As we’ve seen, so much about Jesus appears to have been invented and made up; literally, ‘envisioned’. Almost everything he said and did, including his death and resurrection, derive from Paul’s teaching and the Old Testament. Mark created his gospel narrative out of these, embellishing the story with ideas from other, pagan myths. Mark’s gospel then served as the basis of the other three canonical gospels.
It could be argue that none of this suggests Jesus didn’t exist. He could still have been a real life human being who wandered around Palestine, teaching people about the End of the Age. In which case, why did Paul and the later gospel writers have to make so much up about him, as clearly they did. Why didn’t they report directly what he taught, instead of quoting the Old Testament as Paul does when he talks about his Christ (he tells us this is what he’s doing, in Romans 15.2-4)? Not once does he refer to anything the historical Jesus said. Neither do the gospel writers. They make stuff up, they alter what their predecessors say, they dip into the Old Testament to construct Jesus’ teaching.
Why? If the real Jesus was such a Great Teacher, who had so much wisdom to impart, why don’t we find it in the gospels instead of this amalgam of other sources? Was his teaching so unimpressive and unmemorable that a new script had to be written for him? If so, how did he attract the fame and following he purportedly did? Why are the gospels literary creations and not the kind of reporting we might expect if they were relating the sayings and doings of one man? Why do the gospels have their own distinct agendas when they are supposedly reporting the views of a real individual? Why are there so many interpretations of Jesus in the New Testament: Jewish Jesus, Gentile Jesus, Anti-semitic Jesus, Gnostic Jesus, Anti-gnostic Jesus, Radical Jesus, Pacifist Jesus, Saviour Jesus, High Priest Jesus, Cosmic-judge Jesus? Why, if it really happened, does the resurrection read like myth, with all the differences in detail between the accounts? Why does Paul talk about it as something that was only revealed in ‘visions’? Why does Mark hint that his Jesus story is a parable, the true meaning of which can only be discerned by the spiritually mature (Mark 4.10-12)?
If Jesus was real, none of this – the myth making, the invention, the reliance on the Old Testament – would be necessary.
That Paul and the gospel writers made up so much suggests there wasn’t a real person on whom their teaching and stories are based. Jesus Christ was the result of the ‘visions’, dreams and hallucinations that someone called Cephas and a few others, Paul included, experienced.
There was no historical Jesus, no miracles, no wondrous teaching, no crucifixion, no resurrection, no ascension. There will be no second coming, no final judgement, no Kingdom of Heaven presided over by someone who originally lived 2000 years ago. Why? Because every bit of it is make believe.
And if the “real Jesus” was such a great teacher, who was aware that future generations would receive his message by means of books, why didn’t he write down that message himself? What’s with leaving it to a mess of thirdhand accounts written by people who weren’t even there?
Because he thought the world was ending soon? Because he was illiterate? Because he had no idea what he was doing? Because he trusted the Holy Spirit to preserve his words with 100% accuracy? Because he didn’t really exist? Because the entire enterprise is a massive con?
The last two seem to me to offer the best explanation.
Actually, the Book of Daniel mentioned that a figure known as the Son of Man would rule from Jerusalem. Daniel said those who did good works will be blessed and those who did evil will be shamed and hated.
Isaiah also talks about a New Heavens and a New Earth. He also said God will destroy his enemies with fire and reduce them to abhorrent corpses where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” This is unclear whether it’s referring to torment since corpses are dead. Isaiah also mentioned “everlasting burnings” which implies torment.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes talked about a Day of Judgment when God reveals everything. But he said that the dead know nothing.
The Book of Matthew says Jesus will one day return to judge mankind and that mankind will be judged based on their works, not beliefs. The wicked will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented alongside the devil and his angels because of their wicked deeds. The good will enter into the Joy of the Lord.
Revelations says first Christ comes back with the saints to defeat the Antichrist, referred to as the Beast, the False Prophet, and those who worshipped him. They are cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever. Then he rules for 1000 years from Jerusalem, a time when the earth is ruled over by a perfect and just government. Satan himself is imprisoned in the Abyss. Then after the 1000 years are over, he deceives great masses of people into mounting one last rebellion. But fire from the Heaven consumes the invading armies. Then the heavens and the earth are destroyed by the figure seated on the great white throne (unclear whether this figure is supposed to be God the Father or Jesus) who resurrects every human that has ever lived. He opens books and judges every human according to what he has done. He checks for names in the Book of Life, which was also mentioned to have been predetermined before time began, then throw everyone who isn’t on the list. So in the other words, everyone who wasn’t written in the book was damned to hell before he was ever born (?). The saved are then welcomed into the New Jerusalem where God the Father now rules earth directly.
We know this because Corinthians says after all of God’s enemies is defeated, Jesus submits himself onto God the Father, handing over rule of earth to him.
Having said all this, it’s up to debate whether the Lake of Fire is torment or annihilation. Some Bible passages, especially the New Testament, suggest it is a place of unending torment. Whereas the Old Testament suggests God will destroy his enemies and all traces of them.
If the Lake of Fire is ceaseless torment, then this poses a serious problem. It directly contradicts what God said in Genesis when he said he would not allow mankind to eat from the tree of life and live forever in an unredeemed sinful state. Yet if humans are endlessly tormented without being able to die in the Lake of Fire, it means that humans are immortal.
While Satan, the Antichrist, False Prophet, the evil angels who rebelled alongside Satan, and the followers of the Antichrist are explicitly said to be tormented forever without rest. But for the rest of mankind, it’s a little unclear whether they will be tormented or simply wiped from existence.