The year was 1992, before Facebook, before the Ex-Jehovah’s Witness community online, and many years before I got a computer. That was the year I walked away from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And in typical Ex-Jehovah’s Witness fashion, when I left the cult, I continued to believe what they had taught me. I didn’t have a Church, Pastor or Christian friend to help set me on the right path. And so, of course, just like any Jehovah’s Witness, I didn’t believe in hell.
After we leave, due to the indoctrination, unless we get exit counseling and learn about indoctrination, propaganda and mind control, or unless we get help from the Christian community, its more than likely we will continue to believe what we were taught. We don’t realize that virtually everything the Watchtower teaches is out of context. When the bible disagrees with them, they always simply say it’s symbolic.
The Lord was going to completely change my thinking one step at a time. Maybe it’s because I tend to be stubborn, that He often does this by asking a question. I was watching a documentary on television about near death experiences. In the first one, it showed a woman in a rafting accident, turned upside down, trapped under rocks who subsequently drowned. She spoke of seeing her body in the water, and going up to heaven. I thought to myself “I believe that.” Next, a man who lived an ungodly life, and didn’t believe in God, who died and went to hell. He described the dark and the terror and it was frightening to watch. When it was over, I thought to myself, “I don’t believe that.”
A thought, unbidden, and not my own, came to mind, which stopped me in my tracks. “Why do you accept the one and not the other?” It shook me to my core. The thought of hell possibly being real frightened me, and I didn’t want to think about it.
It was about this same time that I had joined Facebook and the Ex-Jehovah’s Witness community. The year was 2014, 40 years after I first started studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses and things had finally gotten decidedly better. I had already been divinely healed by the Lord of bi-polar in 2013 and had been healed of the multiple personalities some years prior. (More on that later) My theology was a mess, however. And now the Lord was going to use the Christian community online to help straighten me out.
I didn’t trust Christians and told them so. I believed and trusted the Watchtower, and they were wrong I told them. How do I know you don’t have it wrong as well? Why should I trust what you tell me? No one could answer these burning questions.
If you’ve ever joined a Christian discussion/debate group and dared to disagree or question them about hell or the trinity, you’ll know exactly what happened. I didn’t reveal my beliefs, somehow, I knew better, but I did eventually start asking questions.
The question I brought up in discussions was: How do we reconcile the scripture, God is love, with the punishment of hell? The answers surprised me.
- “God doesn’t send you to hell, you send yourself thereby rejecting Him.”
- “You’re a Christian so you don’t have to worry about that.”
- “God made hell for Satan and the demons.”
You see the problem? The answers did not answer my question, they side-stepped it and made light of it. The point is, God made hell, you go there if you don’t believe in God, how do we reconcile a God of love with a burning hell?
The Lord was trying to show me gently, by using other Christians. I didn’t recognize the Lord was using them. When we are stubbornly refusing to listen to the gentle prodding’s of the Holy Spirit, and that soft gentle voice, then the Lord becomes more stern.
The Lord used Anthony Hempe, a Christian Apologist and owner of the group, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Biblical Discussions to drive the point home about hell. I was being stubborn, so the Lord used someone more stubborn and more blunt than me to drive the point home.
He asked me two questions, which took my breath away and made me feel like I had been kicked in the gut. Of course, the discussion was hell. The two questions he asked me were, “If there is no such thing as hell, why did Jesus warn us of the perils of hell more than anyone else?” That question stopped me cold. “He did?” I thought to myself, quite shocked.
The second question was even more blunt, “Was Jesus lying?” My world turned upside down. I was stunned. No one had ever asked me those questions before. It was something I wasn’t familiar with. I had to know the truth, so I took out my bible and started reading the verses where Jesus warns about the perils of hell. It was like seeing them for the very first time.
Matt 5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matt 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matt 25:46 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Mark 9:42 – 48 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
I remembered singing a song at the kingdom hall, some of the lyrics went, ‘those that kill the body but cannot destroy the soul’. Why hadn’t I ever picked up on that? Instead I had brushed it to the back of my mind. The answer to my question about reconciling the love of God with the punishment of hell wasn’t given at that time. My mind was busy reeling from the ramifications of hell is real!!
