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Friday: Further Thought ~ The Fires of Hell — 10 Comments

  1. This week, we have been dealing with the issue of what happens after we die as though it is a biblical interpretation issue. That is fair enough, but the majority of people I deal with these days are secularists. They do not believe the Bible and they do not particularly care what happens to them when life ends. If they think about it they want their after-death state to be described simply as "dead", not sleeping, not an angel, not a freed spirit, just plain dead! I am aware that some of you live in countries where the majority of people describe themselves as Christians, but in Australia, most people would describe themselves as "no religion".

    If we are going to win the argument with these folk, then we need to re-evaluate our approach. Perhaps the starting point for such an interaction is to provide evidence of the state of the living. Namely, that as Christians we have an unselfish purpose in life that gives happiness to others. Many of the secular critics of Christianity see us in the "in it to win it" mode. We are Christians because there is a reward at the end. I am not denying the salvation hope that we have but our actions must show that we put others first.

    We cannot pray for the dead, but we can work for the living. That is what the Gospel commission is about.

  2. The “Left Behind” book/movie series is today’s cultural impact, along with stories about people “who died and then came back to this life”.
    It is hard to argue with someone’s experience, even though it is a “dream” of sorts.
    Lord, help us to be loving and understanding in our dealings with others.
    My biggest concern is that others know and love God. What happens after death will all be made clear to them in heaven. Long-term this might be a matter of study, but if they don’t trust Him it doesn’t matter now.
    I didn’t grow up in the SDA church and my brother only joined a year before his death. After my brother’s memorial service my niece said she didn’t agree with us, but I let it pass as she is still learning to trust that God IS and that He cares about her and that’s what I’m focusing on.

  3. The conclusion I have come to at the end of this weeks lesson is that maybe I don’t understand what point the author of the lessons is trying to make. It seems like we are trying to figure out how to convince people of our belief of the state of the dead. I have appreciated walking through this topic, but I don’t think we can proof text someone into that belief. Our job as Christians here on this earth is to show people what God looks like, not physically but in our actions. What Jesus said to Phillip in John 14:9 he is saying to us. I have to ask myself, when someone sees me do they see Jesus/The Father? If they do, that opens the door of opportunity for questions, and those questions may or may not lead to our belief on the state of the dead. Jeremiah 29:13 is a promise I believe in, and the key is the seeking with all my heart. ANYONE who is seeking truth will find it, and the Holy Spirit will guide them and us in that process. Do I need to understand our doctrine of the state of the dead? Yes I do, but do I need to “prove it” to someone who doesn’t believe that? Not necessarily. If they come to me asking why I believe in our doctrine, I can guide them, with the Holy Spirit leading me, to see from scripture what I believe, and maybe this is what the author is trying to help us with.

    • Perhaps, Karen, when it comes to understanding Bible doctrine for ourselves, there is value in learning the true meaning of passages that might otherwise have thrown us off. And, once we have that knowledge, we can potentially share it with others who may have a sincere question. I have personally found these lessons helpful.

      Have a great day!

    • "It seems like we are trying to figure out how to convince people of our belief of the state of the dead."

      I agree Karen. I can't think of a single person who devoted their life to Christ because they lost a debate. While we should be prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15 NIV), how we live our lives and treat others can best reveal what we believe and why.

      I suspect we will all learn in heaven how little we actually know relative to what our proud hearts on earth have convinced us we know for sure.

  4. Thank you so much, everyone, for the discussions this week! The lesson went over 3 doctrines about state of the dead: purgatory, everlasting hell, and disembodied souls/spirits. Most important to me were our discussions about the church's relationship with doctrines themselves in general, and the role of doctrine in salvation. Hit the Mark Sabbath School has excellent discussions about this as well, this week, I highly recommend.

    Hit the Mark made an important distinction between "indoctrination" and "doctrine". Here are some of my takeaways from that...

    Indoctrination as defined by Google is "the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically". The Google example sentence is: "I would never subject children to religious indoctrination".

