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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Eternity of Hell

There are a few who say that hell is not eternal and that some day God’s mercy will overcome his justice and hell will be emptied. What does the Bible and catechism say about this?

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.
CCC 393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death." [St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 2, 4: PG 94, 877]

So the catechism is clear that once we have died we have made our choice. And it is in fact a choice that we make here on earth.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment

So we have had our chance and then comes judgment…now something that we must keep in mind is that God is not a jerk. Everyone is offered the grace to go to heaven. Now to some it might not be as evident as it is to others but that is God’s business. Just because Jimmy down the street saw an apparition of our Lady and you didn’t doesn’t mean that he is guaranteed a place in heaven. He still needs to obey the gospel the best way he knows.

There is also in Romans 2:14-16 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Exactly so keep those things in mind

Continuing on, Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 that Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels.

It wasn’t originally created for humans who had rebelled but for the angels. But now we see that those who share in the sin of disobedience before death share in the fate of the devils and are sent to Hell.

But is Hell eternal! Yes and to those who did not clothe, feed, or visit Christ he will say - Matthew 25:46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Notice that there is a contrast between the eternity of the punishment and the eternity of the reward.

If someone argues that God’s mercy will some day triumph over his justice and thus free the souls from hell, how do we know that at some later date God’s justice won’t triumph over his mercy and send everyone to hell? This is an undependable position.

Mark 9:43-48 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Now Jesus here isn’t recommending a lot of one armed one legged Christians. He is here warning us of the seriousness of this life and its effects on the afterlife. And that somehow he must communicate the terribleness of Hell, Jesus says that it is better to loose a limb than experience the pains of hell.

I would also say that there are some moral and theological danger to the teaching that hell will be emptied.
First is that in the churches 2000 years it has never taught this. So to teach it is to divorce yourself from the churches teaching.
Second I would then wonder what the purpose of purgatory would be - would a person who went to hell still have to go to purgatory?
Third, if I am going to heaven anyway, why not live it up here on earth? Its not like I am going to hell for eternity?
Finally, those who are in hell, have no wish to be in heaven because the one that they refused to serve is there and to see him face to face for all eternity would be worse than hell.
C.S. Lewis said that the door to hell is locked - from the inside. They want to keep God out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Glorious Mysteries In The Old Testament

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are all focused on the last events of Christ on Earth, the birth of the Church through the Holy Spirit and the Glorification of Mary. Yet all of these events have been prefigured in the Old Testament and bring deeper meaning to life of Christ.

So begin with the Resurrection of Jesus.

The Resurrection of Jesus is prefigured in the Creation of Adam. We are told in Genesis 2:7 that the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground.

So just as Adam was brought forth from the ground at his creation, Jesus was brought out of the ground to begin the New Creation. But that is not all.

Genesis 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

So God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, but what is less known is what the Gospel of John has to say about where Jesus was crucified and buried.

John 19:41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.

On Easter Sunday Jesus says to Mary Magdeline
John 20:15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener,...

Mary thinks that he is the gardener - why - because he IS the Gardener. The original one who placed Adam in the garden of Eden. Now, Jesus begins the New Creation in a New Garden.

How about the Ascension

The Ascension is prefigured in at least one place and that is in the Jewish Temple on the Feast day of Yom Kipor - or the day of atonement! This was the only day during the year that the high priest was allowed to enter into the most holy part of the temple to sprinkle the blood of bulls and goats on the mercy seat to atone for sins.

Leviticus 16:11-13 "Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house; he shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small; and he shall bring it within the veil and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat which is upon the testimony, lest he die;

Now to for the priest to enter into the Holy of Holies, he had to ascend several flights of stairs, while he carries in this blood to atone for sins. So it would prefiguratively appear as though he was ascending on a cloud of smoke.

So now it makes more sense why Jesus was ascending on a cloud into heaven. What was he going to do there?
Hebrews 9:11-12 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

So the OT priests were prefiguring with animals blood what Jesus would ultimately do with his own blood. And that is go into the Most Holy place in heaven and atone for our sins.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Pentecost is so rich in symbolism, but the most obvious one is how the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire appears over the heads of the apostles.

This is prefigured - I think - almost every time fire miraculously appears in the Old Testament.

Hebrews 12:29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Isaiah 6:5-7 Isaiah sees a vision of God and notices his own sinfulness. Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven."

