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The REALITIES of Hell!? A sermon.

For fourteen years, nearly every single Sunday, this sermon was preached at my church. The sermon’s title was different, but the content was the same.

This week I’ve been writing about what I believe to be true in regards to Hell (for my next book Good God).

What do you believe is true about Hell? How important is Hell to your personal doctrine of faith?

Found at Christian Nightmares.



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sharideth

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:33 am


do i believe in hell? i used to. avidly. now…i don’t have a clue. though i do believe that some will be eternally separated from god. whatever form that takes.

and no. the idea of hell does not factor into any decisions i make or color my doctrine of faith. i’m pretty much an absolutist (is that a word?) when it comes to grace and not living in fear.



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Greg

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:39 am


One thing I believe about “hell” is it is more that just the “lake of sulfur” and all that hot stuff, although I believe in that part.

More importantly I believe that the true hell and eternal suffering comes from standing in the presence of the one true God and having the knowledge of Him only to then be removed from His presence and never experience His awesomeness again.

It will be like the constant tearing away of the most important thing in your existence. Imagine having someone you are in love with, your spouse or child, taken from you and the desperation and loss you would/have experienced. I myself believe that this feeling, intensified by the millions, will be the misery one will live in for all eternity.

My two cents, and they are in Yen =-)



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    Ryan

    posted August 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm


    You’re trying to defang the idea of hell but even in this context your God is still evil. Imagine that he has just shown his “awesomeness” to an atheist who never could believe without seeing that awesomeness. At that moment the atheist suddenly believes but God says, “No, you wouldn’t believe before and you never said the proper incantations so I won’t have you. Now depart from me and suffer the loss.”



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Chris Tomlinson

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:45 am


I believe what the Scriptures teach about hell, that it is “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev 19:15), “the furnace of fire…weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42), “this place of torment” (Luke 16:28), “their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).

This is really hard language to deal with, which is why it’s hard to envision the reality of hell as God conceives of it–or as we understand how God speaks about it. I find it easier to say heaven is forever the place of God’s blessed presence, and hell is forever the place of God’s just wrath.

Understanding hell helps me understand the depths of grace, so it’s important to me in that sense.



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    Orange

    posted August 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm


    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    That last line kills me. If hell helps you understand grace, you need therapy. WOW.

    MPT, what kind of freaks read your blog?! Dang.



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      Russell

      posted August 21, 2010 at 7:34 am


      I think what Chris means is that the worse we see Hell as, the more we can appreciate God’s grace pulling us out of it.

      No need to be rude.



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cindy

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:53 am


Oh my. I think it’s a miracle of God that you go to church at all if you grew up with that.

Is it just me or does he look a little bit like he has devil horns? Especially at the part in the beginning where someone made his shirt glow or whatever.



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Nate

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:53 am


I’ve grown to like what Karl Barth says. Basically what uncle Karl does is say that God’s answer to us is always, and will always be, YES. God says YES to humanity and creation through Jesus Christ. But at the same time we are free to say no to God. We can say no, we can look the other way, and we can choose not to say yes back to God. But regardless of our no, God always says YES and God’s YES is always bigger than our no, even into eternity. We are free to say no, but God is bound to say YES.

And if hell is an eschatological place I imagine that it’s full of people that are burning off their own disbelief that God actually says YES, not just to Christians, not just to the people that do and say the “right” things, but that God’s grace says YES to everyone.



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Travis Mamone

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:57 am


To be honest, I’m not sure what I believe about Hell. I really don’t. I used to think it was the lake of fire and all that stuff. But then after reading N.T. Wright’s “Surprised By Hope,” I’m wondering if maybe the lake of fire stuff was just a metaphor.

At this point in my faith journey, I don’t believe in universal salvation. From what I’ve read in the Bible, it seems pretty clear that the people who reject Jesus will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. However, I’m not sure where they’ll go instead.



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Amanda

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:58 am


Hell was the one thing I could never swallow about the (fundamentalist) Christian faith. I can do miracles all day long– the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc. But Hell? Could a loving, omnipotent God really allow for such a place?

People say that God does not choose people’s damnation…they are the ones to reject God, and so they choose hell. I do not buy this theology. I do not know any one who would choose hell. And quite honestly, I do not know any one, who once in the presence of an all-loving Creator, would reject God. In my estimation, it is not that people reject God, but rather, that People reject the image of God that the Church has carved.

