If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Every Sunday the preacher shouted from the pulpit that you’re a terrible sinner. God is angry at you. Because of God’s wrath, you’re going to burn in hell for all eternity.
  • Your parents drilled it into you that you’re just no good. And they’re probably right. You just can’t feel good about anything you do.
  • You’ve done terrible things . . . horrible things. What you’ve done is so bad that you deserve to be in hell. There is no hope for you. You’re a goner.
  • No matter how hard you try, you just can’t be good. You know what you should do, but you just keep on doing the things you shouldn’t do.

If any of these are much too familiar for you, I’ll be straight: There are no easy answers. Besides, you’ve probably tried the easy answers already, and learned the hard way that they don’t work.

I’m also not going to tell you that all you have to do is believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is great. I highly recommend it! Being born again is wonderful! But for Christians, believing in Jesus is only the start. Then come the many years of growing from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.

The fact is, if any of the things on this list describe your experience, then no matter how you slice it, you’ve got some hard work to do. And it may take years to fully recover, even with God’s help.

What I can offer you is new light and a new understanding of your situation. Nothing I say will snap you right out of it and instantly make your life a bed of roses. But it will give you hope that there is a path out. And it might help you take your next steps on that path toward the life of heaven God has in mind for you.

No matter what that preacher or your parents or anyone else has said, God created you for heaven, not for hell. And there is no reason on earth that you can’t find your way to heaven . . . no matter what your history.

So let’s straighten a few things out.

Is a wrathful God angry at you?

The short answer is: No.

Huh?!?

Then what about all those Bible passages the preacher quoted about God’s wrath and fury?

Doesn’t the Bible say, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11, King James Version)?

Well, there’s a funny story about that verse . . .

First, the word for “the wicked” came from an ancient Aramaic (or “Chaldee”) version. It is not in the original Hebrew text, nor is it in the other ancient translations. Even in the King James Version, the words “with the wicked” are in italics, meaning they are not in the original. So it should read, “God judges the righteous, and God is angry every day.”

But wait, there’s more!

You see, the Hebrew word for “God” in the second half of the verse could also mean “not,” depending on how the Hebrew is interpreted. And that’s exactly what most of ancient translations, including the well-known Septuagint Greek translation, have in that verse. The first half of the verse is also a little off in some of the older English translations.

What does this all mean?

The verse almost certainly should read, “God is a righteous judge, and is not angry all day.” (Compare Young’s Literal Translation for this verse.)

Picture a judge taking hundreds of cases, one after another, pronouncing just judgments all day without ever getting angry, even at the worst evildoers. That’s the picture the Psalmist is painting. And it’s just the opposite of what that old fire and brimstone preacher said!

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are lots of other verses in the Bible that talk about God’s anger and wrath. But as I pointed out in the article, “If God is Love, Why all the Pain and Suffering?” that’s just how God’s love looks to us when we’re bent on an evil and destructive path that’s opposed to God’s love.

God’s love is like the warmth of the sun. But what if you’re a snowman? What if you want to be cold and unloving? If you’re a snowman, God’s love looks wrathful and destructive. It’s a horrible, destructive heat that melts and destroys you.

When the Bible talks about God’s wrath, it’s talking about the effect God’s love has on everything that’s evil and false in us and in our world. It’s only when we identify with the evil and cling to it as our own that we feel God’s love as anger and wrath. And the Bible often speaks to us according to the way things seem to us, even if the reality is different from God’s perspective.

Did you know that the Bible talks about God’s love far more often than it talks about God’s wrath? Here is a beautiful passage assuring us that God feels only love toward us, whether we are evil or good:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43–45)

And the famous verses from the Gospel of John:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17)

Notice that it doesn’t say God was so angry with the world, but God so loved the world.

So here’s the first ray of new light, and the most important new information about your situation: No matter what you may have been told, God is not angry at you. It’s just the opposite. No matter what you have done, and no matter how horrible or worthless a person you think you are, God loves you.

God sends you the sun of divine love, and the rain of divine truth, whether you are evil or good, and whether you are righteous or unrighteous.

There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. As the Psalm says:

O Lord, you have examined me, and you know me. . . .
If I go up to heaven, you are there.
If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
(Psalm 139:1, 8)

Are you condemned because of what your parents did?