So when fire touches his mouth his sins are forgiven. So God is a consuming fire, fire cleanses from sin, and now listen to what Jesus has to say. The Holy Spirit, who is that consuming fire, is given to the apostles that the sins of others might be forgiven.

John 20:22-23 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
The Fire of the Holy Spirit is closely associated with cleansing of sins and the transformation from sin into salvation.

Assumption of Mary

I am speculating here, but I think that one place that Mary’s assumption into heaven is prefigured is in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Both Adam and Eve left the Garden of paradise with their bodies - So it seems fitting that if the new Adam - Jesus - enters the heavenly Paradise with his body, it would also be fitting that the new Eve - Mary - also enters into heaven with her body as well.

Finally, the Coronation of Mary.

I think that this is prefigured in the life of Solomon, who was the King of Israel. He had so many wives, there could be endless contention over the role of queen. He solves this problem by making his mother queen.

Adonijah asks Bathsheba to mediate his petition before King Solomon and this is what Bathsheba said:
1 Kings 2:18-19 Bathsheba said, "Very well; I will speak for you to the king." So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king's mother; and she sat on his right.

Notice that a throne is brought for the king’s own mother. This begins the role of the Gebirah - or the Queen mother. From this time on, all of the kings of Israel have their own mothers as their queens. Jesus follows in this tradition and makes his own mother queen of all that He is king, namely, all of creation.

Future Fulfillment.

Finally, while meditating on the entirety of these mysteries I notice that they were all pointing to the events at the end of the world.
The dead will be raised, and then caught up to meet Jesus when he comes. Fire will fall from heaven and consume all of creation. Finally, humanity will be taken into the new heavens and new earth where we will be crowned with glory.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Ascension Of Our High Priest

So many people know that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament feast of the Passover with the last supper and his death on the Cross, but he was also fulfilling in a very large part the Feast Day of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur was the day to atone for the sins that you committed against God. On this day Israelites would "afflict themselves", meaning fasting, doing penance and they were forbidden to work.

Before I continue, I want to note that this feast is particularly complicated. For example, the high priest had to wash his entire body 5 times and wash his hands and feet 10 times.
Seeing its complexity I will point out the only main parts.

The High Priest would take a bull, confess his sins and the sins of his family over it, sacrifice it and then catch its blood in a bowl.

The High Priest would also take two goats.
One would be for God and the other would be for Azazel (who was possibly a demon?) sort of mysterious.
The one that was for God would be sacrificed and its blood would be collected in a bowl.
The other Goat for Azazel would have a red thread tied to its horns (while a similar red thread would be kept back in Jerusalem, which would turn white if the sacrifice was accepted) and then the High Priest would lay hands on its head confessing the sins of all of Israel, this goat got to escape out of town (where we get the escape goat), but in practice it was handed over to a gentile who would lead it out of town and then thrown it over a cliff.

Back at the temple the blood that was collected was then taken up into the temple with great amounts of incense. The blood would then be sprinkled in the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Christ fulfill this feast in his own day in several ways:

Just as the High Priest in the OT wore a seamless Linen garment, so also St. John tells us in
Chapter 19: 23 that Jesus was wearing a seamless garment at the cross.

Something else that is significant here is that Leviticus 21:10 says that the high priest may never tear his own garment.

And if you recall when Jesus is on trial before Caiphas the high priest and Jesus says that he is the Christ Caiphas tears his own garments and charges Jesus with Blasphemy.
But they were dividing Jesus' clothes while he was on the Cross, John 19:24 tells us that his garment was not torn, but they drew lots for it. This action is confirming the high priesthood of Jesus.

Remember also how the high priest in the OT had to take the blood into the Holy of Holiest and sprinkle it on the Mercy seat. When Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem he made each part higher then the next. So the Temple had three parts, one for the people, but then you would walk up some stairs to the Holy place and from their you would walk up some more stairs into the Holy of Holies.

Well on the day of atonement remember the priest had to have to ascend these stairs with a great amount of incense, almost like he was riding on a cloud up into the Holy of Holies.
This points to the Ascension of our Lord, and where is he ascending to? To the real Holy of Holiest in heaven where he is interceding for us...

