Hell? I don't get it...

I am Jewish. One of my best friends, "Mary," is the daughter of a Pastor and a fundamentalist Lutheran. She believes that every word of the Bible is literally true. Mary thus believes that the path to heaven is only through faith in Christ. As I do not believe in Christ, her faith tells her that I will go to hell.

This belief causes Mary a great deal of pain. She loves her faith and believes in it very strongly; yet, she too loves me, and numerous other Jewish/athiest/etc. friends, all of whom she is certain are destined to be barred from heaven.

As a Jew, this Christian concept of hell is very difficult for me to understand, and this is why I am turning to this board.

I was raised with the belief that all people, Jew and non-Jew alike, go to heaven. This is in line with my perception of god as all-forgiving and benevolent. Though we all make mistakes during our time here on earth, god ultimately forgives all his children, and welcomes them each to heaven in the afterlife.

I cannot understand how such a god, forgiving and benevolent, could damn anyone to hell simply for being Jewish. Faith, by definition, exists in the absence of evidence and logic. Yet, because I do not believe in Christ -- a belief predicated entirely upon faith -- I must go to hell? How could a forgiving and kind god punish me simply because I do not hold an arbitrary belief in Jesus as my savior, when I lack this belief only because of the circumstances of my birth? It seems to me that such action is petty, cruel, and completely out of line with all the other teachings of Christianity.

I have tried searching the internet for answers, but have come up short. Many web pages tell me that Jews go to hell, but none have explained WHY. I am not trying to avoid going to hell (for, by virtue of being Jewish, I do not believe I am). My concern here lies for Mary. I hate seeing her so hurt every time we talk about religion.

So I suppose I am asking for two answers here:

1) What is the rationale for requiring that only Christians to go heaven?
2) Is there anything I can do/say to help alleviate Mary's distress?

I truly hope that I did not offend anyone with the wording of this post. It is difficult to talk about heaven and hell without using strong words.

Thank you,

Darin

Well, I'm Catholic, and Catholicism teaches that you're going to heaven.

Christianty teaches that Jesus came to save mankind from sin because mankind cannot save himself from sin. This concept is foriegn to Judaism because we have Teshuvah, and thats where our forgiveness comes from.

Christianity actually teaches the same thing, without reptenance of your sin you can't be "born again" as it is put so many times in the new testament.

The NT teaches that every knee will bow, and every tounge confess that Jesus is Lord. Its pretty plain that everyone at some point must submit to the Lordship of Jesus according to the christian doctrine.

One of the things that I might suggest to hear is you relate the Jewish concept of the afterlife, and what Sheol is. It will bring a better understanding to her of what Hell is or might be. Hell is the NT comes from the word gehenna, which was a dump outside of Jerusalem used for getting rid of criminals, trash, blood from sacrifices, etc. I think its likely Jesus was saying that without God's mercy and repentance and living a good life, we would go to a place like that.

In Shoel, if you are righteous and good you can be very close to God and be in heaven. Also in sheol, if you are for instance adolf hitler, you are probably in a place that could very accurately be described as "hell".

In reality, to me it seems the christian concept of "hell" is that it is a place completely devoid of the prescence of God. God has given people choices, they made them, and he because they have free will, cannot force them to love him, and so therefore, he will separate himself from those who do not love him because of that persons will in the afterlife.

The christian doctrine is that all people will be shown the truth of christ, and if they willingly reject it, then they are going to a place where he is not, and since Christ is God, that place will be devoid of all light and goodness that one has ever known, since that emanates from God.

1) What is the rationale for requiring that only Christians to go heaven?

Matthew 22:36-40
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'

"This is the great and foremost commandment.

"The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'

"On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

2) Is there anything I can do/say to help alleviate Mary's distress?

I don´t think so. Fundamentalists like her do not use to change their minds easily. She fears, even the smallest possibility of thinking about other approachs to religion may be a sin and send her to hell.

You can pray for her, but only time will bring to her religious maturity.

There are people that base their thought of exclusivity on this verse:

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

Wow, Josh beat me to it! Walurs, this will likely lead to an arguement about sin, so be prepared to explain the yetzer ra and yetzer tov theory.

As you can guess, we've done this dance a few times.

i can't find the verse but somewhere in the NT it talks about how God will come for the Jews in end times....

"She fears, even the smallest possibility of thinking about other approachs to religion may be a sin and send her to hell.

You can pray for her, but only time will bring to her religious maturity."

wow Donna....you seem to know this girl very well.....

Romans 11:25-32

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

I think this is what your talking about.

"Christianty teaches that Jesus came to save mankind from sin because mankind cannot save himself from sin."

That is not exactly true. It's not wrong, it's just narrow and incomplete. Jesus' death did not wipe sin from the world and belief in him or his teaching does not (obviously) prevent you from sinning. I think most christians believe Jesus came to provide a light for them to follow the path to god, and that is why he is considered a savior-- because, by their belief, his life and death introduced a new covenant by which man could be redeemed.

"Hell is the NT comes from the word gehenna, which was a dump outside of Jerusalem used for getting rid of criminals, trash, blood from sacrifices, etc."