Our parents were responsible for bringing us into this world. They are supposed to love us, care for us, teach us right from wrong, and guide us toward a healthy and responsible adulthood. And some of us were fortunate enough to have parents who did a fine job.

Unfortunately, some of us were born of parents who fell far short of the mark. Maybe they just weren’t ready to have children. Maybe they were too focused on money or power or pleasure to really care about their children. Maybe they were just plain evil and destructive types who used and abused their children at will. Bad parents can cause great damage to their children.

If you were one of those unfortunate children, does this mean your life is ruined from the start, and you might as well just throw in the towel?

In ancient times, it was common for whole families to be condemned and executed for the offenses of the head of the household. For example, when three men named Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against God’s commandments to the ancient Hebrews about the priesthood, not only they, but their wives and children died as a result of their disobedience. You can read the story in Numbers 16.

However, in course of time, God pronounced an end to the practice of children being judged guilty for the crimes of their parents. This pronouncement comes in Ezekiel 18—one of the most beautiful chapters in the Hebrew Bible. Here’s how the chapter begins:

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. (Ezekiel 18:1–4)

The chapter then goes on to explain in detail that if a father is good, but his son evil, then only the son shall be held guilty; and if that son has a son who sees how his father lived, and resolves not to live that way, but to live a good life instead, then only the father, not the son, shall be held guilty.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

To us today, yes. Our justice system is based on individual innocence and guilt. To the ancient Israelites, though, this seemed quite unjust. They thought it was right and proper that if a man sins, his whole family should be punished!

God was quite clear, though, that this was not to be our practice anymore:

When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. (Ezekiel 18:19–20)

However, when it comes to our spiritual and emotional life, sometimes we haven’t gotten the message. We think that because our parents were evil, and neglected or mistreated us, that means we, too, are doomed, and headed toward hell.

It’s not true.

Yes, we may have a long, hard road undoing the damage that our parents did to us. It might take much prayer, counseling, and much difficult and painful introspection and rearranging of our emotional and social life.

But God does not hold us responsible for the errors and sins of our parents. And neither should we. If our parents drilled into us that we’re just no good, they were lying to us. And if they used and abused us, they were perpetrating evil on us.

That lying and that evil was theirs, not ours. And though it did have a profound effect on us, there is a pathway out of the damage our parents did to us. It is the path of recognizing that what our parents did to us had nothing to do with us. It was their own immaturity, neglect, and evil, not ours, that damaged us. As we recognize that what they said was not true, and what they did was just plain wrong, we can gradually recognize that we ourselves are not what they said we were, nor did we deserve what they did to us.

If you were neglected or abused verbally or physically by your parents, it is not going to be an easy path out of what they did to you. But there is a path. And it starts with recognizing that you are not condemned for the sins of your parents. God created you for a reason. God loves you, and has prepared a place for you in heaven (see John 14:1–3, 1 Corinthians 2:9).

You have the rest of your life to leave behind the lies and the wrongs that were inflicted on you when you were young. You have the rest of your life to walk, even if painfully sometimes, the path toward the life of heaven that God has prepared for you.

Have you committed terrible sins?

What if it wasn’t your parents who did a number on you? What if you yourself have done terrible, horrible things? What if you don’t deserve to go to heaven because of what you’ve done?

If that’s the state of mind you’re in, then Ezekiel 18 has a message for you as well:

But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21–23, emphasis added)

Based on his experience in the spiritual world, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) tells us that this is precisely how it works after we die. In Heaven and Hell #509, he writes:

No one suffers any punishment for evil things done in the world, only for current evil deeds. . . . Good spirits are never punished, though, even though they have done bad things in the world. This is because their evils do not come back.

Swedenborg is simply affirming what God tells us in Ezekiel 18: We are not held responsible for things we have done in the past. Only for things we keep doing in the present. If we have done something terrible in the past, but have repented of it, have reformed our character, and no longer do things like that, then none of the transgressions we have committed will be remembered against us.

If you have done something terrible, there is no way to undo it. You and those you hurt will still have to live with the repercussions of your actions. But one of those repercussions is not that you must go to hell for it.

