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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Oh boy, I'm in Trouble... Again...

I have, somewhat intentionally, not sought any help for this post, because honestly, I don't want to put any of my friends or family members in a precarious position.  Everything contained in this post is my own thinking, subject to change.  Please feel free to influence my thoughts on this in the comments...

XVI. Resurrection, Judgment, and Destiny

16. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that the bodies both of the just and of the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits — “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

16.1. We believe in future judgment in which every person shall appear before God to be judged according to his or her deeds in this life.

16.2. We believe that glorious and everlasting life is assured to all who savingly believe in, and obediently follow, Jesus Christ our Lord; and that the finally impenitent shall suffer eternally in hell.

(Genesis 18:25; 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 50:6; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31; 20:27-38; John 3:16-18; 5:25-29; 11:21-27; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:1-16; 14:7-12; 1 Corinthians 15:12-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 20:11-15; 22:1-15)

(16) First things first, why do we not directly quote Scripture in any of the other articles, but here, at the very end, we pull part of John 5:29 out of the complete context (which is the identity and authority of Jesus) and throw it in there in KJV, to boot...  I'm confused.  Did someone just think it was a good idea to use the word, "damnation," somewhere in our articles of faith?  What in the world is "the resurrection of damnation"?  Why in the world would we bond "resurrection" and "damnation" together?  I am really struggling with this.   Quite seriously, is there an historical reason that we have kept the language as it is?  Is this a responsible interpretation of the original languages?  Some very cursory research seems to indicate that the Greek word here would be better translated as judgment, which is the trend of many translations.  Why is this particular quote about resurrection, judgment, and destiny the one that we find most significant?

Also, I think there is little evidence of disembodied souls/spirits in Scripture, although it is there.  This, of course, raises the question, "What actually happens at the moment of death?"  Are our spirits disembodied?  We have the story of the rich man and Lazarus; Jesus tells the repentant thief that he will be with him in Paradise, today; and Peter indicates that after Jesus' death, Jesus preaches to imprisoned spirits from the days of Noah.  Of course, this third example serves to muddy the waters even more.  If there is no chance of repentance after death, why would Jesus bother with these imprisoned spirits?  Just something to think about...

(16.1) Yes.  I have no argument with this statement, but I do wonder why we often minimize the importance of our lives, here, if this is the case... which it seems to be...

(16.2) What, exactly, does "savingly" believe mean?  And while we're at it, how would we like to define "finally" impenitent?  I think it's exceedingly interesting that as we begin to list Scripture, we stop just short of Mark 9:49 where, "Everyone will be salted with fire"... and then salt is described as a good thing.  Could fire be refining as opposed to damning?  Even after death?  I think this is a question worth exploring...  And I have to be honest, I struggle a little bit with the way in which Revelation 20:11-15 is often interpreted.  This is completely unfair in regard to the official Nazarene stance on this subject, but I'm wondering, for example, if any of my very literal friends would like to explain to me why it is that we teach eternal punishment, ad nauseam, when death and Hades are empty when they are thrown into the lake of fire (v.13-14) or why the lake of fire is described as the second death, which seems pretty final to me, and yet we insist that souls/spirits continue to live forever in the lake of fire.  Will people really "suffer eternally in hell"?

Many of the references listed lean heavily on the concept of justice.  From what I have observed about humanity, we tend to desire revenge, which is almost always pretty harsh, but we sure don't want the same thing for ourselves.  In some ways, I think it is possible that we have created a hell in which those who hurt us, those who don't deserve our grace, must die over and over and over again, without reprieve, in order for us to feel as if justice has been served.  But let's be real.  None of us really wants that kind of justice if we stop to think about what we deserve. 

So, I'm just going to say it.  I think that far fewer people than we might imagine are going to hit that lake of fire, because I believe that Jesus is going to keep redeeming, and refining, and transforming for as long as he wants to, which I am going to choose to believe is a really long time, far beyond the human constraints we want to create.  But even so, if the time comes when some people do ultimately meet that fate, I have to think that there is eventually an end to the suffering.  Death is death.  After the resurrection, to die again seems very final.  Could it be that the eternal punishment is to no longer be capable of communion with God and people, because you no longer exist, because you are very conclusively dead?  I think we have equated eternal punishment with ongoing torture and suffering for too long. 



  1. Yes, Dr. Gregory Crofford (a Nazarene) argues that those who ultimately reject Christ meet with a loss of life and being:

  2. I too am a Nazarene (pastor) and have come to the same conclusion as Dr. Crofford. I hope one day we change our article of faith to be more inclusive of various positions. I know a couple of other Nazarene Pastors who hold to CI.