    One member of the panel disagreed with that definition by saying that to her, indoctrination is instructing to a particular point of view, while letting people think critically, testing to see whether these things are so (1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21).

    Panel members seemed to agree that teaching Bible doctrines to children and those new to Christianity is good (Deut 6:6-7), and that the Bible encourages us to be prepared to share why we believe what we believe (1 Peter 3:15). But that in teaching and sharing, we should not make our arguments or teaching points so airtight that we discourage questions, the airing of honest doubts, or becoming so attached to our beliefs and interpretations of Scripture that we leave out wiggle room for the Holy Spirit to get in there and refine our points of view. One Hit the Mark panel member said that "in a vacuum, things rarely survive".

    So if "doctrine" means teaching, than YES, I agree that it is important for a disciple to "count the cost" (Luke 14:28-30), as Jesus said, before making a commitment to Him.

    I would agree that we see many examples in the Bible of persons engaging in Bible study before baptism.

    (1) Philip instructed the Ethiopian eunuch in a passage in Isaiah before asking if he'd like to be baptized (Acts 8:29-39). Notice in Acts 8:36-37 what was required of the eunuch for baptism - belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

    (2) Peter and Cornelius is another helpful story in Acts 10-11. Notice that Cornelius was in a relationship with God (Acts 10:2) and then God asked Peter to instruct him into a deeper understanding (Acts 10:6,22,32-33 KJV). While Peter was sharing the gospel story with Cornelius and his gathered family, the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Acts 10:44-45) and they were baptized immediately (Acts 10:46-48)! Also amazing in this story is the part of how Peter's own doctrines were changed in the exchange (Acts 10:9-20)!

    (3) Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from prison and they used that opportunity to witness. They taught "the Word of the Lord" to the prison guard and his family after he asked "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29-32) Notice Paul said "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ...and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31) and with that declaration the guard and his family were baptized "straightaway" (Acts 16:33).

    So Yes, doctrine and a relationship with Jesus are related. However, indoctrination, in the sense of forcing identical interpretations prerequisite to church membership, and requiring people to sign on a dotted line to anything other than the proclamation that "I have surrendered my whole life to Jesus" is dangerous.

    If I might just close my comment by sharing my personal testimony. I was raised SDA, baptized at age 14, attended SDA elementary and high school all my years, held church leadership positions as a teen. I left the SDA church when I was 19 to explore other denominations - joined the Episcopal church and went on a 30-year faith journey outside of the SDA church. During that time, I also explored non-Christian beliefs and New Age style worldviews. About 5 years ago, I started attending an SDA church again. I was drawn back in through my desire to join the sincere Bible study of the believers, I hungered to go deeper into the Word of God. I asked to be re-baptized as a public statement of my renewed faith in Jesus. I wrote these vows that I wanted to publicly commit to:

    (1) Do you confess your sins to God and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, and do you desire to live your life in a saving relationship with Him, putting Jesus first in all things?

    (2) Do you accept the teachings of the Bible as God's Word and do you desire by God's grace to live your life in harmony with His Word, as revealed to you by His Holy Spirit?

    (3) Because you want to live under the headship of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, do you desire to support the Body of Christ as a faithful steward, through God's strength, and to be accepted into the fellowship of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

    While I am allowed to be active in the church - provide special music, teach kids, make bulletin boards, plant church gardens, give offerings, with another member I've held home Bible studies for several years - I am not allowed to be re-baptized and not allowed to teach adult Sabbath School or share my testimony publicly. Several SDA pastors have refused me membership because I won't amend my 2nd statement to say that I accept the teachings of the Bible "as expressed in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of the SDA Church". Each pastor has wanted me to argue beliefs with him. The irony is that I've never raised any particular problem with any belief and have no desire to argue doctrine or cause any disunity. I've seen churches fraction and split repeatedly in these years over doctrinal differences. By God's grace I remain silent and continue to "meet together" because I believe that's God's will for us.

