Healing Hereafter

Healing Hereafter

Finding Rational and Refreshing Answers
for Why We’re Here and Where We’re Headed

Jason Dykstra, MD
Healing Hereafter. Copyright © 2013 by Jason Dykstra, MD.

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be
used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, email
comrade@samizdatcreative.com.

ISBN: 978-1-938633-19-5

Published in association with Samizdat Creative, a division of Samizdat Publishing Group
(samizdatgroup.com).

Cover design: Jarrod Joplin (White Bread Design)

Visit the author’s website at jasondykstrawrites.com

Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the Holy Bible, New International
Version® (niv ®). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by
permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
For everyone who wonders
what the hereafter has in store for us,
and especially for those who want to know why

With deep gratitude and love
to my Savior, spouse, and sons,
who all significantly gave of themselves
to make this possible
Contents

Part 1: Where Am I Taking You?

Chapter 1 2

The Strategy

Chapter 2 15

The Setup

Part 2: I Love It When a Plan Comes Together!

Chapter 3 26
Why is the biblical God a trinity, and why does he have a perfect nature that
never changes?

Chapter 4 28
Why did God create the universe, and how did he create humans in his im-
age, making us unique among all living things on earth?

Chapter 5 37
What is God’s purpose for humans, why did he create us with free will and
the ability to exist forever, and why are humans able to reject this purpose?

What exactly is sin, why must it be punished and have consequences, and
why are these consequences suffering, death, and hell?

Chapter 6 42
Precisely how can Jesus eliminate the consequences of sin, and why were his
death and resurrection necessary?

Can any other solutions to sin logically remove its consequences, and is it
possible, sensible, or necessary for God to offer any solution besides Jesus?

Part 3: The Ultimate Publicity Stunt
Chapter 7 56
Does God ever allow humans to go to hell without them understanding the
gospel, or does he give everyone a fair opportunity to know and believe in
the solution of Jesus?

vii
Chapter 8 61
Does God ever allow humans to go to heaven without them understanding
the gospel, and how is the eternal fate of those who die in the womb or as
children decided?

Chapter 9 70

Why do humans without meaningful access to the gospel, particularly
those who die very young or with chronic mental disabilities, need salva-
tion from sin at all?

What exactly is a sinful nature, and why would a human have one?

Chapter 10 76
Does God give everyone a fair opportunity to know and believe in the gospel
before they die?

Is the rejection by humans of a general revelation of God (through physical
creation and human conscience) logical and just grounds to be consigned to
hell, or must they specifically know and reject the solution of Jesus?

Chapter 11 79
What happens to humans immediately after they die?

Are there humans in hell or heaven right now, and why or why not?

Chapter 12 84
Are there biblical examples of humans who have been to heaven, and would
they confirm the presence of humans there now?

Chapter 13 88
Are there biblical examples of humans who seemed destined to go to heaven
immediately after they died, and do they confirm the presence of humans
there now?

Chapter 14 97
Is there only one time or more than one times humans are judged by God in
regard to their eternal fate?

When does such judgment take place, why does it occur when it does, and
what does that confirm regarding the presence of humans in either hell or
heaven right now?

viii
Chapter 15 102
Where exactly do the unsaved and the saved go immediately after they die?

What does the Bible tell us these places are like, why are they necessary, and
how do they relate to the eternal fates of these humans?

Chapter 16 113
Where exactly do humans who didn’t have meaningful access to the gospel
during physical life go immediately after they die, what does the Bible tell
us this place is like, how is it fair, and how does it relate to the eternal fates
of these humans?

Is the acceptance by humans of a general revelation of God (through physi-
cal creation and human conscience) logical and just grounds to be allowed
into heaven, or must they specifically know and accept the solution of Jesus?

Part 4: Yes, I Gotta Have Faith, Ooooo, I Gotta Have Faith

Chapter 17 130
Can human free will play any effective role in salvation if God knows be-
forehand who will be saved or who will not?

Are the sovereignty, nature, and purposes of God better upheld if he chooses
who is saved or not or if he voluntarily restricts his involvement in the sal-
vation process to allow human free will to effectively play a role?

Chapter 18 141
What does God predestine or have foreknowledge of and why?

Where the Bible speaks of predestination and salvation, does God ever pre-
destine humans to an eternity in hell, does he ever predetermine specifically
which individuals will be saved or not, and does he consistently emphasize
an essential role for free-willed human faith in the salvation process or not?

Chapter 19 152
Precisely what must humans have faith in and why does God require that
particular faith?

How is that faith applied to the solution of Jesus, how is God’s involvement
in this application active and necessary while leaving human free will in-
tact and necessary as well, and why isn’t the salvation that results one that
humans have earned or can take credit for?

ix
Part 5: The King of Spring

Chapter 20 170
Why are being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, establishing a growing relation-
ship with God, and increasingly persisting in good deeds all necessary parts
of God’s salvation process for humans?

How does this process progress from start to finish, and how are human
faith and God’s work both essential to the entire process?

Chapter 21 174
Can humans lose their salvation, and are people who abandon Christianity
still saved?

Can humans be assured of their salvation or have it objectively proven to
them while still physically alive?

Chapter 22 183
How do humans accomplish the increasingly persistent good deeds associ-
ated with salvation, and what are the purposes of these deeds?

What is the purpose of evangelism if there is a safety net for those with-
out meaning ful access to the gospel during physical life, and what does
the hypocrisy of Christians confirm about the validity of Christianity to
skeptics?

Chapter 23 189
Did God ever intend for there to be human sin and suffering, and
does he desire to maintain either of them for any reason?

What are the true origins of human sin and suffering, what are God’s
many responses to them, and how do the answers to both of these
questions solve the paradox of such a good God allowing such great
suffering?

Part 6: Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones,
but Words Will Never Hurt Me

Chapter 24 206
Does everyone eventually go to the biblical heaven, and can we gener-
ally predict who goes there or how they get there?

x
Chapter 25 218
In the New Testament, what does “forever” really mean, and what can it
confirm about the biblical hereafter?

Chapter 26 224
If the biblical hell exists and is eternal, do people reside there forever or
eventually cease to exist?

Chapter 27 229
In the Old Testament, what does “forever” really mean, and what can it
confirm about the biblical hereafter?

Chapter 28 232
Regardless how long hell exists, can people ever leave there to go to heaven,
and will they desire or try to upon entering hell?

Chapter 29 237
What is the biblical origin of hell, and how did the Bible’s original audience
understand and describe it?

Part 7: Beyond the Point of No Return
Chapter 30 248
How would warnings of coming wrath and judgment throughout the Bible
have been interpreted by its original audience, and do they actually refer to
hell or to more immediate or temporary outcomes?

Is one of hell’s purposes to correct or restore people to make it possible for
them to go to heaven?

Chapter 31 251
Does God give every hell-bound human, even the most evil ones, a chance
to be restored to heaven, and if so, does this opportunity occur before or
after their arrival in hell?

Chapter 32 256
When God promises people restoration throughout the Bible, is escaping
hell to go to heaven a type of this restoration, or do these promises refer to
significantly different kinds of restoration?

xi
Chapter 33 259
If people can leave hell to enter heaven, is there any convincing reason dur-
ing this life to adopt the Bible’s urgency in doing the good it teaches, to sub-
mit to God’s high moral standards, or to believe the solution of Jesus is the
only way to be saved?

Part 8: Having Your Cake and Eating It Too
Chapter 34 270
Can heaven stay perfectly free of sin and suffering if free-willed beings exist
there forever, and if so, how?

Chapter 35 274
Would hell last forever simply because God or the Bible says so and it’s too
great a mystery to understand why?

Is the ability for the inhabitants of hell to exercise the faith that initiates
salvation removed there, and why or why not?

Chapter 36 282
Why would hell have to last forever, does God want it to last forever, and
how are the answers to these questions reconciled by the accomplishment of
God’s purpose for creating humans?

Chapter 37 290
Once in heaven, will humans be able remember their existence before that
time without experiencing suffering, and why or why not?

What are the reasons the belief that humans will remember their pre-heav-
en lives is so prevalent among Christians, and are they valid?

Chapter 38 295
Are suffering and the memory of suffering truly distinct entities, and
how could we remember or observe loved ones—or any humans—in hell
without suffering in heaven?

Is there any way in heaven to remove our painful or inaccurate pre-
heaven memories while keeping the rest of our pre-heaven memories
meaning fully intact and purposeful?

xii
Chapter 39 303
Does a heaven where we remember our previous life make it easier or hard-
er to make sense of the Bible to others and to address our own doubts about
God’s goodness and reliability?

Are the experiences and details of our life on earth continuously transferred
to the afterlife, in which postmortem places does such continuity exist or
not, and why is the resulting hereafter the best one for humans?

Chapter 40 312
Will humans recognize or remember people they know on earth in the bibli-
cal heaven?

Would humans recognize or remember people they know on earth in a logi-
cal heaven, and would they truly want to or not?

Chapter 41 318
How can we most accurately determine what the biblical New Earth (i.e.
heaven) will be like?

Will the current earth continuously become the New Earth, or will this
planet come to a final end before God creates a completely New Earth?

Chapter 42 325
How do our emotional desires about heaven limit how accurately we
understand it and how optimal it can be?

Is it more biblical and logical for the New Earth to be the best the
current earth could possibly be, or a place that transcends some con-
straints of, but also some familiarity with, the current earth?

Chapter 43 327
In what ways does human sin affect non-human creation?

Does this creation need to be saved along with humans, how would the
solution of Jesus accomplish that, and what does that confirm about how
non-human creation is restored on the New Earth?

Chapter 44 337
Can the current earth undergo meaningful, continuous restoration if it must
first be rendered unrecognizably damaged, and does God more victoriously
get his way if this planet becomes the New Earth or if it meets a final end?
xiii
If the current earth continuously persists as heaven, how could this occur
with equal familiarity for humans from different time periods or for non-
humans who never primarily resided here?

Chapter 45 342
How much continuity or similarity will human bodies exhibit between
physical life and heaven, and what can Jesus’ resurrected body confirm
about what our bodies will be like there?

Will relationship dynamics, particularly concerning marriage, sex, and
childbearing, be continuous in the biblical heaven or not, and how does
that result in a more optimal eternal existence there?

Chapter 46 354
Upon entering a continuous heaven, precisely what might a person’s experi-
ence be like, and is this the heaven that God would create or that humans
would consider perfect and best?

Chapter 47 361
Upon entering a discontinuous heaven, precisely what might a person’s ex-
perience be like, and is this the heaven that God would create or that hu-
mans would consider perfect and best?

Chapter 48 368
If the ideal New Earth is a place of eternal, perfect community with God
where its inhabitants can freely choose to do anything except sin, then why
didn’t God just create the current earth to be that way?

What is the primary purpose of human life on this earth, and how can such
an existence only make sense within the framework of the biblical hereaf-
ter?

Part 9: Where Are You Taking You?
Chapter 49 374
The Synopsis

Chapter 50 377
The Send-off

xiv
Appendix A 392
History in Physical

Appendix B 406
Your Fast-food Option

Notes 440

xv
Part 1:

Where Am I Taking You?
Healing Hereafter

1

J ust sit in a windowless room for nine hours and say something
like the previous page into a microphone about 100 times—except
with a lot more medical jargon—and you can pretty much do my
job!1 My name is Jason, and I am a diagnostic radiologist. I’m a
doctor that interprets x-rays, CT scans, MRI exams, ultrasounds, and
other imaging studies. Nice to meet you! Now it’s not entirely true
that I sit in the dark all day staring at what’s going on inside my
patients. I also get face time with some of them, the lucky individ-
uals who get to drink rather large glasses of barium so I can look
at their innards. I see less lucky folks too; we’ll just say our time
enjoying barium together leads to a different end! But whether I see
patients on the outside or only on the inside, in every case my goal
is to closely observe what is happening within them, find precisely
what is not working, and use the words in my report to set them on
the path to healing.
The goal of this book is the same. We’ll intently examine the
significant questions that make the Christian view of the afterlife
seem confounding or unhealthy, discover biblical responses to them
that actually make sense, and hopefully watch these answers trans-
form this book into a comprehensive, consistent framework to bring
healing to our hereafters. If we can find rational and refreshing
explanations for why things are the way the Bible tells us they are,
then perhaps we can somehow make hell understandable and heaven
unmistakable. If we can remove the mass of confusion regarding
the afterlife, we may very well experience the most perfect outcome
anyone could ever hope for!
Although I’ve enjoyed researching a great many perspectives on
the hereafter by pastors and professors, I’ve discovered that my posi-
tion as a physician offers several of its own advantages in managing
the mass we’re trying to excise. First, not only are physicians contin-
ually exposed to individuals and families facing death, they also
have the opportunity to walk (or sit) alongside them in their most

2
Where A m I Taking You?

physically and mentally vulnerable moments—even their final ones.
This experience forces us to repeatedly wrestle with the questions
associated with the afterlife ourselves, even as we attempt to provide
both a receptive and rational presence during their struggle. One
of the ways I uniquely and frequently experience this as a doctor is
in talking through a newly-diagnosed breast cancer with a patient,
usually a woman who has already had to wait in anticipation for
days or weeks to get the final test results. Half of my job is to
recognize, respect, and do everything I can to sympathize with the
profound feelings and questions multiplying within her, while the
other half is to present accurate facts and conclusions in a way that
makes sense to her. Each of these women has enhanced my experi-
ence in negotiating this invaluable balance, and they have repeatedly
emphasized how much it means to them that we’re able to achieve it.
As in my profession, I will make a very intentional effort not
to ignore or take advantage of anyone’s feelings in this book. The
hereafter generates a great diversity of highly-charged questions,
and I would be wrong to overlook your emotional response to them.
Even though a few concepts we’ll explore are about as pleasant as
confronting cancer, I am hoping my stories, attempts at appropriate
humor, emotional checkpoints, and straight-up honesty about how
tough these issues can be will help us negotiate a balanced discus-
sion that means a lot to you. But I would be just as wrong to manip-
ulate your emotional response to these questions. It’s quite easy to
offer words about the afterlife that people really, really want to
hear—and many have done so. But if such teaching is inaccurate, the
audience is often horribly misinformed, while the author benefits
from the book sales or speaking circuit. In contrast, just as I have
the responsibility to present accurate data and conclusions about a
new cancer—a word no one wants to hear—in a way that makes
sense to a person, I assume that same responsibility in this book
regarding the afterlife. Don’t worry, there’s more to feel good about
and a lot more sense regarding the biblical hereafter than you might
think! But to prove that I don’t wish to manipulate your feelings
and to find what’s most likely to be true, I’ll take the less emotion-
ally appealing side when the evidence demands it. After all, people

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Healing Hereafter

are most convinced that something is true when they have come to
believe it even though they didn’t feel like it. In the end, I’m hoping
for us to be convinced that we have found truth about hell and
heaven, as well as a whole lot more!
The second benefit being a physician offers in exploring the here-
after is the persistent practice of diagnosis and management. Doctors
are by nature people who never stop asking difficult questions and
never stop answering them in the best way we can find, and it’s hard
to turn that quest for knowledge off when we leave the hospital. In
addition to at least nine years of formal, on-call, post-college immer-
sion in problem-solving, radiologists ask and answer difficult ques-
tions every time they look at a case. Having read up to over two
hundred cases in a single day (the most paradoxical Labor Day of
my life!), I get to practice wrestling with and identifying solutions to
questions about a person’s well-being at an intensity not experienced
by most. Not all the answers I find are right, but after tens of thou-
sands of opportunities, I have learned to hone both my inquiries and
responses into an approach that makes the most sense and explains
things better than anything else I’ve discovered. My desire in this
book is to apply that sharpened skill to a person’s eternal well-being.
Because I want to help both you and me find the very best answers,
I have never stopped asking and never stopped answering questions
to heal our hereafters. This pursuit began long before I set foot into
medical school and was accelerated by numerous years of training, so
hopefully what we discover will make sense and explain things better
for both of us.
The constant, everyday exposure of a physician to the secular
world is the third advantage I have in exploring the hereafter that
pastors and professors often don’t. Outside Christian church walls
and seminary halls, it becomes less likely that folks will approach
life—or what comes after—in the same way I do. This leads them
to ask different questions and challenge me in a far greater variety
of ways than a homogenous group of people would who are just
like me. Moreover, nine years of diversity in Ann Arbor, MI, five
years of residency among the largest Arabic and Muslim population
in the Western Hemisphere (Dearborn, MI), and the eclectic patient

4
Where A m I Taking You?

population arriving at the hospital each and every day have enabled
me to approach the hereafter from numerous perspectives. Sometimes
this gives me new options for answers, and sometimes it improves
the ones I already have, but always it pushes me to ask more and
better questions and find more and better answers. This constant
external motivation is not present when you are immersed in an
environment accustomed to the teachings of only one theologian or
denomination or when you already agree with 95% of people’s beliefs
in your everyday world. The number of questions we’ll respond to in
this book is much greater than what I’ve found in comparable litera-
ture written from more homogenous Christian viewpoints. This is to
address the greater diversity of questions asked by the people I’ve met
in our heterogeneous secular world. People who wonder what sermons
rarely address. People who resonate with making logical sense more
than being theologically dense. People perhaps just like you.
These benefits give me and other laypeople some unique ways of
finding responsible yet innovative explanations for the biblical here-
after. However, this absolutely does not mean that priests, ministers,
or scholars don’t have their own unique ways of doing the same. My
intent is certainly not to minimize the importance of what they learn
and objectively communicate to the rest of us. Rather, it is to demon-
strate that the validity of a person’s authority ultimately depends on
the quality of his words, not on the list of degrees or titles behind
his name. As many of you can verify, not all people with an MD
behind their names are good doctors. Likewise, not all people with
lengthy credentials or a following behind them to suggest that they
are a reliable authority on the hereafter are either. Some of us are
blessed with preachers and scholars who have responsibly and radi-
cally improved our understanding of the afterlife, and we should be
thankful for them! But God himself encourages the “noble” pursuit
of laypeople biblically validating their teachers, even one so great
as Paul, and personal fluency with the Bible can offer insight and
understanding greater than that of any human religious authority
(Acts 17:11-12, Psalm 119:99-100). May all our words be judged by
content rather than credentials, so that we can maximally benefit
from anyone possessing a uniquely helpful approach to the hereafter,

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Healing Hereafter

academic or adolescent, philosopher or fisherman, reverend or radiolo-
gist (Matthew 4:18-20, Acts 2:38-41).
And regardless of who’s making the effort to describe the biblical
hereafter as a sensible, viable option to others, their content can never
be better than the Bible itself, what Christians consider to be God’s
words to humanity. Whether or not the Bible carries special signifi-
cance for you, the specific concepts of hell and heaven, as they are
most commonly described and understood, were first conceived and
explained in detail in the Bible. It would follow then, whether for
religious ends for the Christian or for educational ends for others,
to use the Bible as the authoritative gold standard for our approach
to discussing these topics. After all, ignoring its teaching on some-
thing it introduced us to in favor of our own isolated and relatively
transient opinions is just as silly as insisting to JK Rowling that the
four houses of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
are actually Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (Clyde being my favorite
Pac-Man ghost as he was the slowest and least likely to kill me)!
And if you’re willing to entertain the biblical concept of the after-
life, there’s no reason not to entertain the possibilities of God, Satan,
angels, demons, and biblical post-mortem destinations besides hell
and heaven. The Bible initiates discussion on many of these topics, so
we join with many others in discovering what it has to say. Only then
we can accurately consider its comprehensive perspective as an option
to decide what to do with.
Obviously, our exploration of the biblical hereafter will require
open-mindedness, and this is something I humbly ask of you, real-
izing that you are already investing your time in reading this book.
Simply because you’ve started it at all, it’s clear that you have some
unresolved issues regarding the afterlife—and who doesn’t? God has
“set eternity in the human heart” after all, so embrace this desire to
find answers (Ecclesiastes 3:11)! It’s also apparent that you are at least
willing to be tolerant of someone else’s take on the hereafter, enough
to read it and understand it. I appreciate that and don’t take it for
granted. But to get the most out of this, to achieve the greatest yield
from your investment, you’ll have to take it one step further. To truly
approach topics like hell and heaven with an open mind, you can’t

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Where A m I Taking You?

only spend time reading about them and understanding what you’ve
read. You also need to be prepared to actually incorporate into your
beliefs and life what you’ve discovered to be better explanations—and
to remove from your beliefs and life what you’ve discovered to be
worse explanations. Gaining new information without truly having
the will to apply it is a waste of time, and neither of us wants to
waste your time. The ways that many of the deepest questions of
life are explained below may be better or worse than the explana-
tions you already have, I don’t know. My point is that you don’t know
either. I am not asking you to believe me; I am asking you to truly
consider believing and applying whatever you learn—in this book or else-
where—that offers more valid answers to these profound questions
than the ones you currently have.
Some things that we discuss will excite you, while others might
enrage you. Some things you will want to believe; others will make
you very uncomfortable. Some things will sound very familiar, and
others will seem totally new and foreign. These feelings are common
whenever we encounter anything significant for the first time,
whether it’s a job, a sport, an art, or something as simple as riding a
bike. When the training wheels first came off, I was excited until I
fell again and again. Then I was just mad, angry at myself, at my dad
for teaching me, and at the dumb bike for “making” me fall. I wanted
to believe that I could succeed, but I was extremely uncomfortable
trying to balance, pedal, look forward, and steer, all at the same time.
I was familiar with riding a bike, but the concept of doing so on only
two wheels was new, strange, and quite frankly ridiculous in my
mind. Perhaps some things we’ll cover will seem ridiculous to you as
well, but maybe only because you have not yet learned how they fit
into a comprehensive, logical, and practical picture of the hereafter.
Being willing to apply the foreign concept of riding without training
wheels when I was a child enabled it to be completely sensible and
useful to me now. Likewise, being open-minded enough to consider
applying the concepts below, ones you might initially balk at, can
enable you to form a comprehensive and constructive picture of the
hereafter—one that becomes as familiar and useful as riding a bike.
To make what follows the most worthwhile experience possible, all

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Healing Hereafter

I ask is that you ask one simple question at the end of each chapter,
and especially at the end of the book: Is this a better explanation
than the one I currently have, and why or why not? If it’s not and
your “why not” is a good one, please teach us all your current expla-
nation, because I genuinely would love to learn from you. Perhaps
you have helpful truth to offer me. But if this explanation is better
and your “why” is a good one (I’d hate for you to be lured into
believing me based only on the charming charisma radiologists are
so well-known for!), perhaps I have helpful truth to offer you. In
encouraging you to keep an open mind, I want to reassure you that
mine is open as well. I have learned a great deal while writing this
book, and many large swaths of the text below describe information
and beliefs that I did not have before I started. But I only know of
one shot that I have to figure out what I need to know about hell
and heaven, and to let that shot be blocked by ignorance, assump-
tions, or bias is unwise. I do not claim to know the truth, but I will
do my very best to know what is most likely to be the truth and then
believe and live according to that, even as I continue to learn to make
my most likely still more likely. After all, there’s no valid reason to
continue believing or living according to something less likely to be
true, right?
This applied open-mindedness will greatly benefit those of you
who picked up this book with unfamiliarity or apprehension about
biblical teaching on the afterlife, but it also has much to offer those
for whom this teaching is old news. In fact, in some ways it’s even
more important to urge open-mindedness in those who are too
familiar with the notions of hell and heaven that they’ve been taught.
Why? Because some of that instruction may be incomplete or inaccu-
rate, and some unlearning may be necessary before new learning can
commence. Again, I am not telling you that more complete and accu-
rate biblical teaching awaits you below; I am only asking you to keep
considering that it might.
If you’re a Christian, this is particularly important for the three
following reasons. First, Christians typically believe that the Bible
comprises God’s only authoritative words to humans. Even though
summaries of these words (such as creeds, confessions, catechisms,

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Where A m I Taking You?

or denominational doctrine) or non-biblical words (such as those
of clergy or inspiring Christian authors like radiologists) can all be
helpful in understanding the Bible, its teaching is the gold standard
by which their validity is judged. This authority also extends over
descriptions of the afterlife following near-death experiences. Some
may be completely accurate, but they may just as easily not be. As
there are so few ways to objectively assess their accuracy, we won’t
be putting the focus on them in this book. Christianity, along with
every other worldview, has to be defined by something more uniform
and stable, or it becomes too amorphous to be identifiable or prac-
tical. That something is the Bible for Christianity, its sacred text, the
Christian God’s unchanging, identifiable, and practical communica-
tion of what he wanted us to know. It is the collective witness closest
in time to the events it describes to offer a coherent explanation of
God’s work among humanity. But there’s a problem. Many Chris-
tians who have no trouble believing this know a lot more about the
summaries and non-biblical writings concerning the Bible than they
do about the Bible itself. They devote themselves very passionately
to a list of beliefs, a denomination, historical traditions, or a pastor’s
preaching, and because these entities are more concise and conve-
nient than comprehensively studying Scripture, they become a bible
to these folks. Such people can’t know when these bibles disagree
with the Bible because they don’t have adequate knowledge of what
the latter says. And often they won’t change their beliefs even when
they do find disagreement between their bible and the Bible, because
they have become too attached to what the former says. If you are
a Christian, never let this happen, not with my words or the words
of others. If we don’t try to fit the Bible into those bibles, we’ll free
ourselves to enjoy learning together how God’s words end up incor-
porating portions of each bible into a unifying and satisfying whole.
Because we’re only interested in if and how the Bible makes sense
of the hereafter, we will intentionally refrain from a detailed discourse
below on the church’s historical understanding of hell and heaven, an
exhaustive explanation of each denomination’s take on these topics, or
the opinions of every prominent theologian on the hereafter. Thank
heaven, because that would be one hellishly long book! While these

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Healing Hereafter

approaches might seem optimal, and while such knowledge can be
very educational and useful, none of us will ever be able to know
that we’ve explored and understood all the information out there.
The one thing we might have missed could have been the one thing
that explained the truth. But this is no cause for despair, because all
the information out there has only one source to derive itself from
and one authority to submit itself to anyway—the Bible. Since only
two of its books were written to clergy (Paul’s letters to Timothy),
all the others were written to laypeople like you and me! There-
fore, God doesn’t expect us all to go to seminary, learn Hebrew and
Greek fluently, become experts in ancient Middle-Eastern culture, and
expose ourselves to all the words people have ever written about him
before we can understand what he’s up to in this world and beyond
it. But he does expect that you know his words, because they are the
source for all other commentary on the hell and heaven of Christi-
anity, and the detailed discourse you will find below is saturated with
Scripture. For those who don’t consider the Bible to be God’s words,
I invite you to learn, perhaps for the first time, the whole story that
it teaches about the hereafter, and how God makes so much sense
through it. For those who do consider the Bible to be God’s words,
let the myriad biblical references in this book saturate your open
mind and change whatever stands in opposition to them, however
entrenched and endearing it might be.
The second example of how being open-minded can offer Chris-
tians a more complete and accurate understanding of God’s words
is the way they choose to approach a mystery in the Bible. Let’s just
admit it; there are things about a God who can create a whole lot
of stuff out of nothing that his creation will never be able to under-
stand, right? And there’s a great deal about God that we don’t need
to understand, like what kind of BBQ sauce he prefers, how many
toes he has on each foot, or if he likes country, pop, or rap the
best (I say techno). These unknowables and unnecessaries are accept-
able mysteries, things the Bible does not comment on and tensions,
particularly for those who are very passionate about BBQ sauce, that
we need to be comfortable leaving intact. But some tensions cannot
be left intact, some questions about God cannot be unanswerable,

10
Where A m I Taking You?

and some explanations are absolutely necessary in order for humans
to have any meaningful way to understand God and any reason to
believe in him. We need valid reasons why God is trustworthy, or
everything else he tells us about himself may be unreliable. We need
to be able to convincingly demonstrate that God is good, or we have
no reason to believe he isn’t deceiving us. We need to be able to legit-
imately establish that God is consistent, or he may change his values
or promises to us at any time. We need persistent evidence that
God eventually makes sense, or we can never have assurance that he
has everything figured out that we will never be able to. Therefore,
any question in the Bible regarding God’s trustworthiness, goodness,
consistency, or logic needs an answer, and replying with “God is
sovereign and he knows, so I don’t have to” is never a helpful or
responsible first attempt. If I hastily invoke such mystery as a solution
to questions that challenge any of these aspects of God’s character,
then I—and anyone who comes to me for answers—no longer has any
objective reason to believe anything God says. I am only left with the
subjective experiences and chance upbringing my environment gave
me, which have no more demonstrable validity than those claimed
by anyone else believing in any other God. If I can demonstrate to
others how my God makes sense from his words, an unchanging
standard that is not dependent on my presumed personal encoun-
ters with God, then we’ll all still have just as much reason to believe
in that God when those subjective experiences are not so convinc-
ingly valid to me or them. If I merely believe in my God because I
was raised in a Christian home or feel I have seen him work in my
life, my God is no more legitimate than that of someone raised in
a (whatever worldview) home who feels she’s seen (whatever deity/
authority) work in her life. That is why it’s so crucial to discover how
much sense the biblical God does make, and the appeal to mystery
must only be made once we’re sure we’ve objectively exhausted all the
options his words give us for answers. In this book we will happily
find such an appeal to be almost completely unnecessary.
Unfortunately, many Christians, some very influential, frequently
use mystery as an “explanation” for almost every significant ques-
tion about God’s nature and the hereafter. This may be because their

11
Healing Hereafter

denomination or pastor teaches them to or because they are too unfa-
miliar with the Bible to offer a better answer. But often it’s simply
because they have been Christians within a Christian atmosphere
for so long that their worldview does not seem significantly shaken
by the incomplete answer of mystery. They will get over the slight
discomfort it generates, and it’s a simple answer, so they accept it and
freely teach it to others. However, that discomfort never really goes
away, does it? That is because the discomfort is legitimate, and these
Christians are recurrently plagued by the gnawing, valid doubt that
mystery does not adequately address. Many of you know exactly what
I’m talking about.
But it is even more damaging when those who are not immersed
in the Christian community are too quickly taught to accept mystery
by Christians. They are seeking truth without the ingrained confi-
dence in the Bible or Christianity that would tolerate mystery as a
sufficient response. Because they have precious few other reasons to
believe from their upbringing or experience, asking good and impor-
tant questions is the primary way that they will learn whether or
not Christianity is the best option. They can’t afford an incomplete
answer, and they don’t have the Christian background to help them
persevere through the resultant skepticism. Christians often forget
this when they casually offer the answer of mystery. Multiple times
confused individuals, both with and without extensive Christian
backgrounds, have come to me to ask a difficult question about the
hereafter because the last person they asked unnecessarily invoked
mystery as the “answer.” Obviously that answer wasn’t deemed
adequate, and it’s not hard to see why. When we can’t biblically estab-
lish why God isn’t dishonest, evil, unreliable, or irrational, believing
in his words is no better, and potentially a lot worse, than believing
in anything else! In this predicament, we can invoke mystery and
claim we don’t need an answer because God is God, trustworthy,
good, or wise, but only on the grounds that we’ve already subjec-
tively chosen to believe that God is God, trustworthy, good, or wise
enough for us to believe his words assuring us of these characteris-
tics. We can’t escape from this circular argument that God is all of
these things in his words unless we can demonstrate how God is all

12
Where A m I Taking You?

of these things throughout his words.
In this book we will ask a great many of life’s difficult questions
regarding who God is, why we’re here, why the world is the way it is,
and especially what happens after we die. Unlike others, we will not
be satisfied to simply answer with “because the Bible says so.” While
this answer may be perfectly adequate for Christians pondering ques-
tions that the Bible is universally clear about, it is not helpful when
the Bible seems to say different things in different places. It’s also
fairly insensitive toward those for whom the Bible has yet to carry
any special authority. Instead of merely claiming that the Bible says
so, this book is all about why the Bible says so, how it makes sense,
and why it’s so important. Many inquiries about the afterlife are
intimately intertwined with the characteristics of God listed above,
and therefore, they need answers. I hope that you will be as excited
as I was to discover that God gives us these answers in the Bible
without surrendering one ounce of his honesty, goodness, consistency,
or rationality! He is not always as mysterious as we might think or
want him to be once we do the work to find the answers available in
the Bible.
The third way being open-minded can offer Christians a more
complete and accurate understanding of God’s words is the willing-
ness to identify and reconcile inconsistencies between the answers we
have found, even if that means altering a firmly-held belief. Because
questions about the hereafter are complex and often only tackled one
at a time, an answer believed to work well for one is often only later
discovered to be hopelessly inconsistent with an answer believed to
work well for another. Let’s use the rather significant question of why
people might go to hell as our illustration. One very common answer
to this question is that people go to hell to be punished for their
sins. Although you’re no doubt already thinking of follow-up ques-
tions to this answer, it works quite well for the singular question at
hand. It’s no mystery that people do some very horrible things, and
most of us have a great enough appreciation for justice to acknowl-
edge that those acts need to be punished. Since they often aren’t
punished in life, it follows that justice should be served in a post-
mortem place of punishment like hell. Quite honestly, for millions

13
Healing Hereafter

of folks, responding to the question of why people go to hell with
“to be punished for their sins” is perfectly satisfactory, and this is
the answer they believe. But when we start asking other questions,
this answer no longer works! If it’s nothing more than justice that
requires a person to be punished in hell, then why is the punishment
forever when the sins were only committed over 80-odd years or less?
Justice also must require that the punishment fits the crime, right? Is
there any earthly sin or number of sins that truly deserves eternal or
even prolonged punishment in hell? And if God wants everyone to be
saved, a desire he makes quite clear in the Bible, then why would he
punish anyone in hell? Can’t he give them all a just punishment on
earth, so that they also can go to heaven when everyone else does?
I could go on and on, and although the purpose of this illustra-
tion is certainly not to address these questions in detail, we will thor-
oughly examine all of them in this book. The point here is that even
a widely-accepted, workable answer to one difficult question can easily
collapse under the weight of other questions and the answers believed
to solve them. But if all of these answers don’t concur, at least one
of them must be invalid, no matter how well it answers the question
directly associated with it. We need a framework that encompasses
all the significant questions regarding the hereafter, posits biblical
and rational answers to them, and assures that those answers remain
valid when the framework is evaluated as a whole.
This framework is what I’m striving for in this book. First, we
will open-mindedly approach the Bible’s teaching on the afterlife as
a potential explanation of the truth, taking it at face value, just as
we would the perspective of any other worldview. Second, we will
thoroughly explore the entire Bible, including the oft-ignored parts,
for information about the afterlife, giving us the most comprehen-
sive and unbiased database to build from. Third, we will attempt to
fit every piece in its place to discover a rational and refreshing way
for it all to makes sense. Given these goals, this book is not written
for those who solely want proof of either what the Bible says, such
as that God exists or that Jesus is God, or the historical and archeo-
logical validity of the Bible itself. Those folks would be better served
by Timothy Keller’s informal The Reason for God or Josh McDowell’s

14
Where A m I Taking You?

more thorough The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Rather, this
book is for all who open-mindedly acknowledge the Christian after-
life as a potential reality but are having trouble making sense of it.
If that’s you, join me in unveiling satisfying answers to many of your
questions and doubts about the appeal, consistency, and necessity
of the biblical hereafter. We will not be trying to explain something
that will give you warm fuzzies, that will be comfortably familiar,
that will allow you to remain confined to the bible of a denomina-
tion or person, that will encourage you to accept crucial questions
as impossibly mysterious, or that only gives you incomplete answers
that fail upon broader application. Rather, if you can offer me your
open mind, I desire to offer you a framework for explaining the here-
after that is insistently biblical, persistently rational, and consistently
applicable for every question it seeks to answer. Although no one can
prove that any explanation of the afterlife is unequivocally true, I
have certainly found the following framework the most likely to be
true, and allowing God’s words to heal my hereafter has been one of
the most exciting and fulfilling joys of my life!

2

T o optimize our journey, I need to share a few tidbits with you
before we’re off and running. This chapter clarifies precisely how
the framework is set up, to make it as clear and helpful to you as
possible. We’ll also see how this book is different from others that
seek to explore the afterlife, as my hope is to offer you something
uniquely beneficial. I realize that such a framework is an ambitious
goal and needs to be presented to you very openly and objectively.
In regards to being open with you, I have a few disclaimers.
First, many assertions I make below I state absolutely, as if they
were fact, even though I fully admit that they may not be. I do this
only for the sake of simplicity and to not be annoying, as filling the
text with thousands of “might be’s,” “maybes,” “likely to be’s,” “prob-
ably’s,” “possibly’s,” “plausibly’s,” and “perhapses” gets on both of our

15
Healing Hereafter

nerves real quick, even in this sentence alone! If I definitively state
something, I’m not saying that I know it’s true, and please judge
its validity on the evidence surrounding it. Second, unless other-
wise noted, any italics used are mine and simply for emphasis. Third,
I will often quote only parts of verses or sources, and occasionally I
will use ellipses (...) to link two nearby phrases. I only ever do this to
avoid quoting large sections of text that are irrelevant to the issue at
hand, and I’ll never do it to leave out portions of the text that do not
seem to support what I’m saying, which I’ll either deal with there or
elsewhere. We will observe the disastrous effects of others partially
quoting sources in order to omit the parts that don’t agree with their
opinion. Often we will suspiciously find that they neither reference
these sources very well, nor do they encourage readers to double-check
them. Double-check me. I stick with a single biblical translation, so
you know I’m not constantly cherry-picking whatever one supports
each of my conclusions the most. For this book, I’ll be quoting from
the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, and it’s easily acces-
sible online here.2
Since this book is about the biblical hereafter, there is one addi-
tional housekeeping issue to take care of: what does the Bible mean
by the terms used to describe the places we might go after here?
The Bible actually lists several locations where people can exist
after physical death. They are Sheol, Hades, Paradise, Tartarus, the
Abyss, a mysterious unnamed place directly referred to by Peter,
the current or old heaven, the new heaven and new earth, and
Gehenna. These locales may sound strange and exotic, but they are
all biblical, and they all need an explanation. Sheol and Hades are
Hebrew and Greek versions of essentially the same locale, a realm of
the dead mentioned throughout the entire Bible. They are translated
synonymously, and we consider them synonymous for other reasons
explained below as well. We’ll discuss them in detail with the four
places following them above, so you’ll just have to wait in tantalized
suspense until then. I know, so cruel! The current or old heaven is
what people commonly think of as heaven, a rather ethereal realm
where God, his angels, and at least one or two harps reside. This
heaven will have “passed away” after judgment day to give rise to the

16
Where A m I Taking You?

“new heaven and new earth” which humans and others will inhabit
forever (Revelation 21:1-4). To avoid confusion, henceforth, I’ll only
refer to the old, temporary heaven as “the current heaven,” and I’ll
call the ultimate destination of the saved either “Heaven” or the “New
Earth.” Gehenna is the true hell, the lake of burning sulfur and fire
that Jesus and others are constantly warning us about. Henceforth, I
will only use “Hell” or “Gehenna” to describe this destination of the
unsaved.
In regards to being objective with you, I intentionally reference and
discuss in detail many perspectives on the biblical hereafter different
than my own as we delve into each issue. I feel it is not responsible
for me to artificially strengthen my position by hoping you don’t notice
viewpoints I’ve left out. Within my profession I am authorized to
wield the substantial power of radiation, and as anyone whose physical
life has been significantly affected by radioactivity knows, with great
power comes great responsibility. And not just in comic books! But the
ability to wield words in ways that may affect a person’s eternal life
is a far greater power than radiation, and with it comes far greater
responsibility. With this in mind, as this framework is explained, I will
frequently entertain and address numerous counterarguments, and I’ll
try to anticipate and answer both the non-Christian’s and the Chris-
tian’s subsequent questions. Starting now. I’d like to make you aware
of a resource that may provide somewhat of a backdrop for you, as it
offers a relatively short summary of the various ways people view Hell
and Heaven. It’s a bit academic and weighty, but it very objectively and
thoroughly introduces many of the questions about the hereafter that
we’ll encounter. Because it helpfully informs but does not ultimately
unveil any one comprehensive framework, we’ll continue its discus-
sion in the very hope of doing so by searching for a way to avoid
the problems inherent to each perspective it shares. It was published
in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and you can peruse it here.3
I have no problem informing you of your various options, even if I
don’t agree with some of them. Of course, you don’t need to read it to
understand anything that follows at all, but it might be an easy way
to familiarize your mind with several different approaches to Hell and
Heaven, providing context as we establish ours.

17
Healing Hereafter

Obviously there are many other summaries and frameworks in
popular Christian literature seeking to describe aspects of the biblical
hereafter as well. I have read and studied many of them, but I have
found none that set out to accomplish what we are striving for here.
If I had, I would be referring you to those books instead of labori-
ously writing my own! I do not reference these books here to condone
or condemn them, merely to contrast their literary niche with that of
Healing Hereafter. Some of them limit their scope to one postmortem
locale only. These include anecdotal accounts of Hell or Heaven, 4
along with biblical explorations of primarily Hell or Heaven.5 There are
books that explore both Hell and Heaven or provide detailed descrip-
tions of every biblical location in the afterlife but do not address many
of the questions concerning why they are the way they are or why
they contain the people they do.6 Others admittedly function more as
discussion starters, offering several new or non-traditional ideas about
the hereafter while intentionally leaving many related questions and
proposed paradoxes unsolved.7 Reactionary books that join the discus-
sion as a result are written as point-by-point responses, rather than
comprehensive explanations of the afterlife.8 Similarly, others set out
to find in-depth answers to only a short list of the most difficult ques-
tions, rather than putting answers to a more comprehensive list of
questions into a complete framework.9 Finally, there are books that
do describe Christianity comprehensively, but with a primary focus
on everything leading up to the hereafter, instead of using that infor-
mation to explain why that hereafter is the way it is.10 I have yet to
discover a book that examines every locale in the biblical afterlife, asks
a comprehensive list of questions relevant to why they are the way they
are and why they contain the people they do, uses the whole of the
Bible to construct biblical and logical answers to all of these questions,
and steps back to make sure all of those answers remain consistent
when taken together as a whole. Except for this book, which is why I
am hopeful it will be valuable to you in ways that other summaries or
frameworks might not be.
There are five other important differences between this book and
many of its peers. The first is that anyone can easily read it and assess
its validity. You need not have any prior understanding of Christian

18
Where A m I Taking You?

jargon, denominational perspectives, church history, or the views of
various theologians, because this book does not derive its conclusions
from them. For the reasons set forth in Chapter 1, you simply need a
Bible and a brain, which are the only tools that many folks seeking
to understand the biblical hereafter have anyway. All you have to
do to validate my words is ask if the biblical evidence I offer agrees
with them and if they make sense. Moreover, I have provided online
references for non-biblical sources as often as possible, so that you
can immediately double-check me to be sure I’m being truthful and
complete.
Second, this book is also differentiated from others in its
approach. It is not organized by topic, time period, person, or Chris-
tian subgroup. Instead, questions and answers are addressed in the
order they would naturally occur to the inquiring mind. Our brains
don’t ask every question about only one topic before moving on to the
next. Rather, we ask a question about one topic (e.g. free will), which
prompts us to ponder about a different one (e.g. sin), which generates
a query about a third (e.g. death), which leads us to wonder about
yet another (e.g. Hell). Each part into which this book is divided
represents a progressive series of related multi-topical questions,
not a disconnected group of questions about a single topic (e.g. a
chapter covering the gamut of random questions about Heaven). Our
approach allows us to start at the beginning with a few initiating
questions about God relevant to the hereafter, and as we answer
those, we are free to answer resultant follow-up questions about any
topic. Then we answer follow-up questions to those, and so on, until
we finally exhaust a natural line of questioning regarding both Hell
and then Heaven. Occasionally, we must hold a question for later
in the book when we will have obtained the knowledge necessary
for answering it, but in general this approach keeps us from letting
important questions go unasked or slip through the cracks. It also
helps us to think through these issues as our mind normally would
in any deep conversation with a friend or in bed as you lie awake
pondering the profound things of life. Indeed, I wrote the book as
questions naturally arose and were answered in my own mind, so I
anticipate it will have a familiarly flowing feel to you also. And if you

19
Healing Hereafter

prefer pictures to text, no problem! A summary illustration appears at
the beginning and end of each part of the book’s framework, adding
a synopsis of each image at the end as well. So try your hand at
interpreting the illustrations as the text enlightens them, and then
see how well our interpretations concur as you finish each part!
A third key distinction is that I am not content to simply describe
what the Bible says about the afterlife; I am also interested in why the
Bible says it. I suspect you are too, which is why I am writing this
specifically for you. Many books do not ask why. They very diligently
and often accurately describe what some biblical passages say about
the hereafter, but they make little effort to explain why their whats
seem to contradict each other at times. We choose not to settle for
“because the Bible says so” as an adequate response; instead, we find
more biblical information to help resolve the conundrums that the
whats sometimes generate, which is seldom difficult to do if we look
at the whole Bible and use our whole brain.
Fourth, just like a DVD, this book contains special features! Well,
okay, not as special as a director’s commentary on the gag reel from a
deleted scene, but at least a few little bonuses to enhance your expe-
rience. To start, instead of a rather unexciting list of chapter names
that mean nothing to you as you begin reading, the table of contents
provides a list of almost all the questions we’ll cover, so you know
precisely when we’ll reach the ones you’re most interested in. Also, the
book is intentionally divided into numerous chapters, so that each one
only tackles questions associated with one or two issues at a time.
More chapters allow you to achieve at least some level of closure in a
shorter period of reading, as I know that’s often all you have. And for
those of you accustomed to a daily time of meditation or reflection,
the biblical exploration in each individual chapter is well-suited for
that. Next, to demonstrate completeness while minimizing minutia,
some tangential observations and less substantial counterarguments—
identified with an asterisk—are relegated to the “Notes” section. These
comments are interesting and helpful tidbits but not vital to the
discussion, so they are out of way while still easy to access. Finally,
the two most special features are the “History in Physical” summary
in Appendix A and “Your Fast-Food Option” in Appendix B. The

20
Where A m I Taking You?

former offers a super-condensed retrospective version of the book’s
framework in chronological order, allowing you to easily “re-read”
it in minutes or use chapter references to find a section for review.
The latter gives you a tour of nearly all the questions and conclusions
found in each part of the framework (Parts 2-8), with the biblical
and scholarly supporting evidence removed. This is meant to offer a
light and logical parallel to the meat and potatoes of the main text,
especially for those still getting accustomed to biblical exploration or
just needing a big picture view if the details get too detailed. If you
absolutely don’t have time to read the whole book, this gives you a
less-than-two-hour quick-read option, consisting of the first two chap-
ters, “Your Fast-Food Option,” and the last two chapters. I’d rather
have you get a representative taste of the entire book than only a
big bite of part of it. However, just like with edible fast food, this
option will not provide the necessary building blocks to construct
a healthy framework and is not meant to offer adequate means for
either accepting or rejecting the conclusions in the main text. The
same applies to the table of contents and to the “History in Phys-
ical.” If you use either to skip to a particular question or chapter of
interest, the explanations there may not make sense because you are
missing key preliminary information that was previously explained.
Therefore, these features are there for your convenience, but only the
full framework will satisfy you to the point where you can truly eval-
uate how useful the book’s conclusions are to you.
Lastly, perhaps the most significant difference between Healing
Hereafter and the vast majority of other books is that it benefits people
before it’s even opened! All proceeds above publishing costs and taxes
will be donated to aid orphans, at-risk mothers and their children,
the enslaved and sexually exploited, and the hungry, via Compassion,
Bethany Christian Services, International Justice Mission, and Bread
for the World. So you could put this book down right now (alright,
pick it back up!), and every penny that would have come to me is
healing their hereafters instead. Thanks for partnering with me on
their behalf! But our hereafters have yet to benefit, so let’s finally get
to the goods! It’s time to begin building our framework.

21
Part 2:

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together!
Healing Hereafter

One requirement for being a doctor is using three-letter
acronyms describing medical jargon whenever possible, so
that your patients have no idea what you’re talking about.
One such acronym is NPH (neutral protamine Hagedorn for
all you aspiring physicians), a type of insulin that is often
administered to lower a patient’s blood sugar. But those
of you who would rather watch TV than go to medical
school—and I don’t blame you—may have seen these
letters and thought of something else entirely, namely Neil
Patrick Harris. For those at the hospital too often to broaden
your NPH horizon, he is an actor, singer, and magician who
first became familiar to most of us playing Doogie Howser,
MD, a child prodigy turned teenage doctor. In each episode
Doogie would newly encounter a different facet of being
a physician, and at the end, he would always type in his
DOS-based computer journal—which was pretty impres-
sive technology back in the day—a tidbit of wisdom that he
had learned. I only remember one episode, and maybe it
lingered in my brain for the last 20 years just so I could write
it here!

Once upon a time, our hero Doogie was confronted with a
female patient who was not getting better despite compas-
sionate, appropriate, and thorough medical care. Doogie
and his colleagues were flummoxed, but upon spending
more time with the woman trying to figure out the problem,
he finally discovered what it was. The problem was that
he didn’t understand the problem. This woman had been
eating off of homemade dishes that contained some sort
of clay leaching toxins into her food. During her treatments,
she had continued to eat off of them, making her recovery
unsuccessful. Once she and Doogie truly understood the
problem, they were able to solve it, but only by literally
removing the problem. Not by covering it up or by being

24
I Love It When a P lan Comes Together!

ignorant of it, not by treating its symptoms, but by removing
it completely.

In that episode, this wisdom was realized before any
permanent damage had taken place, but that is not always
the case in real life. On the pediatric floor several years
ago, I was paged to evaluate a five year-old girl. When I
stepped into the room, she was lying there unmoving and
expressionless in the dark, almost like a corpse. Parents
know the gut-wrenching fear that seizes them when they
see their child incapacitated like that, and her parents were
distraught. The atmosphere was ominously glooming,
but we rapidly assessed her, used the objective data we
had, correctly diagnosed meningitis, and implemented the
appropriate solution. Without treatment, the toxins involved
in this type of meningitis are known to be quickly fatal. But
a few days later, instead of a corpse, I entered the now-
bright room to find a happy, healthy little girl, bouncing off
the walls while smiling and laughing with mom and dad. I
wish I could show you the before and after picture, from
gloom to glee! Such a stunning transformation arose not
only from figuring out the problem and finding a solution
that effectively removed it, but also from applying that solu-
tion quickly before permanent damage was done.

This part of the book is devoted to both the greatest
problem of all and the even greater solution to it—a solution
that only makes sense once we understand the problem,
a solution that truly removes the problem, and a solution
that requires timely application. After setting the stage, we’ll
begin to investigate the ominous composite problem of sin,
evil, and Hell, followed by the stunning plan God has set in
place to solve it! And there’s a whole lot to love about this
plan coming together . . .

25
Healing Hereafter

3

“L et’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.
When you read, you begin with A-B-C.”1-2 When you explore the
biblical hereafter, you begin with . . . well, not Do-re-mi, but rather
the Tri-ni-ty. It was my original plan to set this book to song and hire
a family troupe of singers to perform it in various scenic venues. I
ran out of cash once I learned the hard way how expensive making
clothing out of drapes really is! So we’re back to the beginning. The
very beginning. When there was only God. I have been and will
continue to be talking a lot about God, since he is ultimately the one
who can make Hell understandable and Heaven unmistakable through
the words he has given us in the Bible. God represents himself to
humans in three distinct ways or persons, each of which helps us to
make sense of different roles and purposes he has in human affairs.
No wonder he refers to himself in the plural (Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:6-
7)! This is called the Trinity, and it is the way God makes a concept
as unfathomable as himself understandable to finite, physical human
beings. People like to debate about and get so caught up in this idea,
but it really doesn’t need to be that complicated, and I for one am glad
to have God explain himself in terms we can comprehend.
In general, God the Father represents the authority that God has
over all created things as their master and owner, deserving of their
praise, and just in judging, disciplining, and punishing (Job 41:11,
Psalm 145:3, Hebrews 2:1-3). Anything he wants to know, he can
know. Anything he wants to do he can do. Because of this knowl-
edge and power, he always knows what is best or optimal to do, and
he is always able to do it (Isaiah 48:17, 46:10). His attributes and
values always reflect what is best and are therefore always consistent;
why ever would they not be (Malachi 3:6)? “If there were aught better
than God, he would love that and not himself.”3 This is why God and
his nature do not change (Numbers 23:19). Such unwavering optimal
behavior is goodness or perfection (Psalm 34:8-14, Deuteronomy
32:4), and God the Father is the personification of this holiness of

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holiness, who will not tolerate imperfection (Habakkuk 1:13). As such,
and because God the Father represents much of the complexity of
God that humans simply cannot comprehend, he is virtually inacces-
sible to humans on earth (John 6:46). Instead, he physically commu-
nicates whatever he wishes through the representation of himself that
is completely accessible to humans, God the Son or Jesus (John 1:18,
12:49-50).
Jesus functions as God’s word to humans throughout the Bible
and as God’s example to humans of himself throughout his phys-
ical life on earth (John 1:1-14). Therefore, God the Son demonstrates
as much of God as we can or need to understand in both word and
deed; he teaches us how to be like God in mindset and in morals,
how to be perfect (1 Peter 2:21-22). Jesus acts subordinate to God the
Father, obeying him and doing his will (John 14:28-31), not because
he is inferior to him in any way, but to accomplish the very point of
representing God in this way, giving us a tangible, practical example
of perfection that we can follow, which includes obeying God and
doing his will (John 13:15).
God the Spirit represents God’s work within us to enable us to
model what we have learned about God the Father through God the
Son (Galatians 5:16-23). He represents God’s ever-present activity on
earth, teaching, comforting, encouraging, reminding, convicting, and
empowering individuals, particularly Christians, to know God more
(John 14:25-26, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit
represent God’s immersed and intimate understanding of humanity
and its environment, and their empathetic intercession for us reflects
God’s mercy which is merged with the justice and holiness that God
the Father reflects (Hebrews 4:14-15, 7:23-26, Romans 8:26-27). The
collision of mercy and justice, both of which are optimal behaviors,
is what compels God to provide his unique solution to humanity’s
universal problem of sin.
I should emphasize that God does not morph into these various
persons like some kind of divine Optimus Prime. The Father did not
become the Son at Jesus’ birth, and Jesus did not ascend to turn
into the Holy Spirit. They are all manifestations of God’s nature and
therefore have always been coexistent. The Bible is clear that Jesus

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Healing Hereafter

existed before the world was created, and the Holy Spirit’s presence
is pervasive throughout the Old Testament, starting with the second
verse of the Bible (John 1:1-13, 17:5, 24, Hebrews 1:1-3, Genesis 1:2)!
We even see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same place at the
same time (Matthew 3:16-17). The three persons of the Trinity can be
present simultaneously or can be doing completely different things,
because God is always doing multiple things in multiple different
ways. For example, the holiness of the Father can detest the evil
that Jesus experiences as his physical body dies on the cross (Mark
15:33-34). Here, God is antagonistic to imperfection while mercifully
exercising justice at his own expense; simultaneously revealing to us
several of his attributes and purposes during the crucifixion via the
different persons of God the Father and God the Son. So when I
refer to the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I’m always referring to
God, just in the different ways he represents himself, so that we can
understand who he is and what he desires. And one thing he desired
is to create us.

4

B ecause of God’s creativity, generosity, and love, he created the
physical universe and eventually humans. Humans are unique
creations because they were the only physical entities specifically
made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). What it means to be created
in God’s image depends on what sets humans and God apart from
everything else in this world. What is the only thing that both God
and humans seem to have that we don’t know any non-human phys-
ical entity has? No, not opposable thumbs! Consciousness. Self-aware-
ness. Free will. All different terms for the same thing; indeed, if you
think about it, a person cannot have one without the others. But what
is it exactly that frees each of us from the stimulus-response, action-
reaction prison that appears to enslave every other creature, appar-
ently making us capable of truly original thought? The Bible’s answer
is a “willing” human spirit that transcends and outlasts our body’s

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physical existence (Zechariah 12:1, Matthew 26:41, James 2:26, 1
Corinthians 5:5), and since you’ve already been willing to consult this
book about the other non-physical entities it explores, implementing
the concept of a human spirit into our discussion below doesn’t seem
too objectionable. After all, its existence would explain why human
consciousness is without question the most befuddling conundrum
confronting biologists. Neuroscientists themselves concede: “We have
no idea how consciousness emerges from the physical activity of
the brain.”4  And yet there they are, aware of themselves and their
consciousnesses. Nonetheless, I understand the boldness of the claims
that humans have spirits and that our spirits are what give us free
will, so let’s flesh out the human spirit (get it?) a little more.
First, what do I mean by “spirit”? I mean the essence of a human
being. A human’s most pure, fundamental form, when everything
that is not absolutely necessary has been stripped away. Regard-
less of what other components make you you, your spirit would be
the one that must always be present. It is who you really are and
always will be, producing awareness, identity, reason, and abstract
thought. You might call it the mind or the soul, and I’d agree. “Soul
includes personality, character, individuality, and consciousness” and
“is centered in the free choice ‘between alternatives which matter.’”
“’Soul’ encompasses ‘spirit.’”5 “The human spirit is the lamp of the
Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being (Proverbs 20:27).” “For
who among men knows the thoughts of a man except man’s spirit
within him (1 Corinthians 2:11)?”
Second, how am I so sure that a spirit and the free will it allows
are not present in any other physical organism besides humans? I’m
not, of course; however, no one else has demonstrated that they are,
and there is biblical and biologic evidence to suggest that they are
not. The only time the concept of an animal spirit is brought up in
the Bible, its existence and fate are portrayed as uncertainties about
which the author can only conclude, “Who knows?” The observation
is made that both humans and animals share the same fate of phys-
ical death, which is no surprise, but no statement is made regarding
the similarity of our fates beyond that (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21). In
Numbers 22:21-35 we find the entertaining account of a donkey who

29
Healing Hereafter

speaks because “the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth.” There is no
mention of a spirit in this donkey, nor is there any suggestion that
this animal experienced any sort of afterlife. Since it was clearly God,
and only God, suddenly enabling this creature to speak (2 Peter 2:16),
this passage offers us no valid reason to believe that this donkey
had a spirit, that it was self-conscious prior to or following a super-
natural act of God, or that what happened to it provides any reliable
information about any other animals. Some use Psalm 104:27-30 to
argue that the animals that die are resurrected when God renews the
face of the ground.6 But this passage is clearly about this earth, not
the New Earth, and it obviously refers to animals dying, with God’s
spirit renewing the ground by “creating” new animals, not resur-
recting deceased animal spirits back into bodies. “They” clearly refers
to “all creatures” participating in the circle of life, not the same crea-
ture’s death and resurrection.
In contrast, the Bible does confirm that animals are not made
in God’s image, that they have a lesser worth than humans, and
that their death is acceptable to God/Jesus when it provides food
for humans or when it’s associated with the salvation or restora-
tion of human life, amongst other things (Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew
10:31, Genesis 9:3, Leviticus 4:1-35, Matthew 8:28-33). Animals are
described as “unreasoning” and “creatures of instinct” (2 Peter 2:12),
whereas “it is the spirit in a person...that gives them understanding
(Job 32:8).” God’s words and actions concerning animals throughout
the Bible strongly suggest the absence of an animal spirit, and who
would know better than their creator? And because the concept of a
human spirit is inseparably linked to human morality, sin, and salva-
tion, what function would an animal spirit serve anyway? Few, if any,
would argue that animals are truly moral creatures, that they can sin,
or that God even remotely refers to a salvation plan for them. After
his first life here, did Jesus make a second trip to earth to die as a
perfect poodle, sea cucumber, or turkey? Probably not, right? There-
fore, animals either do not have a spirit or they have a non-human
animal spirit that has no definite biblical basis and plays no observ-
able or logical role in the animal’s life. In fact, the whole reason we
are discussing spirits is because of the observable and logical effects

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they seem to have on humans, as opposed to animals!
If you observe not just what animals are capable of, but what they
actually do with those capabilities, particularly in their natural envi-
ronment (rather than an artificial, leading, or forced experimental
atmosphere), you’ll be reminded that they don’t act in ways that
would suggest consciousness or free will. They succumb to limits,
their motives are few, and they have a high degree of predictability,
all evidence that they lack original thought. Do chimpanzees attempt
to fly, transcending their usual land-bound limits? No, but humans
do. Do dolphins become vegetarians for motives apart from and
even opposing the standard animal urges for pleasure and survival?
No, but humans do. Do crows depart from a predictable, consistent
pattern of mating and raising offspring to pursue their own inter-
ests? No, but humans do. So even the very most intelligent creatures
of the land, sea, and air, for all their abilities (which are considerable
by the way), seem stuck in their niche of nature, without the desires,
the reasons, or the creativity to break free.
Scientific study reflects this limitation. Marc Hauser was a
professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and organismic and
evolutionary biology at Harvard University and has published over
240 papers. In his description of what he calls “humaniqueness,” he
lists the four things that mentally separate humans from other crea-
tures as “the ability to combine and recombine different types of
information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding; to
apply the same ‘rule’ or solution to one problem to a different and
new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic represen-
tations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of
thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.”7*
Non-human organisms cannot detach their thought from a stim-
ulus-response, action-reaction world of reflexes. Humans can. And
what is required for such a detachment? A sense of self. An under-
standing that you are you, an entity entirely independent of your
environment. And it is only once you are self-aware that you have
the desire to exceed limitations, adhere to any number of motives

*  If you are familiar with Marc Hauser or would like more information
regarding his academic authority, look here. 8

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Healing Hereafter

other than pleasure and survival, and become utterly unpredictable.
Because you know you exist, you can desire and accomplish such
things. Yes, an animal can learn, remember, experience pain, and
demonstrate a whole variety of emotions, but as far as we know, she
doesn’t know she is doing any of those things because in her brain,
there’s no she. The nerve impulses from a stimulus don’t stop some-
where to consider, “What do I think about this?” because there is no
I, no sense of self. This is why animals don’t plot against humans,
like in Chicken Run, even though they have all kinds of reasons to do
so. This is why creatures don’t go on a journey to discover their roots,
like in Madagascar 2; they only migrate to survive and reproduce.
And this is why your dog will always roll over twenty times for one
lousy treat and why your cat will always chase after the laser pointer
as you laugh at its expense. They don’t demonstrate an impulse to
pursue something new, a self to generate original ideas, or the free
will to put those plans into action.
Because we can only understand things from our self-aware point
of view and because we crave their companionship, we convince
ourselves that animals possess such abilities, and there are oodles
of books, movies, and songs to reinforce this assumption. Of course,
there’s nothing wrong with this, and this kind of fantasy is fabu-
lously fun! But at the same time, “reading into the beast a self for
which there is no real evidence”12 often leads people to consider
animals as—or even more—precious than humans, even though our
creator himself says otherwise (Genesis 1:28, 9:1-3, Matthew 10:29-
31). This is a problem because it creates inaccurate conceptions of
the biblical Heaven, as we’ll encounter in Part 8, as well as unnec-
essary antagonism toward God’s interactions with animals in the
Bible. He considers them good, provides for them, and cares about
them, but he is also their rightful master and creator, and his inter-
vention in human affairs always takes priority over them (Genesis
1:26-31, Psalm 147:8-9, Leviticus 1:1-7:38, Mark 5:1-20). And not so
deep down we agree with him about the non-free-willed animal’s
place in creation. Not only do we take the liberty of setting ourselves
up as their masters, it is precisely because we know they won’t up and
pursue a new interest, won’t have secret dubious motives for spending

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time with us, and won’t depart from predictable behaviors that many
of us desire them as companions, in some cases more than our free-
willed human ones, right? This of course does not mean we can treat
animals however we want and harm them without adequate necessity.
Discomfort and pain are still discomfort and pain, whether an animal
understands that it’s suffering as a self or simply experiences pain as
a non-self, and this chapter is not meant in any way to comment on
how we should treat other organisms, just how to understand them.13
The actions of animals overwhelmingly argue that there is no
concept of self to them, no individual distinct from its environment.
They are merged with it, subject to stimulus from it and response
to it, unable to “detach modes of thought from raw sensory and
perceptual input.”14 Especially when they are observed in their natural
habitat—when they would be most free to do as they please—rather
than in experiments with limited choices and forced circumstances,
they still don’t depart from the status quo. And why would they?
Even if they had the brain complexity to “to combine and recombine
different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new
understanding, to apply the same ‘rule’ or solution to one problem
to a different and new situation, and to create and easily under-
stand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input,”15
without original thought or a self or free will, they would never have
the desire or motive to do so. Like humans, their brains and bodies
may actually be perfectly capable of eloquent speech, complex problem
solving, and developing hobbies and interests that are evolutionarily
neutral or disadvantageous, but there’s no “I” or “me” to initiate such
skills. “All creatures may exist on a developmental continuum, Hauser
argues, but the gap between humans and the second-place finishers is
so big that it shows we truly are something special.”16
Perhaps in seeking the reason why, we should be more open-
minded than only entertaining differences in brain structure or
chemistry, especially as those parameters have provided neuroscien-
tists with “no idea” of how to explain consciousness.17 Humans are
distinct from animals not so much in ability but in ambition, not so
much in complexity but in creativity. It’s not at all surprising that
scientists are stumped in trying to explain such tenacious originality

33
Healing Hereafter

by examining the circular, reflexive stimulus-response pathways of
the brain, however intricate they are, as if we were no more than a
really smart computer. A human spirit independent of the physical
body, able to “detach modes of thought from raw sensory and percep-
tual input”18 offers a much more rational way to introduce some-
thing truly new to the brain and body and remain persistent in
doing so when the feedback received is negative. Unlike an animal,
a human spirit does not accept the status quo, does not cower from
trying new things for new reasons, and does not give up such goals
merely because things get unpleasant or even detrimental. A spirit
that can know that it exists and demonstrates free will can be tena-
ciously original, and since we’ll learn that God clearly intended to
give humans free will, he gives them his “breath of life,” a conscious-
ness, a self, a spirit to make that possible (Genesis 2:7). “It is the
spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them under-
standing” (Job 32:8). Something liberated from the bonds of nature,
something that explains our distinct qualities from every other crea-
ture, something truly humanique. Except within the movie industry,
tenacious originality permeates human behavior. Maybe I’m preaching
to the choir here, as anyone who is willing to read a book about the
afterlife is likely to accept the notion of a human spirit, but we may
as well appreciate the very good reasons for doing so nonetheless.*
So we know what I mean by “spirit” and we’ve seen why humans
that bear the image of God, alone of earthly creatures, would have
one, but what is this spirit like? Well, it is not present until a human
is at least conceived, as God “forms the human spirit within a person”
(Zechariah 12:1), necessitating a body to form the spirit within. But it
likely does not age either. Nowhere in the Bible do we find evidence
of spiritual beings like God or angels aging. This is no surprise, as
our concept of aging has a purely physical origin and physical causes.
Aging is what makes our bodies’ longevity finite; therefore, an eternal
human spirit would be unlikely to share the same property and would
be more likely to be ageless, as it seems other spiritual beings are.

*  To explore another good reason, one that helps resolve apparent conflict
between the biblical and scientific understandings of human origins, enjoy
this. 19

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This means that our spirits aren’t stuck in the same age or status as
our bodies are. An infant body would not have an infant spirit. A
mentally handicapped body would not have a mentally handicapped
spirit. The respective immaturity or infirmity of such a person’s brain
may limit their spirit’s ability to express itself physically, but the
spirit itself would be fully intact and mature—”adult” if you will—as
it was when it was created. This is important because when we talk
below about whether babies or mentally disabled people go to Hell or
Heaven, we’re not really talking about babies and mentally disabled
people; we’re talking about ageless, mature spirits. There would be no
babies or mentally handicapped spirits in Hell or Heaven, but rather
their non-baby, non-handicapped spirits, and it is absolutely crucial to
separate our physical understanding of them and their true spiritual
selves if we are to have an emotionally neutral and objective discus-
sion on the eternal fate of these spirits. An ageless spirit exerts its
free will from the get go; it just has a very limited number of ways of
doing this physically until the body starts to catch up, if it can.
We see this all the time in young children. As soon as they gain a
new ability or accomplish a new goal, they are not just satisfied; they
are elated! Almost all of us have experienced the look of utter bliss
that children exhibit when they can finally crawl, walk, jump, throw,
or speak. It even makes you smile just to think about it, doesn’t it?
Could it be that this occurs because the ageless spirit within each of
them has been waiting and trying so long to get the body to be able
to express itself accurately that nothing less than a celebration ensues
when it finally succeeds? If accomplishing such tasks was merely the
result of higher-order brain complexity (the ambiguous concept that
naturalists must place their faith in instead of a spirit), then why such
joy in a child newly able to stack blocks? Or better yet, in knocking
said stack down! What evolutionary benefit is there in happiness
upon learning to somersault? Simply having a more complex brain
than other creatures doesn’t give us any reason to want to accomplish
these goals or to experience elation upon doing so. Knocking blocks
down and somersaulting provide a child with no survival benefit
or reproductive advantage; they’re just something new that a child
really, really wants to do for some reason. That reason is tenacious

35
Healing Hereafter

originality. A spirit that can generate a fresh idea and has the free will
to carry it out, whatever its current physical capability is, explains a
child’s persistence in babbling until he can talk quite well, doesn’t it?
It’s no mystery that the kid knows what he wants to say, and we all
know he is quite intent on communicating that; however, the ability of
the body does not yet match the will of the spirit. But when it does,
watch out! For some, the celebration of speech never ends! “I too will
have my say; I too will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and
the spirit within me compels me” (Job 32:18).
Do we see the body similarly limiting the spirit in the Bible? We
sure do. On the night Jesus is taken captive to be put to death, he asks
his disciples to pray, and they fall asleep instead. Jesus replies, “The
spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). He knows
that their true selves want to support him, but their bodies prove to
be significant obstacles, as they similarly do for some of us during
particularly long early morning classes or church services! So this
discordance between the spirit and the body is not limited to child-
hood. For example, at any age, there is a “locked-in syndrome” that
can occur when a person gets a stroke in just the wrong spot (the
basilar artery territory, if you’re interested). Most of the brain remains
intact, but almost no communication can occur between it and the
rest of the body. The poor patient is fully able to think and reason,
but little sensory stimulus can get in and little motor response can
get out, with the usual respective exceptions of sight and eye move-
ments. Horrible, I know, but rare, and we have no reason to assume
this applies to the vast majority of folks in comas. However, you can
imagine how a human spirit in such a situation would be able to
propose original ideas and thoughts to its brain, even though little to
no bodily expression of those thoughts would be possible or discern-
able. Similarly, in all but the most severe strokes, patients typically
express desire to regain lost function in a part of their body, and occa-
sionally new neuronal pathways can be formed to achieve that. It’s as
if the spirit so fervently wants to reestablish physical expression that it
finds a bypass in the brain to do so if possible. Again, such ambitious
goals seem to reflect a human spirit exercising its free will, whether
the body allows onlookers to physically notice it or not.

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We do not see this persistent achievement, or the joy that follows,
in non-human organisms. “Animals have a myopic intelligence,” Marc
Hauser says. “They never experience the aha moment that a 2-year-
old child gets.”20 From all appearances, animals do not have a spirit.
Mitzie, my childhood dog, was one heck of a companion, and maybe
she is somewhere right now enjoying those bone-marrow filled treats
that she loved (Mmm!). But I’m not expecting her to be in Heaven.
The Bible does confirm that animals will be there, but never the
resurrected versions of those that lived and died here. When what we
know about animals and what we know about the Bible is combined,
it makes sense that of all physical creatures, God created only humans
in his image, with a spirit that can be tenaciously original and will
freely.

5

S o our observations tell us that God made humans different than
the rest of his earthly creations. But why create humans in the
first place, and why with free will? These are two of the most impor-
tant questions ever asked, and we are given an answer to both in
Acts 17:26-28. “From one man he made all the nations, that they
should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed
times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so
that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find
him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and
move and have our being.’” God’s purpose in creating humans was
for them to “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,”
and this desire for community is maintained by God throughout the
Bible (Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 31:33-34, Revelation 21:3). One of
Jesus’ names, Immanuel, even means “God with us” (Matthew 1:21-
23)! But this purpose cannot be accomplished without free will and
therefore is only perhaps accomplished because of free will. Read the
last sentence again. Read it again. Read it ag...OK, that’s good. But
understanding it is absolutely crucial to make Hell understandable

37
Healing Hereafter

and Heaven unmistakable. We cannot seek God, reach out for God,
and find God without free will. We would be mere humanoid exten-
sions of God’s will, as if we were puppets and God was moving the
strings. He would be seeking, reaching out for, and finding himself.
God understands that the only way to know that his purpose has
been realized, to know that we are truly seeking, reaching out for,
and finding him, is if we can freely choose to do so. To be redun-
dantly clear, God had to create us in his image, he had to give us free
will, in order to accomplish his purpose for creating us in the first
place.21
But this necessity also makes it possible for us not to seek him,
reach out for him, or find him, doesn’t it? And for every one of us,
this possibility has become a reality, starting with Adam and Eve,
who the Bible portrays as the first two individuals on earth God
made in his image. The first two fully human beings, possessing a
spirit with consciousness and free will. They had it made. Surrounded
by a perfect garden and enjoying God’s perfect provision, they had
everything they could ever need. Including a choice. They were
commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil (Genesis 2:8-17). They already knew good; indeed, they under-
stood good far more fully than any of us do. Their choice then was
whether to only know good or to know evil as well, wasn’t it? To
be satisfied with God and his perfect perspective and provision or
to seek, reach out for, and find what is not God, what is not good.
They chose the latter; they sinned. Some claim that “we will never
solve this mystery of sin,” that “evil should never make sense,” and
that “part of what makes evil so bad is its inexplicable mystery.”
“If we could comprehend the presence of evil—its origin, purpose,
and how and why God allowed it to enter his perfect world—then it
wouldn’t be quite so evil.”22 Aside from that not making sense to me,
we have seen that free will solves the “mystery” of all these things
quite sensibly and explicably. Free will made it possible for God to
accomplish his purpose in creating Adam and Eve, but it also made
it possible for them to sin, and the most devastating consequence of
choosing to do so was that they had to die.
But why? How does their choice separate them from God,

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necessarily leading to death? Many of us have heard that “the wages
of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), but is this just some arbitrary punish-
ment that we’ve memorized? No, God didn’t spin some big ole heav-
enly wrath wheel that happened to stop on death; his consequence
for sin makes much more sense than that. Sin results in death for
two reasons. First, Adam and Eve used their free will to tell God
that they wanted to know evil, what is apart from God and good.
Every time we use our free will to do the same—every time we sin—
we tell God that we want to know what is apart from him and good
as well. We want to know evil, and we haven’t stopped expressing
that desire to God, have we (Hosea 8:2-3)? Being ashamed of one’s
body, fearing to encounter God, blaming others, experiencing pain in
what should be wonderful things like childbirth, unhealthy marriage
dynamics, and failure at work were all specific consequences immedi-
ately resulting from Adam and Eve wanting to know and experience
evil (Genesis 3:6-19). And they are still very tangible ways humans
know and experience evil today as well. What might have seemed to
you before to be random consequences or punishments for Adam and
Eve’s sin—and our sin—make a lot of sense now, don’t they? Knowing
evil immerses us in everything that is not good and that is not God;
sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). And of all the many things
that teach us about evil, that allow us to know it and understand it,
which is the most informative, the most representative, the most ulti-
mate? Our own death, the very thing that separates us from God the
most. Even after injustice, even after torture, even after the death of
others, we can still find hope, we can still find good, and we can still
endure. But not after our own death, so long as there is no escape
from it. To comprehensively know evil, we must experience death.
This is why “sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” without
God even needing to do any punishing (James 1:14-15)! Adam and
Eve were told that upon eating from the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil “you will surely die” because death is the ultimate
result of knowing evil, not simply because God had randomly settled
on death as a punishment for sin (Genesis 2:16-17).
Second, if it is God’s purpose for humans to seek him in a perfect
relationship and existence, this can never happen if imperfection,

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Healing Hereafter

whether human or circumstantial, is present. Sinful humans cannot
fulfill their purpose, God cannot forever tolerate being in the pres-
ence of their disobedience and evil, and he will not allow them to
immortally mar creation, others, and themselves, so he punishes sin
with death (Habakkuk 1:13, Genesis 6:3). Adam and Eve are banished
from eternal life in the garden into an imperfect existence where they
will continue to learn to know evil and eventually die (Genesis 3:22-
24). So “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), both because it is
the ultimate consequence of choosing to know evil and because it is
God’s necessary punishment to prevent people, who can’t fulfill their
purpose anyway, from perpetually increasing evil and ruination. We
sin to get a life apart from him and his purpose; we are punished
with a life apart from him and his purpose. A just punishment that
fits the crime perfectly, doesn’t it? God makes sense.
Many people wonder why God has to be just, and they view this
as a negative thing. But not so deep down they know that injustice is
wrong, and many of them strive to alleviate the inequalities around
them, even as they raise their eyebrows at God’s justice. Justice is
a part of God’s nature, a virtue he will always value (Deuteronomy
32:4, Nahum 1:3, Revelation 19:1-2, Micah 6:8). This is a good and
rational optimal behavior, and it’s not hard to see why we should be
more than glad that we have a just God. If God wasn’t just, there
would be no specific punishment for sin, so we wouldn’t have to die.
Sounds OK so far, but let’s keep going. We all would just keep living
here on earth being sinful and knowing more and more evil and
suffering as a result. If God wasn’t just, there would be no reason for
him to create us to value justice either. We would never fairly punish
wrong, and almost immediately our world would be in anarchy. Keep
in mind that we’re immortal through all this. We would live forever
in complete chaos. Here’s the worst part: God wouldn’t care. An
unjust God would see no need to stop or punish wrongdoing; in fact,
he might choose to punish doing right, just because! You would be at
the disposal of an unjust God and unjust humans forever. No good!*
Justice is good (Psalm 37:28, Luke 18:7, 8). And when we see how

*  Incidentally, similar chaos would also result from a societ y embracing
moral relativism, as described here. 23

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I Love It When a P lan Comes Together!

wisely and mercifully God employs it, making the penalty for our
offense simply the consequence of knowing evil anyway, “Why should
the living complain when punished for their sins” (Lamentations
3:39)? It’s a punishment we continuously choose, fully deserve, and
have no reason to gripe about. Moreover, God does not go beyond
justice, throwing an angry temper tantrum at us, uncontrollably
hurling thunderbolts in Zeusian fashion. God assures us, “I will disci-
pline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpun-
ished” (Jeremiah 30:11). Sounds fair, literally, right?
God gives us justice, which means that sin gives us death. But
if we each have a spirit that remains when our body goes six feet
under, and if it cannot enter the perfect good that God resides in and
desires for us, which we call Heaven, then where is the only place it
can end up? Where imperfection is everywhere, where good is gone,
where God does not reside, where God does not desire us to go, but
where free will opens the door to. Hell. God voluntarily keeps himself
absent from Hell, so that humans can freely choose what they want
(1 Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 23:39-40, Matthew 25:41, 2 Thessalo-
nians 1:8-10). God and the angels can observe Hell, but it is outside
of God’s kingdom of Heaven, and he is clearly not present within it
(Matthew 8:11-12, Revelation 14:9-11, 21:6-8, 22-27). Instead, there is
fire, weeping, gnashing of teeth, and darkness—not surprisingly the
same consequences we’ve repeatedly witnessed on earth when godless
humans freely choose what is not God, whether by hypocritically
misrepresenting God or simply out of selfishness (Matthew 25:41-46,
24:45-51, Jude 1:12-13). We’ll focus on how long Hell lasts in Parts
6-8, and when we do, the explanation will be thorough. But there
are a lot of things we need to discuss before that question can be
appropriately answered, and all you need to understand now is why
Hell must exist in the first place and why it is not merely a punish-
ment, but primarily a choice (Acts 13:45-46). If you made it through
the Stanford essay I referenced toward the beginning of this book,
you will recall how many problems arose when Hell solely existed
for the purpose of punishment. We don’t encounter those prob-
lems here. Because God will always accomplish his purposes (Isaiah
46:10), because his purpose in creating humans was to seek him and

41
Healing Hereafter

perhaps find him, and because a perfect God will not perpetually
exist amongst evil and wrongdoing (Habakkuk 1:13), he had to give
us free will to make Heaven what it was meant to be—for him and
for humans—and Hell is an unavoidable byproduct. If you take away
Hell, you take away free will. If you take away free will, you take
away any meaningful existence for humans in Heaven and negate
God’s purpose in creating humans at all. God sure makes a lot of
sense, doesn’t he? Heaven is no arbitrary reward, sin is no arbitrary
offense, death is no arbitrary punishment, and Hell is no arbitrary
destination. Everything is there for good reasons. But sin is human-
ity’s offense, death is humanity’s punishment, and without escape
from death, Hell is humanity’s destination. A big problem. One that
needs a big solution. Read on.

6

H umans like solutions. We like identifying the steps to take that
get us out of a jam. And we like to be able to take those steps
ourselves. Just think about how many self-help books, videos, confer-
ences, and web columns we have exposed ourselves to that outline
the seven steps to do this or the three things you need to know about
that or the eight ways you can finally achieve whatever. Follow these
rules, and you will fix your problem! Nothing wrong with that, and
for some issues, adhering to such guidelines works smashingly. It is
very, very human to want to bring ourselves out of our own messes,
which why so many of us have applied this desire to the biggest
mess of all, our massive problem of imperfection that leaves us sepa-
rated from God and his perfection. Simply follow a list of rules,
and you will achieve success in reuniting yourself with God in some
sort of bliss. Then feel free to pat yourself on the back as you stroll
down the streets of gold alongside God on a perfect, Heavenly day.
You deserve it. Such self-achieved salvation is a very human idea
indeed, exactly what we would expect from a manmade solution to
our biggest problem.

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But is it a solution, and if so, which list of rules should we pick
and why? Remember the problem: we are imperfect and have chosen
to know what is not God; this is what necessarily lands us in Hell.
The only solution to this problem is for us to become perfect and
choose to only know what is God. Only when he is convinced of these
two things will he be satisfied to admit us into Heaven, knowing that
we qualify for entrance into a perfect place and that we are willing
to no longer mar his perfection as we did before. We’ll explore the
second condition of only choosing to know what is God and good
in Part 8. Here we address the first condition: becoming perfect.
Which list of rules out there offers the solution we need? Which
can make us perfect? Adhering to the five pillars of Islam? Believing
in the current laws of science? Obeying the 613 rules in the Jewish
Torah? Taking the twelve Buddhist steps to enlightenment? Submit-
ting ourselves to the three or four (depending on who you ask) ways
to the Hindu Moksha? Keeping the ten commandments? Following
the _____ guidelines to _____? None of these remove our imper-
fection! They might make us better people, they might help us solve
important but more transient problems, and they are certainly ways
of demonstrating our devotion to a higher authority, whether it be a
being or an idea. But none of them can actually nullify our imperfect
state, which is the only solution that ultimately matters.
We’d like to think we could convince God that we’re perfect by
burying our sin under a mountain of good ideas or good deeds, but
we’ll never be successful in fooling him, will we? And if he knows
that our problem is imperfection, why would he ever propose a world-
view where we need to follow a bunch of rules as an effective solu-
tion? He wouldn’t, and he doesn’t. That would be so very like a
human, but not at all like God. Despite our best attempts, we can’t
fix this problem. We can’t undo our imperfection. And that’s OK. God
understands our predicament quite clearly. He doesn’t offer a human
solution that doesn’t solve the problem; he offers a divine solution
that does solve the problem, a gospel that “is not of human origin”
(Galatians 1:11). Just like we would expect a God who is truly God
to do. Something that makes sense, something that works, something
that humans never would have thought of: Jesus.