Hebrews 9:11-12 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, 12 he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

One more beautiful tidbit is what happened to the thread that was left in Jerusalem:
"The Talmud bears an amazing witness to the work of [Jesus] in altering the system of atonement. The background is that on [Day of Atonement], when the [high priest] sacrificed a goat (Leviticus 16), a piece of scarlet cloth was tied between its horns. If it later turned white, it meant that God had forgiven Israel’s sin in accordance with Isaiah 1:18, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow."
"Our Rabbis taught that throughout the forty years that [Simeon] the Righteous served,…the scarlet cloth would become white. From then on it would sometimes become white and sometimes not.... Throughout the last forty years before the Temple was destroyed... the scarlet cloth never turned white." (Yoma 39a-39b)" Jewish New Testament Commentary – By: David H. Stern (page 84) - I don't recommend this book, while sometimes it does have cool Jewish insights into the life of Christ, David Stern is a Protestant and misses much in his commentary.

I again point everyone to Brant Pitre's CD set on this topic. It will make so much come to life in your reading of Scripture.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Me and Jesus Christianity is Unchristian

In our day, you can find pretty much find any Christian denomination that would fit with whatever it is you choose to believe. Many people say that Christianity has nothing to do with belonging to a group of people. The important thing is belonging to Christ. Here is what the Bible teaches about this:

As you know, the Jesus’ message was not politically correct. He was very specific about who to follow and what to do. For example;
John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Look how Jesus says that the way to salvation is through a specific group of people. He doesn’t instruct her to find her own path to God, he tells her that she doesn’t know what she is worshipping.

Next Jesus is pointing to that very group of people (the Jews) and says this:
Matthew 23:2-3 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
Here Jesus is pointing to those people inside the religion who are hypocritical yet still need to be obeyed.

Does hypocrisy still go on today? Certainly it does, but is this any excuse to leave God’s channel of salvation (namely the church) not according to Jesus.

What about people who say that the church is fine and good just as long as they don’t get in the way of my relationship with Jesus?

Well the Bible is clear that there is no such thing as "me and Jesus" Christianity. It is always US and Jesus.

To begin in the beginning, notice how we weren’t born the garden of Eden because of what our first parents did. This punishment is very corporate.

Also think of Moses on Mount Sinai interceding for the Israelites who had been worshipping false gods down below, if it wasn’t for his intercession the group of them would have been destroyed.
One more example before we get into the NT. In the book of Joshua there God told the Israelites to destroy certain towns and take none of the spoils of war. But there was one guy Achan who had to take a little after a certain battle. Yet come to the next war and the Israelites loose the battle. Knowing that this whole war machine is run by the grace of God, they realize that the reason they lost was because someone had sinned. Soon Achan is found out and put to death. Notice though that the reason they lost wasn’t poor war strategy. They didn’t loose because of poor discipline in the ranks. They lost because one person was spiritually infected with sin and it effected everyone.

In the New Testament St. Paul says:
1 Corinthians 12:19-29 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, …. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
Paul says that we each have a part to play and notice again Paul says
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you,"

Do you listener say I have no need for the leaders of the church? You may want to think again.
(Think also about how we do need the saints in Heaven as well)

What about people who say, but there is no warmth at the Catholic Church, when I go down to Bob’s Bible Church everyone knows me and greets me with love.

I would say first that the worship ceremony that we call the Mass isn’t the place to meet people. That is the place that we are called together to worship God. Now if after Mass you want to meet together to get to know people, that would be a great opportunity to do so. But we can’t abandon true worship just because somewhere else has better hospitality. I would say that is something we need to work on in certain parishes but not during Mass.

What about when people say that they left the Mass because of all of the scandals.

I ask them to name some scandals but then I say - hey you think that is bad I know a bishop that got paid to have a priest murdered. At this point they either agree or wonder where you are taking them in the conversation. I say yes, Judas who was a bishop was paid to have Jesus put to death. But this doesn’t mean that what Jesus taught wasn’t true. It just means that he chooses sinful men to communicate it, and the miracle is that for 2000 it has been communicated without change.

Read the Old Testament and see how you might stand up for some of those scandals? Could you imagine if after your priest offered sacrifice at your local church, he later went down the street to offer sacrifice to another god? THAT would be a huge scandal. But this doesn't mean that Judaism was false, or that God had not begun that religion, or that you could go start your own church.

Me and Jesus Christianity Reposted