I have decided to transcribe my message about the fullness of God’s love and the myth of hell that I shared in a video in January 2011 so that it can be read at any time. Besides, I don’t exactly speak in Queen’s English, so my video might not have appealed to as many people as I would have liked to. Here is the transcript for the first half of the message. I have added subheadings where appropriate to summarise the main points in my flow of thoughts. Enjoy. 🙂
Hello, I’m here to share the good news, and the good news of Christ is something that we need to hear again and again every day – we need to renew our minds, if we can.
Sometimes, faith comes by hearing. Sometimes, faith comes by reminding ourselves, wherever we are, because we are living in a world where there are condemning voices around us, if not from our own conscience, it can be from other people, whether we know them well or not. Sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, the way they treat us, the way they say something to us, we may all feel a sense of condemnation, or a sense of being judged. But that is life; that’s how life on earth is.
Maybe as children, we were not so conscious of that, but as we grew up, we all tend to be more sensitive and more conscious of how other people perceive us. It may come as early as in our early teens, or in fact, children can be very sensitive towards that. And of course, when we were very young, when we were still babies, we probably were not that conscious because all babies probably have only two fears to begin with – the fear of falling down and the fear of being abandoned. But all other fears are learnt, as some psychologists might observe.
The Good News is about the Love of God
So, as we grow up in this life, we all need to have a sense of acceptance, a sense of being cared for, because after all, God created us to be loved. Out of that love, can we love ourselves and love other people. So, it all starts with God. We can’t start with ourselves, no matter how much we try to psych ourselves, or how much we try to meditate, or refer to self-help books. But these only are temporary solutions.
There is a deeper need in us, in every one of us, that God created heart-shaped vacuum within us that can only be filled and satisfied with the love of God. The good news is really about the love of God, and that love is really beyond our understanding or human knowledge, that Paul said that we might know the love of Christ – the length, the depth, the height, the width – that passes knowledge. That love is something that our human knowledge cannot grasp fully without the help of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit has been poured upon our heart to know the love of God. And we need the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth regarding how much God loves us.
Questioning the traditional concept of hell
Mainstream Christianity or traditional Christianity has made it seem like God loves everyone BUT… There is always a “but” at the end. For example, those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ, they will be seen as forfeiting the love of God, and the ultimate consequence for rejecting that love of God by not believing in Jesus Christ would be to end up in a place called “hell” or “the lake of fire” in the book of Revelation, but is that really the truth?
Because as we think about the love of God that transcends understanding, the love of God that passes all knowledge, would it be possible that such a loving God would want, or would allow, or would even create a whole time frame where finally all those people who have not believed in Christ, or have not heard the gospel therefore they did not have the chance to believe in Christ, would end up in a place called the lake of fire where they would be tormented day and night forever and ever? Is that really the truth? But most areas, most aspects, most parts of the mainstream Christianity seem to subscribe to that kind of teaching, even grace-based church.
So, I want to address that because that is something that has to be… The false doctrine will always hold people in bondage. This kind of teaching, the “turn or burn” kind of doctrine – “believe in Jesus or you will burn in hell” kind of teaching – will always turn other people away, whether believers or non-believers because even some believers will still question, “Oh, maybe there are some parts of the Bible I don’t think is right, but because I’m a Christian, I’d better believe, or else, just in case kind of thing.” Maybe their church elders may tell them “Well, if you don’t believe in hell, then it means you are not really a Christian.” That kind of thing only holds people in bondage.
Do we dare to rock the boat of Christianity?
So, we are here actually, each one of us is born free. Ultimately, we all do not like to be held in bondage in some ways. So, sometimes, we may believe a lie because our pastor tells us so, or we don’t want to question too much, we don’t want to rock the boat, and we are simply satisfied to be just Christians and believe that “Oh, we are saved, therefore I don’t have to bother about that, because anyway I am going to heaven, and I really don’t have to find out more for myself, so that I can share the good news in a more accurate way with others, and whether others believe in Jesus, I don’t care. They can end up in hell for all they want.”
But that kind of belies a certain self-righteous attitude no matter how much we try to excuse ourselves because I came from that kind of position before. I was self-righteous. I came to realise that God’s love is much more than that. If I were to just ignore this set of doctrine, ignore this false teaching on hell, and just live my life like any other Christian in the evangelical or mainstream circle, I would actually be forfeiting myself of knowing… I would be robbing myself of the full benefits of knowing the fullness of the love of God. And that includes whether God would really allow, or would really want, or would really have in His plan of salvation where some people will ultimately end up in the lake of fire to be tormented forever and ever.