My trust in people’s goodness might sound naive and a tad too idealistic but nonetheless, that is my hope and faith: that people, beneath all the fear and life stuff, long for God, and that God, knowing this, will make a way for those people.

I do not think that Jesus was kidding about loving your enemy and forgiveness. I believe in the Christ who said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

If there is a Hell, then grace and love are conditional. Grace and Love are extended only if…you do a, b, or c. Or worse: only if God chooses you.

I do not know how to worship a God who would allow my neighbors to go to hell for being Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, even atheist. I don’t know how to have joy in this world if I must also live with the “truth” that millions of people are suffering for an eternity.

“Hell” works in the church. People’s fear of death combined with the prospect of Hell dangled in front of them by religious authorities is enough to make people sign on the dotted line. Some people will deny this; they will say that God’s love for them–and their love for God– justifies a belief in Hell. That’s fine. I allow them this reasoning. But I could never understand this me-centered faith…the kind that saves me and mine but damns them and theirs. (Like your Buechner quote the other day.)

I, too, was raised with this sermon. And the fundamentalist God still haunts my veins. I make the decision every single day to reject this God, this Way of Fear. Every day. Literally.

That is my faith: to choose the way of Jesus, who asked us to forgive, who was critical of the know-it-alls, who loved the unlovable. I realize that Jesus spoke of “gehena,” but I do not believe– based on his other teachings– that he meant an eternal place of torture in the afterlife.

I choose Love, the hardest act to choose and embody.



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cindy

posted August 20, 2010 at 9:58 am


Oh and I do believe in hell. It is seperation from God and you can experience it on earth. I cannot fathom an eternity in an afterlife of hell though so I’m not against preaching about it. Just that guy’s style is seriously jacked up to me. Not to mention if that were preached EVERY Sunday…how do you show others the love that God has for them and me? Hell and damnation is not the path TO God.



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Chris Tomlinson

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:00 am


I believe what the Scripture say about hell. But that’s probably not helpful =)

I would say that heaven is forever the place of God’s gracious presence, and hell is forever the place of God’s just wrath. The infinite joy promised to those who will be joined with Christ must be echoed in the infinite sorrow of those who are separated from Him.

Hell is horrible, both as a concept, and as a reality–hard to think about, write about, talk about, but all worth doing when tempered by the truth that God is good, and merciful, and just, and holy.



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Wes

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:12 am


I’ve got to get me one of those t-shirts.



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thevorlon

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:38 am


I’m a universalist so this is rather comical to me, albeit I feel sorry for the people subjugated to this crap



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Eric Stevens

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:46 am


conditional immortality baby



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Rocco

posted August 20, 2010 at 11:01 am


I am “in the desert” on the Hell topic at the moment. I used to believe in a fiery hell where all who didn’t believe would suffer for all eternity. But not so much anymore. I am learning the contradictions of the bible and the culture of the bible, on this matter (and others).

Ok, so what the hell does that mean? I have no freaking clue.

I do question, however, can/will God send us to an eternal punishment separated from Him when in the beginning all He wanted was to hang out with us in the Garden?



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Best Jeff Ever

posted August 20, 2010 at 11:20 am


Here is an interesting write up on Annihilation:
http://www.jeremyandchristine.com/articles/eternal.php



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brandontmilan

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm


I’ve gotten to the point where I think that most of what we believe about Hell comes more from greek mythology and Dante than from Scripture.

Most of the passages talking about hell place more of an emphasis on the end of the wicked… the END… not the eternal suffering.

Even Jesus’ phrases like “the worm that dyeth not” and “unquenchable fire” seem to lean more towards annihilationalism. In other words, the worm doesn’t die and stop eating you, it finishes; the fire can’t be quenched with water, its going to burn you up, completely. Even in revelation it talks about “smoke going up forever”… well smoke comes from those things that are already burned to a crisp.

That is where I am at right now. Hell is real. Punishment for the wicked is very real. I just don’t think scripture makes it quite as eternal as we’ve made it out to be.



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    Best Jeff Ever

    posted August 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm


    Brandon, I understand what you’re saying here, but those interpretations sound like mental gymnastics designed to help someone reconcile a literal reading of the Bible with the concept of annihilation.