43
Healing Hereafter

So there’s God, and he’s created all of us humans to freely choose
to live forever in his perfection (2 Corinthians 5:4-5). Except we’re
all imperfect and have all sinned, because we’ve all repeatedly told
him we want to know something other than him and his perfection.
He knows that we’re helpless, because doing x types of things or y
amount of things will never make us perfect. So if he’s going to fulfill
his purpose in creating us, he has to provide a solution, one that
actually fixes the problem in a way that remains consistent with his
nature. In other words, he must be merciful (Daniel 9:9), he must be
just (Deuteronomy 32:4), and he must be loving (John 4:8), amongst
his many other attributes. He could let us all go to Hell, which would
be just, but not all that loving or merciful. Being God, he’s got a
much better idea anyway.
Here’s his plan. He becomes a human himself in the person of
Jesus, God the Son (Philippians 2:5-8). He is tempted in every way
but lives a perfect, sinless life (Hebrews 4:15). Never once does he
use his free will to do anything other than the perfect good that he
desires for everyone to be immersed in (John 14:31). Therefore, he
does not have to know and experience evil as a result of his choices or
actions, which means he is also exempt from death (Hebrews 7:27).
But because our willful, sinful immersion in evil is what makes us
deservedly imperfect, God willfully but sinlessly immerses himself
in evil undeservedly to remove that imperfection (Colossians 1:22,
2 Corinthians 5:21). And because we must endure physical death as
our punishment, leaving our spirit with no other place to go than
Hell, Jesus willingly dies on the cross as our substitute to enable us
to be released from that punishment (Hebrews 9:14-15). Remember,
the punishment for sin is physical death, not death’s byproduct of an
eternity in Hell prior to Jesus providing an escape. Jesus did not need
to go to Hell forever to undergo our punishment for sin; he needed
to immerse himself in evil and physically die in our place. So he did.
With our sentence served by Jesus, we are able to be justly considered
innocent of sin and imperfection by God, giving us an alternative to
the byproduct of Hell when we die: Heaven. And to prove that he can
one day free us from physical death and raise us in a perfect, imper-
ishable body that can live forever in Heaven, as well as to exemplify

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the hope and victory that he offers, he returns from the grave in
the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:17-19, 50-55). Not like he would
stay dead anyway; he is God after all (Acts 2:24)! God is merciful
by providing a solution for us when he doesn’t have to and when we
don’t deserve it. God is just by carrying out a punishment that fits
the crime. God is loving by removing our sentence of death from us,
enduring it himself to make us perfect in his sight (Romans 3:22-26).
God is brilliant. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
It all makes sense. Our problem thwarts his purpose. Our punish-
ment fits our problem. His solution solves both our problem and our
punishment. Perfect so far. Just one item remains. His purpose must
be reinstated by his solution. That’s where we come in.
Recall that God’s purpose in creating humans is “so that they
would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though
he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26-28). God gives you
free will so that you are truly able to willingly choose to find perfect
community with him. To this end, he offers you a merciful, just,
loving, and brilliant solution to the obstacles that stand in your way,
sin and death (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). The only thing left for God’s
purpose in creating you to be accomplished is for you to choose to
seek him, reach out for him, and find him. He is not far from you.
God has done all he can to achieve his purpose; indeed, it cannot be
achieved if he interferes with this final decision. So how do you make
this choice? As we complete our investigation of a person’s salvation
process in Parts 4 and 5, we’ll eventually discover that it starts with
a free-willed act of faith. We’ll learn that this faith will always result
in a decision to embrace God’s purpose for you (desiring perfect
community with him), to admit your problem (sin and imperfec-
tion), to accept your punishment (knowing evil and dying), to believe
in the one solution that works (Jesus’ death and resurrection), and to
embrace God’s eternal purpose for you (experiencing perfect commu-
nity with him in Heaven), bringing the process full circle. You’re
closing the loop, coming back to where you were intended to be, using
God’s solution to reinstate his purpose for you. You’re choosing to be
with him and everything he is forever. You’re choosing Heaven. God
freely chose to want a relationship with you, and you freely choose to

45
Healing Hereafter

want a relationship with him. How could it work any other way?
Jesus confirms, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you,
the only true God” (John 17:3). It is argued that salvation is not
linked to intimately knowing God, simply because the phrase “personal
relationship” is not found in the Bible.24 But Jesus says otherwise, Paul
says otherwise (Philippians 3:8-11), and the Bible confirms with blunt
certainty that a person must know God to be saved (2 Thessalonians
1:8-9). Of course salvation is linked to a relationship with God! It was
the whole reason he bothered to save us in the first place! The kind
of Heaven where salvation does not involve community with God is
the manmade one, where doing x, y, and z somehow makes you good
enough to get in. Notice that God is uninvolved and unnecessary in
these kinds of manmade salvation, which is why he is largely absent
from the manmade Heavens that result. A lot of food, a lot of harps,
a lot of virgins, a lot of loved ones, a lot of clouds, and a lot of other
ethereal things, but not a lot of God.
Not so with the Godmade Heaven. “The throne of God and of the
Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will
see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no
more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the
sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for
ever and ever.” “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he
will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will
be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their
eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for
the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 22:3-5, 21:3-4).
God is present, active, and intimate in the Godmade Heaven, isn’t he?
Not off to the side, at the top of that big mountain over there, or only
available by phone, text, or e-mail if our harp strings break or our
virgins get a little too high-maintenance (please pardon my sarcasm!).
“God isn’t an absentee landlord who looks down from a great height
to see what his tenants are doing.”25 No way! He’s right alongside us
enjoying the bliss of perfection, just as we would expect from a God
who wants us to seek, reach out for, find, and know him.
Why else would he consistently use more and more intimate
imagery describing his relationship to us throughout history, from

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I Love It When a P lan Comes Together!

God to father to walking among us to brother to dwelling inside
us to the most personal relationship of all, a perfect spouse (Levit-
icus 26:12, Jeremiah 3:19, John 1:10-14, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews
2:11-12, Ephesians 5:31-32 with Revelation 2:9-10)! God’s purpose in
Heaven is not our entertainment; it’s to fulfill his purpose in creating
us. He made us to know him perfectly, and in Heaven we can finally
do exactly that. Heaven is an invention to match the intention. A
place to fit the purpose. Unlike self-help silent-God Heavens, the
Godmade one is there for a good reason; it makes perfect sense. Your
problem thwarts his purpose. Your punishment fits your problem. His
solution solves both your problem and your punishment. Your deci-
sion to depend on his solution closes the loop, so that God’s purpose
for you is realized together with him in Heaven. Party on Wayne,
party on Garth, or whatever your name happens to be!
I hope this excites you! Perhaps for the first time, whether you
consider yourself religious or not, this whole gospel thing is clicking,
things are fitting together, and something that never quite made
sense to you before is now much clearer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s
a whole lot left to explore. But especially for those who have been
either bored or bewildered by Christianity, I truly hope the message
of Jesus, the solution to humanity’s problem, is recapturing your
interest, especially when you compare it to your other options. But
maybe it is those other options that are keeping you from getting
excited about Jesus. Maybe your cultural ties to, longtime familiarity
with, or prior commitment toward another worldview makes it diffi-
cult to entertain Jesus as God’s solution, no matter how much sense
he makes. If so, let me thank you for reading this far. The time you’ve
been willing to devote to this book is evidence that you’re looking for
something you haven’t yet found. And when it is found, accepting it
inevitably involves an adjustment period, a change in how you think
and act. But the excitement in its discovery, the satisfaction in its
rationality, the wonder in its divinity, and the peace in its security are
well worth the investment!
For years I’ve spent huge quantities of my free time looking for
other better solutions. I enjoy reading authors who are most likely to
disagree with me, because I want to know my options, and I want to

47
Healing Hereafter

be challenged. I’ve read through and studied many sacred texts and
many secular tomes. I’ve pondered the persistent and popular while
entertaining the fresh and the fringe. After all, both you and I only
know with certainty of one shot we have to get this right! Certainly,
I still have things to learn and still have ideas to explore, and I will,
but one thing is consistent. It doesn’t get any better than Jesus, and
whatever is best deserves my devotion now, even as I keep learning.
Sometimes I might feel uncomfortable about what it means, but if
the solution of Jesus is better than what I’ve got, then he’s my best
shot at truth, at Heaven, and at God. The scope of this book is not
to meticulously examine every option out there, so we won’t. But I
actually encourage you to learn about them and consider them for
two reasons. First, you need to know the choices you have. Second,
the more you see how they stack up to Jesus, the more assured and
excited about him I think you’ll get! I know that societal norms, peer
pressure, and personal preference often sway you away from him;
trust me, I feel it too. However, your eternal purpose and destiny are
way too important to be determined by such transient and unreliable
factors.
But maybe you don’t have trouble getting excited about Jesus;
maybe you find it difficult to only get excited about Jesus. Sure, he’s
a great solution, but can’t there be other solutions at the same time?
Why can’t all paths lead to Heaven or God? Why can’t Jesus be found
in other worldviews besides Christianity? Love Wins, a book that asks
several similar questions, recalls the story of the ancient Israelites
after they escaped slavery in Egypt. They were in the desert on their
way to the land God promised them, and they ran out of water.
God does this funky miracle where Moses, their apparently very buff
leader, whacks a rock with his staff, and out flows water (Exodus
17:1-6). Speak softly and carry a big stick indeed! Centuries later, Paul
refers back to this rock, equating it with Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:1-
4). Because Paul identifies Jesus as Jesus in the New Testament and
the rock as Jesus in Exodus, it is argued that Paul must think the
message of Jesus can be found everywhere, in all worldviews. I’m not
sure how two places means everywhere, and if you currently adhere
to a belief system other than Christianity, you’re probably equally

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confused at how the biblical message of Jesus is being advertised in
your worldview. I always thought Paul equated the rock to Christ
because both saved God’s people from the hopelessness of certain
death; straightforwardly reading God’s words as they are stated
makes it unnecessary for us to repaint the Christian faith in other
ways we might like it to be.
Nevertheless, we are told, “as obvious as it is, then, Jesus is bigger
than any one religion.” “He will always transcend whatever cages
and labels are created to contain and name him, especially the one
called ‘Christianity.’”6 However, this term ironically means “the reli-
gion derived from Jesus Christ,” so any religion coming from him
can’t be bigger than Christianity, can it?27 Even so, some resist
accepting this. “People come to Christ in all sorts of ways.” “Some-
times people use his name; other times they don’t.”28 We’re told of
Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists finding Jesus without finding Chris-
tianity, a process called the “exclusivity on the other side of inclu-
sivity.”29 I call it confusing. How can people somehow find the solu-
tion of Jesus without Christianity, which is believing in the solution
of Jesus? And how can we still make sense of the existence of Hell in
this scenario, a place considered to be real by the author of this argu-
ment? Is it there to convince people who have already found Christ
without Christianity to really, truly find Christ within Christianity?
Or to punish them for finding Christ without Christianity because
they didn’t really, truly find Christ within Christianity? God wants to
reach and has great ways of reaching those from any belief system
who are open to Jesus’ message, but it has to be Jesus’ message, not
a Jesus’ message that’s not Jesus’ message, whatever that might mean.
Jesus doesn’t transcend Christianity; he teaches, embodies, and insep-
arably intertwines himself with Christianity. Being able to find God
by finding Christ without Christianity is no different than being able
to find God on any path without Christ at all.
This realization, of course, leads us to our next question: Why
can’t all paths, or at least some paths without Christ, lead to Heaven
or God? Three answers. First, it wouldn’t really make sense. Why
would God go through the trouble of creating (or allowing humans
to create) a seemingly endless number of solutions when Jesus takes

49
Healing Hereafter

care of the problem just fine, especially when several of them involve
multiple other gods or no God at all? Why would God ever endure
and sacrifice so much for one solution if most of the others would
be equally as effective and cost him nothing? Why would God accept
any solution that doesn’t fulfill his purpose for humanity and doesn’t
fix the problem of humanity, when he’s got one that does both? He
wouldn’t (Acts 4:11-12)! God makes sense. Multiple paths leading to
Heaven doesn’t. Second, even if this concept did make sense or even
if God was willing to accept it, it’s actually impossible. These solutions
or paths are mutually incompatible. Either there is a God, multiple
gods or no God. Either Jesus didn’t die, died and stayed dead, or died
and was resurrected. Either humans are purely physical beings or
physical and something else. Either there’s an eternal Hell/Heaven,
a non-eternal Hell/Heaven, or no Hell/Heaven. Either one of the
sacred texts is true or none of them are. Either one worldview’s moral
code is authoritatively correct or none of them are. Only one item
in each of these sentences can be true, because each irreconcilably
disagrees with the others. 2+2 can’t equal both 4 and 5. A few theo-
retical physicists or comic book fans out there might invoke alternate
universes or realities to argue otherwise, but the only universe and
reality they and I know we all exist in is this one, and here only one
of many mutually incompatible solutions can lead to God. We’d best
find the best one! Third, the concept of all paths leading to Heaven
is unnecessary. We’ve already seen that God’s solution of Jesus can
heal our hereafters quite well on its own, and we’re about to see that
he eagerly intends to advertise it to everyone, so that they can get
excited about it too. And if God gives everyone adequate access to the
best solution to their problem, why would they need anything else?

Humanity has a gargantuan problem—much worse than
toxic dishware—one we must understand that only God
can fix. His singular solution of Jesus to stunningly trans-
form sin, evil, and Hell into perfect community with him in
Heaven effectively removes the problem, but only if applied
before permanent damage is done. Let yourself love it when
his plan comes together!

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I Love It When a P lan Comes Together!

God the Father beckons a person to community with him while simulta-
neously recognizing her predicament. She is about to be permanently
separated from God by the problem of “I,” the rejection of knowing God
and what he’s all about in favor of what “I” considers to be better—knowing
not God and therefore evil. The just and logical consequence and punish-
ment is experiencing the evil of falling into separation from an existence
communing with God. Multiple worldviews—all made by humans with
good intentions—are offered as tools to fix the problem. However, aside
from them depending on the woman herself to actually perform the work
of salvation, all three are ineffective in solving the problem anyway. The only
other solution is Jesus, who via the cross can sever her from the problem of
“I” and its consequence, and he is ready to do so. However, she must freely
demonstrate the faith to move toward the wounded Jesus in order for him
to perform the actual work of salvation with the effectiveness of urgency.
There neither is nor needs to be any other way that will work.

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Part 3

The Ultimate Publicity Stunt
Healing Hereafter

“Hello?” “Hi, this is the (robotic female voice representing
the) American Red Cross. Our records indicate that you are
eligible for donating blood. Please contact your local Red
Cross donation center at 1-800-GIVELIFE to schedule an
appointment.” Click. Shocked, I check my calendar, as it
couldn’t possibly have been more than two or three weeks
since I last donated. Nope. 56 days on the dot. Every time.
These people mean business. Not only do they call me the
moment my last second of ineligibility has expired; they
send me a postcard too, complete with contact info for
the nearest blood drive! Shhh, I think they might even be
watching us right now . . .

Of course, as a physician who has often seen before my
very eyes how life-giving blood donation can be, I’m happy
to oblige. I make my way to ye ole fire station and explain
that I have refrained from having sex with anyone living in
Africa, took Accutane as a teen to conquer my infestation
of zits, forgot what the heck Babesiosis was as soon as my
second year of medical school was over, and most impor-
tantly, never had any brain coverings transplanted, not even
once. Then as long as I haven’t stuck myself with a needle
or spent five hours on Mexican soil during the previous year
(the latter being what disqualified me most recently), they
show me to my gurney and begin. From this point on, the
only disturbing thing about the process is the way the phle-
botomists hungrily stare at the venous pipelines bulging
from my forearm, especially when there’s a delicious assort-
ment of snacks and beverages sitting not ten feet from
them as a very serviceable alternative. I’m quite certain that
their skin shines when the sun hits it just right. Once the

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T he Ultimate P ublicity Stunt

needle’s in though, it’s smooth sailing. As the phlebotomists
are usually similar in age to me, the music they have playing
is always good stuff, and even if they forget I am there and
let me completely drain, at least I’d slip into the hereafter to
some good vibes. But they don’t, and that blood bag fills
up fast; after all, my body will do anything to get to unlim-
ited free Oreos and Nutter Butters! After the fifth or sixth
package (I wish), I leave with my sticker to place on my
calendar on the very day I will be shocked to learn that I’m
eligible yet again. Chalk up another pint of blood for the
Red Cross.

They’ve gotten through to me, and chances are good
they’ve gotten through to you as well. You can run, but you
can’t hide. They know where you are, and they will find a
way to reach you! Because they want to give life. Some-
times their publicity initiatives seem monotonously familiar,
annoying, and even intrusive, but in the end, the goal is to
give life to as many people as possible. And they certainly
make an admirable effort!

But it pales in comparison to the ultimate publicity stunt.
God himself has an initiative to publicize—the message of
Jesus. But unlike the Red Cross, he has the resources to
accomplish the goal of giving the greatest quality of life to
the greatest number of people possible, limited only by
their response, as we have come to understand. Anyone
can run, but no one can hide. He knows where you are,
and he will find a way to reach you—and every single other
person as well—with this message! Because he wants to
give you life . . .

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7

S o now you’re privy to God’s master plan and have heard how his
solution applies to you. You’ve been given exposure to the gospel,
but what about those who don’t have access to the solution of Jesus in
a way they are capable of comprehending during physical life (termed
“meaningful access” throughout this book)? What about people who
are too young or mentally unable to understand the plan even if they
do hear it? What about everyone who died before Christ provided a
way out? What about all those folks without meaningful access to
the gospel since then? Does God reach them with the gospel too,
and if so, how? Some argue that these questions are unanswerable
mysteries, but that we can trust that God’s got it all figured out, so
we don’t have to. “We so desperately want to answer these questions,
but the fact is that God has not revealed what he will or will not do
in these cases…the answers here are beyond our human capacity.”1 On
the contrary, we will find that God has revealed a great deal about
his approach to salvation for these folks, and what he says is quite
within our capacity to understand. Many people are content to write
off these issues as mysteries, but it is often only because they are not
motivated to discover all the options that the Bible offers them or
because the constraints of their current beliefs will not allow them to.
“We must never avert our eyes from those elements in it (Christianity)
which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling
or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need
to know.”2 We need to find answers to the above questions because
they cast doubt on God’s trustworthiness, goodness, consistency, and
rationality. Therefore, mystery is not an adequate response, and it is
not a necessary one either. We have the motivation to discover our
biblical options, and we’ve rejected any constraints except the Bible
itself. So let’s see what answers are available to us!
In answering questions regarding those without meaningful access
to the gospel, we will find that there are two extremes we must
avoid. The first is to assume that God automatically rewards people

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with eternity in Heaven without their ever having heard and accepted
his solution, the message of Jesus. We’ll explore the potential prob-
lems with this extreme in Chapter 8 when we talk about those who
die very young. The second is to assume that God condemns someone
to eternity in Hell without them ever having heard and understood
the solution of Jesus. For their purposes in this chapter, we’ll observe
two reasons this second extreme cannot be true.
We’ve plainly seen that God and his judgments must be just
(Deuteronomy 32:4, 1 Peter 2:23). For God to be partial, he must
violate his own nature and disown himself, things he cannot and
would never do (2 Timothy 2:13). “God does not show favoritism
(Romans 2:11),” and he reaffirms his disdain for partiality well
over twenty times in the Bible. “Do not pervert justice; do not
show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge
your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15). No judge who sets one person
free but sentences another to death, when both similarly committed
murder, would ever be considered impartial or fair in judgment! How
could God be just by including the option of Heaven in one person’s
sentence while only allowing another person the option of Hell, when
both are guilty of the same capital offense? He simply cannot if he is
to remain the God of the Bible.
Second, why on earth would God go through the limitation,
humiliation, and torture of becoming a man destined to die for
humanity if he didn’t plan on letting most of us know about it
anyway? That would be even more bewildering than someone sacri-
ficing everything to labor her whole life finding a cure for heart
disease, cancer, stroke, and AIDS, only to administer it to a small
group of people before taking the formula with her to the grave.
God makes sense. This doesn’t. God does not want only a minority
of lucky individuals to be saved. God “wants all men to be saved
and come to a knowledge of the truth,” willing “that everyone who
looks to Jesus and believes in him shall have eternal life” (1 Timothy
2:3-4, John 6:40). Obviously, God would not allow this desire to
be thwarted by a mere lack of exposure, education, or capability.
The ancient Mexican Mayans, the tribal modern Micronesians, the
myriad miscarriages, the mentally moribund, and the immobilized

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missionary with a flat tire are hardly insurmountable problems for
God. When it comes to who determines whether or not a person is
saved, there are only three possibilities: God, the individual himself,
or the people responsible for getting the gospel to that individual.
We now know and will continue to learn in Part 4 that God alone
doesn’t decide who is saved or not, and he is not willing to let the
success or failure of human evangelism to a person decide that either.
As is most just, loving, and logical, he allows people to freely make
the decision regarding their own salvation. To make this possible, he
will fairly get his message out and explain his solution to all before
he gets down to judging us. Let’s explore how he pulls off this ulti-
mate publicity stunt!
Jesus confirms that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in
the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will
come” (Matthew 24:14). It is extremely important to note that Jesus’
message will reach each person before “the end,” the “last day” of
judgment prior to our entrance into Hell or Heaven (John 6:40,
12:48), but not necessarily before a person’s death. What?!?! You
mean there’s time between physical death and final judgment to learn
and understand the gospel? Of course! For those who couldn’t have
done so while they were physically alive, how could God allow it to be
any other way? “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even
to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according
to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to
God in regard to the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). We see that it was always
part of God’s plan to make sure the gospel was known to those
who died long before Jesus’ solution was available! “For Christ also
suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring
you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the
Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to
the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when
God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being
built” (1 Peter 3:18-20). Jesus doesn’t just bust out of the grave, fly off
to the current heaven, and wait for all those lucky souls who were
born afterwards with the gospel neatly packaged solely for them.
Rather, he immediately shares his message with the spirits of those

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who were born and died beforehand, all the way back, before Moses,
before Abraham, before the Jews, and before the great flood, which
is the first biblical story we encounter following that of Adam and
Eve’s family! We’ll explore and validate this postmortem evangelism
a lot more throughout this part of the book, but for now you only
need to consider “a temporary resting place, in between bodily death
and bodily resurrection,” where God can get his gospel to all human
spirits who couldn’t get it here.3
And the spirits in 1 Peter 3 were not necessarily the goody-two-
shoes of their day (where did that expression come from anyway?),
as if Jesus wanted to preach only to the deceased who were most
likely to listen. No, he’s sharing God’s solution to a group including
those “who disobeyed” so badly that a flood was sent to reboot the
human race! “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human
race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the
thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord
regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his
heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:5-6). If there were ever people
God would be OK sending to Hell without giving them the gospel,
these would be them! But he’s not OK with that, is he? Not only
is he clearly not excited to send the flood; he makes sure these
folks get to hear the message of Jesus, just like everyone else. Paul
confirms that this option will be available to such people without
meaningful access to the gospel when he states that Jesus “died for
us so that, whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (dead), we may live
together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
Based on this substantial evangelistic effort and based on what
we know about God’s purpose for humanity, would he not also reveal
the gospel to those living after Jesus who weren’t able to access and
understand God’s solution for them? After all, the deceased who are
hearing the gospel in 1 Peter 4:6, those who lived before Jesus’ death
and resurrection, did represent all the folks who had no access to the
gospel up to that time. Of course he would reach such people, then
and now! And since he’s God, he can do this in all kinds of different
ways. He sends an angel to tell a Roman centurion how to mean-
ingfully access Jesus’ message (Acts 10) and uses a vision to bring

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the gospel to the people of Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). Even nowa-
days you might have heard accounts from missionaries—as I have
also—who are in remote places where Christians have never before
been to share God’s solution with the indigenous people, and yet the
missionaries find that these people do know at least some aspects
of God’s plan and Jesus’ message, often in significant detail! Paul is
right to long for the salvation of these folks, asking, “How, then, can
they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they
believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they
hear without someone preaching to them?” But he stops short of
saying that it is humans who do all the preaching, doesn’t he? Obvi-
ously, the news is so good and so vital that God decides to do a little
preaching himself. Now that would be a sermon I would want to
hear! “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed
to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). Whether alive or
dead, exposed or isolated, in utero or insane, and whether by humans
or by other means, God will be sure Jesus’ message gets to you before
your eternal fate is decided.
Keep in mind too that it is a human spirit—who a person really
and eternally is—that is being evangelized, not a body. God is not
going to be explaining to a deceased toddler why Jesus is the way,
nor will he be delineating his plan of salvation to a schizophrenic.
He’ll be communicating to and judging not their limited bodies, but
their spirits, which would be just as mature and capable as our own.
No one knows whether or not a person’s spirit can understand a
purely physical presentation of the gospel—such as hearing it from a
friend or seeing it written on a page—without a mature or functional
enough brain to relay the involved physical stimuli to that spirit. But
we do know that whatever physical response these individuals have
to the gospel is not necessarily the same response their spirits would
have, if unhindered by bodily limitations. In other words, just because
a person in a coma or with dementia doesn’t believe the gospel when
it’s physically presented to her (duh!) doesn’t mean her spirit wouldn’t
if the physical barriers were removed. The developmental or patho-
logic limitations these individuals’ bodies pose on them are only as
temporary as their bodies are, and no matter what, they will fully

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comprehend the choice that they’ve been given before they’re judged.
God is just and wants them to be saved. He’ll give them all the infor-
mation and understanding they need to make an informed, free-
willed decision.
For some of you this may be unsettling, as you have plenty of
meaningful access to the gospel, are quite capable of understanding
it, but have chosen not to accept it and close the loop on God’s
purpose for you. Biblically, you will not have another chance to do
so between your death and judgment. In the Bible this postmortem
opportunity is only offered to those without meaningful access on
earth to Jesus’ message. Everyone else has already been justly exposed
to the gospel and encouraged to accept it. For many of you this will
be very comforting, as you may have known people who, as far you
know, were never able to hear or understand God’s solution for them.
Be encouraged, God is just! You’ve gotten a chance to understand
the gospel; so will they. For others this may be a bit surprising, as
you had always believed that children or the mentally disabled or the
natives from whatever distant land you can think of—Africa seems
to be the most popular for some reason—were automatically saved
because they had no way to understand the gospel. This belief seems
to be most commonly applied to children, probably because people
tend to have a greater emotional reaction to the proposition of chil-
dren going to Hell, rather than the mentally ill or geographically
remote. Obviously, an impartial God would equally apply such auto-
matic salvation to all three groups if there were any way for him to
impartially apply it at all. There isn’t, “for God does not show favor-
itism” (Romans 2:11). He cannot offer automatic salvation to any or
all of these groups because it isn’t impartial to offer automatic salva-
tion to anyone in the first place (Deuteronomy 10:17).

8

T he belief that all children go to Heaven largely arises from what
was probably the same occurrence in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

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Children surround Jesus, and he tells his disciples, “Let the little chil-
dren come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not
receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”
(Luke 18:16-17). Aside from implying that there will be people who
will never enter God’s kingdom, Jesus is certainly not saying that all
children go to Heaven. The two requirements for Heaven he gives
here are receiving the kingdom of God and doing it “like a little child,”
not being a little child. Jesus clarifies what it is about being like a child
that’s important for salvation in Matthew 18:3-4. “Truly I tell you,
unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter
the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this
child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Clearly it’s not being a
child or becoming a child that’s being commended; it’s humility like a
child’s that gains us entrance into Heaven. We’ll discover in Chapter
19 that the faith God looks for to begin the salvation process is faith
that he can and will do what he says he will do, and that what he
says is the best. Is that not the same humble faith that children have
when they approach an adult, such as these children coming to Jesus?
Children approach adults in humility, desiring attention or help and
considering the adult to be trustworthy and to know what is best to
do. God requires that we have this same humble faith, not that we
shrink and suddenly become younger, although many of us would be
OK with that too!
Some point to 2 Samuel 12:15-23 to suggest that all deceased chil-
dren go to Heaven. 4-5 King David’s infant son is sick, so David spends
seven days fasting and praying. However, his servants come to him at
the end of this time and tell him that the child is dead. David says, “I
will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Since it is assumed that
David’s final destination is Heaven, the statement “I will go to him”
is sometimes taken to mean that he will meet his son there someday.
However, David could simply be saying that he’ll eventually join the
child in death. Additionally, David’s son would not have been in the
current heaven or Heaven yet anyway. Nor would he have been in
Hell. This part of the book is all about exploring where people go
immediately after they die, child or adult, and we’ll discover that it

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turns out to be none of these places! The Bible is clear that David
died but “did not ascend to heaven,” so even if he will go to his son,
this would not take place in the current heaven (Acts 2:29-35). More-
over, scholars confirm that neither David nor the beliefs of his culture
would have considered his son to have gone to the current heaven
or Heaven either.6 Therefore, this passage certainly cannot be used
to claim that all deceased children go to either of these postmortem
locales.
Another passage where automatic salvation of children is addressed
is 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, when Paul teaches that an unbelieving
spouse of a Christian is “sanctified” and that their children are “holy.”
What this passage means is by no means universally agreed upon,
but there are four things we can ascertain. First, Paul intently makes
it known in this chapter (uniquely in the Bible) that what he is saying
here is his personal opinion, not necessarily the words of God, so the
concept of children being holy, whatever it means, is Paul’s take on
the matter, which carries no more divine authority than your take or
mine. Second, Paul is clear in the last two verses that this passage
does not mean that being in a family containing a Christian auto-
matically gets you saved, which is what we would be assuming if holy
did mean saved. Third, holy is a term that simply means “set apart,”
applied to a huge variety of things throughout the Bible, such as
God, the Sabbath, plots of land, utensils, altars, hills, names, temples,
kisses, angels, and in our case, children. Since no other item on this
list can or needs to undergo salvation, we shouldn’t assume that
holy means saved for children either. Finally, the children are only
considered holy if there is at least one believing parent. “Otherwise,
your children would be unclean,” not holy. Unclean does not mean
damned, just as holy does not mean saved. And if holy did mean
saved, children of two unbelieving parents would not be either auto-
matically holy or saved. So if it has anything to say in the matter,
this passage actually proves that there is not automatic salvation for
all children.7
Two other references are sometimes thought to suggest a poten-
tial link between children and salvation. First, in Matthew 21:15-16,
Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2, “‘From the lips of children and infants you,

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Lord, have called forth your praise.’” To equate shouting “Hosanna
to the Son of David” with automatic salvation is a bit of a stretch.
My one-year-old infant son (at the time of this writing) thanks God
for plants, our house, and especially trucks. He helps us sing “Jesus
Loves Me” and “My God Is So Big,” and yes, he even exuberantly
shouts “Hosanna!” He is expressing gratitude to God as best he can,
but there is no justification, biblical or logical, to claim that he is
saved because of any of this. There are an awful lot of kids in church
choirs everywhere who grow up to be people nobody would consider
to be Christians, including themselves. Plus, “The heavens declare the
glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” “Every crea-
ture in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and
all that is in them” praises God (Psalm 19:1, Revelation 5:13). If all
that’s required for salvation is praising God, are the heavens, skies,
and every creature, including all humans, going to be saved too? Not
according to the Bible (2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1, Revelation 14:9-
11). Rather, it’s their very existence that reflects praise, a marvelous
testimony to God’s creative genius. When Matthew 21:15-16 is placed
in context, Jesus is simply saying that children and even infants can
praise God, so the disciples shouldn’t try to stop them. There is no
mention of salvation or Heaven anywhere. In the second reference to
children being linked to salvation, people argue that because the chil-
dren in Matthew 18:10 are accompanied by angels, and “angels serve
those who inherit salvation,” all children must be saved (Hebrews
1:14).8 The problem, of course, is that we are not told that all children
are accompanied by angels; only these particular ones. And Jesus is
clear that these specific youths “believe in me” (Matthew 18:6). They
are joined by angels and have inherited salvation because they have
put their faith in Jesus, not because they’re children.
Finally, we have a trio of passages demonstrating God’s involve-
ment in people’s lives even while they were still in the womb. In Jere-
miah 1:5 God knows Jeremiah before he is born. In Psalm 22:10,
David says that God has been his God from his mother’s womb. And
in Luke 1:15 the Holy Spirit comes upon John the Baptist whilst he
is yet a fetus. All of these verses, and particularly the last one, are
used to argue that all children are saved when they die.9 However,

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given that these three humans are among the most godly people in
the Bible, even if they are considered saved as young tots, there is
absolutely no reason to extrapolate this salvation to all children. We
know that a person is saved when the Holy Spirit comes to perma-
nently dwell in them. Salvation is always followed by this event, which
is why some hold that Luke 1:15 teaches that all children are saved (2
Corinthians 1:21-22, 5:5). But Ephesians 1:13-14 gives us two signifi-
cant prerequisites for receiving the Holy Spirit in this irrevocable way.
“You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth,
the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in
him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaran-
teeing our inheritance.” The fetuses above did not hear the message
of truth and certainly weren’t able to believe it; therefore, they could
not have been permanently indwelled with the Holy Spirit to guar-
antee their salvation. And there’s an even bigger problem. If all chil-
dren are marked with the “seal” of the Holy Spirit, “guaranteeing”
salvation, then every human would have to be saved. The Holy Spir-
it’s indwelling associated with salvation is a seal and a guarantee;
he will never leave that person. Neither the saved nor the Spirit
could ever go to Hell; it is a place for the unsaved where God is
absent. Therefore, the person who believes that Luke 1:15 teaches that
all children are automatically saved is forced to adopt universalism,
which is pervasively prohibited in the Bible (Matthew 7:13-14, John
14:6, Acts 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
Besides, it’s not hard to explain the state of these fetuses without
invoking in utero salvation anyway. In Jeremiah’s case, God knows
him before he’s born. Well of course he does; he did create him after
all! God has a pretty extensive understanding of all people before
they’re born, particularly if he has big plans for them, like he did
for Jeremiah, David, and especially John the Baptist. What we aren’t
assured of is that Jeremiah knew God at this time, so we have no
reason to believe that he is saved in the womb (John 17:3). Similarly,
David is also acknowledging that God knew him, protected him, and
was accomplishing his purposes for David since before he was born.
God was David’s God, overseeing his provision and plans for David,
even though David wasn’t able to hear this truth or believe it yet

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to be saved. As for John the Baptist, Luke 1:15 is just one of many
examples throughout the Bible of the Holy Spirit temporarily coming
upon humans—both saved and unsaved—to prompt a specific action
that God desired. This action of God’s Spirit is clearly different from
permanently indwelling a believer for salvation.
For instance, Bezalel was filled “with the Spirit of God” for the
singular purpose of bestowing skills of design, metallurgy, gemwork,
woodcraft, and teaching in order to build the tabernacle (Exodus
31:1-5, 35:30-33). Seventy elders traveling with the Israelites received
the Holy Spirit in order to prophecy in their camp. “When the Spirit
rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again,” proving
the transient presence of the Holy Spirit within them (Number
11:24-26). Likewise, “God changed Saul’s heart” and sends his Spirit
“powerfully upon him to prophecy,” but we know that this was not
connected with salvation, both because the Spirit comes on Saul
multiple times and because eventually “the Spirit of the Lord had
departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 10:10, 11:6, 16:13-14). Balaam was a
man who was summoned by a king to curse Israel, but “the Spirit of
God came upon him,” causing him to bless Israel instead (Number
23:27-24:9). Four times he prophesies, but only the third time are
we told that the Holy Spirit is involved, suggesting a transient pres-
ence. And since we learn later that he “practiced divination,” “loved
the wages of wickedness,” helped “entice the Israelites to sin,” and is
listed with people who end up in Hell, the temporary presence of the
Holy Spirit in a human who will not be saved is confirmed (Joshua
13:22, 2 Peter 2:15, Revelation 2:14, Jude 1:7-13). There are at least
fifteen other separate accounts within the Old Testament when the
Holy Spirit comes upon people, not to bring salvation, but to prompt
specific deeds of strength, deliverance, prophecies, or encouragement.
And these all occur prior to Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit
began permanently indwelling believers shortly after Jesus’ resurrec-
tion (Acts 2:1-4). The gestation of John the Baptist occurs before this
as well. So when taken in context with the rest of the Bible, Luke
1:15 simply shares that the Holy Spirit came upon John in utero, as
he came upon the folks above, to bring deliverance by introducing
Jesus to the world, to both fulfill and induce prophecy, and to prompt

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encouragement—also via transient filling with the Holy Spirit—with
the best news the world has ever received (Luke 1:63-79). The only
“salvation” evident in these verses is through Jesus, not through the
Holy Spirit’s presence in John the fetus.
There is another big problem with automatic pediatric salvation.
Three children are said to have been brought back to life in the Bible,
two in the Old Testament by Elijah and Elisha and one by Jesus (1
Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:20-37, Mark 5:35-43). If all of these chil-
dren went to the current heaven when they died, as some argue, isn’t
it at least a little cruel to bring them back to life on earth? Given his
words regarding children above, Jesus would be especially unlikely
to tease them with a few minutes of heavenly bliss before yanking
their spirits back here. He would be forcing a child dwelling with
God in perfection to come back to earth where they would more than
likely live beyond some age of accountability, after which they might
very well reject the gospel! Unless all three of these resurrected chil-
dren eventually demonstrated the faith associated with salvation as
adults, one or more of them is going to end up in Hell. Bringing
them back to life would have actually played a key role in converting
their destiny from Heaven to Hell! Do you think Jesus—or Elijah and
Elisha if they knew—would have taken this chance with these kids,
especially when it would seem better to bring back a condemned
adult from Hell for a second chance instead? Like with David’s son
above, we’ll find that these kids went to a place besides the current
heaven when they died, a place where their salvation was yet to
be determined. This is why it was inconsequential for them to be
brought back to life on earth, where their salvation was also yet to be
determined.
Please know that I understand the emotional reasons for hoping
those who don’t have meaningful access to the gospel are automat-
ically saved, especially if you’ve lost a child. But think about the
implications if it were true. If all children before some arbitrary age
of accountability, all individuals with chronic, severe psychological
handicaps, and/or all other people disconnected from the gospel were
automatically saved, then abortion, extreme neglect or euthanasia of
the mentally incapacitated, and horrific disasters such as the 2004

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tsunami in Aceh would actually be the most good and compassionate
events describable. The sooner the earthly existence of anyone who
gets a free ticket to Heaven comes to an end, the less suffering and
pain they’ll have to endure here on earth and the quicker they’ll enter
into perfection. Tragically, some have killed others so that the latter
could be free from earthly suffering. Although absolutely inexcusable,
the perpetrators were simply carrying out to its logical conclusion the
belief that the victims got a special pass to Heaven.
But even more importantly, giving anyone automatic admit-
tance into the current heaven forces God to violate his nature and
be unjust. To save some no matter what while allowing others to
spend forever in Hell is anything but impartial, isn’t it? It’s favor-
itism, perhaps of the least onerous kind, but favoritism nonetheless.
And in the case of children, when do they lose their free ticket to
Heaven? Some offer an age, such as 12, and others say it’s different
for every child, depending on how much they understand. But what-
ever day it is, if they die that day and haven’t accepted Christ, will
God really condemn them eternally to Hell, when death one day
earlier would have landed the same kid with the same beliefs about
the gospel in the current heaven? Of course not! The Bible actually
details the salvation process for children and those in remote places,
and unsurprisingly for a just God, it turns out to be exactly the same
as for anyone else. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the
name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your
children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will
call.” He doesn’t automatically call those who are less than 12 or live
in some remote corner of Asia (or Africa if that’s what you’re used
to); he calls those who will repent. In the end, with humble faith like
a child, we will all need to reject our sin via the solution of Jesus
to be forgiven. This is why Samuel, who if anyone would have been
a shoe-in for automatic salvation as a child, “did not yet know the
Lord”—a prerequisite for salvation—because “the word of the Lord had
not yet been revealed to him” (1 Samuel 3:7, John 17:3). He was a
boy, his entire life had been devoted to God, but he was not yet saved
because God hadn’t been revealed to Samuel yet in a way that he

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could accept or reject. This revelation would occur during physical life
for those who have meaningful access to the information they need or
between physical death and judgment day for those who don’t.
Our emotions are not the only reason we feel drawn to accept a
concept that is biblically problematic. We are also taught these concepts
by those who we perceive to have authority. Unfortunately, such
authority does not necessarily translate to accuracy, and our experien-
tial and emotional biases are always at work to sway us from biblical
teaching.10 For example, in Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, you can almost feel
the tension between his desires and his knowledge of God’s words. He
admits that children need to but can’t be saved without faith in Christ.
He quotes others in agreement. He acknowledges that the Bible makes
no reference to an age of accountability. He rejects the universalism
that is forced by the automatic salvation of children. He is “concerned”
and has written specifically about “the dangerous aspects” of this
doctrine. He even asks the question that may have lingered in your
mind while reading this chapter: “If children do go to heaven when
they die, then why doesn’t God tell us that directly?” Both he and the
reader seem primed and ready to reject this concept. And then in an
inexplicable total reversal, especially in the light of everything we’ve
reviewed above, he concludes, “I believe God makes a special provision
for children to welcome them into heaven.” How is this possible given
everything he’s just conceded? He doesn’t tell us. Instead, he appeals
to our emotions, envisioning a heaven where “many people will meet
with their children who were aborted or their children who died in
miscarriages,” “reunited with children who died at an early age” who
“will grab our hands and show us around the present heaven” and
exist in a place where “we’ll enjoy each other’s company” and “experi-
ence it’s wonder together.”11 Of course, this sounds pleasant, and we
all might think we want to believe it, but there are many things people
want to believe about the Bible that it clearly does not condone. And
do we really want to believe in automatic pediatric salvation anyway?
Its unavoidable consequences are not as dispensable as Heaven portrays
them, are they?*

*  Randy Alcorn offers many valuable insights regarding Heaven and many
other topics, and I mean no disrespect to him, as elaborated upon here. 12

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In actuality, this doctrine is far from harmless or compassionate.
It proves itself wrong, misrepresents the Bible, mandates univer-
salism, enables children’s destinies to be switched from Heaven to
Hell, provides horrifically logical reasons for killing children and
billions of others, and violates God’s nature! This list should go a
long way in removing most—if not all—of automatic pediatric salva-
tion’s emotional appeal. All of these reasons are precisely why God
doesn’t tell us directly that every child goes to Heaven. That being
said, I certainly understand that you still may have in your mind a
little one whom you love dearly but have lost. If it’s still emotion-
ally difficult to acknowledge that there’s no automatic pass to the
pearly gates, it may help to remember that it wouldn’t be a child or
mentally-handicapped individual going to Hell or the current heaven.
It would be a spirit, one as “adult” as yours, just within a body that
didn’t get a chance to physically function as an adult. Separating
your physical perception of a person—the last memory you have of
them—from their true, eternal identity as a human spirit is crucial to
emotionally understanding why God judges them and us the same.
This impartiality doesn’t mean that the child you thought was in the
current heaven all this time is really in Hell. It simply means that his
spirit, which is just as mature and capable as yours, will be judged
according to the same standard that you are. Just as you would not
show favoritism to one of your children over another, simply because
they’ve lived different lengths of time, so God does not show favor-
itism to his children either (Acts 10:34-35). And in the end, isn’t that
as it should be, truly the best way? Absolutely! Our just God must
give us all the same choice, the same solution, and enough informa-
tion to leave us without an excuse. And once we finish this part of
the book, we’ll know exactly how he does just that.

9

T he biblical notion of giving the unevangelized dead exposure to
the gospel may be a new and exciting possibility to you, but

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perhaps you are wondering why it would even be necessary. Why
do people without meaningful access to the gospel, such those who
lived before Jesus, who were isolated from available information
about Jesus, who died too young to understand him, or who were
mentally incapable of comprehending the gospel, even need to be
saved? The answer’s easy with the first two groups, as these folks
are all quite capable of choosing to sin and know evil, and they
have done so. Moreover, God has revealed to humanity enough about
himself and what he values, both through the world around us and
through our ability to morally reason, that we have no excuse when
choosing to sin and know evil. This is often called God’s general
revelation and is stated most clearly in Romans 1:18-20. Importantly,
this revelation cannot and was never meant to convey the gospel, so
no one is going to be sent to Hell because they didn’t accept Jesus’
message that was not so obviously apparent through creation and
moral reasoning alone. Rather, the purpose of general revelation is
essentially to give us a conscience, leaving us without the excuse that
we can’t be blamed for sin because we didn’t know what sin was. If
you can process the world around you and morally reason, you have
no excuse for opting to sin and know evil. Even when people who are
not exposed to God’s decrees “do by nature things required by the
law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the
law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their
hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts
sometimes accusing them” (Romans 2:14-15).
But while this may generally apply to humans, has the stillborn
fetus or the deceased lifelong severely mentally handicapped person
chosen to sin? Are they imperfect? We don’t see any physical demon-
stration of sin, although their spirits within them may choose to do
so. Remember, the true selves of these people are not bodies bobbing
in amniotic fluid or motionless in a coma; they are free-willed spirits,
perfectly capable of sinning. It is the spirit, not the body, which
would provide the tenacious originality to will to choose evil. And if
these spirits do go somewhere between physical death and final judg-
ment, at which time Jesus preaches his message to them, they will
have both the means and plenty of time to sin, won’t they?

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But there is a much more immediate reason these people need
God’s salvation anyway. When the first two fully human beings were
formed—the first created in God’s image with a free-willed spirit—
they used that will to choose to know evil. God’s just punishment
was also the consequence of their choice, existing within a phys-
ical realm that immerses humans in an imperfect experience of evil.
Humans can’t fully know and understand evil without being exposed
to it in an imperfect environment. That is why God curses the ground
in response to human sin (Genesis 3:17-19). It’s not that he doesn’t
like the ground or that the ground did wrong. He approves of the
world that he made and is quite unhappy with those who destroy it
(Genesis 1:31, Revelation 11:18). Rather, the ground is one mecha-
nism that God uses to bring about his just punishment on humans.
He curses the land because not being able to grow food and having
crops overrun by thorns and thistles, despite great labor and toil,
is a very tangible part of humans experiencing the evil they want
to know, and it continues to be today. Any way that nature inflicts
suffering on us, whether small like mosquito bites or large like earth-
quakes, is a way that the world has become an imperfect place for
humans experiencing evil. Adam and Eve were banished from the
perfect natural balance in the garden to the disease and disaster-
ridden natural imbalance outside of the garden. Wherever they went,
the world that they lived in was now imperfect or cursed because the
consequence and punishment for their sin was to know and under-
stand evil, whether it was evil that they were experiencing or evil
that they were inflicting. Everything that arises from such an imper-
fect world will also be imperfect.
Humans are no exception. When God creates a human spirit and
joins this “inmost being” with a human body for physical life at
conception (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5), that human being—body and
spirit—exists subject to and within the confines of an imperfect world,
exposed to the human knowledge and understanding of evil. From
fertilization to funeral, imperfection is always at work in our bodies,
spirits, motives, thoughts, and actions. Our bodies are immediately
vulnerable to the experience of evil and death by disease or other
means, and they remain susceptible to accident or ailment as long

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as they live. Our spirits are also trapped within a world of knowing
and understanding evil, the only filter through which they gain infor-
mation and the only context in which they can process it. There-
fore, this part of us imbued with free will is predisposed to sin and
is inclined to experience evil and understand it in whatever way it
is capable, even if that can never be physically expressed to others.
Every parent knows how shockingly early children exhibit disobe-
dience and rebellion. As I write this, my son is 19 months old, and
as great a kid as he is, his tendency toward defiance and choosing
to experience anything other than his father’s will is obvious. That
sounds exactly like our description of sin, doesn’t it? “Surely I was
sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm
51:5). “Humanity, once having chosen selfishness, was bent in that
direction.”13 Knowing evil is every person’s modus operandi, our MO, or
our mode of operating for those of you who really dislike Latin. This
imperfection is reflected in our motives, thoughts, and actions contin-
uously, and without some sort of extraterrestrial injection of perfec-
tion to redirect us, our MO will never change.
This inclination toward evil bears the theological terms “sinful
nature,” “original sin,” or for those looking for a real pick-me-up,
“total depravity!” Since only the first is a term you’ll see in the Bible,
we’ll stick with that one. Different connotations may come to mind
when you read “sinful nature,” so let me explain what I mean by it.
Every free-willed human that has been born was born after Adam
and Eve sinned, so essentially all humans are physically and spiritu-
ally imperfect, inclined to think and act to know and understand evil.
They naturally sin; they have a sinful nature. “The Lord saw how
great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth,
and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was
only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).  The concept of a sinful nature is
very often assumed or taught, but without any rationalization for why
it exists in the first place. I don’t know that the explanation provided
above is right, but at least we have one, and I hope it makes sense
to both of us. However, as our sinful nature may still be either too
unfamiliar or too familiar to you, I’d like to make four clarifications
to clear up any confusion.

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First, the sinful nature is not a state of guilt that was inherited
from Adam and Eve through some sort of spiritual DNA that “passes
on to one’s children.”14 Adam and Eve’s sinning spirits did not have
spiritual sex that made little Cain, Abel, and Seth sinful spirits in a
spiritual uterus. We don’t have a sinful nature because Adam, Eve,
or our parents did. We are imperfect and inclined to evil because we
are entities that arose in a world that is an imperfect experience of
evil. Adam and Eve were originally responsible for that world, as it
was made imperfect so that they could know and understand the evil
that they had chosen, which is why “the result of one trespass was
condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). But every human after
them—including you and me—continually perpetuates that imperfec-
tion multiple times a day.
Second, the sinful nature is not a distinct component of our being,
like a spiritual spleen. We have a body and a spirit, the latter being
similar to the soul or mind. A being’s nature is not a discrete part of
it; it’s what that being is all about, what characterizes it. When we
talk about God’s nature, we don’t speak of organs; we speak of attri-
butes, like mercy, justice, and love. These are what God is all about,
the inclinations that guide his actions—his MO. The human sinful
nature is imperfection inclined toward evil; it’s all about under-
standing and knowing evil.
Third, our sinful nature does not force us to sin. It is a predispo-
sition to sin. Our free will is ultimately responsible for sin, but our
sinful nature makes it a lot harder for our free will to say no. So we
cannot blame Adam and Eve for our sin; we can only blame them
for making it more difficult to reject sin. However, every time we sin,
we perpetuate the imperfection of our world, which helps to perpet-
uate sinful natures in those born after us, who can then blame us
for the same thing. This difficulty rejecting sin is why humans will
never live perfect lives, despite their best efforts. “For I know that
good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I
have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do
not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this
I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19).  Is there any human who doesn’t
identify with this struggle? No, because we all have a sinful nature!

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This evil inclination is also why God sending his Spirit to dwell in
Christians is so crucial. Our sinful nature remains when we become
Christians, but we are to “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to
your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5). “For if you live according to the
sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the
misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). “So I say, live by
the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the
Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16-17). The
Holy Spirit is the injection of perfection from outside our imperfect
world that allows us to much more successfully break free of our
inclination to evil caused by our world. He frees us from our MO to
operate according to God’s MO—God’s attributes and inclinations.
Fourth, although our sinful nature is not responsible for our sin,
its imperfection and evil inclinations disqualify every human being
from Heaven. A place of perfect community with God cannot include
spiritual imperfection and evil inclination (we would have shed our
physical imperfection by then). So even before an individual has used
his free will to sin, his sinful nature has already sealed his need for
God’s solution of Jesus and the permanent indwelling of the Holy
Spirit. Why do you think this solution had to be God in human
form? Only a divine human, conceived by the Holy Spirit and able
to reason and act independently of the imperfect filter by which we
gain and process information offered by this earthly experience, could
be a reliable sinless savior without a sinful nature, one deserving of
Heaven (Matthew 1:20-21). Jesus did not have a sinful nature and
never chose to sin; therefore, he is perfectly capable of saving us.
The rest of us all possess sinful natures and imperfect spirits, unfit
for Heaven because there can be no tainted perceptions of God and
good and no inclination toward evil present there to mar its perfec-
tion. This is the primary reason that those who die very young or
those who die with lifelong mental incapacitation are not perfect
and need a way to understand and accept the message of Jesus to
be made perfect. Besides, whether their spirit chooses to sin during
physical life or between death and judgment, their sinful nature
certainly inclines them to do so at any time. They will eventually sin

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anyway—as we all have—but their sinful nature makes them imper-
fect regardless, disqualified for Heaven. They need God’s postmortem
preaching!

10

O K, maybe the babies and brain-injured among us don’t get
special treatment, still needing the solution of Jesus for multiple
reasons. But perhaps you feel that God doesn’t teach the gospel to
some humans after death because he gives everyone, including the two
parties above, enough information while they are alive to make an
informed salvation decision without an excuse. Others of you might
believe that God has selected those who will be saved before he even
created the universe. In both cases, a person’s eternal fate is always
fixed before they physically die, never after. These are popular beliefs
and conflict with what I’ve shared above, so let’s spend some time
on them. We’ll consider the first scenario here and cover the second
scenario in Part 4.
The following is primarily why some folks argue that everyone
gets enough information during physical life to make their decision
about Jesus’ message before they die, whether they actually hear it
or not. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all
the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by
their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to
them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation
of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine
nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has
been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20). “He
has not left himself without testimony: he has shown kindness by
giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides
you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17).
These verses describe the general revelation introduced to you in
the last chapter that God gives to anyone who can witness creation
and morally reason. Its purpose is to leave us with a conscience and

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without the excuse of sinning guiltlessly. Obviously, our sinful nature
establishes our imperfection too, both for those able and unable to
experience creation. But some include the gospel (God’s special reve-
lation, if you will) in this general revelation, simply because “what
may be known about God is plain” to humans in creation. No need
for anyone to receive additional information between death and judg-
ment, which would mean that all people are without an excuse to
reject Jesus’ message by the time they kick the bucket, including
babies, the mentally disabled, and those for whom the word Jesus is
completely meaningless.
But isn’t it quite a stretch to assume that simply learning about
God’s power, nature, and kindness automatically bestows a full under-
standing of specifically what Jesus has done for us in the gospel? Not
to mention the fact that fetuses and the chronically and severely
brain-injured aren’t able to meaningfully witness this physical creation
or morally reason, so they wouldn’t have meaningful access to Jesus’
message even if it were somehow apparent in God’s general revela-
tion. The key to distinguishing learning about God through the world
around us and learning about God’s solution of Jesus is to understand
exactly what the excuse is that general revelation leaves us without.
When able humans experience “what may be known about God” in
creation, they no longer have the excuse to sin without guilt; their
exposure to the world and their ability to morally reason within it
gives them a conscience that convicts them, whether they respond
appropriately to that conviction or not (Romans 2:12-15). However,
general revelation, in and of itself, does leave humans with the excuse
of not believing the gospel, because it does not specifically communi-
cate the gospel to enable them to believe it. So because every capable
human learns about God’s power, nature, and kindness through
creation, the excuse for their “godlessness and wickedness” to escape
“the wrath of God” is gone, but God will not exercise that judgment
of Hell on them until he has specifically taught them his solution of
Jesus, which only then leaves them without the additional excuse of
having no meaningful access to that solution to respond to.
And that is exactly what Paul is arguing as he elaborates on the
specifics of these excuses in Romans 1:18-2:16. His readers “have no

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excuse” to “pass judgment on someone else” because general revelation
has left both the accuser and the accused equally guilty, as they sin
and “do the same things” (Romans 2:1). Rejecting the gospel is not
one of these same things that both parties do to leave them without
an excuse, because Paul’s readers are Christians in Rome who have
accepted the gospel (Romans 1:7)! But both parties have inexcus-
ably, knowingly sinned, given what they’ve learned about God from
creation and given their ability to morally reason. General revelation
exposes the guilt of humanity’s sin, not the guilt of snubbing God’s
solution to that sin. Therefore, God does not teach humans the gospel
during physical life simply by their exposure to the physical world.
After all, God’s wrath and judgment are being applied to the
specific people in Romans 1:18-2:16 not only because they defied God’s
general revelation by inexcusably sinning, but because they rejected
the gospel as well! These are individuals “who suppress the truth by
their wickedness,” “did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowl-
edge of God,” and “neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks
to him.” Paul goes on to describe the “shameful” and “depraved”
actions that characterize this distinct group of people. “Although they
know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death,
they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of
those who practice them.” Obviously, these attributes are not appli-
cable to humanity as a whole, especially the vast majority of people
without meaningful access to Jesus’ message. Those who “know God’s
righteous decree” that sin deserves death have both received God’s
general revelation of a moral conscience and learned at least part
of his special revelation of the gospel. In contrast, those who can’t
suppress this truth because they have no knowledge of God to refuse
can, at best, only recognize God’s general revelation in creation. Indi-
viduals who have always been mentally incapacitated don’t suppress
God’s truth, those separated from the gospel by time or place can’t let
go of the knowledge of God’s gospel that they don’t have, and infants
don’t voluntarily refuse to glorify God or thank him (although they
are occasionally less than thankful toward their parents!). For God to
be just to these groups of people, he has to specially reveal his solu-
tion to them in a way other than learning about him solely through

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his physical creation.
God could bypass their body and brain completely, communicating
the gospel to their spirit directly while they were alive, but can a
spirit associated with a body detect such communication independent
of the body? What has God demonstrably taught your spirit without
using some sort of physical stimulus? And if God can bypass some
people’s bodies to talk with their spirits, why not do that with all of
us? God appealing to our physical bodies through a physical creation
would seem quite unnecessary, wouldn’t it? And at least in the case of
a mentally handicapped person, even if their spirit did believe in what
God taught it directly, it would have no way of bodily applying the
gospel in physical life, as their unhealthy brain wouldn’t make that
connection possible, so what would the point be? It makes a lot more
sense to believe that while our spirit is associated with our bodies, it
can only respond to a physical presentation of God’s solution, which
means that a just God must reach those who have no meaningful
access to such a presentation sometime after their spirit has left their
bodies. Between death and judgment. And since we already know
that God reaches postmortem spirits in the Bible anyway, this comes
as no surprise.

11

I ’ve repeatedly alluded to a period between a person’s death and
the day when everyone is judged, which begs an obvious question:
what happens immediately after we die? Perhaps you believe quite
fervently that the Hitlers, Stalins, and bin Ladens of the world took
a non-stop flight to burn in Hell forever when their corpses gave up
the ghost. Or maybe you were under the impression that your beloved
spouse, your best friend, or your revered great-grandmother has been
watching you from the current heaven above ever since their lives
here came to a close. Although such ideas may bring a sense of
justice, peace, and security, these feelings often unfortunately confuse
the portrait God paints about our first stop in the hereafter. In fact,

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we will learn that the Bible persistently teaches that human beings
do not go to either Hell or the current heaven (or the New Earth)
immediately after dying. For those that are surprised to hear this, I
assure you, it sounds more radical than it really is. By the end of this
part of the book, I think you’ll agree that what I’m proposing is not
much different from the common notion that right after death, those
destined for Hell go somewhere hellish and those destined for Heaven
go somewhere heavenly, where they can remember and observe the
living. So if the next few chapters present new or foreign ideas to
you, remind yourself that they will conclude on a relatively familiar
note—but also on a more biblically consistent and logically powerful
note. The interval between life on earth and life in our eternal desti-
nations clearly does exist in the Bible and for several good reasons,
not the least of which is to allow us to answer yet more crucial ques-
tions concerning the afterlife that we couldn’t otherwise. And of all
the people who would know the answers, Jesus has the most to say.
Regarding those who had already died, Jesus says, “No one has
ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the
Son of Man” (John 3:13). When Jesus—who called himself the Son
of Man—spoke these words, he was the only human who had been
to the current heaven. Regarding his followers who would die after
that time he says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but
you will follow later” (John 13:36). Jesus would soon ascend to be
with God the Father, where his disciples can’t go yet, but they will
follow later. Why can’t they go yet, and when will they be able to
go? Jesus explains, “A time is coming when all who are in their
graves will hear God’s voice and come out—those who have done
what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil
will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29). “For my Father’s will is
that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have
eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).
God “has set a day when he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31), and
all who have died before then will be raised on that last day to be
judged. In Hebrews 11 we are given a long list of individuals who
were commended for great faith in God to their dying day and who
were looking forward to being with him. “They were longing for a

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better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be
called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” “These were all
commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been
promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only
together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:16, 39-40).
We know that you can’t go to the current heaven until you’ve been
made perfect, so as long as there will be saved people on earth who
haven’t been made perfect yet and accepted into the current heaven,
the folks in Hebrews haven’t yet either. We don’t find the “righteous
made perfect” until they dwell in the “heavenly Jerusalem” of the New
Earth after judgment day (Hebrews 12:22-23, Revelation 21:1-4)! So
far, God’s words seem to contradict an immediate postmortem trip to
the current heaven.
But some argue that since “the dust returns to the ground it came
from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it,” people’s spirits
must go to the current heaven upon dying, while their bodies remain
on earth to be resurrected later (Ecclesiastes 12:7).15 However, the
passages in the last paragraph don’t merely speak of dead bodies being
raised, they clearly refer to whole people, body and spirit, human
beings rather than human bodies. After all, decomposed bodies can’t
“hear God’s voice and come out,” right (John 5:28-29)? Only sentient
spirits can. Moreover, there is no distinction in Ecclesiastes 12:7
between spirits going to the current heaven and those going to Hell.
If this verse teaches that spirits do go to the current heaven right
when they die, then all of them do, and nobody goes to Hell. As
we have learned and will continue to learn, the Bible unequivocally
excludes this interpretation, so the only other possibility is that all
spirits return to God at some other time besides immediately after
physical death. There is only one biblical example of such an inclu-
sive gathering, and that is judgment day, when Jesus—God the Son—
separates those going to Hell and those going to Heaven. “When the
Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will
sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before
him, and he will separate the people one from another.” The unsaved
“will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal
life” (Matthew 25:31-32,46). So our physical bodies do return to the

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ground and decay when we die, but our spirits don’t return to God
until judgment day.*
Jesus promises his disciples that he is going to the current heaven
to prepare a place for them. “And if I go and prepare a place for
you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may
be where I am” (John 14:3). His disciples don’t go to be with him
until after the second coming of Jesus, not before. Human salvation
is only “ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-6). Paul
confirms this. “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be unin-
formed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like
the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus
died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with
Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s
word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until
the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have
fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven,
with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the
trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that,
we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with
them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be
with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these
words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Note that the only human to “come
down from heaven” is Jesus, which means that no other humans
were in the current heaven to descend with him and meet us, even
though some claim this.18 God will not send with Jesus those who
have fallen asleep in him; he will “bring” them to Heaven with Jesus
after they are resurrected. The text even directly parallels their resur-
rection, which brings them to Heaven, with Jesus’ resurrection prior
to his ascension, which brings him to the current heaven. Jesus does
not resurrect in spirit, leave his body behind, and go to the current
heaven, thereby enabling our spirits to leave our bodies behind upon
dying and go there too. Jesus resurrects in his imperishable body to
go to the current heaven, enabling our spirits to be resurrected in our

*  If you’re wondering if people who were brought back to life in the Bible
were able to go to the current heaven or if Jesus’ resurrection enables humans
to go there before judgment day, you’ll find this helpful. 16

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imperishable bodies to go to Heaven on the last day. He and we go
respectively to the current heaven or Heaven after our bodily resurrec-
tion; we don’t come from these places to be resurrected into imperish-
able bodies. Every single human except Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-
18, whether dead or living, is “caught up together,” for the purpose
of meeting Christ; they’re not meeting any other humans. You don’t
“sleep in death,” get “caught up,” or “meet the Lord in the air” if you
were already there with him, right? When Jesus returns to judge
humanity, those who end up in Heaven—whether they were already
dead or still living—go there together. Jesus himself confirms this in
Matthew 25:31-32. There are angels with him when he comes, but
no humans, just as there are angels with Jesus in the current heaven
now, but no humans (1 Peter 3:21-22).
What about those whose ultimate destination isn’t Heaven? They
also must wait until the last day. “For if God did not spare angels
when they sinned, but sent them to Tartarus (a place we’ll address
further in Chapter 15) putting them in chains of darkness to be held for
judgment…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials
and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment”
(2 Peter 2:4-9). One passage even gives us examples of those who
are saved and those who are not both having to wait to be judged
together. Jesus reminds us of the people of Nineveh, the capital of
Assyria, and then the Queen of Sheba, a land south of Israel in what
is believed to be modern Yemen or Ethiopia. After getting puked up
by a fish, the prophet Jonah finds the typically wicked Ninevites ready
to turn to God (Jonah 1:1, 2:10-3:10). Likewise, after the Queen of
Sheba saw the Israelite King Solomon’s wisdom, she worshipped God
(1 Kings 10:1-9). Comparing these people to some of his contempo-
raries, Jesus claims, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment
with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching
of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen
of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn
it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s
wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew
12:41-42). Remember that this judgment is the day when all humans
are resurrected to be resigned to their eternal abodes of Gehenna or

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the New Earth, and now we know that it doesn’t happen right after
each of us dies.
Scholars and philosophers agree. In the “two-stage process” of the
afterlife, “resurrection isn’t life after death; it is life after life after
death.”19 “Eternal life could only mean the body coming back to life
on judgment day,” when the righteous dead “wake up to enjoy a
kingdom of God.”20 This just makes sense. Obviously, we don’t all die
at even remotely the same time, and it’s clear from multiple verses
above that there is only one judgment day. We won’t know when it is
until it comes—only God knows that—but it will come, and we will all
be resurrected to participate in it (Matthew 24:35-36). As the Bible,
scholars, and philosophers concur, despite the common belief amongst
Christians that “they’ll ‘go directly to heaven’ when they die,” “the
orthodox monotheisms actually teach that the trip to the next world
is a two-part journey. You go somewhere when you die. And then
you go to another place at the end of the world.”21 We live, we die, we
wait, we rise, we are judged, and lastly we go to our final destination
(and unlike the movie series, it really is final).

12

T he Bible is quite clear about the postmortem process that humans
undergo, but there are some folks that seem to be an excep-
tion to this rule. Some of you may have been waiting very patiently
for me to address them, and now I will. Let me remind you that
I don’t claim my words below to be truth, and the circumstances
surrounding some of these folks are uncertain, regardless of what
conclusion is drawn. I only desire to find the most logical explanation
that remains consistent with everything the Bible says, and I hope
you’ll agree that what we end up with does exactly that. We have
accounts of three individuals in the Bible who may have gone to the
current heaven while still alive and five examples of those who seem
to have been headed there immediately after they died.
The first three are Paul, Elijah, and Enoch. Paul, speaking of

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himself anonymously, “was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it
was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And
I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I
do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard
inexpressible things” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). There were at least three
levels of heaven in the Jewish mindset: the earth’s atmosphere, outer
space, and the highest heaven where God and his angels dwell, the
third heaven (Luke 2:14).22 Lucky Paul gets an actual glimpse of what
this heaven of heavens is like, although he is hazy on the details of
how it all went down (or up in this case). Because of this uncertainty,
because this getaway wasn’t in any way connected with Paul’s death,
and because Paul obviously resumed his physical existence to write to
us about it afterwards, it’s doubtful that this account has anything to
say at all about whether or not people go to the current heaven right
after they die, isn’t it? For similar reasons, the same is true regarding
John being “in the Spirit” as he received his vision of the current
heaven in Revelation 4:2.
Well, what about Elijah, the great prophet of Israel? As he
passed on the prophet torch (or prophet cloak as it were) to his
young apprentice Elisha, “Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind”
(2 Kings 2:11). Very cool! But which heaven? There are three types!
Did the whirlwind take him up to the sky, to outer space, or to the
third heaven? Unless Elijah was a closet diehard Trekkie, he probably
wasn’t beamed up to outer space, and we have five very good reasons
why heaven here simply means sky. First, we are told that Elijah
only went up to heaven, not the highest heaven or the third heaven.
Twelve times the biblical writers are careful to specify exactly when
they’re speaking of the highest heaven, such as Paul above, and five
of these times, they make sure to distinguish just “the heavens” from
“the highest heaven,” including the author of 1 and 2 Kings, which
were originally one book (Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chron-
icles 2:6, 6:18, Nehemiah 9:6). Since this same author specifies that
Elijah went to just “heaven” and not “the highest heaven,” he most
likely only went into the sky, not to be with God.
Second, this makes the most sense in context. If a whirlwind takes
a person anywhere, it’s into the sky. Therefore, the only place we know

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Elijah went is into the sky, based on the text. And whirlwinds don’t
exactly have the ability to whisk someone through the earth’s atmo-
sphere and across outer space, since there is no air to whirl there. It
would be much different if the verse said “and then Elijah died and
went to heaven.” In this case, Elijah would have no business being
in the sky, and “heaven” would much more likely mean the highest
heaven. But when you toss a whirlwind into the story, going airborne
is expected.
Next, of all the hundreds of other times the Old Testament
mentions heaven, how many talk about a human going there immedi-
ately upon dying? Zero. Double-check me if you wish. To the Hebrew
writers, the third heaven was a place for God, not humans. “The
highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to
mankind” (Psalm 115:16). These writers taught that humans went
to the realm of the dead called Sheol when they died, and anything
that happened after that was somewhat uncertain to them. Even in
Old Testament speculations that we have about humans joining God
someday in the future, the humans go to Sheol first (1 Samuel 2:6,
Job 14:13-17, 19:26, Psalm 49:15, 71:20). This belief of the Hebrews
is consistently maintained (Psalm 89:48), so it wouldn’t make sense
for them to suddenly depart from it only in Elijah’s case without any
explanation. Why not break the rule for Abraham, the first Jew? Why
not for Moses, the great liberator and lawgiver? Because going to the
current heaven was a foreign concept to the Hebrew writers, so it’s
quite unlikely they would tell us that Elijah went there.
The fourth reason the destination of Elijah’s whirlwind tour was
most likely the sky is that Jesus says he didn’t go to heaven. “No one
has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the
Son of Man” (John 3:13). Being God, Jesus is clearly speaking of the
third heaven.
Finally, Elijah’s imperfect, physical body couldn’t exist in the
perfect current heaven anyway. So the terminology and context of
2 Kings 2:11, the Hebrews’ understanding of heaven, Jesus himself,
and the futility of transporting a perishable body to the current
heaven all demonstrate that Elijah was simply taken up into the sky
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approval of Elijah and God’s presence to his successor Elisha. Elijah
must have experienced physical death at some point following his
thrill ride and subsequently arrived as a spirit in Sheol. Even such
a great prophet as he has to wait there for the day of judgment like
everybody else, when “the time has come for judging the dead, and
for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere
your name, both great and small” (Revelation 11:18).
Enoch rounds out the top three. “By faith Enoch was taken from
this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found,
because God had taken him away” (Hebrews 11:5). What we aren’t
told is where he was taken. Apparently, neither Elijah nor Enoch
died a typical earthly death; they were both taken while alive and
couldn’t be found (2 Kings 2:16-17). If Enoch truly never died and
went straight to the current heaven, then he must have been sinless,
not deserving death, and therefore wouldn’t need Jesus to get there.
But none of us are sinless, and none of us can come to our Father
in heaven except through his solution of Jesus (Romans 3:23, John
14:6). So unless we’re willing to uproot some major and pervasive
themes in the Bible, neither Elijah nor Enoch could have immedi-
ately gone to the current heaven. Both were taken from this life in
imperfect, perishable bodies that cannot exist in the perfect current
heaven, and neither had access to this heaven anyway, as Jesus had
not yet removed their sin or its punishment. Some admit this but
still argue that God allowed these two men and their bodies to go
there.23 However, if God is willing to bypass Jesus for them and allow
imperfection into heaven, then why is Jesus’ perfection necessary for
anyone else?
Besides, the Bible offers a better explanation of Enoch’s situation,
one free of such conundrums. Jesus assures us, just after his friend
Lazarus dies, that “whoever lives and believes in me will never die”
(John 11:26). Because Lazarus lived and believed in Jesus, yet still
died, which would have been obvious to those listening to Jesus, he is
clearly not referring to physical death. Rather, by “never die” he could
only mean eternal life in Heaven for those who are saved. Enoch
“walked faithfully with God,” so he will almost certainly be included
among the saved (Genesis 5:24). Therefore, the claim in Hebrews 11:5

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that “he did not experience death” may simply refer to the fact that
he will have eternal life in Heaven, just like the claim that Chris-
tians “will never die” refers to the same. Interestingly, the Genesis
account of Enoch does not specifically claim that he doesn’t die. It’s
not until after Jesus’ promise was made in John 11:26 that we learn
this in Hebrews. Could it be that the author of Hebrews, unlike the
author of Genesis, was able to add this detail about Enoch because
Jesus’ promise now existed to reveal that the saved would “not expe-
rience death” by inheriting eternal life? Sure, why not? And regard-
less of what happened when Enoch was taken, we now have plenty
of reasons to believe that it was not to the current heaven. “For the
authors of the Torah (including Genesis), heaven was the home of God
and his angels, but it was not the dwelling of humans or anything
resembling humans.” “The patriarchs had no heaven,” because the
current heaven was “inaccessible” and “forbidden.”24-25
We can conclude then that the examples of Paul, Elijah, and Enoch
offer no biblically consistent proof that they went to the current
heaven immediately following death. Besides, you have to admit that
these are three very unique circumstances, and these accounts should
hardly serve as the standard model for all humans anyway. Regarding
Elijah and Enoch, it has even been argued from the scholarly stand-
point that, wherever they were taken, “there is no doubt that they
are meant to be exceptions.”26 After all, how many folks do you know
who were whisked away by God or who were slurped up to heaven by
a tornado? Unless you live in an Oklahoma trailer park, your answer’s
probably something less than one!

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A lright, we’ve dealt with the top three; how about the bottom five?
What about those who seem to be already in or headed for the
current heaven, not while alive, but after they die? The bottom five
are a group of martyred saints described in the biblical book of Reve-
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who was crucified next to Jesus. Since the account of the criminal
explains an important aspect of the afterlife that we’ll unpack in
Chapter 15, we’ll address him there. For now let’s take a look at the
first four.
There are four passages in Revelation definitively confirming that
at least some humans are in the current heaven before judgment
day, and they all seem to be referring to the same people group:
martyrs who are uniquely resurrected before the rest of humanity to
help Jesus rule over the earth for a period of time prior to judgment
day (Revelation 7:9-17, 14:1-5, 15:2-4, 20:4-6). Presumably because
of their sacrifice, they are the only humans who take part in this
“first resurrection,” although it still does not occur until the apoca-
lypse has already begun. They “came to life (the first resurrection) and
reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not
come to life (the second resurrection on judgment day) until the thousand
years were ended” (Revelation 20:4-5). We first meet these martyrs
in Revelation 6:9-11, and I do not include this passage with the four
above because we have several indications that these saints are not
in the current heaven at this point. Although some use this passage
to argue that there are humans there right now, the demeanor and
circumstances of the martyrs here is vastly different than in the
other four passages, where they clearly are in the current heaven.
Let’s take a closer look.
In Revelation 6:9-11, the apostle John sees “under the altar the
souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and
the testimony they had maintained.” Parts of John’s vision in Reve-
lation take place in the current heaven, so some assume that these
martyrs are there too. But if they are with a perfect God in his
perfect heaven, why are they crying out in sorrow and frustration?
And why are they under an altar? Altars are big piles of heavy rocks
that are firmly situated on the ground, not fluffy, floating objects
you can happily stroll under in the current heaven! To be under an
altar is to be in the ground, and this makes sense once we consider
the association between the altar and these saints. Whether symboli-
cally or literally, their lives were sacrificed like an animal on an altar
as a result of persecution for their faith. These sacrifices did not

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take place in the current heaven, but on earth, and these martyrs are
most likely under a symbolic or literal earthly altar because that is
where they died and entered Sheol, the Jews’ underground realm of
the dead. Even John distinguishes those who are “in heaven” from
those who are “under the earth” right before introducing us to these
saints (Revelation 5:3)! Repeatedly throughout Revelation, he is able
to see events occurring in the current heaven and on earth at the
same time (e.g. Revelation 12:1-17), so it shouldn’t surprise us that
he can simultaneously see both what’s going on in the former and
these saints’ response to it on the latter. And immediately following
the description of these saints, the earth is precisely where John’s
eyes are looking (Revelation 6:12-17). The saints “called out in a loud
voice” to God because they clearly weren’t in community with him
in the current heaven! In fact, we are given a very detailed account
of its inhabitants at this time from Revelation 5:1 all the way up to
this passage. No definitive non-Jesus human presence is evident at all,
which is exactly what we would expect in the Jewish concept of this
heaven of heavens. God is there, as well as millions of angels and
even creatures, enjoying a more impressive musical display than you
ever thought possible! So if humans are present, is everyone having
a great time except them? The celebration occurring there sounds
nothing like what the martyrs are experiencing, does it?
Maybe that’s because it isn’t. These sorrowful, frustrated saints
who are stuck under an altar associated with their death on earth
don’t really seem to be at the starkly non-human party in the current
heaven, do they? Rather, these “souls” are more likely spirits waiting
in Sheol, unsurprisingly operating according to the same biblical post-
mortem process as every other human. Indeed, scholarly interpreta-
tion asserts that Revelation 6:9-11 “speaks, as do many Jewish writ-
ings of the period, of the dead waiting patiently, and sometimes not
so patiently, for the time when they will finally be raised to new
life.”27 Moreover, the response to the saints’ frustration is not an invi-
tation to join the heavenly fiesta, as would be expected if they were
present to simply walk out onto the dance floor. Instead, they are
“told to wait,” until the number of martyrs God wants to take part in
the first resurrection have died to join them in Sheol. Only after all

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of these Christians are killed, following a period of intense persecu-
tion and slaughter during the apocalypse called the “great tribulation,”
does the first resurrection occur, after which we do see them acting
as if they truly were in the current heaven (Revelation 7:9-17).
No one knows exactly when this tribulation takes place, but if at
least this part of Revelation is chronological (apocalyptic literature is
not always), then it has to happen before this passage, and the only
events suggesting tribulation prior to it are those throughout Revela-
tion 6, when the first wave of God’s wrath is unleashed. The tumult
caused by these events would certainly create scenarios conducive to
Christians being martyred, and they occur both before and after we
first meet the martyrs crying out to God. This perfectly grooves with
everything we’ve learned about them. The tribulation starts (6:1-8),
some saints are martyred and go to Sheol where they are each “given
a white robe” and told to wait until the rest of those martyred during
the tribulation join them (6:9-11), the tribulation continues (6:12-14)
with more saints killed, and “after this” all these martyrs “in white
robes” “who have come out of the great tribulation” participate in
the first resurrection and appear before Jesus’ throne (7:9-17). For
the first time, humans other than Jesus gain access to the current
heaven!
The change in their demeanor obviously parallels their change
in location. Quite simply, they join the party, with Revelation
7:9-17, 14:1-5, and 15:2-4 all very closely resembling the celebration
we witnessed in 5:6-14, except that humans are now unquestion-
ably present. The two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12 are part of
this group of human martyrs included in the first resurrection, as
presumably during the tribulation—we are not told when—these “men”
get attacked and killed on earth for their prophesying, are brought
back to life, and go up to the current heaven, just like the others.
Once the martyrs are there, instead of being sorrowful, “God will
wipe every tear from their eyes.” Instead of being frustrated, they are
“victorious.” Instead of shouting pleas to God, “they sang a new song.”

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A new song for a new place and a new life!*
Alright, that’s a lot of martyr minutia! Let’s summarize and move
on. There will be martyrs in the current heaven arriving from Sheol
before judgment day, but only after the first resurrection following
the great tribulation during the apocalypse. Their time in the current
heaven will be relatively short as they are brought to life specifi-
cally to rule with Jesus here on earth between the first and second
resurrections. Other than these martyrs, no humans will leave Sheol
to enter the current heaven, the New Earth, or Gehenna until the
second resurrection on judgment day.
OK, on to the second example of those who seem to go to the
current heaven immediately after dying. What does Paul confirm
about our first postmortem destination? Well, as he ponders all his
difficulties on earth and his future in Heaven, he desires “to depart
and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:21-25). He “would prefer to be
away from the body and at home with the Lord” because he knows
that “as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the
Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). To start, the current heaven is nowhere
to be found in these passages, and there’s a very simple explanation
for how we would not go there upon dying and yet still encounter
Christ. We’ll explore it in Chapter 15, and it fully accounts for and is
consistent with Paul’s words above. However, there also are very good
reasons Paul is not even arguing that we’ll reside with Christ as soon
as we die. First, the latter passage may simply be teaching that if
you’re quite attached to life in this world (very “at home” in the body),
you are not very close to God, as confirmed in James 4:4. Addition-
ally, the only claim made in these verses is that we are away from
and not at home with the Lord when we are in the body. If you look
carefully, there is nothing in either of these texts claiming that we
are with or at home with the Lord as soon as we are away from the
body, is there? These verses are often misquoted or misrepresented
in an effort to create evidence for immediate transit to the current
heaven following death.34-35 “The apostle Paul said that to die was to

*  To more thoroughly establish that Revelation does not describe a non-
Jesus human presence in the current heaven before the first resurrection,
warp here. 28

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be with Christ, and to be absent from the body was to be present
with the Lord.”36 Not true. Paul simply states his desire for two sepa-
rate things: to depart and be away from the body and to be at home
with Christ, but he does not equate the two or claim that they are
simultaneous events.
Similarly, you or I might describe a business trip out of state by
stating, “I would prefer to be away from work and at home with
my family,” since “as long as I am at work I am away from my
family.” As much as I might like to be embraced by my wife and son
immediately upon exiting the conference room, there is a pretty long
journey waiting for me between finishing the meeting and finally
arriving home. So it is for us all, as we experience a time of waiting
before we reach our ultimate destination. Similar to our motive in
verbally anticipating such a wonderful homecoming, Paul’s purpose
is to express his longing for Heaven while he endures trials on earth
that he finds necessary but wearisome, not to instruct us that phys-
ical death immediately precedes being with Jesus. After all, we know
from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that Paul does not consider departing
this life and being with Christ to be closely consecutive events, as
the deceased who are saved “sleep in death” and only rise after Jesus’
second coming. This sounds exactly like the post-mortem rest we’ve
seen elsewhere in the Bible, which Paul’s teaching and scholarly
writing is consistent with. “When Paul speaks of his desire ‘to depart
and be with Christ, for that is far better,’ he isn’t suggesting that he
is going to be ‘with Christ’ while less proficient Christians will have
an interim waiting period.” “This is recognized in Eastern orthodoxy,
which celebrates the saints in all sorts of ways but doesn’t imagine
that they have already obtained final bliss. They won’t until we all
do.”37 Paul knows that after he departs, he will someday be with
Christ and looks forward to that, but only when all the dead are
raised.
Next up is Stephen, a man of the early church who was killed
for his faith. Prior to being dragged out of the city to be stoned, he
“looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at
the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son
of Man standing at the right hand of God.” “While they were stoning

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him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on
his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’”
(Acts 7:55-56, 59-60). Because Stephen could see the current heaven
and prayed for Jesus to receive his spirit, some feel that Stephen’s
spirit immediately went there after he died.38 This is certainly under-
standable, but there’s a problem. We are not told if or when his
prayer was answered. Based on the Bible’s description of him, it
seems all but certain that Stephen is saved and will be on the New
Earth (Acts 6:5, 6:15, 7:55). Therefore, I have no doubt that Jesus will
answer his prayer. However, regarding the when, we know that the
Bible’s consistent teaching, including Jesus’ own words, would place
Stephen in Sheol immediately after he dies, and it seems unthinkable
that Jesus would go back on his word just to receive Stephen’s spirit
immediately into the current heaven. Not that it would give us any
reason to believe that other humans immediately go there if he were
an exception to the rule anyway.
So what do we make of Stephen’s words? First, it is entirely plau-
sible that Stephen intended nothing else by them except to emulate
Jesus as he was being crucified. After all, Stephen’s words are very
similar to those of Jesus just before he died (Luke 23:34, 46). He has
plenty of access to those who were present at the crucifixion, so he is
likely familiar with what Jesus said then. Stephen has just seen Jesus,
he knows that he’s being unjustly martyred like Jesus, and he is a
devoted follower of Jesus, so is it any surprise that he would choose
to imitate his savior’s humble words while being killed? I would hope
that I would be able to! Also, we need to remember that Stephen is
praying here; he is asking Jesus for something. He is not demanding
that Jesus receive his spirit immediately, nor is he trying to make a
theological statement about where human spirits go immediately after
dying. Like Paul, he has seen a glimpse of the current heaven, and
like Paul, he desires to be with Christ. But as in the case of Paul,
there is no reason within the text to assume that this happens imme-
diately following death. No mention is made of where Stephen’s spirit
goes once he dies, and nowhere do we have confirmation that it is
in the current heaven. We would have to assume that human spirits
go immediately there after death before we could claim that Jesus’

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alleged affirmative and immediate answer to Stephen’s prayer proves
that they do. This, of course, is circular reasoning and faulty logic.
In the end, as with Paul, we can only decisively conclude that both
men really, really wanted to be with Jesus, but Jesus himself confirms
that this won’t ultimately occur until after he returns to take them—
and the rest of those who are saved—to be with him in Heaven (John
14:2-3). Neither Paul nor Stephen left their physical life on earth to
immediately join Jesus “at God’s right hand”; rather, their leaving
will occur from Sheol/Hades, “departing only after a final day of
judgment.”39
This chapter’s fourth and final example of those who seem to have
gone to the current heaven upon dying is the departed duo of Elijah
and Moses. Centuries after they physically lived, they came back to
talk with Jesus on a very special occasion when he shows a few of
his disciples a supernatural representation of himself (Matthew 17:1-
4). But where did Elijah and Moses come from? Nothing in the text
suggests that it’s the current heaven, and if they were able to get
there before Jesus’ death and resurrection made the heavenly prereq-
uisite of perfection possible, we’ve run into the same problem we had
with Elijah and Enoch before, right? Let’s also recall the fact that
Jesus told us that no person but himself had been to the current
heaven (John 3:13). Moreover, we have every reason to believe that
they came from somewhere quite different, because we have another
example of a prominent Old Testament figure who was transiently
brought back from the afterlife, and we are told where he appeared
from. The Israelite King Saul is not feeling so hot about a battle that
he and his army are about to fight, so he consults a medium to ask
advice from the spirit of Samuel, a deceased spiritual leader of Israel,
very similar to Elijah and Moses. She does so and says to Saul, “‘I
see a spirit coming up out of the ground.’ ‘What does he look like?’
he asked. ‘A n old man wearing a robe is coming up,’ she said. Then
Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself
with his face to the ground. Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you
disturbed me by bringing me up?” (1 Samuel 28:13-15) Cliffhanger!
You’ll just have to read the rest of the story to find out how it all
goes down, but the point is that Samuel is doing exactly the opposite;

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he’s “coming up out of the ground” from Sheol. Interestingly, scholars
believe that the most likely root of the word Sheol means “’to ask or
enquire’—thus linking it with the story of the witch of Endor and the
personal name ‘Saul’ (Hebrew: Sha’ul), with which it shares the iden-
tical consonantal root.”40 So the Bible’s description of Samuel’s first
step into the hereafter is marinated in Sheol, with nary a dash of the
current heaven even sprinkled on top! Besides, those who claim that
Samuel was summoned from the current heaven must accept that the
“highest heavens” inhabited by God and his angels are below us in
the ground, a consequence that should not be—but is—often ignored
(Psalm 68:32-33). 41 And since Elijah, Moses, and Samuel were all
godly spiritual leaders in Israel, it seems reasonable that their post-
mortem experiences would be similar, doesn’t it?
Likewise, God divulges that the blood of Abel, who was
“commended as righteous” but murdered by his brother, “cries out
to me from the ground”; Abel “still speaks, even though he is dead”
(Hebrews 11:4, Genesis 4:8-10). Although these statements may be
read figuratively, they may also be suggesting that Abel in the depths
of Sheol—not just blood in the dirt—is crying out to God. The Bible is
also clear that David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), went
somewhere else besides the current heaven when he died too (Acts
2:29-35). Indeed, the whole point of this passage is to demonstrate
that David isn’t in the current heaven, so that its readers know that
verses 26-27 and 34-35—which refer to resurrection to the current
heaven—apply to Jesus, not David (Acts 2:31-32)! And God confirms
this same human existence between death and our eternal destina-
tions with Daniel, another esteemed prophet among the Israelites, in
a beautifully concise summary of exactly what we’ve come to conclude
about what happens when we die. God explains it to Daniel, “Multi-
tudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to ever-
lasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt...as for you,
go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days
you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” (Daniel 12:2,13).
Those who will be saved “lie in death” in “rest” and “peace” until the
last day (Isaiah 57:2, 26:19). “So man lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from

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their sleep” (Job 14:12). Obviously Daniel and the rest of mankind
sleep and rise as people, not just bodies. Bodies alone cannot rest,
they cannot be awoken or aroused from the sleep of death by Jesus’
return, and they cannot “hear his voice and come out” (John 5:28-
29). But people possessing both a body and a spirit can, and they do
so to receive their allotted inheritance. Therefore, neither everlasting
contempt in Hell nor everlasting life in the current heaven or eternal
Heaven begins until such a resurrection occurs. “Clearly, then, the
idea of a waiting place—or perhaps it should be called a process—
that occupied the space between death and heaven had existed for
hundreds of years in monotheistic religion.”42 This is the way God
runs the biblical hereafter. Without exception, we all live, we all die,
we all wait, we all rise, we all are judged, and lastly we all go to our
final destination.

