Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sabbatical Update - Week 1

Although my Sabbatical began on Christmas Day, it is probably easier to begin the week count from Lord's Day tomorrow. So, Sabbatical Week 1 begins tomorrow.

For the month of January we will be visiting family in South Africa. We therefore have a lot of things to do before we fly, so goals this week will be really simple:

1. Greek language revision.
2. Lessons 1 to 3 of Hebrew, set by Philip Eveson.  I have got the Alphabet sorted, so that's a start.

In case you are interested, in February I will be doing a tailored made course with the John Owen Centre.  I have many unanswered questions about Judgement and Hell which I would like to explore.  My interest is primarily pastoral, as applying these doctrines in preaching and pastoral visitation is extremely sensitive.  (I should say before you read the questions that I do not doubt that there is a Judgement, nor do I doubt that there is a hell.  I believe that all who die without Christ will have to suffer eternal condemnation in hell.)

I would like to find robust, theological answers to the following questions: 
  • Why must there be a Judgement?
  • Who is Judgement for?
  • Why is hell forever?
  • Who is hell for?
  • When and to whom should a pastor preach hell?  
  • Does Jesus’ audience have something to teach us about whom we should preach hell to, and when we should preach hell?  
  • Do the epistles and Revelation have lessons to teach us about whom to preach hell to, and when to preach hell?
  • What comfort does a pastor have to offer to a Christian whose family member or close friend has died without Christ?
  • How has the doctrine of hell developed theologically over the centuries since Christ’s first coming?
  • Which Christian writers have been most influential in shaping the church’s understanding of Hell?
  • Do we need to take the imagery that Jesus uses to describe hell literally?
  • What will the church lose if it stops preaching the doctrines of Judgement and Hell?
Comments on these questions would be appreciated to get me thinking.


  1. Andrew, the family holiday and sabbatical have surely come around quickly. I do trust that you will have a most enjoyable and enriching time in everything you do. Though we have only been in Bradley Road for a short while and are taking things steady I do know that we are in the right place. With reference to your questions above, Hell is always a sticky one, people avoid it, but Jesus clearly never did. I always thought that right at the end when everything is made new, Hell would disappear into something else, but then that wouldn't make sense in light of of eternal damnation. The old saying is true: We have a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain. I think we do need to take what Jesus says about Hell literally, normally when Jesus uses an analogy/ picture or a parable, He expressly points us directly to the meaning of items, almost like a legal document and doesn't leave us dangling. Leaving people dangling isn't in the nature or purpose of Jesus is it.

  2. I see judgement as the inevitable consequence of who God is and what He has said. If I say something, it may quickly be forgotten, or at the very outside chances if recorded might last for a few thousand years. Because God is true to his word, and faithfulness is part of his character, what he said firstly in Genesis 2:17 and subsequently everything else he has revealed (as summarised by Jesus in Luke 10:27) has eternal significance. As Jesus said in John 12:47-48, it is the words which judge us. In many senses, in the same way that it is impossible for God to lie, so it is impossible for Him not to be faithful to His word. In view of the fact that He has chosen to have a relationship with us His creatures in which he speaks, judgement is therefore unavoidable. It is conceptually difficult to imagine how He might have communicated with us without judgement coming as a result.