Legendary monkeytician Charles Darwin would disagree.

In the Hierophant’s Questionnaire, a list of over 100 questions are issued by a confrontationalist for stupid Christians to respond to. In an act of stupidity on a par with that time I promised the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that I would count and catalog every mullet in East Germany in advance of reunification, I have decided to try and answer each one of them. (Well, the ones that could be of any interest to sane people).

Today the probing question I have to investigate is:

2. Did everyone who died before Jesus died go to Hell? Justify your answer.

Simple answer. Hell no!

To justify it, we go to the letter that Paul wrote to the Roman church. He was trying to explain how we become Christians and share in the things Jesus secured for us at Easter (eternal life and so much more) and his example was from the Hebrew scriptures. Abraham is the Father of the Jewish faith (and by extension, Christian faith too). Paul says that before Christmas and the coming of Jesus, Abraham benefited from God’s promise to reconcile His relationship with people that they had destroyed. Paul takes a large amount of time describing how the very same requirements for relationship with God that apply to us now post-Jesus applied also to Abraham, 4,000 years before Christ. Here is a good summation from Romans 4:3:

What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”

Basically, by faith we, as people living in Anno Domini, are justified. Paul says clearly that Before Christ Abraham enjoyed the very same grace.

For Christians, death is almost a metaphor for judgement but the sentence of damnation, whatever that may mean, begins paradoxically, at the end of time. Abraham will/does receive his “credit” at the end of time, just as you or I will. Basically, we each die and judgement is passed. On the last day we will all face that judgement and its sentence. Abraham, like everyone else before Christ, is under the same promise as we are after Christ and this is possible because God is not bound by time like we are. Anyone before Jesus who like Abraham, rejected the way we instinctively want to live and instead, looked for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one, a better life” from God gets to share, as we do, in the inheritance of Jesus’ work. They may have died before Jesus but their sentencing date will never come.

Let me try and explain it this way. Imagine there was a kingdom composed of people who were unimaginably reckless. They seemed determined to live their lives without forethought. If they spent any energy on preparation, it was to ensure that they could live their lives most effectively without any kind of planning. In this society, everyone seemed intent on running up vast debts that they couldn’t possibly cover. They would over-extend themselves every which way they could so that they would squander bountiful harvests and rape their forests until they were barren and hunt game into extinction. Everywhere they went, they left a trail of destruction behind them but maybe because everyone was equally in on it or because it had been so long since they had been responsible, they couldn’t remember what it was like to take care of things or people. They didn’t really register they were acting foolishly, more than that, acting fatally.

The day came, as it always does, that they were set to make an account of themselves and their behaviour. Their creditors were furious and wanted a pound of flesh for every debtor. Under this threat from outside, citizens of the Kingdom turned on themselves, seeking instant repayment of debts they were owed by neighbours without regard to their own liability. This was a dark day. There were angry claimants on their borders and there were no friendships left in the whole land as every debt was rashly called in without regard to the possibility of payment.

Judgement was made. Punishment was going to be intolerably hard. The citizens tore themselves and their society apart in an effort to pay back their debts. Most convinced themselves that if they just worked hard enough now they could somehow manage to negotiate a settlement over their debt. Some even thought they could perhaps even manage it without changing the way they lived. But there was no way they could make good on their recklessness and ultimately, they all stood to lose their lives. Some saw the futile efforts of their compatriots to secure a legacy and wished they could live in a world that was different. They threw themselves upon the mercy of their neighbours, their creditors, admitting they had made massive mistakes and ultimately, they cried out to the Creator of the World for help. While this was happening, one by one, every citizen was judged and found guilty for their debts. A sentencing date was set for the whole land.

Everyone then was taken by surprise when a strange man arrived from across the sea with a message of hope. He was wealthy in a way that no one in the Kingdom or in the whole of the world had ever known. He had heard of the cries of the afflicted citizens of the Kingdom and felt sure that God wanted him to intervene. He had come with one purpose, to rescue those who had called out for mercy and restrained themselves in the face of the temptation to act like their fellow citizens and make good on their debt by doing yet more damage.

Now even though the day of judgement had come for them, sentencing had not been declared. And the Rescuer was able to negotiate, at great cost, their release from the punishment. He gathered them together and told them that their faith in the Creator of the World had marked their lives out and he had prepared a place for them across the sea from where he had come where they could go.

And so they went to this better place and its better life. And that remnant of the Kingdom lived until the end of their natural days and long after, enjoying life as it should be lived- with respect for themselves, for others and for all that was around them. Their life was one of harmony with their Rescuer and in sync with their Creator and more truly than ever before it can be said that they lived happily ever after.

As crude as my story is, it hopes to communicate the offer that was made to those who were born before Jesus. Paul talks about believers “falling asleep” instead of dying. Abraham and Enoch and Moses and everyone else who believed in God and left Him to put everything right, instead of living off their own incompetent ability, will be roused from their sleep on the last day and credited with righteousness by the Wealthy Rescuer from across the sea.

Christianity could never argue that everyone before Jesus went to Hell. Not least because of the magnificent story of the Transfiguration which features Moses and Elijah and neither of them are on fire. The Transfiguration is also the name of a superb song by new favourite songwriter, Sufjan Stevens. Thank Zoomtard for alerting you to his genius. 3 years after you discovered him first no doubt. He is a great, unique sounding acoustic songsmith who lectures on art in a New York university and knits scarves for Martha Stewart Living and who has song titles like, “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!” and most impressively, he writes songs about Christianity that I am not in the least bit ashamed of.

Your Correspondent, He smiles and its a rainbow

One Response to “Legendary monkeytician Charles Darwin would disagree.”

  1. […] I have had a go at answering this question before. The question gets asked a lot though so I think it is wise for me to try and have more than one way of answering it. I want to write a sentence that begins “Although this question is common…” but it would be clumsy to use the word “question” for the third time in three sentences. And yet, all question synonyms are q-laden. Query. Inquiry. Request. Inquest. Qinterrogation. Weird. […]