14

S o it’s plain that we essentially all rise at the end for the purpose
of humanity’s final judgment. But why does God wait until the
last day to judge us and send us to our eternal fates? Why doesn’t he
just send us right after death to Hell, Heaven, or a place where those
without meaningful access to the gospel on earth hear it immediately
before they’re jettisoned off to Hell or Heaven too? The answers to
these questions are more curiosities than necessities in understanding
God’s grand scheme for us, but they do allow us to tie up a few loose
ends and provide a great overview for the next two chapters, so let’s
look at them. There are at least two reasons for God to have one—
and only one—day of judgment.
First, God’s judgment of human beings seems inseparably inter-
woven with several major one-time events, such as the destruction of
the earth, the final doom of Satan and death, and the introduction
of the New Earth. If the grand scheme of God necessitates the judg-
ment of human beings at a specific time within these events, then
the judgment of individual humans and their assignments to Hell or

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Heaven cannot occur before then.
Second, and much more significant, it seems clear that the final
destinations of Hell and Heaven aren’t even in place yet for people to
go to! We already know that the Heaven that humans will go to is
more technically a “new heaven and new earth” (2 Peter 3:13, Reve-
lation 21:1-5), a place God hadn’t yet created in Isaiah’s time. “See, I
will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not
be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). There
was no final destination for the saved at that time, and if God is
“making everything new” at the time of the final judgment, where
John gets a futuristic vision of Heaven in Revelation, it follows that
the “new heaven and new earth” still aren’t poised to be occupied
currently. We’ve learned that Jesus, after returning to the current
heaven, has been preparing a new perfect dwelling for his people,
since this earth will be destroyed and pass away (Isaiah 24:19-20, 2
Peter 3:10-11). This may refer to the New Earth or the primary city
on it, the New Jerusalem that “God has prepared” for those who live
by faith (Hebrews 11:16), but this dwelling/city isn’t inhabited when
John sees it at the end of Revelation, nor will it descend from the
new heaven to be inhabited until after Jesus’ second coming (John
14:2-3, Revelation 3:12, 21:1-2). Surely if people went to the current
heaven right after they died, they would be living in this city for
John to see! Would God really keep the primary eternal dwelling
of humans empty if he had plenty of them with him right now to
occupy it, rather than stare at it? Of course not! Except for Jesus,
there are no humans there right now, and part of the reason is that
the final destination of Heaven, the “new heaven and new earth,” is
not fully ready for human habitation.
I realize that for some, the Bible’s teaching that people don’t go
right to the current heaven when they die might take some getting
used to, but perhaps what will convince you of this the most is asking
why the Bible doesn’t directly teach the opposite. Given how emotion-
ally important our immediate postmortem fate is to us, let alone the
significance it has on our ability to fulfill our purpose and achieve
perfect community with God, don’t you think he would have been
able to find room in his words to simply say, “Everyone who is saved

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will go to heaven right after they die” if he wanted to? But he never
says that at all! And he doesn’t because we don’t.
What about Gehenna, the final destination of Hell? Jesus warns us
a lot about not going to this place, but the only time we are actually
told of humans present in the eternal lake of fire is after judgment day
(Revelation 20:11-15). And since God will “hold the unrighteous for
punishment on the day of judgment”—not in Hell, but apparently in
a place called Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4-9, Isaiah 24:19-22)—there really
doesn’t seem to be a purpose for Gehenna to exist at all until after
the last day, does there? Consistently, even on judgment day, Jesus
confirms to humans who are about to go to Hell that it still has
merely been “prepared for the devil and his angels,” not inhabited by
them, and certainly not by humans yet either (Matthew 25:41-46).
We know that God never intended for any humans to go to Hell, but
clearly some will choose to join Satan and his demons there. There-
fore, if Hell does exist right now, it’s empty, so why create it to just
sit there long before it will even be inhabited?
So God chooses to wait until the last day to judge everyone at
once, primarily because neither Heaven nor Hell are ready to be
inhabited yet. Our physical bodies die, our spirits go to their place of
waiting, and at the time of the final judgment of humanity, our spirits
will be raised and joined with “imperishable,” “spiritual” bodies. Those
who are saved will inhabit the flawless New Earth, clothed “with our
heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by
life” (1 Corinthians 15:42-54, 2 Corinthians 5:4).
To me, the notion of a single judgment day for pretty much every
human is sublimely simple. Every mention of final human judgment
in the Bible, with the understandable exception of the martyrs of
the first resurrection, fits nicely within this concept. However, for
some folks this is a hard realization to accept. Why? Perhaps many
of them are only familiar with or open to the notion that humans
must go to Hell or the current heaven before this final judgment. If
so, they are forced to fragment judgment day into several lesser judg-
ments—at different times and involving different people—to account
for all the examples they use of folks allegedly arriving in these
places prior to the last day. As we sample these judgments, you’ll see

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how unnecessarily convoluted and confusing they get, but we need to
compare them to the Bible, so bear with me. I’ll keep it brief.
Some maintain that there is a judgment of faith for humans
to determine their eternal destination right after they die, so that
people are able to go right to the current heaven, although no biblical
support is offered to substantiate this. 43 This also means that people
can go right to Hell, but we know the Bible clearly teaches that there
are no people in Gehenna until after the last day. Because a place is
then needed for the unsaved after the judgment of faith, they say
that Sheol is actually Hell, which we will find to be inaccurate in the
next chapter. Moreover, multiple verses confirm that heroes of the
Bible who are almost certainly saved went to Sheol (Genesis 37:35,
42:38, Psalm 89:48, Isaiah 38:10, Jonah 2:6). Despite this, they go on
to argue that the day of final judgment is a judgment of works, not
determining our eternal destination but rather our reward, based on
what we did on earth. However, they either primarily or only include
the unsaved in this judgment day, because it involves the dead in
Sheol. Disregarding that the saved are also there and not in the
current heaven, they teach that “Christians will not be judged at the
end of this life in the same way that non-Christians will be” and add
a totally separate judgment of works for the saved. 44-45 However, it is
unequivocal that both the saved and unsaved are all judged on the
same day in the same way (Matthew 12:35-37, John 5:28-29, Revela-
tion 11:16-18, Malachi 3:16-18, Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10).
It is not surprising then that “opinions vary about when the judgment
of works for believers will occur”—with at least four different times
posited46—as there is no evidence in the Bible to confirm that multiple
judgments of works exist at all.
And if the day of final judgment is only a judgment of works,
then why are people’s final destinations clearly being determined then
(Revelation 20:12-15)? Why are people being separated into those
going to Hell and those going to Heaven (Matthew 12:35-37, 25:31-
46)? And what’s the point in judging the works of the unsaved
anyway? The Bible does not definitively confirm varying degrees
of punishment in Hell, and only a footnote in Matthew 23:14 and
Luke 12:46-48 suggest this possibility. In any case, there’s no biblical

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reason to suspect a wide variety of experiences in Hell, so why hold
such a spectacular judgment of works just for people going there? Are
mostly hellish and really hellish experiences significantly different?
Finally, why are people’s works only being judged then? If it was so
important for God to distinguish two entirely separate judgments
of works from a judgment of faith to begin with, then why does he
wait until humans have been in Hell and the current heaven for who
knows how many millennia before he determines the extent of their
punishment or reward? Is God really going to say, “Ted, I appreci-
ated how you helped that old lady across the street right before that
car hit you and sent you here. To reward you, I’m gonna add a pool
onto the back of your mansion...in about 4,000 years. That’s when
the judgment of works goes down.” God’s words make sense. This
doesn’t.
The numerous problems above could all be easily avoided by aban-
doning the belief of immediate entry into Hell or the current heaven
after death in favor of the Bible’s single judgment day of both faith
and works. Indeed, there is a plethora of verses depicting rewards
for the saved in Heaven. There are also several passages describing a
time when we will give an account of our lives to God and be judged
according to our deeds (Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:10-12, 1 Corin-
thians 3:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 11:16-18), but this all
logically occurs at the same time we are assigned to our eternal desti-
nations (Matthew 25:31-46, John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:12-15). Both
faith and works are playing essential roles in the judgment taking
place in these latter three passages, and in Parts 4 and 5 we’ll see
why faith and works ultimately cannot be judged separately. When
we let the Bible just say what it says, God makes sense. He knew it
would be better and more sensible to hold only one day of judgment
in the future, and so he does.

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15

S o we made it all the way to judgment day, but only by sidestep-
ping this mysterious place the Bible and I keep telling you about
between our physical death and our resurrection. It’s true; I’ve been
teasing you long enough. Bad radiologist. So what is the business
on this place where the spirits of the dead wait until the last day,
when they are raised? To remind you of something that will be very
useful to you while reading the impending answer, and to sadistically
keep you in suspense for just a few more lines, keep in mind that
what is new and strange at first does not mean that it’s incorrect.
We’re going to travel through some pretty weird places and enter-
tain some pretty foreign ideas. But they’re all biblical, and they’re
only potentially strange because you might not have considered them
before. At the very beginning of this book, I encouraged you to keep
getting on the bike, because soon all that you have been taught about
riding it will not only seem second-nature; it will make perfect sense.
After studying in great depth where the Bible says we go upon dying
and after synthesizing a comprehensive conclusion, I believe that the
most likely answer to be true is simple, includes all the postmortem
places the Bible discusses, incorporates both Old and New Testament
conceptions, fits well within God’s plan of salvation, and enables us to
satisfactorily answer the tough questions that we have been and will
be addressing—questions that are exceedingly difficult, if not impos-
sible, to resolve otherwise. I don’t know that this answer is right, but
it is straightforward, sensible, and Scriptural—a solution I think you’ll
find understandably acceptable after undergoing acclimatization.
So where do humans go right after they die? The quick answer
is Sheol or Hades, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now. The long
answer is a guided tour through Sheol/Hades. And I won’t charge
you a dime, ask for a tip, or even direct you to the gift shop when
we return! Our journey to biblically understand this place unsurpris-
ingly starts in the Old Testament. We’ve repeatedly witnessed how the
ancient Hebrews wrote about Sheol—the realm of the dead—a place

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where everybody went after dying. “Who can live and not see death, or
who can escape the power of Sheol” (Psalm 89:48)? Some felt that
existence ended there without hope for both the righteous and the
unrighteous, while others believed that something more followed
(Psalm 6:5, Isaiah 38:18, 1 Samuel 2:6, Job 14:13-17, 19:26, Psalm
21:1-4, 49:15, 71:20, 133:3). We’ll demonstrate in Chapter 24 why this
uncertainty regarding the afterlife for these Old Testament writers
was not only understandable but also expected without the context of
Jesus’ accomplishments. For now it is only important to understand
that these folks are unanimous in their confirmation of Sheol and
that everyone goes there—at least temporarily. Well, guess how Sheol
was translated when the Hebrew Old Testament was rendered into
Greek? Guess how it was translated in the Greek writings of Jose-
phus and Philo—a Jewish historian and philosopher respectively—who
both wrote around the time of Jesus? It’s translated as Hades! Hades
is a Greek New Testament term, and although it became more well-
defined over time, as Sheol did to the Jews, the Greeks always consid-
ered it “where the dead go,” “both the virtuous and the sinners.”47-48
Everybody goes to Sheol/Hades when they kick the bucket, which is
why they are used synonymously by scholars, in the Bible, and in this
book. 49 Jesus himself tells us that “the dead bury their own dead”
(Matthew 8:22). “The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you
at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you—
all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from
their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations. They will
all respond, they will say to you, ‘You also have become weak, as we
are; you have become like us’” (Isaiah 14:9-10).  
Because some are reluctant to accept that people don’t go to the
current heaven right after dying, they consider Sheol/Hades to be
Hell, teach that only the wicked are there, and otherwise ignore its
role in the hereafter.50-51 But “’hell’ is not a good translation of hades,”
which “is never employed in connection with the final state of punish-
ment.”52-53 As we’ve already clearly demonstrated, as the Bible teaches,
and as the ancient Jews (and Greeks) maintained, Sheol includes the
saved as well as the unsaved (Genesis 37:35, 42:38, Isaiah 38:10,
Jonah 2:6). Aside from our physical existence here, “Jews believed

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there were two other worlds—one above and unobtainable, heaven,...
and one below and inevitable, subterranean sheol,” “to which were
consigned all the dead, regardless of the merits or faults of their
earthly lives. There was no suggestion that virtuous mortals might
aspire to take the ‘up-lift’ to the heavens when they died.”54 Both
those who will inherit “everlasting life” and those who will endure
“everlasting contempt” “sleep in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:2).
We’ll learn soon that even Jesus went to Sheol/Hades after his cruci-
fixion; he has not “descended into Hell.”55 God’s presence is not in
Hell, so Jesus doesn’t go to Hell, because Hades is not Hell, espe-
cially since it gets thrown into Hell on judgment day (2 Thessalo-
nians 1:6-10, Revelation 20:14). Rather, it is the first stop following
every human’s death, even Jesus’. When Death is personified, “Hades
is following close behind him,” and now we know why (Revelation
6:8). Half of the times that Hades is brought up in the Bible, death is
mentioned right alongside it, because every human’s death and a trip
to Hades are inseparably linked.
As the ancient Greek/Roman understanding of Hades matured,
it was believed that once people made their way through the under-
world, they would ultimately find themselves in one of three places.
These “realms of Hades are divided by ethical categories.”56 The righ-
teous would go to Elysium or the Elysian Fields, a type of para-
dise with “green pastures and brighter light.”57-58 The morally neutral
would go to the Fields of Asphodel, a spiritually neutral place not
primarily meant for reward or punishment. The impious “villains”
and “great sinners” would go to Tartarus, an abyss-like dungeon of
torment.59 “Tartarus yawns twice as far down as Olympus is high.”60
The biblical concept of Sheol/Hades is similar, both predating and
postdating the Greek concept. The Bible even names Tartarus as
the place where demons are generally “held for judgment.” But they
aren’t the only ones there; their fate is paralleled with that of others.
The same passage describes unrighteous humans who are held “for
punishment on the day of judgment,” and both these demons and
these humans are kept in darkness here (2 Peter 2:4, 9, 17, Isaiah
24:21-22, Jude 1:5-7). No wonder a legion of demons that Jesus drove
out of a man “begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into

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the Abyss,” so that they could avoid “torture” (Luke 8:27-31)! We read
in Revelation that the Abyss also contains the beast, and for a time
even Satan himself (11:7, 20:1-3), before both of them are eternally
condemned (20:10). Obviously, Tartarus/the Abyss is no place for
demons to torture humans, nor is it a purgatory for either demons or
humans; it’s a place of punishment and waiting for all who will go to
Hell—a pre-Hell if that’s simpler. So we see that Sheol/Hades actually
plays a significant role in the New Testament concept of the afterlife,
at least in the case of Tartarus.
What about Elysium? In the New Testament we find the word
paradise, the Greek word paradeisos, three times. This is a generic
term and simply indicates various places lovely enough to be consid-
ered a paradise, typically applied in the ancient world to a Persian
or Greek “pleasure garden.” “The wealthy had a paradise on earth
in the back gardens of their estates.”61 We know that Elysium is a
paradise also, but how do we know that it is similar to the kinds
of paradeisos in the Bible? Let’s start by checking out what types
of places paradeisos can be. After consulting A Greek-English Lexicon,
Strong’s Greek Lexicon, and greekbible.com, our available definitions are
“grand enclosure or preserve, garden or pleasure ground like Eden,
park, the part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to
be the abode of the souls of the pious until the resurrection, heaven
or the upper regions of the heavens,” and a random oddball defini-
tion, “a stupid fellow.”62-64 In addition to that last one, we are given
a surprise, aren’t we? One of the perfectly acceptable definitions for
paradeisos is something remarkably similar to Elysium! Let’s look at
the three times paradeisos is used to decide where the biblical context
might favor this definition. As we’ve seen in Chapter 12, Paul equates
one “paradise” with “the third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, so it’s
clear that paradeisos here means the current heaven. In Revelation 2:7
the tree of life that started out on this earth in the garden of Eden
and ends up on the New Earth is currently located “in the paradise of
God” (Genesis 2:8-9, Revelation 22:1-2). We don’t know exactly which
paradise this refers to, but as both the other locations of this tree
are terrestrial rather than heavenly—which would be expected for a
tree—it seems most likely that the “paradise of God” housing it is also

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an earthly place like Sheol/Hades. This is supported by the fact that
paradeisos typically carried with it a terrestrial—not ethereal—connota-
tion, evident in both its ancient applications and available definitions.
And the context surrounding the final use of paradeisos even more
strongly suggests against a reference to the current heaven, although
it involves one of the people most frequently used to argue that we go
there right after we die: the repentant criminal being crucified next
to Jesus.
As Jesus and two convicts hang on their crosses, one is insulting
Jesus. The other starts to as well, but then realizes that he’s wrong
and gives the first a good scolding, claiming that Jesus was blame-
less. Upon asking Jesus to remember him, Jesus says, “today you will
be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43). It has been well estab-
lished that the Bible consistently confirms its rule of thumb that no
humans—except Jesus and the martyrs of the first resurrection—end
up in the current heaven until the dead are all raised together on
judgment day. Therefore, the paradeisos the convict is headed for is
not likely to be the current heaven. Jesus and this criminal would be
together elsewhere after they died, but where? Ephesians 4:9-10 tells
us that Jesus descended into the “lower, earthly regions” or “depths
of the earth” before his ascension into the current heaven, and Jesus
himself verifies that this occurred immediately following his death.
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge
fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the
heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40), a clearly subterranean place,
not simply in a tomb situated on the surface of said earth. But this
comparison is even more important for another reason. Jesus didn’t
get submerged alive underwater on Easter weekend, so why does
he parallel his death experience to Jonah? Because when Jonah was
thrown into the sea, he most likely also died (Jonah 1:1-2:10 gives
the whole story). Although it’s not often taught that way in Sunday
school, the text leaves little doubt. Jonah confirms, “I called to the
Lord...from the depths of Sheol. . . . The earth barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit” (Jonah 2:2,6). Sheol is
the abode of the dead, not the nearly drowned. The mostly dead go
to Miracle Max’s, because Sheol won’t take you unless you’re totally

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dead. And I’m neither bluffing nor blaving!65 Although we see in
Revelation 20:13 that the sea may also be the abode of the dead in
a similar way that Sheol is, Sheol is considered a subterranean place.
Jonah’s claim that “the earth barred” him in forever—not the sea—
conveys that he did actually die, and his spirit went to Sheol where
it “called to the Lord.” When he was brought “up from the pit,” God
wasn’t just pulling him out of deep waters, he was resurrecting him
from Sheol, which is repeatedly translated as “pit” in the Old Testa-
ment! This is precisely why Jesus directly compares his own death,
trip to Sheol (“the heart of the earth”), and resurrection to Jonah’s;
it wouldn’t make sense for him to do so otherwise! Jonah died, went
to Sheol, and then was resurrected (Jonah 2:1-6). Jesus died, went
to Sheol, and then was resurrected. Jesus commits his spirit into
his Father’s hands with the knowledge that they will eventually be
reunited, but clearly, it is not until Jesus’ resurrection and ascen-
sion that this reunion in the current heaven takes place (Luke 23:46,
Ephesians 1:19-20, Mark 16:19). Every second of Jesus’ time between his
death and resurrection was spent in Sheol/Hades!
Why, you ask? Because that’s where all humans go between their
death and resurrection! If the human being Jesus was truly taking
our fate upon himself in death and if there was a place of waiting
for all human beings between death and resurrection, Sheol/Hades is
precisely the location where we would expect him to go, right? The
repentant criminal is a human who is about to die and go to his
place of waiting, and Jesus wouldn’t contradict himself in John 6:40
to give this man exclusive early access to the current heaven when
every other human being has to wait until judgment day. There-
fore, given the criminal’s positive response to Jesus, the assurance
that he’ll be with Jesus later that day, and Jesus’ own mission and
humanity, the paradise that Jesus promises him is most likely “the
part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode
of the souls of the pious until the resurrection,” isn’t it? And Jesus
would clearly qualify for this Paradise himself, so they would be there
together. Obviously, Jesus can visit Paradise whenever he wants, so
this account of his appearance there may also explain how Paul could
“depart and be with Christ” after dying without being in the current

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heaven (Philippians 1:22-23). It is possible that Jesus visits Paradise to
welcome all of the saved when they arrive, but it is certain—as it was
with the fortunate felon—that Jesus does not stay to reside with us
there or anywhere until after his second coming (John 14:3). Between
his ascension and judgment day, his primary residence is the current
heaven; ours is not (Mark 16:19, 14:61-62, Psalm 115:16).
This should not be surprising when we consider Jesus’ word
choices. He is very comfortable using the term “heaven” numerous
times throughout his teachings; however, there is only one time he
uses the term “paradise,” and there is only one time he specifies a
saved person’s immediate postmortem destination. They are one and
the same. Jesus never tells people who will be saved that they will
enter the current heaven upon dying, but he does tell them that they
will go to Paradise. Given what an emotionally significant concept
going to the current heaven right after death is to so many of us,
don’t you think Jesus would have just used “heaven” instead of “para-
dise” to validate it? It would have been easy and conclusive, and he
would have even saved ink! But he doesn’t. Instead, he uncharacter-
istically avoids the term “heaven” to uniquely specify that Paradise
is the first destination for the saved after dying. Scholarly assess-
ment of Jesus’ words to the criminal agrees. “Despite a long tradition
of misreading, paradise is here, as in some other Jewish writing, not
a final destination but the blissful garden, the parkland of rest and
tranquility, where the dead are refreshed as they await the dawn of a
new day.”66 So again, Sheol/Hades finds its way into the New Testa-
ment afterlife, this time with the Elysium-like Paradise—a pre-Heaven
if that’s simpler. If people like the criminal, Elijah, Moses, Samuel,
Abel, David, and Daniel rest until judgment day in Paradise when
they die, then no wonder Samuel is disturbed when he is brought up
at the request of Saul, who gave him all kinds of headaches in life,
who is asking him for advice on a battle doomed to failure, and who
rarely listened to Samuel before anyway! As the non-plussed prophet
was “called reluctantly from slumber in Sheol,”67 you can almost hear
him murmur, “So yeah Saul, could you make this quick? I was kind
of in Paradise before you rang.”
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and the pre-Heaven of Paradise. Our tour of Sheol/Hades has turned
out to be a tour of the Bible, hasn’t it? Jesus himself confirms how
well the Old and New Testament concepts of the afterlife complement
each other in the account of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-
31). “The time came when Lazarus died and the angels carried him
to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades,
where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away,
with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:22-23). Some try to read this story
figuratively, but doing so makes it nearly impossible to know what
we are supposed to take away from it.68 In contrast, the evidence in
the text actually favors these men being real people known to Jesus,
rather than the generic, anonymous characters he employs in his figu-
rative parables. This story is never labeled in the Bible as a parable,
not once does Jesus name characters in his parables, there would be no
reason to name the beggar in this story if he weren’t a real person,
and Abraham is definitely a real person. Jesus also includes several
descriptive details that are completely unnecessary unless he is liter-
ally describing what the immediate postmortem afterlife is like, and
because he’s God, he would certainly know. His ministry had long
been underway in many different places, and there’s no doubt that he
had met many rich men and beggars. These clues most likely indi-
cate that two of them were the rich man and Lazarus in this story.
Although we can’t confirm it, apparently these two had encountered
Jesus, their lives demonstrated opposite responses to him, and then
they died and went to somewhat different destinations.
The rich man went to a place of torment in Hades. This is exactly
what we would expect, because earlier in Luke, Jesus had already
confirmed that his contemporaries who had been exposed to his words
and deeds but then rejected them would go to Hades (Luke 10:8-15).
But not just anywhere in Hades. Peter, who was obviously familiar
with Jesus’ perspective on the afterlife, implies more specifically that
those who have “known the way of righteousness” but chose to “turn
their backs” on it would go to Tartarus, a place “to hold the unrigh-
teous for punishment on the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:4-22). Just
like them, the rich man is being punished in Hades without hope of
escape (Luke 16:22-26). But he’s not in Hell because the Bible is clear

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that Gehenna, not Tartarus of Hades, is the forever Hell, the lake
of fire into which the non-eternal Hades—and therefore Tartarus—
is eventually cast (Revelation 20:14). As such, neither Hades nor
Tartarus can be equated with Hell in the Bible. So if the rich man is
trapped in torment in Hades, and Hades can’t be Hell, then where is
the only place he could be? Tartarus, of course.
What about Lazarus? Well, when he died, he went to Abraham’s
side. The Bible is clear that Abraham is saved (Galatians 3:6-9), but
we know it’s also clear that he’s not in the current heaven. After
all, if he were, wouldn’t we expect him and Lazarus to be at God’s
side, rather than Lazarus going to Abraham’s side? God is absent
from this story because the current heaven is absent from this story.
“Abraham died...and was gathered to his people. But not, as far as
the Bible indicates, to God. For the authors of the Torah, heaven
was the home of God and his angels, but it was not the dwelling of
humans or anything resembling humans.”69 So where are Lazarus
and Abraham? Paradise of course, a place sensibly referred to as
Abraham’s Bosom, which is “in the New Testament and in Jewish
writings a term signifying the abode of bliss in the other world.”70
“It is plain that Abraham is here viewed as the warden of para-
dise.”71 As with Jesus and the convict, Lazarus and Abraham arrived
in a postmortem Paradise, “a state in which the dead are held firmly
within the conscious love of God.” While some desire to call this state
heaven, “we must note once more how interesting it is that the New
Testament routinely doesn’t call it that and uses the word heaven in
other ways.”72
This explains why the rich man and Lazarus can see each other.
They’re both in Sheol/Hades! Those who insist that Hades is really
Hell and that Paradise is really the current heaven, simply because
they believe that people should go to these places right after they die,
are trapped by this story. “The problem with a strictly literal interpre-
tation of this passage is that it presses too far, suggesting that...people
in Heaven and Hell talk to each other. The problem with a strictly
figurative interpretation is that it makes it difficult to know what, if
anything, to take seriously.”73 But if we can open-mindedly accept that
the Bible doesn’t teach that people go to either place right after dying,

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then there are no problems. This story can be interpreted exactly as
it’s stated. Unlike in Hell and Heaven, people in Sheol/Hades can
see each other just fine. But the rich man seems to be in a much
different part of Sheol/Hades, a place of torment that sounds just
like Tartarus. Both men have just died, both are in relative proximity
to each other, but the rich man is “in torment” and “in agony” in
Tartarus while Lazarus is being “comforted” in Paradise (Luke 16:25).
I want to pause to recognize that it might be a bit strange for you
to consider subterranean abodes for the dead, but is it really any more
strange than considering places like Hell or Heaven? And remember
that Sheol/Hades is a completely spiritual realm, not a physical one.
No one’s going to discover a giant cave of departed ghosts by digging
down far enough! If it’s more helpful, think of Tartarus and Paradise
for what they are—a pre-Hell and pre-Heaven—rather than where they
are. Their purpose is more important than their position.
People are in the pre-Hell of Tartarus or the pre-Heaven of Para-
dise because that’s where their free will led them, just as with Hell
or Heaven. They had meaningful access to God’s solution for them
and then chose to reject it or accept it. No one can go from one place
to the other. “Between us and you a great chasm has been set in
place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can
anyone cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:26). A person would be
in Tartarus or Paradise for the same reasons she would be in Hell or
Heaven, and once in Tartarus or Paradise, that’s where she remains
until the day of judgment. Therefore, everyone in Tartarus ends up
in Hell, and everyone in Paradise ends up in Heaven. This is why
we find Jesus presumably comparing the saved in the eternal Heaven
with the unsaved in the non-eternal Tartarus of Hades (Matthew
11:23-24, Luke 10:15). After all, those we find in Tartarus in 2 Peter
2:4 are “kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judg-
ment on the great day” (Jude 1:6). If they’re not in Gehenna yet,
but their chains are everlasting, there doesn’t seem to be any other
outlet for the inhabitants of Tartarus except Hell, right? Tartarus is
not a purgatorial correctional facility. And the inevitable progres-
sion of Tartarus to Hell or Paradise to Heaven makes perfect sense.
If God’s purpose for humans necessitates granting them the free will

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to choose their ultimate destination, that choice would logically result
in a similar penultimate destination while they wait to be raised on
judgment day. Tartarus in Hades isn’t Gehenna, but it’s still a place of
“torment” and “agony,” and everyone who goes there only progresses
to Hell. Paradise in Hades isn’t the current heaven or the New Earth,
but it’s still a place of “comfort,” “rest,” and “peace,” and everyone who
goes there only progresses to Heaven (Luke 16:25, Isaiah 57:2).
This is likely why we hear a lot more about Hell and Heaven than
Tartarus and Paradise in the Bible. If humanity’s final destination
is either Hell—and it really is that bad—or Heaven—and it really is
that good—and that destination is permanently decided before people
arrive in Tartarus or Paradise, then what would be the best way for
God to motivate us to choose the better final destination? It certainly
wouldn’t be to elaborate on the vices of going to the not-quite-as-bad-
as-Hell Tartarus or on the virtues of going to the not-quite-as-good-
as Heaven Paradise, right? It would be to minimize the focus on
these places of waiting and preferentially educate us about Hell and
Heaven instead, treating pre-Hell and pre-Heaven as places practically
synonymous with their eternal counterparts! This is exactly what God
does in the Bible, because in the end, knowing about and going to
Hell or Heaven are infinitely more important than expounding on the
lesser locales of the afterlife. The Bible confirms and explains enough
about Tartarus and Paradise as it is. We can discern who goes there,
what their fate is, and what these places are generally like. No further
education would change our ultimate choice between Hell and Heaven
anyway. We don’t know for sure, but it seems the other free-willed
spirits God created—at least the demons—are subject to this after-
life sequence as well, although we know almost nothing about God’s
solution for them or their salvation process, if there is one. It would
seem consistent for God to provide a savior for them as well, but
since we don’t need to know, God doesn’t tell us. Don’t worry though;
apparently the angels don’t understand everything about our salvation
process either (1 Peter 1:12)! Regardless, whoever is there, clearly the
concepts of Sheol/Hades and Hell/Heaven seem to be meant for each
other, as if God were telling one story of the hereafter all along from
the Old Testament to the New! Well of course he is.

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16

W e have now explored most of Sheol/Hades, but there is still one
missing piece to the puzzle. Is there any biblical reference to
a place like the Fields of Asphodel, as there is to Tartarus/the Abyss
and Elysium/Paradise? Is there a connection to discover between this
aspect of Sheol/Hades and the Christian afterlife? I should emphasize
that we are not seeking for such a connection because God’s here-
after has to conform to the Jewish, Greek, or Roman understanding
of Sheol/Hades and its realms. However, since the biblical authors
mentioned such places by name, they were obviously attempting to
explain the afterlife in terms that their Jewish, Greek, and Roman
audiences could easily understand. So if it helps, focus on the reasons
these places exist. Understand the concepts—like pre-Hell and pre-
Heaven—to which the Bible and/or we are attaching names and loca-
tions. For example, if folks knew about the Fields of Asphodel, is
there a correlative biblical place that would make difficult issues
concerning God’s hereafter much easier to understand?
Yes, the Bible does offer us some evidence to ponder. We’ve seen
that Tartarus is for the rebellious and that Paradise is for the righ-
teous. Are there human spirits who don’t fit into either of these cate-
gories, for which a third section of Sheol/Hades would be necessary?
You bet your bippy! What about all the folks we discussed at length
who don’t have meaningful access to the gospel, those who died
before Jesus came, those who can’t get adequate education about Jesus
while alive, or those too young or mentally unable to comprehend
God’s solution for them? They neither have the information needed to
accept righteousness through Jesus, nor do they know the gospel in
a way that they could willfully rebel against. As much as any human
can be, they are spiritually neutral toward the gospel, not candi-
dates for either Tartarus or Paradise. But they are perfectly fit for
a similarly neutral Asphodelian corner of Sheol/Hades, aren’t they?
Such a location is not given a specific name in the Bible, but we do
know that a residence for such people between death and judgment

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exists. Given that much of my training involved the pervasive use of
mnemonics, I’ll call this place L.U.G.G (or just Lugg): Limbo Until
Getting the Gospel. If it’s too much for you to use the word Lugg,
just replace it with limbo instead. But we can try to punctuate the
heaviness of this subject matter with at least a little fun, right? Keep
in mind that I do not claim my propositions about Lugg below to
be definitively correct; I simply hope to demonstrate how they bring
together the biblical hereafter in the most sensible way.
1 Peter 3:18-20 describes a place where spirits are in prison who
lived and died before Jesus’ time. Clearly they did not have access to
the gospel while alive, so after his resurrection, Jesus goes there to
preach to them! There’s no reason for Jesus to preach to people in
Paradise, as they’ve already heard and believed his message. But this
passage wouldn’t be referring to people in Tartarus either, as there’s
no point in preaching the gospel to those who will inevitably go to
Hell, not to mention that anyone in Tartarus would have already had
meaningful access to the gospel while alive anyway. And why would
God send people to such a place of agony and torment just because
they haven’t heard the gospel? But the most important evidence that
Jesus went somewhere other than Tartarus or Paradise to initially
preach to the dead is that God’s solution hadn’t been available to
almost all of these people to reject or accept during life! When Jesus
first went to preach to the dead, the only humans in Tartarus would
have been the ones who were alive to hear and reject Jesus but died
before he was resurrected. Our discussion in the last chapter about
the rich man would lead us to consider him one of these relatively
few individuals. Likewise, the only humans in Paradise would have
been the ones who were alive to hear and accept Jesus but died before
he was resurrected, like the crucified criminal. Therefore, the vast
majority of deceased human spirits at this time would be in the place
described by 1 Peter 3:18-20, which makes sense because only they
could benefit from Jesus’ preaching anyway.* And if Jesus considers
it so important to preach to these folks who didn’t have meaningful
access to the gospel during life, then there is every reason to believe

*  Interestingly, it has been argued that Jesus is preaching to demons rather
than humans in this passage, so we evaluate the validity of this claim here. 74

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he would return to do the same for all future folks without such
exposure to the gospel during life. Could this passage be referring to
Lugg then? Of course!
As Peter himself continues to elaborate, “The gospel was preached
even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according
to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God
in regard to the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). How else could God use Jesus to
show mercy to the Jews’ dead ancestors, as he does in Luke 1:67-72?
And concerning people who do have meaningful access to the gospel,
how else could it “have been better for them not to have known the
way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their
backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” (2 Peter
2:20-21), without an alternative to Tartarus and Hell where people
could go who couldn’t know the gospel while alive? Paul appears to
allude to Lugg as well. He tells us that before Jesus’ resurrection, God
“overlooked” people’s ignorant idol worship, “but now he commands
all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will
judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” (Acts
17:16, 29-30). This overlooking of God’s does not mean that all idol-
ators before Jesus’ time are automatically saved, because the whole
world is judged according to repentance associated with the message
of Jesus, the man God has appointed, and these folks are still subject
to that judgment. Not to mention that overlooking the sins of some
people before Jesus’ time and condemning other people for the same
sins after Jesus’ time isn’t exactly judging the world with justice.
However, since God overlooked these idolators’ sins, they obviously
aren’t automatically damned either. So what is the only way that he
could have overlooked their sins yet still judged them with justice via
the gospel? Lugg, a place where the eternal destiny of these deceased
would be overlooked until their ignorance was able to be informed by
Jesus preaching to them, allowing them to be judged according to the
same criterion as everyone who had meaningful access to the gospel
during life.
Even Jesus himself seems to emphasize Lugg. “A time is coming
and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son
of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in

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himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And
he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in
their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done
what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil
will rise to be condemned” (John 5:25-29). Clearly, the time Jesus said
“has now come” cannot be the same as the time “when all who are
in their graves will hear his voice and come out,” as the latter has
not yet occurred. Because Jesus was about to provide his solution to
sin through his death and resurrection, he refers to a first time that
had now come for him to go to the dead, so that those who wanted
to hear his message—but hadn’t been able to yet—would eventually
rise to live! Obviously, this talk of resurrection must have surprised
some Jews, who studied the Old Testament and therefore weren’t used
to such certainty regarding the dead being raised. Jesus calms them
down, only to tell them of a second time that’s coming, one that had
apparently not come yet, when all the dead will rise for final judg-
ment. So the first time already came with Jesus, allowing the dead
to hear his message so that they could obtain life, although there’s
no mention of them coming out of their graves yet. That sounds
an awful lot like the Lugg suggested in 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6,
doesn’t it? The second time is coming, when all the dead do rise to
finally experience that life or to be condemned. That sounds an awful
lot like judgment day, where we are all (besides the martyrs of the
first resurrection) resurrected together, doesn’t it? Just like we’ve been
saying all along! Apparently, Luke, Peter, Paul, and Jesus all teach the
concept of Lugg.
But if all of these passages do refer to Lugg, then why are the
inhabitants that Peter tells us about in prison if they’re spiritually
neutral, and why are they in Lugg if they’re disobedient? The ques-
tions kind of answer each other. People who would go to Lugg are
neutral in regard to salvation—in their ability to respond to God’s
solution for them—because they didn’t have meaningful access to
the gospel to make a decision about it either way while alive. But
that doesn’t mean that they are morally neutral, never having done
anything right or wrong. Remember the specific inhabitants of Lugg

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who 1 Peter 3:18-20 is telling us about: people before Jesus’ time who
disobeyed but who have the potential to respond to Jesus’ message
given exposure. We don’t exactly know how these folks disobeyed,
but the idolatry “overlooked” in Acts 17:29-30 is a violation of two of
the Ten Commandments! Also, Jesus identifies people in Tyre, Sidon,
and Sodom as folks who “would have repented long ago,” if Jesus
had performed the same miracles for them that were rejected by his
contemporaries (Matthew 11:21-24). Does this mean they’re damned
just because they were born before Jesus was? No, Lugg allows us to
explain how God restores at least some of them “to what they were
before” their deaths, people who still had a choice to follow him or
not, except now with the knowledge of Jesus’ message (Ezekiel 16:53-
55). However, they were still extremely disobedient to God while
on earth (Genesis 19:1-9, Joel 3:4-7). They didn’t have access to the
gospel, which is why Jesus comes to preach to such people after they
die, but they did do some seriously bad stuff! It’s not really surprising
then that we find them in prison in Lugg, is it? This would make
some sense of Jesus’ otherwise perplexing assertion that a person who
does not know God’s will but “does things deserving punishment” is
still punished “with few blows,” even though his judgment is clearly
different and less severe than that of the “unbelievers” who do know
but reject God’s will (Luke 12:42-48). A similar punishment in Lugg
may therefore occur for modern folks outside the gospel’s reach who
have similarly low moral standards.
Then perhaps the less immoral spiritually neutral inhabitants of
Lugg—such as the spirit of an adult with severe lifelong cerebral
palsy—are not in prison and may be experiencing a more positive side
of Lugg. This sort of limbo, particularly for children, was espoused by
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, theologian Peter Abelard, and Thomas
Aquinas.79 It would make sense for a just God to use Lugg as a way
to even out lesser inequalities from people’s earthly lives, as he does
their unequal access to the gospel. Very importantly, this would also
allow us a plausible way to understand God’s perspective when he
decides to end the physical lives of various Old Testament individuals.
None of them would have had meaningful access to the gospel, and
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their lives due to the immorality of their cultures—including children
and likely others who were not contributing to such immorality (e.g.
Genesis 19:1-9, Deuteronomy 12:29-31, 2 Kings 17:31, Amos 1:13). In
the biblical hereafter, physical death would simply be a continuation
of their pre-Hell/Heaven existence, rather than the termination of it.
Therefore, combining his unique authority over their lives as their
Creator with his unique knowledge of their bleak earthly predica-
ment, God could have actually used physical death to shorten their
suffering here and replace it with a far more positive compensatory
experience in Lugg. Likewise, he could easily use varying levels of
agony and torment in Tartarus or rest and comfort in Paradise to
achieve similar overall fairness for people in those places as well. In
fact, at least in the case of those who go to Paradise, God confirms
that he does this! “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous
are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:1-2).
It makes sense then that God would even out in Lugg the varying
earthly experiences of those who might go to Paradise as well, but at
any rate, at least their exposure to Jesus’ message would ultimately be
a fair one. Everyone in Lugg will learn and understand God’s solu-
tion for them.
This does not mean that the people there will all accept the gospel
when he preaches it to them. Lugg is not some sort of purgatory,
as if imprisonment there would necessarily result in an inhabitant’s
salvation. The only thing that will save those in Lugg is the faith
that accepts the gospel, and many will not exhibit that, setting them
on the path to Tartarus that inevitably leads to Gehenna. You might
think that folks in Lugg would have an unfair advantage over us
upon hearing Jesus’ message because they at least would be absolutely
certain that there is life after death. However, if you consider who
goes there, confirmation of an afterlife would not in any way increase
their likelihood of accepting God’s message of salvation through Jesus.
The people in Lugg are those who died too young to understand the
gospel, those who were too mentally incapacitated to understand the
gospel, and those who were chronologically or geographically isolated

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from the gospel. The first two groups wouldn’t have been able to
contemplate the hereafter while on earth well enough for the after-
life to unfairly confirm the truth of anything Jesus said or did. For
them, Lugg would practically be their entire meaningful exposure to
the concepts of God, sin, Jesus, redemption, Hell, and Heaven. As far
as knowledge of the gospel is concerned, they would be starting with
much the same blank slate in Lugg as we start with when we’re born
here. And the third group would actually have a strike against them
in Lugg, because they would have preconceptions about the hereafter
from their earthly lives, but none of them would have anything to do
with Jesus, as they had no meaningful access to the gospel here.
Instead of starting with a blank slate, like the other inhabitants of
Lugg or you and me, they would have beliefs to unlearn before they
would be willing to accept Jesus’ message. God’s solution of Jesus
would be a brand new concept to everyone in Lugg, not a second-
chance confirmation of an option they knew about but rejected while
on earth. Therefore, the variety of responses to the gospel in Lugg
would likely be very similar to that which we experience here.
After all, God has to maintain his justice in Lugg too. He will give
folks there whatever equivalent exposure to the gospel that he gives
us here, so there’s no reason to think that anyone gets an unfair
advantage, either in Lugg or on earth. Once that equal opportunity
has been offered to a person in Lugg, it follows that their genuine
response would result in a transfer to either Tartarus or Paradise,
depending what choice is made. We have no biblical evidence of a
fixed, non-crossable chasm between Lugg and Tartarus or Lugg and
Paradise, only between Tartarus and Paradise.
So Lugg would be a relatively transient place once people hear
God’s solution for them there. True, people who lived before Jesus’
time would have been waiting in Lugg from very early on, but only
because there was no gospel to give them yet! They obviously couldn’t
get it before Jesus accomplished it, but as soon as he had a message
to preach to them, he did, right? So Lugg is not a place where lucky
individuals get hundreds of years to ponder and believe in Jesus’
message or not. God does not show favoritism in the time or type of
exposure to the gospel that people get (Romans 2:11, 1 Peter 2:23).

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Whatever way people learn of God’s solution for them, it will be
communicated evenly across the playing field; you can be assured
of that. Even though God can reach people in all kinds of ways, the
Bible shows us some examples of how he covers all his bases (Colos-
sians 1:22-23). For people who are “near” the gospel with meaningful
access to it on earth and who die well before judgment day, he does
it via that exposure (Romans 10:8-10). For people living shortly before
judgment day, who will have an abbreviated window of time for
access to the gospel whether on earth or in Lugg, he adds a world-
wide public announcement (Revelation 14:6-7)! And for those people
who never have meaningful access to the gospel on earth, he seems
to provide it in 1 Peter 3:18-20 via Lugg. There is undeniably a group
of people who didn’t have access to Jesus’ message when they were
alive but who are exposed to it after they die. They can’t really plug
into a Tartarus, where humans go who have heard and rejected the
gospel during their physical lives. And they can’t really plug into a
Paradise, where humans go who have heard and accepted the gospel
during their physical lives. But they can plug into a Lugg just fine,
can’t they? Jesus doesn’t only visit Paradise after he dies; he visits
Lugg also, and apparently he will quite frequently continue to! We’ve
got a group of people that needs Jesus’ message after they die but
before they go to Hell or Heaven, and the Bible repeatedly alludes to
a place that fits them perfectly.*
But why doesn’t God just tell us more openly and abundantly
about Lugg, or whatever his name for it is? Actually, there are two
really good reasons. First, it wouldn’t make a hill o’ beans of differ-
ence. If God chose to wax eloquent about Lugg in the Bible, the only
people who would know about it are those with meaningful access
to the message of Jesus, and none of those people could ever go
to Lugg! Those who actually will be going there would never hear
about it anyway, so what’s the point in God elaborating on it in the
first place? If I wrote you a letter describing all the characteristics
of a far-off land, detailing exactly how to get there and what will

*  There are t wo Lugg look-alikes that have been proposed as alternative
explanations for how those without meaningful access to the gospel are judged
justly; however, they are highly problematic for the reasons delineated here. 80

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happen once you arrive, but then I told you that because you just
read the letter, you and anyone else you share it with will never be
able to go there, would you find that helpful or worthy of your time?
Instead, God does the most sensible thing—as always—and spends
the vast majority of his words regarding the hereafter explaining the
places that we could be going to, especially Hell and Heaven, but also
Tartarus and Paradise. And you can’t get to Lugg from any one of
those places, since the gospel would already be known to you. You
can only get from Lugg to either Tartarus or Paradise. And once in
Tartarus—like the rich man—you can’t cross the chasm to Paradise;
you will inevitably find yourself in Hell. Likewise, once in Paradise—
like Lazarus—you can’t cross the chasm to Tartarus; you will inevi-
tably find yourself in Heaven. Therefore, these places, particularly the
eternal ones, are much more helpful to learn about than Lugg, espe-
cially since people are only in Lugg long enough to choose one of
them anyway.
Second, if God went on and on telling humans about a place
where people were able to hear and accept Jesus’ message after their
deaths, even if deep down these folks knew this place didn’t apply to
them, what would their curiosity lead them to do? Be honest. They
would try to find ways to make it apply to them, ways to allow them
to believe and live however they want here, while still giving them a
chance in Lugg to eek their way into Heaven just before it’s too late.
God’s words may reveal that a place like Lugg is not an option for
them, but they will find catastrophically creative ways to convince
themselves that it is, and they will teach others to do the same. God
doesn’t want us to have to admit too late that we weren’t eligible
for Lugg, so he gives us enough hints about it to answer several
significant questions about the hereafter and then falls silent. Conse-
quently, I have tried to limit this discussion to these hints and how
they logically connect to God’s other words, so as not to arouse any
more curiosity than he has. In case I have failed in that regard, let
me directly discourage you from indulging attempts to make Lugg
accessible in your mind to those of us with meaningful access to the
gospel. God keeps our focus on Hell and Heaven for a reason—that’s
where it benefits us the most—and the biblical narrative reflects that.

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“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who
directs you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17).
I hope it’s now clear that Tartarus, Paradise, and Lugg aren’t just
concepts we’ve discussed to address unfamiliar biblical references.
Neither are they random, incidental locales in God’s grand scheme,
like a “Mystery Spot” along a highway connecting two much more
important places. They are absolutely necessary for God’s purpose for
humans to be accomplished, and they are found in the Bible to do
exactly that, not to needlessly make the afterlife a bit more colorful
or complicated. If God’s purpose for us is to enjoy eternal, perfect
community with him, he has to give us free will. The use of our
free will to sin forces the knowledge and experience of evil in this
world, which results in (among many other tragedies) the deaths of
the very young and the lifelong mentally disabled. God cannot phys-
ically communicate the gospel to these two groups while alive on
earth. Therefore, they (along with others) do not have an adequate
chance during life to accept or reject it, so he must create a spiritu-
ally neutral location like Lugg between death and judgment to main-
tain his purpose for them. But if he must create a place for them
during this time, if he wishes to raise and judge every human at
the same time, and if he has not yet completed Hell or Heaven for
humans to inhabit, he also must create places between death and
judgment where those destined for Hell or Heaven can go: Tartarus
and Paradise. And it only makes sense to place these three essen-
tial regions in one universal abode of the dead. Sheol/Hades and its
three realms, just like Hell and Heaven, are vital for God to achieve
his purpose in creating humanity, and that’s why we see all of them
in the Bible. He has given us all the information about them that
we need in order to understand our future. By bringing his Old
and New Testaments together in beautiful harmony, God unveils
a simple, rational, and biblical description of what’s in store for us
after death.
If you have meaningful access to the message of Jesus in this life
and reject it as true, you will head to Tartarus in Sheol/Hades when
you die, a place of “torment” and “agony.” If you have meaningful
access to the message of Jesus in this life and accept it as true,

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T he Ultimate P ublicity Stunt

you will head to Paradise in Sheol/Hades when you die, a place of
“peace,” “comfort,” and “rest,” where we know you can be with others
who also want to be there, reminisce about life on earth, observe
those who are still alive, or simply “sleep in death” (Luke 16:22-31,
Revelation 6:9-11, 1 Samuel 28:11-19, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Those
who do not have meaningful access to the message of Jesus in this
life—which don’t include any of us now—will head to a part of Sheol/
Hades that we’ve called Lugg—limbo until getting the gospel. This
is a place of some obscurity to us for our own good, but a place of
exposure to God’s solution to them, so that they can freely choose
how to respond, hopefully for their own good. Then when the dead
are raised together from Sheol/Hades on the last day, every human
spirit will have heard the message of Jesus fairly, and all will have
chosen how they wish to respond to it (Revelation 20:11-15). Those in
Tartarus go to Hell, those in Paradise go to Heaven, and the inhab-
itants of Lugg will have already left for Tartarus or Paradise before-
hand by their own free will. “Then death and Hades were thrown
into the lake of fire.” Why? Well, the dead are raised, so death has
no power. And the spirits have gone from it, so Sheol/Hades has no
purpose. We started our tour of Sheol/Hades by observing its consis-
tent link to when a human meets his end, and we’ve finished the
tour by observing when Sheol/Hades meets its end.
I realize that all of this may be new and strange to you, but
not as much as it might seem. The departed who are not saved
are in a rather hellish place. The deceased who are saved are in a
rather heavenly place of peace, comfort, and rest where they can
keep watch over you. But neither party is in Hell or Heaven, and
there’s no reason they need to be. If you’re willing to accept a post-
mortem existence for humans in Hell or Heaven, then why not in
Sheol/Hades too? After all, did the understanding of the biblical
Hell and Heaven that you had before you read this part of the book
adequately account for all the biblical locales in the hereafter and
adequately address what happens to every group of humans who
don’t have meaningful access to the gospel? If it did, I would love
to learn anything you might be able to teach me! However, my
experience has consistently demonstrated that people often avoid,

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disregard, or simply don’t know of the many verses revealing Sheol,
Hades, Tartarus, the Abyss, Paradise, and even Lugg. Perhaps such
passages are often considered mysterious or controversial simply due
to a lack of openness to options that allow them to make sense. A
construct of the afterlife only flexible enough to contain Hell and
Heaven forces us into biblically and logically inconsistent explana-
tions for the fate of those who haven’t heard Jesus’ message, as
there is no room for considering a place between death and judg-
ment for people who need it. Conversely, synthesizing everything the
Bible has to say with an open mind helps heal our hereafters with a
framework that is straightforward, makes sense, and welcomes God’s
words to speak for themselves.

God desires to, is able to, and will reach every single
human being equally with the message of Jesus, even if
we consider it more monotonous, annoying, or intrusive
than a request for donating blood! The locations and time-
line he uses to pull this ultimate publicity stunt are biblical,
necessary, and make a lot of sense once we familiarize
ourselves with them. Just as we’d expect from a God who
wants to give life.

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Five people are converging on a road that is about to fork, and they must
make a decision which way to go. Four of them have already died—spirits
who in physical life wore the bodies of a person with severe brain damage
from birth, an Old Testament shepherd, an isolated Pacific island native,
and a miscarried fetus. Therefore, they are in their afterlives in Lugg. The
fifth is a spirit who is indistinguishable from the body he’s wearing because
he has not yet died. Therefore, he is in his life in our physical world. All
five spirits have a choice between the Tartarus Train or the Paradise Port.
Jesus, who has already been wounded, approaches them all before they
must decide and makes admission to Paradise Port equally and freely
available to everyone. They can only take the Tartarus Train if they refuse
the ticket. These spirits are all fully capable of understanding this deci-
sion, and they must knowingly accept Jesus’ offer to be admitted to the
port—no one can get in automatically or in any other way. Also, no one
can stay in or return to this physical life, and no one from this life can be
exposed to Jesus’ offer and then proceed to Lugg. Both the train and port
are walled, and as rail and sea transportation can never join, the decisions
made will be permanent.

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Part 4

Yes, I Gotta Have Faith,
Ooooo, I Gotta Have Faith
Healing Hereafter

It’s always interesting to see how a patient reacts to me
the first time I walk into the room. In most of my patient
encounters, I am performing some sort of procedure on
them, such as a joint injection or biopsy, so they regard
me with extra scrutiny before I approach them with
any needles. Moreover, I’m a young-appearing, kinda-
scrawny, unimpressive-looking individual—even in scrubs
and a white coat—which I never wear anyway. I can’t tell
you how many times the first sentence out of a patient’s
mouth has contained the words “Doogie” and “Howser,”
now that you’ve been reminded who he is. They could at
least include the “MD” if they’re gonna go that route!

Honestly, I don’t mind at all, and I actually kind of like it the
older I get, but it does remind me that the way I look at
them is very different from the way they look at me. Having
done so many of these procedures, I often act as if the
patient had been present for every one of them, you know,
business as usual. But for most of these folks, this is the
first “surgery” they’ve had, they don’t know what risks or
pain are in store for them, and they definitely would rather
see George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, or even young Doogie
open that door instead of me!

Aside from the fact that I am much more procedurally
proficient than the above actors, I totally understand. My
patients trust me, at least with a part of their bodies, and
at most with their lives. Even if I build rapport, adequately
obtain informed consent, and satisfactorily answer all of
their questions, they still really can’t know enough about
me to know that they are safe in my hands. All they can do

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is believe to be true what I say about my credentials and
about what I’m going to be doing. Allowing me to begin
working on them is an act of faith, no less. Forcing them to
believe me is out of the question; they must decide to do
that themselves. And it is only once they exercise faith that
we truly enter into a patient-physician relationship that can
result in healing. Given the somewhat less invasive nature
of the procedures that I do, the patients are almost always
pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy their expe-
riences are, and one even fell asleep as I was inserting
a four-inch needle into his shoulder! He must have been
a veteran. They won’t flinch at anything you do to them,
since “it ain’t nothin’ compared to ‘Nam.” I believe it!

So far we’ve described how Jesus saves humans and how
humans need to accept the message of Jesus in order to
close the loop on God’s salvation process for them. But
the process doesn’t start there, and it is the task of this
part of the book to find out where salvation really does
begin and what exactly happens from that point on as a
human’s hereafter is healed. Like a patient before a proce-
dure, we all have our apprehensions about God, and he
will never force us to believe that he is who he says he is
and that he will do exactly as he says with our best inter-
ests in mind. But that kind of faith does remain essen-
tial if we are to enter into a healing relationship with him,
allowing him to begin working on us to bring us the gospel
in a way that will accomplish salvation. Yes, you gotta
have faith, ooooo, you gotta have faith,1 and soon you’ll
know exactly what that faith looks like . . .

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17

T he part of this book we’ve just finished focuses on several of the
reasons for the postmortem preaching Jesus does in the Bible.
We’ve responded to the argument that everyone gets the informa-
tion they need for accepting the gospel while they’re alive. While
this is true for many, it’s not for all, and there is clearly still a need
for reaching some people after their bodies have died. Enter Sheol/
Hades and its three provinces, particularly the one we’ve called Lugg.
But what about the argument that every human’s eternal fate was
already decided by God prior to the universe being created? Did God’s
salvation process for everyone begin, and in many ways end, before
humans were even around? Well, as we will demonstrate, if God did
predestine which humans would be saved—and therefore which ones
would not—before he created them, then humans do not have free
will. If he predestined their salvation decisions, then he clearly chose
for them and can only justly hold himself—not them—responsible for
those decisions. This is obviously problematic, so many believe instead
that God didn’t predestine their salvation decisions based on his own
preference and independent of human free will. Rather, by either
warping to judgment day from within time or observing all of time
simultaneously from outside of it, his resultant foreknowledge of how
they eventually would use their free will to make their own salva-
tion decisions would guide his predestination. But God cannot have
foreknowledge of their salvation decisions if they truly have free will.
Why not?
To answer, we must first remember that while God may warp
within time or exist outside of it, we cannot, at least as far as we
know for the purposes of our discussion. Humans are subject to
physical time and can only exist in the present. You cannot exist right
now reading this page and also in the future at judgment day to be
observed by God there, not because his time-transcending abilities are
limited, but because yours are. So if humans truly have free will, then
up to the present time, those free choices are now fixed, but from

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the present time on, they are absolutely unpredictable. If God decided
to create humans with free will and then warped to judgment day,
would he find a single reality where he could memorize exactly which
humans had freely chosen to be saved or not, allowing him to predes-
tine them respectively to Heaven or Hell before they were created?
No. Instead, he would either encounter no reality beyond the present,
as one would not have been decided by humans beyond right now,
or he would simultaneously encounter every possible reality beyond
the present, containing every permutation of human choices to be
saved or not. What if God didn’t limit himself to a point in time
like judgment day, but observed all of time at once? Would he find a
single human history unfolding before his eyes, showing him when
each person chose to be saved or not, allowing him to predestine
them respectively to Heaven or Hell before they were created? No.
Instead, he would either encounter no reality beyond the present,
as one would not have been decided by humans beyond right now,
or he would simultaneously encounter all possible human histories
beyond the present unfolding before his eyes, again containing every
permutation of human choices to be saved or not. The only free-
willed decisions he could accurately predict, regardless of his point of
view, would be those already made before the current time, because
humans cannot change their past, as they can their future. However,
these “predictions” would not be foreknowledge, but hindsight, which
humans also possess, albeit not to the extent that God does.
Therefore, human free will necessitates that no one fixed reality
or human history can be predicted until humans, not God, have
reached that point in time to choose it. If it can be predicted before
that via any kind of foreknowledge, then humanity’s free will was
not truly free to alter it. So if God wants to foreknow how human
free will will play out, whether by visiting a point in future time
or by observing time as a whole, he will see that it plays out freely,
with every possible outcome from the current time forward equally
predictable and therefore equally real. If humans have free will, God
can only foreknow that he cannot foreknow whether or not they will
choose to be saved, and this foreknowledge obviously cannot be the
basis on which he predestines who is saved or not.

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God can accurately predict which humans will “choose” salvation
or not only if he directly makes this choice for them, if he creates a
fixed future reality to encounter on judgment day, or if he chooses
one of the infinite judgment day potential realities to be the reality.
Any of these options allow him a single, fixed list of not saved and
saved folks (his naughty and nice list, ho, ho ho!), but it also sets in
stone every circumstance in that reality leading up to those salvation
statuses, all the way back to creation, which is equivalent to predesti-
nation. Therefore, God’s decision to foreknow whether or not humans
have freely willed to be saved removes that free will from them! The
predestination based on this foreknowledge is not dependent on how
humans would eventually use their free will to make their own salva-
tion decisions; it is solely based on God’s determination of who is
saved and who is not, as he alone forced the reality that reflects that.
God is either directly picking Gertrude to go to Heaven and Gary to
go to Hell or he is picking a potential reality in which Gertrude will
go to Heaven and Gary will go to Hell to be the actual reality, giving
neither Gertrude nor Gary any actual say in the matter. God can only
justly hold himself, not them, responsible for that decision. Forcing
you to choose something and forcing you to exist in a reality where
you must choose that same something are no different.
Perhaps all this talk of multiple realities makes you wonder which
reality, if any, I’m living in! A simple example will hopefully land us
in the same one. Say Isabel is at a park right now, living out her free-
willed life just the way she wants to, and God either warps to, or
observes from outside of time, her situation on judgment day to see
whether or not she chose to be saved. The hypothetical single reality
that confronts him there gives him the foreknowledge that Isabel will
make a decision ten minutes after leaving the park against following
him that persists for the rest of her life, resulting in a post-judg-
ment day residence in Hell. This can only mean one of two things:
either Isabel at the park no longer has free will and cannot choose to
be saved or God’s foreknowledge is unreliable. In other words, God
either knows Isabel will be damned and there’s nothing she can do
at the park or anytime afterwards to change that, or she can freely
change her destiny throughout her life and God’s foreknowledge is

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Yes, I Gotta H ave Faith, Ooooo, I Gotta H ave Faith

only good until her next free-willed decision changes the reality he
observes at judgment day. This is why there can never be just one
fixed reality there for God to foreknow about free-willed folks; this
reality would always be changing with each human decision made
until we all finally join God there ourselves. Unlike him, we are stuck
in time, so only then will none of us exist prior to then to change our
decision to be saved or not. Only then could God’s foreknowledge be
reliable, except it would no longer be foreknowledge, but hindsight,
right? The only way God could foreknow that free-willed Isabel would
irrevocably choose to pursue Hell ten minutes after she leaves the
park is by forcing that hypothetical single reality observable at judg-
ment day to be the one, fixed, actual reality, thereby predestining her
damnation and removing her free will. Predestination and foreknowl-
edge of a human’s salvation decision are no different, and neither can
coexist with a freely-willed human choice to be saved or not.
But why can’t God wait for us to meet him at judgment day, look
back on the entire now-fixed past of human history, obtain the knowl-
edge—not foreknowledge—of which folks freely chose to be saved or
not, and then warp back to before creation to predestine our salva-
tion according to those decisions? Maybe he can’t have foreknowl-
edge of our free-willed salvation decisions, but he can still predes-
tine them while keeping them truly free, right? No. Our choice to be
saved or not must arise from free will that has not been determined
by predestination. As soon as God warps prior to creation to predes-
tine what would have been a free choice after creation, the choice is
no longer free, because the predestination now determines it before
it can be freely made by a human. The non-predestined free-willed
decision of a human to be saved or not no longer exists anywhere in
time, forcing God’s knowledge at judgment day to be a result of his
own free choice rather than that of humans. Besides, if this predes-
tination wouldn’t change the fate known by God of anyone on judg-
ment day, which it wouldn’t, then why would he even want or need
to go back to the beginning and predestine these fates? Because he
suddenly remembered on judgment day that he forgot to validate a
few verses about predestination? Because he wants to fit in better
with those who advocate such predestination? God would already

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know on judgment day which of them he’ll be hanging out with
forever anyway, so there’s no necessary reason for him to predestine
it too, is there? No matter how you slice it, God cannot predestine or
foreknow our salvation decisions without removing our free will.
And this should not surprise us, because neither of these are
things the God of the Bible would ever consider doing anyway. Back
in Chapter 7 we discussed two problems with the belief that God picks
who goes to Hell and Heaven without giving some humans exposure
to the gospel. Here we’ll explore three problems with the belief that
God picks who goes to Hell and Heaven without giving any humans
a say in the matter. First, it violates the very purpose for which he
created us: to seek him, reach out for him, and find him, so that we
can exist in perfect community with him (Acts 17:26-27). Desire to
accomplish our purpose is reflected in those of us who do find him,
who long “to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that
what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has
fashioned us for this very purpose is God” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5).
Recall that this ideal relationship with God absolutely requires that
humans have the free will to choose to enter into that relationship.
Otherwise it’s just God having a tea party with himself and stuffed
animals, who speak his words and do his deeds because they can
only perform his will, not having wills of their own. God wanted real
community, not fabricated community, so he gives us the free will
necessary to make that possible.
Some would counter by saying that God’s purpose in creating us
was not to enjoy perfect community with him, but rather to glorify
him. Make no mistake, glorifying God is a second purpose for which
we were made, and God certainly deserves such praise (Isaiah 43:6-7,
Revelation 4:11). But how many people are going to glorify a God
that predestined them to Hell? And how much glory will he get from
the rest of us, who are forced to be with him and praise him? Would
he not be glorified much more if he knew that those who chose
him did so because they truly wanted to? Are you honored more by
someone who spends time with you and praises you because they
have to or because they want to? It is because of the free will that God
gives us to accomplish his first purpose of establishing real, perfect

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community with us that he is truly glorified, which in turn accom-
plishes the second purpose. If “our primary reason for existence is to
know and worship God,” free will is necessary.2
The second major problem with God’s will as the sole factor deter-
mining who goes to Hell and Heaven is that it makes him out to
be a liar! Remember, God “wants all people to be saved and come
to a knowledge of the truth,” “not wanting anyone to perish, but
everyone to come to repentance,” “so that through him all men might
believe” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, John 1:7). He sure doesn’t
want all people to be saved if he predestines people to Hell! If it’s
ultimately up to him and he forces people to spend eternity in Hell,
God has lied. Big time. And if we can’t trust that he wants all to be
saved, then how can we trust that he wants any of us to be saved,
or anything else he says for that matter? Of course, God is no liar
(Numbers 23:19). He wants all to be saved, but the goal of that salva-
tion is perfect community with him, which necessitates the free will
that becomes the reason that all are not saved.
Third, if God predestines people to Hell or Heaven, he must
violate his own just nature; he must disown himself, something he
“cannot” do (2 Timothy 2:12-13). There are only three possible parties
who might be responsible for whether or not an individual is saved:
Christians through evangelism, God, and the individual herself. If
there will be people going to both Hell and Heaven, then only an
individual’s choice to be saved or not can maintain God’s justice.
Obviously, it is not just for God to condemn people to Hell only
because a missionary never made it to their tribe with the gospel,
while welcoming others into Heaven from the tribe across the river
because that missionary did make it to them. And regarding the
dependence of salvation on God, it is perfectly just for him to predes-
tine us all to Hell, since that’s the ultimate consequence of our sin,
or all to Heaven, by choosing to equally have mercy on us all. But
it is not just for him—or any judge—to use a double standard, to
acquit some but condemn others when all are equally guilty, so he
doesn’t. Not only is God just, he “ judges justly” too (Deuteronomy 32:4,
1 Peter 2:23). And if he did condemn all to Hell, he would violate his
merciful and loving nature. Why didn’t he predestine all to Heaven

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then, so “that everyone was chosen to enjoy it”?3 Because once again,
it violates his purpose in creating us, producing false community in
which we are merely non-conscious extensions of his will.
These three problems are very serious. But the response I am typi-
cally offered when I raise them with people is that God is sover-
eign and has all these issues worked out, so we should stop worrying
about them and trust him, as some things about God are just too
lofty for humans to understand. The all too common appeal to
mystery and unresolved tensions! Is God so sovereign that he can’t
fulfill his purposes in creating us? Is God so sovereign that he has to
violate his own nature and disown himself? Should I just trust a God
who by all appearances is a liar? Should I stop worrying about my
eternal destiny because this not-so-sovereign, not-so-trustworthy God
has got it all figured out? No, if this God is God, then we’ve all got
a lot to worry about. But it’s not. God is sovereign, trustworthy, and
does have it all figured out, but not by deciding how everything will
be ahead of time. For God to accomplish his purpose for us, for God
to be truthful, and for God to be God, he must at least allow our free
will to decide to want him or not.
Please, let me clarify that it is undeniable that God does predes-
tine many things in the Bible. He has many purposes that he will
accomplish, both in history and in humans, regardless of where
their free will takes them. “I make known the end from the begin-
ning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say, ‘My purpose
will stand, and I will do all that I please.” “What I have said, that I
will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do” (Isaiah 46:10-
11). But one thing God has not purposed, said, or planned is that he
alone decides who goes to Hell or Heaven. In fact, I hope it’s clear
now that his purpose in creating us will only stand if we decide that,
albeit only on his terms and only in his timeframe. He can harden
Pharoah’s heart from letting the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 11:9-
10), he can temporarily send his Holy Spirit on people to make them
do involuntary things (1 Samuel 19:19-24), he can bring famine and
destroy armies to alter history (Genesis 41:25-41, 2 Kings 19:32-36),
he can make prophecies and fulfill them centuries later (Isaiah 53:1-
12), he can appoint Jeremiah from the womb as a prophet to the

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nations (Jeremiah 1:5), his Spirit can cause John the Baptist to leap
in utero (Luke 1:15, 44), he can arrange for the Jews and Romans to
play their roles in Jesus completing his work (John 18-21), he can set
Paul apart as his instrument of outreach to Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-
16), he can confidently predict the apocalyptic events at the end of the
world by making them happen just as he wishes (Revelation 22:6),
he can specifically prepare ahead of time good works for humans
to do (Ephesians 2:10), and he can influence or alter our choices at
any moment to do whatever else he has planned for you and others
(Philippians 2:13). He can direct virtually any facet of anyone’s life for
as long as he wants, but he cannot remove anyone’s free will when it
comes to choosing him and Heaven or not him and Hell.
Cannot? Doesn’t that degrade God’s sovereignty? Not one bit. No
one is forcing or can force this limitation on him, and he is free
to remove it—via removing our free-willed salvation decision—at any
time, although he won’t for all the reasons above and below. If I
choose to close my eyes, does that make me blind? If I choose to
remain still, does that make me paralyzed? Of course not, as at no
time have I lost the ability to see or move; I have only chosen not
to do so. And if what I have chosen to not look at is the sun and if
what I have chosen not to move toward is an oncoming car, limiting
myself from seeing and moving has actually preserved my ability to
see and move, has it not? So it is with God. By limiting himself, God
doesn’t lose his sovereignty; he preserves it. By giving us free will,
God voluntarily chose to restrict both his knowledge and control of at
least this one decision we make about salvation in order to fulfill one
of his most important purposes, to remain trustworthy, and to keep
true to his nature. It is only when humans claim that God can’t make
that voluntary choice that his sovereignty is degraded!
Besides, think of how boring it would be for God to know how
everything was going to turn out. If you could know how every single
detail of your life would unfold, would you? I certainly wouldn’t!
You would be forced to be reminded of every upcoming negative
event instead of being blissfully ignorant until it occurs. You would
be unable to enjoy the suspense and thrill associated with every
upcoming positive event, because you already know what will happen.

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And the worst part is that nothing could ever turn out better than
you already know it will; if you don’t like what you’re going to expe-
rience, tough beans. In the same way, if God foreknows which reality
will exist at judgment day, he can’t do anything to change it, at least
not without invalidating his foreknowledge! In fact, by foreknowing
our salvation decisions, he would not only be negating our free will,
he would be limiting his own! Whatever ways he would have acted
to bring that reality about he must maintain, and whatever human
“choices” would have brought that reality about he cannot alter. If God
did anything in that reality except sit there and watch between now
and judgment day, it would change it in some way, and the fore-
knowledge he had of the future would cease to be correct. If God
didn’t do anything in that reality except sit there and watch between
now and judgment day, his foreknowledge would remain accurate, but
the ability to exercise his own free will—unless he wants to only sit
there and watch—would be extremely limited. No wonder he chose
to limit what he knows about the future! Our free will allows him to
accomplish his purpose in creating us, to be honest, to be true to his
nature, to not resign himself to monotonous boredom for all of time,
and to remain able to intervene in human affairs any way he wants,
because no hypothetical single foreknown reality exists beyond the
present time to constrain him!
These reasons for this self-imposed limitation are apparent
throughout the Bible, and God operates under it even before humans
make any salvation decisions! When God finished his creative work in
Adam and the animals, “he brought them to the man to see what he
would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature,
that was its name” (Genesis 2:19). God waits in suspense, because he
doesn’t want to know beforehand what Adam will call them! How
boring would predestining that be? Anyone who works with or has
children knows how fun it is to see what surprising words come out
of their mouths! Of course God the Father would—and does in this
verse—want to enjoy that same surprise with his children! Unfor-
tunately, sometimes children surprise their fathers in less enjoy-
able ways (as I am experiencing now while potty training our son),
and God’s reaction to our poopy behavior proves to be no more

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anticipated. For example, how could God have “regretted that he had
made humans beings on the earth” just before the flood of Noah if
he had already known for millennia that “that every inclination of
the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time?” It was
only when he “saw how great the wickedness of the human race had
become” that he knew how devastating the surprise of how they used
their free will would be to him (Genesis 6:5-6).
And God’s shock and alarm at human behavior, unexplainable in
the presence of foreknowledge, permeates the Bible. Why would he
constantly wonder in frustration why his people turn away from him
if he foreknows every reason? He is bewildered because “each pursues
their own course,” not one foreknown to him, so he is unpleasantly
surprised by what causes their free will to play out the way it does
(e.g. Jeremiah 8:4-6, Isaiah 55:2-3, Ezekiel 18:30-32). Similarly, there’s
no reason for God to have “looked for justice” and “for righteousness”
among his people, if he already knew he would only find “blood-
shed” and “cries of distress.” Instead, he was disappointed to learn
this only once he “saw” and “heard” these products of human free
will (Isaiah 5:3-7). Why would he hold out his hands “all day long”
to a people he foreknew would be “obstinate”? Seems quite the waste
of time, unless they were freely “pursuing their own imaginations”
instead of a reality foreknown to God, in which case their rejection of
him would not be predictable. God conveys a sense of surprise upon
learning of the first human sin, and Jesus continues to be “amazed”
by his clearly unanticipated encounters with both free-willed human
faith and the lack thereof (Genesis 3:8-13, Matthew 8:5-10, Mark
6:4-6). The Bible is even clear that he doesn’t know what humans are
thinking until they think it (Mark 2:6-8)!
Apparently, God has no qualms advertising this self-imposed limi-
tation of omniscience, knowing how crucially important and sensible
it is. Speaking of those who reject him, “’I will hide my face from
them,’ he said, ‘and see what their end will be’” (Deuteronomy 32:20).
He withdraws his influence, not knowing what fate humans will
choose. God’s people were told that he tested them without fore-
knowledge, “in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not
you would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Judges 2:21-3:4

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reiterates this. Only upon seeing Abraham’s faith in being willing to
give up his son Isaac can God say, “Now I know that you fear God”
(Genesis 22:9-12). On the way to the Promised Land, God doesn’t
know if his people will lose faith in him, and he doesn’t know how
he will respond to them as a result (Exodus 13:17, 33:3). Later he
confirms that the decision to follow him is theirs to make. “I have
set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life”
(Deuteronomy 30:19). “Tell them everything I command you; do not
omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their
evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I
was planning because of the evil they have done” (Jeremiah 26:2-
3). “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be
uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned
repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster
I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or
kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight
and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended
to do for it” (Jeremiah 18:7-10). Whenever he wishes to, God allows
his response to humans to depend on how they use their free will,
doesn’t he? He would never “reconsider” his response to a foreknown
human decision! “So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at
the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I
will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revela-
tion 3:20). His purpose for us is inseparably intertwined with this
voluntary allowance. God created humans “so that they would seek
him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:27). He
doesn’t lose his omniscience; he simply doesn’t fully use it. By giving
us free will concerning salvation, God gets his way and remains God
in the process. Now that’s what I call sovereignty!
Besides, God voluntarily restricting himself is not exactly a foreign
concept that we should balk at or find onerous. God chose to limit his
omnipotence by confining himself to a human body to take the sin
of the world on himself as he hung on a criminal’s cross (Philippians
2:5-8, Colossians 2:9). God will choose to limit his omnipresence
by keeping himself absent from Hell (Jeremiah 23:39-40, Matthew
25:41, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). And if he can do these things without

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jeopardizing his sovereignty, choosing to limit his omniscience by
giving us free will doesn’t seem like much of a threat in comparison.
In fact, such a free will is so important to God that all three of his
voluntary restrictions directly allow humans to arrive in the eternal
destination of their choice without him interfering in that deci-
sion. This is the sovereign God of the Bible, who can accomplish his
purposes, uphold his nature, and make sense, all at the same time.