    IMO it’s better to chalk those statements up to poetry and metaphor and our own inability to understand ideas like “forever” in regards to a realm without space and time.



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      brandontmilan

      posted August 22, 2010 at 8:39 am


      Then you don’t understand what I am saying. It is clear that those statements are figurative. But that was not my point. Regardless of whether you take passages literally or figuratively, they seem, to me, to be pointing to a specific end to the wicked–an end that is eternal, because there is no coming back from it.

      From my perspective, the only way one can truly get to an eternal hell with fire and sulfur is by coming to Scripture with the preconceived notion that it already teaches that.



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        Best Jeff Ever

        posted August 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm


        Ah I see. That is a GREAT point about us looking for evidence for what we already believe is there.



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm


kind of afraid to say what I really believe – maybe what I’ll say is that the more they preach about hell this way the more and more absurd the whole concept seems…..



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P. Douglas Robbins

posted August 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm


An excerpt from my own musings…The Better Good News

“But 1 John 4:18 dismisses the use of fear tactics in our “good news,” because if that is our message, it cannot be a message of real love. Real love is God’s DNA. It is who He is. His answer to the condition of man was not to force our decision to either join Him or burn. His answer was to remove the barrier of sin between man and Himself, so that man could have direct access to Himself, the God who is love. Perfect love, which casts out the fear of punishment.”

In other words, if hell is the primary or sole motivation behind becoming a Christian or converting unbelievers, it is an inferior message to God’s love and offer of eternal life. So we should shift our focus on what that looks like instead.



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MainlineMom

posted August 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm


Yes I believe in hell, the way scripture teaches it. No it doesn’t have much impact on my faith or daily life. It probably prompts me to pray and reach out to those I think may be unsaved more, but not in a “you’re going to hell” kinda way. Choices made out of fear are not usually real choices.



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David

posted August 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm


If there is no punishment for not having faith, then why have it? If there only a heavenly reward that everyone is going to get, then why have faith in anything? Why try to do the right thing? Why try to socially responsible?

I don’t think that questioning of the existence of Heaven and Hell has much purpose unless it measure against something. The real question seems to be what is faith in Christ for? If it ultimately has no value; no salvation, no forgiveness, then who cares really?



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ReleventISHpastor

posted August 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm


I believe in Hell. I think it is most definately eternal separation from God as it is described in scripture. I believe it is where Satan and the Demons will ultimately rest for the rebellion they have displayed, and yes, I believe it is there for us as well.

Do I think that we literally burn alive forever? No. When you discuss Hell you have to ask yourself many questions.
1. How can something be eternally fire and eternally dark?
2. What does “eternal” mean?
3. What does Jesus mean by there will be gnashing of teeth?

I think the idea is, Jesus just used alot of illustrations when describing it, such as describing it as being like a terrible local city that is constantly burning garbage, like Hades and like the Gates of Hell (an actual gate into a city that is full of sin.

The word eternal from many sources only means a period of time. Some of the left out books of the Bible “such as the Gospel of Peter) have Jesus revealing after the saints arrive that those in Hell will be granted Heaven, “eventually”. (not that I at all believe in the inspiration of these documents)

Gnashing of teeth can either mean total pain, or it can mean deep regret, sorrow.

I think a great study on the issue is C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce. I am sure you have read it already (since you are a writer and every writer other than yourself quotes him every other line). I agree with most of what Lewis says when interpreting Hell.

Does Hell plan a big role in my faith? No. I think that someone should be motivated by going to Heaven to be with Jesus, not motivated to avoid punishment. I know it is a reality for many in this life that they will experience, I just hope and pray I can help them fall in love with Jesus while I still can.

I preach every week and have preached on it once in the last 5 years. Not because I am watering down the Gospel, but because I don’t want to use scare tactics to get people to follow Jesus.

For me, honestly, I have no problem with the reality that a just God would send me to Hell, I do however have a hard time reconciling how he would send me to Heaven.

Love the discussion so far though, interesting topic.



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    Best Jeff Ever

    posted August 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm


    Forgive me ISH, I have no doubts about YOUR sincerity, but to ME, you closing statements about having a hard time reconciling why God would send you to Heaven just sounds cliche. I mean, after having but a taste of God’s love and forgiveness, can’t we fathom God’s desire to redeem us, even at personal cost to Him (if that’s even possible for God)?

