Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

At the breakfast table this morning, my wife and I were discussing the article I’d just read about the movie Mel Gibson wants to make. The Resurrection would be the sequel to The Passion, which we have both seen and been moved by. The new movie was described as being the “biggest movie ever made,” even though it is still years away from being begun, much less released.

But the Movieguide article made us scratch our heads in amazement, wonder, and perhaps even concern. It said the movie will be about the three days Jesus spent in Hell.

That threw up an immediate red flag for us. Whereas The Passion was based on the Bible–the best we can recall, it was true to Scripture–the Bible doesn’t give any information about what happened between the crucifixion and the resurrection. If Jesus shared that information with His disciples after the resurrection, it didn’t end up in the Bible.

As Evangelical Christians, we don’t believe in Purgatory. But if Mel Gibson is a Roman Catholic, he undoubtedly  does. According to the online dictionary I checked, Purgatory is “the place where those who have died in a state of grace undergo limited torment to expiate their sins.”

Not exactly the kind of place Jesus would deserve to spend three days. After all, He lived a sinless life.

Ah, but as the Lamb of God He died for the sins of mankind. He “became” sin. So spending time in Purgatory might fit if the definition were “to expiate the sins of the world” rather than His own, which there were none of.

But there’s another issue at stake here, too. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that in traditional Jewish thought, the soul doesn’t leave the body until the body has been dead three days. Would The Resurrection go against that–or would it claim that Jesus’s body (with His soul intact) spent that time in Purgatory, only to be returned to the grave on “the first day of the week” to then break free from the tomb?

I firmly believe in the death and the resurrection of Jesus. My salvation depends on the relationship I have with God because of what Jesus did for me and for each one of us. But I can’t claim to have any knowledge of what happened between His death and His resurrection. At best, any effort on my part to explain it would be pure speculation.

I don’t think speculation is necessarily a bad thing.

But if it’s the basis for the “biggest movie ever made,” I’m a little concerned. Especially because that would make it so different from the more biblically accurate The Passion. I wonder if Mel Gibson even realizes that Evangelicals and Protestants might not be very supportive of The Resurrection.

If you agree, please join me in praying that he will have second-thoughts about what he wants to do. Your comments are welcome, whether you agree with me or not.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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Thoughts about Heaven and Hell

I’m not caught between Heaven and Hell, thank goodness. As a Christian, I know where I’ll be going.

But I am caught between the teachings of my theologically moderate father and those of our very conservative church, a church I love so dearly otherwise that I tend not to share opinions there that people might take offense at.

One difference of opinion has to do with Creation. I DO believe God is the Creator of everything, and I believe He was quite capable of creating the world in seven twenty-four hour days. But I tend to believe they were seven periods of time. Fortunately, my salvation is not dependent on that belief.

I actually get upset at theology I consider too liberal. I recall a Sunday school lesson years ago in which the quarterly talked about an ax head (somewhere in the Old Testament; I have no idea where) that slipped off, fell in the water, and miraculously floated to the surface again. I felt like ripping up the quarterly for insisting that story had been symbolic, not literal.

I wouldn’t object to someone saying it might have been symbolic, but stating that it was as if the writer of the quarterly knew more about the Bible than God was too much. I would get equally upset about anyone who insists that the story of Jonah and the whale isn’t literal. That’s a failure to give God credit for being able to do the unbelievable.

And that brings me to Heaven and Hell. Everyone knows about Heaven–the pearly gates and the streets of gold. And everyone knows about Hell, too–the eternal lake of fire and the stink of bodies burning but never burning up.

Here’s where I have to tread carefully. The apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation, from which we get most if not all of our description of Heaven, saw Heaven in a vision. I have no doubt of that or that he REALLY saw Heaven.

But I wonder whether his description of Heaven was simply the most accurate one he could make, being limited to the most descriptive words in his vocabulary. Words that could not possibly be adequate for describing the wonders of Heaven.

How could he have done it differently? I believe the materials–even the colors–found in Heaven are beyond our ability to comprehend. Or even to imagine. So I think John did the best he could to describe the indescribable. Golden streets and pearly gates give us a preview we could understand, but are not necessarily a real description of Heaven.

What probably makes me a moderate and not a liberal is the fact I express that as my opinion about Heaven. Not as a fact. I’m not going to be disappointed in Heaven, no matter what materials it’s made of or what it looks like. That’s all that really matters to me.

Hell is a lot harder for me to deal with. Could it be that there are no human words sufficiently horrible to describe eternal separation from God? And because Jerusalem had a garbage dump outside the city, a place where dead bodies were disposed of,  a place that stank of sulfur, a place where the fires never went out, wouldn’t it make sense to describe Hell in similar terms–terms the people of Jesus’s day could understand and relate to?

Interestingly, Jesus not only described Hell elsewhere as an eternal fire, he told a parable about a rich man who was burning in Hell. He saw the poor man he’d horribly mistreated while they were both still alive. But the poor man was living it up in Heaven while the rich man was eternally miserable in Hell. The rich man begged God to send a warning to his brothers so they wouldn’t suffer the same fate he was suffering.

The thing that really interests me about this story is that the rich man could see into Heaven and recognize what he was missing out on. Consequently his eternal hopelessness was made all the worse.

I’ve heard sermons that treat this parable as a literal story about Heaven and Hell. And it may well be. Once again, what right do I have to be dogmatic?

Either way, it suggests one idea about Hell that makes a lot of sense. If Hell means being eternally separated from God, what could be worse than being somewhere outside Heaven’s gates, able to see how perfect life inside is and perhaps even trying to break down the gates or climb the walls to get inside, but unable to unable to do so?

I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinions on the subjects of Heaven and Hell. As I’ve tried to make clear, I’m not in a position to insist that some parts of the Bible might be symbolic rather than literal. But one of the wonderful things about Christianity is that God loves each of His children just as much as if each of them understood the Bible perfectly from cover to cover.

Comments are welcome.

 

    

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Hell Is for Children

Strange blog post title if you’re not old enough to remember Pat Benatar’s song about child abuse. As much as I hated the subject matter, it always struck me as a powerful song. Music and lyrics. I would quote some of the words here, but quoting lyrics without the copyright owner’s permission is illegal, and obtaining permission can be both time consuming and expensive.

I honestly cannot conceive of anyone hitting or punishing a child in some other abusive way. And sexual abuse is even further from my ability to imagine. Those things weren’t part of my upbringing, and–if I knew anyone who’d been abused when I was younger–I didn’t know about it.

As an adult, I’ve met several people who admit they were the victims of child abuse. I really feel for them. Especially since I’ve read several novels in which children were abused.

I know one adult who has gone far beyond simply sharing the fact that he was sexually abused as a child. Cec (Cecil) Murphey, the man who did the actual writing of best-selling nonfiction book Ninety Minutes in Heaven, has written a book called When a Man You Love Was Abused. The target is women who want to help men overcome their continuing trauma about having been sexually abused as a child.

But child abuse takes many forms, at least one of which is disgustingly and legally accepted. Let me be specific.

My wife and I were walking at the mall the other day when we heard a small child start screaming her head off. Kathleen turned to look. A parent was holding the little girl down long enough for a woman to finish the ear piercing, and we were disgusted. Closer to angry.

We don’t know the background–or the conclusion. Maybe the little girl had wanted pierced ears and had now gotten cold feet. But she may have been too young to ask for pierced ears. We couldn’t see well enough to determine her age.

My daughter hated getting shots, but those were required for good health.

What was the justification for putting that one little girl through that kind of legal abuse?

Do you have an opinion on child abuse in general or the ear piercing of young children specifically? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.

Best regards,
Roger