Of course, if there is any way you can make amends for what you have done, you should certainly do so. However, when your time on this earth comes to an end, you will find your place in heaven or in hell depending on the person you have become in the present, and the way you are living now, not based on any wrongs you have done in the past.

As the old saying goes, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.”

So please don’t worry about the terrible things you have done in the past. God has already forgiven you for them. God has no pleasure in your eternal death. No matter what you’ve done, God wants you to turn from your old ways and live! Now it’s time to build a new life for yourself, so that you won’t do things like that anymore. For more on how to do this, see the article, “What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?

What if you keep doing things you shouldn’t?

It sounds like you’re in the same boat as the apostle Paul when he wrote:

I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. . . . In every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am! (Romans 7:18–19, 23–24)

As he went on to say, Paul found a rescue from this situation in Jesus Christ. However, as I said earlier, for Christians, believing in Jesus Christ is just the first step. After that comes the more challenging steps of living according to Christ’s teachings.

And for many of us who are very sensitive about our own wrongs and our own bad habits, one of the ways we don’t follow Christ’s teachings is to lay burdens on ourselves that are much too heavy—and are sometimes completely unnecessary.

In a recent article titled, “Is it Easy or Hard to Get to Heaven?” I expanded on this saying of Jesus:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

I invite you to read that article if you feel you just can’t live up to what you know is right.

Here’s another thought that might help:

Have you considered that even though you have some bad habits, and do some things that really aren’t good, maybe they aren’t really evil either?

Let’s face it: neither you nor I nor anyone else is ever going to be perfect. Each one of us will die as an imperfect human being, still thinking, feeling, saying, and doing some things that we really shouldn’t.

What we need is some standard by which to decide just how serious our bad habits and wrong actions are.

There are many possible standards. In case you don’t have one that works for you, may I suggest something really simple? The Ten Commandments. Especially the second part of the Ten Commandments, which is about how we humans are supposed to behave toward one another. I’m talking especially about these commandments (in their short versions):

  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  • You shall not covet.

“Covet” is an old-fashioned word meaning wanting something that belongs to someone else. The problem with coveting is that it tends to lead to the other offenses: murder, adultery, stealing, and lying.

And about honoring your father and your mother, if the parents who raised you abdicated their parental responsibilities and did a number on you, feel free to think of God as your father and your mother instead. (For more on this, see “The Mother of All the Living.”)

Now here’s the question: Are the things you’re currently doing that are wrong actually against any of these commandments? Are you killing people, committing adultery, stealing, lying about other people, and so on?

If the answer is yes, then you do have a real problem—and you need to do the work of rebirth or “regeneration” in order to overcome it.

But if you’re not actually breaking any of these commandments, it’s quite possible that you’re laying too heavy a burden on yourself. Do you think you have to be perfect in order to get to heaven?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t continue to work on yourself. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep taking steps to give up your bad habits and stop doing hurtful and destructive things. There is always room for improvement.

But are the wrong things you say and do really bad enough that you should go to hell for them? Chances are, they are not. They are simply areas where you still have work to do.

So go a little easy on yourself. The very fact that you’re concerned about your eternal state, and want to become a better person, suggests that you are on the path to heaven, not on that slippery slope to hell.

God wants YOU in heaven

God wants YOU for heaven

God wants YOU for heaven

Maybe you’ve given up on yourself. But God hasn’t given up on you. If God had given up on you, you would no longer be alive on this earth. In fact, here’s a thought to take home with you:

As long as you are alive and breathing on this earth, you can still find your way to heaven.

God has given us a lifetime here on earth because God knows that it takes some of us many years to whip ourselves into shape—with God’s help, of course. So use your time here well. Then you will not be disappointed when your time on earth is finished, and you move on to the next life.

If you still think you’re going to hell, consider these final words from Ezekiel 18:

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live! (Ezekiel 18:30–32)

Why would God say these words to us if God did not know and expect that we can leave our past behind, and live a new life?

Heaven is possible for you! The choice is yours. God will be with you, guiding and strengthening you every step of the way, because God loves you and cares about you. God has a job for you in heaven, and has prepared a home for you there. Do you really want to leave it vacant?

