One Minute After Death (radio transcript)

The Other Side of Life

Do you believe in life after death?{1}

Picture the operating room of a large hospital. A man is dying. As the doctors frantically try to save him, here is what he perceives and thinks:

“I am dying. I hear the doctor pronounce me dead. As I lie on the operating table, a loud, harsh buzzing reverberates in my head. At the same time, I sense myself moving very rapidly through a long, dark tunnel. Suddenly, I find myself outside of my own physical body. Like a spectator, I watch the doctor’s desperate attempts to revive my corpse.

“Soon I encounter a ‘being’ of light, a loving, warm spirit who shows me an instant replay of my life and helps me evaluate my past deeds.

“Eventually, I learn I must return to my body. I resist, for my afterlife experience has been quite pleasant. Somehow, though, I am reunited with my physical body and live.”{2}

This composite account of a near-death experience or “NDE” is adapted from the best selling book, Life After Life, by Dr. Raymond Moody, who brought these experiences to wide public awareness. Often the episodes involve out-of-body experiences or “OBEs.”

While writing a book on this subject, I interviewed people with some fascinating stories. A Kansas woman developed complications after major surgery. She sensed herself rising out of her body, soaring through space, and hearing heavenly voices before returning to her body. An Arizona man in a coma for five months after a motorcycle accident said he saw his deceased father, who spoke to him.

Actress Sharon Stone has described her own close call with death. She was hospitalized with bleeding from an artery at her skull’s base. “I feel that I did die,” she relates. She tells of “a giant vortex of white light” and says “I kind of poof sort of took off… into this glorious bright…white light. I started to see and be met by some of my friends. people who were very dear to me. It was very, very fast, and suddenly I was back. I was in my body and I was in the room.” Stone says the experience affected her “profoundly” and that she “will never be the same.”{3}

What do these near-death experiences mean? How should we interpret them? This article offers a biblical perspective.

Interpreting Near-Death Experiences

What are some possible explanations for the NDEs? Hundreds of people claim that they have died and lived to tell about it. Are their near-death and out-of-body experiences genuine previews of the afterlife? Hallucinations caused by traumatic events? Or something else?

Some patients have been pronounced clinically dead and later are resuscitated. Others have had close calls with death, but were never really thought dead (such as survivors of automobile accidents). Still others did die permanently but described what they saw before they expired.

Determination of the point of death is a hotly debated issue. In the past, doctors relied merely on the ceasing of the heartbeat and respiration. More recently they have used the EEG or brainwave test. Whatever one considers the point of death, most would agree that these folks have come much closer to it than the majority of people living today.

A number of possible explanations for the OBEs have been offered. Different ones may apply in different situations.

The physiological explanations suggest that a “physical” condition may have caused some of the out-of-body experiences. For instance, cerebral anoxia (a shortage of oxygen in the brain) occurs when the heart stops. The brain can survive for a short while (usually only a few minutes) without receiving oxygen from the blood. Anoxia can produce abnormal mental states.{4} Patients who recover from heart failure and report OBEs may be merely reporting details of an “altered state of consciousness,” some say.{5}

Electronic brain stimulation can produce out-of-body sensations. Researchers at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland placed electrodes in the brain of a woman suffering from epilepsy. As they stimulated her brain’s right angular gyrus, she reported sensing she was floating about six feet above her body.{6}

The pharmacological explanations say that drugs or anesthetics may induce some of the near-death experiences. Some primitive societies use drugs to induce OBEs in their religious ceremonies.{7} LSD and marijuana sometimes generate similar sensations.{8} Even many medically accepted drugs have produced mental states akin to those reported by the dying. Ketamine is an anesthetic that is administered intravenously{9} and produces hallucinatory reactions.{10}

Psychological and Spiritual Explanations

How should we interpret near-death experiences? What do they mean? So far this we have examined physiological and pharmacological explanations, that is, causes involving the body or drugs. Consider two other categories: psychological and spiritual explanations. The psychological explanations suggest that the individual’s mind may generate the unusual mental experience. Sigmund Freud, writing about the difficulty of coping with the thought of death, said it would be more comfortable in our minds to picture ourselves as detached observers.{11} Some modern psychiatrists theorize that the OBE is merely a defense mechanism against the anxiety of death. That is, since the thought of one’s own death is so frightening, the patient’s mind invents the OBE to make it seem as if only the body is dying while the soul or spirit lives on.

Other psychologists wonder if the patient may be confusing his or her interpretation of the experience with what actually happened.{12} The conscious mind needs an explanation for an unusual vision; therefore, it interprets the event in familiar terms. Thus, say these psychologists, resuscitated patients report conversations with deceased relatives or religious figures common to their culture.

The spiritual explanations view many of the OBEs as real manifestations of the spiritual.

Many have noted that earlier reports of NDEs seemed to contradict some traditional Christian beliefs about the afterlife. All of the patients Christian and non-Christian reported feelings of bliss and ecstasy with no mention of unpleasantness, hell, or judgment.

However, further research uncovered negative experiences. For instance, Raymond Moody wrote of one woman who was supposedly “dead” for 15 minutes and said she saw spirits who appeared “bewildered.” “They seemed to shuffle,” she reported, “as someone would on a chain gang not knowing where they were going. they all had the most woebegone expressions. It was quite depressing.”{13}

Dr. Moody observed, “Nothing I have encountered precludes the possibility of a hell.”{14}

Some have felt that OBEs are inconsistent with the biblical concept of a final judgment at the world’s end. No one reports standing before God and being judged for eternity. Dr. Moody responds that “the end of the world has not yet taken place,” so there is no inconsistency. “There may well be a final judgment,” he says. “Near-death experiences in no way imply the contrary.”{15}

So, is there a life after death?

Is There Life After Death?

The spring of my sophomore year in college, the student living in the room next to me was struck and killed by lightning. For some time after Mike’s death, our fraternity was in a state of shock. My friends were asking questions like, “Is there a life after death?” and “How can we experience it?”

Is it possible to know whether there is an afterlife? What method would you use to find out?

Some suggest using the experimental method of science and applying it to the near-death experiences. However, these events normally are not controlled, clinical situations. They’re medical emergencies. Even if scientists could establish controls, we have no mind-reading machines to verify mental/spiritual experiences. And think about recruiting subjects. Would you volunteer to undergo clinical death for research purposes?

Some suggest relying on personal experience to answer the question. But the experiential method has its drawbacks, too. NDEs can provide useful information, but the mind can trick us. Dreams, fantasies, hallucinations, drug trips, drunkenness, states of shock all can evoke mental images that seem real but aren’t.

What if we could find a spiritual authority, someone with trustworthy credentials, to tell us the truth about afterlife issues?

