Israel Folau talks about Hell

What is Hell? It is a single word in Latin and English translations that in the popular imagination brings together the Hebrew idea of the place of the dead (Sheol), and Jesus’ reference to a place of destruction (Gehenna). Rugby Union management in Australia has said that Israel Folau can’t talk about it.


Jesus only spoke a little about Sheol (Greek Hades) the place of the dead. This is found in Luke 16. For those who have lived a life of luxury while despising those who cared nothing for the poor who lived with them, it is a place of discomfort. For those who have lived in poverty and suffering, it is a place of comfort and security. It is a simple story, with a powerful message. It is a judgment of justice, matching the outcome with responsibility taken or neglected.

Gehenna – hell

Jesus talked a lot about Gehenna. It is place of the final judgment for the wicked, where the judgment is terminal. In no way can Jesus be considered to be describing the abode of the dead. Here is an example:

Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to offend, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into Gehenna – Hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to offend, cut it off and throw it away. It is more profitable for you that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into Gehenna – Hell.

When Israel Folau quoted 1 Cor. 6:9, he was following Jesus’ teaching on the destruction that awaits the wicked. He was willing to lose his $4m contract in order to say something that he was forbidden to say by Rugby Union management.

1 Cor. 6:9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men will inherit this kingdom.

Eternal Life

The New Testament has a lot to say on eternal life. It is the reward for those who follow Jesus, being those who participate in his plan to continue to change human life on earth from one that started with the innate cruelty of natural selection to one in which we learn to take care of one another. A starting point, largely learnt in western (Christian) society, is the golden rule:

Matt. 7:12 “Whatever you wish for people to do to you, do to them.”

Something that has been forgotten, at least by those who already have everything their hearts could desire: it is that only a radical change can bring the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Matt. 7:24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain came down, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and its fall was great.”

Perhaps on the subject of how to order our society, we think we know better than Jesus. Yet for those who reject Jesus’ teachings there is unlikely to be the future reward of shared life with Jesus in heaven. For example, in this age sexual immorality seems to be outside of any sense of wrong-doing, despite it being destructive of relationships. Isn’t it worth considering Paul’s comments on this matter, directed at Christians?

1 Cor. 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.


Scott Morrison was right when he said that God is a god of love. Yet Christians know that it is not unconditional love in the sense that what we do doesn’t count. For God has a purpose and plan for this world and Jesus is the key to that plan. For those who want to be part of that plan there is a clear path, as Israel Folau said, “Repent and turn to Jesus.”

Last rites are no hope to anyone

While the church offers a “get out jail free card” to all “penitent sinners” via last rites absolution, wicked men will continue to find a self-justification for their sinful behaviour and there will be no change.

A glaring example is the report in The Times of forty monks and teachers who have been accused of sexually abusing boys at a leading Roman Catholic school in the UK, which allegedly became a “honeypot” for offenders.

If preachers and teachers do not focus on Christ’s call to live a transformed life, but instead focus on the need for daily confession, my (limited) experience has been that such preachers and teachers are more likely to have something to confess, possibly a regular sin that they are not prepared to abandon.

I remember hearing a pentacostal preacher many years ago talking about his terrible sinful young life, when he would go to piano bars. To a young man in Australia, this seemed a bizarre confession. It all came clearer later, when the famous preacher’s pecadilos were revealed and he was defrocked.

There is no “get out jail free card” in my Bible. Rather: “If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume all adversaries.” This applies irrespective of whether last rites are administered or not.

Confession and Absolution – a real Catholic issue

Confession and Absolution lie at the heart of the difficulties in which Catholic Church in Australia finds itself at the (Australian) Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.

Absolution and Confession

Witnesses at the Royal Commission demonstrated that the Vatican still does not protect victims. It is not a trivial issue, or one that relates only to the venality of certain clergy. It is also theological. Confession and absolution (including the Last Rites), means that the Catholic Church presents a false image that 1 John does not really apply:

  • Whoever claims to live in Jesus MUST walk as Jesus did.
  • Everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who DOES the will of God lives forever.
  • Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him KEEPS ON sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Under the latter verses, how far the Catholic Church in its doctrines of confession and absolution, and the worst of all, Last Rites have deviated from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Royal Commission

As explained in an article in The Australian newspaper, a panel of experts, specializing in canonical or church law, appeared before the final hearing of the Commission, agreeing almost unanimously that the directives from Rome were often geared to protect its flock rather than its victims.

In was reported there that Crimen Sollicitationis, a Vatican instruction introduced in 1962, enforced secrecy in any investigations into “soliciting sex in the confessional, homosexuality, bestiality and the sexual abuse of children”.

In his submissions, Mr Tapsell said the instruction was “a permanent silence that bound not only the bishop and those involved in the canonical inquiries and trials, but the victims and witnesses who were sworn to observe that secrecy”.

Mr Tapsell said Crimen Sollicitationis was used to protect the reputation of any person involved in an alleged sexual abuse case.

Ms Furness described another canonical instruction, known as a “pontifical secret” as a “permanent silence” enforced in matters of sexual crime.

Counsel assisting the Commission, Stephen Free, described the pastoral approach as a bishop attempting “for an appropriate period of time and with every means available to help the petitioner to overcome the difficulties which he [the clergyman] experiences”.

The approach could involve “transferring him (the perpetrator) from the place in which he is exposed to the danger and according to the nature of the case, giving him the help of brother priests, friends…doctors or psychologists,” Mr Free said.

Father Thomas Doyle described the pastoral approach as “nuts”. He gave evidence regarding a lack of co-operation from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the church, the Holy See, when faced with allegations of child sexual abuse.

“That has been a major, major, stumbling block for a number of bishops trying to do anything,” Dr Doyle said.

Theological Reform required

For the Catholic Church it is time to face up to the difficulties that their confession and absolution theological nonsense has led them.

Apart from addressing the actual sins and crimes involved in the behavior of which 7% of all Catholic clergy in Australia have been accused, and more than 40% of the members of one particular religious order, nothing will really change at the heart of the Catholic Church until they give up the fiction that a priest can guarantee the entrance into heaven of any sinner via the rites of confession and absolution, plus Last Rites.

God’s plan – the transformed human life

Even before the world was made, it was God’s plan that those who united themselves to Jesus would be holy and without fault before him. (Ephesians 1:4)

God’s grace is not given to us without a purpose, but it is part of God’s greater plan, which is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.

In this regard, let us take time to be holy, and to reflect upon our role in God’s plan, and to know that he has created us for a transformed life that consists of good deeds, carried out in the light of Jesus’ teachings.

Piano player or pianola player?

For a simple analogy, in working out his plans for this world God is more like a piano player than a pianola player.

Anyone can play a piano, and many do, but God plays his own tune on his piano, suited entirely to the times, and designed to bring about his purposes on earth.

The Bible teaches us that God knows his own end purposes, and intervenes in order to bring this about.

The Bible teaches that God is not playing a script predetermined for every note. He is not like a pianola player! He is more like a talented jazz musician, improvising on the piano, but knowing exactly where he or she is going.