    I believe that when Christ's Body puts all of its energy and focus into prayer and the "unity of faith in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 4:13) - not unity of doctrine but unity of seeking and following Jesus (as Simeon and Jabesan said this week "faith defies logic"), there would be more harmony than we've ever seen on planet Earth. Jesus leaned on the Word of God when tempted, quoted and lived Scripture as taught to Him by His Father for His doctrine, and did not "commit Himself to men"(John 2:24-25).

    • Hi, Esther. Thank you for sharing your experience. In my personal view, given the history of Seventh-day Adventists as a people and as a movement, there may be four or five core doctrines ("pillars") that a person should accept before being considered a member. Beyond those, it's hard to me to see how we can require some kind of oath for the entire document that describes our consensus doctrine, without our devolving into what might amount to creedalism.

      If a baptismal candidate were to have a problem with a specific one of the 28 fundamental beliefs, then I suppose we might want to assess the implications of that, depending on the point at issue, and the relative significance of the disagreement. But, with no such difficulties in your case, I'd hope that you and your local church could find some reasonable middle ground.

      May God bless you in your ministry for Him!

    • Hello Esther,

      When I was baptized, I did not understand that baptism was essentially a de facto formality required for membership in the church organization; hence, the requirement to swear allegiance to the church in the baptismal vows. My objective was to be baptized because that is what Jesus said to do as a sign of allegiance to him.

      From my current knowledge of Seventh-day Adventist history, I see why administratively the church organization would view this swearing as a mandatory requirement for baptism: it is an administrative tool to ensure “unity” in the organization by conformity to a creed (which is effectively what the Fundamental Beliefs have become). In this context, I understand the position of your minister as an agent of the organization—the vows as you have written them would set a “dangerous” precedent and could get any minister into trouble.

      One of the reasons that the organized church of the first century was so hostile to John the Baptist was that he was baptizing outside of their administrative controls. He was baptizing into the Kingdom of Heaven; they were baptizing into the Jewish religious organization, and in the words of Jesus, “you make [a proselyte] twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15.) It would have been impossible for Jesus to be baptized into the church organization of his day. Frankly, I think he would have problems similar to yours in our day.

      All this results from a confusion about what godly “unity” means in the church organization and the body of Christ. Unity is a relational mindset, that is, having the same mind (attitude) as Christ, as in the body of Christ—not legal, that is, conformance to rules and creeds, as in the church organization. One has only to look at the early church to see their unity did not come from propositions, but was found in Christ.

      An additional thought. I identify with your hunger for deeper bible study with believers to know Christ better. So far, my success with meeting those of like mind have been more successful in the Seventh-day Adventist church than in other fellowships. That is why I appreciate the ministry of SSNet—it is a place where dialogue with others often leads me to thoughtful prayer and a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is truly a community based on the faithfulness of Jesus, which is what the body of Christ should be.


      • Thank you so much, Richard, for sharing your experience and perspective! Amen to everything you said! Sometimes I feel like Elijah saying, “Am I the only one, Lord? Am I just being willful?”, so it is really helpful to hear your voice. Like you, I’m encouraged to meet brothers and sisters here on SSnet who are longing for a deeper relationship with Jesus above all else.

  5. 3. Though Dante’s poem, The Divine Comedy, was mere fiction, it became very influential in helping cement in people’s minds false teachings about what happens to the “soul” after death. What lessons can we learn from how easily Christian theology can be influenced by outside teachings? What other non-Christian ideas influence Christian thought even today, and how can we protect ourselves from them?

    The lesson we can learn is to fact check Christian theology if the direct source (the Holy Bible) agrees with its teachings (doctrines). Just like fact checking fake news and false information from the Internet is how we should fact check Christian theology. Even worse, when bible teachings about a topic are not popular with outside teachings can lead to hatred and persecution. Other non--Christian ideas influppencing Christianity today are the media. Media is a popular tool to brainwash the masses when people don't study the bible. We can protect ourselves by (1) talking, (2) listening, and (3) connecting to Jesus (see my comment from lesson p llp p p8 Sunday’s question).


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