Following Mike’s death, I encouraged my friends to consider Jesus of Nazareth as a trustworthy spiritual authority. As somewhat of a skeptic myself, I’d found the resurrection of Christ to be one of the best-attested facts of history.{16} If Jesus died and came back from the dead, He could accurately tell us what death and the afterlife are like. The fact that He successfully predicted His own resurrection{17} helps us believe that He will tell us the truth about the afterlife.

Jesus and His early followers indicated that the afterlife would be personal, that human personalities would continue to exist.{18} Eternal life would be relational, involving warm, personal relationships with God and with each other.{19} Eternal life would be enjoyable, defying our description and exceeding our imagination. “No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,” wrote one early believer.{20} And eternal life would be eternal. It would never end. “God has given us eternal life,” wrote one of Jesus’ closest friends, “and this life is in His Son.”{21}

The sad thing is that some people don’t want to take advantage of eternal life.

How to Be Sure You’ll Live Forever

Maurice Rawlings, M.D., a cardiologist, tells of a patient who had a cardiac arrest in Dr. Rawlings’ office. During the attempted resuscitation, the patient screamed, “I am in hell!” “Don’t stop!” he begged in terror. “Each time you quit I go back to hell!”{22}

The biblical hell, or Hades, is the current home of those who do not accept God’s forgiveness. The final abode of those who refuse forgiveness is called the “lake of fire.”{23}

Not a pleasant subject. But remember, God loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him.{24} He sent Jesus, His Son, to die and pay the penalty for our sins (attitudes and actions that fall short of God’s perfection). We simply need to receive His free gift of forgiveness we can never earn it to be guaranteed eternal life. “Whoever hears my word,” Jesus says, “and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”{25}

How should we interpret the near-death experiences? Here’s my perspective as one who believes the evidence supports Jesus’ and biblical reliability.{26} If a given NDE contradicts biblical statements or principles, I do not accept it as being completely from God. If the experience does not contradict biblical statements or principles, then it could be from God. (Body, drug or mind could also influence it.)

A given NDE could be completely spiritual and yet not be from God. Jesus spoke of an evil spiritual being, Satan. We are told that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light,”{27} but Jesus called him “a liar and the father of lies.”{28} I’m not accusing all near-death experiencers of being in league with the devil. Just a friendly word of caution that some may be being deceived.

Once a nightclub near Cincinnati was packed to the brim. Suddenly, a busboy stepped onto the stage, interrupted the program and announced that the building was on fire. Perhaps because they saw no smoke, many of the guests remained seated. Maybe they thought it was a joke, a part of the program, and felt comfortable with that explanation. When they finally saw the smoke, it was too late. More than 150 people died as the nightclub burned.{29}

Are you believing what you want to believe, or what the evidence shows is true? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”{30} I encourage you to place your faith in Jesus if you haven’t yet. Then you, too, will live, even if you die.

Notes

  1. This article is adapted from Rusty Wright, “One Minute After Death,” Pursuit magazine, Vol. V, No. 2, 1996; Rusty Wright, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the End, Collegiate Challenge, Vol. 17, 1978, pp. 2-5; and Rusty Wright, The Other Side of Life (Singapore: Campus Crusade Asia Limited, 1979, 1994).
  2. Adapted and paraphrased from Raymond A. Moody, Jr., M.D., Life After Life (New York: Bantam, 1976), 21-22.
  3. Carolyne Zinko, “When Stone saw the light, San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 2002, The Features Page. The article relates Stone’s description of her experience to NBC TV’s Katie Couric.
  4. Stanislav Grof, M. D., and Joan Halifax-Grof, “Psychedelics and the Experience of Death,” in Toynbee, Koestler, and others, Life After Death (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976), 196.
  5. Daniel Goleman, “Back from the Brink,” Psychology Today, April 1977, p. 59.
  6. Olaf Blanke, et al., “Stimulating illusory own-body perceptions,” Nature, Vol. 419, 19 September 2002, p. 269.
  7. Michael Grosso, “Some Varieties of Out-of-Body Experience,” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, April, 1976, 185,186.
  8. Grof and Halifax Grof, op. cit., pp. 193-195; Stanislav Grof, “Varieties of Transpersonal Experiences: Observations from LSD Psychotherapy,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 4:1, 1972, p. 67; Russell Noyes, Jr., M.D., and Roy Kletti, “Depersonalization in the Face of Life-Threatening Danger: An Interpretation,” Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 7:2, 1976, p. 108.
  9. Moody, Life After Life, p. 157.
  10. Louis Jolyon West, M. D., “A Clinical and Theoretical Overview of Hallucinatory Phenomena” in R. K. Siegel and L.J. West (eds.), Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1975), 292.
  11. Sigmund Freud, “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death” (1915), Collected Papers, Vol. 4, Basic Books, 1959; quoted in Russell Noyes, Jr., M.D., “The Experience of Dying,” Psychiatry, May 1972, p. 178.
  12. Dr. Charles Tart in Robert A. Monroe, Journeys Out of the Body (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971), 6,7.
  13. Raymond A. Moody, Jr., Reflections on Life After Life (New York and Covington, Georgia: Bantam/Mockingbird, 1977), 19-21.
  14. Ibid., 36.
  15. Ibid., 36, 37.
  16. See, for instance, Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers), 1999.
  17. See, for example, Jesus’ resurrection predictions in Luke 9:22 and 18:31-33; their fulfillment in Luke 24.
  18. See for example Luke 23:42-43; Matthew 8:11; 2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 17:1-8.
  19. John 14:2-3; Philippians 1:23; John 17:3.
  20. 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV. See also Revelation 21:4; Hebrews 12:2.
  21. 1 John 5:11 NASB.
  22. Maurice Rawlings, M.D., Beyond Death’s Door (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978), 19-20.
  23. Revelation 20:11-15.
  24. John 3:16.
  25. John 5:24 NIV.
  26. See, for example, McDowell, op. cit.
  27. 2 Corinthians 11:14 NASB.
  28. John 8:44 NASB.
  29. “They Didn’t Believe It,” The New York Times, May 30, 1977, p. 16; Hal Bruno, “The Fire Next Time,” Newsweek, June 13, 1977, pp. 24, 27.
  30. John 11:25 NASB.

©2003 Probe Ministries


“People in Hell Are Destroyed, Not Live Forever”

I am writing about your answer to the question “Are People in Hell Isolated and Alone?”

The bible clearly states that the wages of sin is DEATH not eternal life, be it in heaven or hell as you think. Consider these verses:

Malachi 4:3 plainly says the wicked shall be ashes under our feet. Is.1:28–“…and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed.” Is.66:17–“shall be consumed together, saith the Lord.” Rev 20:9–“…and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Rev 20:14,”And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

Doesn’t say second life but second death. You should look up some of the Greek and Hebrew words that have been translated into hell, that would make it more clear to you.

Thank you for your letter. You are correct in noting that the fate of unbelievers is one of heated debate these days, even among professing evangelicals. My own difficulty with the thesis of conditional immortality stems from passages like Matthew 25:46, Revelation 14:9-11 and Revelation 20:10. It is difficult for me to see how these passages can be consistent with the denial of eternal punishment.