    By they way, I’ve read The Great Divorce, and I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis in general. I love the idea of us co-participating in the realization of what kind of beings we are in eternity. I also love the idea that a person’s moral character has to do with how they react to their world subjectively framed against their individual nature and environment (see Mere Christianity Book 3).

    I’m not a universalist, but the ONLY way I can reconcile any idea of an “everlasting” Hell is to imagine that grace extends much farther than we think it does, and that the few truly damned make a far more informed choice than the rest of us understand.



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    Best Jeff Ever

    posted August 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm


    Also, I meant to invite you to expound a little bit on that statement about it being hard to reconcile why he would send you to Heaven. I hear this type of thing often enough, but I can’t really connect with it.



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      ReleventISHpastor

      posted August 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm


      Yeah, I can see why it seems more like a catchy phrase than a real feeling. For me it honestly is though. I guess it is just that way when I am honest and I can’t grasp the idea of the New Covenant, I know it is real and true, it is just tough to fathom when i consider how much of an adulterous bride I can be.



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Tamara

posted August 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm


Long theological answers are fun and all, but here’s my opinion in an eggshell, and what it means to my faith:
Hell is real, and it is a worse place than any of us can imagine – I don’t want to go there, and I don’t want anyone to go there, because someone suffered and died to take their punishment, and so… with the option of Heaven, I’ll preach that before I try to scare people with Hell.



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Phil

posted August 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm


WOAH – Easy on the soft glow there buddy!



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KatR

posted August 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm


Do what I say or face torture….. sounds like an abusive relationship.



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    Jesse Vargas

    posted August 26, 2010 at 5:41 am


    “Let me help you out of the mess you made”…sounds like a loving, compassionate relationship to me.



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TMR

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:03 pm


‎”Heaven and hell are not geographical. If you go in search of them you will never find them anywhere. They are within you. The mind is heaven, the mind is hell, and the mind has the capacity to become either. We always go on looking for everything outside because to be inwards is very difficult. We are outgoing. If somebody says there is a god, we look at the sky. Somewhere, sitting there, will be the divine.” ~OSHO~



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Kevin

posted August 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm


I wrote a blog about this about a year ago so I was reflecting on this topic. I wrote it because the Pastor at the time seem to talk alot about Hell.

I believe that Hell was talked in literal, and symbolic language. I also believe that Jesus talked of times in life that Hell, or the absence of God, can exist. Times where we feel that God is absent and it feels like, well Hell.

Now another important point I would like to make. Hell was never met for humans. It was not created for us. Jesus never used it as a threat of if you serve me or go to Hell. He came to fill an absence with a presence. It may sound cheesy and corny but I think it’s true



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Joel

posted August 21, 2010 at 12:03 am


Do I believe that Hell is a specific physical location where souls are cast when people die? Not really. To be honest, I’ve quit viewing my faith and walk with Jesus in terms of the afterlife. I’ve decided that it’s really more about what happens here on earth that’s more important. As I watched this video, the preacher read the story of the beggar Lazarus and I think he completely missed the point. Jesus didn’t tell that story to illustrate how awful Hell was, it was to point out the rich man’s selfishness in letting a someone die from starvation on his doorstep, which is not unheard of even now. The real point of the story is that we should be working for the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. I like what Rob Bell has to say about this,”Because with every action, comment, conversation, we have the choice to invite Heaven or Hell to Earth.” The afterlife will be what it will be and I can’t do much more than I already have to affect that. But, I can affect what happens here and now. And, I think that’s what he was talking about.



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Derrick

posted August 21, 2010 at 6:20 am


Hell is one of the discussions that is so polarizing that it makes me want to give up on Christianity entirely. At one pole there are people who say hell doesn’t exist at all and that everyone goes to heaven regardless. Then the other pole believes in the conventional (I don’t say contemporary because it’s a rather medieval concept) version of hell. There’s a few moderate stragglers and people who try to make hell nicer…but the fact of the matter is…someone is wrong. I think what frustrates me is that regardless of who’s wrong, each polar opposite fights for what they are convinced is right. I have problems with all traditional conceptions of hell, but also don’t go as far as to say it doesn’t exist. This really sucks.