18

B ut wait, doesn’t the Bible talk about predestination, the elect, and
other things that might suggest that God decides who goes to
Hell or Heaven? Sure it does, and I never claimed that God doesn’t
play any role in the salvation process. In fact, he plays quite a large
one! But he doesn’t play the only role. To make sure you know I’m
not withholding vital information from you, we’re going to look at
the passages in the Bible most supportive of salvation predestination.
Then we’re going to see how they fit into a model for salvation that
maintains both their integrity as well as God’s integrity, by avoiding
the many problems in the last chapter that salvation predestination
cannot. Before we begin though, there is one valuable truth to keep
in the back of your mind. When the Bible uses the term “predesti-
nation” or “election,” it simply means predestination or election, not
necessarily all of the theological constructs and connotations that
have been attached to these words since the Bible was written. If you
adhere to the teachings of those who championed salvation predesti-
nation, it may be difficult to separate those teachings from the simple
respective meanings of these words: to determine something ahead
of time and to choose something. And yet you must, because these
words are what the Bible gives us. They might be associated with
salvation predestination views, or they might not. To say that God
prehistorically predestines and chooses exactly who goes to Hell and
Heaven, simply because the Bible uses the words “predestination” and
“election,” and that’s what those words have come to mean to you, is

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to succumb to circular reasoning. Our job is to strip ourselves of such
post-biblical preconceptions, so that we can read the words God uses
more objectively and with an open mind, which is precisely why I’m
sharing with you the passages that do not appear to agree with me at
first glance. Here they are.
Exhibit A: Judas. In John 17:12 Jesus talks to God the Father about
his disciples, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them
safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one
doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” There you
go; God dooms Judas to Hell to fulfill his purpose of Jesus’ betrayal
in the Bible, right? Not likely. First, no verse in the Bible predicts
that Jesus’ betrayer must go to Hell, so Judas wouldn’t be fulfilling
any Scripture by going there. The Scripture that is fulfilled by Judas’
actions is Psalm 41:9, which only predicts his betrayal, not having
anything to say about the fate of the betrayer. Jesus’ disciples tell us
only that he “left to go where he belongs,” which is quite non-specific
(Acts 1:25). Since none of them could have possibly known his eternal
destination, they most likely meant that he belonged dead in a field
for betraying Jesus to death on a cross (Acts 1:18). Regarding Judas,
Jesus says, “It would be better for him if he had not been born,” but
if this is because Judas went to Hell, then it would be better for
every unsaved person to have not been born. Rather than arguing
for salvation predestination, this makes a God who allows people to
be born just so that it is possible for them to be predestined to Hell
even more unnecessarily cruel, as he could have prevented their birth,
knowing it would have been better for them. And if every unsaved
person would be better off never born, then why would Jesus single
Judas out here? Not because he’s unsaved, but because Judas died in a
gruesome suicide and has been uniquely known to billions of people
ever since then as the one who betrayed the savior of all mankind!
With that kind of reputation, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if he had
rather not been born.
But if the destruction he is doomed to isn’t Hell, then what is it?
Well, what were the other disciples protected from by Jesus “while
he was with them” that Judas was not? Death, right? While Jesus
was with them, none of them died except Judas. Clearly Jesus wasn’t

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protecting them from Hell, since he had already confirmed that they
would have eternal life with him (Matthew 19:27-29). What Judas
wasn’t protected from—what was doomed—was the destruction of his
body, his death, not his eternal fate. In fact, don’t be surprised if
Judas ends up in Heaven, as he confessed his sin before he died
(Matthew 27:3-5). Moreover, Jesus’ confirmation that his disci-
ples would have eternal life extended to all twelve of “you who have
followed me,” which unequivocally included Judas when these words
were spoken (Matthew 19:28). So no, we can’t use Judas as proof that
God predestines people to Hell, especially when doing so makes God
seem even more unnecessarily cruel and when Judas is almost defi-
nitely going to be in Heaven! I certainly hope he is!
Exhibit B: Psalm 139:4, 16. “Before a word is on my tongue you,
Lord, know it completely,” and “all the days ordained for me were
written in your book before one of them came to be.” If God knows
what we’re going to say before we say it and has written out our
whole life before it happens, how can we have free will at all, let alone
in a salvation decision? First, remember that God does not limit all
of his knowledge of and influence over our words and deeds, just at
least that which involves our salvation decision. There are plenty of
other things about us he chooses to know and affect. Second, knowing
our words before we say them doesn’t necessarily mean God knows
everything we’re going to say for the rest of our lives. It may just
as validly mean that he knows what’s presently in our minds before
it’s in our mouths. So which one is it? Is the psalmist saying that
God knows everything we’re ever going to say or simply that God
can read our minds? Let’s take the verse in context. “You know
when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar
with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know
it completely” (Psalm 139:2-4). All of what God knows about us here
is in the present tense isn’t it, including perceiving our thoughts and
therefore knowing our words before they’re on our tongues. Simi-
larly, God “knows everything” in the context of our present salvation
status, whether or not we currently “belong to the truth” (1 John
3:19-20). And we have confirmation that God’s unlimited present

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knowledge does not automatically extend into the future when we are
told that Jesus only knew what people were thinking once they were
thinking it (Mark 2:6-8)! There’s no suggestion of God knowing in
the past everything that would pertain to our present, nor is there
anything about God knowing in the present everything pertaining to
our future. These verses claim nothing more than that God knows in
the present everything in the present, a supernatural ability that does
not interfere with human free will at all.
But what about verse 16? “All the days ordained for me were
written in your book before one of them came to be.” This most
likely means that God either preordained the number of days in our
lives or simply preordained that we would have an existence, rather
than predetermining every event that occurs during it. The Hebrew
in this verse literally describes the forming or fashioning of days for
the psalmist, the creation of his existence. This fits well within the
context of verses 13-16, which describe the development of his body
in the womb! In contrast, there is no mention of specific events
or choices being preordained, only a person’s days of existence. So
whether God predetermines how long we live or simply that we live,
our free will is left intact in Psalm 139:16 as it concerns salvation
and likely several other decisions we make as well. And since only
the days that God ordained for us are written in his book, it’s quite
possible that there are days, events, or choices he didn’t ordain for
us, again allowing room for free will. After all, if God has prewritten
every occurrence in our lives, he would have to take the blame for
every act of sin we do and suffering we cause, turning his claims of
perfection into lies, his opposition to sin and suffering into hypoc-
risy, and his unjust assignments to Hell into a punishment fit only
for himself! But he doesn’t have to. God may predestine the length or
presence of our existences, but he has not predestined everything else,
and we can still freely choose him and Heaven or not him and Hell.
Exhibit C: Romans 9:1-11:32. In this passage Paul is arguing that
God has the right to intervene in our lives in any way he wants, and
the focal point of our discussion is Romans 9:18. “God has mercy
on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants
to harden.” The important question for us is this: does God want

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to extend this authority to our eternal destiny or not? We’ve seen
several reasons above why he would not, but what does this passage
say? Well, let’s look at the examples given of people God hardens.
First is the story of the twins Jacob and Esau (found in its entirety in
Genesis 25-27 and 32-33). Esau is the older brother, but God predes-
tines Jacob to get the family blessing and birthright, resulting in
Esau serving Jacob instead of the other way around. Nothing about
predestined salvation or eternal destiny here (Romans 9:10-13). “God’s
purpose in election” was not to damn Esau; God was electing Jacob
to be served by Esau, confirming that this major upheaval of cultural
norms regarding the rights of the firstborn did not occur because of
any human “works” or decisions. It is only when we force the concept
of salvation predestination into Paul’s mind that “election” becomes
“election to Hell or Heaven.” The second example is Pharoah, who is
the Egyptian tyrant oppressing his Israelite slaves (see Exodus 5-11
for the whole story). God predestines him to refuse to let the Jews
escape, despite all kinds of plagues that come Egypt’s way (Exodus
4:21). Again, there is nothing about this predestination that relates
to the eternal fate of either Pharaoh or the Jews (Romans 9:17-18).
Third, the Jews themselves are being predestined or prepared for
destruction (Romans 9:22), both because they are trying to become
perfect in a manmade way—by doing x, y, and z—and because God
is spreading his gospel to the Gentiles by showing everyone that the
Jews are not exclusively his people (the whole account is found in
Romans 9:22-11:32). But is this destruction Hell, or is it something
less than that, as in the case of Judas?
In Romans 9:30-10:4 in particular, Paul is clear that this predes-
tination was a punishment for the Jews following their own way
(trying to become righteous by obeying rules) instead of God’s way
(depending on his solution of Jesus for righteousness). But this
punishment was also for the purpose of God bringing people outside
the Jewish nation to him. God used punishment similarly in Ezekiel
16:1-63, where a temporary judgment on the nation of Judah ulti-
mately offered both the Gentile Sodomites and the Jews an oppor-
tunity for salvation. Likewise, in Isaiah 6:9-10 he told the Jews who
had rebelled against him for decades to “‘be ever hearing, but never

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understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart
of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, under-
stand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Sounds pretty
harsh until you keeping reading through verse 11, where we discover
that God only kept these folks from turning to be healed until they
were exiled, after which he restored them. Isaiah 6:9-10 is a passage
quoted in two more settings in the New Testament (Matthew 13:13-
14, Acts 28:24-28). In all three places this judgment is a reaction to
the calloused hearts of Jews, not a predestined ticket to Hell.
In these passages and in Ezekiel 16, the Jews’ punishment wasn’t
intended by God to be eternal, and Paul tells us that the predes-
tined punishment for the Jews in Romans is not meant to be eternal
either. “Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in
my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people
(the Jews) to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought
reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from
the dead? . . . As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for
your (the Gentiles) sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are
loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are
irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God
have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too
have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive
mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you” (Romans 11:13-15,28-31). God
doesn’t harden people to keep salvation from them; on the contrary,
the “hardening” of the Jews was purposed by God to make salvation
available to far more people, including eventually these same Jews, all
according to the one human criterion for salvation that this part of
the book is all about: free-willed faith (Romans 11:25, 23).
So the destruction that the Jews were “prepared for” wasn’t Hell
at all; rather, it was simply earthly punishment meant to bring them
back to God “that they too may now receive mercy” and be granted
“life from the dead!” When we look at all of Romans 9-11, none
of the examples of God having mercy on whom he wants to have
mercy and hardening whom he wants to harden deal with salvation
or eternal destinies do they? Paul’s “prayer to God for the Israelites is

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that they may be saved,” so obviously he is not arguing that God has
elected them to Hell, or he would be knowingly wasting his breath
and praying against God’s will (Romans 10:1)! Instead, he is simply
telling us something we’ve already come to grips with, that God has
the right to influence our everyday, non-salvation decisions however
he wants, in order to accomplish his purposes, just as he did with
Jacob and Esau, Pharaoh, and the Jews. His involvement in these
affairs “does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on
God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16), and we really don’t have any right to
complain. But as his interference in the given examples demonstrates,
he does not want to or act to extend this authority over our choice
concerning salvation.*
Exhibit D: Ephesians 1:4-6. “For God chose us in Jesus before the
creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in
accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious
grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves.” Unlike the
three previous exhibits, the predestination in this final example is
clearly talking about eternal destiny. There can be no doubt that one
of God’s purposes was to save a group of people, who are called “the
remnant” or “the elect” throughout the Bible, no matter what. Recall
that God would be perfectly just in allowing us all to spend eternity
in Hell, but his merciful and loving nature would be violated in the
process. Before he creates humans, anticipating that some would use
their free will to sin—particularly since some of his previous free-
willed creations, the angels, had already done likewise—he decides in
his mercy and love that no matter what happens, at least some people
are going to be saved (Micah 7:18-19). God will not let sin chalk
humanity up as a total loss, so he elects to predestine a remnant.
This necessitates that “from the creation of the world” there must
be a plan for how humans can be included in that group, which is
Jesus, “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8). And for those who
adhere to this plan and become part of this remnant, there must also
be a record ready for keeping track of them, which is “the book of

*  Ironically, this is f urther conf irmed in another passage sometimes
employed to argue that God decides who is saved or not, as seen here. 4

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life from the creation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). The issue we
need to resolve is this: does God stop there and then create humans
to freely choose to adhere or not, or does he go ahead and decide
exactly which of them are in the elect before he creates them? Does
he only predestine that a remnant will be saved, or does he predestine
precisely who is in that remnant, and therefore who is not? Two ques-
tions will help us choose between these options.
First question: Which kind of predestination would God choose
based on who he is? We’ve already answered this, haven’t we? God
cannot be truthful or just if he picks the second option, so for God
to remain true to his nature, he would have no qualms with predes-
tining that a remnant be saved, so long as he didn’t handpick who
was in that remnant ahead of time. Jesus teaches that Hell was orig-
inally “prepared for the devil and his angels,” not humans, which
supports the notion that when God created us, it wasn’t his plan
for any of us—let alone specifically chosen individuals—to go to Hell
(Matthew 25:31-41). In this same passage Jesus describes Heaven to
its imminent inhabitants as “the kingdom prepared for you since the
creation of the world.” Some quote this verse to argue for salvation
predestination, when it is actually strong evidence against it. If God
picked each inhabitant of Heaven before they were created rather
than simply preparing a kingdom for the unspecified group of folks
who would someday be saved, then he must have prepared Hell for all
the other humans. Except he couldn’t have done that, because he tells
us here that Hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Not to
mention that we are clearly told why the inhabitants of Heaven were
selected, and it has absolutely nothing to do with God prehistorically
handpicking them. “’For I was hungry and you gave me something
to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a
stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came
to visit me.’” We’ll discover that such persistent deeds for Jesus and
those he cares for are a necessary part of the salvation process begun
by free-willed human faith and verified by acceptance of the gospel.
It makes no sense for Jesus to tell those going to Heaven that they
are saved because of their impressive acts of compassion toward Jesus

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that they were forced by Jesus to inevitably do when he predestined
their salvation before they were created. Would you consider it praise-
worthy, let alone salvation worthy, for someone to act compassion-
ately toward you only because you literally forced them to? Of course
not. Likewise, the God of the Bible would never make our salvation
decision for us.
Second question: What reasons does God have for this predesti-
nation? We’re given three in Ephesians 1:4-6. It was according to his
pleasure that he did so, it was according to his will that he did so,
and it results in the praise of his glorious grace. We’ll take them in
reverse order. One reason that God predestines is so that people will
praise his grace. Makes sense, considering what he went through,
who he went through it for, and that he deserves our praise anyway
because he’s God and has created us! But we’ve already seen that
predestining certain people to go to Hell and certain people to go
to Heaven will actually bring him less praise than enabling people
to choose for themselves. On the other hand, predestining to make
sure that no matter what, some humans are saved when they other-
wise wouldn’t be is quite praiseworthy, isn’t it? Next, God predes-
tines because he wants to. What else have we seen that God wants?
He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of
the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Again, this leads us away from God
handpicking which people aren’t saved and which are. Finally, God
predestines because it pleases him. “And without faith it is impos-
sible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe
that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”
(Hebrews 11:6). Without considering any human input, God choosing
who he rewards with Heaven doesn’t leave much room for humans
to have faith or believe in him, does it? How can people come to him
and earnestly seek him to be rewarded if God has already removed
their free will in the matter by predestining their eternal fate? Does
God reward people for something he’s forced them to do, something
they played no role in whatsoever? Does he give an extra cookie
to the teddy bear at the tea party for behaving so well? Similarly,
does he punish someone for sins he forced them to commit? Quite
honestly, if God forces people to sin—as they would have no free will

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to do so themselves—then God becomes responsible for all the sin
and suffering in our world, doesn’t he? If the naughty dolly steals
the teddy bear’s cookie, it’s only because God did so through the doll,
right? Unless it’s a doll from one of several horror movies, in which
case God might not be to blame. But he is blameless anyway! Forcing
certain people to choose him and forcing others not to is not predes-
tination that pleases God. Allowing them to earnestly seek him and
freely come to him in faith does please God.
After all, isn’t his purpose for creating us to “seek him, and perhaps
reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:27)? God’s predestination
would be consistent with his purpose, for his praise, and in accor-
dance with his will and his pleasure. “In him we were also chosen,
having been predestined according to the plan of him who works
out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order
that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for
the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12). He predestines according
to his plan for us and in conformity with his purpose for us, which
is to freely seek him, reach out for him, and find him in perfect
community. If God has determined how everything goes down in the
absence of human free will, he can’t “work out everything in confor-
mity with the purpose of his will,” because everything already would
be his will! There’s nothing to work out or conform! It’s only when
he gives us free will that something, our sin and its consequences,
can mess with God’s plan, making it possible for him to work it out
in conformity with his purpose via the solution of Jesus. He has to
give us free will; he doesn’t choose our eternal fate for us before
we’re even around to weigh in. So based on who God is, the reasons
he gives for predestining us, and his purpose for us, we are led to
conclude that in Ephesians 1:4-6, God predestined that a remnant
would be saved before he created us, not precisely who would be in
that remnant.
This explains why no one in the Bible knew that they were in
the elect before they had accepted Jesus’ message; it was only after
they accepted the gospel that they applied this term to themselves.
There is no biblical example of a specific person being one of the elect
prior to them believing in God’s solution, because God hadn’t already

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picked them. Yes, they “are a chosen people,” but only after a period
of time when they “were not a people” of God and “had not received
mercy” from him yet (1 Peter 2:9-10). If they were elected by God to
be saved before their creation, then when were they not a people of
God and when were they not recipients of his mercy? Never, which
means that those in the elect are chosen by him based on something
that happens after their creation, after a time of not being his people
and not receiving his mercy! This something is faith, the one human
element of the salvation process that God leaves untouched and freely
willed. And if we continue reading Ephesians 1, this is confirmed.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to
the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the
purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our
hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also
were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of
your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit” (1:11-13). Even in Ephesians 1 then, indi-
viduals aren’t specifically chosen, elected, predestined, or included in
Christ before their free-willed lives on earth are already in full swing.
And during their lives, their faith obviously plays a pivotal role in
the salvation process. It is impossible to please God without faith,
the faith that he exists and that he can and will do what he says
he will do by rewarding with Heaven those who earnestly seek him
(Hebrews 11:6). People who seek God are fulfilling the purpose for
which he created them, to find him in perfect community, which is
precisely why granting the Heavenly reward of perfect community to
them makes so much sense.
I know that these four exhibits don’t exhaustively examine every
time the Bible brings up predestination, but the few others do adhere
to the same explanations given for the passages above, leading to the
same conclusion. If you run across one, apply to it the summary of
these explanations below, and you will see that this is the case. When-
ever the Bible mentions people whose eternal fates seem to be prede-
termined, there is also the mention of a voluntary human component
involving faith or belief in God (James 2:5, 1 Peter 2:4-8, Jude 1:4-5).
In any case, the exhibits we’ve discussed are unquestionably the ones

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that mount the strongest opposition to the claims I’ve made. If we
take our final exhibit—Ephesians 1:4-6—in context then, we learn that
before humans were created, God mercifully and lovingly predes-
tined (general predestination, if that helps) that at least some of them
would be saved, no matter how much sin and death would result
from human free will. He made that possible with his solution of
Jesus. Retrospectively, Paul and all others who accept Jesus’ message
assume they are one of the chosen or elect, but they only do so after
demonstrating faith to God. It is only upon being convinced of this
faith that God specifically predestines them (special predestination,
if that helps) for Heaven. From the creation of the world on, special
predestination continually makes entries of those who are saved in
the book of life, a record that is necessitated by general predestina-
tion (Revelation 20:11-15). So faith is necessary and God’s election
is necessary. How can we combine these two to describe a person’s
salvation process in a biblical, logical, and understandable way?

19

S alvation starts with a free-willed human act of faith. God may
not want to know who will be saved, but he does know how
they’ll be saved. It has always started with faith. Even before there
was a message from Jesus to have faith in, it started with faith.
Way back in the day of the brand-new Jew, Abraham, the first of
the Hebrews, received a promise from God that every human would
be blessed through him. That’ll turn a bad day around for sure!
And God kept his promise. Abraham’s descendants became the Jews,
one of whom was this guy named Jesus, God’s blessed solution for
every human’s problem. And what was Abraham’s response to God’s
promise? He believed that God could and would do what he said.
And for that, God considered him righteous. “Abraham ‘believed God,
and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that
those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that
God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel

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in advance to Abraham: ‘A ll nations will be blessed through you.’  So
those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of
faith” (Galatians 3:6-9).
Notice that the gospel God announces isn’t Jesus, is it? It leads
to Jesus, it is fulfilled in Jesus, but what Abraham has to believe to
trigger his salvation is that God will bless everyone through him. He
has to have the faith that God can and will do what he says, and
that what he says is the best, especially considering the significant
life changes God subsequently requires from Abraham (a.k.a. Abram)
at 75 years of age (Isaiah 48:17). “The Lord had said to Abram,
‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to
the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and
I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a
blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I
will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So
Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:1-4). Abraham
considered what God said to be more reliable and better than nearly
everything he knew. And once it was known that Abraham possessed
this faith, God took over the salvation process and credited Abraham
with righteousness.
It is this same faith that instigates the salvation process for others
as well. In Hebrews 11 we are given tons of examples of people
throughout biblical history being commended for their faith. But in
none of these cases is it faith in Jesus; rather, it is faith that God
can and will do what he says, and that what he says is the best. Like
Abraham, who is listed with them, these folks had to believe that
God’s promises were true, even though it wasn’t easy, even though
they were persecuted for it, and even though they all died before the
promises came true. “All these people were still living by faith when
they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw
them and welcomed them from a distance…they were longing for a
better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be
called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13,
16). Ring a bell? The faith that all these folks who lived before Jesus
demonstrate to God—for which he commends them—is the identical
faith that Christians must have today, isn’t it? Christians are also

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longing for a heavenly country, and they also may very well die before
they see it, yet they have faith that God’s promises are both true and
best, that eternal perfect community with him in Heaven is our ulti-
mate longing. The only difference is that we now have the Jesus piece
of the salvation process to apply our faith to that they had to wait
for, but the faith itself is the same for both parties, with or without
any knowledge of Jesus. Throughout human history God is looking
for faith, not merely faith in Jesus, but faith that God can and will
do what he says, and that what he says is the best. We must have
faith in the words of God before we can truly have faith in the Word
of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14). This is why Jesus tells us that not
even resurrection from the dead will convince those who don’t have
faith in the rest of God’s teachings (Luke 16:25-31).
This faith must always lead to Jesus, and it will always lead to Jesus,
as it did for Abraham and the other folks in Hebrews 11. Only he is
the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), the solution that can
translate our faith into perfection. “These were all commended for
their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since
God had planned something better for us so that only together with
us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that
hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with
perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the
pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 11:39-12:2). In God’s process
of salvation for all these folks, their faith inevitably had to be applied
to the solution of Jesus, but it didn’t start there, did it? It started by
believing that God can and will do what he says he will do, and that
what he says is best.
So it is with all of us. When God sees this faith in a person,
he specially predestines him to be saved. “God chose you as first-
fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and
through belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). It is that free-
willed human act of faith that God is looking for in each one of us
that begins his process of salvation for us. Once God is convinced
that we believe that he can and will do what he says, and that what
he says is best, God foreknows that this faith will be applied to

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Jesus, because God repeatedly says that he can and will save people
through the solution of Jesus and that his solution is the best (e.g.
Acts 4:11-12). “Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe”
(2 Corinthians 4:13). Then all God needs to do is to make sure that
we hear Jesus’ message, so that we can practically apply our faith to
what God says he will do through the gospel. He might use a person,
a dream, literature, a vision, an angel, a video, an e-mail, a song, or
even send Jesus himself to us between our death and judgment—if we
didn’t have meaningful access to his message in life—as he has before
(e.g. Job 33:14-18, Acts 10:1-6, 34-43, Acts 16:9-10, Revelation 14:6-7,
1 Peter 3:18-20). Once he knows that you are one of his sheep, he
will do whatever is necessary to bring you into his pen (Luke 15:3-6).
His word “will not return to him empty, but will accomplish what he
desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
God’s process of salvation for humanity always begins with human
faith, always requires God conveying the gospel, and always requires
accepting the solution of Jesus. “For in the gospel the righteousness
of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,
just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17).
And since the only step that depends on humans is what gets it all
going, once the process starts, it will always finish.
Let’s take a closer look at this human faith then, as it’s the only
part of the process that God leaves up to us. There are three impor-
tant things to understand about the faith that God seeks. First, this
faith will always provoke a gospel presentation, but it will not always
precede one. If a person has this faith, the gospel will be presented to
him. But the gospel is also presented to many who don’t yet have this
faith or who will never have this faith. This might happen because
a person who God knows does not have faith is shown the gospel
by someone or something that doesn’t know that or because God is
bringing Jesus’ message to someone with faith, and others in the
vicinity hear it coincidentally (Acts 13:48). It also happens simply
because God gives every human meaningful access to his solution for
us (Colossians 1:22-23). God doesn’t do this because everyone has the
faith that will result in their acceptance of this solution; clearly they
do not. He does it to convince us that he is just and fair. True, he

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could get by only proclaiming the gospel to those who have the faith
to accept it, but it would seem a bit shady to tell everybody else, as
they were being sent to Hell forever, that he didn’t even bother evan-
gelizing to them just because he knew deep down that they wouldn’t
believe. God ain’t shady, and we know how much he likes to publi-
cize his message of Jesus anyway! He leaves humans with absolutely
no excuse to doubt his fairness. He communicates his solution to
everyone equally, even though many will never accept it. “Many are
invited but few are chosen” because “they refused to come” (Matthew
22:1-14). Not because God refused them, but because the gospel was
not preceded by their faith. Faith has to be the first step for the
gospel to be genuinely accepted.
Second, just like God, this faith makes sense. The faith that God
can and will do what he says he will do, and that what he says is
best, is exactly the kind of requirement for salvation that we would
expect from God. It forces humans to depend on his power, reliability,
knowledge, and authority. It directly opposes humanity’s problem of
sin, which is the faith that something other than what God says is
the best. It allows us to meaningfully use our free will in the salva-
tion process while still necessitating God’s special election once faith
is present. And it maintains its importance throughout a Christian’s
existence, not just upon hearing the gospel. In committing to the
Christian life, we must continually trust that God is reliable in his
everyday promises and that the lifestyle he calls us to is the best. And
in hoping for Heaven, we must continually believe that he will keep
his promises and that his promise of Heaven is the best.
The faith that God requires makes even more sense because it
fulfills his purpose in creating us. If you were God and needed to
pick the one thing that humans would need to demonstrate to prove
that they truly want eternal perfect community with you, what would
it be? It wouldn’t simply be faith in the gospel; that only proves that
they don’t want to go to Hell. There are a lot of people who believe
in the gospel and want to go to their idea of Heaven but who don’t
act in any way to suggest that they want to be with and know God
himself. And your one requirement for salvation wouldn’t be doing
x, y, and z either, since that demonstrates that people don’t even

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recognize that they need you to be saved, let alone desire an eternal
relationship with you. These criteria are human-centered and bear the
hallmarks of a manmade origin. The one criterion that does make
sense and is much more God-centered is for him to require that you
trust him; after all, the most central component to the deepest and
longest of relationships is what? Trust. If a person trusts that God
can and will do what he says, she will believe in Jesus’ message, but
she’ll also trust that spending time getting to know God is worth-
while because God says it is (John 17:3), that valuing what God
values is optimal because God says it is (Isaiah 48:17-18), and that
God is reliable enough to reciprocate the relationship because God
says he is (Hebrews 13:5, Revelation 21:3-4). A person with this faith
is exactly the kind of person who matches God’s purpose for creating
humans, a person who trusts God enough to seek, reach out for, and
find perfect community with him, right (Acts 17:26-27)? God created
us for a purpose, and he requires the very faith from us that leads
us to fulfill that purpose! God knows which people don’t have this
particular kind of faith (Acts 22:17-18). Those who only have faith
in the gospel—but not in much else God says—don’t want to be with
God forever; they only want to be saved. Those who only have faith
in doing good deeds, being a good person, or accomplishing what-
ever x, y, and z they’ve picked to be saved don’t want to be with God
forever; they only want to know that they got themselves saved. God
saves those who have faith in him, because he knows that they are
the folks who truly want eternal, perfect community with him.
Moreover, this faith is equal opportunity. Having a lot of resources,
living in a certain part of the world, gaining exposure to special
religious teachings, growing up in a particular culture, obtaining
an advanced education, being taught a specific moral code, and
possessing a consistent, strong social support system are all virtu-
ally irrelevant and unnecessary when it comes to this faith. The faith
to fully trust your creator is a fundamental, deep decision almost
everyone can make independent of their situation in life. Very few
circumstances consistently alter your chance of having it, and very
few experiences are necessary to possess it. And if there is any signif-
icant unequal opportunity remaining that keeps a person from having

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a fair chance to exercise saving faith during life (which there is not
for any of us), God can eliminate it in Lugg. God requires faith that
is consistent with his purpose for us and equally accessible to all,
which is exactly what we would expect if he truly wanted all of us to
achieve that purpose and find him. This faith makes sense.
Third, this faith does not allow us to take credit for our salva-
tion. But why not, if it really is a necessary human component associ-
ated with the salvation process? Well, perhaps like you, I was taught
to answer this question by claiming that faith is simply our accep-
tance of God’s salvation, not a human work that we actively do on
our own. The typical illustrative analogy is this: when someone gives
you a gift, you are not working to get it, you simply accept it; like-
wise, faith is a passive acceptance of God’s gift of salvation. It is
argued then that this salvation “by grace alone through faith alone”
“is not something we do, but rather something that Jesus does and we
receive as a gift by personal faith in him alone.”5 But how is receiving
not something we do? How is faith not something we do? If human
faith is required for salvation—and those who submit to this mantra
would agree that it is—then salvation cannot be by grace alone. And
if faith is not required, leaving us with just “salvation by grace alone,”
then God either has to save everyone or be forced to pick who does
and who doesn’t get saved, as there is no truly free-willed human
component for him to consider. For salvation by grace to involve free-
willed human faith—which we have repeatedly seen that it must for
God to fulfill his purpose for us, remain trustworthy, and stay true to
his nature—this faith must be a necessary, active human component
of the salvation process. Interestingly, the phrase “salvation by grace
alone through faith alone” is derived from Ephesians 2:8, “For it is
by grace you have been saved, through faith.” Notice that to get from
the Bible to this phrase, we must add “alone” twice. I understand
what the phrase is intended to mean; nonetheless, it is not advis-
able to add words to God’s to begin with, and adding “alone” to both
grace and faith forces this phrase to be unnecessarily confounding.
Let’s read the Bible for what it says and make sense of this verse. In
Ephesians 2:8—and in the phrase as well—the prepositions “by” and
“through” convey the same meaning; indeed, simply interchange them

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and you will find this to be the case, so neither grace nor faith are
more necessary to salvation than the other. True, one is the compo-
nent by/through which God is involved in salvation and the other is
the component through/by which humans are involved in salvation,
but both components must be equally active for salvation to take
place. Neither is adequate “alone.”
The analogy above exemplifies this. How many Christmas gifts
have you ever truly received, experienced, and enjoyed by passively
sitting next to them like a motionless blob? None. How many people
who have given you these gifts would feel as if they had achieved
their purpose in doing so if you passively sat next to the gifts like
a motionless blob. None. Of course not! When they give you a gift,
you must freely and actively choose to lift up your arms, tear off the
paper, and find out what’s inside to receive that gift, experience it,
and enjoy it as intended. And why wouldn’t you want to? In fact, if
you assume the role of the motionless blob, you are making it clear
to everyone involved that you’re actually refusing their gift, aren’t you?
Likewise, it turns out that passive reception of God’s salvation is no
reception at all; it’s active rejection! Let’s not be motionless blobs. You
can’t “just trust Jesus and open your eyes” to discover the relation-
ship with him that “you don’t have to work for” without first doing
the work of opening your eyes, right?6 If “all you have to do is believe
it (grace)-nothing else,” then salvation cannot be “a free gift that needs
only to be believed, not earned,” because the believing is a required
free-willed human act for the gift of gracious salvation to be effectively
given.7-8-*
Such contradiction is unnecessary. Faith is a free-willed, necessary,
active component of your salvation process, just as God intended it
to be, so that he could fulfill his purpose for you. Notice that I never
claimed that we can’t take credit for our faith, although we’ll see very
soon that we can’t take full credit for it. God himself has at least
partially “commended” and “credited” humans for the faith that leads
to salvation, and he would do neither if he was wholly responsible

*  Other analogies have also been crafted as attempts to show how faith
would not be a work, but they break down for similar reasons, as we’ ll
discover here. 9

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for it (Hebrews 11:1-40, Galatians 3:5-9). Rather, I claimed that this
faith does not allow us to take credit for our salvation. There’s a huge
difference between assuming some true responsibility for our free-
willed faith and taking credit for our salvation, and it is important
to understand that. So the question we need to answer then is why
doesn’t our faith allow us to take credit for our salvation?
Well for starters, humans often don’t know that they’re contrib-
uting to their salvation process when they exert this faith. They don’t
even necessarily know exactly which God or worldview that they’re
having faith in (Genesis 11:26-12:4, Acts 18:24-28)! When salvation
begins, humans only need know that they believe that a God exists
who can and will do what he says, and that what he says is the best.
Such a faith is pleasing to God, as we’ve seen in Hebrews 11:6, espe-
cially a God who names himself “I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14). Such a
faith is also humble like a child’s and is welcomed by Jesus (Matthew
18:3-4). When children approach an adult for help, they don’t neces-
sarily know exactly which adult they should seek, nor do they know
the details of how that adult is going to help them. They simply
believe that whomever they choose exists, is capable and reliable, and
knows what’s best to do. Likewise, when God sees the faith associated
with the beginning of the salvation process in someone, that person
doesn’t necessarily know to seek and may not specifically be seeking
the God of the Bible (Romans 3:10-12), nor is he always aware of the
details involved in God’s solution for him. That person will not know
that his salvation process has been underway until God is convinced
of his faith, specially predestines him to be exposed to the message
of Jesus, and joyfully watches his inevitable acceptance of the gospel.
God seeks and sees our faith (John 6:64), but we don’t always know
that we’re specifically showing it to him, and we certainly don’t neces-
sarily know that it’s contributing to our eventual salvation. A salva-
tion that this faith doesn’t permit us to be recognized for.
Abraham didn’t know that he was instigating his salvation process
when he freely chose to have faith in God’s promise, but God did
(Galatians 3:6-9). People in Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom didn’t know that
they had the faith to respond with repentance to Jesus’ miracles,
but Jesus did and alters their judgment in the way we’ve previously

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discussed (Matthew 11:20-24). A paralyzed man didn’t know that he
was instigating his salvation process when he and his friends had
faith that Jesus could heal him, but Jesus did and forgave his sins on
the spot (Mark 2:1-5)! A Roman centurion didn’t know that he was
instigating his salvation process when he gave to the poor and consis-
tently prayed to God, but when God saw this man’s faith that valuing
what God values was best and that engaging in a relationship with
God was worthwhile, he arranged for the gospel to be presented to
this man (Acts 10:1-6). Lydia didn’t know that she was instigating her
salvation process, but because she had the faith to be “a worshiper
of God,” “the Lord opened her heart to respond” to the gospel (Acts
16:14). Paul certainly didn’t know that he had the faith associated
with salvation at the time he was called to serve God, since he was
actually on his way to kill Christians! But many years later Paul
knows to “thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength,
that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service” (1 Timothy
1:12). God can seek and see our faith because he knows our minds
(Matthew 9:3-4, Luke 9:46-47, Psalm 139:2), he knows our motives
(Proverbs 16:2, 1 Corinthians 4:5), and he knows our hearts (John
5:42). “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by
giving the Holy Spirit to them” (Acts 15:8). We can’t take credit for
salvation that we don’t know that we’re instigating.
There’s a second reason we can’t take credit for our salvation, even
if we did know that we were pursuing the God of the Bible and did
understand all the details of the gospel when we first chose to exert
our faith. We wouldn’t even be able to have faith at all if God hadn’t
been gracious enough to create us with this ability, right? “For it is by
grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from your-
selves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The “this” here may very
well refer to being saved rather than to faith, which is consistent with
our claim that humans can’t take credit for their salvation. But even
if “this” does refer to faith, it still makes sense. God doesn’t determine
who has that faith, but without him making this gift possible for
us, none of us would be able to. Moreover, it’s impossible to validly
take credit for our salvation because without God’s provision of Jesus
as our solution and without God doing all the work of bringing us

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Jesus’ message once he does see our faith, we wouldn’t ever be saved
anyway! Just as we would expect from a Godmade salvation process;
we need to depend on God completely. God completely depending
on us to accomplish our salvation is the hallmark of a manmade
mechanism.
But the most significant reason humans can’t take credit for their
salvation is this: the free-willed human faith that God looks for is
not a work that can earn us salvation; it is the work that demon-
strates to God that we truly want his salvation. Wanting and earning
are not the same thing, as the many who desire to find employment
to make an income know very well. God is not looking for people to
earn their salvation through an ineffective manmade mechanism that
defies his gracious solution of Jesus. God is looking for people who
want his salvation, people who want eternal, perfect community with
him. He searches for those who exercise faith that he can and will do
what is best, faith that he can offer this Heavenly community, will
offer this Heavenly community, and that this Heavenly community
is the best of all outcomes. God is looking for people who want to
be saved in his Heaven and fulfill the purpose for which he created
them! He knows that our work of faith to want this salvation can
never earn Heaven or get us to Heaven, but it can convince him to
earn Heaven for us and get us there. Once it does—and he alone
would know when that faith is genuinely present—he accomplishes
our salvation through the application of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as
detailed throughout Parts 4 and 5. And for the many individuals who
don’t want his salvation in his Heaven, so be it, they have the free
will to demonstrate that, and he will not force the application of his
solution, spirit, or salvation on them. Salvation is by grace, but only
after our work of faith to want God’s salvation has convinced him to
apply that grace to us.
For all three of these reasons, Christianity is not simply another
manmade stepwise path to God and Heaven like all the others. The
“Just take one step of faith that you need God to take and don’t really
understand that you’re taking before you depend on God for every-
thing else and you’ll be saved” mantra doesn’t really work as a self-
help strategy, does it? How can a work that we needed to be given

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the ability to do allow us to take credit for our salvation? How can
instigating a process that we may not even know that we’re part of
allow us to take credit for our salvation? How can the unaided act
of believing that God’s salvation is both real and optimal actually
earn or obtain it for us? It can’t! We are impotent to earn salvation;
God enables us. We don’t seek the God of the Bible; he seeks us. We
may not know that we’re exhibiting the faith that he seeks for salva-
tion; he sees that we are. We don’t find the gospel; he brings it to
us. We’re not working our way to Heaven; he’s working his way to
Heaven in us. Free-willed faith is a work, but it does not in itself
produce salvation; it convinces God to start and finish his immense
and indispensable production of salvation in us. And without this
grace, our faith, no matter how great a work it might be, could do no
more than accompany us to Hell.
Let’s summarize then how our faith and his grace beautifully
merge, resulting in the gift of salvation that works does not accom-
plish, only desires. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through
faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by
works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8). Now that we’ve
unpacked this faith, we can finally paint a biblical, rational, and
complete picture of how saving faith in God must and always will
lead to faith in Jesus’ message. As we freely think and act in our
lives, God seeks out—not foreknows—our minds, motives, and hearts
to see which of us have the faith to believe that he can and will do
what he says, and that what he says is the best. What he does fore-
know is that the people with this faith would believe what he says
about his one best solution for them, even though they may not know
that yet. As such, upon being convinced of their work of faith, he
specially predestines them to hear and accept the gospel and then
calls them to whatever presentation of Jesus’ message he has worked
out for them. These people believe in God’s solution of Jesus, and
their perfection is justified in God’s sight. Because Jesus has removed
their imperfection and released them from death’s grip, they will be
glorified in Heaven in eternal community with God, the very thing
that their initial faith demonstrated that they wanted and the very
purpose for which God created them. “And we know that in all things

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God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called
according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-
born among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he
also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he
also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). A Godmade, not manmade, solu-
tion that fits the problem. A purpose fulfilled by a faith that desires
it. God stays God and humans stay free, with both parties neces-
sary and active in healing hereafter. Biblical. Functional. Brilliant.
Exciting!

As physical healing often results from placing faith in a
physician to do her best, so the actual process of salvation
begins when you freely choose to have faith that there is a
God who can and will do what he says, and that what he
says is the best. God then knows that you’ll believe what he
says about the message of Jesus and specially predestines
that you’ll be exposed to his solution and accept it. When
you are and when you do, your faith has closed the loop
on your salvation process. He will never force this faith, but
he does require it, as it is precisely what will convince him
to accomplish his purpose for you. So you gotta have faith,
ooooo, you gotta have faith faith faith!

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Yes, I Gotta H ave Faith, Ooooo, I Gotta H ave Faith

A woman is confronted by a problem she cannot fully identify and may
not fully understand. There are multiple available ways she could try
to work her own salvation from this situation, but instead, she freely
chooses in faith that the authorities over her—even though they’re
not really familiar to her—will do what they say, resulting in the best
solution. God the Father does not force her to pick up her phone and
pursue him or not, and he chooses to remain in a situation where he
doesn’t know if she will call until she does. He doesn’t want to force
Jesus on her before she willingly trusts him to take the best course
of action, as she may very well go on to freely choose a different
option despite his best prediction. He is always looking to respond
to willing faith, but only upon her demonstration of it does he send
Jesus to her as his only solution to her predicament. Because her
faith wanted God to do his reliably perfect work of removing such a
problem, he will accomplish salvation for her, and that salvation will
never be threatened again.

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Part 5:

The King of Spring
Healing Hereafter

One lesson in my life that has taken me—and is still taking
me—way too long to learn is that people’s lives are often the
way they are largely because of circumstances that seem
to be or are beyond their control. Yes, they still are respon-
sible for their decisions and need to understand that, in the
end, they do have the ability to do what is right, despite
their predicaments. However, whenever I see someone in a
situation that I’m tempted to be critical of, God reminds me
that I very well might be doing a lot worse than they are if
I were given the same lot in life. It’s truly impressive to see
how some folks endure under pressures I could never even
imagine, and for me, one particular patient encounter was
the most impressive of all.

As she was being admitted for pregnancy-related issues, I
noticed in her chart that she had been pregnant eight times.
One look at her told me that she was way too young to
have been pregnant that many times for typical family plan-
ning reasons, not to mention that her socioeconomic situ-
ation was not likely to be one that could support that many
children. Immediately, my mind foolishly jumped to conclu-
sions. What on earth does she keep getting pregnant
for? Why isn’t she at least using birth control? Can’t she
demonstrate a little sexual restraint? Perhaps my thoughts
betrayed me, because something compelled her to answer
my unspoken questions. She looked straight at me with an
expression of sadness, annoyance, and resolve that I will
never forget and explained that the reason she has been
pregnant so often is because her partner keeps raping her.
Something inside me broke. When your brain has so much
reconfiguring to do in so little time, you can only stand there
speechless. When I finally recovered, we spoke for a while
about it, getting her some resources to help her take the
next step. And when I walked in the room the next day and
he was there, my perception of her completed its transfor-
mation from contempt to compassion. Her world was full of

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suffering, and much of it could not be directly traced to any
particular thing that she had done.

So it is with everyone’s world, because so much of our
physical existence has become cold and dead. It might be
rape, or it might be the disdain of a wife and children for
the wealthy executive who never sees his family. It might
be poverty, or it might be the silent bitterness and hatred
of jealousy. It might be political oppression, or it might be
anxiety and depression. Obviously, I could go on and on
describing the winter of suffering that freezes all of us in
some way.

Or instead I could describe the bloom I see when my social
worker pal helps the elderly pay their bills in the name of
Jesus. Or the blossoms opening when the unemployed
and hungry are regularly given free food at our church. Or
the leaves unfurling when pastors tirelessly visit the sick and
imprisoned. Or the shrubs that flower when my physician
friends move their families to Africa to bring God’s health
and hope to the people of Kenya, and soon Burundi. Or
the trees that expand toward the sun as Christian profes-
sionals generate millions of dollars to make higher educa-
tion accessible. Or the meadows bursting with color as
a congregation collaborates with local businesses to buy
shoes for Guatemalan orphans and wells for the thirsty in
Zambia. Or the vast forest teeming with life as God works
through all of his people through all of history to create
growth from decay and satisfaction from suffering. Many
folks—religious or not—alleviate pain in this world, and more
power to ya! But the God of the Bible has been generating
restoration from the very beginning,both acting through
humans and on his own as well. He is the King of Spring
and is always at work transforming death into life and
humans into healers . . .

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20

F aith convinces God to lead a person to the gospel, but it doesn’t
just retire after that. So what does this faith look like once it
is confirmed and enlightened by the message of Jesus? Well, first
and foremost, we know from God’s purpose for us that the tangible
expression of the faith that God requires from us will most closely
resemble a relationship. Spending time getting to know God and
more intimately understanding him is the primary hallmark of such
faith. Paul couldn’t state this more obviously than he does in Philip-
pians 3:8-11. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing
worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all
things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found
in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the
law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that
comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to
know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the
resurrection from the dead.” Faith is practically applied in knowing
God, which culminates in eternal community with him in Heaven.
Some of you may be feeling a touch uneasy, as you always thought
you’ll go to Heaven because you’re a good person, because you go
to church, because you’re kind to the less fortunate, or because you
do whatever x, y, and z that you feel is required for Heaven. But an
honest survey of your desires and actions might demonstrate that you
don’t have much interest in making time to forge a relationship with
God. Heaven is not a beach resort reward for successfully checking
items off a list, even though to-do list addicts like myself thrive on
this kind of self-achievement. God has no place in that Heaven, so
why would that be his primary and eternal residence? Heaven is a
place where we can fully know God and completely enjoy community
with him forever. “Union with God is the central integrating plea-
sure of heaven and....all other things are enjoyed in such a way that
God is recognized as their source and glorified thereby.”1 Perhaps you

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have been taught to be or are more excited about the beach resort
than being with God, which is why you’re willing to undergo whatever
stepwise process to get to the sand instead of talking and listening to
God. However, it’s not faith in doing deserving deeds, having things,
or following humans that God is looking for. It’s faith in him that he
wants, faith that he is worth getting to know because he knows what’s
best, faith that he can be trusted, the core of a healthy relationship.
“Let him who boasts boast in this: that he understands and knows
me” (Jeremiah 9:24).
Jesus starkly distinguishes this Godmade requirement for salvation
with the manmade one, a list of deeds to boast about, in a parable
concerning people with plenty of great credentials. “Not everyone who
says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only
the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will
say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name
and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many
miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from
me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23)! Jesus is quite stern with these
folks, who have crossed off an even more “spiritual” checklist than
most of us, because they are depending on these things to get them
into Heaven, rather than exhibiting any desire to know God. They
don’t have the faith that God is looking for, they don’t think that they
need Jesus, and they don’t want God, so they’re not going to Heaven,
however impressive their resume might be. But that’s OK, because if
the purpose for humans and Heaven is to finally, fully know God,
these folks don’t really want to go there anyway, do they? Individuals
who do have the faith that God seeks, who do know that they need
Jesus, who do want God, and who truly do want to go to Heaven
and fulfill God’s purpose for them will desire and act to know God
as well as possible, starting now. “One thing I ask from the Lord, this
only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the
days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4).
Building this intimacy is the primary way that such faith is visible in
everyday life. Besides, monotonously completing some to-do list is so
boring compared to friending the fascinating God who created you
and everything else!

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And if this relationship is eternal, it certainly doesn’t stop at the
acquaintance level. As you discover more of who God is, you begin to
appreciate him more, and as you appreciate him more, you begin to
see the value in what he values. And as those values are consistently
confirmed, you begin to assimilate them into your life, desiring to
become more and more like him. This happens all the time in healthy
human relationships. You meet someone, learn to appreciate them,
understand why they value what they value, start to see the value in
similar things, and often times end up retaining a great new habit or
hobby as a result! You didn’t retain it to get to know the person; you
retained it because you knew them. Assimilating such values is not
a prerequisite for the relationship; it’s the inevitable result of a healthy
relationship.
This is how doing good deeds fits into Christianity. The Bible
clearly does not support taking a lifetime spiritual retreat with just
you and God getting to know each other somewhere in the wilder-
ness, or in the comfort of your own home for that matter. Chris-
tians need to regularly associate with other Christians to encourage
them and to be encouraged by them to continue doing these deeds
(Hebrews 10:24-25). Perhaps even more importantly, they also
need to regularly be practicing these deeds among non-Christians
(Matthew 5:14-16, 1 Peter 2:11-12, 3:15-16). We are “created in Christ
Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”
(Ephesians 2:10). Maybe you’re still wondering why having faith to
devote time to knowing God or why doing these good deeds doesn’t
simply reflect another stepwise manmade pathway to salvation. We’ve
already explained that God had to create us with the capability to
have faith and that this faith is not something we specifically know
is part of our salvation when God sees it, so it clearly is not a do-it-
yourself means to salvation. And now we’ve explained why the good
works that are part of every true Christian’s life are also not a human-
made highway to Heaven. Not only does the Holy Spirit play a role
in assisting us to accomplish them, they are not done to get salvation
in the first place; they are the inevitable natural progression of the faith-
based relationship with God fostered by those who will be saved.
And sometimes these deeds are more inevitable than we realize.

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Once a person becomes a Christian, God prepares good works for
him to do in advance, before they’re actually done. This doesn’t mean
every positive impact Christians have is predetermined by God, but it
does mean that he will accomplish through us the ones that are, no
matter what. But even the ones that we perform by our own free will
are not done with the purpose of earning a relationship with God or
a ticket to Heaven. They will be done because the natural progression
of a true relationship with God always leads to them, “the obedience
that comes through faith (Romans 16:26).” A person who knows God
is motivated to obey him, compelled to become more like him, and
can’t help but do the good deeds that are consistent with what God
values. Even when part of her would like to disagree with God or isn’t
excited about something he values, she follows him anyway, because
her knowledge of, appreciation for, and repeated assurance of God’s
perfect will and wisdom inspire her to do so, as does God’s Spirit
within her. “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his
commands” (1 John 2:3).
You can either find yourself doing good works fueled by the faith
God is looking for, or you can force yourself to do good works apart
from the faith that God is looking for. This is the difference between
Christians doing the good deeds they were created for and legalism—
religion focused entirely on obeying a set of rules. The good works
are present either way, which is exactly why God doesn’t use them as
his prerequisite to determine salvation. He uses faith in him, and an
intimate relationship with resultant good works inevitably ensues. In
this book I am not telling you to become a Christian by mustering up
the faith and deeds you need to make yourself one; I am saying that
you eventually will become a Christian and do these deeds if you have
that faith in the first place. If you truly trust that God can and will do
what he says, and that what he says is the best, you will believe what
he says about his best and only solution of Jesus and you will give
him your time and believe that pursuing such a relationship is forever
valuable, which will produce the good deeds that express your incor-
poration of what God values. Faith and these deeds are inseparable
(James 2:18-19, Acts 26:20). The faith that God is looking for will
always lead to the deeds he values, which is why he can be confident

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in specially predestining a person to salvation once he finds that faith
in them.

21

B ecause only genuine faith leads to legitimate salvation, the good
works that inevitably arise from that faith must—and will—
persist to the end of a saved person’s life (Romans 2:7-8). Paul, who
suffered so much for the cause of Christ, exemplifies this well as
his time on earth comes to a close. “The time for my departure is
near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have
kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteous-
ness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on
that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for
his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Numerous times throughout the
Bible we are told that God will judge humans according to what
they have done, probably most significantly in Revelation 20:12,
when the actual event is described. Jesus leaves no doubt that those
who think they are Christians will not be saved if they abandon
their work for God to indulge themselves and refuse to be produc-
tive (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 12:42-46). Now we know why. Our
deeds are a direct reflection of our faith, and Paul directly links his
deeds—fighting the good fight—with keeping the faith. Moreover, it’s
not just any faith for which God awards him and others with righ-
teousness; it’s the faith that longs for God’s appearing, the faith that
exposes a desire for eternal community with God, the faith that
accomplishes his purpose for humanity, the faith that he seeks as
the criterion for salvation. And that faith—along with its unavoid-
able deeds—must and will persist throughout life if it is genuine.
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteous-
ness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righ-
teous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). Paul confirmed this in deed
above but in word here as well. “I want to remind you of the gospel
I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken

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your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the
word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1
Corinthians 15:1-2). He reaffirms the need for such perseverance in
Colossians 1:22-23, and Jesus agrees. “He who stands firm to the end
will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Am I saying that people can lose their salvation? No. Once God
sees the faith that he seeks, the salvation that he specially predes-
tines for that person through his one solution of Jesus is unavoidable
and irrevocable (Romans 11:29). When humans apply that genuine
faith to the gospel as God presents it to them, his Holy Spirit perma-
nently dwells within them to begin fostering an intimate relation-
ship and to assure that they can and will stand “firm to the end.”
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit
in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corin-
thians 1:21-22). Hebrews 6:4-6 tells us that people “who have shared
in the Holy Spirit” cannot fall away or lose their salvation, because if
they did, they would never be able “to be brought back to repentance,
because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over
again.” In other words, if people with the Holy Spirit could fall away,
there would be no way for them to be saved, even though they’re
still alive and can still develop the faith to initiate salvation. This
would be unacceptable to a God who “wants all men to be saved,”
because it prohibits his salvation process from occurring, even if all
the components are present (1 Timothy 2:3-4). And how can the Holy
Spirit be a person’s guarantee of salvation if that person falls away
and can never be saved again? How can the Holy Spirit indwell that
unsaved person in Hell, where God is absent? Therefore, once the
Holy Spirit permanently indwells a person for salvation, that person
is saved, and the Holy Spirit never leaves. This is why blaspheming
against the Holy Spirit, which according to the dictionary is speaking
evil of and reviling him,2 is the one “eternal sin” that “will never be
forgiven” (Mark 3:28-29). We need him to be saved, so reviling him
prevents salvation. Salvation is only secure upon accommodating—not
rejecting—God’s Spirit and letting him produce persistent fruit in our
lives. Once he truly indwells those who have genuinely come to Jesus,

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nothing will ever reverse that (John 6:37-39, Romans 8:38-39).
So no, I’m not saying that people can lose their salvation. What
I am saying is that a person who does not increasingly demonstrate
a lifestyle that reflects the faith that God seeks never had that faith
to begin with, since that faith will always be expressed by the deeds
that God values (contrast Matthew 13:20-21 with 13:23). Those who
do not produce fruit, who “turn away,” who make a point to do
evil in God’s name, who do not remain in Jesus, who are “cut off,”
who “have fallen away,” and who “shipwrecked,” “abandon,” “denied,”
or “wandered from” faith are all examples of those who don’t truly
believe that God can and will do what he says, and that what he says
is the best (Matthew 21:43, 24:10, Luke 12:46, John 15:1-6, Romans
11:19-23, Galatians 5:4, 1 Timothy 1:19, 4:1, 5:8, 6:10). This does not
mean that one sin or one season of doubt verifies that you don’t have
saving faith, but it does mean that if you do have that faith, you will
genuinely desire and act to eliminate that sin and find and accept
God’s answers to your doubts. In several of these passages, it is the
Jews who thought that they were saved, but Jesus explains to them,
“You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to
my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand”
(John 10:26-28). “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we
hold our original conviction firmly to the very end” (Hebrews 3:14).
If such belief isn’t held to the end, then we never had received the
anointing of the Holy Spirit, attained salvation, or come to share in
Christ in the first place, right (1 John 2:19-20)? But if the persistent
deeds that are expressed by faith are present to the end, our election
will finally and completely be confirmed to us at that time, and we
“will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and
savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-11).
But wait, if the faith that’s associated with salvation can’t be abso-
lutely proven to humans without the lifetime’s worth of deeds that
it will generate, can people ever know that they’re saved before they
die? To answer this question, it’s very important to understand the
difference between subjective opinion about the status of one’s salva-
tion and objective fact about the status of one’s salvation. To claim

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that I trust, believe, am convinced, am convicted, or am assured that
I am saved is very different than the claim that it is true that I’m
saved. The first claim depends entirely on my opinion of the matter;
whereas the second claim depends entirely on proven, unalterable
fact, regardless of my opinion on the matter. Even if I say that I know
that I’m saved, that too is an opinion I have, subject to the validity of
the knowledge on which I base that claim. To know something is still
not as certain as for something to be true.
Let me illustrate. I trust, believe, am convinced, am convicted,
and am assured that my wife’s first name is Laura. I know that her
first name is Laura, because I have the knowledge that everybody
has always called her that since I met her, that she has always called
herself that, and that there is a genuine-appearing birth certificate in
the drawer right next to me that states her first name as Laura. This
is a totally reasonable opinion, right? However, does that mean that
it’s true that her first name is Laura? Could she have been fooling
everyone this whole time, or if she’s really good, just me (hey, I don’t
put anything past her, she did sneak bagpipers into our wedding
without me knowing, after all!)? Could she have fabricated her birth
certificate? Could she even have been incorrectly convinced herself
that her name was Laura? Of course. All of these scenarios are
exceedingly unlikely; however, I can only reliably claim that I believe
or know that her name is Laura, not that it is true that her name is
Laura.
Likewise, people can trust, believe, be convinced, be convicted, be
assured, and even know that they or others are saved (1 John 5:11-13),
and their subjective opinion, their assurance of salvation, may very
well be true. But they cannot reliably and objectively claim that it is
true, until God factually proves it to them in one of three ways. First,
he identifies a few specific individuals who are irrevocably saved in
the Bible, as he obviously knows who has the saving presence of the
Holy Spirit that perpetuates the lifelong deeds associated with salva-
tion (Job 19:25-27, Psalm 17:13-15, Matthew 19:27-28, Philippians 4:3,
Hebrews 11:4-40). However, we are not named with those individ-
uals. Second, he can undeniably confirm that his Holy Spirit perma-
nently resides within people, guaranteeing their salvation (Acts 15:8,

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2 Corinthians 1:21-22). But it’s not a simple thing to undeniably vali-
date this indwelling in us, is it? Even for those who believe that the
Holy Spirit within them has done some miraculous deed to prove
they’re saved—and maybe he has—there are often explanations around
it, like coincidence, natural phenomena, supernatural phenomena not
involving God (e.g. 1 Samuel 28:4-19), acts of God not associated
with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (e.g. John 2:1-11), and his recurrent
temporary presence in both unsaved and saved humans throughout
the Bible that we’ve already learned about (e.g. Numbers 24:2-3, Jude
1:7-13). Of course, this does not mean the Holy Spirit isn’t doing
miraculous and persistent deeds in those who are saved all the time;
it just means we need to be able to undeniably validate his lasting
presence in us if we claim it as proof of salvation. Third, God can
and will confirm to people in Paradise, and eventually to them in
Heaven, that they “share in Christ,” having held their “original convic-
tion firmly to the very end” (Hebrews 3:14). But once again, such
certainty is not offered to us currently.
And that’s OK. People can be satisfied believing and having the
assurance that it’s most likely that they’re saved—based on their
current knowledge—without making the claim that it’s true that they
are saved, an assertion they will probably not be able to undeniably
validate during their lives. In fact, it’s both honest and humble to
admit that the knowledge you base your assurance of salvation on
may not be accurate or enduring. After all, perhaps you’ve met people
who used to be just as assured of their salvation as you might be of
your own today, except now they would confidently say they no longer
believe in Christianity and wouldn’t claim such salvation anymore. I
certainly have met such folks. This is precisely why persistent deeds
arising from genuine faith in God is a necessary part of our salvation
process! If Jesus himself warned his disciples—of all people the ones
most likely to be saved—against falling away and not being able to be
with him at “the end” (Luke 21:5-9, 27-36), we should be extremely
hesitant during this life to ever consider it an incontrovertible truth
that we are saved. As he says to them, so he says to us, “Stand firm,
and you will win life” (Luke 21:19).
And as always, God has great reasons for making it this way. First,

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consider the temptations that await people who could claim that their
salvation is an unequivocal truth: pride and complacency. Our world
offers every motivation for people who think they’re saved to lord it
over others, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, many wrongly do, even though
they really only subjectively believe or know that they’re saved. Even
the biblical terms “chosen” and “elect” make me wince because of the
connotations of pride, condescension, and exclusion with which they
have become associated, whether fairly or unfairly. Let’s be honest,
if you’re a person who considers yourself saved, you can probably
identify at least one time when you thought better of yourself than
someone else as a result. I can, and it was wrong for me to do so.
But even for the most humble, there is still the danger of compla-
cency. If it’s true that I am saved no matter what, then it’s going to
be much harder to motivate myself to follow God in any way that
opposes my feelings or desires. I fully realize—and by now I hope
you do too—that our primary motivation for following God should
not be to be saved, but to further our relationship with him as we
approach perfect community with him in Heaven. However, speaking
very practically, having it in the back of our minds that we are saved
no matter what makes it quite a bit harder to resist emotions or
wants that draw us away from God, doesn’t it? Again, if you’re a
person who considers yourself saved, you can probably come up with
an example of this from your own life. I know that I can. In fact,
such distractions were the very things Jesus said the disciples would
avoid by exercising the persistence associated with salvation (Luke
21:34-36)! It makes sense then, that God would encourage the assur-
ance of our salvation, but stop short of proving it to us. He’s not big
into pride or complacency, and he knows that our relationship with
him and our good deeds for others are more fruitful without them
(Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 6:11-12).
The second reason God would make it impossible for us to prove
the status of our salvation is to keep us focused on him instead of on
achieving salvation. If there were a point that we could get to during
this life that would conclusively prove that we were saved, most of
us would focus all our efforts on getting there, wouldn’t we? Who
gets left out in the process? God. But the purpose for which we were

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created was not to be saved, was it? It was to seek, reach out for, and
find perfect community with God (Acts 17:26-28, 1 Thessalonians
5:10). And the only essential human contribution in accomplishing
that purpose is faith in God, that he can and will do what he says,
and that what he says is the best. As we would expect, this faith—
just like our purpose—is also focused squarely on God, not on getting
saved. All people who truly possess this faith will hear the message
of Jesus and accept it, which will initiate the forging of a growing
relationship with God, which will generate good deeds, which will
persevere throughout their lives. Upon dying, such deeds are proof
that these folks have kept the faith, have held firmly to the word
that was preached to them, and have stood firm to the end, sharing
in Christ’s salvation, “the end result of your faith” (1 Peter 1:9). The
God-focused faith that he requires to accomplish his purpose for us
is the one human component necessary and present throughout the
entire Christian life, isn’t it?
If we have that faith, the other aspects of the Christian life—
believing the gospel, getting to know God, and persistently doing
good works—will inevitably occur without us focusing specifically on
them to be saved. Again, we will find ourselves doing them, rather
than forcing ourselves to do them. If we do not have that faith, these
other aspects of the Christian life become the focus for us, the means
by which we try so hard to be saved or prove our salvation, and they
will fail. There are many who have “prayed the prayer” who are not
saved, and several of them would openly acknowledge that. There are
many who have gotten to know an awful lot about God who are not
saved, because they do not know him. And there are many who moti-
vate themselves to do good deeds who are not saved, because they are
trying to accomplish their own salvation. It’s not accurate to claim
that it’s true that we’re saved, it’s not helpful to claim that it’s true
that we’re saved, and it can be downright dangerous to claim that it’s
true that we’re saved. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will
enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of
my Father who is in Heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord,
Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out
demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell

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them plainly, ‘I never knew you’” (Matthew 7:21-23). The Father’s
will is not for people to try to be saved; it’s for them to possess the
faith that God can and will do what he says, and that what he says
is the best. The faith that welcomes the gospel, that trusts that God
is worth getting to know, and that allows his Spirit to persistently
produce the deeds that he values. The faith that allows him to accom-
plish his purpose for us by focusing us on eternal, perfect community
with him. “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a
righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:
‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). You might truly
believe Jesus’ message, you might have a wonderful relationship with
God, and you might have the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit all over
your life; but if you do, it’s because you’ve kept your focus on faith,
not on using these items as a checklist to prove your salvation.
Hey, I know that this might make you uncomfortable or even
upset. Perhaps you have worked hard to spend a lot of time and effort
doing things for God but haven’t really been with him. Or possibly
you were hoping your significant religious knowledge or experience in
the past would guarantee salvation even though your current lifestyle
or worldview no longer reflects them. Or maybe you know how the
gospel goes and have convinced yourself that you believe it, but the
deeds that should be accompanying this conviction are few and far
between. Now you know the problems with each of these scenarios.
The faith that God seeks is the starting point for the deeds that
follow, not vice versa. And if that faith is truly present, the deeds will
be consistent and persistent; they cannot be sparse in the present or
sequestered in the past. Your faith will not be perfect, but the effects
of it will continually increase as you seek God more and more (Mark
9:23-24). Those who try to jump into the plan of salvation at some
point after faith needs to be demonstrated will bypass God’s special
predestination for them and won’t be indwelt with the Holy Spir-
it’s seal of salvation. Eventually, they’ll “fall away” without the “root”
of faith that God seeks (Matthew 13:20-21). Therefore, “since the
promise of entering his rest (Heaven) still stands, let us be careful that
none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had
the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message

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they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the
faith of those who obeyed” (Hebrews 4:1-2).
Which brings us to the good news. If you do share in the faith that
God can and will do what he says is best, God will see it and begin
his work of salvation in you. You will welcome the gospel, enjoy a
new relationship together, and watch great deeds in your life blossom
as a result—in addition to the admirable ones you’ve mustered up the
resolve to do already! This is the critical concept to remember: it’s
not how hard you work for God, how much you knew or know about
God, or how many of the right things you believe; what God wants
to know is how much you trust what he says. Instead of asking your-
self if you’re doing all the right things, if you know about all the right
things, or if you believe all the right things, truly and introspectively
ask yourself this: Do I have the faith that God can and will do what
he says, and that what he says is the best? Maybe while reading this
book this faith has arisen in you. If so, it will trigger God’s work in
you to accept the solution of Jesus, which triggers the Holy Spirit to
dwell within you to enable an intimate relationship between you and
God. This frees you from humanity’s natural inclination toward evil,
so that you can live according to God’s perfect inclinations. From that
moment on you both are at work together to transform your faith
into deeds (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14)! “Continue to
work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who
works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”
(Philippians 2:12-13).
There is no paradox between faith and deeds; they are one and
the same (James 2:14-26). A person’s deeds are simply his faith after
the gospel and getting to know God have allowed it to be made
applicable to everyday life (1 Timothy 1:4). A person’s faith is simply
his deed that convinces God to bring him the gospel and initiate
that relationship in the first place. “‘What must we do to do the
works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to
believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:28-29). Faith is the work that
wants—not earns—perfect community with God. It initiates his work
to help us accept the message of Jesus, enter into a relationship with
him, and desire to imitate his values and deeds more and more.

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Consequently, when applied to everyday life, this faith-wrought rela-
tionship will inevitably embrace these good deeds; when applied to
the hereafter, it will inevitably embrace Heaven.

22

O bviously, it’s beyond the scope of this book to list every single
one of the values and deeds that God has exemplified and that
our faith will assimilate. Besides, doing so now would quite defeat the
purpose of you and him spending the time getting to know each other
later well enough to discover these on your own. However, I will give
you a small sampling of attributes that his Holy Spirit teaches us
to emulate. Aptly named the “fruit of the Spirit,” they are love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-
control (Galatians 5:22-23). These will be increasingly apparent in the
lives of those who are saved, because the Holy Spirit will be working
with them to persist in good deeds, standing firm to the end. You are
likely aware that there are many other values that God encourages
and many deeds that he forbids in the Bible, and the list above is not
meant to be a comprehensive summary of biblical morals. However, if
we obeyed all God’s commands, and did so according to these virtues
that reflect the Spirit of God himself, you can imagine how much
better every aspect of our world would be. God doesn’t want us to
find ourselves doing good works merely as evidence of our faith; he
wants this emulation of his values to bring his spring to the world!
This is not surprising at all. If the perfect bliss of Heaven is gener-
ated by perfect community with God, wouldn’t happiness on earth
also result from as many people as possible being as close to God as
possible? It’s no wonder that the growth of our relationship to God
is directly linked to the transformation of our faith into deeds! The
more we think and act like the King of Spring, the more like Heaven
earth gets!
Obviously, Heaven itself isn’t literally here on earth no matter
how much good we do, just as Hell itself isn’t literally here on earth

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no matter how much evil we do. Our existence on this planet is
certainly both heavenly and hellish in many ways, but we do not
live in some sort of actual earth/Hell/Heaven fusion.* However,
even though the free will of humanity will never allow this earth
to become fully Heavenly, there are still several reasons God would
specifically encourage and enable humans to perform deeds of resto-
ration anyway. First and already stated, these deeds are a neces-
sary consequence of having the faith God is looking for and deep-
ening a person’s relationship with him. Second, this restoration shows
humans, both those doing the deeds and those watching, why the
things that God values are truly good and make sense. It’s not until
you see the positive effects of godly behavior that you really appre-
ciate these values and the God behind them. Doing things that God
would do and observing the resultant benefits strengthens your trust
in and relationship with God, but it also serves to communicate him
and his wisdom to others who don’t yet know him, so that they
might. Finally, God uses the good works of his people to relieve
suffering in this world. The deeper the community is between a
person and God’s Holy Spirit inside of her, the more her obedience to
God will reflect the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kind-
ness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When the
world sees these attributes in Christians, the world sees God’s work
and his wisdom, and suffering subsides. The poor are fed, women
and children are supported, prisoners are visited, the sick are healed,
the elderly are sustained, the disabled are befriended, the homeless
are sheltered, and the rejected are loved. Sounds a lot like what God
uses his words to tell us to do. Sounds a lot like what Jesus spent his
time to do. Sounds a lot like the fruitful deeds that his Spirit helps us
to do. Sounds a lot like Heaven. Not Heaven, but a pretty darn good
glimpse of it!
The purpose of this book is obviously not to describe the nuts and
bolts of how Christians can practically or optimally live according
to the Holy Spirit and his fruit; it’s to demonstrate how such a life

*  Such a composite earth/Hell/Heaven has been argued in an effort to rede-
fine what Hell and Heaven are, and both the inconsistencies and futility of
such a place are highlighted here. 3

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is related to people’s salvation and subsequent eternal destination in
the hereafter. Therefore, even though our focus is on making sense
of our beliefs rather than how to live our lives, this book in no way
minimizes the importance of a godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled exis-
tence here and now. Rather, it infinitely amplifies this importance,
because such a life is not merely necessary to help the old lady cross
the street or even end world hunger, sex-trafficking, or some other
great evil; it’s also absolutely essential for any of us to be saved! If
perfect community with God someday makes Heaven unmatchable
once we’re there, then perfecting community with God must make
Heaven unmistakable while we’re here. In a growing relationship
with God, faith always leads to fruit, and this fruit looks and tastes
Heavenly. Anyone who looks at the life of a genuine Christian will
get an unmistakable glimpse of the true Heaven. It won’t be perfect,
but it will be a consistent vista of blissful intimacy between a person
and God. And the observer of this who then chooses to taste that life
for himself will begin an unmistakable experience of perfect commu-
nity that never ends!
This perpetuation of God’s work, wisdom, and salvation on earth
introduces us to the reasons why it remains vitally important for
Christians to share the gospel, both in word and in deed. The biblical
salvation process necessarily includes understanding and accepting
the gospel as well as persistent good works, so Christians cannot
completely share this salvation with others by only including one
or the other. Words and deeds are both always necessary for evange-
lism to be fully successful. But given what we’ve learned about God’s
ultimate publicity stunt and the existence of Lugg, you may have
been wondering why Christians need to evangelize at all. If Jesus’
preaching is going to take care of those who aren’t provided with
access to the gospel here, then is evangelism necessary? Of course, for
three important reasons!
First, there is a freeing, beautiful, and fulfilling joy to becoming
and being a Christian. Lifelong devotees and brand-new converts alike
consistently share how thankful and excited they are to have either
avoided or escaped the inevitably unsatisfying and often catastrophic
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The countless stories of deliverance that I’ve heard throughout the
years are so restorative and life-giving that waiting for these lives to
linger in less than they were created for until Jesus finally reaches
them in Lugg is not an option. Christians need to share the gospel,
so that others can experience life-changing glimpses of an unmis-
takable Heaven, both now and later. Second, Christians themselves
benefit from communicating God’s solution to others. For example,
me! As I have described to you the message of Jesus and God’s salva-
tion process throughout this book, I cannot tell you how much I have
gained! My understanding of God’s goodness, fairness, and ratio-
nality have hugely increased. Several doubts I could never quite put
to rest have now been eliminated. I have new and better reasons to
live how he created and commands me to live, and I know why his
way is better than any other way that I have been able to find. I can
explain my existence, my purpose, and my future in ways that are
consistent with God’s words and works. Understandably, I’m pretty
pumped at what this testimony has produced in me! No wonder
“you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in
Christ” if you are “active in sharing your faith” (Philemon 1:6). The
third reason evangelism is necessary for Christians is simply because
God commanded it. But his commands have never been arbitrary or
pointless, and now we know why this one isn’t either. Everyone bene-
fits from it. Non-Christians hear about, see, and hopefully experi-
ence firsthand hints of the Heaven that is being made available to
them. Christians also continue to be reminded of these as they share,
increasingly eliminating drudgery and doubt. God gets to see his
purpose for humans fulfilled in a sooner and more satisfying way for
everyone involved. And everyone can enjoy the decreased suffering
and separation resulting from the fruit of the Spirit being produced
in greater measure!
The world has continually and definitively seen this fruit from
Christians, making Heaven unmistakable for thousands of years,
whether it wants to acknowledge it or not. Extensive secular
research has proven that—even with all other demographic factors
being equal—Christians relatively and absolutely give far more of
their money and time than the secular population to both religious

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and secular organizations helping people in need.14 The secularists
who have joined the increasingly popular social justice movement
(welcome!) attribute the trend to an emergent progressive society,
when in reality, the progress has already been proven and perpet-
uated by Jesus’ followers for millennia, and by many others in the
Bible long before that. Of course, this does not at all mean that there
aren’t many secular individuals who have given generously to society,
nor is it intended to assert that Christians care more about those in
need than other religious groups. I only mention it in response to
those who teach or have been taught that Christianity has a negative
impact on society—that we would be better off without it. There are
mountains of data and deeds proving the exact opposite. And as long
as the world lasts, it will continue to see Christians producing this
fruit, with even this book itself as one small example.
But the world has seen hypocrisy as well, and this cannot be
ignored or denied. It’s present no doubt, but the ironic thing about
hypocrisy is this: the person who claims that it’s bad for Christians
to do the opposite of what their God tells them to do actually agrees
with their God, doesn’t she? Those who say they’re not Christians
because there are so many hypocrites have more reason to become
Christians than anyone else! They’re essentially arguing that they
would become Christians if Christians acted more like genuine Chris-
tians. I have one question for these folks: what are you waiting for?
Show these hypocrites what genuine Christianity really looks like!
Commit to the Christianity you already agree with and help them
abandon their duplicity in the process. After all, God remains God,
his purpose for you remains his purpose for you, and his solution
of Jesus remains the solution for you, whether those who claim to
be his people all use their free will to perfectly follow him or poorly
follow him. If a surgeon uses suture to hurt his patient, do you blame
the manufacturer who—with every good intention—is responsible for
creating the suture? No. Do you blame the suture itself, the misused
tool that was designed to bring healing and life? Of course not. Nor
would you cease to recognize the vital roles that the manufacturer
and the suture both play in restoring wellness, right? God is the
manufacturer of Christianity, the tool he designed to bring healing

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and life. Humans are the surgeons that have the free will to use or
abuse this tool, but God and Christianity remain both blameless and
vital regardless of which choice humans make (Zephaniah 3:1-5).
Keep in mind as well that the hypocrites most likely to turn you
from Christianity are those who are definitely not consistently exhib-
iting the faith or deeds associated with a growing relationship with
God. They’re probably not Christians to begin with. No wonder
you agree with God and Christianity, yet are at odds with them.
Embrace that agreement, show them how to do it right, and help save
two people instead of none! Of course, neither you nor they will be
perfect in your pursuit of God, but you should always see progress
in becoming more like him. For those who have been hurt by newer
Christians, I do humbly ask that you give them time to pattern their
life after Christ’s before your expectations get too high; after all,
most turn to him precisely because of how morally insufficient they
realize they are! This is not to excuse or encourage hypocrisy one bit;
although it will inevitably be spotted, it should be increasingly scarce
in a person who has the faith that God seeks. As this hypocrisy
heals, genuine deeds from a genuine faith will produce genuine fruit
to represent God accurately and relieve suffering ardently. I know
that this may not emotionally help if you’ve been hurt by a hypocrite,
if there is pain and betrayal that is still hard to bear. But there is also
God and his solution for you that remain uncorrupted, and Jesus also
bore severe pain and betrayal at the hands of many hypocrites. He
understands those emotions and has endured that evil. He can help.
In fact, he has endured evil from and offered help in many other
scenarios of suffering besides hypocrisy. He knows that while his
people have and will bring spring to this world in increasing measure,
they will never be able to do it perfectly or completely, regardless of
their devotion or numbers. So what does he do to make up the differ-
ence? Does God step in to save the day or does he keep the world
from seeing May? We cannot deny that there are still huge piles of
snow-snot wherever we turn in our world, so let’s discover how the
King of Spring himself deals with them.

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23

W here is God in despair? How can a good God let people suffer?
You may have started to piece together an answer from our
discussion above, but these questions merit a more dedicated treat-
ment. However, before we go any further, I want to take a moment
to acknowledge that some of you have gone or are going through
incredible hardships. All of us experience heartbreak and difficulty
in life, but I fully admit that I cannot possibly imagine much of
what you are enduring. I apologize that I cannot empathize with you
fully as I write this. Unfortunately, compassion doesn’t translate well
across the written page, but I in no way desire to undermine your
feelings or struggles. They are real and they are important, but as
God’s presence and work within suffering become more understand-
able, you will become not just mentally equipped—but emotionally
equipped as well—to cope with such difficulty and disappointment,
both now and in the future. This has been validated in my own expe-
riences of suffering and failure, and I cannot emphasize enough how
beneficial the following material has been to me during these times,
both mentally and emotionally. In fact, as we explore, we’ll find that
God is actually far more antagonistic to suffering than we are, that
he makes a lot of sense in his response to suffering, and that he
is never satisfied with giving it free reign. Nevertheless, if you are
hurting right now—even as you read this—it may be helpful to take a
minute to prepare your mind for our plunge into this topic, as I have
no idea how it might affect you emotionally, given the very legitimate
and horrible difficulties people face.
Alright, let’s do this. To address the adequacy of God’s response
to suffering, we need to revisit the question of where suffering came
from in the first place. The answer is not pleasant, but it’s nothing
new to us, and we need to come to grips with it. Humans choose
to suffer. Let’s review. God created each one of us in his image, as
a “self” with free will and therefore with the ability to make deci-
sions independently of his control (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). The first

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sin—clearly warned and commanded against by God—was to choose
to pursue the knowledge of evil, independent of a knowledge of good
(Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-7). Humanity’s downfall was wanting to under-
stand what evil was, not trusting that God’s perfectly good design
was the best that could be experienced. Each sin we’ve committed
since then is no different. As a result, this world has turned into one
giant comprehensive educational experience of evil, complete with
unjust suffering, hate, sex-trafficking, violence, ending life, oppression,
envy, disaster, lust, hunger, pain, rape, depression, sickness, prejudice,
etc. Some argue that human sin is not the only cause of suffering,
as Satan, his demons, and creation itself generate suffering. It is true
that they do, but only because we use our free will to ask for knowl-
edge of evil, and the suffering these non-human entities cause are
simply consequences of our request. If they were causes of suffering
that couldn’t be traced back to humans, then why would God allow
them to continue? He didn’t allow such suffering before sin occurred.
The serpent could only tempt Adam and Eve in the perfect garden
of Eden, not cause suffering there. It wasn’t until after they wanted
to know evil that we see Satan and his demons wreaking havoc
(Luke 13:10-17, Mark 5:1-20, 9:17-27). Likewise, creation produced no
suffering to humans before Adam and Eve sinned, but once they did,
the ground is cursed, necessitating painful toil (Genesis 3:17-19).
All the things that we would consider suffering—ultimately
including death—result from this desire to understand evil. Even
though we typically don’t directly say we want to personally encounter
disease, hurricanes, murder, etc., we do want to know what evil is,
and experiencing these things is the consequence of that knowl-
edge (Psalm 106:13-15). The only way to prove that we don’t want to
understand evil is to stop doing it. But with each of our myriad sins,
we affirm our longing to know evil, something other than God and
his provision. Any hardship, whether endured, observed, permitted,
or inflicted, is part of gaining a true understanding of evil. Experi-
encing suffering is all part of the package, the inevitable consequence
of our rebellious desires. Please, please understand, I am not claiming
that specifically because Vijay lied, he gets bullied at school or specif-
ically because Nia gossiped, she has a learning disorder. I am only

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claiming that because they both have chosen to know and experience
evil, they will. And some will experience it more or less than others,
as humans can’t know evil without enduring inequality and injustice.
So when it seems that people are hurt in ways that they can’t control
or are senselessly suffering undeservedly, it’s almost certainly not
because they asked God to endure these specific torments or because
of one specific sin they committed. Obviously, people don’t choose to
be molested, mocked, raped, or robbed. However, people do choose—
freely and frequently—to know and understand evil, which ultimately
results in every event of suffering people face. And as we’ve learned
in Chapter 9, this suffering extends to those whose spirits may not
have—even though they may have—freely sinned yet, because the rest
of us who have sinned perpetuate the sinful nature that all of us
possess. As we continue to make these sinful decisions every day,
multiple times, we continue to be responsible for the general suffering
throughout our world. Even though we say that we want it to stop
and blame God for not making it stop, we are the ones who continu-
ously perpetuate it. The only aspect of suffering that God is respon-
sible for is giving us free will in the first place. We know he had
to do this to accomplish his purpose for us, to allow us to truly
choose—or chose not—to pursue eternal, perfect community with
him. Would any of us have him take back that free will and make
Heaven impossible or meaningless? Of course not! Yet ironically, it
is often those who seem to value personal choice the most who are
the first to blame God for giving us the free choice we’ve misused to
usher in suffering! Would they rather have God acquiesce and take
their ability to freely choose away? God is not to blame for human
suffering, humans are.
Many are uncomfortable with this realization and attempt to
avoid human culpability by answering why God allows suffering solely
with descriptions of how God works through suffering. God is very
active when we hurt, in the many ways that we’ll explore soon, but
his response to suffering is not an adequate explanation for why it
exists in the first place. Ignoring its origin leaves whoever asked you
about suffering to assume that you believe that God both wanted and
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it. Maybe you do believe that. But if God is ultimately responsible for
suffering because it so vitally enables him to ironically demonstrate
his grace or encourage our growth, then why was there no suffering
in the garden of Eden, and why will there be no suffering on the
New Earth? If God did not deem suffering necessary for manifesting
his glory or nurturing our maturity in these perfect places, then why
is it necessary here? It’s not. Humans made suffering a part of their
experience here, not God, and avoiding this truth ultimately helps no
one quench doubt related to suffering.
Rather than desiring it, God has longed through all of human
history for us to stop pursuing sin, to stop wanting to know evil, and
to stop suffering, but we never cease to keep him waiting, do we?
God laments, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate
people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imagina-
tions” (Isaiah 65:2). “Ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and
you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, ‘We will not walk in
it’” (Jeremiah 6:16). “Seek good, not evil, that you may live” (Amos
5:14). “‘Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your
downfall . . . for I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares
the Sovereign Lord. ‘Repent and live’” (Ezekiel 18:30-32)! “Your sins
have deprived you of good” (Jeremiah 5:25). “Give careful thought to
your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but
never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on
clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a
purse with holes in it” (Haggai 1:5-6). “Why spend money on what is
not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to
me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare”
(Isaiah 55:1-2). “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is
best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you
had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like
a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:17-18). If
only. Suffering was not God’s will for us. Suffering is not God’s will
for us, “for he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone”
(Lamentations 3:33). He clearly didn’t create sin and suffering, and
he clearly didn’t create us to sin and suffer either. God’s will for us
has never, ever been anything but the most satisfying, the richest, and

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the best for our peace and well being. If only we would freely will for
the same.
Already we are forced to admit that our accusations against God
are starting to unravel, that perhaps we have been projecting our
guilt on him. But even though God isn’t at fault for human suffering,
wouldn’t he at least do something about it? Why does he let it go on?
One reason God is justified in allowing suffering is simply because
humans don’t really deserve anything from him, let alone his deliv-
erance from affliction. God reminds us of this, asking, “Who has a
claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs
to me” (Job 41:11). Created beings have no inherent rights, only those
that their creator gives to them. God never promises us the right
to be free from suffering on earth, and we’re in about the worst
bargaining position possible to demand that right, aren’t we? We’ve
all been fed the lie over and over by people who wish to manipulate
us that we deserve this and that, but are we ever given any reason
why? No, because there isn’t one. Most of the time people tell us
this to make us want what we “deserve” so badly—even though we
often didn’t want it at all beforehand—that we’ll vote for them to
provide it for us or buy it from them to finally possess it. But if we
really did deserve it, shouldn’t they be giving it to us and expecting
nothing in return? The only thing we ever really innately deserved
was to not exist, because that’s all we “had” before God exercised his
grace in creating our lives and all of our abilities. So our existence,
talents, and anything beyond that is a gift that we don’t deserve
(Romans 11:35-36). “All that we have accomplished you have done for
us” (Isaiah 26:12). “Everything comes from you, and we have given
you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14).
This explains how God could possibly allow a guy in the Bible
named Job to be tested, taking away everything that he had, short of
his life and his ability to ponder it. Unlike what my probable reaction
would have been, Job amazingly acknowledged God’s justice in the
midst of his anguish. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and
naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may
the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Impressive, and abso-
lutely true, isn’t it? This means that even if we’re barely clinging to

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life, and it seems that God has caused us great suffering, we all still
possess infinitely more than we have a right to (Habakkuk 3:17-18, 1
Timothy 6:6-7). It is a false sense of entitlement to a life free from
pain and sorrow that causes us to feel that God is unfair. We, in
and of ourselves, don’t deserve anything from him, especially relief
from suffering, given how we’ve used our free will. If you think you
do deserve such a life, simply ask yourself why (an excellent habit to
get into by the way), and you will find that there are really no good
answers. Dang it. So is that the end of our exploration? God allows
suffering simply because we don’t deserve to be delivered from it?
Well, he could stop there, he would be perfectly justified in doing so,
and we would have no good reason to be dissatisfied. Accepting this
truth is crucial, as it is an extremely powerful weapon against the
discontentment, bitterness, and fury that we often have when some-
thing goes wrong, three things that never do us or those around us
a bit of good.
But that isn’t the end. Even though we have no right to complain,
God is dissatisfied to stop there. He is unwilling to let suffering run
its course, and there is much more to him than only his justice. God
may be just and we may deserve nothing, but God is also mercy
and love, and simply because of that fact, he refuses to remain idle
in the midst of our pain. This merciful and loving nature permits
him to respond in one of two ways. He can take away our suffering
completely, or he can transform our suffering into something better.
Which option makes more sense? To take away our suffering would
either require God to eliminate our free will or to constantly remove
every experience of evil associated with every one of our free-willed
sins. He can’t do the first if he wishes to accomplish his purpose
for creating humans. And it’s irrational to do the second, not only
because it’s tediously tiresome, but also because mere seconds after
God removes suffering from the world, billions of humans would
just reinstate it by sinning again! In the hospital we must adhere to
the Mr. Miyagi-like mantra “Wash in, wash out,” cleaning our hands
before and after every patient encounter, because it’s futile and foolish
to think that bacteria won’t start doing their dirty deeds again imme-
diately after we’ve been cleansed of them. At least they’re not using

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free will to cause suffering, right? Also, taking away our suffering
would negate any benefit that might result from suffering. There’s no
question that enduring difficulty brings valuable experience, wisdom,
and personal development; in fact, it often changes entire lives for
the better, doesn’t it? Learning the hard way in the school of hard
knocks isn’t optimal and certainly wasn’t God’s preferred path to
maturity for us, but if humans are insistent on keeping the school
open, why wouldn’t God take advantage of it and make the best of
it? So God’s first option for a response to suffering—taking it away—
makes no sense for free-willed humans, and for reasons that lead us
straight to the second option.
God transforms our suffering into something better, often times
something that is less likely to occur without suffering. And there
are many ways that he does so. They do not, however, all neces-
sarily apply in any given example. Maybe we suffer directly because
of a specific action, maybe not. Maybe hard times are being used to
teach us something, maybe not, etc. Obviously, God may allow what
we consider “bad” things to happen to us for one reason, multiple
reasons, or for every reason that exists. So how does he transform
our despair to hope, suffering to blessing, the bad to the good?
First, it is often impossible for us to determine what things are
“good” or “bad” at the time that they occur. We all learn to charac-
terize certain situations as “good,” like getting a promotion, or “bad,”
like getting cancer. While we do this for obvious reasons, this blanket
categorization often makes it much harder for us to see the poten-
tial bad in something “good” or the potential good in something
“bad.” Only a God who completely understands the big picture behind
these circumstances can accurately label them as “good” or “bad.” If
getting a promotion forces a person to be at work too much, sacrifice
family relationships, and constantly experience stress, it’s not a good
thing. And if getting cancer motivates a person to raise awareness for
prevention in others and to use her time and resources in positive
ways that she never would have without being faced with her own
mortality, it is a good thing. So God transforms hurting to helping
first by transforming our minds, teaching them to rethink why things
are bad or good and encouraging them to ascertain good from bad.