For example, in Matthew 25:46 Jesus states: “And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. The same Greek term, aionion (eternal), is used to describe both punishment and life.

Revelation 14:11 reads in part: “And the smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever, and those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night.” What troubles me about this verse is the concluding phrase, “those who worship the beast and his image will have no rest day or night.” Again, these unfortunate people appear to be enduring eternal, conscious torment.

Finally, in Revelation 20:10 we read: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.” The beast and false prophet are both human beings. And yet, along with the devil, they will endure eternal punishment. Furthermore, Revelation 19:20 states, “Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf; signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur.” Please note that this takes place prior to the thousand year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:1-7). And yet, when the thousand years are over, the beast and false prophet are still being tormented in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). This lake of fire is the same place where all unbelievers are thrown in Revelation 20:15.

It’s true that this is called the “second death,” but does the Bible equate “death” with “annihilation”? How do you read Ephesians 2:1-2? The Ephesians were formerly “dead.” But does this mean that they didn’t have personal, conscious existence? Wouldn’t you agree that the Ephesians were spiritually dead (i.e. separated from the spiritual life of God)? And might this not also be what the Bible means by the “second death” (i.e. unremedied spiritual death results in eternal separation from God)? When the Bible speaks of death it does not mean “annihilation.” Rather, it means “separation.” Physical death is the “separation” of the spirit from the body (James 2:26). Spiritual death is the “separation” of a conscious, living person from God (Ephesians 2:1-2). And the second death is the “eternal separation” of an unredeemed person from God (Revelation 20:11-15).

This, at any rate, is why it’s so difficult for me to embrace the doctrines of conditional immortality and annihilationism.

Hope this helps.

The Lord bless you,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries


“What About Those Who Cannot Believe?”

There were small children on the planes that were crashed in the 9-11 attacks on America. What happens to a baby or young child who dies? Do they go to heaven or hell?

When a young child dies, the bereaved parents will often ask, “Where is my baby now? Will my child go to heaven? The Bible does not give us a definitive answer to these questions; however, several statements seem to indicate that heaven is the destiny of those who can’t believe.

The critical issue is what God will do in His justice to those who were not able, because of age or mental inability, to respond to His revelation. If they are saved, how are they saved and on what basis are they saved? Wouldn’t the logic that says a child is saved say the same for an adult? In order to answer these questions, let us look at a few basic biblical principles.

First, God is loving (1 John 4:16), good (Nah. 1:7), just (Zeph. 3:5), compassionate, and gracious (Psalm 103:8). He “wants all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and does not want “anyone to perish” (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, it is inconceivable that God would damn an innocent child who is incapable of belief.

When we use the word innocent in this context we are not implying that the one who cannot believe is free from sin. The Bible clearly teaches that even infants inherit a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5; Rom. 5:12, 18-19). Their salvation comes not from being innocent from sin but rather from their ignorance of God’s revelation.

Second, Christ’s death on the cross for our sins was for all of us unless we refuse to accept it. God gives us the ability to decide. This means that we can either accept or reject God’s love for us.

But what about those who are unable to accept or reject God? We must first realize that everyone (including those who cannot believe) is lost (Luke 19:10), perishing (John 3:16), condemned (John 3:18), and under God’s wrath (John 3:36). We must also realize that Christ’s death on the cross paid the debt of sin for us. His death appeases God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9), and this provision is available to all unless they reject it. As Robert Lightner says in Heaven for Those Who Can’t Believe, “Since rejection of the Savior is the final reason why men go to Hell, those who do not reject Him because they are not able to make a conscious decision enter Heaven on the basis of the finished work of Christ.” [Robert P. Lightener, Heaven for Those Who Can’t Believe (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1977), 20.]

Third, there are examples in the Bible that seem to support the notion that children who die are bound for heaven. In 2 Samuel 12:22-23 David learned of the death of this son by Bathsheba. In this relationship with Bathsheba David broke four of the Ten Commandments: he coveted, he stole, he committed adultery, and he committed murder. As punishment, his child was to die. However, when he learned that the child had died, he took heart that his son was in heaven. He said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

In Luke 18:16-17, Jesus used children as an object lesson for the kind of faith that leads to eternal life. He taught that the kingdom of God belongs to such as they (Luke 18:16) and that each believer must accept the kingdom of God as a little child (Luke 18:17). He further taught that God was “not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matt. 18:14).

Fourth, there are no biblical references that even hint that children will be in hell. While there are many references to adults in hell, there are none to children. This is admittedly an argument from silence. But in other passages in which the context might warrant such a reference, none is found. Consider, for example, the accounts of the death of mankind in the Flood (Gen. 7:21-23), the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25), the slaying of the firstborn in Egypt (Exod. 12:29-30), the destruction of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:3), and the slaying of the little boys in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16).

The character of God is such that He would not damn to hell those who cannot believe. Further, Christ’s death on the cross paid the debt of man’s sin and is available to all unless they reject it. We can declare with some certainty that those who cannot believe go to heaven when they die.

Kerby Anderson
Probe Ministries


“Why Can’t God Just Destroy Those Who Reject Him Instead of Sending Them to Hell?”

Why can’t God just destroy people who reject him, cause them to cease to exist instead of sending them to hell where they are tortured for eternity? I know they cannot be a part of God or heaven since God is perfect in all ways, but why not end their existence entirely or just keep them separated for eternity instead of sending them to hell for eternal torment?

Thanks for your question. It’s a good one. The Bible indicates that those who reject the sacrifice of Christ for their sins must pay for their sins themselves. This certainly seems fair and just. The problem comes when we ask why a person who has committed a finite number of sins should be punished forever and ever. This, I will admit, sounds unfair. But the Bible tells us that God is perfectly fair and just. So how can we reconcile this apparent discrepancy?

Some say that any sin committed against the infinitely holy God is worthy of eternal punishment. In other words, it’s not so much the number of sins committed that determine the duration of the punishment, it’s rather the fact that they have sinned against their Creator, the infinitely good and holy God. To sin against such a One as God deserves eternal punishment, these people would say.

This may be true, but my own view is a bit different. Think about it this way. Through Adam, all human beings are born with a nature that is inclined toward sin, rebellion and disobedience against God. When someone trusts Christ for salvation, they are “born again” as a child of God. They receive the Holy Spirit and will one day be completely freed from the presence and power of sin. The one who rejects Christ, however, will never be free from the presence and power of sin. Thus, the one who rejects Christ will never cease sinning. Even in hell I imagine that men and women will curse and blaspheme God. If this is so, then eternal punishment is just because such people never quit sinning against God. Indeed, the longer they are punished, the more their debt increases.

This, at any rate, is my own opinion about the justice of eternal punishment. I hope it helps a little bit.

