November 8

Daniel 12:1-3

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” vs. 2

Written at a time when the remnant of Israel was facing enormous persecution from their Greek overlords, the book of Daniel uses apocalyptic language to describe the onslaught and the bloodshed. The temple had been desecrated and the sacrificial system threatened–the people were looking for deliverance. For its audience the images made perfect sense–it was like reading a newspaper detailing current events. And it had a happy ending–a deliverer would come from God. We can learn from these apocalyptic passages–they paint a great picture of the situation in Judea just before the Maccabbean period. But there is a problem! The dualistic view of history found in Daniel has caused enormous difficulties for the community of faith and has even undermined the gospel of Jesus Christ. This little verse, with its vision of an awakening to everlasting life and everlasting contempt, has fed humanity’s hunger for hellfire and damnation. For centuries preachers have expanded these few words into vivid pictures of hell to scare people into repentance and obedience. Those dualistic impressions have been driven into our unconscious and now inform our culture’s view of the afterlife. It takes enormous energy to put aside such notions and embrace the inclusive salvation that we find in Christ Jesus. But what a gift it is when we can celebrate the ultimate triumph of grace and unity!

Thought for the Day: Why do we love to believe in hell?

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