Mervin L. Behlen
My family attended The Full Gospel Tabernacle located in Fresno, California, an Assembly of God denomination. This church had Sunday morning and evening services Wednesday and Friday prayer services.
I did not know in 1939 that my life would take a whole new turn following a nervous breakdown lasting six months. This was totally and directly a result of earlier religious teachings.
My youth consisted of much horror and mental anguish due to messages of well-meaning ministers who presented, for the most part, a god of endless anger and vengeance. The teaching that forgiveness was always available, though, was included at the end of each church service. Judging from how few people really lived a Holy life and how few Christians actually laid their lives down to save people from the awful fate, it appears few people really took the threat of everlasting punishment seriously. I was not one of them. I took it VERY seriously--so seriously that I vowed never to have children so as to be sure none of mine would go to hell. After all, based upon the churches own statistics, 98 percent of humanity was doomed to be tortured forever and ever and ever by their loving god. I had a vasectomy to insure that I would not bring into this world a child doomed to be among the 98 percent of humanity which would find itself burning alive forever.
Like I said, most people in my church and other churches must not have taken the Hell teaching to heart or else I think they all would have gone mad. And I believe those who truly DO take it seriously DO go crazy. A friend of the family had committed suicide because of the same hellfire and damnation teachings. There are countless stories of mental disorders which led to disastrous results due to this terrible doctrine. In years past, I often prayed that God would take me "Home" (kill me) so I would not be lost.
One particular Sunday evening, I was feeling pretty holy, not a great sinner and therefore did not go to the altar. I had been so "brainwashed" that I assumed a need to go down to the altar to repent of sin every time I went to church. Since I didn't go forward as usual, I decided to ask God that if I DID need to go to the altar that He give our car a flat tire one block from the church. If the tire went flat, I'd go back, go to the altar, repent and ask forgiveness.
We got a flat tire exactly one block from church. We discovered we didn't have a jack, so my father instructed me to walk back to church to find Bill Feuerstein who would have one. I did so, but did not go to the altar as intended! When I told Bill the problem, he drove me back to my father's car and we replaced the tire.
That night I told no one about my asking God for the sign, nor did I talk with anyone at all. Extremely troubled, I went to bed and shortly an inaudible voice spoke to me asking, "Will you let me take you home so you won't be lost?" I assumed the "voice" to be from God.
It is hard for me to describe the torment I was in when I heard those words. Part of me was sure I was going to Hell because I didn't repent at the altar. Part of me wanted to take the offer this "voice" made and yet a large part of me didn't want to die. The decision demanded by this "voice" was simply overwhelming. I couldn't decide. When I heard the same question a third time, I pulled the sheet over my face and, surprisingly, went to sleep.
I awoke the next morning with absolutely NO spiritual feeling whatsoever. There was a great emptiness and my behavior indicated to my family that I was in a state of nervous breakdown. My health began to deteriorate. No one could reason with me. The stress was so great that I felt as though hot lead had been poured into my stomach, and my face became broken out in sores with the dreadful appearance of raw meat. Nothing compares to this void of darkness. But prior to any of this, for example, even when I heard a vibraharp play, I would have chills go over my body at the praise of our Lord Jesus and because I enjoyed music so much.
For five months I remained in this nervous breakdown. Then one day my family heard me ask, "Where's my guitar? I'd like to play it." My sister, Bernice, and my mother went into the bathroom and cried over my "return", believing that I was beginning to recover from the nervous breakdown. Another month later I was on the road to recovery. GOD NEVER INTENDED THAT HIS PEOPLE BE TERRIFIED AND FRIGHTENED INTO HIS KINGDOM!
Around 1952 in Los Angeles, I wanted to hear Dr. Wesley Swift minister. I had heard him speak several times and learned that he did not believe in a number of common teachings. He most particularly did not believe in the doctrine of endless torment in "hell". Rather, he taught about the "correction by divine fire" of ALL people in a designated "age" (eon, or span of time).
I entered the elevator not knowing on which floor Dr. Swift's meeting was being held. It was out of character for me not to ask those in the elevator for directions. Those in the elevator exited on the floor which I found out later was the floor which held his meeting. I continued down and pushed a button to see where I might go, and when it opened a man was strolling by. I told him I was looking for the Swift meeting. I was startled when he stated that his group believed the same way as Swift. He told me that they had a Sunday morning and after lunch service and that I was welcomed to stay. The speaker's name was Ray Prinzing.
To my amazement, Prinzing spoke on the scriptures that had been bothering me the most. He also spoke in detail using both Hebrew and Greek regarding the original meanings of key phrases and words. Correct interpretation is vital to studying God's word. I then realized that God had directed me to the Prinzing meeting rather than the Swift meeting. At the end of his presentation, there were three messages in "tongues" (the language of the Holy Spirit) and each was interpreted as required in the scriptures, confirming the message given. He had spoken for only about 45 minutes, and in those few minutes I had been shown a miracle for EVERYONE. I was set free from the burden of terror. I found out for sure that the hell fire and damnation doctrine is not the truth.