The Lord bless and keep you,

Michael Gleghorn

Probe Ministries


“Are People in Hell Isolated and Alone?”

My wife says that if you go to hell, you will be alone and not able to talk to anyone else. We tried to find an answer in the Bible, but we could not find a scripture that said that. I have also heard this from different people. Where is the proof?

Thanks for your question. I have also heard this many times myself. It’s interesting to note that C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian apologist, once wrote something to the effect that “Hell is no one but yourself, forever and ever.” On the other hand, Jean-Paul Sartre, the famous French atheistic existentialist philosopher, once wrote that “Hell is other people.” But what does the Bible actually say?

Here are just a few passages to consider:

1. Isaiah 14:3-21: This passage is a taunt against the king of Babylon. What’s interesting is the description of the king’s reception in Sheol, the place of the dead. Notice such verses as 9-10: “Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us.’” Thus, this passage seems to indicate some sort of communication between departed spirits in Sheol. How literally this should be taken is, of course, quite difficult to say. Additionally, it must be remembered that, strictly speaking, Sheol is not the same as Hell. In the Old Testament all the dead were believed to reside in Sheol, both the righteous and the wicked. Hell, on the other hand, is a place of eternal punishment only for the wicked. God could redeem a righteous man from the power of Sheol (Ps. 49:15), but there is “No Exit” from Hell.

2. Luke 16:19-31: In this parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we learn that Lazarus is received into “Abraham’s bosom” at death whereas the rich man goes to Hades. “Abraham’s bosom” is pictured as a place of both comfort and honor; Hades is pictured as a place of fire and torment. Strictly speaking, “Abraham’s bosom” is not Heaven and Hades is not Hell, but each does seem to be a precursor of the other (i.e. Hades is a sort of pre-hell Hell–see Rev. 20:14). Although the rich man is not said to converse with anyone else in Hades, he does converse with Abraham! In the parable, the two men are able to speak with one another even though a great chasm prevents them from crossing over to one another. Again, it is difficult to know how literally such a parable should be read. Is it an actual description of the afterlife prior to one’s final judgment? I’ll let you come to your own conclusion on that one!

3. Revelation 20:10-15: This passage does actually deal with the eternal destiny of the unsaved in Hell. In v. 10, we see that Satan, the beast and the false prophet will all be there. In vv. 14-15 we learn that “death” and “Hades” (and presumably all their inhabitants), along with everyone whose name is not found written in the book of life, will be cast into “the lake of fire” (i.e. Hell). Thus, all the unsaved, along with Satan and his demons, appear to be ultimately consigned to the same place of punishment (see Matt. 25:41). But nothing is said about whether these lost souls will have any communication with one another, or even whether they will be able to see one another. In other words, just because they are consigned to the same place of punishment, it does not necessarily follow that they will have any opportunity to communicate with one another. It could be that Hell is analogous to a large number of prisoners, all at the same prison, but all separated from one another in something like solitary confinement! But I honestly don’t know.

Thus, to answer your question (which is a good one!), I do not personally think there is enough scriptural evidence to reach a firm conclusion concerning whether or not those in Hell will be utterly alone and unable to communicate or not. I’m sorry I can’t answer your question any better, but at least my answer is an honest one!

Shalom,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries

©2001 Probe Ministries


“Do Babies Go to Hell?”

Do you believe that babies go to hell or not? Please support your answer with Scripture.

This is an issue that challenges or questions the justice of God. It is a legitimate question, and I must say at the outset we cannot give a total answer. But there are passages in the Bible which shed a great deal of light on the subject. I will try to address the ones that have come to my mind which I think bear directly or indirectly on your question of the innocence/accountability of children.

Generally speaking, we are asking the question, “What do children know and when do they know it? And the key issue here is one of comprehension of, or the understanding of the Gospel message. This is not only true for children, it is true for adults. When Philip saw the Ethiopian eunuch sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah 53, he was instructed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29) to “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch replied, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides Me?” (v. 31). Acts 8:32-40 goes on to relate that Philip explained how this Eunuch could become a Christian. He responded and was baptized.

My point in beginning with this incident is because there can be no salvation without an understanding of the gospel message. We find Paul throughout the book of Acts reasoning, debating, contending with people so they might understand the message of salvation. And so children must be old enough to understand the gospel, which involves a comprehension of their own personal sin and guilt.

This brings the next question: At what age would that be? I am sorry that I cannot give an affirmative answer since the Scripture never pinpoints clearly the exact age when this occurs. The Talmud from ancient times designated age thirteen for boys (“Bar Mitzvah,”—cf. Judaism, Arthur Hertzberg, p. 100) and twelve for girls (“Bat Mizvah”). This was the time when Jewish boys and girls became responsible for themselves and were to observe all the rituals, feasts, etc., incumbent upon them as members of the Jewish community. It was also the time when the boys were allowed (called) to read the Torah as full members of the worshipping community.

The confirmation services for the young which are practiced in all Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and some Protestant churches are based on the earlier Jewish traditions above. All of them, including the Jewish community, have traditionally set the “age of accountability at about age twelve.

It is also interesting that Luke records the incident at the temple where a twelve-year-old Jesus lagged behind his family and was found (three days later!) in the temple “sitting amidst the teachers both listening to them and asking them questions. . .And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” (Luke 2:46,47).

We can glean from other Old Testament passages additional insights:

1. I Samuel 1:22-18; 3:1-19: Hannah, married to Elkanah, was barren. She made a vow to the Lord that if He would give her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord for lifelong service. God graciously did so, and Samuel was born. Hannah cared for him and told her husband she would not go up to the Tabernacle (at Shiloh) for the annual sacrifice (Day of Atonement) until she had weaned Samuel, saying, “I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord and stay there forever.” (1:22).

The weaning of Hebrew (and other ancient) children did not occur until two or three years, and nursing may have extended beyond to perhaps age five. Therefore Samuel was a very young boy when he was dedicated to the service of the temple. Hannah says on this occasion, “For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. . .So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord. And she worshipped the Lord there.”(1:27,28). We are also told in 2:11 that “the boy ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest.” Verses 2:18-21 indicate that the boy was visited each year by his mother, at which time she would bring him a new, little robe. Several years are indicated in this passage, including the fact that Hannah had given birth to three more sons and two daughters. We can conclude, since Samuel was at least three or four years old when initially brought to the temple, he would at least be nine or ten, and could have been even older (a teenager) when he had his visitation and call from the Lord in I Samuel 3:1-21. The critical verse in this chapter is as follows: “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.” (v. 7).

So here again, Samuel could well have been around age twelve when this event occurred, an incident pointing out a demarcation in his life—of “not knowing” and then “knowing” the Lord.

