Subjective experiences that made up my soteriology


#1

Greetings all,

I’m new here. I was raised to believe in the doctrine of annihiliation of the wicked.

For some time, I held a view of Charles Taze Russell and the so-called “Bible students” (which by the way is not at all the same that modern Jehovah’s witnesses have), that all men are raised in the Millenium and then are able to ‘progressively’ accept Jesus.

But though that theology affirms the fact no-one can be saved except by Jesus, it still had tendency to offer ‘cheap mercy’. Thus it may be one thing that affected another; Anyway, I eventually went deep into the world and did drugs, crimes and all other bad things.

One time I was rushed by ambulance in the hospital. I had taken too much a certain medicine. They told me later on I had been quite a dead for few minutes, and of course was unconscious that time. What I saw in the hospital, shattered my annihilationist / soul-mortality cosmology to pieces: I woke up in Hell. It was quite ‘classical’ Hell. I remember smelling the burnt flesh. Saw the lake of melt sulphur and all that. Terrible voices I heard.

Now, you can say it was all because of drugs etc. but to me it was very real, and still is. Thus I went to the Lutheran priests when I recovered. They, unfortunately introduced me with the different kind of cheap mercy and wrong security. They did not say I have to turn from sin. Therefore I still walked in my sins for couple of years.
Even so, I did believe in God and Jesus. In that time I even came to accept (for the first time in my life) the full Deity of Christ!

But God had to let me go to very bad situation, before I humilated myself and asked Jesus to come into my heart. When I did that, I went instantly to sleep. Next morning I almost did not recognize myself from the mirror! I felt so good, so uncrumbened…so SAVED! In that time I was truly Born Again from above!
And ever since I’ve walked in the Lord’s footsteps.

I’m active in evangelization, public speeches, I give sermons in evangelical and fundamentalist churches…I’ve written a book about the Regeneration: I came to understand the meaning of the Regeneration only after I had experienced it, thus having the Holy Spirit as my teacher. I now study theology.

Now I consider myself a fundamentalist christian. But not that fundamentalist… See, I have this problem of Hell. I can’t imagine benevolent God who says He is Love, to cast people to hell and then forfeit them forever…and ever…and ever. Still, I only want to believe the Biblical truth and not just choose what I want. I want to believe the Word as literal as is necessary and meaningful to the context.

I’m seeking a theological breakthru to solve this great soteriological problem. I want to see what others have thought of it, past and present. And I want to be sure what the Bible says about it. Nothing more than the Truth, and whole truth.

Anyway, I’m still searching and have only this one theological hypothesis I’m experienting so to speak:

Clearly the Lazarus-and-the-Rich-Man parable speaks of the rich man being in Sheol/Hades and not in Gehenna, which is the ‘Final’ Hell. What if the part of the sheol, where non-believers go, is a purgatorial hell, and every non-believer must be there until the general resurrection / great white throne judgement? Maybe in hades and/or the time of resurrection they still could accept Jesus. And if someone ought not to, they’d finally cast into Lake of Fire / Gehenna?


#2

Passing through briefly–I hope other members will have time to discuss this more in-depth from various angles–but I was curious about more detail on this part:

I think I understand your distinction between this and modern JH belief, which has to do with expectations of who the 144,000 will be and when that will take place (or, from the standpoint of modern JH’s, has already taken place).

But I was curious about whether this still counted as annihilationism (which you had just previously said you were raised to believe). If so, it might be rather similar to the beliefs of C. S. Lewis, whom I don’t think had any trouble (or would have had any trouble) with the idea that God offers salvation persistently up to a point even after the resurrection of all men (the good and the evil)–although neither do I recall Lewis’ eschatology having much to do with the general resurrection. (He certainly affirmed it, but I don’t recall him even opining on salvation of evil men after that point. Maybe he addresses the matter in one of his letters, all of which I haven’t read, although I am extremely familiar with his essays, sermons and books. What I recall is that when he proposed post-mortem salvation, it was conceptually apart in various ways from the general resurrection to come. But then, aside from affirming it, he didn’t talk much about the general res anyway.)

On the other hand, many universalists (myself included) accept what could easily be described, as you put it, “all men are raised in the Millenium and then are able to ‘progressively’ accept Jesus”. It certainly isn’t something I would recommend as a cheap grace license, though; that kind of attitude would lead straight to the sort of post-death experience you talk about, and would (I believe) involve staying in that kind of experience, too, so long as that attitude was held. (Not necessarily in the particular details of your experience, which I expect vary according to cultural preparation and God’s intentions in not going beyond what is necessary to get through to the sinner. But still: something I strenuously warn people is on the way apart from our repentance from our sins.)

Anyway, that was rather more than I meant to get into at the moment–I was only curious whether C.T. Russell was still going with annihilation along with the other doctrine about the eschaton.


#3

Hi Finn, just one question.

Do you beleive you really woke up in hell, that you were really there?


#4

Thank you for your comments!

Jason;
I was raised in JW family. They have held for decades a belief that God will only raise those in the Millenium, that are in “rememberance graves” (or something like that - a poor translation of the original greek word).
C.T. Russell on the other hand, taught that all men (except the Born Again heavenly spirit ‘class’) will be raised in the Millenium and would have an opportunity to then accept Jesus. When I got rid of JW’s and was searching the Bible truth, I, for a while, believed Russell.