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Afterlife
364 comments on “If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First
  1. Rob says:

    I’m utterly discouraged. I try to turn around and be better so I’ll be on the way to heaven, but I still love things I should not, like bullying people online. I get off on being right and defeating someone in a debate, and I can be very rude and self-righteous. Even if I stay away from political forums, I still want badly to go into the fray, and sometimes I give in. My attitude towards people is very hostile still, and it doesn’t change. How can one not be discouraged? Obviously I care enough to post this and read the articles here and elsewhere, but I wonder if I’m just soothing my conscience. I still want to stand on people’s necks, so to speak. It’s the worst thing about me, but I only fear hell, not the thing itself. And often I just don’t care, especially right after I wake up. I just go right to it.

    It seems hopeless, from my point of view.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      Yes, you’ve already taken the first two steps, which are recognizing that what you’re doing is wrong, and caring enough about it to try to do something about it. This puts you ahead of most Internet trolls and “debaters” (really, fighters).

      I have two practical suggestions. The first one is straight out of Swedenborg:

      1. When you feel the desire to attack and defeat people in online debate, and to stand on their necks, say to yourself, “I know I want to do this, but it is wrong and against God’s commandments, so I will not do it.” And then do something else. (It is against God’s commandments because it is part of the spiritual meaning of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Your desire is to attack, subjugate, and ultimately kill another person verbally.)
      2. Once you notice the patterns of times and circumstances in which you do it, intentionally establish a different habit and routine that you do instead when those times and circumstances come around. For example, if you wake up in the morning roaring for the attack, create a post-wake-up routine for yourself in which you engage in half an hour of exercise that you enjoy, or read a chapter of a good book, or engage in some hobby you like, or even cook yourself a delicious breakfast. It should not be something you do on the computer. That would put you too close to the temptation. Leave the computer (or whatever device you use) off until you finish your new routine. This will give your mind time to get itself onto a different track. It will also give you the satisfaction of starting your day with a good, healthful, and enjoyable activity.

      The thing about evil is that it is pleasurable. If it weren’t, why would we engage in it? To defeat it, we must not only not do the evil thing, but must also put a good thing in its place. We may not get as much enjoyment out of the good thing at first. But as we persist in it, our pleasure in the evil thing will gradually fade, and we will come to enjoy the good thing more than the evil thing. This is part of the process of “regeneration” or rebirth, in which we turn our mind and heart away from evil and toward good.

      On the particular issue of arguing and debating people, another thing to pay attention to is your motives. If you are doing it because you want to prove that you’re right and other people are wrong, and because you want to defeat other people and “stand on their necks,” meaning subjugate them, then you are acting from what Swedenborg calls “the love of domination from the love of self.”

      Tackling an evil action from the inside, from motive, is much more difficult than tackling it from the outside, via behavior. That is why I recommend that you not try to change your motives as your primary way of dealing with this wrong behavior. Instead, attack and change the behavior itself using practical approaches such as the ones I mention above. This will establish a foundation of good behavior, upon which you can then build a psychological superstructure of better motives.

      Your motives will ultimately determine who you are, and where you will live to eternity. That is why it is worth thinking about your motives even while you are focused on reforming your outer self, which is your words and actions together with the part of your thinking mind that is right behind them.

      Therefore, while you are taking direct action on your behavior, consider also that the proper purpose of conflict and debate about ideas is not to prove that you are right, or to elevate yourself above others and subjugate them to your will and your “superior intellect.” The proper purpose of conflict and debate is to stand up for, defend, and help those who are being hurt by evil and falsity of various kinds.

      Consider this passage from Isaiah 1, in which the Lord is having an argument with the people of Israel about their wrong behavior:

      Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
          remove the evil of your doings
          from before my eyes;
      cease to do evil,
          learn to do good;
      seek justice,
          rescue the oppressed,
      defend the orphan,
          plead for the widow.
      
      Come now, let us argue it out,
          says the Lord:
      though your sins are like scarlet,
          they shall be like snow;
      though they are red like crimson,
          they shall become like wool.
                              Isaiah 1:16–18

      In this argument, the Lord is not concerned about being right. Rather, the Lord is concerned to establish that people should “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” If your purpose in arguing and debating is to prove people wrong, then you are engaging in it for the wrong reason. But if you see injustice being intellectually justified, and you want to stand up for those who are being oppressed by injustice or are not receiving justice, then you will approach argument and debate in a completely different way.