So, how can we reconcile the fact that God is loving, and on the other hand, God, or rather we always say “Other people send themselves to hell by rejecting Jesus Christ?” So, what is hell like? And some people may say, “Well, I leave it to God, you know? Let God do what is just. Some people just don’t believe in Jesus Christ. Well, if that’s so, Lord, let God do what He wants. Maybe it’s torture. Maybe it’s torment in the sense of… whatever it means. Because some may say they are physically resurrected and then they will feel the pain or feel the suffering, and the Bible talks about worms and all that.”
The symbolic language of the Bible
But is that really the truth because the Bible is full of symbolic knowledge? And the book of Revelation is actually full of symbolism using the Jewish apocalyptic language, which unless we are familiar with the Old Testament symbolism, we would tend to misinterpret, and I have done that before. But we are here to know the truth because the truth will always set people free – free from religion, free from condemnation, free from fear, free from whatever that holds people in bondage in some ways that deny them the freedom, the peace of mind that they will feel at any point of time, not just when they are about to die, but any point of time, they may feel a sense of alienation or abandonment or being fearful that God will judge them if something goes wrong in their lives, so we have to settle this once and for all.
So this question of whether hell exists or whether hell is true or what does hell really mean – it does not just apply to when somebody is saved; it applies to even believers today because it will really affect what we believe in about our God – the God that we believe in. Is He the God of Christians only or is He the God of everybody? And someone might say, “Well, are you saying that everyone will go to heaven without believing in Jesus?”
What salvation really means
That is another erroneous question; it’s not even a scriptural question to start with because salvation is not about going to heaven; salvation is about having your spirit, soul and body made whole in every way. The word for “soteria” – that’s the Greek word for “salvation” – it means preservation, health, wholeness, prosperity, deliverance, protection from all dangers, deliverance from every evil in our lives, from lack, from any kind of addiction. So, it’s an all-encompassing word “salvation”. It is not “Oh, one day, we go to heaven.” That is actually the wrong question to start with.
But unfortunately, even in the evangelical world, even in the grace-based churches, “salvation” has that kind of connotation that “oh, you are saved from hell”. But no, it is not that. Yes, we use the Bible as our standard. Yes, we have the Bible… Someone called it the “word of God”, and I don’t want to go into that because the word of God ultimately is Jesus Christ, who is the Living Word. The Bible – we should not take it literally or else it becomes the “letter” that “kills”.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3 that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” and he said the letter is simply when we take the Bible literally, it’s like using it as the law to tell people do’s and don’ts, and that stems from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that is actually bringing condemnation into people’s lives, like you tell them “you have to do this in order to become something”. But the truth of the gospel is that we are already something – we are made in God’s image. There is nothing that we can do to change our identity.
So Jesus came to actually reveal (to) us that identity that has already been all this while, to cause us to remember, to wake up from our amnesia that we are already one with God, and we are made in His image. He has restored (to) us the glory and honour that Adam and Eve used to have. So that is actually the salvation that Jesus has come to give us in our spirit, soul and body.
When we believe the gospel, we will benefit from that. We will enjoy the benefits of salvation in this life. We know our sins are forgiven. And that is another question, I mean, another topic altogether because “sin” is actually referring to, or rather it applies to those who lived in the Old Testament times. They were under the law; therefore, sin was imputed to them. But we are not under the law in the first place because we Gentiles live after AD70, after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, which actually signified the end of the old covenant age.
So we are actually living in the new covenant age, which is also called “the new heavens and new earth” in the last book, in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible – the book of Revelation. So now that we are living in the new covenant age, there is actually no “sin” issue. If you want to talk about “sin”, sin is only a matter of the ignorance of God’s love. Sin is called “missing the mark” or “falling short of the mark”.
So, if you want to talk about sin, the Lamb of God has come to take away the sin of the world. Well, in the Jewish context, it is actually taking away the sin of unbelief, and the sin of not knowing who they are. So, for Gentiles, you can still say the sin of unbelief, but He has taken away that. And even if we don’t believe, God still sees us righteous because 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God in Christ has reconciled the world to Himself. So we are all reconciled, as far as God is concerned, He no more sees any sinner any more.
It is not as if you say some magic words, and say “Oh, Jesus is my Lord and Saviour”, and then God changes His mind about you. No, what and whether you believe that Jesus is your Saviour or not does not change God’s mind about you. God has already made up His mind that He has loved you with an everlasting love and He has always seen you as His children. It is up to you to believe that. When you believe, of course you benefit from that. If you don’t believe, the truth is still that God sees you as His children.
When you die, whether you believe or don’t believe in Jesus, you will still be with God because the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes says when a person dies, his spirit goes back to be with God who gave it. So we will all still be with God forever.
So it is a matter of “now”, here in this life. Salvation is for this life; it is not for one day when we die. I think I covered that in my previous video.
Update (3 December 2012)
The second half of the transcript is available here: Knowing the fullness of God’s love and Debunking the myth of hell (Video transcript) – Part 2 of 2