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Second, God may use suffering to teach us what may be difficult
to fully appreciate otherwise. Suffering helps us to define how incred-
ibly enjoyable the good times really are and to get a small taste of the
great sacrificial suffering that Jesus endured so that the extent of it
actually means something to us.
Third, by undergoing tough times, we can identify with and help
others through them as well (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Isn’t it relieving to
find someone who has walked in your shoes? Aren’t you thankful for
those who have gone before you through the storm? You’re not alone.
Fourth, many times God allows very difficult trials as a last-resort
means to share himself with individuals who are difficult to get
through to otherwise. In these cases, he permits suffering because
he knows that they would be better off if he does get through to
them, as was Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar after he went through
quite an ordeal before acknowledging God (Daniel 4:28-37). We’ve
seen previously in Ezekiel 16 and Romans 9-11 how God punished
wayward Jews in order to restore them, and they ended up in a better
place than where they started from as well. “It was good for me to be
afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). So if you
ever find yourself in a tough spot, and you realize that you’ve been
choosing everything but God’s perfect provision, God may be trying
to get you back to that! Confess that sin, turn away from it, and find
relief (Psalm 32:3-5)!
Finally, occasionally hard times are used by God to accomplish
something far greater that would seldom happen any other way, even
if the situation were explained to us beforehand. The potential positive
implications of getting cancer above are good examples. Even if I were
told that I’d get cancer, I wouldn’t be as motivated to help prevent it in
others or to use my limited time left for the greater good until I actu-
ally had cancer, right? Recall that God will accomplish his purposes
in this world (Isaiah 46:10) and frequently uses “bad” things to do
so when he must. Of course, the ultimate example of transforming
suffering into splendor to fulfill a pretty important purpose of God’s
was Jesus’ death and resurrection itself! But there are many others as
well. For example, Joseph was nearly killed by his own brothers, sold
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(feel free to read the whole story in Genesis 37, 39-50). But Joseph later
tells his brothers what kind of transformation God intends to produce
from such suffering. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it
for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many
lives” (Genesis 50:20). Because of these events, Joseph found himself
in a position to save many thousands—if not millions—of people from
starving to death (Genesis 41:1-57)! Likewise, God bringing Jonah
through a raging storm, certain death by drowning, and part of a
fish’s gastrointestinal tract resulted in a huge city repenting of sin
(Jonah 1:11-3:10). And even when God decides that it’s time to end a
life here, he can do it for that person’s own good (Isaiah 57:1-2), which
is not hard to understand when we consider how the peace, comfort,
and rest of Paradise would be a welcome alternative to the lives that
some of us live here. Even right now he is active in your suffering to
produce something better than what you had beforehand, as hard as
that may be to believe and as long as that may seem to take. We are
promised that he is just in his blessings, that he knows what is best
for us, and that he will work everything out for the good of those who
love him (Deuteronomy 32:4, Isaiah 48:17, Romans 8:28).
Humans won’t put a rest to suffering, so God makes the best of
suffering. God is too wise and loving to merely remove suffering and
leave humans with nothing, except the inevitability of choosing it
again. Instead, he masterfully morphs suffering into something better,
leaving humans with greater understanding, greater appreciation,
greater compassion, greater fulfillment in life, and a greater legacy!
And these transformations occur countless times throughout the Bible
and countless times throughout our world today. Just ask around if
you’ve never seen him at work, although I’d bet the farm that you
have. If I had a farm, of course. What a brilliant mercy! God works
for our good, even through the experience of evil that we have chosen
to replace him with. We sustain suffering in us; God sustains us in
suffering. Isn’t it amazing that God would constantly use the evil and
difficulty that we repeatedly ask for to accomplish great and wonderful
blessings that we don’t deserve?
But God gets even more awesome. Not only is he not to blame for
human suffering, not only is he unwilling to remain justly neutral

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amidst our anguish, not only does he choose to respond to it by
salvaging blessing for us through it, and not only does he do all this
in spite of our continuous rebellion and unworthiness; he even enters
into our suffering as intimately and as completely as he can. He doesn’t
just sympathize; he empathizes. He doesn’t just help; he understands.
He doesn’t just work from a distance; he meets us on our turf. He
doesn’t just give us a plethora of biblical and contemporary supportive
partners in pain (e.g. Psalm 13:1-6, 89:46-52, Habakkuk 1:1-4, Reve-
lation 6:9-11); he comes alongside us himself. In the mud and in the
rain. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought God’s solution for us, but
Jesus’ life brought God’s empathy for us, another reason that God
came to live as a human. He was tempted in every way that we are,
and he suffered in ways greater than we will ever know (Hebrews
2:18, 4:13, Mark 15:12-37, Isaiah 53:3-11). Even now, his Holy Spirit
continues to suffer and sympathize within those who welcome his
company into their lives. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do
not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes
for us through groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26). God
the Son came to suffer alongside us and God the Holy Spirit comes to
suffer within us, always there, right where we are amidst trials and
tribulations! He never forces us to face affliction without him; only we
can choose to do that.
Don’t! God is the one individual who truly knows all the circum-
stances surrounding what you’re going through, who will always
keep them confidential, and who always knows the wisest solution.
Remember, he longs to give you the most satisfying, the richest, and
the best blessings, but choosing to know him instead of evil is up to
you. Perhaps if we acknowledge and embrace his unfathomable love
that we don’t deserve instead of accusing him in ways that he doesn’t
deserve, we’ll find that our suffering becomes something we decreas-
ingly fear or worry about (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Perhaps even some-
thing we find no justification for complaining about at all! We’ll find
contentment, which is a whole lot better than bitterness and anger,
isn’t it? Paul, who suffered an awful lot more than almost anyone
reading this book, writes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know
what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in

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any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living
in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me
strength” (2 Corinthians 11:23-33, Philippians 4:12-13). God is always
working and walking with you to turn grief into growth and sorrow
into satisfaction, leaving us with no reason to be discontent.
But God still has a reason, and there is still one thing left for
him to do so that he can be content with his response to suffering.
His purpose for us is to choose to enjoy perfect community with
him forever. There can be no human suffering in perfect commu-
nity. Therefore, even though God doesn’t cause suffering, even though
he brings forth beauty and maturity from suffering, even though he
can empathetically encourage us in our suffering, and even though
we may be content in his vast undeserved love, he cannot accom-
plish his purpose for us if we take our suffering to Heaven. The final
words of God’s response to human suffering are none other than the
message of Jesus that makes it possible for us to be made forgiven,
perfect, and therefore free of the experience of evil and suffering.
Only when Heaven is available to humans—and still remains Heaven—
is God satisfied, for only then can those who choose to fulfill their
purpose enter into perfect community with him. Such hope allows
them to realize how transient earthly suffering truly is—even when it
feels quite the opposite—because it will give way to eternal freedom
from it (Romans 8:18)! Human suffering loses and God wins in every
step of the process.
God is never ultimately to blame for suffering, God produces good
through it even at this moment, God offers aid from it, God enables
contentment despite it, God empathetically immerses himself in it, and
God promises banishment of it from Heaven forever for those who
truly desire to give it up! And none of us deserve any of that. God
never wanted suffering; we keep asking for it. God makes Heaven
unmistakable in this life by using his people to alleviate it, and he will
make Heaven unmistakable forever by using his power to expel it. In
the end, the question of how God is so absent in suffering is over-
whelmed by the realization of how God is so awesome in suffering,
both in a healed eternal hereafter and in healing every moment here
after!

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When you truly know the King of Spring, you won’t have
to force yourself to generate life from decay and fruit from
faith; you already will be doing those things. And the more
you know about what God values, the more you will value
God. He gives love to the undeserving, he creates growth
from grief, he offers empathy alongside us, and he invites
us to say good-bye to the cold, dead winter of suffering
forever!

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A Christian girl has made a mistake. Two other young Christians are with
her, one comforting and the other shaming hypocritically, as her prior
jealousy of the girl actually leads her to take pleasure in the girl’s suffer-
ing. The girl has already recognized that Jesus has taken the hit for her
mistake, so he reminds her of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Not satisfied to
merely remove the wreckage and leave the girl without a net gain, the Holy
Spirit equips the three Christians to transform suffering into something
more fruitful. His presence and gifts are the tools needed for all three to
bring healing to the girl’s predicament. Jesus had helped when he was
hurt, and the girl learned to value such a good-natured deed, assimilat-
ing it into her own life. What she now has is given back to God, so that
the Holy Spirit would not only bring spring to her, but to others as well.
Hypocrisy is eventually replaced by use of and appreciation for the gifts
and blessings God offers people. With the Holy Spirit’s saving presence
and work, all three find themselves persisting in good deeds throughout
their lives, offering unmistakable glimpses of Heaven from a salvation that
cannot be lost.

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Part 6

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones,
but Words Will Never Hurt Me
Healing Hereafter

As you know, my workdays are largely spent talking into
a microphone while staring at unbelievably expensive
computer monitors. Occasionally I speak unintelligibly.
Sometimes I speak unclearly. Always I speak quickly. I
have a great deal of sympathy and gratitude for the poor
person on the other end of that line who has to transcribe
everything I say, especially if the way my voice sounds is
anything like the way my writing looks! I routinely received
“Needs Improvement” marks for penmanship as a kid. The
need remains, because the improvement never came! So
I can’t really be too upset when I pull up their transcrip-
tions for proofreading and see typos scattered throughout
my reports. After all, some are my fault, and most others
are unintentional and inconsequential anyway. Many are
hilarious.

The most innocent of these mistakes is the omission, or
what I call the word wipe. Whether my speech was slurred
like a drunken sailor or whether the typist was daydreaming
about a voice much sexier than mine, some poor word gets
wiped from the report. Not a big deal if the change is from
“The patient’s left breast mass has virtually disappeared” to
“The patient’s left breast has virtually disappeared,” at least
after the patient verifies that all is well! However, if “Findings
consistent with tumor removal persist” becomes “Findings
consistent with tumor persist,” then we have a problem,
don’t we? A slightly more insidious typo is made by the
uber-type-A transcriptionists who I call “the commak-
azes.” They have a love affair with commas, and they will
toss undictated commas into my reports like a caffeinated

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cornholer. Most of the time, it’s merely an annoying, both-
ersome nuisance, slowing, delaying, and prolonging my
workday. But sometimes it’s not good for the patient either.
A “nearly complete traumatic tear through the gallbladder
neck and its associated blood vessels” is not something
you want, but I’d say “a nearly complete traumatic tear
through the gallbladder, neck, and its associated blood
vessels” is quite a bit worse! As menacing as the commak-
azes might seem though, the change-up is by far the most
sinister of the transcription transgressions. Here, letters
of a word are mixed up to create new ones. You might
chuckle when “the sudden, extensive enema caused the
patient’s arm and leg swelling,” rather than their sudden,
extensive edema. Unless you’re the patient, of course! But
when “evidence of malignancy is not present” is typed as
“evidence of malignancy is now present,” an example that
actually occurs occasionally, that mistake can have some
awfully devastating consequences.

When words are used carelessly and harmfully, they can
hurt. A lot more than broken bones. This part of the book
introduces us to the power of words and their misuse,
not medical jargon, rather words characterizing the here-
after, like eternal and forever. Subtracting from, adding to,
or changing these words can have disastrous effects. As
with radiology reports, knowing exactly what words refer
to is crucial in evaluating the truth about the biblical after-
life that a speaker or writer is attempting to convey. So
let’s see what the words eternal and forever have to say
about themselves . . .

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24

I n our exploration of the hereafter, we have now discussed why
there’s a Hell and Heaven, where we go before Hell or Heaven,
what both we and God do to keep us from Hell and get us to Heaven,
and how our contribution can give us glimpses of Hell or Heaven
here. But we haven’t actually talked much about Hell or Heaven
themselves, so now it’s time. We’ll get the former out of the way first,
especially since we’ve just primed our plunge into Hell with an in
depth exploration of earthly suffering. It’s an appropriate transition,
as we’ve now observed how both arise from the exact same thing:
choosing to exist apart from God and with the experience of evil.
Moreover, both suffering here and in Hell evoke powerful feelings
of sadness, regret, pain, despair, and anger. And they should. Recall
that we were never created for suffering, that God never intended
it, and that he tirelessly intervenes to stymie it in numerous ways.
Suffering is fundamentally unnatural to humans, and when we expe-
rience it, recognizing how vile and messed up it really is is both
honest and healthy. I encourage you to keep this in mind as we delve
into Hell. There will be times you’ll want to growl, shout, cry, or
throw this book at something, maybe even me. No problem, just don’t
attach anything sharp or heavy please; it’s already pointy and massive
enough as it is! Do what is necessary to hate Hell as much as you
should. All I ask is that you come back (and maybe bring a couple
ibuprofen for me), as I truly believe we can discover what God is up
to with the biblical Hell and why it makes sense. Remember that I’m
always only after the most biblical, logical truth, and I hope we can
find it together. Ready? Set. Go.
If we’re gonna plunge, we might as well do it in the deep end, so
here’s our first big question: Is Hell forever? Our conclusion depends
on five concepts: how many people end up in Heaven, what forever
literally refers to, what the expectations and actions of those who
will go to Hell reveal about its longevity, the biblical origin of Hell,
and whether or not God’s willingness to forgive or restore various

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people groups throughout the Bible should be extrapolated eternally
and universally. The words “all,” “forever,” “eternal,” and “Hell” become
exceedingly important in our discussion, so we’ll do our best to define
them objectively and responsibly. The significant majority of biblical
evidence offered by both those who agree and disagree with a forever
Hell centers on the five concepts above. Therefore, we will structure
our exploration around them, also addressing other pertinent points
and questions along the way as they arise.
Ironically, how long people are in Hell depends to a large extent
on who is in Heaven. People cannot be in the former forever if they
all eventually end up in the latter, right? So does the Bible claim
that everyone will make it to Heaven? Does it teach “that Hell is not
forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God,”
either immediately after death or via “an intense experience of correc-
tion” in Hell, during which “the love of God will melt every hard
heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up
their resistance and turn to God?”1-3 Bible verses have been offered
to argue this, and it’s important to visit all of them to see what they
say and what they don’t say. It’s also important so that you know I’m
not withholding relevant passages from you that might be more chal-
lenging to address. To prove that, I’ll start with—and even showcase—
what I feel is the most convincing passage in the whole Bible that has
been used to support a universal human salvation in Heaven. 4 Here
is Psalm 22:26-31.

“The poor will eat and be satisfied; 
   those who seek the Lord will praise him— 
   may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth 
   will remember and turn to the Lord, 
and all the families of the nations 
   will bow down before him, 
for dominion belongs to the Lord 
   and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; 
   all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— 

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   those who cannot keep themselves alive. 
Posterity will serve him; 
   future generations will be told about the Lord. 
They will proclaim his righteousness, 
   declaring to a people yet unborn: 
   He has done it!”

Obviously, the psalmist is painting a pretty awesome picture
of some future time when God will reign, and many people will
acknowledge his authority. But does this refer to Heaven? Although
the Old Testament writers wrote a lot about the current heaven, they
did not have a clear concept of the eternal Hell and Heaven, Gehenna
and the New Earth. Even one of their primary words for forever
carries with it inherent uncertainty, as we will discuss in Chapter
27. This uncertainty is expected for two reasons. First, let’s say God
did describe Hell and Heaven in detail to an ancient Hebrew (we’ll
call him Reggie…Reggie Cohen). Understandably curious about his
eternal destiny, Reggie asks how to get to Heaven. God explains
Hell and Heaven to him but also reveals that Reggie can’t get to the
latter until someone perfect is willing to die in his place as a substi-
tute for the consequence of death that sin brings. Reggie doesn’t
know anybody perfect and starts getting confused and depressed.
God reassures him with the knowledge that several hundred years
from then, a guy named Jesus will come to be that perfect substi-
tute. Reggie appreciates being kept in the loop but lives the rest of
his life a nervous wreck, knowing that when he dies there will still
be no way for him to get to Heaven. And the only thing that might
keep Reggie from being in Hell forever is some guy from the distant
future that he has no historical evidence of and very little knowledge
about. Informing someone that they have a problem—especially an
eternal one—doesn’t make much sense if there’s not already a clear
solution, right? If you were told that you had a terminal disease that
would certainly kill you, would you find it helpful to also be told not
to worry because someone in the next millennium will invent a cure
and be able to time travel back to heal you? Probably not. Without
the solution of Jesus in place, explaining Hell and Heaven is pretty

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futile, so it makes sense that God didn’t feel the need to make them
crystal clear to Old Testament writers. But we would expect that
when Jesus did come along, he would teach a lot about Hell and
Heaven, since these places would now have context and meaning.
And that’s exactly what he does.
The second reason it’s not surprising that Hell and Heaven were
nebulous concepts before Christ is that Lugg provides a way to be
saved without a person having to know about Hell or Heaven by the
time he dies anyway. Not to mention that neither Hell nor Heaven
appear to be ready for human habitation yet, as we remember from
chapter 14. But for our purposes now, we only need realize that it’s
not advisable to rely on one Old Testament passage to give us an
accurate description of Heaven, given the confusion surrounding the
descriptions of the afterlife we see prior to Jesus’ coming.
This is particularly true when an interpretation of that passage
diametrically opposes the teachings of Jesus himself on the topic.
Jesus teaches plainly that people won’t be getting married in Heaven,
because we’ll “be like the angels” (Matthew 22:29-30), so there prob-
ably won’t be “posterity,” “future generations,” or “a people yet unborn”
there either, which is at odds with a universalistic interpretation of
Psalm 22. And in Heaven people won’t “go down to the dust” or
not be able to “keep themselves alive,” unlike in this psalm (Reve-
lation 21:1-4). Plus, why would people need to “be told about the
Lord” if they’re already in Heaven with him? It’s also important to
remember that Psalm 22—just like every other psalm—is a poem.
Poems certainly can be written to be interpreted literally, and maybe
this is one of those, but maybe not. Regardless, a poem about some
wonderful time in the future is much more likely to employ hyper-
bole or exaggeration—note the repeated use of the word “all” in this
psalm—than formal instruction on Heaven by a Jewish teacher like
Jesus.
However, the aspect of this psalm that sheds the most light on
its meaning is its context. More than two thirds of Psalm 22 isn’t
about a time of future bliss at all; it’s about one man being scorned,
mocked, and insulted by “a pack of villains” (Psalm 22:16). Once he
is delivered from this, he turns to his “people,” “the great assembly,”

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and “those who fear God” to encourage them to praise God. “All you
descendents of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendents of
Israel!” “Those who seek the Lord will praise him—may your hearts
live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the
Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him”
(Psalm 22:22-26). David, a king of the Jews, is apparently writing to
his people—God’s people—recounting how God has rescued him and
is therefore worthy of praise. Remembering God’s provision was a big
deal for the Jews. When they didn’t, things went very badly, because
forgetting what God had done for them led them to turn away from
him and his goodness. When they did remember, things went very
well. Notice how significantly the fate of the Jews changes from the
one scenario to the other in Ezekiel 16:43-63, how the bookends of
this passage perfectly exemplify this contrast (16:43, 61-63). It would
make sense for God’s people to “remember and turn to the Lord” in
Psalm 22, but it doesn’t make sense for anybody else. If you don’t
know this God and don’t think of him as being actively involved in
your life, then there is no provision of his to remember, let alone one
that would cause you to “turn to the Lord,” right?
Moreover, many Jews, especially in the Old Testament, believed
that as God’s chosen nation they had exclusive rights to God’s bless-
ings (Deuteronomy 14:1-2, Psalm 132:11-18), so it would be very
unusual for David to suddenly break from that mindset for a few
verses by claiming that God’s people included everyone, especially
the “pack of villains” he had just been rescued from! Since he is
writing to people who predominantly considered only themselves to
be God’s people, telling them to praise God for deliverance that only
they would recognize, offering a blessing of life forever to only “those
who seek the Lord,” and doing this all in poetic form with a known
incomplete knowledge of the afterlife, perhaps it’s more likely that “all
the ends of the earth,” “all the families of the nations,” and “all the
rich of the earth” in Psalm 22:27-29 refer to God’s people scattered
throughout the world, rather than everyone. Certainly the former
interpretation jives better with the teachings of Jesus and of the New
Testament that we explore in this book, especially throughout the
next several chapters.

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But maybe you’re still not sold. Why can’t we just consider “all”
to mean “all” and be done with it? Well, both in the Bible and in
our everyday lives, the word “all” often doesn’t mean every last one.
When Jesus claims “all who draw the sword will die by the sword,”
he isn’t saying that every single person who’s picked up a sword will
get killed by one (Matthew 26:52). He’s teaching a general truth that
the violent will meet a violent end. Likewise, if you claim at a foot-
ball game that all the fans in the stadium are cheering, you don’t
mean every last one. You mean it’s generally true that fans there
are cheering. So “all” not quite meaning all is a familiar, acceptable
concept to us. This concept can apply to the afterlife too, and the
Bible actually provides a conclusive example regarding the hereafter
when “all” doesn’t mean “all.” “‘A s the new heavens and the new earth
that I make will endure before me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your
name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and
from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down
before me,’ says the Lord. ‘A nd they will go out and look on the dead
bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them
will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they
will be loathsome to all mankind’” (Isaiah 66:22-24). In Mark 9:43-
48, Jesus quotes this passage, equating this fire with Hell. It’s abso-
lutely unequivocal here that “all mankind,” both times it is used, only
refers to those who haven’t rebelled against God, those who aren’t
being burned with unquenchable fire in Hell. This made perfect sense
to the Jewish mind; after all, look at the persistent Jewish resis-
tance to non-Jews being included in God’s salvation plan even centu-
ries after Isaiah lived, decades after Jesus had come (Acts 28:17-28)!
Jews contemporary with Isaiah or David would never have naturally
assumed that “all mankind” or “all the ends of the earth” being saved
would include every single human being, only those who were God’s
people. Isaiah proves that; therefore, it seems to be the best way to
understand Psalm 22 as well.
What about other passages used to suggest that everyone will go
to Heaven? Well, they also clearly describe the same sort of not-so-
universal salvation evident above. In Psalm 65:2-4 “all men will come
to God,” but only those who are “overwhelmed by sins” and chosen

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by God—implying others who aren’t—are “blessed” to “live in God’s
courts.” We know that “all the nations will be gathered” before Jesus,
but to be judged, not saved (Matthew 25:31-46). Merely being gathered
to him does not at all imply eternity in Heaven, and for many in this
passage the very opposite is the case! In Zephaniah 3:8-13 God “will
purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name
of the Lord.” May call, not will call. God absolutely wants everyone to
have the opportunity to call on him for salvation, but not everyone will
experience it. He explains, “On that day you will not be put to shame
for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from
this city those who rejoice in their pride.” Again, “all of them” refers
only to those who aren’t removed for rejoicing in their pride.
In Joel 2:28-32, God pours out his Spirit “on all people.” However,
this takes place “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of
the Lord,” which is judgment day. It happens before humans enter
their final destinations of Hell or Heaven. If everyone is permanently
indwelled by the Holy Spirit before judgment day, which guarantees
salvation, then why is there a judgment day at all, particularly one
that includes some clearly going to Hell (2 Corinthians 5:4-5, Revela-
tion 20:11-15)? And if everyone is welcomed into Heaven on this day,
then how could it be considered dreadful in any way? Joel is most
likely telling us that God’s Spirit is being temporarily unleashed on
both saved and unsaved people to “prophecy” and “see visions,” as it
is in at least 20 other places throughout the Bible (e.g. Exodus 31:1-5,
35:30-33, Numbers 11:24-26, 1 Samuel 10:10, 11:6, 16:13-14, Numbers
23:27-24:9, Jude 1:7-13). What is certain is that this outpouring does
not refer to the Holy Spirit indwelling all people as part of universal
salvation, because Joel makes sure to clarify that only the person “who
calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Likewise, in 1 Corin-
thians 15:21-22 Paul states, “In Christ all will be made alive. But each
in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong
to him.” Only those who are in Christ and belong to him will be resur-
rected to Heaven. Those who aren’t and don’t belong to him will not.
In Isaiah 52:5-10 and Ezekiel 36:22-23 “all the ends of the earth
will see the salvation of our God” and “all nations will know that
I am the Lord.” But in both of these passages, God is specifically

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saving the Jews from places where God’s name “has been profaned
among the nations” and where “all day long my name is constantly
blasphemed.” These same nations are the ones who “will know that
I am the Lord.” Sounds more like a warning than an invitation to
Heaven, right? God will save the Jews “in the sight of all the nations,”
implying that these nations are spectators rather than participants
in salvation, and the context suggests this as well. Seeing God save
others and realizing that he is the Lord does not automatically trans-
late to being saved yourself, especially when you happen to be the
nation God is saving people from, a nation known for the quite
serious sin of blasphemy we’ve already explored in Chapter 21. In Hell
there will be plenty of people who know that God is God and that
others have been saved.
We find something similar in Philippians 2:10-11 when “at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and
under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” If this means everyone ought to bow
to Jesus, then it certainly does not imply that every one will. But
even if it means that everyone will acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship and
bring glory to God, it does not imply that they will do so willingly, let
alone in the repentant, humble way that would accompany the faith
necessary to know and follow God. Indeed, we are given the two
reasons why every knee should bow to Jesus, and neither of them has
to do with humans wanting to. The first is because Jesus is exalted
to the highest place. The second is for the glory of God. Reading the
passage in context then, it is because Jesus humbled himself as a
human and was willing to die for us that he is elevated to a status
where everyone will acknowledge his Lordship, whether they want to
or not. It has nothing to do with all humans willingly worshipping
Jesus before or after God gives ‘em Hell for long enough, does it? If
anyone finds herself in Hell, she will know Jesus is Lord even before
she gets there, simply because she has already had to submit to Jesus’
authority in resigning her to that fate (Matthew 25:31-32). She doesn’t
have to like that Jesus is Lord—and probably wouldn’t be in Hell if
she did—but she does have to admit it, since well, there she is.
This is a familiar concept to us. Every one of us has begrudgingly

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accepted another’s authority, whether a parent, a caretaker, a teacher,
a police officer, a boss, or someone else. Even when they truly had
our best interests in mind, as Jesus does, we didn’t want them as
our authority, did we? We wanted ourselves as the authority, so we
paid lip service because we knew the truth of our subordination,
even as we strove against it. In some cases we never stop striving
against it, do we? There’s a huge difference between admitting the
truth and desiring the truth, the difference between Hell and Heaven
in fact, and the first does not inevitably lead to the second. Revela-
tion 3:9 provides a great example of this difference and also demon-
strates again how some will be spectators of God’s favor to others
without being recipients of it themselves. According to the Bible, God
will put us all into a place where we admit the truth—both for Jesus’
sake and for his glory—but he will never make the unwilling want
the truth, as if torturing us in a temporary Hell would accomplish
that anyway. Even in Psalm 22, it’s not because every human being
is so grateful to God for being in Heaven that “all the families of the
nations will bow down before him.” It’s because “dominion belongs
to the Lord and he rules over the nations,” implying that some are
only bowing because they have to, further supporting our conclusions
regarding that psalm.
In Acts 3:19-23 God comes to “restore everything,” but for you to
experience these “times of refreshing” there are once again clarifi-
cations. You must “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins
may be wiped out.” You “must listen to everything Jesus tells you.”
That includes all his teachings about Hell that we’ll soon explore.
In fact, “anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut
off from his people.” Not temporarily, not until you change your
mind, but completely. The validity of an argument for universal salva-
tion in Heaven changes drastically when it’s derived from a passage
in context rather than from the two words in that passage most
supportive of that argument, doesn’t it?5 In Colossians 1:19-23, God
is pleased “through Jesus to reconcile to himself all things,” but yet
again, there is the caveat “if you continue in your faith, established
and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” As we
know, only those who maintain the faith God ties to salvation are

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reconciled to God, not everyone.
We are reminded of this persistent faith in the next passage that
we have to review. “If we endure, we will also reign with him. If
we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will
remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:12-13).
One attempt to apply these verses to universal salvation quotes only
the last three words, as it would be uncomfortable admitting that
God disowns people.6 We’re going to acknowledge the whole passage.
Notice the condition for reigning in Heaven with God: one must
endure, continuing in faith as above. If you don’t persist, if you’ve had
enough of God, if you’d rather dissociate yourself from him, he will
allow you to do so. Hell is separation from God; it is everything he is
not, complete dissociation. If God is to give us the choice to disown
him, he has to be prepared to disown us as well. How does that work
with God being faithful? Actually, they go hand in hand. What does
it mean to be faithful? Is it not simply to do what you say? If you are
faithful to your spouse, then you keep your promises and wedding
vows, right? It’s the same with God. Being faithful is part of who
God is. For him to cease being faithful, he must cease to be God; he
must disown himself. God has to keep his word. He doesn’t break his
promises, even if we faithlessly break ours. “He is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who
love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he
will repay to their face by destruction” (Deuteronomy 7:9-10). And I’m
not sure how God remaining faithful and therefore not disowning
himself means that everyone will go to Heaven anyway. But I am
sure that God will keep his word, including the ones about enduring
and disowning, the promises in Deuteronomy, and the clear messages
about Hell and Heaven that we’re finding throughout rest of the Bible.
So ironically, God remaining faithful and keeping his word means
that not everyone will go to Heaven, doesn’t it? Those who disown
God will be disowned, those who hate God will meet destruction,
and those who want nothing to do with God will go to the place
that has nothing to do with him. Alternatively, those who endure in
their faith will reign with him, those who love and obey him will be
loved by him, and those who want everything to do with him will

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go to a place that has everything to do with him. Just like he says.
From our exploration of the salvation process in Parts 4 and
5, we found that the only two factors that affect whether or not
a person ends up in Heaven are what is truly going on in that
person’s mind and what is truly going on in God’s mind. We can get
a decent but always incomplete glimpse into a person’s mind, and
there is always more involved there than we realize. As for God’s
mind, it has fortunately been opened to us quite significantly in the
Bible, which would be expected from a God who wants his creations
to make informed, practical decisions about their eternal fates. Not
that we know all of God’s mind of course, but if we’re willing to
look to the Bible at all for God’s take on Hell and Heaven, we may
as well also believe he would give us enough truth to be useful. So
what does God think about who ends up in Heaven? Certainly, God
“wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”
(1 Timothy 2:3-4), but that’s not where he stops. Jesus clarifies this
desire of God’s, and if we’re going to truly understand what’s going
on in God’s mind, I’d say Jesus is our most reliable biblical resource,
wouldn’t you? He gives us the inside scoop. “And this is the will of
him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given
me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that
everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise them up at the last day.” God is “not wanting anyone
to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Yes,
God absolutely desires everyone to be in Heaven, but they must also
admit their need to believe in the message of Jesus to find eternal
life. And there is a second condition as well. Jesus gives us a time-
frame. Everyone who shall have eternal life enters Heaven “at the
last day.” Not when they die or whenever they’ve had enough of
Hell. Not some directly on the day of judgment and others after a
delay on many, many other days. On one last day. When is this day?
Jesus elaborates just a few chapters later in John 12:48. “There is a
judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the
very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” Same
phrase, and it is now unequivocal that it does not refer to whichever
day people die or potentially turn to God in Hell.

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Aside from there being only one last day, for reasons explained
in Chapter 14, people who reject Jesus are being condemned to Hell
on this day, not being removed from it! If the last day refers to
the days when people in Hell might repent and enter Heaven, then
why is Jesus condemning others to Hell on the last day as well? A
last day when people either shall have eternal life or be condemned
sounds a lot more like judgment day in Matthew 25:31-46, doesn’t
it? And it certainly is consistent with the vision of the actual last
day we are given in Revelation 20:11-15. The last day is obviously
the day of judgment, the one day on which every person’s eternal fate
is realized, not any day after that. So after a more comprehensive
look, what has Jesus taught us about who God is planning to see in
Heaven? Heaven will be populated by those who have faith in Jesus’
words—regarding the gospel, Hell, and Heaven—prior to the day of
judgment, so that he can raise them up on that day to give them
eternal life.
Alright, time to debrief. The first concept tied to the longevity of
Hell has been investigated: whether or not everyone will eventually
be in Heaven. We discovered the importance of the word “all” and
understanding precisely who it refers to in the Bible, whether all of
everyone or simply all of a subgroup. Often it’s the latter, which can
dramatically affect how God’s words are interpreted. Then we looked
at a list of passages used to argue for universal salvation, discovering
that none of them actually do so when taken in context and as a
whole. Finally, we discovered who God is planning to see in Heaven
and confirmed that it is only those who comply with his conditions,
even though he desires that everyone will. The truth is, none of us
knows exactly who of us will be in Heaven; we are only told exactly
how we would be in Heaven. This uncertainty cannot be used to
claim that everyone might, because the Bible clearly teaches other-
wise (Matthew 7:13-14). But it does compel us to be extremely reluc-
tant to label any particular person as saved or unsaved when they
die. In that regard, all we know is that not all of us will be saved,
which means that there is no escape from Hell for the rest.

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25

O ne down. It’s time for concept number two regarding whether
Hell is forever or less than forever. Plainly, we can’t know if
anything in the Bible is “forever” or not if we don’t impartially and
accurately discover what is meant by this term. If there are literary
and logical reasons that “all” doesn’t always mean all in the Bible, are
there similarly objective reasons that “forever” doesn’t mean forever?
Let’s find out! The main Greek and Hebrew words translated as
“forever” or “eternal” in the Bible are aion and olam, respectively.
There are several potential translations for these two words, and no
authors should assume the authority to pick or write about only the
ones that agree with their opinions. I will give you all the definitions
that I could find for these words, straight out of dictionaries in the
order that I randomly found them. I used online lexicons to make
access easy for you, and every dictionary I could find at the time of
this writing is represented, written by those with Christian, Hebrew,
and secular perspectives. The definitions and sources are referenced,
so you can easily double-check me. This transparency might seem a
bit tedious, but it allows the reader to validate the author’s words,
which can be difficult to accomplish otherwise. For example, Rob Bell
approaches these terms more casually in Love Wins, offering only a
couple definitions in support of his argument without any citation or
reference section to confirm their validity.7-8 In contrast, I believe it
is better to objectively give you all the information so you can make
an informed decision instead of subjectively providing only a small
fraction of the information, requiring you to accept that the omitted
majority is insignificant. I want you to be equipped to discover for
yourself what is most likely to be the truth, rather than just expecting
you to take my word for it.
Aion. This is the predominant Greek/New Testament term often
translated as “forever.” Its definitions in Strong’s Greek Lexicon are
“an age, perpetuity, the world, a Messianic period, course, eternal,
and forever.”9 In A Greek-English Lexicon we find “period of existence,

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lifetime, age, generation, posterity, all one’s life, one’s destiny or
lot, long space of time, of old, perpetually, forever, eternity, space
of time clearly defined and marked out, epoch, this present world,
and”—just so you know I’ve included them all—”the name of various
divine beings and spinal marrow.”10 The Lexicon to Pindar gives us
“span, course of life, existence, and marrow.”11 A Homeric Dictionary
offers “lifetime or life” (they clearly weren’t as into bone marrow as
others).12 Kypros-Net yields “lifetime, generation, and eternity.”13 Finally,
greekbible.com defines aion as “forever, an unbroken age, perpetuity
of time, eternity, the universe, and a period of time.”14 Only three of
these definitions are decidedly not forever: generation, this present
world, and marrow. As demonstrated in this chapter, aion is repeat-
edly used to describe the longevity of God, life in Heaven, and time
in Hell, so unless these three concepts are confined to a generation,
this present world, or bone marrow, we cannot definitively claim that
God, Heaven, or Hell are not forever simply based on the definition
of aion.
But what about the other definitions, the ones that aren’t defi-
nitely finite but could be? Since this book is about the hereafter, we’re
willing to entertain the notion that humans live beyond their physical
deaths, so one’s “lifetime” “destiny,” “lot,” or “period of existence” does
not have to end either. An “age,” “epoch,” “span,” “long space of time,”
“posterity,” or “the universe” doesn’t necessitate an end (e.g. the final
age, the post-dinosaur epoch, etc.). And obviously, “an unbroken age,”
“perpetual,” “forever,” and “eternity” don’t end at all. Even “a space of
time clearly defined and marked out” does not demand an end. “From
this moment forward,” “happily ever after,” “every moment starting
now,” “always,” “eternal,” and “forever” are all concepts that are well
defined and marked out. We know exactly what they refer to, yet they
don’t have an end. Since we can’t make at least one definition of aion
that could be referring to Hell necessitate an end, we cannot conclu-
sively argue that Hell has an end.
And what about all the other definitions for aion that could
describe Hell, several of which (e.g. an unbroken age, perpetual, for
all one’s life, one’s existence, eternal, and forever) directly oppose the
notion that Hell is temporary? Unless there is literary or contextual

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evidence to disqualify them—and we will soon learn that there isn’t—
they must be offered as viable options. Unfortunately, sometimes
they’re not included, as in Love Wins. “Aion has multiple meanings,
one we’ll look at here, and another we’ll explore later.”15 “The first
meaning of this word aion refers to a period of time with a begin-
ning and an end.”16 “Another meaning of aion is a bit more complex
and nuanced, because it refers to a particular intensity of experi-
ence that transcends time.”17 “That’s what aion refers to—a particu-
larly intense experience.”18 Aside from the observation that neither
of these definitions is validated by reference or necessarily has an
equivalent to any of our dictionary definitions applicable to Hell—
none of which require “an end” except “generation,” “this present
world,” and “marrow”—no other meaning for aion except these two is
provided. We are either left to believe there are only two—which we
know there are not—or that the others have nothing to do with the
longevity of Hell. Except they do, don’t they? Quite a bit in fact, so
we cannot responsibly disregard them.
Clearly, it isn’t admirable or convincing to build an argument for
a temporary Hell by adding subjective, unsubstantiated definitions
for aion as support or by ignoring objective, confirmed, dissenting
definitions. However, we also cannot conclude that Hell is eternal
simply because the latter exist. Therefore, even though none of our
applicable definitions are definitively finite while some of our appli-
cable definitions are definitively infinite, can we confirm that the
most objective and accurate biblical meaning of aion, as it relates to
Hell, truly connotes forever? Actually yes, and in multiple ways.
First, Jesus himself literally tells us so. He teaches that whoever
leaves everything behind for the sake of God’s kingdom will “receive
many times as much in this age, and in the age (aion) to come
eternal (aion as an adjective) life” (Luke 18:29-30). Note that aion is
not used by Jesus for “this age” as it is for “the age to come.” That’s
because there actually is a Greek word that refers to a period of
time with a beginning and an end, and Jesus chooses it to describe
“this age:” kairos, not aion. Everywhere kairos is found in the diction-
aries above, it is defined as a fixed, definite, or limited time, as well
as a critical season of opportunity or decisive epoch. In none of

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these dictionaries is there any definition to suggest an indefinite or
unending time period. I encourage you to check the references to
confirm this.19-23 Well that’s interesting, isn’t it? “This age” is a finite
period of time, which correlates well with the interpretation of “this
age” as our lives before Hell or Heaven. Moreover, these lives are
also a critical and decisive season of opportunity! Throughout this
book, we demonstrate that this opportunity is none other than our
choice to end up in Hell or Heaven. And as far as the meaning of
aion is concerned, we are now aware that Jesus knew of and used the
word kairos when he wanted to describe a finite period of time, such
as “this age.” Yet only a few words later, he chooses not to use kairos
to describe “the age to come.” He uses aion, which does offer defini-
tions consistent with eternal or forever, unlike kairos. And in case his
motive for switching from kairos to aion is in any way unclear, he
amplifies the noun aion with the adjective aion!
Therefore, the most accurate reading of Luke 18:29-30 then, is
that whoever leaves everything behind for the sake of God’s kingdom
will “receive many times as much in this limited period of time
(kairos)—which is a critical and decisive season of opportunity—and
in the eternal time period (aion) to come, eternal (aion) life.” Jesus
intentionally uses kairos and aion to make the distinction that our
hereafters are not finite, but forever, and that there is a critical
opportunity to decide something “in this age,” before we get to “the
age to come.” And Jesus doesn’t only select aion to describe Heaven,
but also Hell. At least ten times in the New Testament, aion directly
refers to Hell or eternal punishment, mentioned four of those times
by Jesus himself (Matthew 18:8, 25:41, 25:46, Mark 3:29, 2 Thessa-
lonians 1:9, Jude 1:7, 1:13, Revelation 14:9-11, 19:1-3, and 20:10). If I
bothered to tell you numerous different times that your house was
burning down and you had no reason to believe that it wasn’t, you’d
take me seriously, wouldn’t you? So we have no way to argue that
aion is definitely temporary, Jesus uses it to distinguish an unending
period of time from a finite one, and there is no doubt that it consis-
tently applies to Hell.
A second way we know that aion truly connotes forever when
referring to Hell is to more thoroughly compare what else it refers

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to. Obviously it is applied to Hell, but literally scores of times, it is
also used to describe the longevity of both Heaven/eternal life (e.g.
John 3:16) and Jesus/God (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:17). If we decide that
aion means temporary as it relates to Hell—without any linguistic
or contextual support—there’s no reason we shouldn’t conclude that
Heaven and God are both temporary as well. People like the idea of
Hell being temporary, but they’re quite a bit more reluctant to define
eternal life and God that way. But there’s no holding a double stan-
dard when defining the same word, unless you have a really good
reason to do so. In this case, we don’t. For some of you, this is not a
problem, as you may be quite comfortable believing that Hell, Heaven,
and God are all temporary. You choose to use aion both according to
an accepted definition and consistently across the board. I can respect
that. However, there are several ways the Bible conveys Hell, Heaven,
and God as being forever without using the word aion, as we’ll see in
the next several chapters.
Third, aside from what other biblical evidence there is for the
eternal nature of Hell, Heaven, and God, there is a linguistic way
to be assured that aion means forever also. It is used in a fashion
that only allows us to employ the “perpetual,” “eternal,” and “forever”
definitions. At least 21 times in the New Testament, aion is repeated
multiple times in a row, once to describe eternal life, three times
to describe Hell, and 17 times to describe God. The term is “aion
(singular) and aions (plural),” “age and ages,” “forever and ever.” The
use of the singular and plural nouns together, not just two repeated
singular nouns (two ages), encompasses all the ages—not just one or
two—regardless of whether they’re temporary or not. True, biblical
writers could have endlessly written “aion and aion and aion and aion
and aion and aion and aion, etc.” to denote forever, or the more math-
ematically savvy among them could have simply written aion with
a line over it, but the former would have killed a lot of trees for all
that paper, and the latter would have had to wait 1200 years for the
vinculum (that little line) to be invented. Bummer! What’s a New
Testament author to do when he wants to describe the age to come as
“forever” in a decidedly green and timely fashion? Easy, just consoli-
date each aion you’d have to write out into the plural aions. Aion and

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aions. One eternal age to come or all subsequent ages put together.
You pick, the term includes both. No ages to come are excluded. How
else could you possibly convey the idea of forever better than this?
And if both “aion” and “aion and aions” simply refer to a temporary
age, then why make the distinction? Why repeat the term sometimes
and not others? Why use the plural form at all? For temporary Heav-
en’s sake, why waste the ink? At least three times, God is empha-
sizing to us that Hell is really, seriously, and unequivocally forever.
No foolin’.
I find it interesting that God uses this emphasis only once when
referring to Heaven, but three times when referring to Hell, and 17
times when referring to himself. This may be coincidence, but maybe
not. If God wants to specially emphasize a concept as forever, he’s
most likely to do so regarding concepts that we’re less likely to believe
are forever. God knows we don’t have trouble believing in eternal life
in Heaven. He can get away with just aion for that, although he does
reassure the few skeptics out there with one “aion and aions.” Hell
is a tougher sell. Has God anticipated the resistance humans would
offer to an endless Hell by emphasizing with these words that it truly
is forever three times more than he does for Heaven? Perhaps he is
saying to us, “I know Hell is a difficult concept, and I know there will
be people who tell you that it’s only temporary. But it truly is forever
and ever, and you need to understand how serious that is, as well
as how much I am truly saving you from.” I don’t know, but it sure
makes sense, doesn’t it?
And it’s not just Heaven and Hell that are forever. God abun-
dantly uses the exact same term to describe himself. “Aion and aions”
is not used to describe anything else in the Bible, just Heaven, Hell,
and God. Of course, it’s no surprise that a God who names himself “I
AM” and constantly reminds us of his everlasting nature throughout
the Bible would specifically emphasize the concept of forever most
frequently in regard to himself (Exodus 3:13-15). However, he also
chooses to apply the identical term conveying the identical emphasis
to Heaven and Hell, and to nothing else. It’s as if he’s telling us, “If
you have trouble with Hell being forever, I’ve specially emphasized it
three times to assure you that it is. If you still don’t believe I mean

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forever, I’ve chosen to describe myself using the same language. As
far as future longevity is concerned, I’ve left no doubt at all that
Heaven, Hell, and I are the same. If you believe I’m forever, you
must believe Hell is forever as well.” From a linguistic perspective,
these three passages about Hell (Revelation 14:9-11, 19:1-3, and 20:10)
represent an essentially insurmountable obstacle for those portraying
it as temporary—and it shows. For example, they are kept absent from
you altogether in Love Wins and in The Love Wins Companion—appar-
ently hoping you won’t notice—even as you are encouraged by the
latter to avoid studying only “the kind of passages that prove your
point.”24 I want you to notice all the evidence, even if it means a little
more explaining on my part, because only then can you bring yourself
to a truly informed, accurate, and objective conclusion.
Let’s summarize our discourse on aion then. God gives us a word
that can mean forever and applies it repeatedly to Hell. He uses the
same term to describe Heaven as well, so we can’t say it’s temporary
for one but eternal for the other. He uses multiple repetitions of the
word when explaining Hell so we know he really means it’s forever,
and he applies the identical definition of forever and ever to himself
to make us absolutely certain that that’s also what he means when
he talks about Hell. Alright, it’s time to give poor aion a rest and
move on!

26

T he biblical passages above denoting Hell as “forever and ever”
aren’t only omitted from arguments for a temporary Hell (Reve-
lation 14:9-11, 19:1-3, and 20:10); they’re also missing from the argu-
ment some make that while Hell is forever, people’s existence in Hell
is not.25 This perspective is called annihilationism, and it asserts that
the inhabitants of Hell eventually cease to exist, rather than being
consciously present there forever. From an emotional standpoint,
it’s not clear to me why non-existence should universally be consid-
ered preferable to even a Hellish existence. Although I know it’s an

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imperfect analogy, just as many of us would consider spending our
life in prison favorable to capital punishment, we might also consider
existing forever in Hell preferable to not existing at all. Plus, down-
grading the biblical Hell from eternal torment to cessation of being
won’t exactly convince many to believe in it if they don’t already,
right? But there are some who understandably might prefer the latter,
so arguments offered in support of annihilationism should be enter-
tained and are listed as follows.
First, the Bible states many times that those who are saved will
inherit eternal life, so some people assume that those who do not
inherit this eternal life must therefore cease to exist. The glaring
problem is that the Bible is not at all silent regarding those who are
not saved, and what it has to say repeatedly falsifies this assumption.
To no one’s satisfaction, these folks will experience darkness forever
(Jude 1:13), everlasting ruin (Psalm 52:1-5), eternal fire (Matthew
3:12, 18:8, Mark 9:43, Luke 3:17), wrath forever (Jeremiah 17:4, John
3:36), everlasting destruction (Psalm 92:6-7, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9),
eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46, Jude 1:7), everlasting disgrace
and contempt that will not be forgotten (Jeremiah 23:40, Daniel
12:2), and eternal decay (Mark 9:48). Annihilationists might respond
by saying that darkness forever or everlasting ruin and destruction
could refer to the cessation of existence, and that’s possible. But those
terms can also be applicable during existence, and the fact that people
who cease to exist cannot experience wrath, cannot be punished,
cannot endure disgrace or contempt, and cannot decay makes this
response much less credible.
What about the eternal fire? Annihilationsists might admit that the
fire in Hell is forever but claim that people don’t necessarily always
exist within it. But what’s the point of this lake of burning sulfur
being eternal if its only purpose is to house those who will immedi-
ately be annihilated in it? Five seconds after judgment day everyone
in Hell will have ceased to exist, but the fire still needs to burn
forever? That’s one Hell of a gas bill for absolutely no reason! Even
if they’re there longer than five seconds before ceasing to exist, these
same questions remain unanswered. Revelation 22:14-15 provides
confirmation of non-annihilated folks existing in Hell, and Revelation

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14:9-11 leaves no doubt that this lake is eternally present because the
residents are eternally present as well. The “punishment of eternal
fire” in Jude 1:7 implies that the fire is there at least partially for
punishment—not for decor—and if there’s nobody to punish, there’s no
reason for the fire to be eternal. Since the Bible clearly does not teach
that only those with eternal life have eternal existence, the biblical
opposite of eternal life is not annihilation. Rather, as Jesus plainly
states in Matthew 25:46, the biblical opposite of eternal life is eternal
punishment, including the fire, wrath, disgrace, contempt, memory,
and decay that can only be experienced by beings who still exist.
A second argument made by annihilationists focuses on four
passages (Matthew 10:28, Philippians 3:18-19, Hebrews 10:39, and 2
Peter 2:12) that speak of a person being destroyed in a way that seems
to involve the hereafter, and these folks equate such destruction with
annihilation. Let’s examine them. The word for “destroy” in Matthew
10:28 is apollumi. In A Greek-English Lexicon, Strong’s Greek Lexicon, and
greekbible.com the primary definitions are “destroy fully/utterly,”
“cease to exist,” “kill,” “perish,” “die,” “to be undone,” “demolish,” “lose,”
and “mar.”26-28 Incidentally, the third source also offers the secondary
definition “to devote or give over to eternal misery in Hell.” The first
five definitions could be consistent with annihilation, with the others
equivocal or against annihilation. The critical observation to make
though is this: although God “can destroy both soul and body in
Hell,” we are not told that he will engage in this type of destruction.
Rather than teaching us that people might no longer exist in Hell, the
clear point of this verse is to teach healthy, respectful fear of a God
so powerful that he is able to destroy—even potentially eradicate—an
individual there if he wants to. However, since the verse does not
say that he won’t do so, we must look at the uses of “destroy” in the
other three passages to bring us to a comprehensive conclusion.
The Greek word for “destruction” in Philippians 3:18-19 and
Hebrews 10:39 is apoleia, and a review of A Greek-English Lexicon,
Strong’s Greek Lexicon, and greekbible.com yields no definitions specific
to annihilation or ceasing to exist.29-31 The first source simply offers
“destruction” as the only primary definition, which is not entirely
helpful, but the second source lists “ruin” as a primary definition.

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Greekbible.com somewhat equivocally gives both “utter destruc-
tion” and “ruin” as primary definitions, but it interestingly adds “the
destruction which consists of eternal misery in Hell” as one of its
secondary definitions. In 2 Peter 2:12, the Greek word phtheiro is
used, and the only suggestion of annihilation, the meaning “cease to
be,” is found in a single secondary definition, and only in the first
source. Two of these sources, including the first, offer “ruin” as a
primary definition, and all three use “corrupt” as a primary definition,
not annihilation.32-34 These primary definitions reflect how we use
“destroy” today as well. Although occasionally we employ it to denote
a cessation of existence—like when we destroy a computer file—much
more often we use it in the context of ruining or corrupting some-
thing, even though it still very much exists, such as when a car is
fully destroyed in an accident, when a team gets utterly destroyed in
a sports match, or when a family is completely destroyed by alcohol
abuse. This second connotation of ruination or corruption appears to
be more common in the Bible as well. It certainly is consistent with
the “everlasting ruin” mentioned in Psalm 52:1-5, and the definitions
offered for “destroy” in Philippians 3:18-19, Hebrews 10:39, and 2
Peter 2:12 support the more predominant use of this connotation as
well. Plus you can’t be corrupted if you don’t exist, right?
Taking all four passages together then, there is hypothetical anni-
hilating destruction in Hell based on one primary definition for one
word in one source in one passage, and there is possible annihilating
destruction in Hell based on one secondary definition for one word
in one source in one other passage. The primary definitions for each
word in all three sources in the three passages describing non-hypo-
thetical, definite destruction suggest otherwise. Moreover, the “ever-
lasting destruction” we’ve already encountered in Psalm 92:6-7 and 2
Thessalonians 1:8-9 affirms that “cease to exist” or “cease to be” is not
the most responsible choice in the case of Hell. Destruction cannot
be everlasting if no one exists to be destroyed five seconds into it. I
encourage you to check the dictionaries to peruse all the meanings of
apollumi, apoleia, and phtheiro, so that you can confirm what I’ve stated
yourself.
For all three of these words, there are the definitions “perish” or

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“die,” and it is the concept of eternal death, rather than destruction,
that generates the third annihilationist argument, which claims that
eternal death is synonymous with the cessation of existence. The term
“eternal death” does not occur in the Bible; rather, we already know
from Matthew 25:46 that the opposite of “eternal life” in Heaven
is “eternal punishment” in Hell, not eternal death. Since the argu-
ment can’t be made on those grounds then, it is made using the two
biblical references to the fiery lake of Hell constituting a “second
death”—the first death being physical death—in Revelation 20:14 and
21:8. Because those who are saved are saved from death (James 5:20),
apparently the claim is that this second death in Hell must refer to
annihilation, because how can you exist after you die? The obvious
conundrum is that we exist after our first death, so why wouldn’t we
exist after the second one? If death is inseparable from non-existence,
then no one would exist after physical death to endure a second death
in Hell, right? And the same Greek word, thanatos, is consistently
used to describe both physical death and the second death, so there
is no justification for assuming that the latter means annihilation
if the former does not. Not to mention that none of the definitions
for thanatos in any of the dictionaries above even remotely suggest
annihilation.35-37
Fourth, there are a few Old Testament passages that annihilation-
ists reference to suggest that the wicked are eventually consumed, but
these passages either talk of destruction or perishing—which we’ve
already addressed—or clearly refer to physical death when the wicked
are “no more,” are “consumed,” or “vanish” (Psalm 37:1-40, 104:35).
But for those who are still not convinced, the Bible itself seals the
deal. Both Revelation 14:9-11 and 20:10 leave no doubt that all the
inhabitants of the lake of burning sulfur will be “tormented day and
night forever and ever.” In the end, when you look at everything the
Bible has to say to find the conclusion most likely to be true it is
clearly not annihilationism.
Right now you might be thinking, “Wow, this guy really wants
to make Hell the most horrible, awful place it could possibly be!”
Not at all! From an emotional standpoint, I would be quite happy
with a Hell that is no more than annihilation, or a Hell that is not

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forever, or a Hell that doesn’t exist at all, just as you might! But the
biblical Hell is what it says it is, and our desires have no authority to
change how God describes it. That concession might leave you very
angry or significantly saddened, and I totally sympathize with that.
But God doesn’t leave you with merely a depressing description, and
neither will I. We’re still toward the beginning of understanding all
that he teaches us regarding Hell, and we’re not supposed to like it.
Not one bit. But when all is explained, we’ll find that God does not
inconsiderately expect us to just suck it up and believe in an eternal,
conscious Hell solely because that’s the way he wants it. Instead,
we’ve already repeatedly seen and will continue to learn that that’s not
the way he wants it, but that Hell must be that way for several very
logical reasons that have a lot more to do with us than with God. So
keep reading, even when it’s tough; there’s still more to unpack! Our
digression into annihilationism came on the heels of exploring aion,
the New Testament word translated as “forever.” Next we’ll unpack
an Old Testament word translated as forever: the Hebrew word olam.

27

O lam. Its definitions in Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon are “concealed, the
vanishing point, time out of mind, eternity, always, ancient,
anymore, continuance, everlasting, long, of old, perpetual, and at
any time.”38 In Rakefet, olam is described as a “long duration, long
past time, great antiquity and therefore also occasionally used for the
future, and the world or sphere.”39 Although we do see scattered Old
Testament references to the afterlife that resemble those in the New
Testament (e.g. Psalm 15:11, 21:4, 73:23-24, 133:3, Isaiah 65:17-19),
they are infrequent and incomplete, as if the authors were still grap-
pling with it, not quite sure. Like aion, olam has no definite end, but
unlike aion, olam carries with it an ever present uncertainty. We do
not find “concealed,” “to the vanishing point,” or “time out of mind”
in our definitions of aion, but we do with olam, because the Hebrew
Old Testament writers didn’t know exactly what was coming. The

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details were hidden, beyond sight, or outside of their mind’s ability to
fathom. Unlike in the New Testament, God had not yet fully revealed
the concepts of Hell and Heaven as destinations for humans. As we
have explored in Chapter 24, this makes sense because these locations
don’t have much meaning anyway until you have Jesus’ work of salva-
tion to explain what they are and why they’re there. We’ve also discov-
ered Lugg as another explanation for why these folks didn’t need to
have a clearer picture of eternity at the time they lived. Their percep-
tion of the afterlife was not necessarily wrong or dismissible, simply
incomplete, and this book incorporates—rather than dismisses—their
worldview into its final framework of the hereafter. For now, all we
need to know is that olam had no definite end in their minds, and
part of the reason was because the end was too poorly-defined to see.
As this uncertainty prohibits olam from being definitively declared to
mean forever or not forever, I will not use it to argue for a forever
Hell.
On the same grounds, it cannot be used to argue that Hell is
temporary. Even as this is acknowledged, olam is still used to argue
that because the Old Testament writers were shady on the details,
“forever is not really a category the biblical writers used.”40 However,
olam is a word found only in the Old Testament, which was written
in Hebrew. The Christian doctrine of Hell is derived mostly from the
New Testament, which was written in Greek, not Hebrew. The contri-
bution from the Old Testament is present but smaller, because its
writers knew little about Hell, which is apparent in the very defini-
tion of olam. Therefore, the word olam has virtually no bearing on the
doctrine of Hell at all. Olam and Hell are essentially found in different
testaments of the Bible written hundreds of years apart in different
languages. So why do people try to connect them? Because they need
a forever that’s not forever, even if it has nothing to do with Hell, so
that they can extrapolate that to every forever we find in the Bible.
Olam is applied to Jesus’ words on Hell, but Jesus never used the
word olam in the Bible, because Jesus’ words are all in the New Testa-
ment and therefore are recorded in Greek, not Hebrew. Furthermore,
Greek, Aramaic, and Latin were the predominant spoken languages
in Palestine during Jesus’ life, not Hebrew. Therefore, it is completely

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inaccurate for one to assert that “Jesus isn’t talking about forever as
we think of forever” based on a reference to olam in the Old Testa-
ment. 41 In stark contrast, Jesus frequently does talk about forever—
represented in Greek as aion—as we think of forever and applies it to
Hell, doesn’t he?
We’ve spent significant time on aion and olam to help you under-
stand how they are mishandled, but my purpose in sharing this
extends far beyond these two words alone. You have also now been
introduced to several ways that any person, clergy or comrade, might
misuse words and definitions from the Bible to argue an opinion
that they have. Be cautious, as trusting them too easily might lead
you down the wrong path, whether only for this life or for forever.
Such misguidance is exemplified in Love Wins, which not only inap-
propriately relies on olam to portray Hell as transient; it also fails to
mention an important second Old Testament word that means forever,
one that is appropriately applicable to eternal judgment, both linguis-
tically and contextually. 42 It is the noun ad, and none of its mean-
ings carry with them the uncertainty present with olam. Instead, they
closely resemble those of aion! The available definitions of the noun
ad in Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon are “eternity, everlasting, old, perpetu-
ally, and world without end.”43 Rakefet does not include definitions for
ad as a noun, but all of the definitions for its verb form adah, such
as “continue” and “advance into perpetuity,” bear the connotation of
endlessness as well.44 Moreover, ad is used as a noun in two places
to describe those who would be unsaved. “Though the wicked spring
up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever”
(Psalm 92:7). “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every
desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you;
but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
It is simply not true that “the closest the Hebrew writers come to a
word for ‘forever’ is the word olam,” but now it is obvious why we are
led to believe that.45 The Old Testament may not have as much to say
about Hell as the New Testament does, but what it does say is quite
clear. And unlike olam, ad associates the fate of the unsaved with a
forever that has to mean forever! Speaking of forever, that’s about how
long I’ve been yammering about words that mean forever! The second

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concept tied to the longevity of Hell, how the Bible defines forever and
eternal, has been addressed. Let’s leave the domain of dictionaries and
read a story instead.

28

I t’s time for the tale of “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” and it’s found
in Luke 16:19-31. Jesus offers this narrative to highlight several
truths about the hereafter, and it provides an excellent backdrop for
exploring the third concept connected to Hell’s longevity: what the
expectations and actions of those who will go there reveal about the
duration of their stay. Are the words and deeds of humans intimately
associated with this doom consistent with a transient Hell or a forever
Hell? With this question in mind, spend a minute or two—that’s all it
will take—and read the story, so it will be fresh in your mind and so
you’ll know I’m not making anything up. Lazarus, the beggar, goes
to Abraham’s side when he dies, and the rich man goes to Hades. We
know from Chapter 15 that Hades cannot be Hell (Revelation 20:14);
instead, we learned that the rich man’s location in Hades is consis-
tent with Tartarus, a part of Sheol/Hades inhabited only by those who
will inevitably reside in Gehenna/Hell. We also recall that Lazarus
and Abraham can observe and converse with the rich man because
they are not in a place consistent with the current heaven or the New
Earth/Heaven, but rather in the Paradise of Sheol/Hades. This place is
also understandably termed Abraham’s Bosom, which is “in the New
Testament and in Jewish writings a term signifying the abode of bliss
in the other world.” “It is plain that Abraham is here viewed as the
warden of paradise.”46-47 Because the rich man’s fate will eventually be
Hell and because Lazarus and Abraham’s final destination will eventu-
ally be Heaven—and to compare our findings with conclusions others
draw about Hell and Heaven from this story—we will call their respec-
tive locations “Hell” and “Heaven” in this chapter, gleaning whatever
information from them that we responsibly can. Here we go!
A rich man, who “lived in luxury,” and the beggar Lazarus, who

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was “covered with sores,” both died. The rich man went to Hades,
“where he was in torment,” and Lazarus went to be with Abraham,
the patriarch or head honcho of the Jewish race. The rich man sees
Abraham and Lazarus across “a great chasm” and says, “Father
Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his
finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this
fire.” Abraham says the rich man has already received good things in
his former life, and that “between us and you a great chasm has been
fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can
anyone cross over from there to us.” Acknowledging his own hope-
less situation, the rich man then begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his
five brothers to warn them, so that at least they won’t join him in his
torment in “Hell.”
This story provides some of the clearest evidence in the whole
Bible that Hell is forever, but it has actually been used to argue the
opposite, largely based on a reinterpretation of why the rich man is
there to begin with. Does the reason for his fate offer any hope that
it can be changed, and do his words and deeds demonstrate that he
concurs? The argument for a transient Hell proposes that the rich
man considers himself better than Lazarus and is asking him for
water because he thinks Lazarus should serve him. The thought is,
“when you get someone water, you’re serving them.” “The rich man
still sees himself as above Lazarus. It’s no wonder Abraham says
there’s a chasm that can’t be crossed. The chasm is the rich man’s
heart!”48 Once he stops being arrogant and humbles himself to God,
the chasm will disappear, and he can cross, because “even the most
‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to
God.”49 Therefore, “Hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and
all will be reconciled to God.”50 Let’s evaluate these claims.
To start, there is little indication that the rich man is arrogant
or thinks he’s better than Lazarus. All we know about the rich man
before he dies is that “he was dressed in purple and fine linen and
lived in luxury every day.” We know that Lazarus longed “to eat what
fell from the rich man’s table,” but we don’t know if the rich man
knew this or even if he had met Lazarus before he died. He does
know Lazarus’ name after they die, but he is also able to identify

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Abraham, a person he would not have met while alive, assuming Jesus
would be considering Lazarus and the rich man his contemporaries.
Since he therefore could only have learned who Abraham was after
dying and had clearly done so before the start of this story, he may
very well have met Lazarus then too. The text gives us no further
clues, so what can we conclude? Well, most of you have purple, fine
linen, or the material equivalent in your wardrobe, live in relative
luxury every day (at least when compared to beggars), and are exposed
to people—whether you are aware of them or not—who long for even
a little of what you have. Does that automatically mean you are arro-
gant or think that you’re better than them? It might, and it seems
reasonable to question at least some measure of selfishness in the rich
man’s character while he’s still alive, but certainly no one should confi-
dently assume that without knowing something more about you or
him, right? We would need much more information before we could
responsibly make such an accusation, especially of such a degree of
arrogance that it’s keeping people in “Hell”!
And what about after the rich man dies? This is where Abraham
truly exposes the rich man’s conceit, or does he? “Son, remember that
in your lifetime you received your good things.” So…where is the arro-
gance? I don’t know, because no one else has anything to say about the
rich man in the text. Unfortunately however, many “facts” have been
extrapolated about him outside of the text. “In fact, he (the rich man)
ignores his neighbor, who spends each day outside his gate begging
for food.”51 Apparently, the rich man is “still clinging to his ego, his
status, his pride—he’s unable to let go of the world he’s constructed,
which puts him at the top and Lazarus at the bottom.”52 But the Bible
never tells us that these two men had even met each other while alive,
nor does it ever accuse the rich man of being proud. Again, maybe he
was, but all we really know is that he was rich compared to beggars,
just as almost all of us are. Does that automatically make us conceited
as well?
So we don’t really have a lot of real facts on this man’s reputa-
tion. But perhaps it’s the rich man’s request, rather than his reputa-
tion, that betrays his pride. Let’s read it again. “Father Abraham, have
pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and

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cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” The arrogant do
not ask for pity, do they? As far as we know, the only two people the
rich man sees are Abraham and Lazarus. Abraham is the first of the
Jews, the patriarch of his ethnic group, “the man” or “the boss,” as
we would say. The rich man is understandably thirsty and there are
two people to bring water to him. One is arguably the most impor-
tant human personae ever to a Jew, the other is not. Who do you
think he’s going to ask to bring him water? If you desperately needed
relief, and the only people who could give it to you were your highly
respected, venerable grandfather or the person you know the name
of who’s next to him (we’ll assume they’re both healthy and able),
who would you ask? It’s not prideful to ask someone for water to
begin with, and when someone who’s agonizingly thirsty asks me to
get some for them, I don’t feel they’re arrogantly demanding that I
serve them, do you? Besides isn’t it more arrogant to ask grandpa to
get you some water than cousin Timmy or whomever else? And why
should we assume that the reason for the rich man’s request is pride,
when he’s already given us a very obvious, rational, and well-stated
motive, “because I am in agony in this fire”? Plus, arrogant people
take all they can; they demand more than they need. What does the
rich man ask for? Only the water from the tip of a finger, just enough
to cool his tongue. Not a glass, a gallon, or a truck full of mountain-
spring Aquafina, just a single drop. Doesn’t even have to be ice cold.
The man is being tormented in “Hell” and asks for the most sensible,
least offensive person he sees to bring him a single drop of water,
begging for pity because he is burning in agony. Obviously, this man
is not being arrogant. A simple straight-forward story, one anyone
can easily understand, is repeatedly wrangled to make it “complex,”
“multi-layered,” “nuanced,” and “loaded,” just to “end it all with a
twist,” because that’s the only way the face value meaning behind the
story can be wrested from the unsuspecting reader and replaced with
the opposite conclusion.53
And it gets worse. After Abraham explains the very good reason
why Lazarus can’t come relieve the rich man (stay tuned), the rich
man begs for Lazarus to warn the man’s five living brothers, “so that
they will not also come to this place of torment.” He makes his plea

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again in verse 30. This man is so prideful that he is no longer even
concerned about himself? He is so conceited that he wants his five
brothers to hear the gospel? He is so arrogant that he begs twice
for them to have the information they need, so that they can get to
“Heaven”? Apparently, if you’re incapacitated and instead ask someone
else to reach loved ones with the gospel because you want them to go
to “Heaven” someday, you are conveying a conceit worthy of “Hell”!
Can we agree that something’s just not right about that?
So especially after the rich man dies—and possibly even before—he
is not being arrogant. If he’s not arrogant, then the chasm keeping
him in “Hell” doesn’t refer to his arrogance, waiting to disappear once
he is humbled, does it? I’m not sure how much more humble he could
be by the end of this story, and yet there’s still a chasm, and he’s still
in “Hell.” But we already knew that, didn’t we? How does Abraham
describe the chasm? It is “fixed, so that those who want to go from
here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
The chasm is fixed, not temporary. No one can cross in either direc-
tion, not even “those who want to.” Taken in context, this implies
that Lazarus may have wanted to cross to help the rich man, which
would suggest that even Lazarus detected no pride in his request. We
can’t be sure of this implication, but we would expect such charity
in “Heaven.” Why else would anyone want to go from “Heaven” to
“Hell,” but to help someone in agony? But Lazarus can’t. No one
can. Ever. Forever. This is why this story is applicable to the actual
Hell and Heaven, even though it would technically be taking place
in Tartarus and Paradise. As we have confirmed and will continue
to confirm, there is no transfer from Tartarus or Hell to Paradise or
Heaven. Ever. Forever. Neither then can the argument be valid that
Hell or Tartarus retains its name or identity only until a person alleg-
edly leaves to go to Paradise or Heaven, after which “it will have not
been Hell” or Tartarus to them.54 No, in the Bible, Tartarus/Hell and
Paradise/Heaven remain as they are, separated paths, and the text is
clear that the chasm dividing them is much more all-encompassing
and permanent than just one man’s speculated arrogance.
The chasm isn’t the only problem though. The characters’ reac-
tion to the chasm tells us that Hell is permanent also. Abraham has

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made his opinion clear in verse 26, as we know. Lazarus is silent in
“Heaven,” so we can’t get much input from him, but Abraham says
that he can’t cross over to “Hell” even if he wanted to anyway. So
what does the rich man think about the longevity of “Hell”? Notice
that he does not ask to be able to come over to “Heaven” to get water,
nor does he ask to be able to return with Lazarus to “Heaven” once
he is potentially brought water. You’d think if he were arrogant, he’d
expect Abraham to honor a request to come over to “Heaven” or to
return to “Heaven” with Lazarus, but he doesn’t even ask for either!
It’s as if he already understands that he can’t cross over to “Heaven”
even before Abraham tells him; otherwise, why wouldn’t he try to do
so or at least ask to do so, particularly if he’s in as much agony as he
seems to be? Because he gets it. He knows that he’s in “Hell” forever,
and he acts like it, doesn’t he? After Abraham confirms his predica-
ment, does the rich man seem surprised or complain, as we would
expect someone to do who had thought up until that moment that
his situation was only temporary, especially if he actually was arro-
gant? He should be shocked and outraged! But he’s not. He takes the
news in stride, because he already knew that “Hell” was forever. In
fact, accepting that he can find neither escape nor relief, he no longer
asks anything for himself at all, not even a drop of water. He imme-
diately begs for the well being of his brothers, since they still have a
chance, not yet being where he is. Everybody in the story gets it; no
one argues or is surprised about “Hell” being forever.

29

W ell, we’ve now tackled three of five concepts associated with
the longevity of Hell: learning who will end up in Heaven,
discovering what the Bible means by “forever” and “eternal,” and
learning what peoples’ reactions to experiencing a fate in Hell teach us
about how long they’ll be there. We’ll comprehensively explore more
of these reactions when we discuss why Hell is forever in Chapters
35-36. But for now, instead of focusing on what individuals in the

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Bible thought about Hell, we’re going to investigate what the original
readers of the Bible understood about the concept of Hell. Whether or
not they would have believed it to be forever is the fourth concept tied
to Hell’s longevity, so let’s attempt to get their take on the matter.
The Greek word translated “Hell” is Gehenna. There are numerous
biblical allusions to Hell or eternal punishment that do not use this
word, as we discuss throughout Parts 6 and 7, but here we’re only
looking at the word itself. The literal meaning of Gehenna in the New
Testament is “Valley of Hinnom,” which is an actual place outside
Jerusalem. This valley also appears repeatedly in the Old Testament,
called Gai Ben-Hinnom or “The Valley of the son of Hinnom.” It has
been argued that Gehenna was Jerusalem’s city dump, a place that was
always on fire, where animals gnashed their teeth. Sounds kind of like
Hell, and not many places could have been more nasty than that, so
this portrayal of Hell is proposed as one that “Jesus’ listeners would
have been familiar with.”55 This theory of an unpleasant but not eter-
nally tormenting locale stands in contrast to the more well-known
concept of Hell, as if Jesus were saying to his audience in Matthew
5:29, “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your
whole body to be thrown into Gehenna, a place as nasty as the city
dump but not eternally significant.” To illustrate, Love Wins upholds
this not-so-bad Hell with “If you believe in an actual Hell, you can
always say, ‘Yes, I do believe that my garbage goes somewhere,’” and
ends with a definitive “Gehenna, the town garbage pile. And that’s it.
Those are all the mentions of ‘Hell’ (referring to Gehenna) in the Bible.”56
So is that it? Did the Bible’s original audience merely think of
Hell as a place like a city dump that would be unpleasant to visit
but without any eternal consequence? No, most likely not, espe-
cially during the time Jesus talked about it. It is far more biblical and
logical that Gehenna is the name for Hell for much more sinister and
rational reasons than being an alleged garbage pile. The city dump
theory is originally derived from a commentary on Psalm 27 written
around 1200 AD by Rabbi David Kimchi.57 He was born and died
in France, with no record I can find that he ever left Europe or
saw Jerusalem.58-59 In Psalm 27 there is nothing about garbage piles,
Hell, Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom (or of the son of Hinnom),

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but he makes a passing reference to the valley by stating, “Gehenna
is a repugnant place, into which filth and cadavers are thrown, and
in which fires perpetually burn in order to consume the filth and
bones.” Any more modern reference to this concept of Gehenna uses
that statement as its original source material. So the earliest and best
evidence we have is a single comment on a psalm that has nothing at
all to do with the comment by a man who lived well over 1500 miles
from Jerusalem and nearly 1200 years after Christ! Even if we give
him every benefit of the doubt possible, since his description uses the
present tense, the very most we can conclude is that Gehenna was a
city dump in 1200 AD.
Assuming the best circumstances, how many city dumps—or any
manmade locales for that matter—remain intact, still performing their
function, after 1200 years? Cathedrals and palaces are still here, but
only a few still function as they did when they were built, and consid-
ering the amount of time and the historical and financial wealth
invested in these edifices, there is certainly a lot of motivation to
maintain them. But a garbage pile? Do you know of any landfills
today that were being used as such 1200 years ago? And given all the
events with rather significant local impact that occurred between 0
AD and 1200 AD (the destruction of Jerusalem, the fall of the Roman
Empire, the total chaos of the early medieval period, the rise of Islam,
the Crusades, etc.), we have plenty of reasons to believe that the Valley
of Hinnom looked substantially different in Jesus’ time than it did in
1200 AD.
But we don’t have to assume this change over time, although
others assume no change over time. We have evidence. A wide variety
of experts, including a Duke professor of Christian Origins (Davies),
a Duke professor of Hebrew Bible (Bailey), a Southern Baptist Semi-
nary professor (Beasley-Murray), two prominent German authorities
on rabbinic literature (Strack and Billerbeck), a preeminent explorer of
the Holy Land (Robinson), and two Israeli archeologists (Reich and
Shukron), amongst many others, agree that there is no evidence that
Rabbi Kimchi’s 1200 AD trash heap was present anytime before then,
or even then for that matter. They find “no support in literary sources
or archaeological data from the intertestamental or rabbinic periods.

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There is no evidence that the valley was, in fact, a garbage dump.”
Even Josephus, a secular Jewish historian who wrote about 40 years
after Jesus lived, made no mention of a trash heap in Gehenna, which
would be unexpected considering the practical (stench), social (death),
safety (fire), health (disease), and governmental (city sanitation) impli-
cations it would have involved. Please see the referenced sources to
validate the above claims and for more information.60-62 They are quite
convincing.
And there is further evidence from the Bible itself. If you read all
twelve passages using Gehenna in the New Testament, you will not
find a single descriptive term that would be associated with a city
dump—except fire—which is mentioned in five of them. Just fire. If
I told you there was a fire in a valley next to an ancient city, would
you consider that sufficient evidence to conclude that I could only be
referring to a garbage dump? Would garbage dump even be your first
thought? Probably not. And we are told more about this fire. Four of
the five times there is fire in Gehenna, it is only present after people
die, so Jesus is not referring to fire in Gehenna that his audience
can see, but fire that some of them will experience only after they’re
deceased. Even if Jesus was referring to their burning corpses in the
trash heap someday, that doesn’t exactly denote a temporary, correc-
tive experience for these folks, does it? Only James 3:6 describes a
fiery Gehenna before people die, but only in reference to the tongue
and how hellish it can be when we use it to sin. And James’ target
audience is “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (1:1), so
unless these Jews have traveled hundreds of miles to come to Jeru-
salem to literally lick a pile of refuse, their tongues are not being “set
on fire by Gehenna” the burning city dump, are they?
But there’s even more about Gehenna’s fire. It’s “eternal” (Matthew
18:8-9), “never goes out” (Mark 9:43), and “is not quenched” (Mark
9:48). In Love Wins’ effort to describe Gehenna as a not-quite-as-bad
city dump alternative to the biblical concept of Hell, which is forever,
it quotes all 12 references to Gehenna, except that in Matthew 18
and Mark 9, it leaves out the forever bits.63 Using only parts of Jesus’
sentences to argue the opposite of what he said is abusing God’s
words and manipulating one’s audience. That’s not something anyone

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should get away with or be commended for, is it? Instead, based on
a whole slew of experts in several different fields, on a well-known
historian who was actually there around Jesus’ time, and on the Bible
itself, we can best conclude that Gehenna was not a city dump to
the original biblical audience, and this concept would not have been
something they were familiar with.
So what was Gehenna, and why is it the name for Hell? The
flaming garbage pile is an inadequate explanation, but I still need to
replace it with something better, right? There’s actually a perfectly
rational—albeit sinister—reason this valley is used to depict Hell,
one that the original New Testament audience would have been very
familiar with. We learn some important details in the Old Testament
passages describing this valley that add to our knowledge that there
is eternal fire there, references excluded from “all the mentions of
‘Hell’ (referring to Gehenna) in the Bible.”64 Gehenna/The Valley of Ben
Hinnom is also called Topheth (2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 19:6). Bibli-
cally, it is a place of unquenchable burning filled with the blood of
the innocent, where people sacrifice their own children for all kinds
of causes and idols, where numerous things are worshipped in place
of God, where birds and beasts eat carcasses that are so numerous
that there is no room for more, where there is no joy or gladness, and
where evil kings and those who rebel against God go and continu-
ously rot (2 Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6, Isaiah 30:33, 66:24,
Jeremiah 7:30-34, 19:2-9, 32:35). The unquenchable burning corre-
lates well with Gehenna’s eternal fire in the New Testament. This is
no city dump, is it? It is not morally neutral and simply unpleasant. It
is a place of death, sin, violence, judgment, and punishment. Happi-
ness is absent. God is absent. The kind of place that makes you sick
just to think about. Not the kind of place you’d ever want to be stuck
in. The Jews were raised living and breathing the Old Testament.
Jesus’ audience knew very well about this valley and all the suffering,
evil, and eternal punishment associated with it. There’s no smelly city
dump in Jesus’ repeated warnings; there is suffering, evil, and eternal
punishment. That is Gehenna. That is Hell. The first four concepts
tied to the longevity of Hell have led us to more responsibly and
accurately understand what the words “all,” “forever,” “eternal,” and

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even “Hell” itself mean, to those experiencing what it’s like, to those
who originally heard or read about what it’s like, and to us today.
Hell is forever, and it’s eternally important to understand that.

Deep down, all of us know that words hurt us far more than
sticks and stones. And when the words we’re subtracting,
adding, and changing concern our final destiny—instead of
just a radiology report—they harm us a lot more and for a
lot longer . . . like forever.

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Sticks and Stones M ay Break My Bones . . .

A trusted representative with perceived authority is offering a contract to
a woman who is considering dissolving a partnership with her associate.
Having anticipated her uncertainty while desiring to honor her choice,
her associate wrote the contract to clearly and repeatedly highlight the
permanent nature of the arrangement, so that she could make an in-
formed decision. However, believing that it would be better for everyone
if the contract was made more agreeable, the associate’s representative
employs his perceived authority to try and make the associate seem nicer
and less blunt. However, this can only be accomplished by adding words,
subtracting passages, and changing how the pages are presented, as the
contract is quite clear as written. After doing all three, the representative
encourages the woman to commit to an arrangement that will result in
an outcome opposite the one he is misleading her to expect. Perceived
Christian authorities sometimes attempt to alter and misrepresent the
words of God, particularly those clearly written to warn us of the conse-
quences of dissolving future partnership and association with him. God
is nice for being blunt, honoring our free choice while informing us well,
so that when we decide, we don’t find ourselves stuck in the scenario
opposite the one we allowed ourselves to sign up for.

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Part 7

Beyond the Point of No Return
Healing Hereafter

The hardest part about being a doctor is having to care
about some people’s health more than they care about it
themselves. And emergency and family physicians expe-
rience this difficulty far more than I do as a radiologist.
Obviously, many patients are very concerned about their
health and make very serious and difficult life changes to
optimize it. But there are also a large number of folks who
demonstrate no regard at all for the state of their body, and
it shows in all kinds of ways, often unfortunately in a prema-
ture demise.

You might be wondering why we doctors aren’t just OK
letting these people go. It’s their life to live and their choice
to make, so don’t worry about it, right? To an extent, I see
your point, and there have been times when I wished I
could have thrown in that towel more easily, trust me. But
remember that a person’s decisions about their own health
will almost always affect others around them. Whether
these choices create situations where a parent or spouse
is unduly burdened, where a dependent suffers disease
or neglect, or where a baby is denied a healthy start, no
decision made about one’s health is done so in a vacuum,
and others affected may be our patients too. Not to
mention that people who become doctors do so because
they value helping people be healthy. We’re wired to care
about people’s health, even when they don’t, for better
or for worse. And unlike most of our patients, we’ve seen
hundreds and hundreds of cases of what happens down
the road when people neglect their health—and it ain’t
pretty. We are exposed, in some ways much more than

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they are, to the pain, suffering, and low quality of life that
such patients are usually headed for, which gives us the
impetus that they might not have to do something about it.

This was my motivation when I met a patient in her forties
with diabetes. Her foot was dying, generating a source of
infection that was spreading up her leg. Amputation was
discussed, as was simple antibiotic therapy. She was well-
informed, mentally competent, and refused both treat-
ments. Not because she was afraid, holding out for a
miracle, or had any other objection she was willing to reveal
to us. Just because, as far as we could tell. Day after day
our whole team assessed her mental status and urged
her to accept treatment but got the same reply. Eventu-
ally we had to inform her that the infection would inevitably
spread to her bloodstream and soon threaten her life. Same
reply. It was bewildering and frustrating to say the least! But
after trying everything we could think of multiple times to
convince her of the urgency of her predicament, we finally
had to concede that she was going to make her own deci-
sion in the end. We still kept trying, but the only way her
leg—let alone her whole body—was going to be restored
was if she chose that for herself and did so before she was
beyond the point of no return.

Concerning our eternal health, the Bible conveys a similar
urgency and a point of no return when restoration is no
longer an option, both of which some have called into ques-
tion. This part of the book explains why and assesses
whether or not heeding such biblical warnings is truly vital . . .

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30

T he final concept connected to how long humans may or may not
be in Hell is the purpose of Hell itself. Is it for eternal punish-
ment, for correction or refinement, for something else entirely, or
for a combination of these goals? Although an answer to this ques-
tion would not definitively prove Hell to be forever or not, it would
certainly cause us to lean one way or the other. Moreover, it might
help us understand how God could defensibly and sensibly include
such a place in his hereafter to begin with. For many, the obvious
and only purpose of Hell is eternal retribution. This belief partially
arises from the Bible, where punishment is clearly a part of what’s
going on in Hell (Matthew 25:46, Jude 1:7). However, the degree
to which punishment is viewed as the purpose of Hell also depends
greatly on a person’s upbringing, how comprehensive her knowl-
edge of the Bible is, how strongly she believes she may or may not
be going there, and her feelings toward those she considers to be
headed there. The motives for Christians to preach a Hell of wrath
and vengeance alone are often not admirable, and it is imperative to
consider what other purposes God is accomplishing with this place.
For example, we’ve already learned throughout this book that
Hell is not an arbitrary realm of retribution where God throws
people to satisfy his eternal temper tantrum. Rather, it’s a place
people want to go to, proven by their lifelong words and deeds, a
place they have consistently chosen for themselves. Any punish-
ment associated with Hell is no more or less than the consequence
of their desire to live apart from God and perfect community with
him, and it exists because it must if God is to give humans the
choice to live with God in perfect community with him! Another
proposed purpose of Hell is not so much to punish a person, but
to correct or refine him, using Hell as an institution of reform to
“melt every hard heart,” so that “even the most ‘depraved sinners’
will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God.”1 This part
of the book will explore whether or not this purpose for Hell is

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biblically valid, and the first step in doing so is to figure out if the
punishment, wrath, and judgment warned about in the Bible even
refers to Hell at all. Certainly the eternal punishments described
in Matthew 25:46 and Jude 1:7 aren’t consistent with temporary
correction, but what about other references to “the coming wrath”?
Let’s find out!
By the time of Jesus, the Romans had long taken over Israel.
There were several things about this that made the Jews grumpy.
Here and there, some particularly ambitious fellow would start a
rebellion, and the Romans would suppress it. Certainly, there was
tension between the two people groups. In light of this, the argu-
ment has arisen that Jesus’ continual warnings about punishment
refer to the Romans finally getting peeved enough to really let the
Jews have it, which they do in AD 70, when Jerusalem and its
temple are burned. “When he warns of ‘the coming wrath,’ then,
this is a very practical, political, heartfelt warning to his people
to not go the way they’re intent on going. The Romans, he keeps
on insisting, will crush you.”2 This idea seems reasonable, or at
least possible, except for one tiny problem. Jesus never makes this
particular warning. Not once does he use the quoted phrase “the
coming wrath.” John the Baptist? Twice. Paul? Once. Jesus? Not
a single time. In fact, the word “wrath” only gets two mentions
from Jesus at all. One of them involves a complete destruction of
the temple obviously during the apocalyptic events associated with
Jesus’ second coming (Luke 21:23). When the temple was razed in
AD 70, much of it still stood, as some of it does even today. It is
only when we “will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with
power and great glory” when “not one stone will be left on another”
in the temple (Luke 21:5-28). Jesus also applies wrath to “whoever
rejects the Son,” explaining that they will not see eternal life (John
3:36). So ironically, not only does Jesus never refer to “the coming
wrath” of imminent Roman retaliation; every mention he does make
of wrath refers to the final judgment of the unsaved.*
So the biblical context in which the phrase “the coming wrath”

*  Moreover, this is consistent with what John and Paul described “the
coming wrath” to be as well, as detailed here. 3

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is used does not allow us to separate it from Hell. OK fine, but
could such retribution in Gehenna occur for a reason other than
punishment? Can the “punishment” described in the Bible refer
to anything besides a sentence or penalty? The Greek word trans-
lated “punishment” in the New Testament is kolasis (the noun form)
or kolazo (the verb form). In Strong’s Greek Lexicon the definitions
for kolasis are “punishment and torment.”4 In A Greek-English Lexicon
we find “checking the growth of trees, chastisement, correction,
and punishment.”5-6 And at greekbible.com we’re given “correction,
punishment, and penalty.”7
From the argument for a temporary, corrective Hell, we are also
offered the unreferenced meaning “pruning or trimming of the
branches of a plant so it can flourish,”8 which is presumably derived
from a dictionary definition similar to “checking the growth of
trees.” It is argued that if you “correct” a plant by lopping some of it
off, you are hoping the correction will improve the lot of the plant
overall; therefore, if God corrects you in Hell, maybe it’s all for
improving your overall lot later in Heaven. The problem here is that
only the one horticultural definition for kolasis/kolazo is assumed to
be the right one, with no supporting evidence. It would be more
honest and objective to say “kolazo can be a term from horticul-
ture,” referring to pruning, than to claim that “kolazo is a term from
horticulture.”9 I know this is subtle, but don’t miss what’s happening
here. If the term kolasis/kolazo is solely derived from horticulture,
then the correcting or pruning definition would be the default one.
If the majority of definitions are not associated with horticulture—
which is clearly the case—then we’re going to consider all definitions
equal and decide among them based on context. So which definition
of kolasis/kolazo does the contextual evidence support?
In the parable of “The Sheep and the Goats,” Jesus gathers “all the
nations” on judgment day and then separates them into “sheep” and
“goats” (Matthew 25:31-46). The sheep (“the righteous”) go straight
to God’s Heavenly kingdom for eternal life, and the goats (“who are
cursed”) “go away to eternal punishment” (kolasis). To avoid making
an assumption about the meaning of this word ourselves, we need
more evidence to decide between the correction/horticultural option

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and the punishment/torment option. Which is the most likely? In
the context of this parable, Jesus makes it easy. He uses a second
term to describe the goats’ fate besides “eternal kolasis.” In 25:41
he states, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal
fire.” Jesus is crystal clear that kolasis involves fire in this passage.
Now we see why jumping right to the horticultural definition was a
mistake. How often do you use fire to prune your shrubbery? Being
the borderline pyromaniac that I am, I use gasoline to start all of
my bonfires, and I even created a 12 foot tall mountain of flame in
my own lawn once to clear a space for, that’s right, a firepit! I’m
not gonna lie, it was pretty awesome, no matter what my wife will
tell you. But not even I have attempted to torch any of my vegeta-
bles or flowers to help them “flourish.” There is no corrective role
for fire in your garden, nor is there one for those in Hell. To lead
us to the most likely option then, Jesus is plain that “eternal kolasis”
means “eternal punishment.” He’s obviously not using such strong
language just to “put in a bit of mayhem to underscore (his) points,”
as one proponent of a transient Hell claims.10 That would mean
Jesus’ “eternal life” is merely a mischievously false tease too then,
right? No, we know from our discussion above on aion, as well as
from the one we’ve just wrapped up on kolasis/kolazo, that those in
Heaven and in Hell will be in these places forever (Revelation 14:11,
20:10). I’m with you; Hell is a terrible truth, but it’s one we need to
understand and understand correctly.

