Sunday, May 16, 2010

Greater, more

Matthew 23:14-15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

v. 14 The greater damnation
Degrees of punishment in hell is what I was taught concerning "the greater damnation". While that could be interpreted that way, there is a simpler possible comparison. Jesus condemns the hypocritical Pharisees, who made much religious show with their long prayers and such. But behind their religious fa├žade lay hearts of evil which had no compassion even for the helpless, such as the widows. If they had the advantage, they would gladly devour their homes, their possessions, their all. In their weakest time with little defense, these hypocrites take advantage of widows. Perhaps, like some modern religions, they offer their prayers to obtain their substance. Whatever damnation they laid on the widows, theirs will be greater. Not that their eternal punishment will be greater than the eternal punishment of others, but what happens to them is greater and more severe than what they did to the helpless widows. Vengeance is God's; He will repay. Psalm 68:5 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.

v. 15 Twofold more the child of hell
Just because one is a Jewish proselyte does not guarantee that one is bound for eternal punishment. Some proselytes gladly received the message of the apostles (e.g. Acts 2:10, 3:5; 13:43). So I don't see how it fits that this is referring to the destiny of the proselyte. They are not "two-fold" more children of hell in their destiny, but in their actions. The converts of the Pharisees learn their teachings, mimic their ways, and accentuate their flaws. So, what is bad in the teacher is worse in the student. Though Saul was not strictly a proselyte (if I understand the term), he was a disciple of the Pharisee Gamaliel. Gamaliel is presented as a fairly reasonable man who opposed killing Christians, prefering to let Christianity die out of its own accord (he hoped). Yet his disciple Saul was exceedingly mad against them. Where Gamaliel was willing to let them slowly die out as a Jewish sect, Saul just wanted them to die. He was quite successful in exterminating many of them (Cf. Acts 5:34-40; 22:3-4; 26:9-11). Is not this what Jesus meant?


Rick Lannoye said...

Of course, any variation of punishment in a lake of fire for eternity is ludicrous--the doctrine of Hell says all who go there are receiving an infinite amount of pain for an infinite time. Kinda hard to add to that!

No, what Jesus was talking about was the EARTHLY judgment before the earthly reign of the coming Messiah. This passage, like many others, has been reinterpreted to make it seem to be talking about the after life, but Jesus did not, nor could he have ever believed in Hell.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell, (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of Did Jesus Believe in Hell?, one of the most compelling chapters in my book at, but if I may, let me share just one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Hi, Rick.

After your first paragraph, I found little I could agree with other than the fact that you have written a book on the subject.

Though you say there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus did not believe in hell, there would be little reason to interpret those passages in that manner unless one accepts your premise that all the New Testament teaching on hell are spurious additions to the original manuscripts.