I’d have to say my concept of hell is symptomatic of much of my concepts of God right now…I’m pretty ready to give up on all of it because it seems to be an eternal wrestling match between conservative and liberal with no real desire to understand truth. It seems to be all about being on the winning side. Jesus would be ashamed. But who knows…maybe it doesn’t even matter what Jesus thinks.



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Young Mom

posted August 21, 2010 at 6:35 am


I have no idea. I grew up knowing that Hell was a real place and most people are going there, now I don’t know. I feel like I’m on this ledge where if I am not a rabid crazy christian, then I can’t be christian at all. I’m tired of talkign to christian parents who are miserable because after all of their efforts their children aren’t close enough to God. The fear of Hell is real. I just have a hard time understanding God at all I guess.

http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/2010/08/who-is-god-and-if-hes-there-what-does.html



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Russell

posted August 21, 2010 at 7:46 am


For some reason, all of this talk reminds me of Job’s “it’s not fair!” attitude. I think if God spoke audibly to these comments, he’d ask us some of the same questions he asked Job. Who are we to make Hell what we want it to be based on what we view as fair?



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    Kevin

    posted August 21, 2010 at 10:17 am


    I’s be curious to know if anyone can tell me if the verses are more descriptive about Heaven or Hell.?



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Silica

posted August 21, 2010 at 11:45 am


I’ve always imagined Heaven and Hell as “states of mind” – Heaven is acceptance and love of God, which we can only achieve after death and ridding ourselves of our mortal sinful selves, and Hell is the “state of mind” where we know of God’s presence and love and reject it. I don’t believe total rejection of God can come until after death. I don’t think that people who don’t accept Christ the way I do will necessarily have Hell set as their default post-death location. I believe we will, after death, be given the option. I do not think most people or even a majority of people will “go to Hell.”

Some would say what’s the point of an earthly life, in that case, and I am still working on that – and probably will for the rest of my life – but my God is a loving God, and I do not believe he sends people from him willingly.



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Tim Judkins

posted August 22, 2010 at 8:40 am


I am finding that as a follower of Jesus (and not just ideas about him), I hope that God lets everyone into “heaven” in the “end”. The God I am getting to know through the living Jesus may just be good enough to embrace every human soul even though some of them haven’t responded to an altar call let alone, turned from practicing some heinous sin. And what if God does let everyone in? Will I be upset because I “bore the heat of the day” (see parable of the 11th hour workers) by knowing and loving the living Jesus while I had breath on earth? Maybe (and I hope its true), God’s character and activity transcend my criteria and everyone may get to know and love God in time- even if that is after their body expires. Perhaps the work of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection IS enough without the supplemental need of humans to do anything to complete the process. Perhaps we can simply love God (and others) because God first loved us….(that sounds so biblical!)

What people miss on earth is what Jesus came to declare: a fulfilled and transformed earthly life through an increasing daily awareness of a cosmically majestic God who loves each human on the planet earth in unimaginably personal ways. If this is true, who cares about heaven or hell? Let them be what they are…the goal and reward is Jesus. Period.



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Bostick

posted August 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm


If not for guys like this, the almighty Jesus would have no voice.
I do not know if that is good or bad but at least youtube provides entertainment.



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Tarnya Burge

posted August 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm


We have many articles that explore hell and annihilationism.

Have a look at this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg4qYwDJ9MQ



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Pingback: Hellfire or Annihilation? | Conditional Immortality Blog

Mark Cox

posted August 25, 2010 at 12:26 am


That dude fits “amen” in his talk like the guys from Super Troopers use “meow.”



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chuck

posted August 25, 2010 at 10:29 am


alot of this would have more meaning to me if it were a bit more objective– if you have a chapter and verse spell it out, eh?

There are plenty, and many more to support Conditional Immortality than the traditional view, and we are heading into a major tipping point, in my opinion.

But know this. IT IS WAY TOO LATE TO NOT SCARE PEOPLE PREACHING ABOUT EVERLASTING TORTURE. Many centuries too late, in many cases. When we, His servants, are ready to eat crow, there will be plenty of that to go around, AMEN??

May God truly bless you for even thinking about it now!



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    still chuck... oops

    posted August 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm


    One more thing– that new zealand website above has a million links (not all pro) on this stuff. Always somthing new.



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