Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

St. John Chrysostom’s Sermon on John 3:16 – Still Powerful Today!

Given the nickname “Golden Mouthed,” St. John “Chrysostom” was a well-known preacher and Archbishop of Constantinople during the second part of the 4th century. His sermon on John 3:16 is just as powerful after 1,600 years, perhaps even more so given our increased individual and societal wealth. Jesus’ message hasn’t changed or become more palatable over the millennia:

“God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

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Continue reading St. John Chrysostom’s Sermon on John 3:16 – Still Powerful Today!

Jesus Didn’t Actually Mean What He Said About Hell

Occasionally I like some of the pieces in Relevant, but when I come across articles like Exploring One Hell of a Place, I’m reminded why I don’t subscribe.

Jason Boyett starts out by deconstructing many of our cultural associations with hell, pointing, not incorrectly, to Dante.

But is our imagined hell accurate? That is, does it jive with what the Bible really says? That’s the question I asked as I began researching my book Pocket Guide to the Afterlife. The answers were surprising.

While trying to ground his search for truth in the Bible, Jason ends up discounting Jesus’ words about hell:

I tend to think of Jesus as the poor-loving, outcast-accepting, grace-dealing Lamb of God. But he wasn’t shy about describing hell—and not as the ambiguous afterlife of Sheol, but as a place of fiery destruction and eternal punishment.  Read Matthew 5:22, Matthew 10:28, or Mark 9. Jesus took hell seriously. When he mentioned it, he used the Greek word Gehenna.

Clearly Jesus taught that hell existed, but did he really mean it was a place of everlasting physical torment by fire? Or was that just a rhetorical flourish inspired by the local garbage dump?

My faith doesn’t depend on the reality of hell, of course. But these days, I have more uncertainty than ever about that part of the afterlife. If I’m honest, I have to admit I don’t know what to think about hell.

Don’t know what to think about it?  For someone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus, why not take his word for it?

Did Jesus Spend Saturday in Hell?

A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll on 1 Peter 3:18-20, one of the most difficult to understand passages in the Bible:

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

A traditional understanding is that after he was crucified, Jesus descended into Hell.  This is codified in the Apostle’s Creed, which I remember being exposed to in my two semesters at a Lutheran school:

Jesus Christ … was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

John Piper has an interesting interpretation up that would make the narrative more consistent with the very clear passage of Jesus to the thief in Luke 23:43 (“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”):

With regard to 1 Peter 3:19, I take these words to mean that Christ, through the voice of Noah, went and preached to that generation, whose spirits are now “in prison,” that is, in hell. In other words, Peter does not say that Christ preached to them while they were in prison. He says he preached to them once, during the days of Noah, and now they are in prison.

I encourage you to read the whole post for a fuller picture of the evidence for this interpretation, as well as its consequences.

A Conversation with Death on Good Friday

From John Piper’s Desiring God:


Hello, Death, my old enemy. My old slave-master. Have you come to talk to me again? To frighten me?

I am not the person you think I am. I am not the one you used to talk to. Something has happened. Let me ask you a question, Death.

Where is your sting?

DEATH, sneeringly:

My sting is your sin.


I know that, Death. But that’s not what I asked you. I asked, where is your sting? I know what it is. But tell me where it is.

Why are you fidgeting, Death? Why are you looking away? Why are you turning to go? Wait, Death, you have not answered my question. Where is your sting?

Where is, my sin?

What? You have no answer? But, Death, why do you have no answer? How will you terrify me, if you have no answer?

O Death, I will tell you the answer. Where is your sting? Where is my sin? It is hanging on that tree. God made Christ to be sin—my sin. When he died, the penalty of my sin was paid. The power of it was broken. I bear it no more.

Farewell, Death. You need not show up here again to frighten me. God will tell you when to come next time. And when you come, you will be his servant. For me, you will have no sting.

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Who is the Greater Prophet, Jesus or Muhammed

Seeing Clearly puts up a great list of the teachings about Jesus in the Qur’an:

  • Jesus was born of a virgin (Surah 3:45-50)
  • Jesus is sinless (Surah 6:85)
  • Jesus is the Messiah (Surah 3:45)
  • Jesus performed miracles (Surah 3:49)
  • One of these miracles is especially interesting (although only attested elsewhere in the Gospel of Thomas). Surah 3:49 and 5:110 teach that Jesus created a bird out of clay while He was upon this earth.
  • Jesus ascended into heaven in bodily form (Surah 3:55)
  • Jesus spoke at his birth (Surah 19:27-35)
  • Jesus raised the dead (Surah 3:49)

Question for Muslims: since none of the above is true of Muhammed, how can he be called the greatest prophet?

[Whole list taken from Norman Geisler, “Jesus and Muhammed in the Qur’an: A Comparison and Contrast,” SBJT 8:1 (2004), 50-58.]

By Dying I Live

A friend of mine lost her grandfather last year.  While in Florida helping out, her Grandmother gave her a wrinkled, torn piece of paper on which her Grandfather had written a poem.  Beautiful and simple:

By Dying I Live
by Arthur Neil DuBois (1931-2008)

By dying, I live.
By surrender, I win the victory.
By giving, I am made rich.
By kneeling, I stand firm.
By weakness, I am made strong.
By fasting, I am made fat.
By selflessness, I am made satisfied.
By praying for others, I am blessed beyond measure.
By serving others, all my needs are met.
By comforting the lonely, I receive fellowship.
By praising the Lord, I receive high honor.
By being a fool in the world’s eyes, I am made wise by the Lord.
By not seeking my own comfort, I receive all my satisfaction.
By dying to self, I will live forever.

She also writes about the difficulties of the family situation following her grandfather’s death, but also about how the Lord was using her and about the life that her grandfather built:

These last few days have been hell on earth for her [grandmother], and it has been almost unbearably hard to watch it happen. I say “almost” because, through it all, our Father has been faithful to guide and comfort us. He has been using my mouth to speak His Word to her in an amazing way. It seems that Scripture comes forth without any effort on my part to seek out the right word for the moment or to recall verses memorized in Sunday school. I open my mouth, or rather, my mouth opens and out come these words–His Words, apt and true, sometimes ones that I didn’t even know I’d memorized.

He also continues to remind me that the house I’m living in, the subject of the new debate, was built by a godly man, my great-grandfather, for the purposes of raising his family in a God-honoring way. Every nail was hammered into place with that purpose. In my grandma’s despondency, I was pushed to remind her of this. This house is God’s. It always has been. I have seen the enemy trying to infiltrate and subvert, taking advantage of the death of my grandfather, pillar of faith that he was, but the enemy has no place here. This place was consecrated to His service then, and we will fight to keep it that way. This house will not be a stumbling block or a millstone but a sanctuary.

I found a box of letters that my great-grandmother wrote to her sister at the turn of the last century (1901 mostly). I also found a book written in 1848 Proverbial Philosophy: A Book of Thoughts and Arguments. Right up my alley. I intend to read its fragile and fragrant pages with care. And lastly, I found a some poetry from another relative written in 1880. All so interesting and enlightening. Be jealous.

I am sleeping in the room in which my dad spent his first few months of life. His crib was by the window where my dresser now stands. That’s kinda cool.

My grandmother has been sharing much of her wonderful marriage and life with my grandfather. Each new story leaves me both hopeful, eager, and in pain.