I just want to emphasize again, that now I adhere to orthodox Christianity: i.e believe in the full Deity of Christ.

I’m not quite sure yet about my eschatology and soteriology, but am sure that there is not a cheap grace. I am (still) a strong (pre)millenialist (not sure yet about pre- or post-tribulation anyway…).

Pneuma:

Of course my experience was very subjective to others, but to me it was a clear warning from the Lord. Today, after three years of the event, and now that I have had a real and fruit-bearing Born-again experience, I lean to think I was in hades/hell for real that brief moment. Whater it really ‘looks’ like it is not so relevant, but the fact God showed me that way, that I was going to end up in misery, if I wouldn’t embrace Him.

Thank God I’m now with Jesus!


#5

So the distinction between Russell and ‘mainstream’ JWs is about what I thought; but that didn’t really answer the question I was curious about.

Did CTR believe that all raised sinners would have a persistently ongoing opportunity to accept Jesus (which would be roughly equivalent to the type of universalism I believe to be true)? Or did he believe that, even with post-mortem salvation, after a point God would annihilate some sinners anyway (which would be roughly equivalent to the type of Arminianistic soteriology believed by CS Lewis)?


#6

Hi finn_warrior, and welcome to this forum. Thanks for sharing your testimony; it’s powerful! Many people have had similar experiences resulting in their salvation. And I believe this is a key point, that the experience ultimately led to your salvation, to you realizing your need for Jesus, to you repenting and turning to Christ, and ultimately to the revelation of His love for you! The purpose and result of the experience was your salvation, and even the salvation of others!

I believe that you experienced what I call the “present reality of hell”, the reality that people are presently separated from the love of God, presently bound in sin tormented, presently tortured by evil, presently living in the darkness of hatred, unforgiveness, rage, depression, etc. It is a present seemingly hopeless and unending reality! People are consumed by the fire of their lusts and conveteousness right now! Your experience was not a revelation of where people will end up, but where people currently are in the present! People are not dying and going to hell, but are currently living in hell, cut off from the love, forgiveness, righteousness, freedom, goodness, joy, peace of God - Eternal (aionian) Life!

This revelation moved you to seek out a restored relationship with God! If that momentary experience moved you to seek out God, why would we not expect it to do the same in everyone - whether they come back to life in our temporal reality or continue to exist in the eternal reality of God! In fact, I’ve heard testimonies of people actually be saved, born again, regenerated while they were physically dead and fully experiencing the revelation of their separation from God!

One man I am specifically thinking of (I don’t recall his name) died, found himself being tormented by demons of his own making, demons of anger, rage, and abuse for he was an abusive individual, filled with rage! In “hell” he cried out to God even though he was a professed athiest - and God reached in and saved him and even restored physical life to him! He awoke a completely changed man, a man who not only believed in God but passionately loved God and ultimately became a pastor!

I believe that another reason God inspires people, allows even believers to experience the present reality of hell is so that they will be more active in sharing the good news of God’s love - for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation! William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army had such an experience. In his vision he saw masses of people drowning in the ocean, and others safe on a rock, and yet others who were safe seeking to pull those who were drowing from the angry seas! Booth was already and evangelist, but this vision moved him powerfully to devote himself to evangelism even more!

Jesus actually said that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church! Hallelujah! I even know of a few intercessors whom God has inspired to pray for the deliverance of those who die in their sins and have not had the privaledge of knowing the salvation of Christ in this life. They pray for their deliverance and healing and even see people being freed into the life and liberty of Christ!

And of course, Peter notes that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prision, those who died in their sins during Noah’s flood, the most wicked generation of people of all time. Jesus preached the gospel to these people ultimately resulting in their freedom and life with God!

How are people freed from the present reality of hell? Through salvation, being born of the Spirit, repenting from sin and turning in faith to Jesus, and through their continued sanctification and discipleship! Without being born again, born of the Spirit, people cannot see, comprehend, participate in the the present reality of the kingdom of heaven!

Well, I hope that that what I’ve shared is helpful and encouraging and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Blessings,
Sherman


#7

Hi Fin, seeing that you lean to the orthodox view of things, can you explain how it is you who was a sinner at the time you went to hell could get back out of it? Especially as you state this was before you had a born again experience.

For the orthodox view is that all who enter hell enter it for all eternity.


#8

nice post brother


#9

Hello Finn,
Thank you for sharing your very interesting story.

My own belief is that the ability to ‘accept Jesus’ will always remain–the ‘eternal gospel’, the call to return and be saved. I believe God is always working towards the reconciliation of all things to himself in Christ, and that all the things you mention here: Gehenna, Hades, Lake of Fire… all are part of and for that purpose.