2. Another passage which marks out this demarcation is found in Nehemiah 8:1-3. After Nehemiah and the Jews had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem they gathered together in worship to hear Ezra the Scribe read the Torah: “And the people gathered as one man, . . .and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. And he read from it before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. . .And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading (v.8). By implication, the younger children—those without understanding—were not present.

3. Another interesting “accountability” issue is found in the Torah which involves the numbering of the fighting men of Israel in the book of Numbers. We are told in Numbers 1 that Moses was instructed to “take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and their families. . .according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel.” (1:2,3). This passage informs us that there were no teenagers in Israel’s army. This census was taken at the end of the entire year the Israelites spent at Mt. Sinai where they received the Law, and during which time they built the Tabernacle and organized themselves into a well-defined community. They were now to embark upon the conquest of Canaan. However, they were called upon to postpone that conquest because of their unbelief and disobedience at Kadesh Barnea. God sent them into the wilderness for forty years after their “Reconnaissance” of Canaan by the twelve spies ended in failure.

After this forty-year exile we read in Deuteronomy 2:14-16, “Now the time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea to (here has been) thirty-eight years; until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. Moreover the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from within the camp, until they all perished.”

What is significant here is that those men who perished were those selected for the army forty years earlier whose ages ranged from twenty to age sixty. The Bible says that by thirty-eight years later, all of these men, the men of “unbelief,” had now died off, leaving only the new generation which would be allowed to enter Canaan. This new “fighting force” would include that original group of males (from age 1 to 19 (which would now be ages 40 to 59) as well as all the males which had been born during the roughly forty years of Wilderness wanderings. So here again, there is an “age of accountability” factor taken into account by the Lord and His servant, Moses. There was no judgment upon this younger group of males. They were allowed to enter Canaan and participate in the conquest of the Land.

There is another passage that touches on this later “age of accountability” from the life of Jehoiachin, II Kings 24:8: “Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king. . .and he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.” So here we find an eighteen- year-old king who is viewed by the Lord as being accountable for the evil he had already done.

I put this section in, but I don’t personally believe that exempting the “under-twenty-year-olds” at the time of the Exodus is a likely precedent for an age of accountability. Furthermore, we find in the legal regulations of the Torah that a disobedient and unmanageable teenager was responsible for his actions, and could be stoned to death by the community! This could occur for cursing his parents, violence, drunkenness, adultery, and so forth. So, in my thinking, the ten to twelve year age would seem more likely for an age of understanding or accountability.

4. Another passage which bears upon our question comes from the life of David, and specifically the outcome of his sin with Bathsheba and the premeditated murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite (II Samuel 11 & 12). You will recall that David lusted after Bathsheba’s great beauty and committed adultery with her, after which she became pregnant (11:1-5). David gave instructions to have Uriah placed “in the fiercest battle and withdraw from him so that he may be struck down and die.” (11:15). After Uriah’s death, David brought Bathsheba to his house as his wife, and she bore him a son. (11:27) Nathan the prophet confronts David with his sin and says, “because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.: Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick.” (12:14,15).

The child lingered for seven days and then died. During this time, David prayed and fasted and laid on the ground. When the child died the servants were afraid to tell David, but he saw them whispering and they finally told him, “He is dead.” (12:19).

When David heard this, he got up, washed himself, changed his clothes, asked for food and ate. His servants were perplexed by this: while the child lived, David mourned. When the child died, David got up and ate food. They wondered why. David said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live. But now he has died; why should I fast.? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”(12:22,23)

David has a view of death and immortality which expresses itself in this incident involving the death of a child. David believes in the after life. In Psalm 23 he concludes by saying: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” So for David there was a place for the dead, including children—the house, or the dwelling place, of the Lord. David also speaks of this in Psalm 16:9,10 where he says, “For thou wilt not abandon (leave) my soul in Sheol (the grave); Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to see (experience) decay (corruption).” David believes in the resurrection of the body—for himself, and for the Messiah (the Holy One) (see also Acts 13:35). Job says something very similar: “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is flayed (corrupted) Yet without my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall see and not another.”

The point of David’s perspective is that he believes that the child is still alive and in God’s presence, David anticipates that when he dies, he will join his little son in the house of the Lord: “I shall go to him.”

5. Finally, we have the teachings of Jesus Himself. In Matthew 19:13-15, our Lord says as the children we being hindered from coming near to Him, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these, and after laying His hands on them, He departed. . .”

Christ has a special love for little children. Why He associates children with the Kingdom of Heaven is because it is the place of the innocent, the blameless. It would appear that Jesus sees children in this light. The whole trend of Scripture seems to teach that the innocents who are too young to sin and too young to accept Christ intelligently (with understanding!), are safe in the arms of a just and holy God.

We need never fear about God being unjust. He cannot be. His mercy and justice are from everlasting to everlasting. I therefore conclude, that there will be no children in hell. There will also be no retarded, or otherwise mentally-incapacitated individuals there, those who cannot fully comprehend and understand what Christ has accomplished on their behalf at Calvary.

In summary, I think we can conclude the following:

First, that there is some period of grace afforded the young before they have developed an understanding to fully comprehend the gospel message and its implications for their lives.

Second, there seems to be good scriptural support that all infants, like David’s little son, go immediately, in their innocence, into the arms of the Lord.

Third, that the likely range of such an age of “accountability ” may occur around the time of puberty.

Fourth, that we are not saying children younger than this “accountability age” commit no sin (as sinful tendencies and acts occur quite early in children), and because of their fallen nature, they do these things spontaneously, things which they have definitely NOT learned from their parents or their friends). What we are saying is that up to the point when they reach clear understanding, they do not come under the judgment of the Law.

I’m sure that much more could be gleaned from the scriptures on this, but these passages came to my mind. At least it’s a start at answering your question, D____. I hope this helps.

Jimmy Williams, Founder
Probe Ministries

Yes Sir, that does help. Thanks very much. What you wrote is what I’ve long believed, without really knowing how to defend it biblically.

Now for a follow-up question which seems to spring quite logically from what you wrote: If God exempts from holding accountable for their sins those who are not old enough to have “understanding,” and those of any age who are incapable of having “understanding” (such as the mentally retarded), is it also possible, Scripturally speaking, that He exempts in some measure those who have never heard of Jesus at all—judging them perhaps by whatever standard He utilized for those before Christ (lived), both Jews and non-Jews, some of whom certainly gained eternal life, rather than automatically condemning them for not accepting the Savior of whom they never heard?

I would suggest you check the Probe web site and look for three articles which address this question: “What About the Person Who Never Heard of Jesus,”  “Is Jesus the Only Savior?” and “Is There a Second Chance to Believe After Death?”

I would say in addition, to your remarks about Old Testament believers, that there were two kinds of people before Christ just as there are two kinds of people now: believers and unbelievers.

It is helpful for me to think of this in terms of a painting. As early as Genesis 3:15, immediately after the “Disobedience/Fall” God began to reveal His plan of redemption. He speaks there of the “Seed” of a Woman” who would one day crush the head of Satan and destroy his power and influence on the earth.

