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Thoughts on reincarnation and hell

I struggle to find clarity, but here goes.


One Friday evening I was sitting in the locker room at work, reading the book "Playing with Fire"; a book intended to spark an interest in reading the word of God correctly, in context, with the purpose of seeing the overall picture and heart of God.
While sitting there a fellow employee came in, looking rather depressed, so I asked how they were doing. Part of their answer involved someone telling them they were not a Christian because of their beliefs. She went on to explain some of her beliefs. I must say I was shocked and disappointed.


Allow me to focus on couple of things.


He, God, really does love us, but not making the effort to learn God's heart through reading his word, and playing with the world's concepts, clouds our image of who He is and what his plan is for our lives. Hardly a person walking the earth has not heard John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son". There was nothing required in order to earn that love, God just did it.
The verse goes on to say "so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life." Wow, an overwhelming action on God's part, but it is not a carte blanche to heaven, for you have to believe in him. If belief in him preserves you from perishing, then there has to be something or someplace that either destroys, imprisons, or separates you from God's life, and that is what God wants us to avoid.
Thayer's definition of the word apollumi, we call it perish, is this: 1) to destroy; 1a) to put out of the way entirely, to abolish, to put an end to; 1b) to render useless
If we assume that to perish is to merely be "put out of the way entirely" then what becomes of us. I speak to those that refuse to accept that there is a hell, especially since we are told that there is a hell to avoid. But then this person told me that they don't believe in hell.


Revelation 20:10-15 RV  And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.  (11)  And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  (12)  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.  (13)  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  (14)  And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.  (15)  And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.


In the passage above, if you lean heavily upon the separation aspect you will observe that it gets thrown into the lake of fire also. Did you notice that everyone not written in the book of life gets to join with the deceiver in torment, day and night, forever. This tends to blow holes in the "no torment or hell" theories.
Hell was not made for us, but people are choosing to go there.


Many seem to think than man is intrinsically good and will therefore rise to the top like cream. The truth is that although originally created in God's image, we all seem to have been genetically damaged by the fall of Adam, and we all sink to our lowest possible level of training if left without God.


You do not believe that either do you? Look at this.


Genesis 6:5-13 RV  And the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  (6)  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.  (7)  And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.  (8)  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.  (9)  These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations: Noah walked with God.  (10)  And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  (11)  And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  (12)  And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.  (13)  And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.


"And God said to Noah", as though Noah was the only decent man on the earth, but there was Methusaleh, whose name carried the meaning ("he dies and it (the flood) is sent".) From the Fausset bible dictionary. What was coming? The destruction of man, and fresh start. If God already had an earth full of "intrinsically" good people why destroy the earth at all? And why wait for this man Methusaleh to die?

If a godly man teaches his descendants to be Godly then how does evil come into play with no one outside of your sphere of influence to affect you otherwise?
The answer goes back to Adam again. We are all damaged, infected if you will with an incurable disease, sin.
All of this sounds so hopeless, and if left in that original state it was. When you consider that God had a plan before the world began, and you take in all the events of the Old Testament, it begins to feel more like watching the grand strategist as he coaches a universal sized football game.

You might ask what is His plan?
A simplistic answer is: 
Man, having fallen, needed a redeemer. The blood of animals brought temporary relief from guilt, but not the restoration of relationship with God that man once had.  Christ came voluntarily and became the last sacrifice, paying the debt that man owed, so that God could regain the family that had been His from the beginning.
There is so much more to that statement, but that might be for another time.


In fulfilling the plan, Christ had to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Many would perceive that act as unsuccessful and a failure, for why give up the life of one so noble for such a bunch of losers?


If we base success upon what we can perceive, and we do, I can understand why the "world" might believe that God failed. Look, we all know that his first choice for his affection was Israel, but they rejected Him. Therefore God opened the doors for those who are not of Israel to become part of his inheritance.


Do not think for a moment that Jesus and the Father were unsuccessful in any way. The price that Jesus paid was complete and in full, and in case you were not aware, he rose from the dead (another multifaceted concept), completed the task set before him, and sat down at the right hand of the Father; a done deal.

Maybe what people see as God's failure is that He made it so that our re-entrance into the family is strictly voluntary. I like to think of earth as a big adoption agency. In my rendition God comes to earth to make his choice. As he stands there looking for those he wants to adopt, he, because of his great love, decides that He must have them all. He pays the price with his son's own blood; signs the paperwork, and pushes it back on the counter saying: anyone wanting to come home with me put your name on the paper and hop in the truck. That is about as much choice as you can stand.


If a child is adopted  from an early age, they might not readily comprehend this choice aspect. A young child typically responds in love to those that show them love, but adopting a pre-teen might be a different story. They have seen the street, been influenced by peers, and can be set in their ways, having huge attitude problems. Sound familiar - kind of like us. The walking attitude might say "yeah, I'll go with you, but I am not taking out the trash!" Isn't taking out the trash an aspect of being part of the family unit? (Yes, this opens a whole new can of worms.)