Sonia


#10

Jason:

About CTR:
He taught that all are raised in the Millenium, and most (but not necessarily all) would choose then salvation through Jesus. However, those who would not, will be (according to CTR) annihilated by God in the end of the millenia. I’m almost certain that in his theology, there was not salvation whatsoever to Satan and other fallen angels.
CTR believed in Soul Sleep, and thus any post-mortem salvation in his theology would only take place in the Millenium. Those who die a second time (i.e Second Death / Gehanna) are erased from the universe and from the memory of God.
However, if I remember correctly his teachings, he thought that not many would reject Christ in the Millenium.


#11

Pneuma:

When I say I am leaning towards Christian orthodoxy, you have to understand that considering my upbringing in the JW “cult” and my previous affiliation with Bible Students and other Arians, to me (and most of the evangelicals I now laborand worship with) I’m quite “orthodox” now; Since I have now embraced the belief in the full Deity of Christ.
I do not say that my soteriology is orthodox, or it has to be.

But you raised an interesting question. I think that my “hell experience” was God’s mercy, that He showed me my spiritual state (and perhaps were I would end up if I would not seek Jesus). You’re probably right in hinting that this kind of experience would not in the first place fit the orthodox view. Even so, many orthodox evangelicals (mostly charismatics) believe in these kinds of “hell’n back” visits.


#12

Sherman:

Thank you for your interesting and encouraging thoughts!
Much food for thought brother.


#13

I know many do, but IMO to beleive in hellnback visits and to beleive that everyone who enters hell is there for all eternity is contray one to the other.

If hell is eternal as orthodox teach how did you or others exscape it when everyone else who enters hell is there for all eternity?

I am not say what happened to you did not happen Fin, but are you sure you understand what it is God was trying to show you.

Could it be that God was trying to show you that hell was not eternal by you going there and excaping from it?

Your own experiance Fin turns the doctrine of eternal toment on it end, if you can but see it.

God bless


#14

You’re welcome brother. May the Lord continue to bless you in your search for more understanding.
Blessings,
Sherman


#15

pneuma, you are correct in that finn_warrior’s experience/testimony powerfully counters the traditional belief of Hell that everyone who enters there is there for all eternity, that once someone is dead and in Hell, there is no hope of salvation.
I’ve actually started researching people’s testimonies of experiencing Hell. And thus far, the following are the common threads, the common things that seem to happen; and they all result in salvation - not damnation!

  1. Unbelievers Experience Hell upon death:
    A. Die, experience Hell, cry out to God, Jesus saves them, brings them back to life a changed person, born again while dead.

B. Die, experience Hell, come back to life, start searching for God, Jesus saves them and they are born again.

  1. Believers have Visions of Hell while alive.

A. Have vision of Hell, motivates them to share the Gospel, resulting in the salvation of others.

B. Have vision of Hell, shares vision with other believers who are motivated to share the Gospel, resulting in the salvation of others.

I find it very interesting that all, ALL of the testimonies that I have seen or read of people experiencing Hell result in salvation - not in damnation. This has helped to solidify in me the belief that Hell is a present reality, one that Jesus ultimately overcomes.

The present reality of Hell - many people who do not know God, do not have a relationship with God, are cut off from the love, joy, peace, forgiveness, mercy, etc. of God, outside of the kingdom of God, subject to the oppression of evil from within (lust, greed, selfishness, etc.) and the oppression of evil from without (demons, negative cultural influences, negative attitudes of others, etc.). They are in the dark, cut off from the light, the reality of the love of God. And when such people die they come into the full reality of this Hell.

Praise be to God though because Jesus did not come to condemn the lost, but to save us! Jesus triumphs over death, Hell, and the grave, taking captivity captive! And the testimonies of those who have died and entered the full reality of Hell, cried out to God, and were saved by Jesus from Hell are powerful evidence to me of the amazing love of God! Jesus has the keys of death and hades (Rev.1.18); and the purpose of keys is to unlock what is locked. People who have died need ressurection.

And of course, we have the testimony of Peter (1 Pet.3:18-4:6) who says that Jesus preached the Gospel to the “spirits in prison”, those who died in rebellion to God during Noah’s ministry. Jesus preached to them in prison (Hell) resulting in their salvation - them living in God in the Spirit. Hallelujah!


#16

Very interesting points brethren!

I admit, that at least to me, the hell was not final. And that it was one important brick to ultimately bring me to Jesus, and to real God-man Jesus of the Bible! I sure hope I can find enough evidence, not only from my experience or from very interesting philosophical, theological and humanist arguments, but also Biblical proof so that I can fully believe what you guys seem already to believe. I’m praying God to guide me through this.

Thank you and God bless you all!


#17

One thing I’ve always found interesting about these NDE accounts is that all of the ones characterized as “frightening NDE’s” where there was an experience of “hell” were all a little different. Some experience something very like the traditional notions of “hell”, and others just experience something more like what some might tie into the biblical reference of “outer darkness”. But I would submit that no such state of separation from God could be endless. Nothing can survive apart from God, so that would certainly mean annihilation rather than eternal conscious torment.


#18

I agree; complete separation from God would = annihilation for God “IS”! God is the essence of existance. Nothing exists apart from Him. By Him all things are created and sustained.

btw, the concept of “outer darkness” is an idiom that refers to being cut off from the light of relationship and fellowship. Those who are excluded from a family or community are cast into outer darkness.