There is something about the mention of sexual sins in the New Testament that triggers a selective memory response in Christians. We know there are certain verses which specifically say that all sexual perverts will go to Hell and we like to refer to them whenever the topic comes up. We don’t recite the actual verses, we just say something general like “God says all perverts will go to Hell.” We do this because we have forgotten what the verses really say. If we remembered them accurately, we’d stop quoting them so often because when they’re isolated from the rest of Scripture, these verses actually say that we are all going to Hell.
Pulling verses out of context is guaranteed to result in a false interpretation. Picking verses apart is even worse, and that is what we do with the sexual pervert verses.
“You can be sure of this: No one will have a place in the kingdom of Christ and of God who sins sexually, or does evil things, or is greedy. Anyone who is greedy is serving a false god.” (Eph. 5:5)
“But cowards, those who refuse to believe, who do evil things, who kill, who sin sexually, who do evil magic, who worship idols, and who tell lies—all these will have a place in the lake of burning sulfur.” (Rev. 21:8)
These are two of the most frequently quoted sexual sin verses. We like to use these to say that all perverts are going to Hell. What we ignore is that both of these verses list more than just sexual sins. They also mention sins that are common to all of humanity: doing evil, being greedy, and lying. Are you really going to say that you’ve never done an evil thing in your life, therefore these verses don’t apply to you? In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded people to be as perfect as God. Are you as perfect as God? Not hardly.
We Christians do evil every day. We all think unrighteous thoughts, we all fail to love God with all that we are, we all act hypocritical and selfish. According to both of these verses, we are all going to Hell. We end up condemning ourselves right along with the perverts if we want to start pretending that salvation is attained through moral perfection. If sexual perverts have no hope of salvation, then neither does anyone else. By themselves, these verses are saying that one misstep—one sin of any kind—will land us in Hell.
Why do we feel the need to pick on sexual perverts more than other kinds of sinners? Because some of us have decided that their sins are particularly loathsome: molesting kids, men sleeping with men, women sleeping with women, people sleeping with animals. This is our favorite list of sexual sins, but it’s much too short. God says that sleeping with someone other than your legal spouse is also a sin. There goes most of America. God also includes lust as a sexual sin. There goes the entire world.
According to God’s definition of sexual perversion, we all qualify. God doesn’t judge us according to our society’s limited definition of sin–He judges us by His definition. While American Christians and nonbelievers go hopping from bed to bed becoming willing slaves to their hormonal urges, they reserve the term “pervert” only for those icky people they read about in the news who do things they haven’t personally done yet. This is total hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is a sin and sin is evil. According to the Bible, evil people go to Hell. There we are again: back with the perverts, swimming in that ominous lake of fire.
Salvation has never been obtained through moral perfection. God has always taught that it is our soul attitudes which we are judged by, and our soul attitudes have nothing to do with the lusts of our flesh. It’s how we are responding to God internally–not what turns us on sexually–that determines whether He is pleased with us or not. But you’re not going to find good teaching on salvation in the New Testament, because by New Testament times, the Jews had decided that salvation was entirely about works and they were discounting the importance of soul attitudes.
The Bible is primarily focused on God’s relationship with Israel. For the entire Old Testament, the Jews spat in God’s face and worshiped false gods instead of Him. No one talked about being morally perfect because they were too busy hating God to give a hoot about any of His commands. Between the Old and New Testament, 400 years passed. During that time, a major shift happened in Israelite society. By the time we get to the New Testament, we find some big changes happening in Israel. For the first time in the biblical records, there are a bunch of Jewish preachers strutting around Israel who are claiming to be perfectly obeying all of God’s written commands to the letter–something which is quite impossible for any human to do. Those pompous preachers belonged to one of two main groups: the Pharisees were the preachers in the main country where the commoners lived, and the Sadducees were the snooty priests who ran the Temple in Jerusalem. What you need to understand was how incredibly arrogant both of these groups were. They had actually convinced themselves that they had conquered the challenge of sinless living. But had they? Of course not, because that’s not humanly possible. These guys were just lying their faces off. And while they were busy acting super holy, they were making all the commoners feel totally despaired about ever being accepted by God.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were always teaching lies about God and making people feel like it was impossible to please Him. Today many Christians like to say that God could never love gays or pedophiles. Well, back in New Testament Israel, tax collectors and prostitutes were the “super bad” sinners who were being told that they were unforgivable. This routine of certain people claiming to be God’s favorites while they treat other people like unforgivable scum is older than the hills. But when you don’t understand how totally arrogant and out of touch many New Testament Jews were, you end up really misunderstanding what’s going on in the New Testament writings.