Actually, Hell is an old English/Norse word (hel). It doesn't derive from that place or any semitic language. Jesus clearly used gehenna as a simile (hell is like that, not hell is that). Hel in viking mythology, the opposite of Valhalla, was hot and fiery and a place where oathbreakers and cowards went.

"The christian doctrine is that all people will be shown the truth of christ, and if they willingly reject it, then they are going to a place where he is not"

Perhaps conservative evangelicals believe that and othet conservatives and fundamentalists, but, to my knowlege, that is not the current ecumenical approach of the overwhelming majority of christian churches"

thanks josh...that was the one :)

Thank you all for the quick responses. To respond to martial_shadow first, yes, I did expect that you've all answered this question a few times before, though I couldn't find an exact thread match in the archives. I was actually halfway expecting to be flamed for trolling an oft-argued subject. Glad to see that has not been the case :)

Donna's second response triggered my memory. Yes, Mary does entirely base her view that non-Christians must go to hell on John 14:6. However, this seems to contradict Matthew 22:36-40, which was also quoted earlier. If I, as a Jew, love god and treat my neighbor as I do myself, then do I not satisfy all that is necessary to go to heaven? Though Christians believe in the tripartition of god (god/Jesus/holy spirit), and Jews do not, could this not be a case of a rose by any other name...? God surely cannot be fully understood by any human mind; although Jews and Christians perceive him differently, then, are we not still talking about the same entity?

Also, Romans 11:25-32 seems to imply that at least some Jews can go to heaven, as well. "The deliverer will come... and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins... Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too many now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you." I read this as stating that right before the Rapture (I believe that is the correct term?), Jesus will return and absolve Jews of their sins, at which time god will show them mercy. Would not this mercy be allowing them into heaven? Or am I reading this incorrectly?

Please pardon my ignorance, if I have grossly misinterpreted anything. Though I have learned quite a bit about certain aspects of Christianity -- mostly through Mary -- I realize that many understandings Christians may take for granted remain foreign to me.

Also, I feel obligated to clarify that Mary is one of the most compassionate, caring, and altogether good people that I have ever had the pleasure of coming into contact with. Her beliefs are neither the result of closedmindedness nor fear. She was raised with literalism and this is all she knows. This is precisely why it upsets me so much to see her distraught over my impending damnation. She is far too beautiful a person to suffer so.

Again, thank you all,

Darin

Darin,

I do not think there is any reason to associate what is in Romans 11 with the "rapture" timeframe.

The raptures main passage I believe is from Pauls writings. In 1st Thessolians 4 it says

"After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words."

SO no one really can be sure when the rapture period is.

Revelation 7:3-8 says

“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

These 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are given special priveleges in the vision that John has at the end of his life.

So there is certainly a role that is played out in the vision that is associated by christians with the last days where the Jews do play a major part.

thenakedwalrus

I´m glad I could help you a bit.

If she is compassionated, as you say, perhaps you should ask her what is the solution for the righteous people that are not Christian or never heard of Christ?

Ask her what SHE would do to "save" them, and what she thinks God would do.

This will put her against the wall, and make her think about this idea that non-Christians go to hell.

Here is a better question-
Why would a holy and just God let anyone into heaven?

Because God loves them.

"John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." "

True. He is the way to heaven. It is also the way to pray. not through a priest but through Jesus' name.

"That is not exactly true. It's not wrong, it's just narrow and incomplete. Jesus' death did not wipe sin from the world and belief in him or his teaching does not (obviously) prevent you from sinning. I think most christians believe Jesus came to provide a light for them to follow the path to god, and that is why he is considered a savior-- because, by their belief, his life and death introduced a new covenant by which man could be redeemed."

He didnt die to take sin out of the world. But to give us the best sacrifice that could be given. So we would have a way to heaven.

"Actually, Hell is an old English/Norse word (hel). It doesn't derive from that place or any semitic language. Jesus clearly used gehenna as a simile (hell is like that, not hell is that). Hel in viking mythology, the opposite of Valhalla, was hot and fiery and a place where oathbreakers and cowards went.
"The christian doctrine is that all people will be shown the truth of christ, and if they willingly reject it, then they are going to a place where he is not"
Perhaps conservative evangelicals believe that and othet conservatives and fundamentalists, but, to my knowlege, that is not the current ecumenical approach of the overwhelming majority of christian churches""

Hell was created for Lucifier and the other fallen angels. If it wasnt real where did God put them then. As far as alot of Christian churches alot of them are getitng into this whole new age movement crap where just works alone and being good will suffice enough to get you into heaven. And that simply isnt true.

"Ask her what SHE would do to "save" them, and what she thinks God would do.

This will put her against the wall, and make her think about this idea that non-Christians go to hell."

What is there to think about. Works and acts will not get you into heaven. The compassion for her friend comes in the fact she is trying to show him the right way. And you can ask her what she would do to save "them" if she was smart she would go tell them about God because man alone cannot save anyone, just tell them the way. The Holy Spirit comes in and convicts the heart. And God does the inital saving.

Nice try. What about people that lived before Jesus?

Donna, see my post with the scripture from Romans. I believe your answer is there.

Donna,

don't get caught up in the concept of time....whether Christ died 2000 years ago, 5000 years ago or yesterday...he opened up the door for the afterlife