By Femi Aribisala
Pastors continue to torment Christians with the fear of eternal hell-fire. As a result, instead of loving God, Christians are afraid of him.
A lady once asked me a leading question: “If God will eventually save everybody, how can we explain Jesus’ statement that: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life?’” (John 3:16). Is to perish not the same as undergoing eternal torment in hell?
Not at all! In the scriptures, both the righteous and the wicked perish, so to perish cannot mean to go to a place of eternal torment.
Isaiah says: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” (Isaiah 57:1-2).
If to perish means to go to a place of eternal torment, then the martyred prophets of God must have gone to hell because, according to the bible, they all perished. Thus, Jesus says: “I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:33).
It would even mean people who are starved to death go to hell because the Prodigal Son says: “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luke 15:17).
Obviously, to perish in the scriptures simply means to die: Therefore, the correct translation of John 3:16 is: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not die, but have everlasting life.”
No eternal torment
The only punishment God has threatened for sin is death; nothing more: nothing less. God says: “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4). Nowhere in the Old Testament does he speak of eternal torment. If the penalty for sin were eternal torment, God would have warned people about it. Surely, he would not just spring it on them as a surprise.
No! God did not warn anybody about eternal torment because it has nothing to do with his purposes. If the punishment for sin were eternal torment, then Jesus himself would have had to suffer eternal torment in order to atone for sin. If the price God demands as penalty for sin is eternal torment, then Jesus did not pay it.
Jesus did not redeem anybody from eternal torment. He only redeemed from death. This is because: “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Since it is death, Jesus died. So doing, he met the full demands of the law. He paid the debt of sin in full.
However, the penalty of death is unsatisfactory for the apostate Christian church and its highfalutin pastors. This is because the carnal mind does not believe death is enough punishment for sins against God, so it replaces this with eternal torment. Eternal torment also has the added attraction of scaring people into the churches, the dens of robbers, where tithes and offerings can be extorted from them.
As Isaiah observes: “They are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are pastors who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory.” (Isaiah 56:11).
Not eternal death
Moreover, the bible does not say the wages of sin is eternal death. God did not say to Adam: “In the day you eat the fruit of this tree, you shall die eternally.” He does not say: “the soul that sins shall die forever.” On the contrary, God specifically states that death will not be eternal.
It is written in the scriptures: “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise.” (Isaiah 26:19). “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves.” (Ezekiel 37:12). “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14).
It is also written that, after some time: “There shall be no more death.” (Revelation 21:4). Thus, Paul says: “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
If the wages of sin were eternal death, Jesus Christ would still be in the grave. However, the very resurrection of Jesus from the dead is eloquent testimony that the wages of sin is not eternal death. The wages of sin is death, pure and simple.
As a matter of fact, according to the scriptures, Jesus abolished death: “Our Saviour Jesus Christ.. abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10). Jesus redefines what we call death as “sleep.” Indeed, by raising Lazarus from the dead, he served notice that death would be abolished.
Nevertheless, pastors continue to torment Christians with the fear of eternal hell-fire. As a result, instead of loving God, Christians are afraid of him.
Redemption from death
Early on in my relationship with God, the Holy Spirit engaged me in discussion over my obsession with going to heaven. “Femi,” he asked, “why do you want to go to heaven?” I did not know the reason. I just knew I wanted to end up in heaven. But the Lord insisted I must have a reason.
Finally, he dropped the bombshell. “Femi,” he said, “heaven is not for you. There is nothing in heaven that you like. There is no food in heaven. There is no sex in heaven. None of the material possessions you crave are in heaven. Why would you want to spend eternity in such a boring place?”
I admit, I liked all those things; but I also liked the idea of heaven as well. I knew my reasons were not good enough, but they were all I had at the time. I wanted to spend eternity in heaven because I was afraid of the alternative, which I was told meant spending eternity in agony in hell.
However, John says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). God says of those scared into the churches: “These people draw near with their mouths and honour me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the commandment of men.” (Isaiah 29:13).
The commandment of God says the wages of sin is death, but the commandment of men says the wages of sin is eternal torment. Whose report do you believe?
God says to dry bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 375-6).
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, but he will heal us; he has stricken, but he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live in his sight.” (Hosea 6:1-2).