As we move through the Old Testament, God continues, with broad strokes at first, to sketch out the details of Who this Person would be. By the time we get to Malachi, a fairly accurate portrait of Messiah and His Mission has been provided. The New Testament is the fulfillment of that unfolding from the Old.

Jesus said, “Your Father Abraham saw my day (time, era) and rejoiced in it” (John 8:16). Now, what did He see (comprehend, understand)? Not the whole picture revealed in the New Testament, but enough information for him to have a basis (God’s promise of a Messiah) for his trust, his belief, at that time.

Noah is another example. There is nothing directly mentioned about the Messiah in the Noah narrative (except the fact that the Ark itself is a type of Christ—those inside the Ark were saved; those outside the Ark perished), the important principle is that God revealed some things to Noah and asked him to be obedient to them.

We cannot understand this Old Testament Salvation issue unless we see clearly what God was doing. What was He doing from Genesis 3:15 to the end of the Old Testament? He was progressively revealing more and more details about His promised Messiah. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God spoke long ago to the fathers by the prophets and in may portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

It seems apparent that the Old Testament saints had some “light” and they were responsible to respond to it. The CROSS has always been the basis for our salvation. Those who came before it looked forward in time to when it would be fulfilled. Those of us who have lived after Jesus’s Day look back to that time when it was accomplished. This is the basis for our salvation. The means of our salvation is always faith, encompassing all who lived before and all who lived after the Cross who “believed God” and whatever revelatory information they had at that time. And the results of our faith are always expressed in being obedient to those things which God has revealed. I hope this information and the other articles I have recommended you to read will answer your above question.


Do Babies Go to Hell? #2

This is one of those items that, as you know, God has not revealed. Consider this: If we think they don’t, that is, that God takes them all to Heaven, then abortion and the killing of those before the so-called age of accountability would be a great way to have more babies go to Heaven. Consider, what percent of those that reach the so-called age of accountability get saved/born again. By aborting and killing the young children we could increase that to 100 percent. This would of course make abortion and murder good.

Thank you for this response to my remarks about the above topic.

First of all, I respectfully disagree with your first statement. It seems to me that, while we do not have a total answer to this question from the Scriptures, I enumerated several lines of thought pertaining to the question, one of which was a clear, biblical example recorded of a child who had died and went to heaven. So I don’t think you could say “God has not revealed anything about this issue to us. We do have some information and insight from the Scriptures.

So I will restate my conviction that I do believe there are not—nor will there ever be—any children in hell.

Secondly, I don’t follow your logic in your next statement. Given my view, any infant death—whether from abortion, accident, disease, assault or other causes—does not matter: All babies go to heaven. And so aborting children would not be a great way to have more babies go to Heaven, as you suggest, since all of them go to Heaven.

Thirdly, you have tacked on to this another issue which must be kept separate from the above. You say, I think, that we would be doing some persons (those who are not going to become Christians after they have reached the age of accountability when they are held responsible to God for their choices and behavior) a big “favor” by aborting them. I hope I am reading you right.

There are several things very wrong about what you propose: (a) I would assume that you believe, as I do, that the “termination of a pregnancy” (i.e., a euphemism for killing and destroying an unborn infant) is murder. This is a violation of the Sixth Commandment (Ex. 20:13). This commandment alone is in opposition to what you suggest. (b) Further, in order to carry out such a task, you would literally have to be God Himself, since you don’t know which ones are the “fledgling” non-believers upon whom you are to perform your acts of “mercy.” (c) But why stop there? Why not go ahead and do the same with the mentally-impaired? The comatose? The “non compos mentis” elderly? Would they not also qualify? Something is wrong with this picture.

Fourthly, you say that carrying out such an enterprise would “make abortion and murder good.” This is actually very far from what I view as a Scriptural perspective. Paul asks, “Shall we sin (continue in sin) so that (we can see) grace abound? (Romans 6:1)” In other words, should we take advantage of God’s forgiveness of sins through Christ and go on sinning so we can see His marvelous Grace go to work to cover it? Paul says, “God forbid.” He elaborates on this later on: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cleave to what is good (12:9).” Earlier Paul defends his actions against those who were criticizing him and his colleagues, “slanderously reporting that we say, ‘let us do evil that good may come.’ Their condemnation is just (Romans 3:8).” In Psalm 109:3-5 David’s words could easily be applied to the unborn: “They have spoken against me. . they have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without cause. In return for my love (innocence) they act as my accusers;…Thus they have repaid me evil for good. …and hatred for my love.” In II Corinthians 13:7,8 Paul says, “Now we pray to God that you do no wrong…but that you may do what is right . …For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.” In Proverbs 17:13 it says, “He who returns evil for good, Evil will not depart from his house.” And “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord (vs. 15,16).” And Moses says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your seed, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days (Deut. 30:19,20).” And finally, James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone [to do evil] (James 1:13).”

The principle is pretty clear: “It is never right to do wrong in order to do right.” “It is never good to do evil in order to do good.”

I hope this answers your question, ______ .

God’s blessings,

Jimmy Williams, Founder
Probe Ministries


Do Babies Go To Hell #3

First, I want to say that our family has been blessed by the ministry of Probe. I’ve caught up on my mail, and just read the answer to the questions “Do Babies Go to Hell?” There is a passage in Romans that always comes to mind in this regard. It is Romans 7:9.

I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;

This is “the” verse that really spoke to me about the existence of an “age of accountability,” whatever that age may be. Being a Jew, and a Pharisee at that, I’m sure Paul had a knowledge of the law on some level at an early age. But it wasn’t until it “came” to him (he understood it?) that he was accountable, i.e. he “died” (came under condemnation which he knew was worthy of death).

Just though I’d pass this on. I might not have bothered to respond, not wanting to take time to look up the verse, but I just read Romans 7 this morning so it was “quite” fresh in my mind. And I can never read this without thinking of this point.

May the Lord continue to bless your ministry.

PraiSing Him,

 

Dear ______,

Thank you for your e-mail and comments on Romans 7:9. It really relates to this subject. I am glad you are benefiting from the Probe web site. Thank you for expressing your appreciation, which is a real encouragement to all the Probe Staff.

Jimmy Williams
Probe Ministries


Do Babies Go To Hell #4

I frequent your web site and have enjoyed it thoroughly. It has helped to shape me and has been a source of God’s truth for me. For that I am grateful!! I don’t think that once I have ever felt that you have been different than what God’s truth says. Below I raise some questions about the recent article about babies’ salvation. Please comment to help me understand how you feel. Thanks.

First of all, the Bible says that “. . .all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to our own way. . .” “. . . there is none that doeth good, no not one.” These folks that believe that children won’t be held accountable for their sins, I believe, don’t understand the fallen nature of man and the righteous character of an all-Holy God.