The apostle Paul wrote many of the epistles or letters that you find in the New Testament. The apostle Paul was a Pharisee. What do Pharisees believe? That they’ve conquered sinless living. That they’re better than everyone else. That salvation can only be acquired through moral perfection. So this is what Paul teaches in his letters. The man is clueless as to how salvation actually works, and he’s so off on his own magnificence that he actually thinks it is possible to never sin again after coming to Christ. You might have heard the phrase “new creation in Christ.” That was one of Paul’s phrases, and it’s not the positive thing Christians make it out to be. What Paul actually meant was that after we come to Christ, Christ magically cancels out our previous debt of sin (which He atoned for on the cross). Christ also changes our very nature so that we can actually go forward from that moment on and never sin again. This is what Paul teaches. He then goes on to say that if we do sin again after this magical change, then we’re going to be damned to Hell (see Romans 8: Pretty Promises for Perfect People).
Now Paul wrote Ephesians, which is the source of one of the famously misapplied sexual pervert verses. Once you understand that Paul personally considers himself to be above sinning, you can appreciate why he has no problems declaring that all sinners will go to Hell. First Paul tells his Christian audience that there shouldn’t even be a hint of immorality among them (because they’re supposed to be past all of that foolishness now that Christ has magically transformed them). He then reminds them that if they do sin, they’re going to burn, because Paul has decided that salvation is only for the perfect people.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of Yahweh. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. (Eph. 5:3-7)
You need to understand how delusional Paul is being here. In the first place, declaring that it is actually possible for humans to not sin is utterly absurd. In the second place, declaring that God will permanently reject anyone who sins is a complete lie which totally contradicts what God teaches. If Paul had just said, “Hey, don’t just be blowing off God’s convictions and acting like His moral code is irrelevant,” that would have been correct. God judges us by our soul’s response to Him. When He tells us something is wrong, He wants us to care about His opinion and want to do right. But wanting to do right and having the resources to follow through on that desire are two very different things. Because it is only the response of your soul which God judges you by, it is extremely easy to remain in a good place with Him even when you’re finding it impossible to resist certain temptations (see Understanding Divine Judgment: Illumination, Empowerment & A God Who Delights In Mercy).
The whole chapter of Ephesians 5 is a mess of bad teaching, but that’s what we should expect given the fact that a Pharisee wrote it–a Pharisee who was still steeped in some very common Pharisaical delusions.
Let’s now jump over to Revelation 21 and see what’s going on there. Revelation is one of the least understood books in the Bible and one which Christians constantly misapply today. To help people get out from under the brickload of fear that is created by wrong teaching on Revelation, we’ve written a series which goes through the whole book chapter by chapter. If you want to learn why you don’t need to keep stressing over 666 and an antichrist who isn’t really coming, our series will help you out (to get started, see Applying Revelation: Some Background). It will also give you a better understanding of what we’re going to explain right now.
Revelation is essentially one big snow job that Jesus gave to one very arrogant Jewish man named John. This John was one of the original twelve disciples who walked with Jesus in the Gospel books. This John also wrote the Gospel of John and the epistles 1, 2, and 3 John. In his epistles, John arrogantly declares himself to be morally perfect. He claims to be a Christian, while also claiming that anyone who even desires to sin clearly has no relationship with Christ. On the subject of his own righteousness, the apostle John is every bit as pompous as the apostle Paul (see Salvation According to 1 John).
Now to make matters worse, we don’t just have a guy who thinks he’s perfect. We also have a guy who thinks he is the cream of humanity just because he’s of Jewish ethnicity. This was a common mindset among ancient Jews: they really felt that they were superior to the rest of the human race and more loved by God simply due to the fact that they were born with certain genetics. Were they right? Of course not. God loves all people. God is also obsessed with variety, which is why He intentionally made such a fascinating spectrum of colors, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. God doesn’t think any ethnicity is better than any other–He likes them all. But all throughout the Bible, you’ll find ethnic Jews acting like hateful bigots as they look down their noses at anyone who isn’t a biological descendant of Jacob.
In Romans 11, the apostle Paul uses a metaphor of trees to explain how God really loves the Jews but He’s only tolerating non-Jews (see More Lies from Paul: God Loves Jews More Than Gentiles ). Well, the apostle John also believes that being Jewish makes him superior, but you don’t realize this about John until you get to Revelation. In Revelation, Jesus is talking to John. Jesus knows all about what a stuck-up, arrogant little pride puff John is. By the time Jesus gives John the series of visions which are described in Revelation, John is an old man and so entrenched in arrogance that he’s probably not going to ever repent out of it. Such is the ugly result of a guy spending too long being worshiped by other believers as one of Jesus’ main men. In 1 John, John promotes himself as infallible by saying that anyone who disagrees with him or his fellow apostles is clearly siding with Satan (see Spiritual Discernment According to John). You have to understand how spiritually deluded John is to appreciate what is happening in Revelation.
