THE SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:12-15, John 3:16-18
THE QUESTION: These are the three sections in the Bible from Joyce Meyer's statement of faith describing her interpretation as follows: "The Bible describes hell as a real place. It is a place of suffering and a place of permanent separation from God for those who die without accepting Christ. God's desire is that no one be separated from him for eternity, which is why he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth." Thank you for your interpretation.
COMMENT: I would begin with a simple question. If we believe in a God of omnipresence, as I think all Christians do, how can there be a place of permanent separation from God? There is nothing but God.
In my Bible Hebrews 9:27 is an incomplete sentence. If we add verse 28, it reads in toto "And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." I'm not sure what that has to do with hell, but it's a statement that makes metaphysical sense if we first release what we think we know and allow the words to speak for themselves. We "die" spiritually when we move beyond the limited understandings of mortal mind and embrace instead our true identity as infinite spirit. That is, in fact, the "second coming of the Christ." The Christ first appeared to us through the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. It appears a second time when we follow those teachings, release old ideas of limitation, and embrace our spiritual identity.
The Revelation to John uses a lot of vivid imagery to describe the challenges and pitfalls – and the ultimate rewards – of the spiritual journey on which each of us is engaged. In Chapter 20:12-15, that imagery describes a final judgment of the "dead." We're told that "all were judged according to what they had done." And what happens then? "Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire ... and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." We've been encouraged to immediately associate fire with punishment. In fact, throughout the Bible it is most often used as a symbol of purification. That which is imperfectly expressing must be purified so that it can re-express in a more perfect form. Nothing is being destroyed – nothing can be destroyed, because everything is an expression of the infinite energy that is God. So what I see being described here is that the very ideas of Death and Hades are being destroyed. We will no longer need to scare ourselves silly in order to act like the spiritual beings we truly are. There will be no more need for duality – at least for those who are ready to move forward. "Life" is an essential divine attribute. It is the name we give to the activity of the divine. If we are not truly alive to the divine, we will not be able to take the final steps into the kingdom. Nothing is ever permanently lost – again, it's all God – but spiritual progress can certainly be delayed, and sometimes requires a purification process to burn away the results of our negative thoughts. It's worth noting that the very next words in the Revelation declare "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth." The ultimate outcome is infinite Good.
I've written many times about John 3:16-18. It's a powerful and absolutely true description of our spiritual identity, and our spiritual purpose in this mortal experience. In order to really grasp its power, we have to recognize that the "Son" of God is the Christ – the Logos, the "Word," as John describes it two chapters earlier. Jesus perfectly expressed his own Christ essence – he became Jesus Christ, fully expressing his spiritual truth in human form. And he taught that "what I have done you will do." He calls us to find the same Christ Essence in ourselves, to remove all obstacles to its expression, and to call upon the Christ within to make the choices that will bring a new dimension of consciousness – "the kingdom of heaven" – into expression through our creative Oneness with God.