, at any moment; although we do not know when. However, if the signs indicate that His return is near, that means the catching up of His Bride is even closer. Soon after that, Daniel’s final week, the last seven years known as the Tribulation, will begin. Those who are not snatched away by Jesus will remain on earth to suffer through the judgments of God like at no other time in world history. If you are not sure where you stand with Jesus, you can escape that awful time by putting your trust in Him as your Savior. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
 John F Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary- Old Testament, (SP Publications, 1985), p.1363.