31

A lright, we know that there are problems prematurely assuming
a transient, corrective connotation for kolasis/kolazo in relation
to Hell, but isn’t the Bible full of references to God bringing people
through a time of difficulty for the purpose of restoration? Of course,
but do any of them refer to the punishment as Hell? No. Do any of
them refer to the restoration as a transfer from Hell to Heaven? No.
Instead, the difficulty is always an earthly form of punishment, such

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as being conquered, rejected, or exiled, and the restoration either
always begins or is complete before a person reaches Hell or Heaven.
Well of course, why would God wait until people are in Hell to melt
their hard hearts if they could have benefited from such correction
much earlier? In fact, if God is going to truly restore everyone to
Heaven no matter what, then why does he even need Hell? Why
can’t he give even the most resistant people the pruning they will
require to repent here on earth? Conjure up the most horrible type of
suffering you can imagine in Hell. God could make that happen here
too, couldn’t he? If he will inevitably bring us to the breaking point
in Hell, he can do it in this life too, so a Hellish correctional facility
would be simply an unnecessary extra step in our restoration. For all
these reasons, if the word “restored” is applied to people in a verse,
there is no justification for automatically inferring that they’re being
transferred to Heaven after being corrected in Hell. Neither is there
reason to infer that God engages in that kind of restoration, especially
when it contradicts so many of his words and forces him to violate
or manipulate humanity’s free choice to exist apart from God. This
will be confirmed as we explore such passages, questioning specifi-
cally what people were restored from and what the restoration brings.
The respective answers are never both Hell and Heaven. Most of them
refer to God restoring various groups of Jews from exiles to various
countries that had conquered them. In four of them, God rescues
people who have not repented of sin, also at odds with a corrective
Hell, which eventually requires people to “give up their resistance and
turn to God” to be restored from Hell to Heaven (Jeremiah 5:3-19,
32:30-41, Lamentations 3:31-42, Amos 9:1-12).11 Let’s see what else we
learn about the kinds of restoration God demonstrates.
We’ll start with the most interesting example, both because
it involves restoring the baddest of the bad and because it brings
together several important concepts we’ve learned so far. Sodom and
Gomorrah. Even those not familiar with the Bible at all have likely
heard of them, #1 and #2 on the “Most Evil Cities” list, making Las
Vegas look like a utopian countryside hamlet. Well, back in Abra-
ham’s time, upon going to visit his nephew Lot, Abraham is told that
from those oppressed by these cities “the outcry against Sodom and

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Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” (Genesis 18:20). God
sends two angels who confirm this and are therefore authorized by
him to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah to relieve the oppressed (Genesis
19:12-13). Because Lot and his family live in Sodom, Abraham plays
Let’s Make A Deal with God and negotiates a pretty sure bet: God won’t
go through with his plan if there are at least ten righteous people in
the city, and Lot’s family counts for four. Six more righteous people
in an entire city. That’s all he needed. Things are looking OK. But as
night falls, we are given a horrific example of the great evil that goes
on in this city, and the prospects darken. Read it if you’d like (Genesis
18:16-19:29). Abraham wakes the next morning to find “burning sulfur
on Sodom and Gomorrah” and “dense smoke rising from the land,
like smoke from a furnace.” God does rescue Lot and his daughters,
and the angels make repeated efforts to save as many as possible, even
though neither of these acts were required in the bargain (Genesis
19:12-29). But as everyone else died, apparently no other righteous
folks were present, or God would have saved more.
But that’s not the last of these cities we hear about in the Bible.
In Ezekiel 16:44-63, God reveals that he will “restore the fortunes” of
Sodom, that they “will return to what they were before.” Some assume
this to mean that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will be success-
fully rehabilitated via their punishment in Genesis, via doin’ time in
Hell, or via both, after which they will join everyone else in Heaven.
“What appeared to be a final, forever, smoldering, smoking verdict
regarding their destiny…wasn’t? What appeared to be over isn’t.”12
Could this restoration refer to the restoration of a temporary corrective
Hell? Whether it could or not, the promise that Sodom will “return to
what it was before” is a bit confusing. Every single reference to Sodom
in the Bible is to an evil place. We have no biblical reason to believe it
was ever remotely good. We also know the restoration of Sodom refers
to the people of the city rather than the city itself, because in at least
four places we are told that it will never be inhabited again (Isaiah
13:19-20, Jeremiah 49:18, 50:40, Zephaniah 2:9). But returning the
people of Sodom to “what they were before” their destruction came—
really, really evil—does not seem like something God would ever want
to do, especially if the purpose of this restoration was to remove their

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sin so they could eventually be in Heaven.
Fortunately, the New Testament offers further clarification. The
final biblical words on Sodom and Gomorrah are quite difficult for
proponents of a transient, corrective Hell to explain. Love Wins, for
example, chooses not to address them at all. In 2 Peter 2:6-9 we
learn that God “condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by
burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going
to happen to the ungodly.” Peter elaborates, “These people are springs
without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is
reserved for them” (2 Peter 2:17).  Jude concurs, “And the angels who
did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper
dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting
chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom
and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to
sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those
who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:6-7). No wiggle
room there. The Bible’s last commentary on Sodom and Gomorrah
mandates “the punishment of eternal fire.”
From the confirmation we find in Jude then, we can safely conclude
that Ezekiel 16 is not promoting some type of corrective, temporary
Hell for Sodom and Gomorrah. So how are their fortunes restored?
In Matthew 10:11-15 Jesus tells his disciples that “it will be more
bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment” than for
towns that reject the message of Jesus that the disciples are bringing
them. We now know that this “more bearable” judgment cannot mean
that Hell will be shorter for these people than for others, that once
they have borne enough punishment to repent, they can chasm-hop
to Heaven. Besides, how can anyone know the punishment will be
more bearable for one group of people versus another if its length
depends on how long they freely choose to stay in Hell? Moreover,
a “more bearable” Hell still doesn’t sound very good, does it? If you
and I are both on fire (you never know), and the fact that I have
flame-retardant socks on makes the experience “more bearable” for
me, does that guarantee that someday I will not be on fire? No.
Heaven certainly isn’t an automatic consequence of “more bearable”
punishment, and we have no reason to assume that it would be. But

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even more importantly, things are not more bearable for Sodom and
Gomorrah after the day of judgment—once they are in Hell—but on
the day of judgment, when their eternal destination is revealed. Their
restoration involves a “return to what they were before,” so that “on
the day of judgment” the situation will be “more bearable” for them
than for towns that rejected the message of Jesus.
But the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had already died
long before Ezekiel or Matthew wrote about them. What status could
they possibly be returned to before their cities were destroyed to offer
them the possibility of a more bearable judgment day? How about
the status of people still having an opportunity to repent, which
is “what they were before” their punishment came? Right there in
Ezekiel 16:63, God describes his desire to make atonement for human
guilt, a promise to personally make amends for sin. How would God
eventually accomplish this, as we explained in Part 2? With the most
popular Sunday School answer: Jesus! God the Son physically died in
our place, making the option of eternal life in Heaven available and
judgment day a lot more bearable for any with the faith that leads
to such salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one
and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
eternal life” (John 3:16). Obviously, a significant number of folks do
not wish to enter into this community with God through Jesus, or
we wouldn’t have the clear and constant warning of eternal punish-
ment throughout the Bible. This number apparently includes most of
the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, according to what Jude wrote
about them.
But there is hope. Not false hope or hope that literally beats the
Hell out of people as they finally repent. True hope and biblical hope,
available to all who want it. Even those evil, horrible Sodomites?
Absolutely. Remember how in Matthew 10 it would be more bear-
able for them on the day of judgment than for those who rejected
Jesus’ message? Now we know how. In the very next chapter, “Jesus
began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been
performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe
to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you
had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented

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long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bear-
able for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And
you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go
down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had
been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I
tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judg-
ment than for you’” (Matthew 11:20-24). Jesus knows that some people
who lived before him who didn’t repent of their sin would have, given
adequate access to Jesus. Since we know that the eternal destiny of
Sodom in general is pretty bleak, there probably weren’t too many of
these people in that city, but it would have only taken six more than
Lot’s family for Sodom to “have remained to this day,” right? And
how could Jesus give the deceased Sodomites access to the gospel—
offering them a return to what they were before with a choice to
repent—so that judgment day could be more bearable for them than
for those who rejected the message of Jesus? With an only slightly
less popular Sunday School answer: Lugg! Sodom and Gomorrah’s
punishment and restoration do not involve a transfer from Hell to
Heaven. Rather, they consist of physical death—the penalty for their
sin—and the offer of postmortem restoration from Lugg in Sheol/
Hades to eternal life in Heaven through Jesus. They don’t have to go
to Hell at all—even though they’ll predominantly decide to. Matthew
11:20-24 implies that there are at least a total of ten from these cities
who will choose God’s restoration, and I hope there are many more!

32

S o the example of Sodom and Gomorrah refutes restoration in a
transient, corrective Hell. But there are many other passages that
speak of God’s restoration following judgment. In order to succinctly
review the ones most likely to suggest restoration in Hell that leads
to Heaven, we’ll use the generous list of verses offered by Love Wins
for that very purpose.13 Then you know I’m not omitting anything
that might threaten the conclusions we eventually draw.

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First up is Isaiah 19:17-25. Instead of Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s
Egypt, the Jews’ worst oppressor up to that time, getting punished for
its evil. However, some people build “an altar to the Lord in the heart
of Egypt,” which is “a sign and witness to the Lord” that they’re ready
to repent. Isaiah tells us how God responds. “So the Lord will make
himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowl-
edge the Lord.” Evil people get punished, but some who God realizes
“will acknowledge” him once he “makes himself known to them” get to
participate with the Jews in God’s blessing (19:25). It doesn’t say all
the Egyptians, just the ones who “cry out to the Lord,” and all of this
restoration happens in Egypt, not in Hell.
In Jeremiah 5:3, 14-15 and 32:36-37, Judah is being restored from
exile to the “distant,” “ancient and enduring nation” of Babylon (not
Hell) and restored to living in its homeland (not Heaven). In Lamen-
tations 3:31-33 Jeremiah is in exile, writing to other exiles before
they were allowed to return to Palestine. If we care at all to appro-
priately discern what the original audience was thinking when they
read Jeremiah’s words, it was that “not cast off by the Lord forever”
meant a return from exile and nothing more. In Hosea 14:4-7 and
Zechariah 9:11-12, the Jews are being restored from exile to non-spec-
ified countries and restored to living in their homeland, becoming
freed prisoners returning to their fortress and once again dwelling
in Lebanon’s shade. In the next five passages the Jews are also being
restored from exile to or punishment by several different countries
and restored to living in their homeland, but part of this restora-
tion involves judgment on the countries that oppressed them. So if
we can extrapolate this type of restoration for the Jews to being
restored to Heaven following correction in Hell, then whenever they
finally repent and chasm-hop from Hell to Heaven, their oppressors
are simultaneously judged by God, taking the Jews’ place in Hell!
Kind of counter-productive, especially as it seems there are a lot more
people being condemned than restored. After all, those being judged
following the Jews’ restoration are Philistia in Zephaniah 2:4-7, Egypt
and Assyria in Zechariah 10:6-10, Assyria/Nineveh in Nahum 2:1-2,
the “enemy” and “all who oppressed you” in Zephaniah 3:15-20, and
“all nations” in Joel 3:1-2. That’s a lot of oppressors going to Hell to

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replace the Jews as they allegedly escape to Heaven! Moreover, we
learn in Zephaniah 2:4-7 that an equivalent translation for the all-
important phrase “restore their fortunes” is “bring back their captives”
(see the footnote in the New International Version or translation
in the King James Version). Like the others, these “restorations” are
simply captives returning from exile and have nothing to do with
Hell or Heaven.
What about references to restoration that don’t obviously describe
a rescue from exile in the past? In Amos 9:11-12 it is not people, but
the Jewish king David’s royal line that is being restored (his fallen
tent). The Davidic dynasty ceased to hold power after Judah was
exiled to Babylon, but it was restored when Jesus, a descendant of
David, came to usher in his kingdom for both Jews and Gentiles.
James quotes Amos in Acts 15:15-18 to demonstrate this. But there’s
nothing about Hell or Heaven here. Hosea 6:1-5 describes a future
restoration expected by—not promised to—people who are insincerely
repenting. They say they love God only until he rescues them from
the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into. Then they ignore him
again. God is clear that no restoration is coming here, as his “judg-
ments flashed like lightening” upon them. He says, “Your love is
like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” In Micah
7:15-20 we find that God indeed hurls iniquities (sins) into the sea
and won’t stay angry forever, but stay angry at who? Certainly not
everybody, as God only “pardons sin and forgives the transgression of
the remnant of his inheritance.” In other words, God does not pardon
everyone, only the remnant. So what kind of people does he forgive?
We find an example of one earlier in the chapter. “Because I have
sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my
case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light;
I will see his righteousness” (7:9). How does God plead the case of
the saved and establish their right to be forgiven, so that they don’t
have to bear his wrath? As Jesus. I told you he was the most popular
Sunday School answer! “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who
was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also inter-
ceding for us” (Romans 8:34). When Jesus returned to the current
heaven after his resurrection, he didn’t take up golf or get hooked

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on the newest soap opera. Every day he represents a divine reminder
that the saved have the right to be in the forgiven remnant because
Jesus’ death satisfied God’s just punishment against them (Hebrews
7:24-25).
Finally, in Isaiah 57:15-21, God reminds us that he will “restore
comfort”; he “will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry.”
There will come “‘peace, to those far and near,’ says the Lord, ‘A nd
I will heal them.’” Sounds great, until he continues. “But the wicked
are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire
and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” Love
Wins leaves out that last part.14 So who will find peace and healing
with God? Who will God no longer accuse or be angry with then?
“With him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,” and Jesus confirms
this (Matthew 5:3). Not with the wicked, and not with everyone. It’s
true, we shouldn’t “miss the intentional healing, redemption, and love
that God always includes when he talks about why he inflicts his
wrath and punishment on his people.”15 But we also need to honestly
acknowledge God’s teaching that some people aren’t his people. The
wicked cannot find rest or peace, while the contrite and lowly who
have accepted Jesus’ words will comprise the limited remnant that is
forgiven (James 1:21-22). Where humans propose temporary Hells,
God proves them wrong and points to Jesus instead. Why? Because
God doesn’t want people to get to Hell and discover too late that it’s
forever. I don’t want that either.

33

E xploring this urgency in God’s warning serves as a practical way
to bring our discussion on the longevity of Hell to a close. Are
we to urgently pursue Jesus and the godly life that follows at least
partly because of an eternal Hell or despite a not-so-threatening tempo-
rary Hell? Let’s look at some examples of urgent encouragement to
reject sin and pursue God, so that we can discern precisely why such
urgency was necessary. There are two passages that describe how

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certain people are “handed over to Satan,” but not with the purpose
of giving up on them so that they get what they deserve. Rather,
the goals of Christians no longer associating with such people turn
out to be much more positive for everyone involved. In 1 Timothy
1:18-20, two men who had rejected “faith and a good conscience”
were punished “to be taught not to blaspheme.” Since a person who
does not have faith is destroyed, and a person who does have faith
is saved (Hebrews 10:39), these guys have gotten to the point where
they are in danger of the destruction of Hell! After all, Jesus himself
confirms that “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never
be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29), as we’ve
already discussed in Chapter 21. Now we don’t know exactly what
the blaspheming entails in the case of these men, but it’s obvious
that Paul’s strange restorative act here does not refer to a corrective
pruning process in Hell; it’s meant to keep them from going there!
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. A man
is having intimate relations with his father’s wife. Yikes. Paul tells
the Corinthians to “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful
nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord,”
when “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts
2:20-21). The undeniable goal of this kind of correction is restoration,
but not in a temporary Hell. It’s too late then. Paul wants this man’s
spirit saved on the day of the Lord—on judgment day—when he can
be one of the sheep Jesus sends to eternal life rather than one of the
goats Jesus sends to eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46). This is
an urgent, last-ditch, no holds-barred effort of tough love by Paul to
save the man from Hell.
And this man’s correction is not only urgent for his sake, but for
his church’s sake as well. The Corinthians were not upset by this
sin, but proud! Paul responds, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you
know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough
(1 Corinthians 5:6)?” In other words, if they don’t take care of this
problem, sin will slowly spread through the members of the whole
church. Especially given the specific sin in this case, this is not a very
pleasant thought, is it? But take heart, Paul leaves us with a happy
ending. The sin is dealt with boldly and thoroughly with resulting

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improvement! In Paul’s next letter to the Corinthians, he revisits
what appears to be the same man’s correction. “The punishment
inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought
to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by
excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him”
(2 Corinthians 2:6-8). He brings it up again. “Even if I caused you
sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see
that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am
happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led
you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so
were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings
death” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). It seems everyone involved made a
turn for the better; they embraced a “repentance that leads to salva-
tion”! Paul knows that both the danger of ignored sin and the danger
of Hell are very urgent matters, ones that require an urgent response
here and now.
A temporary, corrective Hell does not encourage such a response,
even though efforts are made to convey an “infinitely urgent” need to
follow Jesus immediately, “to live like the end is here, now, today,” in
spite of such a second chance.16 Huh? Why? It is sobering to wonder
how many folks have considered a transient Hell and thought,
“Awesome, I don’t really have to buy into Christianity or Jesus! At
least not until I get to the garbage pile when I’ll know they’re for real
and can change my mind.” And I can totally understand why they
would. If the Bible does teach a transient Hell, then we must ignore,
add to, or change parts of it to make that the case, so why would we
accept anything else it says at face value, especially when it doesn’t
appeal to us and when we have a failsafe after we die anyway? It
is argued that people would urgently rush to such a non-emergent
salvation just as they would drop everything to dig up a million
dollars they just learned was buried in their backyard.17 Not if that
million dollars was guaranteed to them, as the opportunity for salva-
tion from a temporary Hell would be! In that case it would be better
to keep it safe in “the vault,” as we all do with our fortunes, until
we experience enough financial or literal Hell to convince us that we

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truly, urgently need such a saving gift, right? Any paradoxical plea
for urgency by those who subscribe to a transient Hell falls face-
flat. For example, Love Wins mentions several non-cited parables Jesus
taught where “things did not turn out well for the people involved,”
since they were complacent in following Jesus.18 Ironically, the reason
why things didn’t turn out well in these stories (and therefore likely
why they weren’t cited) is because every one of them is about people
finding themselves in Hell, without any chance of escape implied!
I reference them here in the order they are given and invite you to
explore them because I want you to have the whole story (Matthew
25:14-30, 25:1-13, 25:31-46, 21:33-46, 13:24-30). Part of why it’s so
urgently important to follow Jesus now is because there’s not a chance
in Hell you’ll be able to do it there.
Finally, we’ve examined all five concepts associated with the length
of time humans are in Hell: who ends up in Heaven, the definitions
of words that are translated as “forever,” what the expectations and
actions of those who will go to Hell reveal about its longevity, what
the word “Hell” actually refers to, and whether or not God’s will-
ingness to forgive or restore various people groups throughout the
Bible should be extrapolated eternally and universally. All five consis-
tently and persistently reveal the biblical Hell to be forever, with no
one doin’ time to get reformed and no “continual hope of morning.”19
This is not a conclusion anyone should be happy about. I’m not, and
I suspect you’re not either. Hell is such a very difficult topic to talk
about, especially for so long, so I thank you abundantly for sticking
with me. I know that at times I’ve been matter-of-fact, bold, and crit-
ical, maybe in part to make it easier for me to cope with this abomi-
nable place. But mostly so that we can all have our vision of the here-
after coincide with God’s vision of the hereafter. Exploring a place so
void of hope tempts us to desperately grope at whatever or whoever
seems to have found hope there. But like mirages in the desert, we
discover too late that we’ve only wasted valuable—and maybe crucial—
time trying to get to them when they never had anything to offer us.
Do not fear Hell; you have the choice to avoid it. Fear allowing your-
self to misunderstand Hell, which can rob you of the ability to choose
wisely.

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Beyond the Point of No R eturn

When it comes to the hereafter, the Bible is unequivocal
that there is a point of no return, after which those who are
in Hell, as well as those who are in Heaven, will never leave.
Like a physician with sometimes reluctant patients, God
offers the restoration of eternal health to us and repeatedly
emphasizes the urgency of this opportunity, but he knows
we are going to make our own decision in the end.

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A woman approaches I-land construction, an island isolated from every-
where else where “I”—her free-willed self—assumes the authority to de-
termine what is right and best, as God and his best are not on the island
to oppose her. God must construct this Hell for those who freely choose
to be there instead of with him, but he is clear that it is not intended as
a correctional facility to eventually restore these folks to him. Rather, he
knows that Hell is innately inescapable once people have decided to set
foot there, and he uses his governing authority to plainly warn them of
the danger. Therefore, although Hell is primarily a choice, it’s also in part
a punishment for rejecting God’s authority and provision. However, he
makes this retribution in Hell—a life there without pardon possible—noth-
ing more than the consequence of the choice to be there in the first place.
If the woman chooses to set foot there (or in the pre-Hell of Tartarus), it will
be immediately seen that she wants such an inescapable I-land, and she
will therefore logically be punished with a forever Hell. The restoration God
himself provides via Jesus is only available before she makes that choice,
and he clearly communicates the obvious urgency of her plight to her.

264
Part 8

Having Your Cake and Eating It Too
Healing Hereafter

Punctuating the rather sobering backdrop of sickness and
death in hospitals are many moments of sheer hilarity that
wrench you out of serious contemplation into fits of unbri-
dled laughter. One experience in particular will always make
me chuckle, no matter how much I try to suppress it. I was
walking down the hallway to check on one of my patients,
when suddenly I heard a loud voice. Inpatient floors are busy
places during the day, and very few occurrences command
enough attention to simultaneously halt everyone’s hustle
and bustle. This one succeeded. A very normal-looking
woman not much older than me was sprinting down the
hall toward the elevator with IV pole in tow, dressed in
naught but a single hospital gown completely untied and
open in the back, just flappin’ in the breeze she created.
As she passed me, the exclamations of joy emanating from
her mouth unquestionably conveyed, “I’m freeeee!” This
woman was motivated and apparently very fit, because she
beat the pursuing security officers to an open elevator and
managed to get the door closed. When or if they success-
fully retrieved her, I do not know, but part of me hopes that
she at least got a few deep breaths of fresh outdoor air!
She was obviously leaving AMA, against medical advice,
and was quite content to do so. And although the combi-
nation of her enthusiasm and athletic prowess gave a lot
of folks a free dose of laughter—which is the best medi-
cine, after all—choices she made in exercising her freedom
almost certainly landed her in a “captivity” much worse than
her original predicament.

Our final story is similar, concerning a patient receiving
therapy where my wife worked. And since you’ve listened
to me long enough already, she’s going to tell it! You ready
babe? Ready as I’ll ever be! Cool beans, take it away. Okay!
A woman presented with recurrent pneumonia, the result
of swallowed liquids entering her airway unbeknownst to

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her, called silent aspiration. She was instructed to thicken
all liquids and given swallowing strategies to help reduce
her risk. The patient was otherwise physically and mentally
fit, coming from an independent apartment. She had run
her own life and did as she pleased, so after a short time
of therapy at our skilled nursing facility, she’d had enough.
She was completely disgusted by thickened liquids and
had made little progress in the use of her strategies. Very
simply, she wanted to go home, no matter what the cost.
After refusing a swallowing evaluation to prove that being
released to independent living would be very dangerous,
she demanded to be discharged AMA after all the neces-
sary discussions had taken place. She was sent home with
thickening powder and all of her swallow strategies written
down on paper and with illustrations, which was everything
she would allow to be done to inform her and help her. She
understood and was capable of drinking safely; she just
didn’t want to. She died a week later in her apartment.

With few exceptions, people can generally exercise their
freedom to accept or ignore medical advice, even the most
accurate, compassionate, and applicable warnings. With
our patients above, using freedom to choose AMA brought
inescapable consequences, either temporary like captivity,
or more permanent like death. On the flip side, using
freedom to accept advice, even if it meant limiting them-
selves a little, would have allowed these women in the end
to escape captivity sooner and preserve life.

So it is with the hereafter. Every one of us will make our free
choice to pursue God or not God, and every one of us will
experience the outcome of that freedom forever. This part
finally finishes explaining how and why. We will all have our
cake and eat it too; how it tastes is up to us . . .

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34

W ow, we’ve come quite a ways! First we discovered what God
was after when he created humans and how this purpose
guides almost everything he does concerning the hereafter. Then we
investigated what complicated the fulfillment of his purpose for us,
what he did to fix it, and why his solution works. We learned how
people go to Heaven, when they go there, and why they go there.
We can even see unmistakable glimpses of this place of perfect
community with God as it permeates the lives of those headed
there. However, we also saw Hell for what the Bible really shows it
to be, freeing ourselves from misinformation and manipulation. We
didn’t like the looks of it, and we’re certainly not supposed to, but
we did make some sense of it. Hell proved unrestorable but started
to become understandable, and it will continue to become so before
the end of this book. But first, let’s take a breather from Hell, for
Heaven’s sake, and for the sake of you and me as well! Let’s finally
feast our eyes on Heaven for awhile before we enter the home
stretch in our exploration of both places. I’ve certainly kept you
waiting long enough, so take your sweet time enjoying this vision of
truly unmistakable community with God for anyone who wants it!
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any
sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of
heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her
husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look!
God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell
with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with
them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the
old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the
throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this
down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me, ‘It
is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the

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End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of
the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I
will be their God and they will be my children’” (Revelation 21:1-7).
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as
crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the
middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood
the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every
month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the
Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will
see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be
no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light
of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will
reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are
trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 22:1-6). This is Heaven, the New
Earth, and it is beautiful! The Godmade Heaven isn’t preoccupied
with clouds, harps, virgins, food, or ethereal detachment. It’s a flaw-
less “new heaven and new earth” occupied by God, his people, and
the perpetually perfect relationship between them, isn’t it? Exactly
what we would expect from a God who never ceases to make
sense. His purpose for us is finally fulfilled (Acts 17:26-28, 1
Thessalonians 5:9-10). Ahhhhh.
Just one last loose end to tie up, but to be honest, it’s a pretty big
one. Yes, God’s purpose for humans is finally fulfilled in Heaven,
but is it forever fulfilled? Could his purpose be thwarted, or could
Heaven be ruined? Could human free will make the same mistakes
and wreak the same havoc in Heaven that it did on earth? Is Heaven
truly invincible, incorruptible, and unmistakable? Interestingly, these
are questions that I have rarely heard people ask, and yet they are
actually the most important ones of all! It’s crucial to understand
Hell and why you never, ever want to go there. It’s exhilarating to
learn God’s solution and experience a relationship with him. But if
we reject Hell, accept the message of Jesus, and find ourselves in a
Heaven that only lasts until somebody sins, we’re just back to where
we are now, aren’t we? Nice weekend getaway, but Monday morning
will inevitably come, won’t it?

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Perhaps it seems that in a perfect place with full access to God,
we won’t even consider using our free will to sin. But it’s already
happened twice before, once in the garden of Eden and once even
prior to that. I realize that Satan, “that ancient serpent,” will not be
present to deceive us in Heaven as he apparently was in the garden
(Genesis 3:1-7, Revelation 20:2, 7-10), and some people argue that he
was the reason that humanity sinned.1 But a tempter is not neces-
sary for free-willed beings to sin or for perfect eternal life to be
ruined, and whatever reason humanity’s serpentine tempter was in
the garden is not important. Our outcome would have been the
same with or without him. “Each person is tempted when they are
dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire
has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). After all, no one tempted
Satan when he chose to sin, right? “The devil has been sinning
from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). Cool, that rhymes! I’m a poet
and I didn’t kno...never mind. And in this very beginning—before
our beginning—there was absolutely nothing but perfection, just like
in Heaven! But there was free will, just like on earth, and it was
Satan’s and humanity’s free-willed desire to know evil, not someone
tempting them, that was responsible for their sin. Therefore, given
the billions of angels and humans who will be in Heaven for all
eternity, at least one of them would eventually use their free will to
sin. If the greatest angel and the first humans sinned under essen-
tially identical circumstances, so would somebody in Heaven, no
matter how perfect it is there. So neither the absence of a tempter
nor our immersion in perfection assures an unmistakable eternity.
However, aside from the devil no longer being around, there’s
a second difference between the garden of Eden and Heaven, one
that does preserve a perfect hereafter. In the garden we have God,
humans, and two trees (Genesis 2:7-17). In Heaven we have God,
humans, and one tree (Revelation 22:1-5). The tree of the knowledge
of good and evil is nowhere to be found on the New Earth, is it?
This is the tree that represents our most important choice. Although
we can use our free will to choose all kinds of other things, this tree
is the way that we were given to use our free will to demonstrate

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if we were satisfied with God and good or desired something apart
from that, sin and evil. And although we all decided on the latter,
many of us genuinely and persistently endeavor to do that less and
less. Remember, the hallmark of people who have the faith and deeds
associated with God’s promise of salvation is accepting the solution
of Jesus to initiate a persistent, growing intimacy with him. These
people will value and incorporate God and good into their lives in
increasing measure, compelled by the Holy Spirit within them to
consistently use their free will to choose what is not sin, what is not
evil. They make Heaven unmistakable on earth, because they want
to be unmistakable themselves, both here and in Heaven. God knows
that they have used their free will to ultimately reject choosing to
know evil, and in Heaven he will honor that rejection by removing
that choice from them, so that they can’t sin. “He has given us his
very great and precious promises, so that through them you may
participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in
the world caused by evil desires” (1 Peter 1:4). No one here has
fully escaped this corruption or these desires; that can only occur in
Heaven. Recall that God’s nature is his MO, what he’s all about, what
he values. Perfect community with God involves a complete under-
standing and incorporation of what God values, so once he makes
us perfect, we fully participate in his divine nature. Remember that
a nature is not a fundamental component of a being, like a spiritual
organ. We don’t become God or part of God; we become what he’s all
about. We become good, and only good. We lose our sinful nature,
our imperfect inclination to desire evil, in order to participate in the
divine nature. We lose our ability to sin, making both us and Heaven
unmistakable.
God is perfect because he has perfect knowledge and perfect
power, which will always lead to optimal behavior. Theoretically, God
can sin because he is truly sovereign and has free will, but he will
never, ever do so. This is because sin is not alluring to him; it is
always less than the best, something outside of and opposing his
nature (James 1:13, Deuteronomy 32:4). Humans do not have God’s
perfect knowledge or perfect power, nor will they in Heaven, so we
very well might sin there. We often don’t follow God’s example in

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doing what is best, which is why we need that part of our free will
removed (Isaiah 48:17-18). Satan came the closest to God in terms
of knowledge and power, but he still sinned in a perfect environ-
ment. So would we. Obviously, even the “best” Christians are also
corrupted by evil desires on earth, but they will have no such desires
in Heaven. All the other ways that they can use their free will remain
intact; Heaven is no divine puppet show or forced tea party. However,
no one on the New Earth will be able to choose to sin or know evil,
as we will be “the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). Everyone
going to Heaven has freely given God permission to remove this
choice, as they all have faith that he can and will accomplish such
perfect community and that it is the best. Our free will will have
fulfilled its purpose in allowing God to fulfill his purpose in Heaven.
Therefore, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will no longer
be necessary. God lets us choose our way, so that he can get his way,
by only letting those in Heaven choose one way, so that they can
experience the best way. Then he and his own will enjoy the fruit of
the tree of life and the water of the river of life, forever in perfect
community: God’s Heaven that is—and always will be—unmistakable!

35

A n unmistakable Heaven leads us to three consequent questions,
which will require a few chapters to answer. However, these
are some of the most important questions asked about the biblical
afterlife, so we must do them justice if we are to heal hereafter.
You’ll be glad that we did in the end, and they’ll apply many of the
concepts that we’ve discussed, bringing this book toward a coherent
close. First, we’ve learned that Hell is forever, but why does it have
to be? Several answers have been proposed, and we’ll explore each of
them before getting to ours. Let’s begin with the one related to the
preceding chapter’s explanation of an unmistakable Heaven.
Is it a limitation of free will—such as that experienced by Heaven’s
inhabitants—that keeps Hell’s inhabitants from escaping? Instead of

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having their ability to sin removed, will those who accepted or even
embraced knowing evil have their ability to choose to know God and
his goodness removed once they get to Hell? Is that why Hell has to
be forever? No, because such removal of free will is unnecessary in
Hell. The reason that God removes part of our free will in Heaven is
not to preserve our desire to know him and his goodness. Our faith
to desire perfect community with him has already convinced him
enough to give us his Spirit, sealing our salvation in a relationship
with him that produces persistent fruit. Rather, he makes us unable
to choose evil in order to keep Heaven perfect, both for our sakes
and for his own. He knows that we truly want perfect community
with him, but he doesn’t know that we’ll never commit a single sin
throughout all of eternity. He needs to be assured of the latter for
Heaven to remain Heaven, and those who enter Heaven want him to
be assured of this, so he makes them unable to sin. He has no such
motive for altering this part of a person’s free will in Hell, does he?
He doesn’t have to keep Hell either perfect or imperfect, so he doesn’t
alter its inhabitants’ free will toward either end. In any case, he
certainly wouldn’t remove the ability of those in Hell not to sin, as he
does people’s ability to sin in Heaven. Human free will is left intact
in Hell, although the way we will learn it is used by Hell’s eventual
inhabitants may surprise you.
The second and likely most common answer that people offer to
explain why Hell has to be forever is because the Bible says so. As we
have verified, the Bible does undeniably tell us that Hell is forever.
Christians believe that the Bible represents God’s words and that
God and his words will never change (Number 23:19, Malachi 3:6,
Matthew 24:35). Therefore, it is argued that “God can never change
or go back on any word ever spoken, for all eternity. That is one
reason he cannot get someone out of Hell.”2 The problem here is that
God is trapped by his own words. According to this answer, if God
does decide that Hell shouldn’t be forever in order to allow people
to leave, they would still have to stay because regrettably God had
already told them that it was forever. Of course, God’s words would
have to change in this scenario anyway, an act that this answer
forbids. But even if God doesn’t change his mind and sticks with his

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words that Hell is forever, we are still left with the question of why he
made that his word in the first place. Some are content to ignore this
question, claiming that we don’t need an answer since God doesn’t
need to explain his words. “Sending people to Hell isn’t the only thing
God does that is impossible to figure out.”3 Wrong. It’s not a mystery
that’s impossible to figure out, and it must be figured out.
At the beginning of this book we learned the danger of inappro-
priately invoking mystery as an “answer” when a question challenges
God’s trustworthiness, goodness, consistency, or logic. Unfortunately,
you may have been taught that “the Bible shows no tolerance for such
questions when they are grounded in pride or insatiable curiosity.”4
Although that may be true regarding pride, what if that curiosity is
only insatiable because a humble person genuinely seeking truth is
continually given complacent, ignorant, or narrow-minded answers
to absolutely vital inquiries? If God “wants all people to be saved”
(1 Timothy 2:3-4), then by stating in the Bible that Hell is forever
without telling us why, he calls into question all four of the above
aspects of his character. And if there’s sufficient evidence to doubt
God’s trustworthiness, goodness, consistency, or logic—and we’re
content not to resolve this doubt—then we are left with no decent
reason to believe that anything else he says or does is reliable, good,
consistent, or rational, right? It is very dangerous and misleading for
a person to teach that “Scripture is satisfied to leave paradoxes unre-
solved” before he has been open-minded and thorough enough to be
certain that these apparent paradoxes truly should be and truly are
left unresolved.5
Some claim that in the midst of these apparent mysteries we can
trust God’s words without explanation because we can trust a God
who would die for us. 6 Because “he went to the cross,” some feel
“we can trust him to decide wisely and fairly.”7 But being willing to
die for someone—as great a sacrifice as that is—doesn’t automatically
make a person universally trustworthy, not even God. Many of you
would truly die for one of your loved ones, but that obviously doesn’t
mean you’ve always been perfectly trustworthy with them, does it?
More importantly though, if some of God’s words call into ques-
tion God’s trustworthiness, what reason do we have to believe that

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his other words—like those telling us that he died for us—are trust-
worthy? We have to believe that God’s words about dying for us
are reliable before his death for us can demonstrate that he is reli-
able enough to trust his words about dying for us, let alone his other
words that Hell has to be forever, even though these other words call
into question the reliability of his words about dying for us! It’s a
circular argument to claim that trusting some of God’s words make
God trustworthy enough to trust both those words and his other
words, particularly when those other words question God’s trustwor-
thiness to begin with. Instead, if we can figure out why all of God’s
words—including those stating that Hell is forever—needn’t cast doubt
on his trustworthiness, goodness, consistency, or logic, then we have
no need to trust him just so that we can trust him. Rather than
answering why Hell is forever with “The Bible says so” and invoking
mystery when someone asks why the Bible says so, we’re going to find
reasons why and discover how they maintain—not erode—God’s trust-
worthiness, goodness, consistency, and logic in the process. But first,
a few other ways that people explain how Hell must be forever.
A third suggestion is that “God has fashioned our lives in such
a way as to show us how a momentary decision can have repercus-
sions that last a lifetime.” To summarize an author elaborating on
this proposal, since this “is the nature of the reality into which we
have been created,” “when it comes to our entire—eternal—lives, Jesus
teaches that this momentary life has an eternal trajectory, that the
response we make to him has eternal consequences.” “The Bible says
that human life is lived, then, on one of two trajectories: toward
either eternal life or eternal death.”8 If I understand this argument
correctly then, God created this reality to involve many decisions with
far-reaching consequences, so Hell has to be forever simply because
it happens to be one of those decisions. In other words, God decided
that the choice to go to Hell or Heaven would be a forever choice, so
it is. In reality, this explanation accomplishes nothing more than the
last one, telling us that Hell is forever just because God or the Bible
says so. And when we ask why there are only two trajectories, why
our choice of Hell versus Heaven must be one with eternal conse-
quences, and why God would forever withhold himself from anyone,

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we again find that the only response is a disappointingly dismissive
appeal to mystery. “God withholds from us many truths we’d love to
know.” “Sometimes even the best biblical answers leave a lot unan-
swered.”9 This may be true regarding questions that do not need
answering, but questions that legitimately cast doubt on God’s trust-
worthiness, goodness, consistency, or logic do need answering, and
why Hell has to be forever is one of those questions. Punting this
question into the bleachers of mystery and unresolved tensions is not
the best biblical answer.
Fourth, some argue that Hell being anything less than forever
would diminish the magnitude of what Jesus’ work accomplished. “If
Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection didn’t deliver us from an eternal
Hell, his work on the cross is less heroic, less potent, less consequen-
tial, and thus less deserving of our worship and praise.”10 This argu-
ment confuses the very different questions of why Hell was forever
before salvation in Jesus was available and why Hell is still forever now
that salvation in Jesus is available. Before Jesus came to make Heaven
a potential residence for humans, the only final destination an imper-
fect yet immortal human spirit could go to was the only final destina-
tion without God and his goodness: Hell. And without an alternative
location for such a spirit, there could be no escape. This forever Hell
is what Jesus came to save us from, so if somehow we could have
gotten out of Hell without Jesus, then yes, the resulting less-than-
forever Hell would diminish the magnitude of what Jesus’ sacrifice
was to accomplish. Therefore, this argument does provide a supple-
mentary explanation to why Hell had to be forever before Jesus came.
However, it is not a valid explanation to why Hell is forever now that
Jesus has come. Whether Hell lasts for one day or for an eternity for
those who reject the gospel that is now in place, the death and resur-
rection of Jesus will always provide salvation from a forever Hell,
because without Jesus, Hell would have had to have been forever for
everyone. In other words, the magnitude of Jesus’ work is not dimin-
ished in any way by how long people who reject the gospel are in
Hell, because we all would have been in Hell forever if he hadn’t
come, so this argument is invalid.
Moreover, it bases the punishment for our sin on how much glory

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and prestige Jesus gets rather than on the actual offense committed.
Remember that the punishment of physical death for sin is just and
logical. Death is the ultimate consequence of sinning and knowing
evil, and it had to occur because the resultant imperfect humans, inel-
igible for God’s perfect goodness, had no other eternal option but an
existence in Hell, a place where God is absent. This chosen existence
was forever because there was no way out without Jesus. Our just
and sensible God bases the punishment on the crime. Conversely,
God’s justice and logic are sacrificed if Hell has to be forever simply
because Jesus’ death and resurrection don’t get enough recogni-
tion otherwise. Imagine Judge God the Father saying to you, “Well,
justice only demands that Hell lasts twenty years, but because I’m
worried that Jesus won’t be adequately worshipped as a praiseworthy
hero, I’m gonna bump up your sentence to eternity.” That’s just not
just. Let’s say that two people are equally guilty of murder and each
sentenced to twenty years in prison. Graciously, the family of the
victim offers full pardon to both, but only one accepts it. Is it just
or rational for the judge to then increase the sentence of the other
convict to life in prison simply so that everyone better appreciates
the generosity of the victim’s family? Of course not! His offense is
no different before or after the pardon is offered, and his punish-
ment should not be either. Neither does Hell have to be forever just
to make Jesus’ work seem more gracious. Clearly, it does not.
We run into a similar problem with a fifth explanation of why
Hell has to be forever. This theory states that infinite punishment
in Hell is necessary because we have offended an infinitely great
and perfect God.11 Instead of basing the punishment on the magni-
tude of what Jesus accomplished, the punishment is based on the
magnitude of who was being offended or sinned against. Once
again, the problem is that the punishment is not based on what
the actual offense was. Let’s head back to the courtroom to illus-
trate. Two more murderers are being sentenced, each for killing
one of a pair of equally innocent men. Is it just or rational for the
judge to sentence the first murderer to life in prison because his
victim was a senator, while sentencing the second to twenty years in
prison because his victim was a homeless man? Of course not! The

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offenses are the same regardless of the person offended, and the
punishments should be identical as well. God has clearly determined
that the biblical punishment for sin is physical death, which is just
and rational for all the reasons we’ve already discussed (Genesis
2:16-17, 4:22, Romans 6:23, James 1:14-15). If eternity in Hell were
the punishment for sin, then Jesus would not have adequately taken
our punishment on himself by merely dying. He would have had to
spend forever in Hell to fully endure our sentence! But he can act as
our substitute because the punishment for sin is physical death. The
eternity in Hell that results is an unavoidable byproduct without
Jesus’ death and resurrection to provide a way out. God does not
unjustly upgrade the punishment for sin from physical death to
a forever Hell just because we picked the wrong guy to offend.
Rather, he determines a just punishment for sin and teaches that
Hell must be forever for better reasons that we’ll unpack soon.
But before we finally do, there is still one more explanation
offered by others why Hell must be forever that we need to explore.
As we know, faith is the one human initiative tied to salvation. It
also seems clear that people in Hell would know for sure that the
gospel is true because they’re in Hell for not believing it. There-
fore, if they then choose to believe that the solution of Jesus is the
only way to be saved, it is argued that this could not be a true act
of faith, because their knowledge leaves no uncertainly left to have
faith in. Consequently, they would not be able to be saved and
must stay in Hell forever.12 The problem here is that the initiation
of salvation is not dependent on how much or how little evidence
we have to back our faith up; it’s dependent on what that faith is
in. God does not provide salvation to people just because they have
totally blind faith, without any experiences or reasons to believe
what they believe. In fact, this kind of faith is extremely dangerous,
because it would just as legitimately lead to you to believe that a
flyswatter, your four-year-old niece, or Hitler was God, as it would
lead you to believe that God was God. Those who argue that we
should just have faith in God because he’s God need to realize
that a person on the other side of the world (or street) has already
taken this advice, applying that same exact faith to a completely

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different deity. Blind faith without evidence or validated experience
to support it is only useful if you happen to select the correct deity
by sheer luck; it can never help you know if you have. If God values
your blind faith in him, then he has to value someone else’s blind
faith in horoscopes, David Koresh, or Allah just as much.
Instead, the Bible encourages the use of evidence and experi-
ence to bolster our faith. We find Paul “explaining and proving” the
gospel, and “a large number” of people are saved as a result (Acts
17:2-4). Jesus assists the salvation of many by performing miracle
after miracle, citing them as evidence that he is the Messiah (Luke
7:18-22). And God constantly reminds his people to remember what
he has done for them in the past to allow validated experience to
amplify their future faith in him (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:17-19). No
doubt (pun intended), when Thomas demands to see Jesus’ wounds
before being certain of the resurrection, Jesus would rather have
had him believe without seeing. However, he does not claim that
Thomas is unable to have faith once this undeniable evidence was
presented. In fact, he tells Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you
have believed” (John 20:24-29). Even when the resurrection was
undeniable to Thomas, he could still have genuine faith that Jesus
had returned to life, because faith is not dependent on the amount
of uncertainty that it is able to espouse. It’s dependent on its object.
Thomas’ faith was possible and legitimate because it was faith in
Jesus, even if it was a baby step rather than a leap of faith. Similar
faith would be possible in Hell. True, folks there have evidence
all around them that the biblical Hell is for real and have experi-
enced the consequences of their rejection of Jesus at judgment day.
As with Thomas, these folks would have essentially no remaining
uncertainty regarding who Jesus is, but it would still be possible for
them to exercise genuine faith in him or not. They could potentially
still believe that God can and will do what he says and that what he
says is the best or not. They could potentially still choose to consider
Jesus as the only solution for sin or not. And they could potentially
believe everything else God says in his words or not. There is room
for faith with Thomas, and there is room for faith in Hell, even if
it would only be very weak faith. However, while this faith could

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conceivably play a role in them believing the Bible’s gospel, it would
also lead them to believe the Bible’s teaching that Hell is forever, so
we would not expect these folks to demonstrate any anticipation of
salvation. We will see that this is precisely the case. Therefore, Hell
can’t be forever just because there can’t be faith there. Theoretically,
there can be faith, and it would lead to the realization that Hell is
forever, but aside from “because the Bible says so,” it would not lead
to an explanation why.

36

I n this chapter then, we will try to explain why Hell truly has to
be forever. As we do, I want to acknowledge that this particular
subject is likely the most onerous one we will address. Therefore, if
any part of what follows is emotionally difficult, I readily encourage
you to embrace any disgust regarding Hell’s existence and duration.
There is literally nothing that should be more vile to us than Hell.
And while you do so, remember that I don’t claim that this book’s
answers to why Hell is forever are incontrovertible truth. But they
are certainly the best I’ve been able to discover, and I hope that you’ll
stick with me to the end to ascertain whether or not they make
sense. I firmly believe that they do and that God does as a result.
Here they are! Remember, those in Hell fundamentally want an
existence apart from God and what he’s all about. That’s why they
ended up where God and good are absent, but that’s also part of why
they’ll stay there. Of all the people in the Bible for whom Hell is their
final destination, not a single one exhibits the faith in God required
for salvation. Even though we now know such faith is theoretically
possible in Hell, it is evidently not practiced. This is the first of the
two reasons why Hell is forever. Apparently, those in Hell are freely
fixed in their unwillingness to be in the Godmade Heaven. When we
see people object to God on judgment day when they aren’t admitted
into Heaven, are they telling him how much they want to know
him and experience perfect community with him? No, they expected

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admittance because they thought that they had done enough moral
or spiritual acts to earn their way in (Matthew 7:21-23). They were
trying to enter Heaven according to their own criteria, in a way other
than the narrow door that God had opened for them. Even after they
knew that they couldn’t get in, they didn’t demonstrate a desire to
know God and become like him, the will of God for those who are
saved (Luke 13:24-28). They wanted a manmade Heaven, not the
Godmade one. A Heaven where they could make the rules, where
they didn’t need Jesus himself—only works with Jesus’ name attached
to them—to get where they wanted to go. They demonstrated no
desire to know God in community with him. In other words, they
wanted the manmade Heaven called Hell.
Likewise, the rich man from Luke 16:19-31 shows no desire for
a Heavenly existence either. True, he’s in Tartarus—not in Hell yet—
but you get to both the same way, and the one always leads to the
other, for reasons that perhaps now are becoming even clearer. We
know that he was “in torment” and “in agony in this fire,” and yet he
never shows even a hint of desire to leave! It seems obvious that if
you or I were in his shoes, upon seeing Abraham and Lazarus, we’d
immediately negotiate or just plain beg to be pulled out of pain and
into Paradise! Or would we? The rich man does no such thing. He
wants Lazarus to come to him to cool his tongue, but if he actually
thinks that Lazarus might make the trip, wouldn’t he at least ask to
be brought back to Paradise with him? How hard would that be, and
considering his circumstances, what harm is there in asking, even if
he knows deep down that it wouldn’t be possible? But he doesn’t even
ask! And the only reason he wouldn’t ask, the only reason we wouldn’t
try to do the same, is because people who are in Hell continue to not
want to go to the Godmade Heaven. Even in agony and even as he
acknowledges that it would be better for others to choose differ-
ently than him, the rich man demonstrates no desire to leave his
predicament for God’s alternative. This might seem surprising at first
until we remind ourselves that a great many people among the living
persistently act the exact same way—they demonstrate no desire to
leave their predicament for God’s alternative.
OK fine, so far nobody in the Bible has wanted to leave a destiny

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in Hell for an eternity in Heaven, but maybe they are the excep-
tions. What about humanity as a whole? Surely in general, people
would express this desire, right? I’m afraid not; in fact, the Bible
unanimously indicates otherwise. Two of these indications are in the
previous narrative itself. Recall that Abraham explains that the rich
man and Lazarus can’t ever get to each other, as “between us and
you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go
from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to
us (Luke 16:26).” You might have assumed that this chasm has been
fixed by God, that he is the one who keeps his people in Paradise/
Heaven and the others in Tartarus/Hell. But notice the language used
here. Abraham implies that people in Paradise might “want to go”
to Tartarus, perhaps to help relieve human suffering, since they are
able to witness it there. But does anyone “want to go” from Tartarus
to Paradise? Shockingly, no! Abraham’s wording is curiously altered
when referring to the unsaved, with no other conceivable motive
for the change except a desire to reveal that none of them wants to
leave! And this revelation is confirmed by the very actions of the rich
man he’s talking to, who never once considers asking to get out of
Tartarus, even though he does think to ask for a drop of water!
Morever, when we examine the definitions of this word “fixed,” the
Greek word sterizo, we find something quite remarkable. Certainly,
the word means “to fix, make stable, set fast, strengthen, and make
firm,” and these definitions obviously apply to this verse. But in every
Greek dictionary that I found, there was an additional definition
suggesting something more. In Strong’s Greek Lexicon we learn that
sterizo can mean “to turn resolutely in a certain direction.” In A Greek-
English Lexicon the idea is “to hold fast to an opinion.” At greekbible.
com we find “to render constant or confirm one’s mind.”13-15 When I
stumbled across this, I was shocked at how applicable these seem-
ingly peripheral but persistent definitions of sterizo are in Luke 16:26!
“Fixed” does not only apply to the longevity of the chasm, but to
people as well, doesn’t it? Could it be that one reason the chasm is
fixed is because the people on either side have fixed their wills as
well? Are not the inevitable, persistent deeds associated with faith
in a relationship with God through Jesus described accurately by the

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notion of turning resolutely in a certain direction, holding fast to an
opinion, and rendering one’s mind constant (Matthew 24:13, 1 Corin-
thians 15:1-2, Colossians 1:22-23, 1 Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 3:14)? And
constancy and perseverance are also seen in those who do not want
to know God or be in Heaven in perfect community with him. Those
who blaspheme and revile against his Spirit being inside of them to
produce intimacy with him and behavior that reflects Heaven don’t
want to know God or have perfect community with him, a desire that
consequentially becomes an eternal sin (Mark 3:28-29). Everything
we have discussed above is consistent with a chasm between Hell
and Heaven that is set fast partly because the free will of those who
choose to dwell in one place or the other is equally constant.
Because we hold fast to our fixed opinion and because God can’t
achieve his purpose for humanity by forever putting off judgment day
and the resultant habitation of Hell and Heaven (if he did, we’d end
up in a pointless earth/Hell/Heaven fusion that can never be perfect),
God limits the imperfection and suffering of our pre-judgment exis-
tence by giving us this physical life to decide. The only exceptions are
those without meaningful access to the gospel during this life, who
will be justly given what God deems to be an equivalent opportunity/
period of time in Lugg to demonstrate the faith that God is looking
for and to be exposed to the message of Jesus. By the time the last
day arrives, God will have given all humans a more than reasonable
amount of time to tell him what they want their eternal destiny to
be, and he will be understandably unwilling to delay the fulfillment
of perfect community with him any longer. He is anything but hasty
in judgment, and he will have kept those who yearn to be with him
waiting long enough. It’s already been thousands of years for some of
them after all, including many who had been destitute, persecuted,
mistreated, tortured, flogged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawed in
two, and killed by the sword for their faith (Hebrews 11:35-40). Even
off in the future when judgment day approaches, God encourages
these martyrs to “wait a little longer,” allowing even more to be saved
before the last day comes (Revelation 6:9-11). “The Lord is slow to
anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpun-
ished” (Nahum 1:3). So God “has set a day when he will judge the

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world with justice” because he will have patiently waited far more
than long enough for us to make our choice and because he under-
stands the constancy of our mind in the matter anyway. God knows
that some people want Heaven, God knows that the others want Hell,
and God tells us that once they get there, they simply won’t change
their minds. Not because he decides that, but because they do.
The Bible has consistently supported this notion above and
continues to support it below. Much of the book of Revelation—partic-
ularly Chapters 6, 8, 9, and 16—consists of God bringing justice on
those who embrace evil rather than reject it, those who must bear
the fair punishment for their wrongs against him, humanity, and the
earth. They experience in themselves the suffering that this sin brings,
since they are unwilling to have it removed in Jesus. What happens on
earth during this time is frightening, agonizing, and devastating, just
about the worst set of circumstances imaginable. Downright Hellish.
And at the end of each wave of wrath, we are told of these people’s
reaction. “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and
hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the
wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and
who can withstand it’” (Revelation 6:16-17)? These people don’t want
to get closer to God, they’re trying to get farther away! Hell-like
punishment isn’t causing them to pursue God; instead, in Revela-
tion 16:9-21 “they cursed God” thrice and “refused to repent” twice
following his justice. Hey, I get that nobody enduring such calamity
is going to be favorably disposed toward the one who is bringing it
on them, even if they are ultimately responsible for it. But the third
response of these people proves again—and even more convincingly—
that after such Hellishness, people were not just afraid of God, and
they weren’t just mad at God; they still wanted absolutely nothing to
do with him and his goodness. They still were pursuing Hell. “The
rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not
repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping
demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that
cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders,
their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation
9:20-21).

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God gave them as close to Hell on earth as one could imagine,
and if anything, it made them less likely to want perfect community
in Heaven, not more. In addition to comprehensively bringing justice
to this world, perhaps a second purpose in God exerting his wrath
will be to give these folks one last, extra-large warning to prove
that those ignorant of it don’t want him and never will. Or maybe
he’s trying to prove that to us through their responses. “Wherever I
banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to
life, declares the Lord Almighty.” Take one guess where the remains
of the folks in this verse end up. Gehenna. And the deeds that they
are known for are very consistent with a desire for death, not life
(Jeremiah 7:30-8:3).
Let’s face it, Hell is a lousy correctional facility, and not a single
biblical example demonstrates that anyone going there will ever want
the Godmade Heaven in exchange. This is the first reason why Hell
is forever. Not because God even remotely relishes the thought of
people in eternal torment, whether or not they would have changed
their minds to desire Heaven. Hell is forever because its inhabitants
will evidently always want it over wanting him and Heaven. In fact,
the Godmade Heaven would be Hellish for them! “Who wants to be
rescued?” asks one of Hell’s imagined residents, when being offered a
theoretical chance to be allowed into Heaven in C.S. Lewis’ The Great
Divorce.16 He and the other residents “won’t like it at all when we get
there” and would “be far happier at home” in Hell!17-18 Perhaps your
objection to an eternal Hell has stemmed from a sympathetic vision
of humans crying out for deliverance from Hell, longing to escape,
while God looks down every now and then apathetically. Hey, if that’s
what’s going on, I can understand your hesitation to believe it. But
the vision that we get from the Bible couldn’t be more different. God
will never “say to someone truly humbled, broken, and desperate for
reconciliation, ‘Sorry, too late,’” because biblically, that someone will
not exist in Hell.19 “The damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels
to the end.” “The doors of hell are locked on the inside.”20 Nobody
ending up in Hell is begging for God, and nobody is desperate for
escape to the Godmade Heaven, are they? And God? As we learned in
Chapter 23, his response to Hell and human suffering is as opposite

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to apathetic as possible, isn’t it? God doesn’t need to remove people’s
choice in Hell to know him and his goodness, because he knows that
they won’t ever want to. They have fixed their minds.
But that’s only half of the answer. Even if judgment day weren’t
final, no one initiates salvation in Hell because no one in Hell exer-
cises the faith that what God says is the best, the faith that always
leads to intimacy with God and incorporation of what he values. On
the contrary, those who want Hell want a place where God and all
that he’s about are absent; therefore, the rest of the salvation process
will be absent as well. God won’t be present to seek for faith (which
evidently won’t occur in Hell anyway) and specially predestine, Jesus
won’t be present in word or deed to be the solution, and the Holy
Spirit won’t be present to guarantee salvation and help enact the
necessarily persistent deeds that result from this faith. There will be
no God in Hell to enter into a relationship with. Every single compo-
nent—both human and divine—of God’s salvation process for us will
be absent from Hell. This is the second reason why Hell has to be
forever. If God’s purpose for humans is eternal perfect community
with him, then he must give us a free-willed chance to choose to find
him in Heaven or to choose existence apart from him in Hell. And
if God’s role in our salvation process is absolutely necessary, then the
decision to be in a place without God is also a decision to be in a
place without any opportunity for salvation. In order for God to give
us the free will that is required for fulfilling his purpose in creating
us, Hell has to be forever.
The only ways that it wouldn’t have to be forever are if God aban-
doned his purpose for humanity, if free will was not mandatory to
accomplish his purpose, or if God was not necessary for salvation. If
God abandons his purpose for us, there would be no Heaven and no
perfect community with him, which is unhelpful. If free will was not
mandatory, God would have to settle for meaningless “community”
with mere extensions of himself, like puppets or dolls at a tea party,
which is pointless. If God was not necessary for salvation, humans
would have to find a way to erase their imperfection and become
perfect on their own, which is impossible. Hell must be forever
because humans who won’t have the faith to be with God pursue an

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existence without him and therefore pursue an existence without any
hope of salvation. Ultimately, without an eternal Hell there could be
no Godmade Heaven, and it is clearly not consistent with the God of
the Bible “that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”21
God is not suddenly changing hats on judgment day, becoming a
fundamentally different being, a loving heavenly father transforming
into a cruel, mean, vicious tormentor, as he is accused of in the argu-
ment for a temporary Hell.22 After all, the only difference in the way
that our God and the God of a transient, corrective Hell supposedly
transition at judgment day is sending people to Hell because they
constantly want to be without him versus sending people to Hell to
“melt every hard heart” to coerce them to want to be with him.23 We
just learned how well the latter turns out, didn’t we? And is it more
cruel, mean, and vicious for God to let you choose your own destina-
tion or to beat the Hell out of you in inevitably forcing you to choose
intimacy with him? And since God does not use the latter approach
to pursue many living now who are heading for Hell—waiting to give
‘em Hell there instead—then is it not the latter God who is trans-
forming into a cruel, mean, vicious tormentor? The former God is
the one who does not change hats! He is the same God before judg-
ment and after judgment. Humans are the same before judgment and
after judgment. The only thing that does change is location. Those
who want eternal perfect community with God will want it before
and after judgment day and will inhabit the completed new Heaven
and New Earth, where God will join them as well. Those who do not
want eternal perfect community with God will not want it before
or after judgment day and will inhabit Hell, where their absence of
saving faith and their choice to be apart from God’s saving work
will keep that existence fixed. Nobody forces them to want this, God
doesn’t want them to want this, and they all have an equal chance to
show him that they don’t want this. I hope they all take advantage of
this opportunity while they still can. So the first question an unmis-
takable Heaven leads us to finally answers why Hell must be forever.
But answers don’t mean that a forever Hell doesn’t hurt. It may
be hurting you very, very much. And here at the end of our explo-
ration of Hell, it’s time to acknowledge that. To recognize the fears,

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the accusations, the despair, the guilt, the anger, and the uncertain-
ties that have been—and may still be—passing through your mind
for exactly what they are. Never would I expect you to ignore them,
never would I ask you to disregard them, and never would I care-
lessly belittle them. Hell is revolting and it can be seen as nothing
less. Take whatever time you need to despise it, loathe it, and revile
it, but please return, for as we focus forward on Heaven, there will
never be a need to look back!

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T he second question about an unmistakable Heaven concerns
suffering or sadness there due to memories from our life on
earth. Won’t we mourn those we knew who aren’t in Heaven? Won’t
we regret whatever mistakes we had made or suffering we had caused
on earth? Won’t we still feel the sorrow and pain of the difficulties
we had here? Won’t we ever wish to go back and relive our favorite
parts of this life? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding
no! And the reason is clear. “See, I will create new heavens and a new
earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come
to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). When we enter Heaven, we will have virtu-
ally no memory of this life, and God states this fact twice to get his
point across. At first this might seem appalling. How in Heaven could
I bear to not remember my life here? Recollections of my spouse,
my kids, my family, my friends, the good times, just gone? Yes, but
with them goes every memory of suffering and failure, of sadness,
death, mourning, crying, and pain. When people enter Heaven, God
“will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed
away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making every-
thing new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trust-
worthy and true” (Revelation 21:4-5). Again, God doubly assures us
that this is the case. Heaven cannot be Heaven any other way. Part of
removing our ability to sin and know evil there necessarily involves

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eliminating all prior knowledge of evil if we are to exist in a place of
perfect community with God. Now I realize that this may have just
hit you like a ten-ton Tonka truck, so I will make it my duty in the
next several chapters both to demonstrate all the reasons why this
must be the case and to unveil the resulting Heaven that is far more
perfect and exciting for everyone there than the suboptimal Heavens
that many of us have settled for. So however surprising this might be
for you, stick with me for just a little longer.
Even though we’ll confirm that bringing memories from our phys-
ical lives with us to the New Earth is inseparably intertwined with the
knowledge of evil that is associated with them, being informed of facts
about these lives after we are already on the New Earth does not have
to be. I am not claiming that we will never again be aware of events
that transpired during our physical lives. I see no reason why God
can’t offer us many details about our relationships and activities here,
but virtually any information we’ll have about this current life will be
relearned, not remembered. I can’t say if God will answer questions
about this life on request or if he will only share with us that which
he feels we truly need to know. I suspect the latter, since at some
point our inquiries would require an answer that would necessitate
an understanding of evil. Regardless, what I can say is that favoring
relearning over remembering allows God to teach us about ourselves,
our lives, many of our loved ones, and our salvation without exposing
us to suffering. Even explaining what sin and death are, which is
essential to appreciating God’s solution of Jesus, can be done neutrally
and without experiencing evil, as long as we have no memories about
those things that would associate them with suffering. After all, God
told Adam and Eve about sin and death in the perfection of the
garden of Eden before they eventually chose to experience evil and
suffering, right (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:2-3)? Obviously, he can do the same
for us, except that we will no longer have the choice to sin. And
Adam and Eve were also fully capable of enjoying perfect community
with God without any memory of some prior life. We will be as well,
won’t we? Only when we are unable to retain memories of our pre-
Heaven lives and truly start with a clean unmistakable slate can God
guarantee an existence that frees us from every experience of past

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suffering and any creation of new suffering. Sign me up!
And even though that’s one huge perk of the Godmade Heaven, it’s
far from the only one. It’s been clear from this book that God never
decides something just for the Heaven of it, especially not Heaven
itself! His New Earth makes sense. Consider your skills and interests.
Recall how exciting it is to achieve proficiency in something, experi-
encing new wonder and thrills with every advancement that you make.
Rather than just getting to the New Earth and already knowing how
to do a bunch of stuff, you get the thrill of relearning a hobby that you
love again, except this time without faulty teaching or frustration! Just
about all of us have watched children master a new skill while secretly
wishing that we could still have that same joy and wonder in simple
achievement. So we shall! Another important perk of relearning rather
than remembering on the New Earth is a fresh start to relationships.
As in familiarizing ourselves with a hobby, don’t we cherish the thrill
of newly forging an intimate bond with others, whether a close family
member, a beloved spouse, or a lifelong friend? We call this time “the
good ole days” or “the honeymoon period,” and we often long to or even
try to relive it, don’t we? God could have us merely recognize our loved
ones in Heaven and take up the relationship where it left off, but the
unique satisfaction of that reunion would no longer be uniquely satis-
fying once you’ve seen your departed spouse every day for a year there,
would it? And you’d still want to relive the “good ole days” anyway,
right? In the Godmade Heaven you can live the “best ole days.” With
everyone there. Imagine God introducing us to whatever family and
friends are present, telling us that on the old earth we were committed
to and enjoyed being with each other, then letting us joyfully forge a
relationship anew as we desire! And we could do so without awkward-
ness, baggage, strife, mistrust, shame, or betrayal, unless you’re looking
forward to eternally remembering all these things.
But it just keeps getting better. A totally clean slate concerning
our interests and relationships ushers in a reality on the New Earth
that we will never experience here, despite Herculean efforts to do so:
true equality. You’re gonna love this. Because we won’t remember our
former life, there will be no “ways things are done” or “comfort zones”
to have to break away from. The new relationships that we develop will

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automatically be more diverse, non-segregated, and inclusive, simply
because there will be no familiarities or traditions holding us back. The
status quo makes it hard for those interactions to occur easily or fully,
doesn’t it? There is no earthly status quo in the Godmade Heaven.
That’s part of the reason it will be so healthy not to be overly focused
on our loved ones from this life. We will then be much more free
and willing to know everyone without culture shock, preconceptions, or
inhibiting memories of the past.
But even better than equality in our social circles, there will also
be healthy equality in our circumstances. No one who received a poor
education on earth is going to have to catch up to those who experi-
enced a better learning environment, because we won’t remember our
educations, bad or good. No one with immature social skills because
of disability or rejection will have to be brought up to speed with the
attractive or funny, because everyone will start relationship building
together. No one who was dealt a life of great difficulty will be at
odds with those for whom luxury and ease were the norm, because
all norms will be forgotten. No one who died in the womb or with
chronic mental incapacitation will have to stare blankly with nothing
to contribute to the conversation as everyone else recounts numerous
stories and memories from earth, because there won’t be any. No one
whose parents were absent or who was unable to have children will
smile because they have to in Heaven, while being surrounded by
parents obliviously enamored with their own kids. No one who was
unable to find or stay married to a spouse will remember their lone-
liness as they are forced to endure the countless, ecstatic reunions of
husbands and wives. And no one—no one—whose family and friends
are not in Heaven will stand in isolated memorial of them, until
someone finally breaks away from their hugs, kisses, and reminiscing
long enough to say hello. These memories will not exist in the perfect,
Godmade Heaven. These memories cannot exist in a perfect, Godmade
Heaven. Heaven is not about a person who wants the loved ones she’s
waiting to find there. Heaven is about people who want the God they’re
waiting to find there! The relearned—not remembered—New Earth is
the biblical Heaven, the logical Heaven, and the best Heaven by far.
But while that might be so, I want to respect that there may be

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significant reluctance in you to accept this. After all, this Heaven of
equality is not what has been portrayed by some who have taught on
this topic. For a first example, you might have been taught a Heaven
of comfortable segregation, where “we will enjoy becoming connected
with our people, who do things in a familiar way, who speak a familiar
language. It is a people with whom we will be totally comfortable.”24
“We don’t really like things that are utterly foreign to us.”25 These
authors have essentially described the opposite of Revelation 7:9-10.
You have probably also been taught a Heaven of sheltered Christians
who have demonstrated that they really only care about other shel-
tered Christians. Here are examples for illustration. “Should we think
that God would give us a wonderful, loving relationship with family
and friends for forty or fifty years, only to be terminated, never to be
enjoyed again? Impossible!”26 “That is the glory of Christ’s kingdom that
we can anticipate with joy and excitement. Reunion with our believing
loved ones and friends, together in fellowship with Christ himself.
What a phenomenal prospect! Celebration and fulfilling fellowship with
loved ones—ongoing, unending in Christ’s kingdom. What could be
greater?”27 Well, for any Christian who actually has—gasp!—predomi-
nantly non-Christian family and friends, what could be worse, right?
Third, you may have been assured of a Heaven of memories, with
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 often used as evidence that loved ones will
be remembered there. However, this passage undeniably describes the
resurrection of every person who is saved—not specifying those we
know in any way—and tells us to comfort and “encourage one another
with these words.” But because people so strongly desire biblical
evidence to indicate they’ll recognize family or friends in Heaven—
when there simply is none—they miss the whole point of what Heaven
is and teach others to do the same. “The comfort comes from the pros-
pect of reunion. Little comfort this would be if in the reunion we could
not even recognize one another.”28 “The thought of seeing that loved
one again and spending eternity with him or her is the greatest comfort
to a believer.”29 “There would be no point in these words of consolation
if they did not imply the mutual recognition of the saints.”30 So there’s
no consolation whatsoever in the salvation of millions and millions
of people? So the saved who have no believing family or friends can’t

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experience “the greatest comfort” Heaven has to offer? So there’s “no
point” in the encouragement that humanity has an escape from death
and Hell and can be resurrected to eternal perfect community with
God to fulfill the purpose for which it was created? I guess not! After
all, what comfort or point could there possibly be in Heaven if I can’t
recognize Aunt Tina? You know, I have a sneaking suspicion that “the
God of all comfort” has made a Heaven even better than remembering
and reuniting with Aunt Tina, as hard as that might be to believe (2
Corinthians 1:3-4). A Heaven that’s centered on eternal fellowship with
him, not her.
Finally, you may have been taught that the isolated folks in a Heaven
of memories won’t feel jealousy, sadness, or loneliness because they
can’t! It’s Heaven for Heaven’s sake, and all they need is God, right?
But if all that they need is God to be content, happy, and included,
then all that you need is God too! How can people argue that the
memories and relationships of their lives here are so vitally important
for Heaven to be Heaven, if in the same breath they claim that such
things are completely unnecessary for someone else? And if they are
truly necessary, then Heaven can’t be Heaven for those who don’t have
them, right? Besides being pretty insensitive, this “God will take care of
them” response is self-defeating, isn’t it? Our memory of earthly life is
not at all essential to an unmistakable Heaven; in contrast, it is essen-
tial for such memory to be absent from an unmistakable Heaven!*

38

L et’s more closely scrutinize our remembrances to discover specifi-
cally why they would cause suffering and imperfection in Heaven.
There’s a lot more wrong in our reminiscence than you might realize!
To start with the obvious, it’s not just undergoing an evil event that
results in the “mourning or crying or pain” that we will no longer
experience on the New Earth; it’s the memory of that event too, isn’t

*  If you’re wondering how God or angels might remember sin and suffering
in an unmistakable Heaven if humans can’t, look here. 31

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it (Revelation 21:4)? In many ways, being able to recall an incident
of suffering is far worse than actually enduring that incident, since
the event is only finite, but the memory can last indefinitely! In fact,
I challenge you to accurately define what human suffering is without
including the recollection of experiencing past or present evil. Impos-
sible, isn’t it? That’s because memory is suffering, and suffering is
memory!
Even worse, recalling an evil event does not only revisit past
suffering, it spawns new grief that the event itself did not! Getting
seriously injured causes pain, but remembering it causes despair
because of foolish decisions or jealousy due to disability. Getting
betrayed by a friend causes shock and anger, but remembering it
produces distrust of other friends and raises self-esteem concerns.
Losing a spouse causes sadness and loss of a relationship, but remem-
bering it can induce social withdrawal, self-neglect, and a sense of
worthlessness. I could go on and on. This is why God promises that
“you will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more
the reproach of your widowhood” (Isaiah 54:4). Human memory of
suffering is nothing less than suffering itself, and it cannot be sepa-
rated from it; in fact, memory often represents the only significant
suffering that results from an event, even very horrible ones! Consider
the sexual abuse of young children. If there were no memory of the
abusive incident, assuming that there was no consequent injury or
STD, would any suffering of the abused result from that event? No,
right? Essentially all of the pain and agony derived from such an
act of sexual abuse is due to remembering it! And as anyone who
has undergone a particularly painful experience knows, that memory
continues to cause at least some measure of suffering for the rest of
one’s life, even in the most healing earthly environment. Even those
who champion the retention of our memories in Heaven unwittingly
admit that any parent who has had to bury a child “can testify that
a heart broken in this way never heals. A parent may be able to get
on with life, but she never gets over it.”32 That’s why the Godmade
Heaven is uniquely able to fully heal hereafter. There will be no
evil experiences, but even better, memory of them will be absent as
well, helping to disable both the awakening of old suffering and the

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production of new suffering! Then—and only then—can there be “no
mourning or crying or pain.” “The righteous person may have many
troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19).
Now we know exactly how this can be true.
Clearly, the suffering of memory is most poignant when we
consider how people on a perfect New Earth could possibly reminisce
about those who are in Gehenna without undergoing tremendous
mourning and crying and pain. The simple and biblical answer is that
they won’t reminisce about them, both because “the former things
(and therefore the former people) will not be remembered, nor will they
come to mind” and because humans on the New Earth cannot form
equally distressing new memories about those in Gehenna, as they
are not present to observe them when God and his angels are (Isaiah
65:17). However, the belief that we’ll remember on the New Earth
the former things of this life cannot adequately address this problem.
Once again, we will see how such a position forces not only incom-
plete, but immensely troubling conclusions.
Here are the explanations I could find of how humans on the
New Earth might witness their friends and family members in Hell
without suffering. First, “When the saints in glory, therefore, shall see
the doleful state of the damned, how this will heighten their sense
of the blessedness of their own state, so exceedingly different from
it.”33 I was literally nauseated as I just typed that. How could you ever
watch someone you love suffering in Hell and think, “Now I’m even
more glad that I’m here and not there!” And even if you mean it with
the most well-intended and grateful motives, how could any of this
occur without you mourning or crying or suffering great pain?
Another answer sometimes offered is that we will “enjoy Heaven
knowing that a loved one is in Hell” because we will understand and
approve of the justice of their assignment.34 However, the answer
does not address the question. True, on the New Earth—and hope-
fully even by now for all of us—we can understand the justice of
Hell and approve of the way that God has arranged things. But
confirming the legitimacy of our friend’s and family’s predicament
does not explain our enjoyment of Heaven in spite of their predica-
ment! Even here we see loved ones suffer at the hand of their own

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free will, and we acknowledge the justice and legitimacy of that grief,
but that certainly doesn’t mean we like it or never suffer with them!
But as appalling as the first two explanations are, a third reason
that the New Earth could remain perfect for us in spite of observing
loved ones in Hell is even more astonishing. “None of our loved ones
will be in Hell—only some whom we once loved.” “We will not love
those in Hell because when we see Jesus as he is, we will love only—
and will only want to love—whoever and whatever pleases and glori-
fies and reflects him.”35 Whoa. And it is suggested that this lack of
“natural sympathy” toward our loved ones occurs because they will
somehow lose their humanity in Hell, essentially becoming animals
“beyond pity”!36 Let me give you a moment to recover. I respect
people’s honesty in following their opinions on this matter out to
their inevitable conclusions, but it only serves to demonstrate how
problematic and unsettling they really are. Moreover, if we don’t love
those in Hell, then how do our earthly memories about loving these
folks remain intact? Do they just become neutral since our love for
Jesus overwhelms them? After all, we loved them even though we
probably knew that they had chosen Hell while they were yet alive,
so how would either their damnation or our heightened love for Jesus
somehow decrease our love for them on the New Earth? Instead of
uncomfortably forcing ourselves into one of the above explanations,
we’re better off believing God’s words that we won’t remember people
in Hell at all. The suffering of memory is otherwise inescapable on
the New Earth.
Therefore, memory of our pre-Heaven lives is a dominant—if not
the dominant—generator of human misery. But it is also a primary
source of human misinformation. Just stop for a moment and think
how many of our memories are either inaccurate or completely false.
Like trying to glean truth from a line of a hundred politicians playing
the telephone game, most every detail that we encounter has been
repeatedly skewed by bias, even if innocently, although often know-
ingly. The way that you interpret someone’s actions, the way that
your friend recalls a story, the way that a salesperson or company
can schmooze you, and the way that the media spins news that you
have no other way of obtaining are all everyday examples. Haven’t

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you ever been shocked to discover how different a person can be
from the perception you had based on such poor information? Even
our most longstanding, cherished, personal memories can be entirely
misleading. Perhaps like me you’ve had a fond recollection of a signif-
icant event in your childhood sealed in your mind for decades. And
then out of nowhere comes the picture. The undeniable proof that
your memory of that event was nothing like the real thing! For me
this picture betrayed how chubby and unflattering I was as the lead
to a musical, when I had previously imagined myself to be quite the
stud in that role! But—after “misplacing” the evidence—I was forced
to admit that my mind’s picture was created from a parent’s explana-
tion of the event, recurrent visits to its location, and peripheral infor-
mation and emotions that my brain used to fabricate a childhood
fact that really didn’t happen at all like I “remembered.” Much of the
time, memory is misinformation, whether it’s biased, deceived, or just
totally false. This is why I have made such a persistent effort in this
book to point out how facts get manipulated and miscommunicated,
and despite that, I have probably even unwittingly misinformed you
myself somewhere along the way! If so, my apologies! This is also
why I am making such a great effort now to convince you that we
will not retain our mistaken memories of pre-Heaven life once we are
on the New Earth.
Would God allow such falsehood to endure, especially the
numerous ways in which we have been misinformed about him? Do
not such erroneous perceptions bring misunderstanding, distrust,
anger, and suffering in our human relationships as well? And consid-
ering how extensive and long-standing our inaccurate knowledge is,
how could it ever be removed without completely dismantling any
organized, meaningful recollection of our true memories? “But when
perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked
like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I
became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we
see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully
known” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12). Paul doesn’t say that our imper-
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knowledge on the New Earth, and he doesn’t say that he refined
or added to the ways of childhood with mature ways. Rather, such
an imperfect understanding completely disappears there. God, who
fully knows, will not pick through every one of our memories, taking
out all the bad ones. He will put our imperfect pre-Heaven memory
behind us, causing it to disappear. Then for the first time, we will
truly see reality face to face as he deems it necessary to share with
us, instead of through the partial reflection of misinformation. Forev-
ermore, our memory will be unmistakable!
Those who still maintain that we’ll remember our physical lives
on the New Earth try to avoid the suffering and misinformation
of memory by arguing “we’ll be capable of choosing not to recall
or dwell on anything that would diminish Heaven’s joy.”37 But how
could we possibly choose which things we’d no longer like to recall
or dwell on without recalling or dwelling on them? The mere act
of sifting through millions of unpleasant memories to compile our
list would produce substantial suffering as each one is remembered!
Moreover, we could never remember all of the painful memories to
tell God to erase anyway, at least not until they came to mind later
on in Heaven, once again making it imperfect. And don’t forget (pun
intended), the New Earth must always be perfect, not only once we
decide to get rid of our unwanted memories.
Others attempt to get around this by claiming that God will
remove only the bad recollections, rather than leaving the selection
up to us.38 But whether it is humans or God choosing the memories
to be removed, both approaches encounter still another problem. The
deletion of any recall of suffering or misinformation would render
us utterly confused! How could good—or even neutral—memories
make sense without any associated bad ones? Wouldn’t remembering
the details of your victory over cancer be baffling if you couldn’t
recall what it felt like to have cancer or the suffering that you were
freed from? Wouldn’t recalling the specifics of a reconciled relation-
ship puzzle you if you couldn’t remember why you had to make-up
or the emotional difference before and after? And how would we
make sense of altruism at all when the very act of suffering that we
can’t remember is the very good that we want to remember? Our

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memories of good involve so many established detailed and inter-
woven connections with our memories of bad that they cannot be
separated without rendering them nonsense and rendering us pleas-
antly demented, as if we were eternal residents in a not-so-Heavenly
nursing home.
This is not a problem if we are simply informed of earthly good
by God in Heaven. He can—if he deems it best—tell us of cured
disease, healed friendships, and the altruistic solution of Jesus in
completely coherent ways, without sacrificing our joy or appreciation
and without us experiencing an ounce of suffering. For example, he
might reveal to you in Heaven that your body was previously hurt
so that you couldn’t do many things you enjoyed. But you learn that
God used that injury to increase your love for others experiencing
similar predicaments. God announces that because you helped them
and shared the gospel with them, people you cared about are on
the New Earth as a result. His story is completely coherent, and
you would obviously feel immense joy and appreciation upon hearing
it, even though you wouldn’t experience any of the memories of
your injury or its associated suffering that you did on earth! This
is because God is able to relay the information on a clean canvas.
He can paint a picture of good that still makes sense without the
bad, because it’s independent of our recollections. If instead, we bring
him a canvas with millions of inseparably interwoven good and bad
established earthly memories, removing only the bad leaves us with
no less nonsense than if we removed the cross from the canvas of
Rubens’ The Elevation of the Cross.39 Instead of Jesus being crucified,
he’s crowd surfing! On the New Earth, we will not constantly think,
“I remember so many wonderful things, but I can’t recollect why they
were so great or how they got to be that way.” Our pre-Heaven lives
will not be disjointed sequences of events with intermittent amnesia
wherever a morsel of evil or falsehood snuck in. How meaningless
such a memory would be!
Some might protest, claiming that God would fill in the gaps with
respective morsels of good and truth, but that would make it even
worse. First, it would no longer be our memory that we’re retaining
anyway; it would be part ours and part God’s. And if God can

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perfectly replace some details of our former lives, then why can’t he
perfectly reteach us all the necessary details of our former lives and
simply leave our imperfect memories behind to disappear? Second,
many good events that we remember wouldn’t have arisen without
an evil or false event immediately preceding it. For example, let’s say
at a meeting your boss writes you a glowing evaluation that prom-
ises a big promotion and gives it to your jealous coworker to deliver
it to you. Instead, he tells you the higher-ups were upset with your
performance and were planning to let you go. This falsehood and its
resultant grief cause you to understandably resign before you have a
chance to be terminated, which results in the discovery of a new job
with much better pay and benefits! After staying at this new company
for 40 years, enjoying retirement, and eventually passing on to the
New Earth, God erases the suffering and falsehood of your cowork-
er’s lie from your mind. In place of this evil, God inserts the truth of
your old boss’s approval and its resultant joy. But now your memories
make absolutely no sense. You left your job right after finding out
that your boss was going to promote you? I mean you’re no longer
suffering and you know the truth, but if this Heavenly memory swap
occurs for every recollection of grief and misinformation from your
earthly life, you would be absolutely flummoxed by the sequences of
its events! Instead of reminiscing incompletely, we’d reminisce inco-
herently! Again, how meaningless such a memory would be! And
many of the “memories” wouldn’t even be ours anyway. The only way
out, aside from removing our memory of pre-Heaven life altogether,
is for God to reinstate human memories of suffering and misinfor-
mation, along with the imperfection that inevitably comes with them.
So without accepting God’s teaching that our imperfect memo-
ries will be left behind to disappear once we inhabit the New Earth,
we are left with quite a conundrum! Despite the numerous times
you may have been told that you’ll remember your life here once
you get to Heaven, biblical and logical support of this belief has
been anything but apparent. One author assures us, “You will recog-
nize your loved ones, and your fellowship will continue in a greater
dimension, unabated. It will never end. What a glorious thought!”40
What he fails to comment on even once is our recognition of loved

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ones in Hell. That’s a bit of an oversight. Then we are informed
that on the New Earth we’ll receive “new minds that focus only
on truth and righteousness,” even though our memories of this life
would necessitate that we can ponder the misinformation and evil
that occurred here. 41 We receive the encouragement that our earthly
friendships “will continue in a far more fulfilling realization in
heaven. Wrong thoughts, faulty motives, suspicions—they will all be
absent in heaven.”42 Well, absent except for all of the memories of the
wrong thoughts, faulty motives, and suspicions that plagued many of
our friendships on earth, right? It’s proposed that our memory “will
be restored and amplified, untarnished by sin,” yet we are offered no
explanation how, besides the problematic responses above. 43 There
will be “no potential for shame,” even though we would be able
to recall every shameful thought or action that we’ve exhibited on
this planet. 44 “We’ll be capable of choosing not to recall or dwell on
anything that would diminish Heaven’s joy,” but at the same time
“we’ll still remember the darkness and dangers of this life. We’ll
contrast our past experiences with the light and safety of the New
Earth, and we’ll be profoundly grateful.”45-46 Apparently Heaven’s joy
and profound gratitude are inversely proportional on the New Earth.
Every experience we choose not to recall in order to gain joy is an
experience we won’t remember to have gratitude for! Once we really
think about it, discover the dearth of evidence for it, and cringe at
the arguments offered in favor of it, the opinion that we remember
our pre-Heaven lives once we’re there is surprisingly unequal, unbib-
lical, and inconsistent, isn’t it?

