The Last post we took a look at 4 instances of The Gospel being proclaimed by Peter, Philip and Paul and we discovered something. Not by putting any words or ideas into the text but just reading it honestly that Hell was never mentioned. It is also interesting that they did not have to confess they were sinners but that is for another post not this one.
Hell in the imagination of most church going people is a greatly inflated subject, far beyond the actual space given it in the scriptures. If we were truthful we would have to admit that the scriptures do not actually paint a very clear picture of Hell sometimes it’s the grave, sometimes the dump outside Jerusalem an obvious metaphor, other times a special abode of fallen angelic beings. The Church during the dark ages did much to advance both the legend and the reality of Hell.
All of this in the end is beside the point and not the most effective way to dislodge Hell from the message of the gospel, and have no doubt that we need to uncouple this union. Because the gospel in this age is being hurt by its addition, hell has in fact become an albatross around the neck of the church. Precisely because it was not in the Original Gospel proclamation of the first Apostles of Christ including Paul. We need go no further then to hold this most solid of biblical ground, and once hell is decoupled from the gospel it will die on the vine of it’s own historical weight.
We we will merely ask it’s adherents to show us where in the new testament when the Gospel of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ Jesus is proclaimed hell is mentioned in the dialogue. You see all we have to do is not add anything to what is already there and then the isogesis of hell into the gospel will become very clear.
Now I understand I still have to answer the question how shall we proclaim the beautiful Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Be patient that will be for another blog post coming very soon I promise. For now let us look at one more Gospel proclamation in the Book of Acts. This one from the first recorded Christian martyr in the new testament Stephen in Acts 7. Now you can read this for yourself but I would like to focus on how the story ends. Now it goes without saying this will be another instance of Hell not being mentioned one time nor even implied, but what is amazing is although he tells them the truth of their own refusal to listen to the Spirit there is no condemnation of his killers. There is no threat of an eternal punishment in the fire of hell just forgiveness and mercy.
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Does this remind you of any body our beautiful Jesus full of grace and mercy as the apostle John proclaims so often in his gospel. So why is there so much condemnation in much but not all of the gospel message many of us learned to proclaim? Because the gates of hell surround the teaching and we must break down those gates and restore The Original Gospel as proclaimed by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. What is that Gospel and how shall we lift Christ, why he’s already lifted up, we must stop pulling him down to hell as the book of Hebrews so eloquently states. I do believe one of the major reasons The Medieval Church greatly expanded the Hell narative is because the Lost both the Spirit and Love of the early Apostolic Church.