Suddenly I realized that when someone rejects the gospel message of, we are saved by faith in Jesus Acts 16:30,31, and not by any other name or organization, Acts 4:12, these people are making themselves subject to the punishment of hell! Here they think they will go to sleep in the ground, wake up in paradise and be given a second chance! But Hebrews says, we die once and after that its judgment. There are no second chances like the Watchtower teaches! Heb. 9:27
Since then, I’ve had discussions with Anthony, who explained to me the perfect justice of God, has to balance with God’s perfect love. If God forgives all sin, and the punishment is the same for all, how is that justice? If a murderer appears in court before the judge and says “I’m sorry” the judge or jury still has to punish the crime. Otherwise, justice has not taken place.
To think that Hitler would get the exact same punishment as my dear relatives who never knew God is just unthinkable! Even we, as imperfect people, demand justice be done. That sense of justice we have comes from God. God is not one to be mocked, whatever a man is sowing, this also shall he reap. Gal. 6:7
Ecc. 3:17 I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”
Heb. 10:30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
Prov. 24:24, 25 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. 25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them.
There are no second chances. The bible doesn’t teach we die, get resurrected, get a second chance during the 1,000-year reign of Christ, and if we do not accept God we die again. We only have this life, we can use it to pursue God and have a relationship with Him, in which case we have the hope of eternal life, or we can reject God, in which case God will grant our wish to be separated from Him forever, only it won’t be paradise earth. The choice is yours, my friend.
Pleasing God, and gaining eternal life is so much easier God’s way, than the Watchtower way. What must I do to have eternal life? Believe in the Lord Jesus! (Acts 16:30,31) Does God require you to peddle magazines door to door and count time? No! God does not care about magazines!
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13
Hard to imagine, that the Christians had it right all along! The teachings of Charles Taze Russell were taken from the Adventists, who also didn’t believe in hell and predicted dates for the Lord’s return. I imagine until the Lord returns cults and false teachings will continue. No wonder the Bible tells us to beware of false prophets! What else did Christians have right and Jehovah’s Witnesses have wrong?? Next stop: The Trinity.
Thank you so much for writing this! I believe I have gone the other extreme by avoiding all debate on doctrinal issues. Your article got me to thinking about what I actually believe since leaving the JWS.
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It’s easy to go to the other extreme, especially after leaving such a controlling organization. Many of us neglect to consider God’s justice, and wish only to concentrate on God’s love and mercy, but what kind of justice is it, if a murderer of millions, dies at a ripe old age and his “punishment” is to take a dirt nap, just sleeping in the ground? What kind of justice is that? Not an easy topic, nor something I like to consider, but Jesus warns of it repeatedly, and Jesus didn’t lie, therefore I have to believe it. Thank you for your comment.
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I commend you for being responsive to the Spirit of God, who like Yeshua (Jesus) said is persistent in His efforts to draw us to recognise that truth you shared – that it’s only through the shed blood (death and resurrection) of Yeshua Ha Maxhiach (Jesus the Anointed One, the Christ), that any redemption was made possible. Paul wrote in one of his letters, that the Tanak (what some call Old Testament) scriptures were written for our instruction. Thus the whole feast of Passover for instance, where the blood of a lamb was slain by the High Priest, and the blood offered upon the mercy seat of the ark, was pointing towards Christ’s fulfillment of it. He was crucified on Passover, at the time the lamb was slain by the priests, and he gave up his life, died, at the time the sacrificial offering was being offered by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies in the temple. He as Revelation states, “is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world”. Wherefore YAHUAH has highly exalted Him giving Him an name above every other name, in heaven, on earth, or in (below) the earth.I can relate to what you’ve written here: during the last couple years I’ve been ministering to some friends who’re ex Jehovah’s witnesses. I’ve acquired copies of the scriptures for them, translated from the original Hebrew / Aramaic (which render the English more accurately) and we’ve held many bible studies, round table discussions. They’ve both come quite a way due to the study of the scriptures. As I’ve stated in my blog posts, my journey (and also theirs as well as other members of my family) , has grown by leaps and bounds by study of the scriptures, and by resources from the online communities, because sad to say, there’s so much not taught, discussed in modern churchianity- and one of the topics so avoided is HELL.
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