In the four Gospel books, we find Jesus constantly reaming out arrogant Jews for thinking they were all that. He pounds on them with one pride grinding parable after another, urging them to repent out of their prideful rebellion. In the Old Testament, we find Yahweh also chewing out Jews for thinking that they can win His favor through good works while they’re inwardly despising Him. Yet in Revelation, we do not find Yahweh or Jesus calling John out on John’s terrible soul attitudes. Instead, we find Them both encouraging John in his delusions. John has decided that he’s morally perfect, so Jesus and Yahweh affirm that concept even though it’s not true. John has decided that ethnic Jews are Yahweh’s favorite people, so Yahweh shows John visions of a Heaven which is designed to be a shrine to the Jewish ethnicity. John thinks that he is one of Yahweh’s best servants ever, so Yahweh shows John an image of John’s own name chiseled into Heaven’s fortress walls–a metaphorical image which suggests that John helped build the place. And in Chapter 21, Yahweh affirms John’s totally wrong theology about salvation by agreeing that only the behaviorally perfect will ever make it into Heaven.
And He also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev. 21:6-8)
In our Revelation study, we break down all of the categories of sinners listed here and show you how Yahweh is effectively damning the whole world with this statement (see Applying Revelation 21: A Disturbing Paradise). No human is perfect. No human is sinless. Yet here, Yahweh says that anyone who falls short in any way will end up in Hell. This statement is an intentional parroting of the apostle John’s own messed up theology on salvation. God does this sort of thing with hardened spiritual rebels all the time. When we keep refusing to respond to God’s convictions, the day comes when He stops convicting us and instead starts affirming us in our delusions. One day John began thinking to himself, “I’m sinless. I’m super holy. God is so impressed by me because I’m so righteous.” No doubt God convicted John many times to let go of these arrogant delusions, but John kept refusing. He went the way of the apostle Paul and clung to the ego-pleasing notion that he was earning salvation of his own accord. It was because John had such a lofty opinion of himself that he had no problems with seeing his own name chiseled onto one of the foundation stones of Heaven.
You have to understand what God thinks of human arrogance before you can grasp what God is doing to John in Revelation. Revelation is indeed a terrifying book–but not for the reasons you’re taught (see Applying Revelation: Its Warning for Modern Day Believers). It’s not talk of a coming apocalypse that makes this book so scary–it’s the way Yahweh and Jesus are demonstrating that They’ve given up on convicting John by affirming him in his arrogant self-righteousness. You really don’t want God to start telling you that you’re perfect. Once He starts doing that with you, it’s because He’s decided to stop drawing you closer to Him. It’s a form of God cutting us off. It’s Him saying, “Okay, since you’re refusing to listen to Me, you’re never going to really know Me. That’s right: keep thinking you’re fabulous and that I am oh so impressed with you. Stay in your deluded little world. You’ll discover the truth soon enough.”
Once you understand the context of the two famous sexual pervert verses, you can see why focusing on them is such a waste of time. Your sexual desires are not what matters to God. It is your soul’s response to Him that He is judging you by. How much do you care about pleasing Him? God doesn’t look at your sexual activity to discern the answer to this question–He looks at your soul. God knows who is on His side and who isn’t. Among the vast sea of shunned perverts in this world, there are plenty of souls who desperately want to be in a good place with God, but they think He’d never accept them. Well, that’s a total lie. No one delights God more than souls who really want to be pleasing in His sight. If that’s where you’re at today, tell God about it. Don’t let arrogant Jews from the past or modern day Christians intimidate you from going directly to God in the privacy of your own soul and asking Him to make you all that He wants you to be.
God has always loved and welcomed sexual perverts. The great irony is that according to God’s extremely broad definition of sexual perversion, both Paul and John qualified as perverts themselves. If they’d ever faced up to this fact, they wouldn’t have been so eager to preach that anyone who struggles with sexual immorality is as good as damned. It’s when we pretend that we are perfect that we end up on the wrong side of God’s wrath. But when we are willing to face the reality of our own depravity and let go of the delusion that we could ever earn God’s favor through moral perfection, then we’re in a fabulous position to embrace soul freeing truths.