There seemed not enough words to describe my joy and immense relief at having heard ORIGINAL LANGUAGE SCRIPTURAL PROOF that there is NO BURNING HELL AWAITING ANYONE. HELL WOULD NOT BE GOOD NEWS. In fact, the word hell' is not even in the original texts. The word 'hell' is an English word, never intended by God to appear in any translation of His original Word. This fact is also mentioned in the Companion Bible, page 162, Appendix #131: "The word 'hell' is the English rendering of two different Greek words in the new Testament. This English word is from the Anglo Saxon 'hel', Genitive Case helle, meaning a hidden place (also Anglo Saxon helan, meaning to hide). 'Hades' is a word for which we think of as hell and is used by the Greeks for the unseen world. The meaning that the Greeks put upon it does not concern us; since we should have nothing to do with the imaginations of the heathen, or the traditions of the Jews, or Romanists, or the teachings of demons or evil spirits, or any who still cling to them.
Since hearing Rev. Ray Prinzing, I have received many of his cassette tapes and studied independently, and did my own research to further my knowledge concerning the RECONCILIATION, the REAL GOOD NEWS TO ALL PEOPLE. From that time forward, I must share this message with anyone willing to hear it. Following are some definitions as presented in the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, as well as some from a book.
1. The "Lake" in Strong's Concordance, is the Greek reference word #4041 'limne', interpreted "the nearness of shore, a pond, a lake"; it comes from the Greek word #3040 which means "a harbor (or HAVEN)".
2. The word "Fire", Greek reference word #4442 "PUR" (especially lightning, or LIGHT." The same work PUR IS USED FOR "baptizing one with the Holy Spirit and
FIRE". Also, 'hell fire' has the same PUR word. According to scripture, our "tongue can be as fire". But this kind of fire will be able to test or reveal whether a person's works was built on Jesus; if not, then the works will be burned in the "spiritual fire", "BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED EVEN AS BY FIRE!" (See I Cor.3, 13-15 below). Yes, only works not built on Jesus will be divinely purged, NOT THE PERSON!
3. From the book, "Is Hell Eternal or Will God's Plan Fail?" by Charles Pridgeon, page 116: "The word 'brimstone', meaning sulfur, defines the character of the fire. The word 'theion' (Greek), is exactly the same word as 'theion' (Hebrew) and was used as to fumigate, to purify, to cleanse and to consecrate to a deity; for this purpose the people of the time would burn it in the incense." In Homer's Iliad (16-228), it is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from 'theion' is 'theioo', which means to hallow, to make divine or to dedicate to a god. (See Liddell & Scott's Greek to English Lexicon 1897 edition).
Most ministers teach the endless torment doctrine in Hell for sinners, which is NOT "GOOD NEWS" TO ANYONE. Luke 2:10 declares that "THE BIRTH OF JESUS SHALL BE GOOD NEWS TO ALL PEOPLE. This scripture and others would be lies if the teaching of hellfire was true.
4. Isaiah 56:10-11 tells us just what is the problem with ministers today: "His watchmen (ministers) are blind, they all lack knowledge: they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark, they lay around and dream, they love to sleep, they are dogs with mighty appetites and never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeking his own gain." Some translations say "unjust gain".
5. Jeremiah 10:21, "For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper, and ALL their flock shall be scattered. (KJV) The same verse from the NIV: "The shepherds are senseless and DO NOT INQUIRE OF THE LORD, SO THEY DO NOT PROSPER and all their flock is scattered."
Future studies of my own led to the following scriptures, but I had not heard any minister quote them up to this time:
Revelations 2:11, "He that overcometh SHALL NOT BE HURT OF THE SECOND DEATH""(referred to as 'the lake of fire'). The "second death" is a FIRE WHICH PURIFIES AND BURNS OUT ONLY THE CHAFF IN A PERSON'S LIFE, and does NOT burn anything else. I Corinthians 3:13-15 proves this.
When we read Acts 3:21, Daniel 7:14, Colossians 1:16-20, Isaiah 25:7-8, Revelations 5:13, I Corinthians 15:22-28, we find that DEATH IS ABOLISHED and then GOD BECOMES ALL IN ALL!
Much of my life had been lost, not to hell, but to a great WASTE - waste of time that could have been used to glorify Jesus and His Father God by being a witness of His GREAT AND MIGHTY LOVE. Too much time was wasted while sinking deeper and deeper in an abyss, and so much time wasted while climbing out of the abyss, all so unnecessary. Who could glorify a god of unending hate and torture, one who also tells us to love our enemies? I have often wished that this wonderful message of Reconciliation had arrived in my life earlier. I am so happy and joyous and grateful for the privilege of having TIME REMAINING to do my share in imparting this LOVELY AND LOVING MESSAGE.
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