God, throughout the Old Testament, demonstrated his intentions by making the first move (think of this in terms of his love toward us) by verbally placing his character on the line, and committing himself to the proposition. He said on many occasions "as for me".  Look at Gen 17:4; Isa 59:21 for a couple of examples. How the recipient responded was entirely up to them, but God was not backing down from his decision, and never has.

Yes, king Saul was rejected by God; yes, it does say "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated", and I cannot deny that God rejected Israel, but "I believe that what we have here is a failure to communicate." Look, the bible was originally written in Septuagint Greek, a language of the people, and that made it far to ordinary, so the Jewish leadership had the written versions confiscated and re-written in Hebrew. (That was fairly easy to do seeing as they were scrolls that were primarily in the synagogues only.)

Can you see a problem with this language issue. History is primarily told from the point of view of the side you are on.
Later the Hebrew versions were translated into Latin. Again, effectively keeping it out of the hands of the common folk. Eventually scripture became what we know today.
Does that make it all bad and untrustworthy? No. Smarter people than many of us have studied and compared notes, and though there are known errors the consensus is that overall we have reliable translations and copies of the original documents, written in a manner that we can understand.


Back to" the plan": 
The acceptance that the death on the cross was for you specifically asks for our participation by receiving all that God's grace poured out toward us. In a sense that requires humility as you come to the realization that you cannot save yourself. The mere idea that man can save himself is a huge flaw in man's thinking and the basis of so many religions. Born in sin we can never be good enough to gain acceptance by God, for you will always do or think something that could push you out His good graces, therefore we needed salvation.


As for Reincarnation - or perhaps this concept that we keep recycling through life(s) until we get it right, and then God will accept us.


Response:
Hebrews 9:27 - Tells us that man only physically dies once. Perhaps that leaves open wide gaps for argument seeing as someone might scream about Lazarus being risen from the dead. Let's just say that as a rule you typically only die once. There is a second part of that verse which says then they are judged. Hebrews 9:28 continues to add - "Likewise, Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of humanity, and after that he will appear a second times. This time he will not deal with sin, but he will save those who eagerly wait for him."(GW)


The concept of reincarnation is an integral part a part of eastern religion, strictly based upon works, and not a concept that scripture promotes. Man has never been able to "work" hard enough to gain a right standing with God; Israel proved that over and over again. This is one of the reasons that Christ, gladly and voluntarily came. To free man from the sin, damage and debt that man could never repay, nor free himself from.

If I was building a framework of moral ideals, based upon some mentor, then I would look to those who had done it right, accurately setting the foundation for this grace path we walk on.
Who am I talking about? The author of our faith, Jesus, and then the writers of the new Testament, Paul being predominant, for he was obedient, followed God's instructions, and then conveyed them to us.


Paul wrote in Galatians 3:26 For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Some might incorrectly play off of that verse by quoting only the part about we are all children of god, but being God's child clearly requires a faith in Christ Jesus. Mind you an awareness of why you are having this faith might be in order.
There is no exclusion in that verse for it is available to anyone who places their faith in Him. There are of course those that choose not to do that, and they will follow their father (the father of lies) to his home, in the end.


Okay, what about hell?
Rev_20:14 states: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Revelation 20:15 continues to say - "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
This punches immensely large holes in a theology without hell.
How does one avoid this scenario?
Not by working through the hell on earth, although that seems to be a part of life, and an unavoidable struggle that cannot be avoided. Christ paid the price for sin, so we are not to be judged for that. If there is a judgment against the followers of Christ, then what does that judgment look like?
Judgment, to those who are in Christ, is merely for works done or not done, here on earth.


Revelation 20:13 speaks of the book of life being opened. It says: "and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." First off, note that those in this passage are in the book of life and should not fear hell at all. Secondly, I see a gracious, vastly forgiving God that has shown them his love by placing their names there, when by human standards we would not have. Thirdly: whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

To believe in reincarnation forces you to believe that the pressure is entirely on you to perform in order to gain God's acceptance. As I pointed out by Paul's writing that acceptance is entirely by faith in the one that saved us. Obtaining God's mercy under judgment is by faith also, but there is no punishment as we understand it. James 2:12 states in the God's word translation: "Talk and act as people who are going to be judged by laws that bring freedom."  Where is the fear in that? Since when does freedom bring fear, except perhaps in the case of one who has been a prisoner all their life and does not know how to act as a free man. If that is the case then get around people who know how to walk in the freedom of God.


Here is the bottom line for me. If you are His, then the debate is settled. You get to live with Him, in his kingdom. If you are judged then you are judged by rules that bring about your freedom within His kingdom. In His kingdom there will be no sin and therefore and everything will have an entirely different perspective. I cannot even begin to imagine what freedom feels like. The closest thing I experience to it is in worship. Sadly, for me, the moment I begin to comprehend that freedom it slips away from me.

I long for that day when I can be with Him, no longer struggling with the bounds of this earth.






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