Implications of the Resurrection: Hell is Closed

Resurrection changes everything!

When Jesus rose from the dead, this was not just a resuscitation – Jesus was not coming back alive – the Bible makes clear that Jesus was dead. Gone. Done. Drained of blood. Today, we could even say that his brain function ceased. Jesus was fully dead.

1 Peter 3:19 tells us that Jesus literally went into death, into Sheol (the place of death) and preached liberty to those who were captive there. This is why we say in the Apostle’s Creed, “he descended into hell” – or a better translation is “he descended into death.”

So, when he rises from the dead, Scripture is very clear to tell us that Jesus overcame death and ultimately has “the keys to death and hell.” This changes everything – because no longer does death reign in us, nor do we support the systems of death.

Death no longer has the final word, Jesus does. So, the first implication of the resurrection is simply this: Hell is closed.

This 1200-word blog is certainly not going to convince anyone, especially for those of you who already don’t like my perspective – but I hope it plants a seed. Whether that seed grows or not in you is not up to me – God is the one who waters.

Let’s begin with this: God is love. And as 1 John says – “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment.” So, if God punishes us eternally, then doesn’t this point to a fear within God? And, since death has been defeated and no longer has the final word, and has no authority over Jesus, and if Jesus has the keys to death – and this is the work God did to overcome death – then why would God collude with death again by casting eternal souls into a hell of eternal death?

Simply put – the resurrection shut hell down. Jesus walked into that joint while he was dead, pulled out those who were there, turned over all the tables, and chained that pit up forever. No one is going to go there again.

I know your Bible trivia memory is going crazy right now thinking of all the verses that talk about hell and salvation and belief…

But get this – when the Bible talks about “salvation” it’s not talking about an eternal destiny – we made that up later. When the Bible talks about “salvation” it is meaning that we are saved and liberated out of the systems of death in this world (culture) and freed to live life of love freed from hate and division. John calls this “eternal life,” or “life of the ages” in his Gospel. In fact, the New Testament barely talks about heaven in the way we understand it today, and when it talks about “hell” or “hades” it is referring to the idea of Sheol (which was basically just the waiting room for the life to come – not the fiery place of eternal punishment we think of today).

In the Gospels, “Gehenna” sometimes (regretfully) gets translated as “hell” but rather was a literal landfill outside of Jerusalem that once hosted child sacrifices – so it was the ultimate example of what life outside of God’s abundant life was like – a terrible half-dead existence rummaging around warming yourself on dumpster fires. Literally.

And if you want to talk about the Book of Revelation, then you are going to have to do some study on your own – read a few books about it and then we can chat because it is not saying what you think it is saying…and that’s the whole point…I recommend, “Reading Revelation Responsibly” by Gorman.

Y’all, follow me for a second through this: “Being saved” is about this life, now. It’s the equivalent of the Jews being liberated from slavery in Egypt. Now. Here. This is the work Christ is doing and what Paul is preaching about. So, “being saved” is not the same as “living in heaven after you die.” Death has been defeated and has no more authority to dictate the future of humanity. Jesus has the keys to hell/Shoel and has shut that place down. God is perfect love and no fear exists with God, and punishment is a result of fear (not justice) so God isn’t interested in punishment – just love. Love doesn’t condemn, love rehabilitates, and love certainly doesn’t condemn to an eternal punishment

Hell is closed, friends. God won’t be sending anyone there.

At this moment, some of you are so angry at this. I just know it. This thought makes us crazy. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? You will say that it’s because this is what the Bible teaches – but it’s not and God doesn’t need to cast people into hell to show “justice.” Are we so insecure of our place in God’s family that in order to make our lives mean something, to feel chosen and special, we feel like others need to be punished? And that the only way to make sense of Scripture, and God, is for God to punish people?

If you hope that God sends people to hell, then you may still be living in death yourself. You may still need liberation. I know that many of you won’t believe me – but as I said, this is just a seed.

Now, ask yourself – if Jesus was really God in the flesh, died for the forgiveness of the world, all humanity, and now holds the keys to death and hell – do you think He would allow our “belief” to dictate our future eternal destiny? So, God would do all of that – overcome all the world, defeat death, reconcile all creation (Colossians 1) and then allow our future, God’s beloved sons and daughters, to be determined by whether we “believe” in a message that has been terribly miscommunicated by the church, terribly lived out by Christians, and terribly translated to other cultures?

Nah. Thankfully, God has saved us from ourselves. God has no limits. God will not be a slave to our understanding of Scripture. God is free and God is love. And hell is closed. Forever.

Implication #1 of Resurrection – everyone who wants into heaven will get into heaven. When we die and stand before God in all of God’s glory in “the judgment” (which literally means – the making of all things right) – and Jesus is by our side as our advocate (1 John 2:1) – we’ll get the chance to embrace God’s love. And I believe we’ll be so overcome by its power and fullness, we’ll accept. And even those who did terrible things in this world will be rehabilitated by this love to be their truest selves. Even those who were dead inside, who had lost every bit of their humanity, their humanity will be resurrected – and since you and I will also be our truest selves too, we’ll forgive them and embrace them and be like the woman who found the coin she had lost.

And all there will be is LOVE and LIFE. Because death has been defeated and has no authority anymore! Can I get a Hallelujah in the back?  

That’s how powerful resurrection really is. That’s what the Jesus’ resurrection is doing.

Take it or leave it – it’s ok with me. You can call me what you will – “false prophet,” “blind teacher,” whatever…you aren’t original, I’ve heard it all before. Either way, I’ll see you in heaven my friends and we’ll celebrate how truly amazing God’s love is then – even if you just can’t celebrate that with me now. But as for me, I’m going to live in the power of this love today. I hope you can too.

-Jason

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