      Having said that, I would suggest that initially, you simply cease the online debating altogether. It will be too hard not to fall back into your old patterns of seeking to annihilate other people. When you feel yourself ready to argue, tell yourself that it is wrong because your motive is to subjugate and destroy another person. Then engage in whatever positive replacement routine you have set up for yourself.

      This issue is not a theoretical one for me. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I delighted in argument and debate. But it was not for the right reasons. I wanted to prove that I was right and they were wrong, that I was smarter than everyone else, and that everyone else should listen to my brilliant wisdom. As a result, for a long time, I resolved not to engage in argument and debate at all, or to keep it as short as possible if I couldn’t avoid it altogether.

      Several decades later, I again engage in argument and debate, mostly about religious beliefs and church doctrine. However, I no longer care so much about proving that I’m right and they’re wrong. (No, I’m not quite perfect!) Rather, I see the damage that false religious teachings do to ordinary people as they struggle through life, and I seek to refute and banish those false teachings because they are hurting people.

      I say this to let you know that you won’t necessarily have to avoid discussion and debate forever. But for you to engage in it in a healthy and constructive way, you’ll have to change your motives for engaging in it. For me, that took several decades. Meanwhile, it is better to avoid that forum. It will only suck you back into your old wrong motives and actions.

      I hope this helps.

      P.S. Sorry about the disappearance of your comment. For some reason it ran afoul of the spam filter. I was able to fish it out of the spam folder.

      • Rob Skye says:

        Thanks for the advice. I had already visited my political forum before I read your post, but at least I behaved and even deleted some haughty posts I had made earlier.

        As for my general hostility towards people, the truth is I am afraid of them, so I reject them before they can reject me. I’ve been doing this since I was a child, feeling like I’m not welcome in the world. I don’t think I’m excusing myself here for my hostility, I really do fear rejection and have so since not long after I learned to talk. It may sound strange, but I feel like “loving others” somehow diminishes me, like I don’t count. However, I do believe that a person who is spiritually and psychologically healthy would probably rarely think of himself; there would be no reason to be defensive for a sound person.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          You’re welcome. I will soon be publishing a major expansion of my reply to your comment, as a blog post.

          My general suggestion and advice is that you not try to get all your thoughts and feelings corrected and in the right place. Our inner self is a quagmire, and we’re not well-equipped to deal with it. Rather, correct your behavior so that you’re not doing the wrong thing. Make sure your actions are good. Then, over time, God will take care of changing your inner thoughts and feelings.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          Here’s the new, improved, expanded version! 🙂

          What if I Love Debating and Bullying People Online? A Strategy for Change

  2. Hellbound says:

    I am going to hell. I have accepted that as my final destiny. That’s all.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Hellbound,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. If you are absolutely determined to go to hell, then God won’t stop you. But what makes you think you’re going to hell?

  3. Lost Forever says:

    I know I will be going to hell when I die. I am lost forever.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Lost Forever,

      That’s true only if you choose to go to hell, and would rather live there than in heaven. Why would you want to live in hell?

  4. ed miller says:

    Lee – the thief on the cross “believed” in Jesus as God and with a kingdom to come and asked that he be remembered (saved). He did nothing else and had no time to change his way of living – But Jesus accepted him into “paradise”. I believe this simple example is all we need to know that are eternal destiny is in heaven if “we confess Jesus as Lord and believe God raised him from the dead we shall be saved”.

    I am quite disturbed that you complicate “the simplicity” of the cross and what it does for believers. It is true that “believing” in Jesus (that he existed and exists) does not grant entry to heaven, as the demons “believe” in Jesus in this way. But believing in the sense of confessing Jesus as Lord and and God raised him from the dead (as payment for our debts with “imputed” righteousness) is a entirely different from demons “believing” in Jesus.

    I got to this site by reading your views on premarital sex, a view very few share with you in all of the body of Christ.