39

S o why is the belief in a Heaven of memories so prevalent? Why
has it been so chronically embraced and commonly held by Chris-
tians? Well, that’s just it. It’s because belief in Christianity itself is
so chronic and common to the vast majority of those who adopt
and teach a New Earth full of family memories, the reuniting of old

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friends, and remembrances of life as they knew it here. Their reli-
gion and the promise of Heaven that it grants them is so ingrained
in their past and in their mind that crucial questions about the New
Earth that are legitimately disturbing and deal-breaking to others are
either never addressed or “answered” merely with “because the Bible
says so” or by invoking mystery. This is precisely why many folks
experience recurrent doubt about their faith, doubt that never seri-
ously threatens such longstanding convictions but also doubt that
never fully goes away. And their beliefs are not just chronic; they’re
also common. A huge part of the reason that Christians cling to
a Heaven of earthly memories is because their memories here are
predominantly of people who end up there! When Heaven includes
almost all the people who they already spend their quality time with,
it’s emotionally easy to ignore the serious problems with the perfec-
tion of a Heaven of memories, especially alongside a Hell of horror.
The chronic and common faith within their sphere of experience
leads them to give suboptimal and even hurtful answers to those
from a very different sphere who only want a reason to believe.
The Heaven of blissful Christian memories holds little joy for people
without them; at best, they can look forward to hanging out with
God while everyone else is scrap-booking their life on earth. Actually,
that sounds a lot better than scrap-booking, but my point is clear,
right? Christians, for the good of your own beliefs and for the good
of others, start thinking of what the Godmade Heaven would be like
for those folks, not for you. If you do, your doubts and their ques-
tions will finally vanish to reveal a perfect New Earth that is good
for anyone!
Those for whom Christianity is neither chronic nor common may
find it easy and exciting to ponder the New Earth through fresh
eyes. But if it’s difficult for you, trust me, I understand. Perhaps you
think it likely that my words reflect bias against those who have
been surrounded by Christians all their lives, but think again. I am
one of them! I do not definitively know of anyone in my family who
is not a Christian, and my friends, coworkers, and I live in one of
the most sheltered Christian bubbles on the planet! It’s a great place,
but we are seriously in need of spreading out! If my words challenge

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your idea of Heaven, then they have certainly challenged what mine
used to be as well. It is staggering how little of the Bible infiltrates
Christian beliefs about the New Earth, which is even itself a term
that many Christians aren’t familiar with! And perhaps the primary
culprit that silently leads many to assume a Heaven of memories
instead of the New Earth of the Bible is a concept called continuity.
A continuous Heaven is one where our existence seamlessly trans-
fers from life beforehand to life in Heaven. Our names, appearances,
memories, skills, accomplishments, and relationships would all be
maintained, as if we were simply crossing the border from a country
called Yesterday Heaven to a country called Today Heaven. 47-48 Like-
wise, proponents of a continuous New Earth would argue that this
eternal human dwelling would contain much of the same topog-
raphy, geography, and organisms as the one we have now; in fact,
most claim that this earth and the New Earth are the same planet. 49
It would be continuous, just as its people were. Of course, they
acknowledge that there are a few biblical exceptions to this conti-
nuity. Humans would have perfect new bodies with possibly new abil-
ities, since Jesus’ resurrected body was able to suddenly appear and
disappear, alter what he looked like, and walk through locked doors
(Matthew 28:8-9, Mark 16:12, 14, Luke 24:15-16, 30-31, 36-37, John
20:19, 26). The earth would be changed to somehow fit the biblical
description of the New Earth that we’ll explore below. Most impor-
tantly, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,”
as sin and evil will somehow be eliminated, enabling God to be fully
present with us all the time (Revelation 21:1-4). These discontin-
uous exceptions aside, a continuous kind of Heaven is what the vast
majority of you are likely to be familiar with. And although you may
be starting to sense a disturbance in the force regarding the feasi-
bility of such a place, this is probably the Heaven you’ve long under-
stood or embraced, and I did too.
After all, aren’t there all kinds of places in the Bible that describe
people after their death who still are recognizable, still recall memo-
ries, and still can identify those who they knew on earth? Of course,
but you may be shocked to learn that none of these people are in
either the current heaven or the New Earth. Where are they then?

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They’re all in Sheol/Hades, an imperfect place where continuity is
acceptable. Let’s visit these dearly departed to verify this, because if
we can, we will still be left with no evidence of continuity of memory
in the current heaven or on the New Earth. First we have Samuel,
who remembers his relationship with Saul and is recognized by and
recognizes Saul. “Coming up out of the ground,” Samuel’s “spirit”
verbally relates to Saul (1 Samuel 28:11-19). We’ve already learned
that this prophet of God went to Sheol/Hades when he died. Those
who argue that the saved go right to the current heaven either ignore
this or claim that Samuel’s spirit was actually a demon!50-51 But Saul
“knew it was Samuel,” convinced both by the spirit’s appearance and
by its words. If we accept the Bible’s teaching that humans don’t go to
the current heaven right after death, we’re also free to accept its plain
confirmation of Samuel’s spirit rising from Sheol/Hades, the subterra-
nean abode of the dead. That and we’re not forced to believe that the
current heaven is underground or that a servant of God is really a
demon of Satan. So no human continuity of memory in the current
heaven or in the eternal Heaven here.
Next is Elijah and Moses, who appear centuries after their deaths
to chat with Jesus for a few minutes while Peter, James, and John
look on (Luke 9:28-36). The text actually offers no definite evidence
of continuity, but we do learn that Elijah and Moses spoke with
Jesus about his departure and that after the conversation was over,
Peter was able to name Elijah and Moses. As such, some claim that
these two men must have remembered details from their former
lives if they were able to have this conversation with Jesus. 52 But
the Bible never indicates that they had any knowledge of Jesus at
all during their physical lives, which were at least 800 years prior
to this! It seems obvious that Jesus is informing them of his depar-
ture, not hearing about it from them, right? Others say that the
appearance of Elijah and Moses was continuous from their former
lives because Peter recognized them. But the arts of portraiture and
photography had not exactly reached their heyday back in 30AD, had
they? Unless there was an incredibly accurate and durable caricature
of Elijah and Moses available to any ole fisherman—a picture that
had survived for eight centuries through nationwide exiles to Assyria

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and Babylon—Peter had no clue what these two men looked like.
This is why he only names them after Jesus apparently reveals who
they are during their conversation. But even if continuity of memory
or appearance could be conjured up here, it wouldn’t matter. We’ve
already discussed in Chapter 13 why neither of these men arrived at
this chat session from the current heaven, but rather from Sheol/
Hades.
On to Abraham, the rich man, and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
The former two unquestionably demonstrate continuity after phys-
ical death. Both recall details of the rich man’s life. The rich man
identifies Abraham, although this is probably because Abraham had
identified himself at some point before this narrative picks up or
because postmortem individuals (unlike Peter) can have knowledge
of people and events beyond what they knew from when they were
alive, such as Samuel’s knowledge of Saul’s predicament in 1 Samuel
28:16-19. Once again however, the problem is location. The rich man
is “in Hades,” and the other two can see him and talk to him, which
means they’re also there, just in Paradise rather than Tartarus. Even
those who argue for a continuous Heaven can’t bring themselves to
admit that humans with God in perfection can see and talk to the
dead elsewhere, so this passage offers no evidence of a continuous
Heaven.53
Then we have the sorrowful and frustrated martyrs of Revelation
6:9-11. They certainly remember their former lives, but for all kinds
of reasons we discovered in Chapter 13, they aren’t in the current
heaven yet either. They’re also in Sheol/Hades. And interestingly, in
the four passages that do describe these folks in the current heaven
after the first resurrection, not a hint of continuity can be found
(Revelation 7:9-17, 14:1-5, 15:2-4, 20:4-6)! Hmm. So in the end, none
of these passages demonstrates continuity of humans in the current
heaven or on the New Earth. In fact, such continuity is not even
possible right now, because no non-Jesus humans go to the current
heaven before the first resurrection! God and the angelic beings never
transitioned to the current heaven from somewhere else to be contin-
uous with, and humans aren’t there yet to demonstrate continuity
from earth. Not even Jesus’ spirit with all its memories of his earthly

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life—not to mention of eternity past—can be used as relevant evidence
of human continuity from earth to the current heaven, because its
origin was quite literally forever ago, and certainly not on this planet.
The same is true of angels’ memories of earth, because these non-
human spirits merely visited earth, rather than originating on it.
Only twice are there exceptions to the lack of human continuity
between the current earth and the current heaven, and neither of
them definitively establish our continuity between this planet and the
New Earth. The first is the resurrected body of Jesus, because it is the
only human thing in the current heaven right now that had its origin
on earth. It is at least minimally continuous with the body he had
before his death, but we will learn in Chapter 45 how limited that
fact is in determining what will and will not be consequently contin-
uous about our resurrected bodies.
The second exception is the brief general presence of humanity in
what is assumed—but not confirmed—to be the current heaven for
one day only: judgment day. The dead appear to be publicly “judged
according to what they had done,” apparently via records that God
is making of human deeds for this unique purpose (1 Corinthians
4:5, Malachi 3:16-18, Revelation 20:12). “Their deeds will follow
them” to this judgment—not to the New Earth as some claim—and
all this takes place very transiently and only immediately prior to
anyone entering the New Earth (Revelation 14:13, 1 Corinthians
3:12-15, Matthew 12:36-37, 2 Corinthians 5:10).54 The Bible offers
no evidence that these records of works are preserved beyond judg-
ment day or brought to the New Earth, there would be no point in
doing so as they’ve already accomplished their purpose, and God’s oft-
repeated assurance that he will not remember the sins of those who
are saved strongly suggests against it as well (Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah
31:34, Ezekiel 33:14-16, 18:21-22, Hebrews 8:12, 10:17). Therefore, we
have no biblical or intuitive reason to believe that any account of the
events of our lives here will be present or accessible in Heaven.*
So other than Jesus and judgment day, there is only continuity of
human beings in Sheol/Hades. And even there, continuity is limited.
We’ve learned that recognition and memories remain intact after
*  These accounts would include the Bible itself, as elucidated here. 55

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death, indicating that our spirits are continuous from here to there.
However, since Sheol/Hades seems to be a place for spirits only, our
bodies are not continuous there, because we won’t have them! “What
happens to our body and spirit while we await resurrection? They
are temporarily separated.”57 When Saul has the medium of Endor
summon Samuel, he asks her to “consult a spirit . . . and bring up for
me the one I name.” The medium sees “a spirit coming up out of the
ground” (1 Samuel 28:8-14). Samuel is clearly a disembodied spirit
in Sheol, able to come out of the ground, even though his body had
been buried at Ramah, approximately 50 miles from Endor as the
Nazgul flies, and even farther as the Ewok waddles (1 Samuel 28:3).
I have to wonder how many of you just checked this reference for
evidence of biblical Ewoks. Dagobah Dragonsnake yes, Ewoks no (Job
40:15-24). Back to Samuel. This separation makes perfect sense, as
our spirits clearly leave our physical bodies at death and clearly are
not resurrected into imperishable bodies until judgment day (James
2:26, Psalm 146:3-4, Isaiah 26:14, Luke 8:49-55, John 19:30, 1 Corin-
thians 15:52).
Because people can recognize each other in Sheol/Hades, because
Lazarus’ finger and the rich man’s tongue are identified, and because
people appear to wear clothes there, some argue that we must have
bodies there (1 Samuel 28:14, Luke 16:23-25, Revelation 6:9-11).58
However, people who describe the clearly non-physical angels and
demons throughout the Bible are able to discern many details about
their appearance and attire as well (Hebrews 1:14, Luke 4:33, Isaiah
6:1-3, Revelation 9:1-10). Likewise, our spiritual forms in Sheol/Hades
would be equally observable to other humans, with at least some
features similar to those we have now, just like Samuel. It is clear
that spirits without bodies can present themselves with recognizable
features to other spirits and humans alike, so the Bible does not
necessitate “intermediate forms” between death and judgment.59-60
Paul speaks of bodies as garments and states that during this life
“we do not wish to be unclothed” by our spirits departing our bodies
in physical death. Instead, we long “to be clothed with our heav-
enly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found
naked” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). These verses can only mean that we’re

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unclothed or naked spirits between physical death and resurrection.
Paul disciplines a man “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of
the Lord,” which is judgment day (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). If the man
had a body in Sheol, why would it only be his spirit that is saved?
It’s the spirit that is resurrected on this day into an imperishable
body, just as Jesus “was put to death in the body but made alive in
the Spirit” into his imperishable body. Moreover, Jesus then preaches
to the “spirits” in what can only be Sheol/Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19). So
clearly, no body for everybody in the abode of the dead! Therefore,
in our significant transition from perishable physical body to no
body, there is obviously limited continuity, and it would follow that
such limited continuity would apply to our even more radical tran-
sition from no body to imperishable body as well. So continuity is
present but limited in Sheol/Hades. You would think that if it were
so important to maintain consistency of our memories, bodies, and
surroundings between here and the New Earth, then God would
have done so in the interval too. I mean he could have given us
bodies in Sheol/Hades, and he could have made the abode of dead
reminiscent of the earth above. But instead, after we die, we’re
naked spirits in a place that until quite recently probably wasn’t
familiar to you at all! This whole continuity concept seems like
something God isn’t terribly concerned about, even if we are.
That being said, continuity still exists in Sheol/Hades, so why
shouldn’t we assume that at least as much continuity would exist
on the New Earth? Because there is a massively important differ-
ence between these two places. The New Earth has to be perfect
and unmistakable; Sheol/Hades does not. The New Earth is unique
among all present and future locations: it is the only place where
humans stay that has to be perfect. Practically speaking, the current
heaven contains no human presence, and every other location is
imperfect in some way. The current earth, Lugg, Tartarus/the Abyss,
and Gehenna are clearly not perfect abodes. True, Paradise is a
place where everyone has both the Holy Spirit and the faith to genu-
inely and persistently produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy,
peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Sounds quite wonderful—far better

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than our current existence—and it is! However, it’s not a perfect,
sinless place, and God is not fully present there, just as he is not
here. Therefore, as great an improvement as Paradise will be, its
inhabitants still have at least some measure of sorrow, frustration,
and earthly memories inseparable from them (1 Samuel 28:11-19,
Luke 16: 23-31, Revelation 6:9-11). This is fine, as the only alterna-
tive is to assign such imperfections to the current heaven, where
they certainly don’t belong! Moreover, in none of these postmortem
locales does God promise to “wipe every tear from their eyes,” with
“no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Only on the New Earth must perfection be maintained for humans.
This is why we would expect to—and do—see at least some measure
of continuity between our current lives and Sheol/Hades. They are
much more similar to each other than they are to the New Earth.
Although Paradise is generally a place of “rest” and “comfort,” and
Tartarus is a place of “torment” and “agony,” continuous recollections
of life on earth that cause various degrees of suffering are seen in
both, all because these places don’t have to be perfect (Daniel 12:13,
Luke 16:19-31, Revelation 6:9-11). And since people in Gehenna will
experience “everlasting shame that will not be forgotten,” this conti-
nuity is likely present there as well (Jeremiah 23:39-40, Daniel 12:2).
However, in the Bible’s New Earth we would not expect to—and
don’t—see these memories from life on earth or in Sheol/Hades.
Because the New Earth is the only human abode that must always
be perfect, we would expect to find continuity in every human loca-
tion except there. The Bible concurs. Compare the continuity found
in the imperfect places above to the startling lack of continuity
in the most definitive description of the New Earth that the Bible
offers in Revelation 21:1-22:5. The only five beings or objects we
find there that are identifiable in some previous location all have
their origin in perfection. And none of them are imperfect humans.
God, an angel, the New Jerusalem, and the book of life all have
heavenly origins. The tree of life had its origin in the perfect garden
of Eden before it was moved elsewhere when Adam and Eve sinned,
likely to Paradise (Genesis 2:9, 3:21-24, Revelation 2:7). Revela-
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with or even mention of relatives or friends, and no reference to
any earthly accomplishment. Apparently God doesn’t particularly
desire such continuity there, does he? But he does desire the lack
of tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain. Perhaps that’s because
these two desires are incompatible, and God always picks the best
option. After all, by making Paradise continuous and the New Earth
discontinuous, his people literally get the best of both worlds. They
still get to reunite and reminisce with family and friends after
death, but they also inherit a truly unmistakable eternal life! Why
would we want anything different?

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Y ou’ve now been introduced to the idea of continuity and where
it does and doesn’t seem to be present in the biblical hereafter.
However, because a continuous afterlife is such a common concept—
and for some an expectation—we need to more thoroughly explore
passages people offer as evidence of continuity. How much of our
current lives do they teach us will be represented in Heaven? Well,
we’re told that our names will endure forever, so I hope you like
yours (Isaiah 66:22)! I’m good with Jason. As on earth, a name will
serve as a useful label, the simplest way to be identified by people
after you meet them, and there’s no reason not to use the one you
have now. Some argue that we must remember everything from our
life on earth to maintain an identity, including our name. “Memory
is a basic element of personality. If we are truly ourselves in Heaven,
there must be continuity of memory from earth to Heaven.”61 This,
of course, is untrue. If a toink on the noggin gives me amnesia, do I
cease to be myself? If I have dementia prohibiting me from remem-
bering the past, do I lose my individuality? If I am born incapable
of ever creating any memories at all, am I doomed to life without an
identity? No, no, and no. Nor do we only achieve identity or become
ourselves once we are old enough (2-4 years of age) to form lasting
memories. Our eternal spirits give us our identity, not the memories

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they can recollect. Our spirits only need to exist—not to remember—
to consider themselves themselves. Not even continuity of our names
is necessary for self-identification; you can still know that you are
you without a label or any other memory, right? Besides, on the New
Earth, God gives us new names in addition to our old ones anyway,
so again, he doesn’t seem that into highlighting aspects there of our
lives here (Isaiah 62:1-2, 65:15, Revelation 2:17).
Nonetheless, the names of the twelve sons of Jacob and twelve
apostles of Jesus appear in the New Jerusalem. Likewise, in Heaven
the book of life will continue to exist, simply a list originating in
the current heaven of all the names of the saved (Revelation 3:5,
20:12-14, 21:27). Of course, the Bible never states that humans will
have access to this record, and we would never need to anyway,
since we’ll be aware of everyone who’s in it because they’ll be with
us! The names in this book are presumably our current ones, but
maybe our new ones or both, who knows (Philippians 4:3)? We’re
also told by Jesus that “many will take their places at the feast with
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 8:11).
So what we are assured of is that one of the names we—including
these three men—will have on the New Earth is the name we have
now. However, we are not assured in any way that we will remember
other people’s names there or be able to recognize them by their name.
None of the verses above imply that any of the people above will
be recognizable to or remembered by any other humans in Heaven,
except likely Jesus.* At the very most, the Bible only states that these
people will be in Heaven. To know now that they’ll be there does not
mean that we’ll recognize them once we’re there. Not like we would
recognize Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob anyway, right?
Some look to the account of David and his dead son for evidence,
but without success.64 We have no confirmation that either of them
went to the current heaven when they died, no reason to believe that
they would recognize or remember each other there anyway, and no
evidence that they’re anywhere except Sheol/Hades (2 Samuel 12:19-
23, Acts 2:29, 34). Finally, Jesus seems to tell his disciples that they’ll
all be on the New Earth. But again, he says nothing to suggest that
*  For a more in depth confirmation of this claim, visit here. 62

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these men will recognize or remember each other there (Matthew
19:27-28, 26:26-29). Never in the Bible are we told that we will recog-
nize or remember anyone on the New Earth that we knew here on the
current one.
I understand why some have great difficulty accepting this, but
their attempts to find biblical support for continuity of memory in
Heaven become increasingly questionable. “And if Christ has not
been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then
those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for
this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be
pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). 65 I’m guessing that the argument for
continuity is not apparent to you from reading this passage, so I’ll
explain. The first assumption is that “those who have fallen asleep”
are the Corinthians’ dead relatives, even though Paul clearly is refer-
ring to every Christian who has died up to that point. The second
assumption is that if Christ truly wasn’t raised, the Corinthians are
“to be pitied” because they’ll never be reunited with their relatives
again. In reality, Paul is stating the obvious fact that if Christians
are not going to be resurrected and only have this life to enjoy, then
people like Paul, who was constantly persecuted, beaten, and jailed
for his faith, are to be pitied. The third assumption is that the Corin-
thians would recognize and remember their relatives at the resur-
rection, even if Paul was talking about them! The first and third
assumptions are repeated in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, where “those
who sleep in death,” “those who have fallen asleep,” and “the dead in
Christ” are somehow assumed to be relatives of the Thessalonians,
when they are clearly generic references to all Christians who had
already died.66-67 And not a hint of anyone recognizing or remem-
bering anyone else when they “meet the Lord in the air.” There is no
biblical evidence of a recognizing or remembering Heavenly family
reunion anywhere.
The last two passages used by folks to demonstrate continuity in
Heaven are encouragements that Paul gives to the Thessalonians.68 He
tells them that they are “the crown” in which he “will glory in the pres-
ence of our Lord Jesus when he comes” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Some
say that the crown represents the intimate relationships between Paul

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and these folks that will reconvene in Heaven. This would not be the
case for several reasons. First, in the New Testament, human crowns
are overwhelmingly used to represent rewards for the achievements of
Christians. Nine times this particular usage is seen—five by Paul—and
even today you might hear good deeds referred to as jewels in people’s
crowns. As Paul nears death, he confirms that his crown is related to
persistent deeds, not relationships that he’ll reconvene. “I have fought
the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now
there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (2 Timothy 4:7-8).”
To Paul there is no other crown but the crown of reward—not rela-
tionships—and this reward clearly refers to his salvation (righteous-
ness), not people. The second reason that Paul isn’t talking about a
Heavenly reunion is that he’s not even talking about Heaven! Jesus,
“the righteous Judge, will award” Paul “when he comes” on judgment
day, before Paul goes to Heaven, as is clear in Revelation 20:11-13.
Nobody seems to be glorying in reconvened relationships on that day,
but they would glory in a big thumbs up from God for their earthly
work! And this is exactly what Paul tells us that he wants in 1 Corin-
thians 9:19-27. “All for the sake of the gospel,” so that he “will not be
disqualified for the prize,” Paul makes himself a slave to others and
his body a slave to himself. He is not preoccupied with reunions in a
continuous Heaven; rather, he glories in achieving spiritual growth
in others now. “For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the
Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy
we have in the presence of our God because of you” (1 Thessalonians
3:7-9)? Ironically, this passage is itself used to argue for continuity
in the following way. Paul has joy in the presence of God because of
the Thessalonians’ faith; therefore, there will allegedly be a Heavenly
reunion attended by Paul, the Thessalonians, and God. However, Paul
is having present-tense joy in God’s presence, rejoicing with the Holy
Spirit within him at the Thessalonians’ faith when he wrote the letter.
No future presence with God is apparent. Also, no reunion of Paul with
the Thessalonians or any humans is evident anywhere or at anytime
here, unless it is assumed that Jesus’ “holy ones” are humans, when
they are undeniably angels (1 Thessalonians 3:13, Matthew 25:31).

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Finally, Heaven is not mentioned at all, and even if they did recon-
vene there someday, we have no reason in any of the above words to
the Thessalonians to believe that they would recognize or remember
each other. There is no biblical evidence of a recognizing or remem-
bering Heavenly friend reunion anywhere.
Alright, we don’t see any examples of continuity in our relation-
ships, but what about in our deeds? Surely the Bible’s allusion to
rewards in Heaven must mean that the earthly works that merited
them will be remembered on the New Earth, right? Well, it’s true that
our deeds here—and records kept of them in the current heaven—will
follow us to judgment day, when each of us must account for them
to God (2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 14:13). The Bible is repeat-
edly clear—particularly in Matthew 12:35-37—that this single last day
involves everyone, both unsaved and saved, and includes determina-
tion of both our reward and our eternal destination (Malachi 3:16-
18, Romans 14:10-12, Revelation 11:16-18, 20:11-13). Numerous times
throughout the Old and New Testaments we are told that God will
reward his people. Many times these rewards take the form of bless-
ings in this life (e.g. Psalm 18:17-20), but most often the reward itself
is not specified, only promised. Jesus suggests that there are different
types of awards, but what exactly are they (Matthew 10:40-42)? The
ones the Bible does list fall into two categories.
The rewards specified in the first category are intimacy with God,
redemption, an inheritance, a crown of righteousness, a crown of
life, God himself, and the morning star—a name Jesus gives himself
(Isaiah 40:10-11, 62:11-12, Colossians 3:23-24, 2 Timothy 4:8, Revela-
tion 2:10, Genesis 15:1, Revelation 2:26-28, 22:16). Taken collectively,
God is awarding us with perfect community with him in Heaven,
fulfilling our very purpose. Some might wonder how our salvation
could possibly be a reward for our works, but remember that one is
only saved after demonstrating a life of persistent good deeds that
are only possible by saving faith and through the Holy Spirit within
that person. These are not deeds we can fully take credit for; they’re
deeds God empowered us to do, just as we cannot take full credit
for our faith, as God created us with the ability to believe. This is
how Paul can claim, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished

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the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the
crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). This is also why the
Bible repeatedly ties peoples’ eternal destinations to being “ judged
according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:11-15, Matthew
12:35-37, 25:31-46). Recall that persistent fruit of the Spirit is part of
the salvation process, which is why God awards it by giving us the
inheritance of life with him. Jesus himself states, “Stand firm, and
you will win life” (Luke 21:19). In fact, they are so intertwined that
these works are represented symbolically as the dress that is worn by
the bride (the saved in the New Jerusalem/New Earth) upon being
married to the groom (God), achieving permanent, community with
him (Revelation 19:7-8). But there is obviously no literal dress that is
worn by a city inhabited by the saved with every admirable human
act written on it for all to read and recall. There is also no biblical
mention of any written record of human deeds existing after judg-
ment day. Moreover, the Bible never says that we’ll remember these
good works once we’re in Heaven either, and there’s no reason we
need to remember them to fully enjoy the reward of being there.
The second category of rewards involves humans being given
various levels of authority on the New Earth. Charge over cities,
authority over the nations, reigning on the earth, and reigning with
Jesus are the specific rewards listed (Luke 19:15-19, Revelation 2:26-
28, 5:9-10, 2 Timothy 2:12). But once again, it’s neither biblical nor
necessary to remember what deeds were done on this earth in order
to merit and excel in such positions on the New Earth. After all,
someone will need to do these jobs—as well as any other job—on the
New Earth, and God is simply apportioning them according to what
we have shown ourselves worthy of during this life. You might think
this introduces a hierarchical inequality, but only if we remember
all of the imperfections that make such differences in position so
unequal here. On the discontinuous New Earth of the Bible, being a
ruler of nations will not be considered more prestigious or desirable
than being in charge of cities or anything else, because the selfish
advantages of power, influence, and money we are familiar with now
will not be remembered. Each position will be correctly understood
as equally important and perfectly executed to reflect that. Ironically,

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the only place where Heavenly rewards do pose a problem is on a
continuous New Earth! There, the positional hierarchy would also be
present, but so would every memory and connotation of inequality
that’s associated with it here. We would recall that being a ruler of
nations was more prestigious and desirable to being in charge of
cities, not to mention a host of other jobs. Even if we were never able
to use those memories to abuse our positions, the notion of inequality
would still be remembered. Aside from Heaven itself and authority
granted there, no other specific rewards are listed in the Bible. So
in the end, the doctrine of rewards actually favors—not opposes—a
discontinuous New Earth.
We have now addressed all the verses about the New Earth
that people cite as support for continuity of memory and relation-
ships there. I have neither found nor been made aware of any other
passage offering evidence of a continuous Heaven where we will be
knowingly reunited with our families and friends to recall memories
of our lives here. All the Bible allows us to conclude is that we’ll each
keep our names. Never in the Bible are we told that we will recog-
nize or remember anyone on the New Earth that we knew on the
current earth, are we? Having assumed a continuous Heaven for the
vast majority of my life, I understand how surprising this could seem
to you, but now you’ve seen as well as I have that the Heaven of the
Bible is a predominantly discontinuous one. And it must be so in order
to remain the unmistakable Godmade Heaven. “See, I will create new
Heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

41

C ontinuity is not only problematic regarding remembering and
relationships; it also plunges us into irreconcilable contradictions
between the New Earth that it espouses—the actual place itself—and
the New Earth in God’s words. These inconsistencies will inevitably
lead us to a Heaven that cannot be biblical, perfect, or unmistakable,

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which is why I am spending so much time refuting continuity on the
New Earth. First, I must emphasize that the eternal destiny for the
saved is not “going off to heaven as a soul, naked and unadorned” in
a rather boring place where they sit on clouds doing nothing or—in
the best of circumstances—learn to play the harp.69 This unexciting
ethereal existence has been termed “Christoplatonism”70 and is an
extensive societal extrapolation of some examples of current heaven
imagery found throughout the Bible, completely inconsistent with
the biblical New Earth. When “the new heaven and a new earth”
are unveiled, the current heaven will have “passed away,” and every
account of this New Earth portrays a decidedly physical place, espe-
cially the most thorough one we are given (Revelation 21:2-22:6).
This is great news for people who are let down by the concept of a
ho-hum Heaven, such as the depressingly comical heaven of the Far
Side cartoons. But some insist on promoting a continuous Heaven
along with a physical New Earth by applying continuity not only to
humans there, but to the New Earth itself. Just as our old memories
and relationships would supposedly continue to exist, so the dwelling
of humanity on this very planet would supposedly continue to exist.
“The New Earth will be the same as the old earth, just as a new
Christian is still the same person he was before.”71
This idea partially arises from several Old Testament prophecies
regarding a future time of great bliss and harmony, with the prime
examples being Isaiah 11:6-9, 60:1-22, 65:17-25, 66:22-24, and Ezekiel
37:15-28, 40:1-48:35. In Revelation we are told of two such times
that could correlate. The first is theologically termed the Millennium.
There are a few ways the Millennium has been interpreted, and our
discussion below is only relevant to those that consider it a thou-
sand year period on the current imperfect earth when Jesus and the
martyrs to be raised in the first resurrection will have free reign, as
Satan will be imprisoned (Revelation 20:1-6). Therefore, I’ll use that
definition for the Millennium in what follows. The second future
time of bliss is the eternity on the perfect New Earth, following
the second resurrection and judgment day. In order to understand
which time of bliss the prophetic passages above refer to, we need
to understand an important difference between historical narrative

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and prophetic literature. The former describes a series of consecutive
events during a single time period, whereas prophecies often refer to
two different time periods, being at least partially fulfilled in both.
An example of this is in Isaiah 14:3-20, describing the fall of a great
ruler. The prophecy primarily concerns the king of Babylon, who did
fall more than a hundred years after this prophecy was made, when
Cyrus conquered Babylonia. However, part of this prophecy—verses
12-15—also appears to refer to Satan, with the ruler falling from the
current heaven in a description reminiscent of Satan’s expulsion from
the current heaven described in Luke 10:18 and Revelation 12:7-17.
Likewise, there are elements of both a temporary imperfect bliss and
an everlasting perfect bliss in the list of passages above, indicating
that these are fulfilled in part by the Millennium here and in part
by eternity on the New Earth. Because the only events chronologi-
cally separating the Millennium and inhabitation of the New Earth
are the final battle and judgment day, it’s not surprising for a prophet
predicting these events thousands of years beforehand to lump them
together into one big blissful blob, describing both at the same time.
After all, these passages cannot be referring to only one or the other.
The presence of a temple and death would exclude the New Earth
(Isaiah 60:7, Ezekiel 40:1-48:35, Isaiah 65:20, Revelation 21:4, 22),
and the eternal duration and lack of the sun and moon would exclude
the Millennium (Isaiah 65:18, 60:19-20, Revelation 22:5, 21:23).
This concerns continuity because specific places on the current
earth are referenced in some of the passages above. Because these
passages cannot only be describing the New Earth, there is no reason
to assume that the specific places mentioned will be continuous from
the current earth to the new one. They may simply be references to
the Millennium. In fact, none of the verses definitively describing the
New Earth contain any of these references or any other evidence of
the continuation of our current planet. Those who believe in conti-
nuity are forced to agree, even though they continue to offer exam-
ples from these passages in their arguments. “Isaiah 60 and 65 don’t
refer to a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on the old earth,” but
then we are told, “It may be that these passages will have a partial
and initial fulfillment in a literal millennium, explaining why the

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passages contain a few allusions to death, which is incompatible with
the New Earth.”72 “Christ’s millennial reign may prefigure the fulfill-
ment of God’s promises about Jerusalem’s future.”73 Quite obviously,
it’s inescapable that these verses cannot only apply to the New Earth.
To avoid such contradictions and because I want to be as accurate
and reliable as I can to you, the only portions of the passages above
from which I will draw direct Old Testament conclusions about the
New Earth below are those that clearly cannot be referring to a pre-
judgment day, pre-New Earth location. These groups of verses are
Isaiah 11:6-9, 60:15-22, and 65:17-19, 23-25. The Bible offers a few
other scattered verses that can only refer to the New Earth as well,
so we’ll eventually take a look at those too. Hopefully these proph-
ecies make a little more sense to you now if they were confusing
before. They do have valuable information to offer regarding the New
Earth, but they must be used responsibly.* In doing so thus far, we
have found little confirmed continuity concerning our planet in New
Earth prophecies.
However, the confusion some experience about continuity does not
arise from prophecy, but from certain words in the Bible. To no
one’s surprise, the first word is “earth.” Because the word “earth” is
contained in “New Earth,” some assume that the current one and the
new one must be the same. This is problematic because it assumes
that a single name cannot be applied to more than one thing. The
new Count Chocula that I will buy at the store tomorrow is not the
same as the current Count Chocula that I am eating. If it is when I
get there, I will not be buying it, sale or no! The word “earth” can
apply to the dirt in your garden rather than the whole planet, yet we
don’t assume the New Earth is going to be a plot of dirt, right? The
fact that this earth and the new one are both called an “earth” offers
no evidence that they represent the same rock.
Words like “restore,” “redeem,” and “renew” also cause perplexity.
We learned in Parts 6 and 7 that these words do not refer to a
corrective process in a temporary Hell. But some argue that they do
indicate that God renews earth by reusing the old one, rather than

*  To observe how such responsibilit y yields helpful insight about Heaven,
check out this prophecy concerning Israel’s ark of the covenant. 74

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making a new one. What do God’s words have to say? Well, these
three terms are used hundreds of times in the Bible, but interestingly,
they almost exclusively refer to people, not things like planets. Just
six times they are applied to the land or the cities of the Israelites
being restored, likely after their exile to Babylon. That particular land
was promised to the Jews forever, but that promise was made void
because it came with a condition that was broken (1 Chronicles 28:8,
Psalm 37:27). One other time these terms refer to “the redemption
of Jerusalem,” and several times we are told that Jerusalem—or God’s
presence or name there—will be established forever. This is true, first
in the current Jerusalem and then in the new one! But as far as
continuity is concerned, when we compare the earth-built current
Jerusalem to the exotic heaven-built New Jerusalem—which resembles
a 1400 mile cube—there are essentially no similarities, favoring discon-
tinuity rather than continuity (Luke 2:38, Revelation 21:1-22:5). Not
to mention that they both already exist, so one cannot continuously
arise from the other (Hebrews 11:16). And zero times do “restore,”
“redeem,” or “renew” refer specifically to the earth or world. Like Paul
in the last chapter, God seems much more concerned with working
to restore, redeem, and renew people for the sake of the gospel, than
he is with maintaining continuity, whether of relationships or planets.
Does this mean that our existence on the New Earth won’t involve
renewal? No, three times we are informed of everything being
restored or renewed, once when John the Baptist came to initiate
Jesus’ ministry and twice when judgment day arrives (Matthew
17:11-13, 19:28-30, Acts 3:21). There are two observations to make
about such renewal. First, just as God has already demonstrated with
renewal, it is primarily concerned with people. The first renewal of
everything occurs when God’s solution of Jesus is introduced to us by
John, and the second renewal of everything occurs when those who
accept that solution are admitted into Heaven on judgment day. There
is no hint in these passages of earth being revamped, just people
learning how to be—and then being—saved. The second observation
is that this renewal does not equate to continuity. On judgment day
all kinds of discontinuous things are happening. Disembodied spirits
in Sheol/Hades get new, resurrected physical bodies, and humans

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finally assume an eternal residence. Sheol/Hades meets its end in
Gehenna, which itself unfortunately holds its grand opening. The
New Earth and the New Jerusalem—the descriptions of which are
vastly different from their current counterparts—are revealed for the
first time for human habitation. And let’s not forget the rather signifi-
cant change that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying
or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1-
22:5). Again, no mention of the current earth becoming the new one.
Instead, we see a whole lot of ending and a whole lot of beginning.
At the renewal of all things, God is truly “making everything new,”
not making everything continuous (Revelation 21:5).
But even though the Bible never tells us that continuity between
the current earth and the new one is part of this renewal, it still
could be. The Bible doesn’t say that it’s not, right? Well, there are
four passages that make an indefinite lifespan for the earth possible,
and one that does so for the heavens. But as we discussed in Chapter
27, the terminology used here—the word olam—implies an uncertain
duration and describes temporary spans as well (such as the length of
a person’s physical “life,” as in Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17).
As such, the proponent and critic of earth’s continuity alike reject
these four passages as valid, supportive evidence, just as we refused
in Part 6 to use olam to prove that Hell went on without end (Psalm
78:69, 104:5, 148:1-6, Ecclesiastes 1:4).75 Moreover, the Bible tells us
repeatedly in about as many ways as possible that our third rock from
the sun will not survive beyond judgment day in any form, not even
as a charred briquette! Those in the real-estate business for the long
haul may want to reconsider.
By the end of the apocalyptic catastrophes in Revelation 6, 8, 9,
and 16, everything living in water has died, there is no source of
drinkable water, there is no natural light, all the cities have collapsed,
and all islands and mountains are displaced. When describing these
times, Jesus reveals that “’the sun will be darkened, and the moon
will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heav-
enly bodies will be shaken’” (Mark 13:24-27). Joel concurs, and Isaiah
states this twice as well (Joel 3:15, Isaiah 13:9-11, 34:4). Even those
with the most introductory understanding of physics and geology

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know that the chances of this planet meaningfully surviving such
cosmological disasters aren’t good, although these passages do nicely
explain the discontinuous disappearance of the sun and moon from
the New Earth (Isaiah 60:19-20, Revelation 21:23)! But it’s not over.
“The heavens will vanish like smoke; the earth will wear out like a
garment” (Isaiah 51:6).  “The whole earth will be consumed,” with
no survivors (Zephaniah 1:18). Peter confirms all of this as well,
contrasting the complete demise of this physical universe with the new
heaven and earth. “The present heavens and earth are reserved for
fire, being kept for the day of judgment...the heavens will disappear
with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and
everything done in it will be laid bare...that day will bring about the
destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the
heat. But in keeping with (God’s) promise we are looking forward to a
new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:7,
10, 12-13). Jesus, by whom this world was created (Colossians 1:13-16),
rather authoritatively agrees that the current heaven and earth will
pass away and disappear (Luke 21:33, Matthew 5:18). What the creator
of the earth says should really seal the deal, but there is one more
really big nail to sink into the coffin of continuity.
Isaiah—apparently with the aid of an excellent thesaurus—uses as
many terms as he can to summarize the Bible’s absolute, undeniable
rejection of earth’s continuance. “The Lord is going to lay waste the
earth,” “devastate it,” and “ruin its face.” “The earth will be completely
laid waste” and “totally plundered.” Its “inhabitants are burned up,”
and it “dries up and withers,” “languishes and withers,” is “broken
up,” is “split asunder,” “is thoroughly shaken,” “reels like a drunkard,”
“sways like a hut in the wind,” and finally, finally “ falls—never to rise
again” (Isaiah 24:1-23). Disappointingly, proponents of a continuous
earth intentionally exclude this final phrase when quoting this passage
or simply ignore this chapter altogether.76-79 “What Isaiah foresaw”
turns out to be exactly the opposite of what they claim; he predicts
a discontinuous New Earth where “God will wipe the slate clean and
start again.”80 Interestingly, science is also quite adamant that our
planet will eventually be obliterated, by the aging and/or explosion
of our sun if not before. Likewise, God’s words confirm beyond any

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shadow of doubt that when everything is restored, the redeemed earth
must be a brand new one, not Current Earth: Version 2.0.
This discontinuous renewal is exactly the type that the rest of the
Bible teaches as well. “In the beginning you laid the foundations of
the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will
perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like
clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you
remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:25-27,
Hebrews 1:10-12). When you are wearing a worn-out garment and
decide to discard it and change into something else, do you ever
consider this to be accomplished by putting that same garment back
on? Even if it were instantly repaired and cleaned, you still would not
consider that a discarding of old clothes or a change of clothes at all,
right? Likewise, when the current earth is discarded, we will inhabit
an entirely different, distinctly New Earth. God has already created
the old heavens and earth, but he “will create new heavens and a new
earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come
to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

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G iven the scientific and biblical agreement that this earth will
have a final end, why does the belief in a continuous New Earth
persist? Is it really that big of a deal if God makes a new one? Of
course not! I believe in a discontinuous Heaven and earth, so God
can make the New Earth wherever and out of whatever he wants!
However, other viewpoints are unable to allow him such flexibility.
Specifically, there are three common and deeply ingrained beliefs
about our planet that are inconsistent with the Bible’s discontinuous
New Earth, so we’ll devote a chapter to each one.*
First, many remain resistant to the final end of this earth because
*  If the biblical and logical evidence above has left you with no qualms or
questions regarding the discontinuity between our planet and the New Earth
of the Bible, these three beliefs are unlikely to significantly apply to you, so
skip to Chapter 45 if you’re ready to move on from this topic.

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of their comfortable familiarity with their current lives. They consider
their short experience on this planet to be at least suggestive of every-
thing that Heaven could be, so they limit themselves to what Heaven
can be: nothing more than the best earth has to offer. Because of this,
whatever of this best that they do experience here defines Heaven
for them. Engaging in earthly activities they enjoyed, reuniting with
lost loved ones again, and being back in familiar places and times
represents most or all of what they look forward to on the New
Earth. Therefore, regardless of challenges to this emotional anticipa-
tion—even those from the Bible itself—many continue to determinedly
believe and teach a continuous, best-of-earth Heaven.* My encourage-
ment to these folks to help them overcome this roadblock of anticipa-
tory feelings is to trust that God’s experience and imagination are far
more expansive than ours. As I learned to do the same, I discovered
how much greater his Heaven will be. God’s concept of perfection is
not suffocated by the quite limited experience that we get on earth,
so he is not satisfied with the constraint of continuity. He “who is
able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” is “making
everything new” (Ephesians 3:20, Revelation 21:5). If we believe that
God is capable of this, then an unmistakable, unlimited, Godmade
Heaven—immeasurably better than anything we could ever imagine—
is possible. If not, then a very mistakable, best-earth-has-to-offer,
manmade Heaven—no better than anything we could imagine—is the
most that is possible.
And what about those who would want a New Earth that is
anything but the one they’re familiar with? There are multitudes
who don’t long for the familiarity of the old, many who wish this
world was not their home! Let’s not be allured by the continuity of a
comfortably familiar life just because it might be comfortable for us.
For many it is not, and these folks long for the better-than-best-of-
earth Heaven of the Bible. Similarly, the many in the Bible who were
destitute, persecuted, mistreated, tortured, mocked, flogged, chained,
imprisoned, stoned, sawed in two, and killed for their faith in God
considered themselves “foreigners and strangers on earth,” longing

*  For a t ypical example of such teaching in popular Christian literature,
read this. 81

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for a better country, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16, 35-40). There’s
nothing comfortable about a familiar earth to them, is there?
Even for those who are well-off in this life and wouldn’t mind a
comfortably familiar eternal home, wouldn’t a discontinuous Heaven
become just as comfortably familiar to you a few years after your
arrival as your current life has become to you now? After all, how
important is it to you now that you forget about good friends you
had as a child? We don’t remember a large number of comfortably
familiar things from our past, yet how much suffering or remorse
does that truthfully cause us? About none, right? Just as we chuckle
now how a bacteria-infested rag could have been so soothingly
familiar when we were toddlers, would we not lol in Heaven at how
our concept of perfection similarly clings to the preservation of what
is comfortably familiar now? In the end, you won’t want and won’t
need a continuous Heaven, for “the world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). In
the end, you don’t want and don’t need a continuous Heaven. God’s
imagination is much better than ours!

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T he second deeply ingrained belief necessitating a continuous earth
is more a theological one than an emotional one, but it is very
widespread and held with strong conviction. People cling to the idea
that this particular planet must continue as the New Earth because
they believe that the curse upon creation when humanity first sinned
can only be lifted if that very same creation survives restored. So
let’s find out exactly what this curse is and how it affects creation.
Once Adam and Eve chose to sin and know evil, God placed specific
judgments on the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Of these, only Adam’s
affected the earth. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through
painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It
will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants
of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until

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you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust
you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:14-19). Notice that
while the serpent, Eve, Adam, and God all played a role in subjecting
creation to this curse, it is God who directly curses the ground. But
why would God curse creation for the temptation of the serpent and
the sin of humans? No other snakes misbehaved, and the ground was
completely innocent! It can’t choose to sin, so why would God ever do
this to his “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31)? The response I most
commonly encounter is that human sin is some sort of evil ether that
infects and infiltrates creation, causing its fall as well as humanity’s.
It is often claimed—but with little explanation why—that “the lot of
the earth is thrown in with us. As we go, so goes the earth.”90 The
argument is that “our destiny is inseparable from earth’s destiny,” so
when Jesus comes to restore us to a New Earth, all of creation would
be restored as a New Earth as well.91 Ergo, this earth apparently can’t
end because humans don’t end.*
However, sin is a choice, not an object—let alone a pathogen
or cancer. It cannot infect or invade any physical thing, nor has it
“contaminated every last corner of creation,” as if Mercury could catch
a cold.96 Regarding the headache of sin, perhaps the sage advice of
Arnold Schwarzenegger says it the best: “It’s not a toomah!”97 More-
over, why would God not only allow, but command, sin to infect or
metastasize throughout creation? Does he have so much anger left
over after cursing the humans that poor creation gets hit with the
remainder? If so, why doesn’t he remove creation’s infection by sin
once he calms down? And why is there any link at all between the
fate of humans and the fate of creation? Why does creation have
to fall like humans do, and why does it have to be restored like
they are? After all, the curse is not an inevitable necessary spread of
disease from humans to the earth; it’s a specific judgment on Adam
chosen by God. He could have chosen any form of discipline; he
might have grounded Adam, taken away his video game privileges
(a penalty I was quite familiar with as a teen), or even given him a
good paddling! So why does God pick a punishment that curses the

*  To more specifically illustrate how attempting to biblically validate this
argument quickly becomes problematic, head here. 92

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innocent ground? Not because sin is infecting it, not because all of
creation falls just because humans do, and not because there is any
logical link between the ultimate fate of this planet and the fate of
human beings. God curses the ground for one reason and one reason
only: because it is a necessary part of humans knowing and experi-
encing evil.
Remember, the ultimate object of the punishment is not the
ground; it’s Adam. Every consequence of this punishment causes him
suffering, not creation! His crops will be plagued by thorns and this-
tles, and he won’t even be able to eat without “sweat” and “painful
toil” (Genesis 3:17-19). The ground doesn’t suffer from thorns and
thistles; in fact, plants with such prickers are actually benefiting
from God’s pronouncement, perhaps even being brought into exis-
tence by it! Creation doesn’t suffer from this curse at all, does it?
Adam wanted to know evil, and part of experiencing this is diffi-
cult, unfruitful work. Adam is learning about evil from interacting
with the earth. This explains Eve’s punishment as well. Something as
joyous as childbirth is now very painful, and gender inequality first
rears its ugly head (Genesis 3:16). Again, creation does not suffer
here, only Eve does. Eve is learning about evil from interacting with
other humans. Even the curse on the serpent predominantly causes
human suffering. Does a snake care if it crawls on its belly? No, but
I know a lot of women who fear and loathe snakes, and any man
who gets bit in the heel by one certainly suffers (Genesis 3:14-15)!
Fear and enmity of animals—as well as injury by them—is all part of
experiencing evil. Humans are learning about evil from interacting
with other creatures. God’s curse on creation in Genesis is not an
ubiquitous infection by sin, because sin is a choice, not an evil ether.
It is not a fallen state of nature that must be restored like human-
ity’s, because creation didn’t choose to sin, humans did. And it is not
the result of a misguided divine temper tantrum, because God had
a very rational reason for his actions all along. It’s a punishment for
humans that fits their crime. We wanted to know evil, so God uses
the earth, our fellow humans, and other creatures to teach it to us.
This is why God can’t yet relieve creation of the curse—we still want
it. God’s curse and judgments aren’t baffling or arbitrary at all; they

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make perfect sense!
Every time this original curse is specifically mentioned, it’s asso-
ciated with human suffering, not the suffering of creation. Noah’s
father mentions “the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by
the ground the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:29). We see the fields
and water cursed so that prophets who have sinned must “eat bitter
food” and “drink poisoned water,” as punishment for choosing to
experience evil. “Because of the curse the land lies parched and the
pastures in the wilderness are withered.  The prophets follow an
evil course and use their power unjustly. ‘Both prophet and priest
are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,’ declares
the Lord. ‘Therefore their path will become slippery; they will be
banished to darkness and there they will fall.  I will bring disaster
on them in the year they are punished,’ declares the Lord. . . . There-
fore this is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets: ‘I
will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because
from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout
the land’” (Jeremiah 23:10-12, 15). Isaiah confirms that the purpose
of creation’s curse was specifically to punish people. Humans “have
disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting
covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear
their guilt” (Isaiah 24:5-6). Creation is not suffering because of the
curse here; pastures do not care if they are parched or withered. But
the affected humans do suffer, don’t they? So here is how the curse
seems to work: humans sin against God, wanting to know evil, so
God curses creation to impact humans, resulting in them suffering
and knowing evil. The perfect God justly and logically punishes, the
guilty humans get what they ask for, and the innocent creation does
not suffer, become infected by sin, or fall. It all makes sense.
Now let’s look at a different way that creation is affected by
sin. This time it’s not God who curses creation without causing it
to suffer; it’s humanity who subjects creation to frustration while
causing it suffer. “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the
children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frus-
tration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected
it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage

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to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of
God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the
pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we
ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as
we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our
bodies” (Romans 8:19-23). Although many equate this frustration of
creation with the curse on creation in Genesis, they are not the same
thing. First, no curse is mentioned here at all! Second, creation is
clearly suffering here, unlike the neutral, indifferent creation cursed
by God in Genesis. Why is it suffering now, but not then? Because
humanity is the one subjecting creation to frustration through its
abuse, not God via the curse. Obviously, as humans have multiplied
and spread, so has their irresponsible misuse of this planet, and the
personified creation frustratingly groans at its resultant “bondage to
decay” that it will endure as long as human sin persists. Humani-
ty’s potential to negatively affect the whole creation knows no limit.
But this is not the curse. This is the frustration. Humans were not
agents of the curse; they were the ultimate objects of the curse, the
sinners deserving punishment. Creation is the agent of the curse; it is
not the ultimate object of the curse, without sin and undeserving of
punishment. The human frustration of creation is not the curse; the
curse is the response of God to use creation to fulfill the choice and
punishment of human sin to know evil. When sin is associated with
the land, the source is clearly defilement of creation by the choice of
humans, “not by its own choice,” so God punishes the land via the
curse for the ultimate and only purpose of humans experiencing evil,
not to chastise creation. As a result, humans are “vomited out” by the
land for their sin (Leviticus 18:24-28, Romans 8:20). Humans always
suffer as a result of God’s curse; creation doesn’t have to. Creation
always suffers as a result of humanity’s frustration; humans don’t
have to. And even when humans sometimes suffer from their own
frustration of creation, it is simply another way that God uses the
agent of creation to teach humans about the evil they want to know.
A great example of how this frustration is used by God to achieve
the curse’s human education of evil is the Israelites’ failure to rotate
crops. Hey, these guys were rebels, what can we say? God commands

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them to periodically leave the land uncultivated—called a Sabbath
year—just as farmers leave fields to lie fallow today (Leviticus 25:1-
7). God’s commands make sense; he knew that without a rest, the
soil would become infertile as its nutrients were depleted. And if they
disobey him and sin, look at his response. “I will break down your
stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground
beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because
your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land
yield their fruit. . . . I cut off your supply of bread.” “I will scatter
you among the nations.” “Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years
all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your
enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. All the time
that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during
the Sabbaths you lived in it” (Leviticus 26:18-35).
Guess what? Several centuries later, God did exactly what he said.
The Israelites “despised his words” and were “carried into exile,” and
“the land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it
rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the
word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 36:15-21). Humans sinned against
God by ignoring his Sabbath years, abusing creation. God did not
respond by causing creation to suffer further (quite the opposite actu-
ally), wrathfully infecting every atom with sinful, infertile fallen-
ness. God makes sense. He responded to human sin just as he did
in Genesis, by employing the curse to use creation—and its frustra-
tion in this case—to teach humans, via failed crops, about the evil
that they want to know. This is all beautifully summarized for us in
Isaiah 24:5-9. “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed
the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” As a
result, “The beer is bitter to its drinkers.” “The new wine dries up and
the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan.” For some, this might be
the greatest experience of evil imaginable! Humans sin and disobey.
That frustrates creation. God uniformly responds to human sin with
his curse, which itself does not punish but rather uses creation—and
sometimes its frustration—to educate us about evil.
What on God’s not-so-green, frustrated earth does this have to

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do with earth’s continuity? Well, I’ll tell you, and thanks for asking!
Since the curse is not an ubiquitous infection of the universe with the
evil ether of sin by a God with an uncontrollable temper, then it is
not required that every atom of creation is restored by Jesus’ removal
of sin, continuously transforming this world into the New Earth to
“be liberated from its bondage to decay.” After all, Jesus was a human
sacrifice to provide a solution to human sin. He was not a planetary
or multigalaxial sacrifice to provide a solution for a fallen earth or
universe. Jesus didn’t come to save non-sinful things that don’t need
saving; he came to save sinful humans who do. “Christ redeemed
us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians
3:13). Jesus didn’t take a curse of creation involving imperfect, fallen
star systems on himself when he became a curse; he took a curse
bringing human suffering on himself. True, God is pleased “through
Jesus to reconcile to himself all things,” but that reconciliation ends
up only applying to humans who “continue in your faith, established
and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Colossians
1:19-23). Only those who maintain the faith God requires for salva-
tion are reconciled to God, not everyone, and certainly not non-human
creation, which cannot continue in faith of any sort! Interestingly, in
using this passage to argue that all created things do end up recon-
ciled to God, any person who claims to oppose universalism actually
forces himself to embrace it, since Satan, his demons, and every other
eternal resident in Hell would also be included in “all things.”98-99
Investigating the full context of this passage allows us to avoid the
extremes of both a continuous and universal salvation of creation that
the Bible comprehensively teaches against. Jesus came to save only
humans, and if that conclusion is hard for you to reach, the following
questions should make it easier to grasp. Can you explain exactly how
and why the choice of human sin causes “the whole creation” to fall?
Can you describe in detail what exactly that fallenness constitutes, and
can you clarify how the death and resurrection of a perfect human
being somehow fixes all of that? If you cannot (hey, I can’t either!),
don’t worry, because we don’t have to. The discontinuous Heaven and
earth of the Bible don’t require that of us.
Instead, we can explain how God’s curse and Jesus’ solution are

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perfectly in tune, can’t we? God’s curse punishes humans with the
fulfillment of their choice to experience evil and suffering. Jesus’ solu-
tion removes that punishment from humans, allowing them to enter
a brand New Earth with no experience of evil and suffering. When
creation is “brought into the freedom and glory of the children of
God,” it is not because a curse was lifted off it, but because frustra-
tion was eliminated from it! On the New Earth, humans cannot sin
to abuse creation, so it will never again groan in bondage to decay,
because the frustration of creation is gone. Nor will it ever be used
by God again to educate humans in the experience of evil, because
the curse for punishing humans is gone. And given God’s purpose for
those who were made in his image to find perfect community with
him, it is the lifting of this curse—not one on all of creation—that is
the focus of this New Earth. First, we see God’s specific judgments
on the serpent, Eve, and Adam countered. Instead of inducing enmity
and biting our heels, the serpent “will neither harm nor destroy.”
Instead of pain in childbirth, there will be no misfortunate child-
bearing. Instead of “painful toil,” humans “will not labor in vain”
(Genesis 3:14-19, Isaiah 65:23-25). The curse for humans is lifted!
And then we are given a whole list of examples how creation
will no longer be used by God to allow humans to know evil. The
lambs, goats, calves, and cows that the original audience of the Bible
so desperately depended on for food, farming, income, companion-
ship, and survival were often by killed by wolves, leopards, lions, and
bears (e.g. 1 Samuel 17:34-37). Occasionally humans were too, not just
by these beasts, but by snakes as well. And these aren’t just random
misfortunes. The Bible is clear that such actions of wild animals
are primarily due to the use of creation in God’s direct response to
human sin via the curse (Leviticus 26:22, Numbers 25:1-7, 1 Kings
20:36, 2 Kings 17:25, Jeremiah 5:5-6, 8:14-17)! You can imagine how
elated the Jews were then, when God tells them that this curse will
be lifted! “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down
with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and
a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear, their
young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 
The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put

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its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on
all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:6-9). Humans will never experience
evil from their environment again! The New Earth will be a place
where food, achievement, resources, relationships, and life will never
be threatened again. The curse for humans is lifted!
I am fully aware that many of you have read these verses
numerous times and always thought that they referred to sin’s curse
on or the fallenness of creation being removed. I used to as well. But
they don’t, do they? Why would human sin suddenly and directly
cause wolves to eat lambs, leopards to eat goats, lions to eat calves,
bears to eat cows, or snakes to bite children (unless the kids really
have it coming to them!)? These are all human experiences of evil,
direct results of God’s curse for punishing them, threats to their well-
being and survival, not the inevitable infection of creation by human
sin, whatever that means. Along with the clear, biblical difference in
how God interacts with humans versus non-human creation that we
touched on in Chapter 4, the Bible’s teaching that human sin and an
ubiquitously imperfect creation are not directly related is very signifi-
cant. It flings open the door to all kinds of anthropological, biolog-
ical, geological, and even cosmological agreement between what we
learn in God’s written revelation of the Bible and what we learn in
God’s general revelation of the world (Romans 1:20). It’s not the
scope of this book to explore this agreement in detail (although the
ability of non-human physical death to predate human sin and death
should get you thinking),100 but I can say that my own lengthy study
of both Scripture and science has certainly yielded satisfying results!
The New Earth in Isaiah 11:6-9 is not perfect or non-fallen because
animals don’t suffer; it’s freed from sin’s curse because humans don’t
suffer! When we actually see the curse being lifted in Revelation
22:1-5 and 21:1-4, all of the benefits are clearly being conferred upon
humans; in fact, other creatures are nowhere to be found in these
verses! The curse separated humans from perfect community with
God, so when “no longer will there be any curse,” all we see is God
and humans enjoying that restored community together.
Besides, if Isaiah 11:6-9 was describing how a fallen creation was
cursed because sin “rippled out until it damaged relations between

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animals and even the earth itself,” the list would include interactions
between things that aren’t associated with human suffering.101 The
ameoba would coexist with its bacterial prey, the early bird would
not catch the worm, the hyena would hang with the wildebeest, the
giant squid would frolic with the sperm whale, the lava would politely
bypass the uninhabited forest, the blizzards pounding the Himalayas
would chill out, the meteors would all miss Mars, and the black holes
would dance with the stars! Unless you cry every time hand sanitizer
slaughters bacteria by the billions, are very fond of your pet giant
squid, or agonize with the formation of each new Martian crater,
you do not experience evil with these events. Why not if they repre-
sent the same curse and fallen state as a child’s death by amoebic
enteritis, a teen’s infection with a bird-borne virus, a villager mauled
by hyenas on the Serengeti, or the charred victims of Vesuvius in
Pompeii? Let’s admit it, when the injured party can be chalked up
to “the circle of life” or the “laws of the cosmos,” we don’t really
consider it evidence of a cursed or fallen creation, do we? But when
the same perpetrators claim human victims, it’s a different story, isn’t
it? And that’s precisely my point. Because God isn’t telling us a story
about a cursed continuous creation cured by Christ (sorry, I got a
little carried away there), his account of the New Earth only includes
restorations that lift a curse for humans to cure the human knowl-
edge of evil. Because there is no more sin, not because there is no
more curse, there can be no more creation frustration. The current
earth is free to be destroyed and the New Earth is free to be truly
new and discontinuous, just like the Bible says they will be, because
they do not need to be and cannot be restored by Jesus’ death and
resurrection.* Only the humans living on the New Earth need to be
restored and will be forever. Amongst many other things, the Bible
enables us to explain the curse and explain the solution; continuity
does not.
A New Earth freed from recollected familiarities to be filled with
restored folks is anything but “bad news,”106 so perhaps we should
believe God’s glad news that we won’t suffer from missing such

*  A specific and startling New Testament example of such discontinuit y
awaits interested readers here. 102

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things because we will have no memory of them—and therefore no
want of them. “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does
the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). “I will create new heavens
and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor
will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will
create” (Isaiah 65:17). Without question, God will restore creation,
but not from what it is, rather to a brand “new earth,” where “the
old order of things has passed away...I am making everything new”
(Revelation 21:1-5).

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S o two of three deeply ingrained beliefs that cause some to cling
to this earth’s continuity have been addressed. We’ve shown why
comfortable familiarity with this planet makes the New Earth subop-
timal and why a continuous restoration of this planet makes the
New Earth inexplicable. There is one final belief that keeps people
from being free of a continuous earth. It is argued that completely
destroying this earth and creating a completely New Earth would
constitute a victory for Satan and a defeat for God. “Though we’d
never say it this way, we see him (God) as a thwarted inventor whose
creation failed. Having realized his mistake, he’ll end up trashing
what he has made. His consolation for a failed earth is that he
rescues a few of us from the fire.”107 Yikes, it’s pretty bold to say it
that way!
What I don’t understand is how Satan wins or God fails by God
doing exactly what he says he’s planning to do. “I make known the
end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I
say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isaiah
46:10). We now know from all over the Bible that God purposes
to destroy this planet. Continuity proponents teach that God makes
a mistake and fails by creating a discontinuous earth, that he is a
“tyrant” to “want to blow the world to bits,” as they put it.108 But
in actuality, God only fails if he doesn’t keep his word to make a

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discontinuous earth and eradicate this one with finality. For the
myriad biblical, logical, and even scientific reasons above, God wanted
us to enjoy perfect community with him, so he wanted us to have the
ability to choose him and his goodness or sin and the curse. Given
the suffering we chose, he wants us to fulfill his purpose for us in
Jesus, so he wants to create a perfect, unmistakable New Earth where
that can occur. Therefore, it would make sense that he would ulti-
mately want to destroy this earth because it cannot fulfill his purpose
for us. The only way that Satan can defeat God here is by convincing
us that we know what God wants more than God does, but God’s
words don’t permit us to do that. “It is difficult to think that God
would entirely annihilate his original creation” only for those who
won’t let God tell them that he’s going to.109
Some recognize that the Bible leaves no hint of doubt regarding
the wholesale destruction of this planet. But then they ask, why can’t
God continuously recreate the New Earth out of the remains of this
one? The most obvious answer is that there won’t be any remains!
Remember, “the heavens will disappear with a roar,” “the heavens will
vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment,” “the whole
earth will be consumed,” it “dries up and withers,” it “languishes and
withers,” it’s “broken up,” and it’s “split asunder” (Isaiah 24:1-23, 51:6,
Zephaniah 1:18). And in one final proclamation of doom, Jesus—by
whom this world was created (Colossians 1:13-16)—states that the
current heaven and earth will pass away and disappear (Luke 21:33,
Matthew 5:18). There is nothing left to make a continuous New Earth
out of! The current earth “falls—never to rise again” (Isaiah 24:20).
God obviously won’t “use the same canvas” to fashion the New Earth
from the old, will he?110
But even if bits and pieces did remain—or better yet a roughly
spherical charred briquette—what is the point of using this to create
the New Earth? Would it not still be supposedly infected or invaded
by the disease of sin, unlike a brand New Earth? And how would
Satan’s victory over God be any less if God was only powerful enough
to save the earth’s molten innards and chunks of its crust? Satan
would still succeed in ruining every continuous earthly object or crea-
ture that appears in the Bible’s description of the New Earth. So no,

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restoring debris does not exactly allow God to “forcefully strike back
at Satan” to avoid “conceding victory,” nor can it truly or practically
be considered continuity.111 God is not trash-talking Satan taunting,
“Bring it Lucifer! Completely obliterating this planet is all you got?
You can’t touch me and all these tiny little bits o’ rock I’m gonna
restore the New Earth from. You can just take that sorry forked tail
of yours and go to...” Which brings me to my next point. Satan isn’t
succeeding at anything when this earth disappears, let alone defeating
God. He’s just been chained for a thousand years, got totally owned
in the final battle, and is about to go to Hell. Forever (Revelation
20:1-3, 7-10). Besides, it’s not Satan’s decision to annihilate the earth
anyway. It’s God’s! God does not reveal himself as one who “restores
rather than obliterates creation”; he intends to renew creation by oblit-
erating this planet.112 He will be victorious over Satan by eliminating
all memory and knowledge of evil—including the current earth—to
make a perfect, unmistakable, brand New Earth out of absolutely
nothing, so that we can live there with him. Forever. God wins when
he does what he says, even when that challenges us to embrace unfa-
miliar, uncomfortable, and unmistakably brand new things.
We have now highlighted many reasons why a continuous New
Earth is neither the biblical nor the best New Earth. To close our
discussion of this topic on the lighter side, I’ve saved the most
amusing two reasons for last. First, if the New Earth is continuous,
then when would it be continuous from? The earth from Abraham’s
time, Jesus’ time, our time, or another time? And how would any
of these New Earths be continuously familiar to the vast majority
of humans? Space travel, iPads, and bungee jumping are hardly
comforting reminders of a Mesopotamian nomad’s life! If “Jesus came
to rescue the entire universe from ultimate destruction,” is it today’s
universe, the universe when our planet is engulfed by our exploding
sun in a few kajillion years, or the universe at judgment day?113 And if
“earth cannot be delivered from the curse by being destroyed; it can
only be delivered by being resurrected,” then which earth is resur-
rected?114 Answering “the universe and earth of judgment day” may
seem obviously correct, but think again. There are an awful lot of
stars, planets, mountains, seas, rivers, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants,

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animals, and people that physically existed in the universes and earths
of the past that no will longer physically exist when judgment day
comes. If the New Earth is going to be continuously restored from
the matter of the old earth, then where’s our friend T-Rex going to be
resurrected from? His matter’s all over the place by now, maybe even
making up part of me! But if he’s resurrected, oh shoot, where am I
going to be resurrected from? I’ll just borrow some matter from you,
but not without a fight, right? If a Christian is eaten by a cannibal who
converts, “who will have which bits at the resurrection?”115 And where’s
my great-uncle Willis going to be resurrected from if his matter now
makes up the bodies of a whole family of maggots? Certainly they
can’t be left out of the resurrection, but neither can he! And where are
the celestial bodies that contributed the debris that eventually formed
our earth going to be resurrected from? The New Earth? And if God
just makes new matter so that all the stars, planets, mountains, seas,
rivers, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, animals, and people that ever
existed could be resurrected, then how is that continuous? Creating
only new materials to create a totally New Earth makes much more
sense, doesn’t it?
Second, all this talk of universes and planets leads to my final
reason the New Earth is not continuous. It would not be a comfort-
ably familiar eternal home to any non-human free-willed residents,
whether angels or aliens. How do we know that we are the only beings
that can be saved? There are billions and billions of planets out there.
True, the vast, vast majority of them cannot harbor life as we know it,
but plenty of them might harbor life as we don’t know it! And chances
are good that much more than a handful could sustain carbon-based
life as well. We are extremely arrogant beings if we think that God
created this entire physical universe just to house us on earth. And
if we entertain the possibility of free-willed life elsewhere, we are in
some ways even more prideful to think that only we as humans can
be saved. Why couldn’t God offer a solution of salvation to them as
he did for us in Jesus? But even if we humble ourselves to admit that
other races might be sharing eternity with us, is it any less conceited
to believe that they must come to our restored New Earth as their
eternal home, the place where God has his throne (Revelation 21:3)?

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“Earth is unique. It’s the one planet—perhaps among billions—where
God chose to act out the unfolding drama of redemption and reveal
the wonders of his grace. It’s on the New Earth, the capital planet of
the new universe, that he will establish an eternal kingdom.”116 Wow.
Sorry aliens, if the earth is continuous, you’re coming here forever! Do
we really only care about the familiarity and memories of our own
lives in a continuous place and not those of others who might be out
there? This selfish and unhealthy attachment to our current earth
directly opposes the attitude of those for whom God has prepared
the New Earth and the New Jerusalem. “They admitted that they
were aliens and strangers on earth. . . . Instead, they were longing for
a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to
be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews
11:13, 16). A discontinuous earth humbly allows God to put every
planet wherever he wants, with a New Earth that is no more or less
significant than any other New Planet of saved beings on which he is
equally as present as ours. How cool that would be!
This unexpected problem with aliens actually takes us right back
to where we started with continuity. Many of us believe it because of
what we think we want, not because of what the Bible or logic tells
us. We might think we want a continuous earth, but God doesn’t
want one. We might think we want a place that’s comfortably familiar,
but that can only be as good as what we can experience here. We
might think we want a creation redeemed from the curse, but we
can’t explain how it can be or why it needs to be in the first place.
We might think we want a Heaven where God is victorious, when
really it’s a Heaven where God can’t win. We might think we want
today’s New Earth, but we forget about all the potential individuals
from yesterday, tomorrow, and across the galaxy. In the end, we don’t
want a continuous earth, do we? Having created us, God knows that
what we really want is to rejoice with him in his perfect, unmistak-
able Heaven: the discontinuous New Earth of the Bible; it’s just that
some don’t realize it yet. God has two promises and a suggestion for
them: “I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things
will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and
rejoice forever in what I will create” (Isaiah 65:17-18).

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45

B ecause the continuity of our current earth did not survive biblical
or logical scrutiny, it no longer confines us to a Heaven of memo-
ries. But there is one very personal aspect of the New Earth that is
also commonly held to be continuous: our bodies and the activities
that they allow. Now there are a whole slew of things that we could
talk about here, such as whether we’ll all have 6-packs, be tan, wear
nose rings, still have dimples, or finally be rid of that unsightly some-
thing-or-other. However, people who try to answer these questions
follow irresponsible speculation into misleading waters. For example,
it has been claimed—without confirmatory biblical evidence—that we
will have perfectly recognizable but “beautiful bodies that will far
surpass the beauty of our bodies on this earth.”117 But beauty by
whose standard? Not infrequently, you might find the mark or defor-
mity that another person can’t wait to get rid of the most uniquely
attractive part of him or her, right? And this is not limited to phys-
ical traits, but includes many speech impediments, abnormal manner-
isms, and other quirks as well. Beauty and charm are in the eye of
the beholder; after all, not long before the days of Twiggy, ‘twas
plumpness that conferred beauty to people’s minds! Still today some
find themselves so incapable of denying that they like big butts that
they even write a song about it!118 So how can we all have beautiful
bodies if we can’t simultaneously possess all the characteristics that
people find beautiful? If we can remember these traits, would we not
consider several earthly imperfections to actually be superior and
preferable to whatever perfect body is determined for us in Heaven?
Or will we be forced to keep changing our appearance to constantly
match others’ perceptions of beauty? And for those of us who do not
seem to fit into anyone’s standard of beauty, how would we suddenly
become drop alive gorgeous at our resurrection and still be continu-
ously recognizable?
God’s got a better Heaven in mind than a gaggle of supermodels.
We’re after the biblical hereafter, and the Bible doesn’t comment

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on many specifics regarding our resurrected bodies. Also, to find a
Heaven that is unmistakable, we’re primarily exploring this issue to
understand if continuity applies between our bodies now and our
bodies then, and why or why not. We’ll be looking at every account
in the Bible of what a resurrected human body is like, and we’ll draw
our conclusions from there.
Although biblical references to the properties of resurrected bodies
almost unanimously involve those “worthy of taking part in the age
to come” in “the resurrection of the righteous,” the Bible does teach a
“resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked,” so it seems that
the unsaved will also end up with imperishable bodies as well (Luke
14:14, 20:35-36, Acts 24:15). This would be consistent with a forever
Hell and could explain the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” there
(Matthew 13:49-50). The only difference between someone’s body in
Gehenna and someone’s body on the New Earth is that the former
can be continuous, because the perfection that discontinuity allows is
not present in Hell. The Bible does not tell us other significant details
about the continuity of bodies in Hell, but because they are imperish-
able as those in Heaven are, we will consider whatever else we learn
about the typical human resurrected body to apply to the saved and
unsaved alike.
Before we begin, there are some caveats to consider. First, recall
that any direct observations about the New Earth in the Old Testa-
ment passages that speak of both the Millennium and the New Earth
cannot be accurately or reliably applied to the latter except Isaiah
11:6-9, 60:15-22, and 65:17-19, 23-25. Second, much of our informa-
tion comes from descriptions of Jesus’ body after he was resurrected
but while he was still on the current earth. Obviously, whatever conti-
nuity of memory and recognition that Jesus demonstrated then is
inapplicable to the New Earth, as he was not on the New Earth. He
was on this earth and was exposed to the same circumstances that
he had been exposed to just three days beforehand. Besides, he’s God;
he’s not going to forget these people anyway. None of these condi-
tions will apply to any other human on the New Earth, will they?
Likewise, we must be cautious about inferring definitive conclu-
sions about our resurrected bodies from Jesus’ resurrected body

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while he was still on earth. For example, because Jesus’ resurrected
body is able to suddenly appear and disappear, immediately alter its
appearance, and walk through locked doors, it is often assumed that
our resurrected bodies will be able to do the same (Matthew 28:8-9,
Mark 16:12, 14, Luke 24:15-16, 30-31, 36-37, John 20:19, 26).119 And
they might. However, Jesus is God, and if he could calm storms,
walk on water, and raise the dead in his first body, then it almost
certainly wasn’t his resurrected body that enabled him to accomplish
the other feats above (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 6:45-51, Luke 7:11-17).
So ours may very well not enable us to do such things either.
So am I stating that Jesus’ new body was no different than
the one he died in? Was his resurrection no different than that
of any individual brought back to life in the Bible? Of course it
was different! Unlike their resurrections back into their perishable
bodies, we are told that Jesus’ resurrected body cannot die or decay;
it is his imperishable body (Acts 13:34-37, Romans 6:9-10). True, his
old body is gone from the tomb, his new body still has crucifixion
wounds, and it can physiologically process earthly food, so there is
some continuity (Luke 24:5-6, 37-43). But it can’t die or decay. Jesus’
resurrected “spiritual body” must have been changed to be raised
imperishable, much like ours will be, even though that change must
involve the creation of partially or entirely new bodies, as the old
ones will still be perishable and subject to imperfection—and for the
vast majority of us, quite decomposed (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)! And
whatever anatomical and physiological continuity Jesus did possess
in bodily form, he was able to have or needed to have for several
reasons that don’t apply to us. Jesus is God and we are not, so he
was able to do a lot of things with both his old and new bodies that
we have no reason to believe we’ll be able to do with ours. Jesus
needed to be able to recognize and reunite with people he knew for
the resurrection to be meaningful and communicable; we don’t need
to be able to do these things on the New Earth. Jesus had to be
able to keep his wounds and eat fish to persuade humans that his
resurrection was real enough to tell others about it; we don’t have
to maintain such bodily continuity on the New Earth. Whatever
form and abilities that Jesus’ resurrected body possessed here, it

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possessed so that the gospel could and would be spread by humans
throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20). “Christ was raised from
the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).
And because he is God, even his form and abilities after
ascending to the current heaven are not applicable to ours. If you
don’t believe me, check out how Jesus looks now that he’s there
(Revelation 1:12-18, 5:6-10, 19:11-16)! Well, that’s not very contin-
uous, is it? Clearly those are his much more permanent and
preferred resurrected bodily forms, rather than that of his 40-day
post-resurrection stint on earth. As such, Jesus must have either
used his divine power or possibly his new body’s inherent ability to
assume—not maintain—at least some anatomical and physiological
similarity to his former body before his ascension. Unlike us, we
know that he could and needed to adopt such similarity; therefore,
the properties of Jesus’ body in his post-resurrection existence here
are unique and cannot be automatically extrapolated to our resur-
rection bodies on the New Earth.
So we can’t just say that we’ll be recognized by others because
Jesus was. More importantly though, we can’t even say that Jesus
was all that recognizable after returning to life! We are given
generic references to Jesus’ resurrected appearances to humans in
Acts 10:41, 13:30-31, and 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, but we are not told
if they were able to initially recognize Jesus or how much informa-
tion was required before they could. Stephen was able to identify
Jesus in a vision of the current heaven, but this is also unhelpful
(Acts 7:55-56). Stephen had almost certainly learned from the disci-
ples that Jesus had ascended to the right hand of God the Father
(Mark 16:19, Acts 2:33-35). So when he “saw the glory of God”
during his vision, who else could have possibly been “at the right
hand of God” but Jesus? I have no idea what Jesus looked like, but
if I saw the current heaven open and someone at the right hand of
God’s glory, I would identify that person as Jesus too! Besides, we
don’t even know if Stephen knew what Jesus looked like on earth.
Even if he did, his realization was only possibly one of recognition
while certainly one of simple deduction. After all, Paul and John also
supernaturally encounter Jesus after he’s in the current heaven, but

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neither recognizes him at all until he clearly identifies himself (Acts
9:3-5, Revelation 1:9-18). So far, no one is able to definitively recog-
nize the resurrected Jesus by his appearance alone.
What about people in the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resur-
rection (Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, John 20:1-
21:25)? On Easter morning, women were the first to encounter him,
and Mary Magdalene the first of those. All of them had already
been told—by angels no less—that Jesus was alive before they saw
him. Even with such authenticated knowledge, when Mary does
come across him, she “did not realize that it was Jesus,” even after
looking right at him, hearing his voice, and having a conversa-
tion with him about him! Everything that happened to Mary that
morning should have put a resurrected Jesus at the forefront of her
mind, yet she only recognizes him once he says her name. Later
that day, the next people to meet Jesus were two of his followers
who knew of the angels’ words to the women that Jesus was alive.
When Jesus joins them, “they were kept from recognizing him.”
Even though they walked together for quite some time as Jesus
explained everything the Old Testament prophesied about him, “their
eyes were opened and they could recognize him” only after he was
done and they had found a place to eat. That evening, even after
being prompted by both the women and these two men that they
had all seen Jesus alive, the disciples did not recognize him when he
appeared either! Only after Jesus shows them the wounds from
his crucifixion and eats fish in their presence do they realize that
it’s him. A week later, Thomas also requires confirmation of Jesus’
wounds—in addition to the testimony of everyone above—before he
can identify Jesus as “my Lord and my God.” And even after this
the disciples continue having trouble recognizing Jesus. We are told
later that “some doubted” that it was him, and when Jesus appeared
to the disciples while they were fishing, they were close enough to
hear his voice but “did not realize that it was Jesus.” Even when
they came ‘round the campfire with Jesus, they still considered
asking him who he was! Their acknowledgement that it was Jesus
was legitimately but solely based on his provision of a miraculous
catch of fish. I encourage you to check the Gospel accounts of Jesus’

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resurrection referenced above to confirm all of this; it’s true!
This is absolutely astonishing! Not a single person in the Bible
definitively recognizes Jesus after his resurrection based on his
appearance alone, and the ones who see him the most still aren’t
completely sure it’s him after multiple appearances and loads of
evidence apart from his appearances! Sadly, this has led some who
are constrained by continuity to fabricate details and be directly
dishonest about the accounts above, and I urge you to compare both
my and their conclusions with the Bible.120-121 No unaided or unan-
ticipated recognition of the resurrected Jesus is found in the Bible.
This is even more amazing considering that Jesus could assume any
form that he wanted and that he only had forty days to persuade
these people that he was alive and worth devoting their lives to,
so that his worldwide movement would be successfully launched
(Acts 1:3-9)! He had every reason to make himself as recognizable
as possible to anyone who saw him, didn’t he? Well, every reason
except one. The only conceivable explanation for why Jesus’ visage
was obviously not readily identifiable—despite his otherwise persua-
sive resurrection—is that his perfect, imperishable, spiritual, resur-
rected body was not all that continuous from his first body, and he
wants everyone to know that. Think about it. Given the number of
vastly different forms that he took and will take after his resurrec-
tion, what basis is there for the claim that his true or most accurate
form is the one we see before his ascension? At the most, that form
only lasted a few decades, after which John sees a vision of him
in the current heaven of that time looking quite different (Revela-
tion 1:12-18)! Because Jesus is God and because we aren’t given a
bodily description of him on the New Earth, we don’t know what
his resurrection body will be like there, where it would be opti-
mally—although still not completely—comparable to ours. Based on
multiple New Earth references to Jesus as the Lamb, our best bet is
that it will be most similar to a wounded Lamb with seven horns
and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6, 21:14, 22, 22:3). Not exactly contin-
uous from his first body, is it?
Therefore, Jesus’ resurrected body offers virtually no reliable
information regarding our resurrected body. Let’s review the Bible’s

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glimpses of imperishable human resurrected bodies other than his
then. In the Old Testament passages definitively describing the
New Earth, we are given a few useful tidbits. Infants and chil-
dren are mentioned, and childbearing is at least a possibility. We
will not weep or cry (Isaiah 65:17-19, 23-25). We will interact with
animals—at least with snakes anyway—without any harm or destruc-
tion occurring (Isaiah 11:6-9). There will be no violence, ruin, or
destruction to our bodies, and a lot of people will live there forever
(Isaiah 60:18-21). Oh, and for all you Twilight fans, especially since
Breaking Dawn broke out into theaters just yesterday (never do I
need to be part of anyone else’s honeymoon for that long again!),
yes, our bodies will shine (Daniel 12:3). Please don’t celebrate by
biting anyone in the neck though, as some of you might actually be
tempted to do that. I wish I could say I was kidding! Sorry, back
to the Old Testament. Oh wait, there is nothing else that the Old
Testament undoubtedly states about our bodies in the New Earth!
Well, what about the New Testament? We learn from the martyrs
who arose in the first resurrection that many of “every nation,
tribe, people, and language” will be there (Revelation 7:9). Very
cool. People will wear clothes, sing, and yes, some will even play
harps (Revelation 15:2-3). It’s biblical! Hunger and thirst will be
satiated (Revelation 7:16). People will have the names of God the
Father, Jesus, and Jerusalem on their foreheads (Revelation 3:12,
14:1, 22:4). We will organize ourselves into nations, although there
is no evidence to suggest that these will be reminiscent of any
earthly nation (Revelation 2:26, 21:24-26). There will be no human
marriage, only the ultimate, purpose-fulfilling marriage of perfect
community between God and his people (Matthew 22:30, Isaiah
54:4-8, Ephesians 5:31-32, Revelation 21:2-3). We’re told that we’ll
“bear the likeness of the man from heaven,” who is Jesus (1 Corin-
thians 15:49); however, we don’t know what his likeness is like on
the New Earth, do we? “What we will be has not yet been made
known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like
him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This was written
after Jesus’ resurrection, so Christ won’t appear again until judg-
ment day. Maybe then he’ll resemble the lamb figure, maybe the guy

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with the sword coming out of his mouth, maybe something similar
to his resurrected body on earth, or maybe a body completely unlike
anything we’ve ever imagined! Who knows what Jesus’ likeness will
be? Since Paul is clearly contrasting this heavenly likeness with the
natural “likeness of the earthly man,” he may just mean that we’ll
be resurrected in an imperishable, spiritual body like Jesus was,
which is the whole point that Paul is driving at in these verses (1
Corinthians 15:35-57). Here we also learn that our bodies will be
raised imperishable in glory and in power, and they will not be
made of flesh and blood as we know them. Instead, they are heav-
enly dwellings that come from God, and our spirits will unite with
them here immediately before ascending briefly to the place of judg-
ment and admission into our final destinations (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel
12:1-2, 13, Matthew 25:31-46, John 5:28-29, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44,
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Revelation 20:11-15).
As most humans’ physical bodies will have long decomposed by
that point, and as the same matter that makes me up now may
have made someone else up in the past, it would be pointless and
conflicting to argue that God simply resurrects our physical remains,
but the proponent of continuity is left with no other choice. “God
will not scrap his original creation and start over. Instead, he will
take his fallen, corrupted children and restore, refresh, and renew
us to our original design.”122 “Just as Adam was made from the
dust of the earth, we will be remade from the dust of the earth.”123
How is regathering every atom (not Adam) of a person from all
over creation not starting over? And what does God do with the
atoms or dust that made up multiple people? How is this more
restorative or victorious than completely creating part or all of our
bodies completely anew? The bodily discontinuity these questions
lead us to is welcomed by Paul, as confirmed by scholarly interpre-
tation of 2 Corinthians 5:1-7. “What he is affirming and denying is
clear: resurrection means transformed body, not walking corpse or
disembodied spirit.” “Heaven, by contrast, would bear little resem-
blance to this life because, according to Paul, our resurrected bodies
would not be our earthly ones.”124 God will create our brand new
imperishable bodies here to be joined with our spirits as they exit

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Sheol/Hades (Isaiah 26:19, 1 Corinthians 15:37-44). However, just
as we saw with the earth, there is essentially no role for conti-
nuity regarding our current bodies, is there? And remember how
God changes the earths like clothes, discarding the worn out one
in favor of the New Earth (Psalm 102:25-27, Hebrews 1:10-12)?
The same word for change—allasso—is used to describe our bodies
upon being resurrected! “The dead will be raised imperishable, and
we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Just like this earth, our
current bodies will be worn out and discarded—not to mention likely
decayed—in favor of our imperishable, resurrected bodies. When you
change clothes, you don’t put the same ones back on, especially if
you’ve already graciously thrown them away to become a metrop-
olis for maggots. Therefore, for the many reasons we’ve reviewed, it
cannot be reliably claimed that a whole lot of continuity will exist
between the bodies we have now and the ones we’ll have on the
New Earth.
The final and most detailed account of what our eternal bodies
will be like on the New Earth is in Revelation 21:1-22:5. Humans
will dwell together with God, fulfilling his purpose for us, and “he
will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain.” We will drink from the water of
life and eat from the tree of life. We will have full access to a spec-
tacular city, the New Jerusalem, and we will serve God. When we
visited these verses before, we found only five recognizably contin-
uous beings or objects from the current heaven and earth: God,
an angel, the New Jerusalem, the book of life, and the tree of life.
All of them had their origins in a perfect place, and none of them
are imperfect humans. Therefore, aside from our names, the most
detailed, representative account of the New Earth demonstrates zero
human continuity between it and our current physical existence!
Nobody’s recognizing each other, and no reunions are taking place.
And yet there is no sadness, mourning, crying, or pain. Hmm.
So how on (new) earth can we put the last several chapters
together to quickly recap everything we’ve learned about God’s
unmistakable Heaven, particularly when the Bible staunchly main-
tains a paucity of continuity? We know what the Bible teaches about

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our bodies there, and we have a list of both soothing and surprising
details regarding everything that definitively goes on there. The
details that don’t concern an unmistakable Heaven I’ll leave alone
for you to ponder. The others can be summarized as follows. First
and foremost, God will be on the New Earth, along with final
fulfillment of the purpose for which he created us: perfect commu-
nity with him. We’ll keep our names—while getting new ones as
well—and we’ll keep our ethnicities and languages, which allows
us to easily be identified once we meet folks, although this certainly
is not necessary to possess identity itself. However, the Bible offers
no definite evidence that we’ll be recognizable to or remembered
by those who knew us here, and given how hard to identify Jesus
was after being resurrected—even though he needed to be recogniz-
able and we will not—if anything, our predominantly discontinuous
bodies would be at least as unfamiliar to others. And there is no
biblical evidence or need for our predominantly discontinuous earth
to be represented on the New Earth either, except for the presence
of at least some types of animals and the names of a city, tribe
leaders, and apostles, carried over from the current earth. There
will be no violence, ruin, harm, or destruction between animals or
humans.
No humans will be married to each other, and since God insep-
arably interweaves sex and marriage, there would be no sex as we
know it (Genesis 2:20-24, 1 Corinthians 6:16-18, Matthew 5:32).
How can people continue to espouse continuity (puns intended)
even after admitting the absence of such fundamental components
of earthly life as human marriage and sex?125 How can they ignore
sex when they argue that “if we would miss something from our
old lives and the old earth, it would be available to us on the New
Earth?”126 I don’t think I’m alone when I unashamedly proclaim that
I would miss sex if I could remember it on the New Earth, and
the sense of loss would be even greater for someone who hadn’t
experienced it yet! A high-school friend of mine used to joke that
Jesus would probably return mere seconds before he had chance to
consummate his marriage, and upon hearing the trumpets heralding
his trip to Heaven, he would shout, “Nooooo God, why?” Sixteen

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years later, and I’m still laughing. In contrast, we have no need
to question how God could possibly eliminate such significant enti-
ties. We expect him to replace these with brand new better things in
a discontinuous Heaven, and we wouldn’t remember what sex was
like for us anyway. Also, despite my proclamation above, having no
memory of sexual forays may actually be good news for more than a
few folks, right? The God who “is able to do immeasurably more than
all we ask or imagine” and who “richly provides us with everything for
our enjoyment” will have no problem coming up with something far
superior (Ephesians 3:20, 1 Timothy 6:17)!
Interestingly, despite the lack of human marriage and sex—at least
sex as we know it—there will be infants and children. Bearing new
children is not excluded or confirmed on the New Earth (Isaiah
65:23), but it would seem unjust to allow new incorruptible humans to
be born when other humans are in Hell, just as it is to allow deceased
children here to automatically go to Heaven. Plus, human marriage is
absent because we’re like the angels, and there is no biblical mention
of angel procreation or angel babies—not even Cupid—so humans will
likely not procreate there either. So where do the kids come from?
I would say us! Let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to relive the freedom
and wonder of childhood, God calls us his children, and Jesus even
says that we need to “change and become like little children” to get
to the New Earth (Matthew 18:3)! We know that he is referring to
their type of faith, but it certainly doesn’t seem that God would be
opposed to letting you live another childhood, or even many! After
all, we are there forever, no one is going anywhere, our ages there
are never revealed, and there’s no requirement to remember much of
anything from our past. Discontinuity embraces such a perpetually
fresh and exciting way to experience the New Earth, other humans,
and God! How could anyone “not find the prospect of eternal life
attractive” if this is how God the Father happily ensured that “there
will always be some new joy to discover,” that “this stretching and
growing will go on forever,” and that “”we will never bottom out and
become bored?”127-128 Hey, maybe some who died as kids or who still
act like kids will be resurrected as kids, or maybe we’ll be able to have
kids apart from earthly sex, but I for one don’t need to be an adult for

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the rest of eternity, that’s for sure!
Regardless of what age we are there, everyone is considered one
family, eternal brothers and sisters with Jesus, and children to God
the Father (Hebrews 2:10-11, Revelation 21:7). We will not think
of ourselves as the parents, children, spouses, or relatives that we
were here; instead, far more strongly than you associate with these
labels now, you will forever consider yourself a child of God and a
brother or sister to everyone else. Our earthly marriages and family
relationships were clearly never meant to persist there; they were
meant to teach us here, to make sense of God’s eternal marriage to
his people and the committed community we will have on the New
Earth, in ways that we can tangibly and intimately understand now.
Jesus’ rather surprising attitude toward his earthly family demon-
strated how well he understood such eternal associations and lived
according to them (Luke 2:41-50, Matthew 12:48-50, John 19:26-27).
Perhaps Christians should do the same, as many of these permanent
relationships have already begun. In fact, it is only when we are
willing to maintain a healthy (not irresponsible) detachment from
our earthly families that we will even find eternal life (Matthew
10:37-39, Mark 10:29-30, Luke 9:57-62)! Now we know why. Only
then can we freely attach to a much greater forever family that is
now—and always will be—ours. Only then can we pursue unhindered
the community for which we were created in a healed hereafter.
So that’s the whole enchilada! By avoiding the use of continuity to
extrapolate almost any characteristic of Heaven that we might want
from the Bible, we’ve been able to biblically list everything defini-
tively told to us about what the New Earth is like in less than five
pages: what we’ll remember, where it will be, what we’ll be like, and
who we’ll be with. And the best way to make these findings compre-
hensively tangible to you—while summarizing our comparison of a
continuously familiar Heaven with the biblical New Earth—is to share
a story respectively describing someone’s first day in each one.