Even David had a handle on this doctrine when he wrote in Psalm 51: “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

It’s important to note that the “all” and “everyone” listed above means all people, even babies, born and yet unborn. We are by nature sinful, which means we are spiritually dead and enemies of God. Spiritually-dead people (of any age) cannot make themselves spiritually alive any more than physically-dead people can make themselves physically alive.

Spiritually-dead babies are enemies of God and separated from Him and completely unable to change that situation. The nature of God is that He is totally just and righteous. The Bible says, “. . . I am of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “I will by no means clear the guilty.” He had sworn a “thousand” times in Scripture to punish sin wherever He finds it. His justice demands that He do it. He cannot make any exceptions.

So. . .this is why Jesus came to earth to die on the cross. If babies were not going to be held accountable for their sins (and would automatically go to heaven when they die) as this fellow teaches, then Jesus wasn’t needed for them. This path would lead us to believe that Jesus came to die only for those who have reached that mystical “age of accountability” and understand their sinful condition and can make a decision regarding the gospel. It is true that as we mature and do become aware of our thoughts and behavior and choices that we will be held accountable for them. Those who assert that the age of accountability is when children become responsible before God, yet none of them seem to know when that age is. Wouldn’t it seem important to know that?

One more thing. By stating that we must reach this (unknown) age before we can understand and believe and thus be responsible for our salvation puts some of the credit for our being saved upon US, doesn’t it?

The business of enlightening souls and saving same belongs to the Holy spirit. Martin Luther stated, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in God or come to Him. . .” We are saved by God alone. “By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”

We are accountable for our sins from conception and can only be saved when the Holy Spirit gives us this faith and changes us from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. This is why we embrace Baptism. In I Peter 3:21, Peter states: “Therefore we conclude, that Baptism doth also save us, not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

In Baptism, we are responding to a command of Christ’s and the Holy Spirit promises to save us through the water and the Word by this act. What do you think of this?

Thank you for your recent e-mail. I appreciate the fact that you have found benefit from the Probe Website. I am the fellow you refer to who is responsible for writing the e-mail, “Do Babies Go to Hell?”

In your first two paragraphs you mention the fact that from conception babies bear the stamp of sin. I have no problem with this as long as we understand what that means. And what it means is that babies are members of a fallen race (See my discussion on this in E-Mail #1). Sin is passed on genetically from the male. This was why the Virgin Birth was necessary and specifically why Jesus was “without sin.” He is therefore the only exception to the general rule.

And I also agree with you that apart from the working of God, all humans are spiritually dead until they hear the Gospel, respond to it and are born again into the family of God.

You say that “spiritually-dead babies (born and unborn) are enemies of God, separated from Him, and are completely unable to change that situation.” And I agree with you on the basis of what I have just said above. But I want to ask you a question. Do you then believe that every embryo, every unborn fetus, and all toddlers, let’s say, from the beginning of time until now, are actually in hell? What if we add four and five-year olds? Them too? I don’t think so. But this is what you are asserting to be true.

I point you back to a review of my original discussion in E-Mail #1 about an alternative to your conclusion and one which has some (not exhaustive) support in the Scriptures. Specifically, I would ask you to focus on David’s experience with his newborn son (from Bathsheba) who became sick and died seven days after his birth (II Samuel 11 and 12). After the child has died, David says, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me (12:22,23).” Now here is a baby that had, as we all do, a sin nature, but didn’t go to Hell. In Psalm 23 we have a clear indication of where David felt he would be after death: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” And he anticipated that he would again see his little son.

In your next paragraph you make the assumption that those who have not reached the age of accountability have no need of a Savior. I don’t follow your logic. On the basis of your own premise that all in Adam are tainted with sin and are in need of a redeemer, I don’t understand why you would say His death would not apply to these young ones as well. You do admit that “it is true that as we mature and do become aware of our thoughts and behavior and choices that we will be held accountable for them.” That is exactly the point. The primary reason that Christian parents hesitate to explain the Gospel to very young children is because those parents want them to be old enough to fully UNDERSTAND what Jesus did for them.

This leads me on to answer your question about “pinning down” what/when that age might be. I don’t think we can arbitrarily pick an exact age for everyone. There are too many variables. But we do know this: there are FOUR components necessary for one to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We find them in Paul’s interchange with Lydia in Acts 16:14: “And a certain woman named Lydia. . .was (1) listening, and the (2) Lord opened her heart to respond to the (3) things spoken by (4) Paul.”

In Acts 9:27-39 we have the account of Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was reading Isaiah 53 out loud as he sat in his chariot. Philip ran up and asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading? The eunuch answered, “How could I, unless someone guides me?” You know the rest of the story. My point here is that even adults don’t become Christians until they, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, come to understand the gospel and see it with the eyes of faith. Would it be any less important for children to have the same understanding?

We also find in the Scriptures times when God overlooked sin under certain circumstances as the redemptive work unfolded through time: “the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness , because of the passing over of the sins previously committed in the forbearance of God (Romans 3:24-25.” (See also Acts 17:30; Romans 5:13,14). You will also find other, similar elements in the first e-mail.

In your next paragraph you indicate you feel special credit is due those who come to a place of accountability to God, and that their use of reason or comprehension somehow negates the work of the Spirit. I point you back to Lydia. NO ONE COMES TO CHRIST WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE GOSPEL. This involves reason. And part of that reasoning is to comprehend Romans 6:23—it is, as you mention, by grace and not of works, “lest anyone might boast.”

You conclude with some comments about baptism, and quote I Peter 3:21. I am not sure why you included this in the discussion, but let me comment: First of all, I am wondering if you are including believer baptism as part of the Gospel: that is, you believe one does not become a Christian when he believes the Gospel, but rather that you only accomplish when you are baptized. I am assuming that you are not here referring to infant baptism, which, incidentally, is used by some segments of Christendom to do something to cover these young ones until they come of an age when they can understand the Gospel. I do not personally believe that baptizing an infant with water, without an understanding of the Gospel, accomplishes anything. It isn’t even mentioned in Scripture.

Further, Paul tells us clearly in Romans 1:16 that he is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for every one who believes.” And so it is clear that the Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation, and nothing else. But we find in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that Paul clearly distinguishes between the Gospel and Baptism: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Evidently, Paul does not include baptism as part of the gospel, but rather saw it as the appropriate response of obedience following one’s conversion. Even the verse you quote from Peter must be carefully read: Peter qualifies his statement about baptism by making sure he is not misunderstood. He appears to me to be saying that water will not wash away sin, but rather, in obedience to the command of Christ, the believer, in good conscience toward God, gives his answer, or his response, to the truth of the Gospel by submitting to baptism. Baptism is a public testimony of one’s inner commitment to the Person and Work of Christ: “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart.—That is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

You asked me to comment on these issues and I have tried to do this as honestly as I can from my understanding of God’s Word. You may not be comfortable with all of my responses, but I have given you my “best shot.”