    It is fair to say, your views on premarital sex (even in the least egregious way of sinning) and in “complicating” the basic view of salvation which appears almost to be one of “evaluating” where we evolved into “better” christians (which is a good thing, but not salvation) puts you on the edge of judgement which only God can adjudicate.

    If you are wrong on these topics, you would be best served to point out to the reader how much in the “minority” you are. So many “cults” take the historic Christianity and “reinvent” it in ways they prefer (Jehovah Witness, LDS, Christian Scientist, etc) and it always starts with “revising” the view of Jesus and “what atonement means”. You dont appear to be that far way from truth, but you are in the extreme minority.

    If you are “right” in your latter day interpretations, then I find it interesting that so few others share your views. How is it that you have “these divine” revelations 2000 years after the time of Jesus and contrary to 2000 years of teaching and so many bible verses that contradict you?

    Yes, premarital sex in the context of a committed couple on their way to marriage is certainly “less egregious” then sex with a prostitute or in temple worship, but is still “less egregious”.

    While I gave you more merit then I should have on topic of history of premarital sex, I now find your views on the basic simplicity of salvation “undermining” the merit I gave you on premarital sex.

    You appear kind hearted and well intentioned and certainly your comments have differing levels of “merit”, but you basically are saying “my interpretation” (and that of just a few others) “Trump” 2000 years of biblical reading and tradition.

    It is a very dangerous thing to make those with little faith “to stumble”, especially children, and your “liberal” reading of premarital sex could very well be doing this. I think it is better not to risk this scenerio then to assert it. The consequences for leading believers and non believers astray are egregious.

    I would appreciate a response to my comments. You are likely more educated in the bible then I am, but your “minority” opinions should really cause you to question what “benefit” it is giving others “even if you a right” compared to “what detriment” you are causing others if your minority view is wrong.

    ed

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ed,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. There is a lot here. I’ll respond on the issues of atonement and salvation in this comment, and save the issue of premarital sex for a separate response.

      Short version: The views you hold on atonement and salvation are not 2,000 years old. Rather, they are at most 1,000 years old, and if you hold to the Protestant version, they are only 500 years old. My views of atonement and salvation, meanwhile, go all the way back to the beginning of Christianity, because they are what Jesus and his disciples taught, and they are what the main body of Christians believed for the first 1,000 years of Christianity. It was only after the Great Schism of 1054 that Catholicism, then Protestantism, fell farther and farther away from what the Bible teaches about atonement and salvation, developing the false and unbiblical doctrines that you have been taught.

      Yes, that is the short version!

      But first, I’ll touch on two of your examples from the Bible:

      First: The thief on the cross did not only believe. He also confessed his sin, and he witnessed to the other thief on the cross, which was a good work that he did in his last hours on earth. It was not his faith alone that saved him, but his faith together with his repentance and his good works, as with every true Christian. For more on this, please see:

      Are We Saved in an Instant? How was the Thief on the Cross Saved?

      About faith alone in general, please see:

      Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

      Before Luther and the Protestant Reformation, not a single Christian believed that we are saved by faith alone. That belief is only 500 years old. For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, it was not part of Christian belief. Even today, at most only about one quarter of Christians believe it. The vast majority of Christians today still do not believe that we are saved by faith alone.

      Second, you say:

      But believing in the sense of confessing Jesus as Lord and and God raised him from the dead (as payment for our debts with “imputed” righteousness) is a entirely different from demons “believing” in Jesus.

      I’ll deal with the “payment” and “imputed righteousness” in a moment. Meanwhile, here is the actual Bible verse, in the traditional King James Version:

      That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

      It says that if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart. Believing in our heart is quite a different thing than believing in our head. Believing in our head is what the demons do. Believing in our heart is what a true Christian does. And when we believe in our heart, it is not mere belief, or faith alone. It is a belief coming from a heart that loves the Lord. And Jesus says:

      They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. (John 14:21)

      And the Apostle John says:

      For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

      Christians who believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead have the love of God in them. They are the ones who keep God’s commandments. It is not faith alone that saves them. It is their faith together with their love for God and their good works in keeping God’s commandments.

      Now about “(as payment for our debts with ‘imputed’ righteousness)”:

      The Bible simply doesn’t say either of these things.

      Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus paid for our sins, that he paid the penalty for our sins, or any such thing. You can look as hard as you want. I have. It simply isn’t there. The Bible says that Jesus died for our sins. It never says that he died to pay the penalty for our sins. That idea was made up by the Protestant Reformers 1,500 years after the last books of the Bible were written. It was not part of Christian belief for the first 1,500 years of Christianity.

      The Bible also never says that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. This idea was made up by Catholic theologians 1,000 years after the last books of the Bible were written. It was not part of Christian belief for the first 1,000 years of Christianity.

      This belief in “imputed righteousness” and Jesus making “payment” for our debts, or sins, is part of the satisfaction theory of atonement, which was originated by Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century, and then developed by various other Catholic and Protestant theologians into the theories of atonement taught in those churches today. You can read more about it in these articles:

      In other words, your beliefs are not original Christian beliefs, nor do they go back 2,000 years. They are at most 1,000 years old, and if you hold to the Protestant version of satisfaction theory, they go back only 500 years. They are stated nowhere in the Bible. That is why no Christian believed them for the first 1,000 or more years of Christianity.

      My beliefs about atonement, meanwhile, are a version of the “Christus Victor” theory of atonement, which goes all the way back to the beginning of Christianity. It holds that Jesus atoned for us by defeating the power of the Devil and hell, and thereby freeing us from the evil powers so that we could once again be at one with God. That’s what “atonement” is.

      I would encourage you to “search the scriptures.” Though many verses are quoted to support the beliefs you hold, none of them actually say what those doctrines teach. They are “interpreted” to mean those things by fancy theologians who subscribe to those doctrines. But the Bible itself never says any of these things.

      As for my views being in the minority: Truth is not a popularity contest, nor is it decided by democratic vote. For a Christian, the question is not how many people believe a particular doctrine. The question is what the Bible says. And the Bible never says what you believe. That’s why, even though I have been challenging Protestants, and some Catholics, for over thirty years to show me Bible passages that say the things they believe, none of them has ever been able to do so. You cannot do so either, because the Bible simply doesn’t say these things.

      For links to more articles on these subjects, please see:

      1. “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
      2. Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach

      I don’t think you mean any harm by holding to the doctrines you have been taught. But I urge you to read the Bible for yourself, and consider whether it actually says any of the things you have been taught about “payment for our debts” and “imputed righteousness.” Forget what human beings have taught you. Listen to the Lord God’s own words in the Bible, and learn from them.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ed,

      About premarital sex, of course you are free to believe as you wish. But the simple fact of the matter is that much of what present-day Christians teach about premarital sex simply isn’t in the Bible. The Bible forbids adultery. The Bible frowns on “fornication,” which is a much stronger word in the original languages than it is in English. But it never prohibits premarital sex. It is much more pragmatic about premarital sex than that, as covered in this article that you have probably seen already:

      Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?

      My own belief is that it’s best to wait until marriage to have sex. I say so both in the article and in the comments.

      But the reality is that many, if not most people these days simply aren’t going to do that. And the reality is that the Bible never says that people who have sex before marriage will go to hell, nor does it say that anyone who has premarital sex will have destroyed their chances for a good and faithful marriage. It is a gray area for sure. But it is a gray area, not black and white as so many so-called Christians have made it.

      It is important to pay attention to what the Bible actually says, and not make up all sorts of new doctrines and then claim that the Bible teaches them.

  5. Abandoned says:

    Why so much misery? Why calling out to God for help, for over 40 years, with no relief, help, or any improvement?

  6. joshua says:

    what if you renounced god is there any coming back from that……….just so you know i haven’t renounced god i love god with all my heart

    • Lee says:

      Hi Joshua,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. In response, it would all depend upon the person’s reasons for renouncing God.

      If it was because the person wanted to throw off all moral restraints and life a self-centered and self-indulgent life, then that is a serious problem.

      But if it was because the God they were taught is not worthy of belief—a God who condemns people to eternal torture just because they believe the wrong thing, and similar horrendous and blasphemous beliefs about God—and the person continues to live a good life of love and service to other people, then that person is headed to heaven, not to hell.

      For more on this, please see:

      Do Atheists Go to Heaven?

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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