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46

T his is a story about Jera. On earth, Jera accepted God’s solution
of Jesus when she was in college and went on to get her PhD in
Biology. She was married but then divorced when her husband left
to live with his new girlfriend. She had a miscarriage while married,
and was never able to become pregnant otherwise. Three years after
the divorce, she adopted two Ethiopian sibling daughters, orphaned
from infancy. Jera’s brother was mentally normal but had severe skel-
etal deformities from birth and was quite dependent, so she loved
and respected her parents tremendously for caring for him, but it had
now been a year since all three of them had died and left her behind.
As Jera was bringing her kids to junior high one day, a woman ran
a red light and hit them. There were no survivors (since we’re only
concerned with the New Earth/Heaven in this story, we’ll skip over
these folks’ existence in Sheol/Hades and judgment day).
Jera looks up in awe, as before her sits God the Father. Finally
accessible to humanity as God the Son and God the Holy Spirit were
previously, he welcomes her to a continuous Heaven! She sees her
younger daughter, and they embrace with joy. Then God introduces
her to an older child, who looks almost exactly like Jera—the daughter
she miscarried. Elated, Jera runs up to hold her and just can’t let her
go. The Holy Spirit fills her with joy; could things be any better?
Well, actually they could. Jera’s adopted daughter watches the scene
happily, but she doesn’t look like Jera, and she’s certainly not comfort-
ably familiar with sharing mom with a look-alike who mom loves a
little too much. Where is the mom she looks like to come and hold
her? Moreover, the experience reminds her of the Bible’s teaching that
she will never be able to marry, have sex, or likely have a daughter of
her own. This wasn’t the Heaven that she had looked forward to! She
turns to her real older sister for comfort, but no one is nearby. To the
three of them, God explains that unlike her, her sister was five weeks
past the age of accountability for automatic salvation, and since she
hadn’t accepted the gospel, she was in Hell. This news is unexpected.

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Now less elated—but still perfectly happy of course—Jera and the
girls decide that they need some fresh air. As Jera walks she notices
the familiar sights and sounds of the continuous New Earth and
anticipates the familiar comfort of her earthly life. She smiles as she
passes the field where she loved to play as a kid, well, except for when
those girls used to bully her to tears there. Pushing that memory
aside, she rounds the corner to find something she knows that she’ll
enjoy, the refuge of her beloved childhood house! But it’s not there.
Instead, an older couple is sitting on the porch of a small new house,
who Jera remembers as the people her dad sold the property to when
she was in college. Her dad had told her that they would keep the
house, but apparently he and Jera had been misinformed, as a new
one had obviously been built in its place.
Surprised—but still perfectly happy of course—she realizes that the
New Earth must be continuous from the time she died, rather than
from her childhood, so they move on. But the return to familiarity
doesn’t get any better as they walk by the tree under which her mom
had called to inform her of her brother’s death, and then the park
where she discovered her ex-husband’s betrayal, and then the road
on which the accident recently separating her from her older adopted
daughter occurred. Here there is no wreck—no car wreck that is—but
she turns her eyes elsewhere anyway. Unfortunately, they happen
upon a couple very much in love, having a picnic with their three
biological children. It is Jera’s ex-husband and Patti, the girlfriend he
went on to marry. Although glad that they apparently made things
right with the Lord, Jera is not at all interested in approaching them
for many reasons. However, wherever else she looks, she only sees
delighted, smiling parents with all their children, as well as large
groups of friends, laughing and hugging in a blissful reunion which
goes on for what seems like an eternity. Finally, a few of them notice
Jera and ask her and her daughters to come over. At this point, she’s
not even sure if she wants that. But they warmly greet her, and
the distraction is welcome. However, because these folks know each
other so well, unfamiliar family stories and inside jokes dominate the
conversation, leaving Jera’s relatively memory-scarce family out of the
loop even as they stand within it. Her biological daughter feels it most

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keenly, as she has no earthly memories to enjoy with others here at
all. But Jera recalls that pretty much the only thing that most people
on earth looked forward to in Heaven was being reunited with loved
ones, so she tolerates being the unintentional but inevitable lesser
priority that she will be to them. None of these folks are married
now, since that won’t happen on the New Earth, but they might as
well be, given the degree of time that they have been looking forward
to and will be spending with each other. But Jera is not the only one
who tolerates being a lesser priority. Because of differing memories
regarding their relationships, those who married or remarried several
times are not interacting with all of their spouses and children with
equal eagerness or with equal amounts of time, and some wait a
long time for only a short time of reuniting. Jera particularly identi-
fies with the wives who had no children, as they watch their earthly
spouse play ecstatically with another woman’s kids.
Non-plussed—but still perfectly happy of course—she excuses
herself and decides to find the people in Heaven who, like her, weren’t
surrounded by other Christians on earth. Thankfully, she spots
someone she does know, and a dear friend at that, a woman named
Anita who was Jera’s counselor after her painful divorce. Although
they hadn’t seen each other in years, they smile as they meet, and
when Jera shares that her experience so far has been different than
expected, Anita leads her to a large crowd of folks on a nearby hill,
all of whom seem to be just getting to know each other, with no
families or couples evident. Here are the folks who couldn’t bring
their social circle with them to Heaven! Like those who have made
earthly memories virtually only with other Christians, it makes sense
for those who don’t or couldn’t make such memories to flock together,
but this heavenly segregation is still disarming to Jera. Nonethe-
less, she and her daughters recognize that this—if any—is the group
for them, so they waste no time in relationship building. This proves
to be a challenge though, as many people Jera meets continuously
arrived in the New Earth far less educated and socially mature as
her, and conversation is limited to less stimulating and sophisticated
subject matter than she is used to. This is unanticipated, but they’ll
catch up with her eventually, and she’ll take what she can get at this

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point. Besides, she had learned that Jesus was somewhere in this
crowd! She is pointed in the direction of a thick ring of trees, so she
sprints toward them ahead of everyone to embrace the savior she is
so familiar with, who can make everything here the way she thought
it was going to be! But as she bursts into the grove, she is stopped
dead in her tracks, and a shock is sent down her spine. She is face to
face with a white woolly beast with seven horns, seven eyes, and a
gaping, mortal wound in its side. And it’s not alone. Four other crea-
tures, each with six wings and covered in eyes, encircle her, as well
as wolves, leopards, lions, bears, and several snakes (Isaiah 11:6-9,
Revelation 4:6-5:6). She glances around to look for other humans,
but instead notices a variety of beings of all shapes and sizes walking
into the grove. Every memory of nature documentaries and alien
movies that didn’t end so well for humans floods her mind, and she
doesn’t know whether to scream, bolt, or just give up. Then she hears
Jesus’ voice and realizes that he is the beast who looked as if it had
been slain! That’s not comfortably familiar; where is the guy with the
flowing locks and blue sash who she was ready to hug? She’s not so
sure about hugging this Lamb.
Confused—but still perfectly happy of course—she hesitantly listens
as Jesus shows her the many other races throughout the universe for
whom God has also made a salvation plan available. Jera notices that
these beings seem as confused as she is, as there is little on the New
Earth that is comfortably familiar to them either. They’re only here
because God rather arbitrarily chose the New Earth, rather than a
different planet, on which to dwell. Sympathizing with them, Jera’s
thoughts turn to her own memories of her previous life, particularly
of the people she hasn’t seen on the New Earth yet. She knows what
this might mean, but she resolutely asks Jesus if she can see them
anyway. Jesus leads her out of the grove to a huge cave where many
are gathered around a large hole in the ground. To offer her support
for what she is about to witness, he calls over a man who Jera recog-
nizes as her brother! Relieved, she thanks Jesus profusely, and turns
to chat with him, but then she sees that his continuous body is still
deformed. He doesn’t seem to mind, but it strikes her rather unfitting
for a perfect place. But then again, so has just about everything else,

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including being able to look into Hell. As they do, sure enough, they
see Jera’s older adopted daughter in torment, along with a teenage
boy. Judging by their similarity in looks, he must be her brother
from Ethiopia whom Jera never got to meet. Lugg doesn’t exist for
almost everyone who believes in a continuous Heaven, and appar-
ently no missionary or adoptive parent was able to make it to him
with the gospel. Either that or God assigned him to Hell before the
creation of the world. This surprises the onlookers, and it stuns Jera’s
younger adopted daughter as she also peers down, but they are even
less prepared for what they see next: both of Jera’s parents in Hell.
They are at a loss as they watch two loved ones, who had done so
many good things, in an existence apart from God. But Jera slowly
remembers that neither of their folks ever expressed a desire to know
God and be with him; they always considered Heaven the endless
vacation you would get if you did enough good deeds. Shocked, she
and her brother let the news sink in. But as it does, they are even
more surprised to find that they don’t care! They are able to watch
both Jera’s daughter and their parents suffer agony without a single
ounce of concern. Jera marvels at this, but she recalls being told once
on earth that she wouldn’t love people in Hell. Rather, their predic-
ament would only remind her of how great the New Earth is, and
being with Jesus would be so great that not even watching loved
ones in Hell could dampen the spirit! Well, that must explain it
then. Although the New Earth is less better than Hell than expected
and although being with Jesus is not quite as great as planned, Jera
is quite indifferent toward her family’s suffering. But rather than
helping her emotionally cope, the astonishing discrepancy between
this indifference and her fond family memories is something that she
just cannot reconcile in her mind.
Conflicted—but still perfectly happy of course—she immediately
rushes to ask Anita for advice, a person who had never steered Jera
wrong. Finding her on the other side of the circle, Jera shows Anita
her daughter in Hell, and asks her to help make sense of things. But
Anita, with sudden loss of color from her face, can only muster a few
feeble, hesitant words in response. “Jera, that girl was in the car I hit
just before I came here.” Silence. A very long silence. After seriously

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contemplating hurling herself into the hole, Jera knows that only one
person can fix this now, and she runs as fast as she can back to Jesus,
while her daughters, her brother, and Anita follow. “Jesus, please take
my memory away! So much of what I remember is either wrong or
causes what I can only describe as great suffering, even though that’s
supposed to be impossible here. So much of what I thought would be
comfortably familiar is either uncomfortable or unfamiliar. So much
of what continuously carried over from earth only serves to remind
me of the knowledge of evil I chose there. If this is an unmistakable
place, then why do I still experience evil and why are there certain
mistakes that I’d really like to commit right now? The only relation-
ships that I have here where I do value memory, comfortable famil-
iarity, and continuity are with my daughters, brother, and friend, and
even those seem far from perfect!” Jesus responds by reminding her
that in a continuous Heaven, memory and continuity must be main-
tained, so that God can victoriously restore the old earth into this
new one, rather than suffering defeat to Satan by making every-
thing new with a brand New Earth. The outcome of this contest
seems exactly the opposite to Jera, but Jesus continues, offering to
remove everything in her memory associated with evil and suffering,
rather than completely starting fresh. She accepts, eager to restore
the valued relationships that remain to her. POOF! Her daughters,
her brother, and Anita arrive, and as Jera approaches, she is delighted
to find no trace of favoritism, disappointment, or resentment within
her. But as she engages in conversation with them to begin this
restoration, she can no longer recall why these people are so impor-
tant to her or make sense of the memories she does have of them.
She doesn’t remember her miscarriage, so she doesn’t even know why
her biological daughter is present. She has several good memories of
her other daughter, but she can’t seem to string them together into
a meaningful relationship, as many of these recollections would have
never occurred and are nonsensical without memories of associated
periods of suffering. And because the memories of her brother and
Anita were nearly always associated with sickness or suffering, she
can barely remember anything about them at all! So now she has in
many ways lost these relationships as well. With as much mourning

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and crying and pain that she can imagine without being able to expe-
rience mourning and crying and pain, she is forced to start over, real-
izing in the end how much better it would have been to have simply
done so in the first place.
Is that the kind of Heaven we truly want? Is that the kind of
Heaven God would ever create? Those who strongly embrace conti-
nuity might object to this tale, claiming—and hoping—that the
New Earth won’t be anything like this, because God will somehow
make all these pitfalls go away! But how? By perfecting our perma-
nently continuous memories of imperfection? Memory is suffering,
and suffering is memory. If you remove suffering, you must remove
memory, as well as the continuity that is inseparable from it. You
have to start over. And if you find yourself searching for an impos-
sible way to begin perfectly anew while maintaining continuous
memory, ask yourself why. Why is it so important to remember every-
thing about this life when there is no biblical or logical impetus to
do so? What is it about this particular 80-year period—out of all the
millennia that you will exist—that should force Heaven to be just like
it? Why can’t perfect community with God and others be present
without continuity? After all, there was no continuity the only other
time such community existed! If Adam and Eve didn’t need memories
of some prior existence to experience an immaculate relationship with
God and each other, then neither will we. And why, if a continuous
Heaven is the true biblical Heaven, don’t God’s words just directly
tell us even once that we will remember our earthly lives, that we
will recognize our loved ones there, and that all will be comfortably
familiar? Surely, if God had wanted to, he could have easily added
one clear and concise sentence to the Bible, proving his purpose of
continuity and putting to rest everything we’ve discussed that speaks
against it. But he doesn’t want to, so he doesn’t do that. He knows
how Hellish a Heaven that’s limited to merely our experience and
memories on earth can truly be.
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how an earth/Hell/Heaven fusion
or continuous Heaven would avoid becoming like Hell. We are told
that in such Heavens sin will be “prohibited and removed”129 and that
“our eternal inability to sin has been purchased by Christ’s blood,”130

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but we are not told how this is possible. The New Earth cannot be
unmistakable if “there has to be the option, both now and then, to not
love. To turn the other way. To reject the love extended. To say no.”
“God always leaves room for the other to decide.”131-132 And if the New
Earth will be unmistakable because Christ’s sacrifice has made us
unable to sin, then why do we still sin now? Every current Christian
already “has been purchased by Christ’s blood,” so why do we continue
to know evil? Because when Jesus “made perfect forever those who
are being made holy,” he did so by removing their guilt in God’s
sight, so that he considers their admission into the New Earth justi-
fied (Hebrews 10:14). Quite obviously, unless there are any perfect
Christians out there I don’t know about, this justification does not
remove our ability to repeatedly sin and produce substantial suffering,
either here or on the New Earth. In contrast, God will remove it on
his New Earth, a place that makes perfect sense. Because of the many
teachings and bibles we’ve used the Bible to dismiss throughout this
book, for many of you, Hell had been anything but understandable
and Heaven anything but unmistakable. I earnestly hope this is no
longer the case. Let’s be satisfied with God’s New Earth, and we will
be relieved to find the superbly freeing, immaculately perfect, unmis-
takable place we were created for! Let’s let God’s words about the
New Earth heal Jera’s hereafter, shall we?

47

J era looks up in awe, as before her sits God the Father. Finally
accessible to humanity as God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
were previously, he welcomes her to the discontinuous New Earth! She
looks around and sees many others looking just as amazed. Then as
he did with Adam and Eve, God gives her the ability to understand
his words, explains who he is, and unveils that he has created her for
the purpose of eternal, perfect community with him and everyone
else who desires the same. He reveals that during the first part of her
existence, she believed in, was divinely confirmed in, and persistently

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acted upon her desire to seek and find this community, just like
everyone else around her. He clarifies that not all of her actions or
their actions were consistent with this faith, and that as a result, all
of them had experienced a time that was far worse than the expe-
rience awaiting them, which made them want this community even
more. Because they had previously proven that they would ruin what-
ever perfect community that they were in and because they had never
completely stopped wanting to know what such ruination was like,
the time had to come when that part of their existence had to end,
and after that, they could only forever exist in a place completely
without this community and the God that inhabits it. But God was
not about to abandon his purpose for them, so he came to live among
them as a person named Jesus to undeservedly experience that end
in their place, to free them from the consequence of that end, and
to prove his ability to do so. God tells Jera that he made this known
to her to believe once he was convinced of her faith that his stated
purpose, solution, and life for her was achievable and optimal. By the
permission of this faith, God had removed her ability to ruin perfect
community with him ever again. As Jera looks around to soak in
the newness, wonder, and beauty of everything that she can see, she
confirms that she would never want to ruin it, is exceedingly glad
that she can’t, and is exquisitely overjoyed that God created her at all,
let alone that he was willing to go to such great lengths so that she
could be here! She wanted to be here with him, and because of that,
she is!
God goes on to explain that everyone there has only just arrived,
all at the same time. He calls this perfect community between him
and his people marriage, a glimpse of which was often seen between
two humans previously. He describes the concepts of family and
friends, groups of people who by birth or circumstance are perfectly
committed to caring about each other and providing for each other,
glimpses of which were also experienced by humans previously. Then
he turns her attention to every single person present, and declares
with great satisfaction that they are all forever married to him, and
that they are all forever in the same single family and forever in the
closest group of friends. Needless to say, the news is well-received by

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all, and they all literally shine as the Holy Spirit fills them with joy!
From this point the story could go in one of two directions, and the
Bible does not tell us which. God might ask Jera if she wants to know
who her family and friends previously were. If she says yes, then
God could introduce her to or give her recognition of those people—
as long as they also wanted to know—and perhaps even some infor-
mation about them. He probably wouldn’t say how they were related
to her, as that would lead to comparisons and inequality, and he
certainly wouldn’t mention any experiences that involve or could lead
to suffering. Of course, merely being able to recognize more people
than someone else there, despite having no memory of them, could be
perceived as inequality and potentially cause suffering. Therefore, God
might not give Jera that option at all, and she would certainly not be
any worse off for it. If this is the case, then Jera would experience
life on the New Earth from a totally clean slate, having no way to
discriminate between people or places that she either knew before or
didn’t. Obviously, with no memory or details concerning her earthly
life, we needn’t follow that path any further, as the events in her eter-
nity would unfold unpredictably without any constraint of continuity.
Instead, we will follow her down the first path, both because it high-
lights important comparisons with the continuous Heaven of the first
story and because it gives us a more intricate view of what informa-
tion may and may not be available in the discontinuous Heaven. Let
me make it clear that some of what follows is speculation, but these
suggestions are never antagonistic to the Bible and do nothing more
than reflect the impartiality, love for children, creativity, omnipo-
tence, and transformation of human suffering that does characterize
God in his words.
So God asks Jera if she wants to know who her family and friends
previously were, and Jera says yes. He introduces her to two women,
who she does not know were her biological and younger adopted
daughters. God tells her how much she loved both of them and gave
of herself for their well-being. The three of them feel equally satis-
fied by this news and embrace one another, with no jealousy or sense
of lost opportunity at all. God tells them that they will meet others
in a similar fashion as they explore the New Earth. But they have

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no reminiscing to do with each other or details to catch up on, and
all three of them would rather simply spend some time with God to
learn more about him together. That’s why they’re here after all! They
have a delightful conversation with him and learn so much about how
he went about preparing this place and what things they might do
there with him and with each other. He explains the concept of being
their father and them being his children. With a slightly mischie-
vous smile, he asks the two daughters if they would like to experience
that more directly. Jera’s biological daughter says yes, and suddenly
she is much smaller, assumes more petite features, and starts acting
strangely silly! He tells Jera that she may try this whenever she likes,
but for now she’s fascinated enough observing it. God the Father
then encourages them to find Jesus to learn more about this whole
family thing. They have no great impetus to leave his presence, but
there were many things he had told them of that would be interesting
to explore, so they get up to take a walk. Before they leave the New
Jerusalem, God invites them to eat from the tree of life and drink
from the water of life. They do, and it tastes most refreshing!
Perfectly happy of course, they encounter landscapes and buildings
that bear no specific resemblance to any place or time on earth. They
are free to make whatever perfect memories they want in any one of
these places, without them being tainted by any past evil or misin-
formation. As they pass fields, trees, houses, and roads, they enjoy
conversation with each other, but without any memories to make
their relationships seem more significant than with others, they indif-
ferently branch off into conversations with random people going the
same way. When they reach a large gathering, they stop to do some
people watching. Jera recognizes a man, her ex-husband, as someone
she knew and realizes that God has informed her that she was very
close to him. He is with an unrecognizable woman and their kids,
who have chosen to appear as children, just like Jera’s biological
daughter. The man recognizes Jera too and beckons her over, intro-
ducing everyone to her. Knowing nothing of the hatred and pain
that plagued them before, they have a lovely conversation about how
wonderful it is to be forgiven by God and welcomed to a place where
they don’t need to worry about ruining anything or anyone now.

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Jera and Patti hit it off in particular, as they discover how similar
their personalities are. They decide to do more exploring together, so
they bid adieu to the man, and Jera laughs—instead of cries—as she
watches the three children roughhouse with him. Almost immediately
they meet up with a third woman, but Jera does not remember her,
since Anita preferred to not recognize those from the first part of her
existence. This trio, an anomaly anywhere except the discontinuous
Heaven, finds itself so enraptured in girl gab that they don’t get their
bearings until they are in the very center of the crowd. And what a
gathering, with people of many different skin colors, body shapes,
and clothing preferences! Every now and then moments of recogni-
tion are noticeable, as with Jera and her ex-husband, but as no one
is particularly attached to anyone else, no conversation contains the
same group of people for long. No one commands attention, as there
is no recollected human standard of beauty to be drawn toward, only
the one that God universally used to create every one of their resur-
rected bodies. Since everybody is starting from square one, there
are too many ideas, learning opportunities, and interesting topics of
conversation for any one discussion. Moreover, no one knows more or
is able to better communicate a perspective, so everyone’s opinion is
equally welcome. There is no reason for anyone to feel jealous, alone,
or of lesser priority. And when word has spread that Jesus himself
is somewhere near, they all immediately end their conversations to
find him. They would much rather see him than spend time with any
other human. That’s why they’re here, after all!
Jera discovers sooner than most that Jesus is in a grove of trees.
Sprinting into the midst of them ahead of the others, she is suddenly
overwhelmed by wonder! Before her is a woolly creature with seven
eyes and horns, as well as a deep groove in only one side. Having no
recollection of nature documentaries or horror movies, she considers
this one of the coolest things she’s seen yet, much like many of us do
when we see a really unique creature for the first time. But when she
looks around, she sees so many more wonderfully unique beasts. God
had described animals to her, but her imagination had not done them
justice! There were large, graceful creatures with big hairy necks or
spots all over, fascinating legless squiggly things on the ground, and

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four beasts completely discontinuous from earth right next to her,
with six wings and eyes everywhere. She was wondering how many
more of God’s amazing creations she could learn about when to her
astonishment the woolly creature speaks, identifying itself as Jesus.
Having no memory of flannelgraphs or medieval art, she flings her
arms around his neck in gratitude for allowing her into this beau-
tiful place! He smiles and tells her to look up. For the first time she
beholds the new heavens, and marvels at the numerous round objects
punctuating the deep blue backdrop, celestial bodies like but unlike
the old discarded moon, stars, and planets of this current creation.
Jesus informs her that on some of these planets are even more beings,
ones made in the image of God like humans, who have also been
saved. They are on their New Planets—as one would expect—and God
is equally present with them, as they are also part of the family. Of
course, Jera can go visit them anytime, and as fun as becoming a
child was to watch, this opportunity excites her even more! But Jesus
has something else to show her first. Jera follows, chuckling at the
creature making a mooing sound contentedly next to the one with
the hairy neck. What will God come up with next?
As they step out of the grove, she immediately recognizes a man
walking toward them, free of any deformity or dysfunction. Jesus
tells them both that they knew each other for a very long time and
were dear to each other. He describes a joke that they would tell each
other that made them laugh so hard that they couldn’t breathe. It’s
still just as funny. Jera’s brother tells her about the mountains that
he looks forward to hiking and the lakes that he can’t wait to swim
in, and Jera recounts the skies and their undiscovered wonders. While
they enthusiastically digress, they don’t notice Jesus staring up at a
large cave, where angels encircle a hole in the ground. With a look
that encompasses nearly every conceivable emotion, he knows that the
parents of these two are in Gehenna, despite dedication to their son.
Without faith that God’s purpose for them, God’s solution for them,
and God’s Heaven for them were the best, they desired—and found—
the place they consider to be better. God had done everything he
could to help them, but they wanted an existence apart from him—
one where they could be gods and determine what was best. So it had

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to be, or no one could freely choose an existence with him and his
best either.
However, Jera’s other family members fared differently. The
older adopted daughter and her brother, along with Jera’s biolog-
ical daughter, had all gone to Lugg. The first hadn’t had as equal
an exposure to the gospel on earth as others, the second had been
geographically isolated from the gospel, and the third hadn’t lived
long enough to have any access to the gospel at all. Jesus keenly
remembered visiting Lugg three separate times to fairly share God’s
solution with them, and all three had demonstrated the faith to
accept it! Rather than being judged according to the criteria of age or
missionary exposure, they were judged justly, like every other human.
Even Jera’s youngest daughter was not saved automatically. Her faith
was apparent to God just weeks before she died, and her own moth-
er’s perseverance in teaching her children about their savior made it
possible for the girl to use that faith to accept the gospel. And here
they all come! Jera’s daughters had happened upon the adopted one’s
older siblings, and the four of them are now immensely enjoying their
new resultant friendships. Never for a moment does Jera’s biolog-
ical daughter feel any different than the others. As Jesus introduces
himself—since they couldn’t remember the first time he had done so
in Lugg—they jump on him and begin a raucous celebration! This
gets the attention of Jera and her brother, and she is newly and
gratefully taught by God about her third daughter. Many others from
the crowd have finally located Jesus as well and rush toward him.
The angels are now in front of the cave, brandishing instruments of
all kinds, including a hip-hop harp ensemble! But it is God’s voice
that is first heard, singing a melody so powerful, so beautiful, and so
moving that none can resist being swept into the song. There is great
danger of a massive dance party threatening to bust out. Just before
it does, Jera glances past the angels, but her eyes only behold the face
of a cliff, off which bounce the angel’s vibes, human harmonies, the
Father’s song, and Jesus’ laugh. As Patti her betrayer and Anita her
slayer pull her into the dance, Jera grins at her new perfect family-
friends, and she never thinks to look up that way again.
That, my friends, is the biblical, Godmade Heaven, centered around

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his fulfilled purpose of perfect, eternal community between him and
his own. God both anticipates and then annihilates whatever doubt
remains that he has the best Heaven in mind! “Look! God’s dwelling
place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They
will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their
God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more
death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has
passed away.” God is “making everything new!” “See, I will create new
heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remem-
bered, nor will they come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in
what I will create” (Revelation 21:4-5, Isaiah 65:17-18). Count me in!
That, my friends, is a healed hereafter.

48

W ell, we’ve trudged through Hell, soared through Heaven, and
now it’s time to come down to earth. In Chapters 35-36, the
first question raised by the concept of a perfect Heaven led us to
answer why Hell is not temporary, but understandable. In Chapters
37-47, the second question raised by this Heaven finally led us to
answer why Heaven is not continuous, but unmistakable. The third
and final question raised by an unmistakable Heaven leads us to
answer why we should even have to worry about Hell and Heaven
here and now! If in Heaven God can make us with free will—except
for the choice to sin and know evil—why didn’t he do that from the
get-go and save us all? If that’s his way of keeping Heaven perfect,
why wasn’t that his way of keeping the garden of Eden perfect?
It’s a good question, but there’s a simple answer, and it offers us a
great opportunity to summarize nearly our whole framework! God’s
purpose for humans is for us to reach out for him and find eternal,
perfect community with him. He had to give us free will so that we
could truly engage in a meaningful relationship with him, genuine
individuals choosing to know him and his goodness, not merely
puppets doing his bidding. This free will had to include the option to

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not know God, to know what is not God, to sin and know evil. God
could not possibly know if we freely desired to be in perfect commu-
nity with him unless we were able to freely choose not to. This is
why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had to be in the
garden of Eden, and it is why the choice to know God and his good-
ness or not God and evil must be given to all humans.
God can make Heaven unmistakable by removing its inhabit-
ants’ ability to sin and know evil because their faith and deeds have
already proven a growing relationship with him that freely desires
such perfect community. “I will put my laws in their minds and
write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be
my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one
another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the
least of them to the greatest.  For I will forgive their wickedness and
will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:10-12). Where is the
only place that everyone knows God? Heaven. The people there want
God to keep heaven perfect by making them unable to sin, and God
knows it. But if he had removed our ability to sin and know evil way
back in the garden of Eden, we would never have had the free choice
to choose that relationship with him in the first place. God could
never have known who truly wanted perfect community with him,
and his purpose for us would have been thwarted. Sure, we would
have been able to use our free will in many other ways, as we will
be able to in Heaven. But concerning our ability to choose God or
choose not God—which is the primary purpose for our free will in
the first place—we’d still just be puppets, wouldn’t we? Humans have
to have the free will now to ultimately choose God and his goodness
or sin and evil before God can know which of them desire to have
their ability to sin removed in Heaven, right?
In fact, this is the whole point of our existence from the time that
our physical life begins to the time that our eternal fate is decided: to
use our free will to make this ultimate choice! If in the garden God
had given us free will, except the ability to sin, there would be no
reason for our earthly existence at all, unless this planet was human-
ity’s eternal destination. Likewise, there is no reason for our earthly
existence if everyone is saved, or if God chooses who is saved and

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who is not. We might as well have started our existence in Heaven
or Hell in those cases, since our lives here wouldn’t in any way affect
which of the two we end up in. Throughout this book these two
frameworks have consistently failed to answer many important ques-
tions, and here near the end they fall flat yet again. In contrast, if
our free will to choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil, to choose God or not God, factors into our eternal desti-
nation—and it does—then we have the best of all reasons to be here
before we go there. God has to make us mistakable before we can
demonstrate who of us desire to be made unmistakable in the healed
hereafter of Heaven. And now is the time for us to decide.

God lets us all have our cake and eat it too. Each of us
chooses a fate—one far more significant than leaving
AMA—and experiences the resultant outcome. For him
to accomplish his purpose for us and for us to be able to
exist in perfect community with him, this outcome must
be eternal. There must be a forever Hell for there to be a
forever Heaven.

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Two potential paths lie before a close-knit mother and daughter, and they
must now decide between them. By opting for an existence where they
each can guide their own course—apart from a higher authority who
knows best—they would experience the Hell of each being her own god
and each resolutely doing everything her own way. They maintain the con-
tinuity of their earthly relationship, but it is marred by each only accepting
her own authority, to the detriment of both. Because their minds are fixed
on self-pursuit and because no one greater than them exists on their path
to divine a way out, they willingly force themselves to perpetually continue
on. In contrast, by opting to submit to Jesus’ guidance and authority, they
would experience the Heaven of community with God—finally including
God the Father—and perfect assimilation of his best. They cannot maintain
the continuity of their imperfect earthly relationship, but after being intro-
duced to each other, they can easily achieve and surpass the quality of
their former closeness anyway—and without the former baggage. Without
distraction from either family/friend reunions or any memories of prejudice
and inequality, they waste no time in building relationships with the broad
diversity of individuals God greatly enjoys filling the New Earth with. All who
choose this path are made unmistakably free to enjoy perfect, eternal com-
munity together with God in a Heaven greater than anything imaginable.

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Part 9:

Where Are You Taking You?
Healing Hereafter

49

T hroughout this book we have sought to construct a framework
for our beliefs about Hell and Heaven that is biblically consistent,
remains logically sound, and practically addresses not just one, but
the great majority of questions that arise when we ponder the Chris-
tian afterlife for as long as we have. More questions might remain,
but I know of no ground left untouched that is vital to explore. In
our exploration, we have discovered a framework that is uniformly
based on one thing: God’s chief purpose in creating human beings
(Acts 17:26-28, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). Once we were able to identify
that, God, free will, sin, evil, suffering, death, the afterlife, Hell, faith,
the solution of Jesus, a relationship with God, doing good, perfection,
and Heaven all started to fall into place within this construct, making
a lot of sense. This was encouraging because God should make sense
when he needs to, every aspect of the afterlife should be explained
by whatever framework approximates the truth, and this framework
should always remain consistent with God’s purpose for it if he is truly
behind it. God will get his way in a Godmade worldview. As a fresh
and fast-paced way of summarizing much of what we discussed, we’re
going to ask whether or not God gets his way in many ideas we found
to be wanting, and then we’ll do the same for those we found to be
working. The contrast between the two is stunning!
If God’s purpose for humans is to find perfect community with
him forever, does God get his way if that perfection cannot be main-
tained because the people in Heaven always have the freedom to sin?
Or if those God is supposed to be communing with can always choose
to go to Hell where God is not? Or if Heaven is simply the ulti-
mate vacation resort for humans where God merely functions as the
management, if even that? Or if people can experience this commu-
nity with him without wanting a growing relationship with God? Or
if Heaven is actually here, no better than earth or even than Hell?
God’s purpose for creating humanity is thwarted if any one of these
things is true.

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What about God’s process of salvation? Does God get his way in
choosing to make sure that at least some people are saved if the solu-
tion allowing salvation doesn’t fix the problem? Or if we’re inexpli-
cably supposed to erase our imperfection by doing x, y, and z? Or if
Jesus wasn’t perfect and therefore had to die for his own sins and not
ours? Or if he never died at all to atone or be a substitute for our
own death? Or if he never was resurrected to act as our ransom and
exemplify God’s hope of resurrection for us as well? Or if the faith
required for salvation doesn’t have any connection with the purpose
for humanity that it was supposed to be achieving, such as the discon-
nected faith that is not in finding God, but solely in the steps of
the gospel or in human works? Or if the solution he painstakingly
provided through Jesus is not the only way, just one unnecessary way
amongst far easier paths? God’s process of salvation is meaningless if
any one of these things is true.
What about God maintaining his virtue of justice? Does God get
his way if his punishment for our sin doesn’t justly fit the crime? Or if
he predestines us to sin and suffering, only to hypocritically blame us
for them, command that we stop them, and claim his own innocence
through it all? Or if he uses a double standard to send some to Hell
and some to Heaven without giving anyone a say in the matter? Or
if instead, that double standard is to automatically save some human
spirits, no strings attached, while requiring faith from everyone else?
Or if he doesn’t find ways to equally offer the gospel to everyone,
while maintaining that he wants all to be saved through Jesus? Or if
he never finally punishes evil, forever delaying avengement of those
tyrannized by it and forever subjecting to imperfection those who
want to fulfill his purpose for them by being made perfect? God
cannot maintain his virtue of justice if any one of these things is true.
What about Hell? Does God get his way if Hell doesn’t exist, disal-
lowing humans the free-willed choice whether or not to experience
meaningful community with God in Heaven? Or if love wins “because
God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest of hearts,”1 as God
punishes the Hell out of them until they “want” Heaven? Or if Hell as
a correctional facility proves time and time again in the Bible to drive
people farther away from community with God rather than closer?

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God doesn’t get his way with Hell if any one of these things is true.
What about Heaven? Does God get his way if the suffering and
misinformation of memory perpetually mar its perfection? Or if
Heaven maintains inequality, mistrust, and sorrow because everyone
there can remember the unfair or tainted experiences we had and the
choices we made here? Or if a continuous Heaven forces God’s imag-
ination of what it could be into the best-of-earth that many people
think they want it to be? Or if a continuous earth prohibits God from
victoriously being able to do what he said he will do in ending this
planet to fashion a perfect, brand New Earth? God doesn’t get his
way with Heaven if any one of these things is true.
What about God’s authority? Does God get his way if nothing but
free will dictates what will happen to humans forever, never able to
make Heaven truly Heaven for his and their sakes? Or if his non-
human creation on earth or in Heaven will always be subject to the
suffering caused by humanity’s ability to choose to know and under-
stand evil? Or if the only way God’s love can win is by humans
repeatedly subtracting from, adding to, and changing the content and
meaning of the words God gives us in the Bible? Does God get his
way if human words trump his own, if his word is not good enough
to be the final word? No.
But God does get his way when his purpose for humans of eternal
perfect community with him dictates and can be found within every-
thing he does concerning our salvation. When this purpose allows
God to remain true to his good and rational nature in his creation of
a human spirit, the presence of the free will tied to it, and the resul-
tant potential for evil, suffering, and Hell. When God can remain
just by making the punishment for the problem of sin perfectly fit
the crime. When God can remain merciful and loving by sacrificially
offering himself as a solution that no human deserves. When God
can remain logical by providing the gospel of Jesus’ perfection, death,
and resurrection that truly applies to and solves both our problem
and our punishment. When the way of salvation he arduously
provides through Jesus is the only way, not an illogical manmade
mantra or an incompatible mess of multiple paths. When the people
who end up in the Godmade Heaven are those who actually want to

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be in perfect community with God. When the type of faith God looks
for in humans naturally results in this community as well, partially
on earth and fully in Heaven. When he makes good on his claim that
he wants everyone to be saved by eventually giving all humans equal
access to the gospel and never forcing anyone to choose to go to Hell.
When he proves he despises all the evil that he commands against
by entering into a relationship with us so that we value what he’s
all about enough to obey him, even giving us his Holy Spirit to help
us do good amidst evil. When Heaven uniquely transcends that evil
and imperfection that will still and always remain on earth. When
Heaven is about him and his people, not human hedonism. When his
just wrath compensates those who oppress humanity. When he judges
everyone at the same time and according to the same standard. When
Hell is what humans have chosen, instead of a not-so-correctional
facility that only accomplishes the very opposite of God’s purpose for
them. When God doesn’t pretend to want people to be able to freely
choose him on earth, only to get nasty about coercing them to choose
him in Hell. When he makes Hell understandable by honoring their
choice and the consequences of that choice when they decide to be
there. When he makes his discontinuous, equal, and immeasurably
great brand new Heaven unmistakable by acting to assure that it will
forever fulfill his purpose of eternal, perfect community with him
for all who want it. When he successfully communicates a consis-
tent, straight-forward, rational, and practical hereafter throughout
history via his words in the Bible. When his words are comprehen-
sively, honestly, and understandably conveyed to us, without manip-
ulation. When humans do not attempt to usurp his authority with
what they deem to be their own. God gets his way when God’s word
is the final word.

50

A s we near the end of our time together, it is my fervent desire
that whatever difficulties, misconceptions, antagonism, or

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confusion you have been enduring regarding the hereafter have at
least begun to heal. Christianity has been described as a “unique
synthesis of time-honoured ideas into a code that had both a
universal resonance and a simplicity.”2 That is exactly what it has
become to me—and much more, of course—since I openly discov-
ered how the Bible resolved my own questions about its afterlife. I
earnestly hope your consideration of how this book interacts with
your belief system produces a similar result. My goal was to make
sense to you, to objectively inform you, and to offer the genuine,
lasting hope that comes with a comprehensive biblical exploration of
Hell and Heaven. Perhaps the framework above accomplished that all
by itself, and if so, I am very excited for you and thankful to you for
working through it with me!
What remains are my encouragements to you, both to those who
picked this book up with faith in something other than Christianity
and to those who identify themselves as Christians, as you all synthe-
size this into something practical to apply and enjoy. For the person
who is not a Christian, wow! You made it a long way through a lot
of the Bible to get here, and you certainly have my respect and grati-
tude for doing so! I am known for being somewhat long-winded even
by the people who like me the most, and you stuck with me without
having even met me! If it was because you benefited from what God’s
words have to tell us, that is awesome. But regardless, your persever-
ance has proven that you didn’t start this book satisfied. Not many
folks are entirely content with their understanding of the afterlife if
they are willing to finish a whole book about the Bible’s. And as my
final effort to help heal your hereafter, these are my encouragements
for you.
First, you’re not getting the whole story from those who preach a halfway
Hell. The idea of a temporary Christian Hell is unbelievably attrac-
tive to anyone—including me—who has meaningful relationships with
those who are choosing to go there. However, the problem is obvious
and unavoidable; such a Hell is unbelievable when you are honest
and open about what the Bible consistently and persistently has to
say. Thankfully, God is intimately aware of the emotional turmoil
that this realization produces; after all, he took on himself the sin

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and suffering of the world, under circumstances that any of us would
consider Hellish, to make it possible for us to escape Hell! And he
continuously looks for those here who choose to escape, laments
those who don’t, and longs for those who are choosing Hell to choose
him instead. I have never met anyone who warns us about Hell and
agonizes over Hell more than God does in the Bible! But he will not
force us to want him against our will—his purpose for humanity will
fail if he does so—and we know now that an eternal Hell has to be
accessible if the Godmade Heaven is to be achievable. God has made
Hell understandable, not attractive. He wants us to learn about it but
also to loathe it, so that we will let him heal each one of us from it.
Just like a good doctor. Suppose you know there is a problem
with your health but are confused about what it is. You anxiously
visit a doctor who examines you and runs several tests. He discovers
that you have a horrible but potentially curable cancer, so long as a
prompt but potentially difficult treatment regimen is implemented.
But since he knows that this is unpleasant news to share and a truth
that you might not want to accept, he convinces himself that it would
be most helpful to withhold this information from you. Instead, as he
goes over the test results with you, he adds to, subtracts from, and
changes the meaning of the findings to persuade you that you have
a condition that is only temporary and will almost certainly heal,
knowing that you will trust him as an authority on the matter, as
you don’t possess an extensive understanding of the evidence your-
self to question him with. This news does not really make sense
to you, but it’s what you wanted to hear from a seemingly reliable
source, so you decide to disregard other research you have done to
explain your persisting symptoms, desiring to maintain that whatever
is causing them can’t possibly be as bad as that research suggests. Six
months later, you learn the truth, except now your cancer has become
incurable. While you may have received some false relief during the
time of your initial ignorance, how would you feel now? Wouldn’t
you wish that both your doctor and you had valued the difficult
truth over your feelings and desires? Would you ever recommend that
another person seek this physician’s advice? Would you not confront
this doctor and warn his other patients for their sakes, but ultimately

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for his as well? And these would be your reactions under the best of
circumstances, right? You have even more reason to act in the same
way toward those who preach a halfway Hell, both for the sakes of
those who listen to them and for their own. Conversely, God—the
best healer of all—makes the cure to experiencing Hell understand-
able to you now at the risk of discomfort, inconvenience, and offense,
so that you believe that it’s bad enough to accept his solution for you
before it’s too late. Now that’s a good physician!
Second, you’re not getting the whole story from a hurtful Hell either. A
Hell that God is indifferent to people going to is hurtful. A Hell that
God wants people to go to is more hurtful. A Hell that God forces
people to go to is even more hurtful. A Hell that God forces people
to go to and blames them for is still more hurtful. And a Hell that
God forces people to go to, blames them for, and enjoys their torment
in is the most hurtful Hell of all! You may have heard such Hells
preached from either noble or nasty motives, from genuinely loving
warnings or hateful prejudiced proclamations. They’re not holding
back the truth; they’re going far beyond it. The doctor here has no
qualms telling you all about your cancer or the imminent need for
curative treatment, consistent with other research you did prior to the
appointment, fearing the worst. But then he goes on and on about
the discouraging details of it, far more than you ever truly need to
know. And perhaps, as his lunchtime approaches, he is quite indif-
ferent to the emotional response you’re exhibiting. Oh, and if you
happen to be the type of person he doesn’t particularly care for, he
may even seem to want you to have this cancer. Or knowing the
lifestyle choices that put you at risk, he may not just make a point
to blame you for it but appear to take pleasure in doing so! Unfor-
tunately, although deep down you know the best course of action,
your onerous encounter infuriates you to the point where you seek
a second opinion from the first doctor, who pleasantly assures you
that everything will be alright in the end, even though the story
ends exactly as the first one did. What would your reaction be to the
overadvising doctor? You’d be glad he valued the difficult truth over
your feelings and desires, but not at the utter expense of them. Would
you ever recommend that another person seek this physician’s advice?

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Would you not at least consider confronting this doctor and warning
his other patients for their sakes, but ultimately for his as well? And
these would be your reactions under the best of circumstances, right?
You have even more reason to act in the same way toward those who
preach a hurtful Hell, both for the sakes of those who listen to them
and for their own. As improbable as it may seem to you, many of
these overadvising folks don’t mean you ill will; there is value to be
found in their message, but it is so restricted by their condemnatory
disregard for your emotional considerations that it ceases to be recog-
nizable or helpful. Conversely, God—the best healer of all—makes the
potentially curable Hell understandable to you now. He expects you
to take responsibility for the lifestyle choices that put you at risk, but
he is distraught at the diagnosis, comes alongside you to understand
your feelings, voluntarily reproduces your symptoms in his own body
so that he can truly empathize with you, and finally gives his life for
you by donating the vital organ you need to replace your diseased
one, all so that you believe that he’s good enough to accept his solu-
tion for you before it’s too late. Now that’s a great physician!
Third, you’re not getting the whole story on Heaven. Heaven is not an
endless church service where we only wear robes, play harps, and
sing on the clouds before God. God created us for far greater expe-
riences than that. It is not an ultimate island getaway where we
finally get the perfect tan—as alluring as that may be for someone
like me who works in the dark all day! God created us for far more
of himself than that. It is not a futile fusion of earth/Hell/Heaven,
now and forever. God created us for far more perfection than that.
And it is not the longest and most painful continuous family/friend
reunion that a person with mostly non-Christian loved ones could
possibly witness. God created us for far more equality than that.
What the New Earth is is a refreshingly discontinuous, diversely
non-segregated, blank slate where people can perfectly find God, be
who he created them to be, and enjoy everyone else in a brand new
place full of wonder and opportunity. Satan loses, God wins, and all
God’s people are unmistakably and forever lovin’ it! Even more than
McDonald’s.
And that brings us to my final encouragement for you. No, not

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McDonald’s; I’m still a doctor interested in your physical health,
not just your spiritual health, after all! With this Godmade Heaven in
mind, be open-minded enough to truly consider all that we have discussed,
so that you might find perfect community with this amazing God. To this
end we have explored God’s words comprehensively, entertained and
addressed numerous counterarguments, and tried to anticipate and
answer subsequent questions. That’s how I got to this point myself,
and quite honestly, the journey has been so beautifully satisfying and
exciting that I’ve much enjoyed sharing it with you! Make no mistake,
none of this means that what I’ve said is correct, but it does demon-
strate that I truly want you to have the most objective and thorough
understanding of the biblical Hell and Heaven as possible. There-
fore, I encourage you to respond to this book by asking the question
I posited at the very beginning: Does this framework—compared to
the one that you currently have—more adequately and comprehen-
sively offer consistently applicable explanations for all of the ques-
tions and topics that we’ve pondered, and why or why not? Teach
me where I can learn from you, and let yourself learn what you can
from me. If a unified story that works has arisen from these pages,
then I encourage you to enjoy being part of it! And hey, at the very
worst, merely purchasing this book will bring a little spring to people
in need anyway, right? But you read this far for a reason, didn’t you?
Don’t be satisfied to let them be the only ones who benefit from your
investment!
Now for my encouragements for those who are Christians. First,
I similarly encourage you to be open-minded. The way that you’ve always
understood Hell and Heaven may not jive with all that we’ve found
them to be. The things that you’d really like to believe about the
hereafter may not be consistent with everything that the Bible has
to say about it. And the historical or denominational constructs that
you use to describe your concept of Hell and Heaven may not be
giving you God’s whole story either. These constructs are extremely
useful for organizing and summarizing our convictions, and doing so
can be very helpful. But because they’re so convenient and concise,
too easily and too often our beliefs are derived from them instead
of from God. I fully realize that what we’ve discussed in this book is

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itself a construct to help organize and summarize our beliefs. That is
why I intentionally used the Bible at every opportunity that I could
to support what was said, and you have been repeatedly challenged to
use the words of God to validate my own (1 Corinthians 4:6). I know
that it’s more comfortable to maintain the status quo, I know that it’s
easier to reject new concepts in favor of old ones, and I know that
it’s more convenient to invoke mystery—the “God knows, so I don’t
have to” approach—to “explain” everything that is confusing about
God rather than doing the work to discover how much he really does
reveal to us.
But this comfort, ease, and convenience comes with a price: the
recurrent doubts of poorly answered questions, the aching suspicion
that your convictions just don’t make sense, and the nagging aware-
ness that your beliefs can’t possibly fit together into one unified story
that works. It’s easy to give a neat and tidy answer to one deep ques-
tion of life while ignoring how that answer completely falls apart
when you ask the other deep questions. But there’s another price to
pay, one that no Christian should ignore. For good or bad reasons,
the belief that they are going to Heaven is so ingrained in many
Christians that accepting mystery as an answer to questions about
Heaven doesn’t threaten that belief as it should. Likewise, they’ll
accept mystery as an answer to questions about Hell, because the
belief that they’re not going there is so entrenched that it doesn’t
faze them if those questions aren’t adequately addressed. However,
they forget that the non-Christians that they offer mystery to don’t
have any existing confidence in Christianity to overcome a suboptimal
answer to a crucial question about the hereafter. Often, the only
reason non-Christians have to believe is the answer, so when they’re
told that they can’t ever know the answer and don’t need to, they
understandably turn to other worldviews for a better answer. You can
give them a better answer, so decrease your doubt and their disap-
pointment by engaging the Bible to find one. Respect mystery where
it must be found; we cannot and don’t need to understand every-
thing about God. But reject mystery where it promotes excuses or
complacency in learning what we do need to understand about God.
It has been the persistent, dedicated task of this book to offer you a

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framework as rooted in the Bible as possible, providing answers to
life’s deep questions that are not only coherent together but support
each other. So Christians, I also invite you to ask the question I
posited at the very beginning: Does this framework—compared to the
one that you currently have—more adequately and comprehensively
offer consistently applicable explanations for all of the questions and
topics that we’ve pondered, and why or why not? Teach me where I
can learn from you, and let yourself learn what you can from me. If a
unified story that works has arisen from these pages, I encourage you
to enjoy being part of it!
Second, as with non-Christians, you’re not getting the whole story either,
just with different consequences. If your Hell is a halfway Hell, there’s no
lasting danger in not telling people about it. Where’s the urgency of
explaining an eternity that’s never forever? Why rock the boat and
risk the inconvenience and potential backlash? There’s no pressing
reason for them to believe you anyway, right? In fact, what’s the
hurry to accept it yourself? Why not experience the diverse existence
of living a little bit with and a little bit without God here, exploring
Hell for awhile just to be sure that’s not where the real party is, and
then settling down in Heaven to get in on that perfection action?
After all, the more you bring Heaven to earth, the less of earth there
is to experience, and everyone will get plenty of Heaven later anyway!
Besides, God can’t possibly really care how you live your life if the
worst you’ll get from him is a time out in the garbage dump. And
since apparently, “God says yes, we can have what we want, because
love wins,”3 he’ll love whatever you want to do anyway. Beware! This
mentality can develop very quickly, because no matter how hard
you try to muster motivation to serve the God of a halfway Hell,
these questions will always be lurking in your mind, won’t they? The
halfway Hell gives non-Christians little reason to believe and Chris-
tians plenty of reasons to leave. Ironically, it’s the same with a hurtful
Hell. How can you get motivated in any positive way to share with
someone a God who makes people involuntarily sin, suffer, and go
to Hell? How persistently can you obey God’s command to love your
neighbors by telling them how much God hates them unless they
repent? How enthusiastic can you get to spread the “good” news that

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God wants to torment them forever if they don’t believe? How long
before you throw in the towel on sharing this God because you’ve
thrown in the towel on God himself? Sooner or later, the hurtful Hell
gives non-Christians little reason to believe and Christians plenty of
reasons to leave too.
But not getting the whole story on Hell isn’t the only danger. The
same danger applies to not getting the whole story on Heaven. How
exciting is it to do and share the x, y, and z required for any one
of several manmade Heavens? How pumped up do you get always
trying to be good enough to get into Heaven, and how willing are
you to welcome others into that stressful salvation? That Heaven
traps you under the endless oppression of legalism, having to be a
flawless rule-keeper, or God will turn you away. But in the end the
to-do list gets so overwhelming that it turns you away. Doing good
deeds is a good thing, but many of you know exactly what I’m talking
about, don’t you? On the other end of the spectrum are those who
don’t do; they just believe. They pray the prayer, recite the four spir-
itual laws, memorize a picture with two cliffs and a cross-shaped
bridge, or quote John 3:16, and call it good, living their life much like
before, but now with the expectation of a really nice eternal vaca-
tion at the end. However, even the beach resort Heaven can’t main-
tain its appeal. The more fortunate among them already have access
to the best beach resorts here, without much room for improvement
in a Heavenly one. Why share that Heaven with friends, when you’re
pretty sure that they’ll enjoy your waterfront condo more anyway?
And because even the perfect beach resort can’t be that much better
than what we’ve got here, the less fortunate among them share this
hesitation, not considering such an earth-like Heaven good enough to
risk changing their whole lives for, let alone uncomfortably bringing
it up with others. After all, if Heaven has merely resembled an
eternal vacation for you, how often have you found yourself sharing
that with someone else? Believing in the gospel, in whatever form is
most understandable to you, is a great thing, but many of you know
exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?
Manmade Heavens are nothing more than a big disappointment,
and it really isn’t much of a surprise that the best Heavens that

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humans can come up with are no more than the best earth that
they can conceive, like the simultaneous earth/Hell/Heaven or the
continuous New Earth. So why should it be surprising that these
mistakable Heavens ultimately don’t satisfy either? If each human’s
purpose is meant to be fulfilled in perfect community with God,
these Heavens can’t satisfy because God is so conspicuously absent
from them! It’s not overworked legalism, knowledgeable complacency,
or continuity that will excite you about the Godmade Heaven; it’s
developing ever-increasing wonder and intimacy with the creator who
can’t wait to finally, fully engage in an eternal relationship between
him and his own. So never settle for less than the whole story on
Hell and Heaven, so that you will always have reason to believe,
share, and be excited about what God is doing!
Finally, let God’s words enlighten others’ words, not vice versa. Some of
you have known the whole story all along, maybe even from child-
hood, and your problem is not getting too little of this story but
getting too many other stories. As part of the church crowd you
regularly encounter a lot of different opinions about Hell, Heaven,
and other things from a lot of different people, an experience that has
been described as “a deep, wide, diverse stream that’s been flowing for
thousands of years, carrying a staggering variety of voices, perspec-
tives, and opinions.”4 But with no course to direct it, this stream
becomes uncontrollable, spilling beyond its boundaries and bringing
disaster instead of refreshment. The cacophony of opinions brings
confusion, not clarity, and the flooding stream brings uncertainty, not
security.
There is a better stream. “Then the angel showed me the river of
the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1). This stream has one source:
God. It carries one voice, not many. It will never flood, because no
opinions can ever be added to swell it. It brings life, not disaster.
His constant words enable your consistent beliefs, achieving powerful
purposes. But only if you jump in. Reading, studying, remembering,
and connecting all of what God teaches us in the Bible, not just
the familiar or comfortable parts, empowers you to answer “impos-
sible” questions, quench resurfacing doubts, bring clarity to mystery,

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and makes sense of what God has, is, and will be doing throughout
history. It has for me, and I want you to enjoy that same secu-
rity and satisfaction! So take a break from the bookstore to benefit
from the Bible. Leave the swollen stream to immerse yourself in the
water of life. And when you return, you’ll be able to spot every part
of that stream that floods beyond its bounds long before it can ever
sweep you away. The love, logic, and longevity of God’s words are
unmatched and beautifully come together in divine ways to make
sense of history, and I would be thrilled if our time together has
enabled you to experience that!
Very little of what I’ve shared with you had its origin in sermons,
websites, books, videos, or any formal education in theology. Rather,
it is primarily the product of a now 20-year old challenge to contin-
ually be immersed in the Bible. God names as blessed the one
“whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his
law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams
of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not
wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3). In contrast, God’s
reaction is quite different to those who don’t immerse themselves
in God’s river but prefer to flood the swollen stream instead: “Do
not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar
(Proverbs 30:6).” Some teach that Jesus considers our personal opin-
ions about the Bible to be authoritative. 5 Thank God they’re not!
Why? Because adding to, subtracting from, changing, and irrespon-
sibly extrapolating the words of the Bible wouldn’t just allow you to
justify halfway Hells, hurtful Hells, or hohum Heavens; they would
allow you justify any opinion you want! The same wide stream that
brings these hereafters has also brought crusades, witch trials, holo-
causts, and deadly cults, hasn’t it? When the Bible is nothing more
than black letters with “all that white space waiting to be filled with
our responses and discussions and debates and opinions and long-
ings and desires and wisdom and insights,”6 God’s words become no
more than our words—whatever it is that we want those words to
be—which makes it pointless for him to communicate anything to us
at all! Besides, God has some black letters to specifically address our
white space, the very words he closes the last book of the Bible with

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to leave fresh in our minds. “I warn everyone who hears the words
of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God
will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if
anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take
away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy
City, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). God’s
words are not to be amplified, abridged, or paraphrased, either in
Revelation or elsewhere (Proverbs 30:6). And those who welcome and
encourage the spread of information that misrepresents Jesus’ words
are held equally guilty (2 John 1:9-11). We must be careful to validate
whatever we share with others about our eternal homes as much as
possible, as “we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the
other of these destinations.”7
None of this is to say that the opinions of others are worthless,
and when the Bible is not clear to you conceptually, literarily, or
historically, such insights can be of great assistance—as can creeds,
confessions, catechisms, and denominations. But only by making God’s
words more understandable, never by contradicting them. Remember
when Paul—a greater Christian icon than any clergy today—taught in
Berea, his audience welcomed his knowledge and education, but they
weren’t satisfied with his words until they had “examined the Scrip-
tures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). They
didn’t resort to the hipper neighboring synagogue, consult the rabbi
with the most letters behind his name, or pick up the newest best-
seller scroll. They read the Bible. If they needed to double-check Paul,
then we need to double check everyone. And it’s not only important
for you to seek others advice on the Bible to learn from them; it’s
important for you to seek it to be corrected by them if your opin-
ions are causing the stream to flood. This is true for me as well. It’s
no accident that God’s book permeates this one, and the framework
above underwent considerable and constant revision whenever the
Bible necessitated it. However, I still want you to double-check me,
even above and beyond the hundreds of referenced verses that we’ve
discussed, because my words must align with God’s, not vice versa.
Virtually every day that I have spent writing this book, my prayer
has been that when you are finished examining my words, they will

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have done so. Let it be, amen.
God, purpose, free will, evil, suffering, death, salvation, perfec-
tion, the afterlife, Hell, and Heaven are all kinda big topics, and we’ve
covered a lot of ground together! There’s a lot to think about and
a lot to decide. But this book is all about getting the whole biblical
story of Hell and Heaven to you, so that you can make an informed
choice. It’s my best prescription for healing hereafter, and this treat-
ment offers me no financial incentives in self-referral! While most
doctors focus on a history and physical, I’m going to leave you with
something far less awkward yet far more revealing: History in phys-
ical—a way to rapidly review and reference our framework whenever
it might be helpful (see Appendix A). Everything you’ll find there
is everything you’ve found here regarding God’s story in the phys-
ical realm, from the very beginning to the very end. It’s rational,
refreshing, and straight from God’s words. And as it becomes familiar
and freeing, may Hell be understandable for you now and Heaven be
unmistakable for you always!

Dictation complete.

389
In this pictorial summary of the major components of our framework,
we see the three persons of the divine trinity—God the Father, God
the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—about to accomplish the work of
saving those who have freely exhibited faith that God’s solution of
Jesus, via the cross, will be both effective and best. Several other
potential solutions are extended to them, but all permit them to take
credit for doing the work of their salvation, which ends up being com-
pletely ineffective anyway. God equally extends his gospel to every
existing human, whatever their background. Those who will be saved
are equipped by the restoring fruit of the Holy Spirit to bring spring
to everyone, both by the word of the gospel and by the good deeds
arising from a growing relationship with God that progressively reflects
his perfect nature. However, God’s people imperfectly accomplish this
when they complacently ignore their God-given gifts, hypocritically
disfigure God’s own substantial efforts to relieve suffering, and self-
ishly hold back his blessings for themselves. Nonetheless, they each
have and will continue to be increasingly effective in inviting others
to God’s saving solution and bountiful best. God cannot foresee or
predestine the response of anyone who has yet to freely decide. There
is a limited time to reply to the gospel, so that God can accomplish
his purpose in creating those who want eternal, perfect community
with him. Those who don’t want it fix their own minds and existence
in a place where it can no longer be made available to them—the
Hell where there is no God to keep them from assuming their own
rightness and exhibiting their own authority. Those who do want
community together with God will take advantage of the eternal New
Earth festivities, with God crowned as the only rightful authority. They
biblically bring only their name and self-awareness continuously with
them—leaving the imperfections of memory otherwise behind—which
enables rather than erodes their perfect enjoyment of the Godmade,
unmistakable Heaven.
Appendix A—

History in Physical
A super-condensed retrospective version of the book’s framework in chronological
order, allowing you to easily “re-read” it in minutes or use chapter references to find
a section for review. This summary is not meant to offer a depth of explanation by
which its conclusions should be accepted or rejected, and the reader is referred to the
main text to assess how valid and useful these conclusions are.

1. God represents himself to humans in three distinct ways.
Generally speaking, God the Father represents his justice and
dissociation from evil, as well as his incomprehensible and
omnipotent characteristics, the component of God not fully
observable on earth to humans. God the Son (Jesus) embodies
his creativity, his mercy, his empathy, his salvation, his words
to humans, and his perfect example for humans, the compo-
nent of God fully observable on earth to humans, but not
within humans. God the Holy Spirit demonstrates his current
and active work of educating and empowering his people
toward restoration and eventual perfection, the component of
God observable within humans. (Chapter 3)

2. God has the ability to be all-powerful and all-knowing; he
has created the physical universe and has immersed himself
in it. Because he can do what is best and because he knows
what is best, he will always act optimally and is consistently
perfect. These perfect values are his nature or MO—what he’s
all about—including mercy, justice, and love. (Chapters 3 and
34)

3. God lovingly desired to create beings to enjoy community
with him in this perfection. His chief purpose for humans
is that they seek, reach out for, and find him in this perfect
community forever. As a result of both his love and this
purpose, he had to create them with truly free will, so that
they could independently choose God and his perfection.
A ppendix A—History in Physical

Without free will, humans could only act as mere extensions
of God’s will, either by being pre-programmed, continuously
controlled, or both, preventing any meaningful community
and therefore preventing the fulfillment of God’s purpose for
them. And if God created humans with free will but prohib-
ited them from using it to sin—without them freely giving
him permission to do so—they still would not be able to
freely choose him and his perfection, because they would
never be able to freely choose against him and his perfection.
(Chapters 5, 17, 34, and 48)

4. Before the universe was created, God determined that his
purpose would not be thwarted and generally predestined
that at least a remnant of humans would eventually experi-
ence eternal, perfect community with him. If humans used
their free will to choose against him and his perfection—a
likely inevitable event given that many of God’s first free-
willed creations, the angels, had already chosen similarly—
God had already planned a solution to accomplish his purpose
while maintaining human free will. (Chapters 18-19)

5. God created the first fully human beings in his image, with
an everlasting free-willed spirit, the component of each person
that enables the tenacious originality of consciousness neces-
sary to escape the action-reaction, stimulus-response existence
of a spiritless being with only a physical body. This self-aware,
free-willed spirit is what differentiates humanity from every
other physical living thing, explaining both the unique ambi-
tion and creativity of human behavior. True to God’s purpose
for them—via the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—
humans are given the choice to be satisfied with good (God
and his perfection) or to know evil (the absence of God and
his perfection). While remaining completely sovereign, in this
choice God voluntarily limits his omniscience, as he does his
omnipotence and omnipresence below, so that humans can
freely make their salvation decision. (Chapters 4, 5, and 17)

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6. Against God’s will, the first fully human beings (Adam and
Eve) used their free will to sin, to know an existence apart
from God and his perfection, to know and understand evil.
Every injustice, disaster, disease, crime, hurt, immoral act,
failure, or disappointment caused and experienced by humans
is a consequential part of wanting to know and understand
evil, the imperfect absence of God. These effects of sin on
humanity and on the world around it entrap every human
in physical and spiritual imperfection—from the moment that
they are conceived—as their bodies are immediately subject to
physical flaws and their spirits can only gain a morally flawed
understanding of existence. Called human sinful nature, this
ubiquitous human imperfection does not force, but inclines
humans to naturally sin. (Chapters 5, 9, and 23)

7. All able human beings since then have consistently used their
free will to sin as well, encouraged by their sinful nature
and perpetuating both suffering and future human sinful
nature. Those who are not able to freely choose against God
and his perfection on earth—the very young or the mentally
handicapped from a young age—are still physically and spir-
itually imperfect because of their sinful nature. And if not
during life, their spirits will be subject to the same sinful
free-willed failure between death and judgment that the
rest of us succumb to while physically alive. Therefore, all
human beings except Jesus are imperfect and cannot fulfill
the purpose of perfect community with God for which he
created them. (Chapters 7-10)

8. Humans cannot truly know and understand evil unless they
experience their own death, as it is the only event after which
the ability to find hope, find good, or endure is eliminated—
provided that there is no escape. Physical death is the inevi-
table consequence of every human’s sinful nature and collec-
tive persistent desire to sin and know evil. Because human
sin violates God’s purpose for humans, because it disobeys

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A ppendix A—History in Physical

God’s command not to choose to know evil, and because
it continually harms everything that has been created, it is
punished by God with physical death. However, since each
of us has an everlasting spirit, is imperfect, and must physi-
cally die, none of us can exist after death in eternal perfect
community with God. Therefore, our final destination must
constitute an existence apart from God, necessitating the
location of Hell, a place where God and his perfection are
absent. God’s punishment of physical death is not arbitrary;
it’s merciful while being just, as it prevents humans from
immortally marring creation, others, and themselves and as
it’s nothing more than the ultimate consequence of the deci-
sion made by sinning anyway. Even the byproduct of Hell
reflects this decision to know evil—the absence of God and
his perfection. (Chapter 5)

9. Since there is nothing humanity can do to remove its sinful
nature or to erase its imperfection and become perfect, any
set of steps or rules to achieve salvation—whether religious,
philosophical, academic, or social—can be no more than an
ineffective manmade solution to sin, regardless of how well
it is followed. Without a solution from outside of imperfect
humanity, every person deserves, desires, and is destined for
Hell. (Chapters 5-6)

10. This fate for humanity is unacceptable to God, as it violates
both his purpose for creating us and his general predestina-
tion that at least a remnant be saved. The solution that he
had prepared to make salvation available is Jesus. In mercy,
justice, and love, God the Son voluntarily limited his omnipo-
tence to become a human being. Being divine—conceived by
the Holy Spirit—he had no sinful nature. Yet he was tempted
as we are and experienced life as we do, except that he did
not use his free will to sin and was therefore not subject to
knowing evil. However, because our willful sinful immer-
sion in evil makes us deservedly imperfect, he willfully but

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sinlessly immersed himself in evil undeservedly to remove
that imperfection as our substitute. And because we must
endure physical death as our punishment, leaving our spirit
with no other final destination besides Hell, Jesus willingly
died as our substitute to enable us to be released from that
punishment. Finally, to prove that he can not only justly, but
actually free us from physical death in the future, to exem-
plify the hope and victory that he offers, and simply because
he’s God, he returned from the grave at his resurrection.
(Chapter 6)

11. The solution of Jesus uniquely and effectively can remove a
human’s imperfection and sentence of death, solving both the
problem and the punishment that prevents eternal, perfect
community with God in Heaven. It makes no sense for God
to go through all that Jesus did and still create multiple other
easier solutions for salvation, especially as they don’t success-
fully remove either humanity’s problem or punishment. It is
impossible for most—if not all—of these other solutions to
be valid anyway, as they are mutually incompatible with the
solution of Jesus. Practically, it is unnecessary for there to be
any other way to God and Heaven because Jesus does the job
perfectly and because God makes sure to fairly expose every
human being to this solution. (Chapter 6)

12. The message or gospel of Jesus makes it possible for every
human to exist in eternal, perfect community with God in
Heaven. God’s purpose was threatened by our problem of
sin, our problem necessarily led to our punishment of phys-
ical death, and God’s solution removed both the problem and
the punishment. However, God cannot reinstate his purpose
for us by finishing the process himself and forcing humans
to choose him and his perfection. Therefore, he leaves one
component of the salvation process completely up to humans,
the one thing that they must demonstrate to convince him to
initiate his saving work: faith. (Chapters 6 and 17-19)

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13. The faith that God seeks is faith that he can and will do
what he says, and that what he says is the best. Trusting
one’s creator like this is an equal opportunity for all in the
biblical hereafter. Faith is a work for which humans are given
at least partial credit by God, but they cannot take credit for
the salvation that it initiates. When God is convinced that we
have this faith, he knows that we will accept the truth of the
gospel as the only way to eradicate our sin and free us from
death, because he says that Jesus is the solution and that he’s
the best and only solution. God specially predestines every
person with this faith to hear and accept the message of Jesus
with no exceptions; if they genuinely demonstrate this faith
to God, they will be saved. Once they hear whatever presen-
tation of the gospel that God brings them and use that faith
to believe it, God considers their sin and death to be atoned
for, and they are made perfect and justified in his eyes, now
able to experience eternal, perfect community with God in
Heaven, fulfilling his purpose for them. (Chapters 17-19)

14. The faith that God can and will do what he says, and that
what he says is the best, will lead you to accept the gospel, but
it will also compel you to trust the value of building commu-
nity with him on earth, as well as to trust that his values
are worth assimilating into your life here. The faith that
persuades God to work salvation in you is the faith he desires
because it is always present in and necessary for believing
his solution of Jesus, pursuing growing community with him,
and becoming more like him—all things directly related to his
purpose for us in Heaven. When you accept the message of
Jesus through that faith, God the Holy Spirit indwells you,
guaranteeing a salvation that you cannot lose. The Holy Spirit
also enables your faith to be applied in an increasingly inti-
mate relationship with him and in overcoming your sinful
nature to persistently do good deeds. Therefore, believing the
gospel, a growing knowledge of God, and lifelong good deeds

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are the necessary hallmarks of those who are saved, but only
because they will result from the faith that God links to
salvation, not because any one of them in itself brings salva-
tion. You will find that these hallmarks are a part of your
life if you are saved; you will not have to force them to be.
(Chapters 19-21)

15. Many hear and believe the steps of the gospel who are
not saved, because they don’t want community with God;
they only want to be saved. Many know a lot of informa-
tion concerning God who are not saved, because they don’t
want to know him; they just want expertise about him. Many
do numerous and admirable good deeds who are not saved,
because they want a salvation independent of God’s work and
presence. All of these people—knowingly or not—try to enter
the salvation process sometime after its mandatory inception,
when God sees the faith that he requires to begin the process.
Therefore, none of these people have necessarily demonstrated
the faith that allows all of the hallmarks of salvation to be
genuinely and persistently present. They are not specially
predestined to be saved and they are not indwelled by the
Holy Spirit, which means that their salvation has not been
guaranteed. Unless they choose to have the faith that God
requires to truly start the salvation process at its inception,
they will fall away. You cannot lose your salvation. If you are
saved, you will be saved. If you never were saved, you will
fall away. (Chapters 19-21)

16. Acceptance of the message of Jesus, increasing intimacy with
what he’s all about, and persistent godly deeds will be evident
if you are saved, but the absolute truth about the status of
your salvation is unlikely to be reliably revealed until after
your death. Only then will it be certain that you are saved
because only then will the persistent, lifelong hallmarks
proving your faith and your indwelling by the Holy Spirit
be demonstrable. God largely keeps absolute confirmation of

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A ppendix A—History in Physical

salvation from us on earth to eliminate both the pride and
complacency that come with such certainty. He also does so
to keep you focused on faith in him and community with
him, rather than on a desire to prove salvation through
believing, knowing, or doing all the right things, none of
which can lead to salvation without faith. (Chapters 20-21)

17. The message of Jesus, increasing intimacy with what he’s all
about, and persistent godly deeds are not just arbitrary hall-
marks of salvation though. They are intentional ways for God
to begin fulfilling his purpose for you on earth, since they
allow you to enter into community with God, deepen that
intimacy, and assimilate what you discover about God into
your life. As you do, these hallmarks also become practical
ways for you to demonstrate his mercy, justice, and love to
the rest of this world. God’s salvation process for humans
is not limited to accomplishing his purpose for them; he
also desires to and does use it to bring spring to others,
responding to suffering through his people. (Chapters 22-23)

18. His reaction to the evil and suffering of this world goes far
beyond the deeds of those who are saved however. God never
wanted us to know suffering, but we must have free will,
and we consistently use that will to keep asking to know evil.
God is never ultimately to blame for suffering and is just in
allowing it. We deserve that. God is mercy in transforming
it, which gives us greater understanding, greater apprecia-
tion, greater compassion, greater fulfillment in life, and a
greater legacy because of it. We don’t deserve that. God is
love in immersing himself in it, so that we can benefit from
walking with him through it. We don’t deserve that either.
God expels suffering in Heaven and gives us access to this
eternal, perfect community with him, and we deserve that
least of all. God is not absent amidst evil and suffering; he is
awesome amidst evil and suffering. (Chapter 23)

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Healing Hereafter

19. But God is not awesome if he foreknows or predestines every-
thing that happens (he cannot do one without the other),
including whether or not a person is saved; in fact, he would
be directly to blame for all sin, all experiences of evil, and all
torment in Hell. Moreover, deciding who will and who won’t be
saved independent of human free will forces God to be unjust,
be untrustworthy, and repeatedly violate his own nature. These
consequences would negate any reason for pursuing commu-
nity with him at all, but he would never allow them to happen
anyway. He has the rightful authority to and does interfere
with our free will to accomplish other lesser purposes as neces-
sary; however, to be consistent with his nature and purpose
for creating us, he will never control whether or not we have
the faith associated with salvation. Moreover, God will always
give all humans an equal opportunity to hear and understand
his solution of Jesus, even if he knows that they don’t have the
faith to initiate salvation and accept the gospel. (Chapters 16-19)

20. The biblical model used by God to publicize the gospel to all
humans contradicts the notion that everyone hears and under-
stands the gospel during their physical lives. Jesus clearly
preaches to those who are already dead who had no mean-
ingful access to his message during physical life, but not to
anyone else. The Bible’s consistent and practically universal rule
of thumb for the hereafter is that humans all live on earth, all
die on earth, all go to a place of waiting until judgment day,
and then are all resurrected together to be judged and go to
their final destinations. God’s hereafter gives him ample time
between death and judgment to reach anyone with his solution
who had no meaningful access to the gospel during physical
life. Those who die very young, those mentally disabled from
a young age, those who lived before Jesus’ death and resur-
rection, and those who have no way to find out about the
message of Jesus cannot be automatically saved, as that ignores
the universal imperfection bestowed by human sinful nature,
logically excuses the mass slaughter of these individuals to help

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A ppendix A—History in Physical

them to Heaven, negates the necessity and efficacy of Jesus’
solution for them, and forces God to violate his just nature, in
addition to many other problems. Instead, their very capable
free-willed spirits are given the equivalent opportunity after
death that every other human is given during life to demon-
strate or not demonstrate the faith linked with salvation and
to hear and understand God’s solution for them. This is a more
than adequate amount of time for everyone, and God will see
to it that we are all fairly exposed to the gospel, whatever that
entails. (Chapters 7-14 and 16)

21. The Old and New Testaments of the Bible present a compre-
hensive, complementary understanding of where humans go
when they physically die, with every biblical location in the
afterlife both necessary to explain and necessary to God’s here-
after. Immediately after death, the spirit of every human—
saved or not—goes to Sheol/Hades, the general place of waiting
for the dead until they are resurrected for judgment together.
Those who do not demonstrate the faith tied to salvation and
aren’t permanently indwelled by the Holy Spirit during physical
life go to the region of Sheol/Hades called Tartarus/the Abyss,
where there is agony and torment. Everyone in Tartarus will
go to Hell (Gehenna) on judgment day. Those who use the
faith required for salvation to accept the gospel and receive
the Holy Spirit during physical life go to the region of Sheol/
Hades called Paradise, where there is peace, rest, and comfort.
Everyone in Paradise will go to Heaven (the New Earth) on
judgment day. Those who have no meaningful access to the
gospel during physical life cannot be made perfect in God’s
sight through the solution of Jesus—at least not justly or
without adopting universalism—and cannot receive the Holy
Spirit’s saving presence while physically alive. Therefore, they
go to a biblical place of limbo in Sheol/Hades, which we have
referred to as Lugg. God gives us adequate information about
Lugg but does not elaborately expound on it for the good
of those who can’t go there. The free-willed response of the

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Healing Hereafter

people who are there, regarding their faith and regarding the
gospel they receive there, determines whether they are trans-
ferred to Tartarus or Paradise, where they will share the fate
of everyone else in those locations. (Chapters 15-16)

22. The Bible is unequivocal that God has set a single, final day
of judgment for all humans. He has determined that this will
be the time when everyone goes to their eternal destination,
both because the unique, all-enc