May the Lord bless you and your family,

Jimmy Williams, Founder
Probe Ministries

© 2001 Probe Ministries


“Is There a Second Chance to Believe After Death?”

Hi there Jim. We’ve spoken before and I found it quite helpful. Can I ask you a question on divine judgment? What about those who would come before God and who really weren’t HONESTLY sure about it all and didn’t become a Christian in life? When they stood in front of Him and God knew how they felt through life…would that be fair to send them to hell? Obviously they would have a sudden change of heart, right? Thanks, Jim.

If I understand you correctly, you are wondering if a person who is skeptical of the claims of Christ throughout life, didn’t CLEARLY understand the gospel but you imply if they had, they would have placed their faith in Christ. And then you wonder if once dead and seeing that His claims were genuine, God would be unfair in sending that person to hell. If I am not clear on your meaning here, please let me know.

First of all, the Bible says that “it is appointed unto man ONCE to die and afterwards comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” This seems to rule out any idea of a second chance, and the concept of reincarnation as well.

Furthermore, we are told in John 16:8-11 that the Holy Spirit is constantly convicting the world (including your hypothetical person) of “sin, righteousness, and judgment.” What this means is that no one is left without an opportunity to respond to this prompting of the Spirit, repent, and place their faith in Christ.

And Romans 1:18-20 Paul tells us that God’s wrath has been revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness (as we see above in the John passage), and “because that which is known about God is evident within them. . .For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse.”

Luke 17 also gives us some things which bear on your question. Read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (17:19-31). The crux of the story is that both of these men died. The rich man found himself in hell, and was able to see Lazarus (the poor beggar) in heaven (Abraham’s Bosom). The rich man is in torment, and now, “knowing” the truth of things, asks if he could be sent back to earth to talk to his five brothers and warn them so they don’t join him in hell. (This is analogous to the man in your hypothetical). Look carefully at the Lord’s answer. He tells the man it wouldn’t do any good. The Lord says they have a witness: Moses and the Prophets. The rich man says, yes, but they would listen if someone came back from the dead and told them!

Jesus responds by saying if they didn’t believe/respond to the light they already had (through Moses and the Prophets), they wouldn’t be persuaded even if someone came back from the dead to tell them! In short, the necessary information and guidance to enter the family of God is available to all during their lifetime. And faith must have an object worthy of its trust. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Now what would be fair about giving those who “sat” on the fence, ignored the evidence, and failed to exercise faith in Christ, and then, when dead, like the rich man, now knowing the truth, (no need to exercise faith) asking for another chance?

There are no unbelievers in heaven or hell. They are now all believers. They know the truth. Unfortunately, those who chose not to respond to all of the “signposts” God has given the world (which could be believed if any person desired), they must face the consequences of their “non-actions.” It would not be fair of God to include the man you are suggesting along with those who pleased God by exercising their faith in Christ while faith was still the issue!

I hope this answers your question, ______.

Jimmy Williams, Founder
Probe Ministries


“Why Didn’t God Just Not Create the People Who Wouldn’t Believe in Him?”

I have a question about God’s omniscience versus the existence of hell. I know the Bible says (and I believe it) that God is good and loving, as well as holy and just. It also says that He is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning, and knowing from eternity-past the choice that every human being that ever lived/will live will make — either to accept His offer of eternal life, or to reject it.

If both of these statements are true and biblical, my question is this: If God knew (even before creation) that millions of people would make the choice to reject Him (and thus end up in hell by their own choice), why did He simply not create them in the first place? I know this might sound simplistic, but why would He create all of those people who would ultimately reject Him and end up in hell, if He KNEW that would be their final and eternal destination? (A non-Christian friend of mine calls it “a cruel joke.”)

This is a tough question. I was tempted to write back and say, “We just don’t know,” and ultimately that’s probably true. “Why” questions are about motives, and unless someone tells us, it’s awfully hard to read another person’s mind. . . especially God’s! But as I thought more about it, I realized that I COULD pass on the observation that our choice is a precious thing to God because choice is the foundation for true love. If God didn’t create the people who wouldn’t choose Him, then that would be the equivalent of removing the choice.

At any rate, He did, and He knows what He’s doing, and I guess we just need to trust Him.

I think we need to see the Lord as reluctantly letting people choose hell instead of gleefully sending them there. He doesn’t want ANYONE to perish (2 Peter 3:9), but some insist on it. That’s not cruel on His part, it’s a way of supporting our choices.

Nonetheless, the bottom line is that it’s a mystery. Non-believers aren’t going to trust His heart when they don’t trust anything about Him in the first place, are they?

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries


“Why Would God Send the Prophet Dante to Hell?”

I heard about an angel that brought the prophet Dante to hell and showed him all ten levels of hell. What is this? Why would God send a prophet of God to hell? Weren’t prophets like saints?

Dante was not a prophet, he was an Italian writer who lived in the middle ages. He only imagined the ten levels of hell. A lot of our ideas about hell actually came from Dante’s classic piece of literature The Divine Comedy, but it is only the work of a man’s imagination and has nothing to do with what God has told us is true.

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries


“There is No Satan, No Hell, and No People Born Bad”

I believe after 25,000 hrs of study and research, that WE should teach more about Creation and nature, along with philosophy and science, at a early age.

Western man starts his voyage of life thinking, he/she is bad, a sinner and always going to hell with Satan. There is NO Satan. There is no hell. These are for all serious realists a level of evil conciousness. Our children are not born into a world of sin. No more than a new born fawn, calf, bird etc. etc. We all have the knowledge of knowing right from wrong. In the Eastern cultures, primarily the Buddhist, teach their young that they are good boys/girls.

The orthodox churches take hold of one’s spirit and give it fright and scare. The conformist and orthodoxy are nothing more than a industrialized money making venture. Now our new president wants to give our tax dollars to the same groups.

Somewhere, somehow America must change. This earth will probably be here for a very long time. When we think on terms of eternity, infinity and the finite, let us teach the truth about nature and clean up this planet, and the young minds. We continue to tell our youth of how bad they are, they believe this. No, this gives them the license to murder, child molest, rape and a total criminal behavior. What would one expect, but our terrible bad society. Every generation this grows worse.

I’m not sure why you sent us this recent message except perhaps as a mild rebuke of our Christian Theistic worldview. Let me just point out that setting yourself up as an authority by stating the number of hours you have studied this subject and simply stating your position as categorically true with no attempt at argument or persuasion conforms to the standard practice of propaganda and not rational discourse.

If you want to challenge something specific on our site, please write us stating what you disagree with and why and we will respond as best we can. I’m afraid your e-mail as it stands accomplishes little more than an opportunity for you to state your opinions to no one in particular. Therefore, there is no reason to specifically respond to any of your speculations.

Respectfully,

Ray Bohlin, Ph.D.
Probe Ministries